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2011 Draft Prep: Big Game performers

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The last time we spoke, I shed light on the players who consistently deliver solid Fantasy totals for your teams week in and week out. Getting those consistent players is key to winning in Fantasy, but it is not the only thing you need to be focused on.

You also need to target those players with the penchant for blowing up and having those monster games that can almost single handedly win a week for you. As a Fantasy owner, was there any better feeling than being down 40 headed into Monday Night Football with only Michael Vick left and then getting to watch him have the best game in Fantasy Football history with 333 yards and four touchdowns passing to go with 80 yards rushing and another two touchdowns on the ground? Duh, Winning! (Apologies of course to those on the other side of that game, because I am sure it made you want to see the doctor)

For more from Nathan check out his website at thefantasyconsultant.com

Those stat sheet stuffer supreme games not only equal wins, they are the Fantasy Football equivalent to a Grand Slam, and as we all know, chicks dig the long ball. Obviously the best player in Fantasy Football is the one, like a Drew Brees or a Chris Johnson, who can be both consistent and also have those bonanza weeks at a high rate. They are few and far between, but we can certainly find some hidden big game gems to help compliment your consistent team, and that my friends, will help you win it all.

Before we get into that however, I wanted to let you know what my criteria (again we can debate this later) is to determine what qualifies as a "big game."

For quarterbacks: A game with 300-plus (total) yards and two-plus (total) touchdowns, 200-plus yards and three-plus touchdowns, or a game with four scores.
For running backs: A game of 100-plus yards rushing or 150-plus total yards and a touchdown or a game with multiple scores.
For wide receivers: 100-plus yards and a touchdown or a game with multiple touchdowns.
For tight ends: 60-plus yards receiving and a score or a game of 100-plus yards receiving or a game with multiple touchdowns.

Basically, I looked at the individual elements that made up the consistency rate data and forced a player to combine them in order to register a big game.

Now that we know what constitutes a big game, let us take a quick look at some of the various trends that have emerged. For quarterbacks, the studs are the studs for a reason. The top guys deliver the most solid games week in and week out and they are the ones who have the big games at the highest rate. Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Tom Brady and Tony Romo have given you a big game in roughly 50 percent of their starts over the last three years. Vick was dominant last year as well with six big games in really only 11 games. Quarterback is the only position with four players that have 20-plus big games over the last three years and six with 18 or more.

The big games really separate the elite quarterbacks from the solid ones at the end of the year, which is why a guy like Josh Freeman, who was a Top 12 Fantasy quarterback and who was solid more often than not in 2010, is still a long way from being an elite option. Last year, Freeman had only one big game, the lowest of the Top 12 quarterbacks. He did not have a single game of 300-plus yards passing, also the lowest of the Top 12. Unless he can dramatically improve his yardage totals, which would really necessitate a philosophical shift in Tampa Bay, Freeman will be a good option, but not someone I want to be my starting Fantasy signal caller. Quarterbacks have by far the highest rate of big games, which is why I think having an elite quarterback is an absolute key in drafts this year.

At running back, the top Fantasy rusher each year will check in with 8-9 big games while the rest of the Top 5 will finish with around 6-7 big games. The big games tend to come from the few remaining true featured backs, as the committee guys can be consistent, but have a much tougher time blowing up on a regular basis due to the shared touches. Compared to quarterbacks, runners have a tough time having big games year after year. Chris Johnson (20) and Adrian Peterson (19) have averaged more than six big games per year over the last three seasons. Add in the fact that Arian Foster is sixth over the last three years with 10 big games (9 of which came last year) and you can see that with runners the big games are nice, but they are not something you can count on.

Even one of the best Fantasy backs of the last three seasons, Steven Jackson, has an alarmingly low eight big games over the last three years. That is the direct result of a lack of scoring chances, and if the Rams offense can be more potent as expected under Josh McDaniels in 2011, he could see a big increase this year. At running back, if you don't have a Top 3 pick, you need to look for one of the remaining true featured backs towards the end of Round 1 in order to get that consistency.

Wide receivers have the toughest time producing big games due to the fact that every team has multiple options in the passing game and it's tough enough to have 100-yard games.Only two receivers -- Andre Johnson and Greg Jennings -- have five games of 100-plus yards in each of the last three seasons), let alone top 100 yards and a score. Andre Johnson leads the way with 13 big games over the last three years and no receiver has topped six big games in a single season during that span, not even Randy Moss in his record setting 2008 season.

With wide receivers, the big games come from the big-play wide receivers. DeSean Jackson has an NFL best 10 big games over the last two years and Mike Wallace led the league in 2010 with six. These guys both average over 20 yards per catch and can hit the home run, literally. That's why I think Jackson, Wallace (if you are lucky), Vincent Jackson and even Dez Bryant are the ideal No. 2 receivers for your teams if you can get a consistent, solid No. 1 option.

