Archive for the ‘Would you rather’ Category

Two backs born in 1985 — one early in the year, one late in the year — do battle in the latest installment of Would You Rather. Both reside in the NFC North, and both are once again having stellar seasons.

Historically, this wouldn’t be much of a debate. Former No. 7 overall pick Adrian Peterson has been an All-Pro in all four years he’s been in the league. He was the 2007 rookie of the year and the 2008 rushing champion. Former No. 44 overall pick Matt Forte has never even been to the Pro Bowl. While Peterson is the highest-paid running back in NFL history, Forte is still fighting tooth and nail to land an extension in the final year of his rookie deal.

To boot, Peterson has always been more of a workhorse than Forte, who was under-utilized in what could have been a breakout third season in Chicago.

But this year, Forte has outperformed Peterson by a wide margin.

That leads to the question: Who would you rather have on your team?

Adrian Peterson
Age: 26
Experience: 5th season
Career stats: 69 GMS, 6,577 YDS, 4.7 AVG, 64 TD, 14 FUM, 135 REC, 1,295 REC YDS
This season: 8 GMS, 795 YDS, 4.8 AVG, 10 TD, 1 FUM, 16 REC, 125 REC YDS
Games missed due to injury: 3

OR

Matt Forte
Age: 25
Experience: 4th season
Career stats: 56 GMS, 4,041 YDS, 4.2 AVG, 28 TD, 8 FUM, 212 REC, 1,931 REC YDS
This season: 8 GMS, 805 YDS, 5.4 AVG, 3 TD, 2 FUM, 41 REC, 436 REC YDS
Games missed due to injury: 0

The long-term stats favor Peterson, while the current ones clearly lean Forte’s way. But beware of Forte’s inability to find the end zone as often as Peterson. Even this season, Peterson has scored seven more times than Forte has. Considering that he’s lassoed with a rookie quarterback and a worse defense, that’s pretty impressive.

Also, while Peterson’s career fumble numbers are shameful, he has kicked his fumblitis in recent seasons. He’s lost just two fumbles since the start of last season, while Forte has lost five during that same span.

Forte is clearly a more productive receiver than Peterson, but how much of that is a result of the schemes they’ve played in? Tough to tell — especially considering that Peterson’s yards-per-catch average is actually a half-yard higher than Forte’s — but it’s still hard to ignore the considerable edge Forte possesses in that aspect of the game.

But despite his receiving prowess, Forte is no more of a home-run threat. He produces a play of 20-plus yards once every 1.2 games. Peterson does so every 1.1 games. Peterson also has had 20 plays of 40-plus yards, compared to just 11 for Forte.

Sean Tomlinson’s take: I’ll take Peterson, and primarily because of consistency. Even elite running backs will disappear for a game, and rushing yards is a metric that’s sometimes out of their control and is often dictated by the efficiency of an offensive line, or the scoreboard. Still, Forte had eight games just last year in which he had 50 or fewer yards, while Peterson has nine through four-and-a-half seasons.

Gagnon’s take: In a world in which running backs have such perilously short shelf lives, I’m going with the fresher legs and the hotter hand. Plus, Forte has proven to be more versatile. He’s the guy.

So, who would you rather have?

Last week’s Would You Rather: Roddy White or Stevie Johnson? 

About a year ago, this comparison would’ve been laughable.

Thirteen months ago, Roddy White was a two-time Pro Bowler leading the league with 37 receptions through five games. He had three 100-yard efforts in that same span as his Falcons started the season 4-1.

Thirteen months ago, Stevie Johnson was better known (if he was known at all) as Steve Johnson, the no-name third-string receiver on a winless Bills team. Five weeks into the season, he had yet to register more than five catches or 66 yards in a game…in his entire career.

Johnson broke out in Week 7 of last year, when he caught eight passes for 158 yards in a thrilling loss to the Ravens. Of course, that very same week, White caught 11 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns in a thrilling win over the Bengals.

