2012 NFL Postseason Award Predictions

Yesterday evening prior to kickoff I laid out where I believed each team would finish for the 2012-13 NFL Season.   Dallas impressed last night and only verified where I believe they are as a team and that they will move ahead of the Giants in the NFC East.  Today we look at individual players and see what the postseason award picture will look like.  While I knew all of these picks on Tuesday, this is my first chance to write them down.  Last night’s game solidified my belief in one of my picks.

Offensive Rookie of the Year – 

Doug Martin, RB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

More often than not, the offensive rookie of the year has been a running back.  While we’ve had a few young quarterbacks receive the award in recent years, I foresee a return to the running back trend.   The Boise State product has great vision and is a threat running the ball as well as catching out of the backfield.  He has already secured a starting position on a talented roster that considers itself a playoff team this year.  While I don’t see Tampa making their playoff return quite yet, I’m expecting great things from Martin.

Others that will be considered: Andrew Luck, QB – Indianapolis Colts, Robert Griffin III, QB – Washington Redskins, Trent Richardson, RB – Cleveland Browns, Kendall Wright, WR – Tennessee Titans, Alshon Jeffrey, WR – Chicago Bears, Coby Fleener, TE – Indianapolis Colts, & Matt Kalil, OT – Minnesota Vikings

Defensive Rookie of the Year –

Luke Kuechly, LB – Carolina Panthers

Going into this year’s draft, I thought that – outside of Vikings OT Matt Kalil – Kuechly was the rookie most prepared for the NFL.  The young star from Boston College has great vision and leadership qualities and he has been thrust into a talented defense that fits his talents perfectly.  I am a big believer that linebacker is the easiest defensive position for a rookie to have success in and I believe that given his talent, situation, and position that Kuechly will be the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year this season.
Others that will be considered: Morris Claiborne, CB – Dallas Cowboys; Harrison Smith, S – Minnesota Vikings; Stephon Gilmore, CB – Buffalo Bills;  Janorris Jenkins, CB – St. Louis Rams; Mychal Kendricks, LB – Philadelphia Eagles; Dont’a Hightower, LB – Houston Texans; & Fletcher Cox, DT – Philadelphia Eagles

Offensive Player of the Year –

Arian Foster, RB – Houston Texans

There is a very good reason that most fantasy football experts listed Foster at the top of their draft boards this season.   It is because, in my opinion, the Houston Texans are the most talented and most complete team in the NFL.  On a team that I expect to have the NFL’s best regular season record in 2012, Foster is the best player.   He is a threat on the ground and in the receiving game.  If he can stay healthy, I fully expect Foster to eclipse the 2,000 all-purpose yards mark.

Others that will be considered: Calvin Johnson, WR – Detroit Lions; Ray Rice, RB – Baltimore Ravens; Aaron Rodgers, QB – Green Bay Packers; Matt Schaub, QB – Houston Texans; Tom Brady, QB – New England Patriots; & Matt Ryan, QB – Atlanta Falcons

Defensive Player of the Year –

DeMarcus Ware, LB – Dallas Cowboys

Last year I mentioned on multiple occasions that I believed 2011 would finally be the year that Jared Allen broke through and won his 1st NFL Defensive Player of the Year award after being such a force for so many years in the League (and let’s face it – not giving the award to Allen was a travesty).  Well this year I believe that Ware will finally get his due.  I see Ware getting a minimum of 15.5 sacks this year (and last night’s 2 sack performance making him the 2nd fastest player ever to record 100 sacks) doesn’t hurt matters.  I believe that Dallas wins the East this year and Ware is going to be a big part of that.
Others that will be considered: Jared Allen, DE – Minnesota Vikings;  Aldon Smith, OLB – San Francisco 49ers; Von Miller, LB – Denver Broncos; J.J. Watt, DL – Houston Texans; Patrick Willis, LB – San Francisco 49ers; Patrick Peterson, CB – Arizona Cardinals; & Mario Williams, OLB – Buffalo Bills


Aaron Rodgers, QB – Green Bay Packers

Only two quarterbacks have ever won back-to-back MVP awards, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre, but there is no reason to believe that Rodgers can’t duplicate this feat.   The Packers were far and away the best offense in the NFL last season but at the same time, if something were to happen to Rodgers, the Packers would fall off pretty drastically.  I really believe the Packers without Rodgers would be close to the 2011 Colts without Manning.  The Packers figure to be in the thick of things this year and it’s Aaron Rodgers who is going to get them there.

