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Fantasy Football: Tim Wright Traded to the Patriots

Arizona Cardinals v Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As somewhat of a general rule for this time of year, it’s important we remind ourselves not to buy-in to everything we see and hear when it comes to the NFL preseason. But as fantasy owners, nearly every move requires some sort of due diligence, as we poke and prod for every piece of info or analysis that may or may not be relevant to our upcoming path to league dominance (or something like that).

On Tuesday afternoon, one of those said moves occurred, as the the New England Patriots traded veteran guard Logan Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a future fourth-round draft pick and tight end Tim Wright.

Judging by a very unofficial Twitter gauge, there were three types of responses to the move…

  1. It floats beneath the radar simply because, despite Mankins being a big name, he himself is not a fantasy producer.
  2. It helps Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin’s draft stock now that the Bucs’ offensive line has been upgraded.
  3. It requires I dig into Tim Wright and find out what kind of player he can be in New England.

While I agree with each of those reactions, I fall mostly into the latter category, acknowledging that a Patriots tight end is usually a person of interest and a situation certainly worth exploring (at least a little bit).

You might remember Wright from a season ago, when the undrafted rookie scored 14 points in Week 4, only to post double-digit totals in seven of his next 11 games and finish as the 16th-ranked tight end in PPR formats.

Listed at 6’4″, 220 pounds and a former wide receiver at Rutgers, Wright totes the size and athleticism necessary to be an effective move tight end, which the Patriots offense didn’t have before Tuesday. Clearly Rob Gronkowski, assuming good health, is the No. 1 option on offense, but Wright gives Bill Belichick another sizable figure who can lineup in the slot and generate mismatches.

It’s difficult to forecast Wright’s production in 2014 for a few reasons, including a new offense, only his second season in the league, and the chance that his rookie year was a massive outlier. But as a typical fantasy owner, there’s a handful of (brief) pieces I’m weighing here.

Last Season’s Foundation

Again, I can’t help but take note of Wright’s production last season and his ultimate finish as the 16th-ranked tight end in PPR formats. His quarterback was Mike Glennon, the Tampa Bay offense as a whole was atrocious, and somehow he still posted decent numbers.

Make of it what you will, but Wright finished as a top-10 tight end five different times, a top-4 tight end three different times, and the No. 1 tight end in Week 15 (typically the fantasy playoffs/championship).

Wright wound up hauling in better than 72 percent of his 66 targets in essentially 13 games of action, racking up 513 yards and four scores. There has to be some sort of love there considering he’ll be on the other end of Brady’s passes now, right?

The Tom Brady Effect

Far from a revelation, but Tom Brady can get more out of his pass-catchers than a majority of other quarterbacks in the NFL. Maybe you want to call it the Belichick Effect, or the New England Effect — it doesn’t matter. History shows that relative no-namers can become household names by working with any combination of the sort.

Surroundings

I’m a believer in a change of scenery/situation and its effect on players, so Wright landing in New England provides room for optimism for a couple of reasons.

  • Belichick’s at least a little bit interested. And he loves Rutgers alumni.
  • Wright has gone from undrafted, to Tampa’s leading tight end, to being traded to one of the most respected organizations in all of football. Not only could his confidence receive a jolt, but how about the fire beneath him to take advantage of the opportunity?
  • This trade comes only a short while after Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith referred to Wright and his preseason performance thus far, saying, “He hasn’t played as well as Tim should be playing. He’s dropped some balls…Tim hasn’t blocked as well inside…Once you’re that H-back and you don’t block, now they say you’re just another receiver…”
  • Tapping the Tom Brady Effect one last time — he’s a master at spreading the ball around. A healthy Gronk will get his grabs, as will Shane Vereen out of the backfield, and Julian Edelman out of the slot. But there’s catches for Wright to make too.

Consistency

What I would be concerned with, however, is Wright’s consistency in the New England offense.

Although I don’t prefer to reference his rookie season in this specific example, it’s hard to ignore Wright’s see-saw production for the better part of the year. While the nine-target games were great, Wright also logged outings in which he only saw one or two passes come his way.

It’s not impossible of course, but labeling Wright a more consistent option now that he’s in New England doesn’t seem like the safest of bets.

Time and Adjustment

Speaking of which, we shouldn’t expect overnight production from Wright. He’ll need a chance to get acquainted and learn the offense before contributing.

Cost and Relative Risk

From a cost perspective, Wright’s current ADP doesn’t even show within the first 13 rounds, according to Fantasy Football Calculator, making him a bargain bin grab at the tail-end of your respective draft.

Because no one is expecting him to light the world on fire, we can keep Wright as a late-round option, yet prepare for the natural climb in ADP based off last season’s numbers and his new situation up north.

And as we all know, risk is attached to cost. If you’re participating in a dyno league or already have your re-draft roster set, clearing room for Wright isn’t exactly necessary at this point. But if you have the room, or you can drop a do-nothing lost-hopeful without shedding a tear, Wright is worth the fly.

 

RG3 Needs to Stop Fueling the Doubters

Robert Griffin III 3

“He wants everybody to love Robert, and that’s not going to be the case at the quarterback position.”

That was Redskins head coach Jay Gruden earlier this offseason talking about his quarterback, Robert Griffin III. And with yet another one of Griffin’s social media posts making national headlines, the quote makes entirely too much sense.

Following the Redskins preseason game against the Cleveland Browns last Monday night, Griffin posted to his Twitter account, informing fans that he’ll continue to work on getting down at the end of runs and avoiding those big hits.

Griffin was referring to the game that happened just a few hours prior, where he’d scramble from the pocket looking to make a play, only to finish it with an awkward leg-bending slide, or simply hurling his body into a group of defenders like a pinball and hoping his head remained intact.

Over the next day or so, fans poured in, sending Griffin simple responses — some good, some bad, some praise, and lots of criticism (apparently).

That’s the way social media works. But that’s not necessarily the way Griffin would like his social media to work. The feedback sparked the quarterback’s emotions, leading him to address the reaction he received with (yeah) another tweet.

