Thinking outside the tackles:  The RAP Draft plan.

It’s time to look at Fantasy Sports a little differently.  Not just to be novel, not just to stick out in a crowd, and not just so we can say we did.  It’s time to get outside this corner we’ve been painted in within the fantasy industry.  There’s a certain amount of Group Think that occurs.  Here’s why it’s important to think differently… because over the past decade, in any given season of a standard scoring 10-team league as dictated by Yahoo or ESPN, nearly everyone is going to fall between 1,100 and 1,400 points.  So we need to find out how we can get an edge; even a minute edge. This could be the difference in coming in 9th place vs. being a playoff team.  Or it could be the difference in finishing 3rd vs. finishing in 1st.

Firstly, let me try to state the overarching, cumulative, and quintessential draft strategy of every fantasy football expert in the industry in one all-encompassing sentence:

“Any strategy can work if you pick the right players, so I cannot tell you which position or specific player to draft where, but rather I will tell you that since it’s dictated by who’s available in your league, your specific league settings, and drafting habits of your league, you should simply draft the player that is the best value at any given spot of your draft.”

Look we get it.  Experts cannot sit there and draft next to you.  Their rankings won’t tell you what to do in the context of your specific draft and your specific league.  So they are hesitant to answer questions like: “Should I go RB-RB near the end of the first round.”  The answer will always be: “It depends,” or “I don’t have enough information.”

So since you cannot get a specific answer, why don’t we try thinking outside the box.  I’m going to tell you a viable draft strategy this year, that is not position specific, but rather one that deals with actuarial tables and data from years past.  The good news, is I’ve done the legwork for you to figure out who fits into these categories. Now, introducing the Risk Averse Players Draft or the “RAP draft”.

Thought Process behind the RAP Draft:

There’s a saying in fantasy sports that you can’t win a championship in the first round of your draft, but you could very well lose it.  I don’t know if I necessarily believe that, but the premise is sound.  In other words, if you draft a player that wildly underperforms in the first round of your draft, you will be significantly behind compared to those that get “stud” level production out of their top picks.  Last year, if you were one of the owners that drafted Ray Rice, Arian Foster, Doug Martin, C.J. Spiller, or Trent Richardson in the first round… then you were going to have a VERY difficult time catching up to the owners that drafted the likes of Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Calvin Johnson, Marshawn Lynch and LeSean McCoy. 

In so many words, it’s of the utmost importance that the handful of picks at the top of your draft produce a similar value to where you drafted them.  Everyone will have their waiver wire gems, and everyone will have some later round picks blossom, but if it’s not bolstered by top-end production from your high draft picks, you WILL be in trouble.  In one 2013 league I took Arian Foster and Roddy White as two of my top three picks… I did not make the playoffs.  So what do we do to avoid these early round injuries?  ENTER the RAP Draft.

The RAP Draft focuses on drafting players that have a statistically lower likelihood of injury compared to other players that are drafted near them.  Will this work 100% of the time? Of course not, not even close.  However,  the hope is that it help us avoid early round players that have shown cause for concern based on their own health indicators, and the age ranges of impending “cliff years” for their respective positions.  As ESPN’s Matthew Berry recently pointed out in his always fabulous Draft-Day-Manifesto, “at a fundamental level, fantasy football is all about minimizing risk and giving yourself the best odds to win. On a weekly basis.”  The intent of the RAP Draft is all about mitigating risk where it matters the most, namely, in the upper part of the draft.  Sometimes there are injury risk players that could possibly provide huge dividends (I see you in the corner with your hand raised Percy Harvin, I’ll take questions later).  But all in all, avoiding the more “risky” players should not simultaneously limit your team from upside.  The beautiful thing about drafting from this selected list is that no one else is.  Everyone else in your draft room will be drafting from a complete player pool, so you should never have to reach for anyone outside of their normal draft value range.  

So here’s the plan.  In the first 6-7 rounds of your draft, you only take players from the top-100 on the RAP Draft sheet.  If they are crossed out, you do not draft them.  Once you have filled out the first 6-7 rounds of your draft, and have mitigated as much risk as possible, you shift gears and take nothing but high upside players in the back half of your draft.  In other words, if you have a choice between Dwayne Bowe and Tavon Austin, you go Austin.  If you’re looking at DeAngelo Williams or Devonta Freeman, you go Freeman.  If the juice isn’t worth the squeeze, you’ll be fishing the waiver wire for this year’s Keenan Allen with that roster space anyhow by the time week 4 rolls around.  One of the great benefits of paying a premium for players with “high floors” in the top half, is the upside it allows for later in the draft.  Since you’ve bolstered your roster by going as safe as possible with your early picks, you can now afford to search for lightening in a bottle, that silver unicorn, this year’s Josh Gordon.

