25 Takeaways for Tuesday
1. I’ve been arguing that RG3 is the best prospect in NFL history and nothing contradicted that idea on Sunday. He’s a threat to finish as a Top 5 QB in 2012 and should be your highest ranked dynasty QB by a wide margin. If you’re a Cam Newton owner who can still flip him for Griffin, do it today.
2. It’s very early, but the pre-draft Banana Stand WR rankings look prescient. While similarly drafted receivers like Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, A.J. Jenkins, and Ryan Broyles were nowhere in evidence, Stephen Hill and Alshon Jeffery immediately exploded on the scene. I’ve been adamant that these receivers should have been selected higher and that they would both have fantasy impacts in Year One. I was forced to start Hill on several NFFC Classic teams (14-team format), because of the decision to use an early pick on the suspended Kenny Britt. While I felt confident that Hill would see targets – Santonio Holmes is a declining malcontent who’s too small to consistently get open – I was pleasantly surprised by his massive debut.
3. If Tom Coughlin gets credit for the Super Bowl wins, who deserves blame for how poorly prepared this team is during the regular season? No team with that much talent should be so inconsistent. The Giants may have lost the game by their cowardly and short-sighted decision to immediately give up on David Wilson following his early fumble. Leaning on the clearly inferior Ahmad Bradshaw may cost them more wins in the first month. Even in redraft leagues, now is the time to pounce on Wilson. You should be able to acquire him at a steep discount and potentially have a RB1 for the postseason.
4. I gave the Browns a Z- grade for their mindboggling draft and the complete refusal to use analytics in roster construction. The woeful debuts of Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden underlined the abysmal incompetence of Mike Holmgren and company. It’s no exaggeration to say Holmgren is the new Matt Millen.
5. The Cardinals are now 8-2 in their last ten despite an offensive line that would get manhandled in the SEC and a QB situation even the Browns would be embarrassed by. Their defense should be owned in all leagues, or, at the very least, should factor heavily into any streaming strategy.
6. The Lions will continue to smartly be the pass-heaviest team in the NFL, but hopefully their game plans going forward will feature more Titus Young and Ryan Broyles with a corresponding decrease in targets for the underwhelming Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew. It’s one thing if a team is jumping routes run by Megatron. It’s another when they’re doing the same thing against your No. 2 tight end. If the Lions are going to deliver on their immense talent, they have to stop getting so egregiously outcoached.
7. By the final weekend, Greg Jennings and Marques Colston were falling in drafts, but they were still going far too early. While both are very good, neither is a truly elite talent. Adding to the problem, the Packers and Saints rotate their receiving personnel in a way that is unfavorable for fantasy purposes. Each player is often a focal point of the defense despite the presence of Jimmy Graham and Jordy Nelson. While I haven’t been sold on Lance Moore and have suggested caution in paying the ransom for Randall Cobb, both players represented an arbitrage opportunity in 2012 fantasy drafts. Don’t be surprised if their final point totals approximate that of their more heralded teammates.
8. There’s been a lot of focus on how Eric Decker is a better Austin Collie. While I drafted Decker to multiple teams, I’m more interested in how Demaryius Thomas is a better Reggie Wayne. Thomas is a DR and Hass darling and the player I have the highest ownership percentage in this season. Unfortunately, when you acquire Peyton Manning as your quarterback, it instantly means your defense can’t get off the field on third down.
9. The injury to Brent Grimes may prove important to Starscream’s fantasy value. In addition to his prodigious talent, Julio Jones was the No. 2 overall player on my board because of his dream schedule. If the Falcons continue to blow out teams the way they did Sunday, he’ll lose a lot of 4th quarter points. You want your fantasy WRs and QBs to play on teams with poor pass defenses.
10. Matt Cassel imploded in the second half Sunday, but the Chiefs are on the way to fielding an underrated passing offense. Don’t buy this team as ultra-run-heavy. Even with the absent Brandon Flowers and Tamba Hali, their defense isn’t good enough to support that strategy. As for Jamaal Charles, he still looks superhuman. The idea that Peyton Hillis will receive equal touches is the punchline of Todd Haley’s bad joke.
11. Nobody delivers a wallop at the point of contact like Marshawn Lynch and no one is harder to bring down. Unfortunately, I’ve seen turtles, snails, and geological ages with a faster first step. You can time his progress from handoff to line of scrimmage with a sundial.
12. Russell Wilson generated incredible buzz in both reality and fantasy circles with his transcendent preseason, but the Seahawks are just not a great team from a fantasy perspective. From Lynch to Braylon Edwards, this is a plodding squad with a slow motion mentality. Wilson’s receivers possess good size and downfield ability but lack suddenness and intermediate proficiency. The former Badger played better than his Sunday line indicates but will have difficulty matching the hype of the last several weeks.
