Archive for August, 2006

Player Spotlight: Matt Jones

Thursday, 31 August, 2006

Assumptions to jump on athletes for success happens daily in sports. Wide receiver Matt Jones is a guy that everyone has their eye on as being a “sleeper”. All of these predictions are based on how well he finished the 2005 season. What has bolstered his expectations for the 2006 season was the retiring of Jimmy Smith.

Doesn’t anyone think that may harm Jones for his second season? People are overlooking the fact that Jones is still learning and trying to adapt to being a wide receiver. This is the same guy that played quarterback in college and just was converted to wide receiver to play in the NFL. He has all the tools to be a solid receiver and can be in appropriate time. But the Jaguars need to acquire a veteran that can help bring this young group of receivers along. If not, there may be growing problems in Byron Leftwich’s week to week injury report.

It’s just too much to expect crazy fantasy numbers from Jones this season. Just on today’s fantasy football weekly show on ESPN, the analyst predicted 900 yards and 11 touchdown receptions for Jones. Those numbers are bold to predict, and for the analysts sake those numbers were predicated on the way Jones played last season.

Defenses last season really had no clips of Jones. None of his tendencies were known; good or bad. How often do you see a player that has been unscathed in a sport do well from the start? In baseball the pitchers can get away with it. In any sport you could find a prime example of when fresh talent excels just because there is no footage on them. Mike Vick use to scorch any NFL team just with his legs until the Tampa Bay Buccaneers figured him out. That led to the rest of the NFL copying that script and holding Vick down a bit with his legs.

Jones is likely going to struggle if the Jaguars have to count on him as their number one wide receiver. It’ll be awfully easy for defenses number one cornerbacks to shut down Jones. Now that he is the main guy, defenses will key in on his weaknesses. There are sure to be a handful as there is no way he has figured out all the necessary tactics to not be exposed by veteran corners.

Jones should still be a force for touchdowns as he is a big target that Leftwich will find. Another downside to Jones is that the Jaguars do not have the strength of a solid core of receivers. This is the same staff that has been under the wings of Jimmy Smith for a couple of years, but none have ever excelled. In years past, when did you ever see a Jaguars wide receiver other than Jimmy Smith on a fantasy team? That answer would have to be shoved back to the Keenan McCardell days, which were last in 2001. Youngsters Ernest Wilford and Reggie Williams are now entering their third seasons and have been fairly non existent thus far in their careers.

The Jaguars rely on their defense to game plan what they do offensively. Their defense is usually stellar so they play almost as conservative as the Pittsburgh Steelers. While people may be thinking that Matt Jones will gobble up the majority of Jimmy Smith’s stats, that is not going to happen. Numbers will be dispersed in proportion amongst the youngsters, but none will have stellar stats. For now you can do a couple of things with Jones.

Sell him high and package him in a two for one deal to gain another player for your fantasy team. You can also just keep him on your bench and wait for a significant game to consider inserting him as your third wide receiver.

Notice soon that Matt Jones will be either stagnant on fantasy teams benches or a high percentage waiver wire dropped athlete.

Job Winners

Wednesday, 30 August, 2006

Teams are finally letting loose and unveiling the names of their starters. What significance does this have for your waiver wire and last minute fantasy football drafts?

Chad Pennington was officially named the starter by the Jets, and that comes as no surprise. He knows the offense and when healthy is near the top of the league in quarterback rating. Another main reason why he is the starter from the beginning is for the Jets to get their final look at Pennington.

Durability is not the lone question when it comes to Pennington. He needs to reestablish himself and he’ll have fun doing it without Curtis Martin. It has been plenty of time since Pennington showed his prowess as a quarterback in the NFL in 2002. In 2003 and 2004 he had poor seasons. His career as a starting quarterback in the future of the NFL rests on his first month of this season.

