Archive for July, 2012

Louis Murphy is headed back East. The former Florida Gator was recently traded to the Carolina Panthers from the Oakland Raiders for a 7th round pick. Murphy was going to be buried on Oakland’s depth chart behind last years standouts (Denarious Moore, Jacoby Ford, and Darrius Heyward-Bey), so it looks like a win-win, I just happen to think the Panthers won a little more. In Murphy Carolina gets a guy who should step right in as the #3 WR and maybe even push Brandon LaFell for the starting spot opposite Steve Smith. Murphy is your prototypical Al Davis draft pick in that he possess ideal size and speed, but sometimes comes down with the case of the dropsies, and has had trouble shaking the injury bug. But, Murphy has been effective, particularly as a deep threat, averaging around 16 yds/catch in his three year career.

Now, Murphy may not be a super star, but I’m adding him to my potential “break-out” list for this year. I’ll admit, I know nothing about Brandon LaFell and even less about David Gettis, but what I do know is Cam Newton can sling a football, and when the safeties roll over towards Steve Smith or bite on a hard play-action (yes, I think the Panthers will actually run the ball enough this year for a defense to bite on play-action) that’s when you will see Murphy do his damage.

I’ll be honest, the Panthers were making me nervous, it looked like nothing was changing offensively and Cam would be doomed to a sophomore slump when he had nothing new to throw at defenses, but now I’m starting to see it. A beefed up defense means they may actually be able to hold a lead, which takes us back to that whole, more running bit I mentioned earlier. (Seriously you can’t have a tandem like Williams/Stewart and not use it) Greg Olsen no longer has Jeremy Shockey taking away targets, and he could do some damage over the middle. Now you add Murphy who could be a burner on the outside (or inside, give him a few quick cuts and dare the nickel guy to catch him) This is shaping up to be a very promising year for the Panthers.

I may be getting a bit over excited though. The Panthers will actually have to play better defense and Murphy will have to show that he is the player from two and three years ago, and not the guy who only caught 17 passes last year (hard to catch when you’re not on the field.) And to do that he needs to stay healthy. The drops, I’m less worried about, he’s young and with some good coaching, and getting to watch the best in the game up close Murph should at the very least play well enough to prove he was worth that 7th round pick…which really shouldn’t be that hard since just making the final roster should put him ahead of the curve.

Dez Bryant is still yet to meet with the NFL or his team in regards to any possible suspension stemming from his recent legal troubles, but with or without Dez, the Cowboys are looking a little thin at WR. Laurent Robinson was a solid contributor for Dallas last year as the teams 3rd wide receiver, but he is now in Jacksonville and the Cowboys have done little to replace him. The current free agents aren’t particularly enticing (though I could see a call to Braylon Edwards agent if Dez does get slapped with a suspension.) There’s Patrick Crayton and Roy Williams, but they’ve both played in Big D before and weren’t exactly fan favorites. More likely the Cowboys will wait to see who gets cut in training camp, and I’d be keeping a close eye on St. Louis.

I know, St. Louis is widely panned for it’s lack of a true #1 talent at receiver, but it’s actually because of this that the team is rife with #2’s and #3’s all vying for those two spots. Robinson came to Dallas from the Rams, a guy who showed flashes, but just couldn’t stay healthy long enough to earn his keep, so the Rams cut him. This year Danario Alexander and/or Austin Pettis could find themselves in a similar spot, and either could be of use. Alexander is personally my favorite to make the Rams roster, he’s got that rare size/speed combination you always here about and he could be very close to putting it all together and having a solid year. But, like Robinson before him, Alexander has struggled with injuries and could be deemed expendable by the Rams new coaching staff. Pettis will be entering only his second year, and offers some value in the return game and on special teams, so that combination of versatility and youth could save his roster spot.

To me, it comes down to those two. It’s possible Danny Amendola is the one who ends up on the outs if Alexander can prove his worth on the outside and Steve Smith can recapture his old magic in the slot, but the bottom line is the Rams will end up having to cut at least one of these guys and any of the three should be still be able to find work in the NFL, and the Cowboys already have a proven track record of turning the Rams cast offs into stars.

