Archive for August, 2012

I just said in my last post, here that Maurice Jones-Drew has indicated that he’s open to being traded. It’s not terribly likely, but for the sake of argument I’d like to round up the usual suspects and speculate a bit on where MJD could be headed. Because of his talent level I consider almost no one off limits…that said there’s an awful lot of teams that seem set at the position, but hey this is all for fun anyway.

Broncos – I know, I don’t especially like the move in the wake of Willis McGahee’s breakout 2011 season, but Willis is about to turn 30 and Broncos head of football operations John Elway revealed a penchant for small explosive runners with the drafting of Ronnie Hillman in the 3rd round of this years draft and the addition of Peyton Manning this offseason says the team’s not afraid of making a splash. The Broncos are already becoming early season favorites to win the division adding Jones Drew could put them over the top. Oh, and just in case his play doesn’t speak for itself MJD’s long time coach in Jacksonville Jack Del Rio is now the Defensive coordinator in Denver. I’m thinking McGahee ends up part of this trade. Broncos have some young guys in the stable and the Jags could use a veteran runner since MJDs departure leaves Rashad Jennings the lead back and while he’s looked good in preseason he’s never had to carry the load of a full season.

Patriots – I consider this pretty unlikely. But people also thought the Patriots using both their first round picks (rather than trading one to add additional late round picks as history would suggest.) The cost would likely be too high, but it would be an incredible move. MJD is essentially the Patriots top 3 backs (Ridley, Vereen, Woodhead) rolled into one and multiplied by two. Ridley and Vereen haven’t exactly exploded in the preseason (not that they’ve had much chance with limited snaps and Brady and select other starters sitting out all but a series so far) Packaging a pick with either Vereen or Ridley will give the Pats a legitimate running threat (and pass catching threat out of the backfield) The big contract MJD would likely want as part of the trade is not exactly in line with Patriots thinking, especially with Welker still waiting on a deal and Aaron Hernandez a few years away from needing a new contract the Pats may want to hold on to their cap space…then again maybe Jones-Drew doesn’t mind his current contract so much playing for a perennial playoff team and Superbowl contender.

Redskins – Owner Daniel Snyder has been very good about letting Head Coach Mike Shannahan and General Manager Bruce Allen make the football decisions and kept his paychecks under control, but MJD may just be that perfect combination of big splashy name and youthful talent that would make everyone happy. The Redskins stable has no shortage of talented young running backs to help fuel the trade (Hightower, Helu, Royster)…Draft picks is a bit of an issue with the next two years first rounders going to the Rams in RG3 trade and the team still looking to build, but perhaps Santana Moss or even recent acquisition Josh Morgan could be used to make the deal worthwhile for a Jaguars WR group that gets thin quick after rookie Justin Blackmon and a somewhat unlucky in injuries Laurent Robinson.

Jets – Every other story this offseason seems to involve the Jets anyway, so why not put them on the list. the move actually could make sense. We know the Jets want to get back to the “ground and pound” and that’s just as well with the OL making any attempts at a pass attack look doomed to fail. Whether you like Shonn Greene or not (complete disclosure, I don’t) you have to admit MJD would be a major upgrade. I like Joe McKnight (of that first Jets camp fight fame) as the Jets trade piece as I think his skill set could pair nicely with Jennings in Jacksonville.

Any Other Team that Loses a Back for the Season Early – I’m going to call this the “Carson Palmer Plan.” If Jones-Drew is serious and holds out into the season, and none of the teams above (or others not mentioned) comes calling with a trade deal that sweeps the Jags off their feet it could take an injury to another team’s star to up the ante for a team looking to make a playoff run (just imagine if the Chiefs could have landed MJD to play for Charles after he tore his ACL) The problem here is Carson Palmer cost a lot to acquire and didn’t exactly pay immediate dividends. Yes MJD plays RB not QB but Chris Johnson didn’t exactly light it up after ending his holdout (the numbers really weren’t bad but he wasn’t dominant and his team missed the playoffs.) The real issue is the same one I mentioned with New England, giving MJD a big money contract particularly if the team already has money invested in another back.

