- The Season's Over -

The Return of Adrian “All Day” Peterson and Other Observations from Week 3

September 29, 2010

Adrian Peterson looks focused

Adrian Peterson Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By: Andrew Thell

- This is the best I’ve seen Adrian Peterson look in two years. There was talk about AP working hard this offseason on two things: ball control and patience. It’s looking like that work is paying serious dividends. AP led the NFL in fumbles over the last three years, and down the stretch last season he struggled to find running room to showcase his trademark speed, power and moves. With season totals of 18 TDs and over 1,800 total yards, it’s easy to forget that he looked downright bad down the stretch in 2009. He was dancing behind the line, getting tackled for losses with regularity, being forced outside far too often and not hitting the seams he usually turns into big gains. Between Week 7 and the NFC Divisional playoff game, a span of 11 games, Peterson topped 100 yards rushing just once and sported a yards-per-carry average over 4.0 in just two contests (at home versus the Lions in Week 10 and with just 9 carries in a Week 17 laugher versus the Giants).

It wasn’t all his fault though. The offensive line was perhaps the best in football three years ago, but in 2009 featured a new, inexperienced and very undersized center in John Sullivan who was often abused by opposing DTs. In fact, the whole line looked a year older and a step slower last season, which was a big part of the reason Brett Favre had to go into gunslinger mode. This year, behind the same line which still doesn’t look especially strong, he’s rocking a 5.6 YPC, which is tied with his rookie season as the best mark of his career, and is churning out 130.7 yards per game, easily the best mark of his career.

Peterson has looked good doing it, too. He’s following his blockers, taking what the defense gives him, making excellent cuts and reads, letting the play develop before him, and then decisively hitting the smallest of creases and seams with authority. And, knock on wood, he hasn’t put the ball on the ground yet. Minnesota will need to lean on him as much as ever this season, especially in the passing game, and the way he’s responding nobody is looking foolish for using the top-overall pick on All Day.

- Sometimes teams have to lower their expectations. Not everybody can have the prototypical franchise running back, there aren’t enough APs to go around, and for some NFL and fantasy teams a guy who can turn in a workman-like effort has to be enough. When that’s the case, a big bruiser who isn’t a home-run threat can get the job done. In Cleveland, Eric Mangini has found that guy in Peyton Hillis, who isn’t going to break any game-changing runs but also isn’t going to hurt his team. Cleveland just needs a guy who can take what the defense gives and churn out modest production with consistency. Hillis can do that. He can also handle goal-line work, blocks well and is a surprisingly good receiver out of the backfield. He’s not a great back, but right now in Cleveland he’s good enough.

Hillis is likely long gone in your league, but his example might be one fantasy owners and NFL coaches can learn from. It’s looking very possible Tampa Bay, Green Bay and New England could follow suit with 250-pound LeGarrette Blount, 250-pound John Kuhn and BenJarvin Green-Ellis, who is only 215 pounds but chugs along like a much bigger back. All three of these teams struggle mightily in the run game and lack anybody who could emerge as an elite option on their roster, but could soon just settle for a big guy who’s good enough. None of these guys have the athleticism or skill set that gets fantasy owners excited, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be useful flex plays on a regular basis.

More observations from the first three weeks after the jump …

Read the rest of this article »

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Sep. 29, 2010 at 10:43pm in NFL, NFL Fantasy News

Fantasy Football Can Be a Cruel Mistress

September 29, 2010

Reggie Wayne

Reggie Wayne & Champ Bailey Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Brian Spencer

There’s nothing worse than pointless fantasy points.

You see them every week, with maddening consistency: a backup fullback plunges into the endzone from the one-yard line after a stud wide receiver was stopped just short of the goal line following his spectacular 50-yard gain. A third-string tight end hauls in a wide-open touchdown catch after a play-action pass from the three-yard line. Or, even worse, some guy you dumped on waivers after he ran for 25 yards on 20 carries over a three-week period explodes for 150 yards and a handful of scores.

Nobody owns these guys, nobody ever even considered adding these guys, and somebody usually wastes a waiver claim on these guys Monday morning, before realizing a few weeks later that lightening isn’t going to strike again, at least not until after you drop him. Those pointless touchdowns and those useless yards might help their real team win the game, but we all know that the majority of people watching football every Sunday mostly care about just two things: their picks covering the spread, and their fantasy players producing. Real-life wins and losses are but a frivolous subplot.

Consider last week’s matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos (in which Indy easily covered), which was mostly a wash for fantasy regulars except Peyton Manning and Austin Collie, with Kyle Orton not being considered a regular at that point:

- Colts running backs Joseph Addai and Donald Brown combined for 41 yards on 20 carries and 10 yards receiving on 2 catches, with no touchdowns; their Denver counterparts, Laurence Maroney and Correll Buckhalter, weren’t much better in totaling 36 yards on 16 carries and 73 yards receiving on 8 catches. With the exception of Brown, all three guys were considered solid starts (though Buckhalter was only a nominally better play than Brown), but none of them did their owners any favors.

- Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne, a borderline first-round fantasy pick, and tight end Dallas Clark, with his Yahoo! ADP of 35.5, caught 9 passes for 109 yards and 0 TDs between them. Meanwhile, Collie, who went undrafted in most fantasy leagues, enjoyed the best game of his young career in going bonkers to the tune of 12 catches for 171 yards and 2 TDs. Blair White, an undrafted rookie out of Michigan State signed from the practice squad that weekend to fill in for an injured Pierre Garcon, was the second-most fantasy productive player in the Colts’ passing attack, catching 3 passes for 27 yards and 1 TD.

