Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Five Fantasy Tips For Week One

The 2013 NFL season kicks off tomorrow night when the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens take on the Denver Broncos.  With it, fantasy football geeks (myself included) all across the country will begin their five month journey of waiver wire watching, injury list observing, and depth chart tracking.

I've been playing fantasy football for years now and am asked by people for fantasy advice regularly.  So, I have come up with five tips to get fantasy players through Week One of the NFL season.

1. Be Patient - if you're like most people, you were filled with optimism after your draft.  You got the stud running back or wide receiver you wanted.  You felt like a king when you were able to pick up that tight end late in the draft that the "experts" all say will have a breakout year.  Unfortunately, some of the guys you expected to produce, didn't and now you are ready to abandon ship on some of them.  Remember to be's a long season.  The only reason for releasing a starter after week 1 is if he succumbs to a season ending injury.

2. Keep an eye on the injury bug -  a lot of players are coming off of major injuries...most notably RGIII and Arian Foster.  One unfortunate hit and either of these players could find themselves back on the sidelines.  If that should happen, Kirk Cousins (Redskins) and Ben Tate (Texans) will see plenty of action.

3. Monitor the match ups - this is easier to do later on in the season when teams have a few games under their belts.  For Week One though, choose your defense based on what you know of the teams...go with your gut feeling.  For example, the Indianapolis Colts have a high powered offense.  They are opening the 2013 season against the Oakland Raiders, a team that has struggled in all areas for a few years.  I'd recommend not picking the Raiders as our defense during Week One.

4. Watch the waiver wire - you may be perfectly happy with the team you have.  However, some of the other owners in your league my be searching for a replacement on their team due to some unforeseen reason.  Lets say that a team needs a backup quarterback and news just broke that the Raiders have named Terrelle Pryor their starter.  If you can add Pryor to your team first, then you have just lessened the talent pool they have to choose from.

5. Leave your loyalties at the door - it is perfectly fine to root for your favorite team.  In fantasy football, you may have to root for one of your teams rivals from time to time.  Don't stress about doesn't mean that you are any less of a fan.  That's why they call it FANTASY football.

Good Luck!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Who Is The Best Of All Time?

Pop quiz…name the best college basketball recruiting class of all time.

Most people, at least around my neck of the woods, would say the Fab Five. Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson set the college basketball world ablaze when they burst onto the scene in 1991. Together, they led Michigan to NCAA championship game appearances in their freshmen and sophomore years.

Recently though, John Calipari and the University of Kentucky have compiled a class that some say is even better than the Fab Five. The Wildcats have five of the top ten nationally ranked players coming in to Lexington next season. Four of those players are the ranked number one nationally at their respective position.

So which class is best? First you have to define what your measure of success is. If it’s pre-season hype, then the Wildcats of Kentucky have it, hands down. In today’s social media world, we all can see highlights of any high school athletes at any time. We can even watch online or on television when the athlete announces his decision. Before the Fab Five set foot in Ann Arbor, most people had never even heard of most of them. They didn’t even start their first game together until February 7, 1992. Personally, I had only briefly heard of Chris Webber and saw him play once (high school state finals). I had no idea who the rest of them were.

If we are looking at regular season and NCAA tournament record, then the Wolverines have it by far. Granted, the Fab Five played together at Michigan for two years and made it to two NCAA championship games. I’d be shocked if any of the five top ten nationally ranked players that are going to Kentucky will stay past their freshmen years.

So which college basketball recruiting class is the best? Personally, I measure success by performance on the court. With that being said, I’m not voting for either Michigan or Kentucky. My vote goes to the 2004 Florida Gator recruiting class (Corey Brewer, Al Horford, Joakim Noah, and Taurean Green). These four players decided to stay in school instead of leaving early for the NBA. This decision paid off as they are two time NCAA national champions. With today’s “one and done” atmosphere in college basketball, no college recruiting class will ever be able to top that.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Can Phil Help Fix The Pistons? Or Is This...Basketball Impossible?

The Detroit Pistons have a head coaching vacancy. This news comes about every couple of years. Joe Dumars and his staff hire a head coach; he leads them to two miserable seasons, and then is fired. It’s a vicious cycle that has led to the Pistons becoming the laughing stock of professional sports in the state of Michigan. Heck, people get more excited about the Lions nowadays…

New owner Tom Gores is aiming to change all of that. Instead of continuing to give Joe Dumars complete control over the search for a new head coach, Gores has hired 11 time World Champion head coach Phil Jackson as an adviser with the Pistons. Jackson’s main priority will be to assist Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars in his search for a head coach.

