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Players to Watch Tonight

August 13, 2009 Leave a comment

Eight teams play their first preseason games tonight. Here is a list of some players to keep an eye on.

NE v. PHI

QB Tom Brady (NE): How comfortable does he look in the pocket?

RB Fred Taylor (NE): Does he have anything left?

WR Greg Lewis (NE): Can he beat out WR Joey Galloway for the number 3 WR spot?

RB LeSean McCoy (PHI): Can he live up to the hype?

WR DeSean Jackson (PHI): Is he ready to take the next step?

WR Jeremy Maclin (PHI): Will he have any impact as a rookie?

BAL v. WAS

QB Joe Flacco (BAL): Has he progressed at all?

RB Ray Rice (BAL): Is he ready to be the main ballcarrier?

WR Demetrius Williams (BAL): Can he stay healthy and make some plays?

QB Jason Campbell (WAS): Can he relax and take charge of the offense?

WR Devin Thomas (WAS): Is he ready to make an impact?

ARI v. PIT

RB Tim Hightower (ARI): Can he hold onto the number 1 spot

RB Rashard Mendenhall (PIT): Can he show us something other than his ability to get hurt?

WR Limas Sweed (PIT): Can he live up to the hype he had while at Texas?

DAL v. OAK

QB Jamarcus Russell (OAK): Does he still look like a bust?

RB Darren McFadden (OAK): How do the Raiders use him?

WR Chaz Shilens (OAK): Could he be a sleeper?

WR Johnnie Lee Higgins (OAK): He caught a TD pass in each of the last 3 games in 08. Fluke?

QB Tony Romo (DAL): Is he more relaxed without WR Terrell Owens around?

RB Marion Barber (DAL): Will he go back to his old role as TD-machine and game-closer?

RB Felix Jones (DAL): How do the Cowboys use him?

WR Miles Austin (DAL): Is the sleeper-hype justified?

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Sleepers

July 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Here is a list of players who I consider “sleepers” for the 2009 fantasy draft.

QB Jason Campbell (WAS): Most think Campbell has been disappointing thus far in his career. But you should remember that — until this year — he has yet to have the same head coach and offensive coordinator for two years in a row. I think HC Jim Zorn will have Campbell playing well this year. He should be a better-than-average backup, and could even be your starter against weaker teams.

QB Kyle Orton (DEN): Of course, QB Jay Cutler got all the attention in the blockbuster trade of the offseason. But it could be Orton who ends up benefiting the most. Orton was not all that terrible last year. And now he has guys like WR Brandon Marshall and WR Eddie Royal to throw to, in addition to a pretty solid running game. He should put up respectable numbers, especially in the AFC West, which is weak against the pass. A very solid backup.

QB David Garrard (JAX): Last year, the Jags struggled due mainly to injuries across their offensive line. Assuming the same does not happen this year, I expect Garrard to put up better numbers. Plus, they brought in WR Torry Holt, who may be old, but he is better than anyone they had before. Another very solid backup.

RB Lesean McCoy (PHI): If RB Brian Westbrook gets injured, McCoy should be a stud in the Eagles offense. And he should get quite a few touches either way.

RB Michael Bush (OAK): I am not a big fan of RB Darren McFadden. Yes, he is fast and athletic. But so is RB Reggie Bush. Unfortunately, D-Mac struggled with injuries last year, so it is hard to tell. But I do not think he can be a full-time RB in the NFL. He runs too upright. Which should open the door for Bush, who would have been a first round pick but for a nasty leg injury in college. Rumors are that he has looked great this summer.

WR Brian Robiske (CLE): Despite the fact that he is a Buckeye, I like this kid. His dad is a WR coach in the NFL. He has good size and good (enough) speed. And — most importantly — he runs good routes. And he can catch the ball. Combine all of those, and you have the recipe for an effective rookie WR. And the rumors out of Cleveland are that he is penciled in to start opposite WR Braylon Edwards. And we learned from last hear (e.g. WR Eddie Royal, WR DeSean Jackson) that rookie WRs that start have a good chance at doing something good.

