Friday, August 23, 2013

Fantasy Football Dossier 5.0

"A smoke-filled room in a corner basement
The situation must be right
A bag of goodies and a bottle of wine
Were gonna get it on right tonight."

Alright, it's late August, and we're right back in the fantasy football mix. This is probably the "hot spot" of fantasy drafts (between the 2nd and 3rd preseason games), so I'm thinking the timing is perfect for you to waste a few minutes, or hours, or, if this makes you exceptionally drowsy, a few days with me. Well I'm hideous with intros, so let's just get right after it:

As per usual, I'm going to run through an actual draft that I just did with strangers on a fucked up laptop. Not to get completely off topic, but this is reminding me about the iPhone and iPad not having Flash, and how infinitely frustrating that is around this time when literally every draft platform uses Flash (by every platform, I mean Yahoo! and least those are the ones I use). Anywho, I think I have a real good handle on everything this year, so let's see how I manage to get off of my own advice and blow it...

Team Name: Lattimore Nation (Marcus Lattimore will become one of the biggest stories in football when he gets healthy and looks to bridge the Frank Gore era in San Francisco)
Pick: #1 (of course this will never happen in any of my real drafts...except hockey...I have good luck with hockey picks for some reason) 

#1: Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota: Duh.  

Theory #1: We Know Who #1 Is, But Who Does #2 Work For?: So clearly, Adrian Peterson is atop the fantasy mountain, and if you were in a keeper league and picked him up in the third round last year (like this guy), then you're flying high again like Ozzy. So, with that debate most likely settled, who comes off the board next? Here are the candidates:

Arian Foster (HOU): So going into this season, it was presumed that Foster, who was #1 last year coming off of AP's ACL injury, would be #2. However, the injury bug continues to persist with Foster, with first a calf injury, and now, a back injury...and on it goes. Look, Foster is like the Troy Tulowitzki of fantasy football. He's a freak when he's healthy, but you have to set yourself up for him going down.

Jamaal Charles (KC): In my opinion, the only one who could possibly surpass Peterson in points this year is Charles. As I've been saying for years, Charles is the biggest home run hitter in the league. No one busts them off like him. The Chiefs are revamped, have two stud outside tackles (Brandon Albert and #1 overall pick Eric Fisher), and a QB who can actually make teams believe they might be passing at some point. Of course, he has a foot strain, and may not play at all in the preseason. Still, the risk/reward is too much to pass up.

Doug Martin (TB): One could argue that his back-to-back games against Minnesota and Oakland last year were the two greatest consecutive running performances of all time on the road...or in general really. In any event, Martin has burst onto the scene and is now a top 5 back. He suffered a head injury against the Pats in the preseason, but it doesn't sound like it will keep him out of the opener. I'm looking for a repeat performance this year.

Marshawn Lynch (SEA): Lynch is probably the most solid of all the other options. I just can't imagine a scenario where he doesn't get 1,300 yards and 10 TDs. There may be some who get more points, but Lynch is solid, and has suddenly found himself in the middle of one of the most dynamic offenses in the league.

Calvin Johnson (DET): While this may come as a shock to some of you, think of it like this: If someone reaches for Megatron at #2, I'm betting your reaction goes something like "wow that's really high for him...but he is really good." With that, I say taking Calvin Johnson at #2 is not a reach. Not only did the guy break the Madden Curse, but came within 36 yards of 2,000...and this was on a team with no clear-cut #2 receiver and basically him banking on double coverage every play...this guy is the real deal.

#20: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta

Theory #2: Julio Jones, A.J. Green, and Brandon Marshall Are Worthy Of Late First Round/Early Second Round Picks: While there is a tremendous amount of depth at receiver, at the elite level, there just isn't. What I would suggest is seriously consider using one of your first two picks on one of these three (or get more than one). Jones and Green will both be entering their third years, and while both played on an elite level last year, their potential has yet to be fully realized in my opinion. Brandon Marshall seems to be really gelling with Jay Cutler on the Bears. He could be in for a Megatron-esque season this year.

#21: Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans

Theory #3: Tight End Depth Is Retardedly Low: With news that Gronk is likely to be out for at least the first few weeks of the regular season, and Dennis Pitta and Dustin Keller both winding up with season ending injuries before the real games even started, you're looking at four elite tight ends (Graham, Vernon Davis, Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten) with the rest being shots in the dark to certain degrees. If you wait until after the 5th round to draft a tight end, you're going to be relying on a risk or a good luck with all that.

#40: DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas:

Theory #4: If You Can Stomach The Risk, DeMarco Murray And Maurice Jones-Drew Are The Best Values In The Draft: If based on talent and situation alone, Murray would be a top 10 pick. If I draft DeMarco, I'm basically banking on the fact that while he may not play the whole season, but when healthy, he is a dynamic runner. Also, you can't go wrong with a Sooner 1-2 at running back.

Drew is basically in the exact same boat, just with less offensive talent to soften the load. MoJo has been the catalyst of the Jags' offense, but his injuries and Blaine Gabbert's awfulness have me kind of concerned. Still, Drew in the third round?...that's a jam I can get down with.

#41: Colin Kapernick, QB, San Francisco:
The thinking here is this: At this point to start the 5th Round, all the "old faithfuls" (Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Manning) are off the board, throw in Cam Newton, and suddenly we're looking right at the 2nd year wonders in Kaepernick, RGIII, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson. As I have stated before, I believe Kaepernick has the highest ceiling of this group from a fantasy perspective, with Luck having the biggest real upside.

Kaepernick has weapons now, and with Michael Crabtree slated to come back by mid-season, his numbers should only improve. This 40-60 range is where all four should go off the board, so if you're in the market for one of these franchise guys, this would be the time to move in.

#60: Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis: I'm thinking of similar draft day moves for skill players that the Rams did, and I can name Ricky Williams to New Orleans and Julio Jones to Atlanta, when teams, in essence, gave up nearly an entire draft to move up to get these guys. Julio is obviously paying off, and say what you will about Ricky Williams, but by the numbers, he is one of the best backs in the history of football (look it up). If this holds true, then Austin could be poised for a monster year. With Danny Amendola going to the Pats, Austin becomes the de facto #1, and in addition to that, he may factor into the return game as well.

#61: Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay: While this is not a PPR league, I think that getting Nelson this low is a bargain. In the absence of Greg Jennings, I believe it will be Nelson, and not Randall Cobb, who will end up as the leading point getter of the Packer receivers. This is a bit of a risk going with a receiver at the flex over a runner. However, I crafted a theory around this...

Theory #5: Somehow, There Is Always A Runner That Comes Out Of Nowhere To Become Relevant: This is also known as "The Peyton Hillis/Alfred Morris Corollary." I am not too concerned with getting another runner at this point because the value simply isn't there. Getting a receiver the caliber of Nelson presented an opportunity to add depth and provide a Tavon Austin insurance plan just in case that doesn't work out as well as I would like.

Handicapping the runners coming out of nowhere is always a challenge, so let's see where some of the sources may come from:

Stepfan Taylor (ARZ): To me, Taylor is the clear-cut favorite to do big things breaking from obscurity. I wrote about him in my preview before the preview, and I continue to share the same sentiments today with Mendenhall and Ryan Williams in front of him.

LeGarrette Blount (NE): So not really an obscure name, but after losing his job to Doug Martin, Blount went right off the fantasy pool's deep end, but it seems like he's landed on his feet in New England. Blount will be featured as a change of pace to the elusive Stevan Ridley while also being a 3rd down and goal line situational back, meaning Blount could get something in the neighborhood of 8-10 TDs if all goes as planned.

Bilal Powell (NYJ): Of all the running back situations in the league, this is probably the murkiest. Chris Ivory has never been above third string on an opening day depth chart, and now finds himself #1 in the Meadowlands. The problem is that he can't stay on the field (at least yet), which opens the door to Powell and Mike Goodson. Powell seems like he has much more upside than Goodson, and just finished his last preseason game averaging nearly ten yards a carry.

Knile Davis (KC): Jamaal Charles' foot strain is a problem, and despite wanting to draft him #2 if I had the choice, remains a risk. If I draft Charles, I will look to lock up Davis as well as a handcuff. Davis looked okay in his last year at Arkansas, but has turned it up in the preseason, and now is the clear-cut backup in KC. In addition, he is catching passes out of the backfield, meaning he will transition a lot easier than a one-dimensional player.

DuJuan Harris (GB): Eddie Lacy looked impressive in his first go as a starter, but the fact that he has not been named the starter, and Harris will get the bulk of the reps says something.

80. Giovanni Bernard, RB, Cincinnati: Bernard looks like he's poised to take over the starting job in Cincy from the Law Firm (Benjarvus Green-Ellis...and associates). Bernard should particularly get a look in PPR leagues as it seems like the Bengals are going to try and get their short game in order, drafting Bernard and Tyler Eifert this past year.

