August 9, 2011

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Players I Want On My Fantasy Team

By: Joe Williams

With the first NFL preseason game just a few days away, millions of people are getting ready for their fantasy football drafts. And millions more are wondering what is wrong with those people. People wonder what is wrong with me all the time. But when you bring home that fantasy football championship and the year-long bragging rights over your buddies that comes with it…it’s worth it.

It’s pretty obvious that you’d like to have Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson and Andre Johnson on your fantasy team. You might get one or two of the best players in the NFL but how you fill out the rest of the roster is more important in your effort to build a winning team. Here are a few NFL players I will be looking to have on my fantasy team.

Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis

Last year Bradford finished the year with the 20th most fantasy points for NFL quarterbacks. He will play better in 2011. He’s going to have better weapons around him than he did last year. He’s also going to have Josh McDaniels. McDaniels left the Broncos in a bad way with several controversial decisions that he made, but he also helped Kyle Orton put up some big fantasy football numbers. He will do the same for Bradford.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver

If you drafted Moreno in the last couple seasons, you might think his name is Knowshow Moreno because he has been disappointing. The departure of McDaniels is almost as good for Moreno and it is for Bradford. John Fox is taking over in Denver and he likes to run the ball. A lot. The Broncos made a play for DeAngelo Williams but ended up settling for Willis McGahee. Another plus for Moreno. His touches will go up and so will his production.

Chad Ochocinco, WR, New England

He was a great player in Cincinnati but was known mostly for his crazy and entertaining antics on and off the field. He was stuck on a team that was going nowhere and wanted out of town. He finally gets his wish with a trade to play with Tom Brady and the Patriots. Sound familiar? Randy Moss was in a similar situation in Oakland before going to New England and putting up some of the best receiving numbers ever. Ochocinco may not score 23 TD’s like Moss did in his first year with Brady throwing to him, but he will get more than the four he scored last season.

Owen Daniels, TE, Houston

I’m giving him one more shot. I keep drafting him and he keeps getting hurt. Every season I think he’s going to put up big numbers. Just like everyone thinks the Texans are going to make that jump to a contender. If they don’t come through this season, I’m off the bandwagon. But if you don’t get one of the big-name tight ends, Daniels has the potential to put up some big numbers in the explosive Houston offense.

Daniel Thomas, RB, Miami

Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are out. Reggie Bush and Thomas are in. Bush is the big name addition in Miami but he has never been the able to handle the workload of a starting running back. Thomas will get plenty of carries and more importantly, look for him to get the ball in the red zone.

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…