WR Miles Austin (DAL): Someone has to catch balls opposite WR Roy Williams. TE Jason Witten will continue to be QB Tony Romo’s main target, but I expect Austin to work his way into the rotation and get quite a few looks. He has very good size for the position. He will probably be somewhat inconsistent, but he is a borderline WR3.

WR Chris Henry (CIN): Henry has had his fair share of problems since coming into the NFL. But I think he actually figured out that he has to stop screwing up if he wants to succeed on the field. The reality is, Henry is extremely talented. So if he can focus on football, he could be a very good WR, especially now that WR TJ Houshmandzadeh is gone and QB Carson Palmer is healthy.

WR Josh Morgan (SF): I liked this guy last year, but he could not stay healthy long enough to get into the lineup. Although the 49ers like to run, I think Morgan will get some changes to make plays. And the arrival of WR Michael Crabtree should force defenses to direct their focus elsewhere. Keep him in mind in the late rounds. Stash him on your bench and see how he develops.

WR James Jones (GB): I love this kid. But, as with many others on this list, injuries kept him from doing much last year. However, his knee is healthy and he has dropped some weight in order to increase his speed. He will play behind WR Greg Jennigns and WR Donald Driver, but if QB Aaron Rodgers throws for around 4000 yards again (which he will), Jones should do well enough to use as a bye-week fill-in or spot-starter. And bump him way up if either Jennings or Driver misses any time with injuries.

WR Earl Bennett (CHI): He was very (very) quiet last year. But someone has to catch the ball in Chicago, right? I am simply not convinced that WR Devin Hester is that guy. I might be putting too much stock into the fact that Bennett and QB Jay Cutler were college teammates. But that has to be worth something, right? (A bench spot, perhaps.)

WR Mike Walker (JAX): Like Morgan, I was high on Walker last year. But also like Morgan, he could not stay healthy. But I expect him to get his opportunity this year, since guys like WR Jerry Porter and WR Matt Jones are now unemployed. I doubt many people will even consider picking him, but I think he is worth a bench spot on your roster.

WR Sidney Rice (MIN): All this guy does is catch touchdowns. No, he is not Cris Carter. But seriously, all he does is catch TDs. Last year, he had 15 catches and 4 TDs. Not bad. I love his size (6-4, 202). If he can stay healthy (anyone sense a trend?), he should make some plays this year, especially if QB Brett Favre is lobbing jump balls in his direction. If he can stay healthy, he could be a very solid WR3 option if he can get involved in places that are not the endzone.

WR Steve Smith (NYG): The Giants have a high-powered offense. And QB Eli Manning looked to Smith often last year when he needed a 1st down. Smith is not a burner or big-play guy, but he runs very good routes and has reliable hands. He should have a surprisingly solid year. My guess is he will make a solid WR3 in most leagues.

WR Mark Clayton (BAL): I pick him as a sleeper every year. Its sorta like a tradition, at this point. I believe in you, Mark!

WR Mark Bradley (KC): He has never stayed healthy. But if he can, he could do well in the new-look KC offense. Defenses will have to focus on WR Dwayne Bowe, allowing Bradley to get open. But he has never stayed healthy. Ever. So you can likely get him off waivers after the first couple weeks if he is not already on nursing an injury.

WR Michael Jenkins (ATL): After doing very little during his career, he actually looked like a decent WR last year. Part of this was due to the surprisingly solid play of QB Matt Ryan, but it was also due to the emergence of WR Roddy White. Jenkins is slow, but he has great size (6-4), making him a good possession receiver. Also, having TE Tony Gonzalez taking up some attention should help him get open on third downs and in the endzone. Likely waiver material, but keep an eye on him.

WR Harry Douglas (ATL): Two Atlanta WRs on this list? I must be crazy. Perhaps. But Douglas looked good last year coming in as a rookie. And I think he will continue to develop this year. Keep an eye on him early in the season to see how he is used.

WR Keenan Burton (STL): Call me crazy. But I think the Rams will be (slightly) better this year. And, other than WR Donnie Avery and RB Steven Jackson, there is no one else to throw the ball to. And Avery is more of a deep threat. So look for Burton to compliment Avery’s speed. Another guy to watch on waivers, perhaps.

