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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

JUMbotron: Friday Huddle, Vol. 2
John U. Miller
September 17, 2010
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Can we all just agree that Jamaal Charles is the real deal?  A 56-yard TD on his second carry of the season – after he broke a 56-yard TD on his last carry of the 2009 season!

The critics, including his own coach Todd Haley, keep looking for reasons JC shouldn’t or can’t… Well, Charles should and he can.  Over his last 10 games going back to 2009 he has 10 TDs – eight rush, one catch, one kick return – and has tallied 178 carries for 1,096 rushing yards.  That’s a healthy 10-game sample.  If you extrapolate the rushing yardage to 16 games it’s an Oh-my-God 1,754 yards on only 285 carries.  Just for measuring purposes, only one RB has a higher single-season total with less than 300 carries – Jim Brown with 1,863 on 291 carries (14 games) in 1963, which purists still consider the best RB season of all-time.  The next highest sub-300 carry season is 1,591 yards by Clinton Portis as a Bronco. 

I know I’m projecting, extrapolating, estimating, whatever, but my point is that Jamaal Charles could be the Chiefs’ best weapon of the modern era.  Better than Christian Okoye, Priest Holmes, or Larry Johnson.  What more does Haley need to see?  Coach Ding-Dong actually split the carries for Charles & Thomas Jones 11-11.  That means he removed 11 opportunities for his team to score from anywhere on the field.  If you want to spell him that’s fine, but at least make it 15-7 Charles-Jones.

As sure as I’m a mammal, Jamaal Charles is a lethal playmaker!

The Chargers were 4-of-15 on third downs vs. the Chiefs.  Philip Rivers was hurried in the pocket and only got off certain throws because of his sheer physical skill.  Craig Davis and Malcolm Floyd dropped three passes.  I still think SD misses Marcus McNeill more than Vincent Jackson.  I found two other games over the years when McNeill was out -- and they are now a combined 14-of-37 on third downs, or 38% without him.  Normally they’re a 45-47% converter, one of the best in the league.

This has to be the year the Colts give up the division.  Either the Texans or Titans are going to steal it away.  After watching the Texans totally extinguish the Colts last week, I hit the archives again:

2009 Week 9: Colts beat Texans 20-17 but were out-gained 382-378 in total yards.
2009 Week 12: Colts beat Texans 35-27 but were out-gained 396-342 in total yards.
2009 Week 13: Colts beat Titans 27-17 but were out-gained 375-358 in total yards.

How much longer can Peyton hold them off by himself?  Both teams are catching up with young talent on both sides of the ball.  They both have workhorse running backs and healthy offensive lines.  They both have quarterbacks who are finally starting to manage football games.  They both have underrated defenses.  Finally, look at the Colts’ brutal midseason schedule:

--Week 8 vs Houston:  Monday night, Arian Foster aims for another 200-bagger.
--Week 9 at Philly:  Short week, never ideal before a visit to Lincoln Financial.
--Week 10 vs Cincy:  The problem here is the Colts could be looking ahead to…
--Week 11 at NE:  Their last three matchups have a combined score of 73-73.
--Week 12 vs SD:  Indy’s lost three of the last four meetings (including playoffs).
--Week 13 vs Dallas:  This could possibly be their third loss in six weeks, right?
--Week 14 at Tenn:  Thursday night, extremely short week.  Simply not cool.

There's a buzzing thread started by ‘12D3’ on the Huddle Forums about "The Best Fantasy Player of the Decade?"  I said Randy Moss.  Others voted for Peyton Manning, LaDainian Tomlinson, Marshall Faulk, Shaun Alexander, Priest Holmes, all the greats.  But if you're measuring this entire decade's worth of fantasy production, I think the field quickly narrows to Moss, Tomlinson, and Manning. 

JUMbotron Best Fantasy Players of the Decade
Player 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Randy Moss 1 5 5 1 19 15 58 1 10 2
L. Tomlinson dnp 7 3 4 3 4 1 1 7 19
P. Manning 3 6 4 2 2 4 1 3 6 4
Marvin Harrison 2 1 1 5 5 8 1 98 42 dnp
S. Alexander 54 4 5 6 1 1 28 35 140 dnp
Priest Holmes 34 2 1 1 13 32 dnp 97 dnp dnp
Terrell Owens 3 2 2 12 4 32 2 2 9 27
Marshall Faulk 1 1 14 16 29 53 dnp dnp dnp dnp
D. Culpepper 1 15 2 1 2 35 43 32 39 38
Tony Gonzalez 1 1 2 1 2 7 3 3 1 5

(The number is positional fantasy rank at end of season.  dnp = did not play.  All rankings data from The Huddle’s superb Stats page.  Have you checked it lately?)

