We're four weeks in, and while injury troubles are beginning to attack fantasy rosters, we're also at a point where statistical tendencies are beginning to emerge. These tendencies provide at least some precursor of future performance, and certainly help owners make some waiver moves to deal with the aforementioned injuries. And we know you data-driven geeks give much more credibility to past performance than our "gut-feelings". When owners have some trends at their disposal there's a little less stress in deciding on a lineup, and you'll at least feel a little better about yourself when the inevitable unpredictable madness transpires on Saturday.
The movement into conference play also provides a little more predictability, and please note, I said a little more. While it's great to anticipate what your stud will do against an opponent that shows up primarily for a fat paycheck, it can also be nerve-wracking to imagine that same stud sitting out the second half of a 52-3 laugher. Conference play, for the most part, eliminates much of that blowout concern, but it also means that expecting Colt McCoy to continue his torrid touchdown pace against Big Twelve foes may be a bit much. So we trade explosiveness for a little more consistency.
A quick look at the numbers
There is no question that scoring is down in 2007. While Tim Tebow owners may suggest that he the sole reason for the dip, it is down across the board. Unless your still rolling with a Tulsa quarterback, you're probably feeling the pinch.
In 2007 the average game score was 55.7. So far through four weeks in 2008 it is down to 51.4. Keep in mind these numbers will likely tighten up (at least for the BCS teams) as we head into conference play.
We haven't seen any updated stats, but the early numbers suggested that the play clock rule changes have cut nine plays per game.
Carrying the load
Only 12 backs are averaging over 20 carries per game. At the end of the 2007 season there were 27 backs that averaged 20 or more carries per game. Unless your name is Javon Ringer or Donald Brown (how long will that last?), you're likely splitting carries at some level. It comes as no surprise that the guys that are averaging the most rushing attempts on the year also top the fantasy charts.
Now that we are heading into conference play look for guys like Charles Scott and Knowshon Moreno to see increased workloads. Until this week, there was not much reason to wear these guys out. Scott and Moreno took over their respective games this past weekend.
Name School Games Atts Yds Yds / Carry Yds / Game TD Att / Game
Javon Ringer Michigan State 4 143 699 4.9 174.8 11 35.8
Donald Brown Connecticut 4 113 716 6.3 179 10 28.3
Andre Anderson Tulane 3 84 271 3.2 90.3 3 28.0
P.J. Hill Wisconsin 3 70 379 5.4 126.3 4 23.3
Darius MarshallMarshall 4 92 417 4.5 104.3 4 23.0
Rodney Ferguson New Mexico 4 89 474 5.3 118.5 5 22.3
MiQuale LewisBall State 4 89 529 5.9 132.3 7 22.3
Frank Summers UNLV 4 86 386 4.5 96.5 3 21.5
Jacquizz Rodgers Oregon State 3 62 263 4.2 87.7 4 20.7
Kory Sheets Purdue 3 62 352 5.7 117.3 6 20.7
Ryan Mathews Fresno State 3 61 304 5 101.3 3 20.3
LeSean McCoy Pittsburgh 3 61 242 4 80.7 5 20.3
James Starks Buffalo 3 59 296 5 98.7 0 19.7
Damion Fletcher Southern Miss 4 78 420 5.4 105 3 19.5
Shonn Greene Iowa 4 78 506 6.5 126.5 4 19.5
Nic Grigsby Arizona 4 77 435 5.6 108.8 7 19.3
Harvey UngaBrigham Young 4 77 366 4.8 91.5 3 19.3
Devin Moore Wyoming 4 75 394 5.3 98.5 2 18.8
Kendall Hunter Oklahoma State 3 56 449 8 149.7 6 18.7
Da'Rel Scott Maryland 3 56 407 7.3 135.7 3 18.7
Thomas Merriweather Miami (OH) 4 74 260 3.5 65 3 18.5
Toby Gerhart Stanford 4 72 407 5.7 101.8 5 18.0
Knowshon Moreno Georgia 4 69 455 6.6 113.8 9 17.3
A look at the quarterbacks
2008 is shaping to have less 300 yard-per-game passers than 2007 as well. Last season there were 10 quarterbacks that averaged 300+ yards per game passing. So far in 2008 there are only seven. A difference of three may not seem like much. But that probably means there are three more teams in your league looking for quarterback help each week.