This isn’t anything new with Griffin, either. We’ve seen similar actions from the quarterback before. We used to say he was young and maturing as a professional athlete, but at 24 years old and entering his third NFL season, that excuse has almost completely fallen by the wayside. It’s now a question of whether Griffin has the skin thick enough to survive a highly-critical fan base — or what some may refer to as “doubters”.

Local radio shows field callers with questions like, “Why is this guy so insecure?”, “Why is he so worried about what a few couch quarterbacks have to say?” and “If this dude is so sensitive on social media, how’s he going to be a successful NFL quarterback?” All valid points.

I’m a Redskins fan, which means Griffin has my unwavering support. As is the case with any player on my hometown team — keep your nose clean off the field, work hard, and I’m as loyal as they come. I appreciate Griffin’s competitiveness, I admire his athleticism, and I firmly believe he has what it takes to be a really good NFL quarterback. But fanboy I am not. Despite his cannon for an arm, his track-star speed, and his franchise smile, I recognize the flaws.

Internalize

 

Michael Jordan was one of many athletes, both past and present, that had the unique ability to internalize and produce. Even as the greatest basketball player in the world, Jordan wasn’t foreign to criticism, negativity or hate. The difference with him, however, is that he received it, stored it, and then used it the following game, helping his team win while carving out a double-digit streak of triple-double performances.

That’s not to say Griffin is on the level of Jordan, of course. Or that he ever will be, for that matter. But for the sake of argument, here’s Jordan — undeniably one of the best to ever do it — still drawing rude responses from tons of basketball fans.

The glaring difference between the sports world of today and the sports world of when Jordan played — for all intents and purposes — is social media. Although we’d like to think Jordan wasn’t the type to take to Facebook and put his haters on alert that he was about to drop 69 points — perhaps he would have if the platform was available? Jordan certainly didn’t lack the confidence to trash talk, but would that really be his style — to talk his stuff away from the hardwood and behind a keyboard?

Again, the point here isn’t to compare Griffin and Jordan as players, or to argue who left what kind of mark on what game, or even to discuss the accessibility of today’s modern athlete. The point is to compare their professionalism. Jordan was the greatest — you either loved him, or loved to hate him. He didn’t feed in to the bullshit and he let his game do the talking.

Recency Bias

 

What if the Redskins hadn’t traded with the St. Louis Rams in 2012 in order to move up in the draft and land Robert Griffin III with the No. 2-overall pick? What if instead, the Redskins stayed put and somehow felt confident Griffin would fall into their lap at No. 6, all while not having to spend another couple of future first-round picks in the process?

There was an obvious market for the Heisman Trophy winner, so unlikely scenario, yes. Point is, the Redskins paid a lot to draft Griffin — a king’s ransom in most opinions.

The Redskins didn’t necessarily make the wrong move in setting their sights on a quarterback they fancy in a pass-driven league and using the ammo they had to go up and get him. But the cost to do so was public. Both Washington fans and Washington haters alike saw what the team paid to move up, in turn increasing the expectations of the almighty RG3.

And at first, he delivered. Griffin led an incredibly entertaining Redskins offense to their first playoff appearance in forever, earning Rookie of the Year honors along the way, and thus increasing the hype.

An ACL repair and one disappointing sophomore campaign later, and football fans are here to question whether Griffin is good enough.

Thing is, a majority of fans have very little patience for the way an injury effects a player’s performance, and even less regarding a player’s recovery. Fans don’t care that Griffin’s 2013 campaign was more about the marred relationship between he and his head coach, a bulky knee brace, or getting comfortable stepping into his throws despite the fear of a 300-pound lineman falling at his recently-reconstructed knee. By and large, that’s not how sports fans operate.

Recency bias is a real thing, and football fans have it. When Griffin struggled throughout 2013 with nearly every part of his game, fans didn’t think back to 2012 and further understand Griffin’s rush recovery from a brutal injury. They looked back at 2012 and assumed it was a fluke. And perhaps even more so, they remembered back to April 2012 when the Redskins traded the farm to move up and draft this guy who maybe isn’t all that good after all.

I’d be willing to bet those guys and gals make up a large part of the “doubters” crowd.

The Marketable Athlete

 

Adidas. Subway. Gatorade. Nissan. EA Sports. Castrol Motor Oil?

Even if you’re not a sports fan, catching a bit of television over the past few years means you’ve probably seen RG3. He has hefty endorsement deals with everyone from sandwich conglomerates, to automobile manufacturers, to engine oil producers. He’s out there.

Marketable athletes who crave the limelight and welcome the attention with open arms are doing so to 1.) increase their popularity and, as a result 2.) benefit financially. Griffin is no exception. But with an increased presence, more exposure, and added appearances, Griffin’s not only upping his recognition, but also expanding the crowd that dislikes him, hates him, and in some cases, despises him.

We’re all guilty of it, right? Sometimes people in the media annoy us. While some people love Charles Barkley and his commentary, other’s loathe the overweight bald guy with the goofy Southern drawl. As much as some people enjoyed Peyton Manning chanting, “Chop. That. Meat” in those brilliant Visa commercials, others found him to be the biggest goob on the planet and couldn’t stand the size of his forehead.

So yes, as Griffin’s popularity grows, so does his following; and a larger following then provides the chance for an even larger group to dislike you. It comes with the territory.

Remember that cliche saying involving having your cake and eating it too? Yeah, that applies here. Griffin can’t expect to put himself smack dab in the middle of the brightest lights and expect everyone to like him.

Creating Pressure

 

Every time Griffin takes to Facebook, every time he spawns a new hashtag, every time he’s featured in a bad ass ad that has him looking like a centaur in an Adidas shirt and chucking footballs, the pressure mounts for RG3 the superstar.

And that’s before the natural pressure.

The natural pressure is that of being a professional athlete. But not just any professional athlete — the professional athlete playing the most popular position in the nation’s most popular sport for the one of the world’s most popular sport franchises. Tough stuff.

Yet Griffin doesn’t stop. And maybe it has something to do with the mindless competitiveness that’s ingrained in him as not only an athlete, but also as a person. Perhaps he’s just as competitive in the field of endorsements and wanting to be popular as he is on the actual field of play.

Not a flaw in itself really, but a trait that can make things tough. Especially when moving at the rate of which Griffin’s career did — from dynamic Heisman Trophy winner to poster boy NFL Rookie of the Year.