81. Seattle D/ST: 

Theory #6: Drafting Team Defenses Sucks: I know I've probably said this before, but I hate the idea of drafting a team defense. This feels like it was such a rushed move when the D/ST spot was first concocted..."So what are we going to do about defense and return men?" "Oh right...them...well they matter so little to us that rather than draft them as individual players, we'll lump them all in together so we don't have to come up with point systems for them." Seriously, whoever started this is lazy and a major dick...and to protest, here are the top 10 fantasy D-Men for those who are doing IDP (Individual Defensive Position) leagues.
  1. Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona: Peterson clearly already has the return game down, and with his improvements in coverage, he has become one of the favorites for defensive player of the year. I would spend a pick in the first eight rounds to get him, which is unheard of for DBs.
  2. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston: The biggest force off the edge in the league, Watt could be pushing 20 sacks to go along with all kinds of tackle for losses and forced fumbles.
  3. Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina: The BC tackle machine is going to be a force for years to come at middle linebacker, and already projects as the top tackler in the league for this year.
  4. James Laurinaitis, LB, St. Louis: Much like Kuechly, Laurinaitis is a tackling machine. With Chris Long, they have created a solid foundation for the Rams' defense.
  5. Patrick Willis, LB, San Francisco: If it weren't for the concerns of his hand injury, Willis could very well top the list. Continue to monitor his status, as while he may not go in Week 1, he will likely be available the following week or soon thereafter.
  6. Sean Lee, LB, Dallas: Lee has perhaps the best pure instincts at the middle linebacker position. Along with DeMarcus Ware, these two should be racking up the fantasy points in big D.
  7. Jerod Mayo, LB, New England: Mayo has been a mainstay in the Pats' D since being drafted to go along with Vince Wilfork as the best 1-2 middle punch in the league.
  8. Eric Berry, S, Kansas City: Berry is about to emerge as the best safety in the league with figureheads Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu on the back 9's of their respective careers.
  9. Charles Tillman, CB, Chicago: Tillman forced 10 fumbles last year and is unquestionably a force in the Bears' secondary.
  10. Derrick Johnson, LB, Kansas City: Johnson is an elite tackler and is also known for having one of the best ball-stripping skill sets in the league.
100. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Pittsburgh: Mike Wallace is out of the picture, and while Antonio Brown is talented enough to become a star, he has been inconsistent. Enter Sanders, who has looked great in the preseason and is more than capable of pushing 1,000 yards.

101. Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver: I was big on Montee Ball coming into the season, and figured he would win the job outright, but he really hasn't separated himself from Hillman or Knowshon Moreno for that fact. I will take a gamble on Hillman here knowing he is my fourth back and that if this doesn't work out, hopefully I can get in on the ground floor of a waiver wire gem.

120. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston: This was a fairly low-risk pick, with the only chance of Hopkins not producing being if his concussion symptoms continue to linger. Matt Schaub finally has two deep threats to make use of his cannon arm.

121. Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville:

Theory #7: Justin Blackmon Is The Biggest Darkhorse Of The Draft: You could make the argument for Percy Harvin and Michael Crabtree as well, but Blackmon is the only one of the three to not be on the sidelines due to injury. Blackmon will do absolutely squa-douche for you for the first four weeks due to a drug suspension, but after that, his potential is huge. Blaine Gabbert is a downer, but even so, Blackmon is probably a top 15-20 receiver when he's out there.

140. Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland: The buzz around Cameron is growing by the day, so getting him this late is getting less and less likely. Cameron is going to be a beast in the red zone. Look for at least six TDs with that number likely to be closer to double digits.

141. Blair Walsh, K, Minnesota: Never like to take a kicker last because everyone else does, so screw that. Walsh kicks in a dome, can bomb long field goals, and will be working around a Christian Ponder-led offense. Translation: Points bonanza.

160. E.J. Manuel, QB, Buffalo: It doesn't even matter to me that Manuel may not be the starter in Week 1 due to a knee procedure he had done, he will be the starter when I need him to be (Kaepernick's bye week, Week 9). Manuel has the upside of any of the four second-year stars, but he's available, like in this draft, in the final round. Even if Manuel doesn't work out, I will have eight weeks to try and navigate the backup QB market before needing to deploy one.

Now, a few last news and notes items:
  • Michael Vick being ranked outside the top 100 is ludicrous. His stock is going up since being named the starter, but he still is going right around the 10th round. Sure, he's not a top-5 caliber QB anymore, but he can fill up the stat sheet. I'm trying to get him as a backup, but if I whiff on the big 4 sophomore QBs, I would still feel confident starting Vick from the get-go.  
  • Keep an eye on Kembrell Thompkins in New England. He just went over 100 yards in his last game, and with no one taking the baton as the #2 receiver for Tom Terrific, Thompkins could be a steal in the late rounds of the draft.
  • Zach Sudfeld is another Patriot worth noting. It looks like he will fill the proverbial slot tight end role in place of Aaron Hernandez. Also, with Gronk out for Week 1, Sudfeld will likely start until he returns, and will be featured in 2-TE sets.
  • It was thought that the Rams' backfield was going to be very crowded, but it looks like Daryl Richardson will become their featured back and could receive upwards of 20 carries a game. He is a strong choice in the 7th-8th rounds.
  • Ryan Broyles is finally healthy, and with the Titus Young saga officially over in Detroit, Broyles is in line to be the #2 receiver in Detroit. Broyles has loads of talent, and can be a major contributor if he stays healthy. Broyles is going undrafted in most leagues.
  • Daniel Thomas has been splitting first-team reps with Lamar Miller in the preseason, and while Miller carries a 3rd-4th round price tag, Thomas is available in the 11th-12th. This is an optimal chance to snag a backup before he potentially becomes a starter.
Alright gang, that's at least a little of what you need to know for your draft. Anyone trying to tell you they have everything is completely full of themselves. Again, we're fantasy analysts, not fortune tellers. You can only hope to correctly prognosticate the future, but really, we're just assholes who think we know more than we do...but it's entertaining right? I mean if you made it this far, that has to mean something.

Well, seasons greetings from the MIA. Can't wait for the fall...really can't wait for the winter (never thought I would ever say that). So, take care of yourselves everyone, and good luck this year. Peace.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Fantasy Football: The Pre Preseason Edition

"Whatsoever you want, got to work very hard to gain."

So I guess my roof is being painted right now, so no suntanning today, meaning I'm kind of stuck inside before work, meaning I have time to kill, meaning I'm doing something fantasy sports related.

Sure, we haven't even got to training camp, but so much has been happening already that I would be remissed if I didn't try and weave my way through the inner workings a little bit before the season and every other preview guide (including mine) comes out.

This is more of a way to discuss what has happened so far and what the possible ramifications could be. Also, it's going to be a way to try and predict the future, which, when you boil it down, is really what all of us fantasy pundits are doing (we're probably better than Miss Cleo, but not by much). So, without further ado...

The Aaron Hernandez Saga And What It Means To Guys Who Will Actually Play Football This Year: I'm not going to go into the details of this whole story because it's been done (and is still being done) by every breathing sports writer in America, and also, to write anything more than a sentence about a guy who was going to be a fixture in the Patriot offense for years to come and is now a murderer is beyond depressing.

Needless to say, I have a better chance of impacting your team than he does, so what does that mean? Well, let's start with what it does for the Pats. Clearly their entire offensive scheme that was derived from two years ago when the epic WHONK trio (Welker/Hernandez/Gronkowski) was in effect. Wes is in Denver, Hernandez is...well, you know, and Gronk has been an injury train wreck after being seemingly indestructible in 2011. The Pats are likely to have Gronk and Jake Ballard (TE sleeper for the first few weeks if Gronk is out) as their tight ends, which, while being a decent combo, does not present nearly the kind of mismatches that a Hernandez/Gronk combo would. This means there will be more pressure on the receivers to make up for the production.

Danny Amendola is clearly the biggest prize of the Pats' receiving corps, so look for him to go somewhere in the 5th-6th rounds. He will likely be the Hernandez replacement in the slot with the ability to run outside routes. The true sleeper is Julian Edelman, who, all the while, has been the "Welker clone," and is one of the big reasons why Wes became, at the time, "expendable." Edelman is a huge darkhorse, and has shown flashes of brilliance in the receiving game and the return game. He will be the slot receiver and will also likely be returning punts, so keep him in mind for those sleeper lists.

Another name to consider is Aaron Dobson, the rookie out of Marshall. While Donald Jones is listed ahead of him on the depth chart, I think ultimately, Dobson wins the job based on size (6'3) and his pure athletic ability. Many receivers have gone to Marshall since Randy Moss was drafted in '98, but none have been compared to him except Dobson, who scouts have raved about. He will need to be a key contributor in the outside passing game for Brady and the Pats to have any success throwing the ball downfield.

Now that we've covered the Patriots, what does Hernandez being out of the game mean in terms of drafting tight ends? Well, the tight end pool, in terms of guys who put up consistent numbers, is extremely shallow. This year, I'm saying that Dennis Pitta is the dividing line between guys that can put up 10 points a game and guys that can't. Pitta, by the way, could venture his way into the top 3 in fantasy with more of an importance placed on his position with the departure of Anquan Boldin.

The Plus-Pitta Side:
  • Jimmy Graham: The consensus #1.
  • Gronk: Could be a steal if you can get him cheap and don't mind rolling with a lesser TE for a few weeks.
  • Tony Gonzalez: Came back just in time to be a top 5 tight end...again.
  • Vernon Davis: Has been in line for a giant season for seemingly years, and now might get it with a stable QB and Michael Crabtree down for at least the first 6 to 8 weeks due to an Achilles injury.
  • Jason Witten: Lost in the shuffle was the fact that this guy caught 110 balls last year.
The Minus-Pitta Side:
  • Kyle Rudolph: If he had someone other than Christian Ponder throwing to him, he would be ranked higher.
  • Owen Daniels: This is an example of a guy who isn't the "sexy" pick, but always produces.
  • Brandon Myers: Leaving Oakland could possibly become the greatest move of his career. Another guy, like Rudolph, who could find themselves on the Plus-Pitta side before too long.
  • Antonio Gates: Stock continues to keep slipping.
  • Jermichael Finley: Sure, he's been a disappointment, but without Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, A-Rod will probably be looking for someone familiar to keep that dynamic passing offense going.
Not a whole lot else really to report from tight ends. I would keep an eye on Tyler Eifert in Cincy. Suddenly the Bengals have one of the best 1-2 TE combos in the league with Eifert and Jermaine Gresham, and Andy Dalton will be letting it fly this year, and while I wish it were possible, he can't throw every ball to A.J. Green. Also, Brandon Pettigrew in the pass-happy Detroit set. He is a tremendous bye week plug-in, and could realistically be a top 10 TE when all is said and done.

