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QB Blake Bortles Draft Profile

By: — April 9, 2014 @ 9:06 am
Filed under: NFL Draft

As we begin the countdown to the NFL Draft starting on May 8, I will spend anywhere from 4-8 hours to break down the strengths and weaknesses of at least the top 20 or so offensive skill-position prospects available in this draft.

Blake Bortles

Bortles’ boom-bust meter isn’t as volatile as Manziel’s.

College: Central Florida
Height/Weight: 6’5”/232
Hands: 9 1/4”

Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.93
Vertical Jump: 32 1/2”
Broad Jump: 9’ 7”
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.21

Background (College Stats)
Unlike Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel, Bortles was not a highly sought-after quarterback recruit coming out of high school. In fact, only four colleges had interest in him and two of them wanted to convert him into a tight end. After redshirting his first year, Bortles began to prove the Knights right for leaving him at his natural position when he earned Conference USA All-Freshman Team honors while appearing in 10 games in 2011. As a sophomore, he started all 14 games and finished behind Bridgewater as a second-team all-conference pick after throwing for 3,059 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Still, the Oviedo (Fla.) native remained a relative unknown until Central Florida’s fourth-quarter rally fell three points short against SEC power South Carolina in September 2013. However, Bortles and his Knights got the big-time win they desired a few weeks later when they overcame a 21-point third-quarter deficit against one of the top defenses in the country (Louisville) on national television. He then capped off the Knights’ finest season in school history by leading Central Florida to a 52-42 victory against heavily-favored Baylor in the school’s first-ever BCS bowl game, throwing for 301 yards and three touchdowns while adding 93 yards on the ground and another score in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

NFL Player Comp(s): A young Ben Roethlisberger


  • Prototypical size with very good athleticism; has the ability to rip off a 20-30 yard run and/or extend plays.
  • Does not possess rocket-launcher arm strength, but does not struggle to make all the necessary throws.
  • Adept as a passer rolling to the left or right, will square his shoulders on the run to ensure an accurate throw.
  • Shows a good feel for pressure, keeps his eyes downfield and moves well inside the pocket.
  • Throws with anticipation on the deep ball and displays the ability to “throw his receiver open”.
  • Mental strength, ability to rally the troops and competitive drive show up repeatedly; has a short memory and bounces back well after a mistake.


  • Decision-making (especially on deep throws) can be questioned and ball security was an issue in final season (eight fumbles).
  • Doesn’t always do a great job of locating the safety on downfield throws.
  • Tends to get lazy with his footwork and will throw off-balance on occasion inside the pocket.
  • Inconsistent mechanics really show up when he is required to make an intermediate-to-deep throw against the blitz.
  • Runs hot-and-cold in terms of his willingness to “look down the gun barrel” and doesn’t always react well when pressure comes up the middle.
  • Touch passes are a work in progress.

Bottom Line
On one hand, Bortles looks the part as much as any of the top draft-eligible quarterback (along with LSU’s Zach Mettenberger and perhaps Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas). On the other hand, the 2013 AAC Offensive Player of the Year sported a 9:7 TD-to-INT ratio against South Carolina, Louisville, South Florida and Baylor – the four top 40 pass defenses on the Knights’ 2013 schedule – and a 16:2 mark against every other opponent. In those four “difficult” matchups, it should be noted that a great deal of Bortles’ statistical success came as a result of what his receivers and running backs did after the catch. It is hard to deny that Bortles has all the physical gifts necessary to be an upper-echelon NFL quarterback, but his decision-making and ball-security issues are legitimate concerns. While his ceiling is arguably higher than any other quarterback in this draft, he isn’t nearly as ready for rookie-year success as Bridgewater, so the team that selects will almost certainly need to protect him with a good rushing attack since the likelihood is high he will begin the season as a starter. Bortles’ boom-bust meter isn’t nearly as volatile as Manziel’s nor does he possess the polish Bridgewater, but his physical skill set easily surpasses that of his other two aforementioned counterparts. Short of an Andrew Luck-type quarterback who enters the league with prototypical size, athletic ability AND a refined skill set, NFL teams will almost always value a signal-caller that has Bortles’ size and athletic ability along with the potential to develop the skill set over a player with a refined skill set that may lack his size and athletic ability. It’s not hard to see how Bortles could one day be a top 10 NFL quarterback when he’s on his game, but there’s also more than enough film of him to suggest that consistency may be a problem for him as well.

