December 17, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Mack Brown Resigns – Crazy week in Texas with football coach Mack Brown stepping down from his post with the Longhorns. Brown’s resignation has been the subject of speculation for a few years now as many fans haven’t been pleased with the team’s record lately. After nine consecutive seasons with at least ten wins, Texas hasn’t achieved that mark in the past four years. Brown hasn’t been terrible, mind you, guiding the Longhorns to three winning seasons in those four years. But the team hasn’t competed for a national championship in some time and the program hasn’t been as good as it was last decade under him. Alabama’s Nick Saban seemed to be a potential replacement for Brown, but he recently announced he’s staying put with the Crimson Tide.

Kobe Bryant Struggles in Return – The Los Angeles Lakers got their star back this week as Kobe Bryant returned from his Achilles injury sustained last season – but things haven’t gone quite as they hoped. The team got off to a 1-3 start since Bryant’s return with their only win a three-point victory over the Charlotte Bobcats under their belts. The Mamba isn’t helping things, either. In the four games he’s played, Bryant is scoring only 13.5 points a game. Helping to fill the point guard role in Steve Nash’s absence, the good news is that he is averaging a career-high seven assists per contest. But Bryant is also averaging a career-worst 6.3 turnovers and is clearly still dealing with a high amount of rust.

Jamaal Charles has Record Day … as a Receiver – Kansas City Chiefs’ running back Jamaal Charles had some kind of day in the team’s 56-31 win over the rival Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Charles is one of the league’s best rushers, but he did his damage on Sunday through the air, racking up 195 receiving yards on eight catches. He added five big touchdowns and had 220 total yards on the day. According to ESPN, he had the third biggest receiving day for a running back since the 1970 merger and his five scores tied a franchise record. Needless to say, Charles surely won leagues for many of his fantasy football owners that reached their league’s championship games.

Roy Halladay Retires – Former All-Star pitcher Roy Halladay retired last week at the age of 36. Halladay, as recently as two seasons ago, was still one of baseball’s best pitchers. In his second season with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011, the pitcher had perhaps his best season ever with a 19-6 record and career-bests with 220 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.35. The past two seasons for Halladay, though, have been forgettable and last year, he suffered one of his worst professional seasons going 4-5 with a whopping 6.82 ERA. The next question will inevitably be if he will get into the Hall of Fame. His credentials are reasonable with a career 3.38 ERA and more than 2,100 strikeouts, but his relatively low total of 203 wins will hurt him. That’s unfortunate because playing for some pretty bad Toronto Blue Jays teams for the bulk of his career, Halladay would certainly have had more wins with a better franchise. Still, that number will be difficult to overcome since most of the other starters currently in the Hall have more victories.

Snowball Fight Ends with Oregon Player Suspended – The Oregon Ducks’ football team apparently organized a snowball fight with fans and, well, things got out of control. A player was even suspended for the team’s upcoming bowl game. Well, then.

RGIII Benched … Redskins Lose Anyway – The Washington Redskins benched their star quarterback Robert Griffin III after he’s been inconsistent all year long following his recovery from his ACL injury. Kirk Cousins got the start for Washington on Sunday, but the team still lost to the Atlanta Falcons, 27-26. The team was competitive and Cousins did some good things in throwing for 381 yards and three touchdowns, but he also struggled a little with two interceptions and failed to convert a potential game-winning two-point conversion near the end of the contest. Cousins is an interesting quarterback who has a future in this league, but the team is still better off with Griffin if he can return to the form he showed in 2012. Benching him was the right move and if the Skins are wise, they’ll do the same for the rest of the season and allow him to get healthy for next year.

Jameis Winston wins Heisman – In the long and storied history of the Heisman trophy, a freshman didn’t win the award until last season when Johnny Manziel took home the prize. That opened the door for others and for the second consecutive season, a first-year player has won the honor. Freshman quarterback Jameis Winston has been nothing short of spectacular for the Seminoles and he clearly deserved to win it, leading Florida State to an undefeated season as they head into the national championship game next month.

Skiing … Not Just for the MountainsSkiers are taking over Detroit’s abandoned buildings. No, really.

