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January 30, 2015

2015 NFL Mock Draft: Jan. 30th Update

With Super Bowl XLIX only a couple of days away, the offseason will soon begin for all 32 NFL teams.

Until then, the actual draft order for the first 30 selections of this year's draft is set. Meanwhile, the winner of Super Bowl XLIX will get the 32nd pick and the runner-up will get the 31st overall pick.

This mock will be updated at least weekly from now until the 2015 NFL Draft (April 30-May 2). In addition, more rounds will be added to this mock as we get closer to the draft.

[Future updates will be posted on our main 2015 NFL Mock Draft page.]

With that said, here is my projection for the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft:

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Draft History): Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

In all of my previous updates, I've slotted a quarterback to the Bucs, but it's been Oregon's Marcus Mariota instead of Winston. As it was with Mariota slotted here, it's more of a 51/49 split (than a strong conviction) with Winston slotted here. With three months to go until the 2015 NFL Draft, ESPN's Adam Schefter wrote on Thursday that "Mariota shapes up as the most likely No. 1 pick," but the evaluation process is in the early stages for NFL franchises.

Unlike with Mariota, Winston enters the draft process with multiple character red flags that NFL security teams will investigate thoroughly. As much as those would be a concern for any prospect at any position, it's especially concerning for a quarterback -- and more so for one that may be selected first overall.

That said, Winston has all of the tools to develop into a franchise-changing quarterback -- size, strong arm, accuracy, football intelligence, on-the-field leadership, etc. Although he lost his final collegiate game, Winston helped lead the Seminoles to wins in 26 of 27 games and an undefeated national championship season as a freshman.

2. Tennessee Titans (Draft History): Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska

It wouldn't be a huge surprise if the Titans went with a quarterback like Mariota here. Reports from the national media as well as local beat writers, however, seem to suggest that the Titans will give Zach Mettenberger a shot to prove that he can be their quarterback of the future.

If they go in a different direction, Gregory would make sense as the Titans ranked middle of the pack in sacks (39) and Derrick Morgan, their team leader in sacks (6.5), is set to become an unrestricted free agent. With exceptional athleticism, Gregory has the potential to develop into an elite pass-rusher at the next level.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (Draft History): Leonard Williams, DL, USC

Drawing a ton of favorable comparisons to players like J.J. Watt, Gerald McCoy and Richard Seymour, Williams is a disruptive force along the line of the scrimmage. While defensive line may be one of the relative strengths of the Jaguars, many (including me) believe that Williams is the top prospect in this year's draft class.

4. Oakland Raiders (Draft History): Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

The Raiders have found their quarterback of the future with last year's second-round pick Derek Carr, but one of their focal points in free agency and/or the draft should be to improve the weapons around Carr. As Alabama's first Biletnikoff winner in school history, Cooper finished with 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns, all of which ranked first or second in the nation this season.

5. Washington Redskins (Draft History): Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri

Outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are set for unrestricted free agency in 2015 and 2016, respectively. If they are unable to re-sign one or both, adding a pass-rusher like Ray would make sense here. Either way, you'll never hear a general manager complain of having too many talented pass-rushers.

6. New York Jets (Draft History): Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

The transition to a new coaching staff and front office is often followed by a transition to a new quarterback. With new head coach Todd Bowles referring to incumbent Geno Smith as a "great college quarterback," it was far from a ringing endorsement for Smith, who has a career 25:34 TD-to-INT ratio.

Over the course of his collegiate career, Mariota threw for 10,796 yards, rushed for 2,237 yards and accounted for 136 touchdowns -- 105 passing, 29 rushing and two receiving -- with only 14 interceptions.

There will naturally be some questions about how well and quickly Mariota will transition from Oregon's spread offense to a pro-style system. That said, Mariota possesses good size, a strong arm to stretch the field and difference-making mobility for the position in addition to impeccable intangibles.

7. Chicago Bears (Draft History): Landon Collins, S, Alabama

One of the biggest disappointments in the NFL this past season, the Bears have plenty of holes to address and could go in a number of different directions. They ranked 31st in scoring defense (27.6 PPG allowed) and 30th in total defense (377.1 YPG allowed). Not only are upgrades needed in their secondary, but starting safeties Chris Conte and Ryan Mundy are scheduled for free agency in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

8. Atlanta Falcons (Draft History): Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson

One of the best pass rushers in this year's draft class, Beasley has a total of 25.0 sacks and 44.5 tackles for loss in 26 games over the past two seasons combined. The Falcons are in dire need of pass-rush help as only the Bengals (20) generated fewer sacks this season than the Falcons (22), who had the third-fewest last season as well.

9. New York Giants (Draft History): Alvin "Bud" Dupree, DE, Kentucky

The Giants had just 34 sacks in 2013, but they finished fourth in the league with 47 sacks this season. The majority of the 13-sack difference can be attributed to the bounce-back season of Jason Pierre-Paul, who had 12.5 sacks in 2014 (compared to 2.0 in 2013). That said, Pierre-Paul is due to hit free agency in March.

Especially if the Giants are unable to re-sign JPP (although I expect him to be re-signed), adding a pass-rusher would make sense to fill at least part of the void. Either way, a strong pass rush has long been one of the staples of successful Giants teams. A former tight end, Dupree is a freak athlete with a 40.5-inch vertical and 11-foot broad jump at 6-foot-4 and 264 pounds. Over the past three seasons, Dupree has 21.0 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss.

10. St. Louis Rams (Draft History): Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa

Even after selecting Greg Robinson with the second overall pick last year, offensive line is still one of the units in needs of upgrades and reinforcements. The Rams ranked in the bottom 10 in both run blocking (-55.1) and pass blocking (-27.5) grades from PFF last season.

11. Minnesota Vikings (Draft History): Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

Second-year receiver Charles Johnson was a bright spot for the Vikings; fellow second-year receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was not. As Teddy Bridgewater enters his second season, the Vikings will likely use early picks in the draft to improve the protection he reserves and bolster the weapons around him. White has the speed, size and ball skills to be a difference maker and NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah had tweeted a while back that White was his top-ranked receiver, comparing him to Julio Jones.

12. Cleveland Browns (Draft History): Danny Shelton, NT, Washington

The Browns ranked last in the league in rushing defense (141.6 yards per game) and allowed 4.5 yards per carry, only three teams allowed more. Despite being built like a Mack truck, Shelton has excellent agility for his size as shown by his 16.5 tackles for loss and 9.0 sacks in 14 games this season.

13. New Orleans Saints (Draft History): Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida

Bad against both the run (29th in the NFL) and pass (25th), the Saints allowed the second-most yards (384.0 per game) in the NFL and fifth-most points (26.5 per game). They also struggled to get to the quarterback as they finished in the bottom eight in sacks (34). A versatile player with a non-stop motor, Fowler led Florida in tackles for loss (15.0), sacks (8.5) and QB hurries (17).

14. Miami Dolphins (Draft History): Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington

Not only has he played defensive back and linebacker in his collegiate career, Thompson also rushed for 100-plus yards in back-to-back games against Colorado and UCLA this season. Not surprisingly, Thompson won the Paul Hornung Award as college football's most versatile player. While he may get the 'tweener label, Thompson is an outstanding athlete that is solid against the run as well as in pass coverage and rushing the passer.

15. San Francisco 49ers (Draft History): Devante Parker, WR, Louisville

With Michael Crabtree about to enter free agency and 34-year-old Anquan Boldin set to enter the final season of his contract, the 49ers could use this pick on a receiver. A broken foot sidelined Parker for the first seven games of the season, but the 6-foot-3 wideout finished with a 43/855/5 line in just six games. NFL.com's Jeremiah compared Parker to Keenan Allen saying Parker is "smooth, physical & has outstanding instincts/ball skills."

16. Houston Texans (Draft History): Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State

In terms of defensive units, the secondary was the team's weak link last year. In addition, starting cornerbacks Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph are set to become unrestricted free agents in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Given the character concerns of Marcus Peters, who was kicked off Washington's football team, Waynes could end up being the first cornerback off the board in this year's draft.

-> Continue to picks 17-32

-> For more mocks, check out our 2015 NFL Mock Draft Database

-> Also, check out our 2015 NBA Mock Draft

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January 25, 2015

Josh Gordon fails another drug test, faces year-long suspension

As Yogi Berra would say, it's déjà vu all over again.

Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon has failed another drug test and now faces a year-long suspension for the 2015 season. Gordon tested positive for alcohol, which is one of the things for which he was being tested since his DUI in July.

Gordon seemed to be one of the rare supplemental draft picks that worked out after leading the NFL in receiving in 2013 (although he was suspended for the first two games that season).