All in all the market isn’t great. Especially with Foster, Rice, and McCoy all inking new deals this year, but Maurice Jones-Drew is so good I can’t imagine no one wants him. I also can’t imagine the Jags are dying to get rid of him. But if ever there was a time to trade your star running back it’s in a year that sees the organization take on a new owner, GM, and coaching staff and a roster that starts to click without him in camp.

Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s recent comments to the teams star running back Maurice Jones-Drew may have driven a wedge into whatever progress may have been made between Jones-Drew and the team. It was believed that Jones-Drew would end his holdout in time to start the season, but these comments plus those by Head Coach Mike Mularkey that the running back wouldn’t be able to step right back into his feature back role without learning the new playbook (a reasonable request) have left MJD feeling unwanted. In fact the running back responded to Khan’s comments by saying he’s open to being traded. Obviously since he’s still under contract he can’t actively seek a trade without the team’s permission, but at this point it might be the best middle ground.

There are essentially 3 options.

1) Ends the holdout, MJD reports to camp, kicks ass and they can talk about an extension. This seems fairly likely, but it does sort of benefit the Jaguars heavily and sort of invalidates the holdout.

2)MJD Holds out the season [or until he gets a new contract] Obviously the contract solves the problem from Jones-Drew’s perspective, but then it gets into that bad precedent thing, and Khan’s made it pretty clear he’s not ready to open up his checkbook any time soon.

3) The Jaguars start looking for trade partners. It’s pretty unlikely that a deal gets done, but I actually don’t think it’s a horrible idea. If this really is a stalemate situation and MJD won’t play without a contract and the Jaguars won’t give him one…a trade may be best for both sides. As long as the Jags land a high draft pick (and maybe an additional runner to help take pressure off Rashad Jennings.)

At the end of the day Maurice Jones-Drew will likely be playing for the Jags this season and hopefully into the future. The media firestorm makes speculation fun for now, but continued talks with Jaguars GM Gene Smith and hopefully Head Coach Mike Mularkey should smooth things over.

The riveting conclusion to my week 1 recap is coming a little late with week 2 already gearing up, so let’s get to it.

The big story is Andrew Luck 188yds 2TDs (now here comes the but) But it’s the first week of preseason, against the Rams and 63 of those yards (and 1 TD) came on a dump off-screen to Donald Brown who took it to the endzone. Still the dude looked impressive…then again so did Drew Stanton (8/11 83 yards) and Mr. Irrelevant Chandler Harnish (3/3 52 yards, TD) I guess what I’m trying to say is the Rams defense that was supposed to be much improved under Jeff Fisher, left a lot to be desired. I also liked what I saw from Indy rookies WR LaVon Brazill (3 rec 38 yards) and RB Vick Ballard (6 rush 28 yards, 1 rec 11 yards)

Some positives on offense for the Rams, rookie runner Isaiah Pead ran pretty well (10 carries 33 yards) and Sam Bradford was solid (7/9 for 57 yards.) Not much noise made by the rookie receivers Quick and Givens who each had just one reception for 9 and 13 yards respectively.

Not a lot from the Cowboys Raiders game as both teams struggled. Romo and Palmer combined to go 6/12 for 63 yards no TDs and 1 INT (from Palmer) Limited work for the starters, but still not what you want from two offenses who have some things to prove. Andre Holmes lead the Cowboys receivers (3 rec for 40 yards) Holmes is a 6’4 24 year old out of Hillsdale college, so how much he can contribute against first teamers remains to be seen, but he could be a candidate to step up for the Cowboys.

Terrelle Pryor put up the sort of stat line you might expect from him 8/15 for 50 yards, INT 6 rushes 21 yards. Matt Leinart was 11/16 for 98 yards, so he would seem to have an edge in the back-up competition, but we’ll see how that goes. It was a really bad night for Jacoby Ford who didn’t come up with a catch despite getting the start for an injured Denarius Moore and seeing a few targets from Palmer. He also muffed a punt. Hopefully it was just some preseason jitters, if not undrafted rookie Rod Streater (6 rec 66 yards) could send Ford the way of Louis Murphy or Chaz Schilens (both enjoyed promising seasons before fading into the background and ending up traded or simply unsigned) As and Added bonus Darren McFadden touched the ball 3 times without injury.

