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JUMbotron Friday Huddle: Week 5
John U. Miller
October 7, 2011
 

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Who’s the best wide receiver in the NFL?  Fantasy, reality, it’s all the same to me… I just want to know once and for all who No. 1 is.  It seems that over the last couple years a slight majority pegs Andre Johnson as The Man, and with good reason because he’s averaging 80 rec. yards per game for his career, #1 all-time among WRs with 100+ games played.  To put that number in perspective, the great Jerry Rice averaged 75.5 yards per game.  Of course Rice’s clip was dragged down over his last four or five years, but you get the picture.  AJ is heading toward the Hall of Fame, especially if he slaps some jewelry on his finger.  Another guy that is mentioned as the best right now is Larry Fitzgerald.  Fitz does one thing better than any WR of his generation and that’s catch passes… He reached 600 catches faster than any WR in history and at his current pace he’ll pass Joey Galloway (701) on the all-time list – in seven less seasons than Joey played.  We also count Calvin Johnson, Roddy White, and even Greg Jennings in the current “Who’s No. 1” debate.  Johnson is the ultimate scorer with 37 TDs since 2008 (38 counting the Week 1 TD last year vs. Chicago that was inexplicably reversed) and averages a whopping 15.1 yards per catch for his career.  Roddy doesn’t seem to get quite as many accolades as the others but he averages a burly 93 catches and 1282 yards since 2007.  Roddy’s a Torry Holt-like machine.  Jennings is the underdog here but when you peel his numbers open it’s clear that he’s one of the five or six best WRs in pro football.

I came up with my own fantasy formula to determine who the best wide receiver is.  I call it the STAR-G Index.  I’m using the last 3 years as a sample because whenever we ask “Who’s the best right now” I automatically think back a few years and up through this moment.  2008-2011 is a healthy, relevant sample.  Criteria?  Of course touchdowns (Scores) are an obvious metric: How many since 2008?  Now let’s double that TD number in order to give it more weight.  The WR’s workload (Targets) is the 2nd most crucial stat to me because it measures accumulated combat from week to week:  I logged total targets since 2008 then doubled that number too.  I also calculate a receiver’s explosion (Average/rec) because you have to make yardage out of opportunities:  What’s his average per catch since 2008?  Red-zone is obvious.  I want to see how involved he is when it counts:  How many RZ looks since 2008?  Finally I counted what percentage of Games they’ve played since 2008.  52 out of 52 possible games is a 1.00 mark.  My formula is:  S² + T² x A + R x G = STAR-G score.  I’ll tell you in advance I ran a bunch of WRs and found that 14,000 points was the “elite” level with only 5 guys above it.  After the Big 5 the next highest scores were Reggie Wayne at 13418 and Brandon Marshall at 11917.

Wide Receivers     STAR-G Index     2008-2011
Wide Receiver Scores ² Targets ² Avg/rec RZ targets Games STAR-G
Roddy White 29 = 58 536 = 1072 13.5 68 1.00 15323
Andre Johnson 27 = 54 516 = 1032 14.4 79 .942 14806
Calvin Johnson 37 = 74 465 = 930 15.3 63 .942 14530
Larry Fitzgerald 33 = 66 515 = 1030 13.1 83 1.00 14441
Greg Jennings 28 = 56 415 = 830 16.2 51 1.00 14404

There you have it.  The JUMbotron ranks Roddy White as the No. 1 WR in the NFL.

Prediction A:  RB ___ ____ will touch the ball 15+ times and compile 120+ total yards & 1 TD at ____ as he becomes more engrained in Coach ____’s playbook.

Prediction B:  WR ___ ____, who ranks 5th among all WRs in targets the last three weeks, will catch 6+ passes and a TD at home vs. the _____ this week.

