Friday, August 24, 2012

Preseason Week 3: Thursday

Week three of the preseason is easily the most important week, because the starters play at least one half (with the exception of some high-risk players), and this is their last dress rehearsal before the regular season starts. Here is what I noticed from watching and taking notes on the first half of each game. Just as a note, I didn't put any faith in the second half of the games because half of the personnel on either side of the ball were likely to have switched. This is important for the Cardinals, because Kolb did pretty well in the second half. I don't care. You can count it if you want to; I'm not going to.


Green Bay Packers at Cincinnati Bengals

Aaron Rodgers: Rodgers looked pretty good passing the ball, but his ability to scramble is what puts him ahead of guys like Drew Brees and Tom Brady. The Packers offensive line looks suspect at this point, and I don't know how much Mike McCarthy can do to improve it at this point in the preseason. The truth is that Rodgers will probably digress in terms of passing touchdowns while throwing about twice as many interceptions this season. You just can't always throw a great pass with pressure in your face, and you can't always escape the sack. He still looks like a top-5 selection depending on your formatting, and his lackluster performances during the first two preseason games should be thrown out after watching him return to form in the third game. Rodgers is still Rodgers; the defenses should be more prepared this season.

Andy Dalton: Andy Dalton looked terrible when he was under pressure, and he was under pressure a lot. The offensive line didn't look great in run or pass blocking schemes, but they did look better than the Packers line. The biggest issue for Dalton was that he could not make the quick read. There were so many times when I could see the pressure coming before the snap where he didn't check to a quick read and ended up scrambling or getting sacked. When Dalton did have time, he just didn't look accurate. He had some overthrown balls and some wild throws from a fully planted position, but he could at least locate an open receiver when he had some time to survey the field. The Bengals MUST work on getting some quick throws into the offense, but I just don't think Dalton is going to take a step forward this season. He will probably top out at 15th, but will most likely put up ~18th-20th numbers amongst quarterbacks. Only draft him in 2QB leagues.

Cedric Benson vs. Alex Green: This on was easy. On the first drive my description of Green was, "Alex Green terrible bcv (ball carry vision)/drops the ball, runs right into defender." I never changed my opinion of him throughout the game, and never wrote anything good about him. He just couldn't find the seam to get that extra 2 yards that is the difference between an average running back and a great running back. Benson, on the other hand, looked amazing. He ran strong, and he could make something out of seemingly nothing on multiple draw plays. He wouldn't break them for huge runs, but he could find the crease between defenders so that he could slip through and fall forward instead of getting stuffed for a 2 yard gain. As the game went on, my praise of Benson got higher, and his explosion really stood out to me. The Packers finally have a starting running back. Unfortunately, he still might be held to 10-12 carries during most games just based on the Packers offense and philosophy. I think that 200 carries would probably be a good estimate, with an additional 40 catches. 1,200 scrimmage yards is reasonable, but I don't think he will have too many touchdowns. Rodgers is so good at the pass-run option by himself that he doesn't need a running back to drive the ball in. They might try to use Benson at the goal line to protect Rodgers, but 7 total touchdowns is my estimate for him. Those numbers are respectable, and Benson should be a nice flex play. I think his ADP will move toward 100-120, while Green and Starks go undrafted.

The Bengals Running Backs: Both Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Bernard Scott are both injured. The offensive line didn't look great in run blocking for the Bengals, but their offense should provide ample opportunities for BJGE to prove himself valuable. I think he has approximately the same value as Benson, but he is being drafted much higher. I really doubt that Bernard Scott will have much value, especially after his broken hand. I don't know exactly when he will be back, but he should only be considered in extremely deep leagues. Leonard wasn't any good. He danced around way too much. BJGE doesn't have that problem.

Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson: These are the obvious top receivers for the Packers. They run good routes, have great instincts, and get yardage after the catch. They are both much more explosive than they appear and should be absolutely wonderful this season. They should both be shooting for 1,200+ receiving yards and 10+ touchdowns, and you should be comfortable starting both of them concurrently. I believe it will be a rare week when this pair doesn't have 20+ fantasy points, and I think they will both average ~12 points per game this season. I originally thought that Greg Jennings was going to be the guy to own this season, but everything I've seen from Nelson has been great. They both have stellar hands, and there is a definite possibility for both of them to be startable every week on your team.

Randall Cobb: Be very careful about taking Cobb. Right now, Diver, Jones, and he are all in about the same place on the depth chart. I saw Rodgers look to Cobb as his 3rd or 4th read on most plays, and he really didn't get the ball much with the first team offense. In fact, he hasn't gotten the ball much all preseason. There are reasons to believe he will have a good season, but there are very few reasons to believe he will have a great season. He still looks like a dynamic kick returner and punt returner, so feel free to draft him in those types of leagues...just don't expect him to move off your bench.

A.J. Green: Dalton looked for Green on plenty of plays, but Tramon Williams played him really tight for most of the game. Furthermore, Dalton did not look like he was capable of getting the ball to Green on a regular basis. I know Green is one of the rising stars in this league, but the connection just hasn't been there this preseason, and wasn't there this game. I have a really hard time seeing A.J. Green as a top-5 WR or even a top-10 WR this season. I know he was great last year, but Dalton just doesn't look talented enough or decisive enough to get him the ball regularly. I'm not going to drop him far, but I don't know if he is a 3rd round pick for me anymore. I think he is a solid WR2, but I just have difficulty relying on him to be my WR1 this season. I could be wrong, and I will absolutely admit it if I am. Late third round is when I would draft him.

Here are my note from the Packers-Bengals game. There is some strong language, and it isn't nicely written. It is mostly broken up by drive.


Jacksonville Jaguars at Baltimore Ravens

Joe Flacco: Flacco was on target and efficient, but certainly not special. He threw the ball 36 times, which is probably about how much he will throw in some full, regular season games. There are games he will throw less. The Ravens offensive line gave him time, and he definitely proved that he could throw the short ball effectively. His deep ball was suspect, but that is no surprise. Joe Flacco just isn't the best QB in the league. The Ravens are fine with that. Fantasy owners know that. He will probably be around 16th overall, maybe pushing up a little from that position this season thanks to Torrey Smith. There were a few times when i needed to see Flacco make a decision about really zipping the ball to the receiver where he failed to do so.

Blaine Gabbert: Gabbert impressed me again. The Jaguars offensive line is weak, but he at least stood in and faced the pressure instead of running away every time. He was proficient about getting the ball to Justin Blackmon, but he wasn't especially good at anything else. He isn't worth starting in any league (even 2QB leagues), and will only be drafted in 2QB leagues for bye-week reasons. Gabbert has the tendency to be a bit inaccurate and to run backwards away from the blitz. This is bad for the Jaguars offense.

Ray Rice: He looked good in his one series. Easily the second best player to draft this season.

