Saturday, July 30, 2005

RANTING ABOUT THE VIKING'S SERIOUS ISSUE, OVER-LEGISLATION IN FOOTBALL, AND A FANTASY FOOTBALL WIDE RECEIVER CHEAT-SHEET; PART 2

The Viking passing game suffered big time when Moss was absent from the lineup last season. Will this year be any different? Only time will tell, but here are a few questions that need to be answered.
A. The loss of brilliant O-Coordinator Scott Linehan

B. New #1 pass catcher Nate Burleson averaged a sorry 59 receiving yards per game when Moss was out of the lineup. Can he turn his game up a notch??

C. The team will feature 2 former, underwhelming, starting Baltimore pass catchers in Marcus Robinson (tho' his height and ups make him a decent red-zone weapon) and Travis Taylor. To say that he was an underperformer as a Raven would be an understatement, now that the he's not expected to be "the man" can Taylor become a pass catching factor?

D. Can rookie WR Troy Williamson develop quickly? He'd better, because after Burleson, Robinson, and Taylor, the receiving depth falls off a cliff- Aside from #4 Kelly Campbell who has never been able to tap his potential for more than a game at a time and Keenan Howry, primarily a return man who was on IR for all of '04, there's really no one else.

Should Nate Burleson fall as flat as he did last season when Moss was sidelined, the prolific Minny' passing game could sputter. The sole caveat for the Vikings is as follows; when they were at a loss for Moss last year, the offense had to be totally reconfigured. After all, with a talent such as Randy at a coordinator's disposal, logic dictates that most of the play calling will be designed to revolve around him.
Now that Randy Moss is no longer an option, the team can design passing plays for Burleson, Robinson, Taylor, possibly Williamson, and capitalize upon the speed of RB Michael Bennett and toughness of RB Mewelde Moore.

At last... "Part Deux!"

This season, wideouts should be larger and more consistent fantasy factors. Rotisserie Football is, and always has been, about the running game and that's not about to change; running backs can accrue more points with more opportunities to score.
However, the new and largely fictitious rules governing pass interference will allow pass catchers to be larger fantasy contributors. The "Five Yard Chuck Rule? .... ahhh, it's a "5 Yard Shmuck Rule!" Football is becoming over-legislated. Pretty soon, in order to register a Sack, all a defender will have to do is yank a bright red handkerchief from off of the QB's waist!
And, how 'bout the no horse-collar tackle" rule? For years, this was a necessary and legal way to bring down a ball carrier. After all, how the hell is a defender supposed to tackle a wideout or running back who is a step and a half ahead? It will be impossible. The truth of the matter is, once Eagle WR Terrell Owens was lost to injury... the league decided that such a tackle was "too risky."
Bottom line? Losing star players costs the league, and owners, revenue. Well, I volunteer that Football is all about risk! If one isn't interested in getting hurt than one shouldn't step onto the field- should one?!?

And, with THAT rant concluded...
"A Wide Receiver Cheat Sheet Part II: Ranking The 2nd Tier Pass Catchers"

Green Bay Packers Javon Walker: Should Walker (89/1,382/12 in '04) decide to make good on his threat to sit out I'd be amazed. Such a young player would be foolish to miss the time and surrender a full paycheck for each game missed. Playing against the Hi-Octane Os of the NFC North, Green Bay, whose D is even weaker than it was last season, will be engaged in a fair number of shootouts. Favre, who has assuredly lost a step, still tossed 30 TDs last season. And, Walker has a solid run game and complementary receivers (Donald Driver, in particular) who'll help to keep the focus off of him. Coming off of a career season that saw him double nearly every important receiving statistic (from '03), Walker could post even better digits in '05.

Indianapolis Colts: Reggie Wayne: Double diggy TDs (12), 1200+ yards, and an average of almost 16 yards per grab. Not a bad season for a #2 pass catcher. Wayne (77,1,210/12 in '04), who would constitute a #1 on almost any other franchise, benefits from playing within a scary-deep pool of pass catching talent. From #1 WR Marvin Harrison, to #3 WR Brandon Stokely, to star-in-the-making TE Dallas Clark, the team is positively loaded with dangerous, explosive pass catchers. With a QB who could conceivably toss 53-55 TDs, and alongside a world class RB, Wayne is another wideout capable of duplicating ... or even bettering, last year's numbers.

