Monthly Archives: January 2013

Top 10 2013 Fantasy Football Sleepers

If you are a serious, no-nonsense, balls-to-the-wall fantasy football player like I am, then you already know what I am about to say, so feel free to skip ahead a bit.  As for the rest of you, here goes: there is no offseason in fantasy football.  Right now you should be paying attention to who, among the teams in the playoffs, is getting the ball and how much they are getting it.  Bernard Pierce’s game against the Colts told me more about him then all 16 games of the regular season did combined.  To prove my point, I submit the fact that Matthew Berry, the preeminent fantasy guru, has already released his top 200 players for 2013, which got me thinking.  I know its early, but I immediately identified more than a handful of players whom I think were undervalued based on his initial rankings.  In the words of fantasy athletics these are known as “sleepers”.  So here you go, for your reading pleasure I submit my list of 2013 fantasy football sleepers.  And just so we are on the same page, here is my definition of what a “sleeper” is:  I define a sleeper as a player who will outperform his average draft position by no less than 10 spots, or one full standard league round.  So a fifth round sleeper would be expected to perform as well, if not better than, a player selected in the fourth round.  So, without further ado, here they are.

  • #53 Greg Jennings, WR22, 6th Round.  In 2012 the 22nd best WR was Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers with his 73 receptions for 1,174 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Jennings missed most of 2012 with an injury but did show he was back at 100% in Green Bay’s season finale in which he caught 8 balls for 120 yards and 2 TD’s.  He will be one of the most highly coveted free agents this offseason and at only 30 years old should have no problem being a top 15 WR next year worthy of a selection within the first five rounds of the draft.  1200 yards and 8 touchdowns are easily attainable.  Even if he were to stay in Green Bay it changes nothing as Jennings is Rodgers favorite target.
  • #69 Torrey Smith, WR29, 7th Round.  In 2012 the 29th best WR was Austin Miles of the Dallas Cowboys with his 946 yards and 6 touchdowns.  In 2012, Smith’s second year in the NFL, he had 984 receiving yards and 10 TD’s.  Traditionally, a wide receiver usually really starts to come into his own during his third year in the league.  Anyone who watched the Baltimore-Denver AFC Divisional game last week knows that it is laughable to actually think that Smith will regress in 2013.  Barring any unforeseen setbacks, if you’re on the clock in the fourth round and he’s still available then he has the potential to be the steal of your draft.
  • #70 Vick Ballard, RB25, 7th Round.  In 2012 the 25th best running back was Willis McGahee and his 952 total yards and four touchdowns.  Come on!  What the Colts have going on the offensive side of the ball is something special.  The Donald Brown era is all but over.  I fully expect Ballard to enter 2013 as their primary, if not feaure, back who will get all the goal line work.  In today’s NFL no primary+goal line back lasts until the 7th round of a fantasy draft.  Barring a move via the draft or something unexpected during free agency, Ballard is no worse than a top 15 RB worth selecting during the first five rounds of the draft.
  • #86 Jacquizz Rodgers, RB29, 9th Round.  The 29th best running back of 2012 was Denver’s Knowshon Moreno and his 748 total yards and 5 total TD’s.  Much of my argument for Rodgers is the same as above for Ballard.  Michael Turner’s role in the Atlanta offense is being reduced, if not phased out entirely by next year, and Rodgers is who they are going to turn to.  To sum it up, as a rookie, in a part time role, Rodgers totaled 836 yards of offense and 2 TD’s.  With him having an increased role next year, there is no reason not to think that he won’t compile another combined 400 yards of offense and an additional 4-6 TD’s.  He is an ideal flex candidate with RB2 upside worth selecting by the 6th round.
  • #89 Josh Gordon, WR40, 9th Round.  In 2012 the 41st best WR was Santana Moss and his 592 yards and 8 TD’s.  Josh Gordon was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the 2012 supplemental draft.  What that means, the nuts-and-bolts of it at least, is instead of joining his team in April like all the rest of the rookies did, he didn’t join the Browns until July. But that didn’t stop him from leading the Browns in receiving yards with 805 receiving TD’s with 5. And, oh by the way, did I mention he didn’t even play a down of competitive football in 2011 because of off the field problems?  At 6’3” 225lbs Gordon has the potential to be a star in the NFL and should be drafted as a WR3 with serious WR1 potential no later than the 6th round.
