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JUMbotron Friday Huddle: Week 4
John U. Miller
September 30, 2011
 

Once again our friends at FanDuel are offering TheHuddle.com subscribers the opportunity to try out FanDuel for FREE with the chance to win a share of a cool $500. And if that wasn't enough you can also bag a quick $5 if you just manage to outscore the JUMbotron in Week 4.  It’s easy to get started, just CLICK HERE to sign up.  Build your team within the $60k salary cap.  Then watch the live scoring and root for your fantasy squad.  Big fun!  You should be aware, however, that the JUMbotron finished a sizzling 56th out of 973 teams last week and denied most of you that free lunch! 

I think a league-record 13 different WRs will score 10+ TDs this year: Calvin Johnson, Wes Welker, Stevie Johnson, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Vincent Jackson, Steve Smith, Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace, Brandon Marshall, Roddy White, A.J. Green, and a special JUMbo Surprise pick – Robert Meachem, who already has 3 scores. 

Pivoting off that prediction, I want to get something on record that’s consumes my mind these days:  The popular “Stud RB” theory that originally permeated fantasy football drafts at the turn of the decade.  It began as a simple mission: “Draft a RB with your first pick.”  It all started in 2002, folks.  Beastly RBs were spreading like poison sumac.  No matter what spot you drew, you took a RB and came away happy.  Back then there were tons of hearty, ball-hogging RBs that racked up points on a weekly basis, like Priest Holmes, LaDainian Tomlinson, Shaun Alexander, Ahman Green, Marshall Faulk, and Ricky Williams.  You drew pick 1 thru 6, you got one of those prizes.  You drew 7 thru 9?  No problem, just snag Eddie George, Corey Dillon, or Stephen Davis, who all seemed to ring up 1,200 yards in their sleep and were all under 30 years old.  Picks 10-12?  Lots of people jumped on WRs Randy Moss or Marvin Harrison at that point, but for many the lure of Curtis Martin was still too great… He was the 10th RB off the board and was coming off a 1,513-yard season with 10 TDs!  Plus, little did we know that in 2002 two more über-stud RBs would emerge in Clinton Portis & Deuce McAllister; and several others would have career years like Travis Henry, Charlie Garner, and Michael Bennett. 

The “Stud RB” theory became so popular that it literally doubled itself.  Within a few years 1 RB wasn’t enough, it was now: “Go RB-RB with your first 2 picks.”  Why not?  Going into 2007 drafts we were coming off a season with 22 1,000-yard rushers.  I won’t name them all, but you know it’s a party when Julius Jones (1,084) and Tatum Bell (1,025) are still boozing at 5:00 am.  With that many prolific backs it was even possible for the hungriest RB-munchers to go RB-RB-RB and land three 1,000-yard RBs.  In fact, that was a perverted tactic of many fantasy owners, “experts” and “amateurs” alike.

But lately it’s been changing.  Since 2006 when he had 22 1,000-yard rushers, the following 4 years were trimmed back: 2007- 17, 2008- 14, 2009- 15, 2010- 17.  And the RB TD hogs have faded too.  Going back again to that watershed RB year in 2002, a total of 8 RBs scored a whopping 14+ TDs each.  In 2006 there were still 6 RBs that scored 14+ TDs.  Since then it’s been: 2007- 2, 2008- 7, 2009- 5… and last year only 1 RB scored 14+ TDs: Arian Foster.  One guy doing what 8 guys did in 2002.

Now, if you check the WR seasonal-TD counts (trust me, I’ve done it) over the last decade you’ll notice there are very few that pop 14+ TDs.  But that’s not the main point here.  The point is that WR yardage is up as a whole.  Catches are up.  Pass attempts are waaayyyy up.  In fact, this year we’re seeing a league-wide 60-40 pass-run ratio after 3 weeks.  And year by year there are more WRs inching up with 10+ TDs each… not a burly 14, but an oh-so-solid 10+ scores.  Once again, in that RB-nutty 2002 season we only had 1 WR score 14+ TDs (the legitimate fantasy legend Terrell Owens) and only 4 WRs scored 10+ TDs, so the “Stud RB’ theory was validated nicely.  But moving up to 2006 there were 5 with 10+ scores, then in 2007 there were 10, 2008- 6, 2009- 7, 2010- 10.  And folks, right now there are 21 WRs with 2+ TDs after 3 games which puts each guy on pace for 10+ TDs.  As I stated at the very top, I think a league-record 13 different WRs will score 10+ TDs this year.  It’s a passing league and Roger Goodell has constantly manipulated the rules to assure us of it.  And maybe, just maybe, we’ll see the new “Stud WR” theory in future fantasy drafts.  Count me in for 2012, as I’ve already reserved my WR-WR tickets on pre-sale.

