Fantasy Football News

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Good news, football fans!

As of Monday afternoon, all things are pointing towards the idea that there will in fact be a 2011 NFL season. Amidst all the talk of the MLB season in full-swing, along with the NBA and NHL playoffs, it looks like football fans can breathe again and maybe relax?

It's not final yet, of course, but pending the owners' appeal it looks like the lockout will be lifted.

Players were allowed to report to team facilities, but still aren't allowed to resume activities until the lockout has officially been lifted. Either way, great news for all the fans. Despite the half-effort, thrown-together regular season schedule, the chances of 2011 happening are greater than they were a couple of days ago.

Commissioner Roger Goodell has been quoted, saying that "fans will suffer if players get their way" and he has also stated he wants to get directly back into the negotiations. So there obviously is quite a bit of work to get done before we will see the NFL back in its normal state of being, but we're making great progress.
Other news around the league (4/27/11):

*Two-time Super Bowl champ and former Miami Dolphin player and radio announcer Jim Mandich has passed away at age 62.

*Redskins may move up and draft QB Gabbert in first round.

*Steelers interested in reuniting Pouncey brothers.

*Ochocinco says 'his time is up in Cincinnati.'

The coverboy for Madden '12 will be announced later today (4 P.M. ET) on ESPN2's Sportsnation. We will either see Michael Vick grace the cover for the second time, or bull-of-running back Peyton Hillis of the Browns grace it for the first time in his short career.

The first round of the draft kicks off tomorrow night, meaning I will be bringing you one last brief preview of round No. 1 tomorrow afternoon. Wondering who will rise and fall in the first round? Stay tuned for more coverage.

Photo credit
DeMaurice Smith and Roger Goodell: found on Google

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Washed up? No way: These 10 guys still have plenty left in the tank

Every team has those players that fans think are what we like to call "washed up." This is something all players experience at some point in their careers, whether it be once they hit age 30, 33, 35, 40, etc. It's unfortunately just something I like to call the circle of life for NFL players.


Here is my list of 10 players who still have something to contribute to their respective teams, despite their age.


Carson Palmer, 31


Whether he'll be in Cincinnati in 2011, or be retired, or even end up playing for another team is still all up in the air. But the idea of Palmer still being able to get the job done isn't questionable at all. Granted he hasn't exactly shown his true colors, or be the same signal-caller since tearing his ACL and MCL against Pittsburgh in the 2008 playoffs.


But with the right amount of protection and weapons in the offensive system around him, Palmer can still find himself back in his 2005 and 2006 Pro Bowl form. I mean, his 3,000 yards, 20+ touchdown passes and rating of 80 or more over the last two seasons is above the average stat-line for quarterbacks in this league.


No matter how this plays out in the end, I know Palmer still has something left to share with us.
Ladainian Tomlinson, 31


Perhaps one of the few running backs that could be considered, I do believe that L.T. still has something left in his tank.


I'm not saying the guy can be a full-time back in New York's system, because we have clearly already learned that isn't the case.


But, as New York's go-to guy on third downs, I feel he could be very affective. With a struggling Shonn Greene in the backfield last season, Tomlinson stepped up and produced big.


With a fresh start in New York, Tomlinson proved he can still be affective with a lesser role, and I expect similar results in 2011 for Ladainian.


Thomas Jones, 32


Similar to Tomlinson, Jones switched teams late in his career and became a role player, backing up Kansas City's young speedster Jamaal Charles.


Just two seasons ago Jones ran for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns for the New York Jets. After parting ways and joining the Chiefs for 2010, Jones saw his carries fall from 331 ('09) to 245 ('10). But regardless Jones was nearly as successful with Kansas City, running for 896 yards and six touchdowns in 10 starts.


With high hopes for the Chiefs in 2011, I would expect another season of close to 250 carries coming Jones' way, relieving Charles of his duties every once in a while.
Terrell Owens, 37


This may come as a shock to some of you, but the evidence is there. Owens can still play the game of football.


Whether Cincinnati, or any other team for that matter, will take another shot on him is a whole other question. In 11 games this past season, Owens caught 72 balls for 983 yards and nine touchdowns from Carson Palmer. That surpassed his totals from 2009, in which he started all 16 games for Buffalo.


So if you put him in a positive situation, he will be happy and produce. But that's exactly what is wrong with him. If he isn't happy, you will know, and your team will suffer as a result.


Owens isn't washed up, he's just a pain to play with and most likely wont be getting too many more chances in this league.


Shaun Rogers, 32


After spending the first 10 seasons of his NFL career with two losing teams--Detroit and Cleveland--the defensive tackle Rogers has finally inked a contract with a winning team.


It may only be a one-year contract, but if he is motivated enough in a New Orleans Saints' uniform, I really think he could do some damage. As long as he doesn't get too lazy, Rogers has the ability to be a huge difference-maker in this defense.


This will either be a great move, or a devastating move for the Saints, but I believe he will be motivated by the fact that he has players who have won before playing around him.
Ray Lewis, 35


The washed up talk has been going on for a couple of years now when it comes to Ray Ray, and this includes myself.


Yet, year-in and year-out he has come out and put up top-tier numbers when it comes to linebacking. Not only have his stats been up there with the 25-year olds, but the intimidation factor and big hits are still there as well. 


At this rate, Lewis may be doing this at age 40.


