Wednesday - Sep 30, 2020

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Deeper & Down

Brandon Gibson (Stl, WR) 1%

Since this column has started, when it comes to discussing the StL receiving corp as early as week 4 some pronouncements were made that have come to pass: Chris Chambers was over-owned and over valued at StL, Donnie Avery was under performing and Keenan Burton was under-used.

Here’s another one – Brandon Gibson is worth owning…

Avery is without doubt a potent weapon for Bulger. IF he catches the ‘ball? If he has some space to run? He’s a legitimate home-run threat. His hands and route-running are however – at best – not all there yet. It’s only his 2nd year in the league though and he’s certainly worth a shout in dynasty leagues as there is potential for a breakout season next year and as a positional flex player this year – if you already drafted him. Here & now, though he’s going to be largely inconsistent overall.

The main difference between Avery & Gibson though, is that Brandon Gibson led all PAC-10 players in receiving while in his junior year at Washington State, considered by many to be a consensus 1st round pick in the ’08 NFL draft, whilst Avery wasn’t and eventually went in as a 2nd/3rd rounder on most boards. Gibson fell away in his senior year – for a number of reasons largely out of his control – and fell all the way to PHI in the 6th round, who traded him to StL as part of the Will Witherspoon deal that has proved to be mutually beneficial to all parties involved thus far.

Gibson is a sure-handed receiver who runs very silky and sharp routes. Last week he broke the StL franchise record for not only number of receptions in a game by a rookie, but also yardage. As a sidenote, it’s also worth pointing out that it was the most productive outing of any StL WR this season so far – rookie or no.

This week, the porous StL defense will be facing a potent aerial attack in the ‘guise of Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin & the rest of ARI. So it’s looking like we’ll be seeing more of the revitalized Marc Bulger airing it out as he plays from behind against ARI’s suspect secondary (#30 in the league against the pass – 253yds per game and 15 TDs), so big fantasy days are certainly a possibility to be had by Bulger, Avery and Gibson.

All we can ask in our fantasy players is that they have both opportunity and ability and Gibson certainly possesses both this week.

Jerious Norwood (ATL, RB) 10%

Michael Turner? Injury? This is why you handcuff your stud players. 80-90% of the time you’ll never need to employ them, but the old adage of “It’s better to have and not need, than to need and not have” rings true more often than not.

Jason Snelling saw a 22% hike in ownership and is certainly a decent add if he’s available as he’ll likely see the lion’s share of the workload, but for a number of reasons I actually prefer the lesser owned Norwood this week.

NYG like to blitz. It’s no secret. In fact it’s a hallmark of their play, but many blitzes usually make for poor rushing – look at how effectively strong blitzing teams have traditionally held running backs to low yardage, notably Baltimore’s NFL record of 39 games of holding backs to sub 100yd games (ironically ended by Cedric Benson this year).

The reason for this is simple – you have 5 or 6 players attempting to move into the same spaces that your RB is attempting to run into. It gets a little… “Congested”, to say the least. It’s certainly not impossible to make yardage that way, it’s simply, more bruising and less effective. Its alot easier to simply look for a flat pass, the bubble screen, reverse, swing or short slant instead. Instead of having to plough through the tide of human flesh that is trying to move into the space you are using, just move the ball into the gaping voids that they were in. Much simpler. More effective.

Whilst the Giant’s defense is a top 5 unit, that’s mainly because they have held running backs to only 106yds per game and a miserly 6 rushing TDs on the season. Conversely however, they’ve allowed 253yds per game and 15 TDs through the air. So all things considered I think – at least as far as Running Backs are concerned – we are looking more towards ATL needing to play to Norwood’s strengths if they want to be successful, more than Snelling’s this week.

Much has been made of Norwood’s durability, not something i would argue with or try to dispel – but I do think its easy to overanalyze it’s worth noting that Snelling has also missed time with a Hamstring injury only recently. So, for this week at least I’m tempted to prefer the under-owned Norwood over his running partner.

Kenny Britt (TEN, WR) 11%

Three weeks ago I put forward Vince Young‘s name as a pick-up, citing that while he wasn’t even a starter at this point and whilst he has to date given no reason to start him with any level of confidence even should he be called off the bench that he was still the same player that went under centre on a team that was failing badly midway through his rookie season and managed to lead it to a winning record with some memorable performances. So far, Young has been performing a remarkably good impression of that same rookie season.