I whipped up a couple charts to piggy-back this RB/WR discussion.  The first one shows the top-24 listed by ADP for each position against their current fantasy rank by position.   The second one just cuts to the chase:  Fantasy points.  Notice that I highlighted injuries (anyone missing at least one game so far) and used Non-PPR scoring.  Three games is a small sample but it’s never too early to investigate fantasy trends.  Feel free to study, analyze, and then post your thoughts in the Comments section below:

Is The Stud RB Theory Dead Yet?
Non-PPR
Top-24 Drafted RBs ADP Currently Top-24 Drafted WRs ADP Currently
Adrian Peterson 1.01 6 Andre Johnson 1.07 7
Ray Rice 1.02 4 Calvin Johnson 1.11 2
Chris Johnson 1.03 36 Roddy White 2.01 23
Arian Foster* 1.04 77 Larry Fitzgerald 2.03 13
Jamaal Charles* 1.05 41 Vincent Jackson 2.07 9
LeSean McCoy 1.08 2 Greg Jennings 2.09 11
R. Mendenhall 1.09 33 Hakeem Nicks 2.10 30
M. Jones-Drew 1.12 9 Mike Wallace 3.01 3
Michael Turner 2.02 14 DeSean Jackson 3.04 36
D. McFadden 2.06 1 Miles Austin* 3.06 4
Frank Gore 2.08 30 Reggie Wayne 3.12 26
Steven Jackson* 3.02 47 Dwayne Bowe 4.01 29
Matt Forte 3.03 7 Dez Bryant* 4.04 43
Peyton Hillis* 3.05 16 Mike Williams 4.05 58
LeGarrette Blount 3.07 27 B. Marshall 4.08 17
Jahvid Best 3.10 8 Wes Welker 4.09 1
Shonn Greene 3.09 27 Marques Colston* 4.12 83
Ahmad Bradshaw 4.03 10 Brandon Lloyd* 5.03 67
DeAngelo Williams 4.06 55 Stevie Johnson 5.04 8
Felix Jones 4.10 21 Santonio Holmes 5.05 44
Ryan Mathews 4.11 5 Anquan Boldin 5.09 31
K. Moreno* 5.01 68 Percy Harvin 5.11 40
Mark Ingram 5.06 37 Jeremy Maclin 6.01 12
Ryan Grant* 5.10 39 Kenny Britt* 6.02 6
*Injury

Is The Stud RB Theory Dead Yet?
Top-24 Drafted RBs Non-PPR FP Top-24 Drafted WRs Non-PPR FP
Adrian Peterson 52 Andre Johnson 44
Ray Rice 59 Calvin Johnson 59
Chris Johnson 19 Roddy White 28
Arian Foster* 4 Larry Fitzgerald 38
Jamaal Charles* 15 Vincent Jackson 39
LeSean McCoy 69 Greg Jennings 38
R. Mendenhall 23 Hakeem Nicks 25
M. Jones-Drew 43 Mike Wallace 50
Michael Turner 37 DeSean Jackson 22
D. McFadden 72 Miles Austin* 47
Frank Gore 24 Reggie Wayne 26
Steven Jackson* 14 Dwayne Bowe 26
Matt Forte 47 Dez Bryant* 19
Peyton Hillis* 32 Mike Williams 15
LeGarrette Blount 30 B. Marshall 32
Jahvid Best 45 Wes Welker 72
Shonn Greene 25 Marques Colston* 8
Ahmad Bradshaw 42 Brandon Lloyd* 13
DeAngelo Williams 11 Stevie Johnson 44
Felix Jones 31 Santonio Holmes 19
Ryan Mathews 57 Anquan Boldin 25
K. Moreno* 6 Percy Harvin 20
Mark Ingram 19 Jeremy Maclin 38
Ryan Grant* 18 Kenny Britt* 47
Total 794 Total 794
*Injury

Prediction A:  WR ___ ____ will start in place of the injured ___ ____ and catch 6+ passes at ____ while justifying a flex-start in 12-team leagues.

