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Posted on: October 13, 2010 11:31 am
 

Brady not a safe bet vs. Baltimore

In my rankings this week you'll find something rather startling: Tom Brady is not in my Top 12. It's not an attempt to be "out there" or to draw shock value. Based on the matchup, as well as Brady's receiving corps, as well as his history against the Ravens' defensive scheme, I don't think Brady will have a great week.

Brady's stats over his last 40 starts will tell you that he is a Fantasy stud, but a big reason for those numbers was the presence of wide receiver Randy Moss. Never once did Brady play a game without Moss from 2007 through Week 3 of this year, and his numbers were mostly excellent. Before Moss, Brady was pretty good but not a 300-yard bomber. In fact, from 2001 to 2006 -- a five-year window where he won three Super Bowls but didn't play with a talent like Moss -- Brady had 17 300-yard games over 108 starts, including the postseason. That's one every six games or so, which is pretty good. But that pales in comparison to the 15 300-yard games he had over 40 starts with Moss (including the postseason) -- one 300 yarder every 2.67 games!

I contend that those days are over, as they have been this season: Zero 300-yard games while Moss was playing in a seemingly limited role (22 targets over four games).

Brady's receiving corps added Deion Branch this week, a receiver who easily had his best years with Brady in New England, including a career-best 2005 when he averaged 62.3 yards per game and less than one touchdown every three games. Those are Branch's best numbers as he finished '05 with 998 receiving yards and five scores. The Branch playing for New England now is not the same as the 2005 Branch: Since the Patriots smartly traded him away for two first-round picks, Branch has had multiple knee surgeries and has clearly lost his speed as his receiving average dropped from 13.7 yards per catch in his first three years in Seattle to 9.5 over his last 18 games there. Branch, who is expected to help replace Moss, will be a good source of receptions but not a gamebreaker, which some people will say he never was.

The rest of Brady's receiving corps is good but much, much easier to defend against now that Moss is gone. And that's music to the ears of the Ravens defense.

Baltimore's secondary has been lights-out this year: The only touchdowns they've allowed were to Benjamin Watson in Week 3 and two to Brandon Lloyd last week, one on a sensational deep-ball grab and another late to pad the Broncos' stats. They've shut down Mark Sanchez and Carson Palmer, each of whom threw for multiple touchdowns against the Patriots, by the way. And even with the Broncos throwing for 314 yards on 38 attempts last week, the Ravens' secondary is still yielding just 156.6 passing yards per game.

Next, I want you to check out Brady's career numbers against the Ravens' defense as well as against Rex Ryan's Jets defense. Ryan previously coordinated with the Baltimore D and did a pretty good job of scheming against Brady until recently. But even after Ryan left the Ravens, Ray Lewis & Co. have done a pretty good job containing Brady while Ryan's bunch in New York have begun to fizzle out.

vs. BAL (11/28/04): 15 of 30 passing (50.0 pct.), 172 yards (5.73 yards/att.), 0 TDs, 0 INT

at BAL (12/03/07): 18 of 38 passing (47.4 pct.), 257 yards (6.76 yards/att.), 2 TDs, 1 INT

at NYJ (09/20/09): 23 of 47 passing (48.9 pct.), 216 yards (4.59 yards/att.), 0 TDs, 1 INT

vs. BAL (10/04/09): 21 of 32 passing (65.6 pct.), 258 yards (8.1 yards/att.), 1 TD, 0 INT

vs. NYJ (11/22/09): 28 of 41 passing (68.3 pct.), 310 yards (7.6 yards/att.), 1 TD, 0 INT

vs. BAL (1/10/10): 23 of 42 passing (54.8 pct.), 154 yards (3.7 yards/att.), 2 TD, 3 INTs

at NYJ (9/19/10): 20 of 36 passing (55.6 pct.), 248 yards (6.9 yards/att.), 2 TD, 2 INTs


Keep in mind, Brady had some good numbers and some bad numbers against this aggresive version of the 3-4 scheme designed to attack him, but all except the 2004 numbers were done with Moss in the lineup. Again, notice just one 300-yard game and three games with more than one touchdown through the air.

I'd also like to point out that the Ravens specifically have done a good job limiting Wes Welker. In two games against Baltimore, one in December, 2007 and one in October, 2009, Welker totaled nine catches for 66 yards and no scores. In the interest of full disclosure, it's worth pointing out that Welker's replacement in the team's playoff game last year, Julian Edelman, scalded the Ravens for two scores while catching six passes for 44 yards. It's conceivable that Welker would have those numbers, especially since both of those touchdowns were hard-earned on broken plays. Or maybe the Ravens didn't take Edelman as seriously as they do Welker.

There's another issue even the most ardent of Patriots fans will take with this: The team is money after the bye week. Brady scorched Miami for 332 yards and a touchdown last year after the bye; in 2007 he hung five touchdowns and 373 yards at Buffalo. And the Patriots have only lost once following the bye with Brady as their quarterback.

Clearly, giving Bill Belichick two weeks to prepare for an opponent has done wonders for the Pats. But how much of that time has been spent reinventing the offense this year? It's been a while since we've seen the Patriots without Randy Moss. Are they going to seamlessly perform without him (they sort of did that in Week 4)? There's also a question of what role the running game will have post-Moss; do not put it past the Patriots to try using the run against Baltimore. Remember, this vaunted Ravens defense was picked apart by Peyton Hillis and Rashard Mendenhall -- who's to say Belichick won't scheme his offense to attack Baltimore the same way? You can't just say he's going to have Brady throw like crazy -- the guy will find wrinkles anywhere and has shown in the past that he will tailor his offense to attack the weaknesses of the opponent.

