Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A.D. the best in the NFL, but not in fantasy football

The key to drafting running backs and wide receivers for your fantasy football team is not how good they are as individual players.  This is important, but the most essential component is the type of offense they are in.  Does the offense have a stronger running game or passing game?  It will not suit your fantasy team well if you draft the strongest running back in the league who racked up the most rushing yards, if he now has an offensive coordinator who wants to pass more.

Today let’s look at some options at the running back position.

2011 Super Bowl players - Reggie Bush (New Orleans Saints); Pierre Thomas (New Orleans Saints) and Joseph Addai (Indianapolis Colts) are all good running backs in the middle of their careers.  Bush has been average because of knee injuries the last couple of seasons, but it appears as if he has completely rehabilitated his knee and will show "Who Dat" fans just how good he is.  Addai on the other hand, suffered a concussion during preseason.  It is not certain whether or not he will be ready for the start of the season.  All of these players are on “pass happy” teams.  But with Drew Brees and Peyton Manning as QBs any team would be.

NewbiesC.J. Spiller out of Clemson was selected #9 (the first running back) by the Buffalo Bills.  The other rookie running backs drafted in the first round were Ryan Matthews (#12 to San Diego Chargers) and Jahvid Best (#30 to Detroit Lions). 

Matthews has ran the ball (carries) most of the time for the Chargers during the preseason and reminds people of his great predecessor, LaDainian Tomlinson.  One problem is that he does not have much experience catching short passes which the Chargers use often.

Best is fast.  I’m just curious about his durability.  He only carried the ball one time last Saturday against Cleveland because he felt “tight.”  Time will tell if this actually means that he has a minor injury.  The Lions have not had a solid consistent performer in the backfield (behind the quarterback) since Barry Sanders left.  If Best remains healthy, he could be the starting running back in Motown. 

So far in the preseason, C.J. has lived up to the hype about the speed he displayed in college and at this year’s combine.  The down side for C.J. is his small stature.  In college a running back can get away with being quick and small.  Not in the NFL.  The defense is comprised of BIG, grown men.  They will catch him.  And, it will hurt. 

SeniorsLaDainian Tomlinson (New York Jets) and Ricky Williams (Miami Dolphins) are both in their early thirties.  This gives their respective offenses experience.  L.T. is getting settled with his new team.  During the preseason he has had long carries of 40 plus yards demonstrating that he still has the ability to be a weapon on offense. 

Ricky is risky.  At 34, his body is not as worn out as other 34 year olds.  Between retirement and suspensions, he has not played as much as his counterparts who have been in the NFL for 10 seasons.  He rushed for over 1,000 yards last season.  You just don’t know if Ricky will abruptly retire and start a holistic medicine practice.

Great Ones - Chris Johnson (Tennesse Titans) and Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings) are the leagues best at the moment.  They both are good runners, can catch short passes and understand their offenses.  Johnson had the most rushing yards last season.  He beat A.D. by almost 700 yards.  This isn’t solely because of A.D.’s production and fumbles.  The Titans ran the ball a lot.  It is Johnson’s offense.  A.D. is on Brett Favre’s offense.   No one expected Favre or the Viking’s to have the passing game that they had last year.   With Favre returning to Minnesota, I expect that the Vikings will continue to go to the air.  As a result, I am putting Chris above A.D.

Tomorrow we will look at wide receivers.

Heels & Helmets

Monday, August 23, 2010

Building a fantasy football team: Quarterbacks

The office chatter about fantasy football has already started.  Which fantasy league are you in?  When is your draft?  Ochocinco may not get a lot of points with T.O. in town.  In some cases you will hear more about fantasy football than real NFL games.  What’s all the hype about? 

Fantasy football allows a lot of football fans to have their ultimate fantasy job – own, manage and coach a professional football team.   Just like a NFL general manager, you get to draft the players that you want and trade them throughout the season.  You also get to put on your coaches hat and select your starters each week. 

Most fantasy football leagues are set up so you draft a quarterback, running back, tight end, wide receiver, kicker and one team’s defense.  Some leagues use individual defense players (IDPs) instead of team defenses.  Scoring is based on how your players perform in their actual games.  You will get points when one of your players completes a positive action such as scoring a touchdown or sacking.  You will lose points when a player does something negative like throws an interception.  (See the complete list of scoring opportunities.)  In the Heels & Helmets fantasy football league on NFL.com, the team rosters will include: 1 Quarterback; 2 Running Backs; 3 Wide Receivers; 1 Tight End; 1 Kicker; 1 Defensive Team; and 6 Bench players.  We are using the NFL managed scoring setting.   