Prediction B:  QB ___ ____ will bounce back with a vengeance and toast the ____s’ injury-marred secondary for 3+ TDs.

Prediction C:  WR ___ ____ will get 8+ targets vs. ____ and catch 6+ passes as he fights to save his career after being bounced to three teams in three years.

I’ll fill in those blanks in a few minutes.

Speaking of Non-PPR vs. PPR, I truly don’t pay much attention to that stuff.  I’ve dissected the stats numerous times and never really find many players of considerable “weight” that fluctuate wildly between the two formats.  That’s why I always just default to Non-PPR.  In fact, the term “PPR” is overused in my opinion and it bothers me, just like the silly word “upside.”  Here’s the JUMbotron Rule of assessing PPR:

JUMbotron PPR Rule
Lower Michael Turner 7 spots
Raise Wes Welker 7 spots
Lower DeSean Jackson 6 spots
Raise LeSean McCoy 6 spots
Lower R. Mendenhall 5 spots
Raise Danny Amendola 5 spots
Lower Cedric Benson 4 spots
Raise Darren Sproles 4 spots

Adam Caplan of FOXSports.com said Wednesday that Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin (hamstring) is considered doubtful for Week 4 vs. San Francisco.  Caplan came up through the ranks of fantasy stardom and has established himself as a mini-Schefter at times.  He has ears in several locker rooms, especially in Philadelphia’s.  If he’s out, both Jason Avant and Steve Smith could rise up to the 6-8 target range, especially since we all know TE Brent Celek won’t “pick up the slack” as long as Michael Vick is out there ignoring him.  I think Maclin will be active but only play a minimal amount of snaps.

Rams WR Danario Alexander had 8 targets last week and caught a TD the previous week.  Lots of you claimed him off waivers.  I’m not down with you.  The guy’s had eleventy knee surgeries and he’s mixed into a crowded group of WRs with Brandon Gibson, Mike Sims-Walker, Austin Pettis and soon-to-return Danny Amendola.  I’ll pass.

The Dolphins rank 30th in total pass defense, 28th in opposing QB yards/attempt, 32nd in TD passes allowed, and 28th in opposing QB passer rating. Rock-bottom, kids.  Their top corner, Vontae Davis, missed the Week 3 matchup with Cleveland with groin & hamstring injuries; and left early in each of the first two games because of them.  He practiced Wednesday and Thursday but not with the starters, so consider him questionable.  SS Yeremiah Bell was mysteriously absent from the media portion of the last two practices and no one knows what is wrong.  2nd-year DBs Nolan “No-Plan” Carroll and Reshad “Façade” Jones have been forced into action this month and get burned constantly.  Miami visits San Diego in Week 3.

Chargers beat writer extraordinaire Kevin Acee wrote:  “Antonio Gates said the [foot] pain presently is not as severe as it was last season when he played almost two months with a torn plantar fascia before finally having to sit the season’s final four games. An MRI on his foot last week, Gates said, ‘looked great.’  Still, he plans to see a foot specialist on Tuesday and is considering further examination by the doctor who performed his foot surgery following the 2007 season.”  Gulp.  I took Gates in the 4th round of both my two leagues knowing I was taking a risk.  Luckily my Brandon Pettigrew crush led me to snag him in the 9th round both times.  Gates-owners should notice the Chargers have a Week 6 bye and assume he is out for the next two weeks.  Week 7 seems like a fair target assumption and I would buy low if you agree with my hunch that he’ll be OK with rest.

