Unlock More Content Like This With a Footballguys Premium Subscription
"FBG is the best fantasy football advisory service anywhere."
Nigel Eccles, Co-Founder, FanDuel
You know the mission. If you don't, read it here (and thanks for checking this out for the first time)
STRAIGHT, NO CHASER: WEEK 10'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 Lions' Swagger Begins with Its Ground Game
- Is Bryce Young a Bust?
- Explaining Noah Brown's Fantasy Value
- Keaton Mitchell: The AFC North's Devon Achane?
- Get Rico Dowdle (Yesterday)
- Keep Tabs on Cedric Tillman
- Jamies Winston: The QB Corner Store
- Rhamondre Stevenson: Why He's Good
- Plays from Around the League
- Fresh Fish
1. The Lions' Swagger Begins with its Ground GAme
Don't look now, but the Detroit Lions are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Despite the narrative that Jared Goff can't win on the road, the Lions may be the NFL team built best for outdoor games in January and February when weather can be a factor, all quarterbacks have tired arms, and many teams are playing hurt.
Detroit's offensive line has been a run-game mauler for a few years. It has now become an adept unit with pass protection. Although Goff anticipating this corner blitz and finding Amon-Ra St. Brown for the touchdown is one of several instances of Goff dispelling the narrative that he can't handle the blitz, what's also notable is how well the Lions slide to its left to pick up the pressure.
That said, this is about the ground game, and one of the most obvious displays of swagger on Sunday was the Lions running the ball on third and fourth down in situations where most offenses would throw — even with the Chargers daring them to run. Even when the Lions failed inside the five and turned the ball over on downs, they were not deterred when the Chargers dared them later in the game.
Dan Campbell/Ben Johnson:ðŸ–•Chargers pic.twitter.com/rnzBkP9517— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 13, 2023
Ben Johnson gets credit for this offensive scheme, but Dan Campbell told the media on Day 1 of his tenure — and the media derided him for it — that he would build a physical, bold, and resilient team. These plays above are just another handful in a series of examples that illustrate who the Lions have become over the past three years.
And when you build a team inside-out with excellent trench play, you can win with a downhill ground game, play-action, and the screen game. This is the foundation of Johnson's offense.
Throwback screen to Jahmyr Gibbs pic.twitter.com/GRMN2oazPX— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 13, 2023
Fantasy football analysts and GMs think about Gibbs and Montgomery when any reference is made to the Lions' ground game, but it is the line that Johnson and Campbell are showcasing on these plays.
When Gibbs can earn the volume increases he has in recent weeks with Montgomery out, and then Montgomery can return to the lineup and deliver a 75-yard work of breakaway art, this kind of role reversal is only possible with an elite offensive line.
There's little doubt that Gibbs is an excellent young back, and the calls for him to earn more touches are understandable. However, when current and former running backs sing the praises of Montgomery, we should pay more attention to them than Tony Romo, who, as good as he is at analyzing quarterbacking, his explanation of Montgomery's stick to fake out the safety on his breakaway score was a Three Stooges-like sound effect.
Gibbs is earning more touches, and deservedly so, but he won't be erasing Montgomery from weekly fantasy relevance. Bet on either back, or both, if you have them or can get them.
2. Is Bryce Young A Bust?
Not yet. Just as it's too soon — much to the consternation of analysts and fans — to anoint C.J. Stroud as an elite quarterback, it's too soon to proclaim Young a bust despite the initial numbers painting a bleak picture.
In my measured opinion, when a QB plays terribly to start his career, this is Not Good(tm).— Adam Harstad (@AdamHarstad) November 6, 2023
But it's worth noting that of the QBs who started as poorly as Bryce Young and then turned it around, they were all very high picks (four went #1, one #2, and one #7). pic.twitter.com/guSwSTu7G1
As my esteemed colleague Adam has noted, the development process and the stories behind the names are a black box to him, so let's briefly discuss these options:
- Ryan Leaf: Immature and nowhere ready to assume the responsibility of offensive leadership. He's told us as much.
- Josh Rosen: Was about to get a scholarship at Stanford and turned the team off so much in the final meeting he wound up at UCLA, and his own staff didn't like working with him.
- DeShone Kizer: Likely over-drafted, but he had an awful staff in Cleveland and no veteran QB in the room. A travesty on Zach Wilson-proportions.
- Blake Bortles: Athletic but couldn't read Cover 2 well, and his one great year was the only year he actually worked rather than partied during the offseason.
