Fantasy Football Draft Cheat Sheet

The 2015 regular season draws near and so does your upcoming Fantasy Draft. 

To help you game plan and strategize, here is your hub for 140 Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, Tight Ends, Defenses and Kickers all ranked with recommendations on where to draft them. 

Click any of the positions below to access their cheat sheets.

Quarterbacks

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Defenses & Kickers

Do your rankings look different? Let me know on Facebook and Twitter

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Hard Knocks 2015: Houston Texans Stars and Storylines

Cue the music…

Who else is pumped for the JJ Watt Show on HBO?

Since 2001, HBO has made the month of August significantly more interesting with impeccable footage and access from NFL camps all over the league. Each Tuesday evening, viewers are drawn by marquee players, foul-mouthed coaches, rookie hazing, and the annual heartbreak of roster cuts…or the relief of a fringe guy making the roster.

This (pre)season, the cameras will follow arguably the biggest star in the NFL today, JJ Watt, and a handful of players and coaches with ties to the biggest story looming over the league (regarding the New England Patriots). Let’s take a look at who will likely be getting air-time and the storylines that will keep you interested…

We already know about the scrimmage fight between the Texans and Washington.

But of course, there’s more.

1. JJ Watt

Denver Broncos v Houston Texans

In his first 4 seasons, Watt is a 3-time Pro Bowler, 3-time All-Pro, twice defensive player of the year, and easily the best player in Texans blue. On top of his 57 career sacks he’s already recorded, Watt scored 4 touchdowns last year…3 on offense.

JJ Watt Td

With the success on the field comes the fame off of it. The former Wisconsin Badger has quickly become a big celebrity. When he’s not playing security for the Zac Brown Band, he’s off meeting his boyhood crushes, Britney Spears and Jennifer Aniston, and becoming best buds with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Yes, we all envy Watt’s life and it will be fun getting a closer look at it for the next 4 weeks. Apparently he gets caught offsides for the first time tomorrow night and he doesn’t take it well. Just shake, err, Nae Nae (?) it off, JJ.

JJ Watt Nae Nae

2. Head Coach Bill O’Brien

Bill O'Brien

There is a lot of intrigue around the Texans 2nd year head coach. Bill O’Brien joined the Texans after two seasons as the head coach that followed Joe Paterno and the Penn State scandal. Before then, he was Tom Brady’s offensive coordinator and a 5 year assistant for Bill Belicheck. He also has a bit of a red ass and doesn’t seem to be afraid to mix it up with his players, as footage from his Patriots days shows…

Viewers will learn quickly that O’Brien isn’t too shy to drop a barrage of F-bombs. His forceful and driven demeanor are credited for the Texans improving their win total by 7 games from 2013 to 2014. You also can imagine he may have a few stories from his tenures at Penn State and New England.

Might be worth noting that O’Brien’s playing experience only goes as far as playing defensive-end and linebacker at Brown University till 1992.

3. The Battle of Former Brady Backups

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This is a familiar setting for Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett, as they both took snaps under center for the Patriots in 2011. This time the stakes are higher as they compete to become starting quarterback of the 2015 Texans. A week into camp, neither quarterback has a leg up on the other yet. Hoyer started camp getting reps with the first team, likely because he had more starting experience with Cleveland. Mallett is better acquainted with the offense having come over in a trade from New England a year ago.

A position battle that important should provide solid drama featuring two younger quarterbacks who have a history with each other, but also have a history backing up one of the league’s all-time greats in Tom Brady. The other angle, unfortunately, would be their insight on how they and Brady like their footballs prepared.

4. The Arian Foster Thing

Arian Foster Hard Knocks

Arian Foster has been a force for the Texans offense since taking over the starter spot in 2010. The 4-time pro bowler is also one of the more entertaining characters in football, as well as one of the most outspoken. Unfortunately having to to miss 4-6 weeks to a groin injury, it’s unclear how much air-time Foster will get compared to back up running back Alfred Blue. His recent proclamation as an atheist and want to spread that message could be talking point for him when the HBO mics are on. I always stick to the “Big Fish” rule, but whatever.

Foster gif

5. Filling Andre Johnson’s Shoes

DeAndre Hopkins

It’s going to be weird not seeing Andre Johnson line up for the Texans this season. The 12-year vet and 7-time pro bowler ranks 2nd among all active receivers in catches with 1,012, all with Houston. Johnson took his talents to Indianapolis in the off-season, but that’s why they drafted DeAndre Hopkins…to prepare for life After-Andre.

