Archive for August, 2010

NFL Barometer

Monday, August 30th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

RISERS

Percy Harvin, WR, MIN – Harvin, who led all wide receivers in broken tackles last season despite being a rookie and recording a modest 60 receptions, is a special talent with the skills to develop into one of the best wideouts in football. He should only get better entering his sophomore campaign, and the return of Brett Favre is great news as well. His perpetual “day-to-day” status while dealing with serious migraine headaches that can seemingly pop up at any time is not without concern, but Harvin claims doctors recently have figured out how to treat them. Harvin looked good while returning to action this week, and if his claim is true (or even if they can at least get the issue under more control), it’s huge news for his long-term value. As for the short-term, news of Sidney Rice missing at least half the season after undergoing hip surgery gives Harvin a big upgrade, as it wouldn’t surprise to see his targets double this year compared to last. He’s a borderline top-15 fantasy WR.

Tom Brady, QB, N.E. – Brady completed 18-of-22 passes for 273 yards (12.4 YPA) with three scores and zero picks Thursday. The strong performance came at home against a suspect Rams defense, but it was quite impressive nevertheless. Brady is another year removed from knee surgery and is fully recovered from last year’s broken ribs – an underreported injury that likely hampered his final numbers. Randy Moss has looked terrific in the preseason entering a contract-year, Wes Welker (knee) has returned quicker than expected, and rookies Aaron Hernandez and especially Rob Gronkowski also look ready to contribute right away. New England’s playoff schedule is concerning (@Chi, G.B., @Buf) – not so much the opponents but all three games could be played in wintry conditions. According to Football Outsiders, Brady faced one of the 15 most difficult schedules against pass defenses in NFL history last year, and while the Patriots’ division should field strong secondaries (although if Darrelle Revis holds out, that would help), there’s no way his matchups won’t prove much easier in 2010. With major question marks regarding New England’s defense, the team may have to win in shootouts. Brady should reach (and top) 30 TD passes for the second time in his career this season.

Jahvid Best, RB, DET – Best had trouble loosening up during Saturday’s game, which resulted in him leaving after just one carry, enhancing the concerns about his durability. Still, he gained 51 yards on that lone rushing attempt and has totaled 158 yards over 19 touches during three preseason games. Best is unlikely to be a 20-carry back per game, but he can still approach 300 touches while being active as a receiver, and Detroit is going to give him all the opportunities he can handle. With Matthew Stafford poised to improve and a healthy Calvin Johnson joined by Nate Burleson, Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler, the Lions’ offense looks poised to breakout.

Sam Bradford, QB, STL – Bradford completed 15-of-22 passes (68.2%) for 189 yards (8.6 YPA) with two touchdowns and zero interceptions during the Rams’ win over the Patriots on Thursday. It’s only one game and in the preseason, but it’s become clear he’s already St. Louis’ best option at quarterback. Bradford is still fighting an uphill battle dealing with a poor offensive line and unproven receivers, but early returns on the No. 1 overall pick have been highly encouraging.

Pierre Garcon, WR, IND
– Garcon returned to action Thursday after missing the first two preseason games with an undisclosed injury and promptly hauled in an 18-yard touchdown. While Anthony Gonzalez and Austin Collie fight for the slot position, Garcon is locked in as the Colts’ No. 2 WR, and he’s already the team’s best deep threat, as aging Reggie Wayne has seen his yards-per-catch drop in each of the past three seasons. Admittedly, when you also factor in Dallas Clark, there are numerous targets Garcon will have to share with in Indy, but other factors (entering his third year in the league, playing in a dome, having Peyton Manning at QB) point to quite a bit of upside.

Leon Washington, RB, SEA – Washington became the third Seattle RB to start a preseason game during the team’s loss to Minnesota on Saturday, and thanks to a faster than expected recovery from his broken leg, he’s starting to become something more than only a late round flier in fantasy leagues. Justin Forsett remains the Seahawks back with the most upside, and in all likelihood it will be a committee situation regardless who starts, but Washington might be the better buy right now, considering he’s still so cheap.

Jermichael Finley, TE, G.B. – Finley is far from a sleeper, and for someone so unproven, his price tag can certainly be considered a big gamble for those risk adverse. However, the upside cannot be understated. Finley is a physical freak who will be consistently utilized in the slot like a receiver, and he’s an absolute nightmare matchup for linebackers. There are also few better targets around the goal line. Over Green Bay’s final six games last season (including the playoffs), Finley recorded 34 receptions for 496 yards and four touchdowns while playing on an injured knee. That’s a season’s pace of 91 catches, 1,323 yards and 11 scores. Of course, taking small samples and extrapolating them like that is silly, but Finley came into the NFL raw, is still just 23 years old and will now be entering his third year in the league, and again, he did that damage last year while hurt, so further improvement should be expected. Finley will certainly garner opposing defenses’ attention, but with one of the best quarterbacks throwing to him in an offense loaded with talent (and possibly a shaky defense that will result in a ton of shootouts), he’s also in an ideal situation. Elite skills combined with perfect circumstances is a scary combination. There’s no way I’d take a different tight end ahead of him.

Arian Foster, RB, HOU – Foster ran for 110 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown and also added four receptions for 16 yards during Houston’s win Saturday against a good Dallas defense. Steve Slaton suffered a turf toe injury during the game as well. I’ve written about Foster enough, so I’ll keep this brief – he should be a second round fantasy pick.

FALLERS

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, JAC – While it sounds like the rumors of Jones-Drew undergoing knee surgery were false, clearly he’s been dealing with an injury for a while now and won’t see any action over the rest of the preseason. Jones-Drew is expected to be ready for Week 1, and the team says all the time missed is just precautionary, but who knows, and any knee injury always runs the risk of lingering or cropping back up at a later date. Jones-Drew is an absolute workhorse with terrific skills, but his poor setup isn’t that much different than Steven Jackson’s, as Jacksonville projects to be a pretty mediocre to bad team only in a tougher division. The injury concerns are enough to take Frank Gore and Michael Turner ahead of him.

Jerome Harrison, RB, CLE – Harrison has managed just 72 yards on 23 rushing attempts this preseason, good for a 3.1 YPC mark. He’s also lost fumbles in each of the last two games. Obviously, the coaching staff never fully endorsed him, even after last year’s strong finish, as Cleveland traded up to draft Montario Hardesty in the second round. Hardesty, who was injury-prone throughout college, has been sidelined throughout the preseason with another knee injury, but he impressed during minicamp and is expected to be close to 100 percent by Week 1. At this point, Hardesty has more upside, yet Harrison typically costs a much higher draft pick.

Donovan McNabb, QB, WAS
– While McNabb is still expected to be ready for Week 1, his recent ankle injury is apparently serious enough to put his status in some doubt. The loss of practice time as well as preseason action also hurts someone learning a new system. Mike Shanahan loves to run the ball, and Washington’s group of receivers ranks well below average. At this point, grab Matthew Stafford instead.

Donnie Avery, WR, STL
– Avery suffered a season-ending knee injury Thursday and was placed on IR. He worked hard over the offseason in an effort to break his injury-prone label, but to no avail. It’s too bad, as he’s shown some decent skills in the past and was emerging as the team’s clear No. 1 WR with exciting Sam Bradford at the helm. Bump Laurent Robinson up your cheat sheets.

John Carlson, TE, SEA – Maybe his role in this offense won’t be so different than last season. Carlson has totaled just two catches for 12 yards over three preseason games. Again, it’s just exhibition and a small sample, but his lack of involvement has Seattle beat writers worried as well. Guys like Dustin Keller should be taken ahead of Carlson at this point.