Okay so after actuarial research and quite frankly common sense, here’s the injury limiting criteria for the RAP Draft:

QB Position:

-Age limit 35

-No Rookies

-Cannot be bottom 10 in sacks over the prior 2 seasons (QBs that get hit often are more liable to get hurt.  Aaron Rodgers came off a league high 51 sacks in 2012, we all saw how that turned out last year)

-Missed no more than 2 games due to injury in the past 2 seasons or 1 game due to injury last season.

-Rushing attempts of no more than 4.0 per game

RB Position:

-Age limit 29

-Load limit averaged < 300 touches per season over the past 3 seasons

-Missed no more than 3 games due to injury in the past season or 25% of games in their career due to injury.

WR Position:

-Age limit 31

-No Rookies

-Missed no more than 4 games due to injury in the past 2 seasons or 2 game due to injury last season.

TE Position:

-Age limit 31

-Has a track record of at least 2 seasons in the NFL

-Missed no more than 4 games due to injury in the past 2 seasons or 2 game due to injury last season.

In last season’s Top-100 drafted, let’s see who we would’ve eliminated from drafting.  Remember, there’s going to be a lot of those that we put on the Do-Not-Draft list that produce substantial numbers.  But the goal is to mitigate risk here:

2013 TOP-100 players on the Do Not Draft list according to the RAP Draft Plan:

QBs- Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, Michael Vick, Aaron Rodgers

Accuracy determined by finishing 5 spots or lower from the ADP ranks among QBs:

Rodgers, Brady, RG3, Vick- ACCURACY (4/7)= 57.1%

RBs- Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin, Arian Foster, Demarco Murray, Ray Rice, Ryan Mathews, Steven Jackson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson, Darren McFadden, Rashard Mendenhall

Accuracy determined by finishing 12 spots or lower from the ADP ranks among RBs:

Martin, Foster, Rice, Jackson, Bradshaw, MJD, McFadden, Mendenhall ACCURACY (8/13)= 61.5%

WRs- Andre Johnson, Wes Welker, Roddy White, Jordy Nelson, Anquan Boldin, Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Bowe, Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, Danny Amendola, Greg Jennings, Pierre Garcon, Antonio Brown, DeSean Jackson, Miles Austin, Tavon Austin

Accuracy determined by finishing 12 spots or lower than the ADP ranks among WRs:

White, Wayne, Bowe, Smith, Nicks, Amendola, M. Austin, and T. Austin. ACCURACY (8/16)= 50%

TEs- Rob Gronkowski, Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Antonio Gates

Accuracy determined by finishing 3 spots or lower than ADP ranks among TEs:

Gronkowski, Witten, Gates.  ACCURACY (3/4)= 75%.

OVERALL ACCURACY (23/40) = 57.5%

Which means, that by following this simple criteria with the top-100 players drafted, we could have predicted the bust/injury probability of the top 100 players drafted at a 57.5% rate.  And more importantly, avoided them all together.  Some will argue that the different endpoints I set for each position are quite arbitrary and may not be what others consider a “bust”, but I doubt you would stick up for drafting very many of these players in their respective 2013 draft slots considering the production you received vs. where you drafted them.

Did we avoid drafting Peyton Manning in the 3rd round last year? Sure. But did we avoid drafting Ray Rice and Arian Foster in the first round too?  You betcha.  No one knows who this year’s Peyton Manning or Josh Gordon will be, so let’s not keep pretending like we do.

Up from 40 last season, there are now 49 of the top-100 players this season that are on thenDo-Not-Draft list for the RAP Plan.  You may say, “But Logan, you’re eliminating nearly half of the draft pool in the top-100 players.”  Yes, yes I am… but note that your league does not know this.  They will still be drafting from the entirety of the player pool.  So you should still be drafting players within their respective Value-Based-Drafting ranges.   You should never have to reach more than one round’s worth of value to find an eligible player on the draft list. 