Last year, Gordon was suspended for the first 10 games of the season by the league for violating the substance-abuse policy and the final game of the season by the team for violating team rules.

There were offseason reports suggesting that the team and Gordon were likely to part ways. With the suspension looming, however, it would be virtually impossible to find a trade partner for Gordon.

At this point, an appeal of the suspension is unlikely to be successful as well.

Turning 24 years old in April, Gordon obviously has an issue and hopefully this leads to him seeking the help that he needs. But it's sad to see someone waste so much talent.


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January 24, 2015

2014 NFL Postseason Award Predictions: Coach of the Year

On the eve of Super Bowl XLIX, the NFL will announce the winners of all the AP NFL postseason awards on the NFL Honors award-presentation show.

Over the course of the next week, I will post my thoughts on who should win each award and I'll start the process today with the AP NFL Coach of the Year.

[Related: Past winners of the AP NFL Coach of the Year Award]

Projected Winner: Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals

If Arians wins the award, it will mark the second time in three seasons that he has done so. That said, this was only the second season that he began a season as a team's head coach.

A couple of years ago, Arians filled in as the interim head coach for Chuck Pagano, who battled leukemia for the majority of the season. Despite facing such an enormous challenge so briefly into the new regime's tenure with a rookie quarterback (Andrew Luck) as well, Arians (and Pagano) guided the club to an 11-5 record and a return to the playoffs.

Since the Cardinals signed Arians as their head coach following that season, he has led the team to back-to-back seasons with double-digit wins in the tough NFC West including an 11-win season this year.

Just like in 2012, Arians would be the last guy to make excuses. That said, the Cardinals have dealt with more than their fair share of adversity this season.

Not only did starting quarterback Carson Palmer play just six games, but second-stringer Drew Stanton went down with a knee injury as well. Ryan Lindley started three games counting their playoff loss and rookie Logan Thomas nearly became a fourth starter for the team before Arians had a change of heart prior to Week 17's game against the Niners.

While the quarterback injuries were the most devastating, multiple key defensive players missed all or almost all of the season. After being suspended for the first four games of the 2013 season, inside linebacker Daryl Washington was suspended for the entire 2014 season. In addition, Darnell Dockett was lost for the entire year after tearing his ACL in August and the team's leading pass rusher from 2013, John Abraham, was lost for the season after Week 1.

In addition, other key players were lost for multiple games during the season -- Andre Ellington, Larry Fitzgerald, Calais Campbell and Tyrann Mathieu to name a few.

As the season progressed, the Cardinals embodied the "next man up" philosophy by winning 11 of their first 13 games. The injuries eventually became too much to overcome as they lost their final three regular-season games and were one-and-done in the postseason.

Few coaches can lead their teams to the success that Arians had with limited obstacles. Even fewer can do so when confronted with the challenges that Arians had to overcome.

Projected Runner-up: Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

Expectations for the Cowboys were low. Several people (including yours truly) thought that the annual standard of mediocrity (8-8) would be difficult to repeat. Instead, the Cowboys were one of five teams to win a league-most 12 games along with the Patriots, Broncos, Packers and Seahawks. In addition, they were the only team to win all eight of their regular-season road games.

Not only did DeMarco Murray lead the NFL in rushing, but Tony Romo led the NFL in passer rating and Dez Bryant led all receivers in touchdowns. The offensive line has become one of the league's best with multiple Pro Bowlers and their strong commitment to the run game helped to mask the deficiencies of a bad defense.

No team exceeded expectations more than the Cowboys and Garrett is a close runner-up in my view.

Over the next couple of days, I will post the remainder of my predictions for all of the major NFL postseason awards as well as my prediction for Super Bowl XLIX.

If you're looking ahead to the NFL Draft, check out my 2015 NFL mock draft.

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January 23, 2015

Trent Richardson suspended for one game if he's back with Colts in 2015

This should come as a surprise to nobody, but Colts general manager Ryan Grigson was non-committal about the status of running back Trent Richardson for next season, according to ESPN's Mike Wells.

Guaranteed a salary of more than $3.1 million for 2015, Richardson is otherwise scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2015.

If Richardson is back with the Colts in 2015, he will be suspended for a second game next season. (He was suspended for the AFC Championship Game.)

Since trading a first-round pick for T-Rich, he has rushed for 977 yards on 316 carries (3.09 per carry) and six touchdowns with 55 catches for 494 yards and a touchdown in 29 regular-season games. In three playoff games, he has one yard on four carries.


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January 21, 2015

Fantasy NBA DraftKings DFS Values (Jan. 21st)

In order to fit studs like DeMarcus Cousins ($11,100), Kevin Durant ($10,700) or LeBron James ($10,700) into our DraftKings lineups tonight, finding values at other roster spots is imperative.

Like most Wednesdays, it's another large slate (12 games) today, which increases the odds of finding value at other spots.

For this post, I will focus on players with a salary of $6,500 or less to highlight the mid- and low-priced players that I like for tonight's games.

[Note: Our NBA DFS posts are primarily posted on our basketball blog, The Basketball Junkie.]

With that said, here are some DraftKings values for Wednesday's NBA games:

PG - Jarrett Jack, Brooklyn Nets (at SAC), $6,300: With Deron Williams out, Jack remains a strong option among the mid-priced point guards. In his past eight games, Jack is averaging 32.19 fantasy points per game with 38.5 or more in half of those games including back-to-back games against the Wizards. During that eight-game span, Jack has averaged 15.63 points, 7.38 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 3.13 three-pointers in nearly 37 minutes per game. Meanwhile, the Kings have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing point guards this season.

PG - Mo Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves (vs. DAL), $6,200: Williams is coming off a disappointing performance (18 fantasy points in 29 minutes), but he had at least 25 fantasy points in the previous seven games with 42-plus points in three of them. Assuming that Ricky Rubio misses at least one more game, Williams has plenty of upside in what should be a fast-paced game. Both teams rank in the top-third of the league in terms of pace. (That said, I'll like Williams a little less if Kevin Martin (GTD) suits up tonight although he may be on a minutes restriction if he does.)

PG - Trey Burke, Utah Jazz (at CLE), $5,600: Burke has scored at least 22.75 fantasy points in 11 consecutive games and has averaged 30.68 points over that span. Burke is averaging 16.9 points, 5.1 assists and a steal per game during that span and gets a great matchup against Kyrie Irving and the Cavs, who have surrendered the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing point guards this season.

PG - Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic (at DET), $5,400: Payton has now scored 40-plus fantasy points in back-to-back games and 30-plus fantasy points in four consecutive games. Arguably the best defender in last year's draft class, Payton has multiple steals in all four of those games, but he has surprisingly stepped up offensively with 22 and 19 points in his past two games, respectively. Over his past four games, he is averaging 16.5 points, 7.8 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game.

PG - Langston Galloway, New York Knicks (at PHI), $3,600: With three opportunities to start a point guard on DraftKings (PG, G and UTIL spots), that's typically a strategy that I use most nights and will do so again tonight in many of my lineups. There are plenty of great mid-priced options, as mentioned above, but Galloway is a much cheaper option that is likely to draw another start and no team allows more fantasy points to opposing point guards than the 76ers. Galloway has averaged 21.75 fantasy points in his five games with the Knicks including a pair of 30-point fantasy outings.

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SG - Wesley Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers (at PHO), $5,700: Matthews' minutes won't directly benefit from the injury to LaMarcus Aldridge, but his usage rate and shot attempts will. With Aldridge playing only 14 minutes before his injury on Monday, Matthews took a season-high 20 shot attempts including 12 three-point attempts. He now has 26 three-point attempts in his past two games. Dollar for dollar, Matthews may be my favorite play among SGs tonight.

SG - Eric Gordon, New Orleans Pelicans (vs. LAL), $5,400: If Jrue Holiday (ankle) misses another game, that would benefit Gordon. Since returning from his own injury on Jan. 5th, Gordon has played 33-plus minutes in seven of eight games. In his past seven games, Gordon has scored a minimum of 22.5 fantasy points and he's averaged 27.57 per game over that span.

SG - J.R. Smith, Cleveland Cavaliers (vs. UTA), $4,900: Smith has averaged over 35 minutes per game in his past six outings with 17.0 points, 3.3 treys and 1.8 steals per game during that span. With at least 22.5 fantasy points in five of those six games, he has averaged 28.58 fantasy points over that stretch. Meanwhile, Utah has allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing shooting guards this season.

SF - Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers (at PHO), $5,400: Things haven't gone so well for Batum (and his fantasy/DFS owners), but that has led to a more modest price tag. Although he has failed to reach 20 fantasy points in four consecutive games, Batum could shoulder a little more of the load with Aldridge out. In addition, the Suns play at the third-fastest pace and rank fifth in most turnovers per game (15.3) and Batum is less of a scorer and more of a player that contributes across multiple stat categories.

