Here is my first batch of news/notes from the preseason. Focusing on PPR leagues:
1st Round Buys & Sells
Arian Foster, HOU- Best player in the draft, not much he can’t do. Only concern is health. Faces one of the easiest schedules for running backs this season.
Ray Rice, Bal- Good for 70+ receptions, not to mention his 1,500 rushing yard potential and double digit TD. He is a top 3 fantasy player.
Calvin Johnson, DET- 150+ targets, good for 85+ receptions and double digit TDs
Darren McFadden, OAK- Injuries have slowed him down, BUT he has potential to be the Top Fantasy Running Back. Good for 1,300 rushing yards. Is averaging .82 points per touch the last 2 seasons. With Michael Bush gone, look for him to do some work.
Julio Jones, ATL- Yes I left out Roddy White. Jones is emerging, and this is his year. Look for 75+ receptions, and double digit TDs from him.
Matt Forte, CHI- Running behind a below average offensive line. Look for the Bears to throw it more in the RedZone with the addition of Brandon Marshall. Let someone else take Forte in the first round.
Maurice Jones-Drew, JAC- Has a high redzone success rate of 21%, but his team never gets in the Redzone. With him holding out and being on a dismal team, I would pass.
Wes Welker, NE- 173 Targets in 2011. With Lloyd in town, I see those targets going down. Declining Endzone Rate, with higher risk of injury on top of the worst schedule in the league for a Wideout.
Andre Johnson, HOU- Injuries have killed his last 2 seasons. Top player at his position, but he can’t produce when he is on the bench.
LeSean McCoy- There is no way he is repeating 20 TDs from last year. He was unsuccessful on a high rate of 30% of pass plays directed at him. I blame some of that on his Quarterback. He is a nice player, but has to be the most overrated player in the 1st round with ADP of #3 overall.
2011 NFL DRAFT PICKS: Cameron Jordan, DE (1-24); Mark Ingram, RB (1-28); Martez Wilson, OLB (3-72); Johnny Patrick, CB (3-88); Greg Romeus, DE (7-226); Nathan Bussey, OLB (7-243)
It's very rare that you see the best running back in the draft fall all the way to the 28th pick.
With the exception of maybe Cleveland, nobody was more impressive the first night than the Saints. I was shocked when they had Cameron Jordan just sitting there for them with the 24th overall pick. What I always noticed about Jordan when he played at California was his long arms that made it next to impossible for anyone to get around him to the outside. He has great speed and size and a work ethic that comes from his father Steve who spent 13 years in the NFL as a tight end with the Vikings. To be able to follow up the Jordan pick by trading up to land the best running back in the draft in Mark Ingram 28th overall was an unbelievable value. The Saints didn’t fare as well in later days, neglecting the huge need they had for an offensive tackle but in regards to value I was definitely impressed by the pick up of Martez Wilson in the 3rd round. He was a great run-stopping linebacker at Illinois who I thought would go in the mid to late 2nd round but some off the field issues and a 2 injuries (a herniated disc 2 years ago and a stabbing last year) probably led to his fall into the 3rd round.
KEY ADDITIONS: Abrayo Franklin, NT (49ers); Darren Sproles, RB (Chargers); Lance Moore, WR (Saints); Roman Harper, S (Saints); Clint Ingram, LB (Jaguars); Jermon Bushrod, OT (Saints); Scott Shanle, LB (Saints); Zach Strief, OT (Saints); Alex Barron, OT (Cowboys); Will Herring, LB (Seahawks); Fabian Washington, DB (Ravens)
KEY LOSSES: Reggie Bush, RB; Akin Ayodele, LB; Remi Ayodele, DT; Jeremy Shockey, TE
Franklin is a big, physical nose tackle who transforms the Saints' rush defense overnight.
While everyone was distracted by the Philadelphia Eagle’s Miami Heat-like stockpile of talent, few took the time to notice the impressive job that the New Orleans Saints did in free agency. They were able to land the biggest defensive line prize of the free agency period in Abrayo Franklin. Franklin is a largely unknown player but he is one of the premier nose tackles in the league who should fit nicely into Greg Williams’ scheme down in New Orleans. In a division that boasts Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams, Johnathan Stewart, and LeGarrette Blount, stopping the run is a must. They traded Reggie Bush away for a 2nd round draft pick and then were able to pick up the exact same player, maybe a better version, in Darren Sproles for a lot lower price tag than Bush would have demanded. They brought in Fabian Washington and Clint Ingram to tighten up that Saints secondary and then did the most important thing that any team can do in free agency, they re-signed their top free agents.
