Archive for August, 2011

The Scoop

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

I’ll admit I fully joined the Peyton Hillis as a bust in 2011 chorus earlier this summer, but I’ve since changed my mind. What looked like a throw-in as part of the Brady Quinn trade at the time, Hillis took over Cleveland’s backfield after injuries struck last season, and despite not starting until Week 3, racked up 1,654 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns. He was fantastic in all aspects besides ball security (his eight fumbles were the most in the NFL), but he wore down badly over the year’s second half as his YPC fell from 4.8 to 3.9, likely due to his bruising, physical style. Since his fade came on a modest 270 rushing attempts, it made sense Cleveland talked all offseason about planning on more of a committee attack this year. But Montario Hardesty continues to battle health problems, finally making his preseason debut Thursday (five carries for 15 yards), and Brandon Jackson is out indefinitely with turf toe. Incorporating all aspects of football (running, receiving, blocking, penalties), Pro Football Focus graded Hillis as the second best running back in the NFL last season (Jamaal Charles was No. 1), and remember, even if he sees fewer snaps on a weekly basis, he totaled more than 1,650 yards with a modest 270 rushing attempts during just 13 starts last season, so he wasn’t exactly a huge volume guy, and he’s going to remain a huge part of the passing game in new coach Pat Shurmur’s offense and is a beast at the goal line. Similarly to Brandon Lloyd, Hillis, who was the No. 2 overall fantasy back last season, is getting overly discounted so far at 2011 draft tables.

Here are the results from the recent Yahoo Friends & Family draft. I really like my team but admittedly it’s pretty boom-or-bust.

While I can’t condone assault, especially toward the handicapped, this guy is the man. Seriously, who hasn’t seen someone chasing a neighbor down the street with a chainsaw?

I’m not sure I’ve ever owned Wes Welker in a fantasy league, but I’d like to change that this year. Obviously a PPR monster, Welker averaged 115.3 catches over his first three years after joining New England before racking up 86 receptions while missing a game last season while coming off serious knee surgery. His 2009 campaign needs to be reiterated, as he recorded 123 catches for 1,348 receiving yards over essentially just 13 games (he left the Week 17 contest early in the first quarter)! To put that into perspective, those 123 receptions tied Welker for the second-most in NFL history, and he accomplished that while missing three games. Of course, even during that historic season, he scored only four touchdowns, which has been his biggest fantasy hindrance. He’s never scored more than eight touchdowns in his career, but it’s worth noting only Larry Fitzgerald saw more targets inside the 10-yard line last season, as Welker received 13 looks from in close. There are plenty options for Tom Brady to look for in New England this season, but each tight end will likely alternate big weeks, Randy Moss is gone, and Chad Ochocinco has been slow to pick up the offense, so another year removed from the knee injury, don’t be surprised if Welker has a big 2011. He’s the clear favorite to lead the league in catches.

Man tries to stop car with his feet via Flintstones style. Fails miserably.

This restaurant review is controversial, intriguing and downright bizarre.

Reggie Bush has looked sharp since coming over to Miami and has secured the starting role. He won’t be treated like a true workhorse, but 12-15 carries and 3-6 catches per game aren’t out of the question. Bush has never reached even 600 rushing yards in a season during his career, and it’s hard to see him being more productive on an inferior Dolphins team compared to the Saints, at least on a per play basis. Of course, the expected increase in volume is what has his fantasy needle moving up, and there’s some thought playing on grass could help him stay healthy. Rookie Daniel Thomas has been thoroughly unimpressive so far in the preseason, showing little physicality, which has led to the signing of Larry Johnson, which is about as desperate as it gets. Clearly, Bush enters the year as the Dolphins’ lead back, so he should be treated as a borderline top-25 RB in PPR formats.

The best head first slide in the history of baseball.

Not to be outdone, here’s a triple play after a ball bounces off a center fielder’s head.

