Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Player Rankings: A new perspective

Every year I check out who the “experts” think will do well in the world of fantasy football. You can find rankings in a number of locations. Some of the ones I look at are,, and CBS, CNNSI, and many other sites also have good rankings to check out. This year though I have realized that the only thing I can be sure of is that a bunch of people are going to be totally wrong. This is because the rankings are so lopsided! Let’s look at a few examples.

Santonio Holmes is now the clear-cut #1 for the Jets and certainly has a lot of talent. has him ranked as the 14th best WR. Yahoo on the other hand has him all the way down at 22! The overall rankings have him at 39 on and 19 spots lower at 58 on Yahoo! What about another great WR: Mike Williams from Tampa Bay. Well, Yahoo has him ranked as the 34th overall player to be taken (the 12th WR) while has him as the 59th overall player to be taken (23rd WR)!! The same situation is seen in running backs. Shonne Greene is viewed as the 11th best RB on Yahoo but the 19th best on NFL. These extremes are seen over and over again. They are less noticeable at the QB, TE, K and Def positions of course because there are limited numbers at each position. One differing opinion at QB to take note is on Kevin Kolb. While NFL has him as the 18th best QB available, Yahoo has him at 13.

So what is a fan to do? Well, I have never been one to trust the rankings TOO much to begin with. There has to be research done on stats (hey, I AM the Number Cruncher after all), schedules, and so much more. Take for example Joe Flacco. Last year Flacco passed for 3622 yards, 25TDs and 10 ints. He ranked 7th in the NFL in QB ranking and didn’t miss a single game all season. He is ranked 13th on NFL and 16th on Yahoo. Someone could take those rankings and assume then that Flacco should be around the 14th QB selected. But what if we look at things a little closer? Last season Flacco played against 6 teams in the top 8 pass defenses in the league, 6 teams ranking between 9 and 18 and 4 teams rankings from 19-32. This season the schedule has him going up against only 2 teams in the top 8, 7 teams from 9-18 and 7 teams from 19-32! So he is pretty much taking 4 games against top 8 pass defenses and instead getting to play those games against pass defenses ranked from 19-32. But do the “experts” look at this? What about the fact that Flacco has increased his QB rating from 80.3 to 88.9 to 93.6 in his 3 years in the league? What about the fact he has increased his passing TDs from 14 to 21 to 25 over his first 3 years in the league?

Am I telling you to draft Flacco as a superstar QB? Certainly not! But I would gladly take him over the likes of Stafford, Kolb, Cutler, and Eli Manning; all of whom Yahoo has ranked ABOVE Flacco! I may even be willing to take him over Freeman and Big Ben. So as you prepare for your drafts, focus less on rankings from sites and more on fact-based decision making. Check out those match-ups. Look at a player’s growth. Check out the rest of the team and how that will affect a certain player. Do that, and you will be laughing at the “experts” by the end of the season.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Weekend Update

This past weekend brought a number of big signings and deals that could have huge impact in 2011. Most of them will impact the actual season more-so than the fantasy football season, but they are all important to note.

The biggest mover over the past few days was clearly the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles traded Kevin Kolb to the Cards for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2nd round pick, a deal that was certain to make every Eagles fan jump for joy. Honestly, if your team could trade away their back-up quarterback and in return land a guy like DRC AND a future 2nd round draft pick, you’d wonder what team had lost their marbles. The Cardinals needed a signal caller and the deal that had been rumored since last year was finally completed. The Eagles were far from done, however. Next they signed Nnamdi Asomugha on Friday, adding the best free agent on the market to a set of corners that already included pro-bowlers Asante Samuel and the recently acquired DRC. Nnamdi was clearly a prize worth fighting for, and in the end he made the decision to go to a team that looks ready to win now. Those two deals would have made it a great weekend for Philly fan. But why not add icing to the cake? Philly also signed Vince Young as a back-up to Vick. Young could learn a lot from Vick as they are both out of a similar mold, both physically and mentally. Last, but certainly not least, the Eagles also signed free agent Cullen Jenkins. When healthy, Jenkins is a beast of a pass-rushing defensive tackle that is sure to add a new dimension to the Eagles defensive game. QBs and offensive coordinators are now going to have to figure out how to stop the Eagle rush without lofting any passes that are certain to be picked off by one of the best set of corners in the league.

