Were we doing this for baseball we could also have called this piece “Ahead of the curve” (Curve, baseball. Down, football. Laugh? I nearly cried, or not, as the case most likely is). It is, however, hugely appropriate (as well as trademarked and patent-pending) as you absolutely need to get inside the collective conscience of the head coach of any given franchise and ascertain their most likely course of action in any given situation, as a reaction to other factors. A scary place to be, to be sure: Matchups, injuries both to the players directly and to those that surround them (offensive line, QBs, etc.), suspensions, jail, contract holdouts …
We like accountability here. Well like could be too strong of a word; let’s just say we respect it in much the same way we like paying taxes. Just remember these players have to be 10 percent owned or less. You’re either going to be the far-sighted fantasy football genius or just another guy.
So, having already made my excuses/covered my back/retired to a safe distance, without further ado here are five picks of players owned in less than 10 percent of standard leagues, and just as importantly the justification as to why they make it into Deeper & Down:
Pierre Garcon ( IND, WR) 2%
Now seriously, I’m not entirely sure how this is possible. The Colts (apart from the Cardinals last season) are the only franchise in recent times to have put out a season with three pigskin catchers totaling 1,000 yardds each. Their running game is struggling, and with Anthony Gonzalez out (likely for the majority of the season, at best), why is this so low? THREE times as many owners are holding onto Brian Robiskie – despite QB issues, O-line problems and no running game to speak of!! Saying the ceiling on an Indianapolis WR No. 2 is just a little bit higher than that of a Cleveland WR No. 3 is a bit like musing that Tony Dungy is just a little bit more popular with his players than Eric Mangini or Tom Cable with his assistants.
Garcon, the second-year WR, has a better grasp of the notoriously complex Colts playbook than the only other obstacle to his fantasy relevance (Austin Collie, rookie WR). Even Reggie Wayne took a while to get used to the playbook. Wayne, in his first year, pulled in 345 yards and zero TDs but 716 yards 4 TDs in his second. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Garcon only had one catch last week and converted a short bubble screenplay to the house for 46 yards. So far? Collie has three receptions for 19 yards, whilst Garcon has four for 72 and a TD.
Arizona has vastly improved in the trenches allowing RBs a meager 56.5 yards per game and lets not forget that has been against Frank Gore and Maurice Jones-Drew-inspired teams. Something you’d only expect after Ken Whisenhunt, Russ Grimm and Billy Davis (head coach, assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, respectively, all ex-Pittsburgh standout coaches who worked under Bill Cowher) have had three seasons to mold a miserly D-Line.
The Colts will have to play a lot of swing passes, play action, bubble screens and short- to-intermediate routes. In short? Garcon country. Arizona is ranked 18th against the pass and even then only after facing mediocre QBs in Shaun Hill ( San Francisco) and a poor David Garrard ( Jacksonville). So look for Manning to open up early and often.
Mercedes Lewis (TE, JAC) 5%
Now, every draftnik worth their salt was already aware just how deep this year’s class of TEs was, and if they had any sensibility at all picked up what was lying there like gold on the ground just before their kickers and defenses. There are other reasons why this is generally sound drafting anyway (the spread of points between a Top 5 TE and a Top 15-20 TE is only a little more than a point per game)!
Lewis will be facing a woeful Texans defense that has already allowed 240 yards per game through the air.
The Texans are looking ahead at MJD, Torry Holt and Mike Sims-Walker they can’t cover all three. In fact they are struggling to cover even one on current form. This match could quiet easily turn into a shootout if either team goes behind.
Malcolm Kelly (WAS, WR) 1%
What have you done for me lately, Malcolm? Not much, to be frank. He’s been largely anonymous through injury and form for all of his rookie season last year, and his form this preseason wasn’t anything overly interesting. So what’s to like here?
Well, firstly he’s playing Detroit. Secondly? He’s playing Detroit. Currently languishing 24th against the pass and allowing 255 yards per game through the air, Kelly is playing against a detestable Lions defense that has taken a major hit with the loss of play-making linebacker Ernie Sims (374 tackles in three seasons), giving Jason Campbell more time to wind up for his throws in Jim Zorn’s West Coast schemes.
One of the problems with the West Coast scheme is it focuses on short and intermediate passing schemes, using three- and sometimes four-receiver sets (including TEs), neither of which play to Campbell or Santana Moss’ strengths, as both are down-the-field players.
Devin Thomas has disappointed thus far, giving Kelly the edge for the third berth. With Clinton Portis opening the field for the pass, any of the Washington receivers look good for points against an improving, but still underachieving Lions secondary.
Malcolm Floyd (SD, WR) 2%
Currently Floyd has two things going very much in his favor. The first is Miami’s secondary is – well – M.I.A, currently being sandwiched in between Houston and Detroit for passing yards allowed. The second thing he has going in his favor goes by the bipedal, brick-handed Chris Chambers.
Vincent Jackson is the player to own on the San Diego prolific passing game orchestrated by Phillip Rivers. Antonio Gates is a close second. After that? It was supposed to have been Chambers, but last week’s performance (10 targets, two catches, 30 yards) and the overall play of an ever-improving Floyd and a blossoming Legedu Naanee has given Chambers’ owners pause for serious thought. Rightly so.
Losing Pro Bowl Center Nick Hardwick will also mean that the O-line is going to be giving Rivers shorter notice on pocket collapses which, in turn, means he’ll have to release the ball that much quicker and earlier. That translates into shorter routes and slot receiver territory rather than Jackson country.