I’m in no way a Matt Ryan hater. In fact, according to Advanced NFL Stats, which is a great site, he led the NFL in WPA (win probability added) last season, so he may have even been underrated since he performed so well in clutch situations, but I’m not on board with his hype entering 2011. Ryan is consistently being drafted ahead of Matthew Stafford and Eli Manning. I’ve written about my Stafford love plenty before, but I admit he’s obviously a much bigger risk, but why is Ryan going before Eli? By all accounts, Julio Jones looks like the real deal, but all this talk about Atlanta throwing so much more this season seems misguided considering Ryan attempted the sixth-most pass attempts in the NFL last year. The team is facing without a doubt a harder schedule in 2011, and Ryan’s 6.5 YPA mark last year was highly unimpressive, especially considering he played 10 of his 16 games in a dome. Eli threw for more than 4,000 yards for the second straight year (Ryan set a career-high with 3,705 yards last season) and 31 touchdowns while playing outdoors. Joe Flacco, who is going much later in fantasy drafts and got 7.4 YPA while tossing 25 touchdowns and also upgraded his WR corps during the offseason, looks like the superior real life QB and has about an equal shot of matching Ryan’s 2011 fantasy value.

Best roommate ever? Best roommate ever.

This optical illusion is pretty crazy.

Ben Tate busted loose during his preseason debut Saturday against the Saints, as he ran for 95 yards and a touchdown on just nine carries. After being selected in the second round last year, Tate broke his ankle in his first preseason game and missed the year with the injury. More problematic, he missed a bunch of practices this season with a lingering hamstring injury, so it was not only nice to see him on the field but also performing at a high level as well. Steve Slaton continues to miss time with a hamstring injury of his own and is a candidate to be traded, but Tate still needs to beat out Derrick Ward to become Houston’s RB2. Ward is missing time with a concussion and is 31 years old, so the more talented Tate is the favorite, assuming he can stay healthy. It’s a role that could pay huge dividends should Arian Foster get hurt, as Houston has produced some monstrous numbers from its lead back over the past few years. The Texans might deploy the best run-blocking unit in all of football and have a favorable looking schedule in 2011, and it also helps coach Gary Kubiak likes to feature a single runner. No other player available so late has the chance to be a bigger difference maker in fantasy leagues than Tate.

If you truly caught a Chupacabra, why release it?

I’m a fan of “Explosions In The Sky,” but I could see why this billboard has caused a bit of controversy.

Willis McGahee totaled 39 yards and scored two touchdowns on seven touches during the Broncos’ 24-10 win over the Bills on Saturday. There’s obvious downside here, as McGahee is clearly behind Knowshon Moreno on the RB pecking order, has averaged a pedestrian 4.0 YPC throughout his career, will turn 30 years old this season and plays for a Denver team that doesn’t project to be very good. However, Moreno is an injury risk (and has reached 20 carries during just seven of his 29 career games played) and is hardly an overly talented back himself. Moreover, new coach John Fox likes to implement backfields by committee, and most importantly, it appears McGahee should dominate goal-line work. Now out of Baltimore where he was clearly behind Ray Rice and in a more defensive-oriented division, McGahee is back on the fantasy radar.

This lady took carpooling to the next level.

Not to be outdone, this lady was arrested on charges of DUI not once, but twice in one morning.

Colt McCoy had an awful end to his rookie season last year, recording a 1:6 TD:INT ratio while getting 5.1 YPA over the final two games. However, those outings came against strong defenses (Baltimore and Pittsburgh), and it’s worth noting McCoy had a higher completion percentage (60.8% vs. 60.0%) and a much higher YPA mark (7.1 vs. 6.0) than Sam Bradford, and he didn’t benefit from playing in a dome stadium (and easier division) like the more highly touted rookie. McCoy no doubt has a weaker arm than Bradford and remains an injury risk, but he’s highly accurate and shouldn’t be ignored in dynasty leagues. For what it’s worth, McCoy entered Thursday leading the NFL in passer rating (132.6) during the preseason, and he continues to impress coaches in practice. Cleveland’s receiving corps remains one of the weakest in the league, but at least Greg Little offers some long-term upside, and McCoy offers some rushing ability for a quarterback. He’s a sleeper in 2-QB formats.

Arizona woman hopes to become world’s first infinity-sized model.

Speaking of plus-size, seriously, what’s up with this baby?

