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Percy Harvin Gets His Wish – Fantasy Impact

By: — March 12, 2013 @ 8:57 am
Percy Harvin

Harvin wanted out of Minnesota. He got his wish on Monday.

The day before free agency proved to be an eventful one, with a number of teams making moves in preparation for the frenzy set to come. No move was bigger than Percy Harvin being dealt by the Vikings to the Seahawks for, reportedly, a trio of draft picks including Seattle’s first-round pick (#25 overall) and seventh-round pick in 2013, plus a mid-round pick next season—rumored to be a third-round selection.

Harvin has had a rocky ride during his four years in Minnesota, often at odds with management about playing time, injuries and his contract. He suffered a sprained ankle in Week 9 and was placed on IR in Week 14, never to return to the team despite the Vikings making it to the playoffs and losing to the Packers during the Wild Card round. Even though head coach Leslie Frazier was saying all the right things, by season’s end it was clear Harvin’s days were numbered in Minnesota.

Harvin’s move to Seattle will reunite him with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who was with Minnesota when they drafted Harvin in 2009. This move works on a lot of levels for the Seahawks, giving them a smaller, quicker, multi-talented weapon on offense to pair with the bigger Sidney Rice. Harvin will also add game-breaking ability in the return game. Nobody has had more kick-return touchdowns (5) since 2009 than Harvin.

Fantasy Impact

VikingsChristian Ponder is a QB2 who just lost his best receiver. He’s damaged fantasy goods until further notice.

This move leaves the receiving corps in Minnesota without a leader. With Jerome Simpson testing the free agent market, Jarius Wright and Stephen Burton and their 27 combined catches would be lining up outside if the Vikings were to play today. Expect Minnesota to be active in free agency, pursuing the likes of Greg Jennings, Danny Amendola or even the expensive Victor Cruz, who comes with a hefty first-round pick price tag.

Tight End Kyle Rudolph’s value holds steady but could use the assistance of a proven threat on the outside. If the Vikings choose to address their receiver needs through the draft and fail to get a proven wideout, Rudolph will be a marked man by defenses in 2013.

SeahawksRussell Wilson gets the biggest fantasy boost from this trade. His stock was already on the rise after averaging 31.3 fantasy points over his last five games (including the playoffs). He now has one of the most explosive weapons in the league at his disposal, giving the Seahawks a very balanced offensive attack. Wilson is shaping up as a low-end QB1 in the 8–12 range.

Harvin was my #4 ranked fantasy wideout last preseason and was on his way to living up to the ranking until injury struck in Week 9. The benefits of a familiar voice on staff and a new contract stroking his ego will serve Harvin well, but posting 110 catches and 1,200+ receiving yards will be a challenge. Those numbers he was on pace for prior to injury last season will be difficult to come by in Seattle with a capable Sidney Rice on the outside and Golden Tate a viable third receiving option. I do expect Harvin to lead the team in receiving and give fantasy owners bonus points in the running game, but a low-end WR1 in the 10–15 range is likely his ceiling unless the Seahawks make a conscious effort to open up their offense, which ranked last in pass attempts with 405 last season.

Full Seven-Round Draft Order

By: — March 5, 2013 @ 2:59 pm
Filed under: NFL Draft

2013 NFL Draft We’ve updated the NFL Draft Tracker to include picks for all seven rounds. Compensatory picks (awarded at the bottom of Rounds 3-7) will be announced by the league later this month.

The 49ers have 11 picks currently, plus 3 more compensatory picks expected along with a 2nd-round pick from Kansas City as compensation for the pending Alex Smith trade.  That’s 15 picks in total. Division rival Seattle has 10 picks in the upcoming 2013 Draft.

Chiefs Revive Niners’ QB Pipeline with Trade for Smith

By: — March 1, 2013 @ 6:04 pm

Throughout their history, few teams have shown more disregard to developing quarterbacks through the draft than the Kansas City Chiefs. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, only three quarterbacks drafted by the Chiefs – Mike Livingston (1969-79), Steve Fuller (1979-82) and Todd Blackledge (1983-87) – won a game for the franchise. Put another way, Blackledge – in 1987 – was the last quarterback selected by Kansas City to win a game for the Chiefs.