There were a couple of notable movements at RB this weekend. Chicago signed the former Cowboy, Marion Barber; or in his glory days “MBIII”. Barber should see some 3rd down and goal-line work. If he does something with the limited work, he could find himself in a better position than he would have been in had he stayed in Dallas. Tim Hightower was also dealt from the Cards to the Skins, a move that does have some fantasy impact. With Hightower out of the picture, it is clear that Arizona is going to be riding Beanie Wells and their rookie RB Ryan Williams. If either of these guys sees 70%+ of the carries as well as the dump offs that are sure to come from Kolb, they might actually have some decent fantasy value; especially when you play 6 games against the NFC West. On the other hand, Washington now has Hightower, Ryan Torain, and Roy Helu to split time. My guess is that Torain is the main guy in this trio with Hightower getting some goal-line work. Helu may be reduced to a special teams roll, but he is an injury away from a possible shot at the starting position.

Plaxico Burress signed with the New York Jets this weekend as well. This move should have a positive impact on any offensive player for the Jets. Holmes needed someone to remove double teams and Greene needed the passing game to be a legit threat in order to find some holes in the defense. Both of these were accomplished by signing Plax. The big question will be whether Plax follows in the footsteps of Michael Vick and returns to glory, or if he has spent one too many days behind bars to remember what it is like to truly give your all for your team and for the love of the game.

This week is sure to bring about more deals. Team should start to settle down by the end of the week though as pre-season games are just around the corner.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Re-birth of 85

For those of you out there who think Chad Ochocinco-85-Johnson doesn’t have anything left, let me introduce you to a guy named Randy Moss. In 2007 Moss joined Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and the rest of the Patriots. He finished the season with nearly 1500 receiving yards and broke a 20 year old record set by the greatest WR of all time by catching 23 touchdown passes.

Number 85 has been viewed as a washed up, big mouth, all show and no go waste of space by a number of his critics, including me. For a while his entertainment of the fans was somewhat interesting. Then it got old, but he was still worth a draft pick in the fantasy world. Then he just got old and his value sank. But this move to the Patriots will resurrect the career of 85. Watch out fantasy world. This guy might not grab 1500 yards and 23 TDs, but Wes Welker is not going to lead the team with under 900 receiving yards like he did in 2010. Expect to see Brady throw for around 4200 yards and 34TDs with CJ grabbing around 1200 yards and 12 TDs.

Avoiding the RBBC

As we enter the season for FF drafts I think it is important that I break down one of the strategies that can be used for a winning season. Back in the day everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, made sure to draft 2 RBs in the first two rounds or maybe 2 in the first three rounds if they wanted to grab an elite WR or QB. Never was there the plan of taking 3 of the top 10 WRs in the first 3 rounds and hoping to get lucky later with some iffy RBs. While strategies may have changed, there is still one method involving back to back RBs that is a sure fire way to give you an advantage against the other owners. That strategy revolves around avoiding the RBBC (running back by committee) plan that so many teams now employ.

What do Michael Turner, Steven Jackson, Arian Foster, Rashard Mendenhall, Cedric Benson, CJ2K, Adrian Peterson, and MJD all have in common? Each of them had at least 280 carries in 2010 and each of them played a part in leading many teams into their fantasy football playoffs, and likely to a title game. The importance of having a running back who is getting 75%+ of the carries for their team cannot be understated. So in this article I want to give you the RBs who I expect to see 75%+ of the carries for their team. I will rank them in order of number of carries, not necessarily in order of value.

There are 32 teams in the NFL, but only 14 of them will likely employee a strategy where one RB gets 75% or more of the carries.