What do we make of the Peyton Manning injury situation? The guy has started 208 straight games, and former coach Tony Dungy recently stated on national television the only way Manning won’t play Week 1 is if he’s dead. But Colts management doesn’t believe Manning will be available for the start of the regular season, and as a result, has signed Kerry Collins. If Manning isn’t going to be available Week 1, admittedly not a sure thing at this point, that raises the question of exactly how much time he’ll miss, as clearly he’s at risk for it to be lengthy. Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Tony Romo now all have to be drafted comfortably ahead of him, with the likes of Matt Schaub, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning strong possibilities too. Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon and Joseph Addai all need to be downgraded as well. Chris Johnson’s similar uncertainty means more since he costs a higher draft pick, but at least you can back him up with Javon Ringer, whereas a lengthy Manning absence would affect so many other fantasy options. I’m not saying Manning has clearly been a better quarterback than Tom Brady throughout their careers, but I will argue his Colts teams have been far inferior. Indy could easily go 3-13 if he were to miss the season. He’s that important.

Follow me on Twitter.

The Scoop

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

Hakeem Nicks is something of a risk if drafted as a top-five fantasy receiver since he’s missed five games over the first two years of his career and was banged up in others, but he revealed a ton of potential racking up 79 receptions for 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns over just 13 games during his second year in the league last season. At 6-1, 215, Nicks is physical and willing to go over the middle yet also possesses plenty of speed, evidenced by his 20 catches for 20-plus yards in 2010. Last year’s 8.2 YPT wasn’t anything special, but it’s worth noting Nicks was one of just eight receivers to see more than 25 percent of his team’s targets, according to Pro Football Focus, and that number should only increase with the departure of Steve Smith (Eli Manning relies as much on his X and Z receivers as any quarterback in football). Moreover, Nicks was targeted 12 times inside the 10 last season – the leader was Larry Fitzgerald with 14, and Nicks did that in just 13 games. As a second round pick, there’s no doubt Nicks carries some risk with his questionable durability and lack of a track record, but his per-game stats prorated to 97 catches, 1,295 yards and 14 touchdowns over a full season last year, and it’s safe to expect him to further improve during his third year as a pro. Larry Fitzgerald and Roddy White are safer options, but only Calvin Johnson matches Nicks’ upside from the receiver position.

One of the most sexist ads of all-time.

Deacon Jones, on the other hand, is a staunch backer of equal rights.

I entered summer somewhat down on Felix Jones but have since joined the ever growing hype train (late to the party, I know). His lack of goal-line work (he’s just 1-for-6 there over the past two seasons) remains a concern, but he’s explosive and plays in a potentially extremely high-powered offense, so while he scored just two total touchdowns last year, there’s no reason he can’t reach eight or so in a similar way LeSean McCoy can. While Jones saw his YPC drop from 5.9 in 2009 to 4.3 last season, he improved greatly as a pass catcher, as he racked up 49 receptions for 450 receiving yards after entering with a career total of just 21 and 129, respectively. With Marion Barber out of Dallas, Jones is looking at a career-high workload in 2011, barring injury. He’s never going to be a 325-carry guy, but with his newfound ability as a receiver, all it would take is 250 rushing attempts (say 15-17 carries a game) for him to be a potential major fantasy factor. Coaches have soured on Tashard Choice, and rookie DeMarco Murray continues to battle the injury-prone label, whereas Jones has had a fantastic camp so far. As the lead back in an offense featuring Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, Jones shouldn’t be overlooked in fantasy leagues.

This mockup of sportscasters by “Batting Stance Guy” slayed me. Tim Kurkjian is hilarious.

This is likely the last red card this ref ever considers giving.

