The Gut Check No. 258 - Out of Sight - The All-Gut Check Team
By Matt Waldman
August 29th, 2012

"It's like seeing someone for the first time, and you look at each other for a few seconds, and there's this kind of recognition like you both know something. Next moment the person's gone, and it's too late to do anything about it."

-Jack Foley (from the movie Out of Sight)

Out of Sight is about Jack Foley is a twice-convicted bank robber who escapes from prison and has to kidnap Karen Sisco, a federal marshal who almost foils the breakout. The twist is that Foley and Sisco have a moment in the trunk of the accomplice's getaway car while Foley holds Sisco at gunpoint. That moment stays with both of them throughout this clever but surreal, fugitive and heist story directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Jennifer Lopez, Albert Brooks, Ving Rhames, Isaiah Washington, and Steve Zahn.

I believe these players are poised to be Out of Sight for your fantasy team. Raw diamonds disguised as rocks in fish tank. Or, to continue the movie theme, this is unofficially the "All-Hejira Team"

Jack Foley: What kind of name is Hejia?
Hejira: It's Islamic.
Jack Foley: What's it mean?
Hejira: The Hejira was Mohammed's flight from Mecca in 632. Brothers in Leavenworth gave me that name.
Jack Foley: You were in Leavenworth?
Hejira: For a time.
Jack Foley: What's that mean?
Hejira: Means, when the time came, I left.
Jack Foley: You broke out?
Hejira: I prefer to think of it as an exodus from an undesirable place.

Get what I'm saying? Good. I'm going to take you on a round-by-round tour of potential "Hejiras." And if you know who plays Hejira, then you know that in a Quentin Tarrantino movie this actor has a wallet that says "Bad Mutha [Cecil Lammey says Shut Yo Mouth]."

The 2012 All-Hejira Team (Waldman's Haul)

All heists or breakouts require good timing and deception. How would I know? I may not have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express like Footballguys.com's Jason Wood, but I was a successful stowaway on a commercial airline flight. Yes, true story. No, another time.

I have listed accomplices by round that can help you pull off your fantasy heist. Some are players to take at or below ADP, others you should take a little earlier than ADP, and the rest you should consider at ADP.

ADP Key

Run the Con: Take at or below ADP.
Bait and Switch: Take a little earlier than ADP.
Straight Men: What you see is what you get.

You have to understand that Average Draft Position is the law and rather than waiting for the law to benefit you, you have to break the law and take what's yours. This strategy requires that you break ADP and pick talent. Don't "what-if" me after reading it. This is a finely tuned, high wire act of jewel thieving.

These blue players already have a deflated value and they are likely to drop a little more than their current ADP. Let them fall just below their respective average draft positions and take them. If they fall lower than you think, jump on them. The players in green highlight are undervalued players who your opposition will believe you're reaching for. This will help distract them enough to think they are getting value and continue to allow these blue players to drop.

Not everyone in your league will be an easy mark, but you'll discover that enough of these Inside Men will get to their allotted positions for you to pull off the ultimate heist on draft day. The examples below are for a snake draft in a 12-team league, but I'm sure you can figure out how to adjust it to your needs.

The team is good enough that if you select at least one of these players every two rounds you're going to have enough diamonds to live a cozy fantasy life this season. If you go for the whole team, I want my 10 percent cut (on top of whatever you paid for your Footballguys subscription). I've got a kid in college and she's not on a football scholarship.

Rounds 1-2

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Quarterbacks
Tight Ends
Ray Rice (1.03)
LeSean McCoy (1.03)
Calvin Johnson (1.06)
Tom Brady (1.06)
Matthew Stafford (2.01)
Jimmy Graham (2.04)
Marshawn Lynch (2.06)
Cam Newton (2.06)

If you're drafting early, Rice and McCoy are my backs of choice. I love Arian Foster and I could care less about his Vegan diet. Unlike Houston linebacker and amateur pharmacologist Brian Cushing, I have no worries about Foster's new lifestyle. Ben Tate is the better Texans value in fantasy drafts. Otherwise, there are six players I'm targeting I the first two rounds in most leagues.

