Today I'm going to do you all a favor. I'm going to explain why you should be growing increasingly nervous about Mike Vick. I'll also tell you why you should feel comfortable starting Cedric Benson as your RB2 this week. I'll also give one final report on slow starting players who, actually, aren't really starting that slowly. And finally, I'll give some thoughts on which players are being targeted most heavily in the passing game.
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4,800 yards for a passer.
Oh it happens, but it's rare (it's occurred five times).
2,000 yards for a runner.
Oh it happens, but it's rare (it's occurred six times).
1,600 yards for a receiver.
Oh it happens, but it's rare (it's occurred 13 times).
Obviously, if you drafted a player expecting any of those totals, you were bucking history.
What should your expectations have been? Let me drop a little number knowledge on you.
Would you say 1,000 yards is a good season passing or receiving? I think we could all agree that it is, couldn't we? But what dose that mean on a weekly basis? How many yards a game, given a 16 game campaign, would result in 1,000 yards? It's 62.5 yards a game. How many of you out there have a back that is rushing for more yards than that through three games yet you are disappointed? Ditto at the wide receiver spot?
How about for passers? Would you take 3,600 yards from your QB1? Given that there were only 11 quarterbacks who hit that number last season, that should be a passable number. What does that equate to per game over a 16 game season? Try 225 yards a contest.
In what follows I will give some thoughts on a few players who are being viewed as major disappointments through three weeks of the NFL season when, in fact, they really haven't been performing that badly.
Josh Freeman is throwing for an average of 227.3 yards per game. That's a disappointing total to some, but it's about 12 yards more per game than he threw for last season, and it places him above that threshold of 225 yards a contest, so maybe it's a bit too early to panic if you own him.
Philip Rivers has been a disappointment, no way around that. He's thrown for only four scores in three games, while he's already tossed six interceptions. Some context. Rivers has never thrown for more than 15 interceptions in a season, so he' probably isn't going to throw 32 this year. In addition, despite the TD/INT issues, Rivers has thrown for 979 yards which would put him more than 100 yards a game over that 225 threshold I mentioned above. In fact, his current pace would net him 5,221 yards. The all-time single season record is 5.084 by Dan Marino in 1984. Rivers will be fine.
Since we're talking about big yardage throwing but point producing stragglers at the quarterback spot, let's focus on the Falcons' Matt Ryan. If we remove his four TD effort in Week 2 we'd be left with a QB who has thrown for one score in eight quarters. However, his 281.3 yards per game mark equates to 4,501 yards passing in a full season.
LeGarrette Blount is 18th in the NFL in rushing yards. However, if you remove his Week 1 effort his 55.7 yards per game mark would shoot up to 76 yards a contest. It's all about sample size people. Another guy who's overall numbers don't look stupendous but upon further review are mighty impressive is Daniel Thomas. The Dolphins back has “only” 202 yards rushing on the year, but that's before we factor in that he missed Week 1 with that leg injury. In his two games on the field he's run for 107 and 95 yards.
Some random runners who are “struggling” in the fantasy game, yet are still on pace to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards – Carnell Williams (67.3), Joseph Addai (63.0) and Ahmad Bradshaw (63.0). Bet you didn't see that coming did you?
Rashard Mendenhall has only scored once and has averaged just 49.3 yards a game on the ground, well below his career average of 66.3 yards. Guess what? If he runs for 118 yards in Week 4 his per game average through four games would be up to, you guessed it, 66.5 yards a contest. Even last year when he ran for a career best 1,273 yards he had only four 100-yard games. In addition, of the 16 games he played last year, care to guess how many times he failed to rush for 67 yards? Try nine times.
Brandon Marshall has one score this year a season after he got into the end zone only three times. Should you panic? No you shouldn't. Marshall has failed to convert three passes thrown his way in the end zone this season. Chad Henne knows who his primary target in the passing game is, especially when the Fish make it to the end zone. Stay the course.
Roddy White is being viewed by some people as a guy who has been disappointing early in the season, and some have even gone as far to think that because of the addition of Julio Jones that White's best days are behind him. Sheer folly I say. Let's break down his performance. His yards per game mark of 74.7 is 11 yards better than his career mark. It would also lead to 1,195 yards this season. What has he averaged the past four years? Try 1,281. That's not too far off is it? He's also caught an average of 6.7 passes per game. If he does that for 16 games he'd have his second straight season of 100 receptions.