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

Things I’ve Noticed That Perhaps You Haven’t:

--Bills WR Donald Jones has 18 targets the last 2 weeks while David Nelson has 11.
--Matt Ryan has more red-zone pass attempts (26) than Jay Cutler (13) & Tony Romo (12) combined.  Kevin Kolb ranks 29th with only 10 red-zone attempts.
--Rams CB Bradley Fletcher suffered a serious knee sprain in practice Wednesday.  They already lost their top corner, Ronald Bartell, and their top nickel Jerome Murphy.  The Rams face the Packers in Week 6 coming off the bye.
--Gary Kubiak said Ben Tate (groin) is ahead of Derrick Ward (ankle) in his rehab.  What the hell happened to Ward on opening day?  Not a peep about it.  Ward’s dead weight and you should drop him like yesterday.
--Panthers WR Steve Smith has 41 targets in 4 games.  The last time he had more than 41 in a 4-game stretch was Weeks 3-6 of the 2008 season (43).  He’s happier than a bird with a French fry.
--Beanie Wells faces the 5th ranked Minnesota rush defense in Week 5.  But over the last two weeks the Vikings have faced the ground-challenged Lions and Charles-less Chiefs.  The Vikings defense is a façade and I’m starting Beanie in 2 leagues this week.
--LeGarrette Blount has 67 carries which is 84% of the team’s RB carries.  Earnest Graham has the other 13.  However, Graham has 28 pass targets and Blount only has 5.
--The Saints defense is tied for 2nd with 13 sacks and 2nd in opposing QB completion rate at 52.2%.  New Orleans is at Carolina in Week 5, then at Tampa Bay.
--The Bills defense is tied for 1st with 8 INTs and has scored in each of the last two games.  They should have had a 3rd TD but it was reversed on a tuck-rule replay.
--Titans FB Ahmard Hall is back from suspension.
--The NFL.com website’s GameCenter is the most poorly conceived template in cyberspace.  It’s sludgy, hard to navigate, and those damn pre-advertisements before video highlights make me wanna choke my cat.
--No team has allowed fewer points than the Tennessee Titans (56).  And they might be the healthiest defense in the league too.  Aside from safety Chris Hope (whose backup Jordan Babineaux is better) they don’t list anybody on the injury report.
--Malcom Floyd has been practicing full speed for the first time since August.  If Vincent Jackson (hamstring/abdomen) is limited in any way, Philip Rivers will direct 8-10 targets toward Floyd.  More on Jackson down below. 
--49ers NT Isaac Sopoaga has a staph infection and will probably miss Week 5 against Tampa Bay.  Sopoaga is called the “Ice Man” because he stops running backs cold.
--Atlanta has 10 of their remaining 12 games indoors.  The only two that aren’t are at Houston and at Carolina.  I love the Falcons passing game when it operates at room temperature.

Forget more cowbell, I need more Halle Berry.  Did you know she was 1st runner-up in the 1986 Miss USA Pageant?

It’s the quarter-turn of the NFL season when I like to record a quarterly review.  I call it the JUMbo Buy/Sell/Chill Report.  Maybe you have a tempting trade offer sitting in your queue, or you’ve considered shipping off a big-name WR to upgrade at RB.  Here’s the report below… If you have more Buy/Sell questions just post them in Comments.  You know I step in to check those pretty often.

BUY: QB Andy Dalton:  I pimped the Bengals pretty hard before the season, even predicting they would go 8-8.  They’re 2-2 now.  I felt there was enough talent around Dalton to foster a mini-breakout rookie year.  The kid is flashing visible talent and completing 58.1% of his passes, better than Joe Flacco or Jay Cutler.  A.J. Green is a future Pro Bowler and TE Jermaine Gresham is coming alive.  They just got RG Bobbie Williams back from suspension and Pro Football Focus already ranks Cincy’s O-line as the 11th best pass-protector without Williams.  If your QB1 is Rivers, Kolb, or Hasselbeck you have a bye next week: Dalton plays at home against the hapless Colts.  JUMbo Deep-League Whisper:  WR Andre Caldwell has been the No. 2 WR lately with 21 targets over 3 weeks compared to 16 for Jerome Simpson. 