Brian Urlacher, 32


I had my doubts after he dislocated his wrist, underwent surgery, and missed all but one game in 2009. But a strong 2010 comeback performance (97 solo tackles, four sacks, 1 INT) has put Urlacher and his hard-hitting Chicago Bears defense back in the spotlight.


On the defensive side of the ball, the intimidation factor is almost as important as the physical aspect of the game once you hit a certain age.


The Urlacher-led Bears defense ranked fourth in points allowed and second in rushing yards allowed as they captured the second seed and first round bye in the playoffs (11-5).
James Farrior, 36


I wrote what you would call a "James Farrior appreciation" article a while back, stating he is one of the most underrated outside linebackers in the game.


Since hitting age 30, Farrior has missed just two games in six seasons, and recorded at least 64 tackles and two sacks in each of those seasons, including two Super Bowl rings in three appearances.


When you think of Pittsburgh's defense from the 2000s, you would immediately think Porter, Polamalu and Harrison. But, clearly Farrior has been the staple in this defense.


Ronde Barber, 36


Barber, unlike his twin brother Tiki, has been going strong since he began his impressive 14-year career with the Tampa Bay Bucs. At the age of 35 last season, Barber completed his 11th straight season in which he started all 16 games of the regular season.


The five-time Pro Bowl cornerback picked off opposing quarterbacks three times last season while recording 65 solo tackles (16 assists).


Tampa signed him to a one-year deal worth $4 million earlier this off-season, which shows me they believe he has at least one more productive season in him before he starts to drop off, and don't doubt that at all.
Brian Dawkins, 37


Dawkins' 2010 season, his second with the Broncos, was shortened by injury as he started just 11 games. But, he still managed to record 66 tackles and two interceptions while roaming the Broncos' secondary.


Much like Lewis, the intimidation factor is still on Dawkins' side and his pre-game speeches are still some of the best in the business. If he could at least match his 2010 performance in 2011, I would call it a very successful season.


Honorable Mentions:


Shaun Hill, Detroit QB, 31
Hines Ward, Pittsburgh WR, 35
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta TE, 35
London Fletcher, Washington LB, 35
Takeo Spikes, San Francisco LB, 34
Lawyer Milloy, Seattle S, 37


All photos borrowed Google. No copyright infringement intended.

Friday, April 22, 2011

2011 First Round Mock Draft: Newton No. 1?

The draft is right around the corner (April 28-30), and I finally finished my mock draft so I thought I would share it with the football world. Let's pretend we aren't currently in the middle of an NFL lockout, even if just for today.

1. Carolina Panthers--Cam Newton, QB

It seems that Carolina has already given up on last year's second round pick (48th overall) Jimmy Clausen, who posted 58.4 rating with nine interceptions in 10 starts. All rumors seem to be pointing towards this move for Carolina, rather than taking a shot at defensive tackle. Newton's attributes off-the-field seem to give him the edge as top quarterback, rather than Gabbert.

Team needs: QB, DT, WR, CB
Other potential picks: Marcell Dareus

2. Denver Broncos--Marcell Dareus, DT

With Justin Bannan and Jamal Williams both gone, it looks like Denver will be a little short on the defensive line unless they take a D-tackle early. At this point it's between Dareus and Auburn's Nick Fairley, and Dareus' upside is a little better than Fairley's though you can't go wrong with either of these guys.

Team needs: DT, CB, SS, LB, RT, DE
Other potential picks: Nick Fairley, Patrick Peterson

3. Buffalo Bills--Von Miller, LB

With Andrew Luck entering the draft next season, don't be surprised if they pass on Blaine Gabbert and wait until 2012 for their next franchise quarterback. Getting to the opposing quarterback is nearly as important as protecting your own, so that's why I believe they will take Miller, who had 10.5 sacks last season and 17 in 2009.

Team needs: QB, WR, TE, LT, DL, LB
Other potential picks: Tyron Smith, Da'Quan Bowers, Robert Quinn
4. Cincinnati Bengals--Nick Fairley, DT

Still doing all they can to keep Carson Palmer, the Bengals will likely focus more on bringing in weapons for Palmer and getting to the ball carrier in the backfield (19th against run last year). Fairley's 6-4, 298-pound frame and 4.9 speed gives the Bengals a legitimate run-stopper up front, and will free up the guys around him.

Team needs: QB, RB, WR, DL, LB
Other potential picks: Da'Quan Bowers, Julio Jones

5. Arizona Cardinals--Blaine Gabbert, QB

Arizona needs a constant, franchise quarterback. And quick. Derek Anderson and John Skelton just will not do. Gabbert seems to have what it takes to get the job done, and since they passed on bringing in Kevin Kolb from Philly, this seems to be the logical pick at No. 5. Now they just need to find him some protection.

Team needs: QB, G, LT, LB, CB
Other potential picks: Tyron Smith, Mike Pouncey

6. Cleveland Browns--Julio Jones, WR

This would be an easy pick for me if I was in Cleveland's front office. Jones has the best combination of size and speed (6-3, 220 pounds, 4.3 speed) of any other receivers in this year's class. And obviously Cleveland has needed a No. 1 receiver for a while now. Colt McCoy sure would love some help on the offensive side of the ball.

