Compared to the baseball lexicon that has been born from Sabermetrics, in-depth statistical study of football is relatively nascent. Baseball has always been a numbers game, one that invites such analysis, while football still claims a good deal of numeric mystery. That said, there is some great work being done to further this element of the sport, most famously by the Football Outsiders; a collective that decided it was time to end the black age of football metrics and look deeper into the game and whose work is featured prominently on this site for ESPN Insiders.
Just as the baseball community took literally a generation to grasp the gravity of Sabermetrics, it's going to take some time for advanced football analysis to become widely recognized. In the end, it can only help to have smart people concocting and crafting new ways to see a sport and unveil potential determinants that we never knew existed. Sometimes the discovery of a new perspective seems somewhat simple; like the development of WHIP, now a widely recognized stat that many feel appropriately captures an accurate measure of pitching efficiency, but also an easy formula to digest as a casual fan.
Not to compare discoveries, but I recently stumbled upon what I feel is a pretty savvy analysis tool for football, the rare one that I feel can help us IDP nerds, or at worst entertain. Check out this piece on Pass-Rushing Productivity from Pro Football Focus that discusses the elements that factor into disrupting the quarterback on a regular basis. It's not an ideal evaluation from a fantasy perspective, but it could be helpful if considered with other factors, and more importantly it appears to be thoughtful analysis. In the end, it speaks to a pass rusher's opportunity and penchant to produce, and really all we hunt for in fantasy is opportunities for our players to produce. Peruse the article and you'll see that a few of this season's upstart defensive commodities are confirmed, as defensive ends Jason Babin and Chris Clemons have both proven to be regularly around the pocket. Will we ever sit there on a Sunday and pontificate over Trent Cole's decidedly low PRP rating? Unlikely, but it's all a step in the right direction.
Clearly there's room for error and aberration, as Manny Lawson's perch atop the productivity chart is confounding, but admittedly taken from a small sample size. Either way, I figured as a fellow football and fantasy nerd that I'd pass this along. Baseball's statistical community was fostered on debate and dissection, and while we're decades behind, it's always good to give it a try.
Front Four: The weekly word on the world of defenders
Turkey Talents: I'm not suggesting that you go out and overturn your roster so that you can roster some defenders that play Thursday; it's just that I love having players on the field for that day. Essentially, if I have a spot to work with on my roster around this time of year, I'm somewhat partial to the Turkey talents. Thankfully, since the lineup was beefed up with the addition of the night game a few years back, the pickings are far better to go along with all that Tryptophan. Cincinnati's Dhani Jones plays in the prime time battle and is the league's 12th leading tackler, kept busy behind a porous defensive line. He doesn't have a history of compiling turnovers or notching big plays, but his steady production goes annually unnoticed. Dallas' Keith Brooking has quietly recorded four straight games with double-digit tackles and should busy against the visiting Saints with Reggie Bush due back and Drew Brees' penchant for picking on 'backers.
Tamba Time: The pass rush article also confirms that Tamba Hali is among the busiest pass rushers in the game. Don't let the lean week he just posted scare you off. Managers tend to be more fickle with defenders, which at times is actually an appropriate approach. Yet when a player is receiving an abundance of opportunity; for example a running back (say DMC this past week), and has a poor outlier outing of sorts like facing the Steelers' rush defense, we can find value in the loss of respect for that commodity. This is the case with Hali, who after a poor outing remains widely available but continues to serve as one of the more consistent sack threats in all of football.
Big Game James2: Don't call them Jim, Jimmy or Jimbo - Harrison and Farrior go by James. This duo of menacing Steel City linebackers have been quite productive of late, and while Harrison is atop or near the acme of point leaderboards in every IDP league, James Farrior is widely available and only recently turning it on, making for a great late-season acquisition that blends respectable tackle totals with potential for turnovers and the rogue sack.
Terrell Suggs & Fruity Pebbles: No doubt an abstract connection being made here, but quite accurate in the end. I interviewed "T-Sizzle" last fall and he explained his strong belief that Fruity Pebbles is the best sugar cereal; that, and he discussed his desire to get in the ring with Chad Ochocinco as well as his enduring love for action figures. The real relevance of this mention is that he's criminally underappreciated in ESPN leagues given his weekly sack potential and a favorable closing schedule. The attention the dominant Haloti Ngata is drawing affords Suggs savory one-on-one looks, adding to his already considerable value.
IDP Rankings Week 12: The Top 10 linebackers, lineman and defensive backs
So that we're working from agreed parameters, we'll use what many consider traditional scoring modifiers for an IDP league: Tackle - Solo (0.5), Tackle - Assist (0.25), Sack (3), Interception (3), Forced fumble (3), Fumble recovery (3), Touchdown (6), Safety (2), Pass defended (1), Blocked kick (2).
Bargain Bin: Worthy defenders available in more than half of ESPN leagues
San Diego Chargers corner Antoine Cason is playing his best ball of late and faces a series of pass-happy offenses. If you have to roster a corner, Cason is becoming an elite option. ... Cleveland's Ahtyba Rubin has been playing well of late; racking up respectable tackle numbers with some sacks blended in. Rubin merits consideration for those in deep leagues and particularly in formats that specifically roster defensive tackles. ... Fellow Brown Abram Elam has traded off big and weak outings over the past month but a matchup with Carolina this week is ultimately inviting enough to give him a shot at consecutive big games. ... Seattle safety Earl Thomas has emerged as a force lately and should enjoy another nice outing against the visiting Chiefs.
Jim McCormick is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com, as well as a regular contributor to the Washington Post's "Behind the Helmet" and Sirius XM's Fantasy Sports Channel. You can reach Jim with your questions and comments at JMcCormickESPN@gmail.com or on Twitter @JMcCormickESPN