Archive for April, 2010

Flacco Battle Tested

Tuesday, 13 April, 2010

Flacco Battle Tested
By Zack Cimini

When a player comes in and is drafted with little to no expectations it can make for an easier transition. After all your main mind set is too prove to everyone else that did not draft you that you’re the real deal. For Joe Flacco, his rookie campaign has to be classified as a rarity. A strong organization like the Baltimore Ravens was positioning him to be their future stud. Patience grew thin on Kyle Boller and suddenly Flacco was getting his chance to shine. Maybe being thrust into the spotlight unknowingly gave Flacco the chance to go out and not think about his situation.

He stormed onto the scene and really went unnoticed as far as having an impact until the Ravens made the playoffs. Up until then people were saying that Flacco was playing within the offense and the Ravens concept. They were limiting his reads, progressions, and shots down the field. You can say that for just about any offensive in the league depending on who the opposing defense is. For Flacco though he was making the most of those strikes down the field.

After the 2009 playoffs when the Ravens went to the AFC championship game the hype surrounding Flacco coming back was just beginning to blossom. His numbers were less than spectacular in the playoffs but his accuracy and arm strength was there. The key to what happened down the stretch in the playoffs in 2009 that was overlooked was Flacco’s inconsistency. Of all the things that you would not want to carry over, that did.

Flacco’s 2009 year did not start off anywhere near what he would of imagined. The Ravens were entrusting a bigger role for Flacco and he was not ready for it. A transformation of play calling saved the Ravens season, and shifted them back into the wild card spot. They finished the year winning three of their last four to gain position in a favorable matchup against the New England Patriots. The key to the Ravens end of season uprise was utilizing their backfield tandem. Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, and Le’Ron McClain were as good as any backfield units and will still be going into 2010.

One of the areas that likely hurt Flacco was at the wide receiver position. Before training camp began in 2009, the Ravens were caught off-guard by the sudden announcement that Derrick Mason would not return. It was thought to be an emotional decision based on days earlier that Steve McNair had been murdered. After some time Mason decided he would return. Mason though is an aging receiver that could not be relied on as a number one receiver. Behind him Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams were not the type of receivers who were going to scare opposing secondary’s.

Thus the Ravens finally decided to upgrade at the receiver position. Bringing in Anquan Boldin was a strong enough move to show Flacco the Ravens mean business. Boldin may have taken a second seat to Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona, but he is a guy that is going to leave it all on the field. He punishes opposing cornerbacks and has a knack for finding holes and providing a target spot for quarterbacks to fit in balls. Baltimore also rolled the dice by signing Donte Stallworth. Everyone knows the reasoning Stallworth missed last season. He brings speed to the table and can fit in certain packages such as the spread and wide formations on seven to ten plays a game.

Last year wasn’t necessarily a disappointment from expected charted growth for a second year quarterback. For fantasy football fans it was. Flacco slid by the week on updated fantasy boards and drifted to a borderline considerable benching. He was the reason why you key in on securing a backup that can actually step in without too many worries. Flacco’s growth in 2010 should be a hit to the comparisons expected a year ago. He has went through enough ups and downs to bear the brunt of blows that come with the territory of being a starting NFL quarterback. Those situations are going to come and go, but Flacco shouldn’t linger stretches of weeks at a time with that happening.

Fantasy Week in Review (4/4-4/11):

Monday, 12 April, 2010

Fantasy Week in Review (4/4-4/11):
By: Raymond Ayala

The J-Hey Kid: The Future of Fantasy Baseball

If you were lucky enough to take a gamble on an outfielder from Atlanta who is probably younger than you in the later rounds this year, then you must have had a solid first week one in your fantasy league.
Move over Justin Upton, you are no longer the only young OF fantasy owners are drooling over. Some people compare him to Darryl Strawberry, while I see more of a Ken Griffey Jr. in this kid. Folks I want you to meet Jason Heyward the future of fantasy baseball and the potential successor to Albert Pujols as your No. 1 overall pick for seasons to come.
Heyward was selected 14th overall in the 2007 MLB Baseball Amateur Draft. He was drafted by his hometown Atlanta Braves and has quickly become one of the best hitting prospects in baseball. The Braves decided they could no longer wait on this phenom, who not only has plus power, but has probably some of the best bat speed in the majors right now. The Braves decided to give him the starting RF job out of Spring Training this year, and the kid cannot even buy a beer yet (20 years old).
After watching him play in his first week, I have to say he seems pretty comfortable. Most 20 year old kids would struggle in their first week of the bigs, but Heyward not only didn’t struggle, he probably had one of the best weeks of any ML-player (.292, 3 HR’s, 8 RBI). Why do I think he will continue to dominate like this? Because this kid is for real, and his swing is like that of a 3-4 year veteran. He is the most major league ready player to hit the Majors since Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez.