July 30, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Alfonso Soriano returns to Yankees: In desperate need of offense with so many injuries to key players, the New York Yankees turned to a familiar face, trading for outfielder Alfonso Soriano. Soriano began his career in New York as a second baseman before later playing for the Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals, and most recently, the Chicago Cubs. The outfielder is past his prime, but a recent hot streak was proof that he can still provide a surge of power. After hitting only nine home runs in the first three months of the season, Soriano has hit nearly that many already in July with eight this month heading into this past weekend.

Jeremy Maclin out for year: NFL training camps are underway and that can only mean one thing – injuries won’t be far behind. The biggest casualty thus far may be the Eagles’ young wide receiver, Jeremy Maclin, who is out for the season after tearing an ACL in a practice. With perhaps their best wideout injured, Philadelphia’s season gets off to a rocky start. The team still has DeSean Jackson at receiver, but Maclin’s loss gives rookie head coach Chip Kelly less to work with on offense – his area of expertise.

Jaromir Jagr signs with New Jersey Devils: Even at 41, Jaromir Jagr isn’t ready to hang up his skates. After playing for the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars last year, the winger has signed a one-year $2 million deal with the New Jersey Devils. Jagr isn’t the player he once was, but still has a little left in the tank after scoring 35 points (including 16 goals in 45 games this past season). Plus, with Ilya Kovalchuk leaving New Jersey to play in Russia, the team was in desperate need of scoring. Jagr ranks eighth all-time among NHL players in scoring and his 681 career goals are good for tenth overall.

Lebron > Kobe in ESPN poll: When it comes to the most popular player in the NBA, LeBron James passed up Kobe Bryant for the first time in a few years according to an ESPN poll. Bryant had beaten out James the past few seasons, but after his second consecutive title, James overtook him last week. Really, it’s just proof that time heals all wounds. Immediately after the much-scrutinized “Decision” broadcast where James announced his intention to leave Cleveland for Miami, he took a huge publicity hit and was even viewed as a villain by many. But after a few years with the Heat and winning a couple of rings, liking LeBron is once again okay.

101 Russian women set a skydiving record: Yeah, I’m not even going to try to add anything to this. Feel free to watch for yourself.

Matt Garza pickup costly for Rangers: Matt Garza may not quite be a household name, but the pitcher could be the best starter that gets dealt before baseball’s trade deadline this season. At 7-1 with a 2.87 ERA, Garza is having a career year and was heavily desired by contenders before he was traded to the Texas Rangers by the Cubs. Garza didn’t come cheap, however. He cost Texas two of their top prospects entering this season, pitcher Justin Grimm and first baseman Mike Olt. Both have struggled to a degree this season, but Grimm has seven wins with the major league team while Olt has 12 home runs in the minors. The trade also cost the Rangers C.J. Edwards, a flamethrower who has dominated Rookie League and Class A in the minors the past two seasons. Also, keep in mind that Garza could only be a rental player as he’s due to become a free agent after this year. All things considered, the Rangers need to not only make the playoffs, but maybe even reach a World Series for this trade to come out in their favor.

Tim Hudson injury hurts Braves: Atlanta Braves pitcher Tim Hudson suffered a devastating injury last week when his ankle was broken by the Mets’ Eric Young, Jr. in a collision at first base. The injury was a big one as the veteran will miss the rest of the season. That hurts Atlanta’s playoff chances at least a bit and the team is already looking around for a potential trade. The Braves hold a comfortable lead in the NL East, but should the team hold on for a playoff spot, Hudson’s veteran presence will be sorely missed in the postseason.

Matt Harvey likely to end season early: Similar to what the Washington Nationals did with prized young pitcher Stephen Strasburg, the New York Mets are planning to keep Matt Harvey on a limit for the rest of the year. Mets manager Terry Collins has said Harvey has about ten more starts left instead of the 13 or so he may reach if he continued to pitch every fifth day. While similar to Strasburg’s situation, though, it’s a bit different considering the Mets aren’t likely to be in the playoffs as the Nats were. One thing that will be interesting, though, is to see if the loss in starts costs Harvey when it comes to the Cy Young voting.

