Tag:Fantasy Football
Posted on: May 28, 2009 5:12 pm
 

Fantasy Huddle: Tom Brady

Tom Brady has been the focus of many Fantasy owners since ... well, really, since 2001. But more recently, since Week 1 of last season when he tore his ACL and MCL and missed all but the first quarter or so of the NFL season. Since then, he's had multiple surgeries (one to clean a staph infection) and rumored to be behind in his schedule, only to actually be ahead of schedule.

The Patriots held a late-May minicamp, and Brady was not only in attendance but working with the first-team offense. Though he admits to being a little rusty, he's optimistic that he'll be ready for the start of the 2009 season. He met with a huge throng of reporters, and the club was gracious enough to send out a full transcript. We went ahead and edited out the questions regarding his model wife and bicycling hobby and give you the meat and potatoes of what he had to say about his knee, his teammates, and his outlook on this upcoming year.

How are you feeling? Do you want to give us an update on the progress of your knee from the last two months or so?

Yeah. I've been feeling really positive. You know, getting back into the football stuff - it's a little different than the training you do - working out normally in the offseason, so it's good to come out on the field. There is obviously a lot of rust by all of us being off for four months. We're working hard to make the improvements we need to make. Thank God the season is a few months away, but we need the work and I need the work. I think everybody realizes when you come out after four months off there is a lot of work for us to do.

Do you have to learn how to throw again with the knee the way it is?

The throwing is not the problem at all. At this point it's just about getting back to the football activity. I am doing the football activities not for my leg, but for the rest of me - my everything. My body feels really good. My arm feels good. I'm not completing as many passes as I want, but we haven't been out here very long. I think it's just about getting better every day. If you can do that, and you can make continuous improvements over the course of weeks and months, you'll be a better player.

There's no adjustment with having to wear a brace on your leg and getting used to that?

No. You don't even really notice it. I would rather not wear, but [Head Athletic Trainer] Jim [Whalen] is forcing me to wear it, so I have to listen to him.

You said last year was the halftime of your career. What did you mean by that?

Well, I think we all have goals that we set for ourselves and how long you want to play. Fortunately for a quarterback, you can play for a long time because you don't get hit very often. I hope I have the opportunity to play for a long time. I think when you sit on the sidelines for an entire year you realize how much you love it. Not that you need that to happen to be grateful to play, but you experience things in a much different way and a way that I never experienced as an athlete. I love being out here. I love participating and being around these guys. We're working for some big goals we set, so we just have to, like Coach Belichick says, come out here and work hard every day and do our job.

You used the word rust. Getting back out here does it feel like a long time? What are your emotions?

I've been playing football for a long time so you don't have to relearn how to do anything, you just have to go out and try to be sharp. I don't think I've been very sharp the last three days in practice. It takes a lot of reps and a lot of throwing. You see the defense and you make the throws and there are adjustments you have to make on the field. The football part and understanding our offense - I mean, obviously, I have a good understanding of that - it's just a matter of putting it together at a different speed than you can go out and practice in the bubble in March and April. It's nice when team activities are on the field and there's blitzes and you can signal guys and something happens and a guy slips on a route and now you have to throw to a different player. Those are the things that you've got to sharpen up. There's a lot of training camp practices. There's probably 50 training camp practices that we'll have and I think each one of those will be valuable for all of us. I'm looking forward to those because I haven't had the opportunity to do that in quite awhile.

I would imagine your rehab is probably 75 percent done and I would think you probably still have some limitations. You don't feel like you are 100 percent yet, do you?

I feel as good as I could possibly feel. I don't think about it. It doesn't bother me doing anything. It's feeling really good and it's about as good as I can say. I'm real happy with where I'm at and I come out to these workouts happy to participate in them. That was something that was a big goal for me to be able to do.

If the opening game would be two months away do you think you'd be ready or do you think you need four months?

I will take every day that I have. Believe me, I'll take every day. We have a lot of work [to do] and there are a lot of new faces and new coaches. There's been a lot of change for us this year and we have to use it to our advantage.

Naturally a lot of people are comparing this offense to 2007 - you have some new tools in Joey Galloway and Greg Lewis. What are your expectations and do you think it will be better?

Well, we have guys that are experienced players. Obviously, Randy [Moss] and Wes [Welker] at receiver and we've added some tight ends and Joey and Greg are here as well. There's a lot of work that we need to do to get on the same page. I know the kind of effort we put in in 2007 and we need to match that, and in 2008 as well - we worked hard that offseason. It didn't work out for us in the end, but I think this year is another bit of excitement, it's a new challenge and that's why we are out here practicing. I don't think you overlook anything out here. Every rep we are trying to complete is for a reason. There are signals [to learn]. We're walking through the two-minute drill today. We're trying to all get on the same page and that's going to carry over into training camp and training camp carries over to the season. We have a lot of tough opponents this year. We have a challenging schedule and we are going to need the work that we have. I think the new guys - they are a bit overwhelmed with the offense and the terminology and the speed of how I'm spitting things out in the huddle and how I'm changing things at the line. We are all trying to get used to that.

What's been the biggest surprise for you over the last two days?

This is a hard game and it's one of those things that if you're not doing it every day and you're competing at this level, you always think it's going to get easier as you get older and you are going to complete more balls. That's not the way it works. You've got to come out every day and put the work in. You can't take anything for granted and you can't think that because you completed it last year a certain way that that's the way it's going to be this year. We've got a group of hard working guys and I'm very appreciative of that as a member of the team because I don't have to motivate those guys. They are really self-motivating and they're willing to work and we are willing to put the time in together. I think we're going to need all that hard work and commitment from everybody to make it a successful season.

Aside from the knee, how rusty do you feel?