QB Teddy Bridgewater Draft Profile

By: — April 7, 2014 @ 10:40 am
Filed under: NFL Draft

As we begin the countdown to the NFL Draft starting on May 8, I will spend anywhere from 4-8 hours to break down the strengths and weaknesses of at least the top 20 or so offensive skill-position prospects available in this draft.

Teddy Bridgewater

Teddy Bridgewater: The safest QB pick in the draft.

College: Louisville
Height/Weight: 6’2”/214
Hands: 9 1/4”

Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.67
Vertical Jump: 30”
Broad Jump: 9’5”
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.20

Background (College Stats)
Bridgewater, who originally committed to Miami (Fla.) before landing at Louisville, entered college as the second-rated quarterback prospect in the nation by The Miami native – the first freshman quarterback to start at the school since Stu Stram in 1976 – went on to be named Big East Rookie of the Year in 2011 despite a 14:12 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He proved to be a quick study in Cardinals OC Shawn Watson’s offense as he compiled a 58:12 TD-INT ratio over the final two years of his college career. Bridgewater was already generating a fair amount of buzz near the end of the 2012 season before leading Louisville to a surprising 33-23 victory in the Sugar Bowl over a Florida team that saw five of its defenders get drafted last April, including two in the first round. Bridgewater toyed with the American Athletic Conference in his final season and finished off his college career with a virtuoso 447-yard, four-touchdown (three passing, one rushing) performance against his hometown team in the Russell Athletic Bowl, wrapping up a season in which he completed 71 percent of his passes in a pro-style offense and threw for 3,970 yards, 31 touchdowns and only four interceptions.

NFL Player Comp(s): A poor man’s Aaron Rodgers


  • Shows fearlessness against the blitz, does not get rattled after taking a jarring shot from a defender and keep his eyes downfield.
  • Uses eyes/feet to manipulate safeties as well as any college quarterback in the last two draft classes.
  • Makes quick/sound decisions and is rarely ever caught off-guard; ball is almost always gone a split-second after he completes his drop.
  • Was trusted to make his own checks/audibles at the line of scrimmage (as opposed to the majority of college quarterbacks nowadays that look to the sideline after defense has set).
  • Very accurate; short and intermediate throws are often extended handoffs.
  • Exceptional touch on fades as well as throws on the move (left or right).
  • Moves well inside the pocket and has a good feel for backside pressure.
  • Play exudes confidence in his ability; knows the difference between fitting and forcing a throw into a tight window.


  • Long-ball accuracy (only completed 39% of throws that traveled 20-plus yards).
  • Slightly above-average arm strength is exposed on deep throws as ball can get hung up in the air.
  • Lean build did not necessarily lead to wrist/ankle injuries at college level, but could be a problem in the NFL.
  • Less-than-ideal release point (ball often comes out near his ear as opposed to over the shoulder), leading to a few more tipped passes.
  • Can run well enough to pick up the first down, but is not a breakaway threat as a runner.
  • Doesn’t always protect himself outside the pocket, opening him up for big hits on outside throws or in an effort to pick up yards on the ground.

