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Fantasy Intelligence Report: Vol 3

B.D.N. — Breaking Down News

South

We start our tour of news in

Tampa
Bay
, where according to
Yahoo Sports there is plenty of great chatter surrounding rookie Mike Williams, his new “commitment” to the game of football and what he will bring to the Buccaneers offense.

“In the past, we brought in some veteran guys,” cornerback Ronde Barber said. “We brought in Keyshawn [Johnson], we brought in Keenan [McCardell], we brought in Joe Jurevicius. But we never took the time to develop that quarterback-receiver relationship, making it fit. This is definitely a step in that direction, to build something long term.”

“This is how you have to do it. This is how Peyton and Reggie Wayne, and Peyton and Marvin Harrison … that’s what they did. They came in together and put down roots for a lot of years. If you want a successful vertical passing game, that’s what you have to do. Being able to say that we’re committed to something on that side of the ball is something good for us. We’ve never built the offense from the ground up the way we did with the defense years ago.”

Williams has a shipload of talent, but has had character issues in the past. If he puts the character flaws behind him, and becomes the elite player he’s capable of becoming he will have a residual effect on the Buccaneers’ offense as a whole, and not just in the passing game. His current average draft position is quickly rising, and now has him coming off draft boards between Rounds 11 and 13 in re-draft formats. He has huge potential in 2010, especially considering that

Tampa
Bay
has little experience and talent at the wide receiver position.

* It is worthy noting here that Williams did catch two passes of 13 and 15 yards from Josh Johnson last week after starter Josh Freeman left the game with a fractured thumb. And, for those wondering about the Buccaneers starting quarterback, according to the
Associated Press Freeman is confident he’ll be ready for the season opener.

Midwest

We hop on an American Airlines flight and head to 

St. Louis
 to break down some major Rams’ news. The top story is indeed Sam Bradford’s tremendous first NFL start with Tom Brady watching from the sidelines. However, the underlying bad news is that wide receiver Donnie Avery may be lost for the season, after what head coach Steve Spagnuolo claimed as a significant knee injury, which the wide receiver suffered late in the first half.

What does this mean?

It means that both Laurent Robinson and Danny Amendola’s values should go up very slightly. This bad news also increases the significance of tight end Michael Hoomanawanui’s performance. In the first half with Bradford at quarterback, Hoomanawanui caught four passes for 53 yards and scored on both of
Bradford’s touchdown passes. Dynasty owners should be licking their chops.

As for
Bradford, according to the
St. Louis Dispatch, his success against the Patriots was due in large part to him finding his rhythm and staying confident. “Watching the film of the first two games, I’ve said, I felt like I was in the right place with the ball the first two weeks,”
Bradford said. “I just really think I never got myself in a rhythm – like I was always trying to rush through things. Tonight, before I went out there I took a deep breath and said, ‘Stay in rhythm; do what you do.’ I knew I was capable of it.”

History has shown that it’s rare to see a rookie quarterback have huge success in their first season. However, confidence is the most key ingredient to all good quarterback play, and that’s something that
Bradford displayed on Thursday night. I’m not ready to make any bold claims based on one game, but
Bradford’s progression is something fantasy owners should keep a close eye on.

West

We now fly Southwest (Airlines) to Arizona where word out of Cardinals’ camp per the
Arizona Republic is that wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is expected back in the starting lineup by the start of the regular season; this on the heels of No. 11 suffering a right medial-collateral sprain against the Houston Texans last Saturday.

“It’s unfortunate, because he was probably having his best camp since we’ve been here,” head coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “It’s going to be hard to keep Larry from wanting to do things. Larry would never take a break, so maybe this is a good thing from the standpoint of giving some of the other guys some reps.”

Early Doucet will take Fitzgerald’s place in the starting lineup for the time being, which will also allow rookie Andre Roberts to see the field a lot more as a possible slot replacement for Doucet. The LSU product really broke out against the Packers last season during Wild Card playoff week with his two-touchdown performance, catching passes as the slot receiver.

As for Fitzgerald, well he’ll continue to watch practices with a knee brace, and he and fantasy owners can only hope that he will stay on schedule and begin the season on the field. I suspect most fantasy owners will overreact and move him down their rankings boards, which will lead to others getting him at a bargain price.

Did you know?

Over the last three seasons No. 11 has recorded less than double-digit points just three times in points per reception formats.

