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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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