Associated Press

Associated Press

With 5 TDs on only 7 receptions, rookie TE Joseph Fauria is a celebrity. Is his production sustainable? I think there are solid reasons for long term optimism, and I’ll lay them out here. Keep in mind though that the past results, enticing as they are, are too few to be truly certain of the long term results. In other words, I don’t know for sure, but here’s why I think he can keep on dancing.

Why Fauria Could Remain a Red Zone Monster

  • History. Using the College Stat App to filter for 2012 collegiate receivers (all receivers, not just TEs) with more than 10 targets, Fauria’s  TD rate was 15th in the nation (out of 252 receivers), and higher than any other TE drafted in 2012. But his yards/target ranked 148th. In other words, he was really good at scoring short distance TDs. Based on limited data, his NFL usage appears to be shaping up similarly.
  • Sure hands. He’s corralled 7 of 9 (78%) targets so far. That’s a very small sample, but it’s reasonable to think he’ll continue to catch the ball well. In his UCLA career he caught 68% of his targets; in his final season he caught 71%.
  • Size. Fauria is 6’7”, with a 35.5” vertical leap. There are only 18 defensive backs in the entire NFL that are 6’2” or taller (that have recorded at least 1 tackle or pass defended). He ought to be able to continue leaping over defenders:

On the three touchdown catches, Fauria had seven, six and nine inches, respectively, on the men who covered him. When Stafford throws high and accurate, it’s virtually unstoppable.

  • Opportunity Part 1. TE Tony Scheffler is out indefinitely, opening up playing time. Fauria got his most snaps of the season last week, when Scheffler was out.
  • Opportunity Part 2. Fauria trails only Calvin Johnson on targets inside the opponent’s 25 yard line. It’s a small sample size, but a promising suggestion. The Lions seem to think Fauria is valuable in this part of the field as well:
Date Opp Quarter Time Down ToGo Location TgtDepth Score Detail Yds
10/13/13 Browns 4 10:41 1 10 CLE 23 22 20-17 Stafford pass complete deep right to Joseph Fauria for 23 yards, touchdown 23
10/13/13 Browns 4 2:05 3 4 CLE 10 11 30-17 Stafford pass complete short right to Joseph Fauria for 10 yards, touchdown 10
10/13/13 Browns 1 3:31 2 1 CLE 1 7 6-0 Stafford pass complete short right to Joseph Fauria for 1 yard, touchdown 1
09/22/13 Redskins 2 14:53 3 5 WAS 5 10 13-7 Stafford pass complete short middle to Joseph Fauria for 5 yards, touchdown 5
09/22/13 Redskins 4 11:17 3 10 WAS 10 15 17-17 Stafford pass incomplete short middle intended for Joseph Fauria 0
09/22/13 Redskins 4 11:26 1 10 WAS 10 15 17-17 Stafford pass incomplete short left intended for Joseph Fauria 0
09/08/13 Vikings 1 7:05 1 10 MIN 42 13 0-7 Stafford pass complete short right to Joseph Fauria for 22 yards (tackle by Chad Greenway) 22
09/08/13 Vikings 1 14:15 1 10 DET 32 0 0-0 Stafford pass complete short right to Joseph Fauria for 4 yards (tackle by Josh Robinson) 4
09/08/13 Vikings 4 6:51 1 1 MIN 1 4 33-24 Stafford pass complete short right to Joseph Fauria for 1 yard, touchdown 1

 

This table is from Pro Football Reference, except the target depth column, which is from Pro Football Focus. Three takeaways from his 9 targets:

  • Seven have been in one-score games.
  • Five have come in the fourth quarter.
  • Seven have been at the goal line or in the end zone.

Limited sample, so difficult to conclude anything, but the Lions appear to trust him in crucial situations.

Seeing is Believing

We love stats, but sometimes it’s helpful to see something in action. Fauria brings a third dimension to the Lions’ red zone offense. With two tall, dangerous leapers (Fauria and Calvin Johnson) outside, and Reggie Bush or Joique Bell in the backfield, Detroit presents three threats, which is more than the defense can handle. This Free Press pic illustrates:

fauriafilm

 

Bell is in the backfield, and 7 players including TE Brandon Pettigrew, are on the line. Calvin Johnson is at the top; Fauria at the bottom. Cleveland has 9 defenders near the line to stop the run. They’re taking their chances 1:1 with a hobbled Calvin and a rookie Fauria. Stafford throws a jump ball to Joe- the defender can’t outleap him.

What can Cleveland do? Doubling just Johnson or Fauria leaves the other in single coverage. Doubling both leaves only 7 defenders in the box facing 7 blockers plus the RB. Defenses must take their chances 1:1 with Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, or Joseph Fauria. It seems reasonable to think that Fauria should continue to get favorable matchups in the red zone.

Should I Roster Him?

Remember, there’s not a big enough sample here to say for sure, but based on limited data, it seems like he’ll have low yardage/catch totals, so he’s a better fit in standard leagues. In any format though, because of the apparent TD potential, he’s a good candidate for a high scoring game. That could be helpful if you’re undermanned and need a ‘home run’ type player to give you a shot at winning a matchup. The best fit for Fauria is on dynasty rosters. He’s shown enough to warrant a roster spot.

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