2014 RAD Plan List

CLICK ABOVE ↑↑↑↑  Okay, so this is quite simple.  If you follow the RAP draft, you cannot select anyone that is crossed off from the list. That is, until round 7 or 8 crop up.  That’s when all players are fair game, in particular the players with the maximum amount of upside near where the draft pick is.   So ideally, you’re never going to end up rostering Steven Jackson or DeAngelo Williams.  I’ve done a 12-team standard mock draft using Yahoo!’s Mock Draft services (3 WR’s, no flex) to show what a RAP plan team might look like this season.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 11.27.25 PM

I like this roster,  It’s got a combination of safety and upside at the top, with a litany of upside plays late.  In the first 6 rounds, I went by the 2014 RAD Draft List.  When Round 7 hit, I took as many upside guys from there on out.  Ben Tate has a history of injuries and underwhelming performances, but he is set to get the lions share of carries in Cleveland.  Jordan Reed has had concussion issues that could crop up again any time… who cares? it’s in round 9.   Cooks, Freeman, Hyde, and Hill are all young pups, but could pay huge dividends if the cards fall just right.  I don’t anticipate many if any of them to produce big for my team, but the strategy is to draft the safest picks possible at the top, and litter your late round picks with the upside guys.   So it’s time for a gut check,  are you going to play with fire at the top side of your draft injury prone guys like Julio Jones and workload concern guys like Marshawn Lynch?  Or are you going to look for safety in both your own players track records, and the history of other performers at that given position.  At the end of the day, the fantasy industry as a whole missed on a plethora of top round choices last year.  So when the consensus among analysts last year was to draft Ray Rice a full round ahead of Matt Forte, it just proves the obvious here: we simply don’t know how things are going to turn out.  We’re not psychics, shamans, nor sooth sayers.  So let’s bake everything into the recipe of our rankings, but avoid risk whenever possible.  When you begin to realize how important it is to be “bust” free in the early rounds of your draft… you’ll learn to RAP it before you draft it.

Follow Logan Grubbs on twitter: @NotFakeFantasy


davis wade lawrence

2014 SEC Football Preview: Mississippi State Bulldogs

sec-logoWith a month to go until the 2014 College Football Season begins we turn our attention to the Mississippi State Bulldogs. 2013 was a season of ups and downs for the Bulldogs but it ended on a high note with three straight wins and an overwhelming amount  of optimism for the  coming season. Will 2014 be a special season in Starkville? Let’s take a look. Continue reading


AGSH 2014 NFL Preview: AFC South


Let’s start with the good for the AFC South. There’s only one way up from the bottom and that is up. Last year’s sorriest division can’t get any worse and that’s the good news. The bad? The four teams combined for 24 wins and the Colts counted for 11 of those victories. That was last year and this is a new year so let’s get into it.

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Trio HOF

2014 MLB Hall of Fame Inductees

Greg Maddux
Born: April 14, 1966 in San Angelo, TX
High School: Valley High School in Las Vegas, NV
Drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the second round of the 1984 amateur draft
Played for the Braves, Cubs, Padres and Dodgers
All Star Appearances: 8
NL Cy Young Awards: 4
Gold Glove Awards: 18
NL Wins Champion: 3
NL ERA Champion: 4

Maddux - AP, John Bazemore
Maddux – AP, John Bazemore

Greg Maddux dominated the 1990s and won more games than any other pitcher in baseball during the decade. His unprecedented streak of 17 consecutive seasons with at least 15 wins may never be matched. He won more Gold Gloves than any other player in history with 18 awards. Maddux is the only pitcher in Major League Baseball history to record over 300 wins, over 3,000 strikeouts and fewer than 1,000 walks. He represented the Cubs in two All Star games and the Braves in six mid summer classics. He won four consecutive NL Cy Young Awards from 1992-1995. The Professor finished his career with a record of 355-227 with a 3.16 ERA to go along with 3,371 strikeouts.

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wide view

2014 SEC Football Preview: LSU Tigers


With 35 days left till the College Football kickoff we turn our attention to the LSU Tigers. Playing in the SEC West is no cake walk and losing so many starters to the NFL would result in a down year for most teams, but not LSU. Make no mistake; LSU will be right back in the thick of things in 2014. Will they have what it takes to win the West or even the SEC Championship? Let’s dive in and see what it will take. Continue reading

My fall home

Fandom: Coming Up Short

This is more of a personal essay than I normally like to write, but I wanted to explore some of the various aspects of fandom in preparation for the inevitable return of Fall sports. Thanks for reading.

My fall home
My fall home

It still makes me physically ill to think about. Nearly five years later, and really the moment took all of two seconds. But whenever I recall it, my stomach turns and knots up and I want to puke.

One game. One play, in fact. One second in the sixty minutes that make up a football game that five years later still hurts.

I was in my regular seat at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field in Starkville, Mississippi on September 26, 2009. My Mississippi State Bulldogs were under the reigns of first year head coach Dan Mullen. Mullen had already produced some good results, with two wins in the first three games. There was optimism in Starkville that hadn’t been felt in several years.