In case you’re wondering the Rams receivers are: Brian Quick, Chris Givens (both rookies) Steve Smith (more than $2 million guaranteed) Greg Salas, (last year’s rookie, proved reliable target) Danny Amendola, (missed all of last year) Danario Alexander,(18 games in 2 years, avg. 16 yds/catch) Austin Pettis,(2nd year, versatile, 9.5 yds/catch) Brandon Gibson(favorite to get dropped, decent player, but couldn’t step up when injuries gave him the chance)

As long as I’m jabbering about the NFC West I’ll sneak another name from a Rams rival into the mix. 49ers WR Kyle Williams could end up available, and might be a fit for Dallas. With Randy Moss impressing in camp, the steady improvement of Michael Crabtree, the special team talents of Ted Ginn and the additions of Mario Manningham and AJ Jenkins through free agency and the draft repectively, Williams could find himself fighting undrafted rookie Chris Owusu for the teams 6th WR spot. Owusu probably has some ways to go and is more likely to end up on the practice squad, but he has played in Harbaugh’s system and has that coveted size/speed combo that the 5’10 Williams does not.

Just a reminder, this has all been speculation on my part. I have absolutely no knowledge of who will or won’t make their teams final rosters and whether they will or won’t find homes elsewhere. I just happen to believe there will be a fair amount of talent floating around once training camp gets under way and that the Cowboys will want to add someone before week one.

First things first. While Dew Brees signed a 5-year $100 million contract with the Saints it does not mean he is making $20 million a year. The 20 million number that is being thrown around is merely the average annual salary. In other words if the deal were split equally among the years, Brees would make 20 million annually, but this deal was far from evenly distributed.

Just for signing his name Brees made $37 million. An addition $3 million will serve as his base salary. In addition the the $37 million bonus there is an additional $23 million in guaranteed money over the life of the contract, leaving us with a total of $60 million in guarantees.

In addition to being heavily front loaded with the bonus, Brees contract is also back loaded a bit, with his base salary in creasing the last few years of the contract. So, worry not fiscally responsible Saints fans, Brees is not costing you quite so much as he seems.

Also I’m not sure how it worked out this way, but it’s worth mentioning the bonus is somehow prorated which leads to Brees actually costing less against the cap this year and next than if he were playing under the franchise tag.

I used to have a link that broke down the numbers simply, but I lost it, so I’m giving you guys this one to an ESPN.com article by Andrew Brandt for any further technical questions on the deal.

http://espn.go.com/blog/nfcsouth/post/_/id/36679/breaking-down-drew-brees-deal

Okay, so the title may not make too much sense, but I figure Houdini was always trying to escape handcuffs, so he must have owned at least a couple pairs right? And you can’t deny how catchy the alliteration is.

Anyway, For those of you not familiar with the term, handcuff is the term in fantasy when you draft both an elite running back, as well as his back up. The idea is that it protects you from completely losing your #1 backs production numbers by having his replacement ready to go on your team. (as opposed to having to fight for him off the wavier wire when the rest of your league is gunning for the new lead back as well.) The handcuff will be especially important this year with many high profile runners making their way back from injury with back-up who have already proven they have value.

Must Handcuff:

If you want to draft Adrian Peterson, you will need to grab Toby Gerhart as well. Peterson is targeting a week 1 return, which is great if he can do it, but his injury was serious and the Vikes won’t let him go until they’re sure he’s recovered and if he does rush back it increases the likelihood of re-injury. Gerhart has also proven himself reliable on limited snaps and will get drafted by someone else if you don’t grab him. Oh, and while Peterson’s recent arrest shouldn’t scare you off, he could face a one game suspension. Goodell tends to draw a hardline when it comes to any sort of physical altercation that ends in an arrest, even though it seems Peterson really hasn’t done any wrong. Suspension or not I think Peterson misses the first two games, and Gerhart should be solid for 80 yards and a TD.

Jamaal Charles faces a similar predicament, but because his injury happened in week 1 last year he should be ready to go for week 1 this year. Still, you’ll want to grab Peyton Hillis. Hillis is coming of an incredibly disappointing season, but he’s stepping into a good spot in Kansas City filling the role that Thomas Jones played so well helping launch Jamaal Charles to stardom. Hillis will likely be among the first back up’s off the board, so it’s a pricy handcuff, but he carries value as a flex play and will be in for a feature role if Charles goes down again.