- In Week 2, Broncos rookie WR Demaryius Thomas, a first-round pick, had a rousing NFL debut against the Seattle Seahawks, catching 8 passes for 97 yards and a score, and looking really good doing it. He was added in most leagues immediately and slotted into a lot of fantasy starting lineups against the Colts’ middling secondary. After two strong showings, Thomas’ running mate at receiver, Eddie Royal, had also emerged as a reliable target of Kyle Orton, and he too was probably started as a WR3 or flex option.

How’d they do on a day where Orton threw for a career-high of 476 yards? Thomas caught 2 passes for 43 yards, while Royal caught 4 for 23 yards. Instead, it was journeyman Brandon Lloyd popping off for 6 catches, 169 yards, and 1 TD, and veteran Jabar Gaffney doing his best, well, Austin Collie imitation in catching 12 passes for 140 yards. Lloyd is having a fantastic season so far (which is insane), and Gaffney was considered a decent sleeper, but c’mon…

- Speaking of Orton’s 476 yards passing, when was the last time a quarterback piled on that kind of yardage and only threw 1 touchdown pass? How many people were bold enough to start Orton?

Nothing wrecks best-laid fantasy football plans quite like NFL football.

2 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Sep. 29, 2010 at 4:38pm in NFL, NFL Fantasy News

Surprise! Four Early-Season Fantasy Football Overachievers at Quarterback

September 28, 2010

Kyle Orton Broncos

Kyle Orton Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Brian Spencer

Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos - We have a saying around here to explain inexplicable randomness such as Orton’s early-season fantasy domination: Football! Woooooo football!

Orton came into the season, his second in Denver, with a career 75 QB Rating and was considered one of the least sexiest starting quarterbacks in the entire league (if you throw out Carolina, Cleveland, and Buffalo since we all know they don’t have a fucking clue what to do about the position). Lord knows nobody wanted Orton on fantasy draft day: he went undrafted in ETB’s 12-team league, and his Yahoo! public league ADP was a rousing 132.7, or early in the 14th round. To reiterate, that was behind studs like Matt Leinart (ugh), David Garrard (yuck), Matt Moore (haha!), and… Tim Tebow (amen).

Well, the joke has been on us wiseasses so far: after shredding the Swiss-cheese Colts secondary on Sunday (at least in terms of yardage), Orton is sporting a healthy 97.4 QB Rating, has completed over 66% of his pass attempts, and has thrown for 1,078 yards, 4 TDs, and 2 INTs. That makes him the sixth most valuable fantasy quarterback after three weeks, 0.28 points behind Drew Brees. Geez.

Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles - You may have heard hushed whispers and murmured rumors that Vick has taken over the starting job for the Iggles. You know that, right? Story hasn’t gotten many legs just yet, but something tells me that once ESPN sniffs this, like a dog in a crotch, you might start hearing about this heart-wrenching story of redemption before too long.

I’m sure Vick has turned his life around, loves dogs, spends his free time doing non-required charity work, and takes the blind for walks while reading books to the deaf; just ask ESPN. That’s great, good for him and good for the world at large. Most fantasy players are simply concerned with the bottom statistical line: this guy has come out of nowhere and is playing the best overall football of his career. If he keeps this up, Vick is a shoo-in Pro Bowler and possibly, all things considered, the fantasy MVP of 2010.

Through three games, the 30-year-old vet has an astounding 110.2 QB Rating (career: 76.2) thanks to 750 yards passing, 170 yards rushing, 7 TDs (6 passing, 1 rushing), and 0 INTs. He’s yet another fantasy draft-day afterthought who was scooped up on waivers after incumbent Kevin Kolb was knocked out of the game–and the starting job–with a concussion in Week 1. Sure seems like there are a lot of undrafted guys kicking ass this year, eh?

Let’s keep Vick’s early-season performances in perspective though: the bulk of his eye-popping stats have come against the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars. You won’t find secondaries much worse than the ones those respective squads are trotting out there this year. We’ll find out more about Vick in the coming weeks as the Eagles move into the meat of their schedule, but for now, only Peyton Manning and (barely) Philip Rivers are more valuable fantasy quarterbacks.

Mark Sanchez, New York Jets - Just for the record, ETB are not “Sanchise” fans. Not at all. We didn’t like him last year as a rookie (though begrudgingly gave him credit for his solid postseason performances), didn’t think he’d be any better the second time around, and thought he came across as an unprepared, petulent brat in HBO’s Hard Knocks; a player who reads and believes his own headlines.

Geez, between Pierre Garcon, Darren McFadden, Visanthe Shiancoe, and now Orton and Sanchez we are having to eat a ton of crow, and it’s only Week 3. (Football!) Let’s see how he holds up over the entire season before anointing him the King of New York, but so far Sanchez has been steady-handed and fantasy productive as he carries a 104.9 QB Rating into his team’s Week 4 cake walk against the Buffalo Bills.

