The $119 million man presented himself in true colors on Sunday. The famed quarterback threw for 506 yards of passing, which was good enough for the 12th best performance in league history. But from his own 14-yard line, sitting just 48 yards shy of the league record, and with 86 yards of grass before him, he threw an interception into double coverage.
This is a movie we’ve seen so many times before. And the underdog, the villain, the choke artist, or the loser – whatever you like to call him – is, of course, unabashedly, the 33-year-old Tony Romo.
In March, Jerry Jones invested in seven more episodes of this series. In television, it’s called the “back end.” You can’t say his show doesn’t get the ratings. The Dallas Cowboys have remained the most valuable franchise in football, despite a record of 130-131 since their last Super Bowl win in January of 1996. After the 51-48 loss Sunday, the owner said, “I am so proud of our team, I am so proud of Romo.”
The game magnified everything Romo is and has always been. He holds the fourth highest career passers’ rating in NFL history, ahead of names like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Joe Montana and Troy Aikman. But while those other names have combined for 11 Super Bowl wins in 13 appearances, Romo has the Cowboys’ only playoff win in 16 seasons.
Romo is what Romo does. He is no different today than what we’ve seen for over seven years. Romo loses games in 2013 the same way he did in 2007. Will he continue to put up mind-boggling numbers that raise the blood-pressure of 90,000 fans in Arlington, Texas? Of course. But the ending of the movie never changes, no matter how often we watch, or how hard we root for our guy.
Some young studs are writing their own story lines this year. The focus today will be on a rookie, a second-year wide receiver, and a third-year back. The future remains unwritten for these three.
Buy Stevan Ridley
Stevan Ridley is a 24-year-old back from LSU, in his third season in the NFL. Last year, he led all Patriots with 290 carries for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was also second in the NFL in red zone carries, only behind Arian Foster. Injured reserve player Shane Vereen and San Diego’s Danny Woodhead combined for 138 rushes and 552 yards with New England in 2012.
Ridley managed 5.1 yards per attempt in his rookie season, rushing for 441 yards on 87 carries. With an increased workload in year two, his average slid to 4.4 yards per carry. And this year, he is working a career low of 3.7 yards per rush. Ridley also bears little value in the passing game, having caught only 12 passes on 22 targets in three seasons. Together, Woodhead and Vereen had 48 receptions from 68 targets last year.
One of the most well-documented stories of 2013 has been the lack of weapons Tom Brady has for his offense. On Sunday, he only completed 47.4 percent of his passes for 197 yards, an interception, and no touchdowns. It was the first time in 53 games that Brady was not able to pass for a score.
Ridley has gotten off to a slow start this year, having rushed for only 174 yards through Week 5. He missed the team’s loss in Cincinnati with an ambiguous injury designation, a common find on the New England injury report. Ridley was listed as having a knee injury, and little is known beyond that.
The Patriots are 23rd in scoring, and look a lot more like an offense from the SEC. They will need Ridley and their other backs to perform better if this team can go anywhere beyond another lightly contested AFC East title. The good news is, Danny Amendola is back, and Rob Gronkowski should return soon. If you’re looking to add a young runner for the future of your team, Ridley’s value can’t go much lower. He won’t give you an impressive workload, but the offense may put him in scoring situations. At least for this season, he’s a boom-or-bust flex option.
Sell Alshon Jeffery
Through five games this year, Alshon Jeffery has caught 28 balls from 45 targets. He’s created 486 yards of offense and two scores. It’s the second season out of South Carolina for the 6-foot-3 receiver. Jeffery has seen 24 targets for 15 catches in the last two games, for 325 yards receiving and the two touchdowns.
He has already outperformed his rookie numbers of 24 catches for 367 yards. When he came into the NFL, he slid to the 45th overall pick due to concerns over his final year as a Gamecock. Although his second collegiate season yielded 88 catches for 1,517 yards, he only earned 762 yards from 49 receptions in 2011.
Opposite Brandon Marshall, the future could be bright for Jeffery. Jay Cutler and Marc Trestman have put together the eighth best offense, while scoring the fourth most points in 2013. It’s hard to expect a second-year wideout to continue impressive numbers for a full season. History indicates that most great receivers do not mature into fantasy studs until at least their third season. The value is high for Jeffery now, if you need to move him for some production for the rest of the season. He could become a moderately valuable chip in the 2014 offseason.
Hold Giovani Bernard
Giovani Bernard was the first running back selected in April’s NFL Draft. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden thought he was worth the 37th overall pick because he had the most all-around talent of incoming rookie rushers. Bernard was the first North Carolina back to break 1,000 yards since 1997. He rushed for more than 1,200 yards in both of his NCAA campaigns, and earned more than 1,600 yards of offense in each season. In two years, Bernard had 92 catches and 31 total touchdowns.
Through five games, Bernard has rushed for as many yards as fellow Bengal, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, though the rookie has needed 26 fewer rushes to achieve that. Bernard has 209 yards from 45 attempts, for 4.6 yards per carry, while Green-Ellis made 71 attempts at 2.9 yards per carry. Bernard is also a factor in the receiving game, having caught 14 balls from 18 targets for an additional 129 yards. He has three total touchdowns. Green-Ellis has only two catches on his three targets.
Bernard has also recorded large gains, with a 28-yard run and a 31-yard reception to his name already. This young electric phenom has yet to finish a game of 100 yards or more than 13 carries. His value is only going to increase as time moves forward. There are newcomers every year to the first round of fantasy redraft leagues, and few have as strong a case for 2014 as Giovani Bernard. A buyer would be wise to get him now, but an owner should begin building a team around this stud for years to come.
Stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and footballguys.com.
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