Yes, even, and perhaps especially the favorite for #1 overall pick, Arian Foster needs his handcuff. While Foster’s talent is undeniable, so is his injury history. And Ben Tate‘s production last year was solid (with and without Foster in the game.) Like Hillis, Tate will come with a higher cost, but as a viable flex option against weaker run defenses and the promise of a feature role in any game Foster misses, he’ll be well worth the investment.

Darren McFadden is an interesting case, because while he is sure to go in the first two rounds, his handcuff barring an outstanding offseason, or a fantasy league full of Raiders fans, may not even get drafted. However, the likelihood of McFadden getting injured requires that you take his primary back up, which at this point looks to be Mike Goodson. Goodson has showed sparks in the few snaps he actually got to play in Carolina (hard to find carries with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart ahead of you) what hurts Goodson’s value even as a handcuff is the presence of Taiwan Jones who at the very least will be used as a change of pace back. Still I’m a believer in Goodson’s talent, and unless Jones passes him on the depth chart in training camp he’s worth the late round grab.

Normally, you don’t really need to draft Maurice Jone-Drew’s back up, but in light of his holdout and the Jags firm stance you must snag Rashad Jennings if the two sides still haven’t come to terms by the time your league drafts. Jennings missed last season due to injury, but before that he shone on limited touches, making him worthy of consideration, even if/when Jones-Drew does get his contract. Jennings is not the same kind of player as MJD he’s a bigger, more bruising type of runner at 6’1 and 228lbs, but he can catch out of the backfield and will be the workhorse if Drew misses anytime Jags may have added weapons and be looking to pass more, but they’ll still look to establish the run whether it’s with MJD or Jennings.

Should Handcuff:

Matt Forte was not too pleased when the Bears signed Michael Bush this offseason considering teh Bears have yet to restructure his deal, but like it or not, if you’re taking Forte, you’ll want to grab Bush as well. Forte has been durable, but Bush is simply too good of a #2 to pass on. He rushed for nearly 1000 yards in Darren McFaddens place last year, and will likely put up similar number given a similar opportunity. Truth be told though, Bush is going to be a hit or miss with Forte saying he will play this year, even though he has been holding out so far this offseason. Bush and Forte could end up  splitting carries each getting a chance to put up numbers, but neither really dominating. Bush is a much more physical inside runner who could operate as a short yard/goal line back, while Forte is a finesse guy who can use his speed and his hands to create separation. It’s hard to say for sure who you can trust, I recommend grabbing both simply because an injury to either means a featured role for the surviver in what looks to be a high powered offense.

Michael Turneris going to be 30, and while I don’t necessarily believe a running backs wheels fall of at 30 and they become useless, the Falcons have already said they are looking to move more towards a committee approach when it comes to running the football. They also want to pass more. I can’t help thinking this new game plan is pointing in the direction of Jaquizz Rodgers. Rodgers is a small, speedy back, who’s also got solid pass catching skills. Having a guy who can catch a screen or swing pass could help create isolation on the outside receivers (or just give Matt Ryan a wide open target underneath) Not to mention tiring out receivers, out running them to the edge on toss plays. I like Rodgers upside as a guy who’s role slowly expands through the season, and could take a big spike upwards if turner gets hurt.

Ryan Matthews is a little borderline for me, but I think his injury history makes him a guy you need to strongly consider handcuffing. My problem is, I just don’t know if you can trust Ronnie Brown. After a successful career in Miami, Brown looked lost last year in Philly. Granted, that can be said for a lot of Eagles players last year, but most analysts seem content to give the Eagles a mulligan for their 2011 showing, so why not Brown? In truth I do expect him to be much closer to the guy he was in Miami, I just don’t know how much closer. Bottom line is, you’ll need a back-up plan if you draft Matthews and you could do worse than Brown.

Drafter’s Choice:

With everyone projecting the resurrection of Chris Johnson’s CJ2K persona I can’t really recommend drafting Javon Ringer. Even when Johnson was doing poorly last year, Ringer didn’t see a significant increase in his touches, which likely means the only way he gets in is with a Johnson injury, and even then I don’t know how much the coaching staff would trust him to carry the load…or how he would handle the work increase. It is worth noting that this is a new staff, and Mike Munchak is coming from a Falcons team that used Micahel Turner as it’s centerpiece, so there is some potential should CJ falter. Personally, I’d love to see this guy come in and tear it up, but you should have plenty of warning before he gets his chance.

