<
>

Football Outsiders: Week 2 Quick Reads

9/15/2008 - NFL

Look down this week's Quick Reads list of the most valuable players of Week 2, and you might notice a couple of missing names. Darren McFadden led all running backs with 166 yards. Brandon Marshall led all receivers with 18 receptions. How could they have missed out on the Quick Reads top five at their positions? Their absence points out some important differences between an advanced metric such as YAR (Yards Above Replacement) and the standard stats we're all used to using.

McFadden's raw line looks great. He picked up 166 yards on only 21 carries, averaging nearly 8 yards per carry. It was an awesome day for fantasy teams, but merely good for the Raiders. Fifty of McFadden's yards came on one carry, and 136 of them on five. The rest of the day, McFadden ran 16 times for a total of 30 yards. That means countless second-and-10 and third-and-9 situations that put JaMarcus Russell in an extremely difficult position all day long.

The Raiders gave the ball to McFadden eight times on second down with between 6 and 10 yards to go; in those situations, he gained 2, 2, 1, 2, -2, 24, 2, and 5 yards. The big play certainly is nice, but unless McFadden becomes more consistent in gaining positive yardage, he'll become a very overrated back very quickly -- and Russell will have many more days when he goes 6-for-17. McFadden also needs to work on his hands: He fumbled twice. That 50-yard gain would not have seemed so special if the Chiefs had picked up the ball at the end. Overall, McFadden earned just eight YAR on the ground.

Marshall also is missing from our Quick Reads top five, although not by much -- he ranks sixth for the week, just behind Detroit's Calvin Johnson despite an astounding 18 receptions on 20 attempts, two short of the NFL record for receptions in a game. What hurts Marshall most is his fourth-quarter fumble. Although Denver recovered the fumble, we know from our five years of research that fumble recoveries are luck, not skill. Therefore, although your fantasy league might not have punished Marshall, we know to dock him for letting loose.

Furthermore, although it might have looked as if Marshall caught every single Cutler pass until Eddie Royal scored the touchdown at the end of the game, in truth he wasn't around on third downs. Marshall converted only one of three times he was targeted on third down.

Here are the rest of the best and worst players of Week 2, according to the Football Outsiders YAR statistics.