I know sitting Brady is a tall order, and some of us can't do it because we don't have a backup. But playing without Moss against a strict defense doesn't seem to suggest a big game for Brady. Don't be surprised if he underwhelms against the Ravens, even with the extra week to prepare.


Posted on: July 9, 2010 12:36 pm
 

'LOL kalebJORDAN'


Mock drafts are fun, but they're never a perfect science. This point was proven Friday when I mocked with 11 of my Twitter followers (follow me @daverichard).

We realized something was up when we saw Andre Johnson go first overall, then Jason Witten in Round 3 and Jets DST in Round 5. All of those picks -- reaches in every regard -- were taken by someone with the ID kalebJORDAN.

What could I do? Stop the draft? Start another? Kick him out of the draft room? The reality is that in every league, there's a "wild card," an owner who doesn't think like the rest of the world and his picks always make the other owners laugh or whine. So I thought it would be a good idea to let the draft play out with kalebJORDAN making his picks.

Suffice to say, I typed "LOL kalebJORDAN" in the chat window quite a bit. Here are the results of our mock draft complete with the rationale behind my picks:

Round 1
1    kalebJORDAN        Johnson, Andre (WR HOU)
2    MOE_UNIT        Johnson, Chris (RB TEN)
3    Wu-Tang Forever        Peterson, Adrian (RB MIN)
4    Dominators        Jones-Drew, Maurice (RB JAC)
5    Whippers        Rice, Ray (RB BAL)
6    Bucs            Turner, Michael (RB ATL)
7    Multiples        Manning, Peyton (QB IND)
8    G.O.W.            Gore, Frank (RB SF)
9    Bears            Rodgers, Aaron (QB GB)
10    Dave Richard        Jackson, Steven (RB STL)
11    dstnbldwn        Moss, Randy (WR NE)
12    Huevos Rancheros        Brees, Drew (QB NO)

My pick: Steven Jackson
Jackson might not be the most popular first-round pick, but he's an every-down back. That's a rarity in and of itself. The Rams also have a fairly easy schedule and not much else on offense to take the workload away from Jackson. The only issue with picking Jackson this year is getting a good third rusher to put in his place when/if he gets hurt. Landing him 10th overall is pretty good value.
I also considered: Drew Brees, DeAngelo Williams

Round 2           
13    Huevos Rancheros    Williams, DeAngelo (RB CAR)
14    dstnbldwn        Wayne, Reggie (WR IND)
15    Dave Richard        Jackson, DeSean (WR PHI)
16    bears            Mendenhall, Rashard (RB PIT)
17    G.O.W.            Schaub, Matt (QB HOU)
18    Multiples        Mathews, Ryan (RB SD)
19    Bucs            Marshall, Brandon (WR MIA)
20    Whippers        Austin, Miles (WR DAL)
21    Dominators        White, Roddy (WR ATL)
22    Wu-Tang Forever        Johnson, Calvin (WR DET)
23    MOE_UNIT        Grant, Ryan (RB GB)
24    kalebJORDAN        Brady, Tom (QB NE)

My pick: DeSean Jackson
You know I'm super-high on D-Jax this year. I think he's going to be phenomenal in a pass-aggressive Eagles offense. Plus it's his third year and he's motivated to land a big contract. He's the perfect storm of Fantasy wideouts.
I also considered: No one. Jackson was my guy all the way.

Round 3           
25    kalebJORDAN        Witten, Jason (TE DAL)
26    MOE_UNIT        Romo, Tony (QB DAL)
27    Wu-Tang Forever        Fitzgerald, Larry (WR ARI)
28    Dominators        Greene, Shonn (RB NYJ)
29    Whippers        Rivers, Philip (QB SD)
30    Bucs            Rice, Sidney (WR MIN)
31    Multiples        Smith, Steve (WR NYG)
32    G.O.W.            Addai, Joseph (RB IND)
33    bears            Moreno, Knowshon (RB DEN)
34    Dave Richard        Colston, Marques (WR NO)
35    dstnbldwn        Benson, Cedric (RB CIN)
36    Huevos Rancheros    Jennings, Greg (WR GB)

My pick: Marques Colston
I looked to lock up two elite receivers, and with a couple of surprises earlier in the round (notably Witten and Rivers going early), Colston fell into my lap. Should be the most productive wideout in New Orleans by a mile.
I also considered: No one.

Round 4           
37    Huevos Rancheros    Boldin, Anquan (WR BAL)
38    dstnbldwn        Smith, Steve (WR CAR)
39    Dave Richard        Charles, Jamaal (RB KC)
40    bears            Ochocinco, Chad (WR CIN)
41    G.O.W.            Gates, Antonio (TE SD)
42    Multiples        McCoy, LeSean (RB PHI)
43    Bucs            Thomas, Pierre (RB NO)
44    Whippers        Davis, Vernon (TE SF)
45    Dominators        Favre, Brett (QB MIN)
46    Wu-Tang Forever        Wells, Beanie (RB ARI)
47    MOE_UNIT        Clark, Dallas (TE IND)
48    kalebJORDAN        Brown, Ronnie (RB MIA)