I feel like it's springtime - 50 degrees and rainy in Boston. It's the start of a new year. I wish we'd come out and throw 90 percent completions out here every day and [have] everyone on the same page and [have] no mental errors, but because we are so new to this there are a lot of mistakes we are making. We have to try to make those improvements every day. We go in, watch our film and listen to Coach and hopefully we can build on each day. So like I said, we can look back two months from now and know that we're prepared for training camp.

At this point what could stop you from being ready for the season opener?

I said anything that could stop anybody. There're a lot of things that could happen in two months. I have to drive home this afternoon in Boston traffic, you never know what could happen. Knock on wood please. We're out here preparing and I don't anticipate anything. I hope there's not. We'll deal with something if something does… lighting striking, I don't know.

Randy Moss and Wes Welker talked about how their experience in the offense is really going to help what you guys had in 2007. What do you think about that showing up now and going into the year?

Those two work extremely hard. They were pretty good two years ago when they got here and they were great last year. I expect them to be great this year and there isn't any reason why they shouldn't be. They work hard. They know the offense. They're accountable and they're great leaders. They need to play well. If they don't play well then obviously we're not going to have a very good football team. When your best players are guys that are the hardest workers - I know Coach Belichick loves that. I think all the players look up to those guys and their leadership ability.

What's the adjustment without Josh McDaniels out here?

You know Josh and I had a great relationship. As a part of the NFL, things change every year. There're 13 new head coaches and he's one of them. I really hope that we find ways to move on without him, and we've already started that process. It doesn't stop for anybody around here. You leave and someone else fills your spot and they're anxious for the opportunity. We have to work hard to get up to speed on everything and the coaches that are in that role are doing that.

Was there ever a point in your recovery that you thought you might not be ready?

No, I think part of surgery and rehab is that you have setbacks and you just deal with them. It doesn't always go as you plan it. Life doesn't go how you plan it. It's a matter of dealing with it [and] understanding, what do I have to do to get back on the right track. It didn't really set me back for very long, probably just long enough from keeping me from really hurting myself.

Have you lost weight? Are you at your playing weight?

I think I'm a little more than my playing weight. I try to work on my strength a lot. There're different things you try to find [to make] improvements on. I'll be right back to where I need to be in a few months. I need some warm weather.

Are there things you would like to do but you are holding back a little bit?

I always try to do as much as I can do. I'm never a person that does not enough because I'd regret not doing enough and think I probably could have done more. I probably go too far and have to reel myself back in, which works in some things and other things it doesn't work. I think as far as I'm concerned now, coming out here, I'm trying to do everything I can do and I'm trying to do everything in the offseason program since it started. It's been good because now I come out here and there's nothing I'm worried about. I just try to play better, which I didn't do very well today.

What do you think about Joey Galloway and Fred Taylor and the new weapons on offense?

I think it's great. I love having veteran players come onto this team because they have the experience. They know football and they know the language and terminology and the learning curve is so much accelerated for them. It's challenging in our offense for a young player because there's a lot that we do. It changes every week. Especially as a receiver, you might be in one spot one day and the next spot the other [day] and the route we are calling – there are three different variations to the route based on the coverage. It's tough, so when you have a veteran player, he's – ok yeah, I get that, I did that. When you get a rookie, he's trying to make sure he gets out to practice on time. When you have Fred who's excited to run the plays and now he has to learn our terminology versus the terminology he's known… He's excited, he feels excited to be here. That youth comes out in him, so I think hopefully we are going to get the best out of both he and Joey and Greg Lewis. I don't know if you saw that catch he [Greg] made today, but that was ridiculous. I told him that was the one he caught in the Super Bowl – that weasel.

How confident are you that you can be the same player that you were before the injury?

We'll see. Like I said, talk is cheap. I could sit here and tell you guys that I'm going to play until I'm 80, but that doesn't matter. I'm going to do the best that I can do and I'm going to try to be the best leader and the best teammate and supporter of the guys on my team – it's something I've always enjoyed doing. Like I said, I'm grateful to have that chance and to be out here today. I can't wait to get out and start playing games.

Posted on: May 27, 2009 2:27 pm
 

Fantasy Huddle: Trent Edwards

I thought it was time for another transcript, and the Bills obliged with one from starting quarterback Trent Edwards. Following a minicamp practice, Edwards worked with starting receivers Terrell Owens and Lee Evans some more as the trio try to build as much chemistry and rapport as possible. Edwards is a sleeper for Fantasy this year and offers some nice insight here, including a nugget on what he thinks offensive coordinator Turk Schonert might lean on during the season.

On getting to know Terrell Owens:

It's been great so far, and I think those sessions afterwards were, you're seeing a guy running a route, you're seeing him come out of his break and as a quarterback, that's what you need to do over and over again in order to be comfortable with someone. Any extra practice we can get, on top of these OTAs is beneficial to all of us and Lee (Evans) and Terrell (Owens) and myself are really communicating well. We have a majority of the offense in, so we're trying to get that all nailed down and trying to figure out the routes and the concepts figured out and I think things are going well so far.

On what brought about the extra practice:

I'm not trying to run those guys into the ground. I've told them they've put in a lot of work and they're running a lot of deeper routes now. At the end of practice, I kind of missed a couple throws that you want to make and you want to fix. I mentioned something to those guys and if they're still not too tired from practice, usually you can get something done afterwards. There were a couple of throws that Lee wanted me to look at him and I wasn't looking his way. He wanted to get a couple of those routes in, and that's fine by me, that's what I want. I need all of the work I can get, and I know he does too.