B.D.S.P. — Breaking Down Scoring Plays

On Thursday night fantasy owners witnessed first hand what’s in store for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense in 2010, but if they were watching carefully they also should’ve noticed two plays that stood out like Brett Favre’s gray hair.

On his first and third touchdown passes Rodgers did what you normally would never see from an NFL quarterback, unless Randy Moss, Antonio Gates or any other high-flying receiver was running towards the end zone. He put the ball up like it was a first-class fishing cast, however, they weren’t just any ordinary throws you see.

The ESPN telecast actually pointed out something very vital to the success of an NFL quarterback – trust. Rodgers stared down both Donald Driver on the first pass and James Jones on the third, tipping off his receivers, which led to them adjusting their routes and scoring easy touchdowns. But, that wasn’t what made the plays work.

If you roll the tape on Driver’s touchdown catch you can see a slight angle for which the wide receiver is running at towards the pylon. That angle naturally drew the cornerback, Jacob Lacey, to his outside shoulder, which then allowed Driver to make the adjustment back inside without Lacey jumping the route.

Jones did the same thing on his 3-yard score, and the cornerback, Terrail Lambert, followed his outside shoulder in an attempt to cut off the corner route. But, once Lambert was cleared of Jones’ inside shoulder the receiver stopped and Rodgers fired it at his numbers.

Overall, I suspect this is going to be a key play during the Packers’ red zone trips this season, and could lead to Rodgers throwing a lot more touchdown passes. It’s also an example of how smart Rodgers really is.

http://www.nfl.com/players/jamesjones/profile?id=JON404681

L.A.T.O.T. — Looking At Team Offensive Tendencies

Often times as fantasy owners we want to believe that a change is in the works. However, if we take a step back and examine offensive tendencies by looking at previous season stats we can get a better gauge for what to truly expect. Below you will find three teams I’m studying this week – the Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals, and Detroit Lions. They are three teams who are at three different levels of the NFL food chain with questions to be answered on offense.

Rushing Attempts

2009 – Indianapolis: 366, Arizona: 365, Detroit: 409

2008 – Indianapolis: 370, Arizona: 340, Detroit: 352

2007 – Indianapolis: 446, Arizona: 402, Detroit: 324

Three-year average — Indianapolis: 394, Arizona: 369, Detroit: 362

Passing Attempts

2009 – Indianapolis: 601, Arizona: 594, Detroit: 585

2008 – Indianapolis: 585, Arizona: 630, Detroit: 509

2007 – Indianapolis: 551, Arizona: 590, Detroit: 587

Three-year average — Indianapolis: 579, Arizona: 604, Detroit: 560

Analysis: I’ll be honest, and say that I expected all three teams to trend all the same way – towards the pass. However, after looking a little more closely, I discovered that one team is actually going against the grain.

Indianapolis:
These numbers are blowing out my eardrums with the words, “Stay away from Donald Brown.” And contrary to the fact that he has been so consistent over the last two seasons I may choose to also take a pass on Joseph Addai, and I think it’s pretty clear why. You don’t need to squint to see that the Colts have trended up in pass attempts, while trending completely down when it comes to carrying the pigskin.

Yes, I know, there’s a new offensive coordinator in town. However, all fantasy owners should know by now that Peyton Manning is the true offensive coordinator of the Colts offense, and with so many weapons in his arsenal of pass-catchers I doubt that he’s going to want to hand the ball off to runningbacks that averaged 3.8 (Addai) and 3.6 (Brown) yards per carry in 2009.

Arizona:
There are two sides to the Cardinals’ tape. On Side “A,” many are cranking sweet fantasy music with thoughts that appeal to the fantasy owners who want to believe that the Arizona rushing attack will be alive under Whisenhunt in 2010. On Side “B,” fantasy owners are laughing at the balance disparity that has been exhibited by the Cardinals’ offense in the past three seasons asking, “Who is Ken Whisenhunt again?”

Seriously, though, the Cardinals looked like a changed team in 2007 during Whisenhunt’s first season as head coach, but then made a Super Bowl run passing the football in 2008; yes, I know, it was the Kurt Warner era. Last season they trended back up a little, but were still last in the NFL in rushing attempts. Oh, and that was with talented linebacker Karlos Dansby (Miami) and Pro Bowl defensive back Antrel Rolle (New York Giants) still on the defensive side of the ball. Now, just imagine what they’re capable of in 2010 without those two key pieces. My guess is that their current trend will continue, even with question marks at quarterback, because the defense won’t give the offense the opportunity to control the clock.

