Earnest_Graham_and_fan

NFL Real Talk: Week Seven

White people friendly with the Bucs RB are known as “Graham’s Crackers”
Photo Credit: Matthew Sowell

People forget this, but there was once a time where everything was different. Jonah Hill was fat, two girls did sensational things with one cup, and people had countless explanations for why a guy named “Mims” was hot (pause). The time was 2007, and crazy shit ruled our lives. Things were so out of whack, in fact, that some random dude named Earnest Graham came out of nowhere to tally 10 TDs and over 1,200 yards.

Ah but sometimes things come full circle. Graham, who from 2008-2010 operated in relative obscurity, crept back into the fantasy spotlight the moment LeGarrette Blount went down with a knee injury in Week Five. Most labeled Graham a bye-week fill-in and nothing more. Perhaps this is because the Bucs have not trusted Graham with a serious offensive role since ‘07, or maybe his age (31) threw people off. Regardless of the reason, no one really viewed Graham as a legit, long-term fantasy solution… until he racked up 131 yards against a pretty damn good run defense.

Now owners want to know if there are any legs to this Earnest Graham thing, and the answer is… “possibly” (what? I’m scared of commitment). Of course, your boy Dudley Do Work can’t just come on here and flat out tell you that Graham will be the lead back even after Blount returns, but there’s no reason he shouldn’t be universally owned right now. He’s always had great hands, and is currently sixth among all RBs in targets (30), which is excellent considering the limited playing time he’s had for most of the season. He’s also capable of handling full-time RB duties. Aside from his impressive 2007 campaign, Graham has spent time working as full back over the last few years, which is a very physical position. The transition to feature back shouldn’t pose a problem.

Yes Blount is the incumbent and displayed good power last year, but his 4.3 YPC is over a full yard lower than Graham’s (5.5) and he straight up doesn’t have the versatility in his game that Graham possesses. In fact, for a guy that’s labeled as a bruising RB, Blount hasn’t even been that great in short-yardage situations.

The bottom line is that Blount isn’t some superstar back who has earned the right to have his feature title handed back to him upon his return. If Graham continues to put up numbers, fight for tough yards, and wreak havoc in the passing game, there’s a solid chance he earns enough playing time to warrant flex status (and possibly more) for the remainder of the season.

NFL Real Talk continues after the jump:

True feature backs are hard to come by and are coveted commodities, but Michael Turner is a prime sell-high candidate. His three big performances this season have come against the Bears (who gave up two huge runs defending against a pass-happy Falcons team) and the two worst defenses against the run (Philadelphia and Carolina). There’s no denying his TD potential as the primary ball carrier in this offense, but the team has been trying to establish their vertical attack and will be in a lot of situations where they will be forced to air it out (Atlanta’s defense is giving up 293 yards per game to opposing QBs). With Julio Jones nearing a return, the Falcons should head to a more pass-friendly approach as the season wears on. Also, keep in mind that Turner faded badly down the stretch last year and has accumulated a lot of mileage during his time in Atlanta. Turner is a RB1 because of the sheer volume of carries he receives, but it makes sense to cash in on his maximum value as RB-hungry teams will surely give up the farm to land him. Make like a horny teen walking his drunk female friend home and take advantage.

I’m not sold on DeMarco Murray at all. Yes Felix Jones will be out and is not really a feature back, but Murray is just a poor man’s Felix (HR ability, good hands out of the backfield, but injury-prone). Considering how Jones’ career in the NFL has panned out to date, that really isn’t too encouraging. I love how people look at RBs on great offenses and assume they will produce. Last I checked, people weren’t tripping over themselves the last couple of years to land Joseph Addai. Look, the Cowboys are a pass-first team to the fullest, and that will not change with DeMarco Murray starting at tailback. Murray has a couple of good matchups on tap St. Louis and Philly, but the odds of him being a fixture on your roster later in the season are shorter than Danny DeVito. If an owner in your league is struggling to find bye week replacements at RB, see if you can get him to bite on Murray.