Rashad Jennings vs Maurice Jones-Drew: Well I'm not surprised that the Jaguars aren't trying to get MJD back on the field; Jennings is a startable running back. He might not be great, but he showed the ability to break tackles and find holes in the defense to run for. I actually hope that MJD does get traded because Jennings provides another starting running back for fantasy owners. I will be drafting him 1-2 rounds ahead of his ADP in any league until MJD comes back, because he just looks like a valuable piece of the Jaguars offense. He could easily run for 1,200+ yards in a full season. Watching Rashad run makes me want to own MJD if he comes back to the Jaguars, because Pocket Hercules should be better than Jennings, which is encouraging for the Jaguars' running game.

Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin: Both of these guys looked sharp. Torrey Smith has the raw ability to get open on any route, but I am frustrated with his pass catching ability. He just doesn't catch some easy passes that come his way. I find that he loses the ball when he is running a deep route and tries to run right under it instead of letting it fall over his shoulder. This makes it very difficult for him to get a good read on the ball. That being said, it is obvious that Flacco has built a great rapport with him, and he should be valuable in both PPR and standard leagues. Smith does not look like a great red-zone target, which could keep his touchdowns down. Anquan Boldin, on the opposite spectrum, has amazing hands and is a better red-zone target. I think that Boldin might be able to push towards 1,000 yards receiving for the first time since becoming a Raven, but I have a hard time believing he will reach that mark. On the other hand, I think that 8 touchdown receptions is completely reasonable and attainable. I like both of these guys in the upper-teens of all WRs, but Torrey Smith definitely has the better ceiling.

Justin Blackmon: He either has great instincts or has built a great rapport with Blaine Gabbert. Either way, I can see Blackmon averaging about 10 points per game this season. He should be a great flex play. He gets more good looks from Gabbert than any other offensive player on this team, and I love his potential in this offense. He is the only good receiver on the team and Gabbert likes him. Those are the makings of a great rookie season. He should be a top-20 wide receiver.

Laurent Robinson: I have never liked Robinson, but I might like him more than the Jaguars fans. This guy doesn't have the hands to be a presence on this offense, and he isn't on the same page as Gabbert. If he finishes in the top-50 of all wide receivers, I would be extremely surprised.

Lardarius Webb: Draft this guy as your DB in IDP leagues. He was all over the place during this games and was making tackles left and right. I love his intensity and ability. He has really come into his prime after a good 2011 season.

Here are my raw notes from the Ravens-Jaguars game.


Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans

I came into this game a few minutes late, but I don't think I missed anything (from looking at the play-by-play).

Kevin Kolb and John Skelton: Skelton is terrible, Kolb is bad, but the Cardinals offensive line is worse. Honestly, I saw absolutely nothing good out of the offensive line. Skelton makes quick throws, but they are short and prone to being off-target. Kolb is a slower thrower, so he takes more hits, but he does make better throws when they happen. Neither player was good about getting the ball to Fitzgerald and they are both prone to interceptions. Kolb probably won the job, but I just don't see him doing anything worth-while behind that terrible offensive line. Both tackles were absolutely atrocious. The best thing that the offensive line did all game was when Colledge caught the batted ball and ran 3 yards for a first down. It was a sad, sad game.

Jake Locker: Locker was better, but the Titans offensive line also struggled. Locker is mobile, but he doesn't throw the ball well while he is moving. I don't think he is worth a draft pick, but he is, at least, better off than the Cardinals quarterbacks. He has the ability to scramble, but he isn't as good as Dalton or Rodgers in that respect. He doesn't have the best decision making, but he isn't terrible. I think he, Ponder, and Gabbert will all be on about the same level this season around 20th best QB.

Beanie Wells vs Ryan Williams: It is impossible to judge these guys because the Cardinals offensive line was so bad. Neither one of them looked the least bit impressive, and the Cardinals are going to struggle this season on the ground. I wouldn't draft either of these guys, and I can't see them combining for more than 1,200 yards rushing. They might catch a few passes, but the screens they ran were bad and the dump off passes were worse; there was just no blocking. It is a tough situation, but I wouldn't draft either one of them.

Chris Johnson: Johnson looked bad, but so did the offensive line. I don't think this drops him down, but I would be wary of taking him at this point. He isn't someone I want running the ball for me. I don't think defenses respect Jake Locker, so they tee-up on this lackluster offensive line and eat CJ alive. I think he has enough raw talent and speed to have decent production, but I'm not going to want to draft him. Right now I am debating about whether I rate McFadden or Johnson higher. There is definitely something to be said for the durability of Chris Johnson, but he doesn't look to improve on 2011 by much. I still think he will be a top-10 running back, though, just based on raw talent.

Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts: People need to stop drafting Michael Floyd. He does not know enough of the offense to be involved this season. He might have a touchdown or two this season, but he isn't playing much with the first team for a reason. Larry Fitzgerald is great, but these QBs just can't get him the ball. Unless he falls to the bottom of the second round, I just can't support drafting him. Andre Roberts, on the other hand, has the potential to be borderline valuable as a 15th+ round pick. He has hands and ability, but the quarterbacks are terrible and the offensive line is terrible. I think that there are much better options here (Brandon LaFell comes to mind), but it is obvious that he will have significant looks in this offense. I think you could do a lot worse than drafting Roberts...especially if it means you are avoiding Floyd. I think Roberts will be better in PPR than in standard leagues. I don't think Fitzgerald can challenge for the top WR this season, but I think Roberts could be top-25.

Nate Washington and Kendall Wright: I think Nate Washington is the guy to own here. I know Kendall Wright had a good game, but I just am not impressed with him at this point. This is just a feeling (he looked neither good nor bad in the preseason game), so I would respect anyone who decided to draft him. I just don't think he carries any value and I doubt he will crack the top-30. Nate Washington, on the other hand, will be decent as the #1 receiver in this Titans offense. I liked his ability to sit down and wait for Locker to find him. He made good adjustments on the ball, and I think he will be top-20 IF (and this is a big 'if') Kenny Britt plays poorly this season. I really can't decide about Britt. There are times when I think the 12th round is great value and other times when I can't imagine owning him. I am scared by players who have multiple knee injuries whilst having multiple arrests on their record. There is just so much risk associated with him and an unknown upside. I don't know if his knee can hold up this season, but we will find out. Try to grab him if the price is right.

Jared Cook: Locker loves targeting him, but he just isn't coming down with the ball. This can be blamed mostly on Locker, but there is absolutely potential here. Cook should be around the top-10 of all TEs this season. He gets fewer catches with a higher yard-per-catch than most tight ends.

Here are my short notes for the Titans and Cardinals. They are short because I didn't just want to write about the offensive line.

Cardinals at Titans Short Notes

Skelton is terrible. Oline is terrible.