Name School Games Atts Comp Yds TD Yds / Game
David Johnson Tulsa 3 96 69 1219 15 406.3
Graham Harrell Texas Tech 4 186 120 1573 12 393.3
Case Keenum Houston 4 215 139 1521 16 380.3
Chase Daniel Missouri 4 133 101 1412 12 353
Todd Reesing Kansas 4 179 126 1397 11 349.3
Max Hall Brigham Young 4 144 107 1284 15 321
Lyle Moevao Oregon State 3 129 79 922 6 307.3
Rudy Carpenter Arizona State 4 123 85 1183 7 295.8
Sam Bradford Oklahoma 3 81 64 882 12 294
Nate Davis Ball State 4 113 82 1155 10 288.8
So the Wide Receivers Must be Down Too, Right?
There are actually eight more pass catchers that are averaging 100+ yards per game receiving than in 2007. Two of those are tight ends. I've run a number of plausible theories in my head on this one. In short we probably need to let this play out before we can make an accurate assessment.
Name School Games Rec Yds TDs Yds / Game
Darius Passmore Marshall 4 26 473 4 118.3
Dante Love Ball State 4 28 460 3 115
Michael Crabtree Texas Tech 4 29 457 6 114.3
Eric Decker Minnesota 4 32 454 4 113.5
Ryan Broyles Oklahoma 2 10 226 3 113
Brandon Banks Kansas State 3 16 336 5 112
Emmanuel Sanders Southern Methodist 4 30 446 4 111.5
Naaman Roosevelt Buffalo 4 27 438 3 109.5
Dez Bryant Oklahoma State 3 16 326 3 108.7
Dennis Pitta Brigham Young 4 29 432 3 108
James Casey Rice 4 37 427 1 106.8
Maurice Jones Memphis 3 16 317 3 105.7
Jarett Dillard Rice 4 31 418 6 104.5
Mike Thomas Arizona 4 30 417 3 104.3
Golden Tate Notre Dame 3 15 303 2 101
Mark Dell Michigan State 4 17 400 1 100
Dominick Goodman Cincinnati 3 22 298 3 99.3
Brandon Tate North Carolina 3 11 297 3 99
Jeremy Maclin Missouri 4 26 391 4 97.8
Kerry Meier Kansas 4 37 389 1 97.3
Austin Collie Brigham Young 4 30 386 5 96.5
Marshwan Gilyard Cincinnati 3 19 289 3 96.3
2008 is shaping up to be a different kind of year. Sitting back and riding your horses is always the best policy, there are just fewer horses to ride. Cagey owners look to the waiver wire and pick the right matchups in the tier two and three level players. Picking up a Brandon Banks type player and subbing him in for a more highly rated receiver in the preseason can yield big rewards. There is always a bit of luck associated with this, but I'm a firm believer that you make your own luck.
Waiver Wire Report (% availability in U-Sports leagues)
With four weeks of data to pull from, the week four waiver wire list is our longest yet. From here on out we'll likely start to shorten this list.
QB Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State (68% availability) - Pryor had a nice little debut as the Buckeyes' starter, throwing for four touchdowns on only 16 pass attempts. Pryor probably only has availability in non-keeper leagues.
QB Tim Hiller, Western Michigan (62% availability) - Hiller already has 15 touchdowns on the year (one rushing) and he is sure to add to that total with Temple up next.
QB Omar Clayton, UNLV (no data available) - Four more touchdowns this week for Omar. He looks like a good start the next two weeks versus Nevada and Colorado State. After that you have bye weeks, TCU and BYU to contend with.
RB MiQual Lewis, Ball State (57% availability - With Dante Love likely done for the season, will Ball State lean more on Lewis? Nate Davis is still going to be a focal point, but Lewis is providing the Cardinals with a legitimate threat on the ground. Lewis has 57 carries over 300 yards rushing and six touchdowns in the last two games.
RB Rodney Stewart, Colorado - Projecting Rodney Stewart's fantasy value is a bit of a daunting task. Those that saw him run last Thursday night against West Virginia, however, won't question his ability. The 2-star recruit out of Columbus, Ohio is clearly the best running back on the Buff's roster. At minimum, this is not good news for Darrell Scott owners.
RB Jared Hawkins, Vanderbilt (87% availability) - He's not going to blow you away with mega fantasy production, but a consitent running back is always a good thing when trying to plug holes. Hawkins has touchdowns in four straight games. As long as Jeff Jennings (shoulder) is out of the picture, Hawkins should continue to produce.