  • #90 TY Hilton, WR41, 9th Round.  In 2012 the 41st best WR was Larry Fitzgerald and his fantasy season-ruining 798 yards and 4 TD’s.  In 2012 Hilton, a rookie, had 927 yards and 7 TD’s.   506 of those yards and 5 TD’s came over Hilton’s final seven games, which means to me, as the season progressed, he and fellow rookie Andrew Luck, really began to develop some chemistry.  Next year Reggie Wayne, who Matthew Berry lists as his 13th best WR, 37th overall, turn 35.  I expect Wayne to produce closer to where Mr. Berry projects Hilton to be and vice-versa.  I’ll say it again, what Indianapolis has brewing on the offensive side of the ball is something special and fantasy owners had better pay attention.
  • #97 Kendall Wright, WR46, 10th Round.  In 2012 the 46th best WR was Donnie Avery with 793 yards and 3 TD’s.  Last year, as a rookie, Wright led the Titans in both receptions, 64, and targets, 104. His 626 yards were good for second on the team and his 4 touchdowns put him in a four-way tie for the team lead.  I expect him to easily surpass those numbers in 2013.  Why?  If for no better reason than we are not even through January yet, and Kenny Britt has already had to talk to the police about a shooting/stabbing.  There is no way this guy lasts another seven months without some type of off the field incident which will undoubtedly negatively impact his fantasy value.  Wright is a steal as early as the 8th round and should be viewed as a WR3 with WR2 upside.
  • #119 David Wilson, RB41, 12th Round.  In 2012 the 41st best fantasy football was Bilal Powell and his 577 total yards and 4 TD’s.  I know, Wilson can’t pass-block, I get it.  He does everything else at a nearly elite level.  The whole pass-blocking thing will get figured out, the Giants need Wilson on the field starting game one in 2013 and 1,000 combined yards, 8 total TD’s is what I set the minimum bar at.  Draft as a flex no later than round 8 and expect big time production from him as you become the envy of your draft.
  • #132 Bernard Pierce, RB45, 14th Round.  In 2012 the 45th best fantasy running back was LaRod Stephens-Howling with 463 total yards and 4 TD’s.  If in 2013 you own Ray Rice, than you need to also draft Pierce.  He is a necessary handcuff that may wind up sneaking into your lineup, even with Ray Rice playing, as a viable flex option.  You don’t take a player in the third round of the NFL draft, as Baltimore did with Pierce, to have him sit on the bench.  The Ravens will find a way to get the ball into Pierce’s hands and I expect him to make the most of his opportunities.
  • #135 Kendall Hunter, RB 48, 14th Round.  In 2012 David Wilson was the 48th best fantasy running back with 395 total yards and 5 TD’s.  Before tearing his Achilles tendon, Hunter was doing a great job as Frank Gore’s backup, averaging 5.2ypc.  Hunter is another player who falls under the category of must-have handcuff with serious upside.  Frank Gore had a superb 2012 campaign with 1,200+ yards and 8 TD’s but will be 30 next year and at some point he will start to slow down.  I’d feel comfortable taking Hunter in the 10th round knowing, at the very least, if Gore were to get banged up, then I am sitting on a lottery ticket by way of having a RB1 on my bench.  (On a side note, if LaMichael James were to be #2 on the 2013 SF depth chart, and not Hunter, then insert him here instead.)
  • #141 Ronnie Hillman, RB51, 15th Round.  The 51st best fantasy RB in 2012 was Maurice Jones-Drew who got hurt in the Jaguars’ sixth game of the year.  Another young, talented back, who was a third round draft pick, playing behind a productive, but aging (by NFL running back standards) veteran.  Willis McGahee will be 32 years old next year and can not be counted on to carry a full workload, which is where Hillman comes in.  Draft him around round 10 and you won’t be disappointed.
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BRONCOS-RAVENS PREVIEW

Today’s Broncos-Ravens matchup is one of quarterbacks who are at polar opposite ends of the “pressure-spectrum.”  On one hand you’ve got Canton-bound, all-world Peyton Manning who, if he retired today, before this game’s 4:30pm kickoff, would still be destined to be in the discussion for one of the game’s all-time greats.  Manning’s legacy has already been defined, now he is just looking to add some hardware to his resume. Due simply to the fact that at this time last year we were wondering not when but if he would ever play again, Manning is the quarterback with the least amount of pressure to win this weekend.