Cant blame just CJ

Skelton to Roberts is nice
Wells actually looks quick
Heap drops a nice pass
Oline is terrible, absolutely terrible

Locker pretty fast, but not a great passer.
Looking for Cook
He still has happy feet
Johnson can play, still
Washington could be good depending on what happens with Britt

Floyd drops pass.
Can't get the ball to Fitzy

Locker loves Cook, but slings it dangerously
Locker not afraid to throw

Cards might have the worst Oline in the NFL


Jaguars at Ravens Notes

Flacco good throw, then again to boldin, great oline and unflappable
82 bad pass catching form, Flacco lack of touch

Jenning bad bcv, then good
Great fucking throw in the face of pressure, blackmon push off
Robinson needs to separate on that play

Rice still great, still catching balls
Flacco needed to zip the ball
Smith shortish catch on semi-dangerous throw
dump off to leach instead of throwing away
boldin good hands and looked for in end zone

gabbert cant back up
again, blackmon
can't throw short on that, too conservative

Flacco good eyes, decent/bad throw
Smith not a great receiver still

Jennings is startable, but not elite
Blackmon is great and gabbert can get him the ball
Gabbert good and fast, but not on sae page as Robinson

Flacco looking for Smith and boldin, good decision making
Again to Smith, good route runner
Smith and Boldin, everything

Gabbert still just quick throw, needs to hold that longer, no pressure
I'd rather he throws that out than takes a sack

Flacco still playing well, but not great

Jennings is SO good, and Gabbert is making fast plays, Robinson sucks
Love this to Blackmon, definitely worth a 8th-10th
I love Jennings, and Gabbert's decision making
Webb looks great for IDP
Lots of trust in Jennings

Flacco to Smith, all day long.

Packers at Bengals Notes

Alex Green terrible bcv/drops the ball, runs right into defender
to nelson first
Rodgers great run/oline looks weak already

Leonard dances too much and doesnt possess great bcv

Cobb is still a dynamic returner (Kos better later in season)
Nelson did not get ridiculous PI
Jennings is in game, looks good(as does Rodgers) –hella good, damn man, great speed
Tom Crabtree is decent
Rodgers run for TD, great running from pressure, nice shoulder fake before running, made dline jump

Packers run d looks good
Dalton making slow decisions, being forced to flush, oline not great (but Dalton could make faster decision)

Jordy is spectacular
Benson is a much better bcv, easily the best RB on the team
Rodgers still right on target (bad personal foul), two rushing TD
Driver on field (over Cobb?) yes

Bengals poor screen execution, Dalton forced to run
finally got a run, and another hole,
Good throw to tate, not greatest touch
Short pass too hard

Benson much better than green
slot throw to cobb
Jones ran wrong route? Definitely, go against cover 2

Traman great, but Dalton didn't make quick decision
Tate another catch in zone
Traman great again
good quick throw
should have gotten IG
They HAVE to have a quick read on that

Packers use lots of receivers
Rodgers SO much faster than he looks, wont go down
Benson is bester, can catch, turn, and run, fast
throw to cobb in slot, Jones looking deep
Rodgers isn't checking enough options at times

Dalton overthrows open Green
Finally a quick throw, but not enough

Benson great on draws
Nelson great after catch, knocks down defender
Still throwing to driver

Dalton now freaking out
Donald less has to catch that

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Players to Target and Avoid After Preseason Week 2

These preseason weeks drag on forever. There are preseason games 5 days a week, meaning that information and injuries come in painfully slowly. Fortunately it provides ample opportunity for reflection about the performances turned out by particular players. Without further ado, here are the players that I noticed (in either a positive or negative light) after the first two weeks of the preseason.

Just as a side note: Mike Wallace is going to report to the Steelers and sign his waiver this weekend. He might not play this preseason, but he won't be missing any regular season games.

Quarterbacks:

Michael Vick: I wouldn't touch Vick in any draft. Every time he steps on the field he gets injured. I don't care if this rib injury turns out to be absolutely nothing and he is ruled medically fine. Drafting Vick is no longer Russian Roulette. Vick is just a fully loaded revolver waiting to sink your fantasy team. Fortunately he is not as highly touted as he was last season, but I honestly wouldn't draft Vick as anything beyond a backup quarterback. He might not play a full game this whole season at this rate.

Matt Ryan: This isn't something that really needs to be said with all the hype he's been getting, but Ryan looks good. Actually, there is no quarterback that has looked better than Matt Ryan through the first few weeks of the preseason. He is going to move up fast (he is already pushing towards the 5th round or earlier) if he can perform to this level next week.

Mark Sanchez/Tim Tebow: If anyone was considering drafting either of these guys, stop it. They have been piss poor over the last two weeks, and there just isn't enough receiving talent on that team for either of them to be successful (not that Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald could catch passes thrown as poorly as these two have been dishing out).

Matt Flynn/Russell Wilson: I mentioned these two last time, and I still really like them. They have been accurate and consistent, even if I can't say the same for their receivers. Matt Flynn should be the starter, but Wilson would probably be the more valuable fantasy QB.


Running Backs:

Cedric Benson/James Starks: A lot has been made about which Packers running back is draftable. At this point, I have seen absolutely nothing to suggest that any of them are going to be valuable. Benson isn't going to get 250 carries in this offense. Starks is going to keep dropping easy screen passes. They might have a few valuable games throughout the season, but unless I see something great from Benson, I'd stay away from both of them.

Frank Gore: Just like that, the 49ers running back corps looks a lot weaker. Sure, Jacobs and James seem to be relatively healthy, but the fact that both of them were injured makes Gore a lot more intriguing to me. If Gore and Hunter are the only healthy running backs for Week 3, I could see Gore turning into a solid play this season. Right now, thought, that backfield is just too much of a quagmire.

Rashad Jennings: If you already started a league and this guy is a FA, please go pick him up. He has been great during the first two preseason games and he should put up starting running back numbers until MJD comes back from his hold-out. Consider drafting Ryan Mathews and Rashad Jennings. Mathews should be healthy by the time MJD comes back.

Travaris Cadet: I cannot get over how well Travaris Cadet is playing. He is pretty much Chris Ivory plus Darren Sproles. He has been heavily used this preseason, and I would love to see him get some real playing time. If the injury bug hits the New Orleans backfield, this guy could be special; as it stands, he will never see the field.

Beanie Wells: I don't think Wells is ever going to be able to separate himself from Ryan Williams after missing this time due to injury. Wells is average. Williams is slightly above average. I would draft Williams over Wells...but I probably wouldn't draft either one. Donald Brown is a better option.

Donald Brown: Speaking of Donald Brown, he looked good again despite playing against a difficult defense. This could be your breakout running back...I feel like I've been saying that since May.


Wide Receivers:

Reggie Wayne: Austin Collie, who was looking like the better receiver, might be done with his career. He is looking at his 4th concussion in under 2 years, and while I don't wish that upon him, it would probably be better for his long term health. Wayne promptly stepped up and kicked ass Sunday night, and I think he should get about 1,000 yards and 6-8 touchdowns.

