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Comparing High-Stakes Fantasy Football Contest Options

By: — August 31, 2010 @ 10:13 am
Filed under: Leagues & Contests

A few things have changed in the high-stakes industry in recent years. First, there is more competition. It used to be that high-stakes fantasy football meant the World Championship of Fantasy Football (WCFF). The first ever WCFF event was held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in 2002.

Given the early success of WCFF, a number of other companies opened up shop (and have since closed in some cases), trying to earn their piece of the then-growing high-stakes fantasy football pie. From the increased competition came more options not only between contest providers, but also in terms of different contest options from the same operator. This is the second big change.

Now there are some moderate-stakes contest options in the neighborhood of $300 instead of the typical main event fees north of $1,200. For those of us on a budget—or with a wife who happens to be an accountant (who’s with me?) —a few hundred dollars is easier to justify.

I’m sure some veteran high-stakes players may take issue with me lumping the $300 entry fee contests under the high-stakes umbrella, but I’m going to do it anyway. The contests I’m looking at are structured as traditional fantasy football leagues and have a five- or six-figure grand prize, which fits the definition of high-stakes for me. Plus, a blog series on high-stakes fantasy football just sounds better than one on moderate-stakes.

The third big change in recent years is, of course, due to technology. There are now online options for drafting in many of these contests. Yes, they still have the big city venues, too, which are great fun but require a bigger budget and more time commitment to participate in. At this point, an online draft is a better fit for me.

Now I just need to figure out which contest or contests I am going to join. I currently have four options I’m looking at. There are a lot of things to consider, including the cost and prize payouts, how the game is structured, whether the draft dates and times fit my schedule, the professionalism and customer service of the contest provider, and the security of the prize pool.

That list is not in any particular order, and by no means is it meant to be exhaustive. Some items are going to be more important to some people than others, of course. Some points, if they aren’t sufficiently met, will completely eliminate a contest from consideration. For example, if a contest does not appear to be professionally run, and you have concerns about the security of the prize pool, then the rest of the stuff really does not matter.

Do not take the security of the prize pool for granted just because a contest has a fancy website. While I have no firsthand knowledge, there have been reports of a few contests in recent years failing to fully pay out to their prize winners. Can you imagine the once-in-a-lifetime experience of winning the grand prize in a big fantasy football contest, only to find out later you won’t be receiving the grand prize because the contest organizers spent the money and went out of business? I can only imagine, but I imagine that feeling would be downright awful.

I’m not trying to scare people off from legitimate businesses in this industry, but just be aware there is a history of problems with some contests. Do your due diligence as best you can, which isn’t always easy, and realize nothing is guaranteed. If you are willing to take the risk playing in these contests, fine. If you are too risk averse, recognize that up front, and take a pass.

As an aside, one source of research you should use to help investigate the history of a contest you are considering is the newly founded Fantasy Players Association, initiated by high-stakes player Scott Atkins. Check the blog and message board, or post a question, to try to get some answers before putting your hard-earned money at risk in a shady contest.

In terms of my decision, I’m going to give just a high-level overview of different options I’m considering, and the particular points about each that stick out and differentiate them from each other. The four options I’m looking at are:

  1. Footballguys Players Championship
  2. National Fantasy Football Championship Online Championship
  3. RosterDoc RotoBowl Tournament
  4. World Championship of Fantasy Football Super Satellite

Note that these are specific contests I’ve narrowed down to include in my search. Each of the above companies has alternative high-stakes offerings, including live drafts, so if the ones I’m outlining aren’t quite what you are looking for, check what else is available from each company.

Here is a comparison chart I put together for the four options listed above.

 High-Stakes Comparison
  Footballguys PC NFFC Online Championship WCFF Super Satellite RotoBowl
Entry Fee $350 $350 $350 $259
Contest Structure 12-team
  Weeks 1-11 regular season; Weeks 12-13 head-to-head league playoff Weeks 1-13 regular season Weeks 1-11 regular season; Week 12 league championship game Weeks 1-11 regular season; Weeks 12-14 league playoffs
  Weeks 14-16 total points championship and consolation round Weeks 14-16 total points championship and consolation round Weeks 13-16 head-to-head championship bracket playoffs and consolation bracket Weeks 15-16 total points championship and consolation round
  Regular season team with best head-to-head record and team with highest points scored advance to the championship round, along with league playoff champ if different than the first two teams Regular season team with best head-to head record and team with highest points scored advance to the championship round,
along with wild-card teams that ranked in the top 10%
overall but didn’t otherwise qualify
League champion plus top four scoring league championship game–losing teams advance to the championship bracket playoffs Top three teams in the league playoffs plus regular season
team with best head-to-head record, if not otherwise qualified, advance to the championship round
Unique League
Point-per-reception (PPR) scoring at 1 PPR for RB/WR and 1.5 PPR for TE Point-per-reception
(PPR) scoring at 1 PPR for WR/TE and 0.5 PPR for RB
(PPR) scoring at 1 PPR for RB/WR/TE
(PPR) scoring at 1 PPR for RB/WR/TE
  Starting lineup: 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE plus dual-flex RB/WR/TE All-play format for Weeks 1 and 2, whereby the top six scoring teams each week earn a win, and the bottom six scoring teams each week earn a loss   Starting lineup: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE plus dual-flex RB/WR/TE
    3rd Round Reversal (3RR) draft order   Double-header
regular season schedule
    Kentucky Derby Style (KDS) draft preference system    
League Management
RTSports Fanball RTSports RTSports
Prize Payouts $1,600 1st place
$350 2nd place league
$1,400 1st place
$700 2nd place
$150 3rd place league
$2,000 1st place
$350 2nd place league
$900 1st place
$300 2nd place
$100 3rd place league
$100 credit 4th place
  $50,000 1st place grand prize at 50 leagues (600 teams) $50,000 1st place grand prize $10,000 1st place grand prize $20,000
plus two tickets to “the Big Game” (a.k.a. Super Bowl) 1st place grand prize
  Smaller cash prizes for finishing top 10 championship round, consolation round, regular season overall, and toilet bowl Smaller cash prizes for finishing top 10 championship round
and consolation round
Smaller cash prizes for finishing top 3 championship bracket;
free entry in future Super Satellite league for finishing top 4 consolation bracket
Smaller cash prizes for finishing top 8 championship round
  Prize pool increases above 600 teams, mainly the championship round If the contest increases from 600 to 720 teams, the prize pool increases at the same payout rate League payout: 56.0%; overall payout: 90.4% at 144 teams or less* League payout: 41.8%; overall payout: 78.6% at estimated 360 teams*
  League payout: 46.4%; overall payout: 84.1% at 600 teams or less, 79.0% at 900 teams* League payout: 53.6%; overall payout: 90.5% at 600 teams or less    
Additional Points The prize pool is kept in an attorney escrow account, providing assurance of the security of the prize fund.      

