NFL Off The Radar 2014 – Week 5

We take a look at three ‘off the radar’ players who could make a difference in their week 5 match ups.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″]Theo Riddick – Running Back – Detroit Lions[/feature_headline]

Detroit Lions @ Buffalo Bills – Sunday 18:00

You may remember Theo Riddick from his explosive performance for Notre Dame against Navy in the Aviva in 2012 when he put up 107 yards and two touchdowns. Well he may get an opportunity to shine this weekend when the Detroit Lions visit Buffalo on Sunday. The Lions have Joique Bell questionable with a concussion and Montel Owens was put on injured reserve due to a hamstring injury, leaving only Reggie Bush as their fully healthy back. While Riddick is dealing with a hamstring injury he picked up last week against the Jets, he expects to be able to go on Sunday and he may not get a better opportunity to get some significant carries. Riddick had only nine carries in 2013 averaging only 2.8 yards per carry but grabbed a touchdown in week 16 against the Giants, already this year he has had six carries for 3.7 yards per carry. While Riddick isn’t the fastest or the biggest, he’s a powerful runner with great hands and should slot straight into the role Bell has played for the Lions.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″]Ka’Deem Carey – Running Back – Chicago Bears[/feature_headline]

Chicago Bears @ Carolina Panthers – Sunday 18:00 – Sky Sports 2

Coming into week four Ka’Deem Carey had two carries in the NFL, one was for four yards against Buffalo and the other was for no gain against the Jets. In week four Carey burst on to the scene in Chicago with 14 carries for 72 yards. Carey managed 5.1 yards per carry against a soft Green Bay run defense but Matt Forte only managed 0.2 yards per carry better. Carey was selected in the fourth round of the 2014 draft out of Arizona where he had 716 carries for 4,070 yards and 46 touchdowns in his three years. He also has good hands (476 yards and two touchdowns on 77 receptions) and is great in pass protection. Carey is a physical and powerful back, coming in at 5’9″ and 207 lb, he can barrel through defenders but also has quick feet, good vision, and just enough speed to make him dangerous in the open field. Carey will be an effective backup to Forte and the Bears hope he can be their primary back in a few years.

[blockquote cite=”Arizona running backs coach Calvin Magee” type=”center”]First of all, he runs with a passion. He runs hungry. He runs like he’s angry. He don’t like being tackled. He’s a studier of the game. He understands angles, and he uses that. His preparation is just top notch.[/blockquote]

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″]Davante Adams – Wide Receiver – Green Bay Packers[/feature_headline]

Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers – Friday 01:25 – Sky Sports 2

Davante Adams should have had his first NFL touchdown last week against Chicago but it was called back due to a holding call but he shouldn’t have to wait long with the high octane, pass happy Packers offense. Adams came into the season as the WR4 for the Packers but it already looks like he’s overtaken Jarrett Boykin in the depth chart. The 6’01”, 215 lb wide receiver was taken in the second round at the 53rd overall in the 2013 draft. In two years at Fresno State Adams linked up with now Raider’s quarterback Derek Carr to put up 2,957 yards and 37 touchdowns, he has already drawn comparisons to ex-Packer James Jones. So far this season Adams has nine receptions for 79 yards and he’s been on the field for nearly 70% of Green Bay’s offensive snaps. Adams is also similar to Randall Cobb as both posses great catch and run ability and elusiveness.

NFL Off The Radar – Week 4

We take a look at three ‘off the radar’ players who could make a difference in their week 4 match ups.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″]Andre Williams – Running Back – New York Giants[/feature_headline]

Rashad Jennings had 34 rushing attempts in week 3 against Houston, he had 34 attempts in week 1 and 2 combined. Jennings wont be expected to carry the same load again tonight, even if he is the only working cog in a stuttering Giants offense. In the first three weeks rookie Andre Williams has only run the ball 19 times for 39 yards. Expect to see a lot of Williams tonight against Washington, especially if the Giants miraculously get up big.