Celebrity status is also a natural occurrence — a simple example being a guy like Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson who was drafted in the middle rounds, fought for the starting quarterback job, and wound up winning a Lombardi trophy. That sort of thing will make you popular whether you like it or not. Pressure certainly builds, but it’s because you set your bar by way of doing your job very, very well.

The difference in Griffin’s case, however, is that when you seek that celebrity status, you’re putting the pressure on yourself. You’re setting your bar based off words and (in this case) tweets. It’s not the natural sort of celebrity. You’re raising the expectations of yourself and people will try their hardest to hold you to it.

It’s obviously a lot easier for me to say considering I’m sitting behind a computer screen and very much not a professional athlete. But my word of wisdom in this case would be something along the lines of: playing quarterback in the NFL is hard enough by itself that you don’t need to invite the unnecessary weight and place it on your own shoulders.

Getting a Rise

 

Griffin may be incredibly fast, but he’ll never be able to outrun the trolls.

Internet trolls. They’re as real as you and I. I have no idea if they fit a certain description, but I’d assume they’re like the aliens from the Men in Black movies (I only saw the first one) with the ability to easily blend in with the crowd, ultimately infiltrating and walking among our sweet and ever-so-friendly population.

I also don’t know how they operate, or what their theory on life is, or how one grows up to be an internet troll. But I do know one thing — I know that they feed off response. I assumed Griffin would know this too.

The key, though, is that trolls don’t necessarily die if you don’t feed them. They still come around, they’ll still shoot you evil messages, call your wife ugly, criticize the way you do your job, send crude pictures, etc. But not feeding them helps you in more ways than one. And who knows — maybe after a while of not throwing out the bait, the trolls get bored, take the hint, and stop coming around.

Trolls hit up Griffin on social media because they know they’ll get a response rise out of him.

Again, it’s a mystery as to how anyone gets off on stuff like that, but people trolls do. Just gotta let ‘em be.

If Griffin really wants to silence the doubters, he needs to do so without saying anything. Otherwise, and until then, calling out the “doubters” with words as lame as their own won’t do anything but fuel the fire that apparently really, really pulls at him.

Like the head coach said, not everyone’s going to love Robert. But if he plays ball and plays it well, the other stuff he craves will naturally fall into place.

 

Fantasy Football: Wading Through a 12-Team Standard Draft

Kenny Stills

The fine folks at Gridiron Experts and myself recently finished the fantasy draft for our yearly staff league. And because I’m quite the nerd, I always find it interesting to read about draft results and the way specific fantasy owners tackled the process. I can only assume hope there are others out there just like me — in which case the following blabber jabber will be of interest.

To set the scene for the GX 2014 Staff League:

  • 12 teams
  • Standard scoring
  • Re-draft
  • 16 roster spots
  • Weekly starting lineups consisting of – (1) QB, (2) RB, (2) WR, (1) TE, (1) FLEX, (1) PK, (1) DEF

Also a quick note about yours truly — as much as I’d like to think of myself as a versatile fantasy drafter, I’m not willing to wear that badge. Not that I’m saying that as an excuse for my team makeup, but more so to the point that drafting for a non-PPR format for the first time in years reminds you just how different the process is for each game.

But enough with the mushy stuff. Here’s how I fared with the No. 9-overall pick through 16 rounds, with a brief word on each pick.

1.09 – Demaryius Thomas, WR

As one who always seems to draw the late pick in 12- and 14-team league drafts, I’m accustomed to snagging Dez Bryant somewhere in the 9-14 range — and he was in fact available. Some of it may have had to do with divying up my rooting interest (a selfish ploy, I’ll admit), but Demaryius Thomas is certainly no schlub. Not only is Peyton Manning the distributor of all distributors, but Thomas is coming off a 1,430-yard, 14-touchdown season and is likely in store for even more targets this season (142 in ’13) with Eric Decker having taken his talents to the Big Apple.

An ordinary pick and by the book, but exciting nonetheless.

2.04 – Le’Veon Bell, RB

It didn’t take long before feeling the pressure to snag a running back with my second-overall pick. Although Le’Veon Bell may be a little more attractive in PPR formats, those receiving yards still count. Is there slight concern with LeGarrette Blount getting the goal line carries? Eh, maybe. But not enough to scare me away at this point.

The only other position I would consider drafting in this spot is wide receiver. But I always, always, always take into account the cost of a player relative to his position. I weighed the potential drop-off of both running back and wide receiver between my pick here at 2.04 and the next time I’m on the clock (17 picks from now), ultimately preferring what’s to be available at wide receiver as opposed to running back.

UPDATE — 8/21/2014 — According to reports, Le’Veon Bell was stopped on Tuesday afternoon with 20 grams of green in his Chevy Camaro. To make matters worse, Bell was taken to the hospital to have his blood drawn. If tests reveal marijuana in Bell’s system, he could be charged for driving under the influence, at which point he could face the league’s substance abuse policy. The fun part? Backup running back LeGarrette Blount was riding shotgun. Hooray!

3.09 – Jordan Cameron, TE

This is a reach for Jordan Cameron, as his current ADP is somewhere around 5.12, but it was a reach I didn’t mind taking. He’s a top-5 producer at his position, and a guy we’d be talking about as an easy third-rounder if the quarterback situation in Cleveland were different.

Not that anyone requires convincing, but Cameron is also set to play amongst a very mediocre Browns pass-catching unit. With Josh Gordon’s suspension looming, we’re looking at Cameron as the No. 1 receiving and redzone option, with Hamstring Austin and Andrew Hawkins a good distance behind him.

4.04 – Joique Bell, RB

Landing Joique Bell in the fourth is arguably my favorite selection of my entire draft class. At the time, I had options in terms of receiver, but with running back as thin as it is and Bell serving as a large blip on the pre-draft radar, the Lions running back was the easy play.

There were other running backs too, of course. Frank Gore was hanging around, as was rookie Bishop Sankey, PPR-dude Shane Vereen, and Ben Tate — none of which gave me the warm and fuzzies like Bell does.

