Scouting Notebook: Overcooked Rice

It’s only fair that we start with Calvin Johnson after the concerns I expressed last week. Clearly that was an overreaction to his knee injury, which had lingered since the summer. But while it’s fair to say that I was pessimistic about him returning draft value, I did say you could not sell for 70 cents on the draft-day dollar.

However, I do wish I didn’t say I would trade Megatron for Josh Gordon after watching the Browns and Brandon Weeden closely. Gordon only had five targets. But the reason why I liked him so much and still think he could be a championship-level asset is that the Browns have no choice but to throw 40-plus times per game. Typically, that should result in about 10-15 Gordon targets. The risk with Gordon is the one we have talked about a lot here: wide receiver breakouts are followed by close defensive attention and that often requires adjustments that the team and player may not be prepared to make.
Ray Rice hasn’t averaged 3.5-yards per carry in any of his past eight games, including the postseason. He’s almost 27 with 1,300-plus carries and another 330-plus catches. Only about 100 guys in the history of the league have more carries. It’s not crazy to think that Rice is pretty much done. It doesn’t mean he is, either. But it’s 50/50 now.
I heard some experts talking about a redraft and no one mentioned Eddie Lacy as a first rounder. I think he’s a solid RB1 the rest of the season. You wish the team had a greater commitment to running in situations like first and goal from the doorstep, but at least the Packers get into those situations a lot. And Lacy is a solid bet for 20 carries per week, too.
Jarrett Boykin is a good get. You know how I feel about receivers 6-foot-2 or taller. Boykin was slow coming out of school but we never know how much these times are impacted by track-and-field training versus actual football playing speed. Do not sell if you were fortunate enough to add him, not until all the Packers WRs are back.
Case Keenum looked good against a Chiefs defense that is on pace for 80-plus sacks (Kansas City had five more in Week 7). A 110.6 rating is impressive against anyone in the NFL, never mind for a guy making his first start. Keenum threw over 2,000 passes in college. He does not have to be spoon fed. He’s on the short side but after Russell Wilson, who cares?
Kendall Wright is too short to score much but continues to pile up targets and catches, making him excellent in your dopey PPR formats (#killthePPR). I don’t know what to make of Chris Johnson. His running has been so ho-hum but he’s made some impact as a receiver after a quiet start. I hate counting on catches from backs for yards and fantasy points. But it’s something. Johnson over Rice for me rest of season because Rice doesn’t even gain yards catching anymore.
It was good to see Colin Kaepernick get some runs including a touchdown out of the read option. Jim Harbaugh seemed to overreact to the threats of taking out the quarterback after the handoff when the league sort of sanctioned that practice this summer.
I’m sure someone played against Roy Helu today. That’s an all-time, bad-beat story. I feel badly for Alfred Morris owners. In other words, I feel badly for me. But Morris was his typical excellent self and I would not worry at all about a lack of touchdowns for him going forward.
Robert Griffin III is back to his old self, as should have been expected given that he really had no training camp when it came to contact/game speed. So the first four week were his preseason and then he got the bye, too.
Jordan Reed is an exciting player. He’s not a modern freak tight end when it comes to height (he’s only 6-foot-2), but he definitely moves like a big wide receiver. Again, the bullseye is going to be on his back now and you don’t know for sure how he’ll respond. But I’m bullish.
I’ve seen better fireworks displays approved by mothers in suburban backyards than what we witnessed Sunday in Philadelphia. I guess Michael Vick is back in as Eagles quarterback. DeSean Jackson owners need to root for this. After publishing last week’s Notebook, in the midst of other research, I noticed Vick’s yards per completion this year, which is over 16.0 and thus historic, at least for this modern passing era. He’s also averaging over 11 air yards per pass, which explains the poor completion rate. I’ve been too tough on Vick this year and too giddy about Nick Foles.
Bilal Powell was a healthy scratch pretty much all day. Chris Ivory was given 34 carries that he did very little with (3.1 per carry and no TDs). Rex Ryan said he wanted him in there because he was running over people. Well, he was certainly running into them. But sometimes it’s better to run around the pile than it is to try to move it. Bottom line, Ivory left yards on the field but it doesn’t matter because he had, snore, “physicality.”
Rob Gronkowski was targeted 17 times by Tom Brady in the Jets overtime win. He caught eight of those passes and left catches on the field due to obvious rustiness. But he also was single covered in man-to-man most of the day. It’s hard to get a firm sense of where Gronkowski is headed this year and if he’s still an MVP-level talent off the injuries. The stats on Sunday definitely overstate the case. But with that volume, does it really matter?
Tom Brady just is not sharp. I don’t know if it’s a slump or it’s his comfort level with receivers or if he is just not the same player anymore. It’s probably a little of all three but we REALLY need to know how much of it is age-based decline.
C.J. Spiller is clearly hurt and needs weeks off. He won’t take them given the late bye the Bills have. But he’s not doing anyone any good right now.
I’ve got nothing on Lamar Miller versus Daniel Thomas but Thomas looked pretty good today. The Dolphins cannot sustain two backs and I can’t see them committing to either one without an injury. This could be the issue with the Jets, too.
San Diego’s Mike McCoy is the new coaching guru now because he fits his system to his players. This is very unusual for an offensive guy. In fact, it’s typically the reverse. Ryan Mathews is set up nicely. Make sure you play him and if he’s on a team with other good backs, don’t hesitate to pay up.
Is Philip Rivers elite? I think he is now. And I think he was in the past, too. Rivers, remember, led the NFL in yards per pass attempt three straight years and the only other quarterbacks who have done that are Hall of Famers -- Kurt Warner (not inducted yet but likely to be) and Steve Young (who of course is in and did it four straight years).
I’m not a big Vincent Brown fan because he’s not big or fast. In fact, he’s small and slow.
How does Mike Tolbert take a personal foul at the Rams’ one-yard line and stay on the field the next play? Tolbert is a fantasy football vampire who just feasts on all the points that should be enjoyed by the living players, especially Cam Newton (just two rushing touchdowns) and DeAngelo Williams (none despite nearly 400 yards on 4.3 per carry heading into Week 7). No one even owns Tolbert. He’s like The Cooler in our fake game.
Newton was great today but didn’t have a lot of fantasy points. So he gets criticized. Other days, he gets a lot of fantasy points but isn’t efficient and that gets him blasted. The guy can’t win.
Wow, Matt Ryan, that was probably the best thing you’ve done in the NFL. Ryan was Peyton-esque on Sunday, playing flawlessly with all new receivers and just 18 team rushing yards.
Vincent Jackson is a beast. I did a bad job knocking him a few weeks back in “Splitsville” for having a bad passer rating on targets to him. But before that, mostly on just instinct and feel, I recommended him to everyone on Twitter (@michaelsalfino). That’s another sentence I wish I had back. But really this is about assigning probability to outcomes and things like the rating stat on targets moves the needle in one direction or the other but are never answers by themselves.

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