BUY: RB Felix Jones: He’s quietly in the top-25 fantasy RBs so I’m not sure exactly why the bust tag is being taped to his helmet so soon.  Granted, I expected to Jones to be in the top-18 or so, but we’ve got a lot of football left. (Hopefully you got him in the 5th or 6th, not the 4th where I took him in one league.)  I love how Jones played through pain lately, carrying 14 and 16 times with no setbacks.  Overall he has 38 touches for 241 total yards in the last 2 weeks. Buy now while Dallas is on a bye and someone might be forced to part ways for cheaper.  When Felix takes the field in Week 6 his shoulder harness will be left behind in the trainer’s room.

BUY: WR Doug Baldwin: This talented Seahawk would be getting a lot more press if his name was something flashier like “Antonius” but let me tell you, Baldwin knows what to do when he gets a chance.  Mike Williams suffered a concussion in Week 4 and will miss a game or two.  Baldwin was targeted 6 times last week (5-84-0) and could be huge vs. the Giants’ patchwork secondary with Sidney Rice drawing bracket coverage.

BUY: WR Mike Thomas:  Thomas is Davone Bess 2011.  He’s got 41 targets and is busier than a one-legged cat in a sandbox.  No other Jags wideout even has 20 targets.  That’s the kind of stat that translates into fantasy importance, I don’t care who you play for or who your quarterback is.  As long as we’re on the subject, Blaine Gabbert (who looks like Ronnie “Sunshine” Bass) is in his 4th full week of starter reps and can only get better.  He can’t get any worse than last week for God’s sake.  Mike Thomas.  “PPR gold, Jerry… Gold.”

BUY: TE Antonio Gates:  Another contrarian angle.  I say try to land Gates in a sneaky deal, maybe disguised in a 2-for-3 trade where you mention him as an afterthought: “Ok, you win, I give you Fitzpatrick and Fitzgerald for MJD and Percy Harvin -- but at least throw in Gates, dude. I’m giving you two top-10 guys.  Besides, Gates is all jacked up anyway.”  Something like that… The thing is, Gates’ foot is jacked up but there are whispers that his recent time off is helping.  Gates has been running on a treadmill pain-free but reportedly insists on sitting through the Week 6 bye to be sure.  I think Gates has 4 or 5 huge games to be unloaded later this season.  Just a hunch.

SELL: RB Steven Jackson:  There’s nothing better than a touchdown to help you sell a player.  Late Sunday night, NFL Network, Jackson’s on the highlight clip with a 15-yard TD catch.  Everyone saw it… but it doesn’t tell the real story.  S-Jax carried 17 times for 45 yards and is obviously not 100 percent on that quad.  Plus the Rams are going to be behind every week and Jackson is not equipped to be an every-snap dude anymore.  He’s off this week, then faces Green Bay’s 4th-ranked defense vs. fantasy RBs, then Dallas’ 3rd-ranked unit in Week 7.  

SELL: QB Eli Manning:  I just believe his 8-TD spurt over the last 3 weeks represents a prime opportunity to trade him for a nifty RB or WR. If you already have a week-in/week-out producer at QB then why are you holding Manning?  For your stud’s bye?  Don’t let one idle week prohibit you from upgrading elsewhere.  The season’s flying by and QB depth like Eli is a luxury you can’t afford to maintain.  Just rent a spot-play like Andy Dalton or Tarvaris Jackson when your QB1 is on bye.  8 TDs in 3 weeks.  Shop ‘em.

SELL: RB Ryan Torain:  I’m sorry, I can’t and won’t endorse him.  Ever.  Now that you’ve picked him up, shop his 135 yards & 1 TD to a more desperate fantasy owner.  At least three others in your league wanted Torain worse than you did, but you beat them out.  Go straight to each of them with an offer.  Hurry, Mike Shanahan is already metastasizing throughout your entire fantasy roster! (I’d also say BUY Roy Helu right now as a bench-stash… because his turn is coming up soon.)

SELL: TE Vernon Davis: Again, shop the touchdown.  He scored last week so use this chance to dangle him on the open market.  Davis is 15th among TEs with only 23 targets this year, less than Ed Dickson (32), Ben Watson (28), and Jermaine Gresham (28).  With TEs the targets are the only stat that matters… and he’s not getting enough.  I don’t know what kind of medicine Alex Smith and Vernon Davis were taking in 2009 (three 100-yard games & 8 TDs over an 8-week span) but they’ve lost the prescription.  Note: Michael Crabtree (foot) is back and Braylon Edwards (knee) comes back in Week 8 or 9.  

