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Starting with a Blank Slaton?

Steve Slaton (Image from otrsportsonline.com)

Continuing my run of creative, pun-intended titles for my Fantasy Football pieces (joining “Running Back to Basics” and “The NFL Quarterback-up Club“), I now bring you “Starting with a Blank Slaton,” which of course refers to that pint-sized running back we all love from the Houston Texans: Steve Slaton. Slaton is a much-maligned back this season, and has largely been seen as a huge draft-day disappointment.

It’s true, he was a disappointment this season. But, in the spirit of the holidays, I’m going to give him a pass. His coach, Gary Kubiak, and a young, raw (a nice way of saying “bad”) offensive line have contributed to his rough totals in 2009. Kubiak famously benched Slaton in Week 8 against the Buffalo Bills after he fumbled early in the game. He finished with one carry for one yard and did not see the field again. In his absence, Ryan Moats stepped in and teased fantasy owners with a 23-carry, 126-yard performance in a 31-10 win.

Slaton was very capable of achieving those numbers against the NFL’s worst run defense (the Bills), but his chance was taken from him. I firmly believe to this day that Kubiak was facing a team in his fantasy league that was starting Slaton. Is that ridiculous? OK, maybe you’re right.

I digress. I’m not here to make excuses for Slaton. I’m just here to show you he wasn’t nearly as bad as you may think. He may be just as good as one of the top running backs in all of football? KC, are you serious? Slaton is matched up with one of the best RB’s in football?

In this comparison, you betcha. I’m going to pair Slaton up with a common Top 3 pick in most fantasy leagues: Atlanta’s Michael Turner. Let’s check it out:

2009 Stats

(both players have played 11 games)

  Rushing       Receiving     Total
  ATT YDS AVG TD REC YDS TD Fumbles
Steve Slaton 131 437 3.3 3 44 417 4 5
Michael Turner 178 871 4.9 10 5 35 0 2

OK, clearly Turner was the better running back this year, with 400 more yards on the ground. But, in the fantasy realm, all we care about is stat totals and fantasy points! League-to-league, points are calculated in different ways. Using the Sports of Boston Fantasy League scoring system (see below), let’s see their fantasy point totals.

SoB Fantasy League scoring: Rush/Receiving TD (6 points), 10 yards (1 point), Lost Fumbles (-2 points), fractional points are counted

  Fantasy Points
Steve Slaton 117.40
Michael Turner 146.60

Closer than you thought, eh? Not impressed? Let’s check a couple other league types, including the league I owned him in (Slaton was a 2nd round pick, Turner a Top 5 pick), and PPR leagues (that count points per reception).

My League’s scoring: Rush/Receiving TD (4 points), 10 yards (1 point), Lost Fumbles (-2 points), fractional points are counted

  Fantasy Points
Steve Slaton 103.40
Michael Turner 126.60

Slaton inches closer with less weight on touchdowns. Some leagues focus a bit too much on touchdowns, but I’m a man of all shapes, races, creeds, types, and sizes. Slaton is similar, but not as good as Mr. Turner. Why am I writing this column…?

Slaton Burns By the Burner

How about when we count receptions? In these test cases, we’ll use the scoring settings from Sports of Boston and from my personal league. The results may surprise you:

PPR-1 scoring: Rush/Receiving TD (4 points), 10 yards (1 point), Reception (1 point), Lost Fumbles (-2 points), fractional points are counted

  Fantasy Points
Steve Slaton 147.40
Michael Turner 131.60

PPR-2 scoring: Rush/Receiving TD (6 points), 10 yards (1 point), Reception (1 point), Lost Fumbles (-2 points), fractional points are counted

  Fantasy Points
Steve Slaton 161.40
Michael Turner 151.60

I’m normally in support of leagues without PPR settings, but for the purpose of this article and my defense of Steve Slaton, long live PPR! It’s clear that Slaton is the more versatile back for fantasy purposes. Even when he’s getting stuffed on the ground, he’s able to rack up sizable totals through the air with the pass-happy Texans.

Apologies to Turner and his Family

I’ll admit I picked on Turner because I already knew he’s literally no threat in the passing game, as he just doesn’t record many receptions. He was definitely an easy target for this exercise. It’s like saying all NBA players are really slow once they hit 35 years old and picking on Shaq (who has been slow since I was in diapers). That’s not fair, I know.

I’ll also admit, however, that any good starting running back with around 20 catches would be better than Slaton in every league imaginable. But, this point should be well-taken. Slaton isn’t as bad as you thought, and in some cases, he was better than one of the league’s top running backs in Michael Turner.

While you Slaton-owners are reading this in disgust while you watch the fantasy playoffs from your league’s consolation bracket, just remember that the first round of a Fantasy Football Draft is a total crapshoot, and it’s not all your fault you selected Slaton.

About KC Downey - @kc_downey

KC is the "head coach" of the Sports of Boston, LLC blog network. Follow him on Twitter: @kc_downey

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