Matt Leinart, QB, ARI – Leinart has completed 82 percent of his passes without committing a turnover this preseason, and he once threw for an NFL rookie-record 405 yards. While the latter may suggest there’s a star inside him somewhere, that was four years ago, and it wasn’t until midway through the third quarter of Arizona’s third preseason game until he produced a single point during a drive. Leinart thrives while facing zone defenses, but his lack of arm strength is a problem, and he’s become too one-dimensional, relying almost single-handedly on check downs. It sure seems like Derek Anderson is going to be under center come Week 1.

On the Heat and gambling

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

During a trip to Las Vegas over baseball’s All-Star break, my friend and I stumbled upon a prop bet offered at The Mirage that we both thought was too good to be true (which usually means a trap bet, but still, this was ridiculous). It placed the over/under on strikeouts for the All-Star game at 11. Huh? Eleven? ONE team could easily surpass that. After all, these are the best pitchers in the game often facing hitters for the first time ever (advantage pitcher). And just because the hitters made the All-Star team, doesn’t mean they strike out less (in fact, people typically vote in sluggers who rack up HR and RBI and might even have a higher K rate than the average hitter). Also, it stands to reason starters who are under the national spotlight now asked to throw only one inning will see their velocity increase, probably by a decent amount too. Anyway, after the first inning ended with zero Ks combined, I was a bit worried, but ultimately, the teams combined for 18 strikeouts.

This little story has more meaning than me bragging, as it appears Vegas is once again giving away money. The M, which seems to offer the most futures bets (including every single game of the 2010 NFL season. As in you can bet on the Week 11 matchup between the Colts and Patriots right now) currently has the over/under for Heat wins this season at 64.5. To put this into perspective, the Cavaliers averaged 63.5 wins over the past two years. Umm, ya, I think LeBron James and his slightly improved cast will best that mark – and the kicker is the under is actually favored (-125)!

But that’s nowhere near my favorite futures bet, which is a Lakers/Heat final at +240. There’s one major caveat picking the Heat to win it all this year – and that’s them having to beat the Lakers in the Finals. This takes away that problem altogether. Name one Western Conference team that seriously has a chance of overtaking Los Angeles this season. Maybe Oklahoma City, but Phoenix lost Amar’e Stoudemire and Steve Nash is 37. Carmelo Anthony is sure to get traded from Denver (this might become a problem if he goes to a team such as Dallas, admittedly). As for the East? Come on, Miami is going to dominate. This isn’t the NFL we are talking about here, where unknowns should not only be considered but expected. I’d make this bet at even odds, but at +240, it almost feels like robbery – count me in for a couple bills, and thank you Las Vegas for still providing some loopholes.

Quarterback Rankings

Friday, August 27th, 2010

1. Aaron Rodgers
2. Drew Brees

3. Peyton Manning
4. Tom Brady
5. Tony Romo
6. Matt Schaub
7. Jay Cutler
8. Philip Rivers

9. Kevin Kolb
10. Joe Flacco
11. Brett Favre
12. Ben Roethlisberger
13. Eli Manning
14. Matt Ryan
15. Donovan McNabb

16. Matthew Stafford
17. Vince Young
18. Carson Palmer
19. Alex Smith
20. Matt Cassel
21. Chad Henne

22. Matt Moore
23. Kyle Orton
24. David Garrard
25. Jason Campbell
26. Josh Freeman
27. Mark Sanchez
28. Matt Hasselbeck

Running Back Rankings

Friday, August 27th, 2010

1. Chris Johnson
2. Adrian Peterson
3. Maurice Jones-Drew
4. Ray Rice

5. Michael Turner
6. Frank Gore

7. Ryan Mathews
8. Rashard Mendenhall
9. Shonn Greene
10. DeAngelo Williams
11. Steven Jackson
12. Jamaal Charles
13. Ryan Grant

14. Pierre Thomas
15. Beanie Wells
16. Jahvid Best
17. Arian Foster
18. Cedric Benson
19. LeSean McCoy
20. Knowshon Moreno
21. Ronnie Brown
22. Matt Forte

23. Jonathan Stewart
24. Joseph Addai
25. C.J. Spiller
26. Ahmad Bradshaw
27. Marion Barber
28. Felix Jones
29. Michael Bush
30. Brandon Jacobs
31. Jerome Harrison

32. Steve Slaton
33. Leon Washington
34. Justin Forsett
35. Donald Brown
36. Montario Hardesty
37. Darren McFadden
38. Reggie Bush
39. Clinton Portis
40. Ricky Williams
41. Carnell Williams

42. Willis McGahee
43. Fred Jackson
44. Tim Hightower
45. Laurence Maroney
46. Darren Sproles
47. Chester Taylor
48. Thomas Jones
49. Bernard Scott
50. Kevin Smith

51. Kareem Huggins
52. LaDainian Tomlinson
53. Brian Westbrook
54. Mike Bell
55. Toby Gerhart

Wide Receiver Rankings

Friday, August 27th, 2010

1. Andre Johnson
2. Randy Moss
3. Calvin Johnson
4. Miles Austin

5. Larry Fitzgerald
6. Reggie Wayne
7. Brandon Marshall
8. Roddy White

9. Greg Jennings
10. DeSean Jackson
11. Steve Smith (CAR)
12. Michael Crabtree
13. Anquan Boldin
14. Marques Colston

15. Hakeem Nicks
16. Steve Smith (NYG)
17. Percy Harvin
18. Pierre Garcon
19. Wes Welker
20. Dwayne Bowe
21. Johnny Knox
22. Mike Wallace
23. Malcom Floyd
24. Jeremy Maclin
25. Mike Sims-Walker
26. Terrell Owens
27. Chad Ochocino

28. Santana Moss
29. Devin Aromashodu
30. Braylon Edwards
31. Santonio Holmes
32. Hines Ward
33. Donald Driver
34. Dez Bryant
35. Robert Meachem
36. Jabar Gaffney
37. Devin Hester
38. Lee Evans
39. T.J. Houshmandzadeh
40. Derrick Mason
41. Bernard Berrian

42. Sidney Rice
43. Vincent Jackson
44. Mike Williams (TB)
45. Mohamed Massaquoi
46. Eddie Royal
47. Anthony Gonzalez
48. Chris Chambers
49. Kenny Britt
50. Laurent Robinson

Tight End Rankings

Friday, August 27th, 2010

1. Jermichael Finley
2. Antonio Gates
3. Dallas Clark
4. Vernon Davis

5. Jason Witten
6. Brent Celek
7. Tony Gonzalez
8. Zach Miller

9. Kellen Winslow
10. Chris Cooley
11. Owen Daniels

12. John Carlson
13. Heath Miller
14. Greg Olsen
15. Visanthe Shiancoe
16. Dustin Keller
17. Fred Davis

Training Camp Notes

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Derek Anderson is starting the third preseason game for the Cardinals, and it appears Matt Leinart has lost the starting job – Downgrade all Cardinals position players. This situation appears to be an even bigger mess than first feared. The next positive report regarding Leinart will be the first. Anderson throws a good deep ball and is in a pretty good situation with Larry Fitzgerald and in an easy division, but accuracy remains a problem. If Ken Whisenhunt doesn’t make Beanie Wells the focal point of this offense, he deserves to be fired.

Tom Brady is good at football – Sure, a home preseason game against the Rams is hardly something to get worked up over, but Brady completed 81.8 percent of his passes and got a decent 12.4 YPA with three touchdowns and zero interceptions during the team’s third exhibition game Thursday. He’s not only another year removed from the knee surgery, but he’s also recovered from playing through broken ribs last season, and with the return of Wes Welker, a motivated Randy Moss in a contract year, Julian Edelman and two impressive young tight ends, he could post a monster year in 2010. Having to face the Jets and Bills four times, who fielded extremely good secondaries last year, isn’t ideal, nor is playing in New England outdoors late in the season, but Brady is primed for a big season.