* The above league payout percentages are estimated calculations. They exclude discounts for multiple contest entry purchases and future subscriptions, free entries, and credits where no cash alternative is provided.

So now I am left with the decision of how to allocate my funds. Every contest has different things I really like and some things I’m not as keen on. It isn’t an easy decision, and unfortunately (or fortunately, to make my decision easier), a lot of it will probably come down to the draft dates and times that best fit my schedule.

At this point I’m going to take some time to consider these options and check the available draft schedule for each contest. Next time I’ll make my decision on which league or leagues I’m going to sign up for.

High-Stakes Fantasy Football Contests, Here I Come

By: — August 25, 2010 @ 2:19 pm
Filed under: Leagues & Contests

I’ve decided to throw my hat into the high-stakes fantasy football arena this season, after taking a pass on it for a number of years.

I competed in the high-stakes contest that started it all, the World Championship of Fantasy Football (WCFF), back in its inaugural year in 2002, and again in 2003. I won my league in the 2003 event. It was a great time, travelling to Las Vegas and soaking up the experience of drafting in a huge ballroom with more than 600 fantasy football nuts.

However, while I loved the experience, I found that at that time of year, after running the gauntlet of tech support for the Cheatsheet Compiler and other updates to help keep FFToday humming along, I was pretty much in burnout mode by the time I had to board the flight to Vegas. I really wasn’t in the best frame of mind to draft a championship fantasy football team in the most expensive league I would participate in. The entry fee was in the neighbourhood of $1,400, and that excluded travel, hotel, food, and drink. After some back-of-the-napkin cost-benefit analysis, I decided to take a pass in 2004 and have done so since.

It sure hasn’t left me short of leagues to compete in over the years, as I participate in numerous showcase leagues against guys from different websites. These are usually just for bragging rights, and they are drafted earlier in August. Plus I play in at least a couple local leagues with just a moderate buy-in.

While all of these leagues are fun and exciting in their own way, there isn’t that big carrot at the end—the big payoff, the five- or six-figure grand prize that, sure, you’re going to need things to seriously break right to pull down but, hey, you’ve got a chance.

So it’s about this time of year that I always get the itch to take my shot at fantasy football immortality. (Is that a little too melodramatic?) I did try to scratch that itch by playing in RotoBowl in 2007—the online option instead of the live draft option in Atlantic City. RotoBowl, now part of, was sponsored by FHM Magazine at the time. With the FHM connection, it had an impressive draft afterparty. However, the main reasons I picked RotoBowl were its online draft, lower-cost entry fee, and how well it worked with my schedule.

Sadly, I came within striking distance of the grand prize, holding down 2nd place overall heading into the championship bracket before Brandon Marshall, not a member of Team MacGregor, was force fed the ball over three games. That was too much to overcome, and the top team remained in that spot while a handful of others leapfrogged me in the final standings.

If I remember correctly, upon researching the top finishing teams that season, I found that in many cases the rosters could not even be assembled in my league draft. For example the top six players on other teams all went in the first five rounds of my draft.

That soured me a bit at the time on the whole concept of these contests. In fantasy football, not only are you already dealing with your everyday run-of-the-mill fantasy luck factors, like head-to-head scheduling, and fluky injuries to key players, among numerous other issues. Now, if you want a chance at the grand prize, you need to deal with the luck of the draw of who you’re drafting against in your own league. It didn’t seem fair.

However, I’ve now come to the conclusion that this is just another factor to accept while playing in these contests. Like I said at the top, a lot of things are going to have to break right to pull down that grand prize. Consider the strength of the competition in your own league as one of those things. You don’t have any control over it. It’s just something you have to deal with. If you’re going to play in a contest like this and it is true fantasy football—with a traditional draft against other players rather than a salary cap game—there is really no way around that.

Well, I can tell you at this point, the itch to play high-stakes fantasy football is still with me. I’m ready to give it a go again in 2010. Next time I’ll review some of the options I’m looking at, and make my decision on what league (or leagues) I’m going to play in.

Here I am taking my first step towards fantasy football immortality…or at least a series of blog posts about my high-stakes fantasy exploits for you to follow along this season.

Immortality would be nice though.

Fantasy Impact: Westbrook Heading West

By: — August 17, 2010 @ 9:44 am

With their options at running back dwindling and the market for running backs heating up, the 49ers moved quickly to solidify the position, signing former Eagle Brian Westbrook.

The signing comes as a surprise as the 49ers had not had Westbrook in for a visit and he was reportedly mulling offers from division rival St. Louis, Denver and Washington over the past several weeks.

The Redskins were considered the front-runners given Westbrook’s relationship with quarterback Donovan McNabb and the team’s concerns over their group of aging running backs. St. Louis was also rumoured to have strong interest but Westbrook’s desire to play for a contending team ruled out the Rams.

With top backup Glen Coffee unexpectedly retiring, rookie sixth-round pick Anthony Dixon looking overwhelmed and the team not sold on former quarterback Michael Robinson at the position, the 49ers were forced to make a decision on Westbrook quickly. Credit their management with being proactive in acquiring a player of Westbrook’s pedigree on short notice.

Reports indicate the contract is for one year and will pay Westbrook $1.25-million and includes incentives equal to that amount.

