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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 23, 2009 10:43 am
Edited on: April 23, 2009 10:44 am
 

Second-annual 20-minute mock draft

My editor despises mock drafts. He thinks they're a waste of time. As I've gotten older, I've begun to agree with him. I mean, what's the point? To guess who a team will take? Most teams have no idea who they'll take unless they reach for someone. At least that's how it goes starting after the first few picks.

When I do a mock draft, I select players I WOULD TAKE if I were the club's GM. For that reason, I completely don't expect for my mock to look anything like the real NFL draft. I guess I do mine for fun.

I also follow the edict of my editor, which is "Finish it in 20 minutes or it doesn't belong on the site." He doesn't want me projecting offensive linemen and defensive backs all day, and I follow his reasoning since my primary job is to cover the Fantasy Football universe.

So expect minimal analysis from me here. The clock stars ... noww!

1. Detroit: Matthew Stafford, GB. OK, fine, this isn't who I would take here. I would take Jason Smith, OT. But since it's becoming increasingly clear that Stafford will be No. 1, I have to make him the pick. I don't love it for the Lions, at least right away.

2. St. Louis: Jason Smith, OT. Completely obvious.

3. Kansas City: Aaron Curry, LB. I want to go with Eugene Monroe here, but their defense needs so much help. Curry fits in as a key piece for the next several years.

4. Seattle: Eugene Monroe, OT. The Seahawks have too much need to splurge on a quarterback. Monroe makes Hasselbeck better.

5. Cleveland: Tyson Jackson, DE. The smoke screens do nothing to help the Browns land a 3-4 DE who can help against the run. They can address their offense later on.

6. Cincinnati: B.J. Raji, DT. Safe, run-stopping pick for Cincy. Marvin Lewis should get through to him.

7. Oakland: Michael Crabtree, WR. No brainer. Helps offense a lot.

8. Jacksonville: Brian Orakpo, DE. The Jaguars have so much invested in pass rushers already, but seeing Orakpo slip is too much for Jack Del Rio to ignore. His job is on the line this year and can't afford to take Mark Sanchez for the next coach in Jacksonville. Orakpo helps the pass rush more than last year's picks combined.

9. Green Bay: Everette Brown, DE. Simple, safe pick for the Packers' new 3-4 scheme.

10. San Francisco: Mark Sanchez, QB. Again, obvious. Might help them win this year, too.

11. Buffalo: Michael Oher, OT. I like him better than Andre Smith.

12. Denver: Brian Cushing, OLB. Helps in all areas defensively.

13. Washington: Andre Smith, OT. If they don't move up to grab Sanchez, they'll almost certainly address O-line.

14. New Orleans: Malcolm Jenkins, CB. I think this pick is rock solid, as in you can expect to see it Saturday.

15. Houston: Darius Butler, CB. The Texans go need over best player available, namely because the best players left are all at positions they have covered.

16. San Diego: Rey Maualuga, LB. Good for ticket sales, better for the defense.

17. N.Y. Jets: Jeremy Maclin, WR. Fits in well with special teams, getting Leon Washington to focus more on offense, and he can help stretch defenses.

18. Denver: Clay Matthews, OLB. Lookit! The Broncos took two USC teammates to shore up their LB corps. Should help push each other and accelerate their games on the next level.

19. Tampa Bay: Peria Jerry, DT. Obvious, assuming he lasts this long.

20. Detroit: Evander Hood, DT. Remember why the Titans defense was so good last year? Jim Schwartz does ...

21. Philadelphia: Knowshon Moreno, RB. We'll be drafting him in the first round in 2011.

22. Minnesota: Eben Britton, OT. Obvious.

23. New England: Aaron Maybin, OLB. Pats snatch up a guy who fell down the draft board.

24. Atlanta: Vontae Davis, CB. Takes best available DB.

25. Miami: Ron Brace, DT. Future of their D-line.

26. Baltimore: James Laurainitis, ILB. Ray Lewis' new buddy,

27. Indy: Alex Mack, C. Future of their O-line.

28. Buffalo: Robert Ayers, DE. They need a pass rush.

29. N.Y. Giants: Brian Robiskie, WR. Safest receiver in the draft behind Crabtree. Can contribute ASAP.

30. Tennessee: Brandon Pettigrew, TE. Best player available, kinda sorta fills a need. Bye Bye, Crump and Bo.

31. Arizona: Darrius Heyward Bey, WR. The offense keeps adding talent.

32. Pittsburgh: Alphonso Smith, CB. Gritty corner could play nickel in '09.

And look at that ... my 20 minutes are up!

