Zack Cimini writes an Atlanta’s struggles for bleacherreport.com.
Zack Cimini writes an Atlanta’s struggles for bleacherreport.com.
By Vidur Malik
By themselves, offensive linemen obviously are obviously not draftable for a fantasy team.
But they could very well be the most influential players in football when it comes to deciding who you should draft.
After only three weeks, the 2011 NFL season has proven that.
A team’s offensive line is something you should definitely pay attention to when picking up players. Everyone who has Michael Vick as a starting quarterback is extremely frustrated at the Philadelphia Eagles’ o-line for not protecting their QB. The teams’ offensive linemen can’t take all the blame for the concussion and bruised hand he suffered in back-to-back weeks, but they should definitely shoulder a majority of it.
Vick is just one example of an elite fantasy player whose numbers could suffer because he plays with a suspect offensive line. The men in the trenches are extremely crucial to every part of a team’s offense, which makes them very important for your fantasy team.
When considering which players to pick up from the waiver list, think about their offensive lines. If the team has a strong line, it will probably boost the chances for a quarterback or running back to play well. By giving the quarterback more time to throw, the o-line could also give wide receivers a chance to run intricate routes and get open.
Teams like the New York Giants, Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots all have dependable offensive lines, and it’s a good idea to take a look at players on those teams when you’re adding someone from waivers. Look for players like Raiders running back Michael Bush, a big, bruising runner who excels in short-yardage situations and runs behind a solid line. Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz probably got picked up by fantasy owners all over the nation after his performance last week, and Torrey Smith of the Ravens, who also have a good o-line, was no doubt a popular pick-up. Both are examples of players who got opportunities to produce because their quarterbacks are usually not pressured.
The offensive line will probably mean the most to you during next year’s draft. At that time, consider a quarterback like Eli Manning or Joe Flacco over someone like Vick, who obviously has the potential to put up huge fantasy numbers but could also be sidelined because of injuries.
For now, you should keep this in mind as you make mid-season pick-ups. You never know which no-name running back or wide receiver could suddenly emerge as a starter because he benefits from a great offensive line.
By Zack Cimini
September is just about in the books. Lets look at week four’s automatic starts and players to not even think of putting in your fantasy lineups.
Start: Donovan McNabb
Minnesota isn’t loaded at wide receiver, but the team is improving by the week. Their tough schedule early on will now become much easier. It isn’t like they haven’t been in their games. They’ve just not been able to play four complete quarters. The key to success is the way the Vikings have been the past few weeks. Armed and ready to hand the ball to AP. There are going to be some weeks that AP elevates McNabb’s passing stats, and this week will be one of them.
Sit: Matt Hasselbeck
The woes are well known for the Titans. Their offense was efficient by being heavily dependant on the pass over the run. Chris Johnson has not been able to get in gear, and sooner or later that’s going to cause Hassle beck a horrible game. That game may be this week. Without his Pro Bowl caliber receiver Kenny Britt, the Titans receivers now become one of the worst in the league. Nothing new to Hasselbeck as he comes from Seattle.
Start: Ryan Fitzpatrick
The quarterback that was recruited by just Eastern Washington and Harvard, and honorable mention for All-State his senior year in high school, is now becoming a big time NFL quarterback. He has turned around a franchise, and has this team believing. The Bills somehow keep getting down in games and fighting back relentlessly. However they get the wins, Fitzpatrick is piling up impressive fantasy stats.
It looks like an unfavorable match up, but the Ravens have not been as stellar at giving up yards. They step up defensively in spots, but they do not play an entire four quarters of great football. Shonne Greene should be held in check, but look for LT to get some big plays out of the backfield. A good flex option this week.
Sit: Joey Addai
Addai ran tough and had one of his better games in awhile against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The amount of carries was a season high, to go along with nearly ninety yards and a touchdown. I don’t look for that to become a trend. The Colts managed the game effectively and limited the Steelers opportunities offensively. With the status of their quarterback situation still woeful, maintaining an effective rushing attack with someone as inconsistent as Addai will be hard to do.
Start: Daniel Thomas
The Dolphins are 0-3 with a couple of winnable games left on the playing field. One bright spot has been rookie Daniel Thomas. Thomas is excelling on a weekly basis, and granting the heavier work amount over newcomer Reggie Bush. Thomas should garner another effective fantasy outing with points in the range of ten to fourteen. For the ADP of Thomas, you’re getting way more value than you bargained for.
