Mostly NFL Notes: Percy Harvin’s injury concern and a look around the league

If Percy Harvin’s hip injury proves serious (and it sure sounds like it might require season-ending surgery. We’ll find out more when he gets a second opinion Tuesday), it would be quite a blow for someone I pegged as a borderline top-10 fantasy wide receiver (and obviously to the Seahawks as well, although I suspect they’ll still be just fine). Before going down with an ankle injury in Week 9 last season, Harvin was on pace to finish with 120 catches for 1,526 total yards (receiving + rushing) and 10 touchdowns. An incredible 81.4 percent of his yards came after the catch, easily leading the NFL. In fact, Harvin’s 542 YAC were the fifth most among all wide receivers (and more than Calvin Johnson), and he played just half the season. He also had just one dropped pass and led all wideouts with 22 missed tackles (second best was Brandon Marshall with 17) despite playing fewer snaps than 85 other receivers. Harvin joined a Seattle team that led the NFL in rushing attempts last season, but Minnesota finished eighth, and his upgrade in quarterbacks was about as massive as it gets, as Christian Ponder’s 6.1 YPA ranked 34th among all quarterbacks who attempted at least 215 passes last season, whereas Russell Wilson got 8.7 YPA with a 24:5 TD:INT ratio over his final 13 games (including the postseason) as a rookie. Harvin is one of the most dynamic talents in football and is still just 25 years old, and even while fighting through serious migraine issues he missed only three games over his first three years in the league. However, it’s now come to a point in which it’s tough not to call him a serious injury risk. The second opinion on whether he’ll need surgery is going to be huge.

In honor of Deacon Jones, may he RIP.

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I could see ranking Andrew Luck anywhere from No. 5 to No. 12 on your QB board. On one hand, he just threw for 4,374 yards while rushing for another 255 and five scores during his rookie season. He led a whopping seven game-winning drives in the fourth quarter and clearly passed the “eye test.” However, those stats were helped by facing an extremely easy schedule, and over his final eight games (including the playoffs), Luck completed just 49.8 percent of his passes while getting 6.37 YPA. I’m less worried about his low completion percentage since Bruce Arians’ offense featured a ton of downfield passing (Luck’s “air” yards were highly impressive), but that usually leads to a better YPA, and obviously Luck’s was a bit troubling. Of course, there’s plenty of room for growth, and it’s safe to expect him to be better during his sophomore campaign, but it’s also worth pointing out Luck led the NFL in dropped interceptions. In fact, his 14 dropped INTs were the second-most since 2007. Moreover, Arians and his aggressive, downfield attack is gone, as Luck will now be changing offensive philosophies to a West Coast style that couldn’t be more different (although to be fair, the team’s new OC Pep Hamilton previously coached Luck at Stanford, so the transition shouldn’t be too dramatic). The Colts once again project to have a shaky defense, so it’s safe to expect Luck to attempt another 600+ passes, and he’s quite obviously a QB1 for fantasy purposes. Still, there are so many strong quarterback options, you don’t have to reach for him.

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Adrian Peterson got all of the credit for his performance returning from a serious knee injury (rightfully so), but Jamaal Charles totaled 1,745 yards and got 5.3 YPC coming off his own torn ACL. The Chiefs have recently made news about having not attempted a single rush during the team’s first two practices, but it’s not like Andy Reid hasn’t produced huge fantasy seasons from his primary backs in the past (Charles has already gone on record saying: “This offense might be the best thing that ever happened to me.”). His career 5.8 YPC mark is the highest in NFL history among running backs, and it’s safe to expect a career-high in receptions in 2013. Charles may not project to be a huge touchdown guy, but of the 84 running backs to run for 1,500 yards in a season, only four rushed for five or fewer scores as he did last season (H/T Chase Stuart), so expect better luck in that area moving forward. And to reiterate, he did that coming off a torn ACL playing for a 2-14 team that easily had the worst point-differential in football. He has just 784 career carries, so this is his prime. Kansas City used the No. 1 overall pick on an offensive tackle, brought back Branden Albert, had six Pro Bowlers last year, and while some may disagree, I’m of the opinion Alex Smith is a major upgrade over Matt Cassel. And after finishing with the league’s worst record last season, the Chiefs also project to have an easy schedule in 2013 (when Las Vegas originally opened their over/under lines, KC’s 6.5 (-110) was my favorite bet on the board. One month later when I was able to make it there, it changed so much (over 7 was -155) I didn’t even place the bet). After Adrian Peterson, there are a handful of backs who could reasonably be ranked second, and Charles has one of the best arguments among them.