Others that will be considered: Tom Brady, QB – New England Patriots; Matt Schaub, QB – Houston Texans; Arian Foster, RB – Houston Texans; Matt Ryan, QB – Atlanta Falcons; Tony Romo, QB – Dallas Cowboys; & Ray Rice, RB – Baltimore Ravens

Comeback Player of the Year –

Peyton Manning, QB – Denver Broncos

I’m more than aware that this is an extremely popular pick for this award and while I gave it a lot of thought I came to the conclusion (that like Brett Favre when he went to the Vikings) you can never count Peyton Manning out.   I find it so hard to pick against Peyton Manning that I chose the Broncos to get into the postseason over the Steelers, Bengals, Jets, Chargers, Titans, & Raiders.  There are concerns now but Peyton Manning is going to make Demaryius Thomas & Eric Decker into household names.  After everything he has gone through if he can get the Broncos to the playoffs there is no doubt this award will belong to him.

Others that will be considered: Randy Moss, WR – San Francisco 49ers; Eric Berry, S – Kansas City Chiefs; Jamaal Charles, RB – Kansas City Chiefs; Adrian Peterson, RB – Minnesota Vikings; & Matt Schaub, QB – Houston Texans

Coach of the Year –

Romeo Crennel – Kansas City Chiefs

Now if the carousel of New Orleans Saints coaches can get that team to the playoffs they may be considered but let’s look at the facts: the NFL loves to give this award to rookie head coaches who have success.  Secondly, a team either has to be extremely dominant or go from worst to first (a la a San Francisco 49ers transformation) for a coach to get this award.  While this is Crennel’s 2nd go-around as a head coach, I believe that he will win.  His team finished in last place in the AFC West last year (though they only finished a game behind champion Denver) and the roster is much improved.  On top of that this team is getting Matt Cassel, Tony Moeak, Jamaal Charles, and Eric Berry all back from injury.  I believe that the Chiefs can make some noise in the AFC this year and when they do, Romeo will receive his first Coach of the Year award.

Others that will be considered: Gary Kubiak – Houston Texans; Chan Gailey – Buffalo Bills; Pete Carroll – Seattle Seahawks; Jason Garrett – Dallas Cowboys; Mike McCarthy – Green Bay Packers; & Mike Smith – Atlanta Falcons

Executive of the Year –

John Elway, Executive VP of Football Operations – Denver Broncos

Let’s look at everything this guy has done in the last two years.  He took a team that had the #2 overall pick in last year’s draft and got them to the playoffs by playing a running back at QB.   That player started a media blitz that could fill the hole in ESPN programming left behind by Brett Favre’s 17th retirement.  In the process that running back turned QB became the most popular athlete in the Mile High City since well… John Elway.  And then Elway was actually cheered for shipping that QB off to New York (ask the Nuggets how hard it is to ship a beloved Denver athlete to New York) because he brought in the man who in my estimation will one day be, statistically, the best QB of all-time.   He had another great draft and surrounded Manning with young and veteran talent alike.  If the Broncos get back to the playoffs, there is no doubt that Elway should be the Executive of the Year.

Others that will be considered: Ryan Grigson, GM – Indianapolis Colts; John Schneider, GM – Seattle Seahawks; & Les Snead, GM – St. Louis Rams


2012 NFL Season Predictions

The 2012 season picture is not as clear as 2011 was but I think I can make some sense out of it.  Last season I correctly foresaw the Patriots losing the Super Bowl after beating the Ravens.  I correctly predicted the NFL MVP, Comeback Player of the Year, Defensive Rookie of the Year, and the Executive of the Year.  I correctly predicted 8 out of 12 playoff teams including the Detroit Lions and the Houston Texans.   As I look into the crystal ball I see some divisions with a clear cut winner and many situations like the AFC West last year where the division will be highly contested top to bottom.  I see a team with a 12 year playoff drought finally getting back in and I see a future Hall of Famer winning his first playoff game of his career.  I will include below my regular season rankings, playoff projections, and the worst five teams in the NFL this season.   Overall, I think we’re going to see a lot of interesting things this season and so without much further ado, let me tell you what to expect.