SF - Jeff Green, Memphis Grizzlies (vs. TOR), $5,000: Excluding his debut with the Grizzlies, Green has scored 28.25-31.25 fantasy points with at least 30 minutes in his other three games with his new team. During that three-game span, he has at least 14 shot attempts each night and has posted an average of 16.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and a steal per game. The Raptors have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing small forwards this season.

PF - Donatas Motiejunas, Houston Rockets (at GS), $5,500: In a game with a 218.0 over/under, there should be plenty of fantasy points tonight. Motiejunas has now scored double-digit (real) points in 12 consecutive games and has now scored at least 24.75 fantasy points in seven consecutive games. Against the Warriors on Jan. 17th, Motiejunas scored 29.75 fantasy points in less than 22 minutes, a 12-game low in minutes. Over the past 12 games, he has averaged nearly 30 minutes per game.

PF - Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers (vs. NYK), $5,300: While he may lack some consistency, Noel has been getting consistent playing time with 30-plus minutes in six of his past seven games. Over his past four games, Noel has averaged 11.75 points, 8.25 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.25 blocks per game. Noel needs 31.8 fantasy points to reach six times his salary and he has scored 31.5 or more fantasy points in three of his past four games.

PF - Channing Frye, Orlando Magic (at DET), $5,000: This play is contingent upon the status of Tobias Harris, who is considered a game-time decision for tonight's game. If Harris can't go, Frye should continue to benefit. In the five-game stretch that Harris has missed, Frye has averaged nearly 36 minutes and 27.95 fantasy points per game. Frye's shooting percentage (15-of-51, 29.4 percent) during that stretch has been awful, but 41 of his 51 attempts have been from behind the arc and he still has a minimum of 21.5 fantasy points in those games despite poor shooting.

C - Tyson Chandler, Dallas Mavericks (at MIN), $6,300: Typically Chandler isn't someone that finds his way into my lineups, but he now has three consecutive double-doubles with at least 35 fantasy points. Meanwhile, the T'Wolves have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing centers this season so Chandler has an excellent shot at reaching value once again.

C - Alex Len, Phoenix Suns (vs. POR), $4,800: With injuries to Robin Lopez and LMA, Len gets a favorable matchup against a Blazers' front court that lacks depth. Len is coming off his worst performance (21 fantasy points in 19 minutes) over his past seven games, but he had a minimum of 26 fantasy points with an average of 30.54 in his previous six games.

C - Chris Kaman, Portland Trail Blazers (at PHO), $4,400: Kaman had just 12 fantasy points in 19 minutes on MLK Jr. Day, but he averaged 28 minutes and 26.31 fantasy points in his previous four games. With the injuries in the Blazers' front court, Kaman should see close to 30 minutes tonight and he has averaged 1.05 DK points per minute this season.

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January 18, 2015

NFC Championship Game Prediction: Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers

The rematch of the NFL regular-season opener between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers will determine which team represents the NFC in Super Bowl XLIX.

Vegas lines for the NFC Championship Game: Seahawks -8.0, O/U: 46.5

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league and he rushed for 849 yards, tied for 16th in the NFL with Denver's C.J. Anderson, and six touchdowns. In addition, only eight other players had more 100-yard rushing games than Wilson (three).

That said, Wilson uses his mobility first to extend pass plays. Wilson boasts an efficient 72:25 career TD-to-INT ratio over his first three seasons. No other quarterback has begun his NFL career with 70-plus touchdowns and less than 30 interceptions in his first three NFL seasons.

The team lacks an elite wide receiver, however. In fact, Wilson has as many 100-yard rushing games as the entire Seahawks pass-catchers have 100-yard receiving games (three).

With Wilson spreading the wealth around, Doug Baldwin led the team in targets with 98, but 53 other players had more than he had this season. Tight end Luke Willson has excellent speed (4.51 forty) at the position and has emerged with 239 yards and three touchdowns over his past three games. On the season, Baldwin (two) and Willson (one) have all three of the team's 100-yard receiving games.

[Related: Baldwin provides value as the lowest cost-per-point receiver in FanDuel contests this weekend.]

When it comes to volume, Marshawn Lynch should expect to see another heavy workload. Lynch, who is four-for-four in seasons with 1,200-plus rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns as a Seahawk, carried the ball 20 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener.

Along with Matt Forte (Week 4) and Mark Ingram (Week 8), Lynch is one of three 100-yard rushers allowed by the Packers in the regular season. After Week 8, however, they have been much better against the run. In their final eight regular-season games, the Packers allowed just 3.43 yards per carry (only the Lions and Patriots held opponents to less).

Keeping Lynch from going Beast Mode will be a key to pulling off the upset, but the Packers will need a strong outing from their own physical running back as well. Second-year back Eddie Lacy started the season slowly, but he has finished the season strong. Over his past 10 games, Lacy has 173 carries for 871 yards (5.03 YPC), 30 receptions for 351 yards and nine total touchdowns.

Of course, the biggest key could be Aaron Rodgers -- and specifically his (injured) calf.

Perhaps the biggest favorite to win another MVP award, Rodgers posted his sixth-consecutive season with a triple-digit passer rating and the second-highest of his career (111.0). With a 28:0 TD-to-INT ratio at home (including last week's playoff win), Rodgers has a more human ratio (13:5) on the road. Rodgers threw for only 189 yards, one touchdown and one interception against the Seahawks in Week 1.

Green Bay has one of the league's better 1-2 duos at wide receiver with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb and Davante Adams has emerged as a trusted third option for Rodgers, but the Legion of Boom led the NFL in total defense, scoring defense and passing defense. Meanwhile, it's a tough matchup for Lacy as well as the Seahawks allowed the third-fewest rushing yards (81.5 YPG, 3.4 YPC) this season.

While he may not generate the type of chunk running plays that Wilson does, Rodgers is one of the league's best at extending plays due to his mobility when he's healthy. But he's not healthy. Against a much more formidable defense this week, Rodgers is unlikely to have the type of success he had last week.

I expect the Seahawks to advance and for Wilson to become the first quarterback in league history to start two Super Bowls in his first three NFL seasons.

Final score prediction: Seattle Seahawks 28, Green Bay Packers 20

-> My AFC Championship Game Prediction for Patriots vs. Colts

Related: NFC Championship Game History - Fantasy Football Playoff Rankings

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January 17, 2015

AFC Championship Game Prediction: New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts

Regardless of the sport, few franchises have been as consistent and successful as the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts over the past decade-plus.

Winners of double-digit regular-season games in 12 consecutive seasons, the Patriots will be appearing in their fourth consecutive AFC Championship Game. For the third time over the past four years, the path to the Super Bowl runs through Foxboro.

Meanwhile, the Colts have won double-digit games in 12 of the past 13 seasons. The one exception was Peyton Manning's (neck) missed season (2-14) and the Colts earned ("lucked" into) the right to draft Andrew Luck with the first overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Despite both team's regular-season success, this year will mark only the third time ever that these two franchises have met in the AFC Championship Game and they split the other two matchups in this round.

Vegas lines for AFC Championship Game: Patriots -7.0, O/U: 54.0

As much as any team in the league, the Patriots tailor their game plans to their opponents on a weekly basis. Facing one of the league's best run defenses in the Divisional Round, the Patriots essentially abandoned their running game with only one second-half rush attempt aside from kneeldowns. And that rush attempt was from quarterback Tom Brady.

This week against the Colts, we should see much more of the ground attack from the Patriots. Not only did Jonas Gray rush for 201 yards and four touchdowns against the Colts in Week 11, but LeGarrette Blount rushed for 166 yards and four touchdowns last postseason against the Colts. On the season, the Colts ranked in the bottom half of the league in rushing yards allowed (113.4 per game and 4.3 per carry). In the playoffs, they have allowed 4.83 YPC (41 carries for 198 yards) to the Bengals and Broncos.

Given their success running the ball, Brady threw only 30 pass attempts in Week 11 and just 25 pass attempts against them in the playoffs last year. Of course, Rob Gronkowski is a difficult matchup regardless of the opponent, but the Colts in general have struggled against tight ends. The Colts have allowed a stat line of 83/954/10 to opposing tight ends; only three teams allowed more yards to the position this year.

If the Colts are going to pull off the upset, third-year quarterback Andrew Luck will need to shoulder most of the load. On a positive note, Luck has thrown for more than 300 yards in all three of his previous matchups against the Patriots. That said, Luck has completed only 53.85 percent of his pass attempts (70 of 130) with more interceptions (eight) than touchdowns (six).