The 30-year old Westbrook is coming off a season in which he suffered two concussions, causing him to miss eight games. He finished the season with 274 rushing yards and 181 receiving yards to go along with two touchdowns – easily his lowest production since his rookie season.

During his eight years in the league, the former Villanova product has amassed 5,992 rushing yards, 3,790 receiving yards and 66 touchdowns.

Although Westbrook has hit the dreaded 30-year-old mark for running backs (he will be 31 on opening day), he was productive when in the lineup in 2009, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. However, given his age and injury issues, he is clearly viewed as a backup capable of assuming a change of pace, receiving role and filling in as a starter.

Fantasy Impact

Westbrook is an intriguing player for fantasy purposes, given his history of production and ability to produce in a limited capacity as a receiving threat out of the backfield. The 49ers have surrounded quarterback Alex Smith with excellent young talent at the skill positions and along the offensive line which should allow Westbrook to put up reasonable production provided he can stay healthy.

The knock on Westbrook has been that he is injury prone, however, a closer look reveals that not to be the case. In his first seven years in the league, he played in 99 of 112 regular season games. Clearly, the concussion issue is a significant one but Westbrook is definitely worth taking a flier on in fantasy leagues and should be considered an essential handcuff for Frank Gore owners.

As for Gore, Westbrook is no threat to take his starting position. Clearly Westbrook is a more proven player than Dixon and his presence will likely cause Gore to lose some playing time but nothing that should concern his fantasy owners. Gore’s fantasy ranking should not drop as a result of team acquiring Westbrook.

When a veteran with a solid resume lands with a new team, the biggest fantasy loser is usually a player who is likely to lose playing time or even a roster spot. However, Dixon wasn’t expected to contribute in 2010 anyway and likely wouldn’t have received any significant playing time, barring a Gore injury.

Instead, Westbrook’s signing in San Francisco makes the Rams the biggest loser from a fantasy perspective. Once again, St. Louis figures to enter the season without a quality option backing up their best player, Steven Jackson. The fact Westbrook signed with a hated division rival only adds to the disappointment.

Facts and Advice You Can Take to the Bank

By: — August 13, 2010 @ 8:29 am

As drafts and auctions are ramping up for leagues across North America, fantasy football fanatics are being inundated with information on how to pick their teams.

Some of it is useful, some of it is not. Some of it is boring, some of it is not.

This article has two of those four features. I leave it to you to decide which two they are.

1. Aaron Rodgers had 304 yards and five touchdowns rushing last year and the 60 fantasy points that provided is the reason why he was fantasy football’s top ranked quarterback.

2. There is no reason to suggest why he won’t accomplish both feats again in 2010.

He's good.

3. Andre Johnson has topped 1,500 yards and eight touchdowns in each of the last two seasons.

4. I believe that the best predictor of future performance is past performance.

5. Larry Fitzgerald had the 15th most receiving yards in the league in 2009 but was the fourth-ranked fantasy wide receiver courtesy of his 13 touchdowns.

6. Kurt Warner retired and has been replaced by Matt Leinart.

7. Whereas Warner’s career completion percentage was 65.7% and his yards per attempt were 7.8, Leinart has compiled a completion rate of 57.1% to go along with an average yards per attempt of 5.6.

8. Reggie Wayne is 31 years old and only had 385 yards and two touchdowns during the last seven games of 2009.

9. Overall, I’m a lot more concerned about the top 15 fantasy wide receivers than I was last year.

10. The San Diego Chargers traded to move up in the first round of the NFL Draft in order to select Ryan Mathews and they have a very good offense.

11. I think Ryan Mathews will win the NFL’s Rookie Offensive Player of the Year award.

12. When the Buffalo Bills selected C.J. Spiller in the first round, Fred Jackson became the unqualified biggest fantasy loser from the NFL Draft.

13. I think C.J. Spiller will finish the year with 1,050 total yards and five touchdowns.

14. Amongst tight ends, Jason Witten had the second most receiving yards with 1,030 but finished tied with 17 other players for 25th most touchdowns with only two.

15. In seven seasons in the league, Witten has averaged fewer than four touchdowns per year.

16. The average size of the Cowboys top three wide receivers is just under 6’3” and 218 pounds.

17. Ronnie Brown has missed 20 games over five years and finished two of those years on injured reserve.

18. Ricky Williams is 33 years old and had his highest average yards per carry in 2009 to go along with the second most touchdowns of his career.

19. During the last 12 weeks of the 2009 season, Ray Rice had 42 redzone touches while Willis McGahee had 16.

20. McGahee had a surprising 146 fantasy points last year but 113 of them came in five games, including the first three games of the season. In one of my leagues, he was on the bench for all five of those games.

21. During the last four games of last season, Chris Wells had 14 red zone touches while Tim Hightower had six.

22. During his two years in the league, Tim Hightower has 96 receptions (63 last year) to go along with 18 touchdowns.

23. There are fantasy football leagues that award a point per reception.

24. Owen Daniels would have been the top ranked fantasy tight end in 2009 had an ACL injury not ended his season.

25. Of Jamaal Charles’ 189 fantasy points, 85 came in three games against the Bills, Browns and Broncos during weeks 14, 15 and 17.

26. The Chiefs signed Thomas Jones during the off-season.

27. Jerome Harrison did nothing for three years and 89 of his 150 fantasy points came in three games against the Chiefs, Raiders and Jaguars.

28. The Browns drafted Montario Hardesty in the second round and general manager Tom Heckert said he views Hardesty as a feature back.

29. I am always sceptical of running backs who get a large portion of their fantasy points either at the end of the season or in a few games against weak opposition.

30. I am a Rams fan and think that Steven Jackson is the third best running back in the league. Despite that, I can tell you that there are at least seven running backs I will take instead of him because they will have more touchdown opportunities in 2010.

31. Hakeem Nicks had 115 fantasy points on only 74 targets, ranking him fifth in that category (of players with at least 40 targets). That means he’s a big play waiting to happen and assures the Giants will use him more in 2010.

32. Average fantasy points per target is a statistic that you’re going to hear a lot about in the future, especially in articles focusing on dynasty/keeper leagues.