What’s most impressive to me is the touchdown-to-interception ratio: a year after throwing 12 TDs and 20 INTs, through three games he’s tossed 6 TDs compared to 0 INTs. That’s golden for a ball-control team like the Jets, and speaking as a Santonio Holmes owner that has me tentatively patting myself on the back for drafting Holmes and sitting on him as he serves out his four-game suspension. Holmes returns in Week 5 at home against the Denver Broncos; I’m predicting, oh, 15 catches for 325 yards and 4 TDs.

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks - Another “just for the record” caveat: Hasselbeck sucks. He sucks so bad, in fact, that despite the fact that he’s put up the tenth-most fantasy points of any quarterback in the NFL, he’s still on waivers in ETB’s league. It’s embarassing to start him, much less carry him on your bench, unless your name is Tim Hasselbeck, his brother and onetime NFL quarterback who also sucked.

But, anyway, Hasselbeck finds himself on this list because, well, I guess he hasn’t sucked quite as much as expected: his Seahawks somehow have a winning record at 2-1 (which is especially depressing to Lions fans like myself), and he’s somehow been just good enough to be fantasy relevant again, I guess, in accruing a 75.4 QB Rating and throwing for 623 yards, 4 TDs, and 5 INTs… wait a second. Those numbers are terrible.

What’s going on here? Oh, right: he has 8 carries for 30 yards and–the fantasy kicker–2 touchdowns. Woo hoo! Or should I say… football! Wooooo football!

2 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Sep. 28, 2010 at 5:20am in ETB Articles, NFL, NFL Fantasy News

Surprise! Four Early-Season Fantasy Football Overachievers at Running Back

September 23, 2010

Tim Hightower

Tim Hightower Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Brian Spencer

Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders – Here’s something to consider about the fourth-overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft: with 240 yards rushing after two games this season, he needs just 118 more yards to surpass his entire output last year… and just 1 more TD, since he only scored once a year ago. Still just 23 years old, is this kid primed to be the comeback story of the year?

Maybe. Like you, I wanted nothing to do with him on draft day this year after he ran like a broken-down journeyman during most of his first two seasons. With Michael Bush pegged as the preseason favorite to be “the guy” in the Raiders’ backfield, McFadden’s ADP in Yahoo! public leagues was a lowly 117.2, making him a late 13th-round pick behind illustrious peers like Steve Slaton and Ben Tate. While Bush has yet to hit the field, McFadden has stepped in and posted a 5 YPC while tacking on 8 catches for 63 yards and a score.

With Bush apparently ready to go, McFadden’s playing time will likely depend on the whims of Al Davis, but even if we’re looking at a season-long timeshare here, those crazy enough to start him in Weeks 1 and/or 2 have already been rewarded for their leap of faith. McFadden is currently the seventh-most productive fantasy running back.

Tim Hightower, Arizona Cardinals – Is Beanie Wells the most talented back on the Cards’ roster? Probably, but talent doesn’t always supercede durability in the NFL. Though Wells technically played in all 16 games of his impressive rookie season, he was often dinged up and limited by one lingering injury or another, and has missed the first two games this season because of knee problems. That’s opened the door for Hightower, and he’s responded to the opportunity.

His Week 2 performance against the Atlanta Falcons was highlighted by an 80-yard romp down the sideline to the promised land; that stood as his team’s only notable offensive play of the afternoon in an otherwise 41-7 drubbing on the road. Sure, take that burst away and he’s left with a pedestrian 10 carries for 35 yards, but the Cards were playing from behind all day and that offense was totally overmatched in every way possible. Hightower ran hard, just as he did in Week 1 against that vaunted St. Louis Rams defense.

The 2 lost fumbles against the Rams hurt, but Hightower has still managed to be the 11th-ranked fantasy running back for his efforts. You take that from a guy whose Yahoo! ADP was undrafted, and who in my case was a 13th-round pick. Wells looks like he’ll give it a go this week against a pathetic Oakland Raiders defense, but something tells me Hightower is still the better start this week, and there’s no telling at this point just how serious Wells’ injury is or will be. There are some defensive pattycakes coming up, too.

Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos – You can argue that Moreno, the starting tailback for a franchise with a long history of making something out of nothing in their backfield (see Tatum Bell, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson), cannot be considered an overachiever, especially considering his Yahoo! ADP of 77.6, or the middle of the 8th round. Honestly, though, right or wrong we’ve been lukewarm on this kid from the start and didn’t think he looked all that great as a rookie, despite the relatively good stats: 947 yards rushing (3.8 YPC), 213 yards receiving, 9 TDs, and 4 fumbles lost.

The trade for Laurence Maroney was to some a vote of no-confidence in Moreno on the Broncos’ part, and hey, maybe it was, but Moreno has responded to the added competition by running hard, finding the endzone (twice), and embracing the role of workhorse in racking up 39 carries in just two games. Heading into Denver’s Week 3 home tilt against the Indianapolis Colts, Moreno is the 9th-ranked fantasy running back… but there’s a catch. His YPC is an anemic 2.8, and that’s just not good enough. I wonder, too, about his big-play ability: after 18 games, most of them as the featured back, his longest run is just 36 yards. Kevin Smith redux?

Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns – Speaking of former Bronco running backs, remember when Hillis vultured 6 TDs as a rookie with Denver in ’08? A season-ending injury to promising Browns rook Montario Hardesty has, for the moment, turned Hillis into more than just a guy hanging around to pick up the leftovers: cringe with me, Dawg Pound, Hillis is actually looking like the most reliable backfield option. Ugh.