This is a fantastic move on Gores part. Dumars has shown that he has a lack of judgment when it comes to head coaches (Michael Curry, John Kuester, and Lawrence Frank for example). Sure, Dumars was the architect of the 2004 World Championship team, but the NBA is a “what have you done for me lately” type of league. All the Pistons have been doing lately is acting as a revolving door for head coaches. Jackson will be able to bring his wisdom and expertise to the Pistons and help put them back on the path to success.

Bringing Phil Jackson on board shows that Gores is fed up with the way things have been with the Pistons. He wants to build a winner in Detroit. To help do that, he’s enlisted the help of one of the greatest winners in NBA history.

Let’s hope the “Zen Master” is up to the task…

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Deja Vu For New York Sports Fans?

History, by definition, is the study of past events. Some people even believe that if we understand the past, we can predict the future.

Time and time again, history has proven that it repeats itself. Fashion trends will come back into style, television show themes will return (Golden Girls were the inspiration for Sex & the City), and even food fad’s will become popular again (McDonald’s brought back the McRib).

Another place where history repeats itself is in sports. Back in 2004, the Boston Red Sox completed a miraculous comeback against their arch rivals, the New York Yankees. Down 3 games to 0 in the American League Championship Series, the Red Sox fought back and won Game 4 in extra innings. They proceeded to win the next 3 games in a row to complete the greatest comeback in sports history. The Red Sox not only won those 4 games in a row to advance to the World Series but they also won all 4 games against the St. Louis Cardinals to become the 2004 World Series Champions. This was their first World Series title in 86 years.

We may now be seeing another improbable comeback between Boston & New York. It’s not on the baseball field though…this time it’s on the hard-court. The #2 seeded New York Knicks held a 3 games to 0 lead against the #7 seeded Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Since then, the Celtics have won 2 straight (including a hard fought overtime win in Game 4…similar to the Red Sox Game 4 extra innings win).

If the Celtics do complete this comeback and eliminate the Knicks, it won’t be as unbelievable as the Red Sox 2004 revival. The Yankees had won (at the time) a record 26 World Series titles. The Knicks haven’t won a World Championship since 1973 or a playoff series in 13 years.

It’ll still be Wicked Awesome for Bostonians though…

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Did The Jaguars Draft The Next MJD?

 The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted former University of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson in the fifth round of the NFL Draft this past weekend.  A lot of people, myself included, were wondering if Robinson would even have his name called this year.  He was a phenomenal athlete who put up amazing numbers during his four years in Ann Arbor.  His ability to play quarterback (or even wide receiver) in the NFL was questioned though because of his lack of size and issues catching the ball (he played in the Senior Bowl and went to the NFL combine as a wide receiver).

The Jaguars though decided to draft Robinson and will have him play running back with them.  The Jaguars, who already have a smaller running back playing for them in Maurice Jones Drew, are the perfect team for Robinson in my mind.  Jacksonville is not a big market team, so the pressure to perform there will be minimal.  The Jaguars are not close to being a playoff team, so Robinson should get a chance to show what he can do on the field. 

Another reason why Jacksonville is the perfect place for Robinson is because their current starting running back, Maurice Jones Drew, is in the final year of his contract and will most likely not be back in Jacksonville past this upcoming season.  With that in mind, the Jaguars drafted someone very similar to Jones Drew and will groom him to take his place.  Heck, they could probably wear a similar size jersey.  Denard Robinson stands 6'0 tall and weighs 197 lbs.  Jones Drew is 5'7 and weighs 207 lbs.

To prove how similar Robinson and Jones Drew were coming out of college, take a look at these two scouting reports and try to choose which one belongs to whom...

Thrilling player who can break just about any play. Very elusive and can lurk behind blockers and explode into the open field. Lack of power and pass-catching ability like will mark him as a third-down who can contribute in the return game.

