It happens every year in Week 1 of the NFL season: an unheralded guy on no one’s radar comes out of nowhere to put up big numbers, and then fantasy owners everywhere make a mad dash to pick said player up.
Sometimes it works out. Most times, however, it does not.
The hot name after last night’s season opener between the Cowboys and Giants is Dallas WR Kevin Ogletree.
The lightly regarded third receiver – who barely held onto that job in camp – increased his career touchdown total to two … by catching two touchdown passes. It was part of a holy-hell-where-did-that-come-from!? 8-catch, 114-yard performance.
So now, as fantasy owners make their mad dashes to the free agent list to snatch up Ogletree in the hopes that he is this year’s Victor Cruz, the question must be asked: is Ogletree the real deal or is he just another example of an NFL-style Tuffy Rhodes who will never approach his Week 1 production again?
By the way, you do remember Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes right? He of the infamous 3-home run game on Opening Day for the Cubs?
It’s one of the most memorable Opening Day performances in sports history, not simply because 3-home run games are amazing whenever they are turned in; but more so because Rhodes did almost nothing else of note his entire career. (Well, his stateside career anyway. He pretty much dominated Japan.)
NFL Week 1 and baseball’s Opening Day are always filled with anomalies. But in baseball, the anomalies occur in just one game out of 162. In the NFL, a Week 1 anomaly accounts for 6.25% of the entire season.
So unexpected Week 1 performances cause more waves in fantasy football than they do in fantasy baseball.
Remember about a decade ago when the Bills beat the Patriots 31-0 in Week 1? The Patriots went on to the win the Super Bowl. I sure hope you didn’t rush to the waiver wire to pick up Bills players while dropping your Patriots that year.
But that’s ancient history. And that’s a team beating another team. It’s an irrelevant anecdote outside of its ability to quickly illustrate the folly of trusting anything you see in Week 1 (which I implored you never to do here.)
You don’t care about worthless outfielders for the worthless Cubs. Nor do you care about how the Bills circled the wagons for one measly week to beat New England. You’re here for specific analysis of Kevin Ogletree … ehrmgherd, the guy who could be this year’s Victor Cruz!!!
So let’s discuss whether you should trust or ignore Kevin Ogletree.
Reasons To Believe in Kevin Ogletree
Let’s begin with the positives.
Here are some statistics for you:
- 54 receptions (3.85 per game)
- 858 yards (61.3)
- 11 TDs (0.79)
Those are the statistics that receiving legend Laurent Robinson put up last year in 14 games as the third receiver in the Cowboys’ offense. (I hope you caught the sarcasm in the “legend” descriptor. Robinson had four TDs total in four seasons prior to last year.)
Last year, the quarterback for the Cowboys was Tony Romo. The top two receivers were Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Romo’s most trusted option was tight end Jason Witten. And DeMarco Murray finally gave the Cowboys a consistent running attack.
This year, the quarterback for the Cowboys is Tony Romo. The top two receivers are Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Romo’s most trusted option is still Jason Witten, worrisome spleen and all. And DeMarco Murray looks even better as the Cowboys’ lead back.
Seeing as how Ogletree was basically able to pick up right where Robinson left off last year (Robinson caught two TD passes in three of the Cowboys’ final eight games and at least one in eight of their final ten), why shouldn’t we trust that Ogletree can be a viable weekly starter this year?
Maybe there is just something inherent in being the Cowboys’ #3 WR that leads to fantasy success.
Perhaps defenses have so much to worry about with Murray, Bryant, Austin, and Witten, that the Cowboys’ #3 WR just gets to frolic around the field unabated, catching wide open touchdown passes week after week.
Recent history says this is so. And I know I feel better picking a guy up off the free agent list when there is at least precedent that what he’s done can be repeated. Here, there certainly seems to be precedent.
Reasons To NOT Believe in Kevin Ogletree
Okay, yes, there is precedent. But Kevin Ogletree isn’t Laurent Robinson, and this is 2012, not 2011.
We can’t just automatically assume that a guy with no statistical track record – who, again, barely even kept his job coming out of camp – is going to repeat what a player in his similar spot did last year.
