Monthly Archives: August 2010

Fantasy Football: Draft board changes

Vincent Jackson, a player with the San Diego C...

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We posted our Fantasy Football draft board about 10 days ago, and today we went through the board and made final changes before our drafts happen. We thought we’d share these changes and our thinking behind them.

Moving Up
RB Ryan Mathews, Chargers  – Moves up from top of Tier 2 to bottom of Tier 1. We now prefer him to Rashard Mendenhall or Cedric Benson.
RB Arian Foster, Texans – Moves from Tier 3B to bottom of Tier 2. Now a top-15 caliber fantasy back and a top-35 overall pick. Now on par with Ahmad Bradshaw on our draft board.
WR Malcom Floyd, Chargers – Moves up 13 spots overall because of Vincent Jackson’s holdout. Now on par with Dwayne Bowe on our draft board.

Moving Down
WR Sidney Rice, Vikings – Moves down because of injury that could cost him half the season. Moves to the bottom of Tier 3 as a draft-and-hold prospect.
WR Vincent Jackson, Chargers – Moves down because holdout remains in effect. Moves to the bottom of Tier 3 as a draft-and-hold prospect.
WR Brett Favre, Vikings – Moves down because of Sidney Rice’s injury. Moves from Tier 2 to Tier 3 but remains the No. 8 overall QB.

Moving On
WR Legedu Naanee, Chargers – Gains value because Vincent Jackson’s holdout isn’t resolved. Becomes a late-round flier on Tier 5.
WR Greg Camarillo, Vikings – Gains value because of trade to Vikings and Sidney Rice’s injury. Becomes a late-round flier on Tier 5.
WRs Laurent Robinson and Danny Amendola, Rams – Gain value because of Donnie Avery’s injury. Both become late-round fliers on Tier 5. We prefer Amendola slightly.
RB Kareem Hughes, Buccaneers – Gains value because he beat out Derrick Ward for backup RB job behind Cadillac Williams. Becomes a late-round flier on Tier 5.
WR Jordan Shipley, Bengals – Gains value because of Antonio Bryant’s release. Becomes a late-round flier on Tier 5.

Moving Off
WR Donnie Avery, Rams (injury)
QB Matt Leinart, Cardinals (lost job)
RB Derrick Ward, Buccaneers (cut)

Do not draft
The following players are on injured reserve and out for the year. We added them to our do not draft list.
QB: Jim Sorgi, Giants
RB: P.J. Hill, Saints
WR: Marcus Easley, Bills; Jaymar Johnson, Vikings; Kerry Meier, Falcons, Donnie Avery, Rams; Sinorice Moss, Giants; Wallace Wright, Panthers; Malcolm Kelly, Redskins
TE: Jake Nordin, Lions; Joey Haynos, Lions

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The ABCs of receiver roulette – Avery, Bryant, Coles

Laveranues Coles, Jets Wide receiver 2000–2002...

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Three major news items emerged at the wide receiver position this weekend, and we’re going to break them down like ABC. First comes Donnie Avery’s season-ending injury in St. Louis. Next comes the Bengals’ release of WR Antonio Bryant and then the Jets’ release of WR Laveranues Coles. We’ll analyze the ABCs below, both on the field and from a fantasy football perspective.

A – In St. Louis, Avery was set to become the Rams’ No. 1 receiver once again, but he tore the ACL in his right knee in the Rams’ third preseason game, which will land him on injured reserve and end his season. The injury is a big blow to the Rams, because Avery (who had 100 catches over the past two years) is the only proven receiver on the Rams’ roster. The injury not only stymies a St. Louis attack that’s bereft of playmakers; it also makes it harder for rookie QB Sam Bradford to succeed because he has so few quality targets to look for.
Fantasy impact: With Avery out, Laurent Robinson is probably the Rams’ best receiving option, with Danny Amendola close behind. Feel free to take a flier on either Ram in the final round of larger leagues, but both are long shots to make big impacts.