Jordy Nelson: Regardless of what happens with Jennings, I am completely on the Jordy Nelson bandwagon. Every time Rodgers wants to throw to the end zone, he seems to go for Nelson. This might change once Jennings hits the field, but Nelson has looked spectacular in camp and in Week 2.

Greg Little: I know a lot of people like him, but Brandon Weeden looks like crap. I could see him matching his production from last season, but I really don't see him exceeding it. I think Little is a good player, but I really can't imagine Weeden producing any fantasy-valuable wide receivers.

Jerome Simpson: He is suspended for the first three weeks of the season, so he probably isn't worth drafting unless something happens to Percy Harvin, but he is an undeniably talented player. He could definitely have been a better player throughout his career, but he doesn't have a whole lot of competition in Minnesota. Once we see how Ponder does in the first regular season games, he might be worth a FA pickup.

Justin Blackmon: Blackmon finally has some fantasy value after Gabbert actually looked like a real quarterback against the Saints. I want to see another game out of Gabbert, but I would consider drafting Blackmon as a late-round flier now.

Laurent Robinson: Unlike Blackmon, Robinson still looks like crap. There is no way I could conceivably draft him unless I needed to start 5-6 wide receivers.

Rod Streater: Streater might not start for long, but he has looked great with Palmer throwing the ball to him. He has a huge number of receptions in two preseason games and could be a huge contributor in PPR and standard leagues alike if he starts the first regular season game. Keep him on your radar and feel free to draft him as your last pick.

Alshon Jeffery: Alshon Jeffery looks good. He looks like the WR2 that the Bears could use after they finally got Marshall as their WR1. I think he is worth a draft pick.

Michael Crabtree: Crabtree looks like he is never going to be the great receiver that the 49ers drafted him to be. Looking towards this season, I can't see him getting more than 50 receptions with Ted Ginn, Randy Moss, and Mario Manningham all competing for touches. There really isn't anyone worth drafting from the 49ers receiving corps.

Danny Amendola: This guy finally had a good game, and I'm excited about it. I think he should be a really good late-round pick in almost any league, but should excel in PPR leagues especially. Hopefully he stays healthy this season.

Jon Baldwin: This guy might be everything physically, but he just isn't clicking with Cassel this season so far. I don't think he has a lot of potential with Bowe finally coming back, even though he physically has plenty of potential; at least not from what I've seen.

Vincent Brown: He broke his ankle and is going to be out for a long time. This does give the other Chargers some added value, but a lot of people were drafting him as their late-round sleeper. So much for that.


Tight Ends:

Fred Davis: I have nothing against Davis, but I've been down on him for a while. It seems like he just doesn't have the rapport with RG3 that he had with Rex Grossman. There are plenty of better choices at the TE position.

Kyle Rudolph: I like Kyle Rudolph, but he hasn't shown much this preseason. He hasn't had a whole lot of playing time this preseason, but I think he should be pretty good this season at the top of the depth chart. I still like him better than Davis.

As you can see, there hasn't been much impressive play from the tight ends this preseason. If this continues, this season will see a huge drop in fantasy points from quarterbacks. The yardage from the top-50 receivers has been pretty consistent over the last 11 years, but the yardage from tight ends has exploded. This would make fantasy quarterbacks less valuable...although Aaron Rodgers doesn't throw to his tight ends nearly as often as Tom Brady and Drew Brees.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Players to Target and Avoid After the First Week of Preseason Games

The first group of preseason games are useless for evaluating talent on most established teams. For example, the fact that Aaron Rodgers went 2 of 8 with one interception does not mean their is a quarterback controversy in Green Bay, nor does it mean that Aaron Rodgers is any less of a stud QB. If the steak continues throughout the preseason, there is reason to worry, but right now, players of that caliber are completely safe.

On the other hand, there is every reason to read into the performances of unknown quantities, simply because we have nothing else to go on. The preseason is the only time we are going to be able to see most of these players in their new uniforms, so we ought to make the most of every preseason game to evaluate talent. Here are a few players I liked and disliked after the first group of preseason games (going back to the HoF game).

Players Moving Up:


Pierre Garcon: I loved seeing a solid connection between Garcon and Robert Griffin during the first preseason game. Garcon looked good enough to get away from coverage and fight for the ball while RG3 looked good enough to get him the ball. Someone will inevitably get receptions in Washington, and Garcon looks like the #1 target.

Evan Rosyer: Royster is a lock for the starting gig in Washington, so it might be time to dump your stock in Roy Helu. We will get a better picture in games 2 and 3, but it looks like Roster's job to lose after this first preseason game.

Julio Jones: Jones outshone White, who looked pretty good himself, and looks like Matt Ryan's new favorite target. There was speculation that Jones would have an amazing year, but I don't think anyone expected to see 100+ yards and a touchdown in one quarter of play. Jones is a physically gifted receiver with an accurate quarterback on a team moving towards the passing attack; everyone wants this guy on their team.

Vincent Brown: Brown looked really good playing with the second team, but it really doesn't say much for him. Given the performance against the Packers, I hope Brown is given the opportunity to play more with the first string to test his potential. He seems like a strong player, but we will know more as the preseason drags on. (Short aside; Antonio Gates looked healthy).

Knowshon Moreno: Moreno looked pretty good. There is no reason to draft him yet, but keep an eye on him as the preseason drags forth. If he could stop getting injured he would be a pretty damn good back.

David Wilson and Rashad Jennings: Neither one of these guys are imminently threatening to streal a starting gig, but either one of them looks like a great addition pending situations with the starting backs on their teams. If Bradshaw gets hurt, Wilson looked great. If Maurice Jones-Drew doesn't show up for the start of the season, Jennings looks like a solid play.

LeGarrette Blount: Doug Martin looked good, but Blount looked better. Blount ran with a passion and intensity that was largely lacking from his game last season. It definitely appears to be his job to lose going into the second preseason game.

Andre Roberts: For the second consecutive game, Roberts has gotten multiple receptions in short playing time. It looks like the quarterbacks are looking for him and are confident throwing the ball to him...if only they could actually get the ball there more often. His potential is limited by the QB play in Arizona.

Peyton Hillis: I absolutely despise Hillis, but dammit if he didn't play well against the Cardinals. I'm going to take this performance with a grain of salt, because the Saints also ran all over the Cardinals starting defense, but I like where Hillis is going as a fantasy player.

Matt Flynn, Leon Washington, and Russell Wilson: Matt Flynn started this game and looked on target. I don't care that most of his passes were extremely short, but every single one of them was thrown into the perfect spot for the receiver to make the catch. His interception was forgivable, as he is still learning to read defenses and should have just put a little more velocity on the ball to zip it past the linebacker. Leon Washington looked great playing for Marshawn Lynch, and while he might split carries with Turbin, the weakness of the Seattle offensive line left Flynn dumping the ball of to him with regularity. I was ready to anoint Flynn as the undisputed starter until Russell Wilson stepped in and showed why he was in this QB competition. I think Flynn will win the starting job, as his passing was a bit more precise, but either one of these guys should be a good QB2.