My pick: Jamaal Charles
I consider this pick a steal as Charles has 1,200-yard, seven-touchdown potential and a guy I've seen drafted as high as late Round 2. After analyzing Thomas Jones a bit more this week, I like Charles' chances to keep playing strong and getting a lot of work in 2010.
I also considered: Pierre Thomas, Beanie Wells

Round 5           
49    kalebJORDAN        Jets (DST NYJ)
50    MOE_UNIT        Bowe, Dwayne (WR KC)
51    Wu-Tang Forever        Ward, Hines (WR PIT)
52    Dominators        Jackson, Vincent (WR SD)
53    Whippers        Welker, Wes (WR NE)
54    Bucs            Driver, Donald (WR GB)
55    Multiples        Best, Jahvid (RB DET)
56    G.O.W.            Harvin, Percy (WR MIN)
57    bears            Sims-Walker, Mike (WR JAC)
58    Dave Richard        Celek, Brent (TE PHI)
59    dstnbldwn        Portis, Clinton (RB WAS)
60    Huevos Rancheros    Finley, Jermichael (TE GB)

My pick: Brent Celek
This pick was based on the needs of the two guys drafting after me. I didn't have a huge desire for any of the quarterbacks left, the running backs left all looked the same and the receivers were good but neither of the owners picking after me really needed one. Celek would fill a void in my lineup and I wouldn't have to sweat getting a tight end later. Maybe a smidge of a reach, but I was confident he wouldn't come back to me for my next pick.
I also considered: Jonathan Stewart

Round 6           
61    Huevos Rancheros    Stewart, Jonathan (RB CAR)
62    dstnbldwn        Jacobs, Brandon (RB NYG)
63    Dave Richard        Garcon, Pierre (WR IND)
64    bears            Floyd, Malcom (WR SD)
65    G.O.W.            Nicks, Hakeem (WR NYG)
66    Multiples        Wallace, Mike (WR PIT)
67    Bucs            Manning, Eli (QB NYG)
68    Whippers        Forte, Matt (RB CHI)
69    Dominators        Mason, Derrick (WR BAL)
70    Wu-Tang Forever        Jones, Felix (RB DAL)
71    MOE_UNIT        Crabtree, Michael (WR SF)
72    kalebJORDAN        Flacco, Joe (QB BAL)

My pick: Pierre Garcon
My plan worked and the receiver I wanted the most fell into my lap. Garcon should go about here in drafts, and because I think he'll play a lot this season, my expectations are high. Best of all, he's my No. 3 receiver, so I don't have to rely on him a lot if things happen that change his Fantasy value.
I also considered: Michael Crabtree, Joe Flacco

Round 7           
73    kalebJORDAN        Cowboys (DST DAL)
74    MOE_UNIT        Williams, Cadillac (RB TB)
75    Wu-Tang Forever        Kolb, Kevin (QB PHI)
76    Dominators        Gonzalez, Tony (TE ATL)
77    Whippers        Vikings (DST MIN)
78    Bucs            Daniels, Owen (TE HOU)
79    Multiples        Aromashodu, Devin (WR CHI)
80    G.O.W.            Breaston, Steve (WR ARI)
81    bears            Shiancoe, Visanthe (TE MIN)
82    Dave Richard        Cutler, Jay (QB CHI)
83    dstnbldwn        Ryan, Matt (QB ATL)
84    Huevos Rancheros    Barber, Marion (RB DAL)

My pick: Jay Cutler
Awesome value, and another reason why waiting on a quarterback isn't such a bad idea. Cutler's arm mixed with Mike Martz's playbook should result in some epic passing stats. That might include a lot of interceptions, but I'll take the bad with the good in this case. I probably would not have gone this route had I not drafted Steven Jackson in Round 1.
I also considered: No one. I was going Cutler all the way.

Round 8           
85    Huevos Rancheros    Maclin, Jeremy (WR PHI)
86    dstnbldwn        Bush, Reggie (RB NO)
87    Dave Richard        Collie, Austin (WR IND)
88    bears            Meachem, Robert (WR NO)
89    G.O.W.            Packers (DST GB)
90    Multiples        Hardesty, Montario (RB CLE)
91    Bucs            Ravens (DST BAL)
92    Whippers        Moss, Santana (WR WAS)
93    Dominators        Hartley, Garrett (K NO)
94    Wu-Tang Forever        Bush, Michael (RB OAK)
95    MOE_UNIT        49ers (DST SF)
96    kalebJORDAN        Holmes, Santonio (WR NYJ)

My pick: Austin Collie
I love him. If you've been listening to me or reading me this offseason you'd know this. I think he's going to be awesome, and with the receiver pool drying up faster than LeBron James jersey sales in Ohio, I had to take one more guy. Now I could platoon either of the Colts' receivers opposite Reggie Wayne all season long. And, Anthony Gonzalez can't possibly play in place of both of them, so I am completely locked in with a capable Colts wideout who won't see double coverage. Sweet!
I also considered: No one. Jeremy Maclin went two picks ahead, making my choice easier.