Rookie Running Backs Will Always Be Underrated...Buy Low While You Can: Coming into this season, there will be three guys (Doug Martin, Trent Richardson, and Alfred Morris) who will likely go in the top 10 of your drafts this year that were rookies last year. Martin and T-Rich were on everyone's radars, but none were drafted anywhere close to where they are ranked now (T-Rich went in the 3rd-4th, Martin in the 5th-6th, and Alfred Morris?...well, if you drafted him, I applaud your psychic sense, but otherwise, he was the big prize in the fantasy waiver sweepstakes last year). The reason for this is the "unknown" factor of how well their talents will translate from Saturdays to Sundays. There are two rookie backs who will likely land the starting job on their respective teams from Week 1:
  • Montee Ball: Drafted in the 2nd round by Denver, Ball will have no real competition outside of Ronnie Hillman, who is projected as more of a Jacquizz Rodgers type in terms of being the "change of pace" back. Everyone knows how dynamic the Broncos passing offense will be, which should lead to a lot of running room for Ball up the middle. He is projected to go in the 4th round but could see his stock creeping into the 2nd round by the time this season's up.
  • Le'Veon Bell: Also picked in the second round, the Steelers finally get a bruising, every down back in Bell. He is even more of a no-doubt Week 1 starter than Ball. The Steeler offense could struggle if Antonio Brown cannot assume the #1 receiver role (which I think he can, but you never know), and their line can't stay healthy, which was the biggest reason they struggled last year. Le'Veon is ranked a little lower than Ball, but is a strong pick in the 4th-5th rounds.
A sleeper that you need to keep on your radar is Stepfan Taylor, who was drafted in the 5th round by the Cardinals. Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams seemingly cannot stay healthy, which could open the door for the rookie out of Stanford to take over the reigns. Some draftniks had Taylor's value as high as the late 2nd to early 3rd in the NFL Draft, but managed to slip all the way into the 5th. As your looking for ways to spend those final picks to add to your team's depth, I would keep an eye on Taylor, and check out his progress throughout the preseason.

Second-Year QBs Are Getting No Love In The Fantasy World: You would think that after having the most productive rookie QB class to enter the league since 1983, these guys would be hitting the top 5 rounds of fantasy drafts, but alas, that is not the case. What is the deal? If you're looking for some kind of reasonable explanation here besides "it's only their second year," then you won't get it from me. To be honest, I'm almost spellbound at the fact that this group all could finish inside the top 10 in QB scoring this year, with maybe two or three hitting the top 5. I think the only real question is which direction should you head? Well, let's see if we can break this down a little.
  • Andrew Luck: Last year's number one pick hit the ground running in Indy, helping the Colts reach the playoffs after there was supposed to be a "learning curve." Look, this guy was projected to be a stud, and, ta-da, he's a stud. He revitalized Reggie Wayne's career, and made T.Y. Hilton (shout out to FIU) a solid #2. With Ahmad Bradshaw on board to help out Vick Ballard, Luck has a solid backfield to take some pressure off. His football IQ is ri-donkey-balls, so expecting him to exceed his outstanding rookie season (4,374 yards, 23 TDs) is actually completely within reason (don't forget he also had 255 yards rushing and 5 TDs on the ground...yeah he's got wheels too).
  • RGIII: No full name needed here. The guy was electric as advertised, and became the first QB since Randall Cunningham to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 800 yards. My assumption for why he's ranked so low (some have him outside of the top 15) is because of that brutal knee injury that he re-aggravated in the playoffs against Seattle last year. However, he's looked solid in practice, he says he's okay...that's pretty much all we can go by right now. The preseason should be very telling in terms of his draft stock. Personally, I think he's going to be okay, but there's always that risk when you're talking about a scrambling QB.
  • Russell Wilson: He's too short, his college success won't translate to the pros...yeah where are those people now? Wilson was stellar after taking the job outright from Matt Flynn, who was signed to be the QB of 2013 and possibly beyond. Now he's in Oakland, and the Seahawks are one of the Super Bowl favorites. Now with Percy Harvin on board to team with Sidney Rice, you have to believe Wilson's numbers are only going up.
  • Colin Kaepernick: I truly think we're sleeping on this guy...still. Even though he went to a Super Bowl, even though he was a magician throughout the regular season and the playoffs, he's still underrated. Okay so here's my theory on's a west coast thing. This kind of stuff happens all the time. East coasters (like myself) are painfully oblivious to what happens on the left coast. Maybe it was the competition level at Nevada that had people questioning this guy a little, but regardless of who you play, if you have 10,000 passing and 4,000 yards rushing throughout a collegiate career, your name is Colin Kaepernick, and that's the history of Division I College Football!! Then, he takes away the job of Alex Smith in the midst of the best year of his career (Smith was leading the NFL in completion % at the time of the injury that cost him his starting spot)...and he's still not breaking the 5th round? This is why I love preseason rankings. Only concern here is Crabtree, whose injury will certainly affect the passing game.
Random Sidenote: ESPN literally just had a discussion about who was the best of these four as I was writing this...iiiirrrooonnnnyyyyyy.

Real Life Rankings:
  1. Andrew Luck
  2. Colin Kaepernick
  3. Russell Wilson
  4. RGIII
Fantasy Rankings:
  1. Kaepernick (I would draft him in the 4th-5th rounds)
  2. Luck (5th-6th)
  3. RGIII (6th-7th)
  4. Wilson (6th-7th)
I have to stress that the space between 1-4 is so minute that you can argue literally any order of this you want. The bottom line is that because of last year's draft and the emergence of Kaepernick in his second year in the league (first starting), you don't have to sweat if you miss out on an Aaron Rodgers or a Tom Brady.

There Is A TON Of Wide Receiver Depth: Sure, the top guys (Megatron, AJ, Julio, Brandon Marshall, Dez Bryant) are great to have. You're guaranteed either 100 yards, a TD, or both pretty much every week. However, if you choose to go RB-RB the first two rounds (or RB-RB-RB in the first three), and don't get any of the "elite" WRs, fear not. You'll be pleasantly surprised to know that you can actually get yourself in really good shape if you start drafting WRs in the 4th or 5th rounds. Here's a few examples of what's available:
  • Larry Fitzgerald (Projected Round: 5th): Okay, hear me out if you got burned by Fitzy last year. You shouldn't blame him, you should blame Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, and the rest of the ship-shod QBs the Cards had to try to throw the ball to him. I know Carson Palmer isn't going to throw for 5,000 yards, but you have to expect that he will be a significant upgrade over last year's QB crew. If he gets a decent QB, Fitzgerald is still a top 5 receiver.
  • Antonio Brown (6th): Yet another guy who, if you drafted last year, probably killed you. Brown not only got hurt but wasn't nearly as productive as what was projected for him. However, with Mike Wallace in Miami, Brown becomes the de facto #1 in Pittsburgh. I'm banking on a bounce-back performance.
  • Reggie Wayne (6th): Wayne has become fantasy's "old faithful" as he continues to grind out year after year of successful campaigns. He still finds himself on the outside of the "elite" receivers, which is good for you because with Andrew Luck on board, Wayne will continue to be a top 50 player.
  • Danario Alexander (7th-8th): When Vincent Jackson left for Tampa, it was assumed that Malcom Floyd would be Philip Rivers #1 target, but Alexander emerged as a TD machine in the second half and one of the most valuable fantasy receivers in the game. With another year in the system, Alexander could be in line for a 1,000 yard, 10 TD season.
  • Cecil Shorts (7th-8th): CSI follows the Danario Alexander plan of coming from out of nowhere to become fantasy relevant. The one concern going forward here is the murky QB situation in Jacksonville. Shorts had a massive up-kick in numbers when Chad Henne assumed the reigns from Blaine Gabbert, so the hope is that he wins the job in camp. Another thing to keep in mind is that Justin Blackmon will be out the first four weeks, meaning CSI will be the #1 until his return, so there is a chance for immediate short-term benefits regardless of who is throwing to him.
  • Stevie Johnson (8th): This is contingent on E.J. Manuel winning the starting job from Kevin Kolb, which I think is an inevitability. If that were to happen, the deep ball would be back in effect in Buffalo. Ryan Fitzpatrick came unglued last year, which was unfortunate, especially after I sang his praises for the better part of the last three years, so Johnson's numbers probably took a hit because of it. Having said that, he still went over 1,000 yards on the season, making it three straight years going over 1,000. Getting Johnson as your WR2 or even as a backup is a pretty solid option.
  • Greg Jennings (8th): Sure, he switched from Aaron Rodgers to Christian say that is a drop-off is an understatement of the wildest portions. Still, he's got plenty of upside considering he's going for the first time this low in about three years. I say he has at least two good years left at a minimum.
  • Tavon Austin (8th): The last time a team moved way up the draft board to get a receiver, it was Atlanta with Julio Jones. After a few weeks of growing pains, Jones became a beast. I'm not saying Austin will be hitting Julio's numbers, but the Rams made a significant move to get him, meaning that he will be a big part of the offense from the jump. It may not all click immediately, but I'll be very surprised if looking back on this draft, getting Tavon in the 8th round will not be considered a serious bargain.
  • Jeremy Maclin (9th): Maclin seems like the guy doing all the scoring while DeSean Jackson is more of the chain-mover in Philly. Again, drafting guys this late, you're essentially filling your bench and getting bye week replacements, but with a guy like Maclin, he could sneak into your starting lineup based on a good matchup.
There Are Two Defenses Worth Taking In The First Ten Rounds: It's a simple as this: If you miss out on Seattle and San Fran's D/ST, you might as well wait it out and fill up your bench. These two are both on elite levels already, and only got better in the offseason. The Seahawks went and got Cliff Avril from Detroit to help with their pass rush, while the Niners blew up their whole defensive backfield, signing Donte Whitner, Carlos Rogers, and, perhaps the biggest splash of all if it pays off, Nnamdi Asomugha. They also moved up to get Eric Reid in the draft, and he will be the starter at free safety from day one.

