Over at the New York Times, I published a list of eight sleepers for the 2012 fantasy football season. It was posted last week, so you can go ahead and ignore that T.O. selection. Whatevs.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills – ADP 12.12
A lot of owners don’t realize (or simply don’t care) that Fitzpatrick broke ribs early in the 2011 season, hindering his play down the stretch. In the first three weeks, he posted 280 yards and 3 touchdowns per game. With an offense that’s transitioning into an up-tempo spread attack, Fitzpatrick has legitimate QB1 potential. He’s being selected as just the 21st quarterback off the board.
- Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans – ADP 13.08
Everyone wants to talk about Jake Locker’s inaccuracy, and there’s no ignoring his 51.5 percent completion rate from 2011. What isn’t often mentioned is that 16.7 percent of Locker’s throws were at least 20 yards downfield — the seventh-highest rate in the N.F.L. Locker still managed to average a robust 8.21 yards per attempt. Better jump on Locker now because his ADP (which I’ve described how to use in the past) is steadily rising.
Check out the other six sleepers here.
Over at Dallas Morning News, I broke down the two Dwayne Harris scores.
The 61-Yard Bomb
On a 1st and 10 at their own 39-yard line, the Cowboys came out with base personnel. They lined up in a run-oriented formation known as Twins Right Weak Left. The formation is a unique one in that, with two receivers split out to the wide side of the field and a tight end and fullback to the left side of the formation, there isn’t really a traditional “strong side.”
At the snap of the ball, Romo dropped back seven steps and initially had DeMarco Murray open on a swing. The play was obviously designed to beat the defense deep, however, with Harris running a double-move from the slot.
Romo’s protection was absolutely outstanding, as it was for the majority of his 13 dropbacks. He didn’t release the ball until four full seconds after the snap.
You can read more at DMN.
At NBC, I answered the three questions I posed in my Cowboys-Rams pre-game article. Here is part of my film study:
Will Tony Romo continue to look downfield?
Romo threw the ball 20 yards or more on only 6.6 percent of snaps in 2011. After last night’s game, that number is up to 12.5 percent in the 2012 preseason. With 51 plays from the first-team offense, we have a sample size of around a full regular season game worth of plays.
Read the whole post here.
Over at NBC, I posted a short list of the Cowboys’ major weaknesses. Two of them won’t surprise you, but one is a little bit off-the-map. Here’s one of the not-so-shocking choices:
The interior line is getting beaten to death in the media, but for good reason. I’ve tried to find something positive from them during my preseason film study, but I just can’t do it. Phil Costa has been injured and David Arkin has been horrific at center. Nate Livings has probably been the best of the bunch, but I’d give him just a C- grade in his early preseason work.
Read the other two weaknesses.
I’m really concerned about the interior line. The guards and center are way more vital than people think, and poor play up the middle can really ruin an offense’s chances of consistently moving the football. I simply don’t see how the Cowboys will get even average interior line play in 2012.
Over at Dallas Morning News, I just posted my first “DOs and DON’Ts” feature for the Cowboys’ Week 3 preseason tilt with the Rams. Here’s a preview:
DO run a lot of double-tight sets.
Through two preseason games, the Cowboys’ first-team offense has run just six double-tight end sets, representing only 29.0 percent of their plays. It will be interesting to see if the loss of Martellus Bennett equates to fewer two-tight end formations during the regular season.
On Saturday night, however, I’d place both John Phillips and rookie James Hanna on the field at the same time on numerous occasions. I know those guys aren’t Jason Witten, but the Cowboys’ offensive tackles are going to have their hands full with perhaps the league’s most underrated defensive end duo. That tandem is led by Chris Long, who pressured the quarterback more often than any player in the NFL last year.
Plus, double-tight sets with max protection could allow the ‘Boys to take some shots downfield—something they should be doing more often anyway.
Check out all of my DOs and DON’Ts here. I’ll once again be doing these throughout the regular season.