We’re not here to deride the man’s stroke of luck, though, or to point out that if he is indeed the starter this week at Baltimore–good luck with that, buddy–he just might be the weakest main guy in Week 3. No, we’re not here to poke holes in the dreams of those fantasy players who scooped the preseason afterthought up off waivers this week; we’re here to say that, yes, most definitely, this guy is a surprise overachiever in that nobody expected him to wind up fantasy rosters this season. Isn’t that how it always goes?

Anyway, just to emphasize how silly the game of football is, both real and imaginary, Hillis is currently the 13th-ranked fantasy back thanks to 76 yards rushing, 50 yards receiving, and 2 TDs. Well done, Peyton.

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Sep. 23, 2010 at 7:06pm in NFL, NFL Fantasy News

Surprise! Four Early-Season Fantasy Football Overachievers at Wide Receiver

September 23, 2010

Kevin Walter TexansBy Brian Spencer

Kevin Walter, Houston Texans – The quintessential possession receiver who can also bust big plays, Walter is the Texans’ version of Wes Welker–except that he’s a good 5 inches taller and 20-odd pounds heavier, and according to Ol’ Fay “even sexier than hunky Wes.” Drafted in the 7th round back in ’03 out of collegiate football powerhouse Eastern Michigan, Walter was squarely on fantasy radars last season following a breakout campaign in ’08 (60 catches, 899 yards, 8 TDs), but though solid he failed to move the needle much and established himself as a waiver-wire slut, getting added and dropped on a weekly basis by desperate/frustrated players.

This year, his eighth one in the NFL, he’s off to a torrid start after being overlooked on fantasy draft day by most everybody not playing in a 12- or 14-team league. He’s already equaled his touchdown total from all of last season (2), and caught 13 passes for 173 yards; by comparison his WR running mate, consensus first-round fantasy pick Andre Johnson, has 15 catches for 191 yards and a score. Johnson is obviously the (far) superior talent here, but Walter just might end up being the better value: it’s early, but at the moment he’s the fourth-most valuable WR in fantasy football.

Austin Collie, Indianapolis Colts – Of all the mock drafts I did leading up to draft day–nerd up, bitches–I’d guess that I grabbed Collie in 90% of them in anywhere from the 9th – 12th round. Of course, he fell all the way to the 13th round during the real thing, but with the second pick in the round I instead opted for Tim Hightower (a pick which has worked out rather nicely so far) and Collie was taken two picks later; in a word, fuck.

I should have known this was going to happen. Instead, I invested heavily in the Pierre Garcon hype and thought he’d render Collie somewhat moot, but should have remembered that A) Garcon, while still quite talented and still the WR2 in Indy, is also still largely unproven, and B) Peyton Manning loves him some WR3. After two weeks, Collie has basically been Reggie Wayne’s equal, pulling in 15 catches for 188 yards and 2 TDs; that’s enough to make him the sixth-most productive fantasy WR with the season already 12% over.

Joining him the top six? Walter and Welker, two other 6-footish, 200-poundish white-ish guys. Collie’s ADP in Yahoo! public leagues, by the way, was undrafted. I heart football!

Mark Clayton, St. Louis Rams – Speaking of undrafted, raise your hand if you saw this coming… now put it back down, you lying sonofabitch. Save for his “breakout” year back in ’06 (67 catches, 939 yards, 5 TDs), the former first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens was little more than consistently mediocore during his time in the lovely state of Maryland. His time was finally up after the team signed washed-up free agent T.J. Houshmandzadeh to replace him, and he was sent packing to St. Louis, presumably to wile away his days on the bench while dreaming about the days when he was fantasy relevant.

Well, a funny thing happened: Sam Bradford took a look at his WR depth chart, thought “blech”, and decided to lock in on the veteran receiver, at least for now. After two games, the 28-year-old Clayton has caught 12 balls for 143 yards and 2 TDs, making him more valuable so far than Johnson (both Andre and Calvin), Greg Jennings, DeSean Jackson, etc; clearly we were all foolish not to draft Clayton in the first or second round, this guy is going to be huge all year long. As for Clayton’s replacement in Baltimore, ol’ T.J. has racked up 1 catch for 27 yards–chuckle all you want, that catch was good for a first down! A first down!

Eddie Royal, Denver Broncos – Last week I wondered whether Royal, coming off a worst second season than Lost, would sink or swim after a sturdy performance in Week 1: we got our answer. He came out hyper-motivated against the Seahawks after reading my column, finishing with 5 catches for 65 yards and 1 TD.

Those aren’t exactly “stud” numbers, but with his quarterback looking comfortable (at least against the defensive juggernauts that are the Jags and Hawks), Royal feeling confident, and rookie DeMaryius Thomas possibly emerging as a force that’ll make defenses concerned, I like this kid’s chances of equaling, if not exceeding, his fantasy production of two years ago (91 catches, 980 yards, 5 TDs). In fact, I’m so optimistic about my 12th-round pick (Yahoo! ADP: undrafted) that I might even start calling him “Rude Dude”. (Inside joke, and not a very funny one at that, but I couldn’t help it.)

2 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Sep. 23, 2010 at 6:34am in NFL, NFL Fantasy News

Jets Behaving Badly, Beating Belichick

September 22, 2010

B-B-B-B-B-Braylon!