Fantasy Impact: Rookies

July 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Generally, rookies do not have much of an impact on the fantasy landscape. But, just like everything else, the fantasy world is reactionary. So, since a few rookies — e.g. RB Steve Slaton, RB Chris Johnson, and RB Matt Forte — had great seasons last year, people will expect the class of 2009 to produce some stars. Unfortunately, I do not expect this to happen. But there are some guys who you should consider on draft day.

QB Matt Stafford (DET): It is not even clear yet whether he will be the starter. I would bench him for a year. But I am not in charge. Even if he does end up as the starter, he is not a worthwhile fantasy option. Sure, he will throw a few jump-ball-touchdowns to WR Calvin Johnson, but he will be way too inconsistent to rely on.

QB Josh Freeman (TB): The Josh-Freeman-as-starter camp has been growing lately, but a lot can change between now and Week 1. Either way, he is not a viable fantasy option. Do not be fooled by the (appearance of) success of QB Matt Ryan and QB Joe Flacco last year.

QB Mark Sanchez (NYJ): See Stafford, Matt and Freeman, Josh.

RB Knowshon Moreno (DEN): If you are looking for someone who could make an inmpact, it is Knowshon. As of now, it looks like he is set to be the starter in Denver. And he has a very attractive combination of running and receiving skills. However, I do have some concerns about how new HC Josh McDaniels will use Moreno, given his extremely annoying tendency in NE to use multiple (marginal) RBs. Either way, the competition is fairly weak, so I expect Moreno to get every opportunity to shine. (But I am still holding out hope that RB Ryan Torain will recover from his knee injury and become the fantasy stud I expected him to be last year. But, at this point, that seems unlikely.)

RB Lesean McCoy (PHI): Fact: RB Brian Westbrook is breaking down. It is unfortunate. Because he has been a great fantasy player for a long time. But he is nearing 30, and he has a ton of touches over the past few years. Even if he can stay healthy this year (which is extremely unlikely), McCoy should get plenty of touches as the Eagles try to keep Westbrook fresh. And if Westbrook goes down, McCoy should do very well in that offense, which is set up to give RBs big numbers. If you draft Westbrook, do yourself a favor and take McCoy as a handcuff.

RB Beanie Wells (ARI): The Cardinals throw too much for Wells to be a stud, but he is by far the best RB (sorry, Edge) the Cards have had in awhile. RB Tim Hightower has a great name, but he had his chance to shine last year and he was less than impressive. I am not a huge Wells fan in general, because I think he lacks the mental and physical toughness necessary to be a good RB, but he does have the skills. So, if he can stay healthy, he should get plenty of goal line carries in Arizona’s offense, because they run the ball surprisingly often inside the 10-yard line.

RB Donald Brown (IND): I love this kid. He is smart and not flashy. And he ended up in a great situation. RB Joseph Addai has struggled with injuries lately (ahem, understatement), so Brown could get plenty of chances. Even if Addai stays healthy, the Colts will likely give Brown some carries early. They do not draft guys high to let them sit. And if (read: when) Addai goes down, he could be a stud in that offense (assuming QB Peyton Manning trusts him in pass protection).

RB Shonn Green (NYJ): I am skeptical of this kid. He was a one-year wonder in college and has never really impressed me. He did put up some good numbers last year at Iowa, but I just do not see him replicating that in the NFL (this year, at least). He is a guy to keep an eye on, though, because he is a very physical runner and could do well in NY, since they love to run the ball. Plus, RB Thomas Jones is getting old and RB Leon Washington is not a full-time RB. But the QB situation does concern me. Neither QB Mark Sanchez nor QB Kellen Clemens are going to scare many teams into not playing 8 in the box.

WR Michael Crabtree (SF): Crabtree is a great talent. Do not let his foot injury (or the fact that his coach made him cry) concern you. You should, however, be concerned about the QB situation in SF. Because, honestly, they are terrible. The problem with WRs is that, no matter how talented they are, they need a QB to throw them the ball. However, Crabtree could be a poor QB’s best friend, since he has fantastic body control and catches the ball at its highest point. Plus, he immediately becomes the best receiving option on that team. But I am guessing someone in your fantasy league will over-value him.

