Foolish Thoughts: Are you ready for some football?

The final weekend of the preseason might be the worst week as an NFL fan. Starters play only a few minutes while coaches get a look at the rest of the depth chart to make final cuts, and we all know that in just one more week the games will actually mean something. While the Labor Day weekend appeased us with some college football action, real NFL football is now just days away.

Hopefully, you had a good draft without falling victim to many common mistakes. It won’t be long before we see all those third-year wide receivers breaking out and all those high-workload running backs breaking down, or will they?

Big News This Week

In a surprise move, the Detroit Lions declared Matthew Stafford their starter against New Orleans. I expected Stafford to get the call eventually this year, but Daunte Culpepper had outplayed him in camp and in the preseason until his foot injury — oh, the dangers of carpet. Culpepper was expected to at least start the year under center before handing it off to Stafford.

With the golden boy taking the heat right away, don’t expect a Matt Ryan rookie season out of Stafford. He’s a young rookie, and there will be plenty of hard times this season to go along with all the good ones. He actually takes a bit away from Calvin Johnson in my mind since he’s likely to turnover the ball as many times as he gets it down the field.

Tampa Bay also shocked us this weekend. Not by firing their offensive coordinator — there are plenty of people doing that — but by naming Cadillac Williams, the man with the bionic knees, as their starter. Williams will still be splitting time with Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham in some kind of sinful 2-2-1 RBBC combo, but on any given Sunday, he’ll get the first crack at the defense and the first chance to shine. That’s worth something.

Now that you’ve drafted

With your team assembled, this week’s a great time to take care of a few housekeeping issues. Have you checked out how well your backup quarterback fits your starter’s bye week? Have you looked at how your team stacks up for the fantasy playoffs?

These things are good to keep in mind heading into the season. Knowing you have a bad matchup in the playoffs will allow you to start shopping a player in the middle of the season and unload him for something of equal or greater value that can get you to the championship.

I am not too afraid of Green Bay’s tough road in the fantasy playoffs, but Washington looks more and more like a team to get rid of quickly this year.

Shots in the Dark

With the excitement of the preseason, bold statements come out of the woodwork. Unless you’re just looking at the facts and only the facts, you’re probably expecting one of the following predictions to come true. How good do you feel about it now that we enter into the first week of games that matter?

Well, we’ve read all about that. Now, we get to see what comes true. Look out for our starter recommendations and the rest of your weekly prep this week as we begin fantasy football season with a bang.

And so begins our fantasy football addiction…

[You can check in with Norm’s latest struggles with fantasy addiction over at Global Sports Fraternity.]

The Third-Year Breakout Wide Receiver Theory and Why It’s Coincidence

I don’t put much faith in the third-year breakout theory for wide receivers. It’s no perfect science but merely a common coincidence.

A wide receiver’s breakout year has more to do with when the receiver becomes comfortable in the offense than when they hit year 3 of their career.

Receivers–unless they fall into a good situation–usually don’t start their first year in the league. Some like Steve Smith (New York Giants) and Craig Davis (San Diego Chargers) may earn a role as a third receiver off and on throughout their rookie season, but overlooking exceptions like Marques Colston and Ted Ginn Jr. who start right away out of talent or necessity, a receiver’s second year is the first time most of them are hitting the field game after game.

By the third year, receivers actually feel comfortable in the NFL and should start to show their true talent. They get more playing time and, with fresh legs and some kind of NFL-worthy moves, they can shake cornerbacks better than the weak receiver or aging veteran they are replacing.

So there’s the average path of your third year “breakout.” The third year is simply when they see the field the most, know the plays and get a relationship with the quarterback.

If you look at a receiver that starts right away–Calvin Johnson, Dwayne Bowe or Marques Colston–they might see their breakout year in the first or second year of their career.

Marques Colston had a huge rookie campaign and came up big again this year even with the Saint’s slow start. He can hardly be considered a breakout following traditional third-year rules. Greg Jennings, in just his second year, posted numbers any fantasy team manager would like. Calvin Johnson performed early on but didn’t finish well, but he might still be on target for a nice 2008 though with a new offensive coordinator.

You just can’t say that the third year for these already starting receivers will be any different or more “breakout” than this season.

While you should watch which young receivers are becoming comfortable in the offense they are running, I would never take a chance on someone expecting the third year to be a breakout season. At the same time, I would never overlook a younger second-year receiver because they haven’t reached that coveted third year mark.

That’s my take. Watch their comfort level and relationship with the quarterback.

Smitty at Fantasy Football Xtreme put together an analysis of the third-year receivers from 2007 and list of breakouts for 2008. As the stats show, only 2 out of 9 receivers in their third year really showed breakout stats this year–Braylon Edwards and Roddy White. D.J. Hackett probably would have been up there if he hadn’t been plagued by injury, but for the most part, the third year receivers of 2007 were only worthy of subbing when they had great match ups.

The top 5 breakouts for 2008 look very solid. I wouldn’t even call them breakouts for 2008 since they already showed both talent and stats in 2007–and for some, 2006.

Smitty’s 2008 Third-Year Breakout WRs

  1. Marques Colston (NO)
  2. Santonio Holmes (PIT)
  3. Greg Jennings (GB)
  4. Brandon Marshall (DEN)
  5. Lance Moore (NO)
  6. Ben Obomanu (SEA)
  7. Jeff Webb (KC)
  8. Sinorice Moss (NYG)
  9. Jason Avant (PHI)
  10. Demetrius Williams (BAL)
  11. Derek Hagan (MIA)
  12. Maurice Stovall (TB)
  13. Brad Smith (NYJ)
  14. Chad Jackson (NE)
  15. Travis Wilson (CLE)
  16. Bennie Brazell (CIN)

The rest of the list is a bit sketchy. If you put a lot of stock in the third-year theory then you might consider going after them late in the draft or putting them on your watch list for 2008 for a snag on the waiver wire.