The Broncos, Bears, and Texans are probably on that second tier of defenses, and after that, it's a real crap shoot. The Ravens and Steelers are always solid options, but don't offer nearly the kind of big-return potential that they used to. In terms of underrated, you may want to check out Arizona...not so much for their defense, but anytime you have control over Patrick Peterson, the odds go way up to score a special teams TD.

Okay, good first day (or three). Of course I will be back with the 5th installment of the fantasy dossier. Look for that right in the middle of the preseason. Until then, I'll be stocking up on knowledge, and I suggest you do the same. Take care and be safe everyone. Peace.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

2013 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

"The bars could not hold me
Force could not control me now."

Heidi-ho neighbor! Well the draft is finally here. This truly is the greatest thing ever...I think the only problem I have is that it's not a two-day marathon on Saturday and Sunday like it used to be. Sure it meant you had no life if you watched >75% of the whole thing (which I would have done every year had it not been for work, which they say I'll hopefully not have to do at some point in my life...those will be good times). Anyway, it's one of those things that I hold close to me...much like Patriots' Day (I would be remissed if I didn't mention the Marathon, given the wicked Boston guy that I am...we showed our resolve as a community, and has been showed in the past/present/and most definitely the future, we ain't nuthin' to F with).

Trends That Have Happened Since Two Months Ago:

So what I have figured out is that over-analysis is the devil. Really trying to narrow down the truth versus complete vagaries, which are eevvveerrryyywwwhheerrreee, is the sweet science of mock drafts. Basically Step #1 is to just introduce team needs and the prospects that could make a significant impact on the first few rounds (which let's face it, is basically what most of the people will be tuning into see). Then Step #2 is putting one out like the night before or the day of (hopefully I can get this done by Thursday night...actually I have Thursday off so, and I'm putting this in print (or ink if you still for some reason print articles), I promise we'll be good. Okay...rambling...

Trend #1: Dion Jordan Has Gone From A Late First Rounder To Lawrence Taylor: Okay so there was never any question about Jordan's athleticism, but after the combine and just understanding how gigantic this guy and how quick he moves, he could absolutely be electric this coming year and for many more to come.

Trend #2: A Left Tackle Will Go #1 Overall: Most likely this is Luke Joeckel, who has been the consensus top tackle from the jump. There has been some rumblings about Eric Fisher though, which has solidified his stock in the top 5. Update: In an interesting turn of events, it looks like it will be Eric Fisher going #1 tonight.

Trend #3: QBs Will Control The Late First Round/Early Second: Probably the most fascinating dynamic in all of the draft is the complex QB picture that has surfaced this year. Geno Smith will likely be the first QB off the board, but there is really no spot that he has been tied down to. He could go as early as #4 to Philly, and as late as the end of the first round to a team that traded back in (like Jacksonville). What is known is that there will be a lot of signal callers available then, with the possible exception being Ryan Nassib, whom Buffalo has been linked with at #8 because his old Syracuse coach, Doug Marrone, is now the head man with the Bills.

I would keep an eye on E.J. Manuel. He has tested off the charts, and after his hype-fulfilling senior season, he is probably the best QB in this draft. I'm thinking that he doesn't get out of the first round, as one of those "hot" teams (i.e. teams that aren't set at QB...Jags, Raiders, Bills, Browns, Jets) could be looking to get back into the first (dear Oakland, pleeeeaassssseeee trade with the Pats...I want a chance at Jadeveon Clowney next year).

Trend #4: There May Not Be A Running Back Taken In The First Round For The First Time In Awhile: 1963 to be exact, so that's...that's a lot of years right there. While Eddie Lacy is by far the #1 RB prospect, there hasn't been enough juice behind his hype machine to make him a surefire lock to go on Thursday.

Trend #5: Tyler Eifert's Stock Is Going Wayyyyy Up: I really thought I had too much to drink at Flanigan's last night when I saw Todd McShay mock Eifert in the top 10 (to the Jets at #9). For a fairly deep tight end class, and the way defense is dominating the shape of the first round, it's kind of a shock to see Eifert that high up. He has the tools to be a dynamic playmaker, so you can't hate on that. I'm pretty sure Vernon Davis was the last tight end to go in the top 10 (2006), so it's been some time.

Trend #6: Dee Milliner's Stock Is Falling Fast: I stand by my thoughts that Milliner is a top 5 pick despite his medical past. The fact remains that despite him not being of the likes of Patrick Peterson, Milliner is an above average prospect at arguably the toughest position in football. It seems like he'll be ready for training camp (although will likely miss OTAs), but despite that, Milliner will likely slip into the middle of the first and not towards the top like what was originally thought.

Trend #7: Star Lotulelei's Stock Is Falling Even Faster: If you had told me two months ago that Manti Te'o had a chance to get taken over Star, it would have been so much. Health issues and the post-combine aftermath have pushed his stock further down than just about anyone's in the draft.

So with those bits out of the way, here's how things might go...
  1. Kansas City: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan: Choosing between Fisher and Joeckel is basically like Coke and Pepsi. They're both on the same level, and essentially, it comes down to personal preference. While we had thought all along Joeckel was the man (and hey, he still might), the word is that the Chiefs are leaning more towards Fisher.
  2. Jacksonville: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M: I was always under the impression that Joeckel would go 1, leaving the Jags to choose between Fisher and Dion Jordan. Now with this recent development, it opens up some possibilities. First off, the Jags will have first dibs on the consensus #1 player in this draft. Second, in having said dibs, they also control a major bargaining chip. There are plenty of teams that would love a franchise left tackle, and they will likely be out of luck unless they get into the top 4.
  3. Oakland: Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida: Raiders should be looking to get out of this pick, as there will be a number of teams looking to leap-frog Philly to get Lane Johnson.
  4. Philadelphia: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma: If he's still there...
  5. Detroit: Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah, OLB, BYU
  6. Cleveland: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Nothing like drafting QBs in the first round in back to back years.
  7. Arizona: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon: If ever there was a steal at #7.
  8. Buffalo: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia: Austin or Ryan Nassib...and if Buffalo has their way and can get back into the end of the first round, maybe both.
  9. New York Jets: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
  10. Tennessee: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama: This is assuming that they are absolutely sure he can go from Day 1 of camp.
  11. San Diego: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama: I just got done watching McShay go through his draft scenarios, and I have to agree that the Chargers will want to move up to #2 or #3 to take one of the stud tackles if the price is right (and even if it is right, it will be pricey). If they don't, they have their choice of the best interior linemen in the draft class, with Warmack being regarded as one of the great guard prospects of all-time.
  12. Miami: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame: The offensive overhaul continues in the Gardens.
  13. New York Jets: Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina: The Jets make two logical picks...BOOOOOOOO!!!
  14. Carolina: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
  15. New Orleans: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
  16. St. Louis: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson: He went to Clemson...strike one...but he's a's the C.J. Spiller effect (you're nasty but you had to go there?).
  17. Pittsburgh: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia: The Steelers get a value pick in the first's like clockwork at this point.
  18. Dallas: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
  19. New York Giants: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
  20. Chicago: Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame: It seems like everyone on Jah's green Earth has Te'o here, which means that there's zero chance this actually plays out.
  21. Cincinnati: Matt Elam, S, Florida
  22. St. Louis: Alec Ogeltree, ILB, Georgia: Off the field issues are the only issue here.
  23. Minnesota: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee: At one point, Patterson was the hands-down #1 receiver.
  24. Indianapolis: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
  25. Minnesota: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina: Do yourself a favor and just plug in a QB here and probably the next four or five picks.
  26. Green Bay: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
  27. Houston: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
  28. Denver: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State: Huuugggggeeeee value.
  29. The Fahkin Pats: Keenan Allen, WR, California: The thing about being nasty every year is that more often than not, you're waiting until forever for the Pats to make a pick, and again, more often than not, they trade out. I don't think this year will be any exception. I mean it's almost like the stars are aligning. Here we are with only five picks in the whole draft, with two coming in the seventh round, and a bunch of teams jockeying to move into the first round to get a QB...couldn't get any better. The key is for Bill and his staff to correctly prognosticate who's going to suck the most in 2013. If I had to guess of all the teams looking to climb back, I would say Buffalo. Rookie head coach, probably a rookie QB starting (or Kevin Kolb, which would be even better...for us, not them)...I could see 4-12 or 5-11 coming from that.
  30. Atlanta: D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston: Quite the story. Life-threatening injury to the first round in New York. Good stuff.
  31. San Francisco: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
  32. Baltimore: Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International
Have a great time tonight football fans. Hope your team does well...unless your team is the Jets. In that case, I hope tonight ends up on the Jet fan draft montage with all y'all just bugging out (can I please have a then and now moment with when Mark Sanchez got drafted and the opinion about him now?...that would be priceless). Anyway, take it easy everyone. Peace.