Brian Matusz a.k.a The Second Coming of the Big Unit

I had the luck of watching Brian Matusz play at my school for three years. During those three seasons, I thought he was the best lefty I had ever seen in my life and I had seen both Johan Santana and Barry Zito in his prime. Matusz is a 23 year old crafty lefty, who has a 94 MPH fastball with very balanced breaking pitches.
Matusz lost his status of “sleeper” last season when he capped his short 2nd half stint with the Baltimore Orioles, by throwing 7 innings of shutout ball against the New York Yankees. Ever since that game, fantasy owners are no well aware of the fact that this kid is for real.
The only downfall for Matusz may be the fact that he has trouble finding the win column, since he does play for the Orioles. Even though he may not get you the wins like Lincecum, Halladay, Beckett, etc. get you, the strikeouts will be right there with those guys if not more. Look for Matusz to maintain an ERA below 3.50 this year and top the 180 strikeout mark as well. The Orioles pitching staff is quickly becoming something to be reckoned with.

Chris Young: A Possible Resurgence?

Arizona Diamondbacks Outfielder Chris Young is one of those players you scratch your head and wonder if he will ever get his groove back. Largely ignored by most fantasy baseball players, reassured he will be one of the most popular waiver wire pickups after this first week.
Young started off this week strong, hitting .292 with 3 HR’s, 11 RBI. While those numbers look fantastic on paper, remember 9 of those RBI’s and 2 of those HR’s came against the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates. Do not be fooled by this hot start, Young is another example of a player who got paid and is now taking it easy. After hitting 30 HR’s in 2007, Young was demoted to AAA last season after his terrible hitting display. While there is still a chance he continues this pace, I just don’t see it happening. My suggestion would be to pick up Delmon Young (MIN) or Rick Ankiel (KC) before possibly considering Chris Young.

Chapman and Strasburg dominate first Minor League Starts

While this may not apply to your current fantasy team, there are those who drafted these two pitchers in hopes of a call-up sooner than expected. While these two probably will be talked about the most of all the pitchers in the 2011 Fantasy Draft crop, right now they could be mid-season league changers if drafted properly.
My suggestion is draft neither if you are in a relatively shallow league (10 teams or less). If you are in a deep league (10 teams or more), then you may want to spend a late round pick on one of these two. While they probably will get limited ML starts this season, I suspect both will see ML time at some point this season. Both pitchers are similar in the fact that they will be good for monster strikeout numbers, but Strasburg seems to be the more likely of the two to see the majors first.
The only reason Stephen Strasburg is in the minor leagues right now is because of a technicality in his contract, which pays him less if he stays in the minors. The Washington Nationals aren’t going anywhere, anytime this season, so Strasburg is what Nat’s fans are cheering for this season. Equipped with a fastball that touches 99 MPH, Strasburg has begun to develop the breaking pitches that needed refining in his arsenal. Look for Strasburg as a pick up around May if he is still available in your league.
Aroldis Chapman is probably the only pitcher right now who has a faster fastball than Strasburg. Chapman’s fastball is the best in the league, and I’m confident in saying that. Chapman has the ability to hit triple-digits regularly, but his main issue will be developing his off speed stuff and fixing some control issues. Chapman is younger than Strasburg, and was signed knowing he was a project. I think Chapman is off limits this season in fantasy baseball, especially since I am very high on their current No. 5 starter Mike Leake. Keep an eye out on Chapman though, and if you hear any news about injuries to the starting pitchers in Cincinnati, pick up Chapman right away.

Will Kolb Hurt Jackson’s Numbers?

Thursday, 8 April, 2010

By Zack Cimini

After all the gossip talk and predictions of what people think is going to happen with Donovan in Washington and Kolb in Philly,  training camp will begin and performance will be the true measure. The fantasy world is already anticipating a spike to Kolb’s game and expect him to be a strong fantasy starter.

Why shouldn’t they? He was a big factor in his two starts last year when he threw for 300 yards and had the offense ticking like it hadn’t missed a beat. Two games is hardly a scope of predictable measure. Quarterbacks have their streaks all the time, and more often than not a quarterback can step in and excel. Especially with a solid skill set as Kolb does have, and experience gained from learning behind McNabb. Often though once that quarterback gets truly tested defensive coordinators gain quickly on a quarterbacks tendencies. They’ll know exactly what type of pressure to throw at Kolb and schemes too throw off his rhythm.

Flashback to what the true reason why McNabb wasn’t traded a year before. A November 23rd matchup in which McNabb was yanked and Kolb came in and played like an ex XFL caliber quarterback. Andy Reid’s statement of just giving Kolb some experience and his other stammering explanations were bogus. If Kolb would have performed well then and there he would of taken over the reigns.