September 15, 2011

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Joe Haden Answers a Bunch of Unrelated Questions

By: Lionel

Bolstered by quarterback Bruce Grakowski’s quick-snap, 41-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green, the Cincinnati Bengals came out on top of Joe Haden and the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.  Don’t let that single play overshadow the performance of Haden, however, whose 5 break ups and 3 tackles, including 1 sack, made him “by far” the best cornerback of the week, according to ProFootballFocus.com.  Browns coaches suggest that Haden will be drawing the top coverage assignment often this season, and it’s no wonder.

Haden stopped by the Fathead office for the release of his new Fathead yesterday.  As gracious and down-to-earth as anyone you’ll ever meet, he shook hands, signed autographs, and posed for pictures with anyone who asked, the mutton chops on his cheeks framing his natural, easy smile.  We then sat down, and I asked him what I can only call “A Bunch of Unrelated Questions.”

Fathead Blog: It’s still pretty early in your NFL career, but who has been your toughest cover so far?

Joe Haden: My toughest cover has been Chad Ochocinco.  He’s really good.  He’s just fast, quick, and he comes out of his breaks really good.  I mean he does everything really well.

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FB: You were nicknamed “Rockstar” by fellow Gators because you can dance and you’re always well-dressed.  Which Brown is the worst dresser?

JH: I would have to give it to my boy Ahtyba Rubin.  Yeah, man.  He just doesn’t really care too much.  He’ll just come in with a big, black shirt and some flip-flops everyday.

FB: Who’s the worst dancer?

JH: Joe Thomas.  Yes.  I’ve seen him out at Barley House a couple of times, and it didn’t look too good.  It’s probably a tie between him and Alex Mack.

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FB: What’s on your DVR right now?

JH: Oh.  America’s Got Talent.  America’s Got Talent or America’s Best Dance Crew.  Those are my two favorite shows.

FB: Who do you root for on America’s Got Talent?

JH: I root for the dancers.  Definitely.  They’re always the best.

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FB: I read that you haven’t turned down an autograph request yet. What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve been asked to autograph?

JH: I’ve been asked to autograph body parts a lot.  Shoes…iPhones.  Probably the craziest one is iPhones.  I was, like, “You seriously want me to sign your phone?”  Like, white iPhones!

FB: Does it stay on there?

JH: No, it smears off.  (laughs) They still had me sign it.

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FB: You played quarterback for Friendly High School.  Do you find it hard to intimidate opponents when your team is the Friendly Patriots?

JH: No, because when you’re that good, when you’re team is that much better, they see how good you are, and it doesn’t really matter.  We just tell them, “We play for the Patriots.”  We don’t put “Friendly” in front of it.

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FB: What movie or band or music do you like, but you’re a little embarrassed to admit it?

JH: All of my music–it would be okay for me to like.  Movie…  Lion King?  I mean everybody likes Lion King, though.

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FB: What’s your prediction for Tim Tebow?

JH: Oh man.  I hope it works out.  He’s such a good dude.  We played together, and he was just so humble and God-fearing.  I mean he’s just such a good person.  You always hope for the best for people like that.  I don’t really know what the situation is out there.  I mean, on TV, on ESPN, it’s not looking too good, but I just hope for the best.

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FB: If you were to put up anyone’s Fathead in your house, besides your own, whose would it be?

JH: Michael Vick.  No question.  That’s just my favorite player ever.

August 22, 2011

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Top Ten Fantasy Football Drafting Tips

By: Anson Whaley

The NFL lockout’s over and with the season about to begin, here are ten tips to keep in mind when drafting your fantasy football team.

10. Never take a Kicker or Defense until the Late Rounds: Kickers in high-scoring offenses will produce points for sure, but it’s much better to add another quality skilled NFL player in the sixth or seventh round than to burn that pick on an ‘idiot’ kicker (Thanks, Peyton – I’ll never forget that one). There are always several good options left in the free agency pool and while you don’t necessarily have to wait until your final pick, you should avoid drafting one in the middle rounds. The same can be said for defenses. You may even prefer to switch your defense from week to week to take advantage of good matchups (i.e. Playing against the Buffalo Bills’ offense = gold mine).