Alex Smith

Another San Francisco QB is headed to Kansas City.

Over that time, one trend has developed: Kansas City typically has a need for a quarterback and the San Francisco 49ers typically have a signal-caller to spare. Even though the transaction cannot be made official until March 12, the teams essentially wrapped up a deal on Wednesday to send Alex Smith to the Chiefs in exchange for a second-round pick in the upcoming draft (the 34th pick) plus a conditional third-rounder in 2014 that can escalate to an additional second-rounder. Smith is the latest Niner-turned-Chief quarterback on a list that includes Steve DeBerg, Joe Montana, Steve Bono and Elvis Grbac. Shockingly, former San Francisco quarterbacks have accounted for 95 of the franchise’s 404 wins – 34 more than the aforementioned trio of KC-drafted field generals.

But that is enough of the historical significance. New HC Andy Reid and GM John Dorsey had little choice but to pursue the most established veteran quarterback on the market in a year where the incoming rookie class doesn’t appear to possess a single must-have talent at the position. Combined with Reid’s history of developing quarterbacks and the fact he holds Smith in high regard, the Chiefs can make the case their new employee is a battle-tested quarterback that is a proven winner. Furthermore, the overall compensation for Smith wasn’t quite what it was for Matt Schaub or Kevin Kolb – other veteran quarterbacks less accomplished than Smith when they were traded.

Reid stated in his opening press conference the Chiefs needed to find the next Len Dawson, who incidentally was another quarterback the franchise did not draft (selected and traded by the Steelers to the Browns, who later released him). Few Kansas City fans will argue that Matt Cassel needed to go and Smith is an upgrade – even if he has earned a reputation as a “game manager”. (Anyone who watched the Chiefs’ offense last season should be able to appreciate a quarterback who can manage a game.) Whether the “game manager” tag is an appropriate one is a discussion for another day, but what Smith does have for the first time in years is a front office that is invested in him and a coach that has publicly stated that he has long been a Smith fan.

Fantasy Impact
So the question becomes: will fantasy owners join Reid aboard the Smith bandwagon? Just as importantly, how does his arrival affect the fantasy fortunes of players such as Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe (if he returns to the team)?

Smith was in the midst of a career year in 2012 before a Week 9 concussion effectively ended his 49er career and gave birth to the rise of second-year stud Colin Kaepernick. How much of his “late development” stemmed from the fact he worked under seven different offensive coordinators and how much of it was the coaching and confidence he received from HC Jim Harbaugh and OC Greg Roman? It’s a fair question. In fact, I think most people would agree that after seven seasons and 75 NFL starts, we still really don’t know who Alex Smith is or what he could become. If only for that reason, the soon-to-be 29-year-old Smith is about as much of a wild-card as there is entering the 2013 season.

Fortunately, we do know that Reid has admitted on several occasions he can’t help himself when it comes to the passing game. As a result, there is a very good chance Smith will set career highs across the board. Another factor in Smith’s favor is that Reid has consistently received a lot of production from his quarterbacks, even taking a strong-armed option quarterback out of Syracuse in Donovan McNabb and molding him into an efficient West Coast passer. Therefore, I think that while learning yet another system isn’t likely to yield immediate results, most of us can agree Smith is transitioning from one quarterback-friendly offense to another.

In regards to his new supporting cast, it’s hard to believe the biggest beneficiary from the Reid-Smith marriage will not be Charles. While the NFL’s fourth-leading rusher this season is a bit more reliant on speed and a bit less reliant on elusiveness than Brian Westbrook or LeSean McCoy, all of them are accomplished receivers. Given the fact that the 2013 Chiefs would look a lot like Reid’s early teams (without DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin) if Bowe leaves via free agency – and more like the Eagles prior to Maclin’s arrival if Bowe stays – there’s every reason to believe Charles will be a 50-60 catch player either way. Charles’ fantasy outlook was going to be better than in 2012 because of the way Reid utilizes his backs, but a solid Smith can only help his week-to-week consistency.