2011 DRAFT PICKS: Julio Jones, WR (1-6); Akeem Dent, LB (3-91); Jacquizz Rodgers, RB (5-145); Matt Bosher, P (6-192); Andrew Jackson, G (7-210); Cliff Matthews, DE (7-230)
The Falcons clearly think that Jones can help them win now.
For the Falcons, this draft will be mostly gauged in the future on the success of Julio Jones. The Falcons sold the farm and then some to trade up and grab him so it’s clear that they believe he is the missing piece that can help them win now. If he does nothing more than open up the field more for Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, and Michael Turner – that alone could help the Falcons take the next step. The Akeem Dent pick in the 2nd round makes a lot of sense and I like the addition of Jacquizz Rodgers in the Falcons backfield. I see him being more of a pass catching back which could be a nice change of pace for the Falcons offense. I am also a fan of the Cliff Matthews pick in Round 7. Many have scrutinized this draft and while the price paid for a player with a high ceiling and good chance of getting injured was high. I like the “all-in” move.
KEY ADDITIONS: Ray Edwards, DE (Vikings); Justin Blalock, G (Falcons); Stephen Nicholas, LB (Falcons); Mike Peterson, LB (Falcons); Tyson Clabo, OT (Falcons); Eric Weems, WR (Falcons)
KEY LOSSES: Michael Jenkins, WR; Jamaal Anderson, DE; Jerious Norwood, RB; Harvey Dahl, OT
Ray Edwards will once again be in a defense where he plays opposite an All-Pro defensive end.
I really like what Atlanta did in the free agency period. They did the first thing they needed to do, re-signed the large majority of their free agents. The loss that probably hurts them the most is the departure of Harvey Dahl who was a very physical force on that Falcons line in previous seasons. Then the Falcons went out and made the move they needed to by getting the second best defensive end on the free agent market in Ray Edwards. There has been a lot of criticism that Edwards was a product of being opposite All-Pro Jared Allen on the Vikings front four. Great – now he’s opposite All-Pro John Abraham. The Falcons needed containment help in a division that has Drew Brees, Josh Freeman, and now Cam Newton. I think Edwards is a perfect fit here and will have considerable success in Atlanta.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
2011 DRAFT PICKS: Adrian Clayborn, DE (1-20); Da’Quan Bowers, DE (2-51); Mason Foster, ILB (3-84); Luke Stocker, TE (4-104); Ahmad Black, S (5-151); Allen Bradford, RB (6-187); Anthony Gaitor, CB (7-222); Daniel Hardy, TE (7-238)
I firmly believe that this could soon be the most feared defensive end pairing in the NFL
I cannot say enough good things about how well Tampa Bay drafted this offseason. They went out with their first round pick and drafted Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn. A player who can play either the defensive tackle or the defensive end position. Either way he’s a game changer. Then the Bucs took what I consider the most low-risk/high-reward pick of the draft in taking Bowers in the 2nd round. Prior to getting injured, Bowers was considered to be a top 5 draft pick. The Bucs needed DE help and responded by taking two of the top ten defensive ends in this year’s draft. The late pick that I love of theirs is Ahmad Black. At Florida, Black was a hard-hitting safety who had excellent awareness and great instinct for finding the ball. Tampa probably should’ve addressed secondary concerns earlier but could not have done better in the 5th round than Black.
KEY ADDITIONS: Quincy Black, LB (Buccaneers); Davin Joseph, G (Buccaneers), Jeremy Trueblood, OT (Buccaneers); Michael Koenen, P (Falcons)
KEY LOSSES: Barrett Ruud, LB
The Bucs needed to re-sign Davin Joseph to have any hope of competing in a very tough NFC South.