Team needs: WR, G, OT, DT/DE, CB
Other potential picks: A.J. Green

7. San Francisco 49ers--Patrick Peterson, CB

With the recent news that Jim Harbaugh wants to keep Alex Smith for another season at least, it looks like there isn't any question that the 49ers will be looking to improve on defense. Considering Peterson is known to be one of the best players available in the entire draft, of course San Fran won't hesitate to snag him at No. 7, he has great size (6-0, 219) for a corner. Not to mention his 4.3 speed as well.

Team needs: DE, LB, CB
Other potential picks: Da'Quan Bowers
8. Tennessee Titans--Da'Quan Bowers, DE

Technically speaking, quarterback is in fact a need for Tennessee since Vince Young likely wont ever put on a Titan uniform again, but with Newton and Gabbert both off the board I doubt they will be looking to add one via the draft. Instead I believe they will think having Bowers drop to them at No. 8 is a godsend, and quickly snatch him off the board. Bowers' 15.5 sacks will surely complement the other young Tennessee D-end Derrick Morgan rather nicely.

Team needs: QB, G, C, DE, LB
Other potential picks: Mike Pouncey

9. Dallas Cowboys--Prince Amukamara, CB

With an aging Terence Newman and a lazy Mike Jenkins currently making of the Cowboys' corner duo, adding Nebraska's Amukamara, who possesses 4.38 speed, will be a blessing for Dallas. Dallas was 26th against the pass last season, allowing a league-high 33 touchdowns through the air (tied for first with Houston). They will take any help they can get against the pass, as you can see.

Team needs: G, OT, CB, FS/SS
Other potential picks: Tyron Smith, Anthony Castonzo

10. Washington Redskins--Mark Ingram, RB

Jake Locker is the best quarterback available, and I think it would be a bit of a reach to take him with the 10th pick, meaning an improvement at the running back position is likely. Ingram is the best back in the draft, and his agility and quickness should greatly help Washington's running game that ranked 30th overall last season. The loss of veteran Clinton Portis (cut this off-season) may have been a sign that they want to improve via the draft.

Team needs: QB, RB, WR, LB, CB
Other potential picks: A.J. Green
11. Houston Texans--Robert Quinn, DE

With many of Houston's interests already off the board (Miller, Peterson, Bowers etc.), the Texans were forced to settle with only the second-best pass-rushing defensive end, Quinn, from the University of North Carolina. Of course, at the 11th overall pick, having to settle for only the second-best is a very good problem. Quinn's size and agility is a huge plus, and will complement their 2006 first overall pick Mario Williams as the two anchors on both sides of the defensive line.

Team needs: DL, LB, FS
Other potential picks: Akeem Ayers, Ryan Kerrigan

12. Minnesota Vikings--Jake Locker, QB

The Minnesota Vikings and head coach Leslie Frazier know they are in dire need of a franchise quarterback, and having already shown interest in bringing in Locker out of Washington, I have a feeling that this will be the direction they take. I'm sure they'd love to have Newton or Gabbert, but will have to settle for Locker with the 12th pick.

Team needs: QB, OT, OLB, CB, S
Other potential picks: Akeem Ayers

13. Detroit Lions--Jimmy Smith, CB

Detroit was spot-on with their first round pick last year (DT Ndamukong Suh from Nebraska) and with their franchise quarterback in place with an All-Pro wideout in Calvin Johnson. Improving the cornerback position with Smith would be a huge move and will help stop the two explosive in-division passing attacks (Green Bay and Chicago). Nathan Vasher and Chris Houston (acquired last season) could really use a little help.

Team needs: OT, CB, S
Other potential picks: Anthony Castonzo

14. St. Louis Rams--A.J. Green, WR

St. Louis needs help on defense, but what they really need is to get Sam Bradford some help in the passing game. Danny Amendola seems to be the only guy who can do some damage catching passes for the Rams, other than Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson, of course. Having Green fall all the way to St. Louis at No. 14 is a blessing for the Rams.

Team needs: WR, DE, DT
Other potential picks: Cameron Jordan, Ryan Kerrigan

15. Miami Dolphins--Ryan Mallett, QB

Minnesota snagged Locker three picks earlier, but Miami needs a quarterback so badly that they will likely make Mallett the fourth quarterback taken throughout the first 15 picks. Almost halfway through round one and Newton, Gabbert, Locker and Mallett are all off the board. Mallett will hopefully walk in to training camp and prove to Miami and the rest of us that he should be the starter rather than the inconsistent Chad Henne.

Team needs: QB, RB, WR, OL, S
Other potential picks: Mike Pouncey
16. Jacksonville Jaguars--Aldon Smith, LB/DE

With the versatile Aldon Smith in Jacksonville's arsenal of weapons on the defensive side of the ball, the Jags should see their 28th-ranked pass defense improve in 2011. Smith isn't the quickest off the line, but will be able to use his speed and stout pass rush techniques to defeat NFL offensive tackles. He can also be utilized as both an outside linebacker and D-end if need be.

Team needs: WR, DE, LB, CB, FS/SS
Other potential picks: Torrey Smith

17. New England Patriots (from Oakland)--Akeem Ayers, LB

With two first round picks in the draft this year, the Patriots will be able to improve in more than one facet of their game with first round talent. It's no secret that New England's biggest need this off-season has to do with the defensive side. Ranked 30th against the pass last season, drafting Ayers--a solid coverage linebacker--will help solidify the outside linebacker position on an aging roster. I'm almost surprised that he was still available at the 17th pick, and I'm sure Belichick would be too if he saw him on the board this late.