Sit: Frank Gore
We’ve seen the pattern far too often. A reliant running back, you expect to continually produce year after year. Age use to be the determining factor, but nowadays talent level declines out of nowhere. Gore’s time may be now. He has staved off injuries throughout his career to remain effective, but this year he just hasn’t had it. He looks slower, and just not himself. The heavy workloads of the prior years seem to have slowed him down a tad.
Start: Santana Moss
Moss seems to be Grossman’s main go to guy, as has been the case throughout Moss’s career with several different quarterbacks. He still has the speed to beat defenders deep, but has become more effective with simple crossing patterns the last few years. St. Louis has been ripped apart by the Giants, Ravens, and Eagles on big pass plays. Look for Moss to have one of his patented stat filler games.
Sit: Mike Thomas
Thomas finally had some fantasy relevancy in week three. Catching a touchdown to go with over fifty yards receiving. The touchdown came on an unorthodox type of play. Yet even though Thomas is the Jaguars main target at receiver, his stats at the end of the year will likely look like a third receivers. Give Gabbert a few months to develop and take his lumps. In the mean time do not even think of putting Thomas in your lineup. At the end of the year he should have stronger value.
By Zack Cimini
San Diego has managed to pull off some close wins to start the season, but it hasn’t been for the play of Philip Rivers. The team has played just well enough as a whole, or they could easily be 0-3. The 2-1 start looks good on paper, but if proper adjustments do not happen this team could slide. Typical to their poor starts, it might be a reverse finish when they usually start to win.
Rivers just has not found that classic rhythm of his. There could be a few variables to blame for it, but Rivers is supposed to be a top tier quarterback. Four touchdowns and six interceptions would rank him near the bottom of the league. He is forcing too many throws. Throws that he has been able to thread throughout his career just aren’t getting there.
With the Chargers running the ball more effectively, maybe they’ll tone down his throws a tad. Antonio Gates is still hurting, and maybe the lack of a steady receiver over the middle is hurting Rivers. Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Jackson both do most of their damage down the field, using their tall frames to shield, leap, and out jump cornerbacks.
Patrick Crayton just isn’t the receiver he use to be and is clearer declining. The loss of Legedu Naanee seems to be hurting the Chargers more than anticipated. This early funk will not phase Rivers. For fantasy owners that see rookie quarterbacks and Ryan Fitzpatrick posting better numbers, should not over panic for a trade. Likely you were able to get one of those quarterbacks to either backup Rivers via the waiver wire or through the draft.
Give Rivers another couple of games to prove his value. His career speaks for itself. Patterns of having history with turnovers has never been a prevalent issue. He’ll hone it down and reemerge as one of the better fantasy quarterbacks. Finishing strong is second nature to him, but has that caught up to him?
By Zack Cimini
Hut, hut,…..errrrr, penalties on the field typically result in a do over from a further distance. For fantasy owners there are no retries from deciding on that wrong player. A false start in fantasy means a poor outing and lots of pouting and jabbing. “Man I would of destroyed you look at my bench”. While you’re crying a river over the fantasy points buried on your bench, the opposing team has a breakout performance from their third receiver that you never would have started.
It’s not always how your team looks on paper. Drafting a perfect team is just not feasible. Often it’s the owners that reassess their weaknesses and upgrade via trades, waiver wire, and contrarian starts. It’s the law of averages with even the best athletes. It’s a sixteen game season and their just isn’t any position player that’s going to be lights out every week.
Here are some players that are either undervalued or I believe are due for a let down.
Rob Gronkowski- Contrarian View- Sit
The meter of discussion on Gronkowski has hit an all time high. Brady has hit his tight ends with such frequency, that owners are salivating at what Gronkowski will do without Hernandez. The two on the field together were able to attack defenses similar to a basketball team with a dynamic backcourt. Without the other things might not go as smooth.
Antonio Gates- Contrarian View-Start (Ignore last week and injury report)
I’ve got a reverse feeling for Gates. Rumors are circulating that Gates is hampered again by the same foot that kept him out a few years ago. Gates is a tough son of a gun, that finds a way to break out when least expected. After being shut down last week, you can better believe Gates will be factored in frequently this week.
