March 6, 2013

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Stars I’m Avoiding for My Fantasy Team

By: Joe Williams

You can’t win your fantasy baseball league on draft day. That takes much more than one day of investment. But if you draft a few stars that don’t perform, that one day could take you out of the running. With that in mind, here’s a few guys you can be sure won’t end up on my fantasy baseball roster on draft day.

Albert Pujols

This guy is not the top-five production guarantee he was a couple years ago. He’s already 33. He has knee issues and his totals for runs, hits, home runs, batting average and steals continues to decline each year. He’s still going to produce. But I’m not willing to spend my first pick on him (I’d much rather have Miguel Cabrera or Matt Kemp for example) and somebody in your league will.

Ryan Braun

Did he or didn’t he? The performance-enhancing drug thing keeps coming up. I don’t know why. But I do know that I’m not using my first pick on someone who may be suspended at some point. He is just too risky if you ask me. And as a Cubs fan, I prefer not to root for a Brewer if I don’t have to.

Buster Posey

I actually love Posey. But I don’t see him re-creating his MVP season and there are quite a few catchers that put up nice numbers last season. I’m not going to tell you not to draft him. But I’d rather wait a few rounds to take a catcher than take him in the first couple rounds.

David Wright

Here’s another guy I like. In fact, I want him on my team. Just not as much as Adrian Beltre. And I’m not going to be able to get both of the third basemen. Beltre is more dependable and was a key part of my fantasy championship last season. I’m not just going to kick him to the curb.

Derek Jeter

His name alone will get him drafted higher than he should be. Somebody in your fantasy baseball league will expect him to be the leader of a high-powered Yankees lineup and think they got a steal with a mid-round pick. Maybe. But the last time we saw him, was when he broke his ankle. And he’s 38. And the Yankees could be in trouble with injuries already piling up. No thanks. You can have him.

Closers

Somebody is going to pile up a lot of saves. Jim Johnson had 51 last year. And Fernando Rodney and Rafael Soriano each had more than 40. But they won’t be very high on my draft board. Why? Because they weren’t very high on draft boards last season either. There are too many other variables that go into whether or not these (and all other closers) will even get save chances. Unless you know something I don’t, then let someone else waste a higher pick on the top rated closers and find somebody that is more reliable. There will always be somebody available that can get you a few saves.

May 7, 2012

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Injuries Should Pave Way for Miami Heat to Reach Finals

By: Anson Whaley

Despite assembling a trio of some of the league’s biggest stars last year, the Miami Heat were unable to win the NBA championship, falling to the Dallas Mavericks. They received a bit of a pass since it was their first season together, but that won’t be the case if Miami fails to bring home the franchise’s second title this year.

The Heat may not have been the Eastern Conference’s best team this year, but there’s little doubt they are the favorites to advance to the Finals because of the huge rash of injuries to key players.

Miami’s already on the brink of disposing of the New York Knicks, leading their series 3-1 in the first round. The Knicks might have been in better shape against LeBron & Company if they were a bit healthier. New York was already without rookie sensation Jeremy Lin (knee injury) since late March. But then came Iman Shumpert’s torn ACL and a bizarre hand injury to starter Amare Stoudemire, who somehow thought punching a fire extinguisher case out of frustration after the team’s Game 2 loss was a good idea. After sitting out the third game, Stoudemire returned for Game 4. But missing Lin and Shumpert has definitely hurt the team in this series.

The Chicago Bulls, perhaps the best team in the entire league with a 50-16 record, were dealt a cruel blow in their first round series. With only a little over a minute to play in their first playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers, star point guard Derrick Rose tore his ACL and, just like that, his season was over. Rose was the team’s leader in scoring and assists and without him, the Bulls have been a shell of their former selves. Chicago won that first game, but has fallen short in the past three without Rose. And as if that weren’t enough of a hurdle to overcome, the Bulls lost center Joakim Noah in Game 4 to an ankle sprain. Even if they can somehow fight back and make it a series against Philly, there’s little chance they could do much more in the playoffs.

The Orlando Magic were another team expected to contend for the title. That all changed, though, once star center Dwight Howard went down with a back injury late in the season. Power forward Glen Davis has stepped up in his absence, scoring 20 points a game in the playoffs and pulling in nearly ten rebounds. But the team clearly misses Howard, who was their regular season leader in points, rebounds, blocks, and steals. Howard’s defensive impact is just as important as the one he makes on offense and the Magic are a weaker team on both ends without him.

There are also the aging Boston Celtics. The Celtics have been relatively healthy, but shooting guard Ray Allen missed the first two games of their opening series against the Atlanta Hawks. He’d been out for the past month with bone spurs in his foot, and even though he’s back, is still trying to get back into game shape.