Team needs: WR, OG, DE, LB
Other potential picks: Mike Pouncey

18. San Diego Chargers--Cameron Jordan, DE

Looking for a playmaking talent coming off the edge alongside Luis Castillo, I think this would be a great fit. San Diego has lacked a big-name, headline-maker at the defensive end position for a while now, and this will greatly improve an already outstanding pass defense (led league in overall pass defense and sacks last season).

Team needs: DE, LB, FS/SS
Other potential picks: Ryan Kerrigan

19. New York Giants--Martez Wilson-ILB

Some have him projected for the second round, but I think he's one of the guys who will be taken earlier than everyone expects. Wilson, at 250 pounds, has 4.5 speed and has been known to cover receivers far downfield. I wouldn't be surprised if he turned in to an NFL playmaker, and that's exactly what the Giants have been looking for in a linebacker.

Team needs: RB, OL, LB, CB
Other potential picks: Brandon Harris
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers--Ryan Kerrigan, DE

The fifth defensive end taken through the first 20 picks, Kerrigan is known as the best tackler out of the entire defensive end draft class. With only 26 sacks last season, Kerrigan's 33.5 career sacks at Purdue (tied for school record) will be a welcome addition as well. He can play on both sides of the defensive line and is known as a hustle pass-rusher. What stands out most to me is his 14 career forced fumbles--a Big Ten record.

Team needs: OL, DE, LB
Other potential picks: Gabe Carimi

21. Kansas City Chiefs--Anthony Castonzo, OT

Best offensive tackle in the draft, taking Castonzo from Boston College will help answer any questions about Kansas City's aging offensive line that anybody happens to have entering the draft. They would have loved to take Torrey Smith at receiver, I'm sure. But helping keep Matt Cassel safe and sound behind a solidified offensive line is more important to the Chiefs at the point. Vincent Jackson and Sidney Rice are always available via trade if they decide they need someone to complement Dwayne Bowe later on.

Team needs: WR, OL, DT
Other potential picks: Torrey Smith, Phil Taylor

22. Indianapolis Colts--Tyron Smith, OT

Two offensive tackles being taken in back-to-back picks, Indianapolis also has some questions involving the blindside, and with Smith being a top prospect at tackle as well, Indy can't go wrong with providing protection for their future Hall of Fame quarterback. Instead of trying to nab Manning's successor, it would be a smart move for Irsay to keep him protected until the day he retires.

Team needs: RB, WR, OL, DB
Other potential picks: Brandon Harris, Torrey Smith

23. Philadelphia Eagles--Brandon Harris, CB

With plenty of help at the corner position needed, Andy Reid and Co. wont hesitate to grab Harris off the board at pick 23. Though projected by most as a first round talent, there still is a bit of a risk with Harris, but his strong ability to cover in man-to-man situations should trump all that is wrong with Harris, which, to tell you the truth isn't all that much. He will complement Pro Bowl corner Asante Samuel vey well in Philly.

Team needs: DE, LB, CB, S
Other potential picks: Nate Solder
24. New Orleans Saints--Phil Taylor, DT

Looking for a big, powerful man to plug up holes up front, Taylor's 6-4, 337 pound frame seems to fit the description best. The one-year signing of Shaun Rogers tells me they were only counting on getting production from him for a single season, and Sedrick Ellis could really use some help anyways. Good pick here for New Orleans.

Team needs: DT, LB, S
Other potential picks:

25. Seattle Seahawks--Mike Pouncey, OG

Drafting offensive tackle Russell Okung in last year's draft was one of (then) new head coach Pete Carroll's first moves as head coach, and it was a good step in the right direction for a team that was looking to rebuild. Taking guard Pouncey with their first pick in this year's draft would be yet another step in the right direction as they try to put together a solid, young line to protect the veteran Matt Hasselbeck.

Team needs: WR, OG, DE, CB
Other potential picks: Torrey Smith

26. Baltimore Ravens--Torrey Smith, WR

Baltimore could use some help on the offensive line, but it looks like they will have to settle for help in stretching opposing secondaries downfield with their newest deep threat. Smith had one of the fastest 40 times of all the receivers. At 6-1, he isn't as tall as other top WR prospects such as Jones (6-4), Green (6-4) and Pitt Panthers' Jon Baldwin (6-5) but Smith burst off the snap and solid hands should complement his speed very well and allow him to successfully transition into the NFL.

Team needs: WR, OT, DE, CB
Other potential picks: Aaron Williams
27. Atlanta Falcons--J.J. Watt, DE

Many seem to believe that running back is one of Atlanta's most-needed positions. While I do believe they could use a young running back to complement the bruising 29-year old Turner, I also believe that finding a young talent to aid John Abraham in the defensive end department is a bigger need. Watt is both a threat to the quarterback in pass rushing situations, and getting to the running back when he decides to bounce outside. Watt's 6-6, 292 pound body allows him to be agile, and he is very quick off the snap. I would even go as far as to compare him to Abraham.