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“Oldboy” is one of my three favorite foreign films (along with “City of God” and “Talk to Her”). I remain pessimistic about the American remake directed by Spike Lee, but here’s its (RED BAND) trailer.

Here’s a chemical reaction that produces a release the Kraken moment from students.

Andre Johnson is coming off a season in which he recorded 1,598 receiving yards that tied for the 16th most in NFL history (Calvin Johnson is the only active player who’s recorded more in a given year). But he’s eighth on my WR board (which to my surprise, actually makes me seem bullish on him compared to my fellow Yahoos), and I’m much more likely to move him lower than higher, thanks mostly to his lack of TD production. Pro Football Focus actually graded Johnson as the most valuable receiver in the NFL last season and by a pretty decent margin too, but Houston’s run-heavy offense inside the red zone really hurts his fantasy value. In fact, Johnson saw just seven targets inside the RZ last year, which tied for 60th among WRs. Receivers who saw more included Kevin Ogletree, Tiquan Underwood, Harry Douglas, teammate Keshawn Martin, Rod Streater, Brandon Gibson and on and on. There have been only two WRs since the merger who’ve had two seasons in which they’ve had a 90-catch, 1,000-yard season and finished with five touchdowns or fewer - Andre Johnson and Wes Welker. (H/T Bill Barnwell) Johnson also had only one target inside the five yard line, so it’s easy to question his fantasy value even before there were reports about him possibly losing a half step. Stat guys will also tell you yards per target is fluid, so Johnson’s 9.9 YPT last year is like a pitcher with an extremely low BABIP – it’s something we should expect to regress. He should remain among the most targeted receivers in football, but that’s assuming he can stay healthy, something he struggled with before last year’s campaign (he had missed 12 games over the previous two seasons and is now 32 years old).

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I’m buying into the Lamar Miller hype. It’s typically not the smartest idea to bank on someone with just 51 career rushing attempts (but at the same time, there have been plenty of rookie running backs who’ve been successful, as it’s the easiest position to transition to in the NFL), but it’s hard to ignore all of Miami’s beat writers heaping so much praise on Miller (and for that matter, Ryan Tannehill). And even if you disregard that, with Reggie Bush gone, Miller is the clear bellcow, with Daniel Thomas (career 3.5 YPC) giving little to no competition. Among that middle tier of fantasy backs, guys like David Wilson and Montee Ball may have more upside because of their superior environments, but Miller is looking at more assured touches, and when it comes to talent, his 2.7 YPC after contact last season was more than Frank Gore, Ryan Mathews, Stevan Ridley, Ahmad Bradshaw, LeSean McCoy, DeMarco Murray, Ray Rice, Matt Forte, Jamaal Charles, Trent Richardson, Chris Johnson and Darren McFadden (albeit in a small sample). It would’ve been better had Miami retained Jake Long, but with the Tannehill hype, the addition of Mike Wallace and the likelihood of being a team’s fully featured back (an increasingly rare occurrence in today’s NFL), Miller should be viewed as a top-15 fantasy RB. In fact, I’ll go ahead and make the prediction he’ll be more valuable than Steven Jackson in 2013.

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Jordy Nelson vs. Randall Cobb is one of the more interesting (and toughest) rankings this year. The former had 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns on just 95 targets in 2011 before suffering through an injury plagued season last year, although he still managed seven scores over 12 games while playing hampered. Cobb has much less touchdown potential, but he was targeted 102 times last year while playing just 651 snaps, which was the eighth highest percentage (15.7) in the NFL, and he should see more playing time in 2013. Greg Jennings missed half of last season, but he’s now playing for the Vikings, so he’s no longer an option to steal targets among Green Bay’s wide receivers. James Jones should continue to improve and will be a threat to steal TDs, but Cobb finished as Pro Football Focus’ 11th most valuable wide receiver, despite playing the 58th most snaps. Cobb is a similar player to Percy Harvin (Cobb’s 14 missed tackles last year were the fourth most among wide receivers, although he had 11 dropped passes while Harvin had just one), as he frequently lines up in the backfield, making him a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Nelson has scored 22 touchdowns over his past 28 games (while playing hurt for much of last season), whereas Cobb is a 23-year-old with vast potential who’s likely the favorite to see more targets in 2013. So, whom do you prefer?

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