Braylon Edwards and Mark Sanchez Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Joel Martin

Week 1 the much-hyped New York Jets looked terrible in a sloppy, mistake-riddled loss to the Baltimore Ravens. On the other end of the AFC East, the Patriots dismantled the Cincinnati Bengals in Wes Welker’s triumphant return. On Sunday they faced off in a battle of opposite coaching styles, with surprising results.

After the drubbing the Patriots put on the Bengals last week, there were plenty of excited fans (and Brady owners) wondering if we were seeing the return of the 2007 Patriots. The game we watched on Sunday told a very different story. The Patriots are thriving on quick runs (short delays and quick cuts between the guard and tackle) and quick, high precision passes. Welker’s the man here, but they have multiple other options to accomplish the same plan. Welker went out for a play after the big hit from Eric Smith, and they simply threw the same quick out to Julian Edelman for a first down.

On the other hand, Moss may be disgruntled, but he’s still an incredible weapon. Near the end of the second quarter, I started to write about Darrelle Revis, hamstring and all, handling the aged Randy Moss. Two plays later, Moss blew straight by Revis and made a spectacular one-handed catch stretching into the back of the endzone. The veteran made it look easy, and may be one of the few receivers in the league who doesn’t disappear completely on Revis Island. Revis did grab his hamstring immediately after the TD, however, and left the field for the locker room shortly thereafter. Brandon Marshall owners have a little breathing room for their potential dud next week.

That said, both Brady interceptions were on passes intended for Moss. On the first he was simply outrun by Antonio Cromartie, who made an easy pick with Randy flailing impotently behind him. On the second, Moss had height and position on Cromartie, but couldn’t come down with the ball, bobbling it right into Brodney Pool’s hands (who did a great Moss impression getting his feet down after the catch). Regardless of who they were to, both came on long passes down the sideline. Both plays had a sloppy feel to them, in sharp contrast to the short passing game (featuring the other half of the Patriot’s receiving corps) we saw in the first half. Especially against top-tier defenses (they face Baltimore, Minnesota, Pittsburg, and the Jets again this season), the Patriots would be well advised to stick to the precision passing game with bombs to Moss only on rare, obvious opportunities.

In Rex Ryan land, the Jets continue to make stupid penalties. The big personal foul on Eric Smith in the first quarter was totally unnecessary (Welker wasn’t going to catch the pass, and he could easily have hit him elsewhere). It turned a punt into another set of downs, which ended with Welker getting his six point revenge. The very next drive ended with a beautiful touchdown pass from Sanchez to Edwards (and, I’ll grudgingly admit, a great catch too). Unfortunately, the latter spoiled it by following immediately with a 15 yard taunting penalty. One can only assume that this mistake led to his little drunk driving mistake this week. (Incidentally, Braylon appeared to have a large, bushy-furred rodent attached to his face during Sunday’s game. Anyone know what species this was?) [Ed. Nutria]

Despite this continued sloppy play, the Jets responded to the Patriots’ early success with a series featuring the same kind of approach. Quick passes on slants and curls were effective, and exactly how the Jets need to pass if they’re going to be successful. Mark Sanchez looks lost on long plays where the defensive backfield is in chaos, but he’s a strong, accurate passer on timed, controlled routes. He’s also very athletic, so he does a good job of avoiding sacks and pressure when he’s feeling comfortable. 3rd and long will be a dead zone for this team though.

The running game is a peculiar situation. In two games so far we haven’t seen the power running game of last season. Last week they could be excused for abandoning a fool’s errand against Ray Lewis and company. This week was a different story, and they met with pretty good success using mostly screens and outside runs mixed into a pass-focused attack against a slow Pats defense. LT looked to be the much better back in both of these situations, out-gaining Greene despite fewer carries. The carries split (11 for LT, 15 for Greene) offers a glimmer of hope to Greene owners, but unless in dire need they should probably wait at least until week 4 (@ Buffalo) before starting him safely.

In the end, Rex Ryan’s brash, chaotic Jets beat Bill Belichek’s no-nonsense approach, though only because the Jets did a pretty good imitation of the Patriot’s on the offensive side of the ball. I’m already looking forward to round two on December 6th.

Joel Martin resides in Madison, Wisconsin, where he works for an evil but absurdly profitable IT company. He replenishes his lost karma by providing free dental services to orphaned possums and dispensing his football wisdom on the internet. In his free time, Joel is currently pursuing a master’s degree in statistics. And pimping.

No CommentsPosted by ETB Contributor on Sep. 22, 2010 at 10:39pm in NFL, NFL Fantasy News

Surprise! Four Early-Season Fantasy Football Overachievers at Tight End

September 22, 2010

Visanthe Shiancoe

Visanthe Shiancoe Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Brian Spencer

Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars – I’d rather be forced to sit through Phantom Menace on loop for 24 hours than watch an entire Jaguars game. The only people who care about this team, including those who live in the greater Jacksonville area (and if you do, ugh, sorry about that), are fantasy players who own Maurice Jones-Drew and, I guess, Mike Sims-Walker. Is it time to add this massive fifth-year TE to the fantasy watch list? Maybe.

It feels like Lewis teases like this every year before falling (way) off in short order, but 7 catches for 101 yards and 2 TDs on a team as dumpy as the Jags is impressive. Lewis is currently the third-ranked TE in fantasy football, behind Antonio Gates and Dallas Clark; his ADP was at the end of the 14th round.

Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota Vikings – The guy so many fantasy players–including yours truly–had pinned as a one-trick pony has been the only Vikings receiver to date to look like he belongs on an NFL field. Brett Favre seems to be looking Shiancoe’s way first every time he drops back in the pocket, and so far he’s found him for 10 completions, 162 yards, and a touchdown: that’s enough to make him the fourth-most productive fantasy TE through 2 weeks.

Expect Shiancoe’s torrid start to the season to continue, perhaps even pick up: he gets the Detroit Lions and their laughable pass defense in the Metrodome this week, and one has to assume that Favre will get better; if he doesn’t, there are rumblings he’ll be bench in favor of Tarvaris Jackson at some point. Never a dull moment in Minnesota (except when head coach Brad Childress opens his mouth).

Chris Cooley, Washington Redskins – I was high on Cooley’s chances to put together a strong comeback season after missing most of last year with an injury, but my cries for fantasy guru recognition mostly fell on deaf ears. Well, screw you guys: Cooley has fast become Donovan McNabb’s safety valve and favorite target, hauling in 9 catches for 144 yards and a score already.

I drafted him near the top of the 12th round as backup insurance to Oakland’s Zach Miller, but it’s only taken two weeks for Cooley to usurp my pre-ordained starter in my lineup. I’m of course hoping Miller gets it together, but that QB situation in Oakland looks grim. In Washington, Cooley basically has just Santana Moss to compete with for looks. Though Moss has stubbornly proved me wrong for, what, 5 years now when I annually predict this is the season he falls off a fantasy cliff, Cooley seems like the safest bet here for weekly production in the Forskins’ modest passing attack.

Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions – After suffering a significant knee injury last year in Week 12, nobody expected the hulking second-year player to be anywhere close to 100% for at least the first month or so of the year. With Tony Scheffler now in the mix and healthy, I thought for sure Pettigrew wouldn’t have much fantasy relevance for most of the season, if not all of it, but I shouldn’t have forgotten how strong he started coming on midway through his rookie campaign.

One game makes not a productive fantasy season, but after catching just 1 pass for 6 yards in Week 1, Pettigrew was a monster against Philadelphia, hauling in 7 receptions for 108 yards–and that’s with feeble-armed Shaun Hill behind center. If you stashed him on your bench as a 14th-round pick, good for you, hang onto him; if he’s sitting there on waivers and you’re in need of TE depth, now’s a good time to make a play. Don’t expect him to go out and put up 100+ yards receiving regularly, but he could prove extremely valuable as the season presses on, especially once Matthew Stafford returns.

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Sep. 22, 2010 at 6:37am in NFL, NFL Fantasy News

A Hint of Flavor: Two Ideas for Spicing Up Fantasy Football Scoring

September 20, 2010

Brett Favre

Photo Credit: Dilip Vishwanat/Sporting News/Icon SMI

By Alex Grishman

Budweiser. It isn’t that far gone that American men subsisted solely on the King of Beers, the Champagne of Bottled Beers, and a Taste of the Rockies. Sure, those are still football Sunday staples, but discerning masses have expanded their beer palate in the form of double IPAs, porters, and microbrews from each and every state. New tastes were sampled because they were interesting, but they earned permanent shelf space because they are better, and in the case of Dogfish Head, much better.

In the fantasy football season of 2010, we remain locked to our scoring system staples. We only have individual players on offense. Points are earned for yards, touchdowns, and, in a minority of leagues, receptions and/or completions. Points are lost for turnovers.

It’s great that the scoring system is generally universal. Even the “indoor” kid from your office that hasn’t been on a date since Reality Bites premiered knows that, for example, owners of Arian Foster, aka Mr. Texan 2010, scored 30 points from their RB in Week 1; they might even know that Steve Slaton was Mr. Texan 2008. But does another way exist?

In ETB’s fantasy football league–I’m Coleco Visionaries, by the way–structural changes were made to add some flavor and do away with the rubbish. First, kickers were kicked out, which removed the most random aspect of scoring. Second, an additional flex position was added for just WRs and TEs. Third, we do points-per-reception (.3) and points-per-completion (.2). Still, more can be done.

Efficiency

There are no scoring categories in fantasy football that recognize efficiency. In baseball, OBP (On Base Percentage) has replaced batting average as the guiding tool to evaluate a hitter’s efficiency–see Moneyball, by Lewis, Michael–and is becoming a more common fantasy scoring category. In football, the statistics already exist to evaluate efficiency (completion percentage, yards-per-carry, etc.), so let’s add these efficiency statistics to a player’s overall weekly total.

Like all players, quarterbacks lose points for turnovers and are awarded points as their overall statistical totals (yards, TDs, completions) increase; not all quarterbacks that threw for 250 yards and 2 TDs, however, are equal. If one of those quarterbacks went 18/20 and the other 20/40, shouldn’t that difference be recognized? It can be: we can take their completion percentage for a week and turn it into a scoring category worth, for example, ten points: Mr. 80% would earn 8 points that week and Mr. 50% would earn 5 points. Isn’t that a much better result than Mr. 50% earning the same points or more points in leagues that offer points-per-completion?