Here is a relevant anecdote for you: during last night’s pregame show here in Dallas, the highly respected Bob “Sports” Sturm, who knows his Cowboys football about as well as anyone, was talking up rookie Cole Beasley all night as a guy primed for a big game. (Yeah, this guy, who looks like that guy from The Spin Doctors.)
That’s how much respect “people in the know” had for Kevin Ogletree coming into the game.
And now, suddenly, you want to drop a potential sleeper running back or a proven veteran because of one superlative performance against a depleted secondary?
Yes, let’s remember that key fact about last night: the Giants were already without two of their top three cornerbacks, Terrell Thomas and Prince Amukamura, and their replacement, Michael Coe, was injured during the game. As Gregg Rosenthal NFL.com explained, “That’s when the Giants’ secondary really collapsed.”
In fact, one of the reasons Sturm and other Cowboys’ analysts were predicting a big game for little Cole Beasley was precisely because of the Giants’ issues in the secondary. They just got the name wrong.
It wasn’t Beasley but Kevin Ogletree – the guy notorious in Dallas for not even being able to line up correctly – who took advantage.
And kudos to Ogletree for doing so. Success in sports is all about seizing opportunities when they come. He did that.
And now, for one week at least, all past sins are forgiven and all predictions about future performance are inflated. Such is life in our overreaction sports culture.
But the fact remains that the Victors Cruzes and Laurent Robinsons of the NFL world are the anomalies, not the norms (sorry, I had to). Guys with Ogletree’s track record – 25 catches for 294 yards in 25 games coming into last night – typically don’t make huge leaps to fantasy relevancy.
Could he? Sure. But if you are considering blowing your waiver wire position on Ogletree, especially if it’s a top-4 slot, make sure that you keep your expectations in check.
Do you really think Kevin Ogletree is going to be hauling in many more touchdown passes this season with the mouths of Bryant, Austin, Witten, Murray, and even Felix Jones to feed? I know Robinson did it last year, but it was highly unusual. Not many receivers catch a touchdown for every 5.3 receptions, which was Robinson’s rate last year. That’s unsustainable.
Robinson also benefited from increased targets because of injuries to Austin and Romo’s lack of trust in the mercurial Bryant. Banking on the brittle Austin to get injured at some point this year is far from a fool’s bet, but Bryant is by all accounts much more focused and seems poised to fulfill his potential. And Witten will play even with a questionable spleen; I’m pretty sure Romo isn’t going to stop looking his way.
Add it all up and I just don’t see the weekly targets for Ogletree that will allow him to approach anything close to consistent production.
And, again, predicting something like Robinson’s out-of-nowhere 2011 campaign to happen again is a recipe for fantasy disappointment.
It’s easy to have an itchy trigger finger in Week 1. You’re excited about the new season, you want to do something, and if you distrust your receiving corps it’s hard to not be seduced by 8 catches, 114 yards, and 2 TDs sitting atop the WR free agent list.
And sometimes pulling that trigger pays off. Sometimes the bold early move can pay big late dividends.
But more often than not patience wins in fantasy sports, which is what I suggest you exhibit here.
If you’re like me, and you load up your bench early in the season with young, talented running backs who are a philosophy shift or injury away from a starting role (think DeMarco Murray last year), why dump that potential right now for a guy like Ogletree who has one good performance in 26 career games?
However, if you’re one of those fools who carries a backup kicker or defense, or if auto-draft gave you Chad Johnson, then by all means grab Ogletree. Why not? I don’t trust him, but that doesn’t mean he’s devoid of value … if the price is right. And the price is, of course, whoever you have to drop to get him.
The price wouldn’t be right on any of my rosters, but it may be on yours.
Here is one final piece of advice for those of you who do add Kevin Ogletree:
If Ogletree somehow repeats his Week 1 performance in Week 2 at Seattle, start shopping him immediately. Play up his potential to be this year’s Victor Cruz or Laurent Robinson, and see if some WR-starved team will give you a proven player.
Success in fantasy sports is like success in the stock market: you want to buy low and sell high.
Right now, Kevin Ogletree is the hottest stock in the fantasy football marketplace.
Ah, Week 1. Never change.