Same cannot be said for Jason Witten who reportedly could miss the rest of the preseason with a spleen injury. Despite the lack luster scoring and some tough breaks in this first match-up both teams should improve and be in-line to at least compete in their divisions.

The much anticipated follow-up to part 1. I will throw in here for anyone who missed my sum up of the first few games that what I’m about to say is more or less useless at this point. The first preseason game is a pretty poor indicator for the season, it’s just fun to look at while we wait for September.

The youth movement is underway in Tennessee. Second year QB Jake Locker (7/13 for 80 yards) and rookie WR Kendall Wright (3 catches on 3 targets for 47 yards) looked sharp in the Titans preseason opener and I expect both guys to be staring week 1 (Locker should win his battle, and I’m still expecting Kenny Britt to miss at least 2 weeks on suspension.) Meanwhile, Chris Johnson looked awful. There were a few dropped screen passes and he just couldn’t find any running room. To CJ’s credit the Seahawks defense is better than most people realize, and it was the first game, still not the kind of performance you wanted to see from a guy who’s suposed to be gearing up for a big comeback year.

On the other side of the ball in the same game Russell Wilson scored a pair of touchdowns (one throwing, one rushing…also had an INT) and looked good in his NFL debut. It was against the 2nd and 3rd string of a Titans defense who’s starters aren’t even scaring anyone, but hey it shows promise for a guy a lot of people had doubts about. Fellow rookie, RB Robert Turbin had a mixed night running with the first team in place of Marshawn Lynch. He ended with 10 carries for 24 yards, but he ran hard and was able to catch all three balls that came his way out of the back field. Leon Washington did well on limited work (5 carries 26 yards) and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him continue to get regular touches as a change of pace back.

It was a disappointing game for each team’s superstar in the Texans/Panthers game. Arian Foster was stripped for a lost fumble by rookie Luke Kuechly on his only carry of the game, and Cam Newton managed to complete only 2 of his 6 attempted passes for a meager 17 yards, but was able to gain add another 16 yards to his total on two carries. Cam didn’t look bad (and at least a pair of those incompletion probably should have been caught) but still I imagine neither player is satisfied their stat line, even if it is only preseason.

The 49ers running game seems as good as advertised. 6 different players managed to break runs over 10 yards, highlighted by a 23 yard scamper from big man Brandon Jacobs and a 78 yard TD run by back up QB Colin Kaepernick (who lead the team with 92 rushing yards on 3 carries to go along with a 5/9 passing effort for 40 yards.) And now is when I remind you that this was the preseason…against the Vikings. Just in case you were wondering who the other four guys running the ball were it was Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Anthony Dixon and Rock Cartwright.

On the other side of the ball Toby Gerhart averaged 6.2 yards per carry on 5 carries against a tough 49ers defense. Adrian Peterson just got reactivated from the PUP, so Gerhart may not get the early season shot at starting we thought, but still gotta give him credit for what he did in AP’s absence. Rookie TE Kyle Rudolf (2 catches 22 yards) looks like he could develop into a nice target for Christian Ponder…not much else going on in that passing game.

If you’re wondering about Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez, well….they looked like Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez. Tebow completed 50% of his passes, had as many rushes as completions (4) and threw a pick. Sanchez was 4/6 for 21yds no TD no INT. Shonn Greene was bad (22yds 11 carries) Joe McKnight was good (32yds 7 carries, 34yds on 3 catches.) Fairly typical Jets stuff. Rookie Watch: Stephen Hill had a pair of catches on three targets for 17 yards.

Not much to report from the Bengals end. Disappointing outing for AJ Green who didn’t come up with a catch on a pair of targets (Revis Island is not the place to build a summer home.) BenJarvus Green-Ellis put up 22 yards on 7 carries for a solid debut as a Bengal.

Even though the Browns won their matchup with the Lions, the game probably did not go quite the way Cleveland hoped. After impressive debuts from RG3, Ryan Tannehill (and earlier today Andrew Luck) it was Weeden’s turn to show his stuff. That stuff ended up being 3 completions on 9 attempts for 62 yards and an interception. The rag tag receiving group in Cleveland likely didn’t help matters with Greg Little missing his only target and rookie Josh Gordon unable to come down with any of the 3 balls thrown his way (for the record I have no idea when Gordon was playing so it may not have even been Weeden throwing to him.) Obviously there’s no need to panic, the team was without top pick Trent Richardson, and it was Gordon’s first game action since Baylor suspended him in 2010. The Browns need work, but that’s what the preseason is for.