Quick with all the agility in the world...absolutely dynamic. His playmaking ability is all about agility and quickness. He has the moves to make people miss; the spin, the juke, the studder you name it he’s got the move. What’s important to realize is that teams will be interested in him for what he can do in terms of yards-after-catch. He has that break-away and elusive ability to turn a quick 5-yard run into a 60 yard gain. He’s the type of player where you have to know where he is at all times on the field because he is capable of anything…literally. To have a weapon like him in your bag of tricks is priceless to an imaginative offensive coordinator.

The Jaguars are hoping that the similarities pour over onto the football field this fall.  If they do, then they may have gotten the steal of this years NFL Draft. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Lions Fans Are Not Quite Ready To "Get Ziggy With It"

The 1st Round of the 2013 NFL Draft is now in the books. 32 newly crowned millionaires and their families most likely woke up this morning still smiling from the events of the night before.

I don’t know about the rest of the country, but in my neck of the woods, all I heard this morning as I drove into work is how the Lions made another boneheaded draft selection when they chose Ziggy Ansah from BYU.

Sure, Ansah is not the big name pick that most NFL fans are hoping for each year. Before last night, I’m sure that many Lions fans had never even heard of Ansah. Those same fans call into their local sports talk radio shows and complain aloud about how the Lions don’t know what they are doing. They all claim that the Lions should have taken “insert random 1st round draft pick by another team here” instead of Ziggy Ansah.

I’m all for fans’ voicing their opinion, but it really infuriates me when they spout off without doing any sort of research to back their opinion. It just makes them look plain silly. These are the same people who say “we” when talking about the Detroit Lions when they win and “they” when the Lions lose. They compete in their annual Fantasy Football drafts and think that makes them experts in evaluating players.

Making picks in the NFL Draft isn’t an easy thing to do. It isn’t just Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz sitting in a room throwing darts at a board to determine which players to draft. There is an entire room full of people (scouts, assistant coaches, player personnel staff, etc.) discussing each possible move the Lions can make. There are also many factors that need to be considered before investing millions of dollars into a person. What position does he play, who is already at that position on the current roster, how many contracts are expiring on the current team, how did the draftee look in his workouts, how did he do in his pre-draft interviews, what other people (former coaches, teammates, etc.) had to say about him and his work ethic, what the team doctors found out when they examined him, and what trade offers the other teams are offering are all important factors that go into making the decision to draft a person.

Will the Lions regret drafting Ziggy Ansah a year from now? Perhaps…but what if he finishes the season with 9.5 sacks and makes the Pro Bowl as a rookie? Then those same people that were calling into sports talk radio stations today complaining about the pick will be applauding Ansah and wearing his jersey.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Valverde or Bust...

Webster’s Dictionary defines risk as “someone or something that creates or suggests a hazard”. Jose Valverde pitched his first game of the year for the Detroit Tigers last night.

What do these two sentences have in common? Jose Valverde…

After a solid season in 2012 where he saved 35 games for the Tigers, Valverde lost his closer role in the postseason. He blew saves in critical games against both the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees. The team lost trust in him and, more importantly, Valverde lost faith in himself.

After the Tigers were eliminated by the San Francisco Giants, Valverde became a free agent. He went unsigned in the off season. No other team was even rumored to have a serious interest in the former closer. It seemed as if his time as a Major League pitcher was over.

Fortunately for him, the Tigers were unable to acquire a solid pitcher in the off season to become their new closer. They appointed rookie Bruce Rondon as the new closer in Spring Training, but he struggled and was optioned to the minor leagues to begin the season. Manager Jim Leyland then announced that the Tigers would begin the season with the “closer by committee” approach, which never really works because the manager is always second guessed in those situations. He can use one person to close a game and, if it doesn’t work out, then the media and fans will question why he didn’t use a different pitcher.

The Tigers quickly learned that it wasn’t going to work out and made the risky move to re-sign Jose Valverde. He was assigned to pitch with the Lakeland Tigers (Class A level). After 3 appearances, the Tigers recalled him from the minors and Jim Leyland announced that Valverde would be the team’s closer. His first game back with the Tigers was last night against the Kansas City Royals and he retired the side in order in the 9th inning to earn the save.

Former President Jimmy Carter once said “Go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is”. The Tigers definitely went out on a limb by re-signing Valverde. That limb could break and make the Tigers fall short of their post season goals. On the other hand, if Valverde pitches like he did in 2011 and the 2012 regular season, it could be the move that makes them World Series Champions.