Patience
By Matt Waldman
November 30th, 2011

The Weekly Gut Check examines the players, strategies and guidelines fantasy football owners use to make personnel decisions.

Patience

We football fans are an impatient culture. If a young player performs well or poorly early in his career then we feel compelled to explain why he'll always be good or bad. We let the analysis of the moment close the door of possibility that said player can get much better. In fantasy football we often apply stats with the same sophistication that an 8 month-old uses when eating his dinner.

Understandably there is a point where a fantasy football owner has to make a decision about player's prospects and stick to it: start, sit, add, drop, or trade. An owner of a fantasy team doesn't usually have the luxury of waiting too long on a player to develop into a productive starter. At least, so we convince ourselves.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard fantasy owners - especially dynasty owners tell me that they drafted Justin Tuck, Cliff Avril, Darren McFadden, or Priest Holmes only to give up on them just before they became terrific fantasy starters. Sometimes a fantasy owner has to make tough calls because there are only a limited number of roster spots to keep an unproven player and still compete this year. However, I believe the biggest reason fantasy owners drop an unproven player is when they see a free agent coming off a big week - the flavor of the week.

We're impatient and short sighted. I consider myself more patient than most, but I'm often culpable of doing the same things. I drafted Justin Tuck when he was a linebacker at Notre Dame and waited just two years before giving up on him. I inherited Jordy Nelson in a dynasty league and dropped him a year before he began to show signs of life.

I feel your pain and I have a story that continues to help me remember to remain patient with players if I've seen with my own eyes that they are good - even if everyone else doesn't think so. Even when those players appear as if they will never earn a chance to show what they can do, I have learned to remain open to the possibility that day will come or that player will develop. Brandon Lloyd is a good example, but he's not the hero in our story.

This story begins with a high school quarterback that wanted to play pro baseball.

He played football in a state that is known as one of the best in the country for high school football. He went from being a 6'0", 170-pound junior with an ACL tear to a 196-pound senior who led his team to an undefeated season. But not a single major college football program was recruiting him. He eventually drew interested from three college programs, two of them were bottom-rung schools at major conferences with new coaches starting over and implementing an offense that was viewed as a gimmick.

This young quarterback helped turn around this college program and he was a college star, setting school passing records and earning national attention. Those in and around the NFL questioned this player's ability to become a pro quarterback because he was still only six-feet tall and this "gimmicky" offense, which would later become a big part of what we see today in the NFL, raised questions about him having the prerequisite skills that make a successful quarterback at the next level. He was seen as a quarterback with first-round production, but the rest was a big question mark.

The quarterback I'm telling you about was drafted on the first day, but the questions lingered. He backed up a veteran on a struggling team that rarely got a real opportunity to lead an NFL team for similar reasons that our quarterback wasn't a first-round pick. Our rookie saw time in one game all year, a come from behind victory where he completed 15 of 27 passes for 221 yards and 1 touchdown. It was a promising start, but Jake Locker had a promising start two weeks ago against the Falcons in relief of Matt Hasselbeck in the fourth quarter and we're not proclaiming him an all-star.

The GM that drafted his player said, "Never did I think we'd get so lucky to have [our quarterback] sitting there when we had the [specific pick in the round they drafted him]. Some people are special in life and in their profession, and [this quarterback] is one of them."

Mike Shanahan, whom I like to poke fun at as much as anyone, but who did have the brains to move up and draft Jay Cutler after the Cardinals and Titans took Matt Leinart and Vince Young, said that the player I'm telling you about was one of the most intelligent quarterbacks in the league after seeing just one full season from him as a starter.

If you look at year two, the year our young NFL quarterback won the starting job in camp, you wouldn't call it a great statistical performance:

Wk
Rush
Yds
TDs
Cmp
Att
Yds
TDs
INTs
Fpts
1
5
13
0
15
19
160
2
0
19.3
2
3
7
0
15
28
163
1
1
11.85
3
3
21
0
17
31
181
0
1
9.15
4
4
4
0
10
18
104
1
0
10.6
5
1
7
0
26
42
235
1
2
13.45
6
5
27
0
28
41
319
2
2
24.65
7
2
0
1
16
25
170
2
0
24.5
9
0
0
0
22
35
192
1
2
10.6
10
2
3
0
12
20
139
0
2
3.25
11
2
15
0
29
50
336
2
1
26.3
12
2
1
0
15
22
107
0
1
3.45
13
1
0
0
27
41
217
0
0
10.85
14
5
5
0
22
41
239
0
3
6.45
15
0
0
0
13
24
148
0
0
7.4
16
2
17
0
26
40
242
2
0
23.8
17
1
10
0
27
49
332
3
1
30.6
Tot
38
130
1
320
526
3284
17
16
14.76

These numbers seem modest for an NFL quarterback, but looks are deceiving. A number of years ago, I wrote about this very player as he entered his third season because I discovered that his Year Two production placed him in very select company. I said the organization that drafted him was giving our quarterback a raw deal.

This player's near-61 percent completion rate and positive differential in touchdowns to interceptions with at least 16 touchdowns placed him in select company:

Player
Rookie
Year
Tm
Gm
Comp
Att
Pct
Yards
TDs
INTs
Rush
Yds
TDs
Roger Staubach
1969
1971
dal
13
126
211
59.7%
1882
15
4
41
343
2
Steve DeBerg
1978
1979
sfo
16
347
578
60.0%
3652
17
21
17
10
0
Steve Fuller
1979
1980
kan
14
193
320
60.3%
2250
10
12
60
274
4
Joe Montana
1979
1980
sfo
15
176
273
64.5%
1795
15
9
32
77
2
Phil Simms
1979
1990
nyg
14
184
311
59.2%
2284
15
4
21
61
1
Tony Eason
1983
1984
nwe
16
259
431
60.1%
3228
23
8
40
154
5
Dan Marino
1983
1984
mia
16
362
564
64.2%
5084
48
17
28
-7
0
Ken O'Brien
1984
1985
nyj
16
297
488
60.9%
3888
25
8
25
58
0
Jim Kelly
1986
1987
buf
12
250
419
59.7%
2798
19
11
29
133
0
Jeff George
1990
1991
clt
16
292
485
60.2%
2910
10
12
16
36
0
Brett Favre
1991
1992
gnb
15
302
471
64.1%
3227
18
13
47
198
1
Brad Johnson
1994
1996
min
12
195
311
62.7%
2258
17
10
34
90
1
Jake Plummer
1997
1998
crd
16
324
547
59.2%
3737
17
20
51
217
4
Peyton Manning
1998
1999
clt
16
331
533
62.1%
4135
26
15
35
73
2
Kurt Warner
1998
1999
ram
16
325
499
65.1%
4353
41
13
23
92
1
Daunte Culpepper
1999
2000
min
16
297
474
62.7%
3937
33
16
90
470
7
Jeff Garcia
1999
2000
sfo
16
355
561
63.3%
4278
31
10
71
415
4
Tim Couch
1999
2001
cle
16
272
454
59.9%
3040
17
21
38
128
0
Tom Brady
2000
2001
nwe
15
264
413
63.9%
2843
18
12
36
43
0
Chad Pennington
2000
2002
nyj
15
276
400
69.0%
3128
22
6
30
49
2
Marc Bulger
2000
2003
ram
15
336
532
63.2%
3845
22
22
29
75
4

If you look closely, 15 of these 21 players were long-term starters for their teams. Of those 15 players 11 of them led their teams to Super Bowl appearances at least once - 19 of them were playoff quarterbacks. Since writing this piece seven years ago, I could add Ben Roethlisberger, Sam Bradford, and Matt Ryan to that list.

In year three, our quarterback struggled and got benched for five weeks after three straight weeks with fantasy totals of 1.7, 5.8, and 0.45 points:

Wk
Rush
Yds
TDs
Cmp
Att
Yds
TDs
INTs
Fpts
1
3
15
0
18
33
202
2
2
17.6
2
0
0
0
20
41
182
1
1
12.1
3
1
5
0
28
45
270
0
3
8
4
1
-1
1
21
31
187
1
1
18.25
5
1
13
0
24
41
296
3
0
31.1
7
1
0
0
9
18
74
0
1
1.7
8
2
23
0
19
30
190
0
3
5.8
9
0
0
0
7
15
49
0
1
0.45
15
6
25
0
28
48
363
2
1
28.65
16
1
2
0
16
26
198
1
2
11.1
17
5
2
0
15
28
97
1
0
10.05
Tot
21
84
1
205
356
2108
11
15
13.16

Our quarterback's slump during his second full season as a starter cost him the confidence of his team, especially his team's new GM, who promptly targeted a big-time prospect with great bloodlines. When the GM couldn't land this prospect, he traded for another and the writing was on the wall that our young quarterback was a lame duck starter, at best.