With teams now – unsuccessfully more often than not – key in on trying to stop Chris Johnson, it’s opening the way for Young to hit his receivers. One of his main criticisms coming off his ’07 season was that he was struggling to make the right reads and making poor decisions. He’s had a year of watching the veteran Collins manage the team to a nearly perfect season last year. If he was ever able to manage that experience with the ability he flashed in his rookie season he was always going to be the TEN QB. TEN are still a “run-first” team and that’s not going to change anytime soon, and let’s be honest… If you ran a franchise and had Chris Johnson at RB, you’d run more too – whether you wanted to or not. So whilst that’s not ideal for WR production, Young’s completion rating is up and his INTs are way down. Now that IS a good thing for WR production.

Kenny Britt has always had the physical tool set needed to succeed in the NFL, but as with all rookie WRs the question is never about purely physical talent, more a question of adaptability and mental agility. Being able to pick a pro-style playbook and system doesn’t come easily to everyone – just ask Sidney Rice, he didn’t blossom overnight it’s been a work-in-progress. Britt has already shown that if he and Washington can keep stretching the field and if Chris Johnson can keep making those plays? Then things are looking good for TEN offensively.

Britt & Co. face HOU defence that has definitely improved going from last overall in the NFL to middle-of-the-pack, but still having conceded 17 passing TDs and 224yds per game through the air.

S.Stroughter & M.Stovall (TB, WRs) 4% & 0%

J.Freeman (TB, QB) 6%

Over the past 6 weeks one of these players has, more often than not been given a shout. There is a good reason for that. I’m no TB fan, but players involved in the aerial offense on teams that have poor defenses produce good fantasy points. It helps that definitely one – arguably two – and possibly all three of those players are blessed with no small degree of talent to match their opportunity.

Last week they played a tough MIA defence and ran them a very close game (23-25) with only a couple of points separating both teams at the final whistle.  Previously, Josh Johnson has shown that the offense that sputtered under Byron Leftwich can spark into life. Josh Freeman has even managed to survive the draft hype and show that it can actually thrive and flourish – well, provided they can get a handle on the offensive penalties that are suffocating drives. Something i’m sure Raheem Morris, the former defensive co-ordinator turned head coach at Tampa Bay will do sooner rather than later. 9 penalties for 77yds against MIA? You won’t win many games in the NFL with that sort of indiscipline.

This week they will be facing a potent NO offense, and just like StL facing off against ARI that’s a strong offensive unit playing a weak defensive unit? It’s no reach to surmise that Freeman & Co. will need to open it up offensively as the chances of containing a Drew Brees led NO team with defense are slim to none.

It’ll be interesting to see how the looks are going to be split up amongst the WRs now as we’ll have had a few weeks of having Freeman under centre to look at things. Stroughter was Johnson’s most productive outlet, whilst Stovall seems to be Freeman’s and Winslow has managed a monster game for each, but never in consecutive games.

NO have injuries in their secondary too, to the point that they’ve had to sign cover – but it will still limit their effectiveness in their secondary, something that will certainly help Freeman if they go behind as they likely will.

All the players above will have the opportunity to post above average numbers this week and all are widely available. Should Freeman manage to continue to play as well as he has been in recent weeks then it’s entirely possible it will be he and not McCoy, Tebow or Bradford being coveted in dynasty leagues next season.

Dishonorable Mentions:

Louis Rankin (SEA, RB) – In much the same way that some have been looking to Bernard Scott and Justin Forsett, i’m going a little deeper. Scott is electric (Did you see that return last week?), but between the tackles he’s struggled when presented with limited carries thus far. Rankin is one of only 2 fit RBs in SEA and whilst Justin Forsett is the undoubted RB#1, I just can’t see SEA risking running him into the ground with no contingency or noone to spell him. The 2nd year back has looked good in very limited appearances (his biggest outing being a preseason runout against SF last season for OAK), but he certainly has all the physical tools you’d look for in a back: 4.40 speed (recorded in the wet, incidentally), 6′ 1″ & very soft hands. If he impresses as an RB#2 he could well advance to displace Forsett who by no means has a stranglehold on the position himself.

James Jones (GB, WR) – Despite Jordy Nelson now being back, previously championed here Jones has quietly gone about picking up almost a TD a game in most of his matches.

Chris Chambers (KC, WR) – For showing that sometimes a change of scenery is all that’s needed for a player to flourish & to show that I never hold a grudge. Dwayne Bowe‘s suspension won’t hurt either.

Connor Barth (TB, K) – For joining Morten Andersen, David Akers & Kris Brown as being the only NFL Kickers to kick 3 50yd+ field goals in a game

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