WR Brian Robiske (CLE): I love this kid, even though he played for THE Ohio State University. He has exactly what you need to succeed as a rookie WR in the NFL — intelligence, good hands, and route-running skills. Plus, he is penciled in as the starter opposite WR Braylon Edwards. Obviously there are QB concerns. But he should put up solid numbers as a rookie.

WR Hakeem Nicks (NYG): I think Nicks will be buried on the NYG depth chart behind guys like WR Steve Smith, WR Dominic Hixon, and WR Mario Manningham. People love Nicks because of his behind-the-back catch in college last year. Unfortunately, circus catches like that are not what you need to do well as a rookie WR in the NFL. So look for Nicks to be worked in slowly by the Giants.

WR Kenny Britt (TEN): The Titans sound like they want to bring this kid along slowly. Which is somewhat surprising, given their lack of talent at WR. But, again, it is difficult for rookie WRs to do well in the NFL. And the Titans do not pass the ball often enough to make their second or third option at WR valuable for fantasy purposes.

WR Percy Harvin (MIN): He is a superb athlete. But a very marginal WR. And usually, rookie WRs who have success in the NFL are very polished. However, early rumors out of Minnesota are that they will use Harvin in a variety of ways to try and get him the ball. Either way, I expect him to struggle as a WR, making him a very risky prospect. My guess is someone in your league will over-value him.

WR Jeremy Maclin (PHI): Last year, we saw WR DeSean Jackson blow up as a rookie in Philly. Could it be Maclin’s turn this year? Other than Jackson, he really does not have much competition. WR Kevin Curtis is solid, but he is getting old and, well, he’s white (and not named WR Wes Welker). I think Philly will give Maclin his chances, but I do not expect him to do much. If your league gives points for return TDs, though, bump him up a little.

TE Jared Cook (TEN): Rookie TEs are tough. Especially thin ones with suspect blocking abilities on teams that love to run. However, Cook is a great receiver and could provide a nice red zone  target for QB Kerry Collins. Recall that last year, Collins and the Titans offense made TE Bo Scaife fantasy-relevant. Cook may be young and raw, but he is twice the (receiving) talent of Scaife.

TE Shawn Nelson (BUF): Nelson is very talented, but as with Cook, he has suspect blocking abilities. However, there is very little competition in Buffalo, so look for him to get plenty of chances. With WR Terrell Owens in town, and guys like WR Lee Evans, RB Marshawn Lynch, and RB Fred Jackson getting looks in the passing game, do not expect too much.

Eagles at Cowboys: Preview

September 15, 2008 Leave a comment

Tonight’s MNF game features two of the best teams in the NFL and could end up being a high-scoring affair. In their last meeting, the Eagles won 10-6, but I think more points will be scored tonight.

Some thoughts on tonight’s MNF game:

1. All reports indicate that Barber is healthy and will play tonight. You should never sit him (I think he will be the top fantasy player this year, if he stays healthy), but see how many carries he gets and how his ribs hold up. It will be interesting to see who gets the carries if Barber does not carry the full load — Felix Jones looked good last week, but I think Tashard Choice will see the ball quite a bit, too.

2. McNabb and the Eagles have taken 3 of 4 from the Cowboys. Jim Johnson’s blitzing defense gives Romo troubles. But I suspect the Cowboys will be ready this time. Either way, it is unlikely that Romo will have as good of a game as he did last week.

3. I was fairly high on DeSean Jackson coming into this year, and he looked good in week 1. Although three Eagle WRs had 100+ yards, Jackson made some good catches and is dangerous with the ball in his hands. But that was against the Rams, who are awful. I would not be surprised if he was much quieter tonight. The Cowboys have good CBs, but their safeties are slow, so I expect McNabb to look to LJ Smith and Westbrook most often.

4. TO loves playing against the Eagles. But with Asante Samuel, Sheldon Brown, and Lito Sheppard, the Eagles have three of the best cover CBs in the game. Plus, Dawkins is a great safety. Look for the Eagles to pressure Romo and blanket TO, forcing Crayton and Witten to beat them.

5. Speaking of WRs, apparently Eagles WR Reggie Brown might play tonight. He is listed as questionable, but he has been looking good in practice. I would not rely on him (and hopefully you do not have to), but keep an eye on him tonight. If he is healthy, he is the clear No. 1 in Philly and should be worth a start.

Categories: Preview