DeAndre Hopkins gif

The former Clemson star took a big leap to #1 receiver status in his second pro season, catching 76 passes for 1,210 yards and 6 touchdowns. He’ll be lining up on the opposite end of the field from former Jacksonville receiver and D-III college player Cecil Shorts III. Shorts may have a better story than Hopkins, but it will be interesting to see them in action.

6. Clowney Comeback

Jadeveon Clowney

The #1 overall pick from a year ago only played four games for the Texans last year, and made just 5 tackles. After a second knee surgery in December, Jadeveon Clowney has been rehabbing and targeting an August 17th return date before the season starts. Can’t blame Texans fans for being frustrated, especially when Clowney sat out a chunk of his last season in college to avoid further injury before the draft. Other news surrounding Clowney has to do with his father being arrested and denied bond after an attempted murder recently…so there’s that.

Hopefully Clowney can get back to football on focus on blowing up running backs and quarterbacks like he did at South Carolina.

Clowney smash

7. Another Former Patriot

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There are a few more former Patriots who should make this season of Hard Knocks interesting. Super Bowl champion and 5-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork comes over to Houston after earning another ring, and turning 33. An old defensive teammate of Wilfork’s, Mike Vrabel, coaches linebackers with the Texans as well. …Oddly, I’m way more interested in what Vince does on the basketball court than the football field, thanks to this sneak peak.

“Modern Day Michael Jordan”…Wonder what Michael has to say about that.

‘Hard Knocks’ premieres at 10 PM ET/ 9 CT tonight, August 11th. Join me in Tweeting along to the episode LIVE or we can talk about it on Facebook

The Arizona Cardinals Hired a Badass in Jen Welter

“Coaching is nothing more than teaching.”

That’s what head coach Bruce Arians said Monday, according to the Arizona Cardinals website, after the team announced that they added the first woman to coach in the NFL, Jen Welter. Welter joins the Cardinals as a training camp/preseason intern and will coach inside linebackers. She’ll be working alongside former Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Bob Sanders and 12-year veteran linebacker Larry Foote.

Breaking new ground is nothing new for Welter. After playing collegiate rugby and then 11 years in the Women’s Football Alliance, Welter played running back for the indoor football league Texas Revolution. She was the first woman to play a non-kicking position in a pro football game.

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Back in March, Arians was asked a question about the possibility of women coaching in the NFL. Arians answered saying, “The minute they can prove they can make a player better, they’ll be hired.” A Revolution staff member reached out to Arians shortly after, recommending that he should speak with Welter if he was serious.

Arians invited Welter to the Cardinals’ OTAs and found her to be very passionate about football. That passion convinced Arians that Welter was for real and should get an opportunity to coach with his staff. She brings with her a masters degree in sports psychology and a PhD in psychology.

Lastly, Arians addressed the questions of weather or not Welter would be a distraction for the team and how the players will react. “I don’t think the players care, as long as they are being coached to get better. With her background as a player, a coach and a psychologist, I think our players will realize she can help them. She has a ton of energy and intelligence.”

Cardinals Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson has already welcomed Welter to the team on Twitter.

The bottom line, from what both Peterson and Arians are saying, is that this is about doing work and improving the club. The easy comparison to make is in another major sport as San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich hired Becky Hammon to join his staff as an assistant coach last season. Hammon led the Spurs, recently, to a Summer League title and her prospects of being a head coach in the NBA are not a pipe dream by any degree. Expectations are no different for Welter’s coaching trajectory in the NFL, as Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman writes.

Ignorance from some fans, select players, and people who like the sound of their own voice on TV is inevitable. We see it all the time and my solution is always to just change the channel. Fortunately, the reaction has been mostly positive across social media and sports news outlets so far. The Cardinals organization is no stranger to being progressive either. Arians praised his employer last night for their consistent effort in promoting diversity, having hired the first African-American head coach and general manager tandem of Dennis Green and Rod Graves back in 2004. Vice President of the United States Joe Biden recognizes that as well.

It’s a groundbreaking move for sure…one that will open the door for women who won’t be hired just for the sake of diversity, but because they are the best for the job.

More in sports, movies, television, music and food on Facebook and Twitter

Chicago Bears: Marshall Out, McPhee In. Now What?

Ryan Pace has made his first personnel moves to kick off his tenure as Chicago Bears GM.

It began with the trade of Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets for a 5th round pick.

Brandon Marshall vs. Vikes

In just 3 seasons with the Bears, Marshall ranked 11th for receiving yards (3,524) in Bears history, tied for 5th in touchdowns (31) and 8th in receptions (279). However, following an injury plagued 2014 season and accumulating off-field issues, Pace and new head coach felt it best to part ways with the former pro bowl receiver. The reception of this move has been polarizing among the team’s fan base, but the bottom line is that the Bears received compensation for an almost 31 year old wide receiver (Birthday – March 23rd) coming off multiple injuries and declining athleticism that they planned on releasing anyway. Marshall has also openly voiced how football is more of a platform than a passion, so at least he won’t have to fly cross country to record his weekly Showtime appearance. 5th round picks are no slouches either…unless you consider Carl Nicks, Richard Sherman, or Kam Chancellor as such.