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fantasy Baseball Dossier 6.0

"Not a heavyweight but I go twelve rounds."

What's good everyone? Well it's that time of year again. Spring training is under way, and with about a month to go until the start of the regular season, it's time to crack eggs of fantasy knowledge. Hard to believe this is the sixth year of the dossier (at least the 6th year I've recorded it...anyone who knows me when I was a kid probably knows that I've been writing this kind of stuff up for a while...a long while). It never gets old for me though. It's a new year, and like actual baseball, everyone starts off 0-0. The beauty is that no one will be 100% on all of the predictions they make. I like to think I'm decent at fantasy sports, but what I love about the game is that it can make me look like a genius one day and a total dickhead the's such a long season that anything can happen.

Much like I did with my fantasy football draft, I will be taking you round-by-round through a draft that I completed, and along the way, I'll kind of explain what the thought process was in all of it, what trends are starting to emerge, sleepers, prospects, etc. Make sure you continue to check back in throughout the month as I will be updating this column to account for injuries or news from spring training. Again I can't thank you enough for reading this, and hopefully there's a few things that you can take away from this.

Before I get into the analysis, a few shouts, for without the following sites/people I probably couldn't come up with something so mediocre:
  • ESPN Fantasy Baseball Live Draft/Mock Draft Rooms/Average Draft Position (ADP)/the 90% of my column I stole from them (nah, I'm only kidding, it's something much lower like 80-85%)
  • Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball 
  • Google search
  • Really good looking women I can't stop thinking about
  • Yuengling
  • Sports Grill wings
  • Herbal Essence (not the shampoo)
This draft took place on February 26th using on a fucked up laptop. I don't know any of the people participating in this draft, which can kind of screw things up, but really, I'm just using this as a model to bounce ideas off of. In other words, my team is going to be ridiculously nasty, and unless my friends become morons on draft day, I'm probably not going to get it as good as this...results may vary is what I'm getting at. This is based on a 10-team league and we're going to be using ESPN's lineup, which means that there are two infield flex spots, 5 OFs, and all the pitchers are bunched into one category. One thing I have to stress is that you should definitely familiarize yourself with the way your lineup is constructed before you get into the actual draft room. Your strategy should be geared towards that specific format (ex. If you're in a league with two catchers, you may want to think about getting them early because catching is a weak position this year). This is just a model. It's not gospel. This is your team. It's a representation of your knowledge and your abilities. I write these because I want to inform the casual, and perhaps even the hardcore fantasy player. Also right now, I really have nothing better to do, and this actually may count as being productive (at least it does to me).

  • Team Name: HGH In My Pot Braunies (as of right now, you have to say Braun is like our generation's Rafael Palmeiro...speaking of which, how do the writers keep guys out of the Hall of Fame for juicing, yet allow them win MVPs?...ohhhhhh-kaaaayyyy)
  • Draft Order #: 5 (which means no Mike Trout...sad face...does kind of segway into Theory Numero Uno)

Theory #1: Until Proven Otherwise, Mike Trout Is The Tecmo Bo of Fantasy Baseball: I mean we've heard lofty things said about prospects before. Trot Nixon was supposed to be the next Babe Ruth. Was he a good player? Yes. Babe Ruth? No. So there was a little hesitation when people started talking about how Trout is this freak of nature and can't be stopped and on it went...but the thing is I'm not so sure he can be stopped. He is literally too good to be believable. I know Miggy won the Triple Crown, and if you take him #1, I wouldn't blame you, but when did you ever think there would be arguments about who the MVP should be when a guy just won the Triple Crown? That was the case last year. I'm just hoping I get him man. He is just absolutely money in literally any category you want to throw out there. So do what you will, but in one-year drafts, and especially in keeper/franchise leagues, Trout is my guy.

#5: Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh: Ryan Braun, despite being the #1 ranked player on ESPN, fell to #4, right before me. I wouldn't take him if he came to me though. I know it shouldn't be a game played on emotions, but my thing is that I need a team that I can root for. There's nothing worse than having to rely on a guy you totally don't like or can't root for...and he totally sucks balls and kills you.

Anyway, back to guys I like. Cutch has it all. When you're drafting in the top 5, you want to look at your team, point to the guy you take, and say "this is the difference maker." Trout, Cabrera, Braun (unless he gets suspended), Cutch, Cano, and Matt can argue Tulo as well...which brings me to my next point (this is just a seamless document right here)...

Theory #2: Troy Tulowitzki Is Worth Taking In The Top 5: I was on here last year saying that Tulo was the most valuable player in fantasy, so this shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Simply put, he plays at the weakest position in the game right now and is capable of putting up top 10 numbers. Of course he got hurt as I proclaimed him to be the best player last year, but that would not stop me from taking him if he was there in the middle or late in the first round.

#16: Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami: Of course Tulo went one pick before me...isn't that always how it goes? I will say that Stanton is not a bad consolation prize. All signs are pointing to this year being the year Stanton blows the roof off of the place. He missed 39 games last year, and still hit 37 homers while batting .290. Yes the Marlins suck, and he has no protection...but he really never has, so what's the difference? Stanton could creep into 50 homers this year. This was tough because it was between Stanton and Stephen Strasburg, but I gave the edge to Stanton because he plays every day and his power potential is off the charts.

#25: Bryce Harper, OF, Washington: All outfield so far, but at this point in the draft, it's tough to draft based on position...I mean personally, I'm taking best available and just hope that I can find guys to plug in at positions to make it work. This was brutal because I actually passed on my man Dustin Pedroia for Harper, but as the next theory states...

Theory #3: Despite Being Ranked In The Late 30s, Bryce Harper Will Finish In The Top 15 In Fantasy: If Stanton and Strasburg are gone, and I'm picking in the third round, it comes down to whether King Felix is still there, which he wasn't in this draft. Other than that, the guys that will be around in the mid-to-late 20s do not have nearly the value that Harper has. You can call it reaching, but ultimately, when you look at someone's roster, you're looking at who is on their team, and not where they drafted them. Can you really blame me for orchestrating a McCutchen/Stanton/Harper outfield by the way? I would assume if you're playing head-to-head, or even playing rotisserie, and you come across these three guys on one team, you're not going to be gaining any confidence in winning that matchup.

#36: Craig Kimbrel, RP, Atlanta: After picking Harper, the three guys I was targeting (Pedey, Jered Weaver, and Jason Heyward) all were picked, so staying in character, I went with the best available. You could make cases for both Billy Butler (arguably the most consistent hitter in all of baseball) and Adam Jones (who is the face of a Baltimore team that continues to get better). I went with Kimbrel simply because at his position, he is by far and away the best, and at this point in the draft, all of the starting aces that you would want to front-line a team were gone. As soon as I made this pick, my entire draft philosophy in terms of pitching changed. With Kimbrel now as my #1 pitcher, I decided, as I have been doing a lot recently, to go super heavy on closers.

Theory #4: If Your Team Is Made Up Of A Bunch Of Closers, You're Probably Going To Dominate Every Pitching Category But Wins: Ideally, you are trying to find guys that fill up every stat, but when it comes to pitching, that's not possible, so the thought has always been to have a fairly even amount of both starters and relievers. The more years I do this, the more turned off I get about having a bunch of starting pitchers. Unless you just have aces across the board (which is possible in auction drafts but tough to obtain in a regular snake draft), at some point, someone's going to have a bad night, and if you're playing in a weekly head-to-head league, that could finish you. So I've been trending towards taking relievers because even when they have a bad night, it's not going to ruin you because normally a closer is in the game for an inning, with bad outing usually ending in giving up 2-3 runs, whereas starters can go three or four innings, where the damage could wind up being much more severe (5-6 runs?), so with more innings, it makes it harder to bring your total ERA and WHIP down. As you're going to notice, I have some stud relievers, and it wouldn't be totally out of the question to expect my ERA to be in the low 2's and my WHIP to be around 1, if not under that.

#45: Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Oakland: Adam Jones went right before my pick...that was crushing. Still, in landing Cespedes, I add to my freak outfield. His numbers are only going up because of his experience in the majors last year and also, he missed 33 games due to different injuries (hand/wrist/hamstring), so we have yet to see a full year of production, which I'm thinking will put him around .280/30HR/20SB.

#56: Chris Sale, SP, Chicago White Sox: I had a really tough time with this one. Carlos Santana just went off the board at #53, and Matt Wieters was available, so I hesitated, but then, I remembered this:

Theory #5: Potential 20-Game Winners Are Worth More Than Potential Franchise Catchers Not Named Buster Posey: Chris Sale is an animal people. To say he's a young Randy Johnson is not as completely far-fetched as you might think. Averaging a strikeout an inning last year, Sale could be in the top 25-30 by the end of the season. In my opinion, for elite starting pitching, he is one of the few guys you don't have to spend a top 40 pick on.

#65: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona: This came down to Goldie or Aroldis Chapman, the freak closer-turned-starter. For the record, I think Chapman will be fine this year, but I believe where he is ranked is more a depiction of his value as a closer. We really haven't seen him stretched out yet, so this should be a very interesting season on that front. Goldie had a monster year after starting off very slow (I specifically remember picking him up and dropping him soon thereafter sometime in the first half of the season). Here's a guy who will hit close to .300, is good for around 25-30 homers, and perhaps most importantly, can steal 15-20 bases...very rare to see a first baseman helping in the steals department.

