Monday, January 7, 2013

NFL 2012-13 YEAR END REVIEW - RANDOM THOUGHTS PART I

I've often found the hardest thing about researching and writing quality analysis on fantasy sports is then turning and remembering that I am also playing.  As a writer, the need to get things down on paper trumps all other things I do, and as such, I find my immediacy as reflects waiver wire moves suffers as a result.  Every year I ponder how the game could be made better, and every year I ponder how football thinking can often be so archaic.

So this blog will be a bunch of thoughts, about fantasy football, the league and the 2012 season.  Call it my homage to Pete King's MMQB column.

I would love to see Fantasy Football be less about waiver wire speed and more about privilege.  I think no league should allow a team to pick up and play more than two players per week.  Sure, injuries are part of the game, but if you didn't build into your draft a strategy of depth, then you should suffer the consequence, much like Arizona and Pittsburgh did with their QBs, or like Dallas did with their rushing attack.  You shouldn't be rewarded for being the fastest guy to grab Cecil Shorts III or Bryce Brown.  And much like the owners that used their waiver wire priority Week 1 hoping Kevin Ogletree would turn into the next coming of 2010's Brandon Lloyd got what they deserved, those owners shouldn't then be able to simply throw him back and replace him with the next hot model. 

Strangely enough, fantasy football thinking isn't that far off from NFL Football thinking.  The NFL is a copycat league, and is sometimes just as archaic.  I've included a chart below to track the number of offensive plays each team ran (just rushing and passing attempts) to show the percentages by which a team ran or threw. 

TEAM RUSH ATT PASS ATT PLAYS FROM SCRIMMAGE
 
RUSH % PASS %
ARIZONA 352 608 960 36.67% 63.33%
ATLANTA 378 615 993 38.07% 61.93%
BALTIMORE 444 560 1004 44.22% 55.78%
BUFFALO 442 511 953 46.38% 53.62%
CAROLINA 462 490 952 48.53% 51.47%
CHICAGO 470 485 955 49.21% 50.79%
CINCINNATI 430 540 970 44.33% 55.67%
CLEVELAND 396 566 962 41.16% 58.84%
DALLAS 355 658 1013 35.04% 64.96%
DENVER 481 588 1069 45.00% 55.00%
DETROIT 391 740 1131 34.57% 65.43%
GREEN BAY 433 558 991 43.69% 56.31%
HOUSTON 508 554 1062 47.83% 52.17%
INDIANAPOLIS 440 628 1068 41.20% 58.80%
JACKSONVILLE 358 586 944 37.92% 62.08%
KANSAS CITY 500 475 975 51.28% 48.72%
MIAMI 440 504 944 46.61% 53.39%
MINNESOTA 486 483 969 50.15% 49.85%
NEW ENGLAND 523 641 1164 44.93% 55.07%
NEW ORLEANS 370 671 1041 35.54% 64.46%
NEW YORK GIANTS 409 539 948 43.14% 56.86%
NEW YORK JETS 494 493 987 50.05% 49.95%
OAKLAND 376 629 1005 37.41% 62.59%
PHILADELPHIA 413 618 1031 40.06% 59.94%
PITTSBURGH 412 574 986 41.78% 58.22%
ST. LOUIS 410 557 967 42.40% 57.60%
SAN DIEGO 411 528 939 43.77% 56.23%
SAN FRANCISCO 492 436 928 53.02% 46.98%
SEATTLE 410 557 967 42.40% 57.60%
TAMPA BAY 416 566 982 42.36% 57.64%
TENNESSEE 378 540 918 41.18% 58.82%
WASHINGTON 519 442 961 54.01% 45.99%
2012 LEAGUE AVG.  435.2 555.9 991.1 43.91% 56.09%
2011 LEAGUE AVG. 436.3 544.1 980.4 44.50% 55.50%
2010 LEAGUE AVG. 435 539.7 974.7 44.63% 55.37%
2009 LEAGUE AVG. 440.3 532.3 972.6 45.27% 54.73%
2008 LEAGUE AVG. 441.2 516.4 957.6 46.07% 53.93%
2007 LEAGUE AVG. 437.1 532.7 969.8 45.07% 54.93%
2006 LEAGUE AVG. 451.5 512.2 963.7 46.85% 53.15%
2005 LEAGUE AVG. 449.2 514.5 963.7 46.61% 53.39%
2004 LEAGUE
AVG.
450.9 511.1 962 46.87% 53.13%


2003 LEAGUE AVG. 453.4 515.4 968.8 46.80% 53.20%

In 10 years the league has moved the passing game up over 56 percent, up an average three percent, while losing that same three percent of running plays.  That's a six percent swing, and yet one could argue a good portion of the teams in the league don't have the personnel to throw the ball that often or more.  Yet because of the success of the New England spread offense and the West Coast offense in San Francisco, many offenses are using those formats and doing it no-huddle, providing more plays than ever.

Looking at the numbers, we can somewhat understand Arizona's predicament.  Looking back, in no way did they have the personnel at the QB position to throw as often as they did, but after they lost Ryan Williams and then Chris Wells and were left with LaRod Stephens-Howling or William Powell, we can somewhat forgive a ridiculous ratio of 36/63. 

But how do you explain Philadelphia?  LeSean McCoy did get hurt, but Bryce Brown jumped right in and ran even better, sans his occasional stone hands.  And how do you explain Baltimore?  Ray Rice is arguably the most complete running back in the NFL, yet Baltimore deferred to Joe Flacco 56 percent of the time?

