May 10, 2012

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Does the NFL Undervalue Centers?

By: Jesse

Lost in all of the hype and debate about which NFL prospect is the next Joe Montana or Jerry Rice, is which prospects could become Pro-Bowlers on the interior of the offensive line (or at least Pro Bowl caliber, if there is no Pro Bowl).  This year’s Draft showed how lightly NFL teams value interior lineman, specifically centers.  Peter Konz, the #1 rated center according to many draft sites, fell all the way to the Atlanta Falcons at #55.  But when you look at teams that have been successful over the last decade, they all have had very good, if not elite, centers.

THE PATRIOTS – DAN KOPPEN

Dan Koppen started 119 games from 2003-2010 for the Patriots.  He was injured early in 2011.  During his tenure as the Patriots center, New England won two Super Bowls and started another season 19-0.  Koppen may not be as important to the team’s success as Tom Brady or Bill Belichick, but he has been an important cog on the offensive line for a long time.

THE COLTS – JEFF SATURDAY

Saturday started 188 games for the Colts from 1999-2011.  Anyone who thinks that the Colts’ offense is completely run by Peyton Manning has never seen Saturday argue with him on the sidelines.  Saturday was out there for all of those years calling protections and identifying linebackers for the Colts’ offensive line.  He is a major reason that Peyton Manning started every game for 13 years in a row.  It will be interesting to see how much of an impact Jeff Saturday can make in Green Bay now that he has signed with the Packers.

MORE EXAMPLES

Maurkice Pouncey, David Haas, and Scott Wells have all been on Super Bowl teams in the past two seasons.  The Steelers went against the grain and drafted Pouncey 16th overall in 2010.  He has more than lived up to the selection by earning a selection to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons.  Scott Wells went from the Packers’ 7th round draft pick in the 2004 NFL Draft to the starting center in Super Bowl XLV and a Pro Bowler in 2011.  He recently signed a contract with the Rams.  Before the 2011 season, David Haas left the 49ers and signed with the Giants in free agency.  The Giants had not made the playoffs in two years, but won the Super Bowl last year with Haas manning the pivot.  The list does not end there.  The Bears’ Super Bowl run in 2006 featured team captain and perennial Pro Bowl Center Olin Kreutz.  The Giants’ 2007 Super Bowl team had Shaun O’Hara, who made three Pro Bowl teams and one All-Pro Team.

Does Fathead undervalue centers too? The only center on Fathead.com is Nick Mangold.

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Poor play at center can bring a team down as well.  Would the Cowboys have had better records in recent years if they had gotten more consistent play from center Andre Gurode?  Gurode, at times, struggled with shotgun snaps, and, on a few occasions, had multiple bad snaps in the same game.  The Cowboys chose not to resign him following the 2010 season, and, while he signed with Baltimore for the 2011 season, he started only five games for the Ravens.

Recent history has shown that the most successful teams in the league have to-of-the-line centers.  A poor center can bring down an otherwise talented football team.  So why do NFL teams seem to overlook this position in the draft?  It is one of the greatest mysteries in pro football.

September 21, 2011

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Predicting the NFL Week 3 Fantasy Studs

By: Rick Jarrell

Like many media personalities, I’m going to take a stab at predicting which NFL players will have spectacular statistical performances this upcoming weekend. But unlike many media personalities, I’m going to predict the top five players in the league – Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson, Andre Johnson, etc – will have a great week. That’s a cop out. Anyone can do that. The following are my somewhat bold predictions for NFL Week 3 fantasy studs.

Rex Grossman

I’m still surprised the Washington Redskins didn’t decide to go with Jon Beck as their starting quarterback, but I digress. Grossman has shown flashes of the good and bad we saw during his Chicago Bears days. Mike Shanahan may be reeling in the gun slinger, creating a reliable starter, and the suspect Dallas Cowboys’ secondary provides a solid match up. Where Dallas’s secondary lacks, it’s run defense makes up for it, with playmakers on the defensive line, which leads me to believe the Skins will be even more inclined to take it to the air as much as possible. But I caution you, as always, Grossman will throw a pick or two on his way to a 400 yard game.

Rob Gronkowski & Chad Ochocinco

Gronkowski has already been tearing it up this year, with three touchdowns in two games, even while splitting time with fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez (often in two tight end formations). But now that Hernandez will be out the next 2-4 weeks, Gronkowski should benefit even more by being additionally targeted by Tom Brady.

But one man can only do so much. There has to be another benefactor, someone who hasn’t tallied as many receptions as normal on the team. Someone who’s very vocal, but strangely not the last two weeks. That man, of course, is Ochocinco. He’s crowded behind the aforementioned athletic tight ends and very Patriot-minded players Deion Branch, Wes Welker, and Julian Edelman. Even with Brady throwing for 500 yards a game, that’s a lot of love to spread around. Expect Ocho to benefit from Hernandez’s absence, possibly more than Gronkowski will.

The Entire San Diego Chargers Team

The Kansas City Chiefs surprised everyone last year by winning the division handily but have stumbled out of the gate this year. They lost their Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry in Week 1, and Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles in Week 2. Both to ACL injuries. Both are out for the year. Couple that with the wide perception the team would take a step back this NFL season, it will likely be a very long year for the team and their fans.

The beneficiary of the Chief’s misfortunes this week will be the division rival Chargers. Moving the opposite direction of the Chiefs, as they are widely perceived to have underperformed last year, stud quarterback Phillip Rivers should have a huge game against the depleted secondary. Who catches the ball the most – Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd, Antonio Gates – is irrelevant, as it’s probable all three will have very favorable games for their fantasy owners.

Mike Kafka

That’s right, I said it – Mike Kafka. League rules state Michael Vick has to sit out at least one game after his concussion (at least I think those are still the rules). So unless they change the rules specifically for him, Kafka is the man for Philadelphia this Sunday. The former Northwestern quarterback is highly unknown, but I can tell you this – it seems no matter who the Eagles put in at quarterback, they still win. Donovan McNabb, AJ Feely, Kevin Kolb, Vick, and now Kafka, who went 7-9 after Vick’s departure this past weekend.

Don’t expect Kafka to turn into Drew Brees. Not even close. They’ll probably try to establish the run, with LeSean McCoy having a breakout season so far. But the Giants have a strong defensive line. They’re weak in the secondary. So in a situation where you’d think Andy Reid would limit pass attempts to below 20, it may actually eclipse 30.

I hope none of you drafted Peyton Manning and David Garrard and are already hounding the waiver wire. But for the few that exist, Kafka is a decent option. Assuming Grossman is unavailable, that is.