The Rundown: Jordan Matthews, Eric Ebron, and Betting the Ponies

Jordan Matthews, Intangibles Winner

Bleeding Green Nation recently wrote about Matthews’ offseason plans:

Following the end of the Eagles OTAs/minicamp, the rookie receiver detailed his summer plans to the media. ‘I’m going out to Atlanta for a while to go train. I’m going to try to train around guys like A.J. [Green] and Calvin [Johnson] down with Tom Bender and them….’ Along with Green and Johnson (both whom Matthews mentions on a first name basis), Denver Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas could also be in attendance.

No biggie. Just working with some dudes. I entered this data in the Intangibles App, and it responded with a double fist-pump. In seriousness, this may mean nothing more than that Matthews has a connection who was able to get him an invite to join these guys. There’s absolutely a case to be made against Matthews. But in the spirit of risk sensitivity this could be a mark in Matthews’ favor. Or at least a mark suggesting he will “maximize his talent.” Here’s the thing though: a lot of guys work hard and have good character and don’t succeed. Some guys have poor character and work ethic and do succeed. For myself, I only use this type of information as a really deep tie breaker. In other words, it barely registers. Physical ability and on-field production are measurable. The needs of your particular fantasy roster are quantifiable. To a lesser extent, real life on field  “opportunity” is also quantifiable. After that? Maybe I consider intangibles. What about you? When and where do things like “work ethic” and “character” enter your evaluation process?

Eric Ebron, slot receiver

It’s been recently reported that Ebron expects to play 50% of his snaps from the slot. This reinforces the idea that his catch rate, while low for a typical tight end, isn’t much of a concern playing in the slot. It also likely means that the Lions’ third wide receiver (maybe this guy or this guy) likely has little value for fantasy purposes. And, to the extent Ebron plays in the slot, Brandon Pettigrew or, hopefully, Joseph Fauria could be on the field at the same time as an inline tight end. Something to watch in training camp. For his sake, Ebron identifies himself as a “hybrid” or “joker”, not a tight end.1 He’s not the only one. Former Detroit tight end, mentor, and apparent oracle Charlie Sanders identifies him that way as well.

“Well, you know what? People say he’s a tight end; he’s a big wideout, is what he is,” Sanders said…“(Brandon) Pettigrew is a tight end; there’s a difference.”

Sanders goes on to give a good example of how the Lions intend to use Ebron.

“What do you do when you take a guy of his talent and put him out in a position where Calvin is and move Calvin inside?” Sanders said. “How do you counter those types of situations? So we basically start dictating to the defense instead of (the defense dictating to) us.

“Everybody in this division is basically strong safety-conscious. They have two physical strong safeties because we’re a physical division. But now all of a sudden, you start spreading people out and pitting safeties that are used to seeing everything in tight, putting them out on an island, now what? It creates a challenge.”

I don’t know if the Lions’ plans with Ebron will work out. But I like their plan.

The real reason advanced stats will change football evaluation. 

There are several reasons of course. Good arguments can be made that “analytics” provide superior player evaluations. Or that they provide a training edge. But the real reason is over a hundred years old. From Charlie Zegers:

The Daily Racing Form started publishing race charts with detailed statistics way back in November, 1894. In 1905, professional gambler George E. Smith — otherwise known as “Pittsburgh Phil” — said, “the secret of my betting is nothing more or less than an accurate study of past performances, present form, and a horse’s willingness to run on the day of the race to the best that is in him.” Smith amassed a fortune (in current dollars) of over $85 million, much of it from betting the ponies, so we’ll take him at his word.

Zegers goes on to say this:

Why did the advanced stats movement take off in horse racing so quickly? I refer you, once again, to Pittsburgh Phil’s net worth. Or even the stacks of $100s Wes Welker carried out of Churchill Downs. It isn’t important for a casual fan to understand WAR or PER, or even OPS or WHIP. Casual fans don’t need to project outcomes. Bettors — like fantasy players — do.

I find it ironic that the fantasy industry, responsible for much of the growth in the scouting business, may in turn contribute to the demise (or at least relegation to lower status) of said scouting industry. The whole article is worth reading, by the way.



  1. By the way, Ebron has a pretty good sense of humor.  (back)
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