AFC North –

Baltimore Ravens (2)
Pittsburgh Steelers
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns

AFC East –

New England Patriots (3)
Buffalo Bills (5)
New York Jets
Miami Dolphins

AFC South –

Houston Texans (1)
Tennessee Titans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars

AFC West –

Kansas City Chiefs (4)
Denver Broncos (6)
San Diego Chargers
Oakland Raiders

AFC Playoffs –

Wild Card Round
New England (3) vs. Denver (6)
Kansas City (4) vs. Buffalo (5)

Divisional Round
Houston (1) vs. Kansas City (4)
Baltimore (2) vs. New England (3)

AFC Championship
Houston (1) vs. Baltimore (2)

NFC North –

Green Bay Packers (1)
Chicago Bears (5)
Detroit Lions
Minnesota Vikings

NFC East –

Dallas Cowboys (4)
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC South –

Atlanta Falcons (2)
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Carolina Panthers

NFC West –

San Francisco 49ers (3)
Seattle Seahawks (6)
St. Louis Rams
Arizona Cardinals

NFC Playoffs –

Wild Card Round
San Francisco (3) vs. Seattle (6)
Dallas (4) vs. Chicago (5)

Divisional Round
Green Bay (1) vs. Chicago (5)
Atlanta (2) vs. San Francisco (3)

NFC Championship
Green Bay (1) vs. Atlanta (2)


1. Jacksonville Jaguars
2. Arizona Cardinals
3. Miami Dolphins
4. Cleveland Browns
5. Indianapolis Colts


Green Bay (1) vs. Houston (1)


Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers, Super Bowl MVP

Keep an eye out tomorrow for my postseason award predictions!


The Know-It-All Fantasy Football NON-PPR Rundown

Fantasy Football NON-PPR Rankings


Kyle Stafford – @Kstafford32

NON-PPR Formats

1st Round Buys & Sells


Aaron Rodgers, GB–  Best Player in this format. Has all the weapons and the offensive line.

LeSean McCoy, PHI– Yes I had him as a bust in PPR formats, but in TD leagues he produces. Expect 1300 yards & 15 Total TDs

Drew Bress, NO– 40+ TDS & 5,000 yards are almost a sure thing for him. Plays a schedule that is top 3 for Quarterbacks this season.

Ray Rice, Bal– 22% Redzone success rate in 2011. Consistent and the go to guy in Baltimore

Brandon Marshall, CHI– If you end up with a late 1st rounder, I would consider Marshall. He is reunited with Cutler where in Denver he averaged 1,300 yards and hit double digit TDs. Some people will bring up his off the field problems, but statistically I look at this as a safe pick.


Chris Johnson, TEN–  He doesn’t score TDs anymore. Played 16 games last year and ended up with 4 TDs. Only scored once in the first 8 games.

Cam Newton, CAR– Defenses figured him out in the 2nd half last year. He is a dual threat, but not a big enough threat in the air. He is the most overrated player in Fantasy Football this year. He could have 10 rushing TDs, but if he only passes for 15-17 you are not getting much overall. If you don’t land a Brady, Rodgers, or Bress- wait and get a Romo, Rivers or Ryan in the 6th Round or later.

Matt Stafford, DET– No we are not related. You see 41 TDs last year and you dream big. Let me bring you back to reality. The Lions will be forced to run the ball more this year and they have a nice 3 back set to accomplish that. He threw for a career high 663 times. If you break down his YPA and his TD/ATP ratio, they are horrible. He is no Aaron Rodgers, who threw 162 less passes and had 4 more touchdowns. A top QB, but not elite.

DeMarco Murray, DAL– Through 13 games he only scored twice. Overall he scored on only 5% of his Redzone touches. He is Felix Jones 2.0.

Maurice Jones-Drew, JAC– Hate to pick on him two days in a row, but he just has too many negatives going against him in NON-PPR Formats. His below average offensive line and under performing QB cannot get this successful scoring RB into the redzone. The holdout ordeal doesn’t help either.

Questions? Comments? Follow Me on Twitter @Kstafford32

American Futbol

A special thanks to Mark Muzzi (one of the inspirations in the “M&M Gems” name) for his assistance with this blogpost.

What if America's best athletes played soccer?

In the past couple of years soccer has made significant gains in vying for fans.  Last season the MLS averaged larger crowds than both the NBA and the NHL.  ESPN’s coverage of the World Cup in 2010 led to more people in the United States watching the event than ever before.  And the MLS Cup on Sunday promises to have the largest viewership the event has had in years.  While men’s soccer continues to grow in the United States, our success on the international stage is lacking. (We have of course experienced much success in women’s soccer.

I’m a firm believer that the United States has the best athletes in the world and I feel like the collegiate and professional leagues that we boast are perfect proof of this.  We have the best hockey, basketball, and baseball leagues (and football of course) in the world.  We have dominated Olympic competition in nearly every sport except men’s soccer.  Soccer is a sport where successful teams are defined by speed and athleticism which begs the question:

If America has the best athletes in the world, why has the United States been so unsuccessful at men’s soccer?

Seems like a difficult question but the answer is really simple: because in every other country in the world, the best male athletes play soccer – in America this just isn’t true.  Our best athletes are in the NBA and NFL which caused my friend Mark and I to think about the soccer team the United States would field in the World Cup if our best athletes did indeed play soccer.   In putting together this team, we focused on American athletes who play sports professionally (except for soccer of course).