Big games often come from the outside vertical receivers, while consistency comes from inside slot guys like Percy Harvin or Wes Welker, who are good week in and week out but have six big games combined in the last three years. Consistency is king at this position due to its volatility, but giving an extra boost to those big-play wide receivers and surrounding them with the steady eddies is the way to go.

Tight ends are much like the quarterbacks in that when it comes to big games, there are the haves and have nots. Even with injuries to the studs over the last few years and Vernon Davis being a non-factor in 2008, the top of the big game chart reads like a who's who at the positiont. Antonio Gates (A tight end best 15 games), Jason Witten, Dallas Clark, Tony Gonzalez and Davis are the Top 5 by a wide margin. I know Gonzo is on the decline, but with emerging players like Jermichael Finley, Jimmy Graham and Owen Daniels (who is seventh with eight games over the last three years, despite missing big parts of 2009 and 2010), the top of the position will continue to be dominant. It's why a top quarterback and a top tight end are important, and then we load up on running backs and receivers around them.

Consistency is the king, but adding a sprinkle of big game fire power is the key to turning a consistently productive and in the hunt Fantasy team into a winning one. Use this data in conjunction with my consistency data and you will have all of the tools to craft a winning team on Draft Day. The one key takeaway here is that the stud quarterbacks are the most consistently explosive players in all of Fantasy Football and the stud tight ends have a huge advantage over the rest of the crop when it comes to big games, so anchoring your teams with elite players at those positions can go a long way to success.

Glossary
Target Conversion Rate or Catch Rate (TCR): The percentage of a player's targets (passes thrown to them) that are converted into receptions. Over 60 percent is excellent, 66 percent is elite and under 52.5 percent is worrisome.
Yards per Target (YPT): A player's receiving yards divided by his targets. In other words, the numbers of yards a team gains on average every time they attempt a pass to a certain player. Over 10 is exceptional, over 8 is solid and 6 or lower is horrendous.
Red Zone Opportunities: A player's total number of pass+rush+targets inside the opponent's 20 yard line
Red Zone TD Rate: The percentage of a player's Red Zone opportunities that result in a TD
Goal Line Opportunities: A player's total number of pass+rush+targets inside the opponent's 5 yard line
Goal Line TD Rate: The percentage of a player's Goal Line opportunities that result in a TD
Consistency Rate: The percentage of quality starts a player gives you out of 16 games. For QBs that is a game with 300+ yards passing OR multiple TDs. For RBs/WRs: A game with 100+ yards rush/rec or a game with a TD. For TEs: A game with 60+ yards receiving or a TD. For a Kicker: A game with multiple FGs.
Big Game Rate: The percentage of dominant starts a player gives you out of 16 games (games missed with injury count as a bad game since they do not help your Fantasy teams). For a QB that is a game with 300+ yards and 2+ TDs or 200+ yards and 3+ TDs. For a RB/WR that is a game with 100+ combined rush/rec yards and a TD or a game with multiple TDs. For a TE that is a game of 60+ yards and a TD, 100+ yards or a game with multiple TDs.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Nathan at @TFConsultant .

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Player News
Eagles' Walter Thurmond moves to safety
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5:20 pm ET) The Eagles have made a lot of moves to improve their defense this offseason, one of which was to bring Walter Thurmond aboard.

Most thought he would play cornerback, but Chip Kelly announced Thursday that Thurmond has moved to safety, per nj.com.

Thurmond said the coaching staff approached him about the idea some time ago, giving him the option to compete at either position. 

"It was a couple weeks ago, just after the draft, they asked me how I would feel about moving to safety,'' Thurmond said. "They said I could stay and compete at corner, or I could move to safety and compete there. After drafting three corners, even though some of them might be safeties, they thought it would be better for me at safety. I'm good with it. I just want to play."

The move is intriguing given that Thurmond has never played a game at the safety position, but he isn't concerned too much about that.

"I've played it in practice, but never in a game,'' Thurmond said. "In this defense, though, it's not much different than playing in the nickel.''


Buccaneers DE Jacquies Smith opens OTAs on first team
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:16 pm ET) Buccaneers defensive end Jacquies Smith was part of the first-team defense in Thursday's open OTA practice, the first of the offseason, per the team's website.

Smith and George Johnson were the bookends on the defensive line, surrounding Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald. Lavonte David and Danny Lansanah were the two linebackers in the nickel set, with Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks at corner and Chris Conte and Major Wright at safety. Sterling Moore and Isaiah Frey each played nickel.

Smith was a castoff by Buffalo early last season but developed into a rotational end with the Buccaneers, racking up 6 1/2 sacks.


Cowboys sign fourth-rounder Damien Wilson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:11 pm ET) The Cowboys have announced the signing of rookie linebacker Damien Wilson. Bringing the fourth-round pick in the fold leaves only first-rounder Byron Jones unsigned.

Wilson was a tackling machine last year at the University of Minnesota, racking up 119, including 10.5 for losses and four sacks. He has worked in the first-team nickel package in practice both in the middle and on the weakside.