As many good things I can say about their draft, I can say as many terrible things about the Buccaneers free agency period. They re-signed the majority of their impact free agents but the only really significant signing they made was luring Michael Koenen away from the rival Falcons. When your best free agency move is grabbing a punter (while yes, Koenen is a very good punter) you know your free agency has been less than desirable.
2011 DRAFT PICKS:Cam Newton, QB (1-1); Terrell McClain, DT (3-65); Sione Fua, DT (3-97); Brandon Hogan, CB (4-98), Kealoha Pilares, WR (5-132); Lawrence Wilson, OLB (6-166); Zack Williams, G (6-203); Lee Ziemba, OT (7-244)
The Panthers have entrusted the next 10 years of their franchise to Cam Newton.
Much like the Falcons and Julio Jones, the whole Panthers draft will be weighed in the future of Cam Newton. While I find him to be an incredible athlete, I do not believe he has the intelligence or discipline to play the quarterback position. I still feel like Von Miller, Marcell Dareus, Blaine Gabbert, or Patrick Peterson would have all been better choices. But now it is up to Newton as to whether or not he will succeed, it’s not a question of talent but of work ethic and leadership. The majority of the Panthers draft in taking players like McClain, Fua, and Wilson (who clearly fill needs) follows the same pattern as Newton. These are all players with great potential but the question is whether or not they pan out. Three years from now this will be remembered either as an excellent draft or a terrible one.
KEY ADDITIONS: Charles Johnson, DE (Panthers), DeAngelo Williams, RB (Panthers); James Anderson, LB (Panthers); Thomas Davis, LB (Panthers); Greg Olsen, TE (Bears); Jeremy Shockey, TE (Saints); Ron Edwards, DT (Chiefs); Omar Gaither, LB (Eagles); Olindo Mare, K (Seahawks); Derek Anderson, QB (Cardinals); Ben Hartsock, TE (Jets); Ron Rivera, Head Coach (Defensive Coordinator, Chargers)
KEY LOSSES: Matt Moore, QB; Dante Rosario, TE
Re-signing Charles Johnson was the best move the Panthers could have made in free agency
Like the Saints, the Panthers had an unbelievable (but highly unnoticed) free agency period. What I love about what the Panthers did is they started off by finding their head coach in Ron Rivera who I believe perfectly fits the tradition of defense that the Panthers have. I thought this was an excellent hire. Then they turned around and re-signed every single one of their high profile free agents, they got Steve Smith excited about being a part of the Panthers, and just recently they extended Ryan Kalil. From their they got to work, they went from having no good tight end to having the best tight end receiving corps in the league in Olsen, Shockey, and Hartsock. They brought back the best defensive end in free agency in Charles Johnson and re-signed DeAngelo Williams (which I didn’t think they’d pull off). Then they brought in Gaither and Edwards to improve their front 7. And while often overlooked, they brought in Olindo Mare as a great replacement to the aging John Kasay. Overall a fantastic job for Ron Rivera in his first free agency period.
Overall, the NFC South as a whole probably improved the most of any division. While I am not a huge fan of what the Bucs did in free agency or the Panthers did in the draft, all four teams in this division should be considerably better next season. I am excited to see how this division plays out.
Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ‘em!
2011 DRAFT PICKS: Cameron Heyward, DE (1-31); Marcus Gilbert, OT (2-63); Curtis Brown, CB (3-95); Cortez Allen, CB (4-128); Christopher Carter, OLB (5-162); Keith Williams, G (6-196); Baron Batch, RB (7-232)
Cameron Heyward is big strong defensive end that fits the Steel Curtain's great tradition
The Pittsburgh Steelers did the most important thing you can do in a draft, they covered the majority of their needs. Sure there weren’t a lot of big names here but I do like the Cameron Heyward pick a lot for Pittsburgh. He is a versatile player that can play either the end or tackle position in a four man front. He is a relentless pass rusher with a quick first step and the ability to stay low and get the advantage on an offensive line. Gilbert fills a hole on their O-line and should be able to step in and contribute immediately. I really like the Carter pick-up late. He is not the most explosive player but he is strong and is a great tackler and could develop into a good OLB against the run. The biggest flaw that I can find in the Steelers’ draft is they really needed to find a way to bolster their receiving corps and did not do so in this draft.