America’s All-Athlete Soccer Team:

Goalkeeper: Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver; Arizona Cardinals

In soccer a goalkeepr’s job is simple (in theory at least) keep balls from getting in the net.  The most valuable commodity that a goalkeeper can have is a great pair of hands considering that they are the only player on the pitch allowed to use them.   Fitzgerald has the height, ability, and agility necessary to defend a goal and nobody can deny that he has large hands that can catch almost anything and was the obvious choice for goalkeeper.

Centre Back: Ed Reed, Safety; Baltimore Ravens

Ed Reed is one of the best safeties to ever play football and those skills would translate well to the soccer pitch.   In the NFL, Reed is notorious because of his vision and the ability he has to “see the entire field”.   He is also known for his speed and instincts that allow him to cover a lot of territory very quickly and always be near the ball.  As a center backer these abilities would suit him perfectly in his primary responsibilities: stop the other team from scoring and force turnovers.

Centre Back: LeBron James, Small Forward; Miami Heat

Oguchi Onyewu is the tallest player in U.S. National team history and is known as a hellacious defensive player.  But, athletically – he has nothing on LeBron James.  LeBron has great height and quickness.  Coming off the corners he would be nearly impossible to stop.  On the court he is known for his ability to make the big play on either end of the court.  As a centre back, James would swarm to the ball and make Fitzgerald’s life a lot easier.  He has the strength and the height needed for a good centre back combined with the instincts that would make him difficult to score on.

Left Back: Darelle Revis, Cornerback; New York Jets

If Revis Island can be where big plays go to die in the NFL, why not in the MLS or FIFA World Cup?  Darelle Revis possesses a rare combination of athleticism, speed, and depth perception.  He has instincts  that allow him to see how a play will unfold before the fact.  He is a master of reading body position and understands how that position plays into his opponent’s next move and his own.  A good fullback is expected to have a lot of stamina and be able to cover the flanks with blazing speed.  This is what makes Darelle Revis an obvious choice for this position.

Right Back: Eric Berry, Safety; Kansas City Chiefs

A couple years back I watched Tennesee play LSU on national television and I realized just how special Eric Berry really was.   His combination of speed, instinct, and agility was simply astounding to watch.  Even now in the NFL (before he was injured) Eric Berry seemed to always be at the point where the ball was.  Eric Berry is like Visa, he’s everywhere you want to be and that would make him an exceptional right back.  With an amazing awareness for where the ball is and ability to cover large amounts of the pitch very quickly, Berry would be a ferocious defender.

Center Mid-Fielder: Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback; Green Bay Packers

I still don’t think Jon Gruden has gotten off his knees yet from watching Aaron Rodgers dismantle the Vikings on Monday Night Football.  After that cacophony of praise I am having a hard time giving credit to Rodgers but there is no doubt he is a phenomenal athlete.  What makes Rodgers such a great quarterback in the NFL is his ability to distribute the ball and make the players around him better.  In a sense a center mid-fielder is the quarterback or point guard of his team.  There is no doubt that Rodgers is a natural leader and can distribute the ball.  On top of that anyone who has ever seen him run a bootleg knows that he has the speed and athleticism to lead his team down the pitch.  Watching Rodgers is like watching an artist at work.  He is deceptively fast and incredibly efficient.  Think of Spain’s Xavi here but even better.

Center Mid-Fielder: Chris Paul, Point Guard; New Orleans Hornets

Like Rodgers, Paul is a great ball distributor and makes his teammates better.  He is quick and has great feet.  He is a natural leader and understands match-ups.  There was no doubt in either of our minds that Chris Paul would make an excellent mid-fielder.  He has the speed and natural instincts necessary to master this position.

Left Mid-Fielder: Reggie Bush, Running Back; Miami Dolphins

If you want to understand the ability that Reggie Bush has to change direction and cover a lot of space very quickly – just go watch the USC vs. Fresno State game from his junior year.  When you see the play I have in mind you’ll know it – he somehow ran from one sideline to the other and back again to scamper more than 30 yards for a score.  He is naturally left-handed and left-footed which makes him a natural fit for this position.  Anyone that has seen him return a punt knows his ability to get up the field.  Mark described Reggie Bush as having “world class speed and agility.  Think [Tottenham Hotspur’s] Gareth Bale but more agile.”

Right Mid-Fielder: Devin Hester, Wide Receiver/Kick Returner; Chicago Bears

Devin Hester has an amazing ability to understand defense.  He naturally can find the ball and once he has it – find a seam that he can exploit to go the distance.  If you find Devin Hester unguarded with the ball breaking away down the right sideline – good luck stopping this guy because you won’t be able to catch him.  Hester could be a world-class right mid-fielder.