Embrace the Jinx: If you're in a league where the competition likes to wait on quarterback I think this is the year to consider one early. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' return engagement in New England and the addition of The Amazing Spider Man Brandon Lloyd is one of the rare changes that I think will make a great passing offense even better. Tom Brady was fantastic despite the fact that they lacked a true deep threat, unless you count Chad Johnson who was head-butting his playbook. Your competition will be expecting a regression. I think the Patriots passing offense is just getting started. If I'm wrong, it will take at least three major injuries to the cogs of his passing game for Brady to fall below his draft value.

Jimmy Graham, not Rob Gronkowski, is the elite tight end to own early. Gronkowski has three problems. The first is a healthy Aaron Hernandez, who takes the edge off Gronkowski's production. I'm not arguing that Gronkowski won't have a few huge games this year, even with Hernandez on the field. However, the consistent elite efforts won't be as frequent because Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd will command enough targets to keep Gronkowski from being a runaway No.1, record-breaking producer. The third reason is less important this year, but more important long-term: Gronkowski needs to keep his shirt on and stop acting like the caricature of himself that he's seeing on media photo spreads. Just ask Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, and to a lesser extent Braylon Edwards. Take Graham, who has just enough talent around him to soar.

Calvin Johnson is the Madden Cover Player. Despite all the talk that I hear, when it comes time to take the Madden Cover Player at least two out of three will pass on him if they have a chance to take him at his going value. They'll claim a bunch of things. They were executing a different strategy. They liked another player at the position. They were hoping to take said player a round later.

They had some other lame excuse but the dog ate the paper where they wrote it down. If Johnson falls to you anywhere between the late first and early second round, take him. Isn't that similar to the last lame excuse I listed? Damn straight it is, those Madden Cover Players make me nervous! We're all a little superstitious whether we care to admit it or not. However, I'll take my chances on the best wide receiver in football if he falls.

Johnson isn't the only reason I value Matthew Stafford. The best reason is Titus Young. The only bad thing I've heard about Young this offseason is him sucker-punching safety Louis Delmas in a spring practice. If you know anything about Delmas, then you know that sucker-punching a guy like that is crazier than putting Chad Johnson in front of a camera. Young has been unstoppable in camp and after watching him run through Ed Reed for a touchdown in the second preseason game, I see what they mean.

It's not the fact that Young ran through Ed Reed as much as how quick, fluid, and aware the receiver was to his surroundings as he caught the ball. Last year, the right route and a catch were more important areas of focus for Young. It's not because he dropped passes or ran bad routes as much as he was a rookie and thinking more about fundamental things than letting his game flow. This year I can see his game blooming to the point where he's able to think less and react more. Young, Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew, and Kevin Smith are all strong options for Stafford to repeat his success.

Cam Newton scares some fantasy owners. Steve Smith is old, Greg Olsen's production has been unpredictable, and the best offseason addition to the offense is arguably a fullback. No one expects Newton to accumulate as many points with his legs as he did as a rookie and 14 rushing touchdowns is a lot to project, but 8 of these scores came on runs from distances of five yards or less. I have no problem expecting at least eight rushing touchdowns this year. I also believe Newton will continue to see basic defensive coverage because of the strength of the running game. If he slips to the third round, he's mine.

Whether you think Marshawn Lynch is jinxed because he earned a new contract (yes, earned, not given as charity) or Sigmund Bloom became a fan (listen to the Audible on Thursday nights if you know what "getting Bloomed" means), I'm not buying it. In fact, neither is Bloom after he got behind Lynch and the Seahawks runner was busted for suspicion of DUI.

The details of Lynch's off-field history and the NFL's conduct and substance abuse policies intertwine in such a way that there's a good chance that Lynch won't see any disciplinary action this year. If he does, the length of suspension is likely less than four games. Because I believe that chances of Lynch being suspended this year are small, he's worth a second-round pick in my eyes. The upside is too great to ignore with this all-around back working in on an offense built for him to thrive. The line is finally healthy and poised to break out and the defense is looking like its rounding into the mold of strong, athletic units we've come to expect to see from Pete Carroll's teams. Plus, name a team in the NFC West that has an explosive passing offense. You can't.