Pennington should do fine and keep the Jets from thinking of inserting Ramsey or Clemons. No one is expecting great things from the Jets so that plays in the favor of Pennington. He should be able to let loose and show his true colors. He already has a huge chip on his shoulder to stay away from injuries. Being a catalyst in a Jets near .500 season would mean Pennington being a Jet for a bit more.

Fantasy wise Pennington will be a capable backup. For several reasons including his weak arm and the Jets limited offense. They will likely be down quite a bit which will result in more turnovers offensively. No one wants to start at quarterback that is turnover prone. It’s too costly to lose those valuable points in tight fantasy football head to head matchups.

Over in Tennessee the Titans made a shocking bold decision by naming Travis Henry as their starter. No one really thought of or gave consideration for Henry to win the job. Simply because since he was traded from Buffalo he has been unheard of. Last year he lost the starting role to Chris Brown, and did not do too well when Brown was hurt. Then he was suspended and the drafting of Lendale White made the outcome of Travis Henry’s days foreseeable as a non Titan.

With Henry being named the starter it shows how much of a disappointment Lendale White has been and that Chris Brown has not become fully healthy. Tennessee has weapons offensively to make Travis Henry a decent second starting running back in majority leagues. Volek can deliver the football and there are even hints that Kerry Collins could be the starter. So offensively, the Titans should be fine.

Henry has been dominant in years past with Buffalo and must have showed something stellar to push him so quickly back in the fold. Some sort of recommitment to the game of football must have clicked in his head. Any thoughts of a turn around towards his 02’ or 03’ fantasy football numbers are a bit far fetched.

He will be lucky to get fifteen carries a game but his big play ability is what makes him a decent fantasy back. As a Buffalo Bill he never had the huge amount of carries that would warrant the numbers he put up. He just made the most out of every carry.

The platoon of backs in Tennessee is long and maybe too much too even think about for a fantasy football team. Anytime a Pro Bowl back is a starter again it just is too much to pass on. He has to have extremely fresh legs from not touching the football that much, and he is only entering his sixth season in the NFL. Sure, Henry may lose the starting job by October but do not play “what ifs” in his case. You have bench spots for a reason on your fantasy squads.

Lastly, a player that was huge on sleeper draft boards last season is presumably a fantasy throw away this season. The Arizona Cardinals went out and signed Edgerrin James and that automatically ended any thoughts of JJ Arrington. Anyone that watched him last season saw how poor he did and the disastrous Cardinals offensive line. Well folks, JJ has had a darn good preseason and has been named the official backup by beating out Marcel Shipp.

The difference with Arrington this season thus far seems to be his bulking up a bit which has added a Warrick Dunn type flash to his running style. Against the Bears in last weeks preseason game he was bursting through holes and getting plenty of yards. It was hard to tell who was running the football.

The Cardinals also ran the football thirty plus times in that preseason game and figure to hand the ball off more this regular season. Edgerrin James has not received that much playing time in preseason, so do not expect him to suddenly get a ton of carries. Arrington will see enough playing time to get four to five fantasy points a week on yardage alone. If you have Edgerrin James and want solid insurance we suggest you draft Arrington as a handcuff.

Quarterback Rankings 8/30/06

Tuesday, 29 August, 2006

Fantasy drafts should all about be wrapped up. Hopefully you did not reach for a quarterback after the selections of Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. After them, there is a solid second tier of quarterbacks that can contribute well on fantasy squads. They are quarterbacks though that can fall to you deep into fantasy football drafts.

Stay tuned for bi weekly updates on all positions of rankings throughout the NFL season.

1. Peyton Manning
Any questions here than you either have not watched football in years or have are a non sports fan that was swindled into your office fantasy football league. Manning may never have the ridiculous touchdown numbers than he did a few years ago, but he is as automatic as you can have.

2. Tom Brady
Marvelous Brady has kept ringing up solid seasons year in and year out. Quietly you can compare him to Manning and get almost the same results. You may even be able to wait a round or two after Manning is selected to snatch Brady.