The Bulldogs had ended up with the toughest schedule in the country that year. In fact, it was a schedule so nasty that the NCAA would later call the 2nd toughest in the past 10 years. So fans weren’t OVERLY optimistic. And on this particular afternoon, they were having to go up against the Louisiana State University Tigers, ranked in the top 10 and looking fierce. We didn’t have high hopes for the game, but we were optimistic. Cautiously optimistic. Continue reading


5-by-5 for your Fantasy Football Preseason

#1)   FIVE Myths that you should pay little attention to this preseason

  1. Coach Speak:  Don’t fall victim to one of the classic blunders – The most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia”, but only slightly less well-known is this: “COACHES LIE!” Everyone’s favorite quote last year belonged to OC Nathaniel Hackett of the Buffalo Bills, “It’s real simple: We’re going to give (C.J. Spiller) the ball until he throws up.”  The fact is that coaches lie; sometimes it’s intentional deception (yeah we’re looking at you Belichick), other times they just think one thing will happen but circumstances dictate otherwise.  The chagrined fantasy owners that hung their season’s hopes on this single quote should learn from this mistake.  Here’s one for this year: Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 5.06.53 PMDon’t you fall into this trap.  Andre Ellington is not Adrian Peterson, folks.  He’s 5’9” and weighs less than 200 lbs.  Mark it on the wall, not only will he not get that many touches per game, but he also will be more effective if he’s kept fresh with far fewer touches per game.  Heck, Jamaal Charles didn’t even get up to 22 touches per game last year, and he’s the only bell-cow of comparable size to Ellington. This is a pipe dream, and please don’t fall prey to the one of the oldest fantasy blunders in the book.  
  2. Player Speak:  “I’m going to rush for two thousand yards this year.”  “I see no reason why I can’t catch 20 TDs this season… that’s my guarantee.”  This talk is a dime a dozen.  Let’s base our expectations on past indicators and talent levels more than a player’s unrealistic aspirations.  It’s fun to listen to the Chad Ochocincos of the world, but let’s let it be what it is… entertainment value only.
  3. Strength of Schedule:  Every year publications and articles alike will tell you why certain match-ups are going to be cake walks and others are going to be brutal.  The fact of the matter is, they simply don’t know.  Don’t fool yourself in thinking you have any type of accuracy when judging schedules before the season starts.  The NFL is a reshuffle league.  Those that thought the Kansas City Defense was going to be a cupcake matchup last year looked pretty silly once the pads were on.
  4. Contract Year talk:  This is one of those confirmation bias examples where people say after the fact that Player X performed better because of his contract incentive.  Let’s face it guys, with salary caps and contract structures these days… players are playing to keep their careers alive nearly every time they step on the field.  Until someone completes a league-wide study demonstrating a significant statistical difference among contract players vs. the rest of the league, then continue to treat players homogeneously when it comes to contract years.  I often hear this thrown in when people stump for a specific player.  Something like, “I love this player, this offense, and it’s a contract year.  I’m expecting big things.”  You don’t know how a player is motivated by money, so let’s not pretend we can read the tea leaves of which incentives motivate a player.
  5. Hate on player size:  If a player is good enough to play in the NFL, team execs will give him a shot.  It really is the ultimate meritocracy.  Drew Brees is putting up some all-time numbers and is nowhere near the 6’0” height he is billed at.  Russel Wilson just won the Super Bowl and might be 5’11’ with his long-grass cleats on.  See if these sound familiar, “Adrian Peterson is too tall at 6’2” with an upright running style, so he’s bound to be injury prone.”  -FALSE  “A strong breeze would blow DeSean Jackson over.  He looks 160 pounds, soaking wet.  Good luck in the NFL, kid.” -BIG PRODUCER.  You’ll hear much of the same this offseason about players like Tavon Austin.  He may be just 5’8” but there’s no chance he doesn’t weigh within 5 pounds of DeSean Jackson, and his team believed in him so much that they traded up to get him in the top-10 of the draft last year despite his diminutive stature.  Plus he’ll rarely get jammed off the line, as he plays in the slot.  Players like MJD, Ray Rice, Darren Sproles, Steve Smith, Wes Welker, etc. have been proving wrong the league expectations for small players for years.  If your analysis begins and ends with height or weight, you’re leaving a ton on the table. 