The second big move came today as the Baltimore Sun reported that the Bears and OLB/DE Pernell McPhee have agreed to a 5-year/$40 million deal with $16 million guaranteed…also a 5th round pick.

Pernell McPhee

McPhee isn’t as sexy a name as Julius Peppers was when Lovie Smith rang his doorbell at midnight of the 2010 Free Agency start. McPhee’s skill set and versatility are VERY sexy though. Just 26 years old, McPhee is a pure pass rusher with experience as a defensive end and outside linebacker in Baltimore’s 3-4 system. He has also played end in a 40 front. McPhee has dealt with injuries to both his knees, but played in every game during the past 2 seasons. He recorded 7.5 sacks in 2014 while spelling for pro bowler Terrell Suggs, who was nursing an achilles injury.

The McPhee signing does 3 things:

1. It provides flexibility in the draft. The Bears needed an edge rusher and now they have one. A proven one. They put themselves in a position where they don’t have to draft a “need” but instead the best available player with 7th overall pick. That could be Alabama WR Amari Cooper. Bears could use another top-end pass catching talent. It could be Clemson’s DE/OLB Vic Beasley. You can’t have enough weapons to go after the quarterback on the field.

2. It gives new Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio options in his unpredictable defense. McPhee has played every technique on the defensive line. He has stood up to rush the edge. He’ll even rush from the middle on 3rd down from a “chaos” look that you see with multiple 3-4 schemes. And chaos is good…That also opens things up for Fangio to assign positions to unknowns currently on the roster like Willie Young, Jared Allen, and Lamarr Houston.

3. It sets the tone for the type of players the Bears are looking for. The defense is in dyer need of a makeover. Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman, both Chicago Bears all-timers, are on the outs due to age and recent injury history. The average age for defensive starters was 29 while more than half were 30+ years old. The 26 year old McPhee adds youth, but also has a recent Super Bowl ring as part of his resume from 2012. There are other free agents with winning experience who would also fit the needs of the Bears roster.

What’s Next? 

The new NFL year and free agency officially begins today at 3:00 PM CT. Teams had already struck deals with high target players over the weekend.

DT Ndamukong Suh to Miami (6 years $114 million, $60 million guaranteed)

S Devin McCourty stays with New England (5 years $47.5 million, $28.5 million guaranteed)

WR Randall Cobb stays with Green Bay (4 years $40 million, $17 million guaranteed)

WR Jeremy Maclin to Kansas City (Total and years aren’t confirmed, suspected $11 million per year)

TE Julius Thomas to Jacksonville (Expected multi-year deal, $9 million per year)

C Rodney Hudson to Oakland (5 years $44.5 million, guaranteed money hasn’t been confirmed)

Note: Guaranteed money is key with NFL contracts. Rarely does anyone make their entire contract total.

So let’s look at the Bears’ needs and the targets to address them.

Defensive Line

While McPhee can be plugged in as a 5 technique DE, and one would assume Lamarr Houston would fit at the other side, the Bears still need a space eater in the middle to play nose tackle.

Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton – Former Broncos NT under Fox, stellar run defender. Interest from Raiders, Colts, Washington, and the Bears

Dan Williams – Cardinals DT who didn’t get enough playing time. Ranked 8th vs the run by Pro Football Focus. Interest from Giants, Lions, and Washington

Corey Peters – Falcons DT and 5 year veteran. Rebounded well after achilles injury.

Kenrick Ellis – Jets NT. Great 2 down run stopper.

Vince Wilfork – Patriots NT, 5-time pro bowler and proven winner with plenty and knowledge to share. Devin McCourty is trying hard to get him back.

Wilfork GIF

Inside Linebackers

In Fangio’s 3-4 scheme, there are two ILBs…one being the “Mike” (middle) linebacker and the other being the “Jack” backer who lines up weak side of the line. Opponents’ run games will be funneled inside for the most part and while the NT eats up space and OL, the ILBs will be responsible for finishing the plays tackling.

Bruce Carter – Cowboys LB who filled carried a lot of weight with Sean Lee out. Aggressive and uber-athletic. Would be a huge steal away from the Packers who are targeting him.

Brandon Spikes – Former Bills defensive captain yet was treated like a 2 down defender under Jim Schwartz. While he may be on back end of career, provides the violent thump a Fangio LB needs.