From that point on, Johnson has been as effective as White, and their numbers are nearly identical this season. White has all the accolades and is a former first-round pick, while Johnson came out of nowhere as a seventh-round pick. But Johnson is significantly younger, which makes it a very intriguing debate. At least we hope it does.

Who would you rather have on your team?

Roddy White
Age: 30
Experience: 7th season
Career stats: 469 REC, 6,503 YDS, 13.9 AVG, 40 TD
Last 16 games: 100 REC, 1,067 YDS, 10.7 AVG, 8 TD
This season: 39 REC, 425 YDS, 10.9 AVG, 3 TD

OR

Stevie Johnson 
Age: 25
Experience: 4th season
Career stats: 133 REC, 1,624 YDS, 12.2 AVG, 16 TD
Last 16 games: 91 REC, 1,103 YDS, 12.1 AVG, 8 TD
This season: 39 REC, 439 YDS, 11.3 AVG, 4 TD

Those numbers are eerily similar since October of last year. But it should be noted that there are some significant differences. For instance, Johnson had seven dropped passes in 2010, which ranked in the top 10 in the league. But this year, Johnson has kicked his drop problem (meaning you can probably chalk it up to inexperience) while White has suddenly become a drop machine. He’s tied for the league lead with seven dropped passes in as many games.

Look at the game logs and it becomes obvious that Johnson is less consistent than White. He had a tendency to disappear last year, more often than White did, but White also played in a much more consistent offense in 2010. This year, neither player has been more or less consistent than the other, which makes sense considering that the Bills have been much more productive offensively (Atlanta scored eight more points per game than the Bills did last year, but those numbers have been reversed this season). But it also favors Johnson because he’s put up similar numbers despite being hampered by a groin injury.

Neither really has a significant advantage in terms of home-run ability, at least according to the numbers. White’s production as a deep threat has mysteriously faded in recent seasons, and his yards-per-reception average has dropped consistently since 2008. Dating to the start of last season, he has 18 catches of 20-plus yards and three catches of 40-plus yards. Johnson’s average isn’t much better, but he’s had 14 20-plus-yard receptions and three catches of 40 yards or more during the same span, despite being targeted less often.

Sean Tomlinson’s take: White will soon begin to approach Reggie Wayne territory at his advanced age, and we’re already beginning to see a bit of a regression with his drops this year. Aside from the drops they’re both very similar in terms of speed and overall talent, but White has peaked while Johnson hasn’t reached his full potential yet. Give me Johnson.

Gagnon’s take: I get the feeling White is in a bit of a rut and I’m still not 100 percent sure Johnson isn’t a flash in the pan, so I’m a bit worried I’ll regret this, but I’m also taking Johnson.

So, who would you rather?

Last week’s Would You Rather: DeMarcus Ware or Jared Allen?

This week, we present to you the league’s top two sack leaders. They were All-Pros together in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and are both flirting with a record pace as we approach the midway point of 2011. But the similarities stop there.

Technically, they play different positions. One is a classic 4-3 defensive end, a hulk with a motor. The other is a 3-4 outside linebacker, a freak-of-nature with unique athleticism.

The former is Jared Allen of the Minnesota Vikings. The latter, DeMarcus Ware of the Dallas Cowboys.

Both are pretty much pure pass rushers, which is why the comparison is acceptable. I realize that most 4-3 teams would probably prefer Allen, while the majority of 3-4 defenses would take Ware. But pretend for a second that your team still hasn’t picked a defensive formation — suspend your disbelief!

I also realize that Ware gets a little more love and attention. But part of the purpose of this column is to shed light on potential misconceptions. Ware was a first-round draft pick, while Allen was passed on 125 times in the draft. Ware plays in the capital of the football world, while Allen is stuck in Minnesota. Maybe, if their situations were reversed, Ware wouldn’t have been ranked 68 spots higher than Allen on the NFL Network’s recent top 100 players list.

Take a step back, look at the numbers and consider the variables. Who would you rather have on your team?

