ray rice run2

Throughout this week, looking back on the first half of the season and the fantasy joy and depression we’ve experienced has been a (near) daily exercise. It started Monday with a look back at tight end draft strategies — which still aren’t as clear as you’d think, even with Jimmy Graham’s Jimmy Grahaming — and continued yesterday with an exploration of the woe Tom Brady hath wrought.

Today we move forward with another little slice of gloom to start your day, and I suppose that’s meant both literally and figuratively: Ray Rice.

Remember when, on average, you drafted Rice with your seventh overall pick, and he was also usually selected as the seventh running back off the board? Oh, what joyous times those were.

Now as Rice’s second half of 2013 unofficially begins after the Ravens’ Week 8 bye (they’ll be playing their seventh game, and Rice missed one due to injury), we’re left with these dramatic statistical drops offs which are similar to the sharp route to the bottom Brady has taken.

  • Throughout his first six games last year Rice had 715 total yards. This year, he has 356 yards.
  • He’s currently averaging 3.2 yards per touch overall, and just 2.8 per carry. Last year he averaged 5.1 per touch, and 4.4 per carry.
  • Incredibly, he hasn’t had a single game yet in which his YPC has gone above 3.5. Through six games last year that number had already gone above 6.0 three times. Yes, it did drop below 4.0 six times too, but that was over the entire season, a mark he’s matched now at just the end of October.
  • His longest play so far this season has covered 14 yards (achieved twice, once through the air and once on the ground). Last year at this point he had logged two 43-yard plays, two 37 yarders, and a 27-yard catch.

Prior to drafts in August we knew there was a chance Rice could bleed away some numbers with Bernard Pierce emerging, and mostly we were all cool with that. The premium placed on running backs accelerated his value, and for those in PPR leagues the potential threat presented by Pierce was minimal anyway. Also, at the time — and still now to a lesser degree — there was an argument for less being more with Rice, and Pierce’s presence would reduce the pounding on a diminutive running back while keeping him fresh.

Now what we’re left with is a running back who was drafted as a fantasy point collecting machine and the only sure thing in his offense (again, at the time), and he has only one 100-yard game. Worse, on the ground he’s topped 50 yards just once, and he needed 27 carries (a vicious outlier with his average of 14.3 carries per game) to get there in Week 5 against the Dolphins.

It was that week when we were given hope, because it had been assumed that the knee injury which held Rice out in Week 3 and hobbled him the following week was still lingering. So his 102 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Miami was a sign that all is well. Not so.

Over the next two weeks Rice totaled only 121 yards, and now of his meager 43 total fantasy points, nearly half of them (19) came in Week 5. Even if we play nice and exclude the two games when he sat and then started but was limited, in the four other games combined Rice has all of 23 points. Sit down and brace yourself for this one: currently, a player who was nearly a universal first-round pick and drafted in the top 10 at his position ranks 35th among running backs in fantasy points.

Seriously, 35th. He’s now given us hope by saying that following the bye week his knee is fully healed. Hope, it’s all we have.

More notes, stray thoughts, and other such randomness

Mike Munchak coaches Chris Johnson, but he’s also a Johnson fantasy owner

That’s the only way to explain his comments yesterday, though often attempting to logically explain some comments isn’t something I’d recommend, especially pre-java in the morning. First, the words in question…

Even if he’ll stumble dramatically and make you hate yourself, more carries for Johnson is certainly a welcome idea for his fantasy owners. But it won’t happen.

With 115 in total over seven games, Johnson is averaging 16.4 carries per game, and of course by now you’re depressingly aware that he’s done little with those touches. He’s failed to crack the 40-yard rushing mark in a game since Week 2, a stretch in which he’s averaging a disgusting 2.4 yards per carry. By pure coincidence (with a backfield dancer of this magnitude, more carries doesn’t always = more yards), that was also the last time Johnson received 20 or more carries in a game. However, Johnson has salvaged some value with his work as a receiving option out of the backfield, popping off two long runs after a catch for scores (49 yards and 66 yards) over the past three weeks.

But there’s an odor of randomness to those plays, and Johnson’s work conventionally as a running back is steadily dropping. That happens when your offense is consistently fighting from behind, which is a major factor here too. Johnson’s carry totals over the Titans’ last three games have been 10, 12, and 9.

The more important pipe dreaming here heading into an inviting matchup against the Rams relates to Greene’s workload. His knee is apparently fine now following the Tennessee’s Week 8 bye, and with his five-game absence we haven’t really seen Greene in his full, intended usage yet. Apparently, Greene at full capacity will equal or come close to Johnson’s touches, meaning there’s a good possibility he’ll be the “lead” (needs more quotation marks) back Sunday.

This could be maddening.

Marshawn Lynch is disgusted by slush

You should watch all of the E60 interview with Marshawn Lynch below, because it’s excellent and is 12-ish minutes of your time well spent. But if you only have about 10 seconds right now, skip ahead to about the five-minute mark to hear Lynch’s important and accurate commentary on slush, and it’s horribleness.

Also, his east coast geography needed a littttle bit of work as a young man…

“It was like SLUSH…on the GROUND”

Dee Milliner has a “bad eyes” problem

When the Jets used a first-round pick to draft then Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner last spring, having him replace Darrelle Revis immediately in a pairing with Antonio Cromartie sounded pretty juicy. And it still does…eventually.

The problem is that with all the time Milliner missed following an offseason shoulder injury, part of his own personal training camp and rookie learning curve is taking place during the season when games matter. Right now that’s led to him getting picked apart routinely, with his flawed coverage most recently giving up 108 yards — yep the length of the entire field — and a touchdown to the Bengals this past Sunday.

As long as he’s still starting and his problems persist, Milliner will be a target to pick on for fantasy purposes, especially against the Saints’ third-ranked passing offense Sunday that’s averaging 310.7 yards per game (here’s to you, Kenny Stills and Lance Moore owners). But as both Milliner and his coaches explained to The Wall Street Journal, speed and sticking with receivers isn’t his problem. No, he has bad eyes.

For example

Five minutes into the game, during the Bengals’ opening drive, the rookie lined up against receiver Marvin Jones on the left side of the field. Jones sprinted toward the left end-zone pylon. Dalton threw the ball behind Jones’s right shoulder.

Milliner had matched Jones stride for stride and had his eyes on the receiver, with the back of his head to Dalton. But when he looked for the ball, he swiveled his body 270 degrees to the right. By the time he had completed the twirl, he was off balance and the ball was in Jones’s hands. Had Milliner just flicked his head 90 degrees to the left, he could have quickly spotted the ball and swatted it away.

Some more crazy Calvin Johnson stats from Sunday

These got lost in the digital dust pile earlier this week, the same one that always hovers each Monday morning following the chaos of Sunday. But there’s no such thing as too late when it comes to re-living history…