3. Donovan McNabb
He seems to be fully healthy and should be ready to move on with the cancerous Terrell Owens gone. The addition of Donte Stallworth will allow McNabb to air it out a bit. The best thing for McNabb is the decision for the Eagles to return to their old style. Which will involve utilizing Brian Westbrook again, who is an underrated pass catching back.

4. Trent Green
He had a down year for touchdown passes in 2005. Before last year though he was on a tear for three straight years with around 25 touchdowns and an easy 4,000 yards. Those are hard numbers to resist even if the Chiefs run the ball to death with Larry Johnson. The simple fact is that Green is at this position because of the weakening class of strength at the quarterback position. You could argue with any quarterback from five to nine that could go here, but Green is the consistent quarterback.

5. Carson Palmer
Can he last an entire season with questions in the back of his mind? Yes, he looked fantastic in PRESEASON action, but once that turns into four quarters of brutal action things will be different. Regardless his skills are too good to pass up and his progression as a quarterback in the NFL has been amazing.

6. Kurt Warner
His weapons are better than what he had in his hey day with the Rams. Everyone has downed Warner but he is a savvy veteran and can not screw up with the tools he has. Last year Warner did not have the dump off back like he had with Faulk and even Barber with the Giants. Now he has Edgerrin James and Warner suddenly feels like he can play another ten years. Too bad for him is the fact that Leinart is behind him. Don’t worry about the presence of Leinart. If the time comes, which shouldn’t be until late in the season, then worry. Until then, Warner is going to be a monster as a fantasy quarterback.

7. Matt Hasselbeck
The only reason he is here is because we all know that Shaun Alexander is a touchdown machine. Their offense runs through him, and the passing game comes a distant second. Even with that Hasselbeck has been a great fantasy quarterback. Playing the Rams, Cardinals, and 49ers twice a piece will do that.

8. Marc Bulger
All he has to do is stay healthy. Hopefully the change in the offensive philosophy will protect Bulger and help bring his name where it deserves to be in the league. He delivers a great ball and has the smarts to be the leader of this team for years.

9. Jake Delhomme
Delhomme is a veteran that knows what he needs to do. He has never been a huge fantasy quarterback but the running game may suffer early on. That means Delhomme will be throwing a bit more. He already has an amazing connection with Steve Smith, and should love possession receiver Keyshawn Johnson.

10. Daunte Culpepper
Give him some time to break in again. He has done okay thus far but has not received the necessary snaps he should have in preseason. Miami may suffer from that decision early on in the season. One thing that stood out is the fact that Culpepper still has fumbling woes. He needs to control that to be an elite fantasy quarterback.

11. Eli Manning
His accuracy has been the big question mark along with his youth. Everyone is expecting a tremendous leap of progression from last season, but don’t expect the crop before it is planted. Tiki Barber’s MVP season made Manning look better than he did last season. If Barber tails off a bit the demand may be too much for Eli.

12. Mike Vick
Some day Vick is going to live up to his hype. It may not be this year, but even a slight increase in his passing skills will land him this spot. Don’t overlook his running skills which makes him the only quarterback that you can start as an illegal third running back.

The rest

13. Jake Plummer
14. Drew Bledsoe
15. Byron Leftwich
16. Drew Brees
17. Brett Favre
18. Ben Roethlisberger
19. Mark Brunell
20. David Carr
21. Chad Pennington
22. Philip Rivers
23. Steve McNair
24. Aaron Brooks
25. Chris Simms
26. Jon Kitna
27. Brad Johnson
28. Charlie Frye
29. JP Losman
30. Billy Volek
31. Alex Smith
32. Rex Grossman

When It Is All Said and Done

Tuesday, 29 August, 2006

Mike Shanahan likes to start up controversy. Especially at the running back position, which every year in itself is a fantasy football owners nightmare. We all know that Denver’s running game is consistently going to be great, but which back is it going to be? It was Terrell Davis for several years, but since him it has been a trademark for Shanahan to keep trying to find a running back.