In most leagues you can get two of these players in the opening rounds. In some, you'll be able to get three. This is especially the case if Stafford, Newton, and/or Lynch fall to the third round as they often do. If you get Lynch and either Newton or Stafford in second and third rounds it will be a great opening sequence to your draft.

Rounds 3-4

If any of the players listed above fall to you in round three, take them. If not, here's another group of players to target.

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Darren Sproles (3.06)
Jordy Nelson (3.09)
Steve Smith (4.06)
Doug Martin (4.01)
Brandon Lloyd (4.08)
Antonio Gates (4.08)
Reggie Bush (4.12)

They're All Crazy or I'm Certifiable: How Jordy Nelson and Brandon Lloyd have ADPs this low is nuts. Both are arguably the No.1 or No.1A options with two of the three best quarterbacks in football. Both are excellent on vertical routes, make plays after the catch, and adjust well to the football in the air in tight coverage. I'll gladly take Nelson at the end of the second or early third round and continue to expect Top-10 fantasy receiver production from him this year. Lloyd is a player I've often reached into the beginning of the third round because he may not be 2006 Randy Moss in this offense, but he'll be good enough to be a Top-10 receiver rather than the 16th guy off the board.

As much as Julio Jones has improved this year, I think Brandon Lloyd is a far better value and likely to equal if not exceed Jones' production commensurate with the Falcons 2.05 ADP.

Jack Foley: I know a guy who walks into a bank with a little glass bottle. He tells everyone its nitroglycerine. He scores some money off the teller, walks out. On his way out, the bottle breaks, he slips on it and knocks himself out. The "nitro" was Canola oil. I know more [bleep]ed-up bank robbers than ones who know what they're doing. I doubt if one in twenty could tell you where the dye pack is. Most bank robbers are [bleep]ing morons.

That's what I believe people will be if they take Julio Jones at 2.05 and let Lloyd and Nelson pass them by in the third and fourth rounds. This also explains why I've done radio segments on football around the country and even Canada, but have never done one in my home state.

I think Antonio Gates will have a fantasy renaissance, call it a last hurrah if you like, as an elite tight end. Philip Rivers has no one else this good in the passing game. Robert Meachem is hard-working player with elite physical gifts, but he's a fantasy chump. Don't take chumps. Rivers will force the ball to Gates if needed and Gates will get the job done. In fact, I think Gates is to Gronkowski as Lloyd is to Jones. There's your SAT/MCAT/GMAT prep for the day. You're welcome.

The reliable buys in this range are Darren Sproles, Steve Smith, and Doug Martin. All three are essentially the same type of player. They are mighty mites with insane toughness, play-making skill, and versatility that will endear themselves to coaches, fans, and fantasy owners for as long as they are healthy enough to play that their level of skill. All three will be the focal point of their offenses and the fantasy picks of the NFC South.

Funny how I didn't mention an Atlanta Falcon, must be some deep-seated hate for them. Not sure why. I love Atlanta. I need a therapist.

The player dropping in my drafts has been Reggie Bush. No one trusts him to stay healthy and they aren't buying the quarterback situation. The funny thing is that Matt Moore was good enough for Bush to be a top-12 running back last year and Moore couldn't beat out rookie Ryan Tannehill.

Most people will say the Tannehill appointment to the starting role is salary-draft pick politics. I can see that argument, but the only problem with it is that I know how good Tannehill is and what he can become. He's going to make some boneheaded throws into coverage with defenders draped over him. He'll probably have multiple turnovers in more than one game. But Tannehill has the best pocket presence of any quarterback in this draft class not named Andrew Luck and I'm not sure Luck's is better.

Tannehill also knows Mike Sherman's offense better than any player in Miami and he's a terrific athlete. This knowledge will help the team run a high-tempo attack that will benefit Reggie Bush. Take the chance on Bush if he falls past the fourth round.