Team needs: RB, WR, DE
Other potential picks: Jon Baldwin, Cameron Heyward

28. New England Patriots--Jon Baldwin, WR

Baldwin has a lot of upside, and since New England also has the first pick in the second round (from Carolina), they can afford to wait a couple of picks to upgrade the guard (likely with Florida State's Hudson) or running back positions (likely with Illinois' LeShoure). Wes Welker obviously gives Tom Brady a guy to throw short, precise slant routes to, but having a 6-5 receiver who can, despite his lanky frame, get off the line rather quickly and burn opposing DBs deep down the field would help this already top-notch offense tremendously.

Team needs: RB, WR, OG, DE, LB
Other potential picks: Rodney Hudson, Mikel LeShoure

29. Chicago Bears--Nate Solder, OT

Chicago would love to draft Corey Liuget, defensive tackle from Illinois, but it would be very idiotic to pass on Solder, who probably shouldn't even still be on the board at No. 29. It's rather obvious that offensive line is Chicago's biggest off-season need, especially when you consider the fact that Chicago allowed a league-high 56 times in 2010, and gained the 22nd-highest yards on the ground (1,616). It all starts up front, and having a guy of Solder's length and pass-blocking ability would be just lovely in Chicago. I know Jay Cutler would welcome him with open arms.

Team needs: OL, DT
Other potential picks: Corey Liuget, Stephen Paea
30. New York Jets--Corey Liuget, DT

New York's main need on defense may not be at the tackle position, rather the end. But with the best available at D-tackle, and slim pickings in the DE/LB positions when it comes to first round talent, I think taking Liuget is the best move. He's really tough to beat one-on-one in passing situations according to his scouting reports, and against the run he is able to penetrate the backfield with aggressiveness and flat-out quickness. Any team would love to add a guy of his ability to plug up the middle of the line.

Team needs: WR, OT, DE, DT, LB
Other potential picks: Justin Houston

31. Pittsburgh Steelers--Derek Sherrod, OT

We all know as well Ben Roethlisberger that he needs all the protection he can get, and with injuries and age further depleting the offensive line, adding a pair of fresh legs in to the mix would do wonders. Sherrod has great lateral agility and balance, and has great reaction time, which is very important since defensive ends seem to get bigger and faster with each passing year. Isn't the best run blocker, but his physicality and brutal size (6-6, 312) make up for it. His 5.22 40 time is pretty quick considering his size, too.

Team needs: OT, DL, CB, S
Other potential picks: Davon House

32. Green Bay Packers--Cameron Heyward, DE

Heyward, the last pick in the opening round, marks the sixth defensive end taken in the 2011 draft. If I was to give this year's D-end class a grade A-F, I wouldn't hesitate to give it an A+, that's how deep it is. Heyward, the sith-best end in the draft, uses his size ( 6-5, 285) to his advantage to shed off blockers and can get to the quarterback no matter where he's lining up. With both current defensive ends 30 or older, Green Bay could really use some young legs to freshen things up on the line.

Team needs: OG, LB, DE
Other potential picks: Rodney Hudson

Recap:

Overall, I think these picks seem pretty accurate, though I am kind of shocked I let guys like Stephen Paea, Gabe Carimi, Mikel LeShoure and Kyle Randolph last until the second round, while a few projected for the second round such as Jon Baldwin, Martez Wilson and Cameron Heyward were snatched up.

It's tough to project the draft in any given year, and I just took it one pick at a time, so who knows what will happen once next Thursday rolls around.

**Other players that could potentially be taken in the first round: Paea, Carimi, LeShoure, Randolph, Titus Young, Rodney Hudson, Stefen Wisniewski, Greg Jones, Justin Houston, Aaron Williams, Quinton Carter

**Potential first round risers: Patrick Peterson, A.J. Green, Tyron Smith, Torrey Smith
**Potential first round fallers: Cam Newton, Mark Ingram, Jake Locker, Martez Wilson, Brandon Harris

How'd I do? Comments in regards to anything from my picks, your opinions on who will take who and anything about the prospects is highly recommended.

Photo credits
Von Miller: Aaron M. Sprecher/Getty Images
Patrick Peterson: found on nfltouchdown.com
Mark Ingram: found on sportsnola.com
Ryan Mallett: found on collegesportsfeed.com
Martez Wilson: found on thesportsbank.net
Brandon Harris: found on Google
Torrey Smith: found on thenationfootballpost.com
Nate Solder: found on nationalfootballpost.com

Monday, April 18, 2011

Peyton Hillis, Michael Vick two finalists for Madden Cover

The Cleveland Browns haven't been to the playoffs since 2002, and have had just three winning seasons since 1990. But, when it comes to Cleveland's fan base, they are as strong as ever.

With the 32-player tournament to determine the NFL player to grace the cover of Madden '12 down to just two players, Cleveland's crazy fans managed to vote their running back, Peyton Hillis, past Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers.

Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback Michael Vick seemed to be an early favorite to win it all, and I still think he may very do just that by beating out Hillis. Either way, just getting this far is quite the accomplishment for the 240-pound bull-of-a-running back.

Hillis never rushed for more than 348 yards and six touchdowns in a given season throughout his college career at Arkansas, and was a seventh round pick (227th overall) of the Denver Broncos in 2008.
In Denver's system, Hillis ran for 397 yards and six touchdowns on 81 carries (4.9 YPC) in two seasons. Last off-season he was moved to Cleveland in the Brady Quinn trade, and made an impact on his new team right away.

