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Let's start with Sunday night as we open up our Week 7 Scouting Notebook.
Hakeem Nicks(notes) has now surpassed Domenik Hixon as No. 3 receiver, which gets him on the field for all passing downs and makes him flex-worthy in deeper leagues. He's capitalized on injury, deflections and garbage time in this nice run of games, but there's no denying the talent.
Tony Sparano, listen up: when the Saints, of all teams, are settling for a field goal with five seconds left after a challenge took a TD off the board, let them kick it. Drew Brees(notes) talked Sean Payton out of the three after Sparano's timeout and Brees snuck it in for six on the next snap, completely altering the course of the game.
Pierre Thomas(notes) is now a flex play at best. The past two weeks, 10 Saints have scored. But not Thomas. Brees gets bigger carries now than Thomas. I lean toward playing Mike Bell(notes) now over Thomas. Bell at least is on the field during goal-line snaps. Thomas owners, you did nothing wrong. He's showed again this year how talented he is. Chalk this up to coaching whim.
I thought Owen Daniels(notes) was a decent consolation prize for those who passed on big-time tight ends. And I loved this Texans offense and Matt Schaub(notes). Daniels had five TDs the past two years on 133 catches. But here he sits with five on just 39 catches in 2009. They can't take 'em off the board for you, but brace yourself for a steep regression in scoring efficiency.
Vernon Davis(notes) looks very comfortable no matter who is at QB for the Niners. He came out of the draft a size/speed freak and then we all threw him under the bus when he proved too raw. But he's still only 25. Everyone who drafted him deserves a tip of the cap.
Sam Aiken(notes) is the Patriots third wideout, which should be useful half the remaining weeks (but which weeks we'll never know). Back in 2005, some projected he could be the new Eric Moulds(notes) to the Bills' Lee Evans(notes). But nothing came to pass. Now, he's just been given a two-year contract and is in the perfect situation with the perfect QB. Call it The Unbearable Lightness of Being (an NFL wide receiver), where success or failure is so often random (i.e., finding the right QB and right system and getting a chance). Maybe this is why receivers are such divas – they know they have so little control over their productivity.
Miles Austin(notes) has all the measurables, always did. If I was drafting today would I take him in the first five rounds, where I'd have to in order to even have a chance at rostering him? No. But I'd be very fearful of the owner who believed these last two weeks more than me. Upgrade Tony Romo(notes) into the top 10 QBs and feel free to go as high as No. 5. Felix Jones(notes) and Marion Barber(notes) still don't look right, which works against any running plans – as does that Dallas pass defense.
You have to watch many plays twice to draw meaningful conclusions. For example, the game-deciding interception by Brett Favre(notes) seemed like it was Chester Taylor's(notes) fault (the ball bounced off his hands). But the slow motion replay from an end zone camera proved that Favre was to blame for rushing the screen well before the play had a chance to develop.
The Vikings not going for it on fourth down at the half-yard line trailing 13-7 shows that they don't understand the point value of field position. Consider: if you fail to convert, your opponent is backed up on its goal line and the defensive team typically is the next one to score in these situations, an average of 2.6 points. So, NFL math says you take that shot at seven because you essentially have the field goal in your pocket even if you fail.
Bernard Berrian(notes) injured his hamstring early and didn't return. Percy Harvin(notes) flashed preternatural vision again on his kickoff return touchdown and gets the big boost in value if Berrian is out. Sidney Rice(notes), who is only 23 even though it feels like he's been around forever, should have been dramatically upgraded already.
Note also that Adrian Peterson flashed solid receiving skills, which should further marginalize Chester Taylor.
Shonn Greene(notes) is a must add with Leon Washington(notes) out for the year with a broken leg. The "War Machine" is a better runner right now than Thomas Jones(notes), but will defer at least half the carries to the veteran. Goal line, however, is up in the air.
Michael Salfino’s work has appeared in USA Today’s Sports Weekly, RotoWire, dozens of newspapers nationwide and most recently throughout Comcast SportsNet and NESN. Michael also covers the Jets and Giants each week for SNY.tv.