Bottom Line
It’s rare that a prospect comes along that has virtually little-to-no “bust potential”, especially at the quarterback position, but Bridgewater may very well be that player in this class. Let’s be clear: he is not an elite prospect so much as he is a player capable of being an above-average quarterback for the next decade. While his ceiling isn’t as high as some of his other highly-ranked counterparts (Johnny Manziel has more athleticism and Blake Bortles is an unfinished product with prototypical size for the position), playing quarterback in the NFL is much more of a mentally-taxing job than it is a physically-taxing one in a lot of cases. Bridgewater is the rare combination of a college player that can outthink a defense and has enough ability to do something about it. Watson believes quarterbacks are better served by learning defensive theory first and his playbook second. When watching Bridgewater play, it is hard to argue against Watson’s methodology given how often his pupil simply appeared as if he was always a step or two ahead of opposing defenses. Critics have been quick to point out Bridgewater’s lack of accuracy as a deep-ball thrower, but Louisville’s offensive philosophy is based on short-to-long reads whereas most NFL teams work in a deep-to-short manner. As a result, Bridgewater’s deep throws can sometimes be his second or third read in the progression, meaning he has less time and more pressure to make those kind of throws than most quarterbacks. While he is not the complete package like Andrew Luck or the athlete that Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill or Russell Wilson are, few quarterback prospects in recent memory are more prepared to play in the NFL from the neck up than Bridgewater.

WR Mike Evans Draft Profile

By: — April 3, 2014 @ 10:04 am
Filed under: NFL Draft

As we begin the countdown to the NFL Draft starting on May 8, I will spend anywhere from 4-8 hours to break down the strengths and weaknesses of at least the top 20 or so offensive skill-position prospects available in this draft.

Mike Evans

Mike Evans: Vincent Jackson’s frame and Brandon Marshall’s game.

College: Texas A&M
Height/Weight: 6’5”/232
Hands: 9 1/2”

Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.53
Vertical Jump: 37”
Broad Jump: N/A
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.26
3-Cone: 7.08

Background (College Stats)
Evans was a bit more of a basketball phenom in his high-school days, only playing football in his senior year. However, he proved to be a quick study in the Aggies’ spread attack in 2012 after taking a redshirt year, leading Texas A&M with 82 receptions for 1,105 yards (both school freshman records) and five touchdowns. Evans’ catch numbers dropped in 2013, but spiked almost everywhere else, posting a 69-1,394-12 line (breaking former teammate Ryan Swope’s single-season record for receiving yardage) in an offense that saw four receivers record at least 51 catches. Although the first-team All-SEC receiver tore apart Alabama for 279 yards earlier in the year, his finest game came against national champion runner-up Auburn, which he burned for 11 receptions, a school-record 287 yards and four touchdowns. Those games allowed Evans to become the first player in school history to register two 200-yard receiving games in his career. Unfortunately, the Biletnikoff Award finalist ended his college career on a bit of a mixed note. Evans picked up two 15-yard penalties in the first quarter of the Aggies’ thrilling comeback win in the Chick-fil-A Bowl after getting on officials for a lack of a pass interference call in the end zone against Duke CB (and fellow 2014 draft classmate) Ross Cockrell. The second infraction likely was a carryover from the first no-call (as well as continued physical play from Cockrell), suggesting the mean streak Evans uses to his advantage so often can also manifest itself in a negative way as well.

NFL Player Comp(s): Vincent Jackson’s frame and Brandon Marshall’s game


  • Highly physical receiver that uses his size and strength well; challenges defenders to tackle him but displays enough elusiveness in the open field to make the first man miss.
  • Large catch radius given his size and wingspan, shows exceptional hands on 50/50 balls and is perhaps the best combination red-zone/deep threat in this draft.
  • Master at the fade-stop and displays great body control as well as an innate ability to time “high-point” throws.
  • Stacks the defender well on deep throws and can catch over either shoulder.
  • Is not the best run-after-catch threat in his class, but has a good stiff-arm and more than enough power to run through or drag tacklers.
  • Gives consistent effort on pass plays whether or not he is the target and is also a willing run blocker who can flatten his defender on occasion.
  • Was often the target for QB Johnny Manziel when plays broke down, making himself an inviting option by using “scramble-drill” techniques and boxing out the defender when necessary.


  • Could face a long learning curve in learning a NFL offense since Texas A&M did not use a pro-style offense; most of his production came on jump balls, screens, fade-stops or go routes.
  • Rides a fine line between pushing off defender while ball is in the air and creating separation with his size; earned a reputation among SEC coaches that he grabbed cornerbacks during a route to get an extra “boost”.
  • Final college game displayed a bit of an uneven temperament and that a defender (or referee) can rattle him.
  • Allows the ball get into his body a bit too often, mostly on short and intermediate throws.
  • Ends up near the sideline too often before he can make a play on the ball, thereby making a difficult downfield throw even more so for his quarterback.
  • A bit of long-strider and a bit slow coming out of breaks (common for a receiver of his size), which may lend itself to a lot of contested catches in the NFL.