The list of crazy goes on and on -

Oakland?  Yes they have Carson Palmer, but a receiving group comprised Darius "sittin of the dock of the" Heyward-Bey, Denarius "could I get hurt" Moore and Rod Streater, not to mention a guy once thought of as blocking material  Brandon Myers.  And Myers outperformed them all.

Jacksonville?  Even after losing Maurice Jones-Drew. 

Cleveland?  You're going to give rookie Brandon Weeden that kind of load with receivers like Greg Little, Josh Gordon and Mohamed Massaquoi? Tennessee -- you've got one of the best RBs in recent years with Chris Johnson.  So sure, much better to defer to Nate Washington, Damian Williams or head and injury case Kenny Britt.  Better yet, heap a load on rookie Kendall Wright and see if he can't come through. 

Then there's the insult to all insults - Carolina!  Carolina invested over $13 million this year alone in Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams and the addition of Mike Tolbert.  That's over 10 percent of their entire payroll.  The only reason their skew of numbers is leaning just three percent toward the pass is because 127 times Newton ran the ball.  I think it's fair to assume 85% of those were dropbacks that turned into scrambles.  Thus if you add 108 passes to their finally tally, and subtract 108 runs (85% of 127), you get 354 rushing attempts, 598 passing attempts and final percentages of 63/37 in favor of passing.  This with one aging stud receiver named Steve Smith, a growth candidate in Brandon LaFell and Greg Olsen as your tight end. 

If this isn't a case of the sheep following the herd mentality, I don't know what is.


MORE RANDOM THOUGHTS

Hey Dallas fans, let me get this straight:  You watched the Redskins, comprised of two rookies at the QB and RB positions, run up over 274 yards of rushing and four rushing touchdowns in a game that meant everything to your season and your solution is to dump Tony Romo?  Thank G-d I don't have to root for this team.

Hey Saints: three of your four RBs averaged well over four yards per carry.  Yet you threw the ball almost 70 percent of the time.  Perhaps it's time to consider a game plan that actually gets one of these guys more than 12 rushes per game so they can get a rhythm going and rest your awful 32nd ranked defense for more than two minutes at a time.

Anyone else wonder why if Obi-Wan Kenobi could simply vanish and become more powerful instead of taking a light-saber death blow to the head from his old friend/foe Darth Vader, why didn't all the other Jedi choose to go this way in all the other movies instead of getting their faces kicked in?

I'll never understand why the Steelers got rid of Dennis Dixon.  Filling in for Roethlisberger during his rather generous four game suspension in 2010, Dixon went 2-0 and completed almost 69% of his passes.  While he didn't throw a TD, he still made plays and kept the Steelers season alive.  They eventually lost the Super Bowl to the Packers.  It was unexplainable and unfathomable that the Steelers rostered Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch this year.   And while I'm so happy for Batch that he got that win, it couldn't have been much more ugly.

How can the Jets bring back Rex Ryan?  Has there been a more ridiculous coach in sports besides maybe Barry Switzer?  After all, Barry's team was Jimmie Johnson's team, and no one ever believed Switzer made any decisions without Jerry Jones' hand up his ass.  Ryan has talked and talked and talked, and while he definitely brings the press New York's way, is it the kind of press you want?  Some will say any press is good press, but was that the case when Terrell Owens was in the locker room of any NFL team?  Ryan is the Terrell Owens of coaches to me.  Not only has he done nothing to get the offense of this team into shape, his defense couldn't stop the run.
 
Chan Gailey got fired in Buffalo.  Is anyone surprised?  Three years into his tenure he had seen the development of C. J. Spiller to the point where Spiller led the league in yards per attempt for runners over 200 carries.  He averaged six yards per tote for the entire season, not to mention his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.  Yet Gailey gave him just 207 carries.  I'm all for loyalty to your RB1 Fred Jackson, but there's a reason Chan's now looking to join the broadcaster circuit.

Kansas City fans -- some numbers to chew on for you:

10 5 327 516 63.4 3693 21 11 7.2

Those were Matt Cassel's numbers in New England.  When you have a line that can block and receivers that don't pop passes that hit them in the hands straight into the air, it's amazing what you can accomplish.  So while Cassel has a fumbling issue and isn't Tom Brady by any means, he also has an offensive line that can't pass block a turtle and receivers that not only drop the ball, but can't get separation.  Your best pass-catcher is Dwayne Bowe and he has NEVER caught more than 57 percent of his targets and this year had a career low 51 percent.  Now, with a coaching change perhaps bringing in a new QB with the first pick in the draft is wise.  However, you'd better be patient with this kid, because next year is likely to be very difficult unless you fix the offensive line.  So if you want to avoid a complete rebuild, why not consider drafting a couple of great offensive lineman, and a wide receiver to complement Bowe, and give Cassel his due.


For more of you QB haters, here are more numbers to chew on:
5 4 182 284 64% 1806 10 8

5 2 118 199 59%  1129 8 4

The top row is Christian Ponder's numbers before Percy Harvin's injury in Week 9.  The second row are his numbers without Harvin, Week 10-16.  The completion percentage drop is a noticeable five percent, yet he still managed to throw 8TD against 4 INTs with a receivers group most that has never had one receiver top 53 catches in a season.  Michael Jenkins, Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright, Devin Aromshodu and TE Kyle Rudolph.  Harvin missed seven games and still led the team with 62 receptions.  Perhaps Christian Ponder isn't the whole problem here.  Sure, Adrian Peterson is a lot of the reason this team when 5-2 down the stretch.  But Ponder had absolutely no one to which he could throw.


Chew on these thoughts, Part II soon enough.