August 15, 2012

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Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs

By: Junior

With NFL Fantasy Football drafts right around the corner, we will take a look at the top 5 players at each position. Depending on what type of league you are in, theses evaluations will vary, but the general ranking will be similar. Our last rankings focused on quarterbacks. This week, we will look at the running backs and which players are worthy of a high pick.

Ray Rice tops this year's list of fantasy football running backs.

1. Ray Rice

You won’t see this ranking many other places. To me, consistency is important, and Ray Rice has been nothing but solid that past three seasons. Add the fact he averages over 70 catches over the last three years, and you can count on lots of points from Rice. The Ravens are a team that runs the ball well and will feature Rice often. There is a little worry with the trend of players under-performing after signing a new contract, but I have faith that you won’t regret picking Rice early.

2. LeSean McCoy

Another shocker. However, if you compare his stats with Arian Foster’s the last 3 years, McCoy is right with Foster in many categories. Last season, McCoy had more yards on less carries, as well as 7 more rushing touchdown’s than Foster. That is a lot of points. The Texans can run the ball, but I think the Eagles have a better passing game, allowing them to be more balanced and not let defenses stack the box. I think McCoy is a solid pick up on your fantasy roster.

3. Arian Foster

We finally arrive at the consensus #1 running back in fantasy. I don’t have anything against Foster, and if you can get him on your team when the other 2 running backs listed are gone, I don’t think you will be too disappointed. Foster will get you points, but with Andre Johnson being the only other offensive weapon for the Texans, defenses know who they need to key in on. Add Ben Tate to the equation, and I feel the two other running backs are better options for this season.

4. Matt Forte

While the off-season was a little shaky with his contract dispute/holdout, Forte is in camp and should be his reliable self. As you can tell by my rankings, I like my fantasy running backs to be receiving threats and Forte holds his own, averaging over 50 catches over the last 3 years. However, he only has one 1,000 yard season over that time, which is hard to accept. That being said, with the additions the Bears have made in the passing game, I think Chicago could have a solid offense this season, leading to more red-zone opportunities for Forte.

5. Darren McFadden

This is a tough one. Darren McFadden is a solid bet, when healthy. That, unfortunately, is a big disclaimer. McFadden has had durability issues in the NFL so this could be a risky pick. However, most of the running backs left have concerns. Maurice Jones-Drew is currently holding out. The Falcons have said they may limit Michael Turner in the beginning of the year to keep his legs fresh. Steven Jackson is getting up there in age. The list goes on and on. So I will take a flyer on McFadden and hope for the best.

May 2, 2011

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Late-Round NFL Draft Pick Steals

By: Anson Whaley

With all due respect to the NBA and NHL playoffs, the NFL Draft was the premiere sporting event of the weekend. It’s a chance for teams to not only build for the future, but in some cases, find players capable of stepping in to contribute immediately. The most attention is paid to the early rounds of the event, but there are always some diamonds in the rough found late in the draft.

Here’s a look at the top ten steals (selected in the fifth round or later) over the past twenty years:

Honorable Mention – WR Joe Horn (1996 5th Round Pick)

As one of the premier wide receivers in the early part of this decade, Horn racked up more than 6,000 yards from 2000-2004 with the New Orleans Saints. He was a four-time Pro Bowler and ended his career with 58 touchdowns.

10. QB Matt Cassel (2005 7th Round Pick)

Cassel wasn’t given a chance to play immediately, backing up some guy named Tom Bradyin New England. But with Brady’s injury, Casselshowed he learned plenty with the Patriots. He joined the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009 and was a Pro Bowler last season. With wide receivers Dwayne Boweand the recently-drafted Jon Baldwin, Cassel could have another big year in 2011.

9. QB Marc Bulger (2000 6th Round Pick)

After 2006, Bulgerwas developing into one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL, coming off of a 4,000-yard Pro Bowl season with the St. Louis Rams. But a lack of production since then caused the team to look elsewhere, drafting rookie Sam Bradfordlast season. Bradford has now become the starter while Bulgeris looking for another job. He could resurface this year with the Arizona Cardinals or another team in need of a veteran.

8. WR Keenan McCardell (1991 12th Round Pick)

McCardell is one of the more underrated receivers in recent memory. His 11,373 yards are good for 24th all-time among receivers. Part of that is due to his longevity, playing 16 seasons, but McCardell was legitimately a very good receiver, hitting the 1,000-yard mark five times over his career.

7. WR Marques Colston (2006 7th Round Pick)

Colston accumulated more than 1,000 yards in four of his first five seasons and is one of the best young receivers in the NFL. He already has 40 receiving touchdowns and playing alongside quarterback Drew Brees, will put up big time numbers by the end of his career.

6. RB Michael Turner (2004 6th Round Pick)

An argument can be made that Turner should be higher on this list since he’s one of the best running backs in the game. But I don’t expect him to keep up the kind of monster production he’s had in the past three seasons, when he rushed for nearly 4,000 yards. Still, he’s another example of why teams wait to select running backs in later rounds.

5. (tie) QB Marc Brunell (1993 5th Round Pick)

In case you hadn’t noticed, Brunell is still playing at the age of 40. Seems like he’s been in the league forever … mostly because he has. All jokes aside, even though he’s now a clipboard holder for the most part rarely seeing any game action, Brunell was an excellent starting quarterback for many years with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s amassed over 32,000 passing yards in his career, good for 30th in NFL history, and is a three-time Pro Bowler.