Bowe makes the most interesting fantasy case. In this whole San Francisco-Philadelphia dynamic, he compares most favorably to Michael Crabtree. When focused and properly motivated, however, Bowe could be the most dominant wide receiver that Smith has thrown to in his career and the second-most dominant one Reid has coached. I can only assume Reid received some kind of assurance from management that Bowe would remain a Chief – be it via a new contract or the franchise tag – before he took the job or else the new coach is open to the idea of seeing his new quarterback start out the same way McNabb did (with the likes of Charles Johnson, Torrance Small, James Thrash and Todd Pinkston serving as the main receivers). Since I doubt the latter is the case, Bowe has a chance to be the first high-volume receiver Reid has coached since Terrell Owens. While that level of production is unlikely, it could happen – Bowe has already flashed that kind of ability.

In closing, the Chiefs either made a savvy move in trading for a “proven” veteran in a year where the rookie quarterback talent pool appears to lack a clear-cut “franchise quarterback” or severely overpaid because need trumped common sense. If Smith’s last two seasons were a sign that he was just a late bloomer that needed someone to believe in him, then Kansas City took a significant step forward with this move. While the price was to acquire was a bit steep in my opinion, I have little doubt that Smith will be at least serviceable in reality and fantasy, pending any improvements the Chiefs make at receiver this offseason. Assuming Bowe returns, Smith should be a viable QB2 in 12-team leagues in 2013 while a happy Bowe could easily return to top 10 WR status.

What We Learned at the Combine – Quarterbacks and Running Backs

By: — @ 10:22 am
Filed under: NFL Draft

NFL Combine Quarterback Geno Smith performed well participating in all the drills, and his 4.59 speed was better than expected. He did enough to maintain his status as the draft’s top quarterback but didn’t overwhelm enough to make the case to be the first pick overall.

Mike Glennon and Tyler Bray displayed the best natural arms among quarterbacks. Bray really impressed with his throwing and may have inserted himself in the discussion to be the second quarterback selected. Teams will weigh his Combine performance against the inconsistency he showed on the field and his immaturity off of it. Glennon showed off his big arm but also his problems with accuracy and mechanics. His performance was as expected, which doesn’t necessarily hurt his stock but seems to push him from consideration as a first-round prospect. Glennon also needs to fill out his Olive Oil frame. The first hit he takes in the NFL may be his last.

His throwing isn’t as natural as the quarterbacks mentioned above, but E.J. Manuel also showed off a strong arm. He’s the most physically impressive also, standing at just under 6’5” with big hands and turning in the expected strong performance across the board in athletic tests, including a 4.65 40 time—second to Smith among quarterbacks. Manuel built off the momentum of a great Senior Bowl with an impressive Combine and, to me, has made the best case to be considered the second quarterback off the board, with potential to become the top quarterback picked if Smith slips in the next two months. His upside is that of a faster Daunte Culpepper with more accuracy on shorter throws.

A growing favorite of many pundits and draftniks heading in to the Combine, quarterback Ryan Nassib, was generating plenty of buzz before hitting Lucas Field. On it, he was solid but unspectacular. He had a few good throws, but his sudden media-generated reputation far exceeded his skills. Slow and shorter than ideal without a great arm, it’s hard to project him as more than a backup or placeholder.

Quarterback Collin Klein didn’t help his NFL future by declining to work out as a tight end. At best he’s a No. 3 quarterback on an NFL roster, but as he isn’t really a developmental prospect to be a future starter, he would be more appealing if he could bring some other things to the table.