Austin Collie: I'm not going to put Luck here, because he was one tackle away from having only 127 yards and one touchdown. Furthermore, the offensive line looked bad and he was only 10-16 on the night. Respectable, but far from Hall of Fame worthy. Austin Collie looked like he should get plenty of receptions this season, and I really liked the way he was looked for in the offense.

Travaris Cadet: Cadet put up good numbers in both the HoF game and Week 1. I don't know how far up the depth chart he can climb, but he already looks better than Chris Ivory. He can catch and run, and most people probably don't even know who this kid is. If I knew nothing about the Saints' depth chart, Cadet would be my starting RB for the Saints. 


Players Moving Down:

 Roy Helu: You can't be happy about owning Helu right now, especially after he showed nothing special in the game against the Bills. There were people taking Helu in the 4th-6th rounds who are now stuck with a 10th round talent, unless he can do something special over the next three weeks.

James Starks: He looked so unprepared in the preseason game that the Packers signed Cedric Benson. 'Nuff said.

Shonn Greene: The guy looked pedestrian at best. I don't think he's in danger of losing the starting job, but two more games like that one and the Jets will be in an RBBC situation.

Brandon Weeden: Welcome to the NFL, rookie. 3-9 with one interception and one lost fumble is not what you were drafted for. I don't know if he can play badly enough to lose the starting job this preseason, but Colt McCoy showed him up with the second team. I am worried for all Browns receivers at this point.

Laurent Robinson: He was outplayed by most of the other Jaguars receivers. He needs to shape up over the next two-three weeks...or maybe this is why he wasn't played much for the first four years of his career.

Dan Carpenter: It is rare for a kicker to get any mention in fantasy football articles, but the guy did miss two field goals on two attempts.

Jamaal Charles: I am no longer convinced that Charles will be the major ball carrier for the Chiefs this season. He has plenty of preseason to fix his image, but I really didn't like what I saw from him. He had limited touches, but with the way Hillis ran, I wouldn't take him before the third round if I was drafting today.

Frank Gore: LaMichael James, Rock Cartwright, Brandon Jacobs, and Anthony Dixon all looked good in their first preseason game. That just doesn't bode well for Frank Gore. He needs to prove that he is the most talented runner on this team.

Cam Newton: Don't read too far into this, but if you watched the beginning of the Panthers game you know how shitty Newton looked. First preseason game; no problem. I'm just throwing up the red flag now in hopes that he proves me wrong over the next two weeks. The Texans defense could just be that good.

Chris Johnson: In the same vein, how bad did Chris Johnson look the other day? I mean, really, the offensive line got absolutely no push and he did practically nothing on his five runs. Then he was targeted with a number of passes...that he dropped. It could be that the Seahawks have a dominant front-7, but I am actually a little worried about Chris Johnson.


All of this should be taken with a grain of salt. Teams were playing with strange rosters that may or may not accurately represent their full strength on offense or defense, so the top players need to keep pushing and the bottom players have plenty of opportunity to vindicate themselves.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

An Unexpected Team

So the other day I was trying to find an old NFL.com league because I wanted to prove that I started Matt Flynn in my Week 17 championship game last year over Philip Rivers and Tim Tebow. What I found instead was that I had accidentally signed up for an auction draft a while ago and had completely missed my draft. Here is my team and how I am going to go about dealing with it...


This team is not terrible, but there are a lot of people I would not have picked up in this auction format (Anquan Boldin being one of the most glaring and frustrating computer faults).

I made two immediate changes to the lineup (Dropped Santana Moss for Roy Helu, Dropped Andy Dalton for Brandon Pettigrew). Since then I also dropped Jacob Tamme for Evan Royster.

Obviously, I have a good quarterback, but he is rarely above average compared to his price tag in auction drafts. I don't know how much the computer spent on him, but I like having Matthew Stafford because he gives me a better than average option at quarterback that partially makes up for my very depressing situation at running back.

When I saw my running backs I was excited about Ryan Mathews and then extremely depressed about everyone else. Before making any moves my running back situation was;
Mathews (wonderful), Martin (undetermined), Toby Gerhart (handcuff), Isaac Redman (undetermined), and David Wilson (unlikely to play much, imo). What a terrible place to be. I took a deep breath and hit the FA market. I was lucky to find that Roy Helu and Evan Royster were both on waivers. One of them is likely to win the starting job, so I grabbed them both. Sure, I don't want to be carrying 7 running backs on a team, but I could be in a worse situation.

My wide receiver situation is fine, but it is precariously perched on the edge of aged and shallow. There is no young blood in this receiving corps, but I can deal with that. I just need two of these four old buggers to make it though the season. I think I can count on that. I would never ever draft or bid on Anquan Boldin. The unfortunate truth is that there is not anyone on waivers worth replacing him. At least he is typically a top-30 wide receiver with some potential. He isn't likely to score me many points, but I would rather throw him into the lineup than someone completely untested at this point in the season.

I loath the idea of holding Jacob Tamme, so I dropped him. Tamme is not my guy. He might be your guy, but he is not my guy. For every person who puts down someone like Ryan Mathews...if you like Tamme, you are basing his success on a few games two years ago. That doesn't make any sense. Brandon Pettigrew gets touches, and that is all I care about if I am starting a crappy TE anyways. Pettigrew should finish top-10.

I have two possible trades that I initiated (I don't know if anyone is willing to trade or even active right now).

One of them is Toby Gerhart and David Wilson for Percy Harvin and James Starks. I'm just praying the guy like David Wilson on this one. I want Harvin to add youth to my receiving corps, and I like Starks much better than Gerhart. I don't expect him to take the trade, but I would be happy if he did.

The second is Toby Gerhart and Isaac Redman for Marques Colston and Ahmad Bradshaw. Yeah, the guy would have to be stupid to make this trade too, but there are SO many people who hate Bradshaw and Colston that I am hoping he doesn't trust either one of them.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Saints vs. Cardinals Play-By-Play

 I apologize for misspellings and poor grammar/confusing wording. I was trying to do this while watching the game and the Olympics.