Round 9           
97    kalebJORDAN        Bryant, Dez (WR DAL)
98    MOE_UNIT        Tomlinson, LaDainian (RB NYJ)
99    Wu-Tang Forever        Forsett, Justin (RB SEA)
100    Dominators        Eagles (DST PHI)
101    Whippers        Akers, David (K PHI)
102    Bucs            Longwell, Ryan (K MIN)
103    Multiples        Tate, Ben (RB HOU)
104    G.O.W.            Crosby, Mason (K GB)
105    bears            Spiller, C.J. (RB BUF)
106    Dave Richard        Palmer, Carson (QB CIN)
107    dstnbldwn        Miller, Zach (TE OAK)
108    Huevos Rancheros    Steelers (DST PIT)

My pick: Carson Palmer
Nothing is promised with Cutler like it is (figuratively) with Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees, so I needed a backup. I loved getting Palmer here because he has No. 1 quarterback potential. I'm fortunate he lasted this long, though I suppose I might have been able to wait one more round. In retrospect, I could have done better getting Thomas Jones here to back up Charles and then get Palmer.
I also considered: Thomas Jones

Round 10           
109    Huevos Rancheros    Jones, Thomas (RB KC)
110    dstnbldwn        Gostkowski, Stephen (K NE)
111    Dave Richard        Bradshaw, Ahmad (RB NYG)
112    bears            Slaton, Steve (RB HOU)
113    G.O.W.            Hightower, Tim (RB ARI)
114    Multiples        Houshmandzadeh, T.J. (WR SEA)
115    Bucs            Jackson, Fred (RB BUF)
116    Whippers        Gonzalez, Anthony (WR IND)
117    Dominators        Taylor, Chester (RB CHI)
118    Wu-Tang Forever        Berrian, Bernard (WR MIN)
119    MOE_UNIT        Cotchery, Jerricho (WR NYJ)
120    kalebJORDAN        Cooley, Chris (TE WAS)

My pick: Ahmad Bradshaw
Let the backup running back talent build begin! Bradshaw is on my short list of breakout candidates and felt that he was a good choice here. I also would have been happy with the other rushers available at this point, and they went right after Bradshaw did.
I also considered: Tim Hightower, Fred Jackson, Steve Slaton, Chester Taylor

Round 11           
121    kalebJORDAN        McFadden, Darren (RB OAK)
122    MOE_UNIT        Bironas, Rob (K TEN)
123    Wu-Tang Forever        Carlson, John (TE SEA)
124    Dominators        Maroney, Laurence (RB NE)
125    Whippers        Harrison, Jerome (RB CLE)
126    Bucs            McGahee, Willis (RB BAL)
127    Multiples        McCluster, Dexter (WR KC)
128    G.O.W.            Williams, Ricky (RB MIA)
129    bears            Williams, Roy E. (WR DAL)
130    Dave Richard        Brown, Donald (RB IND)
131    dstnbldwn        Bears (DST CHI)
132    Huevos Rancheros    Knox, Johnny (WR CHI)

My pick: Donald Brown
Another pick, another backup rusher. Simple as that.
I also considered: Dexter McCluster (snaked three picks before me -- blast!), Larry Johnson

Round 12           
133    Huevos Rancheros    McNabb, Donovan (QB WAS)
134    dstnbldwn        Smith, Kevin (RB DET)
135    Dave Richard        Johnson, Larry (RB WAS)
136    bears            Saints (DST NO)
137    G.O.W.            Evans, Lee (WR BUF)
138    Multiples        Winslow, Kellen (TE TB)
139    Bucs            Smith, Alex (QB SF)
140    Whippers        Sproles, Darren (RB SD)
141    Dominators        Chambers, Chris (WR KC)
142    Wu-Tang Forever        Henne, Chad (QB MIA)
143    MOE_UNIT        Britt, Kenny (WR TEN)
144    kalebJORDAN        Westbrook, Brian (RB PHI)

My pick: Larry Johnson
Effectively my 12th-round pick in every league. I think he could be a dynamo this season with the Redskins, even if he's just a part-time player. He seemingly is a lock for the final roster.
I also considered: No one. I was locked in here.

Round 13           
145    kalebJORDAN        Hester, Devin (WR CHI)
146    MOE_UNIT        Cassel, Matt (QB KC)
147    Wu-Tang Forever        Chargers (DST SD)
148    Dominators        Washington, Nate (WR TEN)
149    Whippers        Bryant, Antonio (WR CIN)
150    Bucs            Burleson, Nate (WR DET)
151    Multiples        Giants (DST NYG)
152    G.O.W.            Edwards, Braylon (WR NYJ)
153    bears            Sanchez, Mark (QB NYJ)
154    Dave Richard        Dolphins (DST MIA)
155    dstnbldwn        Stafford, Matthew (QB DET)
156    Huevos Rancheros    Thomas, Demaryius (WR DEN)

My pick: Dolphins DST
I needed a DST.
I also considered: Titans DST, Lawrence Tynes

Round 14           
157    Huevos Rancheros    Kaeding, Nate (K SD)
158    dstnbldwn        Roethlisberger, Ben (QB PIT)
159    Dave Richard        Tynes, Lawrence (K NYG)
160    bears            Vinatieri, Adam (K IND)
161    G.O.W.            Jones, Julius (RB SEA)
162    Multiples        Reed, Jeff (K PIT)
163    Bucs            Walter, Kevin (WR HOU)
164    Whippers        Bell, Mike (RB PHI)
165    Dominators        Ward, Derrick (RB TB)
166    Wu-Tang Forever        Rackers, Neil (K HOU)
167    MOE_UNIT        Manningham, Mario (WR NYG)
168    kalebJORDAN        Carpenter, Dan (K MIA)

My pick: Lawrence Tynes
I needed a kicker.
I also considered: Nate Kaeding

My team:

QB
Jay Cutler
Carson Palmer

RB
Steven Jackson
Jamaal Charles
Ahmad Bradshaw
Donald Brown
Larry Johnson

WR
DeSean Jackson
Marques Colston
Pierre Garcon
Austin Collie

TE
Brent Celek

K
Lawrence Tynes

DST
Dolphins
Posted on: April 22, 2010 3:23 pm
 

Three-man Twitter mock draft

Earlier this week I posted my annual 20-minute mock draft , but on Thursday afternoon, just hours before the NFL draft kicked off, Jamey Eisenberg and I did an impromptu mock on Twitter, complete with guest picker Jermichael Finley of the Packers, and loads of comments from the Twitter world.