33. Jermichael Finley had 97 fantasy points in 13 games and averaged 11.5 fantasy points per game over the last five games of the 2009 season.

34. Mike Wallace had an exceptional rookie year with 756 yards and six touchdowns.

35. Ben Roethlisberger had the third most fantasy points per game amongst quarterbacks last year.

36. The Steelers traded Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets.

37. The Steelers threw the ball 536 times in 2009 while the Jets threw it a league low 393 times. That’s a difference of 143 or 8.9 fewer attempts per game.

38. Visanthe Shiancoe has caught 18 touchdown passes over the last two years but has never topped 600 yards receiving.

39. With Ben Tate out with a hamstring injury, Arian Foster has been in as the first string Texans running back.

40. The Houston Texans will have an outstanding offense in 2010.

41. The Baltimore Ravens ran 128 plays in the red zone last year and 95 of them were runs and 33 were passes.

42. Of the 8,004 fantasy points the top-30 ranked fantasy quarterbacks combined to score, 31.1% of those points came on touchdown passes.

43. Joe Flacco didn’t get a lot of chances to throw touchdown passes last year and the Ravens aren’t about the abandon their run game in the red zone in 2010.

44. Most people think Greg Olsen is a talented tight end but no tight end in a Mike Martz offense has ever topped 380 yards.

45. Mike Martz is a stubborn man.

46. People tend to think of Devery Henderson as a solid deep threat but he has 16 touchdown receptions over the last five years (excluding his rookie season when he played one game).

47. Robert Meachem scored nine touchdowns in 2009, the first year he received extended playing time.

48. The Seahawks have tried desperately this offseason to replace Julius Jones as the team’s lead running back including trading for an out-of-shape LenDale White and an injured Leon Washington.

49. If I don’t think a team likes a player, then I don’t like relying on those players for my fantasy teams, especially in dynasty leagues.

50. At times, I have had to go against my own advice but I will not rely on Jones in 2010 (repeat ten times).

51. Justin Forsett had four games with 10 or more carries and accumulated 397 rushing yards in those games while averaging 6.3 yards per carry.

52. I like Forsett based on his current ADP of 6.01.

53. Coaches tend to talk up their players when there is a roster deficiency in order to drive down the trade value of players they are interested in. The Seahawks Pete Carroll sure has been talking up Forsett this summer and the Bills sure would like to trade Marshawn Lynch (despite what they’re saying).

54. The teams in the NFC North have to face the teams in the NFC East and the AFC East, which makes the Bears, Lions, Packers and the Vikings losers from a scheduling perspective.

55. The teams in the AFC West get to face the teams in the NFC West and the AFC South, which makes the Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders and Chargers winners from a scheduling perspective.

56. Most of Eddie Royal’s 2009 targets came on short passes yet he caught only 46.8% of his targets whereas Brandon Marshall had more deep targets and caught 65.6% of his targets.

57. Brandon Marshall was traded to the Miami Dolphins.

58. There is a reason why the Denver Broncos drafted Demaryius Thomas in the first round and Eric Decker in the third round.

59. Now you know what that reason was.

60. During his three years as the Texans starter, Matt Schaub has started 11 games twice and 16 games once.

61. I believe in the law of averages (so should you).

62. As a rookie, Mohamad Massaquoi led the Browns with 624 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

63. Massaquoi caught 35.8% of his targets ranking him 94th amongst wide receivers with at least 40 targets.

64. I don’t think that was entirely because of the quarterback play in Cleveland last year.

65. Roy Williams caught 44% of his targets in 2009.

66. The Dallas Cowboys drafted Dez Bryant in the first round of the NFL Draft.

67. Pierre Garcon caught 51% of his targets last year. Austin Collie caught 67% of his targets and Anthony Gonzalez caught 72% of his targets during his first two years in the league.

68. Peyton Manning connected on 72.2% of his targets to players not named Pierre Garcon.

69. Quarterbacks like to throw to receivers who catch the ball, especially really good ones like Peyton Manning and Tony Romo.

70. Tony Gonzalez and Greg Olsen tied for the most red zone touches amongst tight ends with Brent Celek finishing third.

71. The Falcons, Bears and Eagles failed to acquire a big wide receiver during the offseason (or more accurately, none who are expected to contribute in 2010).

72. Reggie Bush’s touches have declined three straight years, hitting 117 last year.

73. In any situation, success is a function of opportunity, ability and motivation.

74. Fantasy success cannot be achieved with minimal opportunity and is rarely achieved by players with declining opportunities.

75. At the end of all of my job interviews, I finish by stating that success requires three components – ability, motivation and opportunity, if you can provide the opportunity then I will provide the ability and motivation. This applies to fantasy football as well.

76. Brandon Pettigrew had 5 receptions for 165 yards and two touchdowns in the three games before he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

77. The Lions traded for Tony Scheffler during the offseason.

78. Panthers quarterback Matt Moore and wide receiver Steve Smith connected 20 times for 378 yards and three touchdowns in the four games they started together.

79. I don’t think Jimmy Clausen is going to unseat Moore in 2010.


80. LaDainian Tomlinson’s current ADP is 9.10.

81. Tomlinson backs up Shonn Greene, who had 541 rushing yards as a rookie.

82. The Jets ran the ball far more than any team in the NFL last year.

83. I like veteran running backs backing up largely unproven players playing in offenses that run heavily.

84. There are plenty of backup running backs being drafted before LaDainian Tomlinson.

85. I don’t know why that is.

86. Michael Bush of the Raiders has received 15 or more touches in six games over the course of his career.

87. He has averaged 122 total yards in those six games.

88. Darren McFadden of the Raiders has received 15 or more touches in five games over the course of his career.

89. He has averaged 93 total yards in those five games.

90. The current average draft positions for Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis are 1.06, 4.06 and 5.03 yet Alex Smith’s ADP is 12.03.

91. Alex Smith averaged 17.7 fantasy points per game during the eleven games he received extensive playing time last year.