So what if Owen Daniels is averaging three catches for 37.7 yards a week. He's scored twice in three games. Look for the reception total to improve anyway. From 2008-10 he averaged 4.3 catches per week. Again, you might say yippee, 4.3 receptions. Taking a big picture look though you would realize that 4.3 receptions a week equals 68.8 receptions for the season. How many tight ends caught that many passes last season? The answer is four.
So what is Brandon Pettigrew hasn't gotten into the end zone yet. Thanks to his massive Week 3 performance (11 catches, 112 yards), he's on pace to catch 85 passes for 939 yards. Only one tight end in the league did that last year – Jason Witten (94 receptions, 1,002 yards).
A few final thoughts.
Joe Flacco tossed five interceptions last year in the first two weeks of the season. He only threw five more the rest of the season.
Fred Jackson ran for 87 yards over the first four weeks of 2010. He still ended up with 927 yards on the season.
Dwayne Bowe had five receptions for 58 yards and no scores through two weeks in 2010. He ended the year with 72 grabs, 1,162 yards and 15 scores.
Be as patient as you can with the players who have elite talent, and a role to flash it in.
Try this logic on for size. You can't catch what isn't thrown your way. I know, it's a brilliantly simple statement is it not? Let's take a look around the NFL and see which players are getting the pigskin tossed their way.
Wes Welker leads the NFL with 43 targets. What a shock since he also leads the NFL with 31 receptions.
People are worried about Roddy White a bit. Don't be one of those people. Matt Ryan has still targeted White 34 times, the most in the NFC.
No Colt quarterback can seemingly throw a football through a tire hanging from a rope on the tree, but that doesn't mean they don't keep trying to get the ball in Reggie Wayne's hands. The Colts' top receiver has been targeted 32. Unfortunately only 14 of those passes have resulted in completions.
Mike Thomas has 15 catches through three weeks and he figures to continue to be of use in PPR leagues even with wayward QBs throwing the ball since he has averaged 10 targets a week.
Matt Forte is the most heavily targeted runner in the game with 28 passes being thrown his way. He's caught 22 of them.
The player with the most targets this season who has failed to catch at least 10 passes is Jerome Simpson of the Bengals (he has nine catches on 22 targets). Antonio Brown of the Steelers was close converting 10 of his 23 targets into receptions. On the other end of the spectrum, here are some of the most successful past catchers: Jahvid Best (15 receptions on 20 targets), Rob Gronkowski (17 on 22), Mike Tolbert (20 on 23) and Ernest Graham (20 on 22)
For at least one more week Cedric Benson will be the starting running back for the Cincy Bengals. The oft troubled runner has been informed by the NFL that he will not be suspended this week for his off the field antics during the lockout (how the league thinks it can discipline players when they effectively took their jobs away is beyond me. How can your boss suspend you for your actions when you aren't allowed to work? I've never understood that.).
There is still a chance that Benson will be forced to serve a suspension of up to three weeks, there has be no official ruling on that yet, but he will be active in Week 4 against the Bills. Through three weeks the team from Buffalo is allowing 115.7 yards a game on the ground, 24th in the NFL, and they have also allowed an average of one rushing touchdown a game. The last time that Benson faced the Bills he gouged them for 124 yards and a score, and in his two career matchups against the squad he has 172 rushing yards and three touchdowns. That sounds like a recipe for success for the plodding RB2 this week.
Vick Likely to Play
It seems highly likely that the injury to Michael Vick's right hand, his non throwing hand for those of you who are reading this while on your 7th beer, will not keep him from playing in Week 4 against the Niners. He is slated to practice today, and that should pretty much calm everyone's fears about him having to sit out the game. He could still be kept out of action, but it's a longshot at this point.
My concern with Vick though is his play. I may be the only sane person in the world on this one, but is anyone else nervous as hell about Vick right now? I'm not talking about his health, I always knew he won't play four quarters 16 times this year. What I'm talking about is his production. Given his wheels he'll almost always produce a strong fantasy outing even if his passing isn't great, but that doesn't mean he's been a fantasy star of late. Here are the numbers.
Over his last four games Vick has thrown five touchdown passes.
In two of his last three outings he's failed to throw for even 190 yards.
In his last four games he has rushed for one touchdown.
Here comes the best part.
Over his last four games he has fumbled the ball nine times, losing five of them. Moreover, dating back to the start of the 2010 season, a span of 15 games for Vick, he's fumbled the ball 18 times losing six of them. That's more than one fumble a game folks. Do you think that trend is going to reverse itself if his hand is banged up?
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at Baseball Guys and his minute to minute musings can be located at the Baseball Guys Twitter Feed.