The potent combo and fantasy fanatics that are expecting DeSean Jackson to thrive as he did last year may be in for a surprise. Sure Kolb’s two starts last year were great games for Jackson. Both games he exploded for big touchdowns and over 100 yards receiving. For anyone that remembers those games, Jackson’s big play touchdowns were not due to Kolb’s arm. The plays involved Jackson making a big play after the catch and using his speed to run away from the pack. Kolb doesn’t necessarily have a strong arm; not nearly the strength of Donovan McNabb’s.

That’s the factor that could turn DeSean Jackson from a week to week consistent big time fantasy factor back to unpredictable. If Kolb can’t show the strength to air it out, teams will compress their safeties and bump more off the snap on Jackson. Jackson has shown the ability to make catches wherever on the field but we all know he is a guy that is a burner. He had 10 plays for over 40 yards, an incredible statistic, especially considering he only caught 61 balls. That’s a bad sign for owners banking on Jackson trending around the numbers of last year.

We expect Jackson’s big play ability to be diminished with Kolb under center. Meaning Jackson likely will have a tough time catching six to eight touchdowns. Yardage should still be there as we know Andy Reid is going to call enough pass plays to numerically make up for Kolb’s three years as backup. Seriously though, do not make the mistake of reaching too high on grabbing Jackson. A legit number one fantasy receiver should be somebody that without question can guarantee you ten plus touchdowns. We don’t foresee that happening in 2010. Breaking down the numbers of last year and looking beyond the big plays of Jackson, he had seven games with three catches or less.

Unless Kolb is an All-Pro type like Aaron Rodgers waiting to shine, it’s going to be a long painful growing experience for Kolb, Jackson, and Andy Reid.

Transition Time

Wednesday, 7 April, 2010

By Zack Cimini

An elite quarterback as himself in Donovan McNabb should have had his pull of position in any environment of trade talks. We were not looking at a quarterback beyond being a capable consistent threat back in the pocket. He is not 37 or 38 years old. He is only 33 and was worthy of another two to three seasons with the Eagles. Departing from their teams of the 2000’s began last season when the Eagles decided to part ways with Brian Dawkins. This off-season that continued with Brian Westbrook giving his exiting papers.

With the rumor mill of Donovan McNabb every off-season being traded it just seemed an inevitable story but nothing more to it every year. If it were ever to happen you would of expected it last year, especially when McNabb was benched against the Baltimore Ravens. For the umpteenth time McNabb ignored the doubters and naysayers and got the Eagles oh so close to the Super Bowl. Up top in the Eagles front office the pressure kept being added onto McNabb’s shoulders. 2009 although a solid statistical year for McNabb ended unsatisfactorily.

As they say, business is business, and McNabb might have his best shot yet to make a lasting impact on the NFL in the latter stages of his career. Heading to Washington would seem like a laughable situation for anyone, but Washington will back him with talent. That’s one thing Daniel Snyder has never shyed away from doing. He will group together with Mike Shanahan and evaluate where their weaknesses are. For years in Philadelphia, McNabb really never had that great receiver or solid offensive line. DeSean Jackson will be a formidable threat but his rapid development was based as a second round pick. A gem of a steal that fell to the Eagles laps. There truly was no urgency in ever getting McNabb a true talented receiver. Come on…..Reggie Brown, Kevin Curtis, Freddie Mitchell. The best he ever could get was Terrell Owens for a year of his antic adventures.

We expect McNabb to have a seamless transition and thrive as a Redskin. His personable character will shine there, and you’ll see him flashing that patented smile as he gains his redemption. Injury prone or not, McNabb has found a way each year to get his team to the playoffs and make a push. It’ll be interesting to see what key components the Redskins add in this years draft. Money hunger is not an issue in Washington. The players on that team have been paid nicely. Getting their attention and drive to be committed as the true definition of team is the key. McNabb commands that with his presence and will surely revitalize the talent that went dormant under Jim Zorn.

In Philadelphia the brunt of the blame always fell on McNabb’s shoulders. Often times though the obvious criticism should of went directly at Andy Reid and his horrid play call selections. The team would literally force a ratio of passes than mixing it up with the running game. Sometimes it was downright stupefying. The chemistry was so unbalanced at times that the Eagles would go consistently in lulls that would allow teams to get back in games. Shanahan will not put McNabb in that type of situation.

Right now McNabb is probably bitter as can be. This extra season being in Washington instead of Philly will pay off in the long run. Draft McNabb in the same spots you normally would in your fantasy football drafts. He is going to remain a force and have better all around talent to work with. The highest of keys is an organization that is committed to him for the next several years.