Category: NFL
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: March 2, 2009 11:11 am
 

Fantasy Huddle: Maurice Jones-Drew

If you liked the story done on Maurice Jones-Drew, and you want to learn more about him, check out these pieces of our conversation. Some of this did make the final story, but I wanted to share this with you.

What's been the secret to being so consistent over the last three seasons?

"I really can't tell. I've been playing with the guys in front of me for three years, and that's helped. They know how I run and I know how they block, so our chemistry with that was great, though this past year was pretty tough. We were able to get some things going toward the end, which was cool. Even with a beat-up line, we were able to run the ball toward the end of the season. We started to figure some things out toward the end."

The last three games of the '08 season, you were virtually alone at RB. Other RBs had five other carries combined. How did you treat those last three games?

"It was like an audition to be the starter. They told me this was my chance and that I was the starter now, and I saw it as a great opportunity. Everything that I could do, I did. I think I played 65-to-70 snaps every game so I showed that I had the endurance and that I could go. I felt great and I tried to make the best out of it."

So with Taylor gone, what happens now?

"I'm about to be what I was in high school and college. Things don't change.

"It's funny, everybody thinks that the NFL is the highest level of football, which it is, but as a player, you grow with each level you get into. So when I was in Pop Warner, I wasn't the starter at first because I was just out there running around, bumping into people. And when I was leaving Pop Warner I'd hear, 'He's too small to play high school,' but at the same time I was faster than everybody and the team I was on was winning, we were scoring, I played defense and made All-Pop Warner League, but I still heard those whispers. 'He's too small, it's going to be too fast, there's no weight limit.' So then I go to high school and go on a team that never lost. We went 48-0 in high school, I was all-league, I played every year and it didn't change. But I heard it all again. 'Some guys are good in high school, most guys are bad. So when you go to college, everybody's going to be good. He can't be an every-down back in college because he's going to take too many hits.' So, I get there my rookie year and there are nine running backs, and somehow they either transfer or get injured and I end up starting the last six games and lead the team in rushing. I do that for three years running, but I still hear whispers. 'He's too small. Can he take the pounding all the time? Can he pass block? These guys he'll be going up against are great.' And it's crazy, but -- knock on wood -- if you look at the stats of any running back in the league, they miss games off of injuries because it's a physical position, but I haven't missed one yet. All these analysts, they think they know what's going on, but 99 percent of them haven't played football.

"The game has changed. You have different types of players now," he said. "It's not always these big running backs that are 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds. I mean, the receivers aren't even 6-foot-2 any more. Steve Smith is 5-foot-9. Cornerbacks are smaller, too. It's not about how big you are, it's about who can make plays, period. You could be two feet tall, but if they can't tackle you, give 'em the ball and let 'em run.
 
"That's what it ends up coming down to. Instead of everybody worrying about this typical size and this player has to be this and if he's not this then he can't take a beating. Actually, I think being smaller is better than being bigger because you're a smaller target. And football is a game of leverage -- the only guy in football who has leverage on me is Darren Sproles. Everybody tries to make excuses because they don't want to eat their own words, but that's what ends up happening when you go out and make statements.

"When they talk about Darren Sproles, it upsets me. This guy has played great. He comes in and wins games, period. He almost single-handedly won the Chargers' game against the Colts! LaDainian Tomlinson is a great running back but you can't deny Sproles for what he did. You can't deny a lot of people for what they do, and that's how it is. You can be Brandon Jacobs, who is 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, and make plays. That's what the league is starting to understand. When I first got here, you had to be 5-foot-10, 215-220 pounds to run the ball and anything smaller than that wasn't going to work."

Do you use this talk about your size as motivation?

"A little bit. That's been one thing, but getting drafted where I got drafted just because of my size, not because of my production, is very upsetting. I use it against every team we play. This next season I'll play the last of the 31 teams that passed on me. That might be the end of that motivation and I'll move on to something else."

Might you feel vindicated when you get paid like Sproles?

"No. It'll never change. My feeling is that your first impression will last a lifetime, and that goes for everybody who thought I couldn't play in the NFL. There's a reason why I went 60th overall, and that includes Jacksonville because they didn't figure I was good enough to go in the first round. That's how I feel. I don't think it'll ever go away. Maybe if I make the Hall of Fame, if I'm ever that lucky, it might. You just always have to have something to drive you.

"I know Sproles is upset because he's such a great running back. It's too bad people think that because his size, he can't be an every-down back. My thing with durability, I don't like that word. There's really been no one in this league who's been durable. If you think about it, every starter has missed games. Quarterbacks, too. It's hard, especially now with the nature of the game -- athletes are more physical. I guess it's the owner's way of not to pay you as much, try and find things to knock you down. They build you up in the draft and tell everybody why they drafted you, and then when it's time to go to contract, they tell everybody why you're not worth that money."