Pierre Thomas started – missed blitz pickup – middle pressure – shovel – broken tackles

Screen – Thomas – multiple broken tackles – brees hit

shotgun – two tailback – left to sproles

i-form – middle run – multiple broken tackles, strong running – thomas

stretch – sproles – 10+ run

play action – overthrew Henderson on bootleg (12:24)

single back audible to shotgun, throw to morgan right

I form – ingram cutback – multiple broken tackles

ingram strong run middle – touchdown (not called touchdown, great extension)

ingram strong run middle – touchdown

Hartley first EPK

Kevin Kolb starts – single back, two tight ends – Kolb gets a block – steven hawking breaks tackle left and bounces back right – 10+ yards
I form – no play action – interception malcom jenkins undercut – throw to Roberts – no open receivers – obvious primary read
Daniel takes over – shotgun one back – QB keep, goes down head first
single-back – ingram right guard for short gain – not a strong finish
shotgun one back – strong blitz – ingram picks up block, but cannot block two guys
missed until 7:00
Chris Ivory strong, short run
single back – poor pass blocking
shotgun single-back – slip screen – ball batted to Cadet
weak – big pass rush – kolb throws spot on to FB – kolb injured avoiding safety (should not have run back) – Kolb refuses to high-five Skelton walking off
Skelton single back – toss left stevens-howling – mediocre run
shotgun back left – incomplete to heap (TE) – more bad pass blocking – really dangerous pass
daniels I form – ivory hand off – stuttered at goal line, bad form
weak form – daniels decent throw left – 15 bobbles pass out of bounds
handoff ivory – strong run – right into defender
I form – play action – deep out Roby (15) – great throw – not enough velocity for me
shotgun single-back – poor throw – joseph morgan drops pass
shotgun – pocket collapses – daniel runs for first down
I form – hand off ivory – straight ahead
single-back – play action jump pass – TE right – complete
shotgun – sack – running back insignificant (ivory #39)
weak form – skelton misses FB pass quick
I form – run right stevens-howling – jumps and falls
shotgun – throws middle andre roberts with some time – moves in pocket
weak form – fitzgerald slant middle
(END 1st QUARTER)
single-back – straight run by smith
strong form – good pass right to andre roberts – half side arm pass – roberts sits in zone, great job
smith left – finds hole and runs downhill
I form – run left smith – good blocking, finds hole – avoids a tackle – big run
strong form – chooses right for smith – good run
single-back – play action skelton – nearly sacked – throws dangerous pass complete to RB powell
single-back – stretch powell stutters – does not fumble but ball comes out
single-back – roberts motion in – smith runs middle and roberts misses block
weak form shift strong – smith run behind fullback
single-back – toss left smith runs touchdown behind bunch receivers
great KO return for #34
single-back – play action – daniel finds nothing – runs right after near sack
I form – ivory dances and gets stuff behind the line
shotgun – good throw against zone coverage – finally some oline play – catch Ruby
weak form – quick throw right to Ruby again against blitz
strong form – ivory hit in backfield and gets negative yards – needs to break that tackle
shotgun bad snap – daniel finds cadet right quickly – good pass
strong – ivory cut back – hard short run left into linebacker
single-back – daniel avoids single blitzer with legs and dives head first
shotgun – hit as he throws – lineback breaks up pass to TE 81 running with TE
Kasey short FG
Missed a few plays due to internet issues to 4:41 (may not have missed anything)
Bartel: done cataloging every play for the cardinals
Great catch michael floyd
bartel to housler TE deep reception
poor throw to floyd incomplete


Hall of Fame Game: New Orleans Saints vs. Arizona Cardinals

Preseason wins don't matter, but they are still a good opportunity to check up on teams and see how the offense is clicking. I took a play-by-play approach to this first preseason game, which can be found here. I stopped cataloging plays at the end of the second quarter when the third string players came into the game. Here is a list of things I noticed from the first preseason game in the order that they occurred in the game.

1. Pierre Thomas was the starting running back for the Saints: I found this interesting. I really thought that Mark Ingram would end up starting, but this was meant to be a passing play, so we will have to wait until the third preseason game to see who gets the most playing time. Speaking of Thomas, his running looked really strong. Every time he touched the ball he made the Cardinals defense look bad, breaking multiple tackles and getting solid yardage. I don't think he did as well in pass blocking as he could have (on the first play, Brees threw a shovel pass to him after he missed a block, but it was a heads up play by both Brees and Thomas to get into a position where they could make that play.

2. The Saints Offensive Line Looked Weak in Pass Protection: The Saints were able to run all over the Cardinals in their first possession, but throughout the first and second quarters Brees and Daniel were often running from pressure. Some of these plays were designed screens, but Daniel had to run on multiple occasions and Brees got hit on a screen pass. This is something to watch going forward, but I expect that the Saints will get better by the time the regular season rolls around.

3. Darren Sproles Looked Good: No real surprise here, but it is obvious that the Saints are going to get him involved as both a runner and receiver. We didn't really see Brees throw many real passes (3 of his 5 passes were to running backs), but Sproles looked just as dynamic as last season when he got the ball. Sproles got two receptions in his short playing time, so he will probably have the same 60-80 receptions from last season.

4. Mark Ingram Got the Goal-Line Carries: This is a pretty big one for fantasy. Ingram had great vision running the ball on the first drive, and only got one carry after that. He ran the ball hard at the goal line, and actually scored a touchdown on a great ball extension that was not called a touchdown. He ran the ball in on the next play anyways. I am pretty excited about how good Ingram looked, but I can't tell how many touches he is actually going to get. He was the third running back to get a touch.

5. Kevin Kolb Looked Courageous and then Terrible: That's right, Kolb willingly ran out in front of Stevens-Howling who reversed direction and picked up a nice block. He promptly threw a bad interception on a play where he should have just thrown the ball away. Kolb then went on to do nothing in his second possession and got injured during his third.The play that he got injured on, trying to avoid a safety, was also a bad one. Yes, the pass blocking was poor, but you NEVER run backwards into the end zone away from a pass rush. Kolb looked flustered under pressure. The pass to his fullback on that play was actually quite good, but his injury history is already creeping up on him.

6. Skelton Looked Mediocre: Again, the pass blocking was pretty poor, and Skelton did manage to make some time in the pocket, but he also made some extremely dangerous throws. He was not particularly on target, but he did find the open receiver when he had some time.

7. Roberts was Targeted Often: Andre Roberts is one of my favorite sleepers heading into the 2012 season, and while his catches were sparse, he was targeted often. Kolb was throwing to him on the interception, and then I saw Skelton throw at least two more passes to him while Kolb threw one more. Four targets in the first half of a preseason game is solid, and it is something to watch going forward.

8. Chris Ivory Looked Bad: He really lacked vision and pass blocking prowess in this game. He had 13 yards on 9 carries throughout the game, and he seemed to run without looking where he was going. He failed to break tackles that he needs to break to become a big part of this team, and I much preferred how Cadet played passing downs, even though he was equally unsuccessful in the running game. This is a battle for the RB4 position, so it doesn't really matter, but Cadet looked dynamic when returning kicks and catching the ball.

9. Both Teams Ran the Ball: This game had way more i-formation and weak-formations that I am accustomed to. Maybe both teams were trying to make decisions about their blocking schemes or running backs, but I was really surprised at the volume of 2-back sets shown on both offenses. I doubt this will be a year-long trend, but it was unexpected.

Again, here is my play-by-play. It focuses on the formation, how the play developed, and what occurred during the play. You can look at nfl provided play-by-plays for yardages and some players.