CHILL: WR Robert Meachem: He didn’t exactly set the night on fire while Marques Colston was out, but then again Meachem scored in 3 straight games – and almost had a 4th TD last week but his foot was out of bounds.  Meachem played a whopping 63 snaps last week and caught 4 passes for 59 yards.  New Orleans is 3rd in the league with 19 red-zone trips so there’s always going to be a couple chances for Meachem to score; and you can’t say that about many WR3s or Flex’s.

CHILL: WR Brandon Marshall: Somewhat slow out of the gates, Marshall is “only” the 23rd-ranked fantasy WR and now he’s lost his quarterback, Chad Henne.  I say relax.  Marshall has the 7th most targets (39) of any wide receiver. The playbook isn’t going on injured reserve, just Henne.  Now ex-Texans QB Sage Rosenfels is in town to challenge Matt Moore.  Back in Houston Andre Johnson still behaved like a top-5 WR whenever Rosenfels was under center.  In fact, in 9 games from ’07-08 Andre averaged 7 catches for 96 yards and scored 4 times with Sage throwing.

CHILL: QB Jason Campbell:  He’s a middling fantasy quarterback as usual (ranked 17th) but there’s no reason to drop him if you have comfortable space on your bench. He’s got a running game to set up play-action for speedsters Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore, plus Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy are finally getting healthier.  Campbell’s next 4 games are against Houston, Cleveland, Kansas City, and Denver.  One of the best bye-week value stashes on the market.

CHILL: RB Cedric Benson: The looming 3-game suspension appeal has Benson-owners all worried but I’m here to tell ya, I think he’s going to beat it. Benson wasn't employed by the NFL (lockout) and the union was decertified when his June arrest occurred. And he’s already done jail time.  General Zod’s gonna lose this one.  Meanwhile Benson is good to go at Jacksonville and brings with him a combined 83 carries & targets, 12th best among RBs.

Target & Snap Chat:

--Chargers RB Ryan Mathews played 34 snaps vs. Miami last week. Mike Tolbert played 33.  Tolbert is not going to disappear which I have to admit is kind of a shame. As much I’ve bagged on Mathews, a part of me wants to see him in a unilateral 60-snap situation like Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson.  Hmmm.  I have a quote from Norv Turner below. 
--Cowboys WR Laurent Robinson played 54 of the team’s 75 snaps last week. Kevin Ogletree played 23. Robinson was targeted 10 times and caught 7 for 116 yards.  Ogletree was targeted twice and caught one pass. Dallas has a new No. 3 WR, folks; and Robinson should be in all fantasy lineups next week (after the bye) if Miles Austin is out.
--Cardinals TE Todd Heap has played 117 snaps over the last two games while vulture Jeff King has played 75. However, King’s fading fast.  Last week he only had one target while Heap was targeted 6 times (4 for 41 yards).  Heap was slow out of the gates with a busted thumb but… more on him below.
--Saints RBs: Darren Sproles has 132 snaps, Mark Ingram has 95, and Pierre Thomas has 91.  For the year Sproles’ carry/target breakdown is: 17 on 1st down, 16 on 2nd down, and 18 on 3rd down.  He’s the Saints No. 1 RB.  Another interesting tidbit from the Times-Picayune:  When the Saints need one yard or less for a first down they’ve given Mark Ingram 10 carries.  Pierre Thomas has zero.
--49ers WR Josh Morgan 49 snaps last week, Michael Crabtree 45, Ted Ginn 14.
--Patriots WR Wes Welker played 53 of 61 snaps in Week 4.  Deion Branch played 53 too, yet only had 4 targets to Welker’s 14.  TE Rob Gronkowski never left the football field.
--Vikings RB Adrian Peterson played 54 snaps and Toby Gerhart played 9 last week.
--Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham has only missed 20 offensive snaps all season.
--Cardinals WRs last week:  Larry Fitzgerald 11 targets, Early Doucet 6 targets, Andre Roberts 0 targets.