Williams had a decent preseason, while only getting 38 rushing attempts he managed a decent 5.1 yards per carry and two touchdowns. The former Boston College Eagle was a fourth round pick for the Giants and a 2013 Doak Walker Award winner and was a finalist for the Heisman. In 2013 he rushed for 2,177 yards and 18 touchdowns, his yardage total ranks as the fifth highest for a single season in FBS history. At 5’11” and 230lb Williams is a bruising downhill runner, reminiscent of a shorter Brandon Jacobs. With Jennings now 29, expect the Giants to give Williams a lot of chances this year with a view to becoming their RB1 in 2015.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″]Darrin Reaves – Running Back – Carolina Panthers[/feature_headline]

The Panthers have four running backs on the injury report at the moment, Jonathan Stewart is out with a sprained knee, Mike Tolbert has a hairline fracture in his leg, DeAngelo Williams is coming off a thigh injury, and Fozzy Whittaker also has a thigh injury. Most likely Williams will start on Sunday against the Ravens in Baltimore but rookie Darrin Reaves, who was only signed off the practice squad last week, should feature at some stage.

While he was unimpressive in the preseason, only picking up 19 yards on eight attempts in his only outing against the Bills, he did manage to score a touchdown. Reaves is an intelligent player with great technique but he doesn’t stand out in a physical sense; he’s 5’7″, 209lb and runs 4.54s forty yard dash. Reaves catching ability, size, and speed will draw comparisons with Falcons’ scatback Jacquizz Rodgers. Reaves was undrafted out of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, he left UAB third in all-time rushing yards and second in rushing TDs, with 2,337 career rushing yards and 27 rushing touchdowns. The match up with the Ravens, who are only giving up 87.7 yards per game on the ground, will provide a real test for the rookie but any spark could at least see him jump ahead of Fozzy Whittaker and maybe carve out a role in the run down back field.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″]Bashuad Breeland – Corner Back – Washington Redskins[/feature_headline]

The Redskins defense is in a bad way after last weeks OT loss against the Eagles. Washington currently have 17 plyers on their injury report, including nine defensive players and not including DeAngleo Hall who is out for the rest of the season. It’s gonna be a tough match up tonight against NFC East rivals, the Giants. Before week 3, Breeland had only been on the field for 14 defensive snaps, due to injuries Breeland got his chance agains the Eagles. His day included forcing a fumble out of Darren Sproles.

The fourth round pick out of Clemson had 136 tackles in his three years with six interceptions and two forced fumbles, he was known for being a hard working player and was Second Team All-ACC in his final year.

Breeland isn’t the quickest and he can get beaten deep but he’s good in pass coverage and run defense. With second year David Amerson also playing at cornerback, the experienced duo of Meriweather and Clark at safety will have to help the young corners along.

[blockquote cite=”Washington defensive coordinator Jim Haslett” type=”center”]The day he walked in, he’s a student of the game. He’s here all night. He stays here ’til 8, 9 o’clock watching tape. He loves football, loves the game. He’s tough. He’s got great skills. Long. He’s got good speed. He’s a lot faster than I gave him credit for coming out. We’ll find out.[/blockquote]

NFL Off The Radar Week 3

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″]Jerick McKinnon – Running Back – Minnesota Vikings[/feature_headline]

Rookie Jerick McKinnon has had just three carries in the regular season with the Vikings for a meagre 8 yards but now finds himself second on the Minnesota depth chart due to the absence of Adrian Peterson. While Matt Asiata will get the majority of the carries over the next coming weeks, the Vikings are confident they have a future star on their hands with McKinnon. Weighing in at 5’9″ and 208lb, McKinnon was drafted in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Georgia Southern. At Georgia he was used at quarterback, slotback, fullback, defensive back and kick returner and put up 3,899 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns during his time there. McKinnon ran a 4.37s 40 time at the Combine and while he has great acceleration, he wont be the fastest in the open field.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″]Kyle Fuller – Corner Back – Chicago Bears[/feature_headline]

[image src="http://giant.gfycat.com/NegativeCheerfulAmericanbobtail.gif" alt="Kyle Fuller picks off Colin Kaepernick for the second time" float="none" title="Kyle Fuller picks off Colin Kaepernick for the second time"  info="popover" info_place="bottom" info_trigger="hover" info_content="Kyle Fuller picks off Colin Kaepernick for the second time"]

