The Know-It-All Fantasy Football News & Notes

Fantasy Football News & Notes

 

Kyle Stafford – @Kstafford32

Rounds 2 – 4

Player on the Rise:

Hakeem Nicks, NYG–  Averaged 2.14 fantasy points per catch the previous 3 seasons. Should see Redzone targets increase.

Player on the Decline:

Adrian Peterson, MIN–  I am still seeing his ADP in the mid to late 2nd round. To me that is insane. Recent news has shown he may not even be fully ready till week 3. He is safe in the 6th round or later.

The Conservative Pick:

Roddy White, ATL  He is going to get you 1,300 yards and double digit TDs.

High Risk, High Reward:

Reggie Bush, MIA  Finished 2011 with 6 of 7 quality starts. Seems to be comfortable in Miami and is the main option. Injuries are always the big risk. The bigger gamble is that he doesn’t have a consistent track record of production.

The Steal:

Miles Austin, DAL–  A healthy Austin should be back to receiving 170+ targets and being a huge playmaker for Romo this year.

The Rookie:

Doug Martin, TB  Has the skills to be a PPR league beast. I am thinking Matt Forte 2.0

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:

WHO WOULD YOU PLACE ON YOURS?

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.

Quarterback

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

WHO WOULD YOU CHOOSE?