'You Heard Me'
Matthew Berry [ARCHIVE]
August 30, 2012
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"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." -- Western Union internal memo, 1876.

"You ain't goin' nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin' a truck." -- Jimmy Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry, to Elvis Presley in 1954.

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." -- Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." -- Ken Olson, president, chairman, founder of Digital Equipment Corp, 1977.

"He has a shot at winning (the Giants') 4th receiver role." -- The 2011 ESPN Fantasy Football profile of Victor Cruz.

"Don't quit show business. Who could ever make a living at fantasy football?" -- Pretty much everyone I talked to in 2005.

Most of these examples, and many more, can be found in this piece from Herbert I. London, where the lack of an open mind and the eternity of the Internet have captured forever the embarrassing lessons all these people learned the hard way. As any self-respecting fantasy football player has known for a long time, speaking in absolutes only sets you up to look stupid. Because "never" is a bad word. "Unlikely" is much better.

Just because something is not probable to happen doesn't mean it can't happen. Because as anyone who owned Cruz, Laurent Robinson, Cam Newton or Rob Gronkowski last season will tell you, unlikely is what helps win fantasy football leagues. Or, as Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and Chris Johnson owners will testify, it also helps you lose them.

"At its fundamental level, fantasy football is all about minimizing risk and giving yourself the best odds to win." -- Matthew Berry, the 2012 Draft Day Manifesto.

Did I just quote myself? You're damn right I just quoted myself. This article is not about following form or being proper and pretty. No, it's messy. It's the exact opposite of smart decision-making, of minimizing risk, of giving yourself the best odds.

In fact, this column is about going against the odds. Long shots. Lottery tickets.

Generally speaking, there are two types of predictions: likely to happen and unlikely to happen. Different degrees within both, to be sure, but they all boil down to one of the two.

For example; Likely to happen: Drew Brees will throw for at least 4,300 yards and 34 touchdowns, as he has done for each of the last four seasons. Unlikely to happen: With no Sean Payton calling the plays, no more Robert Meachem and pressing too hard to justify his $100 million contract, Brees struggles and falls out of the top 10 of fantasy quarterbacks.

There's a reason Brees is one of the top draft picks year after year. He's actually had at least 4,300 passing yards every season he's been in New Orleans. I have him at No. 6 overall this year, so you know I believe he makes it seven straight seasons in 2012.

But could the second scenario also happen? Of course. Another consistent guy, Philip Rivers, went from averaging 11 interceptions a year over the past three to throwing 20 picks last season, contributing to his fewest touchdown passes since 2007.

You never know.

Our official ESPN fantasy projection for Brees is 4,921 yards and 43 touchdowns. It has been researched, studied, thought about in-depth, and, given Brees' track record, is completely believable and reasonable.

The rest of ESPN's fantasy analysis -- our draft kits, our rankings, podcasts, videos, Fantasy Football Now episodes, even my other columns -- are the same way. You might not agree with the conclusions drawn, but every single thing we offer up, given the full scope of data we have to work with, is likely to happen on some level.

Everything except this. This is my bold predictions column, and the reason they are bold predictions is that they are not likely to happen. Doesn't mean impossible. Just not likely.

Victor Cruz had had some flashy preseason moments in 2010, but injuries and the Giants' depth at wide receiver kept him on the bench. He looked great again in the 2011 preseason, but once again, it was deemed unlikely that he would get on the field in a significant enough manner to get the opportunity to shine, and that his skill, explosive but still raw, would carry him to fantasy stardom.

But, as we found out … unlikely doesn't mean impossible.

So my goal in this column is to find things that are fairly unlikely to happen but are still possible. I call it "You Heard Me."

Pretend we are hanging out and I have decided, for once, to put down my phone and actually engage in conversation. It's 12 months ago and I say to you what I said in this exact column last year; "Matthew Stafford will be a top-five fantasy quarterback this year."

And you say, "What? The guy who is always injured?"

And then I say, "You heard me!"

Stafford did in fact finish last season as a top fantasy quarterback and it helped ease the pain of another bold prediction from last year's article: "Michael Vick will play all 16 games."

Anyway, here's how I suggest you use this article, other than as self-help motivation ("Well, my predictions are bad, but they're better than this guy's): The point is not so much to nail impossible predictions, but rather to illuminate some players I have strong feelings about, one way or the other. For example, last year in this column I predicted "Over the second half of the season, Isaac Redman is a top-20 fantasy running back. My thinking: Rashard Mendenhall succumbs to the Curse of 370 (playoff edition)."

That didn't happen, as Redman never got a lot of run. But if you decided to pass on using a top-12 pick on Mendenhall last year as a result of the prediction, you're probably not upset, as Mendenhall finished with the same number of fantasy points as Colt McCoy, falling short of a top-50 finish.

Last year in this space I nailed big seasons for Percy Harvin, Stafford, Willis McGahee, Marshawn Lynch and Aaron Hernandez. Of course, I was also down on Eli Manning and Maurice Jones-Drew and high on guys like Delone Carter, Lance Kendricks and Jacoby Ford. Yeah. They're not all winners, kids. This is very high-risk, high-reward territory we are entering, so please don't put more stock into it than use intended. But as I always say, there is no such thing as a bad pick after Round 12; they should all be lottery tickets at that point.

I've got one prediction for each team and I'm going in alphabetical order:

Arizona Cardinals: Ryan Williams, coming off major surgery and going in the 12th round, finishes as a top-20 fantasy running back. My thinking: I hate Beanie Wells. And I think the Cards do, too. Wells fell into 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, and Williams is a better running...
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