On throwing the same routes to different receivers:

It's hard to describe to you guys, but there's definitely a difference. Now, the best way to describe that is different guys have different stride lengths and different heights and run routes differently. They understand concepts differently and they see things differently and defenses, so as a quarterback, it's really just a feel. It's really hard to describe, but like you asked, every one of those players runs a route differently. On film and when you guys are sitting there watching on the sidelines, you probably are saying they all look the same to you, but it's different behind center.

On if the offense knew the defense was going to put in its blitzes today:

We didn't. We had our normal meetings this morning and put in our normal plays and they came out and blitzed us. I felt like every period we had, Donte (Whitner) and Bryan (Scott) and Ko (Simpson) and George (Wilson) were all coming every single play. That's tough on an offense when you have a down the field pass called and you have to adjust to it. I think that's great. I know Perry's (Fewell) doing some great things on defense over there and he's coaching those guys very well, and that's something that we need. We need a good defense to go up against us every day, and that's what we're getting right now.

On if he prefers not to know the blitz is coming:

Absolutely. It gets frustrated, because you're sitting there dinking and dunking underneath and throwing hot routes when it's not exciting football, but that's something we're going to face and I have to be able to adjust to it, much like the 10 other guys have to adjust to it.

On the differences to the offense this year:

Right now, I fell like Turk (Schonert) is one of those crossing-routes types of coordinators and likes those and I feel like I throw those really well, and I feel like we're kind of getting on the same page with what I like and with what he likes. This may not answer your question directly, but the thing I do like that's changed this OTAs versus last OTAs is that I can work with two of my starting wide receivers after practices, where last OTAs, it was Lee was hurt, Terrell wasn't here and I was trying to work with James (Hardy) and Josh (Reed) a little bit afterwards, but right now, I feel like we're ahead of where we were last year because those guys are here, they're working out and that's nice for a quarterback, where I can see guys. It's not when we show up in Rochester at the end of July, this isn't the first time I've thrown to these guys, much like it kind of was last season.

On if working with Owens is different because of the amount of experience he has:

Yeah, you can tell that he's been around and you can tell that he's worked with some good quarterbacks. We might have a player concept in and he's run it on a bunch of different teams for a bunch of different coordinators, he's been coached that a bunch of different ways, but he understands the offense, he understands concepts, he understands routes and he's doing a good job of telling me he wants certain ways he wants certain balls to him and I feel like I'm comfortable enough to tell him I want him to run certain routes certain ways, so I fell like that level comes with his experience, and that level is something that I need to get to. And that's something I want to get to with him, it's just kind of having an unspoken bond where something doesn't need to be said, but we can see things before it actually happens.

On getting Roscoe Parrish involved in the offense:

He's one of best slot receivers we have. It's just a matter of putting him in a position to win and putting him in a position where he's comfortable and he understands what he's supposed to do. And that comes with practice, that comes with getting him his reps in practice, and then actually performing in the game. Sometimes we put other guys in there that we feel like can do the job better, but as you can tell, when he returns a punt or returns a kick, he's one of the most exciting guys on our team, so we need to find a way to get the ball in his hands, and I'm working with Turk, I'm working with Alex (Van Pelt) to try to come up with ways we can do that. That's definitely a weapon we need to take advantage of.

Posted on: May 19, 2009 4:47 pm
 

Fantasy Huddle: Frank Gore

It might be spring, and it might be in the middle of a minicamp in which little is decided over how much a player will play over the course of a season, but it's still a good time to get quotes from football players.

A day after 49ers head coach Mike Singletary essentially ruled out a big split in reps among his running backs, Frank Gore all but squashed the chances of him sharing the ball on a regular basis with ... well, anyone. Here's the official transcript from the 49ers with some Fantasy notes sprinkled in:

On getting a good feel for Jimmy Raye's new offense:
"Yeah. I like it so far. We're running the ball a lot. We're doing a lot of downhill runs, and that's my type of running style."

On the similarities between Jimmy Raye's offense and Norv Turner's:
"It's about the same. A lot of power counters. Going at them. Don't care what they have in front of us, they just have to stop it."

On whether that offensive style is encouraging given his rushing yards in Norv Turner's system in 2006:
"Yeah because this offense…my type of running style is I like to have my shoulders square. A lot of runs and a lot of running plays are going straight downhill. Just pick your hole and go."

(FANTASY NOTE: This should be very encouraging to everyone out there who has Frank Gore on a rank list. That should be, um, all of you.)

On comparing this running style to last year's:
"More of a lot of finesse runs."

On what he thinks about the team wanting to keep some of the workload off to keep him fresher as the season goes along:
"I haven't heard that we're going to take some of the load off of me. I know the coach has been telling me that I have to be in tip-top shape and I have to be ready to take the load, and that's what I'm going to do."

(FANTASY NOTE: A huge statement by Gore. He's essentially saying that he not only can carry the load for the team all year, but that he's expected to. How many running backs are left out there that will be in such a position?)

On whether he thinks drafting a running back to give him more breaks during the game is needed:

"Well, I feel like the more I'm in the game, the more I touch the ball, the better player I am. The back they've got here is a pretty good back. He's working very hard and he's learning the offense. I like him. Whenever they feel that they want to put him in, get him [inaudible], I feel that he'll be alright to get in the game."

On his thoughts about whether having a rotation will dilute his effectiveness in the second half:
"I don't think that we'll be rotating. But, like I say, my type of style and running the ball and playing, I feel like I get better the more I'm in and the more I touch the ball."

On whether having a backup get more touches could prolong his career:
"Last year it was about the same. We had DeShaun [Foster], we have Mike [Robinson]. They were getting me, coming in on plays the coach had them run. I'm cool with that. As long as I'm in most of the snaps and I'm getting in my rhythm, doing the best I can do to help my team win, I'm fine with it."

