KC Joyner just passed along a copy of "The Football Scientist Fantasy Football Draft Guide" for 2011. You can order the book here, but let’s give you a few highlights from around the NFC South.
On Atlanta, Joyner wrote: “To get an idea of just how much the Falcons leaned on Roddy White last year, consider this: his 104 short pass targets (defined as passes thrown 10 yards or less downfield) led the league and his 69 vertical pass targets (aerials thrown 11 or more yards downfield) ranked 7th highest. That kind of workload would wear down any wideout and meant Atlanta had to do something to lessen the target volume White would see in 2011 and beyond.’’
In other words, that’s why they went out and drafted Julio Jones.
On Carolina, Joyner wrote: “The Panthers had something of an odd mixture of run blocking statistics. Their running backs fared quite well in the good blocking yards per attempt (GBYPA) category. This metric gauges how productive a running back is when he is given a good blocking situation (loosely defined as when the blockers do not allow the defense to do anything to disrupt a running play). Carolina’s ball carriers had this type of situation on 176 rushing attempts last year and gained 1,410 yards on those plays for a GBYPA of 8.0 (2nd best in the league).
“Now look at the flip side. The Panthers had a poor blocking situation (loosely defined as when the blockers allow the defense to do something to disrupt the play) on 222 of their rushing attempts. That means they posted a win block situation on only 40.8 percent of their rushing attempts, a total that was the 3rd lowest in that category. What this means is that for all of the talk about what Cam Newton will bring to this offense, if the Panthers can find a way to improve their run blocking, it might do as much as help turn things around as anything else they do on offense.’’
Agreed, but I also think the threat of Newton as a passer and a runner is going to make life easier for the running backs.
On New Orleans, Joyner wrote: “Drew Brees had something of an off year in 2010 because of a variety of factors. This year could see a turnaround from a health perspective but he could still have an off-year due to the brutal schedule.
“The guide quantifies items of this nature through a matchup strength number. The matchup strength takes a look at a variety of defensive metrics (both for individual players and for the team as a whole) and assigns points based on where they rank leaguewide. The more favorable matchups are given higher point totals, so the more matchup points someone has, the better.
“Brees has 64 matchup points, a total that ranks tied for dead last among quarterbacks. Since the Saints are on the opposite side of that ledger in the running game (their 36 matchup strength points in that category rank tied for 3rd), it could very well be that this is a season where they lean on the ground attack more than usual.’’
I’m not as into metrics as Joyner, but you don’t have to be to assume the Saints might run a little more. They traded back into the first round to get running back Mark Ingram and there’s little doubt they’re going to use him.
On Tampa Bay, Joyner says: “The biggest potential turnaround story for any positional unit in the division would have to the Buccaneers offensive line. Tampa’s run blockers posted a good blocking situation on only 33.6 percent of the time, a total that was by far the worst in the NFL. If (new offensive line coach) Pat Morris can even just get the Bucs up to a solid level (say 43-45 percent) in this area, it would go a long ways towards taking this offense to the next plateau.’’
LeGarrette Blount ran for 1,000 yards on just over 200 carries. Imagine what he can do with 300 carries and good blocking?