Mason Foster – Buccaneers LB who doesn’t fit in Lovie’s Cover 2, but is better built to take on anything funneled to the middle. Bears already linked to Foster.

Nate Irving – Broncos LB that Fox is obviously familiar with but coming off a knee injury. Still in high demand and being pursued by Cardinals. Powerful and prototype for 3-4 ILB.

Nate Irving INT

Cornerbacks

While the Bears do have Kyle Fuller and former pro bowler Tim Jennings, they weren’t all that great with them after the first month. Health reasons have proven you can’t have too many, and Jennings may be better suited for the nickel as he gets older.

Davon House – Packers CB expected not to return, well versed in Fangio’s system as the he was DC for Dom Capers previously. Excelled as slot defensive back last season.

Perrish Cox – 49ers CB who has off-field issues but obviously experienced with Fangio. Great instincts in coverage and reading receivers hips. Doesn’t allow much spacing.

Darrelle Revis – Obviously a big fish to catch in a small pond, but come on…Revis Island.

Darrelle Revis

Safeties

A glaring need for years with the Bears defense, the Bears already missed out on my first choice, Devin McCourty. Don’t necessarily need a playmaker but someone who is at least dependable.

Rahim Moore – Another former Fox defender who was very solid in 2014. Not as flashy as Earl Thomas but fits the “dependable” mold that would make the Bears comfortable.

Antrel Rolle – Giants safety that Bears are linked to. Very vocal about being reunited with University of Miami teammates Andre Johnson and Wilfork. Wouldn’t necessarily rule that out for Bears.

Da’Norris Searcy – Bills safety with run-stop and coverage skills. Young and wasn’t really an every down player, but certainly looked the part.

Mike Adams – Colts safety who does a solid job. Older player but could fit for a year or two and get it done.

Mike Adams

Wide Receiver

Obviously there’s an opening for another split out receiver after the Marshall trade. As mentioned earlier, drafting one is a likely possibility but why not add someone with experience. The preference for the Bears would be a speedster, somebody who can take the top off a defense. They didn’t have that guy last season and it made the Jay Cutler led offense predictable. Marshall and Alshon Jeffery weren’t burning past anybody for a much needed deep threat. But anyone with dependable hands would also do…before the draft.

Torrey Smith – Ravens receiver who has proven to be a risk/reward option for the past few years. Has dropping issues but can certainly stretch the field though and compliment Jeffery well.

Andre Johnson – Very similar career as Marshall production-wise, without the baggage. Doesn’t fit the burner mold but super dependable route runner. I’d blame his lack of touchdowns on his quarterbacks more than him.

Michael Crabtree – Former Heisman candidate that has shown promise but hasn’t met the ridiculous standards we all set for him. Change in scenery and pairing with Jeffery and Martellus Bennett could help him breakout.

Michael Crabtree

Running Backs

The Bears do have Matt Forte, but it wouldn’t be outrageous to start looking beyond the pro bowl “everything” back. Forte will be in the last year of his deal and at the very least will need a backup this season. Bears look to be very run-heavy this coming season, so a 2-back system would be beneficial to not go overkill with Forte touches.

Ryan Matthews – Chargers RB that has had difficulty staying on the field, but solid power runner when given opportunities. Not sure how much Matthews will garner on the market, but would make a great compliment to Forte and can make it an audition to take over after his contract is up.

CJ Spiller – Very similar situation to Matthews in terms of injury history and needing an audition, but a much better pass catcher and versatile offensive weapon. Spiller is also no stranger to the 2 back system.

Knowshon Moreno – Another back with injury history that could also be affordable because of that. Made his money with Dolphins after playing in Adam Gase’s RB-by-committe system and obviously familiar with Fox.

Knowshon Moreno

Of course there are more needs and other options the Bears could go with. Feel free to recommend your suggestions and follow along the Free Agency action with me on Twitter

Fantasy Football Awards 2014

The dust has settled. Champions have been crowned. Now we can hand off the hardware to the players that helped you win (or lose) your Fantasy Football season.

Tom Brady hot potatoe

Weeks prior to the regular season’s finale, I nominated 4 players in each of the 5 different categories you’ll see below. I then let YOU, the readers, add a 5th nominee to be considered for each award. There weren’t any repeats, in terms of a player being nominated for multiple categories. I think that’s a testament to how crazy this season really us.

Then I put it to YOU via Facebook and Twitter to help choose the winners. I’ve included your picks, as well as mine.