Quotes of the Week:

“If ever a Saints player was worthy of Brinks truck treatment, it's Brees. He deserves to be the highest paid player in the NFL. He's younger and healthier than Peyton Manning, more valuable than Tom Brady and just plain better than Michael Vick.  He's the most talented player in New Orleans sports history and one of the most transcendent figures in pro sports.  And he's in his prime.” – Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune (10/3), who also tweeted that Brees has never had a Pro Bowl RB, WR, or TE since he’s been a Saint.

“If you go back to last year, remember last year was one of those years where I had the knee injury all year and it's something that kind of lingered.  Right now I think you guys are just seeing a healthy me and I think it's more comparable to how I ran my rookie year.” – Cardinals RB Beanie Wells (10/4) who also tweeted “Yessir!” when asked if his hammy held up after the 3-TD game vs. the Giants.

“In Sproles, the Saints get a durable little guy with smarts, guts, wiggle, and flat-out burst… Sean Payton’s scheme obviously fits Sproles because it features a juicy dose of dump-offs and bubble screens.  Payton will make sure Sproles gets a convoy and disappears in a sea of would-be tacklers.” – John U. Miller of The Huddle (8/3), who named Sproles a preseason Sweet-16 Sleeper.

“The more I see of Washington's defense this season, the more I like what Jim Haslett is building on that side of the ball.  Bryan Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are becoming quite the play-making tandem at outside linebacker, and they're consistently finding the football at key points in the game.” – Don Banks of SI.com (10/5)

“Ryan, he is playing with great confidence. “I've been around some great backs, that’s why you want to get them into the [24-25 carry range].  He got what, 16 carries, 18 carries last week?  If we can get him that 24 or 25 carries it's gonna help him.” – Chargers HC Norv Turner on RB Ryan Mathews (10/4)

Alexis of Real Housewives OC is my gal and I can’t believe my Mom called her a floozy.  “The term is cougar Mom and frankly she’s only 33 so I’d prefer you called her a lynx.”

IDP Keeper Deluxe:  Broncos rookie LB Von Miller has 16 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 passes defensed and 2 forced fumbles. Miller has managed three of those sacks with DE Elvis Dumervil out of the lineup too.  What’s more amazing is that Miller plays on the strong side and is off the line of scrimmage quite often. “From the first time on the field, you could see what he can do,” said Champ Bailey.  “When he adds to his game, learns what offenses do, he's going to be real tough to block because he's tough to block already and he's only played a few games.”

Shout-out to my bro Kevin Griffin of Better Than Ezra (and avid Huddle reader) who’s going on tour with Ed Roland of Collective Soul.  Three chords, two songwriters, & the truth.

Remember last week’s JUMbotron where I made a case that the Stud RB theory is dying?  I tabulated another piece of evidence:

--In 2007 we had 45 different RB 20-carry games through the first 4 weeks.
--In 2008 we had 36 different RB 20-carry games through the first 4 weeks.
--In 2009 we had 34 different RB 20-carry games through the first 4 weeks.
--In 2010 we had 33 different RB 20-carry games through the first 4 weeks.
--In 2011 we had 31 different RB 20-carry games through the first 4 weeks.

For me it’s all about RB touches now.  Your boy’s not hauling 25 carries consistently unless he’s Chris Johnson, Arian Foster, or Adrian Peterson… and their Mesozoic-era workloads will die out soon as well.  So it boils down to this:  Can he give me 18-20 total touches on a consistent basis?  Or better yet, can he give me consistent touches and make them count – busting off big chunks of yardage with the chances he’s given?  With so many RBs sharing the football we’re truly forced to assess talent and opportunity.  Here are the Top-15 RBs in avg. per touch and how many TDs:

Running Back Leaders Average Per Touch (Min. 40)
Running Back Avg. TDs
Darren Sproles 8.73 3
Matt Forte 7.37 2
Ryan Mathews 6.78 3
Fred Jackson 6.71 4
D. McFadden 6.67 4
Ray Rice 6.57 4
J. Stewart 6.56 0
LeSean McCoy 5.51 6
M. Jones-Drew 5.46 1
Michael Turner 5.32 3
Daniel Thomas 5.31 1
Beanie Wells 5.29 5
Jahvid Best 5.13 2
Mike Tolbert 5.13 4
James Starks 5.13 1

By the way, Stevan Ridley only has 20 touches but he averages 7.95 yards per handle.