Joseph Addai left Thursday’s preseason game with a concussion – He took a hard hit to the head while trying to make a tackle on a fumble recovery. However, he also rushed for 60 yards on seven carries before departing, and he remains a value pick in fantasy leagues, assuming the concussion doesn’t linger. It was a pretty hard helmet-to-helmet hit though, so keep an eye on this situation.

Donnie Avery was carted off the field with a possible season-ending knee injury – Ya, he’s injury-prone. It’s too bad, since Sam Bradford was so impressive Thursday (8.6 YPA, 2:0 TD:INT ratio), a Rams receiver might have real fantasy value this season. The next best guess is probably Laurent Robinson. Upgrade him, and don’t forget about Brandon Gibson.

Aaron Rodgers tossed three touchdowns with no picks and posted a 124.9 QB rating against the Colts, as the Packers dropped 59 points on a helpless Indy defense – Rodgers has the disadvantage of playing outdoors, but with so many ridiculous weapons at his disposal, the fact he could actually get better entering his third year as a starter at age 26 and with an improved offensive line and considering his ability to rack up rushing stats, I prefer him to Drew Brees as the No. 1 fantasy quarterback (and no, the fact he’s from Chico wasn’t my tie-breaker, although it didn’t hurt). Also, Jermichael Finley is my No. 1 ranked tight end.

Podcast

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Check it out. Can also be downloaded through iTunes here.

Yahoo Friends & Family

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Here are the results of the recent Yahoo Friends & Family draft. And more importantly, the subsequent Q&A. I’m not overly excited with my team, to be honest, but worse yet, despite me sending in an updated picture, I’m still left with the awful goatee version. Regardless, this is an industry draft I definitely feel is worth checking out.

No, I was not named after a Patrick Swayze character

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Did a radio hit for KNBR (“THE sports leader”) in the Bay Area (that means San Francisco for you east coasters) on Wednesday. Talking mostly fantasy football, with a side dish of discussing my unusual name. Check it out.

NFL Barometer

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

RISERS

Matt Forte, RB, CHI – It was just one preseason game, and namely, one carry (an 89-yard TD run), so don’t overreact to Forte’s impressive performance against a poor Raiders’ run defense Saturday. Still, it was nice to see that burst back, and it’s entirely possible last year’s injuries (first a pulled hamstring in the preseason, later a sprained MCL) really contributed to his slump more than we realize. Forte isn’t a special talent, and he converted just 2-of-18 goal-line attempts last season. He also has to deal with a poor offensive line and has to battle Chester Taylor for playing time in 2010. However, Forte is one year removed from totaling 1,715 yards as a rookie and has recorded 120 receptions over the past two years. Taylor is soon to be 31 years old and averaged just 3.6 YPC last season, so if Forte earns the majority of the work in a timeshare (what backfield isn’t these days?) in a Mike Martz offense, he could be due for a big bounce back.

Matthew Stafford, QB, DET – Stafford completed 13-of-18 passes for 130 yards and a score during the Lions’ win over the Broncos on Saturday. He’s now sporting a 72.4 completion percentage over two preseason games, both coming on the road and outdoors. His overall numbers last season were pretty ugly (13:20 TD:INT ratio, 6.0 YPA), but he was a rookie, played in pain quite a bit and threw 10 touchdowns over his final five games. The offensive line remains a problem, but a healthy Calvin Johnson could make a scrub QB fantasy worthy, let alone one that was taken with the No. 1 overall pick. Add in Jahvid Best, Nate Burleson, Tony Scheffler and the return of Brandon Pettigrew, and all of a sudden the Lions are interesting on offense. The fact their defense is bad is also a plus for Stafford’s fantasy value since he’ll have to throw frequently. He’s an intriguing QB2 option usually available late.

Lee Evans, WR, BUF – Again, it’s best not to get too excited about Evans’ 70-yard touchdown versus the Colts last week, as Trent Edwards rarely likes throwing deep, but it was a reminder Evans could reemerge as a viable WR3 type option in fantasy leagues. With a poor offensive line, shaky quarterback and often tough weather conditions, Evans is never going to be the star we once hoped, and he’s hardly an ideal red-zone option either. Still, with Terrell Owens one-and-done in Buffalo, Evans is back being the No. 1 target, and he eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark just two seasons ago. The addition of C.J. Spiller should have defenses less focused on stopping Evans as well. Don’t forget about him.

Michael Bush, RB, OAK – Bush gained just 3.6 YPC on eight carries against the Bears on Saturday, so he hasn’t exactly overly impressed, but he also added a 24-yard catch (he’s a better receiver than most give him credit for), and each day Darren McFadden continues to miss with a hamstring injury, Bush is solidifying his role as Oakland’s RB1. When McFadden returns, a timeshare is likely, but he’s always looked better in practice than in game action, and he’s clearly become one of the most injury-prone players in the NFL. Justin Fargas is gone, Jason Campbell provides a big upgrade at the quarterback position, and who knows, maybe some of the young Oakland receivers develop as well (Zach Miller is already a threat at the tight end spot), so this isn’t the worst situation for a lead back. Even the defense shows signs of being decent, and a schedule featuring the AFC West and NFC West is as good as it gets. Bush could prove to be a difference maker.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT
– Roethlisberger recorded a 64.6 QB rating during his preseason debut Saturday, but he completed 75.0 percent of his passes and got 9.5 YPA against the Giants. The losses of Santonio Holmes and Willie Colon definitely hurt, but Mike Wallace looks legit. The 4-to-6 week suspension (likely four) means Roethlisberger is coming at a big discount. Here’s one of the 5-10 best players in the NFL typically getting drafted as a QB2. If you wait on the quarterback position (always advised), he’s a perfect target later on. Roethlisberger isn’t a truly elite fantasy quarterback since the Steelers like to run so much, but he’ll be a perfectly fine QB1 once he returns from suspension.

Chris Cooley, TE, WAS – Cooley’s current ADP is the TE11, behind the likes of Visanthe Shiancoe, which seems a bit low. He averaged 785.8 yards over a four-year stretch before succumbing to injury last season, and while his touchdowns have been down lately, that category can be fluky, and he averaged 6.8 TDs from 2004-2007. Fred Davis is highly talented, but he can’t block and might be used more in the slot as a receiver anyway. Cooley is clearly going to get most of the playing time at the TE position in Washington, and he now has an innovative mind as head coach in Mike Shanahan, and a quarterback in Donovan McNabb who loves throwing to tight ends and has few other receiving options, so he should be heavily involved in the offense.

Kareem Huggins, RB, T.B. – Huggins is an undrafted free agent out of Hofstra who has done nothing but impress this preseason. Over two games, he’s turned 16 carries into 99 yards (6.2 YPC) and more importantly, has earned the coaching staff’s trust. In fact, it looks like he’s already passed Derrick Ward as the team’s RB2. And while it’s been admirable to watch Carnell Williams’ comeback, Huggins is seemingly behind just one back, who is one of the more injury-prone runners in the league. Don’t expect miracles, but Huggins has become a decent late round flier at this point.

FALLERS

Justin Forsett, RB, SEA – There isn’t a bigger Forsett supporter than myself, and if I were Pete Carroll, I’d see if the back could handle 20-22 touches a game. But unfortunately, I don’t coach the Seahawks, and this looks like a true committee, especially with Leon Washington, who when healthy is quite effective himself, recovering faster from last year’s gruesome leg injury quicker than expected. This isn’t Julius Jones stealing away carries – Washington is a legitimate alternative. So that leaves Forsett in a timeshare on what projects to be a mediocre to bad offense, and with his build, goal-line carries are unlikely as well. The talent screams upside, but the reality says let others reach.

