Archive for category 2009 season

Running Back Blurb Breakdown: Larry Johnson

Once upon a time, Larry Johnson was Fantasy relevant.

He still is – although perhaps as a cautionary tale of too much complaining, not enough production.

It’s too bad because we’ve seen some great production from him even in the last two, stunted years.

Maybe it was the immense number of carries in 2005 & 2006 (336 & 416 respectively).

Maybe it was the ineffectual regimes in Kansas City. Maybe it was the weight of his not-insubstantial ego.

Whatever the cause, he has been in trouble or hurt often after the last few years.

It didn’t help his numbers last year that he caught just 12 balls after several seasons of 30+ catches. It looks unlikely that the Chiefs will utilize him to catch out of the backfield much this season, although with All-World Tight End Tony Gonzalez has gone of to Atlanta.

So, it’s possible LJ could get a few more catches since Brad Cottam is rumored to be staying in to block a lot.

We’ve seen too much of a dip to think Johnson is ready to bounce back anytime soon. Especially with a shaky offensive line, an unproven quarterback (albeit coming of a tremendous year) throwing to a small number of offensive weapons and probably  less than desired as the defense struggles to stop opposing drives and get the offense reps.

Johnson still has some upside but is nowhere near the back who once occupied a lounging spot in the preseason top ten rankings.

The best you can do is draft him for depth and hope he can put in a performance for a few games like he did week 3 vs Atlanta (121yds, 1TD), week 4 vs Denver (198yds, 2TDs) or week 16 vs Miami (108yds, 1TD).

But good luck figuring out when to start him. Thanks, but I think I’ll pass, regardless of perceived value – even in the fifth or sixth rounds.

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Running Back Camp Battles to Watch Part 1

While OTA’s are winding/have wound down, the NFL does not sleep. While the players get what passes for a vacation, media does not, especially since Brett Favre can’t make up his damned mind.

In perfect universal symmetry, neither can the Vikings. Marriage made in heaven or hell? We’ll find out soon enough.

In order to get you prepped for tons of footbally goodness at the end of July, I’ve decided to break down some of the more interesting running back battles to watch in July and August.

This is what happens when you drive cross country folks. You fill time.

This is also not to say that there won’t be battles we don’t see as important now, emerging down the pike as intriguing. But for now, these are ones that stand out as important immediately.

Without further ado (or more ado than usual at least) here are the Training Camp Battles to Watch: Running Backs.

Carolina: There is a ton of assumption going on here after DeAngelo Williams went off in 2008. We know John Fox loves to hang with his long term vets and you have to figure Williams earned some consideration. Still, Jonathan Stewart was able to score 10 TDs even with Williams numbers, so Fox is willing to work him in. Where this gets interesting is behind Stewart with Mike Goodson.

Stewart has been hurt during Mini’s and OTA’s and Goodson is a guy the team wants involved. Why does this matter? Because if Goodson gets a shot to shine and does so, this could become a three headed monster which might be great for Panther fans, though hurt the overall numbers of all three guys. Carolina runs a ton (504 pass attempts versus 414 passing according to footballguys.com) so there could be work for all, but that might be offset a tad by three running backs.

Baltimore: Will last year’s Thundering Blurb Mr. Glass Award Winner (TM) Willis McGahee, ever be healthy? My guess is no, sure as heck not coming off of two off-season surgeries. Both his knee (the one that has been hurt since…. um…. 1942?) and his ankle went under the knife. Stick a fork in him (or a scalpel), the man is DONE. The Ravens may not agree and we’ll get a sense of that in Training Camp. That could mean the start of the Ray Rice Ruckus (also (TM)).

Rice showed some skills last season when he was healthy and should get a ton of the carries. He won’t do it alone, however and whether the teams sticks with rookie Cedric Peerman, moves Le’Ron McClain back from fullback (where he went during OTA’s) or adds some work for Jalen Parmele. How the backs behind Rice shake out could impact his numbers very sigificantly.

Buffalo: With Marshawn Lynch suspended the first few games of the season, Fred Jackson will get his time to shine again. Jackson looked great in limited (sometimes not-so-limited) action last season. But the Bills acquired journeyman Dominic Rhodes this offseason to protect themselves and he’ll duke it out for lead bell cow while ‘Dis Muh Son’ Lynch is in Goodell’s pokey.

This battle, mostly between Jackson and Rhodes is critical because whomever wins the top spot might not relinquish it when Lynch comes back and could factor in with what the Bills do with the troubled back long term if he can’t get his head straight.

Cincinnati: I know the Bengals think they have some sort of hidden gem in Cedric Benson, and I’m happy for them but remain unconvinced. Benson did well behind a tragic offensive line, which will not be the case if rookie Andre Smith can get his act together. But I can’t help but recall all the problems Benson had in Chicago, so I am not annointing him anything and neither should Cinci. Brian Leonard and Bernard Scott are both good short yardage backs who can catch the ball and could make some noise.

Scott will have to overcome some maturity issues and they will both have to shine in camp to wrest carries away from Benson. That’s completely possible in my opinion so I will be interested to watch this camp closely.

Denver: There are three sure things in football right now – Brett Favre will be considering and waffling about a comeback in the spring and early summer, the Raiders will make decisions based on logic only they can comprehend and the Broncos running back situation will be a cloudy mess.

But have we lost one of those sure things? Surprising everyone in this April’s Draft, the Donks took Knowshon Moreno, the talented back from Georgia and the interwubs is all a-twitter (or all twittering) about Moreno carrying the whole load.