Detroit:
The Lions’ numbers are intriguing and have me thinking hard. They have the lowest three-year rushing attempts average, but oddly enough are trending way up. I’m encouraged by the trend, but at the same time worried about the average. I really wish I could put all Jahvid Best owners at ease by saying that I believe this trend will continue on its current path, but this is the Lions we are talking about here.

I mean, my current lean wants to believe that Jim Schwartz’s defense is improved enough on paper to allow for maybe 30-40 more running plays in 2010. However, that lean could fall back the other way if the Lions quickly become major prey in the NFC North. At this point, I’m lost for words or any further predictions. Just close your eyes, select Best and hope for, well, his last name.

S.A.S. — SOFA Auction Strategies

This past week I was invited back to represent Fantasy Sharks in the SOFA Auction League run by The Huddle’s Whitney Walters. It’s a PPR league consisting of 12 teams from various sites for which each team was allotted a $200 salary cap.

Now, I’ll be honest, I was a little concerned about my chances of putting together a good team going in after having just average success last season. However, much to my surprise I pieced together one of the better auction teams I’ve ever assembled and uncovered a few key strategies at the same time.

Hey big spender.

I didn’t exactly start off on the right foot when I overpaid for Aaron Rodgers ($44) early on, but I made up for it by spending just $5 on Matt Ryan as my backup late in the draft. I was also able to grab Michael Turner for $47 right after the Rodgers gamble, which ended up being one dollar cheaper than Steven Jackson went for.

Give me an elite tight end.

The one position that I must have a top five player at is tight end. It has been my Achilles Heel in the past, and I wasn’t going to let it hurt me again. As the draft progressed I knew the only way to get a top five tight end was to throw out lower grade tight ends that I didn’t want in an attempt to force others to not only overpay, but fill their roster spots. Heath Miller, Visanthe Shiancoe and Zach Miller were all thrown out early, while players like Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten went later in the draft when not as many owners had the money to spend or the roster spot to fill.

I ultimately ended up with Witten for $15. By comparison, Brent Celek and Vernon Davis both went for $16, and Antonio Gates and Jermichael Finley went for $19, so I ended up paying the perfect value for Witten, whom I consider a grade above both Celek and Davis and just behind Finley and Gates in this format.

Value those wide receivers.

The most important lesson I learned from last season is that you can never have too many wide receivers. After all, this is a PPR format for which I can start up to four per week. In other words, I had a choice of either spending over half of my salary by drafting three elite receivers and taking my chances, or I could balance my team out and look for five to six solid value receivers.

I chose to look for values, and it was the right strategy. I mixed a few veterans who catch a lot of passes and have scored a lot fantasy points in the past with some receivers who have upside due to new opportunity. My stable of wide receivers includes Hines Ward ($9), Donald Driver ($12), Pierre Garcon ($10), Terrell Owens ($9), Bernard Berrian ($9), Mike Williams ($4), and Early Doucet ($2).

Two is better than one?

Now, because I believe Michael Turner will have a rebound 2010 season and get back to being the elite runner he has shown to be in the past, I decided to take my chances with a few runners who are entrenched in a committee backfield in hopes that at least one of them will emerge as their team’s top runner. Remember, because I anticipated my wide receiver depth being so strong I was able to get away with a strategy like this.

After Turner I snagged LaDainian Tomlinson for $6 and Justin Forsett for $8 in the middle of the draft, two great values considering their situations. Later in the draft I grabbed Carnell Williams for $7, Thomas Jones for $5 and Clinton Portis for $4 in hopes that at least one will stick. Overall, I’m almost as comfortable with my stable of runners as I am with my pass-catchers, especially because I only have to start just two every week.

As a whole, I feel good about my team, and am certain that it is indeed good enough for me to have a shot at adding another championship trophy to my collection, a much different feeling than what I had going in.

One last note:
Never only bid on players you intend on selecting, because all it does is the tip the caps of opposing owners who catch on to your strategy, who then end up driving up the price you don’t want to pay. Always bid on a player if the value is right.

Thanks for reading!

Eric Huber is a staff writer for Fantasysharks.com. You can follow him on the Twitter (EricHuber12).

About Fantasy Sharks

FantasySharks.com began in 2003, disseminating fantasy football content on the web for free. It is, or has been, home to some of the most talented and best known fantasy writers on the planet. Owned and operated by Tony Holm (5 time Fantasy Sports Writer Association Hall-of-Fame nominee,) Tony started writing fantasy content in 1993 for the only three fantasy football web sites in existence at the time.