Hillis ran for a touchdown in each of his first four games, which included two games of 100-plus yards. By season's end, Hillis had racked up a career-high 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns on 270 carries.

We all know of Vick's story, as well.

Released from home confinement on July 20, 2009, Vick returned to the league with the Philadelphia Eagles that August. With a limited role, it didn't seem like Vick would ever fully return to Pro Bowl form having been out of the league since 2006.

That was, until this past season. After an injury to starter Kevin Kolb during a week one matchup with the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, Vick took over as starter and never looked back. Before his jail time, Vick was known as an inaccurate passer who was always looking to run. But, apparently he worked on this problem while playing in jail(?) because he then proceeded to set career-highs in yards (3,018), touchdown passes (21) and completion percentage (62.6).

Of course, he still managed to wow everyone with his legs, running 676 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns. Vick's Eagles were knocked off by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the opening round of the playoffs, but that does not take anything away from Vick's phenomenal season. Like I said with Ben Roethlisberger and his off-field issues...winning seems to cure all. Apparently everyone forgets how much they used to hate this guy?

Unfortunately I expect Vick will win the voting, and I say unfortunately because I would love to see Hillis win cover athlete.

The winner will be announced on April 27 on ESPN2 at 4 P.M. Stay tuned.

Photo: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Roddy vs. Alex: Falcons Receiver Calls out Niners Quarterback

With little progress on labor negotiations as of late, small things such as Roddy White's controversial tweets make headline news in the NFL world.

For those on the outside of the media Twitter "loop," the Atlanta Falcons All-Pro wideout tweeted about the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. His tweets, as shown below, upset many fans. Though he apologized for his comments in a later tweet, that doesn't take away from what he said about him:

"Why is the 49ers wasting their time with alex smith they need to move on better yet try to get luck next year would be good for them.....2 coaches have been fired for tht mans performance"
Excuse the spelling and grammar mistakes, those were his exact words.

I really could care less that he is calling out another player, even if it is on twitter and not to his face. In his apology tweet he said he doesn't have anything against Smith and that he's a great guy.
That's not why I brought this to attention. I brought it to attention because I kind of happen to agree with White in a way. In his five seasons in San Francisco, Smith has thrown 51 touchdowns, 53 interceptions and posted a career QB rating of 72.1.

No matter how you look at it Smith has highly under-achieved, especially for a No. 1 overall draft pick. The Green Bay Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers that same year (2005) and he wasn't picked until the 24th pick. What has he accomplished? Oh, just a Super Bowl MVP. No big deal, Aaron.

The Niners haven't had a winning season since they made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in 2001 and 2002. The franchise is now on its fourth head coach during the Smith era (includes 2010 interim coach Jim Tomsula), and have just hired yet another offensive coordinator under new head coach Jim Harbaugh.

What the Niners need is a fresh start, which is why Harbaugh was hired. If they want to continue the "fresh start" trend, not bringing Smith back would be a smart thing to do. The only reason I can see why they would do this is because they are planning on, like White points out in his tweet, drafting Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck in next year's draft.

All I have to say is hopefully Harbaugh lasts long enough to see that happen in San Fran.

Photo found on digitalbusstop.com

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Arizona's fifth overall pick: 'No QB', says Fitzgerald

The Arizona Cardinals, still in search of a franchise quarterback, are reportedly not interested in taking a quarterback with its fifth overall draft pick this year.

This, of course, is according to All Pro wideout Larry Fitzgerald, who seems to have had quite a bit of influence on the franchise's front office.

Trying to impress Fitzgerald enough for him to want to stay in Arizona after his contract expires at the end of 2011, I would like to think that the Cardinals would do just about anything to keep Larry happy. And why wouldn't they? He's only one of the most dangerous targets coming off the line of scrimmage besides Houston's Andre Johnson.

Fitzgerald's words:

        "I would doubt that we would draft a quarterback that high. I would highly doubt it."

The way he words it hints that they may still draft a quarterback, just not in the very first round.

Personally, I think Fitzgerald is a more reliable source than anyone single person in Arizona's front office at this point. Why they have yet to make a move on Philadelphia's Kevin Kolb tells me that they are leaning towards improving other areas (besides quarterback) early in the draft.
About a month ago an unknown team offered Philadelphia a first-round pick for Kolb, but nothing materialized from that rumor. Fitzgerald expressed interest in Kolb, and said he would welcome Kolb with open arms if Arizona brought him in, but that has also yet to happen.

Despite this, I really think Arizona will take the advice of Fitzgerald if they plan on keeping him beyong 2011. If they are not able to find themselves a franchise quarterback before the season, someone in Arizona's front office needs to be fired. There's no reason why they should enter the season with an underachieving, hot-headed Derek Anderson under center.

For those unsure of Fitzgerald's abilities once he gets a hold of the football:


What's your take? Should they draft a quarterback high (or at all), or acquire their man via free agency or trade?

Source: NFL.com
Photo: borrowed from Google, no copyright infringement intended

Playoff Replay: What if they got a second chance?

With all this NFL draft talk, it's nice to take a break and have a little bit of fun. Why not?

If you're a regular reader then you already know how much I like to mess around with Whatifsports.com's SimMatchup, which is what I have used to replay all the games from this past season's playoffs.

There are plenty of teams (i.e. Falcons, Saints, Colts, Chiefs) that would do almost anything to get a second chance to prove they had a shot at hoisting the Lombardi trophy this season. It may be a little too early to look ahead to the 2011-2012 season considering whether the season will even exist is still in question.