By signing shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis in the offseason, the Patriots pass defense is as good as it's been in a while. Based on PFF pass-coverage grades, the Patriots graded out as a top-five defense in pass coverage. Although he shadowed Reggie Wayne the first time around, the chances that Revis shadows T.Y. Hilton seems high especially considering he recently posted a picture of Hilton on Instagram.

Even if Revis shadows and shuts down Hilton, who had only three catches for 24 yards the first time around, the Colts offense spread the ball around quite a bit. Both of their tight ends (Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen) and running back Dan Herron, who has 18 receptions over the past two weeks, are heavily involved in the pass offense as well.

Herron has a total of 53 touches including those 18 receptions over the past two weeks for a total of 236 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. With Trent Richardson inactive last week and not making the trip this week, Herron is clearly the guy. That said, the Colts have not had a 100-yard rusher since Dec. 16, 2012 (Vick Ballard).

In each of the three games that Luck has faced the Patriots, the Colts have lost every game by 21 points or more. While I think they game will be closer this time around, the Patriots seem to have Luck's number and I expect Brady to make his sixth Super Bowl appearance.

Final score prediction: New England Patriots 31, Indianapolis Colts 20

Related: AFC Championship Game History - Fantasy Football Playoff Rankings

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Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS): FanDuel Favorite Plays for Championship Games

After posting my favorite DraftKings plays for this weekend earlier this week, tonight I turn my attention to FanDuel contests.

Like with the DraftKings post, I will focus on plays that I like regardless of salary (as opposed to normal emphasis placed on low-priced values) given that there is only a two-game slate this weekend.

As you can imagine with only four teams in action, there is a ton of overlap between these two posts. With that said, here are the FanDuel plays that will be in many of my lineups this weekend:

QB - Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (at NE), $9,200

Separated by only $300 of salary, the four starting quarterbacks are priced in the same tier and Luck is my top-ranked quarterback for the weekend. Based on my fantasy football projections, Luck is the best value on a cost-per-projected-point basis ($443.37) despite owning this weekend's highest salary. More so than any of the other three quarterbacks this weekend, the Colts will rely on Luck to do the heavy lifting to give them a shot to advance to Super Bowl XLIX.

QB - Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (vs. GB), $8,900

Wilson is my second-ranked fantasy quarterback yet he's the least expensive of the starters this weekend. In terms of salary per projected point, Wilson's cost ($445.89) is only slightly more than Luck's and a lot lower than those of Tom Brady ($475.94) and Aaron Rodgers ($604.25). Even though 18 quarterbacks threw the ball more than Wilson over the course of the regular season, only Rodgers and Luck scored more fantasy points this season. Keeping mistakes to a minimum (72:26 TD-to-INT ratio over three seasons), Wilson also rushed for 849 yards and six touchdowns. Only 15 running backs outgained Wilson this season.

FanDuel's $2M NFL Sunday Million: FanDuel is running a one-day contest this Sunday with $2 Million in prizes ($200K to first).

RB - Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (vs. GB), $8,600

Even though Lynch is the highest-priced running back, it would be difficult to fade Lynch in a two-game slate. After all, only the next guy on the list has a lower cost per point than Lynch. Regardless of position, few NFL players have as high of a ceiling and floor as Lynch, who has four consecutive seasons of 1,200-plus rushing yards and double-digit rushing scores. Lynch had 110 yards and two scores in his first matchup against the Packers and has averaged 17.7 FanDuel points per game this season.

RB - Dan Herron, Indianapolis Colts (at NE), $7,000

Even though he's better on DraftKings than FanDuel due to the difference in scoring (full-PPR at DraftKings; half-PPR at FanDuel), I love Herron on both sites this weekend. In two playoff games, Herron has 18 catches on 19 targets. Given the talent in New England's secondary, Herron could certainly see 8-10 receptions like he has had in the first two playoff games. Despite losing some of the clock-killing fourth-quarter carries against the Bengals after a couple of fumbles, Herron has a total of 53 touches in two playoff games for 236 yards and two scores.

RB - LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots (vs. IND), $5,400

Trying to figure out what Bill Belichick will do with his allocation of touches to the team's group of running backs is always a risky proposition. That said, the Patriots ground game against the Colts rush defense is one of the more favorable matchups of the weekend in general terms.

Even though Jonas Gray rushed for 201 yards and four touchdowns against the Colts in Week 11, that was just before Blount was reunited with the Pats. In the playoffs last year against the Colts, Blount himself rushed for four touchdowns (and 166 yards). Given Gray was inactive last week and has only 20 total carries since the addition of Blount, I suspect that Belichick & Co. will put the majority of their faith in Blount on Sunday.

At DraftKings, I have about a 75/25 ratio of Blount to Gray. At FanDuel, I'm rolling exclusively with Blount out of this duo. Gray's salary ($2,800) on DraftKings is only 62.22 percent that of Blount's ($4,500). On FanDuel, however, the difference is just $100 ($5,400 for Blount, $5,300 for Gray) so all of my diversification with Gray will come via my DraftKings lineups.

WR - Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers (at SEA), $8,900

The matchup against the league's stingiest defense to opposing wide receivers, Aaron Rodgers' calf injury and Nelson's sub-par 2/22 performance last week may not inspire a ton of confidence. That said, I expect a bounce-back week from Nelson, who had a 9/83 line in Week 1 against the Seahawks with all 14 of his targets coming on the opposite side of the field than Richard Sherman. Nelson may be the most-expensive wide receiver option this weekend, but he's second at the position in terms of lowest cost per point ($609.59).

WR - Julian Edelman, New England Patriots (vs. IND), $7,500

Edelman had five catches for 50 yards on eight targets and two rush attempts for 31 yards in Week 11 against the Colts. Edelman missed the final two regular-season games with a concussion, but he has had double-digit targets and at least seven receptions in his past five games played since the first matchup against the Colts. In addition, he has at least 74 yards in four of those five games. Over his past seven games played, Edelman has a minimum of 8.3 FanDuel points and double-digit points in six of those seven games. In addition, he has at least 17.44 points in each of his past three games.

WR - Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks (vs. GB), $6,200

Given the team's run-first philosophy, Baldwin has averaged just 6.13 targets per game, which potentially caps his upside and my level of enthusiasm for playing him. That said, Baldwin has a minimum of 6.6 FanDuel points over his past five games with an average of 11.54 points per game during that stretch. Earlier I noted that Nelson had the second-lowest cost per point among wideouts; Baldwin's cost per point ($590.48) is the lowest.

WR - Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts (at NE), $5,300

The first time around this season, it was Reggie Wayne that visited Revis Island. This time around, it would make sense for the tourist to be Hilton. Earlier this week, Revis seemed to hint that would be the case by posting a picture of Hilton on his Instagram account although he said he was "just promoting the game." (Um, ok.) While Luck spreads the wealth around, Moncrief has the most upside among the wide receivers not named T.Y. and could benefit a little more than usual if Revis shadows Hilton. Although Moncrief provides some salary-cap relief and has seen a boost in his snap count over the second half of the season, there is still plenty of risk with Moncrief as he's a boom-or-bust option. Moncrief has a couple of games this season with more than 20 fantasy points, but he has scored 4.8 points or less in five of his past seven games.

TE - Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots (vs. IND), $8,200

This just in: Gronk is good. Of course, you don't need me to tell you that Gronk is a stud, but he has the third-lowest cost per projected point behind Herron and Lynch this week making him more than worthy of his lofty price tag.

TE - Luke Willson, Seattle Seahawks (vs. GB), $5,400

Capitalizing on his limited opportunities in the team's run-first offense, Willson has a total of 239 yards and three touchdowns in his past three games. One of the faster tight ends in the league with 4.5 speed, Willson will likely be the least-owned of the top-four tight end options this weekend and it wouldn't surprise me if he finished second behind only Gronk in production.

In addition, check out our site's sortable FanDuel NFL cheat sheet.

Here are my fantasy football playoff rankings:

Has your team been eliminated from the playoffs? Check out my 2015 NFL mock draft for a look ahead to this April's draft.

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January 16, 2015

2015 NFL Mock Draft: Jan. 16th Update

With four teams still alive in the playoffs, the actual draft order for the first 28 selections of this year's draft is set.

The final four picks, however, will be based on how the remaining teams fare in this weekend's Conference Championship Games and then Super Bowl XLIX. In other words, the Super Bowl winner will have the 32nd pick, the Super Bowl runner-up will have the 31st pick, et cetera.

[Note: Future updates will be posted on our main 2015 NFL Mock Draft page.]

With that said, here is my projection for the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft:

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Draft History): Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Although the NFL Draft is more than three months away, it appears that the Bucs will select a quarterback with the first overall pick. Over the next three months, however, there will plenty of debate on whether it should be Mariota or Florida State's Jameis Winston as that pick.