B – In Cincinnati, Bryant became the Bengals’ second straight free-agent bust at wide receiver, joining Laveranues Coles. (Andrew Brandt broke down the numbers well.) Bryant got a four-year, $28 million deal just four months ago, but the knee problems that plagued him last year never went away long enough for him to emerge, and when Cincinnati added Terrell Owens last month, Bryant was no longer needed despite his big contract. The miscalcuation on Bryant’s health will cost the Bengals at least $8 million guaranteed (and maybe more, depending on how an upcoming grievance is resolved), but the Bengals still have enough passing weapons with T.O., Chad Ochocinco, and rookies Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham that Bryant won’t be missed on the field.
Fantasy impact: Bryant’s departure doesn’t raise the stock of Ochocinco or T.O., but it does mitigate some of the risk of both players by defining their roles more clearly. Ochocinco is a No. 2 receiver, while Owens is a No. 4. Shipley now becomes draftable as a sleeper, because his spot in the slot could help him carve out a role and some numbers. Gresham also becomes draftable in larger leagues as a top 20 tight end. Quarterback Carson Palmer’s status doesn’t change.

C – In New York, Coles’ third go-round with the Jets was grounded preemptively, and Coles claims he is done now. That may not be true, because the Jets may call Coles back after the first game so that they’re not on the hook for guaranteeing Coles’ base salary for the season. Coles’ skills really showed some decline last season in Cincinnati, and the Jets mainly wanted him as a bridge until Santonio Holmes’ four-game suspension ends. Now the Jets will rely on Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery and hope role players like David Clowney and Brad Smith emerge during the first month of the season.
Fantasy impact: Coles had no fantasy value before and still doesn’t. His absence doesn’t affect Braylon Edwards’ value but does make Jerricho Cotchery a solid flex play for the first four weeks of the season until Holmes returns to the field.

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Quarterback controversy in the cards in Arizona

Leinart at a Cardinals' practice

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Quarterback controversies seem to be rare these days, but a genuine one is brewing in Arizona. On Saturday night, the Cardinals will switch from starting Matt Leinart to give Derek Anderson a shot against the Bears in Soldier Field. Let’s analyze this competition on the field and consider its fantasy football implications.

Leinart, once the golden boy of Troy as a Heisman Trophy winner at USC, was the 10th overall pick back in 2006, and as a rookie he started 11 games and showed promise. But Kurt Warner took over at the end of that season and then seized the starting job the next year, leading the Cardinals to levels of success they haven’t ever seen. Now that Warner is retired, most assumed that Leinart would finally get the chance to start for ‘Zona. Leinart’s hallmark isn’t a big arm but accuracy, which would seem to be at a premium in a Cardinals offense that has such talented wide receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, and Early Doucet. But Leinart hasn’t shown that accuracy in the preseason, and he at this point appears almost gunshy. Now, it may not be in the cards for Leinart (right) to make it back into the starting lineup.

So the Cardinals now are taking a look at Derek Anderson, who joined the team in the offseason for backup money but with the chance to at least nominally compete for the starting job. Anderson has been a pro since 2005, and in his one season as a full-time starter he threw for 29 touchdowns and 3,787 yards for a Cleveland offense that had solid targets in Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow. Anderson has a big arm and can fling the ball downfield, but he’s inconsistent and prone to mistakes. Last year, he played half the season and threw just three touchdowns with 10 interceptions. He doesn’t have the consistency that Leinart should have, but given the fact that head coach Ken Whisenhunt wants to move the Cardinals to a run-oriented offense, Anderson can provide the balance of more big plays that will keep defenses from focusing completely on Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower. If Anderson can avoid turnovers, he has a real shot to seize the job from Leinart much as Warner did back in 2006-07.

Fantasy football owners should actually hope that happens. Anderson’s much more likely to keep Larry Fitzgerald’s fantasy value up around the top 5 at receiver because of deep passes. Likewise, Breaston and Doucet would have marginally more value with Anderson. Of course, that uptick in value comes with more risk, given Anderson’s propensity toward inconsistency and interceptions, but fantasy owners crave the upside that Anderson can provide.

