Jul 9, 2009
I’m gearing up for my vacation next week (actually, starting this weekend), and I’ve today made a last-minute decision to take my two oldest boys up to New York to see my Dodgers play the Mets, but I have a few items I want to cover before I do.
I see people are starting to get really excited about him this summer, and I’m not really seeing it. As regular readers know, I may be the president of the Ronnie Brown Fan Club, starting from Day One, so I’m not down on Ronnie Brown. I just don’t see why people are suddenly becoming enamored with him. Yes, I know he’s another year removed from his knee injury, and that is good. Brown told me on Sirius in November that he was 100% and had no restrictions, but he said last month that he feels more explosive this year. That’s nice, but here’s the problem with Brown: He’s never truly carried the load, and he likely never will.
He was 19th in fantasy points per game last year, and unless it winds up being a down year for fantasy RBs, that’s about where he’ll be this year. I say that for several reasons. For one, they love Ricky Williams, and that freak (I mean that in a good way) can still play at a very high level. Brown and Williams’ numbers last year were almost identical, minus Brown’s monster 5 TD game and Brown getting about 50 more carries. Brown averaged 4.3 yards a carry to Ricky’s 4.1; Brown had 43 pass targets and 33 catches to Ricky’s 39 and 29; Brown got 7.7 yards a catch last year to Ricky’s 7.6.
Take away the huge Wildcat game against the Pats, and they basically had the same season.
Brown was a fantasy stud in 2007, but a lot’s changed since then. For one, Ricky wasn’t a factor. Brown was also then not a RB who had a serious knee injury in his past. He was two years younger then. He was in an offense run by Cam Cameron that threw the ball a ton to the RBs. Brown had 39 catches in 7 games, which prorates to 90 catches for the season. Last year, he had only the 33 catches in 16 games. Between the presence of Ricky and the lack of strong interest by the coaches in getting the ball to their RBs as receivers, Brown’s fantasy value won’t likely get much of a boost in the passing game.
If I’ve learned one thing covering the madcap world of fantasy football, you can’t just assume something you think should happen will happen, and you certainly can’t will something you think should happen to actually happen. When the 2008 season ended, I did think Miami would have more of a commitment to Brown, a year removed from his injury. After all, one of the strengths of their offense is their young and improved OL. They may, but it’s an unwise assumption to believe Brown’s going to be a fantasy beast, or someone with significant upside.
Sure, you may get lucky and he might have a few big games and land in the top-10 at the position. But assuming he will is just a guess, and it’s not really a calculated guess.
Here are the facts on Brown:
- He was a rotational back in college at Auburn with Cadillac Williams.
- In the three years he played most of the season, he’s averaged 221 carries a year.
- In the two years he’s played with Ricky Williams he’s averaged 210 carries.
- His pass targets dropped under the new coaching staff in 2008 to 2.6 a game from 6.5 a game under Cameron.
- He had 9 games without a TD in 2008.
- He had 13 games with less than 100 yards rushing in 2008.
- He had only 2 games with 20+ carries in 2008.
- He scored 40% of his TDs in that New England game, when they unleashed a new and significant wrinkle that
teams are now prepared for.
Again, I like Brown, but I’m not going to make it a point to draft him, and I’m certainly not drooling over his upside. I did think in January that maybe they would make more of a commitment to him, but I see little evidence to support that notion. In fact, when they drafted QB Pat White this spring, the evidence that they would continue to utilize trickery in their offense (and not just pounding the ball with a power running game) seems clear.
The Chiefs and Matt Cassel
As mentioned in my last entry, it appears KC will NOT be running much of a spread offense in 2008, and they will ask Cassel to operate in more of a traditional offense, with QB drop-backs and the like. I supposed this makes some sense given how they still have RB Larry Johnson on the roster, but I’m concerned about Cassel.
Last year, almost 90% of his pass attempts in a 6 game stretch beginning week 11 came out of the shotgun. That’s when he played his best, and he’s unproven otherwise. The Chiefs, of course, don’t have equivalent players to Moss, Welker (Engram is not Welker) and Faulk.
Now, I do still believe this will be an offense that throws it around plenty, and there have been reports that they still may experiment with a spread concept. Keep in mind Kurt Warner last year threw out of the shotgun a lot with Todd Haley, so I do expect Cassel to be in the shotgun a good amount. But I’m not sure we can refer to this offense as “pass happy” the way New England or Arizona’s was. If Cassel struggles, and keep in mind he’s signed for only this year, it’ll be interesting to see what they do because Tyler Thigpen, a quality player in his own right, is even less experienced out of the spread/shotgun than Cassel is.
The moral of the story here is that Cassel is still worth a shot as a backup, but we should pull back a little from him and all their receivers, although if he’s up for it Dwayne Bowe should be very active. More importantly, Larry Johnson could be pretty darn handy this year. He’s on the downside, but he did show some juice last year, and he’ll be much more affordable this year to the point at which he won’t be much of a risk.
Apparently, Ray Rice is becoming a hot commodity in fantasy circles, and while he’s another guy I do like, I’m not seeing it. I really liked Rice last year, but his play on the field actually proved me more wrong than right.
If people are reading into him running with the ones this year as an indication that he may be their lead back, I think they’re wrong. I think he’s mainly there because Willis McGahee isn’t 100%.
Rice is a change-of-pace guy in space, but he’s not explosive. He’s effective in spread formations because of the seams created by the scheme. He can make people miss in space. Remember that big 21/154 game he had last year? It was almost all out of the shotgun, with the defenses spread out. Rice proved very little as a feature back running inside in a power formation last year.
The Ravens last year morphed into power team, with 3 OTs in heavy formations. In these sets, LeRon McClain was the feature back. Willis McGahee can be the featured back. Since they still have a young QB and limit weapons at receiver, the offense needs to dictate fronts and coverage to get their guys one-on-one. This is what you need to do when you don’t have #1-type WRs. McClain is the right RB for this type of scheme, and McGahee can be solid. Ideally, McGahee is the lead back because he’s more talented and versatile than McClain. But if McGahee flops, I think they will turn to McClain (yeah, I know he was fat this spring) more so than Rice.
I know Rice looks great this off-season and his role should be expanding, or at least settling into a consistent one. Maybe he surprises and runs with more power and explosiveness and does command more touches. But assuming he’ll be the guy is just a guess, and there’s little evidence to support the guess is correct.
I’d just be careful and not overpay for Rice in like the 5th or 6th round if the Internet hype heats up later this summer.