I'm cheating a bit because what you don't see are Randy's #1 and #2 ranks in 1998 and 1999.  I’m also ignoring the Raiders hiccup in the middle of his career.  Moss has a mind-boggling eight top-5 fantasy finishes at his position.  Even though Tomlinson's had a better career in terms of consistent delivery, I'm leaning toward Randy’s explosions from the WR position. Plus he was always an early second-round pick, so for years we worked the turn for Moss after grabbing a stud RB like Corey Dillon, Jamal Lewis, Rudi Johnson, or Frank Gore.  Sure, Tomlinson never failed you at 1.1 or 1.2, but it was a long wait until your next pick.  LT-owners often had Hines Ward or Plaxico Burress as their WR1, which was hit-or-miss.  Yes, I'm penalizing LT unfairly for a fantasy ADP he couldn't control.  You can flip-flop them at Tomlinson #1, Moss #2 and I won't argue.    

Peyton Manning…  No player, real or fantasy, can match his consistency.  He deserves this top-3 ranking, but no higher.  On a sheer fantasy angle he didn't win titles all by himself, except in that 49-TD season in 2004.  Usually there were three or four QBs matching him point for point that only cost a third or fourth-rounder, plus he lets people down in December when he exits at halftime.  Marvin Harrison… Good gosh, we forget how great he was.  Shaun Alexander… It seemed to end too quickly.  Priest Holmes… It definitely ended too quickly, but for two straight years he was a human fantasy trophy.  Terrell Owens… For once the numbers are speaking for him.  T.O. also notched a #3 ranking in 1998, giving him seven top-4 finishes.  Marshall Faulk… The first premier dual-threat fantasy RB.  His decline began quickly in 2004, but Faulk would land on the previous decade’s list too:  He made the top-7 five times in the 90’s!  Daunte Culpepper… People forget he was an absolute machine.  If he wasn’t injured in 2001 Culpepper would have been #1 or #2 in five straight years!  Tony Gonzalez… Simply amazing, but it’s a fantasy list and TEs don’t get respect.  He’s good at #10. 

Honorable Mentions:  Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Antonio Gates, Torry Holt, Tiki Barber,  Brett Favre, Ahman Green, Larry Fitzgerald, Clinton Portis, Brian Westbrook, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Larry Johnson, Adrian Peterson & Maurice Jones-Drew.  Fred Taylor should be named as an “infamous” fantasy icon.  Man, when he was healthy the points rained in buckets.

Entering The New Decade:  Chris Johnson, Andre Johnson, Aaron Rodgers, DeAngelo Williams, Roddy White, Philip Rivers, Ray Rice, Calvin Johnson, Vernon Davis, and my own personal hunch… Matt Schaub.  He’s only 29 and the pieces are falling into place. 

Prediction A.  ____  ____ won’t help you much and he’ll muddy your lineup choices.
Prediction B.  ____  ____ will be a mini-stud who should be a PPR flex every week.

I’ll fill in those blanks in just a minute.

Shaun Hill can get it done for Detroit.  I’m not going to throw a Hill Parade with ticker tape and fascinating stats, but I watched him closely in San Fran (even started him a couple times when I had QB problems) and he makes plays.  Jim Schwartz got to where he is by hiring smart football players, except when he had Pacman at Tennessee, but you can’t predict Thug Life off the field. 

Shaun Hill doesn’t get freaked out.  He accounted for 2+ TDs (pass or run) in 10 of his last 17 full games as the 49ers’ quarterback.  I just thought you Megatron-owners should hear that.  Matthew Stafford?  Great news that he won’t need shoulder surgery but it’s still a Grade 2 sprain.  He’s gone for a while.  Detroit’s fans and media are dreaming if they think he only misses two games…

Follow me closely here:  Suppose after Week 4 Stafford begins practicing – Shaun Hill’s been solid but they are 0-4 after losing at Chicago, vs. Philadelphia, at Minnesota, at Green Bay – the Week 5 game is at home vs. St. Louis – why rush Stafford, it’s the Rams – but then Week 6 is a brutal one at NY Giants – not a good time to reinsert your $42-million-guaranteed QB – then Week 7 is the bye, which only confirms that his return game won’t be Week 6 – so the bottom line is don’t look for Stafford until Week 8 at home vs. Washington. 