DeMarcus Ware
Age: 29
Experience: 7th season
Career stats: 102 GMS, 88 SCK, 440 TKL, 26 FF, 1 INT
Last 16 games: 15.5 SCK, 59 TKL, 2 FF, 0 INT
This season: 6 GMS, 8 SCK, 20 TKL, 1 FF, 0 INT
Playoff stats: 3 GMS, 4 SCK
All-Pro: 3 times

OR

Jared Allen
Age: 29
Experience: 8th season
Career stats: 116 GMS, 94.5 SCK, 421 TKL, 24 FF, 5 INT
Last 16 games: 21.5 SCK, 67 TKL, 3 FF, 1 INT
This season: 7 GMS, 11.5 SCK, 29 TKL, 2 FF, 1 INT
Playoff stats: 3 GMS, 3 SCK
All-Pro: 3 times

On a per-game basis, Ware has been slightly better than Allen at getting to the quarterback and making tackles in general. But dating back to midway through last season, Allen has a significant edge over Ware in terms of sacks, tackles and forced fumbles.

Now, some might argue that Ware, as a linebacker, is more versatile than Allen. But keep in mind that Ware plays with his hand in the dirt on the vast majority of snaps, and Allen actually has got his hands on twice the number of balls Ware has in their respective careers. Allen also has five interceptions, while Ware has just one.

It’s tough to tell who’s benefited more from the support they’ve received. Anthony Spencer has served as a stellar sidekick to Ware as of late, while Ray Edwards performed well in that role for Allen between 2008 and 2010 (and Tamba Hali for two years in Kansas City before that). This year, Allen hasn’t missed a beat without Edwards. And it’s probably safe to say that Ware has at least benefited from more pass-rushing depth in Dallas (think: Bradie James, Jay Ratliff, Greg Ellis, Chris Canty).

Sean Tomlinson’s take: If we’re looking for a thin edge — and we are — I’ll direct you to the amount of passes Allen has been able to get his hands on over Ware. He’s doubled Ware in passes defended (41-20), and his ball skills have improved with experience. Having five career interceptions as a defensive end is already a notable accomplishment for Allen, and four of them have come in the past three seasons. I’ll take Allen, but narrowly and uncomfortably.

Gagnon’s take: Allen is the hotter hand and has done slightly more with slightly less. I’m a bit worried about wear and tear because he’s played a year longer than Ware, but I’m still taking Allen in another close call.

So, who would you rather?

Last week’s Would You Rather: Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings?

We’ve compared quarterbacks and running backs and tight ends. It’s finally time to hit wide receivers. And where better to begin than in Pittsburgh and Green Bay, as we compare the top receivers from the last two teams to meet in the Super Bowl? They’re both relatively small, ridiculously fast and remarkably sure-handed.

One has more time on his side, but the other has proven himself to more of a degree. One’s still emerging, but one’s an established leader.

Who would you rather have on your team?

Mike Wallace
Age: 25
Experience: 3rd season
Career stats: 38 GMS, 132 REC (3.47 REC/GM), 2625 YDS (69.1 YDS/GM), 19.9 AVG, 20 TD (0.53 TD/GM)
Last 16 games: 79 REC, 1515 YDS, 19.2 AVG, 10 TD
This season: 6 GMS, 33 REC, 612 YDS, 18.6 AVG, 4 TD
Playoff stats: 3 GMS, 13 REC, 115 YDS, 8.9 AVG, 1 TD

OR

Greg Jennings
Age: 28
Experience: 6th season
Career stats: 81 GMS, 357 REC (4.4 REC/GM), 5752 YDS (71 YDS/GM), 16.1 AVG, 44 TD (0.54 TD/GM)
Last 16 games: 91 REC, 1479 YDS, 16.3 AVG, 12 TD
This season: 6 GMS, 35 REC, 530 YDS, 15.1 AVG, 4 TD
Playoff stats: 7 GMS, 36 REC, 518 YDS, 14.4 AVG, 5 TD

So dating back to about midway through last season, Jennings has been slightly more productive. Jennings is also probably a more refined route runner, might have slightly better hands and, as mentioned, has emerged as a leader on a Super Bowl-winning roster. He outperformed Wallace in last year’s postseason.