Here are the results along with the initials of who drafted whom:

1. STL: QB Sam Bradford (DR)
2. DET: DT Ndamukong Suh (JE)
3. TB: DT Gerald McCoy (DR)
4. WAS: OT Trent Williams (JE)
5. KC: OT Russell Okung (DR)
6. SEA: FS Eric Berry (JE)
7. CLE: QB Jimmy Clausen (DR)
8. OAK: OT Brian Bulaga (JE)
9. BUF: DT Dan Williams (DR)
10. JAC: DE Derrick Morgan (JE)
11. DEN: LB Rolando McClain (DR)
12. MIA: FS Earl Thomas (JE)
13. SF: RB C.J. Spiller (DR)
14. SEA: OT Anthony Davis (JE)
15. NYG: LB Brandon Graham (DR)
16. TEN: DE Jason Pierre-Paul (JE)
17. SF: DL Jared Odrick (DR)
18. PIT: C Maurkice Pouncey (JE)
19. ATL: CB Joe Haden (DR)
20. HOU: CB Kyle Wilson (JE)
21. CIN: OG Mike Iupati (DR)
22. NE: WR Dez Bryant (JE)
23. GB: LB Sergio Kindle (Jermichael Finley)
24. PHI: FS Taylor Mays (JE)
25. BAL: WR Demaryius Thomas (DR)
26. ARI: LB Sean Witherspoon (JE)
27. DAL: OT Charles Brown (DR)
28. SD: RB Ryan Mathews (JE)
29. NYJ: DE Everson Griffen (DR)
30. MIN: QB Tim Tebow (JE)
31. IND: LB Jerry Hughes (DR)
32. NO: OT Rodger Saffold (JE)


Who drafted the best? Me? Jamey? Jermichael? Let us know on Twitter (twitter.com/daverichard ; twitter.com/jameyeisenberg ; twitter.com/jermichaelf88 ) or just post here on CBSSports.com.

Posted on: April 20, 2010 12:21 pm
 

Third annual 20-minute mock draft

When it comes to mock drafts, I'm a novice. In 2005 I was the only guy who had Aaron Rodgers going to the 49ers No. 1 overall. Last year I had Brian Orakpo going to the Jaguars at No. 8 overall.

What did I know? Only that they'd be better players than the guys those teams actually drafted (so far anyway).

I've had my fair share of bombs, too. Brian Robiskie to the Giants at 29th overall last year , for one. Limas Sweed to Dallas at 22nd overall in 2008 for another . Check out my previous mocks if you want a good laugh.

But keep in mind that I don't have big boards or inside sources for a pretend draft, and keep in mind that I put myself on a timer: 20 minutes to make 32 picks. Why 20 minutes? Well, because the boss told me so, mainly. But really, how much time do people need to do this?

One more note: I draft as if I am the GM of the team picking, not as a writer showing favoritism nor picking players who I think the real GM will take. So, because of that, my mocks are entertaining but worthless. Just like almost everyone else's mocks.

Wind up the clock. Here we go:

1. St. Louis: Sam Bradford, QB

Best possible quarterback, major upside. Fills need with a quality talent. Get a WR for him in Round 2.

2. Detroit: Ndamukong Suh, DT

Jim Schwartz gets his newest version of Albert Haynesworth, Lions D-line becomes formidable.

3. Tampa Bay: Gerald McCoy, DT

Need meets talent.

4. Washington: Russell Okung, OT

Difference between him and Trent Williams? Okung seems most prepared to play left side.

5. Kansas City: Trent Williams, OT

Not that the Chiefs won't try Williams on that left side.

6. Seattle: Brian Bulaga, OT

They desperately need help up front.

7. Cleveland: Jimmy Clausen, QB

They're not going into the season with Delhomme and Wallace as their only QBs.

8. Oakland: Eric Berry, FS

Even the Raiders can't fumble this one. But if Clausen is there come Thursday ...

9. Buffalo: Anthony Davis, OT

Absolute nightmare situation for Buffalo. Clausen, Bulaga, Williams their primary targets in the draft. Defense seems fairly set as it is. I hate this pick like poison but can't pull the trigger on Spiller here.

10. Jacksonville: Earl Thomas, FS/CB

So long, Reggie Nelson.

11. Denver: Rolando McClain, LB

Run-stuffing inside linebacker.

12. Miami: Sergio Kindle, LB

The Dolphins might find a D-tackle later -- they won't find a pass rusher like this later.

13. San Francisco: C.J. Spiller, RB

49ers win big: They get a Top-10 talent to slide to them and they nab him ahead of the Seahawks, who reportedly covet him. Bad for Fantasy because of sharing scenario with Gore, obviously.

14. Seattle: Derrick Morgan, DE

Pass rush in Seattle is super weak.

15. New York Giants: Dan Williams, DT

Giants need to invest in a defensive tackle for the future of their pass rush.