What Josh Freeman did last season shouldn’t go unnoticed. Considered raw coming out of Kansas State, he completed 61.4 percent of his passes with a 25:6 TD:INT ratio during just his second year in the league. Thanks to a more difficult schedule and some natural regression after the Bucs were generally considered quite lucky in 2010, most expect Tampa Bay to take a step back this year, and Freeman’s stats may suffer as a result. While there’s little doubt last season’s INT% isn’t sustainable, from a fantasy perspective, things could actually get better. For one, a tougher schedule should result in playing from behind more often, which should lead to more pass attempts, as the Bucs ranked 23rd in that category last season. Moreover, considering Freeman got 7.6 YPA with a 15:1 TD:INT ratio over the second half of last season, it sure seems like he’s improving with more experience, and further growth could be expected in year three. Mike Williams has a ton of talent and should only get better as a sophomore now capable of running more than just a handful of routes, and add in Arrelious Benn along with a healthy Kellen Winslow who had the rare offseason without a knee surgery, and Freeman has more than enough weapons to work with. It would be nice if LeGarrette Blount was a better pass catcher, but his tackle breaking ability will also demand opposing defenses’ attention. Carolina is obviously a plus matchup, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if shootouts ensued versus the Saints and Falcons, so Tampa’s division is also a plus. Finally, only Michael Vick had more rushing yards as a QB than Freeman last year, and at 6-6, 248, it’s safe to call it a fluke he didn’t run for a single score. Freeman is just another reason to wait on quarterbacks in fantasy leagues, as I’d feel comfortable with him as my QB1.

This chimp makes a gorilla look like a chump.

I’m guessing this marriage didn’t end happily.

I’ve been burned by Beanie Wells each of the past two years, yet still find myself willing to give him another chance this season. I’m not some crazy apologist – he’s clearly injury-prone and was downright awful when on the field in 2010. During his rookie season, fumbles could be blamed for his lack of carries. Last year’s excuse was a preseason knee injury that lingered throughout and sapped all his explosiveness. With Tim Hightower jettisoned, this is seemingly Wells’ make-or-break year, as even with second round pick Ryan Williams in tow, Arizona’s coaching staff is apparently going to give Wells every chance to act as the team’s feature back in 2011. When healthy, he has the physical tools to take advantage of it, but at some point, that statement comes off as me saying if I threw 100 mph I’d pitch in the majors or if my uncle had a sex change he’d be my aunt, as Wells needs to actually prove he can remain durable. I’m not the biggest Kevin Kolb fan, but there’s little doubt he’ll be an upgrade at QB (last year Arizona quarterbacks combined for a 50.8 completion percentage with 5.8 YPA and a 10:19 TD:INT ratio), and it’s an inherent advantage playing in the weak NFC West. Fool me once, shame on Wells. Fool me twice, shame on me. Is there a third saying to this?

Asian baller schools and dunks on LeBron James.

Tony Romo’s bachelor party sounds like it got out of control.

Dallas police on the lookout for pantie-headed bandit.

After Vincent Jackson’s impressive, albeit brief, performance on national TV recently, he’s likely shot up draft boards, and rightfully so. VJax has never had 70 receptions, 1,200 receiving yards or double-digit touchdowns in a season during his career, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he passed all those marks in 2011. As a deep threat, he loses some value in PPR formats, but at 6-5, 230 and in a dominant passing attack, there’s no reason he can’t reach a dozen touchdowns, especially with Antonio Gates continuing to battle foot problems and TD machine LaDainian Tomlinson no longer on the roster. Once again playing for a big contract, Jackson will be highly motivated and has the benefit of one of the best quarterbacks in football throwing to him as the team’s clear WR1. After missing the first 14 weeks of last season thanks to a holdout and calf injury, he promptly racked up 112 yards and three touchdowns in his second game, revealing the kind of upside matched only by a handful of other receivers. One year after Jackson got a whopping 11.8 YPT (the highest since the yards-per-target stat was tracked) on a ridiculous 69 percent catch rate, Jackson got 10.3 YPT in his brief action last season, so even a modest increase in looks would make him an easy top-five WR. I’d certainly prefer Jackson over Dwayne Bowe.

55-year-old casino exec releases one of the worst rap videos ever.

While I wish this clip wasn’t so cut up, I dominated this argument (although admittedly, after the fact it sounds like Vince Young is actually battling Mike Kafka to even win the QB2 role).