My Felix Jones/Jerious Norwood comparison gets more valid with every game.  It’s not anything Felix (or Norwood) does wrong… it’s just a lack of touches.  We’re all notorious for collectively blowing up fantasy hype balloons until they pop in our faces – not because of the player’s talent, but rather a rigid part-time role in his playbook.  I hate to say it but Jones was hideously overpriced, often drafted ahead of touch-collectors like Ronnie Brown or Matt Forte. 

My advice: Trade Felix after he busts off his next big touchdown scamper.  Let ESPN re-run the highlight for a couple days (thus re-inflating the hype balloon), then ship him for a RB/WR who’s a full-time touch/target collector.  You’ll thank me later. 

One of the biggest “stories” of the preseason was how bad the Bears’ offensive line looked, how the Martz system wasn’t the right fit, Jay Cutler sucks, etc.  It wasn’t just fantasy talk.  Chicagoans were r-i-p-p-i-n-g them… before the season even started, folks.  Bears chat rooms were littered with head-scratchers like “I’m ashamed to be a Bears fan.”  Huh?  It’s the preseason.  The games are fake.  They cease to exist.  Don’t believe me?  How did the 4-0 exhibition 49ers get blown out by the Seahawks in Week 1?

I’m not saying Chicago will be 10-6 but c’mon, they’re 1-0 no matter how ugly or unfair it was.  Julius Peppers knocked out a quarterback in his first game a Bear.  Matt Forte ran wheel routes like Marshall Faulk.  Cutler was only sacked four times (Hey, that’s an improvement!) and he posted a 108.3 QB rating despite not throwing a score to any WR or TE.  The most important part, the only thing that matters for many of you… Jay Cutler is the #2 ranked fantasy quarterback after Week 1:  372 passing yards, 22 rushing yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT.  August was fake.  This is real.

Saints writer Jeff Duncan said Devery Henderson was on the field for 41 of 62 offensive snaps in Week 1.  Robert Meachem played 25 snaps.  Henderson’s the #2 WR on the best offense in the league.  By the way, didn’t Meachem have toe surgery in May?   

Here’s an NFL stat that doesn’t mean diddly-poo but looks neat in a table:

Highest Avg per Rush Allowed Since 2008
Kansas City Chiefs 4.82
Detroit Lions 4.76
Denver Broncos 4.71
St. Louis Rams 4.68
Oakland Raiders 4.65
Tampa Bay Bucs 4.57
Cleveland Browns 4.52
Buffalo Bills 4.46
Atlanta Falcons 4.43
Houston Texans 4.41
Carolina Panthers 4.39
New Orleans Saints 4.35

Packers RB Brandon Jackson might pull a Domanick Davis.  You know, those underrated run/catch totals week-in and week-out, like 15 carries for 61 yards, 1 TD, 6 catches for 40 yards.   If that goal-line ruffian John Kuhn stays out of the way, Jackson might have a couple multi-TD games.  The hot new rumor has the Packers trying to engineer a trade for Marshawn Lynch, Aaron Rodgers’ ex-teammate at Cal.  Hmmm... Back in 2007 GM Ted Thompson had a chance to acquire Randy Moss for a measly fourth-round pick and declined because Moss once rubbed his butt against the Lambeau goal post.  Thompson’s not going to trade for Lynch, who copped a plea in a hit-and-run and also got arrested on felony gun charges.  Not gonna happen. 

What's with NFL.com's crappy Game Center layout?  You click on Scores, choose a game, and suddenly you're staring at this huge “Play-by-Play Navigation” pop-up with “Drive Charts” and “Advanced Controls”.... Where's the damn game?  It's terrible!  I just want to see a box score, check out the current drive, is that so hard?  Maybe it's just me but it's impossible to figure out.  NFL.com’s page loads generally seem slow as well.  I have a big fat Comcast cable line that zooms everywhere else. 

Do you recall those crossroads moments in your draft?  “Yikes, I should have taken Player A” … but later you say, “Damn after seeing him in week one I’m glad I didn’t…”

One such crossroads in my 10-team league draft (our 21st season) was when I was stuck near the end of the eighth round.  Tough call:  Bradshaw-or-Ricky at RB3, perhaps Roethlisberger-or-Flacco at QB2…?  I went with Bradshaw, got Roethlisberger coming back in the ninth round.  Bradshaw’s getting touches, Roethlisberger’s coming back very soon.  I feel good.