Brandon Jacobs, RB, NYG – It’s entirely possible Jacobs’ disappointing season last year (3.7 YPC) was a result of playing through a knee injury he suffered Week 1, but let’s be serious here – people 6-4, 265 lbs aren’t really made to be running backs. His current neck injury appears to be minor, but further leg problems really should be more expected than surprising. He’s also dealing with major competition for carries, as Ahmad Bradshaw is finally playing on two healthy feet, and he sure looks like the superior option. Jacobs is the goal line favorite and typically doesn’t exactly cost a high draft pick in fantasy leagues, but he’s injury-prone and likely to take a backseat to Bradshaw, who should absolutely be taken earlier in drafts.

Matt Leinart, QB, ARI
– After a decent preseason debut, Leinart looked pretty awful Monday, gaining just 28 yards on six attempts. And we can’t just chalk this up to preseason nonsense, because he’s fighting for the starting QB job, as few have been impressed by his offseason. Derek Anderson remains inaccurate, so Leinart is still the favorite by default, but his play could really hurt the value of guys like Larry Fitzgerald and Chris Wells. The Cardinals are going to suffer a major downgrade at quarterback in 2010.

Sidney Rice, WR, MIN
– Rice is getting properly downgraded in most fantasy leagues, and he’s still a high upside pick if he can somehow overcome the hip injury, but the problem really makes him risky in the middle rounds regardless. He recently said it’s “up in the air” whether he’ll even be ready for Week 1, and it’s possible surgery will be the only way to eventually fix the issue. He looks boom-or-bust right now. And even then, a third option is playing but doing so at less than 100 percent, so there’s a lot of downside here.

Josh Freeman, QB, T.B.
– Freeman suffered a thumb injury that should only keep him out for the rest of the preseason, but even if he’s able to play in Week 1, he’ll likely have to do so in pain. Not that Freeman is a big fantasy asset, but the lack of reps curtails the development of promising rookie Mike Williams, who has shown signs of being a future star. The injury also affects Kellen Winslow.

Chaz Schilens, WR, OAK
– After dealing with a lingering foot issue, it now sounds like Schilens may need knee surgery. He’s been a promising sleeper whenever on the field, but it’s clear he simply can’t stay on it, as he’s proven to be way too brittle. Cross him off your sleeper list.

Podcast

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Check it out. Talking mostly football regarding the recent Yahoo Friends & Family draft. You can also subscribe through iTunes here.

Training Camp Notes

Friday, August 20th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Percy Harvin was removed from Minnesota’s practice in an ambulance Thursday after collapsing – It was an “episode” related to his chronic migraine headaches. Thankfully, he should be OK moving forward, but this further emphasizes the fact the talented Harvin is perpetually “day-to-day.” Of course, it’s not like a nagging hamstring injury, meaning he can quickly return to 100 percent, but the unpredictability of this problem (which make no mistake, is serious), is worrisome. With Brett Favre’s return, Sidney Rice’s lingering hip injury and Harvin’s awesome talent (he led all wide receivers in the NFL in broken tackles last year, as a rookie), he has the upside of entering 2011 as a top-10 fantasy WR, but there’s also no questioning his risk as well.

Wes Welker started the Patriots’ second preseason game Thursday, recording two catches for 20 yards – He was targeted on three straight plays during his six snaps of action, and despite wearing a knee brace, he looked good. There’s still plenty of questions that remain unanswered, but I recently reached on Johnny Knox during the fifth round of Yahoo’s Friends & Family draft (a .75 PPR league that I’ll expand on later) ahead of Welker and am immediately regretting that decision. He’s back to being a top-20 fantasy wide receiver.

C.J. Spiller put his mark on the Bills’ starting RB job – Again, preseason stats need to be taken with a grain of salt, but check out this highlight. It matters far less than a rookie showing his skills at the NFL level, but as far as preseason action is concerned, Lee Evans’ 70-yard touchdown catch was also a reminder he’s being undervalued in fantasy leagues with Terrell Owens gone.

Kyle Orton has agreed to a contract extension through the 2011 season – He’s no star, but Orton has shown a good grasp of Josh McDaniels’ offense and has clearly proven to be Denver’s No. 1 quarterback so far. Mainly, this extension is another reason to lower expectations on Tim Tebow’s immediate future.

NFL Barometer

Monday, August 16th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

RISERS

Arian Foster, RB, HOU – No one’s value jumped more over the weekend. Not only did Steve Slaton’s fumbling problem recur when he lost one at the goal line Saturday, but the Texans also lost rookie Ben Tate to a season-ending ankle injury. Foster, who has already had an impressive offseason that earned high praise from the coaching staff, is currently locked in as the team’s lead back. Slaton remains talented, but he’s going to be used in more of a third-down type role it appears, and that’s assuming he stops fumbling. Foster gained 31 yards on four carries during his preseason debut, and as the lead back who can catch passes and should be the goal-line guy in a terrific offense, his value has skyrocketed. Consider Foster a top-20 fantasy back.

Ryan Mathews, RB, S.D. – We all know Mathews was in a good situation in San Diego, but with any rookie, there’s uncertainty if he can take advantage of his favorable circumstances. While limited action in one preseason game doesn’t answer that question, Mathews passed the eye test with an impressive performance against the Bears on Saturday, totaling 61 yards on 11 touches. He exhibited good speed and tackle-breaking ability, and if he turns out to be a stud, huge numbers should follow in Norv Turner’s system and with an elite quarterback on his side. It’s not all good news, however, as Mathews was removed from the game in favor of Mike Tolbert when the Chargers were at the goal line. It’s definitely a situation that could be a buzz kill, but nevertheless, Mathews looks like a worthy top-10 pick in fantasy leagues.

Johnny Knox, WR, CHI – Jay Cutler attempted just two passes during his preseason debut and both were completions to Knox, good for 47 yards. Again, small sample caveats apply, and Devin Aromashodu gained 78 yards and a score later on, but all indications point to Knox being Chicago’s No. 1 wide receiver in 2010. Of course, Mike Martz’s offenses tend to spread the ball around, but Knox appears to be an ideal fit, and his rapport with Cutler is apparent. Knox missed practice Monday with an injury, but it’s supposedly minor. In a Martz led offense with Cutler at the helm (and a fading defense that will have to deal with a bunch of turnovers on offense), would it surprise if Cutler throws for more than 4,500 yards? You’ll want the team’s No. 1 wide receiver on your fantasy squad if that happens. Even though Knox is no longer a sleeper, I’d argue there still isn’t a bigger bargain going in the middle rounds.

Brian Westbrook, RB, S.F. – There’s only a backup role available with Frank Gore around, but Westbrook liked the situation in San Francisco, especially after Glen Coffee abruptly retired, so he signed with the 49ers on Monday. Rookie Anthony Dixon totaled 125 yards on 24 touches against the Colts on Sunday, showing good strength and an ability to break tackles in the process. Still, coach Mike Singletary hasn’t been overly impressed with the raw Dixon, and Westbrook is obviously far superior in pass protection and has the pedigree. At age 31, Westbrook is a huge long shot to remain healthy, but with just 1,308 career rushing attempts, he can remain productive when on the field (he averaged 4.5 YPC last season), making him San Francisco’s new obvious RB2.

Eddie Royal, WR, DEN – Royal was one of the biggest fantasy busts last season, as he wasn’t just bad, he was truly awful, somehow managing just 345 receiving yards with zero touchdown receptions despite staying relatively healthy. As a result, he should be an afterthought in many drafts in 2010, but there are worse late round fliers. Kyle Orton has a firmer grasp of Josh McDaniels’ offense, and Brandon Marshall has been shipped to Miami, leaving a huge void in the Broncos’ receiver rotation. Jabar Gaffney is probably the first WR to target in Denver, but Royal looks likely to play in the slot, his most natural position where the Broncos refused to utilize him last season. Demaryius Thomas no doubt has the most talent of all Broncos’ receivers, but he’s recovering from foot surgery and is a rookie coming out of a gimmicky college system. The Broncos figure to throw quite a bit with a poor defense, and their schedule is favorable.