On whether his injuries the past two years had to do with being worn down:

"I won't say I was worn down. I couldn't help some, last year fell on my ankle and the year before the same, under power. I felt like I was starting to get stronger the game I did get hurt. I wouldn't say it was because I was worn down. It was just unlucky injuries."

On seeing Glen Coffee and a couple other guys competing to be the backup and whether that pushes him:
"Every time I touch on the field I motivate myself. I feel that every guy wants to be the man. That's what pushes me. I don't doubt any other guy playing the sport. I play because when I was coming out, I felt like I wanted to be the man. So, I push myself."

On whether having a first-round draft pick like WR Michael Crabtree will help him running the ball:
"It will help a whole lot, especially when he comes in and do what he did in college. That would be a big factor to our offense and to our team. Then we'll see more like a seven-man box, than what we've been seeing, eight-, nine-men box. If you can't run against a seven-man box, you shouldn't run the ball at all."

(FANTASY NOTE: Another good point by Gore, and this is something you can apply to every team in the league. If a team has a passing threat that must be accounted for, the easier it will be for a rusher to pick up yardage. However, last year Adrian Peterson and Michael Turner saw a lot of eight-in-the-box and still racked up huge stats. That should speak volumes about their abilities. Gore's done it before, too -- if Crabtree can help right away it will do wonders for his numbers.)

On whether he thought he would get more passes than he ended up getting in last year's offensive scheme:
"I did. I did, but just going [inaudible]. The other running backs we had, but things didn't work out. The quarterback situation, switching quarterbacks, just things didn't work out how we planned it to work."

On how he feels physically:
"I feel good. I feel real good. I feel real good."

On when the ankle started to feel better:
"After, when I came back, I did a mini-camp practice, I started feeling like I got better, then I started to be able to train more, and the more I started training, the better, the stronger my ankle got."

On whether that happened in the April mini-camp:
"Yeah. I felt that when I practiced, that I was alright, that I could move around. So, the more I started training the stronger I got. But, now I feel better."

On whether there was anything different in his offseason training this year:

"I was at home. I was in Miami more than the last couple of years. I would usually be out here first, but I've been in Miami training with my trainer. But, it's been about the same."


Posted on: May 12, 2009 3:39 pm
 

First expert draft results


Last week, I wrapped up my first Fantasy Football expert draft of the season, and I am a happy man. Based on the rankings and projections I did, I built a mammoth squad.

So either I nailed it and had a killer draft, or I completely stunk up the joint and will go 3-9.

Here's the rundown – I picked 10th overall.

Round 1: Steve Slaton, RB, Houston
Nothing but running backs over the first eight picks before Larry Fitzgerald went ninth overall. Slaton falling to 10th was a joy for me, and taking a stud rusher with goal-line and receiving duties this late was a no-brainer. I doubt we'll see him last this long in other drafts going forward.
Passed up: Frank Gore, Marion Barber, Drew Brees

Round 2: Andre Johnson, WR, Houston
Fine, I took back-to-back Texans. It doesn't bother me – both are solid and put up a lot of points in a potent offense. Johnson is one of three Fantasy receivers well worth a Top-15 pick, and if you miss on one of them your receiving corps is already behind the proverbial eight-ball. I did pass up DeAngelo Williams for Johnson here, but I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't already taken Slaton.
Passed up: DeAngelo Williams, Calvin Johnson, Randy Moss

Round 3: Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans
Not a well-known name … if you didn't make the Fantasy playoffs last year. Thomas should easily top 1,000 total yards and be a candidate for 10-plus touchdowns. I'll gladly take the rusher in the middle of the Saints offense … especially in Round 3. It was tough to pass on Peyton Manning, but he was left as well as Tom Brady, and with one team picking behind me already having drafted a QB, I can wait until my next pick. IT PAYS TO KEEP TRACK OF WHAT THE PEOPLE NEAR YOU IN THE DRAFT DO WITH THEIR PICKS!
Passed up: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady

Round 4: Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis
First-round talent in Round 4. I loved this. I should also mention that I took Manning over Brady because I know Manning's knees are fine. Brady's? Who can say with 100 percent certainty. I like Brady this year, sure, but Manning is safer.
Passed up: Tom Brady

Round 5: Vincent Jackson, WR, San Diego
A lot of owners picked wide receivers in Rounds 4-5, so I was left with Jackson here. Also taken in front of me: Knowshon Moreno and Chris Wells (too early for my tastes, for now) along with Jason Witten. I needed a receiver before they dried up.
Passed up: Anthony Gonzalez, Santonio Holmes, Santana Moss, DeSean Jackson, Darren McFadden

Round 6: Dallas Clark, TE, Indianapolis
Jason Witten had gone before my Round 5 pick and Tony Gonzalez after. If I was going to get excellent production out of my tight end, I needed to take one now. Took Clark over Antonio Gates because he could effectively be the Colts' No. 2 receiver this season.
Passed up: Antonio Gates, DeSean Jackson, Donald Brown, Darren McFadden

Round 7: Devin Hester, WR, Chicago
Hester should be an excellent No. 3 Fantasy receiver this year with Jay Cutler in under center for the Bears. And really, the receiving pool was getting awfully shallow by this point. Taken in front of me: Kevin Walter and Laveranues Coles. I had to grab a wideout.
Passed up: Donald Driver, Le'Ron McClain, Derrick Mason

Round 8: Le'Ron McClain, RB, Baltimore
Couldn't pass up 10-touchdown potential in Round 8. I highly doubt the Ravens will make McClain's 2008 season a one-year wonder.
Passed up: Darren Sproles, Derrick Mason, Earnest Graham