Rounds 5-6

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Quarterbacks
Tight Ends
Antonio Brown (5.03)
Jeremy Maclin (5.08)
Eric Decker (5.10)
Aaron Hernandez (5.07)
Peyton Hillis (5.07)
DeSean Jackson (5.10)
Donald Brown (5.10)
Vincent Jackson (6.06)
Peyton Manning (6.02)
Vernon Davis (6.05)
Kevin Smith (6.07)
Reggie Wayne (6.11)

Money Plays: These are 10 players that I would want on a real football team, not just a fantasy roster. Peyton Hillis, Donald Brown, and Kevin Smith are all capable of earning lead back production, but they each have a talented player capable of usurping that role. The way they are ordered by ADP is also a reflection of their upside. If you need a third running back or you're opting for an upside down strategy, these three backs have the talent, opportunity, and versatility to provide no worse than flex production on a weekly basis. That level of reliability in these rounds is money in the bank.

However, the real cash grab is with the receivers and tight ends, which is why I have six backs and three quarterbacks as strong options in the first four rounds. Antonio Brown continues to look better every time I see him. Just as I explained about Titus Young, Brown continues to demonstrate that he's thinking less and reacting more. His run through the Colts secondary was the type of play you would typically expect from him at Central Michigan. The fact that he's doing it at the pro level, even in a preseason game, is a sign of his development.

Eric Decker will be Peyton Manning's security blanket because of his skill with tight-quarter throws. He's an upper middle class version of Jordy Nelson, just without the deep speed. Maclin to me is a lot like Decker, but with more big-play ability after the catch. Reggie Wayne might not have the rapport that Andrew Luck has with Austin Collie, but he's getting moved around the formation to draw mismatches and he doesn't have a bull's eye on his helmet. These are all receivers I think are worth grabbing between rounds 4-7 if you decide to concentrate on other positions and then exploit the logjam of depth at the position.

Aaron Hernandez is the other player in addition to Brown who I would be willing to reach a round earlier than his ADP to grab if I find myself in need of a tight end. Yes, he has the occasional big drop, but he's as big and as different a reason as Rob Gronkowski that the Patriots offense is so dangerous. There is no other tight end in the league that can win a matchup against cornerbacks down field or on short routes to get yardage after the catch based on agility.

If you prefer to wait on a tight end that has just as much upside but will likely be available in the round of his ADP, then go for Vernon Davis. You can't convince me that Rob Gronkowski is a better all-around tight end than Vernon Davis in terms of ability. Possibly equals, but in a fantasy context Davis is saddled with Alex Smith. That might not be such a bad thing as it used to be, but his production is unfortunately more variable. But like I said earlier, I think it's a good bet that the presence of Brandon Lloyd and Aaron Hernandez in this Patriots offense could force enough of a decline in Gronkowski's fantasy production that Davis looks like a bargain in comparison.

While there are quarterbacks I like that are getting drafted 2-5 rounds than Peyton Manning, I think new Denver Broncos quarterback will remain a safe bet for 3500 yards and 25 touchdowns. If you don't want to play around with the possibilities that Jay Cutler, Carson Palmer, and Robert Griffin III present, Manning is your guy. He won't have as many dominant games, but he won't kill you with weeks that we've seen from the likes of Cutler, Palmer, and rookie signal callers.

DeSean Jackson and Vincent Jackson are fantastic players and if I had my choice, I'd wait until rounds 7-8 to take these two if they fall. I think Jackson has a good shot at a rebound season, but I have less faith in Michael Vick to protect his body from injury with each passing year I see him play. There's no way that Vick should have ever tried to wing the ball down field based on his position on the run. Unfortunately, the Eagles quarterback has such confidence in his arm that he'll make all-arm throws from awkward body positions at the last moment that leaves his body vulnerable to hits like these. This is the one aspect of Vick's game that has never changed and will be the end of him sooner than later (and I only hope that Robert Griffin III proves a wiser student of the game because he has the same arm and mobility to try these throws and he's already taken horrible punishment at Baylor for the same reasons). This is why I'd rather wait another round or two on DeSean Jackson.