Houston Texans: Andre Johnson: A huge and agile pass catcher, Johnson (79/1,142/6 in '04) has the size and strength to bat those annoying little cornerbacks aside. Entering his quasi-mystical 3rd season... when pass catchers tend to flourish, Johnson offers owners great upside. The downside? Although he simply oozes potential, Andre Johnson is also prone to bouts of invisibility; the Texan's #1 receiver notched a mere 1 TD after week 5 last season. Although taking his game to another level is one consideration, a few things are outside of Johnson's sphere of influence.
1. Houston MUST develop a receiving threat to line up opposite him. Jabar Gaffney just isn't the answer, and at age 30, Corey Bradford is no longer going to blossom; he is what he is, an ordinary pass catcher.

2. The Texans MUST do a better job protecting their most valuable asset; QB David Carr. Opposing defenders have been taking team photos atop the beleaguered QB, and Carr is bound to be carted away on a stretcher if he continues to be subjected to such punishment.

Seattle Seahawks Darrell Jackson: The question in Seattle? Will the real Matt Hasselbeck please stand up. A tremendously consistent '03 gave way to anything BUT a consistent '04 for Hasselbeck. The C-Hawk signal caller was prone to throwing untimely INTs and frequently missed his receivers last season. Meanwhile, the wide receiving corps lost wayward son Koren Robinson to yet another DUI. The team couldn't endure the public humiliation of standing by the recalcitrant pass catcher, so they bit the financial bullet and cut him. Yet, playing on a receiving corps that was prone to costly dropped passes, Robinson was probably the team's biggest offender. "D-Jack" (87/1,199/7 in '04) should be the beneficiary of Robinson's dismissal. Although he has yet to hang 10 TDs in a season, Jackson did post a career high in receiving yards last year. Still, Jackson might not be productive enough for a #1 fantasy wideout... slate him as a #2 Roto-pass catcher. For alas, the Seahawks may well be a run first team in '05 now that RB Shaun Alexander signed a 1 year deal.

Green Bay Packers Donald Driver: Driver (84/1,208/4), due to his height and strength, can get good separation. Because of these skills he's a dangerous "down-the-sidelines" pass catcher. Accordingly, few QBs can throw that route with the accuracy Brett Favre can. As mentioned earlier, Green Bay's D was weakened substantially over the off-season. And, because of this, look for the team to be engaged in a fair number of high scoring shoot-outs. Having recorded a career season in '04, Driver should again post similar numbers.... and maybe even better them!

Pittsburgh Steelers Hines Ward: Due to the presence of a rookie QB, Ward's (80/1004/4 in '04) TD total fell from 10 in '03, to a mere 4 last season. However, with the departure of Plaxico Burress to New York comes increased visibility. #2 WR Antwaan Randel El should help keep secondaries from keying on Ward, and Ward's TD total should jump back up to the double-diggies.

Oakland Raiders Jerry Porter: While many experts have Porter (64/998/9 in '04) ranked lower than this, a strong-armed QB in Kerry Collins, and Hall-of-Fame caliber pass catching compadre' in Randy Moss pump Porter's value up considerably. A big, strong wideout, Porter was eagerly looking forward to showcasing his skills and being "the man" in Oakland this year. However, in an odd twist of fate, Porter's value and numbers might actually increase with Moss playing on the same field! Rest assured, Porter will see far fewer double-teams. And, with his combination of skill and size? Few #2 cornerbacks will be able to cover him. Look for Jerry Porter to hang a career season on the backs of his football cards in '05.

Tennessee Titans Drew Bennett: Bennett (80/1,247/11 in '04), a former college QB, had a statistically ill season last year. He didn't notch a single TD through week 6... but he positively blew up weeks 13 through 15, where he hung 517 receiving yards and a nutty 8 TDs. With former Titan #1 pass catcher Derrick Mason now suiting up for the Ravens, Bennett becomes Tennessee's go-to wideout. Can he assume such responsibility? My Fantasy Magic 8 Ball claims that "it's uncertain at this time." Seriously, though, Bennett's production will be linked to the QB. And, thus far, that QB will be Steve McNair. Bennett's a hard and diligent worker, runs smooth routes, and possesses deceptive speed. While he has "elite" potential, I'd be inclined to let someone else draft him and worry about the Titan QB situation and Bennett's consistency.
A WIDE RECEIVING CHEAT SHEET PART 3 COMING SOON!

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