KEY ADDITIONS: Ike Taylor, CB (Steelers); Willie Colon, OT (Steelers); Jonathan Scott, OT (Steelers); Mewelde Moore, RB (Steelers); William Gay, CB (Steelers); Jerricho Cotchery, WR (Jets)
KEY LOSSES: Antwaan Randle El, WR; Flozell Adams, OT; Max Starks, OT
Re-signing Ike Taylor was a priority for the Steelers.
For the Steelers, free agency was largely about making sure they continue to have a great offensive line. Their line has been a big part of their three Super Bowl appearances in the last 7 years and with the Steelers, they seem to believe that Scott and Colon are preferrable to Adams and Starks. The Steelers did the most important thing that a team can in free agency which is re-sign your key guys. Additionally, the Steelers were in desperate need of a wide receiver if they plan to repeat as AFC Champions and were able to pick up Jerricho Cotchery this week who should fit into their offensive scheme perfectly.
2011 DRAFT PICKS: Jimmy Smith, CB (1-27); Torrey Smith, WR (2-58); Jah Reid, OT (3-85); Tandon Doss, WR (4-123), Chykie Brown, CB (5-164); Pernell McPhee, DE (6-165); Tyrod Taylor, WR (6-180); Anthony Allen, RB (7-225)
Like Percy Harvin & Randy Moss, Jimmy Smith looks to make other teams regret letting him slide
I feel like Ozzie Newsome and the Baltimore Ravens find good value late in a draft better than anyone else. In the first round they got the shutdown corner they needed in Jimmy Smith. I feel that Jimmy Smith should not have fallen past the 15th pick but character issues (much like Percy Harvin a few years ago) caused him to slide and Baltimore gets a great value here. Torrey Smith is a wideout who has blazing speed and will be popular with the fans being a Maryland Terrapin and all. I am really curious to see the path that Tyrod Taylor’s career take as I am always intrigued by college quarterbacks who are drafted as wide receivers (Brad Smith, Joe Webb, Antwaan Randle El, Julian Edelman, etc.). Overall I really like this draft because the Ravens got the most bang for their buck and did feel some immediate needs. However they ignored their gaping need in the safety position which I see as this draft’s biggest failure.
KEY ADDITIONS: Lee Evans, WR (Bills); Bernard Pollard, S/OLB (Texans); Vonta Leach, FB (Texans); Marshall Yanda, G (Ravens); Chris Carr, CB (Ravens)
In Lee Evans, the Ravens get a guy who can stretch the field for Joe Flacco
Before yesterday, I would’ve graded Baltimore’s free agency period and trades in the C+ range because while I do like their additions – I feel like the team lost a lot. However, I have them sitting higher because the 4th round pick for Lee Evans may be a better value trade than McNabb for a 6th round pick to Minnesota. Now I am not promising 23 touchdowns for Evans, I am just saying ask Bill Bellichick what happens when you give up a 4th round draft pick to get a talented receiver out of an unfavorable situation. I think that Evans is an upgrade over Derrick Mason and will pair nicely with Boldin and Smith. The upgrade of the receiving corps over the last two seasons should make this a career year for Joe Flacco. Leach is a bruiser of a fullback and an upgrade over McClain and re-signing Carr was necessary. I still feel they lost a lot though with the departure of Dawan Landry, Todd Heap, and Josh Wilson.
2011 DRAFT PICKS: A.J. Green, WR (1-4); Andy Dalton, QB (2-35); Dontay Moch, OLB (3-66); Clint Boling, G (4-101); Robert Sands, S (5-134); Ryan Whalen, WR (6-167); Korey Lindsey, CB (7-207); Jay Finley, RB (7-246)
A.J. Green has the tools to be an elite receiver in the NFL
I really liked Cincinnati’s approach to this draft. They had a lot of needs going in and as opposed to panicking – they simply adopted a B.P.A. (Best Player Available) approach and in doing so were able to fill many of their holes. They used the 4th overall pick to take the best wide receiver prospect I believe we have seen since Calvin Johnson. A.J. Green will be a star in this league. The Bengals foresaw the departure of Ochocinco and Palmer and used their first two picks to address that. Considering that 4 quarterbacks were drafted in the first 12 picks, I consider the Bengals finding someone as good as Andy Dalton in the 2nd round an absolute steal. If I had to declare a draft winner right now, it would be a toss up between Detroit, Cincinnati, and the next team I’m going to discuss. I love the Robert Sands pick in the 5th round – he is an intelligent player who plays aggressively. He has a great awareness about him and his long arms and great hands have me believing he could develop into quite the ballhawk. He reminds me of a larger Darren Sharper. I also think that Jay Finley was a great 7th round pick, he’s a running back who could be a solid number 2 in this league.