If the decision were purely based on the field, the selection would almost certainly be Winston. And while the pick still may be Winston, there are plenty of questions about his maturity off the field. With Mariota, there are absolutely no questions about his character.

There will naturally be some questions about Mariota's ability to transition from Oregon's spread offense to a pro-style system, however. That said, Mariota possesses good size, a strong arm to stretch the field and difference-making mobility for the position in addition to impeccable intangibles.

Over the course of his collegiate career, Mariota threw for 10,796 yards, rushed for 2,237 yards and accounted for 136 touchdowns -- 105 passing, 29 rushing and two receiving -- with only 14 interceptions.

2. Tennessee Titans (Draft History): Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

Media reports suggest that the Titans could go in a different direction assuming that they believe ex-LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger could be their long-term solution -- or at least get a chance to try to prove that he's their long-term solution at the position.

Winston has all of the tools to be a franchise-changing quarterback -- size, strong arm, accuracy, football intelligence, on-the-field leadership, etc. Although he lost his final collegiate game, Winston helped lead the Seminoles to wins in 26 of 27 games.

FanDuel's $2M NFL Sunday Million: FanDuel is running a one-day contest this Sunday with $2 Million in prizes ($200K to first).

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (Draft History): Leonard Williams, DL, USC

Drawing a ton of favorable comparisons to players like J.J. Watt, Gerald McCoy and Richard Seymour, Williams is a disruptive force along the line of the scrimmage. While defensive line may be one of the relative strengths of the Jaguars, Williams is arguably the top prospect in this year's draft class.

4. Oakland Raiders (Draft History): Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

The Raiders have found their quarterback of the future with last year's second-round pick Derek Carr, but one of their focuses in free agency and/or the draft should be to improve the weapons around him. As Alabama's first Biletnikoff winner in school history, Cooper finished with 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns, all of which ranked first or second in the nation this season.

5. Washington Redskins (Draft History): Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska

Outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are set for unrestricted free agency in 2015 and 2016, respectively. If they are unable to re-sign one or both, adding a difference maker like Gregory would make a ton of sense here. Either way, you'll never hear a general manager complain of having too many talented pass-rushers.

6. New York Jets (Draft History): Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri

Ideally for the Jets, one (or both) of the top-two quarterback prospects will slip to them here. If not, they get an explosive edge rusher in Ray, who ranked third in the country with 14.5 sacks this season. Current starting outside linebackers -- Quinton Coples and Calvin Pace -- are both due to become free agents after the 2015 season and Pace turns 35 in October.

7. Chicago Bears (Draft History): Landon Collins, S, Alabama

One of the biggest disappointments in the NFL this season, the Bears have plenty of holes to address and could go in a number of different directions. Not only are upgrades needed in their secondary, but starting safeties Chris Conte and Ryan Mundy are scheduled for free agency in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

8. Atlanta Falcons (Draft History): Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson

One of the best pass rushers in this year's draft class, Beasley has a total of 25.0 sacks and 44.5 tackles for loss in 26 games over the past two seasons combined. Only the Bengals (20) have generated fewer sacks this season than the Falcons (22), who had the third-fewest last season as well.

9. New York Giants (Draft History): Alvin "Bud" Dupree, DE, Kentucky

The Giants had just 34 sacks in 2013, but they finished fourth in the league with 47 sacks this season. The majority of the 13-sack difference can be attributed to the bounce-back season of Jason Pierre-Paul, who had 12.5 sacks in 2014 after getting only 2.0 in the previous season. That said, Pierre-Paul is due to hit free agency in March.

If the Giants are unable to re-sign JPP, adding a pass-rusher would make sense to fill at least part of the void. Either way, a strong pass rush has long been one of the staples of successful Giants teams. A former tight end, Dupree is a freak athlete with a 40.5-inch vertical and 11-foot broad jump at 6-foot-4 and 264 pounds. Over the past three seasons, Dupree has 21.0 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss.

10. St. Louis Rams (Draft History): Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa

Even after selecting Greg Robinson with the second overall pick last year, offensive line is still one of the units in needs of upgrades and reinforcements. The Rams ranked in the bottom 10 of both run blocking (-55.1) and pass blocking (-27.5) grades from PFF last season.

11. Minnesota Vikings (Draft History): Devante Parker, WR, Louisville

A broken foot sidelined Parker for the first seven games of the season, but the 6-foot-3 wideout finished with a 43/855/5 line in just six games. NFL.com's Jeremiah compared Parker to Keenan Allen saying Parker is "smooth, physical & has outstanding instincts/ball skills."

12. Cleveland Browns (Draft History): Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

The highs and lows with Josh Gordon have been extremely high (no pun intended) and extremely low. Suspended by the league for the first 10 games of last season, Gordon was also suspended by the club for their regular-season finale. And based on reports from beat writers, the sense is that Gordon won't be back in 2015.

With two first-round picks in this year's draft, it would only make sense for one of them to be used on a receiver given the uncertainty surrounding Gordon whether he's back with the club or not. White has the speed, size and ball skills to be a difference maker and NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah recently tweeted that White was his top-ranked receiver while also comparing him to Julio Jones.

13. New Orleans Saints (Draft History): Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida

Bad against both the run (29th in the NFL) and pass (25th), the Saints allowed the second-most yards (384.0 per game) in the NFL and fifth-most points (26.5 per game). They also struggled to get to the quarterback as they finished in the bottom eight in sacks (34). A versatile player with a non-stop motor, Fowler led Florida in tackles for loss (15.0), sacks (8.5) and QB hurries (17).

14. Miami Dolphins (Draft History): Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington

Not only has he played defensive back and linebacker in his collegiate career, Thompson also rushed for 100-plus yards in back-to-back games against Colorado and UCLA this season. Not surprisingly, Thompson won the Paul Hornung Award as college football's most versatile player. While he may get the 'tweener label, Thompson is an outstanding athlete that is solid against the run as well as in pass coverage and rushing the passer.

15. San Francisco 49ers (Draft History): Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma

With Michael Crabtree about to enter free agency and 34-year-old Anquan Boldin set to enter the final season of his contract, the 49ers could use this pick on a receiver. Off-the-field issues led to his dismissal from Mizzou (and subsequent transfer to Oklahoma), but Green-Beckham has as much physical talent as any receiver in this year's draft class.

16. Houston Texans (Draft History): Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State

In terms of defensive units, the secondary was the team's weak link last year. In addition, starting cornerbacks Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph are set to become unrestricted free agents in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Given the character concerns of Marcus Peters, who was kicked off Washington's football team, Waynes could end up being the first cornerback off the board in this year's draft.

-> Continue to picks 17-32

-> For more mocks, check out our 2015 NFL Mock Draft Database

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January 15, 2015

Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS): DraftKings Favorite Plays for Conference Games

Hopefully it's been a profitable season for you in daily fantasy football as this week marks the last hoorah for NFL DFS players.

Given that there are only two games this week, I will focus on the players that I like (regardless of salary) as opposed to the regular season where I try to focus more specifically on lower-priced options.

Here are the DraftKings plays that will be in many of my lineups this weekend:

QB - Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (at NE), $8,200

With only a two-game slate, I will have exposure to all four starting quarterbacks this week. That said, Luck is my top-ranked fantasy quarterback for the weekend, but he's only the second-most expensive behind Tom Brady ($8,500). Granted, the matchup against the Patriots cornerbacks isn't great, but Luck involves his tight ends and running backs in the passing game as much as any other quarterback not named Alex (Smith) as well. Of the remaining four quarterbacks, no other quarterback threw it as much as Luck this season or had as many 300-yard games. [Note: DraftKings awards a three-point bonus to 300-yard passers.] To a lesser degree than the next guy on this list, Luck has the ability to make plays with his legs, but it can still be a huge boost to his fantasy production.

QB - Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (vs. GB), $8,000

Even though 18 quarterbacks threw the ball more than Wilson in the regular season, only two quarterbacks -- Aaron Rodgers and Luck -- scored more fantasy points this season. Wilson has a terrific 72:26 career TD-to-INT ratio, but the plays he makes as a runner is his fantasy bread and butter. With 849 rushing yards and six rushing scores this season, Wilson was tied for 16th with Denver's C.J. Anderson in rushing.

Special offer from DraftKings: Get a 100-percent deposit bonus (up to $600) when you sign up for an account.

RB - Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (vs. GB), $7,600

Even though Lynch is the highest-priced running back, it would be difficult to fade Lynch in a two-game slate. Few players at any position in the entire NFL have as high of a ceiling and floor as Lynch, who has four consecutive seasons of 1,200-plus rushing yards and double-digit rushing scores. In the first matchup between these two seasons, Lynch rushed for 110 yards and two scores. Using DraftKings scoring, Lynch has averaged 19.3 fantasy points per game this season.