#2)   FIVE Players you should pay lots of attention to this preseason

I was getting all hot and bothered to put Jamaal Charles at the top of this list with all his recent holdout talk, but this just happened:

  1. Rob Gronkowski- There’s no question what he’ll do if he’s on the field, namely, huge numbers. This is the ultimate health question, and I doubt we’ll gain a ton of clarity on the knee issue until just before the season starts.  Knowing Bill Belichick’s love for cloak and dagger reports, it’ll unfortunately be 30 minutes into the first game of the season before we actually know how ready he is to play.  Remember all the back injury talk last year when he was supposedly cleared to play 3 full games before he actually did?  Don’t let that snake bite you again.
  2. David Wilson-  He finally got medically cleared from his neck injury in the last couple days and now we need to see if he shows the spark he’s capable of in the preseason.  I could see a situation develop in the first month of the season where the Giants are slinging it while playing from behind… David Wilson comes in and takes a swing pass 65-yards to the house and from then on we see a dramatically reduced role for Rashad Jennings.  As of right now there’s talk of Rashad Jennings being the between the 20’s carrier, Wilson being the change of pace back, and Andre Williams being the goal-line guy.  That 3-headed monster is a recipe for a fantasy nightmare.
  3. DeSean Jackson/Pierre Garcon- The question is who’s going to be getting the X receiver and who’s going to be the Z receiver in this Jay Gruden offense.  In other words, who’s going to have the A.J. Green role of this new offense and who’s going to have the Marvin Jones role.  Early reports are that D-Jax is going to be the go to guy.  If that’s the case, then Garcon will be getting even fewer looks than I have baked into his rankings.  Keep in mind that he led the NFL in receptions (113) and targets (181) last year, and that was the main thing that drove his value. 
  4. Chris Johnson- It’ll be hard to know how the J-E-T-S plan to use CJ’s after-burners.  Is he going to be THE guy in this offense (like we’ve already heard some indeterminate coach speak about), or if he’ll be splitting carries.  Look for context clues and how he’s deployed in the preseason for a better understanding. 
  5. Emmanuel Sanders/Montee Ball-  These two are ultimately tied to the best offense in football, and that’s why it’s so important.  Can Sanders pick up the offense and take on a substantial portion of Eric Decker’s void.  As far as Montee Ball goes, I’ll be looking closely at his ball security and pass protection during his limited time in the preseason.  Ultimately, if he loses the faith of the coaching staff or more importantly, Peyton Manning… then he’ll be the biggest 1st round bust this season.  Let’s not forget how quickly Ronnie Hillman became an afterthought with those 3 preseason fumbles in ‘13. 

#3)   FIVE Players I like more than most based on their early ADP

  1. Reuben Randle- You can’t give the Giants a free pass on the absolute dumpster fire we saw last season.  But I also see no way that they can be nearly as bad last year.  With Nicks out of town, and only rookie Odell Beckham to push Randle for looks behind primary option Victory Cruz… I see Randle as a guy that can significantly raise his 611 yards and 6 TDs from last season, as the rising offensive tide will lift all boats and his role looks to increase simultaneously.  There’e an affordable price tag to chance it here.  Current ADP-145. 
  2. Alfred Morris- I’m a high floor guy when it comes to my first and second round players. I just don’t like taking the risky, higher ceiling player in my first four picks of the draft. Statistics have shown that the high probability fantasy playoff teams are the ones that connect on their first 3 draft picks.  It’s just hard to win without those guys performing.  Alfred Morris is the guy that’s not going to be a top-3 back this year, but he’s also not going to finish outside of the top-20 at the RB position.  Give me bankable production this early in my draft. Current ADP- 25
  3. Joique Bell- The front office signed him to a 3 year – $9.3 million deal this offseason, so we know they have plans to utilize him heavily.  He’s a bigger RB than his counterpart Reggie Bush, but he can still do all the things that Bush can (they became the first backfield duo in history to put up both 500 Rushing and Receiving yards each).  Detroit knows that they’ll need to limit Bush’s touches to keep him fresh and at his best in the late season, so Jukin’ Joique will be guaranteed touches.  But on the other hand, Bush is getting older with the career touches piling up and is certainly a risk to miss some time.  So we’ve got a guaranteed split in the mean time, with a possibility of being a featured back with a Bush injury.  That’s the kind of juice that’s worth the squeeze. Current ADP- 71
  4. Michael Floyd- I love the value of the young and talented receiver to the wizened veteran receiver that garners most of the defensive attention.  The Reggie Wayne role to Marvin Harrison, or the Randy Moss role to Chris Carter, if you will.  In this case it’s Michael Floyd to Larry Fitzgerald.  Floyd is bigger, faster and had more yardage than Fitz last year.  Yet, NFL defenses will key in on Fitzgerald, allowing Floyd to run free on the opposite side of the field.  He’s the Cards main vertical threat… Expect 1,000+ and 6 as a floor here with upside for much more. Current ADP- 65
  5. Roddy White- Oldie but goodie category.  He’s getting on up there in age, but unlike RB’s, good wide receivers can age gracefully.  He proved the high ankle sprain that plagued him last season was behind him by season’s end when he began producing again.  Julio Jones lining up opposite will keep the double teams to a minimum.  But even if Julio gets a ton of targets, the departure of Tony Gonzalez will allow for a healthy dose of targets toward old reliable.  This could be a big bounce back with top-10 WR value being drafted nearly 50th overall. Lot’s to like here. Current ADP- 49
    Roddy WhitePhoto courtesy of Mark Runyon | Pro Football Schedules