For running backs, we can have a similar scoring category that awards points for yards-per-attempt, the one caveat being that there would have to be a minimum number of attempts like, say, 10. Otherwise people might be tempted to start a Darren Sproles-type back that gets 5 carries but breaks one for 80 yards. For receivers, we could keep the point-per-reception to reflect their overall contribution to the team: I contend that four 20-yard receptions are more valuable than one 80-yard reception, all things being equal.

Individual Defensive Players

Defense and special teams account for more than 50% of an NFL team’s plays, yet in most fantasy leagues the defensive side of the ball is represented by one position in a team’s lineup. Such asymmetry is absurd. In addition to the minimal impact of defense on weekly fantasy results, most defenses are so lacking in distinct value that fantasy managers are accustomed to waiting until the final rounds to select a defense.

To create more interest on defenses and increase our understanding of the defensive side of the game, every fantasy league needs to be required to have individual defensive players. It’s simple enough, and best yet, the option to do this is already in place in most fantasy football hosts–it just needs to be turned on, something most league managers refrain from doing. Weekly league lineups can require a d-lineman, linebacker, and defensive back, in addition to selecting an overall defense. One point per tackle, pass defensed or sack, 2 points for turnovers, and 6 points for return TDs.

These two ideas aren’t intended to reinvent the wheel. They can simply add some more interesting flavor to the stalwart fantasy football scoring formats. Hopefully, if the flavor is interesting enough, it will gain shelf space in everyone’s league, just like the triple-hopped IPAs and Dogfish Head.

Alex Grishman has participated yearly in fantasy football and baseball leagues over the past decade. Alex is also an Associate at Haynes and Boone, LLP.

No CommentsPosted by ETB Contributor on Sep. 20, 2010 at 10:02pm in NFL Fantasy News

Will They Sink or Swim? Five WRs to Keep Your Eye On This Week (and Beyond)

September 16, 2010

DeSean Jackson

DeSean Jackson Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Brian Spencer

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

How well will Megatron bounce back from the disappointment of his game-winning touchdown catch that wasn’t? As physically talented as any receiver in the league, Johnson has still not cashed in on his ridiculous talent on a consistent basis, and with journeyman QB Shaun Hill stepping in for an injured Matthew Stafford for at least a few weeks, it won’t get any easier. Some fear that all the losing–the “Lionizing”, if you will–is a big reason why: since joining the Lions in ’07 as the second-overall pick of the draft, the team has gone 9-40.

If Johnson is truly the elite-level talent we all think he is and have been dying to see every Sunday, not every third Sunday, now’s the time for him to show it. We want to see him be in Hill’s ear about getting him the ball, and we want to see offensive coordinator Scott Linehan do whatever it takes to make Johnson the focal point of the Lions’ game plan against Philadelphia this week, and beyond. Force feed him the ball. Enough fucking around.

DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles

Drafted by many fantasy players as their WR1, the third-year speedster from California was ominously quiet in the Eagles’ 27-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers on opening day. With just 4 catches for 30 yards (and a fumble), Jackson’s no-show likely has his owners sweating their dress sweats this week, especially with the Iggles’ offense totally in flux and unpredictable… just like your friends at ETB privately predicted it would be.

Michael Vick steps into the starting lineup in Week 2 for a concussed Kevin Kolb, a guy whom we never quite understood what all the hype was about. That might be a good thing for the team’s win column but might not be such a good thing for the fantasy production of Jackson if last week was any indication. Of course, he was matched up with reigning Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson last Sunday, and last year his breakout season began in similar, even worse fashion when he caught just 2 passes for 9 yards against the Carolina Panthers–he went on to catch a combined 10 passes for 250 yards and 2 TDs the next two weeks.

Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis Colts

Now occupying Reggie Wayne’s old, highly productive spot as the Colts’ WR2, most people pegged Garcon as a potential breakout fantasy stud in this his third NFL season. Last season the former sixth-round pick out of Mount Union enjoyed a solid campaign, catching 47 passes for 765 yards and 4 TDs, and with his spot solidified in the starting lineup, 1,000+ yards and 8+ TDs seems totally reasonable given the situation.

He disappointed in Week 1, however, dropping a few passes and finishing with just 3 for 43 yards; meanwhile, fantasy sleeper Austin Collie went berzerk to the tune of 11 catches for 163 yards and a score. We’re high on both of these kids, but as a Garcon owner who missed out on Collie, I’m hoping for a reversal of fortune, and fast. Luckily, the “always classy” Peyton Manning didn’t sound too down on Garcon, for now: “I don’t think Pierre is ever going to have a confidence problem. He made a couple of big catches, a couple of one handed catches down the sideline. Certainly there are some plays we’d like to have back.” We’ll see if he’s still singing that tune if Garcon has another stinker on Sunday.

Legedu Naanee, San Diego Chargers

So, is this 6-2, 220-pounder one of the reasons why the Bolts refuse to budge on Vincent Jackson’s contract demands? Little more than a special teamer during most of his first three seasons, Naanee exploded in Week 1 against a revved-up Kansas City Chiefs defense, catching 5 passes for 110 yards and 1 TD despite the rainy conditions. With Jackson out of the fold for now, most defenses will be heavily shadowing Antonio Gates: QB Philip Rivers described the Chiefs’ coverage of his all-world tight end as “like guys covering a gunner on punts.”

