‘Tis the season for both stashes and staches. The latter is certainly done with a kind heart and for a great cause, though the end result for many young men is, well, looking like a far older man for a month of your life.
The former, though, can be like getting a top fantasy draft pick, but doing it in mid-November. Stashing broken studs is a luxury bestowed upon us fake footballers by the NFL’s new designated to return slot on the injured reserve, with teams able to use it on one player who could return later in the season. Without it, getting either a steep draft discount or spending a waiver wire coupon on a Percy Harvin or Michael Crabtree and then burying said player on your bench wouldn’t be an option.
But here we are, with Week 11 set to begin tonight, and thus the population of CrunchTimeVille is growing for those fighting the good fight towards the fantasy playoffs. Oh and look, here comes reinforcements for you stashers. What can we expect, and who will make the most significant contribution? Let’s go exploring.
A note before we begin this lightning-round listicle: technically I could have included Randall Cobb, as like the three names below he was placed on the designated to return injured reserve too.
But while there are surely a few Cobb finger crosses out there hoping to have him back for the fantasy playoffs, holding him tightly seems fruitless. His stashers are occupying a roster spot with a receiver who can’t play until Week 15, which is fantasy semi-final time. That date is clearly a hopeful one, and even if he plays Cobb will be highly limited. More realistically, the Packers’ goal is to have him back for the playoffs (you know, the real-life playoffs) if they advance that far.
1. Percy Harvin: For many weeks I’ve been pleading with you to make a Harvin waiver claim, and yet he’s still owned in only 41 percent of ESPN leagues. He’s most likely/almost definitely set to make his season debut this week against the Vikings, though he’ll surely enter the weekend with the questionable tag. He’ll be limited and eased in at first, but then by Week 13 at the latest both the Seahawks and Harvin fantasy owners will see what they purchased. And it will be glorious.
The read-option offense run in Seattle and the elite rushing threat from both Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch will keep space on crossing routes open for Harvin up the middle, which is where he excels. In space he can immediately transform into a punt returner, and chug after the catch. It’s rather remarkable that despite missing half of the 2012 season, Harvin still finished eighth overall in yards after catch with 509. Also incredible: that YAC total represented 75 percent of his overall receiving yardage. He’s versatile too, and could often be used out of the backfield (Harvin is only one season removed from a career high 52 carries for 345 yards, an average of 6.6 per carry).
2. Michael Crabtree: It’s highly unlikely to happen, but Jim Harbaugh even entertaining the idea of Crabtree playing this week shows how close he is to a return. What’s far more likely is a similar path to the one Harvin is about to follow, with Crab returning and getting limited action next week, and then we’ll see him in a more true from in Week 13.
The similarities between Harvin and Crabtree run deeper than that. Harvin is a tick or two faster, though Crabtree is the more physical receiver who can win close battles in tight quarters. But space is also where he excels, which can again be effectively created through the read-option and the threat of the run. Crabtree’s yards after the catch last year (536, good for fifth overall) represent 48.5 percent of his overall yardage total. That’s not in Harvin’s stratosphere, but flirting with half is still pretty alright.
3. Shane Vereen: He’s been practicing for two weeks now after breaking his wrist way back in Week 1, and Vereen is set likely to return Monday night. No long-term injury is a good long-term injury, but Vereen’s was especially hurtful around fantasyland because most were able to snag him at a more reasonable pre-injury price than Harvin, and he was expected to inherit a significant role.
Specifically, he was/is expected to be the next Danny Woodhead. Or even better, a poor man’s Aaron Hernandez who can move around the formation while often acting like a running back in name only. It’s a role he’ll now resume and one we’ve already seen in action, though the sample size is clearly limited.
During Week 1 when he was injured, Tom Brady targeted Vereen 10 times in the passing game, which he turned into 58 yards. He then also added 101 rushing yards, and my math indicates that’s 159 yards in total at a pace of 7.6 per touch. Prior to that he had 62 receiving yards on just seven receptions throughout the preseason, and two +30 yard catches last year on just 15 receptions including the playoffs. Vereen’s 2012 season as a receiver was highlighted by roasting Houston with two touchdowns in the divisional round last January.
So yeah, that’s some mighty fine production to bring off your bench, especially in PPR leagues.