Michael Vick, QB, PHI – Vick completed 11-of-17 passes for 119 yards during the Eagles’ win over the Jaguars on Friday. While he also threw a pick and posted a 60.7 QB rating, the real news is how he looked athletically, rushing for 50 yards and a touchdown on six carries. It took a year back in football, but it certainly appears Vick’s explosion has returned. With Donovan McNabb out of town, he’s also moved up the depth chart, so he’s just one injury away from taking over the keys to a highly productive offense. For all of Vick’s faults, both on and off the field, his rushing ability always made him quite an enticing fantasy property. He’s back on the radar.

Dez Bryant, WR, DAL – Bryant had his protective boot removed Friday and did some light running Saturday, which is great news for someone who suffered a high ankle sprain just two weeks ago. Dallas might remain cautious and still hold him out of all preseason games, but it sure appears like the explosive rookie should be ready for Week 1. He’s going to be behind the curve of an already tough position to learn after missing so much practice time, but eventually he should become an integral part of a terrific offense with an elite quarterback throwing to him. Bryant will remain behind Miles Austin as Tony Romo’s preferred target, but once he’s up to full speed, he should have little trouble surpassing Roy Williams on the depth chart. Bryant is a special talent.

FALLERS


Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI
– Fitzgerald left Saturday’s game with a knee injury. An MRI later revealed only a minor MCL sprain, and he’s expected to be ready by Week 1, but it’s a bit worrisome moving forward regardless. The injury is enough to bump him below other receivers like Calvin Johnson and Miles Austin on your cheatsheets.

Chad Ochocinco, WR, CIN
– For the second straight game, Ochocinco took a backseat to Terrell Owens, recording just one catch for four yards while Owens was targeted repeatedly. Of course, it’s just two preseason games, and it’s possible Carson Palmer is just trying to appease his new teammate. Even so, Owens’ presence really hurts Ochocinco’s value, which was already tenuous in a run first offense with a QB who now lacks arm strength throwing to him. It’s becoming a stretch to consider Ochocinco a top-20 fantasy wide receiver right now.

Fred Jackson, RB, BUF – Jackson will be out four to six weeks with a broken bone in his left hand, leaving his status for Week 1 up in the air. Jackson, who graded out as the single worst blocking back in football last season, already had a shaky hold on Buffalo’s RB1 role. C.J. Spiller may not be a workhorse, but he’s clearly the most talented running back on the Bills’ roster, and Marshawn Lynch looms as well. Jackson’s fantasy stock is falling fast.

Visanthe Shiancoe, TE, MIN – First off, Shiancoe’s value would plummet if Brett Favre didn’t return. While Favre is likely to come back, there’s still reason to view Shiancoe as overvalued right now. There’s no doubt he’s a strong red-zone threat, but with such modest targets (he saw 79 last season), another 11 touchdowns like he scored last year seem unlikely. And since Shiancoe averaged just 35.4 yards per game in 2009, his value is entirely tied to scoring. The fact his current ADP (TE9) is ahead of Zach Miller is borderline insane.

St. Louis wide receivers – Sam Bradford has impressed, and there will almost certainly be one Rams’ WR who is worth using in fantasy leagues this year. The problem is identifying which one, both during your draft and quite possibly on a weekly basis as well. Donnie Avery enters as the favorite to act as the WR1, but he’s proven to be a huge injury risk. Others are high on Laurent Robinson, but Brandon Gibson showed good ability after coming over in a trade with the Eagles midseason last year. And then there’s rookie Mardy Gilyard, whom the team took in the fourth round and has high hopes for. It’s quite the crapshoot.

Derrick Ward, RB, T.B. – As the backup for a team that’s improving with the brittle Carnell Williams in front of him, Ward actually looked like a sleeper at one point. But after gaining a paltry 20 yards on 12 carries (1.7 YPC) and also losing a fumble during the Bucs’ loss against the Dolphins on Saturday (he blamed it on the field conditions, which were admittedly awful), his roster spot may very well be in jeopardy, as Kareem Huggins has really impressed. Ward’s exorbitant contract makes him a truly viable option to be released.

The Scoop

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Before we get started, I want to make sure you are all aware of my recent entries – so check out my podcast here, my barometer here and my training camp notes here. Moreover, expect my football rankings to be released later this weekend.

Carlos Gonzalez is currently on pace to finish the year batting .322 with 39 homers, 28 steals, 120 runs scored and 121 RBI. In other words, he’s essentially been the most valuable commodity in fantasy baseball this season. There’s certainly a lot to like, as he’s actually hit lefties (.964 OPS) better than righties (.903), and as a 24-year-old, it’s not crazy to assume CarGo is only going to get better, which is further evidenced by his huge numbers since the All-Star break (.354/.373/.708). Another argument – he’s a Coors Field product, with a 1.144 OPS at home versus a pedestrian .722 OPS on the road – while maybe valid, doesn’t really matter to fantasy owners, as that advantage is here to stay. Like a pitcher performing at a historical level, of course Gonzalez has been lucky in some aspects – posting a .369 BABIP and a 20.2 HR/FB%. Still, really digging deeper, Gonzalez is going to be risky at fantasy drafts next year, since he’s likely to cost you a top-five (or so) pick. A combination of his K rate (24.0%) and BB rate (4.5%) doesn’t exactly portend maintaining even close to such success.

Just when we think one of the best years for rookies can’t get any better, Jeremy “go to” Hellickson, Mike Minor and J.P. Arencibia (all must adds) are unleashed upon us. It’s been quite the year for young talent.

Torii Hunter commits the worst baserunning mistake of the season.

Masato Akamatsu makes the best catch of the season.

Ichiro Suzuki has already recorded more stolen bases this season (28) and walks (35) compared to last, but he’s been a fantasy disappointment nevertheless. To me, he’s always been a risk, since a big portion of his fantasy value was tied to batting average, which is kind of like pitching – it fluctuates yearly based on many factors beyond control. A .350 BA over 680 at-bats is extremely valuable, but a .310 BA with weak power, on the other hand, certainly isn’t worth his typical ADP. Ichiro’s slugging percentage is currently a career-worst, as is his LD% (17.8). In fact, his LD% has dropped in each of the past five seasons. His extreme success against fastballs last season (18.9 wFB) could not be more different in 2010 (-4.0 wFB), and while “lineup protection” has been proven as mostly a false concept, it’s hard to argue against those who claim Ichiro has been pitched around this year. Not only has both his K rate and BB rate jumped, but his Zone% (percentage of pitches seen inside the strike zone) is by far a career-low (45.5%). His defense remains strong, so it’s not like his athleticism is totally gone, and again, with BA being so fluid, maybe he’ll end up being a value at fantasy drafts in 2011. But with that LD% decline, I doubt I’ll be the one willing to find out.

This is even better if you pay close attention to the beginning, when the ice sculptor talks about how long he’s been working on his most recent piece of art.

In a year filled with dominant pitching, Brandon Morrow’s recent outing might have been the most impressive of all. In fact, according to Bill James’ “Game Score,” it tied for the fourth-best pitching performance of all time. Morrow can easily be lumped together with similar pitchers like Jonathan Sanchez and Jorge De La Rosa – guys who have strong strikeouts rates but also poor control. And while all have upside, it’s tough to predict who will eventually “get it.” But as a 26-year-old who’s fanned 10.67 batters per nine innings while pitching in the A.L. East this season, Morrow is highly intriguing. His current walk rate (4.03 BB/9) looks poor, but it’s worth noting those numbers went from 5.59 and 5.14 in April and May down to 2.73, 3.52 and 2.51 during the following three months, respectively, which is a huge difference. With a former top-five overall pick pedigree and as someone who was jerked around in the Seattle organization, Morrow’s potential is obvious – he’s averaged 93.6 mph with his fastball this season with a highly effective slider (9.3 wSL). Pitching in the A.L. East is a huge disadvantage, especially when you aren’t on one of the big three teams, but Morrow is someone to target in 2011 fantasy drafts, even if his recent outing brought a bunch of attention to him. I’m beginning to think the Mariners might regret trading him for a reliever.

