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Training Camp Notebook: Tony Romo, Robert Woods, and Colt Lyerla

Tony Romo

Dallas Cowboys

This is the elephant in the room when it comes to projecting Dallas’ offense this season. With myriad losses from an already sub-par defense, will Dallas’ offense be able to meet expectations? Opposing offenses might be able to (a) build up big leads, (b) grind clock with their run game, or (c) both of the above. If that happens, Dallas’ offense might get way off script in a hurry. Rich Hribar explained why even Peyton Manning had only one top 12 fantasy week in a loss last season, and I raised concerns about play volume in this Doubting Dunbar piece. It’s probably too early to be afraid of drafting Tony Romo…for health reasons. But what about for game script reasons? Head over to the Projection Machine to see the significant impacts that even small changes in offensive pace/number of plays run can make.

Robert Woods, Bills

Woods’ is a candidate to lead the Bills in receptions.1 Rookie Sammy Watkins will assuredly be heavily involved, but (a) he’s a rookie and (b) Woods looks to be in line for desirable routes and targets, based on the underlying news story. Based on Woods’ rookie numbers, history suggests he’s a likely long term success. The Game Splits App suggests he could be very productive if E.J. Manuel stays healthy this year:


Woods’ ADP is still in the 14th round of PPR leagues, although it’s starting to inch upwards. He makes a good target at any similar ADP, especially since the ADP Arbitrage App likes him as a cheaper option for several other higher profile wide receivers.

Colt Lyerla, Packers

Lyerla is currently…seventh on the Packers’ tight end depth chart. At the moment, Brandon Bostick is wowing camp observers. Before that, it was Top Secret Richard Rodgers. Hopefully you paid attention2 when we tried to dissuade you from boarding the Lyerla hype train. I’m staying off the Green Bay Tight End hype wagon altogether. First, rookie TEs rarely produce. But more importantly, the Green Bay offense isn’t that great for tight ends anyway.

Luke Willson, Seahawks

Speaking of tight ends, I feel bad for Seattle’s Anthony McCoy, who looks to be out for the season. The fantasy takeaway is that Jordan Cameron wannabe Luke Willson moves closer to relevance.

Eric Ebron, Lions

That makes total sense. Over the offseason, many questioned the Lions’ decision to draft Ebron after re-signing Pettigrew. I said at the time that re-signing Pettigrew wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t then, and it isn’t now. This report is one more bit of evidence that Pettigrew is being phased out of the passing game, leaving Ebron and Joseph Fauria as the main pass catching options. Adding Pettigrew as essentially a 6th offensive lineman to an already good offensive line is probably a good thing. I’m working on some projections for the Lions offense that I’ll hopefully publish soon, however, I wouldn’t rely on either Ebron or Fauria in seasonal formats, but like both as late round options in best ball leagues.

News & Noise

This recent Grantland article explores the issues of news, noise, sample size, and narrative. Worth reading, even though it’s about baseball. Author Ben Lindbergh does a good job exploring our collective tendency to over or under project players based on recent history, rather than relying on more reliable long term trends. he quotes Sam Miller:

“We are all probably guilty of overvaluing and overrating how smart we are and thinking that we can find that factor in every player who’s doing something unexpected. If I [took 50 players who are dramatically overperforming their projections], I could probably find something for all 50. I could find some quote from a batting coach, or something in his PITCHf/x profile or in his spray charts or in something that he said or his diet the previous winter.”

Ah, there’s our good friend Narrative. Lindbergh goes on to find a convenient and highly publicized narrative for each of 50 recent over-performers. But the (statistical) truth is likely that the recent performance is just a short term deviation from the player’s long-term baseline.

Football has many more interaction effects between players than baseball does, which makes it even more likely that we accept narrative-driven explanations for short term over-performance –  and then wrongly extrapolate continued over-performance. At least, that’s what I think. Check out the article; it’s a good read.


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  1. No shit, Sherlock.  (back)
  2. Here, and here.  (back)

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