92. I don’t know why Alex Smith isn’t being viewed as a sleeper at quarterback.

93. Ryan Grant is the undisputed lead running back for the Green Bay Packers.

94. The Packers had an explosive offense in 2009 and figure to have one again this year.

95. Ryan Grant’s is currently being taken 13th overall amongst running backs.

96. Marcedes Lewis has increased his yardage total every year but has never scored more than two touchdowns.

97. You have not read anything yet about kickers.

98. You have not read anything yet about defenses.

99. That’s because there’s no point wasting your time guessing how kickers and defenses will perform. Use the last two selections in your draft or your last two auction dollars to fill these positions.

100. If you liked this article, then you should check back regularly for fantasy tips and advice to help you win your league.

Player Outlooks – Washington Redskins

By: — August 3, 2010 @ 8:26 pm

There’s a new sheriff in Washington and he brought a new quarterback in to town to run the show. After a disappointing two-year run with Jim Zorn as head coach, flashy Redskins owner Daniel Snyder jettisoned him in the offseason and hired former Bronco coach Mike Shanahan to run football operations at Redskins Park.

Not long after, Shanahan engineered a trade to acquire perennial Pro Bowler Donovan McNabb from the Eagles for a 2009 second-round pick and either a third- or fourth-round pick in the 2011 draft. In June, the wheeling and dealing continued with the acquisition of former Saints left tackle Jammal Brown, giving the Redskins the potential for two solid starters at offensive tackle in Brown and 2010 first-round pick Trent Williams.

The moves figure to plug the main holes on offense, where the team suffered in 2009 because of poor blocking along the offensive line and a lack of big plays from quarterback Jason Campbell.

Shanahan brings an impressive array of offensive credentials to Washington. In Denver, his teams often featured great performances from running backs taken in the lower rounds of the draft as well as solid passing production, using plenty of roll-outs in his version of the West Coast offense. Despite his advancing age, McNabb remains a reasonably mobile player and figures to fit perfectly into Shanahan’s offensive system, which closely resembles the offense Andy Reid runs in Philadelphia.

At running back, the Redskins feature a trio of aging veteran runners. Incumbent starter Clinton Portis enters training camp as the prohibitive favorite to win the starting job. He struggled in 2009—suffering through an ankle injury and then a concussion that ended his season—finishing with career lows in rushing (494 yards) and touchdowns (only one).

Larry Johnson and Willie Parker were signed during the offseason to compete with Portis for playing time. Despite the presence of three veteran runners, none of them are considered excellent pass receivers, so whoever wins the starting role could see plenty of touches, by default, in 2010.

The Redskins remain interested in signing former Eagle Brian Westbrook, and his presence would likely result in the release of one or both of Johnson and Parker.

While McNabb is a nice fit at quarterback to run Shanahan’s offense, there is a lack of proven playmaking ability at wide receiver. Santana Moss is coming off a down year in 2009, in which he finished with 902 yards and only three touchdowns. His yards per reception has declined in each of the last five years, going from 18.6 in 2004 to 12.9 last season. Further complicating his outlook for 2010 is the offseason knee surgery he had and his name being linked to the Canadian doctor charged with providing athletes with human growth hormone.

Third-year receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly will compete for the starting spot opposite Moss. However, both players have been disappointments thus far in their career.

The Redskins are loaded at tight end with Chris Cooley and Fred Davis manning the position. With Cooley out for nine games with an ankle injury, Davis played surprisingly well last year and is considered the team’s future at the position.

The Redskins offense figures to reach new heights in 2010 with the additions of Shanahan, McNabb, Brown, and Williams. However, the team will need rebound performances from their aging veteran runners and Moss—as well as another player to step up at receiver. Look for the Redskins to struggle on offense during the first few weeks of the year and to improve as the season progresses. Shanahan doesn’t seem to have enough parts in place to turn the Redskins into an offensive juggernaut during his first year in Washington.

QB Donovan McNabb
McNabb had another solid season in 2009, finishing the year with over 3,500 passing yards and 22 touchdowns in just 14 starts with the Eagles. In Philadelphia, McNabb enjoyed the benefit of perhaps the league’s top young group of offensive skill position players. However, the Redskins offense features a number of aging veterans and yet-unproven youngsters at the skill positions. In addition, the Eagles ran a pass-heavy version of the West Coast offense, whereas Mike Shanahan’s version features far more emphasis on the running game. Simply put, McNabb will be hard pressed to match his production over the last few years during his first year in Washington. He enters the season as a borderline fantasy starter without much upside considering the Redskins offensive issues. There’s no getting around the fact there is a big drop-off in the talent surrounding him in Washington.

RB Clinton Portis
New head coach Mike Shanahan’s teams have a history of running the ball successfully, and although Portis wasn’t great last year before being injured, he wasn’t as bad as advertised. He had 494 rushing yards (averaging 4.0 per carry) during the team’s first seven games before suffering a concussion. Portis has earned the reputation of an aging, injury-prone player, but he will be 29 at the beginning of the season and didn’t miss a game through 2007 and 2008. He enters the year motivated to prove he has some gas left in the tank and to justify the large salary owed to him over the balance of his contract. Reports out of Washington indicate that he’s dropped 12 pounds in order to better fit into the team’s new zone blocking scheme. While that will help his cause, Portis will need to show some explosiveness to retain his starting position. Over the last couple of years, he has become more of an inside runner than the slasher he was earlier in his career. Nonetheless, Shanahan will run plenty in 2010, and Portis isn’t getting any fantasy love; so if there’s one Redskins player to gamble on, perhaps he is that guy.

RB Larry Johnson
Johnson signed with the Redskins in the offseason after being released by the Chiefs and finishing 2009 backing up Cedric Benson in Cincinnati. He has been promised a chance to start but will enter training camp second on the depth chart behind Clinton Portis. Provided he can supplant Portis, Johnson has the opportunity to have a bounce-back season in 2010. However, he looked old and slow for much of last year and will need to re-dedicate himself in order to earn significant playing time. Monitor the Redskins backfield situation in training camp and draft Johnson accordingly. The most likely scenario has Johnson earning a spot backing up Portis; and if that transpires, Johnson is worth taking a late-round flier on in your fantasy drafts.

