Fantasy Football News

Saturday, May 29, 2010

NFL Fantasy Breakdown: Preview Of Top RBs in 2010

Never too early to preview the upcoming fantasy football season.

Coming off a record-breaking season--in just his second season in the league--Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson seems to be the premier back in a majority of leagues, taking the reins from former No. 1 fantasy player Adrian Peterson.

Obviously this is a matter of opinion, but in my eyes Johnson's 2,000-yard campaign is enough to gain him the title.

Johnson was well in the running for Rookie of the Year back in 2008 after racking up 1,228 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground.

Before the 2009 season many networks/magazines projected Johnson as a first-round fantasy pick.  His 2,000 yards and 14 TDs may put him over top of AP, who struggled early on (only ran for 100+ yards three times during season) and finished with 1,383 rushing yards.

Peterson still has the TD numbers--led league with 18 in 2009--to keep him in the top two or three picks.  But Peterson has also hurt his stock with fumbles in key moments, which may not sound like it affects him fantasy-wise too much (unless your league loses points for fumbles), but it does take away yards and TDs.
Tennessee and Minnesota's current situations play a big impact in this discussion as well.  Obviously who knows what will happen with Favre in Minnesota, but my gut says he returns.  Favre took carries away from Peterson last year and, if he returns, will take more away from him this year.
As for Johnson, I would expect Jeff Fisher to continue to give the ball to Johnson, keeping the ball out of Vince Young's hands as often as possible.

In his 10 starts last season, the Titans were 7-1 when Young attempted 30 or less passes.  He threw 40+ passes twice, going 1-1 in those two games.  As you can see, Vince Young is more affective when he has less control over the offense.

Johnson, 24, has opened the gates for many other young speedsters and, with his open-field ability, is a huge boost in the passing game as well (10.1 Y/R on 50 receptions).

Luckily for fantasy owners, the RB class past Johnson and Peterson is nothing to shake a stick at.
Just this past season we witnessed 15 runners break 1,000 yards on the ground and 12 runners post double-digit touchdown totals.

One back by the name of Ray Rice had a huge breakout season with the Baltimore Ravens, making plays in both the ground game and pass game.

Rice was the ninth-leading rusher with 1,339 yards (5.3 YCP) while leading all running backs with 78 receptions (ninth-best among all skill players) and 702 receiving yards.  This type of versatility is a major blessing for fantasy owners.

Rice will no doubt be a first round pick in all leagues this season, but may see his receiving numbers take a hit considering Flacco now has new targets in Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth. But on the flip-side, Rice should see his 254 carries go up a little bit.

Best of the Rest:

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
Much like Rice, MJD (another little guy) is a huge threat in both offensive aspects, the ground and air.  His play-making ability and toughness has easily gotten him double-digit TD totals in three of his four NFL seasons.  Expect another 1,200-1,400 yard, 15-16 TD season from this guy.

Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams
St. Louis' leading rusher (and leader in receptions), has the ability to put up double-digit TD totals despite his four touchdown performance last year.  With rookie Sam Bradford under center, no doubt Jackson will see the ball enough to break 1,400 yards as long as he's healthy.

Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
Gore finally broke double-digit TDs last season with 10, and completed his fourth consecutive 1,000 yard season.  With a quarterback controversy continuing to linger in San Fran, Gore will continue to get his carries.  This will also means quite a few red zone touches, possibly bringing in even more TDs for him this season.  Consistency has been the 27-year old's biggest upside

On the Rise:

Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
If you don't know my reasons by now then you obviously haven't been reading the article very closely...see above.

Cedric Benson, Cincinnati Bengals
He's approaching 30, but Benson's somewhat questionable career took a major turn for the good when he rolled in to Cincinnati in 2008.  Breaking 300 carries for the first time in his career, Benson ran for a career-high 1,251 yards and six TDs last season.  Benson has taken the pressure off the offense, especially since quarterback Carson Palmer hasn't always been 100% healthy.

Look for a second 1,000 yard season and possibly double-digit TD figures this season.

On the Decline:

Thomas Jones, Kansas City Chiefs
Because of this off-season acquisition, Kansas City has one of the top backfield tandems with Jones and Jamaal Charles.  But this doesn't take away the fact that Jones' production will never be quite the same because of his combination of age and downgrade in offensive support, going from New York to Kansas City.  I would expect him to be a solid addition and a third down back but nothing more.