Kyle Fuller was the standout performer last week for the Bears in their win against the San Francisco 49ers in week 2. The first round pick out of Virginia Tech had two interceptions in the game where Charles Tillman injured his tricep putting him out for the season. Fuller had a tough start to his NFL career with a poor game against Buffalo where he received a defensive rating of -2.0 from ProFootballFocus, but his week 2 outing earned him the honour of NFC defensive player of the Week. Fuller only had 35 snaps in week 2 of the preseason but the Bears have put their faith in him to replace Tillman. In his four years at Virginia Tech, he only had six interceptions but 173 tackles and was one of the Hokies permanent captains for the 2013 season. Kyle is the younger brother of Detroit Lions wide receiver Corey Fuller and former Tennessee Titans safety Vincent Fuller. Keep an eye out for younger bother Kendall, a starting corner at Virginia Tech, in the future too.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″]Kurt Coleman – Safety – Kansas City Chiefs[/feature_headline]

Coleman is a four year veteran who the Chiefs signed in the offseason to provide cover for Eric Berry after Berry spent the preseason recovering from tendonitis. Coleman, who played with Chiefs head coach Andy Reid in Philadelphia, was cut by the Eagles coming into the 2014 season and then had an unsuccessful stint with the Vikings in the preseason. With Berry now questionable after leaving the week 2 game against Denver with an ankle strain, the Chiefs will look to Coleman to fill the void. In Coleman’s four years in the NFL he has 221 tackles, seven interceptions, and two forced fumbles. He has yet to get on the field for the Chiefs but could prove important as a backup considering Berry’s injury prone career so far.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″]Khiry Robinson – Running Back – New Orleans Saints[/feature_headline]

With Mark Ingram breaking his hand in week 2, second year running back Khiry Robinson will share carries in the backfield with Pierre Thomas. Robinson is an elusive running back with good pass catching ability, though with a 4.71s 40 time he isn’t the fastest. Robinson has already had 14 carries this season gaining 4.2 yards per carry, he also lost a fumble against Cleveland in week 2. His ball security wasn’t an issue last year on his 75 carries, on which he gained 4.3 YPC and scored two touchdowns. Robinson, who measures in at 6’0″ and 220lb, was an undrafted free agent out of West Texas A & M. In his final year with the Buffaloes Robinson put 6.6 YPC and scored 15 touchdowns on 247 carries, he also had 38 receptions with 11.3 yards per catch and four touchdowns.

NFL Off the Radar – Week 2

We take a look at three ‘off the radar’ players who could make a difference in their week 2 match ups.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″]Lorenzo Taliaferro – Running Back – Baltimore Ravens[/feature_headline]

With Ray Rice now off the Ravens’ roster there’s a lot of competition for the feature back role in Baltimore. Bernard Pierce will be on a short leash due to his week one fumble and unimpressive 2013. While Justin Forsett gave a good account for himself after Pierce was benched with 71 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Forsett, though, has never been able to hold down a starting job in his seven years in the NFL, even when he averaged 5.5 yards per carry in 2009 at Seattle and 5.9 YPC in Houston in 2012. There could be an opportunity for Lorenzo Taliaferro to make a name for himself on this Ravens team. Taliaferro is 6’0 and 226lb, he is a bruiser of a running back. Drafted out of Coastal Carolina, he managed 1,729 yards in his final season with the Chanticleers, averaging over 115 yards per game. He also notched up an impressive 27 touchdowns on the ground, with another two in the passing game. With a similar build and running style, the rookie evokes comparisons to Arian Foster who excelled under Gary Kubiak in Houston.

