After seven rounds and 256 selections in the 2014 NFL draft, Texas had no names on the selection board.
But by the time Mr. Irrelevant — the name given to the last player drafted — was picked in the 2015 NFL draft, Texas had made its presence felt.
Five Longhorns, the most since 2010, were selected in this year’s draft, which was hosted in Chicago over the weekend. The Longhorns first got on the board Friday, when the New England Patriots drafted defensive end Malcom Brown No. 32 overall, and the team’s involvement ended when the Dallas Cowboys selecting tight end Geoff Swaim with the 29th pick of the seventh round.
“It was just a relief — the past four or five hours have been pretty intense,” said Swaim, who will be joining former Texas teammates Donald Hawkins and Chris Whaley, in a statement. “It’ll be cool to play with the guys that I’ve known and have a relationship with.”
Defensive backs Mykkele Thompson and Quandre Diggs were taken in the fifth and sixth rounds, respectively, of the NFL draft. The New York Giants selected Thompson with the eighth pick in the fifth round, while the Detroit Lions picked Diggs with the 24th pick of the sixth round.
“It’s great,” Diggs said of being drafted on the same day as Thompson, who is one of his closest friends. “Mykkele’s my brother; that’s my best friend. He’s one of the people who definitely pushed me.”
Another person who pushed Diggs was head coach Charlie Strong, whom Diggs developed a close relationship with in Strong’s inaugural season at Texas.
“He can cover and may not have top-end speed, but he makes up for it with his intelligence,” Strong said. “He plays within himself, studies receivers, studies splits [and] studies everything the offense does.”
The Philadelphia Eagles selected linebacker Jordan Hicks with the 20th pick in the third round.
“I’ve been talking to [Philadelphia] for a while, actually,” Hicks said in a statement. “I went on a pre-draft visit there and had a great time, felt really comfortable and enjoyed meeting with all the coaches and getting a feel for the place.”
Four other Longhorns found teams in the NFL after the draft ended. Once the draft is over, players have the chance to sign with teams as rookie free agents.
Wide receiver John Harris will be joining Hicks after signing a free agent deal with the Eagles, while long snapper Nate Boyer signed as a free agent with the Seattle Seahawks. The St. Louis Rams picked up running back Malcolm Brown, and defensive end Cedric Reed signed with the Buffalo Bills.
“It was great,” Boyer said. “[Seahawks] coach [Pete] Carroll called me, actually. He called and said, ‘I want to invite you out to training camp,’ and he actually said, ‘I hope you accept my invitation.’ Obviously, ‘yes’ was the answer to that.”
Before playing at Texas, Boyer was a member of the Green Berets. He joined the team in 2012 with no prior football experience.
“The thing about Nate is he’s such a hard worker,” Strong said. “Any time someone represents your country, when you talk about courage, you talk about honor, that’s what it’s all about. I love him so much.”
By the end of the weekend, the Longhorns had nine players headed to the NFL — a distinct turnaround from last year.
Defensive tackle Malcom Brown is the highlight of Texas’ NFL draft prospects. He might hear his name called in the first round Thursday night, and four other Longhorns could be taken.
While no Longhorns were drafted in the 2014 NFL draft, the one-year drought is likely to end this weekend.
Texas has five prospects who are projected to hear their names called at the draft, including defensive tackle Malcom Brown, linebacker Jordan Hicks, cornerback Quandre Diggs, defensive end Cedric Reed and running back Malcolm Brown.
“It feels like just yesterday I was walking on this campus as a young, 220-pound freshman not knowing anything,” Hicks said. “After five years, just to be here and to be going through this process, it’s really rewarding for all of us.”
Malcom Brown may be the first Longhorn picked after he shot up draft boards while racking up 72 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks last season. His 6-foot-2, 319-pound frame is ideal for the NFL, and he’s the No. 20-ranked prospect, according to NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock.
“Malcom Brown to me is a first-round guy all day long,” Mayock said on NFL.com. “He’s a low-risk investment and a really good football player.”
While Malcom Brown will find his new home early, Hicks is also a standout prospect.