I’m all for recycling, but beers at baseball games are already one of the most marked up items in society. “The Trop” really does sound like a dump. Get this awesome franchise in a worthy stadium, please.

Cole Hamels has allowed three runs or fewer in all eight starts since July started. He has recorded one win since June 13. He’s only “won” twice since May 21. Hamels has a 3.45 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP, a 9.18 K/9, a 2.84 BB/9 and also a 3.55 xFIP. With a 7-8 record, I’m starting to question whether wins are the best method to evaluate pitchers.

I remain fascinated by Mark Prior, and there are updates about him both here and here.

Wandy Rodriguez entered his June 24 start with a 6.09 ERA. Over his next nine outings since then, he’s recorded a 59:11 K:BB ratio, lowering his ERA to 4.18 in the process. He’s also increased his groundball rate to a career-high 47.0% this season. There’s little doubt he’s now back to being a useful pitcher even in shallow mixed leagues. However, Rodriguez truly should be used only on a start-to-start basis, as his old home/road splits are as drastic as ever in 2010 (3.00 ERA, 1.18 WHIP at home compared to 5.51 ERA, 1.59 WHIP on the road).

This guy’s honesty is off the charts.

I doubt it’s a coincidence Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury have struggled so much since returning to action. Maybe spring training is so long for a reason. Jimmy Rollins may fall into this category as well.

This whole story is so ridiculous but funny nevertheless. Harry Smith seems like a real asshole.

I know Jeff Francoeur was once on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but how can he honestly request a trade at this point? His career OBP is .309!

I’m no MMA expert (and not even close to as big of a fan as this guy), but that was a pretty terrific card Saturday. I could watch Roy “Big Country” Nelson take punches to the face and laugh them off like that all day long. And man, Anderson Silva continues to disappoint – dude got his ass beat and that win was extremely lucky.

Last week the Turner Field organist played “Puff The Magic Dragon” when Tim Lincecum walked to the plate. Pretty funny.

Dan Johnson, who has hit both cleanup and leadoff during his brief stint with the Rays so far, is batting just .143 over his first 21 at-bats with Tampa Bay and may soon lose his job if Carlos Pena can return to action. That said, his dominant Triple-A numbers (30 homers, 95 RBI, 1.053 OPS over just 340 ABs) and crazy good 4:12 K:BB ratio since getting recalled still make him an intriguing option in deeper mixed leagues.

Well, since a bat is involved, I guess this is baseball related – either way, it’s pretty nuts.

During his career, Matt Holliday has hit nine more homers in 507 fewer at-bats during the second half of seasons. He’s also posted a .972 OPS post All-Star break compared to an .899 OPS beforehand. It probably doesn’t mean much, but approaching 1,000 total games, it’s at least worth noting.

I love Joe Posnanski. He’s easily one of my favorite writers. But in this case, he gets pwned by Dave Cameron.

Tim Kawakami from the San Jose Mercury News says he’s “not bragging about this,” which means that’s exactly what he’s doing, when he links to an old article he wrote in 2007 suggesting the Giants should trade Tim Lincecum for Alex Rios. Honestly, this type of thinking isn’t even worth the time criticizing.

Forget Steven Slater, in my mind, the media has been overlooking this new hero.

Jose Tabata, who may be best known for being married to a 44-year-old woman who recently pleaded guilty to faking a pregnancy and stealing a baby to fool Tabata into thinking he was the father, should be getting more pub for his play on the field recently. The 21-year-old has recorded multiple hits in 10 of his past 17 games and is currently hitting .303 with a 30:17 K:BB ratio over his first 221 major league at-bats. If you prorate his performance so far over a full season, Tabata would produce 104 runs scored and 37 steals to go along with the strong batting average. Of course, prorating is often viewed as a silly exercise, but those numbers are impressive considering his age and ML experience, and while he doesn’t project to have much power, his two homers suggest he’s not Juan Pierre either. And 8-10 homers with that type of SB/run potential is more than enough to be a highly valuable fantasy player for years to come, assuming his progression continues.

Last week a neighbor across the street got into a conversation with my wife, which later revealed he was under the impression I was her dad…I’m 28 years old. My wife is older than me. Get fucked, neighbor.

Training Camp Notes

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Rex Ryan refers to Shonn Greene as the team’s “bell cow” – If you haven’t checked out the first episode of this season’s “Hard Knocks,” you need to immediately. A show that’s always been really good is going to be the best yet with this Jets group, highlighted by Ryan, who is quite simply, the best coach in the history of sports (well, at least entertainment wise). LaDainian Tomlinson has reportedly shown signs he’s not yet done this preseason, but it’s good to hear the no nonsense Ryan praise Greene’s blocking ability and basically admit he’s easily the team’s best running back. The fact he doesn’t catch passes hurts, but if Greene stays healthy, he’ll likely be a unanimous top-five fantasy pick in 2011.

Joe Flacco continues to impress – Flacco completed 8-of-12 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown during Baltimore’s preseason opener Thursday. That’s a 66.7 completion percentage and a 10.0 YPA against a Carolina secondary that played very well last season. Newcomer Anquan Boldin, who appears to be getting overdrafted in many fantasy leagues, was held to just one catch for 12 yards, but Flacco spread the ball around and makes for a fine QB1 who can be had in the middle rounds. Meanwhile, Jalen Parmele, who has been getting so much buzz that Willis McGahee has been rumored to be on the trading block, ran for negative seven yards on seven carries and lost a fumble. As far as backups are concerned, McGahee might be getting overlooked late in fantasy drafts. He scored 12 touchdowns while getting 5.0 YPC last season and would immediately become a top-10 (and maybe top-five) fantasy player if Ray Rice suffered a serious injury.

Brett Favre apparently had his surgically repaired ankle rechecked by Dr. James Andrews – I’m as tired of the Favre saga as anyone, but his decision whether to play or not has real fantasy consequences (Sidney Rice’s value may change a good 10-15 spots one way or the other as a result). Again, it would be a pretty major upset if Favre decided not to play this year.

The Patriots’ backfield remains a mess in fantasy leagues
– BenJarvus Green-Ellis started New England’s preseason opener Thursday and ran for 34 yards with a touchdown. His 3.1 YPC left a lot to be desired, but coach Bill Belichick recently complimented him quite a bit, which needs to be noted. Laurence Maroney later entered and promptly scored twice. Problem is, it’s possible Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris both were held out because the Pats consider them the top-two on the depth chart. Even if Taylor enters 2010 as the clear starter, an injury is inevitable at age 34 and with 2,491 career rushing attempts. In fact, he’d easily be the fourth RB I’d draft on the Pats’ roster. Ultimately, it looks like yet another committee and a headache for fantasy owners.

New Podcast

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Check it out here. Or through iTunes. Also, note I posted a new “Barometer” below. Hope to get a new “The Scoop” that’s baseball related up soon too. And I’ll have my NFL rankings posted by the weekend.

NFL Barometer

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

RISERS

Brandon Marshall, WR, MIA – If the Miami beat writers are to be believed, Marshall has looked highly impressive so far during camp. Moreover, he’s now happy after being paid during the offseason, and a change of scenery can only do him some good. There’s always some risk as a receiver changing systems, and the Dolphins figure to be run-heavy, but a developing Chad Henne is likely an upgrade over Kyle Orton, and Marshall remains the only game in town (i.e., there isn’t even an average WR on the rest of Miami’s roster). Marshall is a physical freak, and it should be interesting to see what he can do fully healthy and with his mind right.

