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Preseason Intel: Stafford’s Delicious Schedule, Pats WRs, and Packers TEs Trending


Green Bay Tight Ends

The Colt Lyerla experiment appears to have ended with his recent knee injury. Then there was some enthusiasm for Richard Rodgers. Which I promptly tried to quash. Then we heard about Brandon Bostick. Now he’s injured, and we’re hearing about Jake Stoneburner. Next week maybe we’ll hear about Ryan Taylor.1

Much hullabaloo for little payoff, in my opinion. In addition to the reasons I outlined earlier, here are some more reasons to be tepid about whichever Green Bay TE becomes the starter. This graph comes from the Projection Machine, and shows the percentage of team pass targets devoted to Green Bay’s top TE.


The green bar represents the league median, while the red bars represent the 75th (upper line) and 25th (lower line) percentiles.

Except for 2011 and 2012, Green Bay has been below average for the entire century. The question you have to ask yourself2 is whether or not Green Bay is going to give Rodgers / Bostick / Stoneburner / Andrew Quarless a number of targets in keeping with their historical trend, or a number in line with the two best years of Jermichael Finley’s career. Part of Finley’s success in 2012 can maybe be attributed to the games that Jordy Nelson (four) and Greg Jennings (eight) missed. Then you could probably argue that Finley was, overall, a better TE prospect than any of the current Packers’ tight ends. And then Richard Rodgers is a rookie, which has its own set of issues, even if he eventually becomes a good player.

I used the Projection Machine to come up with some projections for the Packers’ TE position. The inputs I used were a little bit different than Shawn Siegele used in his projection series, but not by much.3 If we assume Green Bay’s TE gets a league average percent of team pass targets, here’s the projection.4

TE1 84.21 53.89 619.75 11.5 4.63 28 13 143.65

But if we keep everything else the same and assume Green Bay’s top TE gets just 10 percent of the team targets, watch what happens.

TE1 56.14 35.93 413.17 11.5 3.09 28 26 95.77

Green Bay’s TE goes from being a fringe TE1 to essentially irrelevant. I think 10 percent of targets is a generous assumption. It’s in line with Green Bay’s history, and it’s also in line with the target percentages for recent first round TE picks. So for third-round pick Rodgers, for example, to get to that threshold would be a big deal. Whoever the Packers’ TE is, I’ll be staying away.

Vance McDonald, San Francisco

McDonald showed up in April as one of Shawn Siegele’s 20 deep sleepers. He also boasts an above-average Phenom score. He probably doesn’t have much 2014 value, but is someone to monitor in dynasty leagues.

Torrey Smith, Baltimore

Don’t Stop Believin!’ This could be the year Smith becomes a fantasy WR1. For what it’s worth, Baltimore is -2.5 against Cincinnati in Week 1. Here’s how Smith has performed in career games where his team has been similarly favored.


I wouldn’t treat that as a projection for this game, but just something to take note of. Smith does tend to play well in these situations. If you haven’t drafted yet, you may want to consider taking Smith as an arbitrage play on Victor Cruz, whose Giants’ team looks out of sorts.

SPARQ Rating

Just a shout out to metrics-based scouting. SPARQ is essentially a score derived from combine-related tests of athletic performance. A Google search will yield a plethora of results. It’s interesting to see, at least in the short term, a correlation with on-field results. Here at RotoViz, we’ve touched on SPARQ as it relates indirectly to Russell Wilson, two different Browns’ sleepers, and the Cameronian Luke Willson. It’s even sparked its own thread on the message boards.

Kenbrell Thompkins, New England

Never hurts to get an endorsement from Tom Brady. It also wouldn’t hurt to keep the door open on Kenbrell Thompkins. Our own orthopedic surgeon suggests dropping Aaron Dobson in your rankings, in light of his slow recovery from foot surgery. To be sure, if both Dobson and Thompkins are healthy, Dobson is the more glorious player to own. In the meantime, Thompkins’ is probably readily available in most leagues, and is worth a stash on a deep bench.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit

Playing without Calvin Johnson,5 Stafford has looked good so far in the preseason. Here’s another interesting but maybe meaningless factoid.

Consider that Stafford went a full two weeks of training camp without throwing an interception in practice. And he’s now gone four series spanning two preseason games without throwing one either.

I’m on a roll. Here’s one more.

Those tidbits may not add up to much. But the offseason news around Stafford has been overwhelmingly positive. Usually, where there’s smoke, there’s Josh Gordon fire, so taken in aggregate, I’m thinking Stafford is headed for a big year. Stafford is a point spread bully, and so far Vegas has the Lions favored in 106 games this season. Detroit opens the season as four point favorites against the Giants. Here’s how Stafford has performed when similarly favored in the past.


Although the lines will likely change by then, the Lions are also favored in Weeks 13, 14, and 15, which is prime fantasy playoff time7 which might make Stafford a boon to your championship run. Recently, both Shawn Siegele (345 fantasy points) and I (347 fantasy points) projected Stafford to post top-end point totals this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if Stafford finishes as the top fantasy passer this season.

  1. Yes, he’s a real Packers’ TE.  (back)
  2. Punk.  (back)
  3. I credited GB with a +2.9 margin/play, +0.03 pass tendency, and neutral pace, in line with recent trends. Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin, and Eddie Lacy all got valued at the average of their past two-to-three seasons.  (back)
  4. Assuming league-average catch rate, yards/target, and touchdown rate.  (back)
  5. Granted, it was against Oakland.  (back)
  6. TEN!  (back)
  7. They’re a four-point dog to Chicago in Week 16.  (back)

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