RB - Dan Herron, Indianapolis Colts (at NE), $5,900

As much as I like Lynch, Herron is actually my top-ranked running back this week in full PPR formats (like DraftKings). In two playoff games, Herron has 18 catches on 19 targets. Given the talent in New England's secondary, Herron could certainly see 8-10 receptions like he has had in the first two playoff games. The only concern with Herron is his fumbling issues (two of them in the Wild Card round), but he otherwise has a total of 53 touches (including those 18 receptions) for 236 yards and two touchdowns. Barely above the game's average salary ($5,555), Herron is a must-start this weekend in both GPPs and cash games.

RB - LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots (vs. IND), $4,500
RB - Jonas Gray, New England Patriots (vs. IND), $2,800

After Lynch and Herron, there are more risks at the running back position. As much as I love Eddie Lacy's talent, his matchup against the Seahawks often leads me to paying up for Lynch or down for Herron. Another risk this weekend (and every weekend) is trying to figure out what Bill Belichick will do when it comes to the allocation of touches to the team's running backs.

Since Gray rushed for 201 yards and four touchdowns against the Colts in Week 11, the team re-signed Blount and Gray has a total of just 20 carries since that point and was a healthy scratch last weekend. Meanwhile, Blount himself had a four-touchdown game with 166 rushing yards against the Colts in last year's playoffs. Given the success that the team has had running the ball against the Colts recently, it's only logical that Blount and/or Gray get plenty of cracks at trying to break that defense.

The question comes down to which one? My gut tells me that Blount will be "the guy" this weekend and I'll have about three times as many shares of Blount than Gray. In case my gut leads me astray, I have subsituted Gray for Blount in some of my lineups to go along with the upgrade at another position that the extra salary-cap space allows.

WR - Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers (at SEA), $7,600

With a much more productive performance last weekend than Nelson, teammate Randall Cobb has the highest salary among wide receivers this weekend. Even though the matchup against the league's stingiest defense to opposing wide receivers does not inspire a ton of confidence, I expect a bounce-back week from Nelson, who had 14 targets in Week 1 against the Seahawks.

WR - Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks (vs. GB), $5,000

Of team's No. 1 wide receivers this weekend, Baldwin is at least $2,000 cheaper than all of them. In addition, his salary is $555 less than the average salary per player that fits into the $50,000 salary cap. Given the team's run-first philosophy, Baldwin has averaged just 6.13 targets per game, which potentially caps his upside and my enthusiasm for playing him. That said, Baldwin has a minimum of 8.1 DK points over his past five games with an average of 14.24 DK points per game during that stretch. Based on my fantasy football projections, Baldwin's cost per point ($400) ranks second to only teammate Kevin Norwood ($388.89) at wide receiver this weekend.

WR - Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts (at NE), $3,500

Moncrief has played greater than 50 percent of the team's offensive snaps since Week 13 and he had his second-most targets (eight) last week, both of which are encouraging even though he finished with just two catches for 32 yards against the Broncos. Given the rookie's talent and the attention that should be given to T.Y. Hilton, I'm willing to roll the dice on Moncrief as a way to generate some salary-cap relief in tournaments. Despite an average of just 6.8 DK points this season, Moncrief has shown his upside with performances of 27.3 (Week 8) and 32.0 (Week 13) DK points.

WR - Kevin Norwood, Seattle Seahawks (vs. GB), $2,100

Before this weekend, the position-minimum salary for wide receivers was $3,000. With Paul Richardson (torn ACL) out and Norwood expected to get a slight boost in the offense, I'm willing to use Norwood as a decent punt option. Even though I hope that Norwood hauls in a couple of receptions with an expanded role, the lineup flexibility he creates is the real reason that I'm rolling the dice with Norwood in several lineups.

TE - Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots (vs. IND), $7,800

Certainly you don't need me to tell you that Gronk is a good play this weekend or any weekend for that matter. But if you're going to pay up at a position this week, it should be at tight end. Like Lynch, few players have Gronk's combination of a high ceiling and high floor. Except for Week 2, Gronk has finished as a top-12 weekly PPR tight end with double-digit fantasy points every week and he averaged 18.9 DK points per game. Since Week 5, Gronk has finished with 25-plus DK points in one-third (four) of his 12 games.

TE - Luke Willson, Seattle Seahawks (vs. GB), $4,000

Granted, the Seahawks are a run-first offense that spread around their limited targets in the passing game. That said, Willson has capitalized on his opportunities with a total of 239 yards and three touchdowns in his past three games. One of the faster tight ends in the league with 4.5 speed, Willson will likely be the least-owned of the top-four tight end options this weekend and it wouldn't surprise me if he finished second behind only Gronk in production.

In addition, check out our site's DraftKings Championship Games Cheat Sheet.

Here are my fantasy football playoff rankings:

Has your team been eliminated from the playoffs? Check out my 2015 NFL mock draft for a look ahead to this April's draft.

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January 14, 2015

Marcus Mariota to declare for the 2015 NFL Draft

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2015 NFL Draft is tomorrow (Thursday, January 15th).

Per ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota will forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the 2015 NFL Draft, which was widely expected.

Mariota will battle Florida State's Jameis Winston, who declared earlier this offseason, to be the first quarterback selected and potentially the first prospect selected in the draft.

Beyond Mariota and Winston, this is not viewed as a particularly strong class at quarterback.

Both Tampa Bay and Tennessee, who own the top-two picks, could be in the market for a franchise quarterback although the Titans could go in a different direction if they believe that Zach Mettenberger is their quarterback of the future.

If one or both of the top two quarterbacks get past Tennessee, it's difficult to envision either quarterback falling outside of the top-10 picks.

In my latest 2015 NFL mock draft, I have Mariota going first overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as do the majority of mock drafts in our 2015 NFL mock draft database.

Mariota, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, has a unique combination of dual-threat skills although there will be some concern about his transition from Oregon's spread offense to a pro-style offense.

While he certainly did not have a great game against Ohio State on Monday, Mariota finishes his collegiate career with 10,796 passing yards, 105 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions to go along with 2,237 rushing yards and 29 rushing touchdowns. He also has two receptions, both of which were turned into touchdowns.


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Fantasy Football Playoff Rankings (Conference Championship Games): Tight Ends

Here are my tight end rankings for Sunday's Conference Championship Games:

1. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots (vs. IND)

Whether or not he once again throws Sergio Brown "out of the club," it's Gronk's fantasy owners that are ready for a fiesta. Counting last week's playoff win, Gronk has posted a 16-game line of 89/1,232/13 this season. With Tom Brady throwing only 30 pass attempts in Week 11 against the Colts as Jonas Gray ran the ball at will, Gronk had just five targets, but he still finished with four catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. While he has the highest ceiling of any tight end, Gronk also has the highest floor as he finished as a top-12 fantasy tight end in all but two games this season.

FanDuel's $2M NFL Sunday Million: FanDuel is running a one-day contest this Sunday with $2 Million in prizes ($200K to first).

2. Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts (at NE)

Teammate Dwayne Allen left their regular-season matchup against the Patriots early and Fleener finished with seven catches for a career-high 144 yards. With Allen healthy again, however, we shouldn't expect a repeat performance from Fleener as he has just eight targets in two playoff games.

3. Luke Willson, Seattle Seahawks (vs. GB)

With 4.5 speed, Willson is one of the faster tight ends in the league and he's put together an impressive three-game stretch. Even though the Seahawks have a run-first offense that spreads ahead targets, Wilson has turned his 11 targets into nine catches for 239 yards and three touchdowns over the past three games.

4. Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts (at NE)

Although Fleener (51/774 on 92 targets) has nearly twice as many targets, receptions and yards than Allen (29/395 on 50 targets), both tight ends had the same amount of touchdowns (eight). Only four other tight ends -- Gronk and three out of the playoffs (Antonio Gates, Julius Thomas and Jimmy Graham) -- had more. Allen is more reliant on touchdowns than Fleener for a productive outing, but the second likeliest tight end (after Gronk) to score this weekend.

5. Andrew Quarless, Green Bay Packers (at SEA)

Quarless had four catches for 31 yards and a touchdown last week against the Cowboys. Although the Seahawks have the league's top-ranked pass defense (and overall defense), opposing tight ends have fared better than opposing wide receivers or running backs in terms of fantasy points allowed. Either way, it's difficult to count on anyone outside of the top-four fantasy tight ends this weekend.

