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Fantasy Intelligence Report: Lloyd's Playground

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Paralleling itself to the NFL, fantasy football can be a heartbreaking game of opportunity. Recently, San Diego Chargers' running back Ryan Mathews became the latest topic of heartbreak for owners who truly believed in his top ten overall potential. On Thursday night Mathews suffered a broken clavicle, placing veteran runner Ronnie Brown at the top of the Chargers' depth chart for the time being.

Even more importantly, Mathews’ injury just opened the door for those behind his former Top 6 ADP (average draft position) to essentially move up. The timing of this couldn’t be any better for Dallas Cowboys' running back DeMarco Murray, who, according to CBSSports.com, is hungry to build off the positives from last season.

“I think we always have something to prove,” Murray said. “You could be in your 10th season and you’ve got to show them you’ve still got it. If you’re a young guy, you have to show you’re for real. I’m still trying to get better. I have a long way to go. I am still trying to work hard and get the plays down, the blocking assignments down, but I am heading in the right direction. ... The sky’s the limit, and I’m excited to see how I do this year.”

Murray also received high marks from SI.com’s Don Banks, who called Murray “a man among (Cow)boys,” at camp and said, “if I played (fantasy football), I’d find room for him on my roster.”

Murray suffered a fractured ankle late last season, which may be the driving force behind fantasy owners selecting him at an ADP of 22.64 in redraft formats. However, it is worth noting that the Cowboys did rebuild the interior of their offensive line and moved Doug Free to the outside permanently to play opposite of rising left tackle Tyron Smith. And, according to the Fort-Worth Star Telegram, Smith is drawing rave reviews from his coaches and teammates.

“You can’t say enough about his poise and his temperament,” offensive line coach Bill Callahan said. “He’s even-keeled, but he’s highly competitive. He doesn’t want to get beat. When he wins, he doesn’t get over-exuberant. He’s steady. And that’s what I like about him. Good, bad or indifferent, he’s the same guy. You can count on that, day in and day out. You like that from a coach’s standpoint.”

DeMarcus Ware added: “He has all the athleticism in the world, but when you stop and clean up the little mistakes that you have, you know, you just start playing really well like he’s been doing. I think the sky’s the limit for a guy like him. He’s going to be like that thing we call a lockdown corner. He’s doing really good.”

Smith and Free will be key ingredients to Murray having great success in 2012. The Cowboys love running outside the tackles, even in goal line situations, and the former Oklahoma Sooner is at his best outside the tackle box (5.8 yards per carry in 2011). The bottom line here is that if Murray and his tackles can stay healthy, fantasy owners will get solid return on a current second round investment.

G.T.E.M. -- Going The Extra Mile

New England Patriots' wide receiver Brandon Lloyd has been a hot topic of conversation. Some fantasy owners believe he has Top 5 potential, while others are erring on the side of caution and drafting him according to what his current value reflects.

I refuse to take a side on this, but did find a common Patriots' play from last season that has been a favorite of quarterback Tom Brady’s since the early days of Randy Moss. It’s a play that may or may not convince you of Lloyd’s true potential. Let’s take a look, as I go the extra mile.

Note: This will be an ongoing series within the Intelligence Report.

 

The play: Single back, play-action wide receiver fly

This looks like a very simple formation with some pretty standard routes. That’s the idea. It’s not the case, though. There are four key ingredients to this play.

The first is going to be the blocking of Rob Gronkowski (red dot, white line). The defense’s first assumption at the snap of the ball is that it's a run, especially with Gronkowski going in to blocking mode. The linebackers take a step forward, and the safeties freeze.

The second is the angled route of Wes Welker (red dot, blue route). The way he angles makes it seem like he’s headed straight for the free safety down the field, which attracts both deep safeties.

The third is going to be the movement of the deep free safety, as noted by the top orange “X” (just beyond the 50-yard line). This will be Brady’s first read. In this case, the free safety collapses to the middle of the field, so Brady immediately looks to his left.

The fourth is Deion Branch holding the sidelines and keeping the defending cornerback on his inside shoulder. The idea here is to provide Brady with plenty of open space to drop the ball over Branch’s outside shoulder, especially if the free safety were to drop back right away.

The end result on this particular play was a 61-yard touchdown to Branch. It’s a play and formation that fantasy owners may see a lot of this season with Brandon Lloyd running that outside fly route.

S.O.T. -- Speaking Out Truthfully

Eleven days ago when I heard the news that wide receiver Braylon Edwards signed with the Seattle Seahawks, I started to feel fantasy betrayal. But then I remembered, that the injury-riddled Edwards will be nothing more than a space wasting Doctor Doom on the Seahawks depth chart; that’s his potential.

On the other hand, Doug Baldwin is like the comic book hero, so to speak, aka Spider Man. Yeah, it’s safe to say that I’ve jumped pretty high on to the Baldwin bandwagon, and for good reason he is young, has solid hands, and has been working with quarterback Matt Flynn. He has Pitbull-like potential, and I want to make sure that no aging Jay-Z-like veteran stands in my way of capturing fantasy gold this season, as I ride the web that Baldwin will spin.

Then I saw the news recently that Terrell Owens joined the Seahawks’ crowded crew of comical pass-catchers. I immediately thought Venom was coming in to ruin Baldwin’s web of fantasy hope. After some research, though, I found this quote courtesy of Baldwin himself, in reference to Owens.

“They brought him in because that’s what Pete Carroll believes in is competition. He’s going to come in immediately and compete for a job, and that’s what we’re all about here.”

I immediately changed my thoughts of Venom to thoughts of Daredevil, an ally who could teach Baldwin how to be a complete player, while supplying him with healthy competition. I mean, let’s face it, as good as Terrell Owens was in his storied NFL past, he is nowhere near as valuable to a young team on the field as he is off, even with the mental maturity of a 6-year-old.

Recently, news broke of the Green Bay Packers' signing of one-dimensional, downhill running back Cedric Benson. I practically drew blood upon scratching my head with my Wolverine-like nails, trying to digest the thought of Ted Thompson bringing in Benson instead of bringing back the long-time green and gold multi-dimensional runner, Ryan Grant.

Yes, Benson has been a 1,000-yard rusher three straight seasons, but Grant made himself pretty clear that he wanted to stay in Green Bay, and knows the offensive playbook from front cover-to-back. As for fantasy purposes, Benson may be as much of a space wasting Doctor Doom as the above-mentioned Braylon Edwards and will be lucky to rush for half of that triple-digit old school standard on a team that is driving towards the new school passing standard.

Thanks for reading!

Eric Huber is a Senior Writer for Fantasysharks.com and is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). Email him your thoughts ehuber@fantasysharks.com