Hicks came to Texas as a five-star prospect but battled injuries, causing him to fly under the radar as a pro prospect. He impressed scouts, however, during his senior year and in pre-draft workouts, which was enough for him to earn a fourth-round grade, according to NFL.com.
While Malcom Brown and Hicks are highly touted prospects, Diggs and Reed will likely find more modest roles in the NFL despite being perennial mainstays in Texas’ defense.
Diggs is undersized at 5 feet 9 inches and will most likely make his living on special teams, and Reed lacks the athleticism that NFL scouts desire. Both are projected to be picked during the fifth round or later.
The Longhorns’ main offensive prospect is Malcolm Brown, who led Texas in total rushing yards last season but still feels he has a lot to prove at the next level.
“I feel like I have a lot to show people that I haven’t been able to show these past couple of years due to injuries, and things didn’t go completely my way,” Malcolm Brown said.
While NFL.com projects Malcolm Brown to be a late-round pick, several scouts think he has NFL-caliber skills.
“[Malcolm Brown] possesses the size, toughness and ability to play on all three downs, and that will catch the eyes of teams looking for depth at running back,” NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein said on NFL.com.
While these Longhorns were longtime contributors for the program, their chapters at Texas will come to a close as they find a new home and a new start this weekend.
“It’s definitely a different feeling not being a student and not being a current athlete here,” Diggs said. “At the same time, it’s time for a new journey in life.”
Former tight end David Thomas still holds records with Texas football, but now his success comes from his broadcasting job with Longhorn Network.
The 2006 Rose Bowl game typically conjures up images of Vince Young tearing apart the USC defense and sneaking across the goal line with 20 seconds left on 4th-and-5. But few fans remember the team-leading 10 receptions that tight end David Thomas hauled in to help Texas earn its first national title since 1970.
“We couldn’t have won it without that,” former head coach Mack Brown said.
But Thomas’ earned more than just a national championship during his time at Texas. In his four years, Thomas also won the 2005 Rose Bowl by a slim margin and set the Longhorns’ record for receptions, yards and touchdowns by a tight end — records he still holds.
His play caught the eye of the New England Patriots, who selected Thomas in the third round of the 2006 NFL draft. He went on to have a fruitful seven-year career, in which he brought a Lombardi Trophy to New Orleans.
But Thomas’ love for Texas football stayed strong until he retired after the 2012 season. When Longhorn Network came calling, Thomas, a Texas native, leapt at the opportunity despite not having a communications degree or prior experience.
“I hadn’t really given a whole lot of thought to getting into broadcasting,” Thomas said. “The first time I did it, I started to see that I could still be around the game and be able to give my opinions and cover a team that I love to cover”
The attributes that earned Thomas praise from NFL and NCAA coaches and teammates have also garnered him strong reviews from his peers in the media.
“[Thomas is] a really bright guy who earned his degree before going to the NFL,” said Brown, who is now a broadcaster himself for ESPN. “He knows the game and had so much awareness of what was happening on the field. He has great insight for both broadcasting and coaching.”
Although Thomas’ playing career is over, the record-setting tight end still prepares for studio work as if he were going to take the field Saturday.
“It’s a very similar mindset,” Thomas said. “I kind of get lost in the world of watching the scheme and watching the players and the matchups and figure out where the other team is vulnerable and what can be exploited.”
Thomas reputation and experience led to a side job coaching with the Air It Out passing camp in December 2014. Alan Wartes, the camp director when Thomas’ attended as a high schooler, leapt at the opportunity to bring his former student and longtime friend on as a coach when Thomas retired from NFL.
“First and foremost, he’s just great for kids,” Wartes said. “David’s a great guy, and he’s a good ambassador for the University of Texas.”
As important as Air It Out may be to a camp alumnus such as Thomas, there are a few other players that take up most of his time now. He has four kids, ranging from one to seven years old, and has taken on the responsibility of coaching all of their teams to stay as involved as possible in their lives.
Thomas is just two years removed from a championship-winning career, but he has already found what he wants to do for the rest of his life.
