4TH AND GOAL

Hints and Tips #5

How to Evaluate Team Needs for the Off Season

Your team just finished out a 5-11 campaign by losing to the division champs.  You take a look at your final season statistics, and you're ready to find your problem and fix it before next year.  Sure enough, it only takes a minute to find it Ė you're team ranked 28th out of 30 teams in rushing, and you're HB1 only had about 800 yards all season.  So, you decide that in Free Agency and the draft, youíll go get a new HB1 and problem solved, right?  Wrong.  In fact, that will probably make you even worse because chances are, the old HB1 is fine and you just wasted a really high pick (or a lot of Prestige Points) on a player you donít really need.

So, what is the right way to determine what your needs are?  First and foremost, you have to realize that statistics and ratings donít always tell the whole story.  Most of the time, they donít even tell half the story.  You have to look deeper to find the true cause of your losing ways.  You need to not only look at the statistics, but analyze why they are the way they are.  Hereís how you do it.

First, you have to determine if there is an underlying reason you canít run (or pass, or defend) the ball.  If youíre ranked 28th in rushing, is there a reason other than talent?  For example, is your team pass happy?  You might average 5 yards a carry (which is great), but only run the ball 10-15 times a game.  Or, maybe your defense is bad, so youíre constantly trying to catch up, which means passing a lot and just about abandoning the running game.

The same thing can work in reverse.  Suppose you look at your stats and see that youíre ranked 5th against the pass.  So, you think ĎGreat, I donít have to worry about that.í  However, if youíre team is horrible against the run, teams donít have to pass much to score on you, hence the high ranking.  My point is, always look deeper than ratings and statistics.

When you finally determine what the problem is, you have to figure out how to correct it.  Going back to previous examples, suppose you ultimately decide that your running game is your biggest problem.  Now what?  Change the HB?  Or FB?  Or linemen?  Maybe, maybe not.  The first thing you need to do is see if the plays you are running Ďfití your linemen and backs.  What I mean by this is, some plays that work great for some teams donít work at all for others.  Look at Travis Jervey of Rome.  His ratings arenít that great, especially compared to some of the other top backs.  But, heís 2nd in the WFFL in rushing, and he still has a chance to win the title.  Why?  Because the Rome owner has found the perfect rushing plays for him, and in those plays, Jervey is practically unstoppable.  If you have Barry Sanders and youíre constantly running him up the middle, that could be your problem right there.  Likewise, if youíre running a ton of pitches and sweeps with Jamal Anderson, somethingís not right.

So, suppose you do your homework and you find the plays that maximizes your HBís running, but you still canít gain yards.  What then?  At this point, it comes down to talent.  It can either be your HB, or your OL.  Or, maybe even your FB.  How do you know which?  Easy.  Compare the ratings of your players to those of players on other teams, and do this for each position in question.  If your HB matches up well with half of the other starting HBís in the league, chances are heís not your problem.  However, if you compare him and his key ratings (SP, AG, maybe AC and ST) are consistently lower than other HBís, then there is a good chance you need to replace him.

Iíll give you a good example.  In the WFFL, my team was ranked 30th in rushing offense.  At the same time, my passing offense was doing well, and my defense kept me in most ballgames.  I studied plays to find the ones that worked the best, but I still couldnít run.  I finally determined that talent was my problem.  I looked at my HB1 (Robert Edwards) and his ratings are comparable to most of the starting HBís in the league, so I was confused.  Then, I looked at my offensive line.  My C (Steve Everitt) and Tís (Tra Thomas and Walter Jones) were among the best in the league at their positions, so I thought the line couldnít be my problem.  Then, I looked at my Gís (Calvin Collins and Jorge Diaz).  While both players were okay, their ST was only around 88 or 89, which I though was a little low.  Plus, most of my run plays went up the middle.  So, I went out and traded for a strong G, Brenden Stai (ST of 94).  In his first game, I rushed for 120 yards, including 100 by Edwards.  In the 3 weeks since, Iíve passed 120 yards each time.  Iím not ranked much higher because I was so bad earlier, but my running game is about twice as good as it was, just from adding a stronger G.

You can do the same thing for a defense.  Either way, before you rush out to pick up that rookie HB, make sure thatís what you need.  The other good thing about doing this is, most people want to pick up Ďskillí position players, the QBís, WRís, HBís, etc.  If your problem turns out to be a on the line, or a FB, chances are you can upgrade for much less than you can at HB or QB.

Next week, we will discuss how to evaluate individual players for trades and weíll show you how to determine if youíre paying too much when you deal.