I’ve never been a big Tim Hightower fan (of course, this probably has everything to do with owning Beanie Wells the past two years), and Pro Football Focus actually graded him as the worst running back in the NFL last season, with his biggest liabilities coming as a pass catcher and blocker, which doesn’t exactly fit his narrative as a great third down back. Regardless, what matters most to fantasy owners is that Mike Shanahan is apparently a big believer, and with the competition dwindling (I like Ryan Torain, but he can’t stay healthy, and while I still consider Roy Helu a nice late round flier, he appears a ways off from contributing), Hightower is seemingly Washington’s feature back, although it’s worth noting his previous fumbling problem has carried over into practices this year. While I admittedly question Hightower’s talent, this is a back who’s one year removed from racking up 63 receptions, got 4.8 YPC last season playing in a bad offense and has totaled 23 rushing touchdowns over the past three years despite never seeing more than 153 carries, so if he truly becomes a lead back in a Shanahan offense, a role that looks increasingly likely, he’s going to make an impact in fantasy leagues.

Follow me on Twitter.

The Scoop

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

Matt Kemp and Jacoby Ellsbury are two outfielders having terrific seasons who barring injury or complete collapses will be top-10 fantasy picks next season, but Curtis Granderson might be having a better year than them both. Granderson is well behind in batting average, but his counting stats are ridiculous. In fact, he’s on pace to finish the season with 44 homers, 147 runs scored, 128 RBI and 31 steals. That’s right, 147 runs scored. As in, the second most since Ted Williams in 1949 (Jeff Bagwell scored 152 runs in 2000). After struggling mightily against left-handers throughout his career, Granderson has actually fared better versus southpaws (.944 OPS) than righties (.921), and while he no doubt benefits from the new Yankee Stadium, he’s also hit better on the road than at home (.941 OPS v. 916). He’d absolutely be among the top MVP candidates if not for his subpar defense, but Granderson’s fantasy owners have little to complain about. Considering his ADP, he’s easily been the single most valuable fantasy asset.

This spectator took his involvement in an arena league game to the next level.

Not only is “Poop, sing and learn” catchy, but it’s also highly informative.

Those who invested in the Braves’ closing situation and drafted both Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters have so far gotten a combined 1.51 ERA and 0.97 WHIP with 40 saves and nine wins with 163 strikeouts over 125.1 innings. Put differently, the most valuable closer in modern day baseball, especially those in innings cap leagues. After getting worked hard as a rookie last season, Venters has been used even more heavily in 2010, as his 64 appearances easily lead the majors (Kimbrel’s 59 are tied for second most), and he’s on pace to throw 93.0 innings. Whether it’s the workloads catching up or plain old regression, neither’s current level of performance should be expected moving forward, but they have been extremely impressive to date and appear to give Atlanta one of the league’s best back ends to a bullpen for years to come. Since June ended, they’ve combined for 33.0 shutout innings. After Neftali Feliz set a rookie record with 40 saves last season, Kimbrel is on pace to finish with 50 this year.

Woman addicted to eating her husband’s dead ashes.

Man acquitted of friend’s murder confesses to police, walks free.

Despite somewhat underwhelming numbers (.830 OPS) as a 24-year-old in Triple-A this season, the fantasy crowd had been clamoring for Desmond Jennings’ call up for quite some time, and he’s not only exceeded expectations but surpassed them so far. Jennings has a .328/.423/.582 line with three homers and eight stolen bases over his first 17 games with the Rays this year. Fantasy owners might be shrewd to actually shop him around in a trade right now, but those who were patient holding him all season will reap the rewards from here on out regardless. There’s a benefit to Tampa Bay holding back its prospects not only for arbitration reasons, but in making sure they are absolutely ready, immediate production at the major league level is more likely.

This hilarious new ABC comedy looks can’t miss.

Ahh, now that makes more sense.

What has gotten into Ervin Santana? Over his last four starts, he’s allowed just three runs over 34.0 innings (0.79 ERA) while posting a 0.68 WHIP and a 25:5 K:BB ratio. He hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a start since June 10 and has served up just one home run over his past seven starts. Santana’s velocity hasn’t returned to what it was during his dominant 2008 season, but his slider remains one of the most effective pitches in all of baseball. In fact, Fangraphs ranks it as 18.3 runs above average, with only Clayton Kershaw’s slider coming in higher (21.8). I still expect Texas to win the A.L. West, but even with a shaky offense, an Angels team with Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Santana at the front of their rotation wouldn’t be an easy out in a short series in the postseason.