But due to his age advantage, Wallace has more upside. And he’s a more reliable deep threat. Wallace has averaged 1.3 catches of 20-plus yards per game and 0.55 catches of 40-plus yards per game, while Jennings has averaged 1.1 and 0.38 in those respective categories. And Wallace clearly has the advantage in terms of yards per reception.

Sean Tomlinson’s take: There’s the age with Wallace, but what impresses me more is that he’s put up equal and in many cases better numbers than Jennings in an offense that typically has a run-first mentality, whereas Green Bay is all air all the time. That’s not taking anything away from Jennings — he’s fast, runs near perfect routes, and has become the ideal downfield option for the strong-armed Aaron Rodgers. But Wallace’s numbers in an offense that often looks to control the clock show his greater burst and explosiveness. I’m going with him.

Gagnon’s take: Wallace might not be quite as reliable as Jennings, who has somehow continued to put up All-Pro numbers despite being surrounded by a slew of quality targets in Green Bay, but I’m still taking him. Age is a huge factor here: I think Wallace will only continue to improve over the next few seasons. By the time he reaches Jennings’ current age, he might be the most productive receiver in football.

So, who would you rather?

Last week’s Would You Rather: Jimmy Graham or Jermichael Finley?

For years, the NFL’s elite tight end club had two, maybe three members. It was all about Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates and Jason Witten. Guys like Dallas Clark, Chris Cooley and Vernon Davis have emerged, but no one was able to dominate like that aforementioned trio.

But 2011 is marking the arrival of Jermichael Finley, Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and the guard may be changing at the tight end position.

Today, we’re wondering who you’d prefer between Graham and Finley. Here’s the breakdown:

Jimmy Graham is a 24-year-old former third-round pick out of Miami. He’s in his second season, but only started five games as a rookie and didn’t register a reception until Week 6 in 2010. He could be a better blocker, but he’s a mega-athlete with a basketball background and a big body.

Jermichael Finley is a 24-year-old former third-round pick out of Texas. He’s in his fourth season, but he barely played as a rookie and missed most of Year 3 due to injury. He could be a better blocker, but like Graham, he’s a mega-athlete with a basketball background and a big body.

Who would you rather have on your team?

Jimmy Graham
Career stats: 10 starts, 63 REC, 852 YDS, 13.5 AVG, 8 TD
This season: 5 games, 32 REC, 496 YDS, 15.5 AVG, 3 TD

OR

Jermichael Finley
Career stats: 20 starts, 104 REC, 1352 YDS, 13.0 AVG, 10 TD
This season: 5 games, 22 REC, 301 YDS, 13.7 AVG, 3 TD

The numbers favor the red-hot Graham, which actually helps make the debate more difficult. Because intangibly, Finley probably beats Graham in the eyeball test. He’s received a lot more hype than Graham has.

Both play in ridiculously good offenses with great quarterbacks, similar offensive lines and similar support from their respective running games. But the Packers are far more loaded at receiver than New Orleans is, which has me wondering what kind of numbers each player would have if they were traded for each other. Would Finley have 10 more catches and 195 more yards in the Saints’ offense, which has been without Marques Colston for half of the season thus far?

Sean Tomlinson’s take: This is our closest and toughest one yet. If we’re talking about sheer talent — which we are, partly — I’ll take Finley, who possess better speed and a greater ability to stretch the field. But if we’re talking about their chances of producing long-term in their offenses — which we are, partly — I’ll take Graham, who has the potential to become more of a focal point in the New Orleans offense. Marques Colston is great, but he isn’t the same dominant receiver as Greg Jennings, and Graham is now emerging quickly with 321 of his 496 receiving yards over the Saints’ last three games. That, kids, is how you cop out.

Gagnon’s take: I think Finley has better hands, too, but I’m concerned about the knee injury that cost him most of the 2010 season. They’re both 24, but Graham feels younger, and might be more reliable. I’ll also take him.

So, who would you rather?