Greg Little should really be the waiver add of the week. In his first game in the starting lineup, Little hauled in six passes for 72 yards. While those numbers don’t leap out at you, keep in mind that he was targeted a staggering 12 times and should be the team’s top receiving option going forward. The converted RB is a big dude who is hard to bring down and while his game is still a bit raw, the coaching staff is very high on his talent. Expect Little to be a key cog of the Browns’ offense and view him as a WR3 with considerable upside. Add him now if the other owners in your league stupidly left him available.

My thoughts on the Carson Palmer trade from the Raiders perspective? I haven’t seen a larceny this grand since Stone Cold stole Kurt Angle’s gold medals. Palmer’s arm strength has been very underwhelming the last three years and he’s learning a brand new offense in the middle of the season. He’s a QB2 and nothing more.

Though he had nine catches for 77 yards on 15 targets in Week Six, Michael Crabtree is not on the cusp of a breakout. Vernon Davis spent most of the game helping the offensive line stave off the Lions’ pass rush, so Alex Smith had no choice but to feed the ball to Crabtree. The WR has a world of talent, but they simply aren’t a fit for this offense. Smith cannot throw accurate passes downfield and these shorter passes limit what Crabtree can do. Davis will go back to being sent out for receiving duties this week and Crabtree’s odds of having another double-digit target day are skinnier than the lines of coke a greedy Charlie Sheen cuts up for his friends.

Greg Salas saw 10 targets in Week Six and makes a fine addition for PPR owners. We all saw how much Sam Bradford loved throwing to Danny Amendola, a quick slot receiver with sure hands. There’s no reason to think Bradford won’t follow suit with Salas as long as he keeps catching what’s thrown to him. It’s worth pointing out that issues with drops forced the Rams to make Salas a healthy scratch for Weeks Three and Four, but since he turned in such an impressive performance on Sunday, it’s hard to see him being benched again. At worst, Salas is a bye-week fill in who does enough to keep you steady in the short-term. At best, he develops into a reliable WR3 whose rapport with Bradford blossoms into a fruitful relationship (pause). Either way, he’s well worth a shot.

Speaking of Bradford, the Rams QB threw for over 300 yards in Week Six and although he failed to notch a TD, things are looking up. Brandon Lloyd gives him the big play threat he so desperately needs and if Salas, Danario Alexander, and Lance Kendricks continue to develop, Bradford could have a nice cast of weapons to turn too in the second half of the season. Keep in mind that St. Louis has arguably the most passer-friendly schedule the rest of the way and if the offensive line can make a similar turnaround to the one they made late in the 2010 season, Bradford could perform like a QB1 from here on out. Crazier things have happened (see: “Real Steel” being made).

What you see is what you get with DeSean Jackson. If he isn’t lighting up the box score, he’s putting up numbers that don’t even warrant WR3 status. Things do not figure to change thanks to Philly’s inconsistent offensive line and if Michael Vick ever succumbs to a serious injury, D-Jax would be downgraded severely. If I own shares of Jackson, I’m checking to see what someone is willing to offer in return because if the price is right, he’s gone.

People have an affinity for Robert Meachem, but to me, he’s just James Jones in a Saints jersey. He’s a deep play threat with skills, but with so many mouth to feed and no favoritism from his QB, there’s no reason to start either player unless dealing with bye weeks or a weak WR corps.

I’ve taken a lot of heat in the past for defending Jay Cutler, but things are (hopefully?) panning out. The Bears have finally recognized that running the classic Mike Martz offense just will not work for this club. So in Week Six, they got more players in on pass protection, kept Cutler upright, and watched as their QB had a very clean performance. Talent has never been the issue with Cutler as his arm is as good as there is in football, and he does have a pair of big play threats in Johnny Knox and Devin Hester (not to mention Matt Forte). Chicago will never be the most ideal home for his skill-set, but the team is making an honest effort to get him going and he could probably be had for dirt cheap. He’s not a bad platoon QB by any means and the upside is always there for more.

 

Starbonell

About Starbonell

Starbonell is the co-founder of Sons of Roto and one of the most insightful and colorful fantasy analysts in the game. Mixing intelligent and well-researched advice with an entertaining style of writing that is easy to digest, Starbonell is the king of info-tainment.

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