I’ve written about five articles this year on why the Cowboys should throw deep more frequently. This one is the culmination of those:
I’ve tracked all of Romo’s throws from the past three years by location and distance. The peak is on throws of 20-plus yards to the right side of the field. Although those throws represent just 4.0 percent of his passes, Romo has amazingly racked up 17.1 percent of his touchdowns in this area.
Overall, Romo’s passer rating on deep passes is 114.3 since 2009—superior than the 103.6 rating on intermediate throws and the 97.0 rating on short throws.
Read the article at Dallas Morning News.
Over at NBC, I just posted an article on why the Cowboys should run the ball more often on third down. If you’re familiar with my work, you know I rarely suggest running the football, so soak it in while you can get it. . .
The Cowboys have been no exception to the run-the-ball-on-third-down rule over the past few years. Since I began tracking offensive plays, the ‘Boys have been around 15 percent more likely to convert plays on 3rd and 1 to 3rd and 5 if they run the football instead of pass it. That goes for every down-and-distance in that sub-set, and that’s in spite of one of the league’s worst short-yardage rushing attacks over that timeframe.
Read it all here.
Not all of you agree with me on my pass-the-ball-70-percent-of-the-time mentality, but there are a few situations when I think NFL teams should actually run more: near the end zone, in short-yardage situations on third and fourth down, at the end of games, and on third down.
I pride myself on being one of top prognosticators in the world. Perhaps the best that’s ever lived, I don’t know. Whether I’m predicting the precise time my girlfriend will erupt tonight when she sees I didn’t do the dishes (6:13 p.m.) or the rushing efficiency of DeMarco Murray (he’ll go for 4.77 YPC this year), I’m simply undeniably accurate.
So here are my 13 bold fantasy football predictions for 2012, posted over at FF Today:
Fitzpatrick was averaging 280 passing yards and three touchdowns per game through the first three games in 2011. He broke ribs early in the season, however, and wasn’t the same player down the stretch.
Nonetheless, Fitzpatrick threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 24 touchdowns. He’ll give you some points on the ground, and with Buffalo transitioning to a high-tempo offense in 2012, I like Fitzpatrick’s chances of landing in the top 10 among all quarterbacks.
Even throwing out Schaub’s injury history, he simply won’t pass the ball enough to be a legitimate fantasy option in 2012. There were signs of it last year, as Schaub was on pace for just 467 attempts before going down in Houston’s 10th game. If he throws 475 passes in 2012, he would need to average 8.42 yards-per-attempt to reach 4,000 yards. His career mark is 7.87.
Read the other 11 predictions here. Or just buy my rankings.
My latest in my Running the Numbers column is a look at first down play-calling for both the Cowboys and entire NFL.
For the record, Jason Garrett is one of the league’s better first down play-callers, drawing up a pass on about 55 percent of plays over the last three years. Thus far in the preseason, he has called a pass on 58.3 percent of the first-team offense’s first down plays. I think you’ll see that number remain steady into the regular season.
An even greater first down pass rate, however, could lead to more total points by season’s end. Actually, with the dramatic gap between passing and rushing value on first down, a first down pass rate approaching 65 percent or higher would likely optimize offensive efficiency in today’s NFL. Yes, you read that correctly.
Read the entire article here.
Let’s see how many people call me an idiot throughout the season for suggesting (quite often) that the Cowboys should throw the ball more. The truth is I’d love to see the first down pass rate be at least 65 percent. Around that point (or a bit higher), I think defenses would be forced to adjust so heavily that handing the ball to DeMarco Murray would hold the same benefits as passing.
I love writing about playaction passes. It’s my thing. Probably because the Cowboys’ playaction pass stats have been so strange over the years.
Nonetheless, I’m fully aware that no one else gives a shi*t about them. So here is another article on the Cowboys’ playaction passes. You can look forward to many more.
Since 2009, the ‘Boys have called for a playaction pass on 9.7 percent of snaps. Just 10.9 percent of those passes have been thrown 20-plus yards downfield. That means that over the few thousand offensive plays run by Dallas in the past three seasons, just 1.1 percent of them have been deep playaction passes.
I have a whole lot of information on playaction passes in that post, so read on. I know how much everyone loves that kind of stuff.