This parallel parker set a Guinness Book of World Records.

This “UFO guy” is the man.

Coming off a disappointing season last year, Justin Upton looks to be fully reaching his massive potential. It’s possible the shoulder injury greatly contributed to his down year in 2009 after posting an .899 OPS as a 21-year-old, but either way, it’s great to see continued growth. Upton has a .309/.353/.702 line since the All-Star break, and if you factor in defense, he’s suddenly looking like a legitimate MVP candidate, especially in an N.L. field that’s wide open. Maybe he was never a real threat to be dealt, but it’s crazy to think the Diamondbacks put him on the trade block this past winter. Since Upton is yet to turn 24 years old, is capable of stealing 25-plus bases and has Chase Field on his side, don’t be surprised if he’s a top-15 fantasy pick next season.

Deep fried butter on a stick.

French bread now available in vending machines.

Don’t look now, but Jarrod Saltalamacchia quietly has a .257/.323/.477 line this season. He still strikes out too much, but an .800 OPS as a catcher in today’s offensive environment is far more than sufficient. It’s a good thing the Red Sox stuck with the former top prospect, as after entering May 15 with a .203/.250/.266 line and zero homers, Salty has clubbed 11 home runs and raised his OPS nearly 300 points over the next 162 at-bats. A switch-hitter in an absolutely loaded Boston lineup with Fenway Park as his home digs, Saltalamacchia is in fine position to make an impact down the stretch. Still just 26 years old, there’s legitimate power here from a position consistently lacking it. He’s even thrown out 24.7 percent of potential base stealers, which ranks seventh-best in baseball. Salty looks like a long-term solution behind the plate for Boston.

Last week I was at an otherwise boring Giants game that quickly became much more exciting when the benches cleared. I wouldn’t exactly call it a “brawl,” and admittedly it certainly didn’t get as out of control as this brouhaha, but it was pretty unexpected to see in person.

An informative read on why S&P’s ratings are substandard and porous.

It’s nice that a recent MRI revealed no structural damage, but it’s a safe bet Tommy Hanson’s shoulder is hurting him. Over his last five starts, he’s allowed 24 runs over 26.2 innings, raising his season ERA from 2.44 all the way up to 3.60. His K rate has remained strong over that stretch, but his velocity has been down, albeit only slightly. After striking out just 5.5 batters per nine innings over the final two months of last season, Hanson’s current 9.83 K/9 ratio ranks third in baseball, although it’s worth noting his 1.18 HR/9 mark is the highest among the top-28 pitchers with the best strikeout rates. In fact, among those top-28 on the K/9 leaderboard, just four others have a HR/9 ratio 1.0 or higher. That’s because pitchers with more strikeouts have lower HR/FB rates and induce weaker contact. Maybe it’s a bad stretch of luck, but most concerning is the true health of Hanson’s shoulder, as his current condition is bringing many fantasy teams, including mine in Yahoo Friends & Family, down with him.

Follow me on Twitter.

The Scoop

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

I keep preaching patience with quarterbacks, but I do admit Michael Vick offers more fantasy upside at the position than ever before and wouldn’t fault someone for taking the plunge. If you prorate the 11 games he started and didn’t leave early with an injury last year over a full season, you get this: 4,319 passing yards, 31 passing touchdowns, 959 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. In standard scoring formats, that’s equivalent to throwing for 6,237 yards with 51 passing touchdowns, making Tom Brady’s 2007 campaign look tame in comparison. Vick is still in the prime of his career, playing for a new contract and finally has his head on straight, willing to put in the work necessary to reach his potential. He also has a terrific Andy Reid scheme with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin at his disposal, which almost seems unfair. Of course, there’s very real injury concerns with him, as I’d probably set the over/under on games played somewhere around 13. While last season’s pace may not be sustainable, Vick is also now more comfortable in Philly’s system (his YPA jumped from 7.6 to 8.5 from his first six starts compared to his final six last year), and he also gets to toy with the NFC West in 2011. Again, I personally shy away from quarterbacks early in fantasy drafts, but there’s an argument to be made Vick should be the first player off the board this year.

Although not (yet) incarcerated, I too suffer from the same affliction.