Saints RB Watch:  Darren Sproles is the No. 1 fantasy producer with 35 fantasy points, Mark Ingram No. 2 with 19, and Pierre Thomas last with 17.  The snap count after 3 weeks is Sproles 95, Ingram 59, Pierre 61.  Sproles and Matt Forte are tied for the lead with 28 RB targets and Sproles has 21 catches.  Only WR Wes Welker (31) and Forte (22) have more catches league-wide.  Sproles is not just a 3rd down back either – over the first 3 weeks he’s had 13 carries/targets on 1st down, 11 on 2nd down, and 14 on 3rd down.  Ingram is getting some work between the 20’s but is mostly a 25-yard-line-and-in guy.  He’s definitely getting the work inside the 10-yard line, with a whopping 8 attempts, 3rd in the league behind Fred Jackson (10) and Willis McGahee (9).  However, Ingram has 0 TDs in those 8 attempts and his only TD run was from 13 yards out.  I love Sproles.

Bengals HC Marvin Lewis confirmed RB Cedric Benson (pending suspension) will play in Week 4 vs. Buffalo.  Benson appealed on Tuesday and because there is no decision yet he will be allowed to play this Sunday.  The two-time 1,000-yard rusher also filed an unfair labor practice charge stating he shouldn’t have been… blah blah blah… just know that John Tuvey is right in that Benson has a case.  I bet Benson avoids the suspension altogether in 2011 as this thing floats in limbo for years like Vikings DT Kevin Williams’ StarCaps fiasco.  JUMbo Fantasy Translation:  Make an offer for Cedric Benson while most confused fantasy owners are puzzled and sour on the guy.  You might get a steal.

Ravens WR Torrey Smith.  Hmmm… I’ve seen this before.  In 2000 a Chiefs rookie WR named Sly Morris exploded with 6 catches for 112 yards & 3 TDs in his third game.  In 2003 a Cardinals WR named Anquan Boldin had 10 catches for 217 yards & 2 TDs in his first career game.  What we must decide is, is Torrey a Sly or an Anquan?  I had a shot at Torrey on the waiver wire in my big money local league.  I passed.  I’m betting Sly.  Maybe he’s somewhere in the middle and produces solid stats from time to time all year.  

I get more Rashard Mendenhall questions these days than any other player.  My gut tells me you should stay the course.  Yeah, his O-line isn’t the 2003 Chiefs or 2009 Titans, but I can’t name 5 elite offensive lines right now to save my life.  Mendenhall is still averaging 19 combined carries & targets per game.  Those guys don’t grow on trees.  However, the injury to RT Willie Colon in the opener was awful.  Then LT Jonathan Scott rolled his ankle last week and is questionable.  You Mendenhall-owners have fear, I get it, so it’s time for a Ricky Bobby pep talk:  “You know that fear is powerful, because it has been there for billions of years.  And you use it.  You ride it like a skeleton horse through the gates of hell, and then you win.  You win!”  Give him one more shot.

Back on Aug. 25, 2010 I introduced The Huddle subscribers to my concept of “Match Lights.”  Here’s what I wrote:  “There are one or two RBs every year that come in around midseason and spark a fantasy team like charcoal. I call them Match Lights.  Here are 10 big Match Lights that helped rewrite fantasy destiny in most leagues over the past decade: Michael Pittman, Stacey Mack, William Green, Kevan Barlow, Domanick Davis (my best waiver-wire grab ever), Kevin Jones, Reuben Droughns, Julius Jones, Sam Gado, Mike Bell, Earnest Graham, Justin Forsett, and Jamaal Charles.”  This season I’m already circling three young RBs like a vulture getting ready to snatch one like a bear cub.  To properly secure a Match Light you must act early before the actual breakout… or risk not landing one at all.  Here are my three candidates:

1. 49ers RB Kendall Hunter – Frank Gore’s got the ankle thing and I wonder if it’s not so much the ankle but overall wear and tear.  He hasn’t shown any pop at all.  (Note: I also hate that Gore just got paid… no carrot to chase anymore.)  Going into Week 4 Gore says: "I really don't know.  If I can't go, I can't go."  Hmmm…  Last week Hunter got 11 total carries and targets and produced 38 yards and a TD.  Anthony Dixon only played a handful of snaps and didn’t get a carry or a target.  I have a vision where the 49ers backfield morphs into the 2009 Ravens backfield with Rice, McGahee, and McClain.  That trio had Rice handling 60% of the touches, McGahee with 25%, and McClain with 15%.  In my vision Hunter plays Rice, Gore is McGahee, and Dixon is McClain.  Just a vision, but stranger things have happened. 