Round 9: Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota

I normally don't draft rookie wide receivers, but I think Harvin could be an effective stat machine with the Vikings provided that he learns the offense right away. The Vikings invested a lot in him, including trips to Florida to make sure he was a good kid. I think they had designs on how to use him before they drafted him. I want a cut of that action.
Passed up: Ted Ginn, Jr., Ahmad Bradshaw, Sammy Morris

Round 10: LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia
Because there's no way Brian Westbrook at age 30 will play 16 games this year after failing to do so in every previous year in his career.
Passed up: Ricky Williams, Dustin Keller, Fred Jackson, Fred Taylor

Round 11: Jerious Norwood, RB, Atlanta
Value pick. Banking on improved stats since he's in a contract year. No way Michael Turner runs 350+ times in 2009 after doing it in 2008.
Passed up: Chester Taylor, Jeremy Maclin, Kyle Orton

Round 12: Kyle Orton, QB, Denver
I normally don't draft a backup QB if I get an elite passer, but Orton has a shot to be a huge stats machine in Denver with Josh McDaniels running the show. Hopefully it happens and I can deal Orton for some help at the midseason.
Passed up: Deion Branch, Hakeem Nicks

Round 13: Nate Washington, WR, Tennessee
Another value pick. Has a shot to post good numbers in favorable matchups. The Titans didn't sign him for nothing, did they?
Passed up: Isaac Bruce, Brian Robiskie, T.J. Duckett

Round 14: Giants DST
The unit is much improved after a busy offseason and should be very effective. Plus, I'm not sold on Dallas and Washington's offenses being threats to them. I think the NFC East has taken a step back … at least outside of N.Y. and Philly.

Round 15: Tashard Choice, RB, Dallas
Talent. Depth. Late-round flier. End of story.

Round 16: Mason Crosby, PK, Green Bay
Kicker. End of story.

As always, your feedback is appreciated. Let's talk about who I should have picked and who I nailed. Please either post below or hit me up on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/daverichard
Posted on: April 14, 2009 9:00 pm
 

Early thoughts on 2009 NFL schedule

Like you, I'm pumped about football. Even when the NFL offers non-events like the release of the schedule, I'm all geeked up. Pretty soon they'll start broadcasting offseason weight room workouts and have Q&As with the chefs at the training facilities. Ooh! The Jets are adding more protein to their Thursday meals! Start all Jets!!

The NFL schedule is an important piece to the Fantasy puzzle. It dictates the matchups that dictate Fantasy use. Only problem is that any matchup we look at now as a "cake walk" or "an impossible game" might not be the case come Week 5. Last year, I had the Falcons and Dolphins pegged as clubs that would get run over for much of the season. Goes to show you that nothing is permanent and anything can happen. 

Then again, I was pretty confident that the Raiders, Lions, Rams and Bengals would stink, and they did. Just don't bring up the Browns ... eesh ... I get icy chills just thinking about THAT pick from last year ... again, I swear I'm not from Cleveland.

Here are the first things that popped out at me from the 2009 NFL schedule:

ARIZONA: Two east-coast trips, including a 1 p.m. start at Jacksonville. That helps.

ATLANTA: The Falcons get the royal treatmentr with three straight home games Weeks 12-14 (Bucs, Eagles, Saints). THey also will have one outdoor game in poor conditions in December/January (at the Jets Week 15).

BALTIMORE: Look for a fast start from LeRon McClain and Willis McGahee as the Ravens host the Chiefs, play at the Chargers and host the Browns right off the bat, then host the Bengals in Week 5 after dealing with the Patriots on the road in Week 4.

CAROLINA: Rough start for the Panthers, who have Philly at home and then road games at the Falcons and Cowboys before an early bye. I don't like this defense much, and that goes triple if they pawn off Julius Peppers before the start of the season. Weeks 13-16: vs. the Bucs, at the Pats, vs. the Vikings, at the Giants. Rough stretch for DeAngelo Williams. Rough season for Williams -- he might face only four softish run defenses all year!

CINCINNATI: The Bengals land three straight home games with a bye in-between starting in Week 6 and ending after Week 9. They'll host the Texans, Bears and Ravens, not easy. They also have a nice three-game spell where they play at Oakland in Week 11, vs. Cleveland in 12 and vs. Detroit in 13. That could be nice for Cedric Benson and Carson Palmer.

DENVER: The Broncos catch a break with easily the best opening schedule in the league: At Cincy, vs. Cleveland and at Oakland. They'll pay for it with games vs. Dallas, vs. New England, at San Diego, a bye, at Baltimore and vs. Pittsburgh in Weeks 4-9, though. I'd draft cheap Broncos late and then try to trade them after Week 3. Remember this when Correll Buckhalter and/or Kyle Orton are staring you in the face between Rounds 7 and 9 this summer!

DETROIT: First three overall, four of their first five and eight of their first 11 games are in domes. Holy Calvin Johnson! I also see a lot of high-scoring games for them as they only face three clubs with suspect offenses this season. That means their defense will be tired a lot. It's going to mean a lot of points for the Lions, especially with Scott Linehan as their offensive coordinator.

GREEN BAY: Early season schedule is GREAT for Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Grant. First seven games of the season: vs. Chicago, vs. Cincinnati, at St. Louis, at Minnesota, vs. Detroit, at Cleveland and vs. Minnesota. Remember, Grant has a knack for chewing up the Vikings. Should be a quality start for them, though they are saddled with a Week 5 bye. The Packers do have it rough late with the Ravens in Week 13, the Bears in Chicago in Week 14 and the Steelers in Pittsburgh in Week 15. Not good for the Fantasy postseason run.

HOUSTON: Very nice early-season schedule: vs. the Jets, at the Titans, vs. the Jaguars, vs. the Raiders, at the Cardinals, at the Bengals, vs. the 49ers, at the Bills. The first two games will be tough on the offense, but nothing they can't overcome. Slaton & Co. should have a fast start.