#76: Jason Motte, RP, St. Louis: Right now, I have Motte as the second best closer in baseball, with Papelbon a close third. At this point, it was Motte or Kris Medlen, who was phenomenal down the stretch last year. If you recall, Medlen was on the waiver wire last year, and while I'm not saying that you're going to be able to find a guy who will go 10-1 with a sub-1 ERA in free agency, it's going to be a lot tougher to find saves than it will be to find wins. Update (3/25): Motte suffered a what they're calling a "mild" elbow strain, and the Cards are probably shutting him down for the rest of Spring Training. They're also considering him starting off the season on the DL. Despite the injury, I'm still drafting Motte pretty high, although with this news, he probably comes off the board at least one round later than he was slated to go, if not more. Mitchell Boggs will be the interim closer, but there is no closer controversy in the Lou. Motte will be the 9th inning man whenever he's ready.

#85: Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs: Much was made about Rizzo's initial debut with the Padres two years ago when he struggled mightily, but once the Cubs traded for him, they waited patiently until they felt Rizzo had developed fully enough to handle a major league workload, and it paid off. Rizzo looks like a natural hitter with lots of power potential, and this will be his first full season in the majors.

#96: Fernando Rodney, RP, Tampa Bay: Rodney had arguably the greatest year for a closer in the history of baseball. A 0.60 ERA, a 0.78 WHIP, and 48 saves later, and he's still available around the 100th pick. I have to believe people are scared away because of his age, but because this is not a dynasty or keeper league, and I only have him for one year, I'm totally happy with this pick. Right now I'm sporting three of the top 5 closers in the game.

#105: Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore: Call it a reach, but I believe Machado will wind up at least filling out the value of a top 100 player, if not, more like a top 50-60 player. Machado showed signs of things to come after his surprising call-up from AA Bowie last season. He can hit for contact, power, and run. Like first basemen, when you can get stolen base help from your third baseman, it adds a rare element to your team.

#116: Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets: I really like what Harvey showed me last year. His call-up was a lot less surprising than Machado, but I think people didn't expect how well Harvey would perform in his first go-around in the bigs, but he pitched exceptionally well, sporting a sub-3 ERA over ten starts. Harvey racks up the K's as well, so he will certainly help you with that.

#125: Sergio Romo, RP, San Francisco: Anytime you can make a guy like Brian Wilson, who was perhaps the best closer in the game as close as two years ago, expendable, you know Romo has the goods. Health is the one issue to look out for here, but when he's taking the ball in the 9th, it's pretty much going to be a done deal.

#136: Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Boston: So happy how low Middlebrooks is ranked. If you watched the Sox at all last year, you know how dynamic a player Middlebrooks can be. Despite getting hurt and slowing down a bit at the plate after a torrid start, Middlebrooks has the potential to rip 30 homers if he plays a full season. He has reported to Fort Myers at 100% health, so hopefully he can play to his potential because the Sox desperately need his bat in the lineup.

#145: Neil Walker, 2B, Pittsburgh: There's nothing that really jumps out at you about Walker, and I think that's part of the reason I like him here. He's a top 100 talent that is being overlooked because of other "sexier" options. Walker is consistent though, and he won't really hurt you in any category. Also, you have to believe he will produce a bunch of runs hitting towards the top of the Pirates lineup.

#156: Jarrod Parker, SP, Oakland: I picked him up almost immediately after his call-up last year, and Parker did not disappoint. Parker is one of two pitchers since 1900 to give up one run or less in 10 of his first 14 major league starts. He was steady for the most part all year, so I really feel like he's a solid pick here.

#165: Tom Wilhelmsen, RP, Seattle: After taking the closer's job from Brandon League, Wilhelmsen was a stud, converting 29 of 34 saves, and running his K/9 to nearly 10. He seems like he will be a solid contributor who could close in on 40 saves given a full season of work.

#176: Jurickson Profar, 2B, Texas: The unanimous #1 prospect in baseball sets up our next theory...

Theory #6: Despite Not Having A Starting Job, Draft Jurickson Profar Now: Now I'm not saying when Profar gets the call, he's going to go off like Mike Trout, but he will be as dynamic a middle infielder that will be playing in the coming two to three years. The Rangers are going to have little choice, especially when his arbitration clock runs out towards the end of April, but to bring him up, because they are lacking offense with the departure of Josh Hamilton and Michael Young, and the possible suspension of Nelson Cruz as it relates to the ongoing Miami PED case. Profar may have some ups and downs, but his ceiling is so absurdly high that picking him in the 18th round is tremendous value in my opinion. Update (3/29): Profar did get optioned down to the minors, but one would suspect that his call-up time is imminent much like Trout and Harper last year.

#185: Bruce Rondon, RP, Detroit: The reason Rondon ranks so low is because of the unknown factor. What is known is that over three levels last season (A, AA, AAA), Rondon was dominant, and his strikeout numbers are completely absurd (13.1 K/9 in A, 9.6 in AA, 10.1 in AAA). The unknown factor will also lead to immediate dividends, with hitters trying to adjust to a pitcher they only see once a game. I talked about this with Yu Darvish last year, who came from Japan without any of the current major leaguers facing him, and he went 16-9 in his first full season, including a 10-4 mark in his first three months. I expect Rondon to struggle at times, but what he will get you right out of the box will be sparkling. Update (3/29): Rondon has been optioned to the minors, a move that I guess you could see coming after his really shaky spring. It's one thing to have a bad spring and be an established closer (like Craig Kimbrel), but a rookie trying to do the same? It's a much loftier task. Expect Rondon to eventually take over the role in about June when he's rocking it in the minors and the Tigers realize that you can't have a closer-by-committee and expect to be a contender.

#196: Andrelton Simmons, SS, Atlanta: As I mentioned before, shortstop depth is dreadful, so the fact that a talent like Simmons is going this late is kind of surprising. Yes, it's his defense that ultimately sticks with you when you watch him play, but I love his contact, and I love how he's leading off for a lineup that now has B.J. and Justin Upton along with Heyward, McCann, and Freddie Freeman. I just see this kid being an all-around stud.

#205: Wil Myers, OF, Tampa Bay: There is a chance that Tampa waits out his arbitration clock (actually, very likely unless he destroys it this Spring), but the moment the clock is up, Wil Myers will finally be in the majors. It feels like this should have probably happened last year, and because the Royals got greedy and wanted to wait it out to call Myers up, he never got to play for the team, and instead, was traded to the Rays for James Shields (quick sidenote: the entire deal was Shields and Wade Davis to KC for Myers and three prospects including Jake Odorizzi, another stud who is basically on Wil Myers' same career path right now...also Tampa saved $28 million in the deal for the next two seasons). I'm again surprised by this low ranking...just an absolute electric offensive arsenal.

I will say that Ernesto Frieri went the pick before, and despite my gushing about Myers, I would have totally gone with Ernesto here. In terms of the most impressive relievers in baseball last season, his name has to be in the conversation. The man is a strikeout machine.

#216: Bobby Parnell, RP, New York Mets: I feel like the mad scientist..."closers, closers...and MOOORREEEE CLOSERS!!" Parnell is young, has an explosive fastball, and is receiving competition from Frank Francisco who I'm convinced pitched last season on a blown arm and has been slow to recover from it.

#225: Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City: I think this pick is so clutch this late that it needed it's own theory...

Theory #7: Salvador Perez This Late Is The Best Pick Of The Draft: The reason this pick is so critical is because I have purposely avoided catchers knowing that Perez would still be around this late. I will say that it looks like his value is rising (he is right now the 10th catcher off the board, with an ADP of 192.3), so this may be a little trickier to pull off in the future. Here's a guy who could get close to the top 100 if he plays a full year, and getting him at 225 is crazy.

#236: Josh Rutledge, SS, Colorado: My "Profar Plan" is complete by taking Rutledge to fill my middle infield flex spot. This isn't bad for a guy I anticipate spending only about a month or two playing before Profar gets the call. Rutledge has 20/20 potential playing in Colorado, and has only played in the majors for about a half a year (73 games). He had eight homers and seven steals during that time, which shows the kind of blend in his game.

#245: Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh: I follow up my "Profar Plan" with my "Wil Myers Plan." Marte had a huge season playing winter ball in the D.R. (he was named MVP of the championship series), and while it's not the majors, it is still encouraging about the direction that Marte could go now that he will be the everyday left fielder in Pittsburgh.