2. Patriots RB Stevan Ridley – You know how I feel about him because I wrote damn near half a JUMbotron about him in August.  My cousin played with Ridley in high school and I also follow LSU religiously.  I know a lot about Ridley and I believe his time will come.  Last week in the 4th quarter when New England was duking it out in a crucial division battle they suddenly chose to insert Ridley for two series.  The game was on the line.  Ridley’s played in huge SEC games so he didn’t flinch: 6 carries for 42 yards and 1 catch for 8 yards.

3. Dolphins RB Steve Slaton – Hey, these Match Lights come from anywhere.  Look at the above list of famous MLs like Sam Gado, Stacey Mack, etc.  Many of them didn’t have half the skills that Slaton has.  Knowing that Daniel Thomas might have tweaked a hammy and Reggie Bush is Reggie Bush, is it possible that Miami has a plan for Slaton?  The only other tailback on the roster is Lex Hilliard and he’s counted on for special teams.  Slaton is experienced and hungry for that second big NFL contract, the one where you buy your Mom a mansion.  

One Pre-Season Ranking Where I Didn’t Put My Money Where My Mouth Is:

Darren McFadden #4 RB:  If anyone in the FF industry ranked McFadden higher than #4 then it’s news to me.  Is there any question that’s he the most dangerous tailback in pro football?  He’s averaged 6.1 yards per carry in his last 11 full games!  Yet, I had the 8th and 9th pick in two leagues and McFadden was available, but for some reason I chose to go Michael Vick & Calvin Johnson, respectively.  I think I thought D-Mac would come back around.  Sigh, they never come back around.  I’m fine with that Megatron pick, but damn if I didn’t listen to… me (?).  I hope a lot of you did.  He’s the #1 fantasy RB in my mind and barring injury or some weird slump he will be just that on my 2012 board.  Mark my words.

One Pre-Season Ranking Where I Didn’t Put My Mouse Where My Brain Is:

Reggie Wayne #11 WR:  Aside from DeAngelo Williams at #9 (Trust me I already stuck a pencil in my eye) this Wayne ranking was way off.  My gut told me all summer Wayne was due for a fall – and that was when I thought Peyton Manning was quarterbacking.  I want to re-post a JUMbo quote from last month:  “Wayne’s average per catch has dropped every year since age 28.  I dug even more and noticed many other semi-HOF types like Wayne didn’t have the same steady decline from age 28-32.  In fact, Irving Fryar went 15.9 to 14.9 to 14.4 to 15.8 to 17.4.”  So in summary, when it was clear Kerry Collins was starting I should have been proactive and slid Wayne down to #20.  He’s not elite anymore.

JUMbo O-Line Chat:

The Oakland Raiders line is the most unsung unit in the NFL right now. New HC Hue Jackson has talked about “Building a Bully” and it’s actually happening right before our eyes.  Granted, he’s inherited a lot of talent that was cultivated by Tom Cable, but a lot of this game is mental and Jackson has this team focused. The O-line is led by LT Jared Veldheer who could be headed to the Pro Bowl, and C Samson Satele is coming on strong too – as if he suddenly gets it after 5 years.  The real story here is rookie LG Stefen Wisniewski who I believe should be on the early list for Offensive Rookie of the Year with Cam Newton, A.J. Green, and Daniel Thomas.  This new left side for Oakland is constructing a wall so that Jason Campbell can play football without worrying about getting nailed in the back. And it’s not just the linemen, the tight ends and backs are chipping and scratching too.  Everyone’s got their heads in the game including TE Brandon Myers, who lines up like an extra tackle. Campbell has only been sacked twice all year and one doesn’t count because he tripped.  Amazing!  "If you don't have a ball on this football team, you're a blocker," Hue Jackson said.  "We talk about it all the time, whether it's a quarterback or anyone else.  We pull for each other, we play for each other, that's one of the things we really talk about.”  Oakland is No. 1 with 555 rushing yards and No. 3 at 5.3 yards per carry.  Their next 3 games are against Houston (road), Cleveland (home) and Kansas City (home).