Centre Forward: Derrick Rose, Point Guard; Chicago Bulls

The centre forward has one job – to score goals.  If you ever watch the Bulls play, Rose has the ability to penetrate defenses and drive to the basket.  He has an incredible ability to shoot a gap and an understanding of angles to know what steps he has to take to get to the goal.  When you think of Derrick Rose translating his skill set to soccer, think Carlos Tevez.

Striker: Darren Sproles, Running Back; New Orleans Saints

Mark always likes to describe Sproles as having “phone booth quickness” and to be honest, I really can’t disagree.  Despite his size, this guy amazes me with his speed, quickness, agility, and ability to make guys miss.  I believe that he has the footwork necessary from the multiple times I’ve seen him tiptoe 40 yards down a sideline for a score.  As Mark put it, “If Sproles has any kind of skill, Messi can kiss it!”

The Subs

Reserve Goalkeeper: Calvin Johnson, Wide Receiver; Detroit Lions

The only reason that Calvin Johnson is dubbed Megatron instead of the Freak is because “the Freak” was already taken (twice actually).  Calvin Johnson is a remarkable combination of size, speed, and agility and lives by the motto of “If you can touch it, you can catch it.”  I feel that Johnson would be incredibly difficult to score on and with his remarkable height, strength, and leaping ability – would be a prime candidate if you needed to throw someone in the game to head a ball in.

Substitute: Adrian Peterson, Running Back; Minnesota Vikings

Peterson plays the game of football with a sense of violence and urgency that could come in handy inside of the penalty box.  He is difficult to tackle and once he has momentum, incredibly difficult to stop.  Peterson has quick feet, is very shifty, and can change direction on a dime.  In a game his best fit would probably be as a right mid-fielder.  While not as quick as Rose or Sproles, he could also serve as a full back in his ability to attack a gap and naturally figure out where he needs to be in order to get to the goal

Substitute: Metta World Peace (Ron Artest), Small Forward; Los Angeles Lakers

There is no denying the athletic ability of the basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest.  This was purely a Mark pic but I can’t deny the reasoning.  Artest would be great at getting to the ball and tipping it in when it bounces off the goal.  “Every team needs a garbage player” and nobody could feel that role better than whatever his name is this week.

There is no doubt in my mind that if our best male athletes were brought up playing soccer as opposed to basketball, football, and baseball – that our FIFA teams would enjoy similar success to our women’s teams.  The question has to be though – here’s our team:


2011 NFL Midseason Awards

It’s hard to believe but we’re already 8 games into the NFL season.  I always enjoy taking the middle of the season to take a look at what we’ve seen thus far and of course to see how what we’ve seen so far matches up to my predictions.  The people who I would give my midseason awards to are players who, if the season ended today, I believe would be taking home those awards.  There are some of these I really don’t expect to change much and others that I could see fluctuate drastically (especially rookie awards given that some rookies have only 2 or 3 weeks under their belts).  Without further ado – My Midseason NFL awards.

NFL MVP – Aaron Rodgers, QB; Green Bay Packers

2011 Stats (7 games): 2,372 yards passing, 20 TDs, 2 rushing TDs, 3 INT, 71.5% Completion

Aaron Rodgers is definitely running away with this award.  Right now he is only pace to finish the season with over 5,000 yards passing, 45 TDs, 4 rushing TDs, and only 7 interceptions.  The most important stat of all is that his Packers are 7-0 right now and poised to become the first team to repeat as NFC Champions since, well, the Green Bay Packers.

My Preseason Pick: Aaron Rodgers, QB; Green Bay Packers

But high fives all around to: Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Fred Jackson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Calvin Johnson

Comeback Player of the Year – Matthew Stafford, QB; Detroit Lions

2011 Stats (8 games): 19 TDs, 2,179 yds passing, 4 INT

The Detroit Lions have brought the college spread offense to the NFL.  With so many talented athletes and young offensive weapons, the Detroit Lions (yes, you heard me right) have one of the most exciting offenses in the NFL.  Stafford has led the Lions to a number of thrilling comeback victories.  The former #1 pick has rebounded from multiple injuries in a big way and has shown that he has what it takes to be the first Lions franchise QB in over 50 years.