Miami isn’t a lock to win the East by any stretch of the imagination. The Indiana Pacers are having a strong season and as one of the league’s best rebounding teams, could give the Heat some trouble. And the Atlanta Hawks’ sixth-ranked defense might be able to challenge Miami’s explosive offense as well. The Heat are a combined 6-2 against those two teams in the regular season, but in the playoffs, the intensity will be ratcheted up significantly. Despite all that, though, it’s clear that with all of the injuries to the Eastern Conference this season, Miami has a clear shot at reaching the Finals again.

November 2, 2011

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An Interview with Fran Tarkenton

By: Anson Whaley

(Editor’s note:  One lucky reader will WIN an autographed Fran Tarkenton Fathead!  Just leave a comment–along with a legit email address–on this article for your chance.  We’ll randomly select a winner at the end of the week.  Good luck!)

In the past decade, athletic quarterbacks like Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb have gotten a lot of press, but before any of them, there was Fran Tarkenton. In the 1960s and 1970s, Tarkenton was arguably the best quarterback in the NFL. He led the Minnesota Vikings to three Super Bowl appearances over his career, and he retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in completions, yardage, and touchdowns. We recently had a chance to catch up to Fran to ask him about a variety of topics including Tim Tebow, Monday Night Football, and his new fantasy football website FantasyFran.com.

Fathead Blog:  Many younger fans aren’t familiar with the AFL, but you were drafted in both the NFL Draft and the AFL Draft in 1961. Can you explain a bit how that happened and how you ended up signing with the Vikings instead of going to the AFL?

Fran Tarkenton:  There were two separate drafts for the two leagues, and you had to choose which league you were going to play in. I was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings, an expansion franchise, in the NFL, and the Boston Patriots in the AFL draft. Minnesota offered me a $12,500 salary with a $3,500 bonus, while the Patriots offered me $15,000 with a $5,000 bonus. But I chose the Vikings because I had to prove to myself that I could make it in the big league. The NFL was certainly considered the dominant league at that time.

Fathead Blog: Soon after that, you played your first game. Most rookie quarterbacks struggle miserably, but you came out and threw four touchdown passes in your initial contest. We’re seeing a bit of that type of success with Cam Newton this season. How were you able to drastically shorten the adjustment period and become a contributor immediately? What’s the key to succeeding early on as a rookie quarterback?

Fran Tarkenton:  I had a coach who was a former quarterback himself in Norm Van Brocklin (who still holds the single game passing yardage record, and had won the NFL Championship with the Eagles as a player the year before). He was a brilliant offensive mind, and I learned from him. I listened to him, and I worked hard, and I used my brain. I learned and came to understand what I was supposed to be doing, and that helped me succeed right out of the gate.

Fathead Blog You were one of the first scrambling quarterbacks to have major success in the league. As the years have gone on, we’ve seen quite a few others – Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick, and Steve Young, to name a few. Since you retired, who’s been the best you’ve seen?

Fran Tarkenton:  Michael Vick by far. He’s an athletic freak. The way he can just take off and run is amazing, and there’s nobody else really like him. Never in a million years would I expect the fastest player on the field in an NFL game to be a quarterback, but he is. When I scrambled, it was mainly to buy time to throw the ball downfield. Vick recently set the new record for rushing yards by a quarterback, and he’s only 31, because he’s able to pull the ball down and just take off.

Fathead Blog: Along those lines, Broncos’ QB Tim Tebow has been one of the most polarizing players in the league since he was drafted. Have you watched him play? Do you have any thoughts on him yet or is it still too early to tell in your opinion?

Fran Tarkenton:  I think Tim Tebow was a great college quarterback. But I’m not sure that he’ll be able to make it in the NFL. From what I’ve seen from his first few games, his ability to throw the ball is very questionable. Now that doesn’t mean he won’t succeed. He can prove me wrong and improve on his passing skills. He has all the other intangible things that you want from a quarterback, and I know he’s an incredibly hard worker. He’ll do everything he can to succeed, and I’m very curious to watch his career and see if he can do it.

Fathead Blog: Even as a great scrambler, you still were an incredible passer. Your 47,003 yards still rank 6th all-time. After you had some success it was probably easy to sell the idea of being a mobile quarterback, but was it ever difficult trying to convince coaches and other football personnel that it was possible to succeed with your style of play early in your career?

Fran Tarkenton:  All coaches want their quarterbacks to be able to make plays, put points on the board, and make first downs. Those are the measuring sticks. From the first game that I played, I was able to do that, and it’s like anything else: if you produce, you can play, but if you don’t they’ll get rid of you. My style of play drove the establishment nuts at the time, but the results were undeniable. The standard mold for a quarterback at the time was a big guy with a big arm who delivered the ball from the pocket. The scouting report on me was that I was small but slow, which, needless to say, didn’t fit the prototype. But football has always been measured by results, and people eventually learned to accept my style of play.

Fathead Blog: You once played in 71 consecutive games, spanning several seasons. It’s hard to do that at any position, but to do it as a quarterback is even more remarkable, in my opinion, because defenders are trying to knock them out of the game on every single passing play. What do you remember about that streak? Do you recall any of the injuries you played through to keep that streak going?

