Chris Wesseling

Offseason Low Down

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Flacco Fever

Friday, March 12, 2010


The onset of free agency served as a useful reminder that I've yet to lay out a list of offseason "buys" for Dynasty leaguers this year. With the no-brainer trade for Anquan Boldin, the re-signing of Derrick Mason, and the addition of situational deep-threat Donte' Stallworth, it's time to get excited about the Ravens' passing game for the first time since the franchise's inaugural season in 1996. Throw in Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, and a talented offensive line, and this unit is now Super Bowl caliber. In other words, it's high time to knock on the Joe Flacco owner's door.

But the Ravens will always be a run-first, defense-heavy team, right? Wrong. For the first time in over a decade, the balance of talent is tilted toward the offensive side of the roster. Philosophically, coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron have already moved to a more wide open offense. Last October, Cameron let loose with this gem: "Football has changed for the better. Just look at last year's Super Bowl. People have got to move beyond the notion that running the football leads to the championships. It doesn't."

While Flacco's late-season hip injury led to a pair of playoff flops, it's worth remembering that he stormed out of the gates as the sixth-ranked fantasy quarterback in the first six weeks of the season. Despite the injury-induced second-half slump, Flacco performed even better in his second year than he did in an impressive rookie season. Would you believe he posted a 95+ passer rating in 9-of-16 games this season while dramatically increasing his yards and touchdowns totals? It happened.

In fact, Flacco's 6,584 passing yards through two seasons are the fifth-most in NFL history behind only Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Drew Bledsoe, and Jeff Garcia. He also posted the highest passer rating, highest completion percentage and second-most completions in franchise history last season. Don't let the late-season injuries obscure the tremendous strikes he made as an elite young quarterback in his second season.

So if Joe Flacco is a top "buy" this offseason, who joins him? On to the list:

Steve Smith, Panthers – Is it too early to hail Matt Moore as the answer in Carolina? Sure, but his 104.9 QB passer rating in five starts last season suggests at the very least that he's not an unmitigated disaster under center. And that's all that matters when it comes to Smith.

From 2005-2008 Smith posted an incredible per-game average of 5.87 receptions, 93.65 yards, and 0.65 touchdowns with the pre-meltdown version of Jake Delhomme. Over that time period, his production only slipped in the 11 games started by the putrid troika of Chirs Weinke, David Carr, and the 44-year-old, off-the-couch version of Vinny Testaverde. In those 11 games, Smith plummeted to 4.8 receptions, 49.1 yards, and 0.18 touchdowns per game.

Our hero's production suffered again in 2009 with the fork-in-back version of Delhomme, limiting Smith to 4.18 receptions, 54.9, and 0.36 touchdowns. Now that looks a lot like the earlier damage done by the law firm of Weinke, Carr and Testaverde. But let's get down to the nitty-gritty. What are Smith's per-game averages in the seven starts he shared with a raw Matt Moore in 2007 and 2009? The line is almost identical to his 2005-2008 numbers: 5.86 receptions, 90.7 yards, and 0.57 touchdowns.

Though small sample size is an obvious caveat, Smith has consistently produced close to six receptions, 90-95 yards, and 0.6-0.75 touchdowns when he receives the bare minimum of competence from his quarterback. The early returns suggest Moore meets the bare minimum requirement.


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Chris Wesseling is a senior football editor and Dynasty league analyst for Rotoworld.com. The 2011 NFL season marks his fifth year with Rotoworld and his third year contributing to NBCSports.com. He can be found on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.
Email :Chris Wesseling



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