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Spotlight: Sidney Rice

posted by Will Grant on Aug 13th


Will Grant's thoughts

Sidney Rice is like the ultimate fantasy tease. He floundered in Minnesota for several years until Brett Favre came along. Then, with Favre's trust, he blossomed into a genuine stud WR during the 2009 season (84 receptions for 1,312 yards and 8 TDs). But last year, he was hampered by injuries again and began the season on the PUP list. When he finally was healthy enough to play for the final six games, Favre was not and as a result, Rice was ineffective.

  • Week 11 - 3 recs for 56 yards (5.6 points)
  • Week 12 - 1 rec for 20 yards (2.0 points)
  • Week 13 - 5 recs for 105 yards and 2 TDs (22.5 points)
  • Week 14 - 5 recs for 60 yards (6.0 points)
  • Week 15 - 2 recs for 23 yards (2.3 points)
  • Week 16 - 1 rec for 16 yards (1.6 points)

When Favre's consecutive streak of game starts ended, and he announced his retirement, Rice decided to check out the free agent market. The Vikings considered using a franchise tag on him, be eventually decided to let him test the waters.

Even during the lockout, Rice was expected to leave Minnesota. During the extended lockout, several teams were rumored to be interested in Rice. New England, St. Louis, Chicago and Seattle. He eventually signed a five-year, $44 million contract; re-joining former teammate Tarvaris Jackson who was named Seattle's starting QB. Rice could have gotten a better deal if he stayed in Minnesota, but chose move to Seattle.

Rice was immediately named the starter for the Seahawks. It wasn't a big surprise, given the contract that Rice signed, but it did put a serious hit on the stats of Mike Williams. Early camp reports have Rice playing well, but he did not play in their first preseason game against San Diego on August 12th. Given Jackson's performance in that game (3-5, 13 yards), Rice may be catching passes from Charlie Whitehurst by the time the first regular season game rolls around.

Rice will face plenty of competition for passes on the Seahawks this year. Mike Williams finally established him as a legitimate wide receiving threat. Despite the fact that neither of them played in the first preseason game, Williams and Rice will be the starting tandem for Seattle Week 1. The Seahawks also signed former Oakland TE Zack Miller, giving them three solid pass-catching threats. Deon Butler was a decent #3 last season, but he's on the PUP list now and it's uncertain when he will return. The Seahawks also have second year man Golden Tate who they expect to expand his role in the offense this year. Tate has great physical skills, but is completely unproven at this point. It will be interesting to see how the offense shakes out, especially if Charlie Whitehurst takes over the starting job.

Projecting Rice this season is going to be a challenge. Aside from his 2009 performance, Rice has been a receiver with minimal fantasy value. He played in six games last season, but only had 17 total catches. He had an impressive 16.5 YPR average, and against Buffalo he posted 105 receiving yards and Two TDS. However, his other five games were minimal performances, and he never scored more than six fantasy points in any of them. In Seattle, he'll have plenty of opportunities, but with the question marks at QB and the stiff competition for passes from the other players, he probably won't come anywhere near his 2009 numbers.

Positives

  • Signed a big free agent contract, and was named the starting WR. He'll have plenty of opportunity to re-establish himself as a dominant fantasy WR
  • In his limited action last season, he still posted an impressive YPR. He'll be the big play threat for Seattle this year for sure
  • Still just two years removed from a top 10 fantasy performance. If he can establish a rapport with whoever is throwing the ball, he has the potential to return to have a solid fantasy season

Negatives

  • Chemistry that was in place with Tarvaris Jackson won't give him an advantage if Charlie Whitehurst is the starting QB. TJAX's has never been a strong NFL QB and his first live-fire performance was a bust. Whitehurst could be the starter by Week 1
  • Injuries are a concern. He missed most of last season with a knee injury and he's already missing time due to an undisclosed injury. Can he stay healthy for the entire season?
  • Large group of pass-catchers might mean everyone gets just enough to make them all irrelevant from a fantasy prospective. Mike Williams, Rice, Golden Tate and Zach Miller will all demand attention from whoever is throwing the ball. They all could top out at 50 receptions this year

Final thoughts

I love Rice for his physical skills and watched every game in 2009 when he looked unstoppable for most of the season. However, all of the controversy about his late announcement of knee surgery and then starting the season on the PUP list made me question if he was a one hit wonder. Aside from the Buffalo game last year, his performance was downright pedestrian. Even if you want to say his performance last season was due to the poor QB play rather than Rice's performance, consider that TJAX and Charlie Whitehurst will probably have a similar QB performance this season. Between the questionable QB performance expectations and stiff competition for catching passes, Rice is more of a later round flyer rather than a guy you can confidently draft and count on from week to week.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

Holland Freeze said:

Rice had the growing pains expected from a WR entering the NFL. He showed promise as a rookie but was not a fantasy force. The sophomore slump would provide a synopsis of his 2nd season. His emergence in his 3rd year had as much to do with Favre as it did with his development but we were shown what he was capable of. Just about everyone on the entire Minny team suffered through a disappointing season last year but Rice being able to maintain a high average per reception is enough to demonstrate that he is capable of rebounding.

It must be the Seattle weather that has so negatively affected many of the WR's that have played there. The transition for Rice should be minimized by having the familiarity he already has with T. Jackson, who at the moment appears to be the opening day starter. I am not touting Jackson as the 2nd coming of Favre by any means but the shared experiences of these two players will give Rice the lead over the other WR's for becoming the primary weapon of choice. During the transition year I could see there still being a close split between Rice and Big Mike (if there is no backslide) making it so that neither will be ideal fantasy prospects but solid contributors none the less.


Sidney Rice projections

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Will Grant57844500
Message board consensus751000800