For those familiar with my work, you are aware that I do my best to take emotions out of the decision-making process when making recommendations. I attempt to make my decisions on quantifiable data and past results whenever possible. Often, that path is ideal, but what it doesn't do is lend itself to being open to identifying statistical outliers that jump to the front of the pack.
Which brings me to Robert Griffin III.
My preseason column on the expectations for RGIII obviously understated his fantasy relevance. For me, it's important to find out why and whether this could have been realistically projected. For Griffin, I projected two sets of stats, passing and rushing. His passing projection was 3,190 yards, 14 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Through Week 6, he is on pace for 3,581 yards, 15 touchdowns and just five interceptions. All in all, I think most people would consider that passing prediction as pretty much on point, though I'll concede he hasn't had a multiple-interception game that would be expected of a rookie quarterback by this point.
In the preseason I wrote the following about Griffin's rushing potential: "I fully expect some to argue that Griffin's rushing ability will be the key difference. Of the 70 quarterbacks taken in the first round, only two quarterbacks rushed for at least 400 yards during their rookie campaign: Newton and Young. Other mobile quarterbacks, like Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick split time during his first year, so their opportunities were severely limited. That being said, it's probably safe to project 400 rushing yards for Griffin. On average, a rookie quarterback will score one touchdown for every 100 yards rushed, so that's worth four touchdowns."
Through six games, Griffin has already surpassed that preseason rushing projection by amassing 379 rushing yards and six touchdowns. That places him on pace for 1,011 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. To put that in perspective, since 2006, only seven rookie running backs have rushed for at least 1,000 yards: LeGarrette Blount (2010), Matt Forte (2008), Chris Johnson (2008), Steve Slaton (2008), Marshawn Lynch (2007), Adrian Peterson (2007) and Joseph Addai (2006). From that group, only Peterson managed double-digit touchdowns.
Simply put, the production level that Griffin is managing through the rush is absolutely historic. Cam Newton's 706 rushing yards last year represented a 28 percent increase over the record holder for rushing yardage by a rookie quarterback, Vince Young (552 yards). With another 11 rushing yards, Griffin will tie Bobby Douglass who ran for 409 yards in 1969 and held that record for 37 years before being passed by Young.
The bottom line is that Griffin's rushing performance is an absolute historical outlier and should in no way have been predicted. His talent in undeniable and he's clearly the best running quarterback to ever enter the league. Those who gambled on Griffin have their starting quarterback for each week going forward, with only one question to be answered: Can a quarterback who runs as often as Griffin does stay healthy for the entire season?
Most Targets, Week 6
Receiving yardage is the most variable form of yardage, which makes sense because so much of it is dependent on where the quarterback elects to throw the ball. Because of this, variations in the number of times a player is targeted by his quarterback can greatly change a player's value. So while your receiver may have scored just 10 fantasy points this weekend, you need to know if it's reasonable to expect that he can repeat that type of performance on a routine basis. If he had one target that he turned into a 40-yard touchdown, you need to realize that he was one quarterback decision away from posting a goose egg. Conversely, if your wideout had 12 targets and finished with 108 yards receiving, his prospects for consistent fantasy production are significantly greater.
Here are the players who received seven or more targets in Week 6, what their average number of targets is per game and how many of them were on plays that began in the red zone.
Note: Targets are not an official NFL statistic. Based on the methodology that stat services use, the number of targets listed may be different than target values listed elsewhere. ESPN Stats and Information's philosophy is to count a target when the analyst thinks the pass was actually intended for the player. Therefore if a quarterback is obviously throwing a ball away, the analyst will not record a target for that pass. This gives a truer representation of what a target is, a pass thrown to a particular player with the intent for that player to catch the ball, and therefore should be more helpful to the fantasy community.
Despite the dominant performance by Shonn Greene against the Indianapolis Colts, both Jeremy Kerley (owned 43.1 percent) and Chaz Schilens (owned less than 1 percent) were given ample performances to post relevant fantasy numbers. Look for that to continue against a New England Patriots defense that hasn't shown the improvement that was expected coming into this season. If you need a third receiver, start either.
While Randy Moss got some headlines as Larry Fitzgerald joined him as the only receivers to have 10,000 career receiving yards before age 30, Mario Manningham continued his ascent into a usable fantasy option. Double-digit targets are unlikely and were a product of how well the New York Giants played the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday, but Manningham should be on your radar.
Dez Bryant posted some nice numbers on Sunday versus the Baltimore Ravens, but with six red zone targets, it should have been better. For comparison, Calvin Johnson has just six red zone targets all year.
For as long as Danny Amendola is out, Brandon Gibson looks like suitable replacement. If you need receiving depth, you could do much worse than adding Gibson, who is owned in less than 25 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Big plays and up close
There were only five players in Week 6 (versus 15 in Week 5) who totaled three or more rushes that gained 10 or more yards each: Ahmad Bradshaw (5), Shonn Greene (4), Kevin Kolb (4), Doug Martin (3) and C.J. Spiller (3).
Meanwhile, nine players (up from three last week) were given at least two carries inside their opponent's 5-yard line: Ahmad Bradshaw (4), Arian Foster (4), Darren McFadden (3), Shonn Greene (3), Baron Batch (2), Brandon Bolden (2), Michael Turner (2), Montario Hardesty (2) and Ray Rice (2). Of this group, only Bolden and Turner failed to score from this range.
This marked the second consecutive week that Bradshaw led the league in rushes that attained 10 or more yards. For perspective, the 13 big-play rushes that he had in those two weeks would place him just behind five other players for the season (Frank Gore, Alfred Morris, Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy and Stevan Ridley).
The Cleveland Browns' running game is starting to come back from its one-year absence. Through six games, the Browns have five rushing touchdowns. Through the same period last year, they had only two rushing scores.
The Minnesota Vikings have gained 58 percent of their rushing yardage on runs up the middle, which is the best in the league. The average for the league in that zone is 38 percent. Their opponent this weekend, the Arizona Cardinals, have allowed 55 percent of their rushing yards up the middle, which is the worst in the league. Based on this information, I rate Adrian Peterson as the No. 1 fantasy running back option this week.
If you are desperate and looking for a running back to fill in this week, do not be tempted by Mark Ingram. For the season, the New Orleans Saints have only 34 rushing yards on runs to the right, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have only given up 96 yards to that zone. Instead, take a look at Danny Woodhead, as the Patriots have gained a league-high 399 yards on runs to the left, while the New York Jets have allowed a league-high 375 yards in that zone.
Until next week, thanks for reading.
Note: Statistical information used within this column was compiled by ESPN Stats and Information.