Tony Gonzalez- Contrarian View- Sit
Sometimes old veterans will come out the gate with a flurry of solid games. LT did so last year, and faded quicker than Luke McCown’s starting job in Jacksonville. Last season he had seven games below thirty yards receiving. His success this year has largely been for the fact that Roddy White has been doubled, and Matt Ryan hasn’t developed with first year starter Julio Jones. Calm down on believing that Gonzalez is going to reemerge suddenly. He is a touchdown tight end, that’s it.
Brandon Pettigrew- Contrarian View- Start
Points, points, and more points have the Detroit scoreboard operator asking for a raise. After years of hardly working, he/she is probably having malfunctioning issues on getting the board to update so quickly. Owners have been disappointed in Pettigrew for his lackluster results, but it is way too early to think about removing him from starting consideration. Though Tony Scheffler has caught a few touchdowns with downfield routes, Pettigrew will get his shine sooner or later. With the rate that the Lions are scoring, Pettigrew will be a red zone factor anytime. Look for a decent game this weekend.
Shonn Greene- Contrarian View- Start
His first two games make you shake your head. He is the feature back for a team that is geared to make another deep postseason run. He has shown the skills every post season that he can be a dominant fantasy back. Yet the regular season has started off similar to the results of the past two. Unlike last year the Jets do not have fresh LT legs to rely on. Greene is their guy, and will have to bust out sooner or later. Fred Jackson had a field day last week vs. the Raiders, and is a similar back to Greene. Look for Greene to be a top five fantasy back this weekend.
Tony Romo- Contrarian View-Sit
The Redskins are Romo’s weakness over his career against them. With the infatuation over his outing last week, you have to ignore that and look at the present details. Romo will likely start, but is obviously still not 100 percent. The Cowboys receivers are dinged up as well, and will have to rely heavily on non starting receivers. Pressure on Romo and improper timing with receivers he isn’t use to, could be the cause and effect of a bad outing. Over his last four starts vs. the Redskins, Romo has averaged just 230 yards passing with a total of four touchdowns and four interceptions.
Cam Newton- Contrarian View-Sit
If you think of the pace of the first two games Newton played in, they were hectic freelance style games. Newton had the opportunities to throw for the yards he did, because both teams were dictating a pass over run game. Green Bay ran the football basically fifteen times, discounting Rodgers five scrambles. Arizona ran the ball about twenty times week one. That’s just the opposing teams. Carolina has abandoned the run all together the first two games. Jacksonville is one of the top teams in the league at attempts rushing per game. I could envision a heavy dosage of carries for both Jones-Drew and Karim to try and protect first day starter Blaine Gabbert.
By Vidur Malik
As the NFL becomes more and more of a pass-first league, the wide receivers that catch most of those passes are becoming even more crucial to a team’s success.
Smaller, quicker wideouts like Wes Welker and DeSean Jackson have risen to the elite level at the position, but no matter how the game evolves, height at the wide receiver spot will always be a valuable weapon.
Big receivers have always been sought after for what they can bring to a team. Receivers like Vincent Jackson, Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall have been atop the leader board for wide receivers for several years now, and their combination of height and tremendous athleticism is what keeps them there.
The most obvious advantage for tall receivers is that they tower over the defensive backs who must cover them. This makes them bigger targets for quarterbacks, giving the passer some room for error: if Philip Rivers is throwing to Jackson, he doesn’t need to put the ball on them money every time because chances are Jackson can use his physical advantage to outmuscle a defender and come up with the ball.
If big receivers can combine their size with route-running ability, they can get open anytime and make up for any lack of speed they might have. Because their game is not based on speed, big receivers can stay productive for a long time. Plaxico Burress is the perfect example. Though he spent two years away from the game, he has picked up right where he left off so far. Even though he had to adjust to a new team during the lockout, Burress has still been able to catch four passes, including one for a touchdown, through two games with the New York Jets.
From a fantasy standpoint, big receivers are great pickups. As ideal red zone targets, they can get you touchdowns, and their size allows them to break tackles and gain extra yards after the catch, which will get you more points.
Johnson, Jackson and Marshall will already be on teams in your league, but there are other big receivers that you can probably still pick up. The San Diego Chargers’ Malcolm Floyd might be available in your league, and you might want to consider Roy Williams of the Chicago Bears if he can get healthy soon after hurting his groin in week one.
Big receivers will always be crucial to a team’s success through the air. Teams can get by without them, but when you’re in the red zone and need a touchdown, chances are a tall, strong target will have a better shot at getting you six points than a small slot receiver. Let that natural advantage benefit your team, and consider picking up a tall target if you don’t already have one.