Joseph Addai, Indianapolis Colts
With Donald Brown's presence, I expect Indy to look towards the second-year back a little bit more than his 78 attempts last season.  This just puts more pressure on Addai to perform (3.8 YPC last season), who has really only been a force in the red zone (10 TD runs).

Best Backfield tandems:

Carolina, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart
Both backs averaged more than 5.0 yards per carry last season (1,100+ rushing yards each), and Stewart put up 10 TDs..Williams totaled seven on the ground.  Possibly by far the best tandem in the league and the only reason why Carolina was somewhat of a contender.

Miami, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams
 Slick Rick rejuvenated his career with his first 1,000 yard season since 2003.  He stepped up and ran for 1,121 yards and 11 TDs in just seven starts, stepping his game up when Ronnie Brown battled with injury.  Despite missing time, Brown did add in 8 TD runs and played a prominent role in the team's wildcat formation.

Kansas City, Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles
In just his second season, Charles ran for a team-high 1,120 yards and became the only player in league history to rush for 1,100 yards in 200 carries or less (league-high 5.9 YPC in his 10 starts).  Jones' 1,400 yards on the ground with the New York Jets is a huge addition and will give Kansas City a solid third down back.

In the NFL, anything can happen.  So who knows, maybe we will witness another 2,000 yard rushing season.  Or maybe guys like Matt Forte and Steve Slaton will return to their 2008 form.  Time will only tell.
Next Edition: quarterbacks

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Top 5 Linebackers from the 2000s

Generally, the months of May and June is rather slow when it comes to NFL headlines.  What better way to pass the dog days of summer along with a few flashbacks.

With the first decade of the century in the books, we are given the perfect opportunity to take the time to look back at a decade filled with great players, games, moments, controversies etc.

My first look at the decade will be the linebacker position, which is, by far, the most important position on the defensive side of the ball.  Some have even gone as far as calling the middle linebacker the "quarterback" of the defense.  Very well put, actually.  The defensive linemen have to be the most physical, but linebackers, especially the two outside linebackers, have to be very versatile.  It's rare to see linemen sent in to coverage, but at linebacker you must be ready for anything.  The greats (i.e. Dick Butkus, Jack Lambert, Mike Singletary and Lawrence Taylor to name a few) were sideline-to-sideline, physical players.

Lets take a look at the game's best all-around 'backers of the 2000s.  Note: I chose my top ten list based on a variety of different factors such as the team around the player, personal statistics (accumulated from 2000-09), playing style, leadership and even reputation.
1. Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens

2000-09 stats: 866 tackles, 23.5 sacks, 21 INT, 12 FF

Personally, I don't think this is even close.  Lewis kicked off the new millennium with a Super Bowl MVP to cap off the 2000 season.  That year he was part of one of the greatest defenses in the history of the game as they defeated the NFC champion New York Giants 34-7.  Lewis earned his way on to eight Pro Bowl and six All-Pro teams in the decade despite playing in six or less games in '02 and '05.  Lewis has it all: physical ability, vast football knowledge (and instincts) and leadership.  He makes the guys around him better.  Not to mention he has surprised everyone with four straight Pro Bowl appearances despite an aging body.  A couple of years ago I named him on one of my "washed-up" lists and then he goes out and plays two full seasons in 2008 and '09 while putting up big numbers.  At age 35, Lewis looks like he could have a good two or three seasons left in the tank.

2. Tedy Bruschi, New England Patriots

2000-08 stats: 526 tackles, 18.5 sacks, 11 INT, 11 FF

Bruschi's statistics may not look quite as good as most of the other guys out there, but he has everyone beat in the category that matters most: championships.  Bruschi won three Super Bowls with New England in the 2000s and played a vital role in all three.  He seemed to be more of a role player, but Bruschi sure had the guts and leadership abilities to get the job done.  It's true he never managed to record more than 81 tackles in a season, or even sack the quarterback five times in a single season, but he did what it took to win games and got the job done.  Heck, he even managed to get in to the end zone four times throughout his 13-year career, all with the Patriots.  Bruschi's heart, alone, deserves to make this list and I doubt many guys will disagree with me.

3. Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears

2000-09 stats: 816 tackles, 37.5 sacks, 17 INT, 8 FF

Urlacher has seen better days (missed all but one game this past season), but when he first started his pro career back in 2000, Urlacher was one of the most feared 'backers in the game, and was the heart and soul of the Bears defense.  First and foremost, Urlacher was a solid pass rusher, racking up 37.5 sacks.  Had he been a bit more consistent in that category (had three seasons without a single sack), he may have racked up more than 50.  Urlacher was used in many different ways and knew the art of tackling.  Discounting his failed 2009 campaign, Urlacher averaged 90 tackles a season.  One more thing Urlacher brought to the table is the fact that the Bears could count on him showing up.  He started all 16 games in seven of his 10 seasons, allowing him to rack up 100+ tackles twice.

4. Joey Porter, Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins

2000-09 stats: 444 tackles, 90 sacks, 12 INT, 22 FF

Porter is an entertainer and likes to run his mouth, but does a great job at backing up that talk.  I wouldn't say he's a sideline-to-sideline guy like Lewis and Urlacher, but he's one of the best pass-rushing LBs in the game right now.  His worst season came in '99, his rookie season, in which he recorded just 10 tackles and two sacks in 16 games (zero starts) with Pittsburgh.  After that, Porter went on to record 90 more sacks in Pittsburgh and Miami.  In the decade, Porter has had double-digit starts every season and, at age 31, Porter put up a career-high sack total of 17.5 with Miami in 2008.  Now a Cardinal, Porter looks to add on to his list of accomplishments (four Pro Bowls, one All-Pro selection) in 2010.

Zach Thomas, Miami Dolphins

2000-08 stats: 652 tackles, 15 sacks, 9 INT, 9 FF

Oh hey, another Dolphin.  Thomas, possibly one of my favorite LBs ever (weird, I know), accumulated 1106 tackles over his 13-year NFL career (four of which were pre-2000), giving him an average of 85 tackles a season.  Thomas was certainly an underrated force in the Dolphins defense, most likely because he was overlooked while playing alongside star Jason Taylor.  Thomas' stats, obviously, weren't exactly what you would call staggering, but he was a hard worker and kept under the radar.  Six of his eight Pro Bowl appearances came in the 2000s, so I guess you could say he wasn't entirely underrated, but still deserved more credit than he received.  Thomas just barely made this list because of the fact that his last few years were unimpressive.  But nonetheless, Thomas was one of the five best linebackers of the 2000s.

Others of Note:

DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys

Didn't make this list for the simple fact that he's only been in the league since 2005.  But, his 20 sacks in 2008 were definitely tough to ignore.

James Farrior, Pittsburgh Steelers

Farrior is a workhorse and has seemed to been overlooked in Pittsburgh by the likes of Joey Porter and James Harrison.

Lance Briggs, Chicago Bears

Briggs' numbers are solid enough (630 tackles despite entering the league in '03), but again, another guy (Urlacher) stole his thunder.

Junior Seau, San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots

Seau, without question, a top five linebacker in the '90s but misses the cut for the 2000s because he had a pretty slow finish to the decade (82 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 INT in 27 games from 2007-09)

Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens

His 57.5 sacks, five interceptions and 16 forced fumbles in seven NFL seasons (2003-09) are worth mentioning.  Suggs put up 12 sacks and forced five fumbles in his rookie campaign.

Who's Next?

Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers

I like to compare this guy to Zach Thomas.  All this guy does is make tackles, which is exactly what you want your linebacker to do.

Brian Cushing, Houston Texans

Despite the drug policy suspension (which almost cost him his Rookie of the Year award), Cushing is one of the best young talents in the game right now apart from maybe Willis.

Jon Beason, Carolina Panthers

Beason entered the league in '07, with Willis, and has recorded 106+ tackles in all three pro seasons, not to mention his 7 career interceptions with Carolina.

PLEASE: I am bound to miss some guys on my list.  Please name any guy you think is worth mentioning on this list of players.  I hope I didn't miss any obvious ones, I'm only one person.  Thanks for any feedback.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Take Your Pick: Raiders of the '80s or Bills of the '90s?