And without further ado, drum roll please…

Comeback Player of the Year

Nominees:

– Rob Gronkowski

– Arian Foster

– Jeremy Maclin

– Randall Cobb

– Julio Jones

YOUR CHOICE – Arian Foster

While the leader of the Texans defense, JJ Watt, got most of the publicity (as he rightfully deserved), Arian Foster was back to being the player who you wanted with one of your league’s coveted top draft picks. Foster ranked 6th in rush yards total (1,246), 2nd in rush yards per game (95.8), 3rd among running backs for total yards per game (121.3) and 5th in total touchdowns (13). Not too shabby for a running back returning from back surgery. Oh, AND HE CAN PASS!

Foster TD Pass

MY CHOICE: Rob Gronkowski 

I love Arian Foster. He’s a big reason I hope the Texans are chosen for Hard Knocks this summer. But 2014 was A Gronking To Remember (read that last link at your own risk). Rob Gronkowski was a big reason the script changed on the Patriots’ season. It went from a “Trade Tom Brady” 2-2 to “AFC Powerhouse” East Division Champion 12-4 because Bill Belichick upped Gronk’s usage. After two consecutive seasons shortened due to forearm and knee injuries, Gronkowski was named 2014’s unanimous All-Pro tight end leading the position in yards (1,124) and tied for touchdowns with Julius Thomas and Antonio Gates (12). He’s also receiving NFL MVP consideration…and unlike Foster, played all 16 games. And that’s the kind of effort you need in a Fantasy season.

Gronk Smash

Biggest Draft Bust

Nominees

– Adrian Peterson

– Jimmy Graham

– Montee Ball

– Toby Gerhart

– Zac Stacy

YOUR CHOICE: Adrian Peterson 

The truth is, there isn’t anyone more deserving. You likely spent a Top 5 pick on AP and he gave you 1 game and 75 rush yards to show for it. The reasons for that are well documented. And you can raise your hand from wherever you’re at if you were “that guy” trying to claim Peterson off waivers hoping he’ll get on the field some way, some how…

Happy Sad gif

MY CHOICE: Adrian Peterson

There was some clamoring for Ray Rice. I didn’t feel bad for anyone who drafted him. And there were mentions for Doug Martin. The Tampa Bay situation was bad from the start with the worst offensive line in football, a questionable offensive coordinator hire, and Martin’s injury history should have given you enough caution to stay away from him in the draft.

Breakout Player of the Year

Nominees:

– Justin Forsett

– CJ Anderson

– Ryan Tannehill

– Mike Evans

– Odell Beckham Jr.

YOUR CHOICE: Odell Beckham Jr. 

I’ve written at length how impressive the 2014 rookie wide receiver class was. None of them caught 100 passes, but 3 recorded over 1,000 yards, and those same 3 caught 9+ touchdowns: Kelvin Benjamin (9), Mike Evans (12) and Odell Beckham Jr. (12)…and Beckham led them all playing just 12 games. Missing 4 games and still posting a line that also included 91 catches and 1,305 yards certainly has you considering ODB on top of your WR draft board next season.

Odell

MY CHOICE: Justin Forsett

I won’t argue with the choice of Beckham. He was a miraculous game changer, especially down the stretch. But in a game where consistency from running backs is SO crucial, Justin Forsett was fantastic story. In his 7th season in the league, 4th different team, Forsett doubled his career highs in attempts (235), yards (1,266) and touchdowns (8). Forsett also led the league in yards per carry with 5.7, running away with the starters role left vacant by Ray Rice. At 5’8 and 197 pounds, it was hard to not root for a guy like Forsett…who was also giving you winning outputs week-to-week.

Forsett TD

Steal of the Draft

Nominees:

– Antonio Gates

– Lamar Miller

– Tom Brady

– Kelvin Benjamin

– Ben Roethlisberger

YOUR CHOICE: Antonio Gates 

I think there are strong arguments for all of the players nominated, but nobody was getting drafted later than Antonio Gates among them. For some reason, Ladarius Green was being selected ahead of him, yet Philip Rivers was making Gates his most reliable receiver in the red zone. In his 12th season, Gates surpassed the 10,000 yard milestone and caught posted his second most total for touchdowns with 12. I took him with my very last pick.

Gates Gif

MY CHOICE: Antonio Gates

There was a strong push for Kelvin Benjamin and he was a close choice for me as well. A middle-to-late round choice in most leagues but so consistent as a scoring option through the first 14 weeks of the season. I also would like to take credit for Lamar Miller as an “I Told You So” Guy. While I only had time to preview the East divisions in the AFC and NFC before the start of the season, I had Miller as player you should snag late while you should be weary of Knowshon Moreno.

