Spotlight: Sidney Rice

posted by Jeff Haseley on Jul 4th


Jeff Haseley's thoughts

To say Sidney Rice emerged in 2009 is a gigantic understatement. Rice went from the 90th ranked WR in 2008 to the 8th ranked WR in 2009. The presence of Brett Favre under center for the Vikings, compared to Gus Frerotte and Tarvaris Jackson, made all the difference.

Rise to stardom

The Vikings selected Sidney Rice in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft. He always was known to have excellent hands and great instincts as a WR, especially in the red zone. He didn't exactly come out of nowhere when he emerged in 2009. He was a hidden gem in an offense without a capable QB who could make down field plays that catered to his strengths. After two years of learning Brad Childress' offense and the arm of Brett Favre leading the way, Rice was able to put it all together to become one of the league's best emerging WRs. The scary part is that he wasn't considered the primary receiving threat until about 6-7 games into the season. If he picks up where he left off in the playoffs (10 receptions, 184 yards, 4 TDs in two games), he could be in for a huge season...

...That is if Brett Favre continues his endless run as one of the game's best QBs.

Favre or no Favre

Watching Brett Favre compile career best numbers after the age of 40 is nothing short of amazing. He clearly is still able to function to the best of his ability, which in my opinion is likely why we will see him suit up for at least one more year. As of early July, Favre has not announced he is returning, but there are several signs that indicate he will be the Vikings QB in 2010.

If Favre is out of the picture, the Vikings passing game will see a big drop off in production, as illustrated below.

2009 MIN Passing offense

CMP ATT PYD PTD INT
377 552 4,403 34 7

2008 MIN Passing offense

CMP ATT PYD PTD INT
266 450 3,213 21 17

Difference from 2008 to 2009

CMP ATT PYD PTD INT
+111 +102 +1,190 +13 -10

Per game change

CMP ATT PYD PTD INT
6.94 6.38 74.38 0.8 -0.6

As shown above, Favre was directly responsible for roughly 7 more completions, 75 more passing yards and nearly 1 full TD pass more per game. Not to mention, over half an INT less on a per game basis. Is it any wonder why the Vikings passing game and Sidney Rice's receiving game drastically improved?

What makes Rice so good?

As previously mentioned, Brett Favre's down field passing arm is the primary reason for Rice's emergence, but he still has to catch the ball and make plays. The examples below provide evidence that Rice is a great asset to the Vikings. There is no reason to believe that his game won't be the same, if not better in 2010, provided Favre remains at QB.

1. Favre is an outstanding Red Zone QB and Rice is an excellent Red Zone WR. The Vikings had 34 passing TDs in 2009 and 27 of them came in the Red Zone. Rice led all MIN receivers with 23 targets and 15 receptions in the Red Zone. He also scored six RZ TDs, five of which came after week 10.

2. Excellent hands. Rice had 83 receptions on 122 targets for a 68.9% reception percentage. Of all WRs with 80+ receptions in 2009, only Wes Welker and Hines Ward had a better reception percentage, but Rice also averaged 3 to 4 more yards per catch than them. It is rare to find a WR with that many receptions, with such a high YPC, have such a high reception %.

3. Performs well in the clutch. His impressive reception % and high yards per catch was already mentioned, but Rice also is clutch on third downs, catching 23 of 30 passes on third and fourth down for a 77% reception percentage. Incidentally, 22 of the 23 catches went for a first down. He also had 3 TDs on third down to lead the team

4. Against the best opponents, he thrived. In two playoff games against DAL and NO, Rice had 10 receptions for 184 yards and 4 TDs. He was clearly Favre's most productive option when the team needed him most.

Positives

  • The presence of Brett Favre and his ability to make plays down field really caters to Rice's strengths. Without Favre, he would not be as productive. He would still make plays, it just wouldn't be as often. Favre's presence makes him a threat all game long.
  • Rice grew into a big role with the Vikings in 2009, because he made plays in the clutch. He has some of the best hands in the game and he gains positive yards after the catch. His playmaking skills in the clutch make him a favorite target for Favre.
  • ADP - Rice is roughly the 32nd pick in re-draft leagues and the 12th overall WR. It is a perfect spot to take him as your WR1 after selecting a RB-RB or RB-QB in the first two rounds of the draft. There is some risk, due to Favre's uncertainty, which is why he is the 12th WR off the boards, despite finishing as the 8th best WR in 2009. If he plays a full season like he did in the second half of the 2009 season, he should improve his numbers, which would make taking him in the third round a bargain.