Fantasy Football Calculator says I drafted Bell about a round too soon based on his 5.06 ADP, but it didn’t feel like a reach at all. There was little chance I’d have my choice from guys like Sankey, Tate, and Ray Rice 17 picks later, and I couldn’t see myself passing on a guy who has a good chance at leading his team in carries this season.

5.09 – DeSean Jackson, WR

Turning my attention back to receiver, DeSean Jackson has the homerun ability that standard-scoring novices such as myself look for in their players. Will DJax duplicate his production from a season ago? Nah. But assuming Robert Griffin III gets the hang of things, Jackson will be a large part of the offense in Washington.

6.04 – Terrance Williams, WR

The trend is becoming noticeable at this point. When I have my sights set on a guy, yet I’m stuck with the early pick in every other round, I tend to reach for said guy because I don’t feel he’ll be there more than a dozen picks later. Terrance Williams falls into that category as well, as his current ADP in standard scoring formats puts him somewhere in the latter part of the seventh-round.

Another trend that begins here is my desire to nab large pass-catchers. DeSean Jackson being the exception, I’m going after guys who provide 1.) a large catch radius, 2.) the ability to generate mismatches, and 3.) redzone target opportunities. With the Cowboys expected to sling the pigskin, and Dez Bryant seeing more than his fair share of double-teams, the 6’2″ Williams fits the criteria.

Here’s to hoping Tony Romo’s spine remains intact.

7.09 – Jordan Reed, TE

He has the potential to be a top-5 player at his position, which, admittedly so, depends on two relatively shaky accords — his durability, and the Redskins’ quarterback play.

I say shaky because Reed has experienced his fair share of bumps since college, while the local media does more than enough to have everyone second guessing RG3 and his development after only two preseason games.

Despite just nine games last season as a rookie, Reed averaged better than six targets per game, hauling in 45 catches for nearly 500 yards and three scores. Now assume better health in 2014, as well as improved quarterback play and see what the production forecast lands you. Quite impressive.

Reed is one of the most athletic tight ends in the NFL, he fits the bill of a large (6’2″) redzone target for his team, the FLEX position allows me to start both he and another tight end together, and I’m fully onboard for his breakout sophomore season.

8.04 – Mike Evans, WR

I thought about going Kelvin Benjamin for volume, then Eric Decker for touchdowns, only to have them both snagged in succession with the two picks before me.

I reached here. But as much as everyone talks about Benjamin being the favorite for top-rookie wideout in 2014 (and for good reason given that expected volume), I can’t help but feel like Mike Evans is being overlooked. He too is a large wideout (6’5″) with insane athleticism, an impressive catch radius, and undoubtedly talented enough to make his own run at Rookie of the Year. Not to mention, Evans is playing alongside a far more threatening receiver in Vincent Jackson with a veteran quarterback in Josh McCown who’s used to throwing footballs at large moving targets.

Who else did I like here in this range? I dunno — Fred Jackson maybe? But is it insane to think Evans is the No. 2 in Tampa Bay and finishes the year with at least 600 yards and a half dozen touchdowns? I don’t think so.

9.09 – Terrance West, RB

You could call this alumni bias and I’d totally take the rap for it, but who out there hasn’t been impressed with rookie Terrance West so far? Or better yet, hasn’t thought about whether or not he could be the lead back in Cleveland?

See? Exactly. Me too. So landing him here in the ninth-round felt great. I needed more backfield help anyway, and I’m an ordinary Ben Tate injury away from seeing West bumped into the starting role.

(Note: <3 Ben Tate)

10.04 – Riley Cooper, WR

Are you tall? Check.
Do you catch footballs? Check.
Are you capable of hauling in touchdowns? Check.
Do you like peanut butter? Check.

Riley Cooper passes the test for this team, he’s in a high-powered Philadelphia offense, and I think he flirts with a double-digit touchdown total in 2014.

…who doesn’t love peanut butter?

11.09 – Kenny Stills, WR

Okay, okay, okay. I know I said Joique Bell was my favorite draft pick of the class, but Kenny Stills isn’t far behind. And when you weigh the cost, well, Stills might have the edge.

As always, there’s plenty of pass-catchers in New Orleans. The good news, however, is that Drew Brees cranks out anywhere between 600 and a million passes a year. Stills put up nice numbers (32/641/5) as a rookie last season and was the Saints’ top deep threat (20.0 YPC). Take away Lance Moore and Darren Sproles, move in Stills and rookie Brandin Cooks, and I like the chances of increased production for Stills in 2014.

Names like Marques Colston, Jimmy the Great, and even Cooks are more prominent in New Orleans right now. But it’s the other, other receiver in Stills presenting the best fantasy value this season.

12.04 – Tyler Eifert, TE

/slowly stands up amongst group of middle-aged men wearing sports jerseys

“Hello. My name is Shae, and I’m a fantasy football tight end hoarder.”

*group in unison* “Hi, Shae.”

I love the FLEX position in starting lineups because I love the option of starting dual tight ends. I’m sure there’s something out there saying you shouldn’t rely on two tight ends and why it’s always best to use a running back or receiver in that spot. Or maybe there’s not. Either way, I thoroughly enjoy doing it.

Although Tyler Eifert is probably more attractive in dynasty league formats, I figured him a steal this late in the draft. I understand new Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson’s track record with tight ends isn’t exactly astonishing, but here’s to hoping he adapts when #blessed with someone as talented as Eifert.

Oh yeah — and another mammoth pass-catcher (6’6″) who should see plenty of redzone action thrown into the mix.

13.09 – Lance Dunbar, RB

I was thoroughly surprised to see Lance Dunbar last this long. I know we all expect the Cowboys to throw a lot, and we all know DeMarco Murray as the bell cow/lead back, but new offensive coordinator Scott Linehan doesn’t shy away from two-headed backfields. In fact, Jason La Canfora of NFL.com even tweeted that Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett saw Murray as the “leader of the committee”.

So yeah — I’ll take the other part of that so-called committee in the thirteenth-round. Expect Dunbar to see plenty of action relative to his dirt cheap cost.

14.04 – Ben Roethlisberger, QB

In addition to collecting tight ends, I also enjoy streaming quarterbacks. I waited until the bitter end to spend a draft pick on one, and had (what I believe to be) a decent selection between Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, Ryan Tannehill, Andy Dalton, and Joe Flacco (in that order based off personal ranking / preference).

Why Big Ben? Because I think he can be a productive QB1 in Todd Haley’s system, he’s in good shape at the ripe age of 32, and I’m a firm believer in the heavy no-huddle offense we saw the Steelers use so effectively to close out last season (check out this article by Jarrett Bell of USA Today).

15.09 - Justin Tucker, K

Only because the starting lineup requires it. And if I’m going to take a kicker, having Justin Tucker’s boot ain’t too shabby.

Also, it was Justin Tucker who buried a 61-yard field goal with 38 seconds left to play against the Detroit Lions in Week 15 last year that nudged my opponent past me for my dynasty league championship. And that was after he had put away a 29-, 24-, 32-, 49-, and 53-yarder in the 59 minutes prior.

Hell hath no fury like a fantasy owner scorned.

16.04 – Eagles DEF

The only position I stream more often than quarterbacks is defenses. From week-to-week, the team changes based on what the waiver wire has to offer, some Vegas lines (shout out to the very talented C.D. Carter), and your typical gut feel.

The Eagles open the season hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars (who I actually root for quite often) and should be heavy favorites in that game — a plus in the world of streaming.

If anyone is interested, my close second streamer in Week 1 is Chicago (who hosts Buffalo) followed by Kansas City (who hosts Tennessee), and wrapped up with the New York Jets (who host Oakland).

A Few Other Notes that Don’t Mean Much, If Anything At All

  • Average height of pass-catchers (WR + TE): 6’2″ (mission accomplished)
  • I graduated from Towson University. Terrance West is one of the best to ever play at Towson. Yes, that plays a role in trying to roster him in every one of my leagues this year.
  • When I say I like Joique Bell and Kenny Stills this season, I mean I really like Joique Bell and Kenny Stills this season. And you should too at their current bargain bin price. Buying low and selling high is the name of the game.
  • Another benefit to drafting Big Ben is that his bye week doesn’t come until Week 12. The downside with Big Ben, however, is that he’ll face some pretty tough defenses through the first three quarters of the season (CLE, BAL, CAR, TB, JAX, CLE, HOU, IND, BAL, NYJ, TEN).
  • Le’Veon Bell and his apparent love for the reefer could really screw me.
  • I’m crossing my fingers on Eifert. Not because I gave up a lot to draft him (hardly anything, really), but I feel like he can be a dominant tight end in this league given the targets. Hue Jackson may like to run the ball more than he passes it, but not every coordinator is some stubborn jerk face who’s stuck in his ways and doesn’t recognize great talent when he has it, thus refusing to install plays/looks/concepts that cater to said talent. I believe in you, Hue.
  • My team name is the “Jolly Jay Grudens”.

5 NFL Rookies Worth Stashing on Your Dynasty Team in 2014

Jarvis Landry

Even in fantasy football, the saying rings true — there is in fact always next year.

The process is a little different, however, depending on your league format. In your standard redraft, maybe you’re nowhere near sniffing the playoffs with a 2-7 record and you’re already hoping for a draft pick better than 12th next summer. We’ve all been there.

But how about dynasty leagues? There’s still always next season, but you’re in a much different seat. Does your team need a sudden jolt, or a complete rebuild? Do you need to skim over Fantasy Football Rankings a little closer next season, or put your league fee to better use?

Whether you’re king of the dyno castle, or a floundering manager focused primarily on finding the best Fantasy Football Team Names 2014, stashing guys for the future is never a bad idea.

Here’s a look at a handful of rookie names who may not give you much this season, but are well worth the patient hoarding for 2015 and forward.

Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami

You may be able to start with Jarvis Landry on your taxi squad, but I’m not sure how long you’ll be able to keep him there. For now, the Dolphins are working with Brandon Gibson as their starting slot receiver, but he’s far from a world-beater. Landry, on the other hand, is arguably the toughest receiver in Miami — even as a rookie — and all signs point to him contending for time (and catches) early on.

An injury at the combine resulting in a disappointing 40-yard dash dropped Landry’s stock a bit (late-second round), but he was a steal for quarterback Ryan Tannehill and this new offense under coordinator Bill Lazor — who served as the quarterback coach under Chip Kelly in Philadelphia last season, helping craft an offense that finished the season ranked second in yards, and fourth in scoring.

Landry was one of my top-rated receivers heading into the draft last season, so you won’t catch me doubting his ability or potential contribution right off the bat. The key for his production in 2014, though, will come from winning out the position in camp and solidifying himself as the No. 1 slot guy.

The anticipated development and progress of Tannehill wouldn’t hurt matters either.

Lazor’s offense should spread the ball around, but we still have to account for Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, tight end Charles Clay, and any sort of hands out of the backfield. It’s a pass-catching situation that could build up thick.

At worst, Landry doesn’t edge out Gibson for the starting spot and you hang onto him for next season. Best — Landry does land the starting gig and you have a strong rookie in PPR formats. The latter of which is very possible.

Robert Herron, WR, Tampa Bay

If you don’t know much about Robert Herron, you’re likely not in the minority. After playing his college ball at Wyoming, the 5’9″ receiver stuck around until the sixth round of the draft before the Bucs finally took a late stab.

None of that, however, should push you away from Herron’s current stock price.

According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Herron is dirt cheap with an ADP that doesn’t even register, as he doesn’t crack the top-16 wide receivers in dynasty rookie drafts. But in a legitimate battle for targets behind both Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, Herron comes with relatively decent upside given his current going rate.

Brandon Coleman, WR, New Orleans

Once upon time, Brandon Coleman wowed us as a 6’6″ sophomore at Rutgers.

A disappointing junior season and torn meniscus later, and Coleman wound up as an undrafted free agent in New Orleans currently fighting for a roster spot.

As Coleman continues to piece together a strong camp after struggling during spring OTAs, the Saints’ receiver position remains one of the more crowded spots on the roster. But when discussed in terms of stashing, there’s a lot to like about Coleman, including his insane size, and the fact that he landed with a high-powered offense led by a creative mind like Sean Payton

Names like Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Kenny Stills, and rookie Brandin Cooks likely make the final roster a tough challenge for Coleman this season. Let him take on a taxi squad spot in 2014 and check back on him heading into next year.

John Brown, WR, Arizona

I know, I know — with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, where are the Cardinals finding all these balls to go around?

Better question — how long before we really start acknowledging the buildup surrounding third-round pick, John Brown?

According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Brown barely makes a blip on the radar (3.09) as the last-ranked rookie wide receiver in dynasty drafts, but that’s sure to increase as we move closer to the regular season.

I haven’t seen a rookie come in and do what he’s done — and it’s early still — since Anquan Boldin. This guy came through the first day, and being from Pittsburg State, has uncanny instincts, unbelievable understanding of route concepts, leverage, being in the right spot at the right time. On top of great ball skills, he has unusual speed and explosiveness.

Cardinals GM Steve Keim

Again, barring injury, Brown will have his work cut out for him trying carve out catches behind Fitz and Floyd. But he’s arguably the next best receiver on the Cardinals roster at this point (Tedd Ginn?) and he comes with good upside.

Dri Archer, RB/WR, Pittsburgh

Two of the most common questions regarding Dri Archer heading into the draft had to do with 1.) his durability and 2.) where he fits in the NFL.

Because no one can predict injuries, we can skip over No. 1 and collectively recognize the 5’8″, 173-pound Archer as perhaps more of the fragile athlete.

As for No. 2 — that’s precisely what fantasy owners are interested in.

If we’re talking about Archer as a running back, then finding carries behind Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount won’t be easy. Not to mention, that whole durability concern will be magnified.

The Steelers depth chart doesn’t get much easier at wide receiver either, as Antonio Brown leads the crew with guys like Markus Wheaton and Lance Moore complementing.

Simply put, it’s hard to bank on specialty players like Archer — the guys that provide an offense with a homerun spark, but aren’t consistent enough from a production standpoint to warrant us much in terms of fantasy output. But if Archer shows out enough, offensive coordinator Todd Haley won’t have much of a choice but to get the ball into Archer’s hands by way of designed plays and formations.

Smoke or fire? It’s too early to tell. But Archer’s ADP (3.06) should continue to rise, and he’s a worth a taxi spot to find out.

Reports: Kevin Durant Close to Massive $325 Million Endorsement Deal with Under Armour

Kevin Durant Redskins 2

The dream of Kevin Durant returning to Washington, DC is still alive and well — just in case anyone was checking.

The latest puzzle piece to nestle into place? The rumor that Durant will be moving on from his longtime partnership with Nike to sign an incredibly massive $325 million endorsement deal with Under Armour.

And the rub? Under Armour headquarters is located in Durant’s home state of Maryland.

Will I continue to feed this monster? Yes I will — ’til the summer of ’16 when KD is donning a fly-ass Wizards jersey.

Grading the Wizards’ 2014 NBA Summer League Stay

Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr.

Some fans enjoy the NBA summer league. Others hate it.

If I had to guess, I’d say a majority tend to lean toward the “hate it” side. Why? Lots of reasons, really. But things like “sloppy play”, “who the hell is this kid?”, and “is that so-and-so’s brother’s nephew’s cousin?” probably top the list.

Anyway, the conclusion of the Las Vegas summer league (congrats, Sacramento?) means another chapter of the NBA offseason in the books, which then gives us the opportunity to hand out praise and criticism to our beloved Washington Wizards for their two-week layover in Sin City.

Here’s a look at the good and bad from Washington’s summer league stay.

Cool

  • Although it’s really what should’ve happened for the Wizards this summer given each guys’ time spent on the roster last season, both Glen Rice Jr. and Otto Porter Jr. impressed in their six games in Vegas. Rice averaged 25 points per game and won summer league MVP (hardware!), while Porter chipped in with 19 and nearly six rebounds a game. One could breakdown each guy’s play, game-by-game, but the most noticeable takeaway from the young duo (both of whom should be a part of the team’s active roster) is their confidence. I think assistant coach Sam Cassell was the first to say it (I think…no link), but it was so true — both Rice and Porter were playing like they were the best players on the court, and it made a world of difference in their play. Hopefully that carries over.
Player G MPG FG% 3P% RPG APG SPG TO PPG
Porter 6 31.8 0.484 0.389 5.8 1.8 0.5 2.2 19
Rice 6 32 0.469 0.361 7.8 2.3 2.5 3 25
  • As someone who’s been on the Khem Birch bandwagon for quite a while now, it was nice to see him play well this summer, and for the Wizards to boot. His five points per game in a little more than 19 minutes of action were on par for the type of hustle/defensive/ rebounding player he is. Birch doesn’t fit the mold of a stretch-4, but he’s an easy guy to root for because he does all the other stuff (5.7 rebounds, 1.2 blocks per game) well and does so with maximum effort.
  • Sam Cassell remains a hot coaching candidate, which is great in terms of his current duties with the Wizards, but also concerning that he could be on his way to Los Angeles in exchange for a second-round pick (according to Wojnarowski). Given Ernie Grunfeld’s drafting ability, Cassell is worth about 68 times more than a second-round pick. I hope he stays.
  • I’m willing to call it the best moment of the Wizards’ summer league — the ever so studly Bradley Beal was sitting courtside, wearing a headset and chatting it up with the commentary crew during one of Washington’s games against the Miami Heat. As Beal talked about his own development as a player and the Wizards’ expectations heading into next season, Tyler Honeycutt (who is quite bad) attempted to drive the left lane and slam on Wizards center Daniel Theis. Honeycutt was successful with the driving part, but Theis dished out a peak-high block that was well-qualified for the four-letter network’s top-ten plays, ultimately leading to a whooing crowd and Honeycutt’s miserable remains hunched on the hardwood.

Beal then added commentary of his own, giving us the best 16 words of the tournament and helping complete a truly special moment in Theis’ young career.

I don’t know his name — I think he’s from overseas — but that was a good block.                                                                        - Bradley Beal, nevermore

So who really is Daniel Theis? I have no idea. I don’t think anyone does. Even DraftExpress.com didn’t have much info outside of his vitals (6’9″, 215 lbs), his age (22), his hometown (Braunschweig, Germany), and his Eurocup stats from last season. But following five games with the Wiz this summer, the athletic power forward with the blonde comb-over averaged 6.6 points, six boards and nearly two blocks a game. Definitely cool. 