“I’m thrilled with where I am,” Thomas said. “The game has done a lot for me and has opened a lot of doors for me and continues to open doors for me through these avenues. I’m very blessed to be able to do what I do and work with the people that I work with.”
This may be the million-dollar question. The Pro Bowl is the NFL equivalent of the All-Star Game, but it fails compared to the MLB and the NBA ones.
Now, what is the reason for this? It can’t be because baseball and basketball are better than football; now that’s just ludicrous.
Maybe it’s the lack of value in the game. The MLB All Star Game actually matters. The winning division gets home field advantage in the World Series.
This could be a great thing for the NFL to adopt, but then they would have to have the Pro Bowl during the season.
The recent reformatting of the Pro Bowl has only made it worse. Firstly, they moved it to be before the Super Bowl, which excluded some of the best players each year. I mean, that’s obvious, they made it to the Super Bowl after all.
Secondly, it is no longer NFC versus AFC. This has really led to the demise of the Pro Bowl, not that it was ever great, but it was better than this. This year, for example, it was Team Irvin versus Team Carter. Each coach “drafted” players that were selected to the Pro Bowl by voting.
Now let’s be frank, this is just unnecessary. They are trying to model a pickup game of football. Why are you ruining something that could honestly be so great?
Think about it. A game where Aaron Rodgers is throwing to Odell Beckham Jr. Does that sound awesome or does that sound awesome?
On paper, it should be. In reality, it is similar to watching paint dry.
So, why can’t we have the Pro Bowl midseason like the NBA and MLB do?
Maybe the reason the NFL is opposed to this is because of the physicality of the sport.
However, the NFL plays the fewest games per season compared to these sports. Yes, I understand football is literally running into someone and getting hit. But playing 82 basketball games a season probably isn’t too easy either.
Regardless of the levels of physicality, you play any sport at a professional level that often, your body will feel it.
I’m not asking for the NFL to play 50 games. I’m asking for one more game halfway through the season, I’m asking for 17 games. Give these guys an All Star break.
There won’t be any defense until the fourth quarter. It will just be exciting and electrifying plays for the fans. That’s all they really want.
Does anyone watch the NBA All-Star Game for a good matchup? No. We watch it to see a dream team that will never exist elsewhere. We watch it to see Chris Paul lob the ball to James Harden. We watch it to see LeBron throw the ball to the perimeter for Carmelo to shoot a three.
Why can’t we have this in football?
I want to live in a world where I can see Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy in the backfield together for one game a year.
Am I really asking for that much? No, no I am not.
So please, give me an NFL All-Star Game that everyone will watch.
Millions tune in to watch the NBA All Star Weekend. Millions tune in to watch the MLB All Star Game. Let’s add the NFL to that list.
There won’t be a dunk contest, but there could be a 40-yard dash contest, a one-handed catch contest, and a throwing contest.
Basically, it could be a casual combine. I mean, why not?
Do it for the fans. Bring the Pro Bowl back to life. Honestly, the NFL could use all the good press it can get right now.
Few people are good enough and devoted enough to become consensus All-Americans while pursuing a petroleum engineering degree.
Doug Dawson, a former Texas offensive lineman, managed to succeed in both.
Dawson, an academic and consensus All-American who played from 1980–1983, became a starter by sophomore year. But managing his full-time studies and full-time football career wasn’t easy.
“It means you have no life,” Dawson said. “The old college experience, you know, ‘Hey we’ll meet you out on one of the lakes,’ or ‘We’ll meet you out at Barton Creek’ — that was not my college experience. My college experience was studying and playing football.”
But the sacrifices Dawson made on the 40 Acres paid off. His accomplishments across the board at Texas caught the eye of teammates and general managers alike.
“Doug excelled at the fundamentals,” said Vance Bedford, current Texas defensive coordinator and a collegiate teammate of Dawson’s for two years. “He did the little things extremely well. The work ethic; you couldn’t say enough good things about Doug.”
The St. Louis Cardinals, currently known as the Rams, took Dawson in the second round of the 1984 NFL Draft. Dawson played in eight seasons in the NFL. But what set Dawson apart from other NFL players is the way he prepared for his career after football.