5. (tie) QB Matt Hasselbeck (1998 6th Round Pick)

Hasselbeckis still enjoying a great NFL career and has been a three-time Pro Bowler. His 29,000+ passing yards are good for ninth on the all-time active quarterback list and at 35, he still has time to add to those impressive numbers. Hasselbeck’s play has deteriorated a bit (as evidenced by the 34 interceptions he’s thrown the past two seasons), but he is still a very capable starting signal caller.

3. LB Zach Thomas (1996 5th Round Pick)

I know, I know – he’s the only defensive player on this list. The fact is that there have simply been far more offensive gems in later rounds. Still, the Miami Dolphins found a good one in linebacker Zach Thomas. He established himself as one of the most dominant middle linebackers of his era with more than 1,100 tackles. He even threw in 20 ½ sacks and 17 interceptions for good measure in his 12-year career.

2. Terrell Davis (1995 6th Round Pick)

Davis’ seven-year career was uncharacteristically short due to injuries, but he had three consecutive 1,500-yard seasons, including 1998 when he rushed for 2,008 yards. Davis was also a two-time AP Offensive Player of the Year and is an annual finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Oh yeah … and helping John Elwaywin two Super Bowls doesn’t hurt, either.

1. Tom Brady (2000 6th Round Pick)

If you look up late-round NFL Draft steal in the dictionary, Brady’s mug would undoubtedly show up – and for good reason. He is a two-time league Most Valuable Player, six-time Pro Bowler, and most importantly, has led the New England Patriots to three Super Bowls. Case closed.

January 19, 2011

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2010 NFL Award Predictions

By: Anson Whaley

With the Super Bowl only a few weeks away, it’s time to take a look back at the NFL season and make some predictions for the league’s 2010 awards.

Most Valuable Player

This is likely a three-horse race between three quarterbacks – Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, Mike Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles, and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers.

It’s no surprise that Brady ended up here.  He’s been one of the league’s best quarterbacks over the past decade and had some pretty good receivers to work with in Randy Moss and Wes Welker.  Brady had to deal with the early loss of Moss (who was traded), but still found a way to excel.  In leading the Patriots to a league-best 14-2 record, he passed for 36 touchdowns (second best in his career) and threw only 4 interceptions, by far the fewest he’s had in a 16-game season.

Mike Vick ending up in this discussion was a surprise, however.  At the beginning of the season, Vick wasn’t even slated to be the team’s starter.  But with an early injury to Kevin Kolb, Vick took over and never looked back.  On the season, he threw for more than 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns while rushing for 9 more scores.  All of those numbers were career highs, and Vick managed to accomplish all of that playing in only 12 games.  He not only looked like the Vick of old, he looked even better.

Aaron Rodgers also has a shot at landing the award.  He threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns.  The fact that he put up those numbers without a major running threat all season (after the early-season injury to Ryan Grant) and led his team to the playoffs will definitely help his campaign, and he should be a legitimate candidate.

This is a close race, but my vote goes to Brady because his team had the most success in the regular season.

Offensive Player of the Year

This is another tough one to call.  In addition to the three quarterbacks mentioned above in the Most Valuable Player race, there’s Houston Texans running back Arian Foster, who led the league in rushing with more than 1,600 yards and 16 touchdowns and Atlanta Falcons’ wide receiver Roddy White, whose 115 receptions and nearly 1,400 yards receiving made him, statistically, the best pass catcher in the NFL.

Foster had the benefit of defenses needing to respect a great passing game, and White benefitted from the Falcons’ rushing game, so I’ll rule both of those players out.  Vick did it all this season with his arm and his legs, having his best season ever.  I’ll take him by a hair over Brady for this award.

Defensive Player of the Year

I see this as a race between Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware and Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews.  Matthews’ numbers (13 ½ sacks, 60 tackles, and an interception) don’t quite equal those of Ware’s (15 ½ sacks, 66 tackles, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown), but the Packers had a much better season, and Matthews was a big part of that.  My vote goes to Matthews.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

This award is probably coming down to a pair of Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookies – running back LeGarrette Blount and wide receiver Mike Williams.  Blount had 1,007 yards, averaging 5.0 yards per carry, and ran for 6 touchdowns, while Williams led the team’s passing attack, racking up 964 yards and, maybe more importantly, 11 touchdowns.

Williams gets the edge in my book due to his ability to find the end zone so frequently.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Ndamukong Suh has a bit of competition from guys like Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap (24 tackles and 9 ½ sacks), Cleveland Browns strong safety T.J. Ward (2 INTs and 123 tackles), and New England Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty (7 INTs and 82 tackles), but Suh is probably the winner here.

Despite playing on the interior part of the defensive line, Suh was the only rookie to get into double-digit sacks (with 10), and he racked up 66 tackles.  He didn’t stop there, though.  Suh also added an interception and recovered a forced fumble for a touchdown.  For his efforts, he was named as a starter to the Pro Bowl, but will not play due to injury.

Coach of the Year

Atlanta Falcons’ Mike White or Kansas City Chiefs’ Todd Haley will probably win this award.  White led the Falcons to an NFC-best 13-3 record, while Haley took a Chiefs team that was 4-12 in 2009 and turned them into division champs, going 10-6.

While White had a team with several offensive weapons in Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, and Roddy White, Haley had a bit less to work with.  For that reason, Haley gets my vote for turning a franchise around that was a laughingstock the year before.