9. Don’t Draft Based on Last Year’s Stats: While it’s fine to use last year’s numbers as a guide, they can’t be relied upon solely for your analysis in drafting. Sometimes the losses of seemingly minor NFL players such as blocking fullbacks change teams drastically and could mean that running back you’ve been watching won’t be as successful.

8. Avoid Taking Too Many Players from One Team: Even if it means potentially passing on what may be a slightly better player, it’s a good idea to limit yourself to two players from one NFL team. The Packers may be a great team, but drafting Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Grant, and Greg Jennings is probably the worst idea since the Houston Astros 1980s rainbow-colored unis. Not only will you have to deal with a potential loss during Green Bay’s bye week, but anytime their offense stumbles during the season, it could mean another automatic defeat.

7. Draft Based on Your League: It’s always a good idea to draft personnel depending on the rules in your league, so make sure you’re paying attention to them. Someone like Reggie Bush who’s a dual threat out of the backfield is obviously more valuable in a point-per-reception league. Or if you’re in a league where accumulated yardage doesn’t count, you’ll want to target players with only high touchdown possibilities.

6. Target Several Players Immediately after Your Pick: This rule is especially true for online drafts that run on a timer. Your pick will come up sooner than you think and poor planning can result in a hurried, or even wasted, pick. Don’t turn into the Minnesota Vikings – be ready. Immediately after your selection, highlight at least five players you’d like to take next and use your time to rank them. There’s a good chance that one or even several will be taken by then, but by planning ahead of time, you can ensure that you’re ready when your team is on the clock.

5. Avoid Listening to Too Many ‘Experts’: I like Yahoo’s Brandon Funston and ESPN’s Mel Kiper’s just as much as the next guy, but the more analysts you listen to, the more confused you’ll get. These guys aren’t perfect and often have conflicting opinions. The best thing to do is to use them for compiling groups of players you like at each position and make the final pick based on your own knowledge. Just because Kiper isn’t follicly-challenged doesn’t mean that he’s always right.

4. Limit Rookie Draft Picks: Sure, there are plenty of NFL rookies that can impact your team positively. But for every Adrian Peterson there are five Michael Crabtrees. Facts are facts – most rookies won’t play as much as projected and even if they do, that doesn’t mean they’ll be successful. Not only is the speed of the NFL on another level, but first-year players have plenty to worry about. Trust me, Cam Newton is not the key to your fantasy football team reaching the playoffs.

3. Overvalue quarterbacks and tight ends: This is one rule that’s a bit debatable, but I’ve seen too many good teams destroyed by mediocre quarterbacks. Invest in a good one in the first two or three rounds and your team should be better for it. There are only a few elite ones (Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Leaf to name a few), so you’ll need to act fast. It’s also worth targeting the top tight ends in the early middle rounds since there aren’t many that are capable of finding the end zone regularly.

2. Stockpile skill players (WR, RB, QB): Many owners will make a mistake in thinking their team is fine because they’ve got capable starters at all positions, but you can never have enough skill players. For one thing, you’ll need to worry about injuries and bye weeks. Plus, they’re always good trade bait and you can move them for other needs you may have down the line. If your quarterback goes down, it will be much easier to strike a deal for someone’s quality backup. So instead of picking up the league’s best kicker in the seventh round, take a third running back or wide receiver.

1. Leave emotion at the door: Just as that was Brad Pitt’s first rule in poker in Ocean’s Eleven, it should be made so in fantasy football. You should never pick up or avoid a player based on how you feel about them or their team personally. If you’re a Steelers fan, make the sacrifice and you don’t pick up Tom Brady who happens to be on the board in the fourth round, you’ve made a huge mistake. And just because you have a Texas Longhorns Ricky Williams jersey in your closet, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should take him with your first pick. Or second, third, fourth, or …

Well, you get the picture.