I pathetically can’t even use chopsticks at Asian cuisine. This boss is using them to pickpocket.

A revenge plot so intricate, the prosecutors were pawns.

Maurice Jones-Drew is one of the tougher players to evaluate entering 2011 because of his unclear health status. He totaled 1,641 yards over 14 games last season while playing through a knee injury the entire time. While his touchdown total dropped to seven, he averaged 13.5 TDs over the previous four seasons, and since three of those came in a timeshare, it’s a safe bet to expect his scoring to rebound in 2011. But if the rumored “bone-on-bone” condition exists like a game of tummy sticks, then MJD is an awfully risky pick, one that will certainly cost a first rounder. Still, it’s not like others who will go at a similar time like Darren McFadden, Frank Gore and Michael Turner don’t also come with question marks. And while Rashad Jennings’ emergence could cause concern of a committee, Jones-Drew was on pace to finish with a career-high 342 carries last year, so Jacksonville relied on him more than ever. The presence of Jennings could actually be a positive, as there’s now a clear cut handcuff to back MJD up with, meaning you’d likely maintain 85 percent of the production should he go down. While the offense may take a step back should the team turn over QB duties to rookie Blaine Gabbert, Pro Football Focus graded the Jaguars as the fourth-best run-blocking unit in the NFL last season, so it’s an underrated offensive line. I wouldn’t fault anyone if they shied away because of the knee issue, and I imagine I ranked him higher than most in the magazine, but don’t forget Jones-Drew was a unanimous top-three fantasy pick last season and is still just 26 years old with a modest career workload.

This mayor has decided to punish those who park their cars illegally with a tank. I especially like how he swept up the glass afterward.

Seriously, what’s up with this guy? The slowest walker ever.

This footage of Kevin Durant’s first visit to Rucker Park (where he dropped 66 points) is pretty sick.

Last week I spoke of the debate between Ray Rice vs. LeSean McCoy after the “big four” were off the board, and since then, the former officially lost Willis McGahee as a goal-line vulture and added FB Vonta Leach, while the latter welcomed Ronnie Brown as a teammate. Brown’s addition to Philadelphia shouldn’t affect McCoy’s value much, but Rice’s should receive a nice boost with the other news. After eclipsing 2,000 total yards during his second season in the league, Rice was something of a disappointment to fantasy owners last year, as he finished with 119 fewer rushing yards despite seeing 53 more carries. Still, he totaled 1,776 yards with 63 catches, so he was hardly a bust. Dealing with a knee injury and an offensive line that went from a strength in 2009 to a weakness in 2010, Rice forced just five missed tackles on 307 rushing attempts, which was the lowest ratio in the NFL. Still, he enters 2011 back to full health and could even grab the goal-line carries with McGahee gone. While the addition of Leach might not have as big of an impact as some media are making of it, the move certainly doesn’t hurt, neither does a schedule that faces the NFC West this season. There’s also a chance Joe Flacco takes “the leap” this year into stardom, which would result in more scoring opportunities. Rice shouldn’t make it past the middle of the first round of fantasy drafts.

Pretty touching (that’s right, I said touching) story about someone who inexplicably suffered paralysis during his teenage years only to miraculously recover later.

Brendan Ryan with an infield triple.

An interesting idea to combat our nation’s debt crisis.

Brandon Lloyd is looking more and more like a bargain. I don’t blame people for being skeptical. After all, Lloyd had never even reached 750 receiving yards during his eight-year career before finishing as the No. 1 fantasy wideout last season. He also moves from having pass-happy Josh McDaniels as head coach to run-first John Fox. There is certainly a possibility he’s a one-hit wonder who’s a major bust in 2011. But Lloyd’s current ADP is 42, so I’ll sign up for grabbing someone who had 1,448 receiving yards with 11 touchdowns last season in the fourth round. It’s unlikely Lloyd pulls a Jose Bautista or Jered Weaver (two who dropped in fantasy baseball drafts as most questioned the extent of their regression, when in reality they have actually only gotten better), but at some point, let’s not outthink ourselves where credit is due. Lloyd flashed plenty of potential back in his days with San Francisco, and he remains Denver’s clear No. 1 target. While he actually performed just as well (slightly better even) with Tim Tebow at quarterback, most agree the move to Tebow in a full-time role would also cause a hit to Lloyd’s value, but it now seems as though Kyle Orton will enter the year as the Broncos’ starter. And for all the talk of Fox wanting to go run-heavy, Denver’s defense looks terrible, so they may be forced to play catch up quite a bit in 2011, and Fox has produced some monster seasons from his WR1 in the past (even the year Steve Smith went down with an injury, Muhsin Muhammad then proceeded to catch 93 balls for 1,405 yards and 16 touchdowns). I hope the Lloyd skepticism remains in my drafts.