Bottom Line
Some bigger receivers act as if they have been told not to be overly physical because they have always been bigger than all the other kids; Evans has no such problem and actually plays with a bit of mean streak. He should make an immediate impact as a red-zone threat given the pro game’s love for the fade pattern in the scoring area as well as the deep passing game with his size and leaping ability. That’s the good news. The glass-half-empty view would suggest that his college offense may have stunted his growth as a student of the game because so much of the Aggies’ attack was based on Manziel’s ability to create something out of nothing. It’s hardly a fatal flaw, however, since just about any position coach would prefer having a receiver with Evans’ measurables and competitive drive (and teach him how to be a pro receiver) as opposed to taking on a refined route-runner without his unique qualities. Evans is going to be an instant starter in the NFL for the simple fact he is a matchup nightmare all over the field. It is scary to think Evans is a relatively raw 20-year-old who didn’t begin playing football until his senior year of high school. Clemson’s Sammy Watkins may be the better draft prospect in the short term, but no one should be surprised if Evans ends up being every bit as good – if not better – than his esteemed draft classmate once he becomes a more polished receiver.

WR Sammy Watkins Draft Profile

By: — April 1, 2014 @ 6:43 pm
Filed under: NFL Draft

As we begin the countdown to the NFL Draft starting on May 8, I will spend anywhere from 4-8 hours to break down the strengths and weaknesses of at least the top 20 or so offensive skill-position prospects available in this draft.

Sammy Watkins

Watkins leads a pack of talented receivers in the 2014 draft class.

College: Clemson
Height/Weight: 6’1”/211
Hands: 9 1/2”

Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.43
Vertical Jump: 34”
Broad Jump: 10’ 6”
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.34
3-Cone: 6.95

Background (College Stats)
A five-star recruit out of Fort Myers, Fla., Watkins had already broken 11 school freshman records seven games into his college career, including the all-purpose yardage mark previously held by C.J. Spiller. He finished the 2011 season with 82 catches for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns, numbers that helped him become only the fourth true freshman to be named an AP first-team All-American, joining Herschel Walker, Marshall Faulk and Adrian Peterson in that select group. In 2012, Watkins was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance and simple possession of marijuana – two misdemeanors that were later expunged from his record after he completed pre-trial intervention. Nevertheless, he still served a two-game suspension to open the season as a result. With defenses keying on him following his return, Watkins took a backseat to teammate DeAndre Hopkins (an eventual first-round pick of the Houston Texans) with 57 receptions for 708 yards and three TDs. It proved to be the only significant bump in the road for Watkins, however, as he posted a 101-1,464-12 line in his final season with the Tigers, including an Orange Bowl-record 16 receptions and 227 receiving yards in a 40-35 win over Ohio State. Perhaps the most telling statistic from that game: he gained 202 yards after the catch.

NFL Player Comp(s): Andre Johnson


  • Fearless hands-catcher with elite run-after-catch ability.
  • Explosive playmaker in the open field that rarely gets tackled by the first defender.
  • Possesses the initial burst to quickly eliminate cushion, the speed to run by a defender and the power to run him over.
  • Shows exceptional field awareness and has a good sense of when to come back to help out his quarterback.
  • Is able to track the ball well on over-the-shoulder catches and wins the majority of high-point battles with defenders on jump balls.
  • Natural separation skills are enhanced by his ability to change his tempo and manipulate stems.


  • May struggle as a route-runner initially since Clemson did not employ a pro-style offense and used him primarily as an extension of the running game (on screens and quick hitters) or as a deep threat.
  • Cornerbacks rarely lined up within five yards of line of scrimmage against him, making his ability to consistently defeat physical coverage a bit of an unknown.
  • Charged with a couple of drug-related misdemeanors in 2012 and served a two-game suspension as a result; minor durability concerns.
  • Solid overall build, but average height for a receiver in today’s NFL.
  • Ball security (two fumbles in 2013 and lost four of seven throughout his three-year career).