May 18, 2011

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NBA Draft Predictions

By: Rick Jarrell

Last night was the NBA Draft Lottery. Finallysomething to distract us from the incredible postseason basketball we’ve been subjected to so far (kidding). Pre-draft coverage is often over hyped, and the draft lottery is a great example. It’s not the actual drafting of players that may or may not (probably won’t) be superstars, but a random drawing of ping pong balls to decide who gets to gamble on the most recent highly touted players in hopes they can turn around a franchise. ESPN managed to drag a process that should have taken five minutes into a thirty minute “extravaganza.” But hey, it’s not as demoralizing as “The Decision,” and for those fans currently outside of the playoffs, it provides a small shred of hope.

With that in mind, rather than perform a mock draft, as most media outlets will do in an astonishingly redundant fashion, let’s take a look at different types of draft strategy and which lottery teams are likely to employ each one.

Draft for Potential

This strategy is nearly mandatory for those fortunate enough to win one of the top picks, especially when it comes to this year’s widely agreed upon weak draft. Most years, there seems to be a few players clearly above the rest, if not a single player perceived as the hands down top pick. For this year’s draft, that player is Kyrie Irving. Despite playing only a small portion of his freshman season at Duke, Irving is seen as the only sure NBA talent with potential to become a superstar. Expect the Cleveland Cavaliers, who those around the league say love Irving, to take him first.

After Irving, the draft becomes more of a mystery. And with such a shallow talent pool, I fully endorse any team taking a huge risk on an unknown like Bismack Biyombo. The likely best case scenario for a lot of these players is a strong rotational player, maybe a starter on a decent-good team. The odds are against any of this draft class leading a team to a championship, so why not take a risk? If you’re wrong, you get another high pick next year, with hopefully a better selection.

Draft Best Available

Selecting the best available in the draft is usually a strategy most commonly used by teams who need to improve in a lot of areas. Typically that includes the majority of the top end of the draft, and this year is no different. The Cavs, Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors, and Washington Wizards all have multiple areas of glaring weakness. Where they’re slotted in the draft now, taking the most talented player is logical.

Personally, I’m a big fan of this strategy, whether or not the best available player would be redundant on the team. You can find time to play two players, even if they play identical positions. And you can’t count on one player staying with the team their entire career. They’ll either be traded or leave via free agency. So you can also use the “redundant” player as a trade asset. But with this draft, the best available is unremarkable, and this strategy may not be as strong as it would be in most years.

Draft for Need

Traditionally, you’d see teams that seem to be one piece away from a playoff appearance, or a playoff team who acquired a lottery team’s draft pick, in this position. But the team that would have fit this mold the best, the Los Angeles Clippers, traded their pick to the Cavs (a pick that defied the 2.8% odds to gain #1). The Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns, and the Houston Rockets could enact this strategy, but with the 11th, 13th, and 14th picks, respectively, in a poor draft doesn’t leave them with much option. The rest of the high lottery teams are in such disarray, they are likely to select either based on talent or best available. 

The one team that may use need-based drafting that could shake things up is the Utah Jazz. A playoff team a year ago, the team was uprooted midseason as they sent Deron Williams to the New Jersey Netsand longtime head coach Jerry Sloan resigned shortly afterwards. Williams is a great player, but he wasn’t the entire team. There’s still talent on the team. But the front court is currently crowded with Paul Milsap, Mehmet Okur, Al Jefferson, and Derek Favors, who they received from the Nets. So despite having the third pick and the ability to select Williams or Kanter, the Jazz may go for a need and select a guard to pair with Devin Harris, such as Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker.

Wheelin’ and Dealin’

Every year, there are a few draft day trades – either before a player is drafted, or right after the player is drafted. In general, the NBA is a constantly evolving mechanism. But with the Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire this summer, it’s going to be difficult for a team to makes any serious moves without knowing what the future holds. Also, with the lack of talent in the draft (have I said that already?), teams are even less likely to take a risk. If any of the teams with higher draft picks this year is offered a future draft pick, I think they’ll strongly consider. Having said that, the Rockets are a team that is always looking to make a move, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that holds true next month. The Wizards, looking for a sidekick to team with John Wall, may have fallen just short of being able to select a talented front court player, and may be open to a trade.

The NBA Draft is June 23rd. Until then, PLAYOFFS! It’s only getting better…