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Sidney Rice: No longer hip

Sidney Rice, while a member of the Minnesota V...

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Amazingly, Brett Favre isn’t the biggest newsmaker in Minnesota right now. Earlier this week, WR Sidney Rice announced he had hip surgery, which will cost him about half the season and could still land him on injured reserve. In response to Rice’s injury, the Vikings signed Javon Walker and traded for Greg Camarillo. Below are some thoughts on Rice’s injury and the acquisition of Camarillo (we already wrote about Walker here), both from an on-field perspective and a fantasy football perspective.

Rice had a breakout season last year with Favre throwing the ball, catching 83 passes for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns. While Favre’s arrival certainly aided Rice’s development into a Pro Bowl selection, it was also the common third-year emergence for receivers like Rice who were high draft picks. (Rice was a second-rounder.) He’s big and has outstanding ball skills, which makes him a downfield threat despite marginal NFL speed. Rice’s size coupled with Percy Harvin’s breakaway ability would have given the Vikings a top-level receiving duo that’s also young, but now that Rice will miss much of the season, the Vikings don’t have a No. 1 receiver. Maybe Harvin can emerge, or maybe former high-dollar free-agent signing Bernard Berrian can recapture his promise. But neither Harvin nor Berrian has the size to be such a dependable threat as Rice.

After injuries benched Rice for half the season and put Harvin’s season in question, the Vikings  dealt for reinforcements. Camarillo, a former undrafted free agent, established himself as a solid receiving threat with 110 catches over his last two full seasons. While he has only averaged about 11 yards per catch during those two seasons, he’s a dependable possession receiver who provides depth for the Vikings and who may eventually fit into the slot if Rice and Harvin return. If nothing else, Camarillo’s acquisition ensures that the Vikings will still be able to run multi-WR sets effectively. In exchange for Camarillo, the Vikings sent Sapp to Miami. Sapp started a career-high seven games last year, and he’s proven to be a decent nickelback and special-teams player. Since Camarillo was likely losing prominence in Miami after the addition of Brandon Marshall and the development of Patrick Turner and Brian Hartline, it makes sense for Miami to get a solid role player in return for him.

For fantasy football purposes, Rice’s injury knocks him out of being a top-15 fantasy wideout and makes him a speculative pick who’s worth a roster spot in leagues with deep benches. He’s probably now worth a pick around No. 40 among wideouts. Harvin is a top-20 talent whose migraine problems make him a high risk/high reward pick, and Rice’s injury raises Harvin’s upside a bit. Berrian’s stock shoots up so that he is now draftable as a starter, while Camarillo is worth adding to draft boards among the top 200 overall. Most of all, these injury problems in his receiving corps limit Favre’s upside and knock him out of Tier 2 and onto the same level as risk/reward picks Jay Cutler, Eli Manning, and Kevin Kolb. At this point, expecting Favre to even approach his 33-TD season of a year ago is foolhardy.

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Crazy Kicker of Preseason Week 2

The Crazy Kicker of the second week of the preseason didn’t choose this mantle – it was forced upon him. The Chicago Bears’ regular long-snapper, Patrick Mannelly, was sidelined by a neck stinger for the preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. So tight end Desmond Clark (Go Deacs!) had to fill in. The results weren’t good. In the second quarter, lined up for a 38-yard field goal attempt, Clark bounced a snap to holder Brad Maynard. Kicker Robbie Gould picked up the ball and tried to heave a deep pass, but he was called for intentional grounding.

Give Gould credit for trying to make something out of nothing. Also, give him the honor of Crazy Kicker of the Week.