INDIANAPOLIS: Eleven dome games! Peyton Manning gets some serious love!! And, they land a three-game home-stand vs. the 49ers, Texans and Patriots Weeks 8-10. The rich get richer.

JACKSONVILLE: Three-straight home games vs. Houston, Miami, and Indy on a short week. They need all the help they can get. And how's this for tough: Their first three games are at the Colts, vs. the Cardinals and at the Texans. Three awesome passing offenses. Hope Rashean Mathis is healthy!

KANSAS CITY: Three straight homers in Weeks 13-15: vs. Denver, vs. Buffalo and vs. Cleveland. Should be good for them. In fact, they finish up nice with that trio of games and road contests at Cincinnati and at Denver. Awful Week 1 matchup at Baltimore, though. That'll hurt Cassel's early stats.

MINNESOTA: Not only do they not play a Thursday game all year, and not only do they have a Week 9 bye, but the Vikings landed a three-game home stand against the Lions, Seahawks and Bears Weeks 10-12! And that precedes a road game at Arizona and a homer against Cincy. And they play 11 dome games this season!! Someone in the NFL office wants Adrian Peterson to be the league MVP ...oh, and they open at Cleveland, at Detroit, vs. San Francisco, vs. Green Bay and at St. Louis. Peterson should be an absolute MONSTER.

NEW YORK GIANTS: The G-Men got saddled with three straight roadies in Weeks 2-4: at Dallas, at Tampa Bay and at Kansas City. Gonna be a challenge. I do like the Week 10 bye for them, though.

SAN DIEGO: Just two east-coast trips this year, and both games start at 4 p.m. Nice break for the Bolts, who start very tough after Week 1 at Oakland: vs. Baltimore, vs. Miami and at Pittsburgh, then a bye. We might not see L.T. perk up until Week 6 (vs. Denver) and beyond.

SAN FRANCISCO: ONE east-coast trip -- Week 15 at Philly (1 p.m.). NICE BREAK for the Niners, who otherwise have a tough run.

ST. LOUIS: Rams catch a break with three straight home games in Weeks 10-12, but it's all against good passing offenses (vs. Saints, vs. Cardinals, vs. Seahawks). Might negate the advantage, other than the whole not-getting-on-airplanes thing. Get this -- they won't have to get on a plane from Nov. 2 through the end of the month. That's a nice home stand for the Rams (Week 9 bye).

SEATTLE: Smacked with a three-game road trip in Weeks 10-12, all indoors: at Arizona, at Minnesota, at St. Louis. In fact, they have six dome games in 2009 if you include Dallas in Week 8. Almost as many as a dome team that has all outdoor road games. That will help them with their pass attack, as will ZERO east-coast games (six 1 p.m. starts, all in central time zone).

TAMPA BAY: All their games are at 1 p.m. or 4 p.m. ET. They're gonna be a tough team to figure out, especially with their trip to London in Week 7 vs. the Patriots.

TENNESSEE: Three straight home games late in the year vs. St. Louis, Miami and San Diego on Christmas Day (a Friday, so a short week). Should help them get a playoff push. They also play three tough 3-4 defenses in the first six weeks, all on the road (at Pittsburgh in the league opener, at the Jets in Week 3, at the Patriots in Week 6). Very tough start for Chris Johnson.

WASHINGTON: The Redskins' last two road games are Week 14 at Oakland and Week 17 at San Diego, with divisional home games against the Giants and Cowboys sandwiched in-between. That might hurt them but it gives the Redskins' Fantasy players an edge during the meat of the season. We'll see inflated stats from Clinton Portis in the early going with a Week 1 premiere at the Giants, Week 2 vs. the Rams and Week 3 at the Lions.

Posted on: April 6, 2009 10:43 am
 

The business end of the Cutler trade

 While the entire city of Chicago rejoiced in the beloved Bears trading for Jay Cutler, there were several underlying factors that also played into the trade. Factors that don't necessarily apply to Fantasy Football, but to the NFL in general. I think it would be interesting to explore these factors.

Let's begin with the notion that Cutler is a crybaby. It's a complete myth. He's been painted with the crybaby brush since he asked for a trade out of town, but mitigating factors forced that issue.

Let's say you worked in a great job with people you trusted. Your primary boss loved you, and you and your immediate manager got along well. Even the owner of your imaginary dream job company thought the world of you.

Now let's say your wonderful company tanked in this economic environment after what appeared to be a promising year. The owner promises change, but promises YOU that your primary boss and immediate manager won't be affected. This puts you at ease as your world will remain the same, happy place.

But the owner fires your boss. It takes you by surprise. Days later, your immediate manager leaves the company.

How do you feel now?

Wait, I'm not done. The owner then hires your boss's replacement -- a disciple of a competing company, and he initiates a workplace that changes most everything you know about your job. New terminology, new rules, new enforcement. And, the new boss really doesn't care whether or not you like it. He won't massage your ego at all or make life easy for you.You've got to accept it or hit the road.

Then, after all of this, THE NEW BOSS TRIES TO REPLACE YOU ABOUT A MONTH AFTER HE'S HIRED.

How do you feel NOW?

Anyone in this situation would look for a new job, and that's exactly what Cutler did. The Broncos fired Mike Shanahan, a move they had to make after their late-season collapse, then QB coach Jeremy Bates took a job at Southern Cal, then Josh McDaniels took over as the head coach and really got things in a bind when he tried to trade for Matt Cassel. Yes, Cutler is paid millions to be an NFL quarterback, but being lied to and then almost being traded away leaves some scars and definitely makes a good situation turn sour. How could he trust anyone in the organization again? Cutler might have forced the Broncos' hand, but it was justifiable.