Bottom Line
Although it doesn’t sound like a big deal, receivers that can actually be called “hands-catchers” are in short supply and those that can create offense with the ball in his hands the way Watkins does are truly a rare breed. Most running backs – much less receivers – don’t read their blocks or make the first defender miss as well as he does, which adds yet another set of unique skills to a prospect that is the clear top option in a draft year in which the receiver position is as loaded as it has been in recent memory. Much like many of the other high-profile receivers to enter the draft since the spread offense took over college football, Watkins may face a bit of a speed bump on his path to superstardom because the Tigers’ offense is based more on tempo and getting players in space and less on systematically breaking down a defense. However, NFL play-callers have gotten better about allowing their new players to do what they do best initially while spoon-feeding them the rest of the offense, so an instant impact cannot be ruled out. Even without factoring his potential impact as a kick and/or punt returner, Watkins will be a very good player in the NFL right away assuming his new team does everything it can to get him out into space. The first-team All-ACC selection isn’t quite the prospect that A.J. Green or Julio Jones was a few years ago, but there are parts of his game that are every bit as good – if not better – than Green or Jones when they declared for the draft (such as his run-after-catch ability).

Sunday Highlights – Week 11: Bucs show value

By: — November 18, 2013 @ 10:15 am
Filed under: Player Analysis

Note: Fantasy highlights are from the early Sunday games.

Poor weather was the theme of the day in several NFL cities in Week 11, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that a player named Bobby Rainey – on his third team of the season after getting cut by the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns – poured it on in the Tampa Bay Buccaners’ blowout win over the Atlanta Falcons.

Rainey – the fourth Bucs’ running back to see significant work in a game this season after Doug Martin and Mike James suffered season-ending injuries – shredded the Falcons for 167 total yards and three touchdowns.

As Rainey dominated the ground on a clear day in Tampa, WR Vincent Jackson ruled the air with 10 catches for 165 yards and a touchdown against the hapless Atlanta defense. In two games against the Falcons this season, Jackson has 20 receptions for 303 yards and three scores. In his other eight games combined, he has 36 catches for 524 yards and two scores.

The box score will suggest that Atlanta QB Matt Ryan (254 yards and two touchdowns) and WR Harry Douglas (six receptions for 134 yards and a score) had their way against the Bucs, but most of that production came after Tampa Bay was leading by 32 points late in the third quarter. WR Roddy White (three catches for 36 yards) even found the end zone for the first time this season in garbage time – something the Falcons and fantasy owners of players like Ryan, Douglas and White should get used to down the stretch.

Elsewhere in Week 11:

Antonio Brown

Antonio Brown was the beneficiary of Big Ben’s big day.

— While Bucs-Falcons lacked any hint of drama over the last 2 ½ quarters, the Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers lit up Heinz Field with offensive fireworks in less-than-ideal conditions. Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown (seven catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns) enjoyed most of his success in the first quarter and QB Ben Roethlisberger (367 yards and four scores) sealed the deal with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes. Meanwhile, Detroit QB Matthew Stafford (362 yards and two touchdowns) and WR Calvin Johnson (six receptions for 179 yards and two TDs) did virtually all their damage during a 27-point second-quarter explosion.

— Arizona Cardinals QB Carson Palmer toyed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, throwing for 419 yards and two touchdowns. WR Larry Fitzgerald (six catches for 61 yards and a TD) and TE Rob Housler (six receptions for 71 yards) each pleased their fantasy owners, but Michael Floyd (six catches for a career-high 193 yards) stole the show with a 91-yard touchdown catch that broke the game open.

— Several fantasy defenses had a field day in the early wave of games, particularly the Cincinnati Bengals in one of the contests that was affected greatly by heavy rain. Over a 1:54 stretch of a franchise-record 31-point second quarter in their victory over the Browns, Tony Dye returned a blocked punt for a touchdown and Vontaze Burfict recovered a fumble for another score. All told, the Bengals forced four turnovers and tallied four sacks.

