Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Breakout Player: WR Sidney Rice (Vikings)

For many seasons, Minnesota fans were spoiled at the wide receiver position, led by Pro Bowl players such as Cris Carter and Randy Moss. Years later, after numerous different draft picks, free agents, and 'bust' players, the team has still yet to find their go-to receiver. With the 44th pick overall in the 2007 NFL Draft the Vikings selected young WR Sidney Rice from the University of South Carolina.

After red shirting his freshman year, the 6'4'' 202 pound Rice played only two years of college ball, but amassed a career total of 142 catches 2,233 yards receiving and 23 TD's in those two seasons. In one game alone in 2006, Rice caught 5 TD's against Florida Atlantic, breaking a school record.

In his rookie season in Minnesota, Rice had a respectable 31 catches 396 yards receiving and 4 TD's; while still missing 3 games with an injured ankle and hamstring. In a week 11 game against the Oakland Raiders, Rice threw a 79-yard TD pass to TE Visanthe Shiancoe after taking a reverse and hitting the wide open TE down the field.

Rice is a lanky receiver with very good hands and decent speed. He displays solid ball skills, and adjusts nicely to the ball while it's in the air. He also shows nice field awareness, and does a good job of battling defenders for jump balls. He is a good athlete that possesses quick feet, doesn't explode off the line of scrimmage but picks up speed as he gets down field. Rice aggressively goes after the football and uses his body to position himself well against defenders. He is tall, but not thick, and often times struggles getting out of physical jams by defensive backs and lacks overall playing strength. He runs the deep pattern well but has difficulty getting in and out of cuts quickly on short, quick hitting routes.

What are some factors that will lead Sidney Rice to have a breakout year in 2008?

1) Vikings Offense Whether its the rumored QB Brett Favre (Packers) or QB Tavaras Jackson leading the team, the Vikings will have a good offense this season. The team believes in Jackson, who should be much improved after playing last year and acquiring much needed help at the WR position. Opposing teams will also be focused on trying to stop RB's Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor, opening up many opportunities in the passing game. Throw in one of the best offensive lines in the game, giving the QB plenty of time to get rid of the ball.

2) The Defense Minnesota enters the season with potentially one of the best defenses in the NFL. Ranked #1 against the rush, adding top sack man DE Jared Allen and an improved secondary, look for the defense to give great field position to the offense. More Red Zone opportunities mean more TD's for the 6'4'' Rice, who should be a top target when looking for a score.

3) The Receivers Rice will be playing alongside newly signed free agent WR Bernard Berrian, who adds experience and a deep threat to the passing attack. Teams will play their #1 cornerbacks on him creating mismatches for Rice on the opposite side. Veteran WR Bobby Wade and 2nd year WR Andre Allison will also contribute.

Fantasy Outlook: Look for Rice to be a steal in the mid to late rounds of a fantasy draft. He has big play potential and is consistently active on the field. Expect him to put up big numbers if QB Jackson starts playing well and become a legit threat in the Red Zone.

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