So that set up the trade. Now let's consider why Chicago pulled the trigger.

The Bears organization is notoriously thrifty. If Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder are the guys chucking millions of dollars at NFL players, the Bears are picking up the loose change and begrudgingly handing it over. It's a family business for the McCaskey family as the principal owner, Virginia McCaskey, is the daughter of the late George Halas, who was outrageously cheap. If you need any further proof of the Bears' frugality, note that their "new" stadium was built IN THE BOWL of their old stadium. I know there are additional details as to why the Bears built their place on the grounds of the old Soldier Field, but it's not like they found new land in Chicago and put up a mega-million dollar stadium.

And part of the reason why the Bears haven't invested in a strong-armed quarterback before? Moolah. I can't say this with certainty, but I would guess that Bears ownership is happy with ANY product they put out on the field because the fan base in Chicago will come to games regardless of how the team plays. It's not like Jacksonville, Detroit or Oakland where the fans won't show up unless the team is playing strong football. The Bears could stink and Soldier Field will still be sold out. So as long as they have a few talented football players on the roster, players whose jerseys they can sell at $80 a pop, the ownership is happy. TV revenue and additional profit from ticketing, sponsorships, etc. is enough for them with very minimal risk.

The Bears were staring down the barrel of paying Kyle Orton a rather large sum following this season, especially if he played well again in 2009. Additionally, the Bears would be on the hook for a large signing bonus for the 18th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Last year they spent a ton on first-round pick Chris Williams and the guy barely played!

Cutler, on the other hand, has three years left on his rookie deal at no more than $1.82 million per year. The Bears don't have to sign him to a new contract until after the 2011 season, and that's assuming they don't franchise him first. Surely, Cutler's contract lasting three years worth about $5 million is cheaper than the signing bonus they'd have to pay Orton next offseason, and certainly way, way cheaper than the signing bonuses they'd have to pay first-round picks in 2009 and 2010.

Financially, the deal made sense for the Bears, even if they gave up two first-round picks and Orton.

There's also the matter of GM Jerry Angelo and head coach Lovie Smith being on the hot seat. Yeah, the Bears were in the Super Bowl three years ago, but haven't made the playoffs since. Rumblings emerged this offseason after Smith took over the defensive playcalling that if the Bears tanked again in 2009, the organization would clean house. Angelo and Smith were/are looking at a make-or-break season.

So now we focus on Angelo's job. He knew he had to do SOMETHING to help the Bears win in 2009, and finagling Cutler from Denver was it. As for giving up the draft picks ... well, Angelo won't be with the Bears to make their picks in 2010 if they go 6-10 in 2009, so what does he care if their first-round pick belongs to Denver? For him, it's a win-win situation because if Cutler leads the Bears to the playoffs, the pick will be a late one in Round 1, and he'll have saved his and Smith's jobs. Plus, when looking back at Angelo's eight previous years of first-round picks, the only one that really was solid was DT Tommie Harris. Most of Angelo's gems came in Rounds 2-5 (Orton being one of them). So the first-round picks had even less value to Angelo and the Bears!

Not only was the money right, but the compensation was too. And if it saves Angelo and Smith's rears and turns the Bears' fortunes around, then they're geniuses. If not, Angelo and Smith are looking for a new job and we'll probably see Mike Shanahan coach the Bears in 2010. Wink

Finally, the Bears probably knew that the Lions and Vikings were interested in Cutler. The thought of playing against Cutler INDOORS once a year and ultimately twice a year, with Bernard Berrian or Calvin Johnson catching his passes, would DEFINITELY seal the Bears' fate as the doormat of the NFC North. The Bears not only win by getting Cutler for 16 games, but they also kept him from going to one of two division rivals. Nothing like addition by subtraction ... or division, in this case.

Speaking from a purely professional viewpoint, I like the move for the Bears as it will force opposing defenses to respect their passing game, something that didn't happen late last season when Matt Forte saw a lot of eight-in-the-box looks. The offense won't be a dynamic passing juggernaut like Cutler was in last season, but it should still be effective. I'd be stunned if Cutler topped the Bears-best 3,838 passing yards in a season, though.

Posted on: March 12, 2009 1:10 pm
 

L.T. speaks, we listen

Recently, the Chargers and running back LaDainian Tomlinson agreed to terms on a restructured three-year deal that will keep the Fantasy star in San Diego this season. And while it sure appears that Tomlinson will lose some carries to teammate Darren Sproles this year, Tomlinson said some interesting things to the media when he met with them on March 11 to discuss the new contract and his future with the club.

We should also mention here that Tomlinson will be 30 when the 2009 season kicks off. We've done research on running backs that state that a running back typically begins to decline not when they hit 30, but when they hit several "red flags:" Eight full seasons of football and around 2,500 carries. Minor injuries also are a sign that a player is beginning to struggle. Tomlinson meets all of these red flags, and considering his three injuries over the last year or so (sprained MCL, sore toe, torn groin), it's not a lock that Tomlinson will be back to his usual 1,700-total-yard, 10-plus touchdown self.

But he'll tell you otherwise. Here are some highlights from his press conference:

How tough has this whole process been?

Tomlinson:
"It was kind of tough, I think more so for my family because I had to answer their questions a lot of the time.  Any time something went across the screen I had to answer their questions, but I still maintained the belief that I would remain a Charger.  They drafted me here.  I've been here for eight years and loved every minute of it.  I just couldn't see myself putting on another uniform.  That Charger uniform, that 21 with the bolt on the side of my helmet, that's pretty special.  You really can't replace that.  I'm just happy to be putting that helmet on again."

Do you feel appreciated by the Chargers after this process?