- David Carr: The lack of an offensive line killed his career. This could be the one player so far with potentially something in common with Young.
- Jimmy Clausen: Another overrated Notre Dame quarterback.
- Zach Wilson: Overrated and lacking the accuracy, pocket presence, and processing speed of a first-round option.
- Blaine Gabbert: Overrated and lacking pocket presence.
- Dwayne Haskins: Lacking maturity early in his career, and that was changing just prior to his untimely demise.
- Josh Freeman: Lacking maturity early in his career.
- Geno Smith: Lacking maturity early in his career to do the work. See Leaf, Haskins, Freeman, Smith, Drew Lock, and Paxton Lynch (although the last two are not on this list).
Young is mature, a hard worker, and displayed patience, pocket presence, placement, and decision-making savvy that these options often lacked. The names that succeeded all have elite arms with the exception of Goff, who is just a tier below in arm strength.
However, they still have a lot in common with Young. Goff, Bradshaw, Aikman, Stafford, and McNabb lacked pass protection. The poor offensive line play led to survival habits that can also temporarily, if not permanently, sidetrack a quarterback's processing of the field.
Aikman, Stafford, and McNabb were all with new coaches installing new systems with young skill players, which Young is also a part of in Carolina. When this happens, the young quarterbacks aren't the only ones making mistakes.
Goff began his career in a West Coast Offense that Todd Gurley described as a high school offense late in the year, just before Jeff Fisher got fired.
The thing that sets Young apart from all poor rookie performers who succeeded is that he's short, light, and, with the exception of Goff, has a good but not great arm. This is what's scaring many.
When watching Young, it's clear that his progress is tied directly to his offensive line. Right now, that's a bad thing. If it doesn't improve next year, Young could get benched, labeled a bust, or shipped off elsewhere as a journeyman hoping for a second chance.
There are more than a few plays where the offensive line doesn't do Young any favors.
Would like to see the TE give Bryce Young more time or offense design these plays so TE isn't on a front side DE pic.twitter.com/o9PLi4Gdh7— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 12, 2023
Bryce Young comes off the curl early and checks down. OL Protection and QB patience go hand-in-hand. pic.twitter.com/EvTKWmYpaC— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 12, 2023
Because the line play has been shaky, the Panthers often send fewer receivers into patterns and this leads to covered receivers that force Young to create off-script.
Bryce Young with the wise throwaway. pic.twitter.com/1VwbUFIrAA— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 12, 2023
Bears get 6-on-4 in coverage. Bryce Young throws it away, pic.twitter.com/n61YRwQ49M— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 12, 2023
Pass protection lapses and the team's attempt to account for them can lead to a quarterback whose timing is off when it comes to how long to stay in the pocket, how long to stick with one read and move to the next, and how much time he has to consider a longer-developing route.
You want Bryce Young to be looking a level deeper than he is in this play. pic.twitter.com/6qfhn8jdSx— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 12, 2023
Bryce Young doesn't recognize the safety rotation and stays on front side when he had a chance to climb-pivot-throw to 1 of 2 in-breaking routes backside under the deep safety. pic.twitter.com/Q4rcnjoCFL— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 12, 2023
At the same time, Young has shown some good things on film. Here's a nice example of him maneuvering the pocket on fourth down and finding his third read.
Bryce Young climbs. flushes, and finds third read on fourth down. pic.twitter.com/qByTgNKeP7— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 12, 2023
When he identifies the open man, his throws have confident timing and placement.
Nice layered throw accounting for the LB in the flat by Bryce Young. pic.twitter.com/fE2qQzWIL6— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 12, 2023
Bryce Young reads the leverage of the DB on Strachan at the top of his drop and immediately let's it rip. pic.twitter.com/4iNFbcfNU3— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 12, 2023
While it will be wise for dynasty GMs to hedge their bets on Young and draft another early-round rookie quarterback in 2024, I'm not seeing anything as troubling with Young's rookie performances as I did with Wilson, Carson Wentz, Lynch, Lock, or some of the other first-round players I thought needed more work than characterized.
The way I see Young is similar to how I saw Jared Goff's rookie season — he's making mistakes, but they are correctable with experience, continued effort, and better support that will come in the offseason.
Unless Young displays greater immaturity behind the scenes and on the field than he has shown to this point, I'd bet on him being part of the successful quarterbacks on Harstad's chart. It's just going to take more time than those reacting to C.J. Stroud's early success want to deal with.