Keep an eye out for Taliaferro over the upcoming weeks, especially those of you in deep fantasy leagues.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″]Denard Robinson – Running Back – Jacksonville Jaguars[/feature_headline]

Toby Gerhart picked up a potential high ankle sprain last weekend against the Philadelphia, while Gerhart came back into the came he has been designated as questionable going into the match up at Washington. If Gerhart doesn’t suit up the rushing duties will fall to Jordan Todman and Denard Robinson. Robinson was drafted out of Michigan in round five of the 2013 NFL Draft, where he played quarterback. From the QB position he managed 723 rushing attempts in his four years, racking up nearly 4,500 yards. Robinson holds the NCAA season record for rushing yards by a quarterback, 1,702 in 2010, and became the first player in NCAA history to pass for 2,500 yards and rush for 1,500 yards in a single season in 2010. His first year in Jacksonville only saw him have 20 rushing attempts, gaining 66 yards. In the 2014 preseason he moved his YPC up from 3.3 to 4.5 on 21 carries. Apparently head coach Gus Bradley was using Robinson to prepare the Jaguars defense for LeSean McCoy last week, as they have similar attributes.

Expect to see the Jaguars utilise his blistering speed, Robinson ran a 4.43s 40, to get around tired defenses late in games.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″]Latavius Murray – Running Back – Oakland Raiders[/feature_headline]

Maurice Jones Drew had surgery on his hand after the Jets game last weekend and is questionable to play against a rejuvenated Houston defense on Sunday. Lativius Murray is currently the third running back on the Raiders’ depth chart after Darren McFadden. As Raiders fans and fantasy football players will know; Darren McFadden, while immensely talented, is made of glass. So it may not be long before the Raiders look to the sixth round draft pick out of Central Florida. The 6’3″, 230lb back was not invited to the combine in 2013 but impressed at his pro day running a 4.38s 40 yard dash. Murray was unfortunate to be placed on IR last season due to an ankle injury but is now fully healthy. In the preseason Murray had 23 carries over the four games, putting up 94 yards and a touchdown, which came against Seattle. Murray also gained 40 yards on seven receptions from eight targets.

Considering the age and frailty of the first two running backs on the depth chart, it really is only a matter of time before Murray starts and he should make a good impression.

NFL Off the Radar – Week 1

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″]Malcolm Butler – Cornerback – New England Patriots[/feature_headline]

Malcolm Butler has been making waves in Patriots camp this offseason and, now, with Brandon Browner suspended for the first four games this season, looks like he may start opposite Darrelle Revis on Sunday.

Butler was an undrafted free agent coming out of the second division University of West Alabama, where he was First team All-GSC selection at cornerback for two seasons. He played 23 games for the Tigers, making 89 tackles and 7 interceptions.

After impressing in his tryouts with the Patriots he saw the field a lot in the preseason, getting over 170 snaps across the four games and making 16 tackles. Pro Football Focus gave him a defensive rating of 2.9, ranking him the 23rd highest at the cornerback position.

[blockquote cite=”Darrelle Revis to NESN.com” type=”center”]He’s stepped up to the plate. Every challenge the coaches been asking him to do, he’s stepped up, and now he’s taking reps with the first team. That’s pretty good.[/blockquote]

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″]Tyler Patmon – Cornerback – Dallas Cowboys[/feature_headline]

The Cowboys secondary is in a bad way going into week 1. Safety Jakar Hamilton is suspended for the first four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy and cornerback Orlando Scandrick is also suspended for four games for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Corner Morris Claibourne will also be questionable for the opener against San Francisco due to a shoulder injury.

The Cowboys picked up Terrance Mitchell in the 7th round (254 overall) in the draft but he has been very unimpressive in preseason. His pass coverage has been dismal at times and he’s been called for the fifth most flags of any corner back in the league (4). Pro Football Focus have him ranked as the 5th worst performing cornerback this preseason.

Step up undrafted free agent, Tyler Patmon. Although he only started five times in his one year at OSU, he tied for the team lead with nine pass breakups and had 30 tackles and 28 solo stops. He played 35 games at the University of Kansas previously; racking up 146 tackles and six interceptions.

Patmon had a fantastic preseason with Dallas and was ranked by Pro Football Focus as their tenth best performing corner. Patmon’s highlights included five tackles and two interceptions, both of which came against Miami.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″]Richard Rodgers – Tight End – Green Bay Packers[/feature_headline]

The Packers have been looking to find a replacement for Jermichael Finley since the tight end went down with a horrible neck injury last year. Third round selection Richard Rodgers looks to have forced his way to the top of the depth chart ahead of Brandon Bostick and Andrew Quarless.