Friday, August 3, 2012

LeSean McCoy vs Ryan Mathews

Everyone in fantasy has been spending a lot of time debating the value of Ryan Mathews. Those of us who believe in him this season have a certain rhetoric about how this season is the season for Mathews to really take off and we have a plethora of statistics and ideas about why he is a valuable running back this season. Interestingly, almost everyone in the fantasy football community still have this separation between the big three (Arian Foster, Ray Rice, and LeSean McCoy) and everyone else in the running back category. I am here to compare the 2012 expectations for LeSean McCoy and Ryan Mathews and create a discussion about whether we should be ranking Mathews in that top running back tier, and whether Mathews might even be worthy of a top-3 selection. I'll do the research, hopefully present it in a fair manner, and then turn the final decision over to you (although it wouldn't be any fun if I didn't give my opinion).


Expected Carries:

It is very widely accepted that a running back who gets more carries has a better chance of getting more yards. That is not really a debatable fact, even though YPC (yards per carry) can vary widely between running backs. For these backs, historically, the YPC does not vary widely. LeSean McCoy's career YPC is 0.110 better than Ryan Mathews. That means that for every 100 carries they each get, McCoy will outpace Mathews by 11 yards, which is largely insignificant over the course of a season. For all intents and purposes, we will consider them to be equally effective in YPC, but feel free to tack those 11 yards on to McCoy for every 100 carries; it is perfectly fair, but definitely within the margin of error.

Last season, LeSean McCoy had a respectable 273 carries, which was tied for 7th most in the NFL with Cedric Benson, who will almost certainly not be getting those carries again. McCoy has stated that he is fine if he gets fewer touches in 2012, and Andy Reid said that he thought LeSean McCoy carried too much of the workload in 2011. Those are two scary thoughts, from a fantasy perspective, but I think they are misrepresentations of the situation. In complete honesty, I believe that both McCoy and Reid plan on keeping McCoy around the same number of carries. These statements simply mean that he will not be expected to carry the ball more in 2012 than he did in 2011. You can take these testaments however you want to, but it would be irresponsible to suggest that McCoy will get less than 250-275 carries this season. They might just take McCoy off the field on non-rushing downs more often than they did in 2011.

Ryan Mathews only registered 222 carries in 2011 (good enough for 16th overall), but he was 10th in rushing yards, which is certainly a positive. Mathews has receiver high praise from Norv Turner (a stark contrast from the beginning of camp in 2011), who expects him to be the featured back in the Chargers' offense. The numbers are a bit less certain here, but we can definitely say that 275 carries is the low end of the spectrum here. Norv Turner loves featured backs, and I think 300+ carries is probably just the starting point in Norv Turners' mind. You can disagree with this assessment, but I think expecting less that 300 carries is a bit disingenuous.

From a pure carry-volume standpoint, Ryan Mathews seems to have a slight advantage over LeSean McCoy, but has a much higher ceiling. While McCoy is very unlikely to reach 300 total carries, Mathews is more likely to top 300 carries than not if he stays healthy.


Expected Receptions:

A lot of the people I talk to point out McCoy's prowess for catching screen passes as a reason to have him so highly ranked, but other people know that this is a fallacy. As we discussed earlier, the Eagles are looking to reduce McCoy's reps, but we don't think that means he will get fewer carries. I also don't think he will get fewer receptions, but I don't think he will have more receptions. In 2010, McCoy had an amazing season with 78 receptions, but that was book-ended by two sub-50 reception seasons. I think 50 receptions (two more than in 2011) is a perfectly reasonable expectation for McCoy. McCoy averaged under 7.0 yards per reception in 2011, but we should take his career average here of 7.3 yards per reception, meaning that he should get ~365 receiving yards in 2012. That number might be up or down, but should be a reasonable ballpark estimate.

Ryan Mathews is a better receiver and should have more opportunity than McCoy to excel in this category. Mathews had 50 receptions with a 9.1 yard per reception number in 2011, and that was with Mike Tolbert getting 54 receptions of his own. While it is extremely unlikely that Mathews will grab all of those receptions, I believe that we should expect to see 70 receptions out of Mathews this season. Turner and Rivers love to use the running backs in the passing game (LaDainian Tomlinson had 100 receptions in 2003), and this season should be no different. Mathews has an 8.3 yard per reception average in his career, but that is difficult to maintain (if he goes 9.1 ypr again this season, he will be amazing) so we will cut it down to 8.0 yards per reception. That would give Mathews a conservative 560 receiving yards; another reason to put Mathews over McCoy.


Touchdowns:

By this point, everyone who disagrees with this article either stopped reading or is mentally (or verbally) berating me for skewing the facts towards Mathews. I have not skewed the facts, we just haven't reached the places where McCoy excels yet.

LeSean McCoy had an amazing season with 20 total touchdowns in 2011, but most people would agree that duplicating those numbers is...unlikely. In his career, McCoy has scored a touchdown once every 22.7 carries. If we extrapolate that value over a season with 275 carries, McCoy would score just over 12 touchdowns (12.13 to be exact). I don't think there is anyone who would say that 12 touchdowns is unreasonable, and is probably a very good estimate for McCoy in terms of rushing touchdowns. In terms of receiving touchdowns, McCoy had an amazing season with 3 receiving touchdowns. His career average is one touchdown per 33.2 receptions, meaning that he is unlikely to get another 3 touchdowns in the passing game. One or two should be expected based on his history, giving him 13-14 total expected touchdowns in 2012 on 275 carries and 50 receptions. I have given you the tools to adjust that number up or down based on your personal usage estimates.

Mathews is less adept at scoring touchdowns. Now you can make the case that this is because of Tolbert, but let's not do that here. If you want to make that adjustment, feel free, but I am going to go off career numbers only. Those numbers put Mathews at one rushing touchdown per 29.2 carries. In 300 carries he should get just over 10 touchdowns, and we can use that as a baseline. Mathews has never scored a receiving touchdown in 72 career receptions, but he has racked up 600 receiving yards. I am going to go out on a limb and say that he will be able to grab one receiving touchdown, based on the fact that Mike Tolbert had two receiving touchdown in 2011. You can scrap this if you disagree with it, but I would give Mathews an expectation of 11 total touchdowns with 300 carries and 70 receptions. We can definitely say that McCoy has a better nose for the end zone so far in his career.


Injury History:

Here is the biggest question mark, because it is not actually possible to make an accurate prediction of future injuries; we can only go on history and broad trends.

LeSean McCoy has missed two games in the last two seasons, but both of them were the last game of the NFL season. The vast majority of leagues end before week 17, so only count this against him if your league championship is in week 17. McCoy is very durable.