#4)   FIVE Players I like LESS than most based on their early ADP

  1. Marshawn Lynch-  Coming into the 2013 season, analysts were fading Arian Foster because his workload of 956 carries from 2010-12 was absurd.  Well Lynch has a whopping 1,094 touches in his past 3 seasons! He carried the ball 401 times last year when you include the playoffs. You can see where this is going. Remember Larry Johnson? There’s a cliff year coming, and with his abusive running style it’s coming sooner rather than later.  Plus you’re looking at a guy that hasn’t exactly been a beacon of health throughout his career, since he’s had some pretty serious back issues in the past.  Some people will cheat him up for the consistency he’s shown the past few seasons, but I’m trying to read the tea leaves for this season, not the last few.  Wyatt Earp says that the cliff is coming, and HELL is coming with it.  It’s okay if I’m wrong this year, and the cliff’s actually two years out, but it’s not advisable to play with fire so early in your draft.  Current ADP- 5
  2. Rob Gronkowski- Yeah, I get it.  He’s an absolute monster when he’s on the field.  I just don’t trust his extensive injury history. Even if the knee’s behind him.  What about the back issues, the arm issues.  So many surgeries, so little time played.  He’s only 25 years old.. but he’s fast becoming the Tight End version of Percy Harvin.  Current ADP- 32
  3. Andre Johnson- Another impending cliff story.  He’s got an injury history that’s not the best.  He’s got erratic QB play.  He’s openly upset at the team for not upgrading its QB situation.  He’s never been a big TD contributor.  DeAndre Hopkins will improve and be more of a focus for the offense this year.  Too many negatives for me to view him as a top-10 WR this year… yet some are still drafting him like it. Current ADP- 34
  4. Peyton Manning-  It has nothing to do with his performance… which will undoubtedly be stellar as long as he and his bony-fusioned neck stays injury free. It’s just a matter of, if you take away that opening 7 TD performance and think like everyone else on the planet that those numbers are not repeatable… then you can’t consider him much better than Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers.  In my opinion there’s not a full round difference between Manning and those other two. So they all are late second or early third rounders to me… yet, Peyton’s being drafted 8th overall on average right now. Current ADP- 8
  5. Frank Gore- It’s now a crowded backfield.  They’re talking about dropping his carries by 50.  His career usage is intense.  He’s 31 years old.  I don’t think we’re going to see 1,100 and 8 TDs like he’s been so bankable for in the past.  At some point in the draft he will become a boring bargain player, it’s just not at this going rate.  Current ADP- 47

#5)   FIVE football analysts that when they talk… I listen. 

  1. Greg Cosell of NFL Films
  2. Scott Pianowski of Yahoo! Fantasy Sports
  3. Ray Flowers of Fantasy Alarm
  4. Eric Karabell of ESPN
  5. John Hansen of FantasyGuru


Calvin Johnson Hall of Famer

Black and Blue: A Preview


Finally!!!  Football is here, and I’m ready!!!

I’m excited about a lot.  And as a Lions fan, hope always springs eternal, then gets stomped out pretty quickly.  BUT, if it’s a good year, our hopes will fade round about Thanksgiving.  But I digress.

Today I will be previewing the good ol’ NFC North and how it may look this year.  Now, while I don’t have a crystal ball, I’ll do my best!

So, last year was a pretty interesting one for the division.  Aaron Rodgers was out, Cutty was out, Matt Stafford was in, and who was QB of the Vikings again?  Do the Vikings even know?? Oh yeah…. it was the Ponder, Cassel, Freeman carousel.

Anyway, let’s look at the Vikings.