6. Tim Wright, New England Patriots (vs. IND)

The good news is that 18.18 percent of Wright's targets went for touchdowns in the regular season. The bad news is that he had just 26 catches and 33 targets over the course of the entire season.

7. Richard Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (at SEA)

Rodgers was targeted only once last week and made the most the target (13-yard touchdown) after getting targeted five times in Week 17. Rodgers is nothing more than a roll of the dice this week (like most weeks).

More fantasy football playoff rankings:

Has your team been eliminated from the playoffs? Check out my 2015 NFL mock draft. (Or our NFL mock draft database.)

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Fantasy Football Playoff Rankings (Conference Championship Games): Wide Receivers

Here are my wide receiver rankings for Sunday's Conference Championship Games:

1. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers (at SEA)

Nelson had just two receptions for a season-low 22 yards on five targets last week against the Cowboys, but he'll of course figure prominently into their offensive gameplan this week. The first time these two teams met, Nelson was targeted 14 times and finished with nine receptions for 83 yards. All 14 of those targets were thrown to the opposite side of Richard Sherman.

2. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts (at NE)

Hilton set a career high with 1,345 yards this season, but his performance against the Patriots in Week 11 was one of his worst outings of the season. Hilton finished with just three catches for 24 yards on seven targets in that first matchup. That said, I expect a better showing from Hilton in the rematch.

FanDuel's $2M NFL Sunday Million: FanDuel is running a one-day contest this Sunday with $2 Million in prizes ($200K to first).

3. Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers (at SEA)

Cobb set career highs across the board this season with 91 receptions for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. Even though the Seahawks allow the fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, Cobb had a 6/58/1 line on nine targets against the Seahawks in Week 1. Cobb now has 58-plus yards in 12 consecutive games and at least 80 receiving yards in four consecutive games.

4. Julian Edelman, New England Patriots (vs. IND)

Edelman had five catches for 50 yards on eight targets and two rush attempts for 31 yards in Week 11 against the Colts. Since then, Edelman has had double-digit targets and at least seven receptions in five consecutive games. In addition, he has at least 74 yards in four of those five games.

5. Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks (vs. GB)

Even though he is the team's No. 1 option in the passing game, the Seahawks are a run-first team that spreads their modest targets around. Baldwin ranked only 54th in the league in targets this season with an average of just 6.13 per game and has had more than six targets in just five of 17 games counting last week.

6. Brandon LaFell, New England Patriots (vs. IND)

The success that the Patriots have had running the ball against the Colts led to Tom Brady only throwing it 30 times against them in Week 11. In turn, LaFell was targeted that game only four times, which ties his low from Week 3 through the end of the season.

7. Jermaine Kearse, Seattle Seahawks (vs. GB)

129 yards. A touchdown. Great game, indeed. But Kearse had just three targets and he's not going to average 43.0 yards per reception every week. Kearse gets a slight boost with the injury to rookie Paul Richardson, who had seen an expanded role within the offense recently. That said, it's just as possible that his three targets turns out to be one catch for eight yards like what happened in Week 1 against the Packers.

8. Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts (at NE)

Since Week 13, Moncrief has played greater than 50.0 percent of the team's offensive snaps every game. Although he had just two catches for 32 yards last week, Moncrief's eight targets were the second-most of his career.

9. Danny Amendola, New England Patriots (vs. IND)

Since signing a contract with the Patriots a couple of offseasons ago, Amendola has been a huge disappointment. That said, Amendola has been more productive over his past three games (17/168/2 on 24 targets) than he was from Weeks 1 to 15 (15/113/1 on 24 targets). Like with LaFell (and Edelman), however, the biggest concern with Amendola is the expected focus on the ground game against the Colts.

10. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers (at SEA)

Adams had his best game as a pro against the Cowboys last week with 7/117/1 on 11 targets. The first time the Packers faced the Seahawks, they sacrificed Jarrett Boykin on the Richard Sherman side and that could potentially happen with Adams this week.

11. Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis Colts (at NE)

The good news is that Nicks played a full 16-game season for the first time in his career. The bad news is that he set career lows in receptions (38), targets (68), yards (405) and Y/R (10.7).

12. Kevin Norwood, Seattle Seahawks (vs. GB)

The ACL injury to fellow rookie Paul Richardson will open up more opportunities for Norwood, who had only nine catches for 102 yards during the regular season. That said, expectations remain low for the No. 3 receiver in Seattle's run-first offense.

More fantasy football playoff rankings:

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Fantasy Football Playoff Rankings (Conference Championship Games): Running Backs

There is a fairly obvious matchup to exploit this weekend: Patriots running backs versus the Colts rush defense.

What is far from obvious, however, is which of the Patriots running backs will have the biggest day. Or at least be given the most opportunities to have a big day.

After all, the Patriots have a two-game streak of one of their running backs getting four touchdowns against the Colts, but it's two different running backs that have had monster games.

All of the running backs I have ranked ahead of any/all Patriots running backs are set for large and relatively predictable workloads.

Here are my running back rankings for Sunday's Conference Championship Games:

1. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (vs. GB)

What happens once the season ends is unclear, but fantasy owners were clearly "thankful" for another strong year from Beast Mode. Lynch now has four consecutive seasons with 1,200-plus rushing yards and double-digit rushing touchdowns. In fact, Lynch has averaged 1,612 yards from scrimmage and 14 total touchdowns over the past four years. Lynch owners this weekend will be hoping for a similar performance to the one he had against the Packers in Week 1 -- 120 rushing yards and two scores.

2. Dan Herron, Indianapolis Colts (at NE)

In his new workhorse role, Herron has a total of 53 touches in two playoff games. Herron has shown his versatility as both a runner (31/119/2) and a receiver (18/117 on 19 targets) this postseason. While Lynch is my top-ranked fantasy running back for the week in standard-scoring formats, I have Herron projected to score the most points at the position in point-per-reception (PPR) formats this weekend.

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3. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers (at SEA)

A slow start facing difficult matchups at the beginning of the season caused some concern for Lacy owners, but he had 1,356 YFS, 12 touchdowns and 35 receptions over his final 12 games of the season. That said, Lacy will need more than the 34 rushing yards that he had against the Seahawks in Week 1 for them to pull off the upset, but the matchup remains difficult as Seattle has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.

4. LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots (vs. IND)

Forecasting how Belichick will allocate touches to his backs is never an easy endeavor. Even though Jonas Gray had 37 carries for 201 yards and four touchdowns against the Colts in November, I'm not sure Gray leads the team in carries this week. Since the Patriots signed Blount shortly after this year's Colts game, Blount has averaged 12.0 carries per game through the rest of the regular season. And Blount was active last week while Gray was not. Last but not least, Blount had 24 carries for 166 yards and four touchdowns last year against the Colts in the playoffs.

5. Jonas Gray, New England Patriots (vs. IND)

As noted above, Gray ran the ball down the collective throats of the Colts defense earlier this season. Since that game which coincides with Gray showing up late for a practice and the Blount signing, however, Gray has a total of 20 carries. Assuming that he is active this week, Gray is worth a roll of the dice given his success the last time these two teams met, but I expect Blount to get the most carries this week.

6. Robert Turbin, Seattle Seahawks (vs. GB)

Over the final nine regular-season games, Turbin rushed for 30-plus yards in five of those games. In addition, he was given 28 carries in the team's final three games including their playoff win. Especially if the team establishes an early lead, we should see Turbin get eight to 10 touches this week.

7. Shane Vereen, New England Patriots (vs. IND)

Vereen had one carry and four receptions against the Colts in Week 11 and the gameplan this week will likely feature Blount and/or Gray carrying the load in between the tackles. With single-digit touches in six consecutive games including Saturday's win over the Ravens, Vereen is not a great option this week.

8. James Starks, Green Bay Packers (at SEA)

In the opener against the Seahawks, Starks was actually more effective (5.29 YPC) than Lacy (2.83 YPC). Over the course of the season, Starks averaged 6.87 touches per game and I'd expect him to get in that range (six to eight touches) on Sunday. Duplicating his per-touch success from Week 1 will be difficult, however.

9. Brandon Bolden, New England Patriots (vs. IND)

Bolden got the "start" last week against the Ravens, but I expect him to finish third or fourth in touches among the team's running backs this week. If Gray is inactive again, however, Bolden's outlook against a soft Colts rush defense would of course get a boost.

10. Zurlon Tipton, Indianapolis Colts (at NE)

Not only has Tipton moved ahead of Trent Richardson on the team's depth chart, but T-Rich was a healthy scratch last week. If you roll the dice on Tipton this weekend, however, you're hoping for a Herron fumble. Herron coughed the ball up twice against the Bengals and Tipton got the majority of fourth-quarter carries in that game. Barring a Herron turnover or two, however, Tipton should only see a few touches on Sunday.