So instead I re-simulated the matchups, and I will bring you the entire playoffs again, one round at a time.

First up? Wild Card weekend.

Saturday

Seahawks defeat Saints, 37-28

This comes as a bit of a shock to me. Not only did Seattle pull off a giant upset in real life, but in the replay they knocked off Drew Brees and his Saints as well. Maybe this wasn't as huge as we thought? Either way, Seattle sacked Brees four times and rookie Earl Thomas picked him off twice. Running back Chris Ivory's 92 yards and two rushing touchdowns weren't enough as Seattle out-gained New Orleans 428-393.
Jets defeat Colts, 30-6

Mark Sanchez not only manages this game, but he also out-performs counterpart Peyton Manning, leading his offense to a 30-point performance. Manning is sacked six times and picked three times as New York's top-tier defense keeps the pressure on him all game long. Two first quarter scores gets the Jets going, and they never looked back. In the actual game back in January, Sanchez looked a little shaky at times, making a couple of mental mistakes. But in the replay he was as poised as a four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback.

Sunday

Ravens defeat Chiefs, 17-10

Whatifsports is now three-for-three in predictions, as Baltimore had a tougher time putting the ball in the end zone in the replay, but got the job done nonetheless. Believe it or not, the two defenses didn't have as much of an affect on the outcome as expected. The two combined for just one quarterback sack (KC's Tamba Hali) and zero turnovers. Anquan Boldin's big day for Baltimore (4 Rec., 92 yards, TD) ended up being the deciding factor.
Eagles defeat Packers, 27-9

Good news, folks. Whatifsports didn't produce a completely boring first round simulation. In fact, we already know we will end up with a different champion as the Packers have fallen to Michael Vick's Eagles. This would, of course, mean that Aaron Rodgers wont put up Super Bowl MVP numbers throughout the playoffs (21-32, 223 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT in replay), and Michael Vick (18-21, 145 pass yards, 1 INT; 8 rush attempts, 50 yards, 1 TD in replay) stole the show in front of the home crowd.

Michael Vick very well may end up being the star of my 2010-11 NFL playoffs replay.

Divisional weekend coming soon!

Photos: borrowed from Google, no copyright infringement intended

Monday, April 11, 2011

Purdue's Carson Wiggs drills 67-yard field goal in spring scrimmage

Just before the end of the first half in Purdue University's Black/Gold spring game on Saturday, kicker Carson Wiggs came on to the field to attempt a 67-yard field goal. He nailed it.

If it had been a regular season game, Wiggs' converted field goal would have tied a Division I record. If it had been in the NFL, it would have set the new record.



Wiggs was always known for having a solid leg, but this just exceeds the usual field goal conversion. Quite impressive, if you ask me.

Obviously, it was the Boilermakers senior kicker's longest career field goal and despite it happening in a spring game, may end up being the highlight of the 21-year old's college career.

It'll surely draw the attention of NFL scouts, at the very least. Good luck to Wiggs and the Boilermakers in 2011.

P. Woo's position-by-position Prospect Rankings (Part 2: Offensive line)

Written by: Patrick Woo

Part numero dos of Patrick Woo's position-by-position rankings is finally here, getting you ready for the NFL draft at the end of the month. Here is where the top 20 offensive lineman currently stand according to my College Football guru.

Offensive Guards
  1. Mike Pouncey, Florida
  2. Rodney Hudson, Florida State
  3. John Moffitt, Wisconsin
  4. Danny Watkins, Baylor
  5. Clint Boling, Georgia
  6. Will Rackley, Lehigh
  7. DeMarcus Love, Arkansas
  8. Stephen Schilling, Michigan
  9. Marcus Cannon, TCU
  10. Justin Boren, Ohio State
  11. Zach Hurd, Connecticut
  12. Ray Dominquez, Arkansas
  13. Bryant Browning, Ohio State
  14. Andrew Jackson, Fresno State
  15. David Arkin, Missouri State
  16. Ricky Henry, Nebraska
  17. Caleb Schlauderaff, Utah
  18. Carl Johnson, Florida
  19. Daniel Kilgore, Appalachian State
  20. Andrew Phillips, Stanford

Offensive Tackle
  1. Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
  2. Tyron Smith, USC
  3. Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State
  4. Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
  5. Nate Solder, Colorado
  6. Ben Ijalana, Villanova
  7. Marcus Cannon, TCU
  8. Lee Ziemba, Auburn
  9. Marcus Gilbert, Florida
  10. James Brewer, Indiana
  11. Jason Pinkston, Pittsburgh
  12. Orlando Franklin, Miami
  13. James Carpenter, Alabama
  14. Joseph Barksdale, LSU
  15. Derek Newton, Arkansas State
  16. Jah Reid, Central Florida
  17. Chris Hairston, Clemson
  18. Willie Smith, East Carolina
  19. DJ Young, Michigan State
  20. Kyle Hix, Texas

Center
  1. Stefen Wisniewski, Penn State
  2. Tim Barnes, Missouri
  3. Jake Kirkpatrick, TCU
  4. Ryan Bartholemew, Syracuse
  5. Brandon Fusco, Slippery Rock
  6. Kris O’Dowd, USC
  7. Ryan Pugh, Auburn
  8. Alex Linnenkohl, Oregon State
  9. Zane Taylor, Utah
  10. Colin Baxter, Arizona
  11. Kevin Kowalski, Toledo
  12. Chase Beeler, Stanford
  13. Ryan McMahon, Florida State
  14. JC Brignone, Mississippi State
  15. Sampson Genus, South Florida
  16. Brad Serini, Florida International
  17. Colin Miller, Central Michigan
  18. John Gianninoto, UNLV
  19. Dan Wenger, Notre Dame
  20. Wade Weibert, Kansas State
Note: All Images found via Google. No Copyright infringement intended.

