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"FBG is the best fantasy football advisory service anywhere."
Nigel Eccles, Co-Founder, FanDuel
The mission of this column—and a lot of my work—is to bridge the gap between the fantasy and reality of football analysis. Football analysis—fantasy and reality—is often dramatized because there's a core belief that it's more important to entertain than to educate.
Why not both?
Whoever said it's better to be lucky than good did not understand the value of the process. Being good generates luck.
The goal of this feature is to give you actionable recommendations that will help you get results, but the fundamental mission is to get the process right. It's a rush to see the box score or highlights and claim you made the right calls. Without a sustainable process, success is ephemeral.
The Top 10 will cover topics that attempt to get the process right (reality) while understanding that fantasy owners may not have time to wait for the necessary data to determine the best course of action (fantasy).
My specialty is film analysis. I've been scouting the techniques, concepts, and physical skills of offensive skill talent as my business for nearly 20 years.
The Top 10 will give you fantasy-oriented insights rooted in football analysis that have made the Rookie Scouting Portfolio one of the two most purchased independent draft guides among NFL scouts. This is what SMU's Director of Recruiting Alex Brown has told me based on his weekly visits with scouts during his tenure in Dallas as well as his stints at Rice and Houston.
Sigmund Bloom's Waiver Wire piece, which is available Monday nights during the season, is also a good source of information to begin your week as a fantasy GM. Bloom and I are not always going to agree on players—he errs more often toward players who flash elite athletic ability, and I err more toward players who are more technically skilled and assignment-sound.
STRAIGHT, NO CHASER: WEEK 1'S CLIFF'S NOTES
This week, I'll be examining a lot of players who should be on your Waiver Wire Rolodex. Are you young enough to wonder what a Rolodex is? It's the precursor to your smartphone's contact list, and after your fantasy drafts, it's wise to build a preliminary list of free agents who have the talent, depth chart spot, and/or offensive scheme to deliver fantasy value for your rosters if and when an opportunity arises.
The article below will provide expanded thoughts and supporting visuals for the following points. I always provide bullet points for those lacking the time to see the tape examples and expanded commentary.
- Puka Nacua's Epic Start
- CeeDee Lamb: The photo you'll find next to "Primary WR"
- Jordan Love Has A Real Shot to be Legit
- The Eagles' Personnel Dresses Up DAndre Swift's Game
- Kyren Williams (and Cam Akers):
- Copycat Corner: Miami's Slant-Wheel-Flat Concepts
- Why You Don't Drop QBs Like Geno Smith after Week 1
- Why You Don't Write off the Ttians Offense after Week 1
- Sam LaPorta Is a Legit Fantasy TE1
- Fresh Fish
1. Puka Nacua's Epic Start
Puka Nacua broke the NFL's two-game reception record for rookies this weekend, topping Earl Cooper, Anquan Boldin, and Keke Coutee. It's an epic start to a professional career, and from what I've seen on film, Nacua won't fade into oblivion like a certain (former) Steelers' receiver who had a hot start in 2020.
At the same time, Nacua won't sustain this elite level of production when Cooper Kupp returns. Nacua as a fantasy WR3 hoping to develop into a solid WR2 working more often on the perimeter is the answer to your likely question. Let's take a look at the reasons behind it.
What makes Nacua's start impressive isn't the volume and production. That's a natural result of Kupp's absence to a corps that lacks a stable group of veteran talents. It's Nacua keeping mistakes to a minimum at a position in a primary role.
Wide receiver is one of the more difficult positions for a rookie to perform as a rookie — not so much physically as it is keeping up with the route adjustments predicated on reading coverage pre-snap and post-snap. There are a lot of details with route running, body positioning to the target, and attacking the target. When there's one variable that can change in the middle of the process, it can throw young receivers off.
Some minor details with route breaks aside, Nacua has shown thus far that he's making strong reads of coverage and staying on the same page with Matt Stafford.
A lot of Nacua's volume has come from Kupp's absence, especially when you see the number of targets against zone coverage in the middle of the field. These may look like easy targets, but if you look at the complexities of timing, route depth, and location that hurt Kansas City's passing game in Week 1, you'll see it's not.
It's also impressive that Nacua is delivering in all phases of the game while playing with bruised ribs.
Puka Nacua sealing the edge defender. #RamsHouse— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) September 18, 2023
Cam Akers according to Sean McVay didn’t do what was expected of him and wasn’t accountable and with their young culture, the Rams couldn’t let that slide… pic.twitter.com/a57b33pOAC
More on the Akers saga later, but the note about the young culture in L.A. includes a player Nacua. A common career trajectory that I hear about from scouts is the tale of the young talent who begins his career with a hot start, thinks he has made it, and doesn't continue working to develop a well-rounded game. What looks like the beginning of a Pro Bowl career winds up being an all-too-early peak with a precipitous slide into mediocrity, at best, and, at worst, a series of training camps with different teams competing on the roster bubble.
I'm not predicting this for Nacua. However, we haven't evidence that he has a complete game as a perimeter player just yet.
I had Nacua graded in the Rookie Scouting Portfolio as a contributor who could start immediately in a role suited to his strengths. His aspirational comparison was Golden Tate — a slot receiver with the potential to do quality work on the outside as an intermediate and vertical threat with skills after the catch.
Ride the target volume for as long as you can while Kupp is out. Once it's time for Nacua to earn more perimeter routes, drop expectations 1-2 fantasy tiers.
2. CeeDee Lamb: The Photo You'll Find Next to "Primary WR"
Speaking of a wide receiver with a complete game, look no further than Lamb, who can play in the slot and outside as a flanker or split end. He can win deep against man-to-man coverage, he can turn a shallow route into a breakaway play, and he can make the tough grabs over the middle, whether it's a contested play in a tight zone window or being on the same page as his quarterback with solving coverages.
Lamb's performance against a tough New York Jets defense is a great illustration of a primary receiver at work.
When you compare Lamb's game to Nacua's, it becomes abundantly clear that Nacua's performance is predicated on scheme and role. It may not always be that way, but if Tate is Nacua's aspirational player, Lamb represents Tate's unobtained upside.
3. Jordan Love Has A Real Shot to be Legit
After watching Love's first two weeks as the Packers' franchise starter, I'm impressed with two things.
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