Ryan Mathews has had injury trouble in his short career, but it is not nearly as bad as most people make it out to be. Yes, Mathews missed 4 games as a rookie, but most rookies are not necessarily ready for the pro game, and I am willing to give most any player a pass on their rookie season. Rookie seasons do not have a whole lot of predictive value on future success. Mathews did have a knee injury in his sophomore year in college, but he missed only one game due to a concussion in his junior season after which he entered the NFL. In 2011 Mathews missed two total games, but one of them was in week 17. If we are going to throw it out for McCoy, we should throw it out for Mathews as well, meaning that we can only count one full missed game against Mathews in the 2011 season. There has further been much made of Mathews' inability to finish games, and it should be mentioned but not stretched. There is certainly a risk of this happening, but it definitely didn't help that the Chargers had such a great back to take over when Mathews got dinged up. I'm not going to try to convince anyone that there is no injury risk with Mathews, because that is completely false. Mathews has a propensity for getting minor injuries, but he is coming into camp in much better shape this season, and did stay mostly healthy in 2011.

We have to give McCoy the big advantage here, but the worst injuries are the unexpected ones. I would say to expect Mathews to miss at least one valuable game during the season, but a long term injury from either player would be a surprise. Mathews does not have the same kind of injury history that McFadden has.


Final Thoughts:

Statistically speaking, Mathews has a much higher ceiling than McCoy, but carries marginally more risk. McCoy definitely has a special nose for the end zone, but Mathews should get enough carries to balance this lacking. Furthermore, the loss of Mike Tolbert might lead to a higher touchdown ratio from Mathews in 2012. Mathews will likely touch the ball ~50 more times in 2012 than McCoy, barring injury.

Honestly, I would take Mathews over McCoy based on the fact that Mathews has such a high ceiling. I would not disagree with anyone who too McCoy over Mathews because of the stability with McCoy, but I would disagree with someone who said that they were taking McCoy because he has more upside.

Finally, depending on how much you agree with the assumptions made in this post, and there was admittedly plenty of assumption, Mathews should be inducted into the top tier of running backs with the knowledge that he might miss a game and not finish another game or two.


Projections:

Based on these assumptions,

Ryan Mathews: 300 carries for 1,397 yards, 70 receptions for 560 yards, 11 total touchdowns and 2 lost fumbles for 257.7 fantasy points (233.5 including injuries)

LeSean McCoy: 275 carries for 1,310 yards, 50 receptions for 365 yards, 13.5 total touchdowns and 1 lost fumble for 246.5 fantasy points with no injury considerations.

Pretty much even.

Important AFC West Position Battles in Fantasy
**The Wide Receiver Misconception**

Important AFC West Position Battles

It has been a while since the last post in this series, so there are actually some depth chart certainties (for example, Weeden is the undisputed starter in Cleveland), but there are still plenty of interesting battles going on in training camp.

AFC North Position Battles
AFC East Position Battles
AFC South Position Battles


Kansas City Chiefs:

I would love to see Jon Baldwin beat out Steve Breaston for the WR2 position. Breaston has been decent, but not impressive from a fantasy perspective, since his 1,000-yard season in 2008. Breaston just doesn't find the end zone, with only 9 touchdown passes in 3,200+ yards over the last four seasons. Baldwin was a rookie last year, but he is someone that you can get excited about despite only having 21 receptions in 2011. He is a really big, strong receiver who should be able to compliment Dwayne Bowe nicely. He would have benefited from Todd Haley as the head coach (if you don't know, Haley stresses clean, crisp routes), but I still think Baldwin should be able to beat out Breaston for one of the outside positions. I have a feeling that a healthy Matt Cassel will be able to give Bowe another great season, but we will just have to see what this offense looks like at the beginning of the season. Odds are that this will be a ball control team, meaning that I wouldn't draft Breaston or Baldwin expecting them to play a major part on my team.


Oakland Raiders:

I am really curious about who is going to be labelled as the primary wide receiver for this team. I am nearly certain that it will be Darrius Heyward-Bey, but Denarius Moore would get a huge boost in my book. I personally prefer drafting DHB at this point, because I trust his experience and he did quite well with Carson Palmer during the last few weeks of the season. Denarius Moore is too much of a straight-line runner for me. In games where the Raiders are leading, they aren't going to be throwing the deep ball. DHB can do both, and I don't think Moore will get the nod over him. Both players are draftable, but I personally don't see why so many people have Moore ranked over DHB. Palmer was the first real quarterback he had throwing to him, and he nearly had 1,000 yards last season. 2012 should be better for him.

We also want to make sure that we know who the RB2 is for this team, given Darren McFadden's uncanny propensity for season-ending injuries. At this point the competition is between Mike Goodson, the leader, and Taiwan Jones. There are also talks about the possibility of the Raiders picking up Cedric Benson, who is running without a team after 3 consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Rest assured, a preseason injury will bring him out of free agency, but I don't see the Raiders grabbing him unless an injury occurs. It doesn't matter who wins this competition, as the RB2 is a necessary handcuff for McFadden.


San Diego Chargers:

Anyone drafting a Chargers receiver is playing a huge risk/reward game right now. I don't think there's anyone who can really point to one of the four best receivers on that team and say that they will be the primary receiver. I think people would generally lean towards suggesting either Malcom Floyd or Robert Meachem, but neither one of those players have been dominant in their careers. Eddie Royal actually has more yards in a single season than any of the other major receivers on this roster and excels when he gets to play in the slot. On the other hand, Vincent Brown played well last season when he caught the ball. I can't even begin to pretend to know who will win this battle, but all fantasy owners should be cautioned about drafting these guys as more than a backup WR. There is no reason that every team in the NFL has to have a primary receiver worthy of fantasy consideration. On the other hand, every receiver mentioned here has the potential to have a big season, so draft them liberally once you have a good core of receivers.


Denver Broncos:

I am going to skip over the whole Demaryius Thomas/Eric Decker situation. I don't think there is any real way to make a decision about who will be better before the season, regardless of who wins the WR1 position. I would consider drafting and starting them both, to be honest. Anyways, let's focus on who will be backing up Willis McGahee. McGahee is entering his 10th NFL season...not typically a great one for most running backs, so we have to be interested in who is going to be backing him up. Knowshon Moreno is pretty much out in Denver. He is talented, but he just refuses to stay healthy. I would love to see him get one last chance in his 4th NFL season, but I doubt he will. Lance Ball is a small, strong back who did pretty well last season but didn't really show anything special. I don't see him being listed as the RB2, but anything can happen in this league. The last possibility would be rookie Ronnie Hillman, who seems to be everyone's sleeper candidate. He is a shifty back of Darren Sproles' ilk. I have trouble believing that a small, rookie running back can have a serious impact on offense, but I believe in John Fox so I would grab Hillman if he gets the RB2 slot on the depth chart.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

This Isn't a Personal Blog...

but I thought I should inform everyone that I am going to have a job teaching high school chemistry in northern Virginia this year. The fact that I don't have to keep searching for a job will allow me to:

a) commit more time to blogging,

b) spend money playing fantasy leagues, and

c) stop worrying about not getting a job.

Yeah, this is a worthless post, but it is important.