My Preseason Pick: Matthew Stafford, QB; Detroit Lions

But high fives all around to: Nick Barnett and D’Qwell Jackson

Offensive Player of the Year – Calvin Johnson, WR; Detroit Lions

2011 Stats (8 games): 47 Receptions, 804 yds, 11 TDs, 17.1 YPC

Megatron has shown the freak athleticism that made him the #2 overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft.  He has established himself as an elite NFL wideout.  He is a big part of the reason that Stafford is having such a breakout year and that the Lions are fighting for 1st place in the NFC North.   He is on pace to finish with over 1600 yds receiving and 22 receiving TDs (1 shy of Randy Moss’s single-season record).

But high fives all around to: Fred Jackson, Matt Forte, Aaron Rodgers, and Adrian Peterson

My Preseason Pick: Adrian Peterson, RB; Minnesota Vikings

Defensive Player of the Year – Jared Allen, DE; Minnesota Vikings

2011 Stats (8 games): 12.5 sacks, 34 TKLs, 3 FFs, 1 INT

On a dreadful defensive unit, All-Pro Defensive End Jared Allen has been the sole bright spot.  He has had a sack in every game this season and is currently on pace to shatter Michael Strahan’s single season sack record of 22.5 and Chris Doleman’s Vikings franchise record of 21.  Allen has shown that even with half of the famed “Wall of America” no longer there he is still a force to be reckoned with.

My Preseason Pick: Ndamukong Suh, DT; Detroit Lions

But high fives all around to: Patrick Willis, Darelle Revis, Justin Smith, DeMarcus Ware, and Charles Woodson

Coach of the Year – Chan Gailey, Buffalo Bills

Many were quick (myself included) to crown the New England Patriots the AFC East Champions and the New York Jets the runner-up and AFC Wildcard.  The only thing we had crowned the Buffalo Bills was the winners of the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.  Gailey though has his Bills sitting in 1st place at the halfway mark in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL.  He has gotten the most out of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and running back Fred Jackson.  He has a defense that is making plays and Nick Barnett has resurrected his career.  The Buffalo Bills have been exciting to watch and appear to be a team destined to make the playoffs.

My Preseason Pick: Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans

But high fives all around to: Marvin Lewis, Jim Harbaugh, Jim Schwartz, Gary Kubiak, and Mike McCarthy

NFL Executive of the Year – Mike Brown, Owner/President; Cincinnati Bengals

Is there anyone right now that deserves more credit than Mike Brown?  He shipped Chad Ochocinco to the New England Patriots for two draft picks because he had grown weary of him.   Mike Brown then refused to trade Carson Palmer and instead let him retire.  He followed that up with an unbelievable draft by getting the athletic A.J. Green at WR in the first round and then QB Andy Dalton in the 2nd round who already have the Bengals with more wins than most thought they would have all season.  Regardless of all that, Brown takes home the prize for taking a retired QB that he was getting nothing out of in Palmer and trading him to Oakland for, potentially, two first round draft picks.  The Bengals are poised to compete for years to come because of the resolve of Mike Brown.

My Preseason Pick: N/A

Offensive Rookie of the Year – Cam Newton, QB; Carolina Panthers

2011 Stats (8 games): 11 TDs, 9 INT,  2,393 yds passing

I won’t lie, I thought Cam Newton was going to be garbage in this league.  While it is still too early to say what kind of Newton will have the future indeed looks promising.  The Panthers came out in Week 1 and Cam Newton became the first QB in NFL history to pass for more than 400 yards in his rookie debut.  The following week he passed for more than 400 yards again when he played the Green Bay Packers.  Because of Newton, Steve Smith, who was once unhappy playing for Carolina, is now leading the league in receiving yards and Newton generates the large majority of his team’s offense whether it be in the air or on the ground.  While I have been very impressed with this year’s rookie class (and crop of young quarterbacks), Newton is the obvious choice.

My Preseason Pick: Mark Ingram, RB; New Orleans Saints

But high fives all around to: Andy Dalton and A.J. Green

Defensive Rookie of the Year – Von Miller, OLB; Denver Broncos

2011 Stats (7 games): 26 TKLs, 6.0 sacks, 2 FFs

I thought the Von Miller was an obvious pick for the Denver Broncos.  As far as players go, I really thought he was the most NFL-ready player in the entire draft.  While Denver has just been awful, Von Miller has been a real bright spot for this team.  As a rookie he already has 6.0 sacks!  Though not as prolific, I see a lot of similarities between his rookie year and that of Patrick Willis.  I fully expect Von Miller to keep up this production and be a Pro-Bowler for years to come.

My Preseason Pick: Von Miller, OLB; Denver Broncos

But high fives all around to: Ryan Kerrigan, Aldon Smith, Marcell Dareus, and Patrick Peterson

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!