— QB Nick Foles (298 yards passing) had a great matchup on tap this week against the Washington Redskins, but wasn’t really needed as the Philadelphia Eagles held a 24-0 lead midway through the third quarter. Foles saved his day with 47 yards and a touchdown on the ground, but Philadelphia leaned more heavily on RB LeSean McCoy (77 yards rushing, 73 yards receiving and two total touchdowns).

— Backup quarterbacks were all the rage in Houston, where it was anticipated the Texans’ Case Keenum would continue his unlikely rise from third-string signal-caller. Instead, Keenum (170 yards and a touchdown) was benched for Matt Schaub in the fourth quarter and watched fellow undrafted free agent QB Matt McGloin (197 yards and three scores) of the Oakland Raiders tear apart Houston’s top-ranked pass defense. WR Rod Streater (six catches, 84 yards and a TD) was his favorite target, although both players got plenty of help from RB Rashad Jennings, who rushed for a career-high 150 yards and a touchdown.

Fantasy Highlights: Redskins break out

By: — November 3, 2013 @ 10:21 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis

Note: Fantasy highlights are from the early games only.

For the second time in three weeks, Washington, D.C. was front and center for a plethora of fantasy points and more frustration for Alfred Morris owners. It’s not as if the second-year back had a poor day with a season-high 121 rushing yards and a touchdown, but FB Darrel Young played the vulture role that backup RB Roy Helu Jr. enjoyed in Week 7 with three short scores against the soft interior of the San Diego Chargers defense.

Washington WR Pierre Garcon (seven receptions for 172 yards) has caught at least five passes in every game this season, but his yardage and touchdown totals have disappointed for most of the season. While Garcon was kept out of the end zone for the fourth straight game, he made up for it with a career-high yardage total. Redskins rookie TE Jordan Reed (four catches for 37 yards; 18 yards rushing) saw his a recent string of quality fantasy performances snapped after a quick start in Week 9, but his status as an every-week starter remains unchanged.

Chargers WR Keenan Allen (eight receptions, 128 yards and a touchdown) continued to prove why he should remain a fixture in fantasy lineups for the rest of the season. Over his last four contests, the third-round selection out of California posted at least 100 yards receiving and a touchdown three times. San Diego QB Philip Rivers (341 yards passing, two touchdowns and two interceptions) had a rare inefficient performance, but most owners will be happy to put up with such numbers in an “off-game” from one of the top five quarterbacks in fantasy this season.

Other Week 9 fantasy highlights:

  • New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham (nine catches, 116 yards and two touchdowns) continues his contract-year push and assault on the NFL record books despite playing through a partially torn plantar fascia in a loss to the New York Jets. The former college basketball player is one touchdown short of his career high for a season (11) through eight games and easily on pace to break Rob Gronkowski‘s single-season record of 17 with the New England Patriots in 2011.
  • Two of the bigger disappointments at running back over the first half of the season began the process of making amends to their fantasy owners in Week 9. Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson (170 total yards and two scores) broke the century mark for the first time this season and scored his first two rushing touchdowns as well against the St. Louis Rams. Buffalo Bills RB C.J. Spiller (155 total yards) has been dogged by a high-ankle sprain for most of the season and was still clearly affected by it against the Kansas City Chiefs, but still broke loose for runs of 29 and 61 yards.
  • There was a time earlier in the week when Rams RB Zac Stacy appeared unlikely to play and backup Daryl Richardson had a shot to be relevant in fantasy. By the time Sunday rolled around, the roles reversed and Stacy erased what little doubt remained about his feature-back status with 27 carries for 127 yards and two touchdowns against the Titans. The fifth-round rookie entered the contest with only seven receptions, but caught six passes in one of the finer fantasy performances by a running back during the early wave of games.
  • The Minnesota Vikings may not know who their starting quarterback is from week to week, but the focal point of the offense doesn’t figure to change anytime soon. RB Adrian Peterson (177 total yards and a rushing TD) nearly matched his rushing totals from the last three weeks combined with 140 yards against the Dallas Cowboys. In the same game, Dallas TE Jason Witten (eight catches, 102 yards and a touchdown) proved why owners cannot bench QB Tony Romo‘s main target no matter how long he comes up a bit short in the box score. Witten had an inconsistent first half last season as well, only to set a league record for receptions by a tight end with 110.
  • Quite often in fantasy, being opportunistic in a given week is just as important as being good. Such was the case for the Chiefs, who were outgained 470-210 against the Bills. Kansas City made up for its shortcomings with defense as CB Sean Smith intercepted Buffalo rookie QB Jeff Tuel at the goal line in the third quarter and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown. LB Tamba Hali scooped up a fourth-quarter fumble from Bills WR T.J. Graham and added a second defensive score from 11 yards out.