Most Valuable Fantasy Player

Nominees:

– Andrew Luck

– Aaron Rodgers

– DeMarco Murray

– Le’Veon Bell

– Peyton Manning

YOUR CHOICE: DeMarco Murray

Durability questions? Answered. Contract year? Cha-ching…DeMarco Murray was HISTORICALLY good this year. He broke Emmitt Smith’s single-season Cowboys rushing record. Yes, Emmitt Smith who is the league’s all-time leading rusher. Murray’s league leading 1,845 yards were 484 more than Le’Veon Bell’s, a beast in his own right, and a margin bigger than anyone’s since Chris Johnson ran for 2,000 yards in 2009. Johnson beat out Steven Jackson that year by 590 yards. Murray had 15 rushes of 20+ yards and 13 touchdowns while no other running back had 10 of either statistic.

DeMarco Murray headbutt

MY CHOICE: DeMarco Murray

I think Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers would make excellent choices. However DeMarco Murray proved to be the best at his position for the entire season. Le’Veon Bell is a close second though with 2,215 yards from scrimmage, 83 receptions, and 11 total touchdowns.

Thank you everyone for following along this season! Wish we were already drafting for next season. Keep coming back to MichaelPiff.com in the meantime for more than football. It’s going to be a good bit of fun. 

Brady Peace

NFL Week 16 Fantasy Mailbag: CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK

In football, many say “defense wins championships”.

In Fantasy Football, scoring more points than your opponent wins championships. I actually find that accurate in all sports, both fantasy and real. That has been your goal on a week-to-week basis, and the overall goal was to be competitive for THIS WEEK.

(As I have noted for weeks now) If your league is waiting to hold its championship for Week 17, this is all I have to say to your league’s commissioner…

Do you really want to leave THE CHAMPIONSHIP up to suspicion that key fantasy players will be sat in the final week of the season for rest until the playoffs? Look at the standings, the AFC Specifically…

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If you have contributors from the Broncos (Manning, Anderson, Sanders, and both D. & J. Thomas), the Patriots (Brady, Gronk, Edelman) or the Colts (Luck and Hilton), there is good chance they will get minimal reps or not even play to be preserved for the post season.

But back to this week…

How did we get here? I don’t know each every one of your seasons week-by-week, but I can chronicle mine to relate.

It started with a The Draft.

Yes, I know some of these picks are cringe worthy in hindsight…

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8 of my 14 picks are no longer on my team. That is evident by my 0-6 start to the season.

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And then came the moves. Up until today, I’ve made 39 adds/drops but here are the ones that mattered. (Along with a rotating defense week to week because Cincinnati’s DEF/ST couldn’t be consistent)

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I included Denard Robinson as a part of the key moves, because my wide receiver situation has been awful and it was nice to have his consistency in my WR2 slots. With the recent news of Julian Edelman’s concussion, I’m left making this last move hoping for points from at least one of my WR slots.

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So thanks to the waiver wire, I went 6-1 to clinch a playoff spot…

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Yes, revenge was sweet…but a 6 game win streak to reach the championship was even sweeter. And it was further proof of how right Kevin Garnett was (as much as it pains me to)

The point is that you shouldn’t get discouraged after a bad start. Even a month and a half into your Fantasy season, there’s a lot of football left. Now you’re left clenching on to everything and anything for the most suspenseful 5 days of your season…

Quick Hits

  • Whether you call him ODJ or ODB (that’s my choice), Odell Beckham Jr. is balling out. In his past 2 weeks, Beckham has caught 23 passes for 273 yards and 4 touchdowns on 30 targets…more than anyone in the league. The 2014 rookie wide receiver class is one that is drawing comparisons to the 1983 quarterback class, and it seemed as though Mike Evans was leading the pack with his NFL leading 11 touchdowns…but now Beckham has launched himself into the conversation for “who’s better?” He’ll have an opportunity to improve his side of the debate against a Rams defense that hasn’t faced an elite receiver since Demaryius Thomas in Week 11, who caught 7 passes for 103 yards.
  • I mentioned two quarterbacks last week that I expected to rebound after tough Week 14 games. Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense appear to be in December mode: Being smart with the football, keeping Manning upright, and riding the success of their running back, CJ Anderson…Drew Brees on the other hand, looked like Drew Brees again on Monday Night Football. I actually got to watch him throw dirt on the grave of the Chicago Bears’ 2014 campaign, in person. It was awkward…What else is worth noting, Brees is leading the league in completion percentage at 70% and red zone touchdown passes with 24. And this is a down year for him. This week, Brees faces a Falcons defense that has allowed 290+ yards to their last 7 opponents. Brees also has multiple touchdown passes in 13 of 16 meetings with Atlanta as Saints quarterback.