Fran Tarkenton:  I only missed 5 games my entire career because of injury. That was because I broke my leg against the Bengals in 1976. The other games I missed were because in the early years, we were so far out of the race that late in the season they would put in my backups to get them some playing time. I was able to avoid injury because I never took direct hits outside of the pocket. When I scrambled and ran, I had to learn to avoid big hits, because I got hit a lot early in my career playing for an expansion team. You have to avoid those hits to stay on the field, and I managed to avoid most of the big shots that knock players out of the game.

Fathead Blog: As a former Monday Night commentator, I’m curious about what you think of the current product. It’s obviously a different situation since the average consumer has hundreds of channels to pick from, but the broadcasting crew has changed so much over the years with guys like Dennis Miller, Tony Kornheiser, and Rush Limbaugh having come and gone fairly recently. It’s hard to build up a brand when the key personnel change so frequency. What are your thoughts on the show as it’s evolved over the years?

Fran Tarkenton:  I think Ron Jaworski, Jon Gruden, and Mike Tirico are great. This particular team has been together for a few years now, and I expect this team to stay together for a few more years. They work well together. It’s nice to have stability. Technology has changed so much, and the finished product is so much more polished and professional than when I was a part of Monday Night Football. They’re able to do things now that we couldn’t dream of doing then!

Fathead Blog: After retiring, you’ve had a number of successful ventures. Many athletes throw their names behind things, but you’ve been actively involved in those companies, including the recently launched fantasy football site, FantasyFran.com. Was going into business something you actively had your eye on as a player or did that desire come later?

Fran Tarkenton:  I didn’t wait until after I’d retired from football to go into business. I was starting up and running businesses the whole time I played. I actually got my first license to sell life insurance in 1959 for the Franklin Life Insurance Company. During my career, I did everything from life insurance to starting fast food chains to an industrial janitorial cleaning service!

Currently, I’m running a wide range of businesses, but my main focus is working with small business entrepreneurs and insurance professionals to make sure that they have all the tools they need to succeed. If anyone is interested in seeing what I have been up to, they can visit www.FranTarkenton.com.  FantasyFran.com is something we started doing for fun, because of how much I still love and watch football. We then realized that there was no place on the web for fantasy football players to get advice from people who’d been on the arena themselves! All the former players on the networks only give game analysis, not fantasy football. It’s something unique I could do, and have a lot of fun doing it! For 18 years, football was my profession, and it’s been my hobby ever since then. My outlook on the games and the players is one that I think is unique among all the voices out there.

May 19, 2011

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The 5 most important players in the Western Conference Finals.

By: Joe Williams

The Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder are half way to a NBA Championship. They met on Tuesday night in the first game of the Western Conference Finals. Here’s a look at the five most important players in this series.

Russell Westbrook
There was a lot of talk during the Thunder’s series with Memphis about Westbrook taking too many shots and turning the ball over too much. When he takes care of the ball and helps Kevin Durant get open shots, they are as explosive as any duo in the league. When he takes bad shots and Durant goes nine minutes without a shot in the fourth quarter as he did in Game 5 against the Grizzlies, the Thunder will struggle. Westbrook hit just 14 of 44 shots against Dallas in three regular season matchups. If that number doesn’t go up….the Thunder will go down.

Shawn Marion

Marion scored at least 20 points twice against Oklahoma City in the regular season. There is no doubt that Dirk Nowitzki and company would love to have Marion do that a few times in this series, but what they really need from Marion is great defense against Kevin Durant. The NBA scoring leader averaged nearly 30 points against the Mavericks this season. If Marion can keep him closer to 20 than 30, Dallas has an excellent chance to return to the NBA Finals.

Peja Stojakovic

When his back allows it, Peja is one of the best shooters in the world. He hit 9 of 13 from behind the arc in games three and four against the Lakers. If he shoots like that against the Thunder and forces their defense to spread the floor, things will open up for Nowitzki. Dallas made quick work of the Lakers while the Thunder went seven games so Peja should be well-rested.

Nick Collison

Collison played a big part in the Thunder’s win over Memphis. He’s not going to do a lot that will show up in the box score, but he can do a lot that won’t. He was lucky enough to get to guard Zach Randolphand now it looks like he will get to try his luck with Nowitzki. Slowing Dirk down will certainly be more than a one man job. The less help Collison needs, the better for Oklahoma City.

Dirk Nowitzki/Kevin Durant

They are two of the top ten players in the league. It’s safe to assume they are going to get their 20-25 points and do what makes them great. Which one of these guys will get 30-35? We can also expect this series to come down to a game or two that goes down to the final minute or two. Somebody, and Nowitzki and Durant will be the first options, is going to take a shot with the game on the line. I expect one of these two to make a play that will send their team to the NBA Finals.