Scouting Notebook: Battering Ram

Michael Salfino
Yahoo Sports

Happy holidays and a special happy New Year as we provide an extra helping of insights and analysis in this penultimate Scouting Notebook.

I'll bet now that Steven Jackson is shot at 1,867 career carries. He looks it. And if you think, "Hey, he still is young and has plenty of tread left on the tires," I ask you, "How many backs in the history of the sport have more carries?" I'll give you a minute to guess. Give up? The answer: 39. Lots of players in Jackson's class of runner have been done before 2,000 carries.

Felix Jones(notes) is a most interesting call for next year. He's 5.2 yards per rush for his career but just 4.1 this year (when he's had the most carries). However, note his YPR this year is better than Marion Barber(notes) (3.4) and Tashard Choice(notes) (3.8). He's been a dynamite receiver – 9.7 yards per catch for a back (47 receptions) is a huge number. He hasn't found the end zone often, but then again neither has Ray Rice(notes). Jones could be the poor-man's Rice about three rounds cheaper.

What about Danny Woodhead(notes) next year? I'd say he's flex-worthy in PPR leagues. But he'll be over-drafted I believe in standard formats. The problem with him is that he needs carries to give us value but he's an injury waiting to happen at his size (generously listed at 5-foot-8, 195 pounds).

Mark Sanchez(notes) played better than his stats considering he had at least four drops, one in the end zone by Dustin Keller(notes). If the Jets bring back Santonio Holmes(notes) and Braylon Edwards(notes), I think Sanchez will break out in '11 like Matt Cassel(notes) did in '10. Even Brian Schottenheimer is showing me something these last two weeks.

Those betting on Jay Cutler(notes) because of Mike Martz were proven correct – 7.9 YPA and 23 TD passes in 14 games with a rushing TD and 224 rushing yards. Unlike last year, Cutler now has the documented foundational performance to be a top-eight fantasy QB.

Peyton Hillis(notes) gives a lot of punishment but takes more back and that's a tough way to make a living for 350 or so carries. And Hillis will need that kind of volume next year in the Browns offense. I'd love him as a No. 2 back, but he'll be gone in the first round. That's fine by me as I worry he's destined to wear down again come fantasy playoff time.

Lots of people raced to the waiver wire to pick up Rashard Jennings. The Jaguars run it well against stacked fronts because of Maurice Jones-Drew's(notes) ability. They're not a plug-and-play running attack.

Rex Grossman(notes) was pathetic against the terrible Jaguars pass defense (last in YPA and bottom five in all the fantasy scoring categories). A reader last week made a good point about me saying that we have a book on Grossman while implying that we do not on Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) even though they have the same number of career starts. I figured I'd respond by noting that Fitzpatrick has 12 games with a QB rating of 89 or better while Grossman has a much smaller number. But it turns out he's had 12, too. My eyes tell me that Fitzpatrick is much better than Grossman ever was, but selective memory often corrupts what we remember seeing. There is no rational, statistical basis for trashing Grossman and praising Fitzpatrick.

Cassel has 27 TDs and just five picks in 14 games. But wouldn't you still rather face him in the playoffs than Peyton Manning(notes)? He had a league-high 105.1 QB rating in freezing weather heading into Sunday and then compiled a 128.8.

Being wrong is the fun part of this business because that's the only time you can learn something. But those bashing me the past couple weeks for noting last month that Dwayne Bowe(notes) was "unstoppable" are nitpicking. That was a Cassel note, first of all, not even a Bowe one. The point, of course, was that Cassel has an impact wide receiver to throw to and thus is bettable in 2011. Anyone want to disagree with that?

Jahvid Best(notes) will probably be a low-end No. 2 back next year and has a chance of returning a nice profit at that price. I said when he got hurt that the turf toe was likely to ruin his year. So I'll more heavily weight that pre-injury performance than most league mates.

He may be a fine and praiseworthy person off the field, but Mike Singletary is too unstable on the football field and in the locker room to ever be a head coach again. How many examples do we need?

We need to understand by now that the Chargers always do the unexpected thing. So never be surprised when they lose to a team like the Bengals and put Carson Palmer(notes) into the 2005 way-back machine even without Chad Ochocinco(notes) and Terrell Owens(notes).

Dominick Rhodes, Jacob Tamme(notes) and the Blair White(notes) Project? And people want to say that Tom Brady(notes) is doing it with scrubs? Let's get real. This is a category all its own. As I said at the time in bold print, the Patriots knew that Randy Moss(notes) was done. So they don't get credit for doing it without him. Moss was no longer Moss.

Great days for quarterbacks get an asterisk when they come against Houston, but Tim Tebow(notes) looked even better than I thought he would. But barring someone really exciting helming the Broncos offense next year (and not Urban Meyer, who will get his lunch handed to him like most college coaches), I'm still passing for 2011. Matt Cassel over Tebow, easy.

Jordy Nelson(notes) is the Packers receiver to get in keeper leagues. He'll be the No. 2 guy in Green Bay next year. Heck, he may be the No. 2 guy already. Donald Driver(notes), Double D, is double done.

Josh Freeman(notes) looks like a franchise QB already at 23 TDs/6 picks. The rest of his draft class is still mostly projection. Draft Freeman with confidence in 2011.

Michael Salfino writes for the Wall Street Journal and is a regular contributor to Yahoo! Sports.

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