1.      Cedric Benson: My bet is that he re-signs with Cincy, who now has no QB and no WRs. Benson is going to see a ton of carries and this season will end his career. Projection: 380 carries
2.      Ray Rice: Rice had 307 carries last year. He is certain to increase those carries after the release of Willis McGahee, Todd Heap, and Derrick Mason. Rice is clearly going to be the go-to guy. Rice also gained over 550 receiving yards in back to back seasons. Projection: 350 carries
3.      MJD: Little Hercules hit 299 carries last year in only 14 games. Jacksonville is just as bad and MJD will be the main source of offense. If his body doesn’t fall apart, MJD should be a stud this year. Projection: 340 carries
4.      Jamaal Charles: Get ready for a new King in town. Charles had 230 carries last season and a disgusting 6.4ypc! Believe it or not, his counterpart, Thomas Jones, had 245 touches. That is not going to be the case this year. Kansas City might run the ball 475 times, but if they do you can expect JC to see at least 350 of those touches. I think 400 carries for the team and 330 for JC is a little more likely though.
5.      Steven Jackson: He is still the best player on his team and while Bradford has a year under his belt, S-Jax is still going to be a workhorse. Expect similar numbers as 2010. Projection: 325 carries
6.      Michael Turner: The burner will see a very slight drop off in carries as ATL had added Julio Jones to the pass attack. Projection: 320 carries
7.      Rashard Mendenhall: When something works well, why change it? Pitt has some great options in this pass game, but this guy gets it done on the ground. Projection: 315 carries
8.      CJ2K: Hasselbeck might actually take some of the pressure off of CJ doing everything in TN. The hold-out doesn’t hold CJ back imo. Projection: 310 carries
9.      Adrian Peterson: You might think that with McNabb coming to town, “All Day” would see a decrease in carries. But remember, the Vikings went 6-10 last year. AP needs to get back to his old rushing levels. Projection: 305 carries
10.  Arian Foster: Foster carried me to a title last year and I hope he does the same this year (keeper league). But he will not be seeing 327 carries. Now that Schaub, AJ, and Daniels are all healthy and Ben Tate is back in the mix, Foster should see a productive but slight drop off. Projection: 290 carries
11.  Darren McFadden: This dude is a freak. He saw 223 carries last year in 13 games and averaged 5.2 YPC. Michael Bush is not going to eat away at McFadden’s carries like he did last year. McFadden MIGHT not hit 75% of the carries (because Oakland sucks and will run the ball quite a bit), but he should still be good for about 285 carries.
12.  LeGarrette Blounte: Blounte is going to be a star in the coming seasons. He only played in 13 games last year but still saw over 200 carries. As the clear favorite in TB he should see a nice increase this season. Projection: 275 carries
13.  LeSean McCoy: I am in love with this guy after totally disrespecting him in mock drafts last year. McCoy is going to be a top 5-6 RB this season because he sees a lot of touches both in the run game and the passing game. Projection: 265 carries
14.  Matt Forte: If Chicago doesn’t learn to run the ball, Cutler is going to continue throwing a crazy number of INTs each season. Forte will see an increase from the 237 carries he got last year. Projection: 260 carries

There are a few other RBs that could end up seeing a large chunk of their teams’ carries. Ahmad Bradshaw received over 270 touches last year, but only hit 65% of the total carries as Jacobs also ran the ball a lot. Bradshaw is a pretty safe bet to see at least 70% of the touches and upwards of 275 carries so don’t be afraid to treat him as a RB who can avoid the committee label. Frank Gore should technically be on this list as I expect him to see 75% of his teams’ carries. But don’t be fooled. He is 29 years old and just hasn’t gotten back to his old form. I would avoid him unless you can get him cheap. Shonne Greene could be a loner in New York if LT is held to 3rd down plays. At this point it is a tough call. Greene has a lot of added value in keeper leagues however. One surprise could be Fred Jackson. If C.J. Spiller doesn’t start living up to all the hyper he had entering the 2010 season, Jackson is going to be a steal. Don’t expect Denver to start the season with Moreno as their workhorse…but if it happens, he will certainly see 300+ carries. Peyton Hillis – everyone expects Hardesty to steal some carries, but after last year that might not be the case.

If you want to take a cheap risk, try these guys on for size: Reggie Bush – currently the sole RB in Miami; Marshawn Lynch – This cool cat might have found a home for a while in Seattle. He has the talent and he also had the greatest run of 2010 in their playoff game against New Orleans. Ryan Grant isn’t expected to return to the form that gave him back to back 1200 yard seasons, but if he does he should see 80% of the Packers carries. Felix Jones will be competing against Choice as well as a new rookie RB in Dallas. If he can start the season off with a bang though, he could see the majority of carries in a powerhouse offense.