They finished last in the division last year with a record of 5-10-1, and made some coaching changes in the off season, bringing in new (first time) head coach Mike Zimmer and coaching veteran Norv Turner.   They drafted Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater, both of whom will be decent additions to the team, and they also drafted Jerick McKinnon who hopefully will be able to help Adrian Peterson in the backfield. So based on how they drafted and their coaching changes will it be enough to help get them out of the cellar? If Zimmer and Turner can help improve their QB situation, it could be enough.  But one thing that could still hurt them is the fact that they lost Jared Allen to Da Bears.  If there is one thing you need in this division this year, its defense.  My prediction for the Vikings this year:  6-10

Moving on to the Monsters of The Midway.


This team finished last year 8-8.  Slightly disappointing for them, but also one must remember that Jay Cutler was out for several games with an injury, along with Lance Briggs.  And the retirement of Brian Urlacher was also a noticeable loss.   So those things presented first year head coach Marc Trestman with some challenges.  The 2014 season brings some promise.  They picked up Jared Allen from Minnesota, Jay Cutler signed a 7 year deal, along with kicker Robbie Gould.  They improved their defense during free agency with the additions of people like Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, and Ryan Mundy.  They also drafted pretty decently by getting once again more solid on defense with Kyle Fuller, Ego Ferfuson and Will Sutton.  The Bears defense sort of scares me.  But I think it will be their defense that will win the games for them.  Their offense is good, but their defense is better.  My prediction for the Bears this year:  9-7.

Next up…The Packers.


These guys limped their way into winning the division last year with an 8-7-1 record.   Injuries to key players such as Jermichael Finley, Casey Hayward, Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, and of course Aaron Rogers affected this team.  They ended up putting 15 players on IR last year.  But I’m not really thinking the same record for this year.  You just can’t bet against Aaron Rogers, barring another injury.  Again though, just getting everyone back healthy again makes this team better automatically, without adding key free agents and draft picks.  But they were able to pick up Julius Peppers and Matt Flynn and drafted Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Davante Adams. Pretty good pickups if you ask me.  My prediction for The Pack:  11-5

Rounding out the division are the Lions.



This team.  All the talent in the world, but can’t get out of their own way.  They finished a disappointing 7-9 last year, after pretty much having the division in their laps.  But this year they come back with a brand new coaching staff put in place to help Matt Stafford live up to his potential.  The Lions signed Golden Tate during free agency, and also brought in James Ihedigbo for their secondary.  The Lions also drafted Eric Ebron to also give Stafford another person to throw to, and also Kyle Van Noy as another addition to the defense.  If Suh and Fairley play as they were touted to do, and if Stafford is able to NOT throw as many interceptions this year, this team could do some damage in this division.   My prediction for The Lions:  9-7.


I think the NFC North is going to live up to its name this year.  This is going to be one tough division to get through, especially with the additions that the Packers and Bears have made on defense.    But it’s going to be fun to watch.  And.   I.  Can’t.  Wait.


Follow Sonja on Twitter @Mom23RN


Previewing the AFC West

Football is back.  Yeah, I’m counting the preseason.  And like I said last week, I couldn’t be more excited!  I previewed the NFC North last week, and so I thought I’d preview the AFC West this week.  The AFC West has my B team, The Broncos.  Not sure why they’re my B team.  They just are.  I think it’s got something to do with the Mile High Salute.  But that’s another story for another day.         The AFC Champs came out of this division, and they sent three teams to the playoffs.  So let’s see what kind of off the charts expectations we can have for this division for 2014.

I’ll start with the San Diego Chargers.  Chargers wordmark with logo

No really good reason, except for the random fact that this is the only city in the AFC West that I’ve been to.  They finished 3rd in their division with a 9-7 record last year behind the “resurgence” of Phillip Rivers under Ken Whisenhunt.

Offseason Recap:  The biggest event of the offseason was actually losing Ken Whisenhunt to being the head coach of the Tennessee Titans.   They added Donald Brown RB from the Colts in free agency who had his best season in the league last year.  Adding him to the already talented Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead makes the Chargers run game pretty awesome.   Then, with the 25th pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, the Chargers selected Jason Verrett, CB out of TCU, which will help improve their defense a bit this year.   But I think the biggest question will be can Philip Rivers continue is “resurgence” in the absence of Whisenhunt.  Personally, I think so.  But we shall see.

Prediction:   This is going to be a hard division to get out of this year, but I have a feeling that they will be able to go 11-5, if I’m being optimistic.  I think they’ll at least split with KC and Denver this year, and lose to the Pats and the 49ers, but I do think 10-6 is pretty realistic.