Packers WR Jordy Nelson post-surgery: 'Everything is going well'
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:55 pm ET) Packers standout wideout Jordy Nelson admitted Thursday to having hip surgery in the offseason, but downplayed its significance.

Nelson attended the OTA session, but did not participate aside from throwing the ball around a bit.

"Everything is going well," he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "...We're just going to continue to progress ... I don't have any worries about anything that's of importance down the road."

Nelson did state that if the hip wasn't bothering him last year, he wouldn't have opted for surgery. "Just an opportunity to get some things cleaned up," he added.

The veteran is coming off his most productive season. He established career-highs in receptions (98) and yards (1,519).


Eagles RB Murray to Randle: 'Hopefully he can taste some of that meat'
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(4:48 pm ET) Eagles running back DeMarco Murray and his former teammate Joseph Randle have an interesting back-and-forth going on, per csnphilly.com.

Randle, who backed up Murray as he lead the NFL in rushing, has recently said Murray "left a lot of meat on the bone" last year. 

Murray rushed for 1,845 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, helping the Cowboys become one of the most potent offenses in the league.

"Hopefully he can taste some of that meat this year," Murray said of his former teammate.“They’re a good team. Hopefully he can get a chance to run behind that line and do some good things. But I’m not worried about it. I didn’t hear about it until now. It’s not a big deal.”

The Cowboys will use a multi-running back system with Randle leading the way. He rushed for 343 yards and three touchdowns as Murray's backup last year.


Michael Oher wants to bounce back with Panthers
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(4:29 pm ET) Panthers left tackle Michael Oher thinks he's in the perfect place for his career to bounce back, per the Charlotte Observer.

Oher, who is coming off his worst season as a pro, signed a two-year, $7 million deal with the Panthers this offseason. Now on his third team in three years, Oher doesn't want to let any of his new teammates down.

“It seemed like they wanted me,” Oher said. “I got the (same) feeling going into my rookie year of not wanting to let guys down and guys with a winning culture. For me, it’s about getting back to the basics and fundamentals of doing everything right. Looking myself in the mirror knowing what I have to do and getting better from within.”

Oher started his career with four solid seasons as a Raven before nagging injuries began to hamper him in 2013. He signed a four-year deal with the Titans last offseason but injuries continued to plaque him while there. The Panthers gave Oher another chance to prove himself this offseason, and currently list him as their starting left tackle.
“I’m doing everything in my power to make that happen,” Oher said. “I know that I have the abilities and I’m going to put in the correct amount of work to get the job done. It’s just being around more guys who are willing to do the same.

“It’s definitely about culture in the NFL. That wins you football games alone.”


Report: Broncos will sign offensive tackle Ryan Harris
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:22 pm ET) The Broncos have agreed to terms on a contract with offensive tackle Ryan Harris, according to a report from ESPN. 

This move is a necessity now that left tackle Ryan Clady is likely lost for the season due to a torn ACL that he sustained in practice on Wednesday.

This move brings Harris back to the organization he started his NFL career with as he played with the Broncos, which drafted him in the third round, from 2007-2010. 

Harris was with the Chiefs a year ago and started 15 of the 16 games he appeared in. 


Standout snags Thursday give hope to Panthers WR Stephen Hill
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:15 pm ET) Panthers wide receiver Stephen Hill flashed some of the potential Thursday that he never reached with the Jets. He caught three deep balls, beating starting cornerback Josh Norman on one of them.

But such achievements are quickly forgotten in May. If Hill doesn't produce when training camp and the preseason games roll around, he will be in the same predicament he has been in since August.

That's when he was waived by the Jets and landed on the Carolina practice squad. And that is not where a player with his talent belongs. But Hill, a second-round selection in 2012, only caught 45 passes for the Jets in his first two seasons combined, so he must prove his worthiness all over again.

Quarterback Cam Newton ran downfield to congratulate Hill on his catch against Norman, which pleased the wideout. He was encouraged by his performance.

"Today was pretty good," he told the Charlotte Observer. "I made a couple big plays, but still need to work on some things when it came to individuals."


Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin: 'Right now, it's about getting healthy'
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(4:09 pm ET) Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is taking his time while rehabbing his injured hamstring. 

Benjamin, who was turning heads at OTA's this time last year, is concerned with getting back to the field 100 percent healthy.

"I'm getting a lot of mental reps right now," Benjamin said. "Right now, it's about getting healthy and getting back on the field.

"It's up to the trainers. Right now they're just taking their time with it."

The Panthers want to be careful with their second-year player.

"Kelvin tweaked it a couple of weeks ago. Coming out of a break, he slipped a little bit on the wet turf and strained it," coach Ron Rivera said. "We're being a little bit cautious, but the unintended consequence that's been a plus has been getting [Devin Funchess]snaps."

Benjamin set a rookie record with 1,008 yards receiving last season.


Jets announce release of quarterback Matt Simms
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
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Simms, who was buried in the depth chart with the Jets, has played in four career games, completing 19 of 39 passes for 195 yards a touchdown and an interception.


 
 
 
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