Negatives

  • Rice will likely not exceed, let alone match his production from 2009, if Brett Favre decides to call it quits. The Vikings don't have any viable replacements at this time that would suggest Rice could maintain the numbers he had in 2009. If Favre isn't there, his value will decrease and his selection in round three would likely be a big mistake.
  • Rice had just one game of double-digit receptions in 2009, with only three games with 10+ targets. He was very consistent reaching eight games of six catches or more, but he only once broke the bank with a 10-catch game in 2009, which lowers his value slightly in PPR leagues.
  • Good talent surrounding him. Rice is the Vikings primary receiving threat, but they also have other options that are improving commodities as well. Rice was one of three Vikings WRs with 90 targets or more, not to mention TE Visanthe Shiancoe who accounted for 56 catches and 11 TDs (all in the Red Zone).

Final thoughts

If you believe Brett Favre will return for another year, you have to like Sidney Rice as a WR1 and Top 10 finisher. His ability to make plays in the clutch and be a big part of the offense suggests that he will be counted on early and often. It all results in consistently good numbers on a weekly basis. Essentially Rice had 12 TDs in 2009, if you count the two post season games. 12 TDs in 18 games gives him a 66% chance of scoring a TD in any given game. If his per game reception totals increase and he is able to keep his yards per catch above 15.0 YPC, he could have a 90 reception, 1,350 yard, 10 TD season, which would virtually assure a spot in the Top 3. That's a lot of ifs and of course, that's a best case scenario, but the floor isn't that far off. He has a great QB that can get him the ball, the talent to make plays, especially in the Red Zone and he's getting better every game. He has the tools to be a Top 10 WR once again, with a chance to reach Top 5 status...again, assuming Brett Favre returns.


Quotations from the message board thread

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

smackdaddies said:

Ever hear how WR break out their 3rd year? Well, that was Sidney Rice last year - While his TD's only went from 4-8, , he managed to snag 83 receptions, up from 15.

Assuming Farve comes back, have to put his minimum at about the same - 80 rcpt, 1300 yards, 8 td. I don't see a lot of variable in the numbers, with the exception I could see TD's up to 10 on the same other stats.

Biggest threat to that? No Farve, cut his stats 30% without the big man. 2nd Biggest threat, Percy Harvin improving on his outstanding year 1 - I think it is 50-50 that Percy has a better year than Sidney this year. I would still draft based on the 80/1300/8 td, but I would be a little worried about Harvin

Heatman said:

What people somehow fail to remember about Rice is he had a pretty decent rookie year, didn't put up huge numbers but he did have 31 rec, 4 tds and nearly 400 yds, not bad for a rookie. As a Vikings fan I remember watching him and thinking he is going to be very good. Then in his second season he was hampered by injuries that began in training camp and was never fully healthy... fine by me since I took the opportunity to acquire him in every league I could ( all but one ). He has excellent character and work ethic, he goes to Fitzgeralds WR camp every year to learn from Fitz and Cris Carter. I also heard he talks to Carter regularly to try to improve his game.

Then last year he gets to play with Favre as his QB! I know it's been said that Favre helps no one but that is absolutely untrue. Many of the Vikings said Favre has helped them including TJax. Rice emerged as a huge threat at WR in large part due to Favre but Favre was not the only reason he emerged. Do I think he'll be better if Favre is the QB this year? Heck yeah! Do I think he'll fall into obscurity without him? HECK NO!

The Dallas game has been mentioned a couple of times in this thread. Can't remember who the DB was on the long TD but he said he didn't even know Rice had the ball until he was in the end zone!? I remember the play vividly and Rice was perfect on the play, didn't look until the last minute, barely moved his arms (The throw was perfect) and the DB had zero chance of stopping it, heck he didn't even know the ball was coming lol!

That was not the only play last year where Rice made fantastic plays. I remember a few of plays where he flat out out jumped the defender, went over a defenders back or became unbelievably wide open.

I may be biased as a Vikings fan but he has a very bright future ahead of him and barring injury I don't think he has anything less than 1100 yards and 8 tds on 70 receptions and that is the floor no matter who the QB is, TJax, Sage or Favre. He could easily be the #1 WR this year with Favre. I think 1600 yards and 14 tds on 100 receptions is not out of his reach although Peterson and Harvin do cut into his chances of achieving monster numbers. If the Vikings FINALLY go out and get a good young QB next year everyone who owns him will be smiling all the way to the bank!

Slayer666 said:

Anytime a receiver jumps from 15 receptions, 141 yards and four touchdowns to 83 catches, 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns -- there has to be questions about his ability to replicate the performance. In 2009, Brett Favre arguably had the best statistical season of his career, and whether he returns or not, my gut tells me there will be some regression in Rice's statistical output. Also, Rice, a slender 6-4, 202 pounds, has had durability issues in the past.

In other words, I like Rice better as a No. 2 fantasy receiver than a No. 1 option.


Sidney Rice projections

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Jeff Haseley881302900
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