RB Willie Parker
Having lost his starting job in Pittsburgh to Rashard Mendenhall, Parker landed with the Redskins as a free agent this offseason. Despite being just 29, he seems to have lost a step and will have a difficult time cracking the Redskins roster. With Clinton Portis and Larry Johnson on board and former Bronco Ryan Torain providing younger legs at the position, Parker may be on the outside looking in on opening day. The Redskins are unlikely to keep more than three running backs on the roster, and the odds of them keeping three aging ones seems remote. Unless Parker can unseat Johnson, or an injury strikes at the position, Parker will likely be in a different uniform or out of the league in 2010. Don’t waste a roster spot on him.

WR Santana Moss
Moss struggled in 2009 but has a chance to have a solid season this year with Donovan McNabb installed as the Redskins new starting quarterback. While Moss figures to get an opportunity to produce in 2010, there are serious questions about whether he will make the most of that opportunity. Was his lack of big plays (three touchdowns, 12.9 yards per reception, one 100-yard game) the result of poor quarterback play? Or is Moss simply slowing at thirty-one years of age? If it’s the latter, expect a fast decline in his play, since smaller wide receivers have more difficulty extending their careers. However, the more likely scenario is that Moss will produce another bounce-back season, continuing his history of following up a poor season with a good one. He figures to benefit from some garbage-time production on a Redskins squad that will need its defense to come up big in order to remain competitive. Draft Moss as a mid-tier WR3, but one who has upside as a WR2, provided he hasn’t lost a step. As is usually the case with Moss, the reward is there, but there’s plenty of risk as well.

WR Devin Thomas
It’s nice that Donovan McNabb is in town as Thomas enters his third season in the league, but it’s not so nice that the new Redskins management is loading up on journeyman, retread wide receivers. Despite having a pair of third-year players in Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, the Redskins added Bobby Wade and Joey Galloway as training camp approached—not exactly a sign of confidence in their youngsters. Of the two younger players, Thomas is the one worth taking a flier on, but he’s certainly not worth reaching for. Monitor his production in the preseason and move him up if it’s warranted. As it stands, he’s nothing more than a late-round pick in standard leagues.

WR Malcolm Kelly
Kelly hasn’t done much in two years, and the knock on him is that he doesn’t use his size to his advantage. With new head coach Mike Shanahan on board, Kelly gets a fresh start. But there are valid concerns that his attitude may get in the way of his making the most of the opportunity. At this point, Kelly shapes up as a backup on the outside, unless he can nail down the playbook in the slot as well. Given his prior lack of motivation, that seems improbable. This is likely his last year to pull it together. Kelly isn’t worth drafting in anything other than deep leagues.

TE Chris Cooley
Cooley is coming off a season in which he suffered an ankle injury that cost him all but seven games. He is a talented player and, at age twenty-seven, should bounce back. The Redskins have upgraded the talent at quarterback with Donovan McNabb, but Fred Davis is breathing down Cooley’s neck, courtesy of the solid production he had once he was inserted into the starting lineup when Cooley went down. Expect Cooley to retain the job, but Davis is too good not to be utilized. Cooley’s ankle injury from last season is of no concern in 2010 but, given Davis’ production last year, his number of touches is.

TE Fred Davis
Davis stepped into the lineup for an injured Chris Cooley and put up surprisingly solid production as the team’s starting tight end. During the final six games of the season, Davis averaged nearly 10 fantasy points per game, courtesy of 25 receptions for 286 yards and five touchdowns. Davis played too well last year to be relegated to a strict backup role, especially considering the Redskins question marks at wide receiver. While his upside is limited in 2010 unless Cooley gets hurt again, he is a solid prospect in dynasty leagues.

Player Outlooks – Philadelphia Eagles

By: — August 2, 2010 @ 9:52 am

A new era begins for the Eagles in 2010. Gone is veteran team leader Donovan McNabb, traded to division rival Washington to make way for Kevin Kolb at quarterback.

Despite all the criticism he received both from Eagles fans and around the league, there should be little dispute that McNabb’s accomplishments far exceeded his reputation in Philadelphia. Kolb is sure to feel the wrath of Eagles fans if he can’t step in and produce the way McNabb had in years past.

Even so, Kolb enters an enviable situation with an Eagles team that features a stalwart offensive line and a young, solid cast of players at the skill positions. Eagles head coach Andy Reid uses a version of the West Coast offense that is heavy on pass plays, and he is not expected to tone down the playbook for his new quarterback. Look for the Eagles to throw just as much in 2010 as in previous years and for Kolb to emerge as one of the league’s better young quarterbacks.

The team is deep at wide receiver with DeSean Jackson—a superstar in the making—entering his third year in the league. Jackson is a highlight reel waiting to happen, and he had more big plays than any wide receiver in the league last year. Kolb and Jackson will need to develop chemistry on deep balls if Jackson is to repeat that performance in 2009.

Jeremy Maclin starts opposite Jackson, and while he isn’t as dynamic, he has the talent to become one of the league’s top number two receivers in short order. Jason Avant is the team’s third wide receiver but could start for many other teams in the league. Although he isn’t a burner, Avant has a knack for getting open, and he doesn’t drop many balls.

Brent Celek had an outstanding season in 2009, emerging as one of the league’s top pass-catching tight ends. He was a favorite of McNabb’s in the red zone and was Kolb’s favorite target during his two starts last season. The Eagles are expecting another big season from Celek in 2010.

The running load will be handled mostly by second-year player LeSean McCoy. McCoy had a decent rookie season, and the team hopes he can take another step forward and match former Eagle Brian Westbrook’s production. While McCoy is a decent prospect, that expectation may be a bit of stretch, particularly in 2010. Mike Bell and Leonard Weaver will back up McCoy. Both players are big backs who like to run between the tackles.

While the Eagles are loaded on offense, the defense has more question marks. Other than defensive end Trent Cole and cornerback Asante Samuel, the team lacks playmakers on defense. Some would even dispute Samuel’s reputation as a top defender, given his propensity for getting burned due to his frequent gambles for big plays and his poor tackling ability.