Last week’s Would You Rather: Tony Romo or Eli Manning?

This week, we compare two NFC East quarterbacks who have had roller-coaster careers. Both have taken a lot of heat recently from major media markets and rabid fan bases for the boneheaded mistakes they’ve become synonymous with.

And because it’s more interesting when this is the case, we’re debating two players from very different backgrounds.

Eli Manning is an NFL legacy and former No. 1 overall draft pick out of SEC power Mississippi. His brother is a lock for the Hall of Fame and he’s been through the hype machine in the media capital of the world.

Tony Romo is not a legacy. He was passed on 262 times in the 2003 NFL draft after graduating from Eastern Illinois out of the less celebrated Ohio Valley Conference. His older sister Jossalyn is best known as Candice Crawford’s bridesmaid at the Crawford-Romo wedding of 2011.

Who would you rather have on your team?

Tony Romo
Age: 31
Experience: 9th season
Career stats: 65 starts, 125 TD, 67 INT, 64.1%, 8.1 AVG, 192.7 YDS/game, 95.3 rating
Last 16 starts: 29 TD, 13 INT, 67.7%, 8.1 AVG, 296.1 YDS/game, 99.5 rating
This season: 7 TD, 5 INT, 65.1%, 8.4 AVG, 318.2 YDS/game, 92.9 rating
Career win-loss record: 39-22 (.639)
Playoff record: 1-3
Playoff stats: 4 TD, 2 INT, 59.3%, 6.2 AVG, 208.0 YDS/game, 80.8 rating
Turnovers per game: 1.29
Games with three or more turnovers: 10

OR

Eli Manning
Age: 30
Experience: 8th season
Career stats: 107 starts, 164 TD, 115 INT, 58.2%, 6.9 AVG, 217.5 YDS/game, 81.1 rating
Last 16 starts: 34 TD, 21 INT, 62.8%, 7.6 AVG, 253.9 YDS/game, 94.2 rating
This season: 8 TD, 2 INT, 64.0%, 8.5 AVG, 266.5 YDS/game, 105.6 rating
Career win-loss record: 60-43 (.583)
Playoff record: 4-3 (Super Bowl winner and Super Bowl MVP)
Playoff stats: 8 TD, 7 INT, 58.5%, 6.7 AVG, 185.3 YDS/game, 77.6 rating
Turnovers per game: 1.34
Games with three or more turnovers: 20

Romo’s numbers are flat-out better than Manning’s, especially as of late. Manning led the league with 25 interceptions in 2010 and Romo continues to display more accuracy.

That said, Manning obviously has had significantly more success in January. His MVP performance in the 2008 Super Bowl carries quite a lot of weight. So the argument could be made that Eli is better in clutch situations. The playoff statistics are pretty close, but Manning has led 19 game-winning drives in his career to Romo’s 12. Manning has also led 16 fourth-quarter comebacks to Romo’s 11, but he’s started 42 more games, so the edge is minimal.

The interesting thing about this debate is that neither has received significantly more support from his team. The Giants and Cowboys have both been playoff contenders since the 2005 season, so I’m basically taking the above numbers at face value.

Romo has a better career winning percentage than Manning does, but Romo relieved Drew Bledsoe on a proven winner in ’06, while Manning had to start as a rookie in ’04, going 1-6 in seven games. Erase their first seasons and Manning’s winning percentage is .686; Romo’s is .647.

Durability is a major factor in this comparison. Manning hasn’t missed a start since his first game in November, 2004, while Romo has had to sit out 13 games due to injury (10 last year due to a broken collarbone and three in 2008 due to a broken finger). But as a result, Romo has started significantly fewer games and thus might be fresher at this point in his career (despite being a year old than Manning). It helps Romo’s cause that neither of his injuries were the type that linger.

They’ve both done pretty well in the all-important wife category, too…

My take: I wouldn’t feel entirely comfortable with either quarterback leading my team with three minutes to play in a close game. I don’t know why, but neither guy inspires a lot of confidence. But Romo has always been much more accurate than Manning, and I do think he’s better at improvising to make plays. The David Tyree play and Super Bowl XLII in general was special, but that was four years ago, and Manning hasn’t exactly been Mr. Clutch since. I’ll take Romo.