As for Vincent Jackson, I like him to approach the range of 900-1100 yards and 8-10 touchdowns in an offense that should help him thrive in the play action game. He's just a more up and down player because he's primarily a vertical threat and we'll need to see Josh Freeman demonstrate the comfort to aggressively target Jackson in tight single coverage the way Philip Rivers did. That's a skill that isn't as prevalent among mid-tier NFL quarterbacks. It's actually what separates them from the top guys.

Karen Sisco: You wanted to tussle. We tussled.

Rounds 7-8

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Quarterbacks
Titus Young (7.06)
Jay Cutler (8.01)
Ben Tate (7.05)
Jonathan Stewart (7.08)
Mark Ingram (7.12)
C.J. Spiller (8.01)
Ryan Williams (8.02)
DeAngelo Williams (8.06)

Titus Young All Day, Every Day: If you want a potential DeSean Jackson-like player with more toughness over the middle and a more accurate quarterback from the pocket, Titus Young is the player to own. I'm taking him as my WR4 in every draft and if I have to settle on him as my WR3 with a strong lineup of two pass catchers ahead of him, I'm doing it.

Running Back Fire Sale: I promise you that all of these running backs with ADPs this range have the talent to be top-15 fantasy runners. I doubt you'll find anyone to disagree with me about it. The issue is opportunity and health. I think Ben Tate is this generation's Larry Johnson stuck behind the modern day Priest Holmes (Arian Foster). He'll see enough carries to be a solid flex-play even if Foster stays healthy. Unless you have Foster, see if Tate can slide somewhere to the 8th-10th round.

Ryan Williams is another back I'd like to see drop between rounds 9-11 because the loss of Levi Brown to an already mediocre line and unsettled quarterback situation doesn't inspire. The only reason I still have Williams on the list is because he's talented enough to make a so-so offensive line look good and he's worth the risk if he drops just a little more.

David Wilson has enough talent that if he begins to play up to his potential, there will be Walter Payton comparisons in terms of style. Not talent, but his style in terms of balance, strength, and acceleration. The biggest issue with Wilson has been his maturity between the tackles. Once he learns to take what the play is designed to give him without trying to freelance for a big play, he'll grow up fast. Interestingly enough, Wilson was quoted this week stating that he had this realization. Now he just has to put it into practice.

The backs that are well worth their ADP are the committee runners Jonathan Stewart, Deangelo Williams, Mark Ingram, and C.J. Spiller. If the lead back or committee cohort in their respective situation gets hurt, these guys have instant-RB1 upside in offenses that will use them as such. Now is the time to begin investing in the possibilities of upside.

Adele: Hey bank robber! Hey, want some advice? Next time keep the engine running.

I think his is basically what Jay Cutler said to Mike Martz last year during that Sunday Night Football matchup with the Vikings. Of course, Cutler was more economical with his delivery by opting for two choice words. And that economical delivery is also the hallmark of Cutler's game. Now that Mike Tice is trying to match personnel to Cutler's talents, I think there's a shot he could be as productive as some folks expect Matt Ryan will be with new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter at the reigns. Although no one mentions this, Mike Tice has been arguably more successful as an offensive coach in the NFL than Koetter. I'll take a chance on the bargain that Matt Ryan used to be for the bargain the Jay Cutler is.

Rounds 9-10

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Austin Collie (9.06)
Rashad Jennings (9.05)
Nate Washington (9.11)
LaGarrette Blount (9.09)
Greg Little (10.04)
Jacquizz Rodgers (9.11)
Randall Cobb (10.08)
Mike Williams (10.09)

Cuff'em: Rashad Jennings, LaGarrette Blount, and Jacquizz Rodgers are just a tier below the instant RB1s I just profiled. I'm not as enthused about Rodgers as Sigmund Bloom, but I think he's a solid pick at this ADP capable of delivering flex production all year. I'm not sure I can say the same about Jennings of Blount if Maurice Jones-Drew and Doug Martin come through. Jennings is a probably the most intriguing pick for this ADP because of the Jones-Drew contract stalemate. If the news continues to look bleak, he'll be worth picking as much as 3-4 rounds earlier, depending on the nature of this news.