16. Tennessee: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE

Like the Seahawks, the Titans need a pass rush developer. I really like Pierre-Paul's long-term potential.

17. San Francisco: Jared Odrick, DT

Excellent 3-4 defensive lineman.

18. Pittsburgh: Maurkice Pouncey, C

A match.

Running short on time ...

19. Atlanta: Brandon Graham, LB
20. Houston: Kyle Wilson, CB
21. Cincinnati: Mike Iupati, G
22. New England: Joe Haden, CB


Had to comment here. Haden will be a solid corner but doubts about his speed/ability pushed him down. He's too good for the Patriots to pass on and Belichick should do a good job working with him.

23. Green Bay: Taylor Mays, S
24. Philadelphia: Devin McCourty, CB
25. Baltimore: Dez Bryant, WR
26. Arizona: Sean Lee, LB
27. Dallas: Charles Brown, OT
28. San Diego: Brian Price, DT
29. New York Jets: Carlos Dunlap, DE
30. Minnesota: Terrence Cody, DT


I personally think Cody will be a phenomenal NFL player.

31. Indianapolis: Vladimir Ducasse, OT
32. New Orleans: Tim Tebow, QB


I'm not sure if Tebow will be a Saint when this is all said and done, but a team out there will sneak into Round 1 to get him. The Saints do have a need for a backup/developmental quarterback, and giving Sean Payton a player he can be creative with could only make things in New Orleans more interesting.
Posted on: April 13, 2010 10:55 am
 

Fantasy fallout from Holmes trade

Santonio Holmes' off-field decisions made the Steelers' front office decision on what to do with him easier to make. With a year left on his contract, the team simply decided to punt on him and give him to the Jets for a fifth-round pick. He's one less headache for the franchise to worry about.

But Fantasy owners have a headache of their own as this was one of the rare trades where only a handful of players have a better outlook than before the deal. In a nutshell, this deal (along with his four-game suspension which was a precursor to the deal) crippled Santonio Holmes' Fantasy expectations and also threw a bunch of question marks into the status of other Steelers and Jets, including Ben Roethlisberger.

Holmes might be happy for a fresh start with the Jets, but his numbers aren't expected to be anywhere near as good as they were last year. Conside this: Last season the Steelers threw the ball 536 times with Holmes targeted 138 times. That's essentially a rate of one out of every four passes thrown his way (Hines Ward had the same rate by the way). The closest Jet to receive that kind of attention was Jerricho Cotchery with 115 of the measly 393 pass attempts they had. One would argue that the Jets will pass more in 2010 considering their beefed up receiving corps, but team officials have said as recently as Holmes' introductory press conference that the "ground-and-pound" approach will stick. Besides, even if the Jets do throw, say, 75 more times than last season, Holmes will still have to share the ball with Cotchery, Braylon Edwards and tight end Dustin Keller.

And he'll have zero catches between Weeks 1 through 4, plus no catches during his bye week. Suddenly, Fantasy owners are without Holmes for five weeks. If your Fantasy regular season is 13 weeks long, you're drafting a benchwarmer for 38% of the year. Taking all this into account, Holmes is not going to be a popular pick in drafts.

But when he is active he'll help the Jets' passing game quite a bit. After all, he is someone defenses must account for (Rex Ryan learned that the hard way in his years defending against Holmes while with the Ravens). That means deeper play for opposing safeties and good opportunities for tight end Dustin Keller. He came on strong for the Jets last postseason with 12 catches for 181 yards and three touchdowns, displaying some of the potential owners have clamored for over the last two summers. He's going to be a sleeper -- again -- in 2010.

The rest of the Jets' receivers don't gain much. Cotchery holds steady as a low-end No. 3/top-end No. 4 choice if only because he's established chemistry and timing with Sanchez, and he has the best hands on the team but doesn't score much. Braylon Edwards takes a big hit as we figure Holmes will replace him in many situations. And for good reason: Edwards finished '09 with 51 catches of 108 targets -- he caught less than half of the passes thrown his way. How reliable can he be? That question was answered when the Jets acquired Holmes.

Now typically when a quarterback has a receiving corps as strong as this, expectations are sky-high. But that's not the case for Sanchez. Again, the Jets intend to run the ball a ton in 2010, much as they did last season. Not having the opportunity to throw the ball means not having the opportunity to post good Fantasy totals. Even if we gave quality projections to Holmes, Cotchery, Edwards and Keller based on their recent play, Sanchez would still only total around 18 touchdowns or so. He's worth taking late just in case he does end up owning his fair share of 250-yard, multi-touchdown games but there are obviously safer Fantasy quarterbacks out there.

Meanwhile, the Steelers have a hole in their starting lineup. Replacing Santonio Holmes is not as easy as plugging in Mike Wallace and calling it a day. Wallace had great success last season as a mismatch deep-ball threat as 14 of his 39 catches were good for at least 20 yards. He practically averaged 20 yards per catch, too. Putting him in as a starting split end will mean more receptions but almost certainly a reeled-in receiving average. Simply put: Wallace should see more targets and catches, but not necessarily better yardage and touchdowns.

And if Wallace replaces Holmes, who replaces Wallace? That's almost a bigger question for the Steelers since Wallace really stretched defenses last season and made it easy for Ben Roethlisberger to accumulate his gaudy totals. On-staff candidates include Antwaan Randle El, Arnaz Battle and third-year receiver Limas Sweed. All have drawbacks, however: Randle El and Battle are old and without a great statistical track record and Sweed hasn't gotten up to speed on the NFL game thus far. None of these guys can be trusted in Fantasy outside of being a late-round flier in a deep draft.

