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STRAIGHT, NO CHASER: WEEK 9'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. After your fantasy drafts, it's wise to build a preliminary list of free agents with 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.
- The Saints, Derek Carr, and Chris Olave Have A Reset
- C.J. Stroud Is Winning Where Franchise QBs Must
- Play of the Week
- For Real? Will Levis' Pro Followup
- Replacing Kirk Cousins: Too Bad Jarren Hall Got Hurt, but Josh Dobbs!
- All You Need to Know about Jordan Addison
- Jonnu Smith, Love the Player, Hate the Game
- Dolphins' Achane-Inspired Ground Game Laying Low?
- Don't Forget about Xavier Hutchinson
- Fresh Fish
1. The Saints, Derek Carr, and Chris Olave Have A Reset
A few weeks ago, Carr's dirty looks at Olave sparked speculation among the fantasy community that Olave's fantasy season would be a bust and not just a temporary disappointment. Currently WR19 in PPR formats through Week 9, Olave has been WR11 for the past 4 weeks.
The difference has been a resetting of Olave's role. From weeks 1-5, Olave averaged 12.7 yards per catch. Since then, Olave has been averaging 9.8 yards per reception.
The Saints realized after the first five weeks of the season that Olave's role was becoming predictable. Other than the occasional route run from the backfield, Olave spent most of his time working the intermediate, vertical, and deep ranges of the field (15-45 yards from the line of scrimmage).
Olave and Carr haven't always been in sync in these areas of the field and it was wise of the Saints to essentially reset the relationship. One way of doing so was implementing more shallow routes into the mix. This allows Carr and Olave to reestablish their relationship with reading defenses and lean on Olave's route-running prowess.
Like seeing the Saints using Chris Olave in the quick game and on shallow routes. pic.twitter.com/aP9xqcxf9X— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 6, 2023
It also helps Olave get into the flow of the game early. Although we're talking about professionals, it's human to lose focus when not involved in a team project at a level one expects.
Expect Olave and Carr to continue building this rapport and expand from the shallows to the deep as the back half of the season unfolds.
2. C.J. Stroud Is Winning Where Franchise QBs Must
I have a difficult time with the narrative that the Ohio State-UGA game was a seminal moment in the history of C.J. Stroud's evaluation process. According to purveyors of this story, the world witnessed in that game how Stroud would become a special quarterback who showed a lot more athletic ability under the hood than seen in the Big Ten.
I studied that game the same way I study every quarterback's game. Stroud performed well, but he didn't become Jalen Hurts against the Bulldogs. This pervasive narrative that Stroud demonstrated elite athletic ability that he's been holding back from using is an inaccurate take rooted in logo scouting.
There are two simple truths about Stroud:
- He has always primarily won from the pocket and with getting through progressions with efficient timing and accuracy.
- Proclamations that Stroud is special are premature.
Stroud can work outside the pocket. So could Drew Brees, but neither Brees nor Stroud have the athletic ability to prioritize their mobility as a primary means of attacking a defense. Stroud makes it a point to stay in the pocket when at all possible.
Good pocket work by CJ Stroud pic.twitter.com/135GBQM488— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 5, 2023
Stroud would rather stay in the pocket and make patient and timely reads of the field, going to his second and third options rather than using his legs.
Stroud is a timing passer, who — if you evaluated the player's skills and did not focus too much on the athletic resumes of his collegiate opponents — is at his best when he has the room to operate from a clean lane in the pocket.
Nothing is wrong with Stroud being a pocket passer. In fact, it's everything that's right about being a good prospect, whether or not that prospect has elite mobility.
You must win from the pocket to become a long-term elite NFL passer. The NFL media, former players, analysts, and fans celebrated Carson Wentz and Marcus Mariota early in their careers, especially for their mobility. However, neither player could win consistently from the pocket at the level necessary for a true franchise starter, and all that praise faded into distant memory.
The Georgia Game Narrative on Stroud is rooted, at least on a subconscious level, in the idea that Ohio State has a reputation for either/or prospects at the position: Either they're top athletes (Justin Fields, Cardale Jones, and Terrelle Pryor) with lapses with the conceptual aspects of quarterbacking or they're pocket passers lacking the athletic tools (Dwayne Haskins and Troy Smith) to excel in today's NFL.
The truth is that it hasn't been that simple to classify these prospects as I just did. Still, the Buckeyes quarterbacks have earned a label as system passers or top-end athletes with questionable skills as field generals. The fact that Joe Burrow had to transfer to become a viable NFL prospect, and ultimately a star, added additional fire to this faulty narrative that came about as an overreaction to the disappointing performances of Ohio State's recent passers.
Logo scouting is related closely to scouting the box score, all-star practices, and the NFL Combine. Scout the player, including his techniques at the position, and his demonstrated knowledge of football concepts (on the field, not the whiteboard) required of the position, and examine his traits. If you perform this analysis in a defined and detailed manner that reduces bias, you'll find that players like Stroud may not be hot picks for NFL fans, teams, and fantasy GMs (especially the billionaire variety who pose as NFL owners), but they are legitimate first-round prospects.
I know everyone wants to proclaim a rookie great before he has proven it on the field. Many are doing this with Stroud. Compared to other players I've scouted, I haven't seen enough from opposing defenses to characterize Stroud beyond anything other than a quality first-round prospect who is performing well against the schemes defenses have used against him.
I can't tell you Stroud will be an elite prospect. Many will. However, I can tell you "the many" were also making these proclamations about Wentz, Mariota, Baker Mayfield, and several other young quarterbacks that I was vocally against the grain. I often noted their flaws at the height of their buzz — flaws that weren't showing up frequently enough for the proclaimers to think anything other than folks like me were nitpicking.
They don't realize those flaws that show up early and infrequently grow in frequency as NFL teams begin forming revised game plans for these young talents.
While I can't tell you Stroud will be an elite prospect, I can tell you that Stroud's pocket management, leverage reads, timing, and placement are all better than the players I mentioned above who got off to equal-to-greater starts.
That may not seem big, but it is. It should be good enough. Even as a fantasy GM hoping to invest in Stroud, that should be good enough to take the chance and ride out a potential dip in performance that we're beginning to see (temporarily) from Brock Purdy.