When drafting players for your fantasy football team, do not base it on how well you think a team will perform.  Review individual statistics and consider how much playing time a player is anticipated to have this season.  Watching preseason games will give you an idea of who the top players are and how they are performing.  It also gives you a glimpse at the depth each team has because you will see second and third string players play.  To put this into practice, let’s look at some options at the quarterback position.

Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints) and Peyton Manning (Indianapolis Colts) are at the top of the league.  They have strong passing options in Marques Colston and Reggie Wayne respectively, that they are comfortable with.  They also are leading offenses that they know well.  I will give an edge to Brees because Peyton had neck surgery during the offseason, but either one of these guys are good picks for your team.

Brett Favre (Minnesota Vikings) is back.  Seriously.  He played in the preseason game yesterday, so forget the rumors.  It was a rough start for the super veteran, but he knows the game.  While he has appeared a little indecisive the last few years, no one questions how tough if he is.  He will take the majority of the snaps for the Vikings and this gives him plenty of opportunities to pass to his star young receiver, Percy Harvin or hand off to Adrian Peterson, running back and 3-time pro bowler.

Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers) is healthy, but due to his suspension he will not play in the first six regular season games.  You do not want a guy who will miss out on almost half of the regular season as your starting quarterback.  Big Ben is a good option to have on your team later in the season.  Consider drafting him and putting him on the bench.  Just be mindful that he no longer has Santonio Holmes as a receiving threat. 

This brings me to the young New York Jets quarterback, Mark Sanchez.  In his rookie year, he led the Jets to the AFC Championship Game.  He is young and still learning, but he has a solid offense with experienced players like Holmes, Braylon Edwards and LaDainian Tomlinson.  Therefore, he doesn’t have to be great to be a superstar and get points for your team.

Here are a few other quarterback situations to watch in the preseason as you prepare for your fantasy draft: Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions) is not on a good team, but Calvin Johnson is one of the leagues top receivers; Tom Brady (New England Patriots) is past his knee and fingers problems; Eli Manning (New York Giants) suffered a head injury in the Giants preseason game against the Jets last week; Donovan McNabb (Washington Redskins) is still adjusting to a new offensive line and receivers; and Carson Palmer (Cincinnati Bengals) now has the dynamic receiving duo, Ochocinco and T.O.

Tonight in preseason action, the Arizona Cardinals will play the Tennessee Titans at LP Stadium at 8 p.m.  Catch some of the game on ESPN and see how quarterbacks Matt Leinart (Arizona) and Vince Young (Tennessee) perform.  Will they show you something to make you want to draft them? 

Heels & Helmets

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ahhh… NFL football!

Yes, NFL football is finally here!  OK, not really.  It is just the preseason.  Which basically means four weeks of scrimmages for teams to evaluate what players learned in training camp and how they apply it in a game setting to narrow down their roster and select starters.  You will not see the starters making the big hits that you will see during the regular season in fear of injuries before the season starts.  However, after six long months of not watching one down of football, just seeing the teams in full uniforms on the field creates some excitement for football fans.

Winning in the preseason does not necessarily indicate what a team will do in a real game.  Just look at the Detroit Lions who went undefeated during the 2008 preseason, but ended the regular season 0 – 16.  Nevertheless, it does provide a glimpse of what your team is capable of doing, where the weaknesses are, and most importantly gives you an opportunity to see players in action before drafting players for your fantasy football team.

After the first full weekend of preseason games, I was most impressed with the depth at quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Pittsburgh is going to be without Big Roethlisberger for the first part of the regular season.  Since he was slapped with his suspension, everyone has wondered who would take the snaps at the beginning of the season.  While it appears as if Byron Leftwich would get the starting job, he struggled over the weekend against Detroit.  But, no worries for Steeler Nation because Dennis Dixon stepped in and completed 6 of 7 passes and led the offense to three touchdowns after starting deep in their own territory.  They were playing the Lions and it is the preseason, so Steelers fans do not need to book flights Dallas (host for Super Bowl 2011), but they should feel comfortable with whoever Head Coach Mike Tomlin has fill in for Big Ben for a few weeks. 

