Every year in the NFL one or two so-called journeymen seem to find their way into the spotlight. A couple of years ago it was Brandon Lloyd. Last year Laurent Robinson had the honor. These are the kinds of guys that have struggled through some sort of adversity, whether it be an injury or just not living up to expectations. This week we will look at two such players that can help your team win some games.
Passing Play – Donnie Avery
In his first two years in St. Louis, he averaged 50 receptions for 631 yards and 4 TD's, 7 rushes for 50 and a half a touchdown. He produced these numbers with Marc Bulger and Kyle Boller under center. And also with different coaching regimes in each of those seasons.
But now he is fully recovered from a serious knee injury suffered in 2010 (which would have been his third year). He was carted off the field during the Rams' third preseason game that year, missed the entire season and was later released.
Upon recovering from the injury, he had trouble getting the attention of NFL teams in 2011. But was finally able to get signed late in September to the Tennessee Titans. He appeared in only 8 games and tallied a meager 3 receptions for 45 yards and 1 TD. So he kind of lost two years of production.
I found it interesting that Avery was the first wide receiver taken in the 2008 draft. The Rams got him in the second round. His quarterback situation is very much improved since then, as well as the offense that he is in.
In addition to catching Luck's first touchdown pass as an NFL QB, he also caught my attention with comments made this week by the first overall pick from this year's draft: “He's very dynamic, fast, quick-twitch, can really stretch the field and get across the field fast on some crossing routes. I'm glad to see that it's showing up in the games because he's been doing it in practice."
These are the kinds of things you want your young star QB to say about you. He does have a very similar physique and skill set as Percy Harvin. In addition to being productive in the passing game, he will have the occasional rushing yards thrown in. And I believe he will be productive even when Collie comes back.
Jim Irsay and coach Pagano want more than anything to create an atmosphere of stability in which their young franchise quarterback can flourish. So it behooves them to keep Avery in the game plan moving forward. In his first two appearances he's grabbed 12 of 18 targets for 148 yards and 1 touchdown, while adding 2 rushes for 7 yards.
It goes without saying that he has quickly developed a repore with Luck and is an option the young QB trusts. I look for him to catch 6 balls for 90 yards and perhaps a touchdown this weekend.
Quarterback Sneak – Alex Smith
Now in his eighth season as an NFL quarterback, Smith is finally in a stable situation. Only from last season into this season has he had the same head coach and offensive system in which to grow.
Look at Smith's per game averages early in his career and then more recently. From 2005 to 2010 Smith had a completion percentage of 55.56% for 174 yards almost almost 1 TD, with almost 1 INT per game. Then last year, and thus far this season, he has a completion percentage of 65.75% for 199 yards, at least 1 TD per game and only one INT every 4th game.
The only instance where I would advise against rostering and starting Alex Smith is in leagues where you get bonuses for yardage. Don't count on him getting you 300 yards. But you can certainly lean on him to avoid the negative points that many leagues shell out for interceptions. He is a very smart quarterback with a head coach that was a very smart quarterback.
The Niners were aggressive during free agency in finding extra talent to surround their QB with. This team is without a doubt the deepest in terms of offensive depth. As the season unfolds and players get banged up I would expect Alex Smith and the 49er offense to be as consistent as any team that has to deal with injuries.
Other than Vernon Davis, there really isn't any one receiver that Smith depends on in key situations. So I would think that any of the players on this offensive unit can help Alex move the chains and put up points. He has a good match up this week at Minnesota where I would expect him throw for 250 yards, 2 TD's, and no picks.