I clearly remember fantasy owners, writers, NFL analysts, and former players citing this player's questionable background as reasons why he wasn't going to become a good NFL quarterback. Do you ever notice how rare it is for a writer or television analyst to stick up for an unproven player? They always seem to be explaining why he's bad at the moment rather than standing up for what they believe in. Money talks.

But a funny thing happened in this quarterback's fourth season. He became a Pro Bowl player:

Wk
Rush
Yds
TDs
Cmp
Att
Yds
TDs
INTs
Fpts
1
5
-2
0
17
24
209
2
0
20.25
2
1
0
0
8
19
146
1
2
8.3
3
5
16
1
14
29
121
0
0
13.65
4
3
5
0
16
20
206
3
0
25.8
5
2
1
0
17
26
211
2
0
20.65
6
1
4
0
23
31
227
1
1
14.75
7
2
-2
0
21
32
196
0
0
9.6
8
2
21
0
22
25
281
5
0
41.15
9
2
4
0
22
36
257
4
0
33.25
11
5
5
1
18
34
226
1
0
22.8
12
8
23
0
28
37
378
2
0
31.2
13
1
2
0
14
27
106
0
1
3.5
14
4
-3
0
17
23
220
2
2
16.7
15
6
-1
0
4
6
85
1
0
9.15
16
6
12
0
21
31
290
3
1
28.7
Tot
53
85
2
262
400
3159
27
7
19.96

Sadly this season didn't matter to the GM, who already committed to his unproven, but decorated draft pick and let our fourth-year passer test the free agent waters. The decision was far less controversial at the time because our passer suffered an injury late in the year that made it easy for the GM to say good-bye. In fact, it made it easy for another team to pass on the hero of our story.

But nearly six years later, our ultimate patience play has had five seasons for the ages, including a Super Bowl victory:

Year
Pct
PassYds
TDs
INTs
Rush
Yds
TDs
Fpts
2006
64.26
4418
26
11
42
32
0
332.1
2007
67.48
4423
28
18
23
52
1
336.35
2008
65.04
5069
34
17
22
-1
0
389.35
2009
70.62
4388
34
11
22
33
2
382.7
2010
68.09
4620
33
22
18
-3
0
351.7

Drew Brees, our 6'0" quarterback who tore his ACL as a junior in high school and the next year led his high school team to an undefeated season, was recruited only by Brown, Kentucky, and Purdue. He excelled in Joe Tiller's spread system that NFL teams, analysts, and media labeled a gimmick offense and questioned Brees' arm strength.

The Chargers Joe Butler, who was largely responsible for the Bills great teams, drafted Brees at the top of the second round after they swapped first round picks with the Falcons - which drafted Mike Vick - to move down and take LaDainian Tomlinson. Unfortunately, Joe Butler passed away during Brees' third season and A.J. Smith decided he wanted Eli Manning. When Manning balked at signing with the Chargers, they traded for Philip Rivers and let Brees play out the string in 2005.

This "weak armed, gimmick system quarterback," has outplayed Vick, Rivers, and Manning. Two days ago, he had five touchdowns with a receiving corps that lacks one Pro Bowl-caliber downfield threat at the wide receiver position. Marques Colston is a fine possession receiver and Lance Moore is a terrific slot player, but there are no Dwayne Bowes, Brandon Lloyds, Greg Jennings, Dez Bryants and Miles Austins. There are no Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Marshalls, or Calvin Johnsons. Not even receivers with the promise of Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford.

Even without this caliber of wide outs, he still threatens the field vertically as well or better than any passer in the NFL when his best receivers might just be a tight end and a scat back. But back in 2004 Drew Brees was a free agent in a lot of dynasty leagues.

Patience grasshopper…patience.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to waldman@footballguys.com.

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