Early in the preseason, Shanahan decided to name Mike Bell as his starting running back. Instant reaction was kind of surprising. Figuring that Bell was undrafted rookie free agent that was just battling for a roster spot. So as fantasy drafts started happening in August, all of the sudden Mike Bell was the hot choice to take in the fourth or fifth round.

Is this the biggest mistake going on in fantasy football drafts? Yes it is.

Shanahan is doing nothing but stirring up Tatum Bell. Tatum is too talented to not be the feature back or at least carry the ball significantly. He had a great yards per carry average last season, and an equally satisfying amount of touchdowns. The only reason Shanahan named Mike Bell the starter was to get Tatum that extra motivation to use his abilities to the fullest. There have been numerous reports about how Tatum’s work ethic is not where it should be. That move should have gave Tatum Bell the boost he needed. If you’ve noticed in the preseason, Tatum has been still getting carries, and in the last preseason game outdid Mike strongly.

It’s sad to say, but Shanahan and the Broncos have no investment for Mike Bell. His measly rookie free agent contract leaves him as an easy target to let go whenever. Sure, Bell can be utilized as a change of pace back if Ron Dayne can not do it. Bell is a solid back at running in the tier blocking system of the Broncos. He excelled quietly in the Pac-10 at the University of Arizona, and even had a 200 yard rushing game against UCLA last season. The biggest problem though with Mike Bell that won’t go away, is his fumbling problems. They plagued him at the collegiate level and back then you could see how it affected his mentality.

Entering with the Broncos he has been feeling great. All the media is on him with this great story of being an undrafted free agent to a starter. That assumption was too early, and horrible to put in the mind of this youngster. As soon as things start going down a bit for Mike Bell, he is guaranteed to lose his carries and that confidence will be sucked away dramatically.

This whole scenario is making fantasy owners look like fools by drafting Mike Bell as early as he has been going lately. Shanahan played this perfectly. He gave the media a story to devour a month before the NFL season, and in turn the media over played it to the consumer. Who’s Mike Bell was on every sports channel and that caused unnecessary inflation of his fantasy stock.

Either way you look at it, the Broncos running situation was ugly to evaluate for fantasy purposes. Unless you happened to nab both Bell’s than you very well may be stuck and hurting at running back all season long. Getting the compensation at your other positions will be impossible to make up for that poor draft move. Start working the waiver wire as star running backs and such openings appear.

After the first few weeks of the season Mike Bell is going to be unheard of.

Vick's Deep Threat Arrives

Wednesday, 23 August, 2006

Now Mike Vick has no excuses to improve on his quarterback skills. With the Falcons acquiring Ashley Lelie, Vick gets a player that complements him perfectly. Lelie is a player that is known for the big play, and we all know that Vick has a cannon of an arm. On draft boards there are two things that should be going on. Both of them involve arrows moving Lelie and Vick up in their respective positions.

This should be a dynamite tandem and makes the Atlanta Falcons an extremely dangerous team. Not since Tony Martin and Terrence Mathis have the Falcons had any legitimate receivers. Now they have Lelie and their youngsters in Roddy White and Michael Jenkins peaking to NFL capability. Watch out for the Falcons.

Trends can be useful for all sorts of brain teasing facts. An interesting trend to look at is Mike Vick’s every other year pattern. Discount his rookie season in this, and flashback to 2002. It was the year Vick starting living up to his hype and had unreal runs all season long. That season also brought the Falcons to the playoffs in which they bumped the Green Bay Packers out in the wild card round at Lambeau field. Ending the season in the divisional round of the playoffs was thought of as a stepping stone for 2003.

Well in 2003, Vick was considered the guy to take in fantasy football leagues. At least as the number one quarterback, but that all botched away when Vick’s leg was broken in a preseason game against the Ravens. Then came 2004 (remember 02’), and Vick had the Falcons rolling again. This time as deep as the NFC championship game in a demoralizing defeat to the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles.