Player Who Will Surprise:  Marcus Gilchrist.  He’s coming into his 4th year in the league, and he’s made steady improvement at CB.  He could be a nice surprise for the Chargers this year.


Staying out in California, I’ll head up north to Oakland, and we’ll touch on the dumpster fire that is the Oakland Raiders. raidersofficiallogo

(Sorry Raider Nation, but I’m being honest here.)  Last year they finished with a 4-12 record. With no real QB running this team, it sort of made for a painful season.  True Terrelle Pryor had an OK year, but ..yeah.  I mean, in a division where 3 teams went to the playoffs, someone’s gotta finish last, right?

Offseason Recap:  Well this team had all the money.  I mean, like ALL the money.   They were able to get James Jones from Green Bay to help improve their receiving game. They also surprisingly let Lamarr Houston walk, but quickly signed LaMarr Woodley to replace him. The Raiders also got Matt Schaub in a trade from the Texans.  In the draft, they picked up LB Khalil Mack out of Buffalo with the 5th pick, and also of note they drafted Derek Carr at QB with the 36th pick.

Prediction:  They’ve made some moves to help improve things defensively, and also on their line, and gotten an experienced starter in Matt Schaub, but despite most of the moves they made, I still think that they will finish around 5-11 or 6-10.  Their schedule is a little tough looking, so I don’t have too many high hopes for them.


Biggest Surprise:  Derek Carr will become the starter in Week 6.  I have a feeling.  I’ve also been wrong before.  But I have a hunch.  I just do.  Women’s Intuition.


Next up are the Kansas City Chiefs

San Diego Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs


The Cinderella story of last year.  They were a pathetic 2-14 in 2012, and cleaned house.  Brought in Andy Reid who then got Alex Smith to come play for them, and the rest as they say is history.  They turned things around and finished 2013 with an 11-5 record. Now, the question is will they be able to repeat that this year.

Offseason Recap:  Overall the Chief’s didn’t make too big a splash in free agency this year.  However, the one signing that did happen that made some noise was Jamal Charles, after his “hold out.”  But resigning him obviously had to happen, and praise everyone, it did.  In the draft, they took Dee Ford out of Auburn.  He was a DE at Auburn, but will have to switch over to OLB in KC.  So far, so good.  They are impressed with his ability to adapt to the change in position.  They also got De’Anthony Thomas out of Oregon as well.

Prediction:  This year, I’m going to say that they go 11-5 again.  They’ve still got a talented team, and I don’t think that last year was a fluke.  I think a really great game will be when the Seahawks come to town.  That’s going to be fun to watch, and I really think that they can beat the Hawks at Arrowhead.

Biggest Surprise:  A.J. Jenkins could be a surprising player.  If Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery aren’t up to snuff, expect A.J. to possibly surprise a few people here and there.


Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Jones catches a pass behind Denver Broncos free safety Moore and then scores a touchdown late in the fourth quarter in their NFL AFC Divisional playoff football game in Denver

Last but far from least are the defending AFC Champs, my B Team, the Denver Broncos.  Coming off of a shellacking of epic and historic fashion in the Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos are looking to defend their AFC Crown again this year.  They finished with a 13-3 record last year, and an embarrassing performance in the Super Bowl by losing 43-8.  I think the question now is, will Peyton Manning have that kind of drive that the San Antonio Spurs did this past season to get the Broncos back to the Super Bowl to get revenge.   Well they certainly made some off season moves to that effect.

Offseason Recap:  Sign ALL the free agents.  Amazingly they were able to get T.J. Ward, Aquib Talib and DeMarcus Ware.  However, they lost Eric Decker , but were also to able to secure Emmanuel Sanders.  So, they are ready to win now, and giving Peyton the help he needs to win now.  In the draft, they picked WR Cody Latimer with their first pick.  Not a bad move, especially when you’re giving Peyton more people to throw to.

Prediction:  I mean, what can I say.  I know they’re not going to run the table,  but they will be pretty good this year.  The game to tune in to will be the rematch against the Seahawks on Sept. 21.  Getcha Popcorn ready.  I see them going 12-4 this year.  Looking forward to some great match ups, and watching Peyton do his thang this year.


Biggest Surprise:  I think that Cody Latimer will get a pretty decent chance to do some damage.  When Wes Welker goes out (because we all know that’s gonna happen) look to see him start to shine in this offense.

That’s the AFC West.  Again, I can’t wait to see how close I am to right.  And if I get this all the way wrong, well then, you see why I don’t gamble.

Next week, I’ve got the AFC East…..



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