At a bar Sunday night, I was with a group of friends and we were all meeting the new boyfriend of my friend Annie. The new boyfriend doesn't play fantasy sports but took a keen interest when it was explained to him what I do. And he asked a question I don't get asked very often.
Usually people want to know how I got into it, how many leagues I play in, what so-and-so at ESPN is like, what's it like working at ESPN, do I get free tickets, can I get them free tickets, do I win every league I am in, what's my favorite sport to play, how many people play fantasy and, most common, a specific question about their team: Whom to start, sit, trade, bench or pick up?
But this guy asked, very simply, "How many predictions do you get right?"
And I said something that will probably infuriate those of you who angrily post on the message board. Week after week.
There's no correct answer.
Take, for example, Week 11 in the NFL. On my "Jets-Patriots Field Pass" for "SportsCenter," I said, basically, if you have better options, sit Randy Moss." I had Moss in my "Hate" section of Love/Hate, said "sit him" on "Sunday NFL Countdown." He was facing Darrelle Revis of the Jets and had not played well against him in the past, among other reasons.
In that game, Randy Moss scored a touchdown. Did I get it wrong? Hang on, before you answer, consider this:
In a game in which Tom Brady threw for more than 300 yards, Moss had only 34 yards. He finished with nine points. Did I get it right?
Through 12 weeks of the season, he is the second-highest-scoring fantasy wide receiver in the NFL. And yet, that particular week, his nine points were 26th among wideouts. He performed 24 spots below his season rank. Did I get it right?
His nine points were just three below his season average of 12 per game. Did I get it wrong?
His nine points were his fourth-lowest point total of his season to that date. Twenty-five other wide receivers had more points, many of whom could easily have been owned on the same team as Randy Moss (based on average draft position). Guys like Hines Ward, Sidney Rice, Mike Sims-Walker, DeSean Jackson, Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, Jerricho Cotchery, Nate Burleson, Pierre Garcon and Moss' teammate Wes Welker were just some of the wide receivers whom you could have started that week and who would have been better than starting Moss.
Did I get it right?
The answer, frankly, is that it depends on whom else you had on your team, your league scoring and how many wide receivers you have to start. If you only have to start two (like in an ESPN standard league, which is what I gear my writing toward) and you had two of the guys on the above list, I got it right. If you have to start more or don't have guys who scored more than nine points, I got it wrong for you.
Life is never black-and-white, so why should it be any different in fantasy football? Dropping a running back like Donald Brown for someone like Lex Hilliard probably doesn't make a lot of sense. Especially given the chance the Colts could rest their starters and Joseph Addai's propensity to get injured.
But if you own Ricky Williams that's exactly what you should do. Because chances are, you're not starting Donald Brown. And if you're in the playoffs and something happens to Ricky Williams, you want to make sure you have the Dolphins' starting running back instead of hoping to get something out of Donald Brown.
Nate and I discussed this very subject on Monday's podcast. (Incidentally, on Tuesday's podcast, we had Jesse "The Body" Ventura on and he called Nate a weasel. It was even better than the handcuff discussion.) Anyway, as we head into the final weeks of the season, you should be dropping players who aren't starting for you (even if they are good) to ensure that you have protection for your starters. This is just for running backs, however. You're not dropping productive wide receivers for the backups to your starters. When it comes to quarterbacks ... it depends on who is available. If guys like Vince Young and Alex Smith are around in your league, you grab them. But if you are sifting through the Bruce Gradkowski types, yes, you should grab Brian Hoyer to back up your Tom Brady.
Look, if there is one overriding theme I keep hitting you over the head with, it's that you need to think for yourself. Hopefully, I can give you some tools and researched insight to help you make your own decisions, but ultimately, you should never listen blindly to me or anyone else. Because no team exists in a vacuum. What makes sense for someone else might not make sense for you. If you own Thomas Jones, Shonn Greene is much more valuable to you than any pickup I list Tuesday. LenDale White for Chris Johnson owners, Glen Coffee for Frank Gore guys, Chester Taylor if you have All Day. And so on. But if all those guys are gone, then you're best trying to snag someone with upside off the waiver wire. Which brings us, finally, to this week's pickups.
Don't Look Back in Anger
"A heart filled with anger has no room for love."
Here are some guys I have suggested you pick up in previous editions of this column (sometime, many weeks over ... Jamaal Charles and Justin Forsett, ahem). Somehow, you managed to avoid my genius, or you ran into my idiocy and picked up the wrong guys. Either way, they are remarkably still available in some leagues. Consider this a combo of obvious names and a listing of guys previously discussed. They should be picked up before any of the guys listed below them. I've listed them in the order I would claim them if team needs do not dictate a specific positional need. As always, ownership percentages are for ESPN.com standard 10-team leagues.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs (55 percent); Justin Forsett, RB, Seahawks (50 percent) ; Alex Smith, QB, 49ers (19 percent) ; Pierre Garcon, WR, Colts (36 percent); Vince Young, QB, Titans (15 percent), Fred Jackson, RB, Bills (69 percent); Rock Cartwright, RB, Redskins (22 percent) ; Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles (44 percent); Jerious Norwood, RB, Falcons (22 percent); Chris Chambers, WR, Chiefs (52 percent); Robert Meachem, WR, Saints (27 percent); Kevin Walter, WR, Texans (63 percent); Donnie Avery, WR, Rams (48 percent).