Tomlinson:
"Absolutely.  It's a two-way street.  We've always said that this is the part you don't like, the business part of it.  Obviously A.J. (Smith) has been criticized as well as myself about some of the things that we both have gone through, but that's a part of the business.  I hold no hard feelings to anyone.  I respect A.J. for the job he has done, the job he's continuing to do for this team and I'm going to try to do the best job I can for this team on the field.  That's the way we're going to handle it.  When we win a championship, everybody is going to be happy."

Is there anything in this deal that assures us we won't be going through a similar scenario a year from now?

Tomlinson:
"Let's just worry about this year.  This is something that obviously you deal with sometimes, but I don't think it will be.  That's not something that I'm worried about.  I don't believe this is something we'll be going through next year."

If you're healthy, how close can you be to the LT we've seen the last eight years?

Tomlinson:
"I think I will continue to be a very explosive player.  You guys saw me last year where I was banged up all year, played with a hurt toe and obviously with the groin injury.  I'll be back to full strength and to being the LT that you guys are used to seeing."

Can you remain as explosive as you were in 2006?

Tomlinson:
"Absolutely, with the opportunities.  That was a special year, no doubt.  Will I rush for 1,800 yards again?  Who knows.  I think it's possible, definitely.  That's yet to be seen.  I think with the same opportunities, it can happen."

Do you think you have to prove you can stay healthy through a full season and postseason?

Tomlinson:
"Absolutely.  I feel like I do have to prove I can stay healthy. I've always felt like I needed to prove something.  When I first came into the league, I wanted to prove that I could play in this league and that I could be dominant.  I know I can do that.  Going on 30 (years old), I want to prove that I can stay healthy a full season and still be that dominant player.  Honestly, I haven't had any serious injuries with surgeries.  I don't see why I can't continue to be a dominant player."

Did you feel like you were shortchanged last year when people wrote things about your decline when you were actually battling injuries?

Tomlinson:
"No, you play the hand you're dealt.  For me, it's good because I get to prove what I'm worth again.  I get to prove to people, and that's the way it's always been for me.  I've always enjoyed doing that.  I get to do it once again."

How do you feel physically right now?

Tomlinson:
"I feel great physically.  I've started back working out.  This week was the first week where I've actually starting cutting and all kinds of things.  It feels really good.  It's really good to be feeling strong again."

Is there something you can do during the offseason to help prevent injuries?

Tomlinson:
"I think you become smarter.  You learn how to work in a different way.  You still maintain working hard, but you do it in a different way.  Not as much pounding in the offseason, kind of save myself a little more for the season and gearing up for training camp and going through the season.  Before, I used to start off just going 100 miles per hour, and sometimes it wore me down.  I was in such good shape when I got to training camp that I really had nothing to work for.  Obviously I think some of that will change, but most of it is going to stay the same."

Can you talk about your recent comments about Emmitt Smith's career rushing record and why for the first time you discussed making a run at him?

Tomlinson:
"I think that's something that I've just kind of got a new fire of saying, ‘Why not?'  If we're winning and winning championships, I do want to play as long as I can and walk away with all the records.  That would be a heck of a challenge and I'm up for challenges.  I'm certainly going to try to do it."

Now that the contract negotiations are done, when do you start negotiations with Norv Turner about returning the halfback option?

Tomlinson:
"We just got through talking about that to be honest with you.  Norv has told me that, I don't want to give it away to all the teams out there, but you'd better watch out.  It's going to be in."


Pretty significant stuff in there. Let's discuss below ...

 

Posted on: February 23, 2009 2:51 pm
 

Combine notes: 2/23

I watched the defensive linemen and linebackers work out at the combine (via NFL Network). Here are my notes:

- The two studs of this day were Aaron Curry (LB, Wake Forest) and Brian Orakpo (DE, Texas). Orakpo came up with a hamstring tweak late in his workout and couldn't finish, but he looked great in the drills and of course he looked great in school. Same for Curry. Both should be Top 10 picks.Orakpo's upper body is awesome and he's got great speed to go with it. The comparisons to DeMarcus Ware are already rolling in. I'm wondering how small his feet are, though ...

- I liked what I saw from Kyle Moore (DL, USC) and will investigate him further. Smooth 40 run, which is a blend of explosiveness and burst to go with speed.

- Michael Johnson (DL, Georgia Tech) also looked fluid and solid, but it was expected that he would have a monster combine (4.66 in the 40). Many folks are questioning his heart. I could see this guy landing in New England and becoming an animal. He's really gifted physically, but that's just part of the puzzle.

- Aaron Maybin (PSU) has had a good combine too, but seems like a tweener ... he's trying to put on weight (15 pounds in 3 months or so). He might just wind up being a pass-rush specialist and third-down player.

- B.J. Raji (Boston College) is a big piece of meat. Didn't run the 40 well but did display good burst off the snap and quickness and quick, quick feet, which is more important for a big man.

- The other big man I really liked was Terrelle Taylor (Michigan). He's big and very strong. Perfect space eater, maybe a nose tackle. Not sure on that. 

- All of the USC players did well ... which makes me wonder if they were well-prepped for this event. I mentioned Kyle Moore ... Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews and the other linebacker, Kaluka Maiava, did fine. Rey Maualuga hurt his right leg on his first 40-yard dash and couldn't finish his workout, but he should still be a first-round pick.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to figure out when Aaron Curry would go off the draft board. The Chiefs would be nuts to pass on him at No. 3 as he could be a sack machine and a run stuffer for them, lining up all over the field. Scott Pioli won't pass on his versatile talents ... but I think the Rams might also take a long look at him as their defense has struggled and Steve Spagnuolo could really pull off some crazy schemes with Curry and DE Chris Long in his arsenal.

Bottom line: Curry will be playing ball in Missouri in 2009.

 
 
 
 
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