Rodgers had 59 receptions in two years at the University of California, stacking up 896 yards and two touchdowns on 59 receptions. While he has only been targetted seven times in preseason, hauling in four catches for 67 yards, the Packers believe they have found their man to replace Finley’s prodcution and more in both the passing game and blocking. The rookie tight end is 6’04” and weighs in at 257lb and has already built up a solid connection with Aaron Rodgers this preseason.

Madden 15 certainly thinks highly of Rodgers’ blocking abilities.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h4″]Joel Bitonio – Guard – Cleveland Browns[/feature_headline]

No mater if Brian Hoyer or Jonny Football is under centre for the Browns this season, rookie left guard Joel Bitonio will be tasked with keeping them off their ass. The 6’4″, 305lb, 22 year old was drafted with the 35th overall pick in the 2014 draft out of the University of Nevada and he’s impressed the Browns so far this preseason.

Working alongside seven time Pro Bowler Joe Thomas is a daunting task but Bitonio has shown he has been up for the challenge every step of the way. His work ethic and athleticism have stood out in his short time with the Browns and pushed him straight to the top of the depth chart.

[blockquote cite=”Joe Thomas to ClevelandBrowns.com” type=”center”]You can see he’s an athlete. He’s strong. I think he’s definitely going to be a big piece of this pie when it’s all said and done.[/blockquote]

Bitonio started four games in the preseason, including an impressive debut against the very physical Detroit defensive front, which included the notorious duo of  Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. His run blocking abilities were particularly noteworthy that day. While his following three performances weren’t of the same calibre, especially his outing against St. Louis, the Browns are expecting him to be a future star and mainstay in the o-line for a long time.

 

NFL Off the Radar Week 14

Photo via thebiglead.com

Four players who have a lot to prove and could have big performances in NFL game week 14.

Courtney Upshaw – Linebacker – Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs is questionable going into their game against Washington, if Suggs misses the game Courtney Upshaw should take his place. Upshaw was the third pick of the second round of the 2012 NFL draft out of the University of Alabama. The 272 pound, six foot rookie has started six games for the Ravens and he has 27 tackles and two quarterback sacks. While Upshaw has struggled in pass defense, he has done well against the run. Although his week 14 run out in Baltimore’s loss to the Steelers was one to be forgotten.

Curtis Brown – Cornerback – Pittsburgh Steelers

Ike Taylor will miss his first game for the Steelers in eight years on Sunday which means cornerback Curtis Brown will see a significant amount of game time for the first time in his career. Brown was the 95th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft and has three tackles in his 31 snaps he has seen on the Steelers defense, half of those came last week against Baltimore. This weekend will see a struggling San Diego visit Heinz Field. With Philip Rivers looking a shadow of his former self, it is a great opportunity for Brown to show Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau that he deserves more playing time going forward.

Geno Hayes – Linebacker – Chicago Bears

Fifth year linebacker Geno Hayes will step in at strong-side linebacker due to Nick Roach moving to the middle to cover Brian Urlachers absence. The eight time Pro Bowler, Urlacher, looks set to miss the next three games with an injured hamstring. Hayes has only been on the field for the defense for 48 snaps since his offseason move from Tampa Bay, but should close the regular season as the starter for the Bears. Drafted by the Buccaneers as a sixth round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, the 25 year old has 265 tackles, seven sacks, four forced fumbles, and four interceptions in his career. The fifth year linebacker has mainly featured on special teams during his time at Soldier Field.

Greg McElroy – Quarterback – New York Jets

While Rex Ryan has announced that Mark Sanchez will start for the Jets when they visit Jacksonville on Sunday, McElroy could feature if Sanchez fails to get the Jets offense moving. Last week the second year, seventh round pick came in when Sanchez was benched last weekend. McElroy completed seven of nine attempts for 29 yards and one touchdown in the Jets 7-6 win over Airzona. McElroy finished his college career at Alabama 24-3, although playing with Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, and Julio Jones definitely helped that record. With Tim Tebow still limited in practice, McElroy will go into Sunday’s game as Sanchez’s backup. If Sanchez doesn’t start well against a very poor Jacksonville pass defense expect to see McElroy come into the game.