It’s just a natural fact in sports that there are teammates that make you better, and there are teammates that you struggle to play with. With all the quarterback injuries this season, offenses are having to adjust to find success. New dynamics affect a player’s value. Not all changes help a team, but below are three examples where quarterback changes have helped a player emerge. Their successes should continue this week.
Shift to Running : Zac Stacy
Since Week 5, Zac Stacy has been the St. Louis Rams lead running back, accounting for 73% of all running back carries in that time span. Stacy has shown incredible balance and tackle-breaking ability, which has placed him fourth among all qualified running backs in Pro Football Focus’s elusivity ranking. Since Week 5, Stacy is second in the league in carries. A closer look reveals that the change at QB to Clemens is a boost for Stacy.
The past two weeks with Kellen Clemens at quarterback the Rams offense shifted their offensive balance. In Weeks 1 through 7, with Sam Bradford at QB, the Rams averaged a 38:22 pass-to-rush ratio. That ratio shifted to 33:35 with Clemens in at quarterback. For Stacy, personally, his carries went from 16.5 per game in Weeks 5 through 7 to 26.5 in the past two weeks. In addition, Stacy was seventh on the team in targets during Bradford games, and third on the team in targets playing with Clemens.
On paper, Indianapolis appears to be a tough matchup, and they are in the top 5 of fantasy points allowed to running backs. Stacy, though, has already put up good numbers against other stout run defenses (Seattle, Carolina, Houston.) So, he’s proven himself against tough competition. The other running back in this matchup is Trent Richardson. Although the Rams have given up a lot to running backs, I’d rather have Stacy, averaging 5.0 ypc the past two weeks, than Richardson, who’s likely to put up another dud this weekend.
Flying Eagle : Riley Cooper
The Eagles QB situation has been in contstant flux this season, as injuries have been the biggest factor in determining their weekly starter. Although Matt Barkley has not fared well, both Nick Foles and Michael Vick have shown what an explosive offense this can be with efficient quarterback play. However, the way the offense functions and who the key skill position players are, vary depending on which quarterback plays.
The biggest story this past week was the explosion from Foles to Riley Cooper, and though a small sample size, this appears to be a trend that will continue. The two players rapport shows up clearly on the stats sheet. On the season, the top three targets for the Eagles, in order, are: DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant, and Cooper, but Foles may be changing this order. The chart below shows a comparison of WR averages (targets receptions-yards, TD) between full games that Foles has played and full games that Vick has played.
||9 5-98.3, 0.5
||4.5 2.0-22.8, 0.25
||6 6-107.0, 1.5
||6 5.5-129.5, 2
From the small sample size of full games, it appears clear that with Foles there is a 1 and 1A wide receiver, as opposed to DJax being the clear number one with Michael Vick. The Eagles face Green Bay this week, and both defenses are amongst the worst in the league giving up fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. With the loss of Rodgers, though, the Green Bay passing attack is unclear, while the Eagles have solid production with Foles. Cooper could outscore all of Green Bay’s receivers this week, and you may be able to grab him a little later in drafts.
Return to Glory : Andre Johnson
In five full games this season with Matt Schaub at the helm, Andre Johnson had 37 receptions, 407 receiving yards, and 0 touchdowns. In the past two games, playing with Case Keenum, Andre Johnson has 13 receptions, for 318 yards and 3 touchdowns. It’s fair to say the change has been revitalizing to Johnson, as the two have developed a quick rapport.
Although, the Houston Texans have been a run-heavy squad the past few seasons, injuries to Arian Foster and Ben Tate may force them to rely more on the pass going forward. Pro Football Focus measured that Keenum is attempting a deep pass on 20% of drop backs with 75% accuracy. Though a small sample size, this would place him tops in the league amongst all starters in both categories. Last week, this willingness to go deep with efficiency helped Andre Johnson score touchdowns of 62 and 41 yards.
This week’s matchup is not a favorable one on paper, as he will square off against Patrick Peterson for most of the game. The Cardinals were stronger towards the beginning of the season, but receivers have been scoring fantasy points on them the last couple of weeks. Calvin Johnson put up 116 yds and 2 TD on them earlier this year, and Andre is the type of physical talent that could put up numbers on the Cardinals. Draft AJ with confidence.