Moore To Like at QB in Carolina Now
By: matt.schauf | 8/9/10, 8:25 AM EDT
Matt Moore is a steal as a fantasy backup right now.
Since last we met here, games have actually started (well, kinda) and the injuries have begun to pile up (and that’s just in Denver). As the August weeks roll on, we should start to get a clearer picture of who will win the disputed starting jobs, who’s on the rise and who might be just a bit overrated.
Seeing more of all of these players will also lead folks to wake up to some of the sleepers out there and raise the average draft positions of the more popular breakout picks. That’s all the more reason to jump on potential values now.
QB: Matt Moore, Panthers
I suppose “skepticism” is the best way to describe the general reaction to Moore taking over the Carolina starting job, a reaction that makes absolutely no sense to me.
It was possible to think Jake Delhomme’s 2008 playoff meltdown against Arizona was an aberration. Last season showed, however, that it most certainly was not. When his coaches finally conceded that Moore was the better option, the team scored 5.1 more points per game over his five season-ending starts than in 11 games with Delhomme. Moore was also 6.1 percentage points better in completion rate and averaged 1.3 yards more per attempt (7.6 to 6.3, the difference between 24th place and 12th among 2009 passers). Moore threw touchdown passes twice as often (per attempt) as Delhomme and was intercepted at a quarter of the veteran’s rate. He was even sacked less frequently and blew Delhomme away so completely in passer rating that it’s not worth comparing.
Because Steve Smith was really the only noteworthy Panthers receiver last year, let’s look to his numbers for more indicators. In just less than four games with Moore (Smith broke an arm in their fourth start together last season), Smith averaged 0.6 more receptions per game and 6.8 yards per catch more than in Delhomme’s 11 outings, and Smith’s touchdown-per-game rate doubled.
Through eight NFL starts (including three from 2007 as an undrafted rookie), Moore has posted numbers that project to 3,108 yards, 22 touchdowns and six picks over a full season in just 410 attempts (fewer than the Panthers tallied each of the past two years). All of these numbers ignore specific matchups, but they would also look terrific for any quarterback through his first eight pro starts.
Smith will have to come back from another broken arm but seems on track for Week 1, and we know better than to doubt his readiness once he’s on the field. Rookie Jimmy Clausen is battling for a job in camp, as many expected, but it’s for the backup spot. Moore is an absolute steal as a fantasy backup right now, going 26th among quarterbacks at RapidDraft.com.
RB: Darren McFadden, Raiders
What do you tend to look for in the eighth and ninth rounds of your draft? Might I interest you in a former top-five NFL draft pick with undeniable upside on a team that likes to run the ball?
We all know the two primary details of McFadden’s pro career to date: too many injuries and utter disappointment. Still, there’s a reason Oakland selected him fourth overall just two years ago, and he is only two seasons into a career that has opened in a crappy offense with the shakiest of franchises. Thomas Jones had five years in the league before his first 1,000-yard season. Cedric Benson did very little until 2009, his fifth NFL campaign. DeAngelo Williams was an injury-prone part-timer through two seasons before his 2008 breakout.
In spite of spending most of the past two years well behind too many opponents, the Raiders finished both 2008 and 2009 ranked higher in the league in total rush attempts than pass attempts. In 2008, the team actually tallied 38 more carries than pass attempts. Justin Fargas, who led the team in rushes each of those seasons, has been jettisoned in favor of the two younger guys with higher production ceilings.
Despite a paltry 217 rushes through two seasons, McFadden has managed 50 receptions, an area that can differentiate him from other running backs in the same fantasy range. Oakland has worked some with him split out wide, and new quarterback Jason Campbell has said he is “stunned” by McFadden’s receiving skills.
Many will prefer Michael Bush in this backfield, and I can’t argue with that. If you’re playing without PPR scoring, I’d lean that way, too. In PPR formats, however, McFadden makes a ton of sense in the middle of Round 8, which is all you have to use to beat his current ADP.
WR: Hines Ward, Steelers
How the heck can this guy come up in a sleeper article? Doesn’t everyone know who he is and what he has to offer by now? You’d think, but fantasy drafts are the time when many people favor the exciting road over the safe, and Ward definitely qualifies more as the latter. However, did you know that the past three times that Ward has played in at least 15 games, he has placed 12th, 17th and 12th among PPR wideouts? Considering that, shouldn’t it be surprising when he’s going 23rd at the position on average?