The Eagles shouldn’t be considered a rebuilding team, nor are they truly in a reloading phase in 2010. While expectations in Philadelphia are high, it is worth noting that first-year starters at quarterback often struggle to close out games. In a division as competitive as the NFC East, blowing even a single game can translate into the loss of a playoff spot.

QB Kevin Kolb
Kolb enters training camp as the hot, high-upside quarterback for fantasy purposes, but by the time your fantasy draft rolls around, his sleeper status will likely be well known. Leading up to the start of the season, look for fantasy pundits to routinely compare him to Aaron Rodgers in his first year as a starter. Kolb topped 300 passing yards in both of his starts last season and figures to benefit from a solid supporting cast. With a stout offensive line and perhaps the league’s top group of young skill position players, Kolb enters an enviable situation as a first-year starter in Philadelphia. He is a bit of a risk due to his lack of playing time but also possesses major upside and is a great option for dynasty leagues. He is also a great option this season as a low-end starter in redraft leagues.

RB LeSean McCoy
Brian Westbrook is gone and McCoy will take over in 2010 as the team’s starting running back. The question is whether he has the ability to produce the way Westbrook did. McCoy looked a bit pedestrian as a runner during his rookie season, averaging 4.1 yards per carry on 155 carries. He was more effective as a receiver, with 40 receptions for 308 yards. At 5’10” and 198 pounds, McCoy is a smaller back, but he isn’t a blazer and didn’t produce many big plays as a rookie. While he will receive the majority of the team’s touches at the position, he will likely relinquish the short-yardage work to Mike Bell or Leonard Weaver, which limits his upside. In addition, look for Bell and Weaver to be used late in games when the Eagles are looking to close out the contest. McCoy figures to have a solid season, but there is a good chance he will be drafted higher than he should be. Keep him on your radar, but don’t overpay for a player who will likely be an upper-tier fantasy backup at season’s end.

RB Mike Bell
Bell comes over from the Saints after resurrecting his career in New Orleans last year. Considering his power running style, Bell figures to provide a solid compliment to the team’s starter LeSean McCoy, who is more of an outside runner. Bell will compete with hybrid fullback/running back Leonard Weaver for short yardage work but enters training camp as the favorite to win that role. Look for another 600-yard, 5- or 6-touchdown season, similar to his 2009 production with the Saints. McCoy owners will definitely want Bell on their fantasy rosters as a handcuff.

WR DeSean Jackson
Jackson was the most explosive big-play receiver in the league last year, finishing the season with nine touchdowns and an eye-popping average of 18.5 yards per reception. He topped 1,000 yards in his second season, finishing the year with 1,156. Jackson is clearly still developing at receiver, and because of that he possesses major upside. Still, banking on him to produce the same number of big plays in 2010 as he had in 2009 is risky, so his fantasy ranking should be based more on continued improvement as a receiver on short and intermediate patterns. Given his production during his first two years in the league, it seems a safe bet that improvement will occur in 2010. The trade of Donovan McNabb to the Redskins affects his value only minimally, as Kevin Kolb seems ready to emerge at quarterback. The question with Jackson is about value. If somebody in your league thinks he’s ready to emerge as a top five receiver, let them reach for Jackson. If you can get him as a bottom-tier WR1, the value is there.

WR Jeremy Maclin
Maclin played well as a rookie with the Eagles last year, posting 762 yards receiving and four touchdowns. He figures to take another step in his development during his second year in the league. Maclin has good speed and displayed some playmaking ability last year, averaging just under 14 yards per reception. He did suffer from a fair number of drops, however, including a couple that would have led to big plays. His upside is somewhat limited in 2010, since he will compete for touches with solid pass catchers DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant, and Brent Celek as well as with running backs LeSean McCoy, Mike Bell, and Leonard Weaver. Consider him a WR4 for fantasy purposes—but one of the more attractive ones, given his solid playmaking ability in an Eagles offense that will throw plenty in 2010.

WR Jason Avant
The Eagles love Avant and during this offseason signed him to a lucrative five-year contract to serve as the team’s top backup wide receiver. He is a big player and is able to use his size to his advantage. Avant excels at running crossing patterns, and his number is regularly called upon on third downs. While Avant’s production as a backup receiver was excellent (587 yards and three touchdowns), and while he has improved in each of his four years in the league, he has little to no chance of supplanting DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin for one of the team’s starting spots. That limits his potential in dynasty leagues and relegates him to waiver wire material in all but the deepest redraft leagues. However, should injury strike Jackson or Maclin, jump at your first chance to grab Avant.

TE Brent Celek
Let’s cut to the chase— Celek is a talented pass-catching tight end; he plays in a solid, pass heavy offense; and new quarterback Kevin Kolb loves throwing to him (208 yards and a touchdown during Kolb’s two starts last year). Celek built on his impressive late-season performance in 2008 to become the 4th-ranked fantasy tight end in 2009, with nearly 1,000 yards receiving and eight touchdowns. But for some reason he’s not getting the love, and many prognosticators have him ranked as a mid- to lower-tier option at tight end. That equals value since there’s no reason why he can’t duplicate his 2009 production in 2010. I’m on board, you should be too.

Player Outlooks – New York Giants

By: — August 1, 2010 @ 1:54 pm

The Giants were a tale of two teams in 2009. After starting the season 5-0, New York looked poised to win the NFC East. They stumbled badly, however, dropping the next four contests on the way to a 3-8 run over the team’s final 11 games.

The question in 2010 is which team was the real Giants? The offensive and defensive juggernaut of their first five games? Or the unit that couldn’t run the ball or stop anybody on defense over the balance of the season?

The Giants morphed into more of a passing team in 2009, relying on the arm of Eli Manning more than in previous seasons. Manning responded with a career year. Despite their passing prowess, the Giants need the running game to get back to the production it established in the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

Brandon Jacobs suffered through an injury-marred 2009 season. While injuries clearly played a part in his poor performance, he also changed his style, trying to make tacklers miss more often than in prior seasons. In 2010, look for the Giants coaching staff to get him to spend more time running over tacklers than running around them.

