Wednesday - Sep 30, 2020

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Deeper & Down

Lex Hilliard (MIA, RB) 4%

MIA like to use their RBs. MIA love to use their RBs. They use an RBBC that just lately has seen an ever-so-subtle and distinct change – Ronnie Brown has landed himself on IR. That is a pretty bitter pill to swallow for all those people that took him as his ADP was right up there. If you handcuffed him with Ricky Williams (ADP way down there…), then salutations and congratulations to you! If you didn’t? Then say hello to Lex Hilliard.

Hilliard used to play college ‘ball for Montana and was once named as a Walter Peyton finalist in ’05. Prior winners including Steve McNair, Tony Romo and – interestingly – Brian Westbrook. Although having said that Adrian Peterson (CHI not MIN) once won the thing, so go figure.

MIA drafted him in the 6th round by in ’08 based on his 52 TD, 4,016yd performances over 4yrs for the Grizzlies. Having mentioned Westbrook, its worth noting that despite being 3 inches and 30lbs heavier than Westy, he ran near identical 40 speeds and cone-drills (4.57 to 4.66 & 7.09 to 6.93 for Westbrook and Hilliard respectively). It’s impressive that a man bigger than Westbrook can run near identical speeds, yet be more agile in the cone runs. If he catches as well out the back as Brian, then he could very well be another diamond in the rough.

The Bills defence whilst a potential banana-skin to opposing QBs, have proven incredibly soft against the run ranking #31 in the NFL against the rush, allowing 165yds per game and 15TDs over the season. With Ricky Williams never having taken the lion’s share of the RB duties in many seasons, coupled with being the wrong side of 30 and I get the impression that Hilliard will be used more in tandem with Williams, than Williams was with Brown.

Mike Shanahan has shown that RBs taken late in the draft can yield potential fantasy gold. With no body of NFL work behind him and a very “so-so” pre-season, but a successful college career this is more a speculative add. In week 12 however and against a soft rush defense you really couldn’t ask for much more.

Shawn Nelson (BUF, TE) 0%

Whilst we’re talking about MIA, it’d be rude not to talk about their opposition this week… MIA have been seriously, seriously soft against opposing TEs this season. I’m thinking “A hot cutting implement and some churned dairy product” type soft. Just over the past few weeks, as an example:

Dante Rosario 4 for 40

Kellen Winslow 7 for 102

Ben Watson 4 for 49

Dustin Keller 8 for 76

Jeremy Shockey 4 for 105

And the beat goes on…

The thing about Shawn Nelson – aside from being rookie, is that his biggest asset is also one of his weaknesses. He has a knack for getting open and catching the pigskin. Whilst most draftniks had Brandon Pettigrew as the consensus overall #1 TE, Nelson was #2 or #2 on most boards, but ranked #1 or #2 for pass-catching alone. In getting open however he has rarely had to worry about his defensive duties as he was used primarily as an offensive weapon in his college career (2,054yds and 16 TDs on 157 passes).

At 6′ 5″ and 240lbs to run a 4.56 sec 40 is pretty impressive and given the way TEs have been dropping like flies in BUF and despite being a rookie, he’s having to learn quickly and adapt on the fly. He’s had to. Were I a Defensive Co-ordinator, i’d certainly target his side of offensive line every time he was on the field.

Having said that, I’ve said here before and will say so again you need two things when you look for a fantasy pickup – ability and opportunity. He’s not going to win you any championships this season, but for a plug and play against a team that struggles badly against the TE and with Terrell Owens garnering more attention than he has done in the longest time he can probably ever recall – he could well put you over the top in a close game this week.

Jason Avant (PHI, WR) 5%

He may not have a high ceiling, but out of all the PHI players – who has the 2nd most red zone targets?

In an offense that includes such fantasy talent as Donovan McNabb, DeSean Jackson, Brian Westbrook and emerging talent such as Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and LeSean McCoy – you’d be forgiven for being somewhat shocked by Jason Avant sneaking in as the 2nd most targeted player in the RZ. When a team can get downfield with the regularity of PHI it’s worth owning their RZ targets.