2005 turned out to be Vick’s poorest year on the field and doubters have since risen up on the launching of Vick to elite status. Before you jump on the guy, try badgering other quarterbacks in the league with worse inconsistency. Vick is the reason this team keeps building and adding key ingredients. With the way the team is looking now, Vick’s every other year trend might be successful for 2006. Super Bowl aspirations are not far away from the Falcons, and are likely if Vick improves just a tad on his blessed abilities.

With Lelie in the fold, Vick’s quarterback vision becomes four zones. His dump off throws to Warrick Dunn, middle of the field throws to Alge Crumpler, median passes to his receivers, and now that other zone beyond forty yards to Ashley Lelie. That zone is there for the first time in Vick’s career, but he’ll have to display the accuracy needed to complete that throw. There won’t be much time for Lelie and Vick to get their timing down, but maybe they’ll put in the extra time needed themselves by putting in that extra practice.

It is amazing that Vick has dropped so far down off the radar as a quarterback in fantasy football drafts. His rushing stats alone have deservedly put himself as a top ten quarterback. In several drafts, owners are sly enough to land Vick at the opportune time to classify him as a sneaky fantasy backup quarterback. That’s outrageous and will pay off for any owner that was able to do that.

For Lelie draftees commend yourself for drafting him as late as you did and being ranked on for it. Lelie has sure done a great public relations campaign for himself, stating that he deserved Javon Walker money, and this and that. The time to let your skills do the talking is up for Lelie. He is a solid number two receiver on any fantasy team. The knock on Lelie is the amount of drop balls he has and how easily he can be shut down if the deep ball can’t be completed.

Regardless both Vick and Lelie are better off with each other, and should pose for some great duo connections on the highlight reels.

Jets Have A Back

Monday, 21 August, 2006

The Jets were in desperation mode, as news has been getting worse on Curtis Martin’s chances of playing in 2006. Last week they tried to acquire Cleveland Browns running back Lee Suggs, only to see the trade fall because of a failed physical. More rumors began swirling of other possible backs including TJ Duckett. Well, the back the Jets ended up with happens to be another Pittsburgh Panthers product. How will Kevan Barlow factor as a fantasy impact player in 2006?

Barlow is the type of back that for the last two years has been nothing but a player you could find on the waiver wire. Due to his inconsistencies and struggles with injuries he really has not had many carries over the past few seasons. In fact, even in his lone 1,000 yard season he only carried the football 201 times. So even though he has been in the league for awhile, he has never really taken on a full time load.

So his legs are fresh and he’ll be in a much better environment. Even though Frank Gore ousted him for the starting job in San Francisco, Barlow is a capable back. He is big, and shifty, sort of like an Eddie George. The New York Jets will split carries with Derrick Blaylock and potentially Cedric Houston. Where the impact of Kevan Barlow comes in, is that he’ll definitely be their short yardage and goal line back.

This will be huge for Bettis type touchdown numbers if Chad Pennington can hold onto the starting quarterback position. Already having a weak arm combined with two straight seasons of shoulder injuries, means the Jets would use a ball control style offense. Short and median passes that once inside the opponents fifty would almost always lead to red zone opportunities, instead of the big play at midfield.

Someone has to fill the void of the spectacular numbers Martin has put up in all his years with the Jets. Kevan Barlow will be given every opportunity to do so, and should take firm control of the Jets starting job. Expect Barlow to start off with ten to twelve carries, and soon reach fifteen to seventeen a game. The Jets will run a lot as they always have, and Barlow should get his yards per carry average back up in the four to five yard range.

Easily expect eight to ten rushing touchdowns, and seven to eight hundred yards rushing. This is a situation Barlow has been dying to get into for years. Now with a much better team and his experience, he should be a fantasy steal for touchdowns.