Ahmad Bradshaw figures to give Jacobs a stiff challenge for the team’s starting running back position. Bradshaw has shown plenty of playmaking ability as a backup in the past, but the team has been reluctant to move him into the starter’s role. If Jacobs doesn’t rebound, look for Bradshaw to get his first chance as a starter.

Steve Smith unexpectedly developed into a 1000-yard receiver and became Manning’s security blanket. Despite lacking elite skills, Smith caught 107 passes for 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns—production that no one foresaw as the season started.

Despite Smith’s excellent season, second year player Hakeem Nicks may have even more upside. Once given consistent targets, he began making big plays, although his hands were inconsistent at times. Mario Manningham also displayed excellent ability to gain separation but was inconsistent and dropped too many balls.

Tight end Kevin Boss is a serviceable receiver and a solid blocker in the run game. He has been a good red zone target when called upon, but he is too often ignored in the game plan. At this point, he seems to have reached his ceiling.

The Giants aren’t a team lacking in talent, but they may struggle to make the playoffs in a tough NFC East division. They are going to need a rebound performance from the team’s rushing attack and a more consistent pass rush if they hope to challenge the Cowboys for the division crown.

QB Eli Manning
With the team’s running game struggling through much of 2009, the Giants turned to Manning more in the passing game than in previous seasons, and the veteran signal caller responded with his finest season as a pro. He finished the year with career highs in passing yards (4,021), touchdowns (27), and completion percentage (62.3). Unlike some other teams that went pass heavy in 2009, there are a few rumblings coming out of New York indicating that the team wants to move to a more balanced approach on offense. Couple that with the fact there were no additions to the depth chart at running back, and there is reason to think they will run significantly more in 2010, meaning Manning has little chance to match or surpass his 2009 production in 2010. While there were no fancy additions to the team’s receiving corps in the draft, the Giants feature one of the league’s top trios of young receivers in Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, and Mario Manningham. Manning enters 2010 as a lower tier fantasy starter but as one with upside given the team’s reliance on the pass and the weapons he has at wide receiver.

RB Brandon Jacobs
Jacobs enters 2010 with something to prove considering his lack of production last season. While he managed to stay healthy for most of the year (missing only one game), he was a huge letdown, courtesy of a lingering knee injury that wasn’t disclosed until after the season ended. It seems that Jacobs is always either out with an injury or having to play through one. The knee injury from last season clearly slowed him down, as his touchdown production dropped from 15 to 5 and his yards per carry dropped from 5.0 to 3.7. Backup Ahmad Bradshaw is a talented player who could steal Jacobs’ starting job, but the coaching staff seems reluctant to give him a chance as a starter because of his off-the-field issues. Bradshaw has just one start during his three years in the league. With the Giants expected to have a solid offense, there is a good chance that Jacobs will be a great value pick in 2010 fantasy drafts and auctions. However, he should be drafted as no better than an RB3 with upside.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw
Bradshaw put up solid numbers with his increased workload in 2009, posting career highs in all significant rushing categories. He finished the year with 985 total yards to go along with seven touchdowns—not quite producing on the same level as former backup Derrick Ward. The key question is whether that workload was the result of Jacobs’ injury or Bradshaw’s effectiveness. With Jacobs at full health, does Bradshaw’s role get reduced? Or does the coaching staff finally give Bradshaw a legitimate chance as the team’s starter? Bradshaw is equally effective as a runner and receiver and has proven to be a solid short-yardage runner. He has excellent upside provided he can overtake Jacobs on the depth chart. There’s a good chance that will happen in 2010, with the Giants having morphed into more of a passing team over the past year.

WR Hakeem Nicks
Simply put, as a rookie in 2009, Nicks played like a younger, faster version of Anquan Boldin. With 47 receptions for 790 yards and six touchdowns last season, he totaled 115 fantasy points on only 74 targets, ranking him 5th in the league in fantasy points per target (minimum 45 targets). That key statistic indicates how explosive he is and ensures that the Giants will have him more involved in 2010. While Steve Smith will get the lion’s share of the work on intermediate patterns, look for Nicks to steal opportunities from Mario Manningham on the deep patterns. Of the Giants top three receivers, Nicks has the most upside but, in only his second year in the league, he may not surpass Smith’s fantasy production. Draft him as a low-end WR2 with upside.

WR Steve Smith
Smith came out of nowhere to become the 12th-ranked fantasy wide receiver in 2009. He developed chemistry with quarterback Eli Manning on short and intermediate patterns and also displayed some run-after-the-catch ability that wasn’t prevalent during his first two years in the league. He finished the year with 107 receptions (the most in team history) for 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns. Here’s the question: Do you believe? With talented youngsters Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham on board, there is a risk that Smith could see a reduced number of targets in 2010. Clearly more valuable in PPR leagues, Smith is nonetheless solid enough to be drafted as a WR2 in both standard and PPR formats.

WR Mario Manningham
Although he was an afterthought during his 2008 rookie season, Manningham had a solid second year in the league with 822 yards and five touchdowns. He did drop his fair share of balls, missing out on at least 200 yards and two or three touchdowns worth of production in the process. Despite his positive development, Manningham could be in line for a reduced workload in 2010. If Steve Smith is the real deal (which is more likely than not), then Manningham has limited upside given that Hakeem Nicks is all but guaranteed a starting spot. Manningham is definitely worth taking a flier on in the lower rounds of most fantasy drafts, but don’t take him on the assumption that his production will continue to increase during his third year in the league.

TE Kevin Boss
Somewhat surprisingly, the Giants failed to pick a tight end in this year’s draft, so Boss will almost certainly be the team’s starter at the position once again in 2010. While Boss has increased his yardage totals every year and has been a reasonably solid receiver given his number of opportunities, the team ignored him in the red zone for the first half of 2009. He did finish the year with five touchdowns over his last nine games, so it’s up to you to decide whether that was a mirage or whether it foreshadows fantasy glory in 2010. There are plenty of solid pass-catching tight ends in the league. If the Giants tend to ignore Boss for long stretches, maybe you should too.

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