Brees TD

  • Keep in mind, this week’s NFL schedule is weird. There are two Saturday games being played, Philadelphia vs Washington at 3:30 CT and San Diego vs. San Francisco 7:30 CT. So set your roster accordingly…And then there’s tonight’s edition of Thursday Night Football: Titans vs. Jaguars. Sounds awful, right? I’m still making a play from this game with an un-good wide receiver situation…Nate Washington. There’s gotta be some offense from somewhere tonight, and I see it going to Washington who caught 6 passes on 10 targets for 102 yards last week. Even if Kendall Wright returns tonight, Washington is expected to be the focal point against the league’s 28th ranked defense.

Nate Washington GIF

Fantasy Awards Update

Last week I announced the nominees for our first Fantasy Awards (First Annual is incorrect and sounds weird). I chose 4 players per category and let you, THE READERS, choose the 5th. So without further ado, here are the nominees with THE READERS CHOICE included.

Comeback Player of the Year

– Rob Gronkowski

– Arian Foster

– Jeremy Maclin

– Randall Cobb

Julio Jones (Readers Choice)

Biggest Draft Bust

– Adrian Peterson

– Jimmy Graham

– Montee Ball

– Toby Gerhart

Zac Stacy (Readers Choice)

Breakout Player of the Year

– Justin Forsett

– CJ Anderson

– Ryan Tannehill

– Mike Evans

Odell Beckham Jr. (Readers Choice)

Steal of the Draft

– Antonio Gates

– Lamar Miller

– Tom Brady

– Kelvin Benjamin

Ben Roethlisberger (Readers Choice)

Most Valuable Fantasy Player

– Andrew Luck

– Aaron Rodgers

– DeMarco Murray

– LeVeon Bell

– Peyton Manning (Readers Choice)

Next week you’ll have the opportunity to vote for the winners of each award via Facebook and Twitter. I’ll announce the results after the holidays! Good luck on your matchup this weekend don’t hesitate to ask questions!

NFL Week 14 Fantasy Mailbag

It’s here. It’s finally here.

Feels like just yesterday we were drafting our teams. Some of you probably thought you were sneaky, taking Maurice Jones Drew in the late rounds. Others probably couldn’t believe they got Rob Gronkowski in the 4th round. And everybody who drafted Andrew Luck is likely bragging about where they picked him, right?

Then you had 13 weeks to tinker and toy with your lineup. Early on, it was adding Steve Smith Sr. for Eric Decker, Dwayne Allen for Jordan Reed, and Justin Forsett for Knowshon Moreno.

Forsett vs. Pitt

In October you saw Branden Oliver added for CJ Spiller, Odell Beckham Jr. for Victor Cruz, and Denard Robinson for Adrian Peterson.

Denard GIF

And when it mattered most down the stretch, CJ Anderson for Ronnie Hillman, Jarvis Landry for Larry Percy Harvin, and Kenny Stills for Larry Fitzgerald.

Kenny Stills

So what do you do to have the edge in the playoffs?

You have your players that have been reliable all year and got you where you are, but you can always add help every week.

Colts RB – Daniel “Boom” Herron: Even after fumbling twice the last two weeks, the Colts are committed to running with Boom Herron. Herron has picked up where Ahmad Bradshaw left off by making Trent Richardson look sillier and averaging 7.65 yards per carry since Ahmad Bradshaw went on IR.

Washington TE – Jordan Reed: I mentioned it a week ago, and I was right. Jordan Reed is a better player when RGIII isn’t throwing to him. Colt McCoy gets the start last Sunday and Reed catches 9 passes on 11 targets for 123 yards. If you’re in need of a tight end or Julius Thomas’s status is making you pull your hair out, pickup Reed.

Panthers RB – Jonathan Stewart: DeAngello Williams has a broken hand. Broken hand or not, Jonathan Stewart was running better than Williams anyway. Stewart gained 110 yards total (85 rushing, 25 receiving) against the Vikings defense on Sunday. Even with a 3-8-1 record, the Panthers are in the playoff hunt and establishing some kind of illusion of a run game will be key if they want to steal the horrible NFC South.

Colts WR – Donte Moncrief: The word out of Indianapolis is that Donte Moncrief has surpassed Hakeem Nicks for the #3 receiver role. He’s a boom or bust type of player much like Terrance Williams was for Dallas in the first half of the season, but Reggie Wayne’s production is sloping the wrong way. 134 yards and 2 touchdowns on 3 catches last week makes Moncrief very attractive for more Andrew Luck targets and for you to grab him if he’s available.