Then on the other end of the pressure-spectrum you’ve got Baltimore’s Joe Flacco who might be the most accomplished fifth year quarterback in NFL history to never be selected to the Pro Bowl or play in a Super Bowl.

Flacco has set NFL records for playoff wins by a rookie (2), most regular season wins by a quarterback in his first five seasons (54), and is the only quarterback in NFL history to win a postseason game in each of his first five seasons.  But despite all that, the self-proclaimed “best” quarterback in the NFL is without a contract for the 2013 season which makes him the only starting quarterback left in the postseason who is playing for his next paycheck.

Unfortunately for Flacco, as an NFL quarterback, until you have proved you can do “it” (and by “it” I mean win, or at least make, the Super Bowl), you are not defined by what you have done, but rather by what you haven’t.  Furthermore, fans of the “ADD  Generation” do not remember circumstances; they remember results.  They don’t care if Lee Evans dropped the game winning touchdown in last year’s AFC Championship game which would have sent the Ravens to the Super Bowl, nor the fact that Billy Cundiff subsequently missed an easy 32-yard field goal which would have tied the game.  No, all that gets remembered is Flacco lost, again, and is now 0-2 when a trip to the Super Bowl is on the line.  Right or wrong, that’s the way it is.

Finally, there are 42 other combined starters for the Broncos and Ravens who aren’t named Manning or Flacco that will also have a say in how this game ends.  For my money, there are four key factors which determine the outcome of any football game.

1)      Win on third down

2)      Protect your quarterback

3)      Be the least penalized team

4)      Win the battle of field position

That’s it, winning and losing in the NFL in a nutshell.  The Denver Broncos hold the edge in all four of those factors.  On offense they convert 45.1% of their 3rd downs while Baltimore converts at only a 36.9% rate.  On defense, the Broncos held their opponents to a conversion rate of 30.6% which led the NFL whereas the Ravens 35.8% was eighth.  Peyton Manning was only sacked 21 times compared to Flacco’s 35, and, as a bonus, the Broncos’ D led the NFL with 52 sacks whereas Baltimore’s 37 had them in a three-way tie for 15th.  Denver was flagged only 100 times, versus Baltimore’s 121, and in 16 fewer punt returns than Baltimore (33 versus 49) Denver amassed more yards (445 versus 404).

What does this all mean?  It means that despite all the hub-a-ba-loo regarding Peyton Manning having never won a playoff game in which the temperature was below 40 degrees at kickoff (0-3), I expect the Denver Broncos to win and win big today (and by big I mean by more than the nine point spread which they currently are) and for the controversy regarding just how valuable Joe Flacco is as an NFL quarterback to continue to be determined another day.

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BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME WRAP UP

By now just about everyone is aware of the of tsunami -esque beat down the Alabama Crimson Tide gave to the Notre Dame Fightin’  Irish in their 42-14 win in last nights’s BCS National Championship game.

It was a complete and total domination by “Bama start to finish.  The Irish got off to a good start by winning the coin toss but that was about it for the things they did well.  But at least they’ll have that. “Bama got the ball first and ND got to losing right away as they gave up a five play 82-yd touchdown drive.  Which, oh by the way, was the longest drive the Manti Te’o led ND defense had given up all season.

There is no better way to illustrate the dominance Alabama’s offense had over the much (as it turns out) over-hyped Notre Dame defense than this, going into last night, the Irish had surrendered only nine total offensive touchdowns all year to their 12 regular season opponents combined but on the first play of the second quarter Alabama’s T.J Yeldon’s 1-yd touchdown run gave the Crimson Tide a 21-0 lead over the Irish.

What that means is, in only 904 seconds of BCS Title game play Notre Dame allowed Alabama to score one third as many touchdowns  as they let all 12 of their  opponents score during the 20,736 seconds of the regular season combined (excluding overtime, 12G x 60MPG = 144M x 60s =, 20,736seconds). So much for that famed Irish-luck.