It was a bad game for rookie QB’s on the other side of the football as well. Undrafted rookie Kellen Moore saw his first game action but finished 4/14 for 40 yards with an INT. Not the kind of debt you want to see from a guy with the kind of questions around his ability Moore has, but he should get plenty of opportunities to redeem himself in the next few weeks.

*Just a quick disclaimer reminder; I get all my stats and info from either ESPN.com or NFL.com unless otherwise noted with a hyperlink.

Ultimate disclaimer here, nothing I’m about to say really means anything at this point. The first preseason game mostly features back-ups, and guys fighting for roster spots with starters only taking a few snaps to help ease them back into things. Still, I’m excited to see stat lines and there were some interesting things that happened.

First things first. Julio Jones had over 100 yards receiving (with a TD) on 6 reception. I didn’t get to watch the game so I don’t know if that’s anywhere near as impressive as it sounds, but it sounds pretty damn impressive. Especially considering this was against the Ravens defense. Just to give you some perspective though, the Ravens new back-up QB Curtis Painter was 7/14 throwing for 76 yards with 3 TDs.

Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning combined to go 11/24 for 96 yards, no TDs and 2 INTs (Manning and Rodgers accounted for the picks.) Again, this means nothing, less than nothing in the case of these guys, I just find it interesting and worthy of note.

RG3 went 4/6 for 70 yards and a TD and avoided getting sacked. I know doesn’t sound like it should be an accomplishment, but there were some articles floating around NFL.com earlier about Griffin saying he was totally okay with not getting sacked in the preseason and Mario Williams saying he told the rookie QB he’d be coming for him, so figured I’d toss that in. One more thing: 3 of Griffin’s 4 completions were to Pierre Garcon. That could be a pairing to watch, see if the rookie continues to play favorites in preseason.

Ryan Matthews is already injured. The good news is he’s only expected to miss 4-6 weeks which at best puts him right on the brink of returning for the opener, and at worst puts him out for the first few weeks of the season. The article I’m hoping I correctly linked to is calling it a “bad luck” injury, but if that’s the case maybe we need to consider the fact that Matthews is under some sort of voodoo curse. In all seriousness though, I wish the guy a speedy recovery, he’s a heck of a player.

So, with drafts underway and everyone worrying about their skill positions I wanted to take a minute to discuss defense. D/ST and kickers are often highly underrated in fantasy because there’s usually a much smaller point discrepancy among the top 10 or 12 at the position than at the skill positions. This can actually a little misleading as a lot of teams will put up one or two huge number games and then be average to mediocre the rest of the year, but still come out on the high end at season’s end because of those isolated performances. And even if the gap isn’t huge compared to other positions, it could still be significant enough to cost you your playoff spot. Good defense will win you games, good consistent defense could land you championships.

Now watch as I play devils advocate to myself and tell you there’s no reason to draft a defense earlier than the second to last round. Actually, make that very little reason. What I said before was important and if you’re playing in a league with people who are new to fantasy they are prone towards filling their roster and grabbind a D/ST early. So why shouldn’t you? To be honest it’s mostly because I don’t trust the schedules of some of the top defenses this year.

I want badly to tell you drafting the 49ers defense in the 7th round (which is where they tend to go in the mocks I’ve been doing, but it’s usually by an autodraft, so take it with a grain of salt) is the best thing you can do for your team, but I just can’t. This years schedule includes games against Rodgers (week 1) Stafford (week 2) Brees (week 12) Brady (week 15) and SF can be beat through the air, especially against teams who don’t have much of a run game to take away. Eli Manning and Jay Cutler also pop up in weeks 6 and 11 respectively. I’m not too concerned about either of them because they can be pick prone and in Cutler’s case the defense should be shredding through the Bears O-Line and pressuring hard all day. So you’ve got 4 (potentially) rough weeks, plus the bye. The good news is the rest of the schedule is the remainder of the NFC West (twice), AFC East and Vikings. All said…if they’re still on the board in round 11 or 12 when I pick, I’ll be taking them.