Quick Hits

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick…WHA-HAPPENED? One minute, the “bearded one” was being benched for Ryan Mallett. The next he’s throwing 6 touchdown passes. This is the same Fitz-Beard that averaged an INT per game, and couldn’t find Andre Johnson in the end zone (he did on Sunday). It seems head coach Bill O’Brien has taken off the training wheels finally and airing it out. DeAndre Hopkins had 9 catches for 239 yards and 2 TDs while JJ Watt caught his 3rd off the season. They won’t be playing stats padding Titans again, but they will see the Jaguars this weekend for more air-time.

JJ Watt TD #3

  • Can we talk about the Rams? They only have 5 wins this year, and really that could have them first in the abysmal NFC South. 3 of those 5 wins have come against playoff contenders (Broncos, Seahawks, 49ers) and they just beat the Raiders 52-0. For a team decimated by injuries, they sure don’t act like it. Stedman Bailey (another guy to pick up for your playoff run) has emerged as Shaun Hill’s go-to receiver with 12 catches, 189 yards and a TD on 15 targets the past two weeks. Bailey had 100 yards in the first quarter alone against the Raiders. And Tre Mason just scored 3 touchdowns (2 rush, 1 rec.). He may have just scored again on the Raiders, I’m not sure.

Tre Mason TD

  • And bouncing back from having his winning streak snapped, Tom Brady catapults himself to MVP frontrunner…of commercials. That mullet is…beautiful.

And now for YOU time. 

DB Moenning on Facebook: “Got two burning Flex spot questions for you. Pick 1: Keenan Allen or Giovani Bernard. Fred Jackson or Denard Robinson.”

Normally I lean toward running backs in this situation for guaranteed touches. Before his injury, Gio Bernard would have been a no-brainer. But since returning, the Bengals have given the starter reigns to Jeremy Hill, as well as the red zone carries. I could see them riding whoever the hot hand is against the Steelers…The Phillip Rivers target machine Keenan Allen is finally making the most of his opportunities. 3 touchdowns in his last 2 games (3x his total before then) and coming off an 11 catch 121 performance against Baltimore. The Packers 3rd WR just put up similar numbers against the Patriots and that’s why I like Allen better than Gio this week.

For your second conundrum, I like Denard Robinson better and here’s why. While Fred Jackson dispelled the running-back-by-committee approach for the Bills last weekend, he’s running into a buzz saw that is the Broncos run defense. The D-line has found their groove, and allowed Jamaal Charles just 59 yards total (35 rush, 24 rec.). The Bills have a defense that could prevent the Broncos from getting out to a crazy early lead that has forced most teams to give up on the run, but I’m not necessarily counting on it…Shoelace has had a tough go the last two weeks, and it’s mostly been because of game-flow circumstances. The Jaguars had to come back from a 20 point deficit in the first half last week and that helped Marqise Lee out more than Robinson. They should have better luck with time of possession early on against the Texans defense and that bodes well for Robinson, who even got some effective Wildcat plays against the Giants.

Ryan Ricci on Facebook: “Larry Donnell or Jordan Reed?”

As I mentioned earlier, Colt McCoy throwing to Jordan Reed only means good things. Tight ends are what makes McCoy tick. If he’s healthy, go with Reed…I really don’t get Larry Donnell. I think some the occasional drop in his numbers is because the Giants OL can’t handle pass rushers without him blocking. He has a solid matchup against the Titans this week though. If Reed can’t go, Donnell will be a decent play in his place.

Craig Bucy on Facebook: “Romo or Tannehill?”

Tony Romo had a tough one last week. He’s dealing with a bad back but seemed to have a weekly routine to rest it. Romo throws 4 touchdowns in Week 12, goes just 3 days without taking a hit, and he has his worst game of the season. A full week with his regular routine against the Bears secondary may be the bounce back Romo needs. He threw 3 touchdowns against Chicago the last time he traveled to Soldier Field and the Bears are allowing 326.4 yards per game to competent quarterbacks (Stafford, Rodgers x2, Brady, Ryan)…Tannehill has good matchup against Baltimore, but Romo will be your guy.

Sam Kalmar on Facebook: “Terrance Williams or Malcom Floyd? Any potential waiver pickups suggestions welcome also.”

Terrance Williams has really fallen off in the last month. He started off hot and then Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and DeMarco Murray stopped sharing the targets from Romo. Bryant and Witten will benefit the most against the Bears soft press defense this weekend. Malcom Floyd would have been a nice play if he wasn’t going to draw Darrelle Revis or Brandon Browner….I would recommend either Donte Moncrief or Stedman Bailey who I mentioned either, as well as Robert Woods who has emerged as a startable WR thanks to #OrtonMagic and a beat up Sammy Watkins.

I’ll be on a work trip in Phoenix till Sunday, but feel free to keep asking questions on either Facebook or Twitter