The real BREAKING NEWS from the game was  last night Brent Musburger got his first boner of the 21st century!  It seemed as if after every “Bama score,  ESPN would cutaway to a very attractive woman in attendance named Katherine Webb who, in addition to being Ms Alabama 2012, was also AJ McCarron’s girlfriend, hence their excuse for throwing her up there every couple of minutes for Musburger to objectify/wax poetically over.  Let’s just say it was unrequited-love at first sight for the 73 year old Musburger who at one point simply just said “WO!”.

It’s being widely reported that when Webb went to bed yesterday she had approximately 2,000 Twitter followers but when she woke up that number was over well over  100,000!  It would seem as if Brent Musburger’s slacks weren’t the only things “trending up” last night.

AJ isn't the only champ

AJ isn’t the only champ

If you want my opinion, any woman that’s nice enough to make pictures of herself like this available on the internet deserves no less than 100,000 Twitter followers.

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ANDY REID #NFL

Unless he’s got debts that no honest man can pay, Andy Reid going to Kansas City is a mistake.  Granted, it makes more sense than him going to Arizona, but not by much.  When I heard that rumor yesterday (Reid to AZ), I thought he must be the kind of guy that just needs to stand up and admire what he’s done in the bathroom because if not, then why else would he want to go out to the middle of the desert and inherit that atrocious clogged toilet-like Kolb-Skelton-Lindley QB situation unless he truly believes he can salvage something out of Kolb?  (thus the bathroom analogy comes full circle)

Reid to KC isn’t much better.  The greatest trick Charlie Weis ever pulled was to convince us that Brady Quinn was a NFL QB.  Belichek’s doing the same with Matt Cassel is right up there as well.  In fact, the only reason the KC situation is marginally better is because they happen to play in the AFC version of the west instead of the NFC.  The Peyton Manning led reign in Denver will be shorter (due simply to the fact that he’s 37) than what is brewing out west between San Francisco and Seattle on the NFC side.

Andy Reid’s resume should dictate that he has the luxury of getting to choose his next job and not the other way around.  I’m not saying it will, I am saying it should.  Why would he want to take on a project like KC?  The Chiefs are years away from contending and i doubt they have their starting 2013 QB on their roster yet.  This draft isn’t QB heavy.  Forget about Luck, RGIII and Wilson, there’t not a Tannehill or even a Weeden out there.   So if you’re an NFL team out there looking for a new starting quarterback, like KC and AZ,  you  are going to have to find one from within the NFL.

Who does that leave available?  Alex Smith?  Is he really going to be the centerpiece that you build a Super Bowl around?  A potential reunion with Vick, a trade for Sanchez perhaps?  If I’m Andy Reid, I want no part of those problems.  Romo?  With the lack of better options, I doubt Dallas lets him become available despite his continual disappointment.  Make a trade for a guy like Matt Flynn?  Maybe, but why would Andy Reid want to gamble on a career backup when he could go to a team that has a legit starting NFL franchise quarterback already on its roster?

If I’m Andy Reid, there is only one team I would coach for in 2013 and its San Diego or bust.  Of the seven overall vacancies (only six of which are available to Reid) the Chargers is far and away the most desirable for a coach of his stature.  At this stage of his career Reid doesn’t need a new project, he needs to win.  He needs to find a team with talent (and by talent I mean a legit NFL QB),  fix whats broken, get to the playoffs and hopefully win the Super Bowl.  Simply put, San Diego’s QB situation is the most desirable and their conference is the most winnable, sold.

If I were Reid and did not get the SD job, then I’d follow Jeff Fisher’s example and go away to come back.  Like Reid, Fisher never won a Super Bowl but lost one  and at the time of his firing was the were the longest current tenured NFL head coach.  Fisher sat out, let teams come to him, bided his time and when he was ready and/or the right opportunity came along (St Louis) he took it.  Point being it was on his terms.

I know Andy Reid probably desires to resume his NFL head coaching career right away to prove the Eagles wrong for firing him and out of overall pride as well, but he should make sure he returns to the right opportunity.  There is nothing wrong with taking a year or two off, maybe get fat (well fatter) on of some easy TV money while you let the teams come to you.

In the words of Han Solo, “Boba Fett?  Boba Fett where?!” ( I know that quote is not relevant but for some reason its stuck in my head)

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