Always wanting to stay a step ahead of the curve, Dawson began thinking about life after football as soon as he joined the NFL. After his rookie season, he passed the test to become a licensed stockbroker. Not long after that, he signed on with Northwestern Mutual and found himself balancing two careers at once.
“I had a couple of injuries about halfway through my career that kept me out of a couple of seasons during that 11-year span,” Dawson said. “That is when I decided to become a financial adviser.”
In the final season of his career, Dawson started as offensive lineman for a playoff-bound Cleveland Browns, which Bill Belichick coached. But he soon found out he was making more money working in his new job in his spare time.
When the 1994 season ended with a second-round playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dawson, then-33, decided to retire from football and become a full-time financial adviser.
“I kind of hit the ground running,” Dawson said. “When they start offering you less to play pro football than you make in your regular business … you start thinking it’s time to grow up and get a big-boy job.”
Although the careers are on opposite spectrums, Dawson finds many similarities between his former and current career — they have the same basic principles.
“As an offensive lineman, my job was to serve my quarterback and to block, and it’s a role where you’re not in the limelight,” Dawson said. “The more you learn to serve other peoples’ needs, the more successful you’ll become. In business and in work, you have got to serve other people’s needs to be successful.”
During his time on the 40 Acres, kicker Anthony Fera proved to be one of the best kickers Texas has seen with a school record-tying 15 straight field goals. Though he did not receive an NFL spot last year, Fera is hoping to get another shot.
After transferring to Texas from Penn State and suffering a groin injury that delayed his Longhorn debut, Anthony Fera took to the field his senior year to become one of the most consistent kickers Texas has ever seen. During his tenure, he hit 15 straight field goals — tied for the longest streak in school history.
Fera, who kicked and punted for the Longhorns in 2012 and 2013 after transferring from Penn State following the Sandusky scandal, was a consensus All–American in 2013 and a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, which is given to the nation’s best kicker.
“We saw the real Anthony Fera in his last year at Texas,” former head coach Mack Brown said. “He was focused and excited, and you could see that in his kicking. To go from such a difficult situation to becoming a Groza Award finalist really speaks to his determination.”
Kicking may be the most high-pressure job in football, but for Fera, the task became second nature.
“For me, kicking … it’s easy to me,” Fera said. “Once you learn it and you master it, then it’s not a problem.”
Now a year removed from college, Fera needs the confidence and determination that allowed him to thrive amid a collegiate career sullied by scandal and injury. The kicker, whom ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. referred to as the best in the 2014 draft class, is still trying to join the tiny fraternity of NFL kickers and punters.
“It’s a waiting thing,” Fera said. “It hasn’t really worked out for me yet.”
Though he was not drafted, the former Longhorn standout did get a taste of the NFL dream at the Miami Dolphins’ rookie minicamp. But by the time the regular season rolled around, Fera found himself without an NFL roster spot.
“Right after the draft, I went down to the rookie minicamp down in Miami and had a little setback with a school injury, just a strained muscle, and a couple weeks later I went to Jacksonville, but they were looking more for a punter,” Fera said. “That didn’t really work out as planned.”
Despite the yearlong setback, Fera is still dead set on landing in the NFL. He now spends his time hopping around the country, punting and kicking at veteran combines and working out in Austin.
“[I’m] working out … probably five, six times a week, still kicking … probably two times a week just trying to stay fresh.” Fera said.
Still, no player can maintain peak physical performance for long — as anyone who has labeled the NFL as “Not For Long” can attest. For a player such as Fera — an undrafted specialist hanging in limbo after a full season on the market — it is especially important to have a backup plan in place.
When Fera is not trying to maintain NFL levels of fitness, he is busy learning the ins and outs of the oil industry from his father at MidStar Energy, a directional drilling company in Houston. He hopes to eventually have enough industry knowledge to land a career in sales.
“I’m just trying to learn the whole process at the moment,” Fera said. “Every now and then, I’ll go out to an oil rig and check out a few things.”
Fera said his fledgling career will not pry him away from his dream of landing on an NFL roster.