So, who would you rather?

Last week’s Would You Rather: Darren McFadden or LeSean McCoy?

This week, we’re keeping it simple and comparing the league’s top two rushers, Darren McFadden and LeSean McCoy.

McFadden, a former No. 4 overall pick, broke into the league surrounded by hype in 2008. After struggling and dealing with injuries during his first two seasons in Oakland, he bloomed in Year 3 and has continued to gain momentum in 2011 with a league-high 393 rushing yards through three weeks.

McCoy came out of Pitt with a lot less attention in 2009, but the No. 53 overall pick arrived with more impact than McFadden, amassing 945 yards from scrimmage despite playing second fiddle to Brian Westbrook in his rookie campaign. It’s been a steep rise since then, and he’s emerged as one of the game’s best all-around backs with 345 yards on the ground and five touchdowns in the first three games of 2011.

The question: Who would you rather have on your team?

Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
Age: 24
Experience: 4th season
Career stats: 41 GMS, 2406 rush YDS, 4.8 AVG, 15 rush TD, 11 FUM, 108 REC,  1121 REC YDS, 4 REC TD
Since start of 2010: 16 GMS, 1550 YDS, 5.5 AVG, 10 rush TD, 4 FUM, 58 REC, 591 REC YDS, 4 REC TD
This season: 3 GMS, 393 YDS, 6.4 AVG, 3 rush TD, 1 FUM, 11 REC, 84 REC YDS, 1 REC TD
Games missed due to injury: 10

OR 

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
Age: 23
Experience: 3rd season
Career stats: 34 GMS, 2062 TDS, 4.9 AVG, 15 rush TD, 3 FUM, 127 REC, 949 REC YDS, 3 REC TD
Since start of 2010: 18 GMS, 1425 YDS, 5.4 AVG, 11 rush TD, 1 FUM, 97 REC, 642 REC YDS, 3 REC TD
This season: 3 GMS, 345 YDS, 6.1 AVG, 4 rush TD, 0 FUM, 9 REC, 49 REC YDS, 1 REC TD
Games missed due to injury: 1

The sheer numbers indicate that McFadden has a small edge, but McCoy has three advantages:

1) He’s almost a full year younger than McFadden with one less season under his belt.

2) He’s been able to stay significantly healthier than McFadden has.

3) He almost laps McFadden in receptions dating back to the start of last season, which indicates that he’s a more versatile player.

But McCoy has also benefited from a stronger offensive line, better quarterbacks and better receivers keeping defenses honest. You could argue that while McFadden has been given a few more carries than McCoy, he’s been at a disadvantage because of the lack of support he’s received from his teammates.

McFadden has also been more of a home-run threat than McCoy, but only within the 20-to-40-yard range. Since the start of last season, McFadden has run for 20-plus yards on 6.7 percent of his carries, while McCoy has only done so on 3.8 percent of his reps. Although, McFadden has run for 40-plus yards 2.1 percent of the time, while McCoy has accomplished said feat on 2.3 percent of his carries.

Sean Tomlinson’s take: I want to side with McFadden here, I really do. McFadden has been more effective as a pure rusher, which is partly a product of his offensive system compared to McCoy’s, but is also a reflection of his stronger downfield running style. But McCoy is a little more versatile as a receiver out of the backfield, and is averaging 450 receiving yards per season to McFadden’s 345. What drives me away from McFadden most, though, is the obvious injury concern and questions about his durability.

Gagnon’s take: That’s the exact same reason I’m leaning McCoy. He has more tread on his tires. McFadden has been more battered and bruised, and I think McCoy is a more versatile player. McFadden is a beast, and he’s a prototypical, classic back. But in this era, McCoy has more value, especially considering that he has more gas left in the tank.

So, who would you rather?

Last week’s Would You Rather: Ryan Fitzpatrick or Mark Sanchez?