They can't tell you that if you negotiate now though

"Yeah, I guess so."

Do you want something done before the start of the season?

"I definitely would like something done before the start of the season, but it's not up to me. My agent is doing a great job of talking to them and it's up to them. That's what a lot of players have to understand -- all you can do is play and hopefully you stick with the team you started with, otherwise you just play for another team. It's part of the business. You can't take it personal, you just kind of have to go with the flow. That's why the NFL is nicknamed 'Not For Long.'"

How vital is it to the Jags offense that you’re utilized as a receiver out of the backfield often? Do you like that role?

"It's just another way for a defense to spend its time to try and cover me. My running back coach has done a great job with me. It's funny, my running back coach (Kennedy Pola) on the Jaguars recruited me out of high school to go to USC, and he's best friends with the RB coach I had at UCLA (Eric Bienemy). So when I got here, they talked about that all the time.

"Coach Bienemy wanted me to run the ball and routes were secondary and used to help receivers get open downfield. But coach Pola says 'Get open so we can get you the ball!' Doing some stuff with him, working on my routes and getting things right, he taught me how to run receiving routes, it helps a bunch because now if defenses load up eight or nine in the box, they can put me out at wideout. It's been fun, I think it's great.

"I don't think it will go away. I just hope it grows and they become more comfortable with me being out there at wideout and do whatever I can do to help this team win. I'm open for anything right now."

Jacksonville’s picking 8th, and some people out there think you guys need a QB, which is laughable. What do you see as the club’s biggest need with the pick?

"I don't know if we have any left tackles on our roster right now. Barnes is a free agent and our other tackle is the one who got shot. You never know. It depends on how they feel. I know this -- they want to pick the best character and talent guy at that pick."

You follow UCLA football? What can you tell me about Kahlil Bell?

"Kahlil played with me. I think he's a hard runner, he can catch, and from what I remember, he's a guy who wants to go out there and play. He loves the game. So hopefully he gets to a team where they're going to give him an opportunity because he'll make the best of it. He had some tough years -- he got cut from UCLA for a minute and has gotten hurt. He'll have to learn to play through the injuries, that's one thing you have to do in the NFL. A lot of guys don't do it, but you can't be like everybody else."

Didn't you have a sprained knee in that last game of the year against the Ravens?

"Sure did. I tell you, you gotta play the game. It's just like any job -- if you get sick of the job, you're still going to go to work unless you're real, real sick. So with footbal, you're going to play unless you're real, real hurt. That's how I see it. Your body will heal and you'll be all right if you do the right things, and if you don't, you won't."

How would you feel if the Jaguars brought in another running back to split time with you in 2009?

"It would tell me that they don't believe (in me), but there's nothing I can do about it. All I can do is go out there and play as hard as I can and show them that I work hard and I'm willing to do it. If you feel I'm not ready, that's your opinion and I'll just do what you ask. I really don't try to cause any commotion about those things."

Anything else you want people out there to know about you or your game?

"I'm a man at ease off the field. On the field, I kind of play like a man with his hair on fire. Two different personalities, I guess. I don't know how it happened, I guess something clicks right before a game and I just turn into somebody totally different, and then when a game is over, I kind of come back to peace."

 

Category: NFL
Posted on: February 26, 2009 9:56 am
 

Moss Brothers: Dare to Dream

We take a break from our regularly-scheduled Fantasy Football advice to bring a good cause to your attention.

Beginning this weekend, Miami Hurricane alums Santana Moss and Sinorice Moss will hold their "Dare to Dream" event for their joint charity in South Florida. It's a three-day extravaganza that includes a cocktail social and autograph sessionon South Beach, a celebrity golf tournament, and the coup de gras, a Brazilian Steak Rodizio dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Chima , in Ft. Lauderdale.

It's so good, in fact, that I'm going. And if you're in South Florida, you should too.

Joining the party at the restaurant this Tuesday are fellow Miami Hurricanes Edgerrin James, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Clinton Portis, Kenny Phillips, Kareem Brown and Glenn Sharpe. Also appearing: Dwayne Bowe, Quinn Gray and Adewale Ogunleye.

Anyone who attends the dinner event and says hi will get a surprise. Here's a hint: It's something you'll desperately want if you play on CBSSports.com.

For more information on this event, please visit Santana Moss' official Web site . Thank you.

 

 

 

Category: NFL
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com