Fantasy Highlights: Calvin Johnson dominates

By: — October 28, 2013 @ 9:04 am
Filed under: Player Analysis
Calvin Johnson

Megatron has 200+ yards receiving in five games during his career.

Over a three-week stretch from late September to early October, Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson totaled seven catches for 69 yards and a touchdown as he battled a knee injury that forced him to miss a game. Life has gotten exponentially better for the Lions and his fantasy owners since. “Megatron” proved to be more machine than man in Week 8, setting career highs with 14 catches for 329 yards and a score in a thrilling comeback win against the Dallas Cowboys.

In addition to posting his fifth career 200-yard game – tying Hall-of-Famer Lance Alworth for the most in NFL history – Johnson’s yardage total fell just seven yards short of Willie “Flipper” Anderson’s all-time record. By comparison, Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (three receptions, 72 yards and two touchdowns) – who created a stir earlier in the week when he compared himself favorably with Johnson – created as much chaos on the sidelines with his teammates as he did on the field, but delivered the goods in fantasy just as he has most of the season.

Detroit piled up 623 yards of total offense, so QB Matthew Stafford (season-high 488 yards and a TD) and RB Reggie Bush (122 total yards and a score) came through for fantasy owners in a game that featured only 20 points through three quarters, but turned into a shootout thanks to a 41-point fourth quarter.

Other Week 8 fantasy highlights:

— Were it not for Johnson threatening a NFL record, New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees (332 yards and five touchdowns) would have stolen the show in fantasy. Rookie WR Kenny Stills (three catches, 129 yards and two touchdowns) and TE Jimmy Graham (three receptions, 37 yards and two TDs) did plenty of damage with their limited opportunities. Graham’s effort was particularly impressive after the team revealed he has a partially torn plantar fascia late this week.

— The San Francisco 49ers figured to have their way with the winless Jacksonville Jaguars in London and did not disappoint. QB Colin Kaepernick (164 yards passing, 54 yards rushing and three total touchdowns) baffled the Jaguars with zone-read runs for the second straight week while Frank Gore (71 rushing yards and two TDs) scored twice on the ground as well. TE Vernon Davis (three receptions, 52 yards and a touchdown) got in on the action before San Francisco took the air out of the ball in the second half.

— For at least one week, it didn’t matter that Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon (five catches, 132 yards and a score) and TE Jordan Cameron (four receptions for 81 yards) were working with their third different quarterback in Jason Campbell, who kept his team close for most of the day with 293 yards and two touchdown passes in a loss against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. It was easily the best performance a Cleveland quarterback has enjoyed since Brian Hoyer was lost for the season, so perhaps not all is lost with Campbell after all.

— In the same game, WR Dexter McCluster (seven receptions, 67 yards and touchdown) posted his second straight strong effort – especially in PPR leagues. McCluster will always struggle to see a full complement of snaps due to his slight build, but his ability to get open in the short-passing game should continue to be an asset in a Chiefs’ offense that rarely takes a shot downfield.

— The New England Patriots trailed 17-3 at halftime, mustered only 252 yards of total offense for the game and still managed to win rather handily despite 116 yards passing from QB Tom Brady. Rookie WR Aaron Dobson (four catches, 60 yards and a TD) was the only Patriot receiver to enjoy much of a day as TE Rob Gronkowski (two receptions for 27 yards) and WR Danny Amendola (three catches for 15 yards) were held in check. RB Stevan Ridley (79 yards and a score) continued his resurgence and has found the end zone four times over his last three games.