Why Tom Brady should grace the cover of Madden '12

Love him or hate him, Tom Brady is one of the most successful signal callers in NFL history.

With three Super Bowl rings, Brady is among the likes of Joe Montana (four rings), Terry Bradshaw (four rings), Troy Aikman (three rings), John Elway (two rings) and Roger Staubach (2 rings) in the category of most successful quarterbacks.

Brady currently holds numerous passing records--including most touchdown passes in a single season with 50--and has already been elected to six Pro Bowls and two first-team All Pro squads.

At age 33, Brady still has a couple of solid seasons ahead of him and is approximately 6,000 passing yards away from surpassing Montana in that category.

Brady just won his second career league MVP award this past season after putting up 36 passing touchdowns, 3,900 yards, just four interceptions, and a rating of 111.0. His Patriots were one-and-done in the postseason, but that doesn't diminish his regular season accomplishments one bit.
After all this I just have one question, why has he yet to appear on the cover of Madden?

When you take a look at the 32-player "Madden '12 cover bracket," big names such as Brady and Peyton Manning have been left off. Rather, some of the not-so-well known guys (such as Danny Woodhead and a few offensive lineman) are representing their respective teams in the process.

This has been explained a few different times, but basically EA Sports is trying to give the non-superstars a chance at the Madden cover, which I certainly support. But, I don't know if it's really the best idea if they are trying to rack up big bucks like usual. Maybe they aren't this year, who knows, but I do know that I highly doubt that the game will break the record for most money made on a video game.

In my opinion, I almost think they are trying to keep Brady and Manning away because they want to keep the NFL's 'prettyboys' away from this so-called Madden Curse. If so, they are greatly succeeding at doing so.

Either way, Brady wont be on the cover again this year and I really think he should be on the cover at some point in his career.

I'm not one of those guys who is in love with Tom Brady, first of all because I am not a Patriots fan, but I'm not a Brady-basher either. Too many people have been hating on Brady because he's just seen as one of those prettyboy quarterbacks, even though prettyboy quarterbacks of the past (Montana, Namath, Marino just to name a few) were absolutely loved by the fans.

It just doesn't seem right to me. Yes, Brady is very well-protected by his offensive line, and maybe the league officials throw a few more penalty flags on plays where he ends up on the ground. But the truth of the matter is, we are witnessing one of the purest passers in the history of the league.

Fans need to start appreciating that fact, because he very well could go down in history as the NFL's greatest quarterbacks of all-time by the end of his career.

I did my homework and looked up "Tom Brady and the Madden cover" just to see if he happened to pass up the opportunity to grace the cover in the past, and I didn't find a single thing. It looks as if EA Sports is trying to keep him away from the "curse."

If my name was Tom Brady, I know I wouldn't be scared of a silly curse.

Photo: no copyright infringement intended

Saturday, April 2, 2011

WIS Matchup of the Day: Baltimore's Best?

You could ask just about anyone which year was the Baltimore Ravens' best, and I'm nearly certain everyone would give you the same answer: the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. It's obvious.

With a sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Famer in Ray Lewis leading arguably one of the best defenses in NFL history, it would be tough to pick against this team. The Super Bowl champs destroyed just about every offense it faced that season (recorded four shutouts in 12 regular season wins), including three straight playoff victories in which the opposing offense was held to 10 or less points.

Why, might you ask, am I bringing up the topic of the 2000 Baltimore defense? Well, in celebration of the completion of Baltimore's 15th season this past year, I decided to matchup the two teams I thought were the best in the franchise's first decade and a half.

To oppose the 2000 Ravens, I chose Joe Flacco's rookie campaign (2008), when Baltimore was one game away from another Super Bowl appearance.
Using Whatifsports.com's 'SIM Matchup' simulator, I conducted a best-of-seven series between the two teams. I will use the results from the deciding game to share with you all here today...

Billick vs. Harbaugh
Dilfer vs. Flacco

Believe it or not, this took a little longer than I thought to decide. The 2000 Ravens squad hailed in the end, as expected, but it took all seven games for them to finally pull off a convincing 20-3 victory.

The young Flacco only turned the ball over once--interception to none other than Ray Lewis--but was unable to convert in the red zone, resulting in a lone Matt Stover field goal. The older version of Stover did miss on a 45-yarder, however. But that did not effect the end result at all.

Priest Holmes put the ball in the end zone from 24 yards out early in the game, but it wasn't until the fourth quarter when the great 2000 Baltimore defense put the game away with a late fumble recovery which Chris McAlister returned 42 yards for the touchdown. A pair of field goals from the younger Stover topped off the scoring on the (2000) Baltimore sideline.

Maybe one day, Flacco, but not today.

(Note: No copyright infringement intended)