Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How Good Will Sidney Rice and the Vikes Offense Be?

It’s getting to be fantasy football time, and as it happens I’m in two leagues for reasonable amounts of money where keepers are used. One league is an auction where it costs dollars to keep players. The other is a snake draft where you lose the pick where the player was taken, and if the player was undrafted you lose your pick in the last round.

It so happens that I have DeSean Jackson in the 7th and Sidney Rice in the 16th in that league. And in trying to figure out who I want to keep, the question is coming up, how good can Rice be this year? Last year he had a terrific season. In standard point scoring (6/TD, 1/10 yds), he was the 14th highest scoring receiver with 1,200 yards and 6 TDs through six games. It was his third season, he’s primed to break out as an elite fantasy (and NFL) player, right?

I think the answer to this doesn’t lie in how good he is, but how good Brett Favre can and will be again this year. And there-in lies the problem. Last year, one of the major reasons Rice had such a terrific season is because Favre had his best season in years. It’s arguable he had his best season ever, though I do think ’95 was better.

How much better was it? Last season, Favre was:
363/531, 68.4%, 4,202 yds, 33 TD (6.2%) and 7 INT (1.3%) with 7.9 YPA

Over the past ten years prior to last season, his average numbers were:
340/552, 61.6%, 3,832 yds, 25 TD (4.5%) and 19 INT (3.5%) with 6.9 YPA

And if you take his best numbers from any of those ten seasons, his numbers are:
66.5%, 4,155 yds, 32 TD (6.8%) and 15 INT (2.8%) with 7.8 YPA
That’s a combo of his best from ’07 and ’03.

Now, while the Vikes offense is likely to be very good again next year – assuming Favre can continue to play at a high level – any smart betting man has to assume there’s going to be a regression here. Last year’s numbers weren’t simply better than what Favre’s typically done the last few years…they were significantly better. It’s almost impossible to imagine him repeating those numbers. This, especially in light of both the fact that he’ll be 41 and that the Saints gave somewhat of a blueprint of how to pound him off his game.

As such, we also need to expect Rice to take a step back. At some point I may look at what happens to an emerging receiver and what his numbers look like when his QB has a terrific season, and then regresses to the mean the following season. But it simply makes sense that if Favre pulls back, so will Rice.

To improve upon his numbers, Rice will not only have to contend with a QB likely to perform below what Favre did last season, he’ll also be competing with the fact that there is one other young up-and-coming player and two established veterans around him that are likely to take opportunities. Percy Harvin played exceptionally well as a rookie and should be more prominent in the passing game his second season. And Schiancoe – while maybe not likely to improve upon his 11 TDs – is going to perform, while Berrian and his $40something million contract is going to get his fair share of balls thrown his way as well.

I expect the Vikings offense to play well again this year. However, I don’t buy the people saying Rice will improve. I think it’s far more likely he’ll regress. His only real shot in my opinion is to improve his TD numbers. And that could happen…move three of Schiancoe’s TDs to Rice and it’ll make up for 100 – 200 in lost yardage. But if Favre looks much more human with say 4,000 yards, 27 TDs and 14 INTs (still well above his average from the last ten years), plus Harvin improves and plays a more prominent role, I think Rice will have significant difficulty even just matching last year’s performance.

As for my FFL where I need to choose between Rice and DeSean? I moved Rice to a guy who let me trade my first pick in the 4th and last pick in the 5th for his first pick in the 3rd and last pick in the 4th. Makes the decision very easy for me, and I’ll let someone else worry about wondering why Rice isn’t scoring at the top of the league every week this season.


  1. One of those things were Rice is likely to improve *as a player* (better route-running, more strength etc: the advantages of growth & experience); and yet not match his statistical output from last year, because of how the rest of the team does.

    Football is complicated.

  2. Agree in general. FWIW, I meant Rice won't get better statistically, which after re-reading my post I realize wasn't articulated as well as I'd have liked.

    On a somewhat separate topic, Ross Tucker writes a great piece on how terrible an example Favre sets and how little of a leader he really is:

  3. Eh. Favre is not exactly the first vet to skip two-a-days, when he doesn't have a signed contract. (See Suggs, Terrell for a recent example.) Let's not talk like he's Jeff George or something.

  4. I don't think many if any players have skipped two-a-days simply cause they didn't feel like taking them, though. Vast majority of guys that miss time in camp are doing so due to contract disputes...Favre just doesn't feel like showing up.

    It's not just that though. Look how he treated Rodgers in GB. The guy was taken to be his eventual replacement and for someone for Favre to groom, and Favre basically refused to have anything to do with him. Then he waffled on whether he was going to retire or not after his final season in GB. Then, after he retired and the Pack moved on, he threw a hissy-fit when the Pack didn't just welcome him back with open arms.


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