By the way, it's also worth noting that Antonio Bryant, WR, Buccaneers (53 percent), is available in a ton of leagues and he'd be right behind Garcon for me on the list above.
Pickups of the week
"I must be a snowflake, baby, because I've just fallen for you."
Kenny Britt, WR, Titans (8 percent): Two important things happened for young Kenny Britt over the past three weeks. One, Justin Gage got hurt, opening up more playing time for Britt. And two, Vince Young became an actual NFL quarterback, with good throws and everything. Since Gage has been out, Britt has increased his number of receptions in three straight weeks, scored in each of his past two and caught the game winner against the Cardinals on Sunday to cap off a terrific seven for 128 and a score day. (That was the third thing.) When you look at Britt's playoff schedule (starting in Week 14) and see he gets St. Louis, Miami, San Diego and Seattle, you can't help but smile.
Jason Avant, WR, Eagles (2 percent): I like Jeremy Maclin as well, but he's mentioned above. And look at what Avant has done in the past three weeks. He had eight for 156 at San Diego, a touchdown at Chicago and five for 94 against Washington. With DeSean Jackson now likely out and the Falcons' 27th-ranked pass defense on the docket Sunday, I really like Avant.
Jason Campbell, QB, Redskins (19 percent): Before you accuse me of being a total Redskins homer (guilty, incidentally), you should check these numbers out: Since Sherm Lewis took over the play calling, Campbell has put up the following fantasy point totals: 15, 13, 12, 8, 19. That's 67 points in his past five games. By comparison, here's some other quarterback totals over their past five games:
Is he great? No. And you certainly don't like him this week against the Saints. But he's better than you realize and a decent alternative if you have, say, Matt Ryan and Jay Cutler on your team.
Chris Brown, RB, Texans (2 percent): Truth be told, I don't think Chris Brown is very good. He looks slow to me and not overpowering enough to get away with it. But I'm not coaching the Texans. And as long as Chris Brown is going to get 14 touches a game (as he has the past two weeks) and vulture touchdowns from Steve Slaton (as he did last week), he has value.
Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers (3 percent): He's averaging almost 14 fantasy points a game since he became the starter and has had two great games, one so-so game and a stinker. I don't like him this week at Carolina but Week 15 at Seattle and Week 17 versus Atlanta are enticing if you are in a deeper league.
Zach Miller, TE, Raiders (58 percent): Two decent games in a row now, it seems Bruce Gradkowski is at least competent enough to give Miller value. He had a score and five receptions for 65 yards two weeks ago, five for 73 against Dallas and this week is at Pittsburgh, which, if you want to look for a positive, has no Troy Polamalu. The schedule isn't great the rest of the way for Miller, actually, but he does have a Week 16 matchup at Cleveland, and regardless of matchup, he'll be a solid source of five points or so a week.
Just below the Mendoza Line:
"We were close but not quite good enough" -- Derrike Cope
It's a baseball saying, but it's appropriate here, as well. (As far as I'm concerned, OK?) Here are some guys who shouldn't be picked up in 10-team leagues, but for those in 12-team or deeper leagues, I like them, and you should keep an eye on them.
It remains to be seen how long Matt Ryan is out and I don't love an inexperienced quarterback playing Philadelphia, but I've always liked Chris Redman, QB, Falcons. If he keeps the job for longer than this week, he could have value. Speaking of Atlanta, anyone else notice that Michael Jenkins, WR, Falcons, now has two straight weeks of more than 70 yards?
It looks like Ahmad Bradshaw will be back and even so, Danny Ware, RB, Giants, has a concussion, but still. Given Bradshaw (and Jacobs') injury history, Ware is a guy to have on your radar. I don't trust the Redskins offense enough to start, well, anyone except perhaps Campbell, but I do like what I see out of Devin Thomas, WR, Redskins, who has gotten more than 30 yards for three straight weeks. Danny Amendola, WR, Rams, and Brandon Gibson, WR, Rams, continue to get a lot of looks. I actually like Gibson a bit more based on the amount of targets he's getting, and it's worth noting the Rams play the Texans and the Cardinals in Weeks 15 and 16. Neither is a great secondary and both have good offenses, so I could see a lot of junk-time scoring there.
Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: You
As always, these are not guys I'm saying you need to drop, and as always, some of you will ignore that caveat. But if you need roster space, I have no issue with dropping these guys. They're good players who will have productive weeks but I feel they ultimately won't lead you to the promised land, based on their schedules and on who else is available in ESPN.com standard 10-team leagues.
Eli Manning, Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan, Matt Hasselbeck, Ryan Moats, Marshawn Lynch, Donald Brown, Willis McGahee, Tashard Choice, Willie Parker, Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, Justin Fargas, Larry Johnson (Benson is back this week), Braylon Edwards, Austin Collie, Johnny Knox, Hakeem Nicks, Torry Holt, Ted Ginn Jr., Eddie Royal, Josh Morgan, Justin Gage, Todd Heap, Chris Cooley, the Giants D/ST.
That's all we have this week. Good luck down the stretch!
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- has grudgingly taken T.O. off of the Dumpsville list. He is also the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend