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Cloudy with a Chance of Knee Jerk: Redskins v. Eagles

Redskins Eagles Brawl

In the hours following a Redskins game, thoughts and ideas and assumptions run rampant through the mind of a Washington fan, forcing a scattered and cloudy backdrop between the ears. 

Here are my initial notes following the Redskins’ 37-34 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

* * *

– Shutting down LeSean McCoy to the tune of 22 yards on 20 carries and just one catch for zero yards deserves some praise; especially when you consider McCoy ran for more than 180 yards last September against the Redskins. If there was one aspect of the game in which the Washington defense did well, it was containing the Eagles’ best player and all-around ground game.

– Losing DeAngelo Hall for the season to a torn Achilles is a massive blow to the team. Some may describe it as addition by subtraction for this defense (which is actually happening), but they’d be wrong. Hall is a playmaker on a unit that has very few. Losing him will hurt.

Bashaud Breeland, come on down! I’ve been pretty high on the rookie throughout the preseason and these first few weeks. With Hall done for the year, Breeland could shift atop the depth chart, and his progression and development should be fun to watch. He’s an instinctive player with good size and an aggressive attitude.

DeSean Jackson‘s return to Philly was fun — five catches for 117 yards and a score — but not nearly as enjoyable without a win. Still, it was good to see Kirk Cousins hook up with Jackson on a perfectly placed long ball.

– Speaking of hookups, Pierre Garcon was the man on Sunday, pulling in 11 catches for 138 yards and a score. He pulled in some really tough grabs throughout the game, played tough, and should remain Cousins’ most reliable target.

Special teams in Washington still sucks. They may have brought in a new coach, added a few pieces, talked about an improved unit — but so far, they haven’t shown anything. Punter Tress Way is solid and Andre Roberts is a huge upgrade as a returner, but both pieces are quickly forgotten when you let up 102-yard kick returns for touchdowns and botch 33-yard field goals.

And to make matters worse, the Redskins’ woes on Sunday were direct bullets to the foot.

  1. Chris Polk’s 102-yard return came directly after the Redskins opened the game with an efficient drive that put them up 7-0 midway through the first quarter on the road. Rather than building off momentum, the special teams unit acts as the defibrillator and gets the Eagles crowd right back in the game.
  2. Kai Forbath‘s 33-yard miss came in the final quarter of the game and would’ve given the Redskins a 30-27 lead. Three (should-be) easy points a team that certainly needed them at the end.

– To football fans, Chris Baker‘s mega-block on quarterback Nick Foles was legal. The NFL rule book, however, says otherwise.

If at the time of a turnover the quarterback becomes a defenseless player, then he shouldn’t be allowed to try and make a play in the case of a return (INT or fumble). If the NFL wants to keep the rule the way it is, then the quarterback needs to physically remove himself from the play by getting to the sidelines, taking a knee, or playing dead.

– And in regards to the brawl that ensued as a result of Baker’s block: shame on David Amerson for jumping around like an idiot and throwing unnecessary punches. Not only does he risk injuring himself (at a position the Redskins desperately can’t afford to lose anyone), but he’ll also draw fines when the league goes back and looks at it. Stupid.

– Is Brian Orakpo on milk cartons yet?

I may not be the one signing his checks, but I’d be willing to bet the Redskins didn’t decide to pay Orakpo $11 million this season to just play the run. They need him as a pass rusher and playmaker and we’ve yet to see that.

– Once upon a time people talked about the Redskins offensive line, the zone blocking scheme, and how a dropback passer couldn’t succeed throwing the ball 50 times in a game.

Kirk Cousins threw 48 passes for 427 yards and three scores, while taking no sacks.

– A quick tip of the hat to Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. Despite taking a good number of shots, he hung in there and still finished with 325 yards, three touchdowns, and the victory.

– The Redskins finished with 10 penalties for 131 yards. That’s pretty terrible.

– Last week I was applauding inside linebackers Keenan Robinson and Perry Riley Jr., but Sunday’s game finished a bit differently. Robinson was targeted often and Perry Riley Jr. was beat on more than one occasion in pass coverage (including at least one touchdown).

– Blame whoever you want, the Redskins pass rush wasn’t good enough. No sacks, either.

– Another injury that will hurt this Redskins team: Duke Ihenacho. He was solid on special teams and would’ve likely been called on to help at safety later in the year. Tough break for the recently signed free agent.

With that, Chase Minnifield is called up to the 53-man roster.

– I don’t have the screen grabs for it just yet, but defensive lineman Frank Kearse had a helluva stop in the game.

– Safety Brandon Meriweather didn’t look good in his first game back. He was exposed in coverage and appeared rickety. Better with time, hopefully.

 

Daily Fantasy Bargain Shopping: Value Plays for NFL Week 3

DFS Bargain Shopper Cover Photo

Some call me cheap. Others stingy. I prefer thrifty. And in the world of daily fantasy sports, finding the best bargains can lead you to the promise land of those jubilant $3.60 pots at the end of the pretend football rainbow.

These are my bargain bin dumpster dives for the upcoming NFL week. 

* * *

Last week’s bin featured plenty of solid plays for a low cost, including Ryan Fitzpatrick, Giovani Bernard, and Travis Kelce. But the best bargains were Ahmad Bradshaw ($150.37/fpt) and Niles Paul ($129.70/fPt).

Best of luck in Week 3. In the meantime, I’m going to fight the urge to love Torrey Smith again, recognize myself as a bully for the way I’ve treated E.J. Manuel, and continue to eat this sandwich for dinner every night.

 

Quarterback

Ryan Tannehill ($6,300) v. KC

I was thinking Ryan Fitzpatrick might crack the list for the second straight week, but then I remembered last week was a near-perfect game for the thickly bearded Texans quarterback, and our lineups aren’t wowing anyone with 13-point performances.

Instead, taking a shot on a guy like Ryan Tannehill (who’s cold right in terms of fantasy production) provides us with a capable quarterback for a low (yet fair) price. The Kansas City defense was lots of fun last season, but has yet to show anything through two games besides their ability to allow more than 40 fPts to opposing quarterbacks.

 

Running Back

Ahmad Bradshaw ($4,800) @ JAX

I wrote about Ahmad over at Gridiron Experts and named him one of my three starters this week. Not only is he the Colts’ best tailback, but he’s more versatile (and therefore more valuable) and sees more opportunities than Trent Richardson does.

We’re all in the majority in saying the Colts should handle Jacksonville and log their first win of the season. And once the lead is established, Bradshaw is the more trusted back called upon to run out the clock and close the Jags.

Shane Vereen ($5,100) v. OAK

Bill Belichick done shafted us again last week. Typical, really.

Although Stevan Ridley was fed the ball last game, this week should be a big one for Tom Brady (where are you, Tom?) and the New England offense, which in turn leads to more PPR gobblin’ from Shane Vereen.

There may be some hesitation here because of the possibility that Belichick sticks with the hot runner, and that’s likely why we see a dip in Vereen’s price. But Vereen has too high a ceiling not to cough up the five grand for him against this Oakland defense.

Doug Martin ($5,900) @ ATL

I know it’s only been two games, but there’s a free buffet in Atlanta where literally EVERYONE eats. Dougie Martin might still be nicked up, but he practiced all week, is listed as questionable, and SHOULD get the start.

Another guy to think about here is Martin’s backup, Bobby Rainey ($5,800).

The equation is rather simple: monitor the Bucs’ injury report and buy whatever running back gets the nod. The Falcons run defense couldn’t stop Trent Richardson.

 

Wide Receiver

Julian Edelman ($6,000) v. OAK

Once again noting the anticipated day for Tom Brady and the Pats offense, Julian Edelman should be a direct beneficiary.

Andrew Hawkins ($5,000) v. BAL

The Browns weathered a huge blow with the loss of Josh Gordon, but have helped themselves with offseason signing Andrew Hawkins, who has just as many targets through two games as Demaryius Thomas and Antonio Brown.

Hawkins has yet to get into the end zone this season — and the track record between Cleveland and Baltimore certainly doesn’t improve his chances this week — but Hawkins is a double-digit guy week in and week out.

Julio Jones ($7,500) v. TB

The Buccaneers defense was an intriguing unit heading into the season, but after giving up efficient quarterback play to Derek Anderson and Austin Davis, all faith has been lost.

Matt Ryan may be coming off a poor performance last week, but Tampa Bay isn’t Cincy. And so far this season, it was the Tampa defense that allowed Kelvin Benjamin to go off in his NFL debut in Week 1, and the Tampa defense that helped remind us Brian Quick was still a thing last Sunday.

So yeah — if the Bucs give up big games to rookies and forgotten names, Jones should rip ‘em to shreds.

Golden Tate ($5,000) v. GB

Through two weeks, Golden Tate has played more snaps than Calvin Johnson.

No, not the same production, obviously. Point is, Tate doesn’t lack opportunity. The Lions are a high-powered offense, Tate will get his targets, and the Packers defense have yet to prove anything.

 

Tight End

Dennis Pitta ($4,400) @ CLE

It was Owen Daniels starring as the tight end who stole the show last Thursday, but it’s Dennis Pitta who remains Joe Flacco’s BFF.

At this price, Pitta is too good a PPR option to pass up.

Meanwhile…

*cuts to scene of Torrey Smith wandering around in the desert wearing nothing but ripped shorts, searching anywhere and everywhere for these so-called “targets”*

Travis Kelce ($3,700) @ MIA

All Kelce. All the time.

I don’t care if Dwayne Bowe is back. And the loss of Jamaal Charles probably helps Travis Kelce’s case. He’s one of the few playmakers on this Chiefs team, yet his cost doesn’t reflect it.

Take the candy and run.

 

Cloudy With a Chance of Knee Jerk: Redskins v. Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars v Washington Redskins

In the hours following a Redskins game, thoughts and ideas and assumptions run rampant through the mind of a Washington fan, forcing a scattered and cloudy backdrop between the ears. 

Here are my initial notes following the Redskins’ 41-10 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. 

* * *

  • Not that it should come as any surprise, but right guard Chris Chester struggled in pass protection. Despite Pro Football Focus’ positive 1.7 pass block rating, Chester gave up lots of ground when attempting to keep the quarterback clean. Fans will remember one play in particular — DeSean Jackson’s first-series long ball was ultimately ruled a no-catch (which didn’t and still doesn’t make sense) and the Redskins were faced with third down. The Jaguars ran a stunt on the right side of the line, Chester was blown off his spot, and Robert Griffin III ends up taking a sack. The Redskins went from long gain, to bad call, to a sack, to punt.
  • While the 41 points were nice, it was the Washington defense that should earn the biggest applause. Some of the statistics and numbers they put up were nothing shy of staggering — like not allowing the Jaguars to run a single offensive play on the Redskins’ side of the field until the fourth quarter. Or holding the Jaguars to just eight first downs the entire game. Or their ability to hold a professional football offense to less than 150 total yards over four quarters. Or how about those 10 sacks? Ten. Double digit sacks for a defense from a year ago that wouldn’t know an effective pass rush if it fell into their lap. Absurd numbers, and very easy to get used to.
  • Speaking of the defense — hats off to defensive coordinator Jim Haslett for coming in aggressive and staying that way. I’m one of the many who has been critical of Haslett over the years, and that won’t necessarily change this season. But the aggressiveness was nice. It’ll be interesting to see if that sort of style sticks throughout the remaining 14 games, or if he reverts back to his “Hesitant Haz” persona against threatening offenses and rolls out those gentle pass rushes.
  • And sticking with the defense for just a tad longer — how good is Jason Hatcher? This dude’s one of the best interior defensive lineman the Redskins have had in a very long time. He’s huge, he’s physical, he’s quick, he’s smart, and he’s a large part of why the Redskins have been so successful on defense this year. I’m absolutely in love with this guy and people probably won’t understand how important he truly is until the Redskins have to push through a few games in the unfortunate case of an injury. So, so good.
  • A guy not in the “so good” category but worthy of praise for his play yesterday: linebacker Brian Orakpo. One game isn’t going to change my mind, but Orakpo played very well both against the run, and as a disruption against the pass.
  • No question as to what category linebacker Ryan Kerrigan belongs in. He’s fantastic. Four sacks on Sunday and active hands. So money, this guy.
  • While on the topic of linebackers, I thought both Perry Riley Jr. and Keenan Robinson played well inside. Both were all over the field and I think Robinson can be a stud.
  • When the Redskins hired Jay Gruden to become their next head coach, there was some worry as to what would happen to fullback Darrel Young. During his time in Cincinnati as an offensive coordinator, Gruden didn’t really implement a fullback in his offense. Thing was, he didn’t have a talent at the position quite like Young. Not only was Young’s touchdown catch an easy one to celebrate, but he’s so effective in the blocking game. Thanks to his brick wall block at the goal line, Alfred Morris was able to get into the end zone to give Washington the 14-0 lead.
  • By the way, another stocky guy on offense to mention: tight end Niles Paul. Filling in for the injured Jordan Reed, Paul stepped in and led the team in catches. He was originally drafted by the Redskins as a wide receiver, and I don’t think anyone doubted his ability to be a reliable passing target. Does he have his frustrating drops? Certainly — we saw one late in the third quarter. But Paul is leaps and bounds in front of Logan Paulsen as a pass catcher, and his athleticism is underrated. Paul has the speed to get down the seam, he can turn it up field from the flats, and he plays with an incredible amount of aggression that gives him a good chance at additional yardage after the catch. His touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter was a thing of beauty — using his hands like a veteran BEFORE the catch, adjusting his body, and high-pointing the football.
  • As much as we all love Alfred Morris as a consistent earner (intentional Sopranos reference), Roy Helu Jr. showed very well on Sunday, once again demonstrating the physical attributes that separate him from his backfield partner. Helu is an incredible athlete with surprising explosiveness and superb balance. He’s also a smart football player with a good sense of where he is on the field and what his best angles are. It was just before halftime when Helu took a checkdown pass on 3rd-and-4, worked to churn out the first down, and also made sure to get out of bounds to preserve time. Not only was that catch a timely third down conversion, but it also put the Redskins in position for a 45-yard field goal to extend the lead to 24-7 before the half (a sack would ultimately negate such chance). Nice game for Helu.
  • Before DeSean Jackson became available via trade, the Redskins had signed Andre Roberts with the idea in mind that he’d be their No. 2 wide receiver. Obviously Jackson adds a new dimension to nearly every offense in the league, so in no way am I downplaying his addition. But there’s also no doubt that Roberts can handle prime wideout duties himself. He’s an underrated receiver with fearlessness, smarts, and YACability — all attributes of a reliable stud. And that’s without mentioning his kick/punt return ability.

Here’s a look at Roberts’ 31-yard catch from early in the second quarter.

Roberts lines up in the slot and will run a soft in behind the linebackers.

Week 2 Snap_Cousins Roberts I

While it’s a great play for Roberts, the entire thing happens thanks to Kirk Cousins and his ability to freeze the linebackers with an effective look-off to the right side.

You’ll notice the middle linebacker (highlighted) is already baiting towards the far receiver thanks to Cousins’ selling eyes and body position.

Week 2 Snap_Cousins Roberts II

Before they know it, the linebackers are steps behind and Roberts is nestling in behind for a huge gain. Cousins does a good job resetting his feet and firing in a good pass.

Week 2 Snap_Cousins Roberts III

  • Rookie cornerback Bashaud Breeland is going to be really good. He’s feisty and physical with the size/speed attributes to boot. His future is bright.

Here’s a look at a great jump Breeland had on a screen pass that nearly went the other way for a touchdown.

It wasn’t the toughest of plays to sniff out I suppose, but the rookie wastes zero time breaking on the ball. Below you can see the ball hasn’t even left the quarterback’s hand yet, but Breeland reads it quickly and already begins his attack on the receiver.

Week 2 Snap_Breeland Read I

Seeing as how the ball hits him in the hands, Breeland should’ve come up with this thing, and it was an easy score if he does. At the very least, he breaks up the pass and takes away a first down for the Jaguars.

Week 2 Snap_Breeland Read II

  • On the opposite end of the young defensive back spectrum: safety Bacarri Rambo. He’s just not good. Just when you think he’s starting to get it, he takes another one of his now-famous ATROCIOUS ANGLES and gives up a score.

The ugliest play of the game for the Redskins defense was in the second quarter when Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis caught a pass on the right sideline and turned it into a 63-yard score.

Below you’ll see Lewis spread out wide with DeAngelo Hall covering. At this point, quarterback Chad Henne is just about to release the throw and Lewis looks to be in a decent position against Hall. I could be wrong, but it appears as if Hall misplayed his position, likely thinking he was deeper and more in position to make a play. Still, the veteran corner doesn’t flinch at reading the quarterback’s eyes and motion.

Week 2 Snap_Marcedes TD I

Henne ultimately delivers a decent pass over Hall and into Lewis’ window. You’ll also notice safety Bacarri Rambo arriving fashionably late to the sideline.

However, despite being behind, Rambo has a good angle on Lewis to at least tackle him as soon as he catches the ball, whether it be dragging him to the ground or shoving him out of bounds. Clearly this isn’t a play that should go for six.

Week 2 Snap_Marcedes TD II

Oh but it does. Thanks to a terrible angle by Rambo who (for some reason) attacks the tight end’s front side rather than make things easy and hitting him from behind at the thighs, Lewis is able to shed a weak tackle attempt and chug his way to the endzone.

Ugly, ugly play.

Week 2 Snap_Marcedes III

  • Washington had a lot of penalties (11 for 98 yards) and, as always, the bonehead ones were the most memorable. That needs to be corrected.
  • You don’t even have to be a Redskins fan to appreciate rookie wide receiver Ryan Grant. All you have to do is appreciate the game of football. He was an under-the-radar prospect, mid-round guy who looks nothing close to a player seeing just his second NFL regular season game. He understands route running, he has solid hands, and he always knows where the first down marker is. His leaping catch down the sideline on a 3rd-and-4 early in the fourth quarter was a thing of brilliance.

First thing to note is how well Cousins hangs in the pocket, steps up and delivers a nice pass on a big down and distance.

Week 2 Snap_Cousins Grant I

As a savvy route runner, Grant had already done enough to beat his man, and then he was able to pull off an acrobatic catch to pick up the first down and extend the drive.

Week 2 Snap_Cousins Grant II

  • Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne may have stared down a receiver harder than a college freshman, but tip of the cap to safety Trenton Robinson for a solid read and pounce to snag an interception. Tough guy and strong work ethic. Deserved it.
  • Oh yeah, I almost forget — Kirk Cousins played pretty well. Sure, people will say things like “It’s the Jaguars, bro” and “Wait until he plays a real team”, which are probably valid points. But at the end of the day, the Jaguars are ranked in the top-32 of every football team in the world and Cousins put together a good game against professionals. He’s quick to get the ball out (which Gruden prefers), he has the arm to make all the throws, he has the mobility to be effective in the 50-series offense, and his pocket presence/awareness is head and shoulders above Robert Griffin III. If Gruden ever had the scratch in his brain that perhaps Cousins was the better quarterback for this offense, now is a prime opportunity to take advantage of it. If Cousins plays well enough, the talk will heighten and upper management will have some tough decisions to make.
  • And what better way to end it than with a dance-down boogie led by defensive lineman Chris Baker?

 

Daily Fantasy Bargain Shopping: Value Plays for NFL Week 2

DFS Bargain Shopper Cover Photo

Some call me cheap, others stingy. I prefer thrifty. And in the world of daily fantasy sports, finding the best bargains can lead you to the promise land of those jubilant $3.60 pots at the end of the pretend football rainbow.

These are my bargain bin dumpster dives for the upcoming NFL week. 

* * *

While none of us should take Week 1 in the NFL as gospel, at least we got a taste.

Not all of last week’s plays were fun (we’re looking at you, Shaun Hill), but Knowshon Moreno was a rewarding play, and old man Fred Jackson paid dividends en route to stiff arming Bears safety Chris Conte like an oncoming zombie.

We also got to see Derek Anderson play football, the Bills avoid the E.J. Manuel fallout, and Brandin Cooks remain atop grown men’s hottest athletes list.

Helluva time in retrospect. We’re all #blest.

 

Quarterback

Ryan Fitzpatrick ($5,000) @ OAK

I know — it doesn’t feel right to me either. But there’s something about me (a guy who doesn’t like fantasy passers) and that $5,000 salary (tied for the lowest of any starting quarterback this week) that all seems to mesh so well.

At the end of the day, you’re getting a starting quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick who’s going for the same dollar amount as second-string guys like Mike Glennon and Brandon Weeden. That — to me anyway — is valuable.

And whether Fitzpatrick can/will/wants to throw the ball down the field or not, going against the Raiders defense helps him in this spot.

 

Running Back

Giovani Bernard ($6,300) v. ATL

Gio Bernard may have ran for less than 50 yards last week against the Ravens, but he stuffed the stat sheet with six catches for 62 yards to give us a 17-point performance. That was against Baltimore.

Atlanta gave up nearly 140 yards on the ground to New Orleans last week, including Pierre Thomas (another PPR delight) who chipped in with another six catches for 58 yards.

Don’t fear Jeremy Hill. Allow Gio to feast on the dirty birds.

Shane Vereen ($5,900) @ MIN

As long as PPR sorcerer Shane Vereen hovers around $6k, I’ll continue to roster him. Not only is that whole point-per-reception thing a big deal given the running back’s talent and fit with this offense, but he’s also the Patriots’ most effective and trusted runner. Despite Stevan Ridley edging out Vereen last week by a carry (eight carries total), Vereen’s average of better than five yards is much more attractive than Ridley’s sub-three.

Fred Jackson ($4,000) v. MIA

The Dolphins are one of my streamers on defense this week, so giving the nod to Fred Jackson may seem a bit illogical in strategy. But his value (for a second consecutive week at just $4k) has to be noted.

Despite more than half of his rushing yards coming on one carry late in the game last week, Jackson remains a cog in the Bills offense, and a guy that will continue to receive a decent workload alongside C.J. Spiller.

Ahmad Bradshaw ($4,000) v. PHI

More or less a spitball with this pick, but hear me out.

  • Last week the Colts got down early, trailing the Broncos 24-7 at half.
  • The Colts came out swinging in the second half, for obvious reasons.
  • A result of said swinging was an increased workload for Ahmad Bradshaw.
  • Against the Eagles, there’s a chance the Colts get down early yet again.
  • In such a case, the Colts would then come out swinging in the second half.
  • Not only is Bradshaw the Colts’ best runner, but also their best back in pass-pro and a solid receiving target.
  • Beyond this game — assuming good health and that Trent Richardson remains bad at football — Bradshaw should see an uptick in volume.

Depending on how you think this game will go, Bradshaw could be a steal at just $4k.

Jamaal Charles ($7,400) @ DEN

This may be high dollar amount floating in the bargain bin, but it’s dirt cheap for a talent like Jammal Charles in a situation where we all feel the Broncos are going to blow the doors off the Kansas City Chiefs (wait…do we not all think that?).

If the Chiefs end up winning this game, it’ll be in large part because Charles was effective. That gives you fantasy points.

If the Chiefs lose this game, it’s likely bad for them from the very beginning, which means they need their best player (Hi, Jamaal!) to help get them back in the game if they have any desire to do so. That also gives you fantasy points.

Charles’ stock price is down for obvious reasons (see: Week 1), but don’t nudge your studs off a cliff. Charles is a value buy this week.

 

Wide Receiver

Torrey Smith ($5,000) v. PIT

Joe Flacco threw the ball more than 60 times last week in a losing effort against the Bengals, yet Torrey Smith was targeted only seven times.

That changes Thursday night in Baltimore, in what should be a raucous environment with a lot on the line for the Ravens despite being just two weeks into the season.

Look for a stat line more along the lines of what we saw from Torrey the last time he played the Steelers: six catches for 93 yards, and a touchdown.

Brandin Cooks ($5,300) @ CLE

The longer Kenny Stills nurses his injury, the more opportunities rookie Brandin Cooks will receive. And considering what he was able to do in his NFL debut last week against the Falcons, Cooks looks every bit of the real deal.

Clearly the Browns are a better defense than the Falcons, but the Saints are a dominant offensive team. Not really good, or pretty effective — but dominant on offense.

Sean Payton’s creativity combined with Cooks’ skill set makes for a juicy buy regardless of opponent and assuming consistent workload.

Golden Tate ($5,000) @ CAR

Carolina’s defense is way better than the New York Giants — I get that. But if you believe in this Detroit offense like some people (*points to himself*), then Golden Tate is a guy worth looking for every week. And at just $5,000 (again, I know it’s the Panthers), you know you’re getting targets, and therefore opportunity.

Markus Wheaton ($4,900) @ BAL

Not going as far as to call Baltimore-Pittsburgh a Thursday night shootout, but neither secondary seems threatening. Antonio Brown may be Big Ben’s No. 1 guy, but Markus Wheaton can creep under the radar for a few more weeks and build upon last game’s six catches and 97 yards.

 

Tight End

Niles Paul ($3,100) v. JAX

Go about elbow-deep in the bargain bin and you can have Redskins tight end Niles Paul.

Is he Jordan Reed? Not by a long shot. But he is the best pass-catching tight end in Washington with Reed nursing yet another injury, and in Gruden’s offense he could see an increase in targets the next few weeks.

Travis Kelce ($3,000) @DEN

Week in and week out — I’m buying Travis Kelce stock.

Last week wasn’t as great as we had hoped (7.9 fPts) — not to mention Anthony Fasano gobbled up what should’ve/could’ve been a Kelce score — but the second-year tight end is one of the only playmakers the Chiefs have right now and his price is entirely too low not to roster him.

Love this while you still can. A breakout game from Kelce and his bottom-of-the-barrel pricing quickly becomes a distant memory.

 

Everyone Failed in Ray Rice Case

Ray Rice

The Baltimore Ravens terminated the contract of Ray Rice on Monday, and the NFL suspended the running back indefinitely following the recent release of a video that showed the 28-year-old Rice striking and knocking out his then-fiance Janay Palmer in an elevator.

The video footage is disturbing. The ultimate punishment for Rice is overdue. The entire situation generates plenty of blame to go around.

 

The National Football League…because commissioner Roger Goodell and every other schmo in charge of handing down disciplinary action in this case failed miserably. Simply claiming that Goodell and his goons dropped the ball with just a two-game suspension would be an understatement.

And are we suppose to believe the NFL had no way of gaining access to this video? Was the entire NFL willing to take Ray Rice for his word and not investigate to their full ability?

So Goodell saw video No. 1 (of the casino floor) and video No. 3 (of Ray Rice dragging his fiance’s body from the elevator like a bag of mulch), but didn’t think video No. 2 (the actual CRIME) was all that important?

According to a statement from the NFL:

“We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator. That video was not made available to us and no one in our office has seen it until today.”

The league should add some clarification to their bogus statement:

“We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, but decided only to see what we wanted to see, which excluded the video from inside the elevator. That video wasn’t easily attainable, but we could have coughed up some coin in order to secure the video. We decided not to pursue the elevator tape and for some reason thought it’d be lost forever. Our only hope now is that we convince everyone to believe that the mega, mighty NFL has the same access, priority, and pull as your standard celebrity news website.”

That’s not to say the NFL is lying about seeing it for the first time. But if that’s the case, at least admit to turning a blind eye rather than assuming the entire public is made up of gullible toddlers.

 

The Baltimore Ravens…because they’re also guilty of ignoring evidence. And everyone from owner Steve Bisciotti, to Ozzie Newsome, to John Harbaugh should be held accountable.

You mean to tell me that not one person in the Ravens organization thought it’d be in the team’s best interest to maybe investigate this a little further? To maybe look into things and, I dunno, ask about that elevator tape before getting in front of cameras and backing Ray Rice as a standup guy?

What type of business/organization hinges their own reputation on the words of a desperate athlete on the verge of taking a massive financial hit?

Support your teammates, the good and the bad, let the justice system run its course, blah, blah, blah. Unfortunately the Ravens will make it out of this mess looking a whole lot better than they should. They ignored the classic saying in the NFL that football is a business, and instead attached themselves to a player in order to avoid an organizational black eye.

People will say the organization did the right thing by cutting Ray Rice, but won’t remind themselves of the team’s lack of professionalism and due diligence throughout it all.

 

The State of New Jersey…I won’t pretend to know the law or its limitations in a situation like this, but where the hell was the state prosecutor?

A huge miss in all of this is the state electing not to press charges against Ray Rice. Maybe there’s something about wife not being able to incriminate husband, but how was any of this okay?

According to the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens, both requested the video from inside the elevator (aka “all evidence”), yet both claimed to not receive it.

Did law enforcement and the state of New Jersey have footage of Ray Rice beating his fiance this whole time? Did they not find that footage relevant? Was there a reason no punishment was handed down by government officials?

 

Ray Rice…for obvious reasons. For beating women. For being a liar. For betraying his teammates, coaches, and supporters. For tricking us all into thinking he was good guy. For setting a poor example. For thinking he was the exception. For taking everything for granted, including his wife.

 

Janay Palmer…because as much as I feel for her and the fact that she was forced to apologize for her “role in that night”, I also can’t condone not standing up.

I understand it’s probably easy for me to say, and that there’s love, it’s family, it’s the father of your child, it’s financial stability, the thick and thin. But regardless of consequence, no woman should be a victim of domestic violence. And we can only hope this was the first (and last) time.

Additionally, Janay Palmer’s stance and response — whether forced or not — is a disservice to other women. It’s not okay to succumb to abuse, it’s not okay to brush it off, and no amount of money should take place of human rights.

Often times we see victims of violent crimes naturally inherit the responsibility of making sure others don’t become victims themselves. Palmer’s response condoned it.

 

The Public…because there are plenty who fail to understand the concept that fans don’t really know athletes the way they think they know athletes.

Despite (what I’ll refer to as) overwhelming evidence supporting the case of Ray Rice striking his fiance and then pulling her out of an elevator, fans gave Ray Rice a standing ovation during training camp, continued to tirelessly support their star running back, and threw incredibly ignorant shots at all those who blasted Ray Rice on social media for getting away with a crime.

And as a disturbing side note, there are STILL people out there supporting Ray Rice.

 

It’s sad to think that if only the NFL and Baltimore Ravens had seen this latest video footage, Ray Rice would still have a job. The only reason Ray Rice is out of football is because WE saw the latest video footage.

 

Daily Fantasy Bargain Shopping: Value Plays for NFL Week 1

DFS Bargain Shopper Cover Photo

Some call me cheap, others stingy. I prefer thrifty. And in the world of daily fantasy sports, finding the best bargains can lead you to the promise land of those jubilant $3.60 pots at the end of the pretend football rainbow.

These are my bargain bin dumpster dives for the upcoming NFL week. 

* * *

The wait is over. Football is back. No need for small talk. Here’s your daily fantasy dumpster dive for Week 1 of the freshest NFL season.

xoxoxo

 

Quarterback

Shaun Hill ($5,000) v. MIN

Would I call this pick a safe one? Eh, probably not. We don’t know how the almighty Shaun Hill will look opening week. But we do know he’s the cheapest starting quarterback option on the card and that he’s going against a Minnesota defense that isn’t exactly threatening.

It not so much concern regarding Hill himself, but instead with the Rams and their game plan against the Vikings. If St. Louis decides to pound the ball on the ground, Hill’s opportunity obviously lessens. And with a guy like Zac Stacy running the ball, the Rams have the power and skill to hammer it as opposed to throw it.

The former Terps star stays put on the list, but there’s plenty of gamble to go along with it.

Geno Smith ($6,500) v. OAK

You, me, everyone — we all seem to be on the Geno Smith wagon this weekend. And why not? The Jets are hosting the Raiders, after all.

Despite pumping Smith even before he was drafted, the quarterback wasn’t consistent enough last season. Sure there were flashes, but he wasn’t a guy you could trust.

This season however, in addition to a tough defense backing him up, Smith has a better supporting cast (here’s to you, Eric Decker) and has shown strides between his rookie and sophomore season.

The Raiders certainly help the play this week, but this isn’t the last of ol’ Geno. Expect to see him as a popular streamer throughout the year.

 

Running Back

Frank Gore ($5,200) @ DAL

So much for respecting your elders.

Even at the ripe age of 31 (which is like 86 in running back years), Frank Gore receives tons of love this week as he travels to Dallas to take on an ugly Cowboys defense. He’s the freshest he’ll be all year, the 49ers should control the game, and it’ll only set you back about 10 percent of your cap.

Fred Jackson ($4,400) @ CHI

Another elderly statesman, and perhaps this one at an even better price that Frank.

I’ve talked before about the E.J. Manuel fallout and what it does to the Buffalo offense, but in this case it actually boosts the value of Fred Jackson (and that’s probably a safe assumption for the rest of the season, assuming good health).

Here’s a few predictions:

  1. Fred Jackson will see plenty of volume
  2. Fred Jackson will receive the goal line work
  3. Fred Jackson will catch the ball
  4. Fred Jackson will lead his team in carries

And a couple things I know:

  1. DraftKings scoring format awards a full point per reception, as opposed to FanDuel who only gives out a half-point.
  2. Fred Jackson is a starting running back, yet takes up less than 10 percent of your payroll.

Add the facts and my predictions together and Fred Jackson ends up looking like Sunday’s steal.

Knowshon Moreno ($4,000) v. NE

I don’t necessarily love the matchup — and I don’t love the fact that not even the Dolphins have figured out their depth chart yet — but I think a healthy Knowshon Moreno (even behind Lamar Miller) is worth the $4,000 pocket change price tag.

Andre Ellington ($6,000) v. SD

Some time back in May, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said he wanted to get Andre Ellington 25-30 touches a game in 2014 as Arizona’s primary back.

I’ve held onto every word ever since.

Ellington has the potential to be a dynamic player in PPR formats and San Diego serves as a favorable foe to kickoff the season. Assuming Arians isn’t a liar, this is a really strong play for the weekend.

That said, Ellington — with his position and cost combined — would appear to be a popular flex candidate this week. If there’s a fantasy owner waiting til the end to fill his flex position, I have a feeling he/she is scrolling somewhere in the $6,000 range and taking a long look at Andre. If you’re looking to diversify, I wouldn’t count on Ellington being your secret weapon.

Zac Stacy ($6,400) v. MIN

As mentioned in the thoughts regarding Shaun Hill, the Rams’ gameplan against Minnesota could very well be run, run, and then run some more. In such a case, Zac Stacy’s volume is well worth his current price, and he’s likely to catch a few passes out of the backfield too.

 

Wide Receiver

Marques Colston ($5,900) @ ATL

With his injury woes from last year seemingly behind him, Marques Colston is another one who makes the list of old geezers with a favorable Week 1 matchup.

This game has plenty of intrigue from an offensive production standpoint (don’t forget Roddy White for $5,900), and Colston will be on the receiving end of about a million of Drew Brees’ two million throws.

Eric Decker ($5,200) v. OAK

If you like the Geno Smith play, you almost have to like Eric Decker too. He’s the Jets’ best receiving threat and Smith will love having a big target to rely on.

While many are critical of Decker now that it’s life without Peyton, I’m on the other side in thinking Decker will be a consistent producer this season and take advantage of what’s sure to be plenty of red zone action.

All that starts this weekend against the Raiders.

Emmanuel Sanders ($4,800) v. IND

When the Kentucky Derby goes wrong, who replaces Wes Welker in the slot?

Even before Welker decided to pop molly and hand out cash while wearing a fedora, Emmanuel Sanders brought a different wrinkle to the Denver offense by way of explosiveness and field-stretching ability. Why not him?

Riley Cooper ($4,400) v. JAX

Despite my love for the Jaguars and the current regime in Jacksonville, the Eagles are going to get after it this weekend and Riley Cooper is a guy who should see his fair share of work. He also happens to be a sizable red zone option, further proving his $4,400 price tag a bargain.

 

Tight End

Travis Kelce ($3,200) v. TEN

The draft crush lives on! It’s been an entire (rookie) season without Travis Kelce, and now, FINALLY, he’s alive and well and ready to contribute.

I know, I know — we haven’t seen Kelce in regular season action. But he has the makeup and skill set to become a top-producer at his position, and Chiefs head coach Andy Reid doesn’t get enough credit for the way he uses his tight ends and the resulting benefit for us fantasy owners.

I’m buying all the Kelce stock this season and a $3,200 salary this week allows you to land a nice talent on a potent offense in what should be a winning effort, all while maintaining roster flexibility.

Zach Ertz ($4,100) v. JAX

Brent Celek may be listed as the starting tight end in Philly, but Zach Ertz is the guy for us fantasy owners. He’s a sizable target with underrated route running skills and good hands in an up-tempo Chip Kelly offense — a perfect fit.

Thing is, at least this week, when you can have Kelce for nearly $1,000 less, it’s hard to pull the trigger on Ertz at $4,100. But even so, he doesn’t take up loads of cap and he has a good chance of scoring against the Jags.

 

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.

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