This news crew deplorably distorted a quote just a bit.

Messy burglar smears house, even dog with peanut butter and jelly.

Looks delicious.

What do we make of Ryan Mathews? Not only am I confident owners who were burnt by him last year will stay away in 2011, I’m also pretty sure most are still violently angry at those who recommended him (this includes me). In a Norv Turner offense led by Philip Rivers (and in a soft AFC West division), there are few better situations to be in as a lead back. In fact, entering last season, San Diego was coming off a year in which they produced 28 goal-line carries – the most since 2004, which was also the Chargers. While Mathews flashed at times during his rookie campaign, he was never 100 percent after suffering a high-ankle sprain in Week 2, and he fumbled five times over just 158 rushing attempts while going 0-for-5 at the goal line. Moreover, Mathews is already dealing with a toe injury this preseason, and he even failed a recent conditioning test. While the latter is probably nothing to worry about, as he’s seemingly a good character guy, it’s entirely possible his body simply can’t hold up at the NFL level. While plenty of rookie running backs have enjoyed big seasons right out of the gate, the unknown makes them inherently riskier, and Mathews is similarly again a gamble entering his second year as a pro. With Darren Sproles’ departure, there’s a big opportunity to rack up receptions in San Diego this year, and while Mike Tolbert enters the favorite to play on passing downs thanks to his superior blocking, Mathews should improve in that area as a sophomore, and he certainly has the physical tools to excel more than Tolbert as a receiver. The Chargers used the No. 12 pick to draft Mathews, so the team still envisions him as their franchise back, and while it remains to be seen if he can take advantage of the opportunity and stay healthy, at least Tolbert is there as insurance for Mathews owners (go ahead and reach a round or two early for Tolbert, to be safe). While playing hurt, Mathews forced 19 missed tackles last year despite playing 291 snaps (which ranked 50th among running backs) – the same amount as LeSean McCoy and more than Frank Gore, Ray Rice and Shonn Greene, so talent exists. Combine that with his situation, and top-five upside remains.

This Russian brawl (near a dolphin pool) is no joke.

Stan Van Gundy has handles.

This kid survived quite a cumbersome injury.

Matthew Stafford has a 54.5 career completion percentage accompanied by a 5.9 YPA and has been the most injury-prone quarterback in football since entering the league, yet I still consider him the QB to target in fantasy drafts this year. Not only does he benefit from the single biggest freak in the NFL in Calvin Johnson out wide, but Brandon Pettigrew at tight end and Jahvid Best out of the backfield are two other major weapons to work with, not to mention rookie Titus Young as a deep threat. Continuity within Detroit’s coaching staff also helps, and while the defense should improve thanks to a potentially dominant line, the secondary remains shaky, and either way, should result in favorable time of possession if opposing teams can’t run the ball. And it wouldn’t be a stretch to envision shootouts with all their division rivals. This is almost certainly like using UZR/150 in baseball (meaning worthless), but Pro Football Focus gave Stafford a grade of 7.9 over his three games last year (in which two came against the Bears and Jets), which would prorate to 126.4 over a full season. To put that into perspective, their highest grade of any QB last year came in at 61.3. Possessing one of the strongest arms in the NFL with potential to improve greatly still just 23 years old (Andy Dalton is older) with the league’s most dangerous wide receiver at his disposal and an offensive coordinator in Scott Linehan who called the third-most pass plays in all of football last season, only health can prevent Stafford from being a top-10 fantasy QB this year, and his upside is actually quite a bit higher.

Follow me on Twitter.