Evan Silva


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Re-Watching Julio, Cam, Locker

Monday, June 18, 2012

Finishing touches are currently being put on the 2012 Rotoworld Fantasy Football Draft Guide. One of the more arduous tasks that goes into the guide's creation is writing the Player Profiles. We've already written up 60 quarterbacks, 75 running backs, 100 receivers, and 50 tight ends.

Here's an example of a Player Profile from our 2011 Draft Guide:

Matthew Stafford

2010: Star-crossed Stafford's luck ran out again in his second NFL season with twin throwing shoulder injuries, the first suffered on a Week 1 Julius Peppers sack and the second in Week 9. Both were Grade 3 separations that led to year-ending surgery. Stafford was terrific in between, lighting up Washington for four TDs in Week 8 and Darrelle Revis' Jets for 240 yards, two scores, and no picks. Stafford has the strongest arm in football and is highly aggressive, sometimes to a fault. Lions coordinator Scott Linehan's offense is shotgun- and pass-heavy, and a fantasy owner's dream. Only the Colts and Saints threw more often in 2010. Stafford, Shaun Hill, and Drew Stanton's passing statistics combined to rank as the would-be No. 7 fantasy QB.

What's Changed: Stafford had surgery on January 21 and was letting bombs rip by May player-only workouts. He's still just 23 years old, younger than rookies Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton. The Lions used two second-round picks on skill position players, Titus Young to stretch defenses vertically and Mikel Leshoure to kill the clock in fourth quarters. The "risk" with Stafford, of course, is that he's missed 19 games through two NFL seasons. Teammate Zack Follett even described Stafford as a "China Doll" in the winter, though Follett later retracted the statement.

Outlook: It's simple. If you think Stafford is going to get injured again, don't draft him. As a fantasy pick, he's for owners looking to hit 500-foot homeruns. Stafford has the talent, weapons, and offensive system to be this year's No. 1 fantasy QB. He'll bust if he goes back on the shelf.

Some background

This year, I wrote up all of the quarterbacks and most of the wide receivers. Chris Wesseling did the running backs. Mike Clay handled tight ends. In order to better prepare for my assignments, I went back and watched two games on three particular players who possess lofty fantasy football ceilings and will surely be the subject of frequent pre-draft debate.

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones

For game review, I chose Jones' two most heavily-targeted appearances. They were Week 4 at Seattle (15 targets) and Week 16 at New Orleans (14). This worked out nicely because it gave me a chance to examine one early-season and one late-season game. Jones was a rookie in 2011, so it forced me to keep an eye out for improvements over the course of the year.

The first play that really stuck out was a 45-yard bomb down the left sideline, with Seahawks RCB Brandon Browner in tight coverage. Matt Ryan's underthrown deep ball died a bit at the end of its trajectory. Yet Jones contorted his body back to the quarterback to secure Ryan's pass in a two-handed basket while maintaining full stride throughout his route. Body control along the sideline can be a difference-making trait for a deep threat. And that play suggests Jones has it in spades.

After watching the two games, my mind wandered back to Jones' days at Alabama. He wasn't a deep threat for the Crimson Tide. Jones was primarily a possession receiver, doing his damage in the short to intermediate and relying on run-after-catch physicality to rack up yards. The Falcons used Jones as a vertical, split end receiver, and he's playing much faster than he did in college. He's already a complete NFL player. I think he compares favorably to early-career Terrell Owens.

Other quick takeaways from the Falcons game reviews:

** Michael Turner had more short-area burst early in the season than he did against New Orleans in Week 16. Statistics support the notion that Turner faded in the second half of the year.

** Roddy White was largely a possession receiver in both games, exploiting defensive backs' "off" coverage and reeling in short catches. Jones was the Falcons' deep threat, although he made more plays at the intermediate level in the late-season game than he did in the early-year contest.

** I don't think Matt Ryan's arm strength will prove a major deterrent for his long-term outlook, but it's about league average -- and no better -- among entrenched NFL starters. His velocity on 17- to 22-yard digs can be inconsistent, and Ryan's intermediate passes have a tendency to float.

** Jacquizz Rodgers is 5-foot-6, 196, so he's probably going to need some special qualities in order to make it as more than a change-of-pace back in the NFL. Rodgers ran a pretty wheel route before hauling in a 31-yard touchdown against Carolina, but his run skills looked ordinary to me.

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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

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