Steven Jackson is actually not as injury prone as he seems. Jackson has played in at least 12 of 16 games all 9 years of his career and only missed 2 full games the past 3 years. So really it’s up to you whether or not to handcuff him. If you do, the guy you want is rookie runner, Isaiah Pead. I will note that Pead is, smaller and speedier than Jackson so he’ll have some value as a change of pace, even when Jackson is healthy, but ultimately you should feel safe with Jackson as your starter, especially in a Jeff Fisher offense.

I’m going to toss in Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy, just to round out the elite runners. Both guys are rare feature backs, who contribute through the air and on the ground, with limited history of injury. Just in case you’re in a really deep 14-team league and want to play it safe, Rice’s handcuff would be Anthony Allen. Allen is a second year runner who I like to beat out incumbent back up Bernard Scott in training camp for the #2 spot behind Rice. It’s worth noting that according to Allen’s Rotoworld profile, Raven’s OC Cam Cameron considers allen a 3-down back, which means should anything happen to Rice, Allen could be in line for a heavy work load. For those of you wondering about Mr. McCoy, I like rookie Chris Polk as a handcuff. Technically, Polk will still need to win the job, but like Allen I like him to beat out last year’s back up (in this case it’s Dion Lewis) and take control of the #2 spot. I don’t know much about Polk except that, there’s a lot of rumblings about his potential and how he’s impressed coaches after going undrafted out of Washington. Polk and Allen could both be worth a flier, just keep an eye on their camps to make sure they win the jobs as I expect they will.

The Reverse Handcuff:

Issac Redman is an incredibly interesting case. Not only is Redman technically the handcuff to Rashard Mendenhall, he is also inexplicably slipping into the 9th-11th rounds of mock drafts. With Rashard rumored to start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, he’ll likely miss the first half of the season, so drafting him’s a waste. Trust me though, you’ll want Redman on your team. He ran well when he took over last year, and the Steelers did just use a first round draft pick on Gaurd David DeCastro, so expect to see plenty of runs. Also, the people seem to like Redman more, so if he runs well enough long enough, he could steal the job full-time. Expect Redman to be a low-end #2 back or flex with a lot of upside.

So Obviously not all of your backs need their handcuffs, but if you get a guy who’s got a long history of injury, you’re going to want to prevent yourself against the headache of trying to replace a star runner.

Brett’s Bonus:

So, in thinking about handcuff’s it occurred to me that there are actually a few non-running backs who have guys I would consider “handcuffs.” These guys would fall under the, “don’t really need to draft them” category, but are definitely the names to put on your watch list should anything happen to the guy starting in front of them.

Let’s start with Jay Cutler. Since, once again the Chicago Bears inexplicably ignored their biggest weakness (the offensive line) in favor of bolstering skill positions, you have to assume there’s a decent chance Jay Cutler could end up missing a few weeks after taking a few too many big hits. Now, Cutler himself is probably a borderline fantasy starter as it stands right now, but I’m expecting big things from his reunion with Brandon Marshall and I think he develops into a top 10 guy (at least for a few weeks of the season.) Anyway, should Cutler prove himself worthy of your starting line-up, but his line proves unworthy of keeping him healthy look for back up Jason Campbell to have no trouble putting up equivalent numbers. Campbell was playing well in Oakland before an injury and the Carson Palmer deal forced him out of town, and he’s actually got a good set up in chicago for his skills. He’s played behind bad lines, and he’s pretty much always had a pass catching back, and he’s got the arm to exploit defenses deep. Bottom Line, if you’re already rolling with Cutler, Campbell will probably be one of your best fill in options.

Sticking with QB’s who have talented back-ups let’s talk Tony Romo who now has Kyle Orton behind him. I can only assume the primary reason for bringing in Orton was to protect Tony Romo from a repeat of last year, when he started a game with a fractured rib, wearing a kevlar vest for protection. Orton is in a rare position of being good enough to start, but not quite good enough for teams to forsake a financial commitment to another player. (otherwise he would likely be starting for the Bills this year.) He got run out of Denver by Tebowmania last year (his personal numbers were solid, the team just wasn’t winning) he continued to throw well with the Chiefs, but ultimately the team had a commitment to Matt Cassel they were unwilling to break.