Many Fantasy owners expect Hines Ward to be unaffected. We're not so sure. Ward's best seasons came when he played opposite either Plaxico Burress or Holmes. Getting a quality split end to take some pressure off of him has been a key to his success. Wallace will still draw coverage, but until he proves he's explosive, Ward could struggle. He's also not getting any younger and really is a high-reception target with potential for a good amount of touchdowns. He's a No. 2 Fantasy receiver.

So if Wallace's stats are in for a decline, and if Ward's stats could be capped and if replacements in the offense aren't appealing, does this mean a reversal of fortune for Ben Roethlisberger? We say yes. Obviously without a player he targeted often and trusted all over the field, Roethlisberger is going to have to lean on others, and that could put a hammerlock on his chances to have another big season. He'll need to cultivate another receiver to give him a fearsome foursome in the passing game, or else he'll be good enough to start, not good enough to consider a second-tier Fantasy quarterback like he was in '09. Throw in a possible team-mandated suspension for his off-field problems and he's effectively the Santonio Holmes of Fantasy quarterbacks, albeit without as big of a drop-off.

Is there anyone in Pittsburgh who benefits from the trade? One guy is tight end Heath Miller -- provided that the Steelers do not draft another receiver or get good play from one of the aforementioned "replacement receivers." Miller really stepped up last season as an easy target for Roethlisberger, especially with Holmes and Wallace stretching defenses. He should continue to put up nice numbers, and with Holmes gone, his role in the red zone might increase.

But it's Rashard Mendenhall who stands to get the most out of the deal. As Jamey Eisenberg pointed out in one of our recent Fantasy Football podcasts , the Steelers have done their best when they run the ball effectively. Mendenhall himself ran extremely well last season in spite of the fact that the Steelers leaned on their pass attack. Again, if the team doesn't pick up another receiver, Mendenhall should see more touches as offensive coordinator Bruce Arians utilizes him and takes some pressure off of Roethlisberger and the rest of the offense. That will almost certainly be the case if Big Ben misses games with a suspension.

What remains to be seen is how this trade impacts other trades involving receivers leading up to the draft. Brandon Marshall especially sticks out as a player who seems to be on a crash course with the transactions report, and like Holmes, Marshall is a free-agent-to-be with a history of off-field problems. Will this trade create a market for Marshall now that Holmes was taken for a fifth-round pick? Is Marshall worth a second? A third? Granted, we think Marshall will do well no matter where he plays because he's a tremendous talent (a big difference between him and Holmes), but we might be surprised again if he goes on the move this offseason.



Posted on: March 30, 2010 5:02 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2010 5:05 pm
 

New rule will impact Fantasy Football



I was in Orlando last week for the NFL Annual Meeting, and while there was much hubbub over the league's passing of the playoff OT rule, another change might impact Fantasy owners much more.

The league added 'defenseless players' among those who cannot be hit without penalty. Not just quarterbacks or kickers or punters, but any player in the act of making a catch but is not in a position to make a football move.

If you've played or watched football, or even played or watched Madden , you've seen a receiver jump for a ball and get jacked before he comes down with it. Here's a well-known example of such a play: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9RfJwSkMU8

That is now illegal, and not just with leading with a helmet. A forearm, a shoulder and any part of the helmet can't touch a defenseless player. So by my interpretation of this new rule, tackling anyone who catches a ball while in the air will cost you.

That's going to hurt defenders who would react naturally and take down anyone near the ball. It's also going to result in game planning to take advantage of the rule so that hits like these over the middle are either completed or penalized: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RcIJ2rLMUQ

Translation: More completions, more receptions, more stats. It might even be enough for one of the elite quarterbacks to make a Brees-like run at taking down Dan Marino's single-season yardage mark.

We already had a record amount of 4,000-yard passers last year. More 5,000-yard passers, anyone?


Category: NFL
Posted on: March 5, 2010 4:59 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2010 5:05 pm
 

Day 1 of free agency

NFL fans are already wondering how the first day of free agency is impacting Fantasy Football. I'm glad to offer some thoughts, one topic at a time:

1. Brandon Marshall visiting Seattle. This is potentially the biggest news of the day as it would mean a quality, sure-fire No. 1 receiver changing addresses. Marshall is a restricted free agent who can sign an offer sheet with the Seahawks but would cost the team its No. 6 overall pick if the Broncos don't match.

That said, the Broncos are probably begging the Seahawks to sign him to an offer sheet.

The prospect of Marshall in Seattle is good, not great. I don't think he'll be quite as effective as he was in Denver. Fine, he'd still have a pretty good schedule in the NFC West (including a game at Denver), but quarterback issues, offensive line issues and people taking coverage away from him would all hinder his output. I'd still consider him a No. 1 WR, but I wouldn't be over the moon about it.

Domino effect: T.J. Houshmandzadeh, all Broncos receivers and passers would struggle.

And now on to things that HAVE happened instead of speculation ...

2. Chester Taylor signs with the Bears. This is great for the Bears, bad for the Vikings and knife-in-the-eye brutal for Fantasy owners. By virtue of this signing, we've lost another potential 15-to-20-touch running back out of the player pool.