So now on to strategy: If you can grab 2 of those 14 RBs with your first two picks, you are nearly guaranteed to see 100-200 more carries on the season than a large majority of the league you are playing against. Imagine grabbing Ray Rice with the 4th overall pick and then getting Credic Benson in the 2nd (a legit possibility). You could see upwards of 750 carries for your top 2 RBs. The guy who drafts right after you and taken Michael Vick in the first and DeSean Jackson in the 2nd is going to end up with RBs that might get him 450 touches on the year. Any team grabbing an extra 300 carries should expect a large advantage. So grab those RBs early and make sure they aren’t having to share the rock.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Did the Saints just get even better?

The New Orleans Saints just got a lot better. How? They traded Reggie Bush. Now normally dealing away the #2 overall pick (from 2006) for what will probably be some lower round draft picks would probably not seem like a good thing. But for New Orleans, it is the right thing to do at exactly the right time.

Bush is being traded to the Miami Dolphins. Details of the deal are still to be released, but with Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown both being Fas, Miami was going to have to start the likes of Daniel Thomas, a rookie, at running back. That isn’t to say they won’t still start him. I think he will be the starter and that Bush will be used as a solid option to give Thomas a breather and will also line-up in the slot at times. I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to use Bush for a little wild-cat as well. But let’s get back to the real point here.

The Saints drafted Alabama superstar Mark Ingram in the first round of the 2011 draft and he is clearly their RB of the future. They also have Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory, both of whom showed flashes of brilliance when healthy in 2010. This 3 headed monster has no room for a 4th head and Bush needed to go. The Saints will save nearly $12 million by trading Bush and that is why they just got better. That $12 million can go towards re-signing Lance Moore, going out and getting other key free agents, or extending the contracts of some of their key guys. So when this is all said and done, the Saints running game is going to be better than 2010 and they will have bought themselves some great talent with the money they would have spent on a 4th running back.

A view from the sidelines: The CBA from the fans’ perspective

Over the past few days since the CBA has been completed, I have seen a lot of talk about who got the better deal: the owners, or the players. I think it is safe to say that both sides gave up some things and got some things and in the end it looks like a very good compromise. Perhaps our government could use this example and get something done as well!

What no one has been talking about though, is how this new CBA affects the fans. I think that it has a great effect on us, the hardcore fans, as well as the casual football watchers of America. The four main items that I want to look at are the salary cap, the length of the season, the 4 years of service rule, and the rookie wage scale.

First, and maybe most important, is the new salary cap. The cap is just over $120 million. This is approximately $7mil less than the 2009 cap. The big deal here is that the owners will be REQUIRED to spend upwards of 99% of that cap. In the past teams spent much less because they were in a small market and maybe did not have the funds to pay out the full cap amount. Now, they are just going to have to find a way to make it work. This is a very good thing for us as fans. Think about it: you sit down on a Sunday afternoon and start watching a great AFC South match-up between the Colts and the Jags. By the middle of the 2nd quarter the Colts are up 17-0 and you change over to fox to watch the other game. This happens all the time. It isn’t because the Colts are a dominant team, although they are very good. It is because Jacksonville doesn’t spend money to acquire big-name guys. The new cap rules are going to make sure that we the fans get to see talent spread out over the entire NFL a little more equally than we used to.

My favorite result of the new CBA was the decision to keep a 16 game season instead of moving it to 18 games. Now from a casual fan’s perspective I would have to say that this was a bad thing. The casual fan would much rather see 2 more regular season games instead of having 4 pre-season games to watch. For someone like me who loves stats and records, moving to 18 games would have been a disaster. If the league did move to 18 games, how do you even compare players anymore? If Manning passed Favre’s total yards mark by a few hundred yards in his final season, would he really be the all-time passing yards leader? All the records would have asterisks next to them or the old records would have to be projected out over 18 games. Yes, at some point in the distant future we wouldn’t even remember the time of a 16 game season as we have totally forgotten about decades long ago where 16 games would have been a joke. For me though, I am glad they kept things the way they are. This also provides less of a chance for player injuries, especially at the end of a long season. What happens when your star RB goes down in week 18 or 19 because he has now carried the ball 400 times instead of the 350 he was projected at? Keeping the season at 16 games was the right thing to do. Also to note is that it should stay this way for the full 10 years of the CBA. The owners have the right to remove 2 pre-season games, with the thinking that the players would miss the lost revenue and would be willing to turn those into regular season games….highly unlikely if you ask me.