“My main focus is making the NFL,” Fera said. “I’ll probably give it a try the next year or two.”
In this day and age, the NFL is regarded as the most popular sports league in America as 35 percent of sports fans call the NFL their favorite sport, followed by Major League Baseball (14 percent) and college football (11 percent).
Most fans consider Pete Rozelle, the late former commissioner, to be responsible for the NFL’s immense popularity; however, over the last decade, the NFL’s success can be attributed to elite quarterback play.
When mentioning the NFL’s elite quarterbacks Denver Bronco’s Peyton Manning (age 38), Green Bay Packer’s Aaron Rodgers (age 30), New England’s Tom Brady (age 37), New Orleans’ Drew Brees (age 35), and Pittsburgh Steeler’s Ben Roethlisberger (age 32) are always at the top of every NFL analyst’s list.
Their résumés are impressive and illustrate why they are considered elite and so entertaining to watch.
Collectively, these five quarterbacks have eight Super Bowl victories, 13 Super Bowl appearances and 32 division title in the past twelve years. There have only been two years since 2002 when none of these quarterbacks were playing in the Super Bowl (Super Bowls XXXVII and XLVII). Not to mention, all five quarterbacks this season are in the top ten for most passing yards and touchdowns.
So what will happen to the NFL when they all retire?
Football fans everywhere should feel blessed to have had the privilege to watch these great quarterbacks in action on Sundays over the past decade. When they retire, the league will not be the same. Their successors have shown potential but they aren’t as consistent as the current elite quarterbacks.
Most NFL analysts believe that the quarterback position will continue to evolve from a pocket passer style of play to a dual threat style of play, meaning a quarterback who is a threat to throw the ball downfield and rush for big plays.
This dual threat style of quarterback play has been problematic for many defenses around the league as quarterbacks Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, and Robert Griffin III have all thrived in this new era of NFL football.
However, the NFL is a league of adjustments. As defenses have been able to figure out how to contain these dual threat quarterbacks, their style of play has been less impactful. This season, these dual threat quarterbacks are a combined 20-23-1 and none of their respective teams are a lock to make the playoffs, as all of the quarterbacks have struggled.
Of all the younger quarterbacks in the NFL, Indianapolis Colt’s quarterback Andrew Luck has shown the most potential in becoming one of the elite as he currently leads the league in passing yards and is second in touchdown passes. However, Luck is considered to be more of a pocket passer than a dual threat quarterback.
This dual threat style of play at first seemed like the future of the NFL but has proven to be less effective and not as enjoyable to watch for NFL plans.
The NFL will most likely still be the most popular sport in America but the switch from pocket passing quarterbacks to dual threat quarterbacks will diminish its overall popularity.
A great friend (and fantasy addict) approach me with the following question for today’s article-- why do we play fantasy football? We both follow all the important NFL writers, text back and forth hundreds of times a week, and watch upwards of 10-12 games every weekend. But for what? Why are we obsessed with this game? Why did Fortune.com say businesses lose approximately $13.4 billion annually because of employees devoting work time to setting their lineups? Today I want to try to make an attempt at explaining our obsession. By no means is this the be-all and end-all of an explanation for why we love it. But here’s my opinion:
· Trash Talk
o Nothing is better than getting a league email from a guy you just played, complaining about how unfair fantasy football is and how he obviously should’ve won, rather than losing by 2 points. The second you see this; the trash talk rebuttal begins stewing in your brain. You will do everything in your power to never let him live this down. You want him to go to sleep at night agonizing over those 2 points. The majority of fantasy leagues are played with people you know. Be it friends, relatives, or co-workers, trash talk takes the league to another level. It adds fuel to the fire; emotion to the game.
o Piggybacking on trash talk is the rivalry aspect of this wonderful game. If you have been in any league for more than one year, chances are you have that one guy (or girl) you absolutely want to crush. You could lose every other game all year long, as long as you demoralize that hated enemy. Your effort level for the week leading up to the massive matchup is unmatched. For example, in my favorite league, I play with some guys that are about 10 years older than me who all went to a college I didn’t go to. (Another story for another time). Anyways, after I sent out a lengthy trash talk email last year, he responded with an email of his own and from there the rivalry began.
