Lamar Miller, Hakeem Nicks, David Wilson and White Castle
People are predictable when they've had a "few too many". I've yet to witness a group of friends that didn't include the guy who drinks too much and starts a fight, or the one who relentlessly hits on any woman within shouting distance. There's always the guy who says the same thing over and over (usually while invading your personal space), and his buddy who attempts something absurdly dangerous.
While it seems like I may need to raise my social standards, I bring this up because I also fall into a pattern every time I get a few drinks in me. I'm the guy who ends up really hungry...for White Castle.
My relationship with White Castle is your traditional love-hate saga. There's so much to love about it:
- Pulling up to the drive-thru and ordering literal suitcases full of mini cheese burgers (endearingly referred to as Crave Cases).
- The clam strips at White Castle - they're the best kept secret on the menu. That's right, I said it.
- The confused feeling I get when I'm done ordering my White Castle and the attendant says, “That will be $54.63”.
- The way no cleaning agent on Earth can take the smell of White Castle off your clothing for the ensuing 72 hours after being near the building.
- Eating White Castle. I love those mushy, greasy, onion-smothered burgers and their soggy little buns, in a way that is quite literally unhealthy.
- Waking up wondering why I'm covered in those tiny cardboard holders that each precious slider comes securely nestled in.
All of which brings me to the unfortunate state of affairs that is 'the hate'. I'm referring to, of course, the consequences of over-indulging in White Castle. The consequences whose ramifications are not felt until you suddenly awake early the next morning. If you've been in my shoes before, you know exactly what I'm talking about. But for the uninitiated, allow me to break it down in fantasy football terms you can relate to. Introducing “The White Castle Hate”, AKA the three levels of post-White Castle hell...
Level One – The Lamar Miller Level
So it's six in the morning, you've been passed out for three hours, and suddenly it hits – the level-one tremor. You stumble past the stinking heap of leftover burgers (no one ever finishes all their White Castle), and head for the toilet. Things don't go so poorly. You take care of business and go back to sleep thinking, “That wasn't even so bad. It was perfectly normal. Just the beer probably. I'll feel better when I wake up in a few hours.”
Lamar Miller owners can relate to that level of feeling. Miller ranks 42nd among running backs in standard fantasy points per game, only one spot above Brandon Jacobs. While he may have posted a few decent stat lines, there are plenty of reasons why I just compared him to an ordinary bowel movement. Miller has not exceeded 14 carries or 70 rushing yards in a single game this year. In a befuddling turn of events, he saw only 16 more snaps than notorious plodder Daniel Thomas through the season's first month. He has two separate games on his resume in which he finished with under 15 total yards, too.
Yet just like a dude with a case of the Level One's, there you are saying to yourself, “He hasn't been so bad. In his other three starts, he's averaged nearly 11 fantasy points per game. Miller has run for a respectable 4.2 yards per carry to Daniel Thomas' 2.6. The Dolphins have to realize he's their best runner, and give him more carries sooner or later."
While that optimistic mind state will ultimately doom you the day after White Castle (see Level Two below), I'm inclined to agree with such logic when it comes to Lamar Miller. In terms of rushing net expected points, a metric we use at numberFire to see how many real points a player is contributing for his team above or below expectation on the ground, Miller ranks 11th out of 37 runners who have ran the ball at least 50 times. Daniel Thomas, with fewer carries, has a lower score than Miller, ranking close to the miserable Maurice Jones-Drew on a per carry basis.
The Dolphins upcoming schedule beyond this weekend's tasty match-up with the Bills doesn't look promising. With the exception of the Panthers in Week 12 and the Bills again in Week 16, all of the defenses the Dolphins face for the remainder of the year rank in the top half of the league in rush defense according to our defensive rushing NEP metric.
However, an increased role for Miller should mitigate the damage. In the Dolphins last game against the Ravens, Miller saw 45 snaps to Thomas' 11, marking the first time he played as the clear lead back over his less-talented platoon mate. As long as that trend continues, Lamar Miller should surface as a dependable RB2, and you'll forget he was once the turd that interrupted your blissful slumber.
Level Two – The Hakeem Nicks Level
The instant you re-wake up from your post-level-one sleep around 10AM, Level Two is upon you. Any remaining Level One optimism is gone in the 30 seconds it takes you to reach the bathroom. Level Two is where the burning begins, and although you're not quite gripping the bowl for dear life, you're left to wonder how on Earth you thought nothing was wrong only a few hours ago.
In many ways, Level Two of The White Castle Hate mirrors Hakeem Nicks' fantasy season. Much like a 59 cent slider, you were able to buy Nicks on the cheap coming off injury in your August draft. You found yourself brimming with anticipation of WR1 stats from your WR2, just like you eagerly awaited those tasty little burgers on the ride over to White Castle.
