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NFL Barometer: Rice Stuck In Reverse

Mario Puig

Mario Puig

Mario sets the direction of RotoWire's college football and NFL draft content, with his other responsibilities primarily resting in those same subjects. He's a fan of Ishmael Butler, James Harrison and David Bowie.

RISING

Nick Foles, QB, PHI


Itís difficult to recall a quarterback situation more baffling the one the Eagles have on their hands right now. Incumbent starter Michael Vick posted very good numbers to start the year, throwing for 1,080 yards (9.2 YPA) and five touchdowns in the first four weeks while adding 228 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, but a lingering hamstring issue initially suffered in Week 5 threw things off course. Foles looked like a potential upgrade in a four-touchdown showing against Tampa Bay in Week 6, but then turned in one of the worst quarterback showings of recent memory by throwing for just 80 yards on 29 pass attempts against a weak Dallas defense the very next week, seemingly entrenching Vick as the definite starter when healthy. After Vick aggravated his injury in Week 8, though, the picture once again flipped upside-down when Foles threw for a record-tying seven touchdowns against the Raiders on Sunday. Folesí faceplant against Dallas is puzzling and concerning, but given he combined for 11 touchdowns (one rushing) and no turnovers in two of his three starts, itís hard to see how Vickís chances of regaining the starting job are any better than 50-50.

Timothy Wright, TE, TB

When the Buccaneers saw Luke Stocker and Nate Byham combine for just three catches over the first three weeks of the year, it seemed as if Tampa Bay had simply decided not to feature the tight end position in its offense beyond blocking duties. From Week 4 onward, however, Wright surprisingly established himself as a very real receiving threat, shaking off his status as an undrafted rookie to catch 19 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns over his next five games. That includes nine catches for 106 yards and two scores against Carolina and Seattle over the last two weeks. Itís clear by now that there is a place for a tight end in the Tampa Bay offense, and Wright looks like the man for the job. While there may be questions about his blocking at 6-3, 230 pounds, Wright has plenty of athleticism and receiving ability to continue thriving as a pass catcher Ė he was a standout receiver for Rutgers prior to moving to tight end for the NFL. Heís arguably at least a top-eight fantasy tight end moving forward.

Case Keenum, QB, HOU

Itís early, but the Texans may have found themselves a Tony Romo-like undrafted free agent steal in Keenum, a player who posted some of the biggest numbers in college football history at Houston but was disregarded by scouts and GMs in the 2012 draft. Since stepping in for Matt Schaub on the road against the Chiefs prior to the Texansí bye week, Keenum has shown a highly encouraging combination of poise, accuracy and mobility, throwing for 621 yards (10.5 YPA) and four touchdowns while running for 36 yards against the intimidating defenses of Kansas City and Indianapolis. Many of his throws were made against tight coverage and under intense pressure, and Keenum has yet to look rattled or make poor decisions. Heís an ideal replacement for those who will be without Aaron Rodgers (collarbone).

Aaron Dobson, WR, New England

Dobson probably doesnít have the short-area quickness or the hand-eye coordination necessary to consistently make an impact on short patterns, but it looks like he may have hit his stride as a vertical-route specialist for the Patriots. When you consider that defenses will universally allocate most coverage resources towards tight end Rob Gronkowski -- and throw in Tom Bradyís excellent deep ball accuracy -- thereís reason to believe Dobson can continue to make a fantasy impact after snagging nine passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns over the last two weeks. Defenses have little choice but to send a safety toward Gronkowski each play, and at 6-3 with 4.37 speed, Dobson is an intimidating task for most corners in one-on-one coverage.

Eddie Lacy, RB, GB

Lacy has really arrived as an NFL runner. A number of teams might wish at this point that they hadn't let the Packers catch Lacy at the bottom of the second round of the 2013 draft, because after torching the Bears for 150 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries (6.8 YPC) on Monday, Lacy has 545 yards (4.6 YPC) and three touchdowns in his last five games, adding 11 catches for 47 yards. Lacyís value probably takes a slight hit in light of Aaron Rodgersí broken collarbone since the Packers wonít score as many points, but itís mostly offset by a good run-blocking line, and the fact that he continues to prove his NFL talent with each bruising run. You would struggle to argue that there are eight runners more valuable than Lacy in fantasy football right now, PPR leagues aside.

FALLING

Green Bay Pass Catchers


Aaron Rodgers is out on a mostly indefinite basis with a broken collarbone injury, an injury that put Tony Romo on the shelf for around two months back in 2010. That means Green Bayís pass catchers will be subjected to Seneca Wallace or Scott Tolzien, or maybe some combination of the two. Wallace was not encouraging in place of Rodgers against Chicago on Monday, completing 11-of-19 passes for 114 yards (6.0 YPA) and one interception while narrowly avoiding at least one other interception. Jordy Nelson was able to catch four passes for 67 yards Monday, but itís difficult to see how James Jones and Jarrett Boykin will stay relevant in most cases going forward.

Ray Rice, RB, BAL

Rice is supposedly fully recovered from the hip injury that kept him inactive in Week 3, but there are clearly issues with Rice and the Baltimore offense right now. Rice has only once exceeded the 45-yard mark as a runner in seven games this year, with his season high being 74 yards. He has only three touchdowns and is averaging just 2.7 yards per carry, while his 27 receptions have gone for a mere 135 yards (5.0 YPC). If Riceís hip really isnít bothering him, itís difficult to identify just what exactly the cure for his poor production might be. The Ravensí blocking needs to improve, for sure, but the odds of that happening arenít great given that Baltimore is likely stuck with its current personnel for the rest of the way.

Matt Ryan, QB, ATL

Ryan is obviously a strong fantasy quarterback when the offense around him is healthy, but he has been a bit of a mess since losing Julio Jones to a season-ending foot injury and seeing Roddy White miss three games due to hamstring and ankle issues. Ryan threw for just 301 yards on 61 attempts (4.9 YPA) against Arizona two weeks ago, tossing one touchdown pass compared to four interceptions, and he follow up that effort by throwing for one touchdown and three interceptions against Carolina on Sunday. Both the Cardinals and Panthers have disruptive defenses, to be fair, but Ryanís numbers from those games were unacceptable, and things might get even worse against the Seahawks this week.

Anquan Boldin, WR, SF

Boldin has been a major disappointment since his huge 13-catch, 208-yard effort that included a touchdown against Green Bay in Week 1, snagging just 25 passes and scoring once in the subsequent seven games; and it looks like his value is set to drop even lower in the very near future. Michael Crabtree returned to practice Tuesday as he makes his way back from a May Achillesí tendon tear and, while itís not clear just how soon Crabtree might return to see game action, a return before the end of this month seems somewhat plausible. Boldinís already shaky production will probably go down another notch when/if Crabtree starts earning targets.

Kenbrell Thompkins, WR, NE

Thompkins was one of the more pleasant surprise success stories of the preseason and the first half of the regular season, but reality arrived in recent weeks with a harsh verdict: Thompkins isnít that good, and he probably wonít play that much going forward. Although Thompkins racked up 334 yards and four touchdowns in his first seven NFL games, he averaged only 6.0 yards per target, and was a healthy scratch as New England lit up the Steelers on Sunday. Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Aaron Dobson are safely ahead of Thompkins on the depth chart, and Austin Collie might be at this point, as well.