· Interest in Every Game
o Fantasy adds entertainment to your entertainment. There are plenty of fine folks who watch many NFL games without the added pleasure of fantasy football, but they must not know what they’re missing. It seems like most weeks, every single game has fantasy implications. You love Andre Johnson this week but you also have the Bengals D so you’re put in a conundrum. You have so many ties in every game, it makes each and every play seem of massive importance. Before you know it, you’ve watched 8 games that don’t include any teams you root for. And you better believe the NFL knows (and absolutely loves) this. The NFL is one of the most powerful organizations in America and it has fantasy football to thank.
· Get to be a GM
o Most of us will never work in an NFL front office. Even fewer will ever reach the peak of NFL player management, becoming a General Manager. The 32 GM spots aren’t exactly easy to attain. But with fantasy football, suddenly the unattainable is at your fingertips. You get to be the GM of your own team. Your power limited only by fellow GMs who refuse to trade with you. This idea of completely controlling every aspect of a team is the overarching theme of fantasy football. Each and every one of us gets to run our organizations in any manner we please. Want to own 3 kickers? Go for it. Want to own only Oakland Raiders players? Go for it (but be sure to start praying). Fantasy gives us the unique ability to put together a team and watch it perform on a weekly basis. As GM, we get to prep months for the draft, pick your dream squad, and trade them all away the next week.
With the fantasy season is quickly coming to a close, enjoy it while it lasts and remember it’s ultimately about having fun (and winning along the way). But I ask you: Why do you love fantasy football? Email me at FantasyDecisions@gmail.com and tell me why you love it. And if you have any lineup dilemmas or need waiver wire wisdom, send it my way.
Onto the rankings!
Week 12 Rankings
1. Andrew Luck
2. Aaron Rodgers
3. Drew Brees
4. Peyton Manning
5. Jay Cutler
6. Tom Brady
7. Colin Kaepernick
8. Tony Romo
9. Philip Rivers
10. Ryan Tannehill
11. Russell Wilson
12. Josh McCown
13. Matthew Stafford
14. Matt Ryan
15. Ryan Mallett
16. Kyle Orton
17. Mark Sanchez
18. Zach Mettenberger
19. Joe Flacco
20. Andy Dalton
1. DeMarco Murray
2. Jamaal Charles
3. Matt Forte
4. Arian Foster (if active; if not, Alfred Blue would settle in around number 8 on my RB list)
5. LeSean McCoy
6. Eddie Lacy
7. Marshawn Lynch
8. Justin Forsett
9. Denard Robinson
10. Isaiah Crowell
11. Jeremy Hill (if Gio is inactive; if not, both Hill and Bernard would be in the low teens for me)
No more waiting with bated breath, I am back. Last week, similar to six NFL teams, I took my bye week (although I took mine because of midterms). But fear not, your fantasy expert has returned with one of the more important articles of the year.
The fantasy playoffs are suddenly creeping up on us. For most leagues, you’ve only got 3 weeks left to either make a run or make an exit. Now for some, you may already be looking towards the playoffs. Maybe you’re sitting at 8-2 and have already clinched a spot, or maybe you’re 7-3 just looking for one more win to punch your ticket. Whatever circumstance you find yourself in, it’s time to look at players with an eye for the playoffs. So in today’s article I want to take a look at a couple players at each position that could be the difference between making the playoffs and being a championship contender. Now you may feel it’s a little early to start looking ahead but remember the key to fantasy football success: being ahead of the curve. Beat your league rivals to the waiver wire and reap the benefits on your way to the trophy.
For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll assume your playoffs run from weeks 14 through 17…
AND DON’T FORGET: You can always email me at FantasyDecisions@gmail.com with any weekly questions, trade help or anything you need. I’m the “expert” with the answers.
