Four quick notes, one per NFC West team, from KC Joyner's newly published 2012 fantasy guide:
St. Louis Rams: Steven Jackson can still make the most of good blocking. Jackson averaged 8.7 yards per carry, second only to Reggie Bush, when the Rams provided what Joyner considered to be good blocking. Joyner: "The long form definition of good blocking is very detailed and outside the purview of this guide, but it can be loosely defined as when a team's blockers do not allow the defense to do anything to disrupt a rush attempt."
Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald has stepped up his game. Hard to believe that was possible, right? As Joyner notes, Fitzgerald was much more effective last season than over the previous two seasons when matched against higher-level cornerbacks. Specifically, Fitzgerald averaged 8.7 yards per target when matched against top corners (those allowing less than than 7.0 yards per attempt for the season when matched in coverage). The average was 9.3 yards per target against mid-level corners and 13.0 against poorer ones.
Seattle Seahawks: Marshawn Lynch put up good numbers overall, especially late in the season, but Joyner sees significant room for improvement along the offensive line. Joyner: "The Seahawks posted terrible numbers in the good blocking rate (38.9 percent, tied for 30th) and offensive good blocking production metrics."
San Francisco 49ers: Joyner thinks the team's moves at wide receiver will "make this offense a lot more explosive and lead to more scoring chances" for Frank Gore and the running backs. But adding Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James could signal a transition in rushing approach from "bellcow" (Gore getting 300-plus rushes and targets) to "lead/alternate" (shared duties) rushing approach.
Joyner's guide, which is not free, runs 444 pages and includes charts and multiple text categories for potential fantasy contributors for each team.
I've provided most of the information from the chart for Alex Smith as an example. It shows Smith averaged 13.3 yards per stretch-vertical attempt (those traveling at least 20 yards) while making only five bad decisions, defined as mistakes with the football that lead to a turnover or near-turnover. Joyner considered those totals to be very good. He thought they made Smith better qualified than Cam Newton to represent the NFC in the Pro Bowl.
"It is by definition a subjective metric," Joyner writes. "But this subjectivity is held in place by a set of objective rules that limit the amount of sway the subjective side has in ruling a play as a bad decision."
Quarterbacks operating in conservative offenses should strive for bad decision rates (BDRs) of 1.5 percent or less. Those operating in more aggressive passing games would have higher rates. For Smith, we see that 26 percent of attempts qualified as vertical in nature. The percentage was 39.1 for Ben Roethlisberger, 38.5 for Eli Manning, 36.3 for Aaron Rodgers, 35.9 for Philip Rivers, 31.1 for Tom Brady and 30.2 for Matthew Stafford, to cite a few examples for high-profile passers.