RB Graig Cooper, Miami(63% availability) - Cooper was one of our sleeper running backs week four and unlike fellow sleeper Davin Meggett, he did not disappoint. Cooper has some wheels and if the Miami offense can find its stride Cooper will be a force. With Jarravis James (ankle) out the next two weeks, Cooper should see most of the carries.
RB Ontario Sneed, Central Michigan (88% availability) - He's not seeing a heavy workload but he does have back-to-back two touchdown games. Sneed can get it done on the ground and through the air. Good filler running back that can get you some surprise production.
RB Greg Little, North Carolina (58% availability) - Not a huge day for Little, but I still believe the Tar Heels will start to feed their workhorse more and more as the season goes on.
RB Darren Evans, Virginia Tech (no data available) - Second straight week Evans has led the Hokies in carries and yardage. Still not ready to commit just yet, but clearly one to watch.
RB Darius Marshall, Marshall (79% availability) - 92 carries on the year is nice to see. Dates with West Virginia and Cincinnati.not so much. Still, he's one to keep an eye once Marshall gets back into conference play.
RB Jay Finley, Baylor (80% availability) - A watch lister last week and after two weeks of watching him bust long runs up the gut we are deeming him fantasy worthy as an RB3. With defenses concentrating on Griffin and bubble screens, Finley can get chunk yardage up the middle. He's not an every week starter, but if the matchup is right he could provide some backup relief.
RB DeLeon Eskridge, Minnesota (no data available) - We are still not sold on the Gophers' running backs as a whole, but there is no denying Eskridge's numbers. If you like him, grab him. We want to see what he can do against Big Ten defenses before we are sold. He's still worth a pickup before someone else does.
WR Brandon Banks, Kansas State (68% availability) - We can't ignore Banks any longer. He is currently out shining Deon Murphy. Look for both to see plenty of catches going forward as Kansas State has zero run game.
WR Brandon LaFell, LSU (47% availability) - Despite all of the reported quarterback problems, LaFell has three touchdowns on the year. A decent WR3 option.
WR Tyron Carrier, L.J Castile, Houston (50% availability) - After taking a week off from the scoring column, Carrier and Castile once again found the end zone. Houston is spreading the ball around pretty good so no one receiver is turning out to be the go to guy (except tight end/slot receiver Mark Hafner). With continued touchdown production, Carrier and Castile are at least serviceable.
WR Naamen Roosevelt, Buffalo (56% availability) -Week three looked to be a bit of a fluke after catching a long hail marry pass for a touchdown. Roosevelt added nine more catches last week and if running back James Starks is out again this week, the passing game will have to be on versus Central Michigan.
WR Damaris Johnson, Tulsa (no data available) - With all the wide receiving weapons at Tulsa, quarterback David Johnson honed in on the freshman Johnson for three scores. Now the question: is he a one week wonder or not?
WR Slick Shelley, Tulsa no data available) - Who's Slick Shelley? A Tulsa WR with a sweet name. Next week he'll look to build upon a 6-129-2 performance against Central Arkansas. Now the question: is he a one week wonder or not?
WR Jerrel Jernigan, Troy (no data available) - Eight catches and a score in each of the past two games. The most recent coming against Ohio State.I heard they used to be pretty good.
TE Ed Dickson, Oregon (77% availability) - With quarterback issues sure to linger all year for the Ducks, the big fella should get plenty of looks from his young quarterbacks.
Others to Watch
QB Hunter Cantwell, Louisville
QB Darron Thomas, Oregon
QB Kellen Moore, Boise State
QB Tom Brandstetter, Fresno State
QB Jamie Hampton, Troy
QB Corey Leonard, Arkansas State
QB Joe Webb, UAB
QB Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M
QB Jay Thomas II, UTEP
RB Eric Kettani, Navy
RB Vic Anderson, Louisville
RB Jourdan Brooks, Rutgers
RB Terrence Blevin, Eastern Michigan
RB Cody Johnson, Texas
RB Morgan Williams, Toledo
RB Terrence Blevins, Eastern Michigan
WR/RB Jock Sanders, West Virginia
WR Marcus Anderson, New Mexico State
WR Shane Morales, Oregon State
WR Brandon Robinson, Boston College
WR David Richmond, San Jose State
WR Slick Shelley, Tulsa
WR R.J. Sumrall, Iowa State
WR Dwayne Harris, ECU
WR Kendall Wright, Baylor
WR Jeffrey Fuller, Texas A&M
TE Justin Akers, Baylor
TE David Johnson, Arkansas St.
TE John Allen, Toledo
TE Jeffrey Anderson, UAB