Matt Forte might not have been your favorite choice for a No. 2 Fantasy rusher this summer but at least he had upside to work a lot and accumulate a ton of yardage and maybe more than four touchdowns. That's out the window now -- the assumption is that Taylor will compete with Forte for the starting job but ultimately share the ball with him. Under that guise, it would be a shock to see either running back land more than 15 touches in a game but instead hover around 10 per game.

And then there's the Martz factor: Already potentially hurting Forte's value, the mere presence of pass-happy offensive coordinator Mike Martz scares me further. Martz was phenomenal with Marshall Faulk in St. Louis but couldn't muster the same kind of stats out of Kevin Jones in Detroit, then ran Frank Gore into mediocrity with the 49ers -- Gore had his worst year as a starter under Martz. Don't be shocked if there's a game or two this season where Forte and Taylor combine for 15 touches. 

I'll watch the backs in training camp and the preseason, but the biggest truth of all is that they've very much alike. Good size, great hands, able to block, no breakaway speed. It's going to be a mess. Taylor's Fantasy stock improves -- he's a legit No. 3 Fantasy RB, but so is Forte.

Domino effect: Vikings need a backup rusher for Adrian Peterson; if they don't add one, Peterson could be a beast -- as in, bigger than normal.

3. Nate Burleson signs with Detroit. If you take the financial aspect out of the deal, I like it a lot. I've been a Burleson fan for a while but strictly as him being a contributor, not a leading receiver. He's getting paid pretty well, but that doesn't matter in Fantasy.

What does matter is his presence across from Calvin Johnson in a high-powered Lions offense. On paper I like it a lot -- but I can't consider Burleson as anything more than a low-end No. 3 Fantasy WR. Could he get 900 yards and seven touchdowns? Yeah, and that would be great. But I think 700 yards and four touchdowns is more realistic.

Domino effect: Matthew Stafford has a real shot at 3,500 yards and 20 touchdowns. That would be great for him. Also, the Lions' run game could lose work with the passing game enhanced, but they're thin there anyway with Kevin Smith banged up.

4. More Bears: Julius Peppers signs. Again, I don't like the money involved, but I do think it's a good move for the Chicago defense. Their biggest problem last season was a consistent pass rush. They've got it now, and it should be ferocious because even if you double-team Peppers, you still have to deal with Alex Brown coming from the other side and Tommie Harris from up the middle. And Brian Urlacher blitzing. And so on. The Bears might be the best 4-3 scheme defense in the NFL in 2010. Peppers should also pressure opposing quarterbacks which typically results in interceptions. The biggest key to the Bears DST might be Devin Hester, who is believed to be returning kickoffs again. If that happens, and if he re-dedicates himself, then the unit could be Top 10 once again. That's where I have them ranked now.

Domino effect: Panthers DST is toast.

5. Jake Delhomme cut in Carolina. Matt Moore takes over, and he's OK as a No. 2 Fantasy QB but it's clear that the Panthers are heading in a youth movement direction. Not going to be pretty for them, and not going to be pretty for Steve Smith. He's a fine No. 2 WR but it's clear that this team will run the ball a ton in 2010. Good news for DeAngelo Williams (if he survives the offseason) and Jonathan Stewart (if he can stay healthy.

Domino effect: Jake Delhomme continues to be Fantasy repellent. Many are already pinning him to a backup role with the Saints.

For other Fantasy news from Friday, click here







Posted on: February 8, 2010 11:49 am
Edited on: February 8, 2010 11:54 am
 

Super Bowl XLV: Packers vs. Titans

Continuing with my annual tradition, I am ringing in the start of the new NFL season with a prediction for the upcoming Super Bowl. And, as you'll read, it's pretty unscientific.

Here are my rules: I can make as many changes as I'd like UNTIL kickoff of the first game of the 2010 season. I'm locked in at that point. Anytime I make a change, I'll let you know (either via the blog or Twitter or ESP).

Last year, I had Vikings vs. Patriots through much of the summer until I went through my annual ritual of predicting every game before the start of the season, at which point I determined the Chargers would be the better pick and I made the buzzer-beating switch. Not that it made any difference, though I *did* pick the Saints and Colts to win their respective divisions.

But Super Bowl XLIV is old news. It's time to look ahead.

NFC prediction: Packers
NFC contenders:
Cowboys, Eagles, Vikings, Saints
Why the Packers? I think they're built to be competitive on both sides of the ball NOW. Continuity is strong on both sides of the ball. And they're relatively healthy right now. Draft needs are minimal. Schedule isn't that bad, especially considering their division. I think they had a shot to go this year if not for some meltdowns at Arizona in the playoffs.

AFC prediction: Titans
AFC contenders:
Patriots, Jets, Ravens, Steelers, Bengals, Texans, Colts, Chargers
Why the Titans? They've got their fundamentals down pat. By that I mean they have a strong O-line, a strong D-line and they can use both very well. Coaching is great. Pass rush is an issue there but I'm assuming they address it this offseason. Running game should be phenomenal and a full offseason of Vince Young working on his game and finding ways to take advantage of Chris Johnson in his backfield should go a long way. You can laugh at the pick and laugh at Young all you want, but he's led them to the playoffs already in his short career and came close to getting them back there in 2009.

I will say this: The Titans pick was a difficult one to make. I really like the Ravens if they boost their receivers and defensive backs, and you can't rule out the old guard of the AFC either -- the Colts, Patriots, Chargers and Steelers.

Don't be shocked if the pick changes between now and when the Saints host either the Vikings or Steelers in the first game of the 2010 season this September.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com