13. Mark Ingram is Marshawn Lynch without the ferociousness at the point of contact. He’s a sneaky trade target this week because New Orleans will mostly face far worse run defenses than the one they got manhandled by on Sunday. The Saints have a lot invested in proving the Ingram pick wasn’t a mistake and Ingram could pretty easily post LenDale White circa 2008 numbers. On the other hand, he’s also a sneaky guy to divest yourself of this week. Your opponents will think you’re selling low, but, like a crappy tech stock, it’s possible that this is just the beginning of the true value collapse. Ingram is pretty clearly the fifth most talented RB on this roster after Sproles, Thomas, Ivory, and Cadet.
14. I watched Minnesota v. Jacksonville via the Sunday Ticket Shortcuts replay and that gives a weird vibe because the sense of context and emotion is stripped out of the telecast. Despite this, I sensed a weird reluctance in each squad to use their best offensive players. And no, I don’t mean Adrian Peterson. The Vikes offense finally began to flourish when they got the ball to an utterly electric Percy Harvin.
15. Blaine Gabbert played well despite failing to find Justin Blackmon. It’s a bad sign for Blackmon owners that he’s already earning the star treatment. Unlike Julio and AJ a year ago, he may lack the explosiveness to defeat that type of coverage.
16. Despite his otherworldly Height-adjusted Speed Score, Vincent Jackson was on my Do Not Draft list this season. VJax possesses very poor historical comparisons regardless, and receivers who change teams late in their careers are notorious disasters. If you can’t achieve consistency with Philip Rivers throwing the ball and Antonio Gates drawing coverage, how are you possibly going to thrive with the scatter-armed Josh Freeman?
18. It’s always interesting what stats people believe will regress and which ones won’t. Rotoworld has been adamant that Newton’s rushing totals would not – or not enough to worry about – but we got Exhibit 1 to the contrary on Sunday. The modern NFL is a throw to set up the run league, and the Panthers did not do enough to upgrade their receiving corps in the offseason.
19. Although incredible depth at the WR position was the explicit reason for a return to RB-RB starts in 2012 fantasy drafts, a slight downtick in 2011 RB breakouts was probably just as big a factor. And yet, mid-round RBs emerge like clockwork every year and create uber-squads that can’t be accomplished through VBD. Drafters who selected Steven Jackson are already on the verge of elimination, while C.J. Spiller owners will have to badly mismanage their rosters to miss the playoffs.
20. There’s been a lot of VBD-based criticism of drafting QBs in the first round, but those same pundits regularly target players like Eli Manning or Philip Rivers in the middle rounds when value still exists at RB and WR. While Andrew Luck was put in a rough spot in his NFL debut – lacking both Austin Collie and T.Y. Hilton while facing the elite Bears defense – he quickly demonstrated his QB1 potential in the second half.
21. Minus Kenny Britt, the Titans receiving corps dropped pass after pass on Sunday. Then Jake Locker left the game with a separated shoulder just at the moment his garbage time points were set to skyrocket. Assuming he’s okay, Locker is another QB available in Round 13 who will perform like a QB1 in most formats. And thus it is written . . . selecting a second tier QB in the middle rounds is just as big a gaffe as selecting a top tier QB in Round 1.
22. Nate Washington escaped for a touchdown in Week 1 but was otherwise terrible, repeatedly misplaying easy catches. Washington bizarrely generated a lot of sleeper buzz in the last month. Far outclassed by Kenny Britt and sure to lose targets to Kendall Wright, Washington only has value if you assume the Titans offense can support three 1000-yard receivers. Tangentially, riddle me this: How does Locker go in the 13th Round of high stakes formats with Britt, Wright, and Washington all going as early as Round 7? Both ADP conjectures cannot be true.
23. Tom Brady should put up huge numbers again in 2012 – I picked him as the No. 1 QB in a PFF survey – but he looked awkward on numerous passes Sunday. I’m one of the few writers who believes QB performance begins to tail off fairly quickly after age 30, and Brady may be approaching the cliff. His pocket presence left a lot to be desired against the Titans and he repeatedly lacked accuracy with garbage around his legs. Already an overrated deep passer, Brady must be pinpoint on short and intermediate passes for this offense to succeed.
24. I had draftable grades on Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd this season – both were consistently taken in drafts just before I would have selected them – but Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were the two guys I relentlessly targeted. Through one game, my hypothesis appears sound. New England applies a similar philosophy in their reality strategy as I use in fantasy: always emphasize the younger player. While a lot has been written about the TE v. WR aspect of the Patriots offense, it’s probably more important that New England intends to feature their young players who are locked up to long term contracts.
25. Matt Forte looked awesome against the Colts but keep in mind that few defenses in the history of the NFL have been as bad as Indianapolis promises to be against the run. It will take years for Indy to fix the damage wreaked on their roster by the Polians. Meanwhile, Forte is an excellent sell high. Drafted in the late first or early second round, it will be nearly impossible for Forte to deliver that value with Michael Bush acting as the goal line back, especially as the schedule of opponent defenses quickly gets more difficult.