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.
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!”
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:
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.
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
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
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
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
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!