Teams will be digging up old tape on running back Knile Davis to learn more about him. The former Arkansas runner broke out as a true sophomore in 2010, garnering All-SEC honors after leading the conference with 1,322 yards in Bobby Petrino’s offense. His collegiate career was derailed after a broken left ankle in a preseason scrimmage cost him the 2011 season. Davis returned a shell of himself in 2012. He couldn’t hold on to the ball, battled hamstring problems, appeared to run tentatively, and lost his starting spot when he struggled to find his place in the offense of new head coach John L. Smith. He had been tumbling down the running back rankings until the Combine. He ran a 4.37 40, the second fastest among running backs, and a ridiculous time for someone at 227 pounds. Davis was solid in the other tests, including 31 reps on the bench, and looked very good in the drills. The explosion and decisiveness he lacked during the season were back. A hard worker who was respected enough to be voted a team captain in 2011 despite not playing, he likely impressed in interviews too, which teams will have to weigh against his injury history. In addition to his hamstring problems last season and the broken left ankle that erased 2011, dating back to high school he has also broken his right ankle twice and his collarbone twice.

Building on the momentum of a strong Shrine Game performance, running back Christine Michael put together a portfolio of the best all-around test results among running backs and looked good in drills. However, he undid some of his work on Lucas Field by reportedly missing a couple of team interviews by oversleeping. As an isolated incident, it might not have been a big deal, but maturity and attitude questions linger after a poor relationship with his head coach last season. Considered one of the top prep runners coming in to college in 2009 (generally third behind Trent Richardson and Bryce Brown), Michael exploded as a true freshman for Texas A&M before injuries impeded his upward trajectory. A broken right leg after eight games in his sophomore season ended a strong encore, and a torn left ACL ended his junior year after nine games. In 2012, he struggled to get on the same page with new head coach Kevin Sumlin. Michael was relegated to a reserve and goal-line back role, while overshadowed by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel. The Combine showed that his talent clearly remains, but at what round does it outweigh attitude and injury concerns?

For a smaller back whose main upside was as a home-run threat, running back Andre Ellington tested poorly, including a disappointing 4.61 40 time. I really like what I’ve seen on the field through his career, but between a hamstring knocking him out of Senior Bowl week and now with this Combine, he is having a rough road to the draft since the season ended. I expect he’ll improve some of his numbers at his Pro Day, but this is very disappointing for a guy who I thought could come out of the Combine locking up a place among the top five running backs.

Running backs Montee Ball was solid, but unspectacular. He didn’t have to demonstrate pass protection, a weakness that could limit him to a two-down role early in his career. I appreciate the kids who decide to stay in school, but from a pure football decision standpoint, it is clear Ball should have come out last year. He put more wear on the tires without helping his draft stock. I had a similar solid, but unspectacular opinion of running back Giovani Bernard, but he appears to have impressed others more. Multiple sources report comparison of Bernard to Ray Rice by NFL scouts and execs. I don’t know if he made the case to pass the injured and absent Eddie Lacy as the top running back in the class, but he appears to have separated himself from Ellington and Ball as the number 2 back in this class.

While the consensus top-rated running backs in this class either ran in place or hurt themselves at the Combine, Johnathan Franklin climbed draft boards. He tested well and looked great in drills. After flying under the radar at UCLA most of his career, despite being a four-year starter, he overcame fumbling problems and put together his best season last year under new head coach Jim Mora Jr., who has heaped effusive praise on Franklin over the last year. Also significantly helping their cases were Le’Veon Bell and Kenjon Barner. The biggest pure running back at 230 pounds, Bell surprised with more speed than expected (a 4.6 40) and by catching the ball extremely well. He flashed more ability than the typical punishing, between-the-tackles runner, thus raising his ceiling. Barner tested well, but he really stood out in the receiving drills, running crisp routes and showing good hands. On the flipside, running back Stepfan Taylor failed to take advantage of the lack of separation by the other top-rated running backs. No one expected him to be a burner, but his 4.76 40 was worse than expected and he lacked explosion in drills.

The best all-purpose back looked like small-school running back Kerwynn Williams, who turned in one of the best all-around performances. The WAC record holder in all-purpose yardage tested well and turned heads in drills.

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