— New York Giants K Josh Brown entered the weekend with seven field goals on the season. However, thanks to the continued red-zone struggles from his offense, he accounted for all of his team’s scoring with five field goals against the listless Philadelphia Eagles to carry the day for the few fantasy owners that started him.

Fantasy Highlights: Griffin rounding back into form

By: — October 21, 2013 @ 9:53 am
Filed under: Player Analysis
Robert Griffin III

RGIII is back to his running ways.

The United States government brought a close to its shutdown this week and the Washington Redskins ended their own unproductive stretch in the nation’s capital when they outlasted the Chicago Bears in what was a fantasy-point bonanza. Washington QB Robert Griffin III, who began to show his rookie form last week, put together the kind of performance that became the norm last season with 298 yards passing, 84 yards rushing and two scores. Griffin may not be all the way back until next year, but he will continue to be an every-week start in all leagues.

Bears RB Matt Forte (109 total yards and career-high three rushing touchdowns) had four carries for nine yards and a TD at halftime, but continued his push to the top of the fantasy football mountain at his position. With Chicago playing the last two-plus quarters without QB Jay Cutler (groin), Forte almost singlehandedly carried the offense – becoming the first Bear since Rashaan Salaam in 1995 to run for three touchdowns in the same game.

Redskins rookie TE Jordan Reed (nine receptions, 134 yards and a score), who was already beginning to emerge as a low-end TE1 option in PPR leagues as a player with the ability to create mismatches in the same way Aaron Hernandez did in New England, has likely ascended into an every-week fantasy starter – regardless of format. Washington RB Roy Helu Jr. (48 total yards and three rushing TDs) overshadowed starter Alfred Morris (95 rushing yards) and may have forced his way into more playing time as a result.

Other Week 7 fantasy highlights:

— The story of the week was supposed to be how TE Rob Gronkowski‘s return was going to spark the New England Patriots’ offense and, more specifically, QB Tom Brady‘s return to fantasy prominence. Gronkowski (eight catches, 114 yards) came on with some big plays late and rewarded his owners after a six-week layoff, but Brady (228 yards and an interception) was held without a touchdown for the second time in three games in a loss to the New York Jets

— The Atlanta Falcons might have been without their top two receivers, but that didn’t keep two other wideouts from putting up Roddy White and Julio Jones-like numbers in the Georgia Dome. Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson (10 catches, 138 yards and two touchdowns) scored two times for the second straight week while Falcons WR Harry Douglas burned the Bucs for seven receptions, 149 yards and a touchdown. While the effort doesn’t mean Douglas is an every-week starter, owners can feel better about using him going forward.

— It may be time to start giving Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton (372 yards and three touchdowns) a little bit of credit after his second straight 300-yard, three-TD performance. In addition to going toe-to-toe with Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford (357 yards and three scores) in fantasy box scores, Dalton helped silence his critics with an 82-yard scoring strike to WR A.J. Green (six catches, 155 yards and a score). Lions WR Calvin Johnson announced his return to fantasy prominence as well after dealing with a recent knee injury, grabbing nine balls for 155 yards and two touchdowns.

— Two running backs who may have become fantasy afterthoughts – the San Diego Chargers’ Ryan Mathews (110 rushing yards and a touchdown) and the Jets’ Chris Ivory (104 rushing yards) took advantage of soft matchups in wins over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Patriots, respectively. Both backs are long on talent and short on durability, giving their owners a nice week-long window with which to trade the injury-prone players for upgrades at other positions.

— In addition to Cutler, owners will need to keep an eye out for a handful of prominent injured fantasy players over the next week. Bucs RB Doug Martin was forced from the game after suffering a shoulder injury, Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles left with a concussion and St. Louis Rams QB Sam Bradford did not return after a left leg injury. While Rams backup QB Kellen Clemens can be left on waivers, owners may need to consider Bucs RB Mike James or Eagles rookie QB Matt Barkley (assuming Michael Vick is still sidelined by his hamstring next week).

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