Want to understand the game better, hunt for future break out players or try to spot trouble before it happens? “Beyond TDs and Tackles” will be offering a handful of players and situations that you should consider when you are watching the games or even just looking at the box score. Everyone knows which players blew up over the weekend but you can gain advantages by following the changes as they start and get better definition on how to value players. Have any questions? Just hit me on twitter @SteveGalloNFL or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to pay attention to how Alex Smith looks this weekend. The major thing to keep an eye on will be his YPA(Yards/Attempt). If it’s in the 7.4 range and he puts the ball in the air 35+ times it’s an indicator that he’ll throw for more than 4,000 yards this year. Not bad for a player you can snatch up off waivers in most leagues.
London Fletcher will be starting his 200th consecutive game in week 1. But what you need to watch are his assisted tackles. The Redskins home scorer is known for doling out assisted tackles in bunches, and if that holds true then Fletcher becomes a top-5 LB in home games this year.
Watch how Bruce Arians offense impacts Andre Roberts’ fantasy value. Yes, we all expect Larry Fitzgerald to have a big rebound year with Carson Palmer under center, but Arians’ offense can feed more than one mouth. Roberts will be the Cardinals slot receiver, and I think he has the upside of 75+ catches and 1000+ yards this year. Don’t be as fixated on his catch and yardage totals as much this week as the number of targets he gets.
With Justin Blackmon suspended to start the season for four games, I’ll be watching rookie Ace Sanders. Cecil Shorts, for the most part, was drafted as a WR3, and with Blackmon out he’ll have WR2 upside, but if you’re looking for a waiver wire lottery ticket, Ace could pay off. Even if he struggles stat wise in week 1, if he’s targeted 7 plus times he’ll be worth a waiver add.
WWGD? (What Will Gio Do?) Post NFL draft I said on a podcast that even with limited carries (100) that Giovanni Bernard has RB2 upside. I don’t think it’s a secret that he’ll have value in the passing game, but what we need to watch for in week 1 is if he gets goal line carries like he did in the preseason. If the Bengals show that they are willing to give him those important touches it could be what pushes him from a flex/RB2 level value to solid RB2 weekly starter. You shouldn’t ever read too much into one game but if Bernard carries the ball 10 times and catches four passes I’d make a move to acquire him.
We know the Eagles offense is going to be moving at a fast and furious pace, and while many eyes will be on LeSean McCoy, that’s not who I’ll be watching. I’ll be keying on Brent Celek, and so should you. Again, I’m not as worried about his catches and yards this week as I am his targets. If he’s targeted at least six times it’ll likely mean that he has top-10 upside in this offense.
Watch the Redskins offense. Will Robert Griffin III cut back his runs like has been intimated? How much will Fred Davis and the other TEs be targeted. Watch the number of targets that Pierre Garcon gets – 9-10 targets loudly announces he’ll make a run at being a top-12 WR. Lastly, watch how much time Roy Helu gets on the field and how it impacts the snaps that Alfred Morris plays. One other thing to watch with RG3 is how he looks on screens and short passes to his left. When I was at training camp I noticed that many of those passes were low and off target. I’m not sure if that has anything to do with his knee or not but it bears watching.
Watch how the Dolphins handle things in the red-zone. With Dustin Keller lost for the season due to a torn ACL someone will need to step up and be that red-zone target. Could be that Brandon Gibson is their red-zone target, but targeting a guy with brick hands doesn’t seem very wise. Rumor was that Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas were in a battle for the starting RB gig, but it was more likely the coach’s way to light a fire under Miller. What I’ll be watching for is to see if they lean on Miller and the running game a bit more. If they do, Miller has top-12 upside.
Be sure to keep a keen eye on the Colts offense in week 1. In 2012, under Bruce Arians, Andrew Luck averaged 10.17 yards/pass attempt – the 2nd highest number in the league. With Arians now gone and Pep Hamilton calling the plays it isn’t likely Luck comes close to that number this year. Pay attention to Luck’s pass attempts, completion percentage and YPA. Last year he attempted 627 passes, had a completion percentage of 54.07, and a YPA of 6.98. Don’t be shocked to see Luck put the ball in the air less than he did last year, however, that doesn’t mean his numbers will go down. Keep a close eye on his completion percentage and his YPA, both should go up, and in turn his numbers can increase on fewer attempts. His performance in week 1 will be a good barometer to set expectations going forward.
Everyone will be watching to see how many carries that Arian Foster gets in week 1. While the total number of carries is important, what I think is more important to watch is how he looks running the ball, his YPC and if he is the one they call on in goal line situations. Those three things will combine to give a much clearer picture of what to expect from Foster this year.