For sure, he can do it all – block, run, catch. But will Head Coach Josh McDaniels truly rely on one back? His former team, the Patriots, didn’t. Of course, you can argue they lacked a back like Moreno.

All I know is Moreno has the ability to do it. But with recent additions Correll Buckhalter, Lamont Jordan and Darius Walker, along with impressive 2008 rookie Peyton Hillis, this is a camp battle you have to watch. Considering they no longer have Jay Cutler slinging the ball, the run game is of paramount importance this year.

Indianapolis: It wasn’t that long ago that Joseph Addai was the answer in Colt-land at running back. A few injury-plagued seasons later, Donald Brown is drafted and Addai is poised to lose most of his carries.

Brown can do pretty much everything Addai can do, and might have the size to stay healthy as well. Most analysts feel it is only a matter of time before Brown takes over the higher percentage of carries in this obvious running-back-by-committee.

What I want to know is, what percentage does he start the season off with? A good camp by Brown could give him a large role in this prolific offense.

That’s it for today’s installment. I’ll be back tomorrow with a look at some more teams, including who might be backing up MJD in Jacksonville, what Philadelphia is looking at if Westbrook stays hurt and who will be the top dog in the mess that is the Seahawks’ run game.

Fantasy Rookies 2009: The Wide Receivers (Part Two)

Welcome to part two of my look at the rookie wide receiver draft class and it’s potential impact on your fantasy team.

Today we look at some players who are shakier than the first group but may have just as much long-term potential.

A few could even produce this year.

Kenny Britt, TEN
Britt is a guy with a nice combination of ability and opportunity. Britt joins a decent but no-exactly Pro Bowl group with oft-hurt Justin Gage and inconsistent vertical threat Nate Washington. With his good hands and physical play, he should be able to carve out a niche in the offense and could become a possession receiver who is Kerry Collins’ best friend next season. However, it’s not like Collins throws 100 times a game so how much productivity will he have? Britt is a fringe guy for the top 5 rookies and if he has a good camp, might be worth a late flier in a redraft. I think Dynasty-wise he’s worth a look in the first few rounds (not first though).

Brian Robiskie, CLE
Robiskie is in an interesting situation and so far has impressed in camp. Tony Grossi from the Cleveland Plains Dealer says his two TD catches from Brady Quinn in red-zone drills along with the as-advertised crisp routes and overall polish make him an early leader for a #2 spot. There is a glut of other WRs there (including fellow rookie Mohamed Massaquoi), we don’t know who will be QB (though Quinn is looking good) and what impact Braylon Edwards has are all unanswered right now. Robiskie (and perhaps Massaquoi) could emerge during the season as a nice WR3 or 4. I would be careful in redraft but in Dynasty, Robiskie looks like a good bet to succeed down the road. Hopefully this will clear up a bit during training camp.

Mike Thomas, Jarrett Dillard, JAX
There isn’t much to prevent either of these two guys from breaking out other than Tory Holt and the bad history of wide receiver drafting in Jacksonville. However, Holt is a great person to mentor these guys and there is a lot to like about Dillard and Thomas both which might have been lacking in previous picks. Both rookies are already huge presences at the team facilities and are getting accolades from coach Jack Del Rio. Dillard was a great leader at Rice who, while a bit undersized, can leap to make grabs and plays bigger than he is. Thomas is also a little smaller than you’d like in a WR, but is a tough guy across the middle, has some speed and was very productive at Arizona. Both of these guys have upside, I expect the OLine and overall offense should be snappier and Holt isn’t a long term solution. Watch these guys and see which seems to emerge in August as a potential late round Wr or a dynasty pick who could be productive by the end of the year.

Juaquin Iglesias & Johnny Knox, CHI
With Jay Cutler coming to town you have to take a hard look at the wide receiver corps. There are a bunch of guys they will compete with – Hester, Bennett, Davies – but none have captured the first spot and run away with it. Hester (allegedly) is looking better than ever. But even the #2 slot on this team could be huge with Cutler throwing the ball. Iglesias is a tough, with good body control and a willingness to go across the middle. If he can become a reliable target, he could see a lot of work thrown his way though he might fight from looks with tight end Greg Olson. Knox is a vertical threat and he’ll see more competition from Hester. I’m still not sold on Hester and think there is room for Knox to move in, but it can be a risk. I would avoid either one in a redraft but either one could be a decent lat pick in a rookie draft.

Brandon Tate, WR
Tate is an intriguing guy – he has talent but he’s coming off of an injury which was pretty bad. Testing positive for drugs at the Combine doesn’t speak well of his smarts either. Even if Tate comes back and keeps clean, he’s a few years away from impacting the lineup. Undraftable in redraft and not worth anything more than a late spot on most Dynasty rosters as well.

Other guys I like:
Ramses Barden, NYG – Barden has to beat out Nicks and learn to use his body better but I’m a well known Barden Booster and I think he will emerge as a player in a year or two. He was prolific at the college level, even though he played against lesser quality opponents. He’s a hard worker and while there are a bunch of wide receivers to vie with for time, I think he has what it takes to succeed.

Patrick Turner, MIA – There aren’t a ton of world beaters in Miami and Turner has a shot to compete for a starting spot. He’s not a speed demon, doesn’t get much separation and isn’t a deep threat. He’s an aggressive player – and tough – so he could carve out a red zone/short yardage niche in the offensive scheme.

Derrick Williams, DET – A guy who is not likely to explode for several years but might match up nicely with Calvin Johnson down the road. He has the speed to be so – but he was never terribly productive at Penn State so his ceiling is a big question mark.