When Nicks averaged 98.5 receiving yards over the first two games, it was every bit as satisfying as opening up a Crave Case and downing the first two delectable burgers. Even as Nicks was kept off the stat sheet in Week 3 and managed only 33 yards in Week 4, you remained optimistic. “A healthy Hakeem Nicks has earned the benefit of the doubt”, you reasoned. Sounds a lot like the false Level One confidence that allowed you to close your eyes and go back to sleep for a few hours.
Even with some solid production the last two weeks, it would be tough to argue that drafting Nicks as a WR2 hasn't come back to burn you just a bit (yup, the Level Two burn). In standard leagues, he's averaged 7.4 fantasy points per game, good for only 47th among wide receivers. By contrast, a healthy Nicks lead all wide receivers in fantasy points per game in 2010 (13.2), and finished inside the top 15 in 2011 (10.7). The downturn in fantasy production can be largely attributed to Nicks' zero touchdowns this year, as he's garnered only three red zone targets from Eli Manning.
To his credit, Nicks grades out favorably according to numberFire's receiving NEP data, ranking 21st at the receiver position. I'd love to sit here and tell you the respectable advanced metrics point to a strong finish to the season for Nicks. Unfortunately, there's no recovering from Level Two of The White Castle Hate (as evidenced by the existence of level three).
The realistic chance Nicks gets traded ahead of the October 29th deadline spells trouble for his fantasy prospects. In-season NFL trades have become more commonplace than you'd think. Roy Williams, Carson Palmer, Randy Moss, and now Trent Richardson have all been traded during the season in recent years, and it makes too much sense for the Giants to strike a deal.
Nicks will be a free agent after the season. If he remains healthy, he'll command more on the open market than the Giants should be willing to pay him (given the Victor Cruz contract and emergence of Rueben Randle). There are no shortage of contending suitors who could use the receiving help (49ers, Patriots, Lions come to mind). With the wheels having fallen off their season weeks ago, why wouldn't the Giants seek a draft pick that could plug one of their numerous holes next season?
Even if Nicks is dealt to a higher-powered offense where he potentially becomes the main target, he would still have to contend with learning a new system on the fly, and developing timing with a new passer. It's a very real possibility that fantasy owners will be watching Nicks' already inconsistent fantasy value swirl quickly down the hopper in another week or two.
Level Three - The David Wilson Level
Level Three is the inevitable end game of every late-night White Castle tryst. While you're still trying to pull yourself together in the wake of Level Two's quasi-devastation, it's on you like a train jumping bum on a can of beans. Adjectives adequately used to describe this stage include bellowing, rancid, baritone, and grisly. Picture Harry after Lloyd got his revenge.
You don't need me to rehash the sordid details of Wilson's fantasy season. Fumbles, bright red Tom Coughlins, dog houses, Da'Rel Scott on third downs, and wonky necks are practically imprinted on the souls of his fantasy owners. The takeaway here is clear enough. When expectant growth is built into a player's price tag at the draft table, it's best to proceed with caution, or you may find yourself in need of fresh boxer shorts. Not coincidentally, the same lesson applies when you mistake White Castle for actual nourishment.
If numberFire metrics could get off the page and strut, they'd look like a bunch of peacocks with respect to Wilson. Of the 40 running backs who have received 40 plus carries, Wilson's rushing NEP ranks 38th, ahead of only Bernard Pierce and Chris Johnson. In fact, you could have avoided this situation entirely had you read Matt Grasso's August 30th write-up, which told you to sell high on Wilson based largely on his alarming 2012 rushing NEP metrics.
The latest reports on Wilson suggest he'll miss the next three to four games recovering from his neck injury. So what are we supposed to do with him now? I'd love to tell you to hold onto Wilson, and that he can be a difference maker for your stretch run, but this is Level Three – there's no room for recovery, optimism, or any type of positive thinking down here.
Even if Wilson can get back on the field, it won't be until about the same time Andre Brown makes his return. At that point, do you really want to bank on a rotational back (we can't rule out Brandon Jacobs remaining involved either), on a lousy team, fresh off a significant neck injury?
When the White Castle does you in, you're looking at a 24 to 48 hour recovery time, but when your second round draft pick drops a month long dookie on your fantasy football team (then suffers a debilitating injury just when it looked like he was about to get it going), the only choice is to cut your losses and move on. Unfortunately, there will be plenty of Wilson owners who act a lot like every repeat White Castle patron since the beginning of time. Even though it's a certainty things will end badly, they just can't quit the crave.