Now there isn’t much to choose from Floyd and the other third-year Naanee (five yards as of Week 2) but Naanee has never gone over 70 yards in each of his previous two seasons, whereas Floyd quality had a great sophomore year, racking up almost 500 yards and 4 TDs.
He might not do much against Miami, despite the vulnerable secondary. Miami has given up 256 yards to TEs thus far, so temper expectations there as Gates runs riot. Looking ahead though? Floyd looks set to become the WR No. 2 with Chambers still struggling two seasons on in a passing game that boasts a Top 5 QB, a Top 10 WR No. 1 and arguably a Top 10 RB. 2 percent owned? Not for many more weeks.
Jermichael Finlay (GB, TE) 6%
Aaron Rodgers is a stud QB who looked more like Brett Favre than Favre does these days (minus the interceptions).
That was the 2008 version of Rodgers the 2009 version? Well …
He’s still the talented QB you drafted. Yet this year’s Rodgers is one that is having to scramble a lot more, make his reads and checkdowns a lot faster and improvise a lot more. The O-line is looking like a mess at the moment, and when Chad Clifton went out against Cincinnati, the hologram they used to replace him didn’t deter Antwan Odom from posting five sacks for the day. That’s the bad news.
The good? Rodgers has the skill set to get through it – even if it means lower than forecast numbers in some games. He rushed for 200 yards and four TDs last season. He is just as comfortable throwing on the run as he is taking a three- or five-step drop or scampering up the field for a first down or a TD. He is a more complete QB than any I’ve seen in a long time. But … when Cincinnati can shred your O-line and dump you on your back that many times in a game, it’s a legitimate concern.
How does all this make Finley a good play? Well, there is a reason why TEs are called a QBs safety valve. Whilst Rodgers is no rookie, he is wily enough to know that he just won’t get the time to look downfield to Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and company. It’s simply not going to happen. Teams will look to blitz early and often having seen Green Bay struggle at protecting Rodgers in the opening two fixtures. Given time in the pocket Rodgers can destroy teams. Those two facts together mean he won’t get it.
Finley isn’t short of confidence (he makes T.O. look mellow), he has freakish and natural athletic ability and the skill to back it up. The Rams have conspired to allow 176 yards and 2 TDs to TEs this season already. This matchup is a holiday for Rodgers, and Green Bay will look to enjoy it before they face Minnesota the following week, but with Detroit and Cleveland to follow? You have to like Finley’s situation for the long haul.
Tashard Choice (DAL, RB) 10%
“Tash” just sneaks in at 10 percent owned and wouldn’t surprise me if that figure trebles if Marion Barber III is declared unfit to go against a porous (joint 27th against the run) Carolina defense by the time this gets to you.
In his rookie season he was just shy of 500 yards and hauled in 2 TDs.
Even if MB3 is suited up and good-to-go, both his and Felix Jones’ roles will be much expanded in order to conserve a less than 100 percent Barber.
In an offense that will look to bounce back and vent their Monday night angst and frustrations, I’ll bet there were a few people in Carolina hoping for a Cowboys pyrrhic victory. It’s a high-octane offense that stuck points past arguably one of the Top 3 defenses in the league and scored 65 points in two games. It’s a no-brainer, seriously. Keep an eye on MB3, but if you have the room? I’d take him now before the Barber owner in the league wises up. There is a reason why I put Choice last on the list … stop reading. Go to your team. Pick him up. Now!
You’ll notice there are a plethora of picks you could you make for WR (I couldn’t find anymore WRs called Malcolm to make it onto the list lamentably) and – especially TE but less so at RB. They are just too easily spotted so it’ll be a scarcity that we get them on here*
* Unless we are talking about New England, New Orleans or Denver, in which case anything goes anyone here draft Mike Bell or Heath Evans? Goodbye, Mike Shanahan. Hello, Sean Peyton.
Other noticeable mentions, for various reasons this week:
Justin Forsett (SEA, RB, 7%): He looked good, as he had 35 rushing yards and rushed for 57 yards against a stout San Francisco defense. Seneca Wallace is not an effective QB, so they’ll look his way often, but that’s no guarantee that he’ll put up huge numbers against a stout Chicago defense. He’s the pick of bad bunch at Seattle.
Julian Edelman (NE, WR, 4%): Shaky Tom Brady, like Rodgers, will look for shorter routes early and often. If Wes Welker isn’t hot-to-trot this weekend and with Galloway struggling badly, it’ll be Edelman who picks up the slack while Randy Moss draws double coverage or Brady gets blitzed.
Shawn Nelson (BUF, TE, 1%): Derek Schouman is gone for the season and they are paper thin at TE. Nelson is a pass-catching TE, not a blocking one. With Fred Jackson, T.O. and Lee Evans keeping opposing defenses semi-honest and the O-line being shaky? He could be serviceable in Trent Edwards’ no-huddle offense based on the matchup against New Orleans.
Jarett Dillard (JAC, WR, 0%): Troy Williamson is out for the season, so Holt and Sims-Walker are the clear WR No. 1 and No. 2. Dillard led the nation with 20 TD catches in college last year, whilst also breaking the NCAA record with 60 career TD receptions. He’s not blazing fast, but he’s crafty and he gets open. He has to get past either Holt or Sims-Walker to be viable, though.
The scores for all players will be posted here versus the scores for the Top 10 peers at their respective positions. Accountability, like deep leagues, are most definitely not for the faint of heart.