Favorable Playoff Schedules
The Baylor project may just have the most favorable down the stretch schedule of any QB in the league. In weeks 14-16 he faces the Rams, Giants, and Eagles. Or in other words, the seventh, ninth, and third worst against the pass, respectively. It’s hard to find a more passing-friendly stretch of matchups. If he’s somehow available in your league’s waiver wire, stop reading this article and go grab him. I also think you could get him for very little in a trade if your deadline hasn’t passed. While you’re not starting him over any of the top three-six guys, he could easily slide in to the second tier of QBs.
It’s no coincidence that, like RG3, Romo plays in the NFC East. For such a consistently competitive division, the passing defense among the four teams is lacking, to put it lightly. Romo may even have a better schedule then the aforementioned Griffin. In weeks 14, 15, and 17 Romo plays three of the four worst passing defenses in the NFL! The juiciest matchup obviously being the Bears in week 14. (Did you catch what happened when Aaron Rodgers took a turn at them in week 10? Yeah, I want anyone and everyone on the offense playing Da Bears)
Some may be considering “selling high” on Ingram with the Saints running backs getting healthy and coming back to steal carries. If that’s the case in your league, please go send whatever it takes to get the Alabama stud on your team. It’s no fluke that Ingram has AVERAGED 27 carries the last three weeks. He has been an absolute bellcow in an offense that hasn’t had one in a long, long time. And his schedule just gets easier and easier. He’s facing 3 of the 10 worst rush defenses in the playoff weeks. Including maybe the very best matchup of any position down the stretch, a week 16 home game against the Falcons, the league’s worst rushing defense. His numbers aren’t a fluke. Sean Payton trusts him and so too should you.
This week may be your last chance to buy in on the Ivory market. After a bye this week, Ivory’s schedule is almost full proof (minus a tough week 12 matchup in Buffalo). In weeks 14-16, Ivory faces the 24th, 25th, and 26th ranked rushing defenses, respectively. The Jets RB is the perfect, under the radar tailback that could easily be a RB2 on a championship team. Not to mention, it shouldn’t take much to get him after two tough weeks and this week’s bye. Buy in on him now and be prepared to use him to crush your league-mates.
· Andre Johnson
My homer-ism may be strong here but my boy Dre has a shot to be a top 10 WR come playoff time. Two matchups against Jacksonville certainly don’t hurt with that prediction. Not to mention a meeting with the Ravens who lost Jimmy Smith, their top cornerback, for the year to a foot injury. Mallett and Andre are known to have a special bond, more so than Fitz had with Dre. By the time we get to the fantasy playoffs, Mallett will have had 3 games under his belt and will be looking for the trustworthiest hands in the NFL. A hall of fame receiver will be looking like his old self as he tears up the Jags in route to a huge end to the season.
· Kelvin Benjamin
The huge red zone target has been absolutely massive for Newton this season. His acclimation to the NFL has had its bumps but there’s no questioning his talent, which has led to him being the 10th best receiver in fantasy this year. I’m loving the week 14 and 15 back to back against the Saints and Bucs, the 4th and 1st worst passing defenses in the league. With a bye in week 12, Benjamin may be gettable in your league. Make it happen and smile as the Florida State kid tears up some weak secondaries.
The young TE has finally returned to practice after going through foot surgery following week three. Teddy Bridgewater needs a reliable target in Minny and I think Rudolph provides that for the young QB down the stretch. He had 5 targets in all three games to start the season and returns to a team desperate for a better passing offense. Rudolph has a great sandwich of the Jets awful secondary in week 14 and a week 17 meeting with Da Bears. Now that’s some favorable white bread on your sandwich. Just today I actually dropped Vernon Davis for the young TE. I’m all in and I think you should be too.
Just remember, this defense put up 20 points in the only game of the year in which JJ Watt, Brian Cushing, and JD Clowney played together. This unit has had a bye week to get healthy and it’s time to store them away for the playoffs. If nothing more than for the week 14 and 17 matchups against the woeful Jaguars. A stiff D against the Jags in the last week of your championship? Yeah I’ll take that everyday of the week.