That means Naanee, along with Malcom Floyd, will have the opportunity to put up big numbers against a schedule filled with teams sporting mediocre to weak secondaries. Despite the quiet week Floyd still could be the main beneficiary of Jackson’s absence, but I have my doubts about him and think Naanee might be the guy to own. Speaking of the Bolts WRs, please don’t tell me you picked up Patrick Crayton.

Eddie Royal, Denver Broncos

We’ve been hearing all offseason–mostly straight from the horse’s mouth–that Royal was primed for a bounceback season after going from fantasy darling in his rookie season, to waiver-wire dredge as a sophomore. Don’t hold your breath just yet, but his effort in a losing cause against the Jacksonville Jaguars (8 catches, 98 yards) is a good start. It’s hard to erase the bad memory of last year (37 catches, 345 yards, 0 TDs) after just one strong game, and I wouldn’t recommend plugging him into your starting lineup this week unless absolutely necessary. Still, if he continues to click with Kyle Orton like he did last week, Royal could prove to be one of this year’s fantasy bargains since he wasn’t even drafted in most leagues. At this point he’s at least worth a speculative add if still available.

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Sep. 16, 2010 at 7:08am in NFL, NFL Fantasy News

Fantasy Insights and Stray Observations from The NFL’s Kickoff Weekend 2010

September 14, 2010

Arian Foster and ADP

Arian Foster photo credit: Icon SMI

By: Andrew Thell

- Arian Foster’s massive showing was the fantasy story of Week One. The man broke out for 231 yards and 3 TDs on 33 carries (7.0 YPC). You can read hyperbole about the performance on any other site, but I’m more interested in the lesson we can take from this going forward. That lesson for me is to never get too caught up in average draft position or “round value” for any player. I loved Arian Foster going into drafts this year, and so did just about everybody else I talked too. It didn’t take a genius to see his situation was ideal. And like just about everybody else, for some reason I got it in my head that Foster was a fourth-round value because in mocks all summer I was able to nab him in the fourth or later, and as a result I didn’t get him in several of my “real” drafts.

If I was playing against the chuckleheads you see in mocks drafts maybe I would have gotten him in the fourth on my real teams too, but I’m not playing against them, I’m playing in competitive leagues against other owners who know their shit and he went a few picks before me in the third in almost every draft. If I really wanted Foster, and I did, I should have been willing to do what it took to get him – take him in the first or second round where the other workhorse backs on good offenses were going. You might have gotten some “reach” criticism on draft day, but nobody would be questioning the move today. Next year make an effort to forget about ADP and draft value and draft the players you want and you believe in.

- Depth on a fantasy football squad is like toilet paper: you can never have too much. In the next five months you’re going to use it, and when disaster (i.e. injury, the zombie apocalypse) strikes it can always be bartered for something you need.

- Philip Rivers clearly looked comfortable throwing to Legedu Naanee early and often. That’s a promising sign for the big (6’2”, 220 lbs.), talented receiver who could emerge as the biggest beneficiary of the Vincent Jackson holdout. He finished with a team-high 5 receptions, 110 yards and 1 TD. Is there a reason Naanee can’t emerge as the top wideout here, outside of Antonio Gates? We all assumed it will be Floyd because of his experience, but that’s far from set in stone. Floyd isn’t exactly known for his route-running or hands. In any event, between Naanee, Floyd and Gates, I’m not sure the Chargers are going to miss V-Jax all that much in the long run.

- Did Trent Dilfer call Mike Vrabel a “saucy” veteran prior to the last play in the Chiefs-Chargers game? I’ve always found Vrabel quite saucy myself, but I thought I was the only one.

- What a shitshow in New York on Monday night. Ugly, ugly football. I love Rex “Dress Sweats” Ryan, but after putting himself and his team out there all offseason Ryan and the Jets deserve a lot of criticism for that performance. Poor execution, terrible discipline. We saw a lot of good things on Hard Knocks, but I came away thinking Brian Schottenheimer was the weak link in the coaching staff and Mark Sanchez was the Achilles’ Heel of this extremely talented team. I’m even more convinced today as the QB and the gameplan came up woefully short against a Ravens secondary that is no longer an above-average unit. Maybe Sanchez will be a good player someday, but I don’t think he’s NFL-starter caliber yet. And I know Shonn Greene had two disconcerting fumbles in the first half, but I do not agree with benching the guy Ryan tabbed as their “bell cow” back so soon. Tomlinson acquitted himself well, but he’ll break down if he continues to see that kind of workload and I firmly believe Greene gives the Jets the best chance to break big plays and win games. I’m not panicking on Greene yet, but as somebody who is heavily invested I am very concerned.

- On the other side I loved what I saw from Joe Flacco and his new toy Anquan Boldin. Flacco shredded the Jets nickel defense on third down (11-19 conversions as a team). He took some shots, including a brutal hit on the first snap that led to a fumble, but Flacco stood his ground and delivered, often to Boldin, who finished with an extremely solid 7 receptions for 110 yards. Boldin showed off his trademark hands, toughness and ability to work in traffic. The Ravens managed just 10 points against a stout, albiet mistake-prone, Jets D, but this offense has cemented itself as a throwing team and better days are ahead.

More analysis of Week One of 2010 after the jump …

Read the rest of this article »

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Sep. 14, 2010 at 1:30am in NFL, NFL Fantasy News

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