C.J. Spiller, RB, BUF – After getting the downgrade last week, Spiller moves up since he ended his brief holdout and signed his rookie contract. In fact, Buffalo immediately placed him with the ones during practice, and it’s clear the coaching staff is high on their prized first round back. Spiller is in an awful situation, playing for a team with a poor offensive line while battling two other running backs for touches, but he’s likely already the most talented player on the Bills’ offense, so he’s going to get touches. He has the type of explosive ability to overcome a bad situation, and he doesn’t necessarily need a big volume to be a useful flex option in fantasy leagues. Most backs around his ADP come with question marks anyway.

Ray Rice, RB, BAL – Rice apparently lived in the weight room during the offseason, and he can now reportedly bench press 405 lbs and squat more than 500. Rice may only be 5-8, but he’s more than 200 lbs and is thick, and the upside here is off the charts. He didn’t receive even 20 carries in a game until Week 8 last season, yet still totaled 2,041 yards. It’s probably unrealistic to expect another 78 receptions, and Willis McGahee’s presence at the goal-line hurts, but Rice’s rushing attempts should increase, and he’s in a terrific situation running behind a strong offensive line with a developing Joe Flacco now with Anquan Boldin as a weapon.

John Carlson, TE, SEA – Carlson was a fantasy disappointment last season, as although he managed seven touchdowns, a modest 84 targets held back his yardage output. Seattle brought in Chris Baker during the offseason, with the hope of taking away blocking responsibility from Carlson, who should be allowed to run more routes in 2010. Matt Hasselbeck has already predicted Carlson will be the team’s MVP this season, so the third-year tight end has impressed so far during training camp. With an unsettled rushing attack and a lack of elite options at receiver, Carlson should be one of the primary targets in Seattle’s offense. He could be a bargain taken late in drafts this year, thanks to a surplus of tight ends around the league.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, PIT – Rookie Jonathan Dwyer has been anything but impressive so far in camp, and it now looks like Mendenhall is once again the favorite for goal-line duties, which is huge news for his fantasy value. Plenty can still change, but that short-yardage work was the main question surrounding Mendenhall, who enters 2010 as Pittsburgh’s feature back. With Ben Roethlisberger (suspension) out at least the first four games of the season, Mendenhall is going to be relied upon heavily.

Clinton Portis, RB, WAS – Portis lacks upside at this stage of his career, but it looks like he’ll enter the season No. 1 on Washington’s depth chart. Before injuries ruined his 2009 campaign, it’s worth noting he averaged 1,678 scrimmage yards and 10 touchdowns in each of the previous two years. He also will be playing with upgrades at quarterback and head coach this season. Still, last year’s concussion issue is a real concern moving forward, and Portis has already accrued 2,176 career rushing attempts. He’s a long shot to remain both healthy and productive in 2010.

Mike Williams, WR, T.B. – Williams has already officially been named the Bucs’ starting split end, and while it’s only an initial depth chart, the designation further illustrates just how impressive the rookie wide receiver has been so far. Off-the-field issues made him a fourth round pick, but few doubt his ability on the field made him deserving of a first round grade, and with no issues so far as a pro, his long-term potential is exciting. Of course, wide receiver is a tough position to learn (although he did play in a pro-style offense in college), and his situation is hardly ideal with a raw quarterback throwing to him in an offense that projects to be below average. Still, Williams is already Tampa Bay’s WR1 and is a great target in dynasty leagues.

FALLERS

Philip Rivers, QB, S.D. – Rivers is probably a top-five player in the NFL, but some signs point to him not being the best target in fantasy leagues this year. The likely holdouts of Vincent Jackson and LT Marcus McNeill are both concerns. Rivers probably made Jackson look good more than vice versa, and Malcom Floyd may be able to step in seamlessly, but the real worry here is a lack of depth. McNeill was just an average to maybe below average left tackle last season, but that doesn’t mean his loss won’t be felt if the alternative is a disaster (fourth-round rookie Tyronne Green is currently playing LT right now in SD). Additionally, the Chargers plan on running more this year, which makes sense considering Ryan Mathews figures to be a major upgrade in the backfield. Again, Rivers is a fantastic quarterback, but it’s tough racking up the production given his usage – his 486 passing attempts ranked 18th among QBs last year; a ranking that would have been even lower if not for injuries to other signal callers. Banking on another 8.8 YPA mark is unreasonable. Playing in an awful AFC West division and facing the NFC West as well, it wouldn’t surprise to see San Diego protecting a bunch of second half leads in 2010 by pounding the football.

Percy Harvin, WR, MIN
– Harvin has the talent to legitimately be one of the 5-10 best wide receivers in the NFL, and it remains a mystery how he somehow fell to pick No. 22 in the draft. But he has a couple of issues to worry about entering 2010. For one, Brett Favre retiring would hurt his value for sure, as the downgrade to Tavaris Jackson would be major. Moreover, he’s recently been suffering from more migraines, which was an issue as a rookie as well. The problem ultimately cost him just one game last year, but it’s apparently a condition doctors can’t correct. He’s without a timetable to return to camp.

Darren McFadden, RB, OAK – McFadden hurt his hamstring Saturday and has been ruled out of Oakland’s first preseason game. Injuries have become a trend with McFadden, who has only averaged 3.9 YPC during his brief career. It would be interesting to see what he could do with 300 touches, especially in an improved offense with Jason Campbell at the helm, but McFadden’s inability to stay on the field is making Michael Bush look like an enticing fantasy option.

Devin Thomas, WR, WAS – It’s possible coach Mike Shanahan is just trying to motivate Thomas listing him third on Washington’s depth chart, but it’s also possible the former second round pick is continuing to disappoint in practice. He only has to beat out Joey Galloway, Roydell Williams and Malcolm Kelly, which shouldn’t be difficult, but Thomas may simply just not be any good. Santana Moss, Chris Cooley and even Fred Davis all look like preferred targets, even if Thomas somehow wins the WR2 job.

Jake Delhomme, QB, CLE – Delhomme is likely to go undrafted in most fantasy leagues, so this isn’t groundbreaking, but his struggles over the past two years in Carolina have apparently followed him to Cleveland, and it appears Seneca Wallace is a real threat to take over as starter. With few options to throw to as well, the Browns’ offense is also something to worry about for prospective Jerome Harrison and/or Montario Hardesty owners.

Lynell Hamilton, RB, N.O.
– Hamilton, who had recently been given praise by New Orleans’ coaching staff, has suffered a season-ending torn ACL. He had a shot at being the Saints’ short-yardage back and possibly even taking over Mike Bell’s role on the team, but not anymore. The news would seem to be good for Pierre Thomas’ fantasy value, but it’s just as likely coach Sean Payton brings in another warm body to take carries away.

Robert Meachem, WR, N.O.
– Thanks to a lingering toe injury, Meachem remains unable to practice with no timetable for his return. The situation can no longer be ignored, as it’s now become a legitimate concern. Meachem sustained the injury last year and decided to undergo surgery in May after he continued to experience pain during the Saints’ offseason program. The operation was considered minor, but he was expected to be back well before now. Keep monitoring this situation, as Devery Henderson very well could be locking down the WR2 spot in New Orleans.

Podcast and more

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Check it out. Yahoo’s Scott Pianowski joins me first to discuss some baseball and then football, while my second guest, who struggles with life’s most simplest tasks like dialing a phone and knowing what day it is, comes on over the final 20 minutes and attacks me Mel Gibson style. I truly worry about his mental state. This can be downloaded on iTunes as well.

Also, I’ve added two new posts below, as the content on RotoScoop is going to increase from here on out. It will be mostly football, but baseball will NOT be ignored.