The Building Blocks of my NFL Team

Every now and then my small but loyal base of readers will tweet, email, and Facebook questions to me.  About 2 weeks back I received a really interesting question that I wanted some time to think about but was definitely in the tradition of what an M&M Gem should be:

Q: If you were starting an NFL Franchise from scratch today and had your choice of any five players to start your team with – who would you choose?

I have always been a person who likes to carefully analyze a question and from this I took a few key observations –

1. I have the opportunity to take any five players from the entire league to build my team around.

2. I am building an NFL Franchise so the goal is clearly to win multiple championships

3. Who would I choose now? I want to win for as long as possible so clearly age is going to be a key but I also want experienced players who I know can help me win.  Therefore there are a number of players who are too young/too old for me to feel good about choosing.

4. Asking what players I would choose is actually a follow up question.  The first question is what positions would I choose?  In identifying the positions I can then find the players that best fit that need.

These were my four primary observations in looking at this question and after much thought, I came up with a starting five that I thought filled key positions, could help me win multiple championships, and who I believe can help me win for quite awhile.


Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

While you may disagree with my pick, the fact that I focused on this position first should not raise much argument.  For the most part (of course the 2000 Baltimore Ravens and 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not fit this mold), championship teams are championship teams because they have championship caliber quarterbacks.  It is the most important position on the field and there is a reason why quarterbacks have accounted for more first overall picks than any other position.   What I like about Aaron Rodgers is that he has developed into one of the League’s elite passers.  He spent years carrying a clipboard behind a Hall of Fame quarterback but once he got the starting nod, took his team to a Super Bowl in just three short years.  Rodgers has a great arm, he is patient in the pocket, and he is mobile.  Most forget about his mobility but Rodgers is among the league leaders for rushing yards by a QB every single season.  What I love about Aaron Rodgers is that he makes the rest of his team better.  He has made no-name receivers like Jordy Nelson and James Jones into viable fantasy options.  He spreads the ball around the offense and when a play breaks down, he either gets the ball to his backs or tight ends or he makes a play with his legs.   Rodgers is young, mobile, smart, patient, and has  a big arm.  He has already won one Super Bowl and as young as he is – I see 1 – 2 more in his future.  It was pretty obvious to me from the start that Aaron Rodgers would be the best quarterback for my team.

Others Considered: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons; Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens; Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Phillip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

Running Back

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

There is no quarterback I enjoy watching more than Aaron Rodgers and I believe there is no running back in the NFL that is nearly as good as Adrian Peterson.  Peterson is a rare talent, as is Rodgers, and by putting them in the same backfield – they could accomplish some great things.  Peterson would take pressure off Rodgers and in turn, Rodgers would allow Peterson to get more all-purpose yards and take pressure off of him.  Yes Peterson is going into his fifth season which makes him a hard choice BUT he has not had any major injury concerns as a pro and his production has not diminished.  Since he came into the league he has rushed for more touchdowns and yards than anyone else in the league.  For me, Peterson was a no-brainer.

Others considered: Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans; Jamal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs; Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens

Wide Receiver

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

The thing that I appreciate most about Fitzgerald, I also appreciate about Peterson – loyalty to his team and a no-nonsense attitude.  While Rodgers is a great quarterback and can make no-name receivers into 1000 yard targets, he is phenomenal with a true number 1.  While others were considered and Larry Fitzgerald is getting up there in age, he has a work ethic that is unmatched and his leaping ability and hands are unheard of.   This was the toughest position decision to make but I’m certain it’s the right one.

Others considered: Andre Johnson, Houston Texans; Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions; DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles;  Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers; Brandon Marshall, Miami Dolphins

Offensive Lineman

Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns

There’s not much to say about Joe Thomas so I’ll keep it short.  Joe is young, he’s athletic, and he is the best left tackle in the League.  I would argue that the second most important player to a team’s success is a left tackle to protect the franchise quarterback’s blindside.  For the last five years, nobody has protected his quarterback better than Joe Thomas.

Others considered: Jake Long, Miami Dolphins

Defensive Player

Patrick Willis, LB, San Francisco 49ers

I understand that defense wins championships but I love offense.  So in taking only one defensive player, I wanted someone that could serve as a “quarterback” of my defense.  Since his rookie year, Willis has been one of the games premier linebackers.  If not for coming in with Adrian Peterson, he would have been the rookie of the year.  I have always been a fan of the linebacker position because they are called on to do so much.  Like Ray Lewis did for Baltimore, I believe that Willis could be the heart and soul of my defense.

Others considered: Clay Mathews, LB, Green Bay Packers; Darelle Revis, CB, New York Jets; Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions; Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs; Chad Greenway, LB, Minnesota Vikings; Jerod Mayo, LB, New England Patriots


The Know-It-All’s Fantasy Football Prep: The Perfect Draft Formula… and DON’T MESS WITH IT!