I also remember going with Jeremy Maclin over Hakeem Nicks in the fifth round.  Kinda wringing my hands over that one.  Maclin scored, but sheesh… Nicks scored three times.  He looks like Michael Irvin, literally.  Same build, same number.

Clinton Portis is in the news again.  And of course it’s because of his mouth, not his play on the field.  “I think you put women reporters in the locker room in position to see guys walking around naked, and you sit in the locker room with 53 guys, and all of the sudden you see a nice woman in the locker room...” Portis said.  “You know, somebody got to spark her interest, or she's going to want somebody… don't know what kind of woman won't, if you get to go and look at 53 men's bodies.”  Uh, sorry Kid Bro Sweets, but the women are in the locker room for one reason… and it isn’t to see you.  They’re looking for Visanthe Shiancoe, baby.

Laurence Maroney to Denver?  I don’t know how that plays out.  Here’s what I do know:

1. Josh McDaniels was in the Patriots war room when they took him in the first round.

2. Maroney is an effective-even-reliable inside runner when fully healthy.

3. Maroney is only making $825,000 this season, and it’s a contract year.

4. Knowshon Moreno is injury-prone and could use a Brandon Jacobs-type to bang at the opponent early and loosen things up for him.

It’s hilarious that every year there are stubborn (delusional?) football analysts that say “Oakland could surprise” or “This team has talent on defense” or “Don’t completely write off the Raiders.”  I heard the whole cast of NFL Live say it last month.   Don’t quote me but I swear Marcellus Wiley said something to the effect of, “Hey, now they’ve got a quarterback who can make the throws… don’t sleep on these guys.”  Tennessee jumped Oakland like knife-wielding muggers, 38-13.  SI’s Don Banks summed it up:  “Oakland was a paltry 3 of 16 on third or fourth down, with 151 net yards passing; and new Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell wowed no one with one interception and a fumble lost.”

Can’t these experts even wait for an 8-8 things-are-looking-up type of season before picking the Raiders to do anything?  They’re 29-83 over the last seven years, averaging the seventh pick in the draft, and it’s like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day living the same day over and over.

That said, (gulp) I’m falling under the same spell those ESPN guys were in.  The Raiders actually bowed up and didn’t completely wilt against the Titans.  Darren McFadden played like a first-round pick.  Rookie center Jared Veldheer had the jitters (again, it was loud) and rendered three bad snaps – but later in the game Veldheer was holding his own.  Louis Murphy couldn’t haul in a score that would have made it 24-10.  Here’s my prediction:  Oakland’s defense gets medieval on St. Louis in the Black Hole opener this Sunday.  Sam Bradford is sacked four times, throws three more picks while Nnamdi Asomugha is all over Mark Clayton like a coat.  Oakland wins in Arizona next week and returns home at 2-1 to face Houston.  Let’s stop there before I turn into Trey Wingo. 

I’m envisioning your team now.  You’re 1-0, won pretty handily, no obvious holes.  Life is good.  However, at the draft you took Kareem Huggins in the 14th round as your “super-sleeper” (earning a few “Nice pick” mumbles from around the room).  You’re slotted last in this week’s waiver priority due to your obscene 133 points in Week 1 so you had no shot at Brandon Jackson.

You know what I’d do?  Drop Huggins, he’s useless.  Sign the Law Firm of BenJarvus Green-Ellis.  New England subtracted Laurence Maroney so the math just got simpler:  Two tailbacks to compete with instead of three (Kevin Faulk’s a passing-down halfback).  34-year old Fred Taylor’s on a slippery slope and he will face-plant in a few weeks.  Sammy Morris is 33 years old too.  Green-Ellis will be a two-down back with goal-line action before Halloween.  Stick BGE in your pocket, it will pay off.

If you’ve got either Giants RB you’ve got to get him in your lineup this week at Indy.  They had their bottoms whipped by the Texans and now their run-neutralizing safety Bob Sanders is out yet again.  Melvin Bullitt is back in for Sanders.  It’s a huge downgrade.  Colts fans like Bullitt and try to spin it like he’s a “more complete player” (what a laugher) but they really just like him because he’s healthy.  Ahmad Bradshaw has to be in your lineup, and anyone with Brandon Jacobs should be able to flex him, right? 

Prediction A. Peyton Hillis won’t help you much and he’ll muddy your lineup choices.
Prediction B. Davone Bess will be a mini-stud who should be a PPR flex every week.

Good luck this week!

JUM

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