NFL Barometer

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

RISERS

Wes Welker, WR, NE – Surprisingly, Welker has already been removed from the PUP list and is back with the Patriots after tearing his knee in Week 17 last season. Despite surgery on a torn ACL and MCL, Welker is back in action just seven months later. He’s obviously not without risk, but it sure looks like he’ll be ready to suit up come Week 1. Welker may lose some cutting ability and is never a threat near the goal line, but he somehow racked up 123 catches over essentially 13 games last year – a full season’s pace of 151 receptions. He caught a whopping 80.4% of his targets, which easily led the NFL among receivers with at least 50 catches.

Arian Foster, RB, HOU – Foster currently sits atop Houston’s RB depth chart, and the coaches have been effusive in their praise of him. Rookie Ben Tate missed nearly all OTAs with a hamstring injury, and while Steve Slaton looks fully recovered from last year’s neck injury, it’s clear the team views him mostly as a passing down back, even trying him on kickoff returns in training camp. Foster averaged 4.8 YPC during his brief playing time last season, and he can also be a weapon as a receiver. Tate could be a major threat down the road, as he’s talented, and Houston traded up to select him in the second round of the draft. Slaton is going to get touches as well, so the Texans’ backfield looks like a three-headed committee. However, if Foster truly does maintain the RB1 job, it could prove lucrative in such a high-powered offense.

Malcom Floyd, WR, SD – With Vincent Jackson’s looming holdout becoming more and more likely, Floyd finds himself as San Diego’s new No. 1 wide receiver. His upside is somewhat limited in Norv Turner’s run-first system (after all, even Jackson saw just 105 targets last season, which tied for 24th in the NFL), but even an average receiver should be quite productive with Philip Rivers treating him as his primary option. Floyd is 6-5, 225 with good speed, and he even averaged 17.2 yards-per-catch last year. He’s no sleeper, but if Jackson really does miss 10 games this season, Floyd could easily finish as a top-15 type fantasy WR, and he’s costing a fraction of the price that Jackson is in most leagues.

Michael Turner, RB, ATL – One must differentiate what “best shape of my life” stories actually matter this time of year, but it’s become clear Turner is entering 2010 in far better physical condition than he did in 2009. Even during a disappointing campaign last year, Turner averaged 4.9 YPC and scored 10 touchdowns essentially over nine games before an ankle injury ruined the rest of his season. The injury didn’t occur because of the “370-carry curse,” but he enters this year with much fresher legs as a result, as he received 200 fewer carries last year compared to 2008. Turner supposedly entered training camp in unbelievable shape, and Atlanta has started to utilize him more as a receiver (while this should be taken with a grain of salt, even adding just 15-20 receptions would be huge news for his fantasy value). If Matt Ryan can bounce back and the defense improves like most expect, the Falcons could easily win 10 or 11 games, which is always good for a workhorse back. Turner shouldn’t last after the sixth pick of your draft.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, KC – Like Michael Turner, a bunch of praise is being heaped on Bowe so far during training camp. It holds extra weight, however, considering just how badly he was in coach Todd Haley’s doghouse most of last season. There will always be a knucklehead factor with Bowe – and a dropped passes one, too – but he participated in Larry Fitzgerald’s summer camp, which did wonders for Sidney Rice last season (obviously, Brett Favre’s addition was a major factor as well). Chris Chambers was moderately productive once he joined Kansas City last year, but in a division with the Raiders, Chargers and Broncos (they also play the NFC West) combined with a poor Chiefs’ defense, there should be a lot of shootouts this season, and Bowe should be targeted heavily. The Charlie Weis factor can’t be underestimated either, as for all his faults, he usually produces big passing stats. Bowe should be considered firmly among the top-20 fantasy receivers.

Jabar Gaffney, WR, DEN – Gaffney is nothing special from a talent perspective, and last year’s 732 receiving yards actually marked a career-high over his eight years in the league. With Brandon Marshall suspended in Week 17, Gaffney exploded for 14 catches and 213 yards to end last season. It’s important to note it came against a weak Kansas City secondary, and it’s usually best not to overrate just one game. Still, with Marshall now in Miami, there’s a big opportunity for a Denver receiver to step up, and right now, Gaffney appears to be the team’s No. 1 option. Eddie Royal was highly disappointing last year, and while Demaryius Thomas should eventually emerge as the top target, he’s raw, a rookie and coming off an injury. Coach Josh McDaniels trusts Gaffney back from their days together in New England, and with a defense that struggled mightily down the stretch last season, Denver may be forced to throw more than they’d like to. Gaffney should be the beneficiary.

Matt Moore, QB, CAR – Moore posted a 7.8 YPA mark with an 8:0 TD:INT ratio over the final four games last season. Those games came against a pretty difficult schedule (@NE, MIN, @NYG, N.O.), too. He’s obviously unproven, but this year will mark his fourth in the same system, and over eight career starts, he’s recorded a 97.5 QB rating while getting 7.6 YPA. Steve Smith’s (arm) health will be paramount, but at least rookie Brandon LaFell has impressed so far during camp. Carolina remains a run-heavy offense, but Moore is one of the better QB targets who is typically available quite late.

FALLERS

Sidney Rice, WR, MIN – This is a no-brainer, but if Brett Favre truly retires, Rice’s value would take a major hit. Moreover, his lingering hip injury has become a legitimate concern. Supposedly three hip specialists recommended surgery over the offseason, which Rice declined to have. He’s still experiencing pain from the injury he suffered during last season’s playoff run. If things break right (Favre returns, hip heals), Rice has the upside to finish as a top-three fantasy WR, but there is also a bunch of risk here.

Montario Hardesty, RB, CLE
– Hardesty will be out at least two weeks after suffering a twisted knee earlier this week. It’s not the same knee that gave him problems throughout his college career, but it also highlights just how injury-prone Hardesty is. Missing valuable time in camp as a rookie will hurt, as Jerome Harrison might be able to secure the RB1 role in Hardesty’s absence. In a timeshare on a bad team in a tough division, Cleveland’s running back situation is hardly ideal.

Chad Ochocinco, WR, CIN
– The signing of Terrell Owens helped both the Bengals as well as Carson Palmer’s fantasy value, but it most certainly hurt Ochocinco’s. The team was already hurting his value by using a run-heavy, defensive philosophy. Ochocinco is 32 years old and should definitely see a decrease in targets in 2010, as Antonio Bryant (knee) and Jermaine Gresham enter the mix as well.

C.J. Spiller, RB, BUF – Spiller was already facing an uphill battle for fantasy relevance, playing on a Bills team with a poor offensive line, shaky quarterback and two other capable backs on their roster. His current holdout certainly isn’t helping matters, either. Spiller needs to get signed quickly if he wants to have a legitimate chance of unseating both Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson. More likely, he’ll be used as a change-of-pace option, assuming he eventually does get into camp.

Dez Bryant, WR, DAL – Bryant is expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks with a high ankle sprain, which is a tough blow for a player who looked so exciting. Playing receiver requires a steep learning curve, too, so the missed time is significant. Still, Bryant will continue to learn the playbook and has remained right by his WR coach’s side since the injury, and once back to full speed, should have no problem passing Roy Williams on the depth chart. It may not ultimately happen until the middle of the season, but over the second half, expect big things from the explosive rookie.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, DEN – Moreno is expected to miss three weeks after suffering a slight tear of his hamstring. The injury could have been much worse after initial reactions, and it’s not as big of a deal for a running back who is familiar with the system and has little competition behind him. Still, Moreno has certainly proven to be fragile during his time in the pros, and this latest problem means he should be downgraded a bit.

Owen Daniels, TE, HOU – Daniels recently revealed that he suffered a setback with his surgically repaired knee, and he’s opened camp on the PUP list. While he still expects to be ready for the season opener, it’s disconcerting that Week 1 is the optimistic outlook.