2010 Crazy Kickers of the Week
CFL: WR Dave Stala, Tiger-Cats
Preseason Week 1: P Brett Kern, Titans
Preseason Week 2: PK Robbie Gould, Bears

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Fantasy Football: Separating RB teammates

Ricky Williams

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 As we prepared our Fantasy Football draft board, we cross-checked our list against others around the web, and we noticed that we had a contrarian view of how fantasy numbers of NFL teammates at running back will compare. So in this post, we’re going to break down several of these teammate situations to explain our thinking – and hopefully give you a leg up in your draft process.

(By the way, our Draft Board broke all sorts of traffic records for the blog. Thanks to everyone who checked it out, and welcome back. Hopefully you’ll find more useful fantasy insights and NFL analysis throughout the 2010 season.)

Giants – Ahmad Bradshaw vs. Brandon Jacobs – Most fantasy analysts are pointing to Jacobs as the best fantasy option in New York, hearkening back to Jacobs’ solid 2008 fantasy season. But the reality is that Bradshaw was the best back in blue last year, averaging a yard per carry more than Jacobs. And even though he’s smaller than the bullish Jacobs, Bradshaw outscored Jacobs 7 touchdowns to 6. Jacobs appears to be wearing down, while Bradshaw seems to be emerging as a running threat. Our sense is that Bradshaw will take over the starting job this year and be on the good side of a 60-40 carries split, which will mean Jacobs’ fantasy stake will depend totally on touchdowns. We’d take Bradshaw as a top-25 running back, but Jacobs is a low-upside No. 4 back on our board. Bradshaw’s the better bet, and it’s not close.

Dolphins – Ricky Williams vs. Ronnie Brown – Most evaluators include both Williams and Brown among the top 25 at running back, but most of them favor Brown over Williams. We don’t, and here’s why. Williams had better yards-per-carry and yards-per-catch averages than Brown, and his fantasy numbers were less dependent on scoring than Brown’s were. Williams is also a better receiver than Brown. We expect Williams to end up with about 1,200 yards from scrimmage, while Brown will end up with about 1,000. Unless Brown outscores Williams by a bunch, Williams will be the more valuable fantasy back.

Cowboys – Marion Barber vs. Felix Jones – Barber outgained Jones 932-685 last year, even though Jones averaged 1.3 yards per carry more last season. Barber also had 14 more catches than Jones. A little bit of those accumulated differences is due to the fact that Jones missed two games, but he’s missed games in both of his pro seasons. Barber (who missed one game himself) has proven to be a consistent producer of both yardage and touchdowns over his career, and he’s a much surer bet than Jones. Jones will have bigger games than Barber, but Barber’s season-long production makes him a more valuable fantasy option.

Browns – Jerome Harrison vs. Montario Hardesty – Fantasy pundits are all over Harrison after he piled up 561 yards and five touchdowns in the final three weeks of the season last year. But we’d encourage you to slow your roll on Harrison. He was averaging just 3.4 yards per carry on the season before those games (against the Raiders, Chiefs, and Jaguars, not one a top-level defense) and hadn’t scored a touchdown on 88 carries. We’d rather bet on rookie Montario Hardesty, who had a good career at Tennessee, than on Harrison coming anywhere close to replicating his out-of-character end-of-season stats. So we have Hardesty as a No. 3 fantasy back and Harrison as a No. 4.

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Walkin’ in Minneapolis

Quarterback - Wide Receiver Warmups

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The Vikings sought out a blast from the past Monday by signing WR Javon Walker. Walker, once an elite receiver who had thousand-yard seasons both in Green Bay and in Denver, didn’t play in 2009 after being cut by the Raiders. But this move could blow up in their faces. Here’s why:

Walker comes to Minnestota to help a receiving corps that faces health issues for Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin (along with Jaymar Johnson). Walker was highly productive in Green Bay and Denver, but he was a high-dollar bust in Oakland, and he hasn’t been healthy in years. Plus, he and Brett Favre are far from chums, after Favre (4 in the picture) threw Walker (84 in the picture) under the bus during  a holdout when both were Packers. If Walker still has something left, he could be a find for the Vikings, but adding him at this point – especially after he had such public disputes with Favre – seems like a strange (if not a desperate) move.

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