Finally, I’m going to offer up a receiver “handcuff” for Kenny Britt as some one who drafted Britt last year, and was impressed by his first few showings, only to see him go down for the year. Thankfully, despite tearing his MCL and ACL in week 3 last year, Britt seems to have fully recovered. We’ll see in training camp if there are any ill effects from the surgery. Should Britt struggle or aggravate his injury, I suggest following the Titans back up plan and giving Kendall Wright a shot. Wright currently projects to start in the slot, and actually could end up getting decent production there even with Britt, so maybe you want to spend a late round pick on him if your league is deep. It is possible the Titans go with Damian Williams on the outside if Britt does miss any time just to keep Wright in the slot, but my feeling is he’ll see a mix of outside and slot work, while also becoming a primary target. The disclaimer I want to put here is watch who wins the QB battle. If it’s Hasselbeck, he should pick up on his chemistry with Britt. If Locker is the starter however make sure you grab TE Jared Cooke, as he was a favorite target of Locker in the few games he started at the end of last year. Britt would lose some value with Locker under center, how much will depend on chemistry between the two, but Britt should be a guy the young QB would lean on.

Just the final disclaimer; this last bit was just for fun. They aren’t true handcuff guys, just guys who I think can step in and replicate production should the starter get injured.

A lot has happened in New England since Josh McDaniels left the Patriots for Denver two years ago. For starters, none of the running backs will look familiar. Fred Taylor and Lawrence Maroney are long gone. Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris are on the outside looking for a way back in. Danny Woodhead has become the hold over veteran. Joseph Addai, has joined the fold, and two second year players, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen look to spearhead the Patriots rushing attack. The tight end position is no longer lead by Benjamin Watson and Chris Baker’s unfulfilled promises of potential. Instead third year players Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez lead Tom Brady’s aerial attack.

The receivers, however, won’t require a role call for McDaniels to remember the names. Deion Branch and Jabar Gaffney have returned, while Wes Welker, Matt Slater and Julian Edelman never left. McDaniels even managed to bring along Brandon Lloyd who blossomed under his offense in Denver and followed him last year to St. Louis. (Donte Stallworth is also on his second go round with the team.) It’s a lot of toys for the pass happy OC to play with, but how will the playing time be distributed? And I’m not even mentioning the potential increase of passes to Danny Woodhead who could be taking over the role of Kevin Faulk in his prime.

In particular, how does McDaniels handle Aaron Hernandez? Gronkowski is a big bodied blocker, who just so happens to also have great hands, and break away speed, so I’m not to worried about his production or playing time. Hernandez, however, owed many of his snaps lats year to a subpar group of receivers allowing for the use of near constant two TE sets. That’s no longer the case, and while I’m not suggesting the former Florida product will just disappear from the offense, I don’t think he’ll approach 1000 yards receiving  the way he did this year. Of course, Matt Light’s departure could potentially leave a need for Gronk to stay in and block more if Nate Solder struggles at LT, leaving Hernandez to run free, overmatching whatever safety of linebacker get the task of trying to contain him.

So, what about Brandon Lloyd? He’s flourished under McDaniels with a lot less than Tom Brady to work with, but he also had a lot less competition for his QB’s attention. Lloyd may not be new to McDaniels but he is new to Brady, and chemistry matters, especially with a group this talented. Brady clicks with his new receiver B. Lloyd could put up Moss-esque numbers in New England. Of course, Moss never had to compete with the Incredible Gronk.

Bottom-Line McDaniels has the ultimate kid in a candy store line-up headed into the 2012 season. But that expression is played out, so let’s try a new one. McDaniels has a Power Rangers line-up. They’re all capable of delivering individual ass kickings, and even more powerful when working as a team, but if McDaniels can call upon the power of the Megazord, not even Rita’s Giant (get it?) monsters can stand in their way…so I guess Tom Coughlin and/or Perry Fewell, would be Rita? It’s a little convoluted but you get what I’m saying.