October 21, 2009
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Over the past decade, no player has been more controversial or complex as the Dolphins' punisher. The fascinating former Heisman Trophy winner, who Mike Ditka once sacrificed manly parts to acquire as head coach of the New Orleans Saints in 1999, has endured self-inflicted hardships no normal professional could conceivably recover from. He's conquered anxiety and survived numerous drug suspensions, painful injuries, an abrupt retirement and even the CFL.
The new and improved Ricky is no longer the misunderstood bearded hippie who once told Mike Wallace he relished mental weed-treats to Marleyland. Holistically healed, he's become an invaluable staple in Tony Sparano's two-headed Wildcat offense. Though he's lost a step, the matured 32-year-old has, for the most part, defied the deteriorating effects of Father Time exhibiting the brawn and Clydesdale power of a back 10 years his junior. For the aspiring osteopathic doctor, who's admittedly dangerous with a basket of exotic massage oils and a yoga mat, time has indeed healed all wounds.
Signing what he says is his final contract just before the '09 season, Williams is far more than just a spiritual advisor for his teammates. His partnership with Ronnie Brown(notes) has produced arguably the league's fiercest 1-2 ground punch.
Running behind quite possibly the finest offensive line in the AFC, he's quietly undergone a career revival. Though the younger Brown has outpaced Ricky in every statistical category, the elderly rusher, motivated and free of stress, has accumulated robust numbers, notching three touchdowns while averaging 5.2 yards per carry and 89.6 total yards per game. On pace for 1,433 total yards and nine scores - nearly identical to what Tennessee's Chris Johnson racked last year - the mid-round pick (139.83 ADP) has become a consistency king. Currently, his 12.6 points per game output in standard leagues ranks 14th among rushers, one spot behind popular first-rounder Steve Slaton(notes).
Tarot cards suggest even brighter days could be on the horizon.
1) Miami's offensive philosophy. Sparano's system is predicated on conservatism. As Tuna's handpicked sideline superintendent recently divulged to the Associated Press, he has the utmost confidence in his running game:
"Our runners are running through arm tackles, and that's turning the 3-yard deals into 5-yard deals...In critical situations, why wouldn't you want the ball in Ronnie Brown's or Ricky Williams' hands? I feel comfortable with those odds."
The Wildcat originators have run the ball a league-high 65.6 percent of the time (36.6 times per game), 13 percent out of their popularized formation, also tops in the NFL. Williams, who told Dan Patrick last week the "Wildcat is dead" due to its evolution from gimmick play to strategic mainstay, will maintain a sizable workload going forward. So far he's averaged 14.4 touches per game.
Although Brown will be called upon more often near the pylons, Ricky will likely continue to attract an appreciable amount of red zone touches as well. Through five games, he's tallied roughly the same number of carries inside the 10 as lineup cornerstones Pierre Thomas(notes), LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) and Cedric Benson(notes).
2) Schedule. As FFtoday's brilliant schedule analyzer shows, the Fins have a rather friendly slate over the remainder of the season, including the fantasy playoffs. With a tasty home matchup against Houston Week 16, Miami's dynamic running duo could propell their owners to championship glory. Weeks 10-12 (TB, at Car, at Buf) are also particularly appealing:
3) Changing of the Chads. Chad Pennington(notes), the NFL's all-time leader in completion percentage, could explode a chipmunk from 1-15 yards out. However, he couldn't nail a brontosaurus on a deep post. Chad Henne(notes), who has also exuded eye-catching precision, possesses a much stronger downfield arm. If he can continue to stretch defenses with a fair level of success, overloaded boxes won't be as prevalent.
4) Ronnie Brown. Ricky could handle a burdensome workload if pressed into duty, but Brown's role as primary carrier limits the amount of punishment he receives, keeping the senior back fresh.
Most stats-intensive pundits would advise owners to avoid employing Ricky this week against an aggressive New Orleans front. After all the surging Saints have surrendered just 3.7 yards per carry, 100.6 total yards per game and three scores to rushers equal to the third-fewest fantasy points allowed. But similar misguided recommendations were made when Miami hosted the New York Jets two weeks ago. In that thrilling affair, Ricky totaled 138 yards, his highest output of the season.
Because of Sean Payton's high-octane offense, Sparano will likely follow a control-the-clock strategy similar to the Indianapolis game. If implemented, another 15-20 carries is a foregone conclusion for the laidback veteran, making him a solid flex or RB2 play in 12-team and deeper formats.
Critics will contest his advanced age, timeshare role and relapse potential are considerable deterrents, but Ricky's glowing positives indicate his remaining season could be full of RB2 riches.
Cue "Redemption Song."
Week 7 Fearless Forecast: 18 carries, 86 rushing yards, 2 receptions, 11 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Are you buying into the Ricky revival? Who would you rather have going forward: Ricky, Marshawn Lynch(notes) or Joseph Addai(notes)? Can New Orleans contain the Wildcat? What's your favorite Bob Marley song of all-time? Discuss below.
Image courtesy of Getty