Until Larry Foote aimed his forearm at Austin Collie's head, I would have advocated reaching for the Colts receiver. Now I think the climate has cooled enough that Collie might go 2-4 rounds lower than before. Anytime you can get a player of Collie's talent after the 10th round, take the chance and feel okay about dropping him if he doesn't work out.

Nate Washington seems perennially below the radar, but I always see smart fantasy owners picking him year after year. He's trusted depth that helps teams win games during heavy bye weeks later in the season when the waiver wire dries up. Greg Little, Randall Cobb, and Mike Williams all have top-15 upside, but aren't in situations where I expect anything more than WR3 production, at best. I think Williams has the best situation, Cobb has the least downside, and Little has the most talent.

Rounds 11-12

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Quarterbacks
Tight Ends
Michael Crabtree (11.03)
Carson Palmer (11.06)
Owen Daniels (13.03)
Daniel Thomas (11.07)
Danny Amendola (11.06)
Greg Olsen (13.03)
Kendall Wright (11.06)
Josh Freeman (12.03)
Santana Moss (12.12)
Steve Smith (13.12)
Joe Flacco (12.06)

Don't Let Lamar Miller Fool You: I love Lamar Miller's upside, but the reason the Dolphins drafted Miller had more to do with Reggie Bush than Daniel Thomas. True, Bush had a strong season but it took him awhile and enough knee injuries to make him a year-to-year player at this stage of his career. Thomas' lackluster rookie season tipped the scales in favor of the bargain that Miller presented at that stage of the draft.

But here's the deal on Thomas: he changed his diet, got into better shape, and the Dolphins are running a zone blocking scheme that is more conducive to Thomas' style. Reggie Bush commented that Thomas looks noticeably stronger and faster this year. Good sign.

Another good sign is that Thomas is hungry to reach 1000 yards. This isn't likely to happen if Reggie Bush is healthy, but if Bush gets hurt Thomas has enough upside to be a top-15 running back. I think he's a lot like Michael Bush in this respect a former quarterback converted running back and still growing into his physical gifts at the position. I wish I took him in a few drafts last week.

Wide Receiver Potpourri: Michael Crabtree has an ADP that's likely 2-3 rounds lower than his worst-case production with all 16 games played. I know there isn't much confidence in Alex Smith, but if Randy Moss is on a snap count and rotating with Mario Manningham, Crabtree is the winner here. Jim Harbaugh also commented on Crabtree having the best hands of any receiver he's been around.

I'm not a Danny Amendola fan. In fact, scratch him off the list until he can earn more than 700 yards and 5 touchdowns. Take Steve Smith instead, because at least I know that he can ball when he's healthy. And by all accounts Smith is healthy. The same can be said about Santana Moss. I think Robert Griffin is a smart fella and I believe that after Mike and Kyle Shanahan play their little free agent wide receiver shell game a few times, Griffin is going to ignore the bluster and target Moss enough times for it to matter in the box score.

The player with the best upside is Kendall Wright. Think Santonio Holmes at his best with the Steelers and that's what Wright can become as a route runner and pass catcher. I think he'll do enough this year to earn some flex time in fantasy lineups.

The best values are at quarterback and tight end. Carson Palmer and Josh Freeman have enough young offensive firepower to elevate their performances to QB1 value. I think Freeman is the best value of the three quarterbacks I listed, but Palmer has the most known upside and experience combination. What you see is what you get with Flacco. All three are players I'd pair with Cutler or Andrew Luck.

I think Greg Olsen is underappreciated because he has burned fantasy owners twice in the past five years as that next breakout player at his position and failed to deliver. However, let's remember that the first failure occurred in a Mike Martz offense. We were wrong to promote Olsen when the ultimate tight end-hater has the reigns to the Bears offense. Secondly, Olsen was paired with Jeremy Shockey last season. Although Gary Barnidge is a solid NFL tight end, I don't think he'll cut into Olsen's opportunities as much as some fear. I'll take one more shot at Olsen this late and back him up with Dallas Clark a few rounds later, who I think might be the potential, steal of the draft at his position.

As always, feel free to provide comments or suggestions to waldman@footballguys.com.

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