More notes, stray thoughts, and other such randomness
Football was not Ndamukong Suh’s first love
When you need a quick comedic interlude, Ndamukong Suh is usually more than willing. This is the sort of thing that happens when your golf swing resembles the same repeated motion used by a butcher.
Golf isn’t his thing. But while he’s employed to play football professionally, Suh told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press that basketball was actually his first love, a conversation which began after he attended the Michigan State-Kentucky game at Chicago’s United Center Wednesday night.
“If I’m going to pick an NBA player that I kind of patented (my game) after, yeah, I’d probably say Charles (Barkley) and a little bit of Karl (Malone). But even the way I look at football, I’ve always been kind of a combination of people, but I love basketball. That’s one of my first loves outside of soccer.”
This is comedic fodder only because regardless of which side of the ball they’re on, we’re used to seeing the large men of the trenches do only brutish, menacing feats of strength. Although deep down we’re aware that many of them are highly athletic super humans — especially defensive linemen like Suh and Julius Peppers — the mental image of a large man dunking is still…fun. It’s fun.
It defies all science. See: this vertical from Donald Penn just a few nights ago…
Unreal for a 340-pounder to have this kind of vertical: pic.twitter.com/PcTjRPb7BL
— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) November 12, 2013
The clichés we say often in sports and that all but the most hackneyed writers and heads that speak words on television try to avoid exist for a reason. When the situation is right, they’re incredibly accurate.
So I’ll just summon my TV guy voice then while leaving this here and looking in awe at these numbers previewing the Broncos-Chiefs donnybrook in primetime Sunday night: “UNSTOPPABLE FORCE MEETS IMMOVEABLE OBJECT”
How good is Broncos offense and Chiefs defense? Take a look… pic.twitter.com/ISNjPFpNYf
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 13, 2013
A true test
Speaking of which, this is the part when I remind you for the 71st time that the Chiefs defense faces its first true test this week after having to stop the fierce gauntlet of Jeff Tuel, Jason Campbell, Case Keenum, Terrelle Pryor, and Ryan Fitzpatrick over their past five games (oh, and Blaine Gabbert before that).
For reality purposes, this matchup is absolutely fascination. Even a well aged and hobbled Peyton Manning is infinitely better than anyone the Chiefs of attempted to stop, and the most recent three names on that last (which includes two undrafted rookies making their first start in Tuel and Keenum) have experienced some surprising success against a mostly suffocating unit. And for fantasy purposes, I hope you cashed in on the Chiefs defense during their bye week, because it doesn’t get much better from here.
For some required reading to begin getting super jacked about this matchup, Mike Tanier breaks down how the Chiefs can slow down Manning.
This is why tackles are an overrated metric
There is no perfect NFL statistic, and there never will be. But some are far more flawed than others. The stat I most commonly scream about is quarterback wins, which are entirely meaningless and irrelevant.
Tackles aren’t meaningless, but they’re also not a great way to quantify what, a linebacker does on a football field. The problem is that we don’t have many other efficient ways to assign a number to that position.
We turn to Tanier again to explain why Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly is a scary man despite a regressing tackle total this year, at one point using a blah statistical game in Week 7 against the Rams as an example:
Rams offensive linemen were so concerned with blocking Kuechly that they either did not double-team the Panthers linemen or did a sloppy job of it. A look at the game film confirms that Rams guards were in a hurry to take on Kuechly and his fellow linebackers, even on plays where double-teams may have been assigned. Rookie tackles Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei had two tackles for a loss each on running plays; game films shows multiple instances of Short and Lotulelei overwhelming one blocker while another blocker races off to the second level instead of helping. The Rams averaged just three yards per carry in the Panthers 30-15 win; by the fourth quarter, run defense was no longer a factor.
DeAngelo Williams has located his motivation
Elsewhere in primetime clashes this week, the suddenly imposing Panthers host New England, a team that’s getting healthy (Rob Gronkowski has been back for a few weeks, and Vereen should return Monday) after winning a lot of football games despite a lack of regularly rostered bodies.
Passing the litmus test of beating one of the AFC’s top teams should be enough motivation. But DeAngelo Williams has found more…
The Patriots drafted laurence maroney over me in the 2006 draft (they said i could be a good 3rd down back lol)… http://t.co/Qa2mnnwuxT
— DeAngelo Williams (@DeAngeloRB) November 14, 2013