It’s worth noting another top ranked defense, the Texans will also face Rodgers, and Brady but have an otherwise unintimidating schedule. Baltimore only gets Brady (and Romo if you want to count him) but are missing their top pass rusher in Terrell Suggs. Jury is still out for me on how tough the AFC North will end up being this year. (I’m thinking Dalton could see a slump, Weeden may be 28 but is still a rookie and will make some mistakes, and no real good words coming out of Steelers camp so far, but I’ve learned not to underestimate them.)

Bottom Line is this. If you have a defense you think you want, take a quick peak at their schedule. Every team is going to have a few tough games on paper, just make sure you know about them. Also, keep the special teams aspect in mind. A good returner can break a game not just for his team, but for yours as well.

Decided my original sleeper post was too long, so I’m breaking it down by position. Intro paragraph is always the same.

You know the story of the Princess and the Pea, right? Well, the gist is that there’s this princess who can’t sleep if you put a single pea under her mattress because it hurts her back…or something. Look, the point is, in your fantasy draft this year you are the princess (deal with it, it’s a good thing.) If you can find those players (or “peas”) buried deep in the draft (or “mattress”) you will be able to sleep easy knowing your fantasy roster is ready for anything…like say losing 3 of your top four picks in the first two weeks of the season (trust me, it happens.) So, without further confusion, I present, your peapods at the Defense/ST position:

Washington Redskins: I know, they’re in a tough division full of offenses, but they also have assembled an excellent pass rush and that division is run by QB’s who can be prone to throwing INTs along with their TDs. Ryan Kerrigan now has the benefit of a whole offseason, and they’re getting back Jarvis Jenkins on the D-Line (quick google revealed Jenkins has struggled to find his groove so far, but he did miss his entire rookie season, so I don’t expect that to last)  They lost LaRon Landry, but they’re already used to playing without him. The secondary has some things to prove, but so far Shanahan’s been making all the right moves on both sides of the ball.

Buffalo Bills: Yes, they have to play the Patriots twice, but they also get the Mark Sanchez/Tim Tebow coupling and some version of David Garrard/Matt Moore and Ryan Tannehill twice each. (And the rest of the schedule won’t scare anyone) I’m a big believer in what Mario Williams can bring to the team in terms of pass rush, and as long as the offense allows them enough time to breathe on the sidelines, it could be a big year. They’re better than you think and should be waiting in the second to last round once the perennial top picks are gone.

Atlanta Falcons: Love a Mike Nolan defense. The addition of Asante Samuel will help add turnovers. True, facing Brees and Newton twice a year isn’t ideal, especially when you’re a team looking to air it out. I imagine them being similar to the Packers last year, they’ll get scored on, but they’ll make up for it with turnovers.

Kansas City Chiefs: If you haven’t guessed yet I’m big on the Chiefs this year. They were decimated by injuries last year and still only missed the playoffs by one game. Everyone in the division should be better this year, but the Chiefs remain my favorites now that Brandon Flowers and Eric Berry are back in the line-up. I’m still not sold on Peyton Manning and I don’t buy that Rivers and Palmer will magically return to form this year (though both should play better than in 2011) They could be a steal if you’re willing to take a chance.

St Louis Rams: I really don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I have to mention them! First round pick Michael Brockers will help anchor a front line that includes promising pass rusher Chris Long and second round pick Janoris Jenkins has been impressive as advertised in camp. Put him with Cortland Finnegan on a Jeff Fisher defense? They need guys to step up and the offense to hold up their end of the bargain.  For those reasons I can’t recommend grabbing them except maybe as a #2 squad as they should go undrafted in most leagues and be an easy grab off the wire if you decide you want insurance for a top end unit like the Suggs-less Ravens. 

*Note: I tend to like Matthew Berry (and probably most other analysts) advice of waiting until the 2nd to last round to grab a D/ST. Of course I’ve also been known to jump at a high caliber defense a few rounds early, particularly if I’m not completely sold on my roster or the skill position options available in the late mid rounds.