There’s certainly something to be said for age, and that something isn’t often nice for a football player who is 34. Ward is just a year removed, though, from tying the second-best reception total of his career (95) and posting his second-best yardage total. Consider, too, that both came despite Santonio Holmes and Heath Miller enjoying their most productive seasons to date. The departure of Holmes leaves a job to the exciting but very young second-year man Mike Wallace. It was Holmes’ fourth season before he surpassed 55 catches.
The biggest knock on Ward might be Ben Roethlisberger’s absence for at least four weeks, but Byron Leftwich will be fine for that stretch, has been with the team before and should look often to a trusted target. Ward carries some injury risk as well, having missed at least one game in three of the past five years. Still, he has played 16 games in each of the last two seasons and hasn’t finished outside of the top 28 fantasy wideouts since 2000. How safe is the other dude you’re considering as your No. 2 receiver?
TE: James Casey, Texans
I get why folks are willing to gamble on Owen Daniels among the top 10 fantasy tight ends, despite the fact that the ACL tear that ended his 2009 season has yet to allow him to return. What I don’t get is the near total lack of attention for the position’s next-best prospect.
It’s not easy to decipher the next guy up behind Daniels, with Casey sharing reps with Joel Dreessen (before he got hurt) and rookie Garrett Graham, but there seems to be nothing but good vibes coming out of Texans camp regarding Casey. The second-year tight end has impressed with his work ethic and inspired coach Gary Kubiak to refer to him as one of the team’s most dependable players. It was obvious as early as last summer what the coaches thought of him when the former minor-league baseball player was being tried out at fullback as well, just to find ways to get him on the field.
Although we’re still led to believe that Daniels will be ready for the opener, we don’t ever know just how well a guy will perform coming off a torn ACL or just when he’ll be ready. What we do know is that Matt Schaub has proved to be one of the league’s strongest young passers and resides in an offense that likes to throw the ball. If anyone is taking Daniels’ place come September, that guy is sure to get some solid work.
Casey shouldn’t be drafted as a fantasy starter anywhere, and “sleeper” tight ends tend to be guys that you track on the waiver wire rather than spend a roster spot on. That said, the 6-3 Casey is one you should track and who can be a bench option in deeper leagues.
The three main components in fantasy team defense tend to be sacks, turnovers and scoring. After ranking 25th in points allowed and tying for just 16th in interceptions last year, it’s no wonder the Dolphins aren’t exciting fantasy owners in 2010. I see plenty of reason for optimism, though.
The points-allowed thing is pretty volatile and can depend heavily on individual matchups. Well, one easy thing to like about the 2010 Dolphins is that their final six weeks of the fantasy schedule (excluding Week 17) come against opponents that ranked in the bottom half of the league in points in 2009. Many things can change in a year, but how do you not smile about a fantasy defense that gets Buffalo and Detroit to finish your season?
The interceptions? Well, we’ll have to guess a little bit on this front, but the young Miami corners are looking like a pair worth guessing on. Sean Smith became a starter right away as a rookie last year and has performed so well this summer that new teammate Brandon Marshall recently copped to having trouble with the youngster in practice. Vontae Davis, meanwhile, seems close to locking up the other starting job — which he inherited as a rookie last season because of injury — and is the kind of exciting playmaker who can take any pick to the house. The safety situation might not inspire a ton of confidence, but running out Will Allen, the other starter at the beginning of last year, as the third corner should help mitigate fears there.
Of course, a pass rush that tied for third in the league in sacks last year is undergoing plenty of change after the team allowed outside linebackers Joey Porter and Jason Taylor to leave, but there’s a reason the Dolphins felt comfortable in doing that. Cameron Wake is a big part of that reason; he looked terrific as a pass rusher in limited duty through his first season since coming from the Canadian league. Koa Misi, a 2010 second-round pick and a possible starter on the other side, has regularly been mentioned as a rookie whose team is ready to immediately depend on him. New inside linebacker Karlos Dansby has also been very good as a blitzer and in coverage throughout his career.
Overall, there is plenty of talent and upside to make this a defense worth waiting on and drafting in late-starter range. If things don’t go Miami’s way for any reason, replacements tend to emerge at this position on the waiver wire.
Matt Schauf is the senior football writer for RapidDraft.com.
Most Popular Articles
Contests & Promotions
Athlon Sports Fantasy Racing!
Enter the Athlon Sports Fantasy Racing game. Just head over to athlon.myfantasyracing.com and register for your chance to win a chance to watch a 2014 race from the grandstands. You'll also have a chance to win other amazing prizes such as an autographed Kyle Busch helmet.