So that wraps up the draft portion. Here is my complete team with positions. I have rosterbated five times already while writing this. Loving it...
  • C: Salvador Perez, KC
  • 1B: Paul Goldschmidt, ARZ
  • 2B: Neil Walker, PIT
  • 3B: Manny Machado, BAL
  • SS: Andrelton Simmons, ATL
  • 1B/3B: Anthony Rizzo, CHC
  • 2B/SS: Jurickson Profar, TEX
  • OF: Andrew McCutchen, PIT
  • OF: Giancarlo Stanton, MIA
  • OF: Bryce Harper, WSH
  • OF: Yoenis Cespedes, OAK
  • OF: Wil Myers, TB
  • UTIL: Will Middlebrooks, BOS
  • BN: Josh Rutledge (SS), COL
  • BN: Starling Marte (OF), PIT
  • P: Craig Kimbrel (RP), ATL
  • P: Chris Sale (SP), CWS
  • P: Jason Motte (RP), STL
  • P: Fernando Rodney (RP), TB
  • P: Matt Harvey (SP), NYM
  • P: Sergio Romo (RP), SF
  • P: Jarrod Parker (SP), OAK
  • P: Tom Wilhelmsen (RP), SEA
  • P: Bruce Rondon (RP), DET
  • BN: Bobby Parnell (RP), NYM (who will be in the lineup when Sale, Harvey, or Parker are not starting)
So needless to say I'm extremely happy with how this came out. The beauty of it all is that those contingency plans for Profar and Myers are going to last for about a month (hopefully), so once one or both get called into the majors, I can start pursuing other options if I so choose (maybe another closer...telling you, you can never have too many closers in fantasy baseball). I might have a problem in steals on occasion, and by only having three starters, it limits my wins, but I just can't imagine a scenario where I lose any other category for the bulk of the year. I would say the "worst" contributor to batting average might be Middlebrooks, and he's still going to hit .250-.260. I'm flush in power, which covers homers and RBIs. Love the offense, especially if the two rookies bust loose.

My pitching is crazy. As I mention above, Parnell will be starting when one of the starters isn't going, so there will be upwards of seven closers going at one time. This strategy really does work. I'm not saying that it's going to work every week in your matchups, but being able to produce a ton of K's while keeping the ERA and WHIP to a minimum is really when this works out. Clearly I'll be winning the saves category every week barring some miracle...always nice to be 99% sure you won't get shut out in any week.

Now for my favorite part. I have put together a list of players whose ADP is 260.0, which I have dubbed "The All-Undrafted Team." Some of these guys may not have an impact on the first half of the season, or in 2013 altogether, but it's good to familiarize yourself with a few of these names.

The All-Undrafted Team:
  • Travis d'Arnaud, C, New York Mets: The cornerstone of the R.A. Dickey trade from Toronto, d'Arnaud was blocked in Toronto by J.P. Arrencibia, and as a result, has yet to have a major league at-bat. From his work in the minors, it seems like d'Arnaud could be a classic contact hitter who could get around 15-20 homers given a full year of work. He is not the starter yet for the Mets, but he should be able to beat out John Buck for the honors this Spring. Update (3/29): d'Arnaud will start the year in the minors, which is surprising considering he could beat John Buck out any day of the week.
  • Mike Zunino, C, Seattle: After the Profar/Myers/Dylan Bundy crowd elevate to the majors, Zunino may become the #1 prospect in baseball. He's only played 43 professional games, and already, he has the baseball world buzzing. In Low A Everett, Zunino hit 10 homers and batted .373 in just 29 games. He graduated to AA last year, and could start off in AAA this year. Depending on how the catching situation pans out (Jesus Montero is the only catcher on the current 40-man roster), Zunino could get the call mid-season. If that were to happen, he would be a huge pickup if your catching is a little below par.
  • Chris Carter, 1B, Houston: So Houston moved to the AL, and if you hadn't heard about it, that's okay, I have to keep reminding myself about it anyway. With the move though, the 'Stros pick up a DH spot, meaning Carter, who destroyed the ball for Oakland last year, will have more playing opportunities. He's more of the Adam Dunn/Mark Reynolds all power, no average kind of player, but if you need power, he is a great plug-in source.
  • Justin Smoak, 1B, Seattle: This is probably Smoak's last chance to break in with the M's. With the recent acquisition of Kendrys Morales, Smoak is going to have to step up the pace and get back to the mid-to-high .200s as opposed to the dreadful .217 he put up last year. I like his chances though...don't bet against a Gamecock.
  • Christian Yelich, 1B/OF, Miami: Yelich is the Marlins' top prospect despite having yet to crack AA ball. He is converting into an outfielder in the minors, so his eligibility may change as soon as next year. Yelich has an outside chance of making it to Miami this season outside of a September call-up, but with how bad the Marlins are likely going to be this year, anything is possible.
  • Jedd Gyorko, 2B, San Diego: Gyorko is a career .319 hitter in the minors. His natural position is third base, but because of Chase Headley's monster season, and the fact that the Pads did not trade Headley before the deadline last year like a lot of people thought they might do, Gyorko is now transitioning to second base. If he sticks at second and makes the big team, you really want to keep an eye on this guy. He hit 30 homers last year between AA and AAA, and that kind of power coming from the 2B slot is rare. Update (3/29): With Chase Headley expected to be on the DL for upwards of two months, Gyorko can now man third base as well as second, making him eligible in both positions. He is guaranteed to start basically every game.
  • Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis: Wong's path is a lot more crowded than Gyorko's. He's got as many as three guys who could play second in St. Louis, and Wong only has 173 games of experience, meaning he'll likely take a back seat unless the three in front of him (Matt Carpenter, Ronny Cedeno, and Daniel Descalso) are ineffective or injured. Good source of average and steals.
  • Billy Hamilton, SS/OF, Cincinnati: One of the most talked about prospects after his spell-binding season in 2012 where he stole an all-time, single season baseball record of 155 bases over two levels. The likelihood that Hamilton makes the team in 2013 in a large capacity is slim to none. Hamilton is converting to center field, and the Reds will likely have him stay in the minors and develop in the outfield while newly acquired Shin-Soo Choo mans center in Cincy for the time being. Choo is only signed to a one-year deal, so it looks like it's Hamilton's job to lose come 2014. Update (3/14): Hamilton has been struggling so far in camp (as of today, he's 2 for 18 with 8 K's), so I absolutely expect him to spend at least the first half of the season down in the minors. However, he could be a huge weapon for the Reds in September as a pinch-runner, and into the postseason if Cincy makes it that far.
  • Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston: Much like what's happening with the Reds, the Sox signed a veteran (Stephen Drew) to a one-year deal as a stop-gap solution for Bogaerts arrival in '14. However, Drew has been banged up recently, only able to play a half a season for the last two years. Jose Iglesias is certainly in the mix as well, but it looks like his bat is not translating to the next level (at least not yet). Bogaerts represents the total package, and could finally put an end to near decade game of musical chairs at shortstop in Boston.
  • Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis: Taveras had a monster year in AA last season (.321/23HR/94RBI) and there is a possibility that the Cards could call him up after his arbitration clock runs out in April and become a fourth outfielder, with both Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran aging, and Jon Jay, who plays great defense, but can't really hit.
  • Leonys Martin, OF, Texas: Obviously Jurickson Profar is the prospect getting all the attention (this column certainly did nothing to diminish that), but Martin could actually break camp and be in the starting lineup come Opening Day. Martin has a little power and a little speed, but you need to pay attention to the .323 average he has over 128 games.
  • Jackie Bradley, OF, Boston: I can't even help myself. Bradley probably won't be up in the majors until 2014, but it is amazing how he has changed the perception of the future of the Sox. Once Jacoby Ellsbury made the switch to Scott Boras, it became evident that he would not stay in Boston for the so-called "hometown discount." This had me and the rest of Sox nation (or at least some of them) fairly nervous about what was going to happen if Jacoby didn't re-sign. Then all of a sudden, in the midst of the Bruins making a run towards a Stanley Cup, the Sox drafted Jackie Bradley, and everything changed. Of course unless you had watched him play at Carolina, you really had no idea what was about to happen. I saw it, but I mean I think he's exceeding my expectations and they were pretty high knowing what kind of player and person Jackie is. This will be a fascinating season and perhaps even more fascinating off-season for the Sox. Hopefully JBJ will make it up at some point this year. Update (3/14): If you had not heard, JBJ has been the story of Sox camp so far. He seems to get at least two hits every game, and sits at .536 (15 for 28). You have to imagine that with the impact Bradley is having, John Farrell and Co. have to seriously consider starting Bradley in left field on Opening Day. Jonny Gomes projects more like a fourth outfielder, and Ryan Kalish can't seem to stay healthy. There's really no one else to speak of in the outfield, outside of fellow prospect Bryce Brentz, who probably will begin the season in the minors. While the real world likely will keep Jackie in the minors for now, if you look at it with no circumstances other than who is playing the best and should start right now, it's JBJ. A Gamecock tearing it up on the Sox...doesn't get any better.
  • Trevor Bauer, SP, Cleveland: You have to hope a change of scenery will turn it around for Bauer, who was all over the place in his initial call-up with Arizona last year. His minor league stats were staggering, so there is reason for hope. Would not be the worst call if with a late pick, you roll the dice.
  • Julio Teheran, SP, Atlanta: I suspect that much like Bauer, Teheran may have been called up too early because he was too tantalizing a prospect to not at least give a shot. He's 22 right now, and I think with a little job security in hand, he may prosper for the Braves. Update (3/29): Teheran has been electric this spring. He has a 1.04 ERA over 28 innings, and also sports a 12.1 K/9. Of course it's tough to go off of spring stats, but this guy has been a highly-touted prospect for the better part of three years until his flame-out last year. I'm starting to target Teheran towards the end of the draft as he is still considered a "sleeper."
  • Gerrit Cole, SP, Pittsburgh: I would have thought that if a Pirate prospect was going to emerge in 2013, it would have been Jameson Taillon, the #3 overall pick from 2010, who has been impressive, but a little inconsistent. Cole has been phenomenal, rising through to AAA in his first year in the minors. His stuff is electric, and he may warrant a mid-season call-up.
  • Luke Gregerson, RP, San Diego: You can call this a "speculative" pick just based on Huston Street's recent injury string, but even if Gregerson is not the man in the ninth, he helps with the ratio categories and can get some pretty decent K numbers.
  • Trevor Rosenthal, RP, St. Louis: While being listed as a reliever, the Cards ultimately want to stretch Rosenthal out into a starter. He was outstanding out of the bullpen, especially in the postseason (0 ER in 8.2 innings), so continue to monitor Rosenthal as well as fellow Cardinal prospect Shelby Miller as they compete for the Cards' 5th spot in the rotation. Update (3/8): The Cards have stopped trying to stretch Rosenthal out, meaning they will use him out of the bullpen. While his strikeout numbers will be great (especially K/9), he won't have the value that he would have if he had claimed the 5th spot in the rotation, which now looks like will go to Shelby Miller.