Tonight the New York teams (Giants and Jets) will faceoff in the New Meadowlands Stadium at 8 p.m.  I selected the New York Jets to win it all this year.  Watching them return their starters and add veterans like LaDainian Tomlinson (running back) and Antonio Cromartie (cornerback) to their roster, I believe that they will get past the Indianapolis Colts this year, represent the AFC in the Super Bowl and take home the Lombardi Trophy.   Now the preseason has started and their star cornerback, Darrelle Revis, does not have a contract and has not been to training camp.  Jets fans should not worry, but tonight will show how strong the defense is without Revis.  Watch the game on ESPN.

OK, it’s time to get ready for the Heels & Helmets Fantasy Football League Draft on September 6 online at noon!  Go back and review the responsibilities of the positions on offense, defense, and special teams and catch a couple of preseason games to examine the players.  This will be your team!  You’re the boss.  Who will you pick?

Heels & Helmets

Monday, August 9, 2010

College football is here!

It’s August and college football is here!  Over the weekend, college football programs opened camped and the USA TODAY Coaches’ Poll released its 2010 Preseason Top 25.  Here are the teams that the 59 head coaches on the USA TODAY Board of Coaches voted to be on the 2010 preseason poll. 

Aug. 6
2010 preseason poll

Team (first-place votes)
2009 record
Final 2009 rank

Alabama (55)

























With the preseason poll out, I want to give some thoughts on the top three teams and their quest to play in the BCS title game on January 10, 2011.

1. Rollin’ with the TideThe University of Alabama Crimson Tide (#1), 2009 National Football Champions, have one goal: University of Phoenix Stadium to defend their title.  From the preseason poll, it looks like the majority of the coaches think that they have the talent to accomplish this goal.  They have a solid foundation on offense.  Starting quarterback, Greg McElroy is 14-0 as a starter at Alabama.  Plus, they return a powerful and fast running back duo in Mark Ingram (2009 Heisman winner) and Trent Richardson.  However, as Head Coach Nick Saban admits the preseason poll is all about what a team did last year.  This year is a new year.  Saban’s challenge getting Alabama back to the BCS title game is an inexperienced defense.  The Crimson Tide lost 14 defensive players to the 2010 NFL Draft.  The defense was key to keeping Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators to just 13 points in the 2009 SEC Championship Game.  This offense will put up some points, but remember defense wins championships.  

2. No Consistency in Columbus – The Ohio State University Buckeyes (#2) is the highest ranked school representing the Big 10 in the poll.  Quarterback, Terrelle Pryor has a decent arm and leads the team in rushing, but he has not shown any consistency to demonstrate that he will do anything great.  The Buckeyes passing game was ranked 103rd last year.  That is not the performance of a Heisman quarterback and national championship offense.  As a result, Iowa (#10), Wisconsin (#12) and Penn State (#14) could easily challenge Ohio State for the Big Ten Conference Championship and a spot in the BCS title game.  Iowa will play all three schools.  While Wisconsin and Penn State will both play Ohio State, they will not play each other.  This could make things tricky if they have similar records with victories over Ohio State.  (A Big 10 Conference Championship game can’t start fast enough.)  On the other hand, if Pryor avoids 9 interceptions in 13 games and is the guy that we saw against Oregon in the 2010 Rose Bowl all season, this will not be a conversation.  The scary part for Buckeye fans is that they could see the guy who was a disaster when Purdue upset them last year.

3. Life After TebowThe University of Florida (#3) feel that the 2009 season was a disappointment.  The Florida Gators started the season as the defending National Champions ranked #1.   They held on to this spot until they suffered their first and only loss of the season to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.   This cost them the opportunity to play for a back-to-back championship.  The Gators want to avenge last season, but it is going to be difficult.  They are starting over after the “Tim Tebow Years” and beginning a season without any returning All-American players since 2007.  The young man who is now leading the Gators at the quarterback position, John Brantley, has never started a game; but he did spend three years behind one the best quarterbacks to play at Florida.  Now we’ll see if Brantley learned enough job-shadowing Tebow to get the Gators back to a BCS title game.

Looking at the top three teams, I think that Nick Saban will get his defense together during camp and play in the BCS title game for the second consecutive year.  Let's see how they handle their SEC match-up against Florida on October 2.  You also have to be leery of Boise State (#5) because they always have some tricks up their sleeves.

Heels & Helmets