“They ended last season on a four-game winning streak and one of those wins was against the Green Bay Packers.  They went into the offseason with some real momentum and confidence, feeling pretty good about their club, now they’ve come back with a big win last week at Minnesota.  I think a young team that is talented like them is a dangerous team.” – Troy Aikman comparing the Detroit Lions to his Dallas Cowboys when they went from 1-15 to Super Bowl champs in 4 years.

JUMbo Handcuff Pickup of the Week:

Lions WR Titus Young.  9 catches for 140 yards the last 2 weeks.  Yep, WRs can be handcuffs too, especially when they’re on the verge of starting in one of the four best offenses in the league.  If you own Calvin Johnson or Nate Burleson I suggest you protect your investment and stick Young on the end of your bench.  If either gets banged up (knock on wood) you simply plug in Young and continue to dance the Dougie all Sunday long.  One of the quieter 2nd round NFL picks in recent years, Detroit passed on defensive stalwarts like DE Da’Quan Bowers and DT Stephen Paea, who Mel Kiper rated as late 1st-rounders.  If you know about HC Jim Schwartz like I do then you know how hard it is for him not to pick 6 defensive linemen every April.  Someone in Detroit saw something in Young, and now the praise is flowing.  “There's a reason we drafted him so high and had such high expectations,” Schwartz said on Monday.  “He's going to make a lot of plays in this offense… He's not the biggest guy in the world, but he's got really strong hands, and he's fearless going across the middle.”

JUMbo Stat of the Week:

Leaders in Rushes of 10+ Yards: Ben Tate 11 out of 66 attempts, Maurice Jones-Drew 10 out of 66, Darren McFadden 10 out of 61, Fred Jackson 9 out of 47, Chad Henne 6 out of 14, Ryan Mathews 6 out of 45, Ray Rice 6 out of 41, Cedric Benson 5 out of 58, Joseph Addai 5 out of 39, Dexter McCluster 5 out of 21, Shonn Greene 5 out of 41.

JUMbo Audio:

Click here to see the Foo Fighters joining Roger Waters for a quick blast through “In The Flesh” on Jimmy Fallon.  Turn it up loud.

Big shout-out to my pal Kevin Griffin of Better Than Ezra (and a TheHuddle.com reader), who’s hitting the road on the Southern Gentlemen Tour with Ed Roland of Collective Soul.  Here are the tour dates.

Prediction A:  WR Damian Williams will start in place of the injured Kenny Britt and catch 6+ passes at Cleveland while justifying a flex-start in 12-team leagues.

Prediction B:  QB Philip Rivers will bounce back with a vengeance and toast the Dolphins’ injury-marred secondary for 3+ TDs.

Prediction C:  WR Laurent Robinson (Dallas) will get 8+ targets vs. Detroit and catch 6+ passes as he fights to save his career after being bounced to three teams in three years.

JUMbo Cheerleader Series:

Bucs:  Kasey (A new addition to the JUMbotron, you will see her more and more)
Bucs:  Rebecca (The Buc-Gals are No. 1 by a mile and have been for years, people)
Falcons:  Erin (Classic beauty, that girl belongs in Vogue or Cosmopolitan)
Bucs:  Marlana (I get more reader correspondence about her than any cheerleader)
Redskins:  ?? (Will you sign my, er… Can I sign your… Nevermind, I’m a ruh-tard)
Redskins:  ?? (Some of these Redskinettes are flown in from Monaco on Sundays)
Texans:  Brandi (“I’m 25 years old and I like to kick… I love it I love it I love it.”)
Texans:  4 on the floor (Houston’s gals are always near the top & wear great outfits)

Good Luck This Week!

JUM
@HuddleJUMbotron


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