After ten weeks of regular season play, it is time to start predicting who will win what awards in the NFL.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Sammy Watkins, Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills
Many may argue that Carolina Panther’s wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is the clear offensive rookie of the year since he has caught seven touchdowns compared to Watkins’ five. However, Watkins provides more of an impact to his team. Anytime Watkins hauls in over 80 receiving yards in a game, the Bills are 4-0. When he records less than 80 yards in a game, the Bills are 1-4. Watkins and Benjamin have put up similar numbers but Watkins’ impact to his team is undeniable.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Kyle Fuller, Cornerback, Chicago Bears
Despite dropping off the radar the last couple of weeks due to injury, Kyle Fuller is still in contention for defensive rookie of the year. Fuller’s performance this season should have Bears fans excited about their heir to Charles Tillman. As the first player in 20 years to record three picks and two forced fumbles in his first three NFL games, Fuller’s play indicates he will easily fill in Tillman’s big shoes. Fuller currently has three forced fumbles and three interceptions on the season. Regardless of Fuller’s impressive play, if the Bear’s defense keeps giving up 50 points per game, there is no way Fuller wins this award.
Comeback Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers
After breaking his collarbone last year in a contest with the Chicago Bears, Aaron Rodgers has sought out revenge against Chicago and is playing some of the best football of his career. Rodgers has torched Chicago this season throwing for ten touchdowns against them in two games, including a six down touchdown performance in the first half alone against the Bears this past Sunday. Rodgers isn’t only performing well against Chicago, as he is third in the league with 25 touchdowns and only three interceptions. What’s amazing is that Rodgers has thrown for 25 touchdowns on only 277 passing attempts. In comparison, touchdown leaders Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck have compiled passing attempts of 353 and 393, respectively. Rodgers is officially back.
Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals
Bruce Arians is the clear-cut coach of the year. Through Week 10, the Arizona Cardinals are 8-1 and hold the best record in the league after defeating the St. Louis Rams 31-14 in Week 9. Arians’ performance this season has been especially impressive since he has lost many key players on both sides of the ball, but the Cardinals somehow continue to win games. However, it will be tough for the Cardinals to recover after losing quarterback Carson Palmer for the season due to an ACL tear, but if Arians is able to get the Cardinals to win the NFC West with Drew Stanton under center, Arians should win the award unanimously.
Offensive Player of the Year: DeMarco Murray, Running Back, Dallas Cowboys
DeMarco Murray has been everything and more that the Cowboys have asked for this season. Murray started the season rushing for 100 yards in each of his first eight games. Perhaps the reason for these amazing numbers is that his workload is insane. He has carried the ball a total of 244 times and has rushed for a league high 1,233 yards. If Murray stays healthy, he is on pace to break the 2,000 rushing yard mark and possibly Eric Dickerson’s regular season rushing yard record of 2,105 yards. The only blemish on Murray’s resume is that he has fumbled the ball five times this season. Murray’s performance this season is one of the key reasons why the Cowboys are playing so well.
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Defensive end, Houston Texans
Watt’s dominant performance this season has not only put him ahead in the defensive player of the year discussion but also in the NFL MVP conversation. In addition to three touchdowns, Watt also has 39 tackles, eight and a half sacks, three fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble. Since 1957, the NFL MVP has been awarded to the best player who is thought to be the most valuable to his team. The award is almost always won by a quarterback or a running back and has only been awarded to a defensive player twice. Lawrence Taylor, linebacker of the New York Giants, last won the award back in 1986. Watt is with no doubt going to win the defensive player of the year award, the real question is, will he be the first defensive player to win the MVP award since Lawrence Taylor?
Most Valuable Player: Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
There are many candidates for MVP in the NFL this year including Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and J.J. Watt but, through Week 10, Indianapolis Colts starting quarterback Andrew Luck is the frontrunner for the award. With a league leading 3,085 passing yards through nine games, Luck is on pace to break Peyton Manning’s record of 5,477 passing yards in a season. Luck’s completion percentage (63.6%) and average yards per attempt (7.85) are significantly higher than his first two seasons in the NFL. Luck and the Colts are also on pace to win the AFC South for the third straight year and could possibly clinch a first round bye in the postseason. Even with similar numbers to Brady and Manning, Luck might be given the award simply because he has never won it before.