Al Davis' Oakland/L.A. Raiders of the 1980s defined the game of football.  Tenacious and fierce on both sides of the ball, the Raiders donned the reputation of the enemy, and may have even been considered 'dirty.'

Marv Levy's Buffalo Bills of the 1990s were basically the polar opposites.  Clean, classy, all-around solid fundamental football players.  With a trio of future Hall of Famers on offense (Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed, who has yet to be inducted), the Bills found themselves in four straight Super Bowls to kick off the decade.
 Davis certainly had one of the league's toughest defenses (finished with top-10 overall defense in five of the 10 seasons in the '80s), but Buffalo had the high-scoring offense to counter that attack (Kelly's Bills finished in the top-10 in scoring offense).

On offense, Buffalo has the better passing attack with the Kelly-Reed combination while Oakland has the better run game with Hall of Famer Marcus Allen coming out of the backfield.  Allen, from '82 (his rookie season) to '89, ran for 7,275 yards and 63 TDs.

Head-to-head outlook

Raiders of the 80s:
 *66-63 (.511 win %) in regular season; 8-3 in postseason (including Super Bowl)
*Five playoff appearances (four straight from 1982-85)
*Four division titles (back-to-back in '82 and '83)
*Two Super Bowl appearance (27-10 win over Philly in 1980, 38-9 win over Washington in 1983)

Bills of the 90s:
*103-57 (.643 win %) in regular season; 10-8 in postseason (including Super Bowl)
*Eight playoff appearances
*Five division titles (four straight from 1990-93)
*Four Super Bowl appearances (all losses)

In my opinion, this is an easy decision.  Despite the theory "offense wins games, defense wins championships."  I'd take Jim Kelly's high-powered offense with Marv Levy roaming the sidelines.  The numbers don't lie.

Yes, the Raiders were able to get it done when it mattered and actually won a pair of championships during that time, but I think getting to four straight Super Bowls is just as tough as winning just one championship.  Consistency wins me over in this debate.  Oakland/L.A. certainly had the swagger that you love to see in a football team, but Buffalo worked together better.
 When you look back at history, you'll notice that these two teams actually met in the AFC Conference Championship in 1990 and, yes, Buffalo spanked the Raiders 51-3.  One would argue that it wasn't a fair match-up (to bring up in this debate, anyways), so to further prove my point I simulated the game (SB winning Raiders of the 1980 season v.s. AFC Champion Bills of the 1990 season) on five different times.  Buffalo won four of those five games.  Links to the box scores are below.

At times, Jim Kelly struggled with Oakland's stout defense led by Ted Hendricks and Lester Hayes, but he got it done when it mattered most, falling just a couple of touchdowns shy of sweeping the five-game series.

Well, that just about wraps it up.  Winner: Buffalo Bills.  It's about time they won something, eh?  Because, I mean, many Buffalo fans are most likely wishing they were still in the '90s.  We'll be praying for all you Bills fans.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Adam Jones signing 'Last Straw' in Marvin Lewis era

The most recent news out of Cincinnati is yet another signing of a troubled player.

Though Adam (formerly nicknamed "Pacman") Jones has showed he has the talent to make it in the NFL, he is not the ideal player and role model to lead your team.  Yet, for some strange reason, the Cincinnati Bengals front office made the decision to bring him in to boost the team's secondary and return game.

Not only did they sign the former No. 1 pick to a contract, but they in fact gave him a two-year deal.  Not a one-year, one-mistake-and-your-gone deal, but they showed they are confident and gave him two entire seasons.
 Jones, now with his third NFL team, was a trouble-maker before he even suited up in the league with his first arrest coming in July of 2005.  Jones was suspended for the entire 2007 season and part of the 2008 season.  Jones was not signed after he finished his one and only season with Dallas in 2008, meaning he sat out the 2009 season as well since no one was interested in signing a trouble-maker such as himself.

Cincinnati's signing of Jones has ticked off head coach Marvin Lewis, once again, for bringing in guys with a questionable past.  In effect, this leads me to believe this could be the final year at the helm for Lewis.  No way Cincinnati will beat out the heavily favored Baltimore Ravens for the division title in 2010, and if Lewis isn't fired by season's end, I believe he will resign as coach.

The signing of Jones is the last straw of the Marvin Lewis era and may very well be Adam's last chance to put on an NFL uniform.