2011 Fantasy Football Preview: For Vikings, Rice More Important Than Many Believe

Jun 16, 2011


.
By Andy Boyum
.
From all the reports and speculation coming out in the last few days regarding the ongoing labor issues in the NFL, it seems that we may have a deal in place by the end of the month. That, of course, begs the question. What type of free-agency rules will be put into play under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement? For the Vikings front-office, they may be crossing their fingers in hopes of rules more along the lines of the former CBA.
.
Sidney Rice will be a free-agent in 2011. At this point, it’s just a matter of whether he’ll remain restricted as per current rules or hit the lucrative unrestricted market in hopes of landing a larger long-term deal than the one offered him by the Vikings prior to the lockout, of which he subsequently pointed his nose up at.
.
Everybody knows the Vikings are a work in progress and have significant question marks all over the field, most importantly at the quarterback position. That is exactly why, in my opinion, it would be a mistake to let such a young and talented, field-stretching and potentially game-changing receiver walk right into the arms of the Robert Kraft’s and Jerry Jones’ of the world.
.
You could make the argument that, presumably, the NFL will revert back to the salary-cap under the new CBA, and that you simply can not afford to pay and resign all the important skill positions. When you think of guys like Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway, and Steve Hutchinson and in another year or two, Percy Harvin, it makes swallowing the “long-term extension for Sidney Rice” pill akin to that of castor oil. But you simply can not deny the offensive production shift of performance when Rice was healthy and in uniform playing on Sunday.
.
Losing Rice last season to hip injury, I believe, was as big of a loss to the organization as losing E.J. was to the defense in ’09. I still remember all the talk at the time was that he’d only had one good season. That he was injured in ’07 & ’08 and we didn’t need him with the play of Adrian Peterson, and of course the ultimate denial in that “Favre will make any receiver look better.” Maybe it’s my small-town upbringing, but to me, a pig with lipstick is still a pig.
.
For as good as Rice was in ’09 with Favre, you could make a case for him being that consistent in his first two years with undoubtedly inferior quarterback play. Injury of course being the caveat here, but ’08 was his worst statistical season and still managed four touchdowns in three games. His rookie season, despite only playing in four contests, had an output of 31 catches for 396 yards and four touchdowns.
.
Extrapolate those numbers into a 16-game season (while forgetting the fact that the Vikings quarterbacking tree consisted of Tarvaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb and Brooks Bolinger) and you have a monstrous 124 receptions for 1584 yards and 16 touchdowns. Unlikely as it would have been, those numbers would put him amongst the best single-season production for a receiver in the last ten years.
.
You can’t argue his ability to stretch the field and jump over defenders. His importance on the field and to the success of the offense is paramount. Percy Harvin is a wonderful talent, but he is not a true #1 receiver. When he was out wide and defenders were able to isolate him on the edge he looked as stranded as Gilligan and the Skipper.
.
I think all Vikings fans will admit that Christian Ponder needs to be the future of the franchise. Part of that responsibility is having the confidence in yourself to make the throws and in your receivers, that they will make the catches. We all expect, and Bill Musgrave has confirmed, that the offense will basically run through Peterson, in which it should.
.
So in a power-running offense you need one of two things: A) good play-action or B) a vertical passing game. If you are Musgrave and are going to start a rookie QB, would you gamble on him being able to transition from run to pass without having that outside threat that can drag one if not two defenders with him?
.
Receivers that do not create separation cost the quarterback time and cause the offensive line to break apart more quickly. As evidenced last season, holding onto the ball that extra one or two seconds longer can be the difference between a 1st & 10 or a 2nd & 17, or worse. And over a large enough sample size, can be the difference between Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf.
.
I’m not trying to insinuate that the presence of Sidney Rice is going to catapult Ponder into the conversation with Manning, and hopefully the lack of #18 doesn’t mingle his name with the latter either. What we do know if that Musgrave is a maker of QB’s. Under his tutelage and with the right weapons, I believe Ponder can thrive and replicate numbers close to that of the last rookie quarterback to study under our new Offensive Coordinator.
.
Musgrave earlier admitted that Matt Ryan would not have started as a rookie in Atlanta without having all the pieces in place. Michael Turner, Roddy White and Michael Jenkins versus Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin…which tandem would you rather have? The Falcons group is good – a very close second, but second nonetheless…I’ll take the Purple.
.
I believe it is of utmost importance to resign Rice to a deal in the event his free agent status becomes unrestricted under the new CBA. Not because he is the missing link to our Super Bowl run, although it doesn’t hurt. Rather, it’s the best thing to do for the continuity and development of our new offense, and the confidence that will enable our future signal-caller for years to come.
.
And let’s face it…the guy can flat jump out of the gym!

.
.
Andy Boyum
Farmington, MN
Fantasy Football enthusiast since 1999
Commissioner: Purlple Pride Fantasy League 2002-present: 1 Championship (2004)
RT Sports Commissioner Money League Champion: 2003 & 2005
Keeper League Champion 2006, 07 & 09
Yahoo PPR Champion: 2010


. .

One Response so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Dalton
    July 5th, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    Super jzazed about getting that know-how.

Leave a Comment


Partner of USA TODAY Sports Digital Properties