KEY LOSSES: Johnathan Joseph, CB; Chad Ochocinco, WR; Carson Palmer, QB; Antwan Odom, DE; Evan Mathis, G
Re-signing Benson was necessary if the Bengals were going to have any success this year
The biggest departure of free agency for the Bengals was not Chad Ochocinco or Carson Palmer . In my mind, it was Johnathan Joseph who many overlooked in free agency in light of the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes. Nate Clements was a good effort to replace Joseph but he is nowhere near as good. The Bengals anticipated Palmer’s retirement and the Ochocinco trade and in my opinion, upgraded at the wide receiver position when they drafted Green. Cedric Benson was necessary to bring back and I really like the Gradkowski pick-up. Gradkowski is a quarterback who has never gotten his due, similar to Jeff Garcia, but he does find ways to win games for bad teams and provides good competition for Dalton. I like the Thomas Howard signing as well but to me the retirement of Carson Palmer and departure of Johnathan Joseph severely set the Bengals back for this season.
2011 DRAFT PICKS: Phil Taylor, DT (1-21); Jabaal Sheard, DE (2-37); Greg Little, WR (2-59); Jordan Cameron, TE (4-102); Owen Marecic, FB (4-124); Buster Skrine, CB (5-137); Jason Pinkston, OT (5-150); Eric Hagg, S (7-248)
Phil Taylor was the best run-stopper available in this year's draft
You know what I have always admired about Mike Holmgren? He is a realist who knows what he wants. In my mind, when Cleveland landed the 6th overall pick there were only 3 players worth them taking with that high of a pick – Georgia WR A.J. Green (went 4th overall to Cincy), LSU CB Patrick Peterson (went 5th overall to Cleveland), and Missouri DE Aldon Smith (went with the 7th overall pick to San Fran). When Cleveland’s turn came up, Holmgren decided Aldon wasn’t the way to go with that pick and so instead of taking a player too high or one he had no interest in – he got Atlanta to pay him a king’s ransom so they could draft Julio Jones. Later on they were able to get the big run-stopping D Tackle they needed in Phil Taylor and with the Falcons’ 2nd round pick they got a big target who can stretch the field for McCoy in Greg Little. Overall I like this draft, not just because of who they grabbed this year but because of how it prepares them for future drafts to truly rebuild this team. Holmgren is very realistic about where the Browns are as a franchise and as someone who has 3 conference championships and one more Super Bowl ring than the entire Browns franchise, knows the personnel he needs to get them there.
KEY ADDITIONS: Pat Shurmur, Head Coach (Rams’ Offensive Coordinator); Jon Greco, G (Rams); Usama Young, S (Saints)
KEY LOSSES: Eric Wright, CB; Abram Elam, S
Pat Shurmur did a great job with Sam Bradford and now has Andy Dalton to develop.
When it came to the free agency period, the Browns did a couple of things right – they hired a great offensive mind as their new head coach in Pat Shurmur; they traded for Jon Greco, a strong offensive lineman who should solidify the right side of the line; and they signed Usama Young from the Saints who I believe upgrades their safety situation over the departed Abram Elam. When I look at Cleveland’s free agency period though, for me it will always be about what they did not do. They had the most cap room of any NFL team and did not even make a run at defensive end Ray Edwards, or wide receivers like James Jones, Malcolm Floyd, Michael Jenkins, or Mike Sims-Walker. There was no upgrade to their pass rush, no addition of difference-makers, and the Browns had more capacity to do that than anyone. In a short free agency period, the fact they could offer more money with less time to decide worked in their favor. As a result, I believe they were the biggest losers in free agency.
Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ‘em!