Somewhat chilly

  • My current nightmare: rooting for Daniel Orton. Why the torture? Because he was a part of the John Wall draft class in 2010 and I crush on John Wall like a teenage school girl? I have no answers. Even so, I feel like I barely saw Orton this summer, despite him playing five games with the Wiz. His stats were pretty ho-hum for the most part: 4.4 points, 5 rebounds, and barely a block per game. The better side: 1.4 assists and 1.2 steals. Go Daniel Orton.
  • Rookie Jamil Wilson looked the part of a small forward, standing 6’7″, 230 pounds. Additionally, his hometown of Racine, Wisconsin is the same as former-Wizards forward Caron Butler. Kind of cool/coincidental.

Not Cool

  • I know you’re not supposed to invest a lot into the summer league, but I had high(er) hopes for rookie point guard Deonte Burton. It’d be nice for a young point to come up through the ranks behind guys like John Wall and veteran Andre Miller, and Burton seemed like a fun project. But after averaging less than two points per game on 15 percent (!) shooting with an ugly assist (1) to turnover (1.3) ratio, Burton takes the cake for most disappointing of the Wizards’ desert vacation.

Wizards go 5-1 in Las Vegas, the Jrs. (Glen Rice and Otto Porter) find their mojo, Sam Cassell is a valuable asset, I still like Khem Birch (and for some reason Daniel Orton too), maybe someone knows who Daniel Theis is by now (but probably not), and the Deonte Burton balloon (if there ever was one) has already gone flat.

So long, summer league.

Wizards Acquire DeJuan Blair, Strengthen Frontcourt

c/o Jerome Miron - USA Today Sports

c/o Jerome Miron – USA Today Sports

I’m not sure where this ends up on the fandom gauge, but I’m willing to label myself thrilled regarding the Wizards acquiring DeJuan Blair from Dallas.

I wrote more about it at numberFire, which includes reasons why I refer to him as DeJuan Bear, how he fits in Washington, and why he’s an upgrade for the Wizards.

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Often times it’s difficult to make sense of Ernie Grunfeld making sense, but Wizards fans shouldn’t have too many gripes this summer. The Washington front office is pulling all the strings to improve (or replenish in some instances) a second-round playoff team from just a few months ago.

Sticking to the offseason script of subtle, efficient, and cost-effective, the Wizards acquired 25-year-old forward DeJuan Blair from the Dallas Mavericks in a sign-and-trade that will send the Mavs a $2.1 million trade exception (which was acquired by Washington when they traded Eric Maynor to Philadelphia last season).

Not to be a Washington homer, but this is another move that belongs under the “good” column for the Wizards. Here’s a brief breakdown of the transaction.

Money and Budget

Blair’s new contract with the Wizards is reported to be a three-year deal, worth $6 million. And wouldn’t ya know it – the final year of the contract comes as a team option.

Not to harp on the issue, but the Wizards’ intent is becoming more and more obvious with every signing. Like the two-year deal for Paul Pierce, and the three-year deal for Kris Humphries, the Wizards are constructing all new contracts with the summer of 2016 in mind – when hometown hero Kevin Durant becomes a free agent.

It should also be noted that, in terms of future cap room, the Wizards are preparing to pay Bradley Beal - the 21-year-old two-guard the team drafted third-overall in 2012 and have watched developed into a promising NBA star.

Additionally, what’s great about Blair’s contract (and Humphries’ contract, for that matter) is the fact that the team-option is extremely affordable. Say the dream does come true for Wizards fans and Durant returns to DC – the Wizards could essentially bring back solid frontcourt depth in the form of both Humphries and Blair for less than $6.5 million (estimated).

Production

When it comes to rotational players like Blair, referring to per-game statistics can be a bit misleading. Take Blair’s production from last season for example, where averaging 6.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game tends to scream mediocrity.

But when you consider the fact Blair posted those numbers while averaging less than 16 minutes per outing, reception changes. Stretch that kind of output over the course of 36 minutes (i.e. a starting role) and you get an impressive 14.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, more than two assists, and nearly two steals.

Unlike Humphries who can drift away from the paint to knockdown jumpers, a majority of Blair’s scoring will come from within 10 feet of the bucket. Despite being an undersized big man at 6’7″, Blair makes up for it with his 265-pound frame. He’s strong and bulky, easily eating up space down low and playing with great anticipation in order to provide himself with clean-up opportunities and cutting finishes around the rim.

How He Fits

After the departure of Trevor Booker, and with the looming possibility of Kevin Seraphin leaving Washington for more money elsewhere, the Wizards are beefing up their frontcourt depth and arguably improving what they had last season.

Blair may not be a defensive stalwart, but you won’t be left questioning whether or not he’s fighting for position or looking to secure a board. And by just barely out-rebounding their opponents on average last season (42.2/42.1 per game), the Wizards were clearly looking to add feisty rebounding types.

There’s also some position versatility that comes with Blair, as he’s able to fill-in at center if need be. Although not the rim-protector type, Blair once again falls back on his ability to carve space in the paint and fight for boards. Last season in Dallas, Blair played a career-high 36 percent of his minutes at center.

The Wizards’ current starting frontcourt of Marcin Gortat and Nene, albeit effective and strong, does require some insurance. Although the Polish Hammer plays more like he’s 28 than 30, Nene is 31 and hasn’t played more than 61 games in a season in three years.

As an added bonus, Blair brings with him valuable experience and work ethic, despite becoming the fifth-youngest player on the Wizards roster. In addition to being a part of arguably the best organization in the league for four seasons in San Antonio, Blair has been to the playoffs in each of his five NBA seasons, and has strung together solid production to the tune of 17 points, 13 boards, nearly two assists, and better than two steal per 36 minutes, with a 24.4 career playoffs PER.

Fans Could Get Used to This

Again, this is odd for Wizards fans. The front office is making quality moves, while remaining prudent, and relatively under the radar. And for the first time in a long time, Wizards fans can boast (at least a little) about their team’s frontcourt depth. From a net perspective, the Wizards upgraded their talent from Booker and Seraphin (who hasn’t left town just yet) to Humphries and Blair, and for a lower cost to boot.