Just as PHI can get downfield with such regularity, WAS do a very good job of allowing opposition defenses the opportunity to try. Jason Campbell has (on more than one occasion) done his best to cheer up the likes of such peers as JaMarcus Russell and Jake Delhomme when it comes to INTs. I’ve discussed before in this article that I am more than sympathetic to Campbell’s plight – he’s had more Offensive Co-Ordinators than he has spent seasons in the NFL. That is NOT the way to go about getting the best out of your QB. Not by a country mile. He’s by no means the worst QB in the NFL – but he’s definitely below average in terms of interceptions, completions, yardage and QB rating.

The WAS defense has boasted some very strong players at safety and corner over the past few seasons and this season is no different. Players like LaRon Landry, Deangelo Hall & Carlos Rogers have all helped to propel the Redskins defense to #1 in the nFL against the pass.

Now.. In saying that, I’ve always cautioned playing one player over another based purely on one part of a defense – they will face the pass and the rush. Often you can find some teams playing superbly in either category, but that has be tempered by how well they do in other areas. For example, is a team superlative against the pass because:

1) They are a top 5 defensive unit? Or

2) They are absolutely awful against the run and teams just pound the rock all day, every day against them?

In the case of WAS, its the former. Something all the more remarkable given the offense’s inability to stay on the field for what seems like any decent amount of time. Something that could be even more questionable given the absence of both the stalwart Clinton Portis and his backfield partner Ladell Betts.

So why pick a WR against a defense that is solid against the pass (ask Dallas and Tony Romo) and a good defensive unit overall? Well, when good offenses meet good defenses its the team that can adapt the quickest that wins out. In this case – whether you like Andy Reid and the pass happy offense or you don’t, he’s still an improvement on Zorn and the recently re-employed bingo caller calling the offensive shots now. PHI throw the ball an awful lot, arguably too much. Rather than adapt and have LeSean McCoy and Leonard Weaver try and pound the ball all day against an above average WAS run defense I think this weekends fixture is going to be all about the short passing game.

Ironic isn’t it that Jim Zorn is going to be out-west coasted, offensively?

It’s no stretch to see slot receiver Avant (and Brent Celek) be the beneficiary of deep coverage and good marking against the home-run hitting talents of both Jackson and Maclin. They’ll be occupying the WAS defense, taking the coverage away and leaving Avant, Celek and McCoy the freedom underneath.

Dishonorable Mentions:

Terrell Owens (BUF, WR) – Just like… wow. 197 yds and a TD to go along with a franchise record longest TD. It’s just a pity the majority of T.O. owners had him riding pine. Lets hope with Jauron gone, the shackles are off. Someone on that BUF offense has got to be the beneficiary.

Jay Cutler (CHI, QB) – You don’t become a bad player overnight, or even in the space of a few weeks but – to quote the bard – ,”Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. I know a lack of running game isn’t helping. I appreciate that the playbook probably isn’t playing to his strengths. Having said that, after how you got out of DEN, you have to be good enough to adapt if you want to play the role of Diva.

Josh McDaniels (DEN, HC) – To be honest? Quite frankly, McDaniels is making dizzy. Earlier this season I thought he was certifiable in falling out with Cutler in the manner that he did. Then I got – as an Eddie Royal owner  in a dynasty league – rather “miffed” with Mr. McDaniels. Then i came around to warming to the plucky, bright, young thing as the results came in week after week. He was the real McDeal.

I’ve never witnessed any Head Coach engage in the sort of “trash-talking” that he’s gotten into. I’m sure you’ll have some saying it’s a good thing and shows his passion for the game and his competitive spirit, but i can’t recall Bill Belichick having ever engaged in it and if you don’t think he’s competitive? Take a look at what happened to every team that chipped in with a comment over spygate. I’m with Jeff Fisher though. When asked about what he thought about his comments to opposing players during games he replied “Good luck in free agency.”

Vince Young (TEN, QB) – Apparently he High-fived an impartial umpire after he took the kneel to seal TEN’s recent victory over the Texans. If you’ve watched a few NFL games though, you’ll know that when a play is over the ump is going to signify that by raising his right arm in the air. According to the NFL, when Vince saw him approach the line of scrimmage after the end of the play with his arm held aloft and a victory under his belt, he responded by high-fiving him. Good job, Vince!

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