Next is the rules that players earn their unrestricted free agency status after 4 years in the league. Short and sweet: this is a good thing because it means we will see fewer hold-outs by big name players and we will see player movement to keep weaker teams competitive as they pay for big name guys. If they had made it 5 or 6 years, things would have been very messy. It is also fun right now to see almost 500 free agents needing to land somewhere instead of less than 200 if we had been looking at 6 years.

Finally is the rookie wage scale. This by far is a huge benefit to the fans. What happens if you are an Oakland fan and you grab JaMarcus Russell with the #1 overall pick? You have to pay him a bigger contract than the 1st pick the year before, only to watch him suck it up and finally be released. This story is not new. It happens with first rounders all the time. They get guaranteed money only to be replaced mid-season or maybe after a couple of years because they can’t cut it. With the new rookie wage scale, team can spend more money on their proven players and less on rookies that have accomplished nothing in the NFL. This will allow for teams to hold onto their best guys and even go out in free agency and have the money to spend to bring in missing pieces. The top pick will still be receiving some big bucks, but it will be less than half of what they had been getting. No more of these guaranteed $50 million contracts! Rejoice fans! This is a very good thing.

So that’s a wrap. Let me know what you think about these rules and what you would have liked to see that didn’t happen (or what you hate about what did happen). Thanks for reading!

Harvin update

That didn’t take long…remember the prediction from less than 24 hours ago that Harvin was 2 steps away from being a top tier WR? Well, McNabb is headed to MN and Rice just signed with Seattle on a 5 year deal worth up to $44 million. Get ready fantasy football drafters. Harvin needs to be moved up your draft board!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Percy Harvin

Sometimes I like to sit back and watch the dominoes fall in what can be an array of majestic movement as players shift from one team to another and matches that could only be made in heaven are somehow completed here on earth (Or actually domino displays like this one). While I am clearly a hater of the Minnesota Viqueens (yes, they are a bunch of queens in my book), I see the opportunity for one of their WRs to move into top 6-10 territory. You heard me. Better than Miles Austin, Brandon Marshall, Wes Welker, Vincent Jackson, and flirting with the likes of Reggie Wayne, Mike Wallace, and Greg Jennings.

That WR is Percy Harvin. In order for a WR to be great he needs 3 things. First is that he needs to be the favorite target (or clearly the #1 WR on the team) of whoever is passing the ball. Rodgers to Jennings, Manning to Wayne, Ryan to White; these tandems have all found success. The second thing is that the wide receiver needs a top tier QB throwing him the ball. See the 2010 drop off for Larry Fitzgerald if you disagree. Finally, the WR needs to have some type of counterpart that can force defenses to provide one-on-one opportunities or even the occasional mishap of being left totally unguarded.

Harvin currently has only one of those three (after the Favre retirement): a beast known as All Day (Adrian Peterson). Opposing defenses need to focus on one of, if not THE best running back in the league to stand a chance at winning the game. This leaves numerous opportunities in the passing game. But Harvin is currently the number 2 WR and Tavaris Jackson is throwing the ball…..well, the was the case 24 hours ago. Now Jackson is out and there are talks of McNabb going to Minnesota! This would be the 2nd piece of the puzzle for Harvin. The final piece? Well, Sidney Rice is a free agent and the Vikings do not have the money to spend on him when there are dozens of other WR free agents on the market. If he does in fact leave, this moves Harvin up to the #1 guy on the team.

So is it a day dream? At this point, yes. But don’t be surprised if you look back to this article around January and realize that Percy Harvin would have won you a FF title.