Blair is a guy I’m willing to believe in, which may stem entirely from the fact that I was banging the table for the Wizards to draft him early in the second round five years ago, and instead they drafted some dude name Jermaine Taylor who they then sold to Houston only never to be heard from ever again.

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because per-36-minutes stats have consumed me when it comes to gauging rotational players and, in that case, DeJuan Blair is just as beastly on a stat sheet as he appears in person.

Wizards Make Another Quality Move, Bringing Kris Humphries to Washington

Kris Humphries

Interested in 1,000 words about why and how Kris Humphries fits so well in Washington?

Here’s my original piece from numberFire.

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Keeping beat with the rest of their offseason thus far, the Washington Wizards made another quiet, yet effective move by acquiring 29-year-old forward Kris Humphries from the Boston Celtics by way of a sign-and-trade.

In exchange for Humphries, the Wizards will send the trade exception they received from the Rockets last week as part of the Trevor Ariza deal to Boston.

Although Humphries has gained most of his notoriety for stuff off the court, he’s put together a respectable career over the past 11 seasons with five different teams.

Let’s take a look at how Humphries fits in Wasington and why this makes sense for the Wizards – keeping any Kardashian-fueled jokes to an absolute minimum.

Dollars and Sense

Humphries’ new contract with the Wizards is a three-year deal worth $13 million, with the third year serving as a team-option, meaning the Wizards ultimately decide whether or not to retain Humphries for the 2016-2017 season.

A couple of things regarding the contract itself that should excite Wizards fans. First, it’s an extremely fair and team-friendly deal given Humphries’ production. Second, it’s the perfect length in order to keep the Kevin Durant-to-DC daydream alive.

Not long before acquiring Humphries, the Wizards watched forward Trevor Booker sign with Utah after spending his first four seasons in Washington. Booker’s new two-year, $10 million deal with the Jazz was reportedly much higher than the Wizards were willing to go, and Washington’s front office wasn’t set to budge. As a result, the team needed to find an affordable replacement with a skill set primarily made up of athleticism, toughness, and rebounding ability, and Humphries easily matched the criteria.

As for the summer of 2016, the Wizards – along with a handful of other teams – are waiting on Kevin Durant to become a free agent. If the reigning league MVP decides to explore his opportunities outside of Oklahoma City, the Wizards don’t want to miss out. They’ll want their books as tidy as possible in order to pitch Durantula about bringing an NBA title to his hometown of Washington, D.C.

In addition to Nene’s $13 million salary set to come off the books after the 2015-2016 season, the Wizards signed former Finals MVP Paul Pierce to just a two year deal as well, meaning the Wizards – as of right now – have only John Wall and Marcin Gortat(and very safe to assume Bradley Beal) under contract for the summer of ’16.

Affordable? Check. Skill set match? Check. In line for the Durant sweepstakes? Yes – and the prayers continue to mount.

Production

When discussing Humphries and his production in the past, I’ve heard the argument about his best seasons coming during his time with the New Jersey Nets – which coincidentally just so happens to be about the time he became a tabloid staple – and that he’s yet to match that kind of output.

The counter argument, however, is simple: Humphries’ best statistics were posted during the two seasons in which he played the most minutes of his career.

During the 2010-2011 season, Humphries played nearly 28 minutes a game and averaged 10 points, 10.4 rebounds, and a block in 72 games. The following season, Humphries played almost 35 minutes per game, averaging just under 14 points, 11 boards, and 1.2 blocks in 62 games.

Before those two seasons, Humphries never averaged more than 18 minutes a game in a single season. And since then, he’s never averaged more than 20. Therefore, looking at Humphries’ numbers per 36 minutes gives you a better idea of his production potential when he’s actually on the floor.

For his career, Humphries averages 13.4 points, 11 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.2 blocks per 36 minutes. Last season with the Celtics, he averaged better than 15 points and 10 rebounds per 36 minutes, posting career-highs in both offensive rating (113) and PER (18.2).

Fit

Although watching Booker leave town for Utah isn’t considered front page news, it was a meaningful loss for the Wizards. Not only was a Booker a key piece on the Wizards’ bench, logging more than 21 minutes per game, but he was also a reliable call-upon option – like when he filled in for the injured Nene late in the season last year as Washington fought to secure a playoff spot. And filled in well.

The Wizards needed a replacement for that – a strong interior player with a good combination of toughness and athleticism, and a guy coaches could count on to crash the boards. In addition to his 21.6 minutes, Booker was also good for more than 11 points and 8 rebounds per 36 minutes last season.

With Humphries, the Wizards replenish their board-crashing type, and likely improve their bench scoring. Humphries shot 81 percent from the free throw line last season (improving in each of the last three years), shot better than 50 percent from the field, and offers deceiving range, knocking down almost 48 percent of his jumpers outside of 16 feet last season.

Temporarily ignoring the cost and focusing strictly on talent, adding Humphries is a net win for the Wiz. There’s no concern regarding his effort or rebounding ability, he adds scoring potential to a bench that ranked 29th in the league in points per game last season, and he’s reliable insurance for Nene, whether coaches want to take some work away from the big Brazilian during the regular season, or in the unfortunate case Nene goes down (which is arguably the safest running prop bet in all of Vegas).

Peculiar Win-Win

It’s not every day Wizards fans can praise their general manager. But this signing – along with the Pierce addition and Marcin Gortat deal (albeit more debatable) – earns Ernie Grunfeld a pat on the back.

In past seasons, Grunfeld and the Wiz would’ve laid down for guys threatening to leave town for more money, handing over a blank check and asking where to sign. But this summer, they’ve drawn hard lines and haven’t wavered, whether it be high-dollar guys like Ariza, or rotational players such as Booker. Instead, they’ve trusted in their plan (#KD2DC) and made effective, more cost-friendly moves to help recuperate for lost talent and build toward the future.

Kris Humphries is another one of those moves. Although it won’t make much of a ripple now, people will get a sense of how good the deal was for the Wizards when he’s posting double-doubles come playoff time.

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