Kyle Stafford – @KStafford32 









The Great Unknown, aka the 1st Round of a Fantasy Football Draft. Here is where the foundation of a team can be built, or a foundation of jokes about the guy who takes Brett Favre with #1 overall pick are built. The average team owner is in the dark when it comes to making that first round selection. A lot of guessing and man crushes for players become exposed in the top half of a draft. You can take advantage of this glorious opportunity.

While the rest of your league is blindly selecting their team, you can already have your team set before the first sticker is tagged on the board. Your first move is to look at your league rules and scoring. Determine if your scoring is based on Points Per Reception (PPR), Touchdowns + Yardage, or my personal favorite PPR + TD + Yardage. Once you identify your scoring, you can now decide how you will draft.

Remember when you are drafting, you are drafting for production. The goal is to put together the most complete team that will put you in the best chance to win throughout the season.


This is not Rocket Science. This is about numbers. If you can identify numbers than you can put together a successful draft formula. Here are 3 areas pay attention to:

Position Scarcity: What position is the least depth found? If you look at the previous years stats this is a no-brainer, it’s Running Back. There is a huge gap after the Top 15 players. There is a larger gap after the Top 20. Quarterback is the sexy pick in the 1st round, but look at the Top 20 overall in 2010:




Tom Brady, NE QB  



Aaron Rodgers, GB QB  



Peyton Manning, Ind QB  



Michael Vick, Phi QB  



Philip Rivers, SD QB  



Drew Brees, NO QB  



Arian Foster, Hou RB  



Josh Freeman, TB QB  



Matt Ryan, Atl QB  



Matt Schaub, Hou QB  



Eli Manning, NYG QB  



Matt Cassel, KC QB  



Joe Flacco, Bal QB  



Carson Palmer, Cin QB  



David Garrard, Jac QB  



Jay Cutler, Chi QB  



Kyle Orton, Den QB  



Ben Roethlisberger, Pit QB  



Adrian Peterson, Min RB  



Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buf QB  



Notice only two Running Backs are in the Top 20. Quarterback is so deep Ryan Fitzpatrick made the Top 20. You should be looking nothing but Running back in Rounds 1 & 2. If you are in a straight PPR league you should consider a Top Wide Receiver in later part of the 1st Round, but the pass catching Running Backs are gold. When evaluating PPR don’t look at receptions, look at how many targets a player is getting.

Quarterbacks can be found late, Ryan Fitzpatrick was a top fantasy scorer last season.

Consistency: You want players that are going to contribute positively all season long. A player that can’t keep himself on the field is dead to you. This should be your mindset when selecting any starters. The more consistent players also tend to be on the more successful teams. Know the players you are drafting, for more information take a look at my previous article on “Player Evaluation”.

Actual Value:  If you can draft the same type of player in the 2nd round that you can get in the 6th round why waste the pick? My example for this is Quarterback. Sure everything would love to have Aaron Rodgers, but what if I told you that you are better off with Josh Freeman? Now you think I am crazy. The stats do not lie. Rodgers averaged 21.8 pts in 2010 while Freeman put up 18.5 pts a game. That’s only 3.3 points per game between the two. Let someone else feed their mancrush and waste a pick on Rodgers so you can draft your pass catching running back in the 1st round or stud wideout in the late second, early 3rd round. You will come out of the draft with the more complete team, while the rest of the league still has holes to fill and questions unanswered.

What Does It Look Like?

1st Round: Target the pass catching, high production Running Backs

2nd Round: Do the same, but if your friends also read this article go after a Top Wideout

3rd-5th Rounds: Standard Rosters have 2 RB, 2 WR, and 1 Flex. I would draft best available player between RB & WR until you fill those starting spots.

6th Round: Here is where you take your Quarterback. There is a good chance you will see names like Freeman, Cassel, Flacco, and Cutler. Take your choice.

7th Round: Here is where you pick your TE. Todd Heap, Pettigrew, Keller, Hernandez are all nice options here

8th Round & Beyond: I would stack heavy on RBs on your bench, and then look for quality WRs. I would not take a backup QB cause you normally can find one off FA the first 3 weeks of the season. Do not draft backup TE, Defense, or Kicker.

I always make a list of probable players to look for in each round. It helps me judge if I am reaching or getting a steal at that particular pick.


Thou Shall Not Take a Kicker till the Final 2 Rounds! Kickers are as irrelevant in fantasy football as they are in real life.

Be on the lookout for more Draft Prep Articles as we get closer to the season.

Questions? Comments? Follow Me on Twitter @KStafford32