Well, that pretty much puts a bow on it. Like I said, I will be trying to update this as Spring Training progresses, but until then, I hope everyone out there is staying as positive as you possibly can, and thanks again for reading. Good luck this season! Peace.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

2013 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

"Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home. Understand?"

What's happening everybody? So if you were unaware, I just moved to Miami because mother nature had been putting me in the Figure Four for most of my life, and I had about enough of it. So I grabbed the ropes and moved to South Florida, putting all the winter bullshit behind. Some people like the cold...these are the people that should be living in New England. Me? I would get sick for like six months out of the year and couldn't function as a normal human being (as if functioning like one is easy when it's nice out). 

Sooooooooo the question then probably comes down to what I'm going to do for money, and while I don't have one yet (getting close me on this), I have been on Craigslist a bunch lately. While I was there, I came across an ad that talked about a site called Fantasy Football Planet and how the creator wanted people to write for him (of course, no $$ involved...yet). So, I figured I had some time in between sleeping and going to the bars to give him a bit of a sample. Hope you guys enjoy.

On The Defensive: Mock Draft 1.0

By Rich Lyons

If you needed a franchise quarterback, this was not your year to suck.

Sorry to Kansas City, Jacksonville, and perhaps Oakland. Timing in drafting, sports and life en general is everything, and you didn’t have it. It’s okay. Actually every single team goes through this (Yankees fans are rooting for the Wild Card, Red Sox fans like myself are rooting to not be a complete embarrassment, and everything after that would be icing on the Little Debbie cupcake). So, where does a team with this high of a pick go? I don’t mean for any of this to be putting down Geno Smith. He’s a great talent. He was, at times, completely electric operating the WVU offense. The reality of the situation is that these teams are not as gung-ho as they would have been last year about taking a QB this high. So, it’s time to break down the top 3, because in my opinion, three have emerged as locks, with Philly at #4 to break the ice on the next level (or perhaps trade…for a team that was dubbed the “Dream Team” two years ago, they need a bunch of help).

Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah: This is even worse timing for KC because in my opinion, Lotulelei is probably the best player in the draft. He plays arguably the most important non-QB job in football in being able to have the ability to play the 3-4 nose tackle, but can also play the 4-3. The Chiefs have drafted three top-15 defensive tackles in the last five drafts, including Dontari Poe last year. That’s why I say it’s unfortunate. It seems like they just can’t find the stabilizing guys that you would expect when drafting and spending that high (keep in mind that Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson are being paid from their pre-CBA rookie contracts, which were bananas). KC needs a QB, but probably won’t pick Star because of their recent Detroit drafting wide receiver-like spell. So the best player won’t go #1 (it happens…not too often…last time was probably 2007 with JaMarcus Russell being taken over Calvin Johnson and, if you want to look deeper, Adrian Peterson), so who will?

Star Update (2/25): So after the fast 40 times and the saga that was the Manti Te'o press conference, the emerging story of the Combine is Star's heart condition discovered in his physical. Star is scheduled to see a specialist either today or shortly, and right now his status is "pending" for the Combine.

Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M: Joeckel will go #1 I think…for now. These things can change, especially when there’s no clear-cut answer as to who is going at the top. If you’re the Chiefs, this is probably going to be the easiest to sell. Look for a QB through the trade market (definitely don’t look for the answer in free agency because after Joe Flacco, who doesn’t look like is going anywhere, it gets real bare, real quick), and sell your fans on the fact that this guy not only ranks as the #1 guy on a lot of boards, but protected Johnny Football, and right now, any association with him, and you’re in.

Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia: Going into this season, this guy probably projected as the #1 pick given the value of having a talented outside pass rusher who can, at the very least, divert traffic in the running game. Von Miller went #2 to Denver two years ago…can you really blame them for that move?

Right now, it would seem like it’s Joeckel to KC at 1, Jarvis at 2 to the Jags (and if he isn’t the pick, hopefully someone that can rush the passer), and Star at 3 to Oakland (or something in the defensive realm). Philly is at #4. They need a bunch as was noted earlier. Regardless of if they stay here or they don’t, here are the guys that teams would at least consider trading up to get to:

Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Quarterbacks run the world, and quite frankly, if you don’t have a good one, you’re going to be bad, and even if you make the playoffs with a bad quarterback, you will not win the championship, which is the ultimate goal. Seriously, last ten years, the “worst” QB to win a Super Bowl was Roethlisberger (notice I put worst in quotes…and he won two). So, it seems like Geno is the favorite to be, perhaps, a difference maker, with Sean Glennon from N.C. State, Tyler Wilson from Arkansas, and E.J. Manuel as the proverbial dark horse candidates for difference maker (I just don’t know about Matt Barkley…last year did not go so hot).

Clearly KC could go with Geno at #1, and this next argument could be put to bed real quick. So, let’s say that they don’t. Here are teams who could be looking to get into the 4 spot for him:

Arizona (picking 7th): Possibly the best storyteller currently of the need to have a steady QB. The Kevin Kolb/John Skelton/That Other Guy experiment is not working in ‘Zona, and if I’m Larry Fitzgerald, I might be kind of nervous at the legacy-dampening that has been done not only to his career but to his team. I’m sure starting fresh would not be the worst move for the Cards.

Buffalo (picking 8th): The Bills have 180’d on Ryan Fitzpatrick. They gave him a whole bunch of money, and now, as they miss the playoffs year…after year…after year, eventually, you too need to start fresh. I think Buffalo is actually a much more interesting scenario than Arizona because of the C.J. Spiller factor. What you would be doing is narrowing the playbook and focusing on the athleticism. Of course you will need to throw in the pocket at some point, but a Geno/Spiller/Fred Jackson combo could be something else to watch.

Other than that, everyone is either completely set, or delusionally set at QB (“delusionally set” is referring to teams who think they have it figured out but really sort of don’t…Jacksonville, Cleveland, the Jets, and coming soon, Oakland, because Carson Palmer is working…for now). At least the Bills and the Cards have made enough of a ruckus to make it known that they are not entirely satisfied with how things are going.

Damontre Moore, DE/OLB, Texas A&M: I will say that unless the Chiefs talk themselves into Geno, Moore is the one guy I could see mixing into the top 3. Again, there’s a huge demand on pass rushers, and unlike franchise QBs, usually a few emerge as stars every year.

Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State: People have been flip-flopping on who is the best edge rusher in the draft. Despite what people may say, the fact remains that it’s likely Moore and Werner both go in the top 5.

Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan: While the pair of D-Ends are likely guys that teams will trade up to get a crack at, Fisher represents filling an actual need for the Eagles, with their line in complete shambles as Jason Peters tries to return this year from an Achilles injury.

Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama: Seemingly corner is a need that Philly has had for the last decade. They struck out with Nnamdi Asomugha, and when he becomes a cap causality, the Eagles will again be looking for that elusive “shut down” corner they really haven’t had since Asante Samuel.

If you haven’t noticed by now, this isn’t exactly the best draft to be looking for offensive talent in the first round…in fact, this could be one of the worst of all time (there’s one or two QBs (Geno and perhaps Sean Glennon) who will go in the first round, maybe one RB (Eddie Lacy), and two or three WRs (Cordarelle Patterson, Keenan Allen, and Tavon Austin) who could go in the top 30-40 picks). With this lack of talent, I expect there to be a lot of trading towards the end of the first round (which has actually become somewhat of a norm, especially with the emergence lately of skill players taken at the end of the first or sometime in the second round).

So, as you will see, defense reigns supreme in the first round this year. Here’s how I think things will shape up right now. Of course none of this will go according to plan, but it’s a good way of seeing what teams need, the trends of the draft, etc.

Luke Joeckel
Texas A&M
Jarvis Jones
Star Lotulelei
Eric Fisher
Central Michigan
Bjoern Werner
Florida State
Damontre Moore
Texas A&M
Chance Warmack
Geno Smith
West Virginia
Ezekiel Ansah
Dee Milliner
Barkevious Mingo
Shariff Floyd
Lane Johnson
Kenny Vaccaro
Dion Jordan
Cordarelle Patterson
Jonathan Hankins
Ohio State
Sheldon Richardson
Alec Ogletree
Manti Te'o
Notre Dame
Datone Jones
Kevin Minter
Keenan Allen
Jonathan Banks
Mississippi State
Jonathan Cooper
North Carolina
Tyler Eifert
Notre Dame
Xavier Rhodes
Florida State
Desmond Trufant
Tavon Austin
West Virginia
Zach Ertz
Jonathan Jenkins
Sam Montgomery

*St. Louis gets the 22nd pick from the RG3 trade from last year

We’ll be back with more updates as the Combine continues this weekend. There’s still plenty of time for moving and shaking. Plus, free agency will begin shortly, so team needs will be changing by the day.

So that's about all I have for you right now. I will keep working on my draft reports, and also, I will be coming out with my annual fantasy baseball preview shortly. Take care everyone! Peace.