Injury Watch:

Packers RB Ryan Grant (kidney) passed medical tests and practiced Wednesday and Thursday.  If you start Grant or Starks you are playing routlette.  There’s gotta be a better RB2 option than Grant or a better flex option than Starks.  I’d start Isaac Redman or Willis McGahee as my RB2 over Grant this week; and I’d flex Stevan Ridley, Marshawn Lynch, or Michael Bush over Starks.

Vikings CB Antoine Winfield (neck) will miss Week 5 against Arizona.  Larry Fitzgerald is primed for one of those multi-TD outbursts in front of his hometown Minnesota peeps.  Vikings LB E.J. Henderson has chronic swelling in his knee but will try to keep playing through it.

Texans WR Andre Johnson did actually undergo surgery on his hamstring, and it wasn’t those platelet-rich blood injections as reported Wednesday.  "I received information from a source I trust that contrary to my previous post, Andre Johnson did have a surgical procedure on the distal tendon of his hamstring," wrote Steph Stradley of the Houston Chronicle.  I’m no doctor but to me the real question here is whether the tendon was repaired or reattached.  Shitzky, I don’t have a good feeling about this.

Chargers WR Vincent Jackson (abdomen/hamstring) has barely practiced after aggravating his injuries last week vs. Miami.  He had 3 catches for 108 yards and 1 TD in essentially the first half alone – though it’s important to note he returned to play six or seven snaps in the 4th quarter.  He’s fine.  “I don’t think he’s any worse than he was a week ago at this time,” Norv Turner said. “He made great progress during the week last week, so hopefully we will have the same thing.”

Patriot TE Aaron Hernandez (MCL) returned to practice Thursday according to reporter Mike Reiss.  I question whether he would take the field before the Week 7 bye but Hernandez is obviously making his way back to the field.  Add him to the BUY list above. RB Danny Woodhead (ankle) hasn’t practiced and he’s almost surely out until after the Week 7 bye.  Did you see him hopping off the field on one leg?  High sprain.

Bucs CB Aqib Talib (knee) was a late addition to the injury report Thursday afternoon.  He spent the day getting treatment after a full practice on Wednesday.  He might be a game-time decision vs. the 49ers.  That’s a red flag for Tampa Bay’s defense and dare I say, a green flag for… Michael Crabtree?  Hmmm…

Jets C Nick Mangold (high ankle sprain) is practicing a little and says he can go vs. the Patriots. "I'd say (my chances are) pretty good," Mangold said Thursday. "We'll see. It's day by day.  It's looking good.  Every day keeps getting a little better."  Mangold actually almost suited up vs. Baltimore but he couldn’t convince doctors his ankle was structurally sound.  RB Shonn Greene would love to see Mangold return and help him get that avg/rush back up to the lofty 3.6 range… 

Prediction A:  RB Darren Sproles will touch the ball 15+ times and compile 120+ total yards & 1 TD at Carolina as he becomes more engrained in Coach Payton’s playbook.

Prediction B:  WR Eric Decker, who ranks 5th among all WRs in targets the last three weeks, will catch 6+ passes and a TD at home vs. the Chargers this week.

JUMbo Cheerleader Series:

Chargers:  Casie
Dolphins:  Victoria
Texans:  Brandi (Looking casual after practice)
Texans:  ??
Texans:  Andrea
Texans:  Andrea (I could post her all day)
Raiders:  Bianca (She’s Tony LaRussa’s daughter)
Bucs:  Nina
Bucs:  Meagan
Bucs:  ??
Cowboys:  Lauren
Cowboys:  ??

Good Luck This Week!

JUM
Follow me @HuddleJUMbotron today and I promise I’ll make our fantasy football culture more enjoyable for you.


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