More fantasy football playoff rankings:

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January 13, 2015

Fantasy Football Playoff Rankings (Conference Championship Games): Quarterbacks

We are down to four teams and three games to determine the Super Bowl XLIX champion. Considering we start the year with 256 regular-season games and then 11 playoff games, it's a depressing thought to think that we will soon enter the long offseason.

In a way, there is no offseason in terms of our year-round content and analysis. And from free agency to the NFL Draft to offseason workouts, the stream of football-related news will continue until it's time again for meaningful games to be played.

But after Sunday, there will be only one game of significance (of course, the most significance) to be played from February through August.

Speaking of which, three of the four starting quarterbacks playing this weekend have Super Bowl rings. But the one without a ring tops my fantasy quarterbacks for this round of the playoffs.

Here are my quarterback rankings for Sunday's Conference Championship Games:

1. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (at NE)

Only Drew Brees (659) and Matt Ryan (628) threw the ball more often than Luck (616, 38.5/G) this year. In two postseason games, Luck has thrown it at least 43 times in both games. Not surprisingly, I have Luck projected for the most pass attempts (42) in my fantasy football projections for this weekend's games. Even though the Patriots held opposing quarterbacks to the 11th-fewest fantasy points this season, Luck threw for 303 yards and two touchdowns and finished as the QB6 when he played the Patriots in the regular season. Based on expected volume of attempts, I like his chances to outperform the other three starters this weekend.

2. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (vs. GB)

Whether in "real" or fantasy football, Wilson doesn't need to throw the ball a ton to be productive. During the regular season, Wilson finished as a top-eight fantasy quarterback in 10 of 16 games including the season opener against the Packers. Although he only rushed for 29 yards in that game, Wilson has rushed for 100-plus yards in three separate games this season and finished with a total of 849 rushing yards and six rushing scores. That means, Wilson averaged 7.56 fantasy points per game from his rushing stats alone.

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3. Tom Brady, New England Patriots (vs. IND)

No team tailors their game plan specifically to their opponent(s) more than the Patriots. Against the stout Ravens run defense (and vulnerable pass defense) last week, Brady threw it 50 times while the team's running backs combined for seven carries. In the regular season matchup against the Colts, who are better against the pass than the run, Jonas Gray ran for more than 200 yards and four touchdowns. We may not see a 200-yard rusher and Gray may not even be the team's leading rusher this week, but I'd expect Brady to throw it much less than he did last week. Excluding his four-game slump to start the season, Brady's second-worst fantasy performance from Weeks 5 to 16 came against the Colts (14.08 points, QB17). Brady's 30 pass attempts against the Colts were a low during that 11-game span.

4. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (at SEA)

Despite scoring the most fantasy points during the regular season, there are a number of reasons to dislike Rodgers this week (from a fantasy perspective). The matchup against the Legion of Boom is tough enough when healthy, but Rodgers' lack of mobility due to his calf injury certainly adds to the challenge. At full health and with the entire offseason to prepare, Rodgers opened the season with only 189 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception against the Seahawks as he scored just 9.56 fantasy points. As well as the Seahawks defense has played down the stretch, it will be an uphill battle for Rodgers and the Packers offense, who are projected to score the fewest points (19.75) this week based on Vegas odds.

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January 09, 2015

2015 NFL Mock Draft: Jan. 9th Update

The actual draft order for the first 24 selections of this year's draft is set based on regular-season records, strength of schedules and the results of the Wild Card round of playoff games.

The final eight picks, however, will be based on how the remaining playoff teams fare. In other words, the Super Bowl winner will have the 32nd pick, the Super Bowl runner-up will have the 31st pick, et cetera.

Below is the 2015 NFL mock draft from Kevin Hanson (follow on Twitter) and this mock will be updated at least weekly from now until the 2015 NFL Draft (April 30-May 2).

With that said, here is my projection for the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft:

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Draft History): Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

With the NFL Draft more than three months away, the Bucs will almost certainly select a quarterback with the first overall pick. And based on odds/futures from Sportsbook.ag, Mariota seems like a lock with 1/4 odds of being selected first overall. Even so, I'm not necessarily convinced that Mariota is a lock as the quarterback to be selected.

That said, there is a lot to like about Mariota. Not only does he possess a strong arm and incredible mobility at the position, but Mariota has unquestionable intangibles. If there is a concern, it's the transition from Oregon's spread offense to the anticipation needed for throws into tighter windows at the next level.

2. Tennessee Titans (Draft History): Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

Recent reports suggest that the Titans could go in a different direction here assuming they believe that ex-LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger is their long-term solution. And there has been a laundry list of off-the-field stuff with Winston that could lead to a draft-day slide. After all, character red flags are bad regardless of position, but they are even more of a potential concern with quarterbacks.

Looking past the off-the-field issues, Winston would be the easy choice to go first overall if it were based purely on what happens on the football field. Playing in a pro-style offense, Winston has shown the ability to make throws with anticipation and he throws an accurate and catchable ball. Although he has demonstrated a lack of maturity off the field, there's no questioning his leadership skills on it as he has led the Seminoles to wins in 26 of 27 collegiate games.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (Draft History): Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska

One year after finishing last in sacks (31), the Jaguars defense was one of only seven to sack the quarterback at least 45 times in 2014. The team's leading pass rushers were Sen'Derrick Marks, who tore his ACL in Week 17, and Chris Clemons, who turns 34 in October, and neither is a true difference-making rusher. With some injuries and more focus (double teams) from opposing offenses, Gregory's year-over-year numbers declined, but he is a freak athlete with tremendous upside.

4. Oakland Raiders (Draft History): Leonard Williams, DL, USC

Looking back at the (mostly high) first-round picks by the franchise over the past decade or so, they've had more than their fair share of disappointments. That said, they hit the jackpot with last year's top-five selection of Buffalo's Khalil Mack, PFF's top-graded 4-3 outside linebacker in 2014. The Raiders get another potential difference maker for their front-seven here with the disruptive and versatile Williams.

5. Washington Redskins (Draft History): Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa

For the first time since their blockbuster trade with the Rams for the right to select RG3 with the second overall pick, Washington gets to keep their first-round pick this year. Regardless of whether RG3 is back in the nation's capital next season, one area needing improvement is their pass protection. Only the Jaguars (71) allowed more sacks this past season than the Redskins (58).

6. New York Jets (Draft History): Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

A couple of meaningless wins down the stretch cost the Jets an opportunity to compete for a top-two pick and the ability to draft a franchise-changing quarterback. If the Titans don't select Winston, it's difficult to envision the Jets passing on him at this spot.

The 2014 recipient of the Fred Biletnikoff Award, Cooper finished with 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. Cooper may not have the upside of some wide receivers selected this high in previous drafts, but this pick continues the process of improving the team's receiving corps that started with the free-agent signing of Eric Decker and trade for Percy Harvin over the past year.

7. Chicago Bears (Draft History): Landon Collins, S, Alabama

One of the biggest disappointments in the NFL this season, the Bears have plenty of holes to address and could go in a number of different directions. Starting safeties Chris Conte and Ryan Mundy are scheduled for free agency in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

8. Atlanta Falcons (Draft History): Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri

An explosive edge rusher, Ray has 22.5 tackles for loss, third-most in the nation, and 13.0 sacks this season. One of the biggest areas of weakness for the Falcons has been their pass rush. Only the Bengals (20) have generated fewer sacks this season than the Falcons (22), who had the third-fewest last season as well.

9. New York Giants (Draft History): Alvin "Bud" Dupree, DE, Kentucky

The Giants had just 34 sacks in 2013, but they finished fourth in the league with 47 sacks this season. The majority of the 13-sack difference can be attributed to the bounce-back season of Jason Pierre-Paul, who had 12.5 sacks in 2014 after getting only 2.0 in the previous season. That said, JPP is due to hit free agency in March as an unrestricted free agent.

If the Giants are unable to re-sign Pierre-Paul, adding a pass-rusher would make sense to fill at least part of the void. Either way, you can never have too many pass-rushers and a strong pass rush has been one of the staples of successful Giants teams. A former tight end, Dupree is a freak athlete with a 40.5-inch vertical and 11-foot broad jump at 6-foot-4 and 264 pounds. Over the past three seasons, Dupree has 21.0 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss.

10. St. Louis Rams (Draft History): Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford

Even after selecting Greg Robinson with the second overall pick last year, offensive line is still one of the units in needs of upgrades and reinforcements. The Rams ranked in the bottom 10 of both run blocking (-55.1) and pass blocking (-27.5) gradess from PFF last season. Stanford's starting left tackle over the past two seasons has an excellent combination of size, length and foot quickness.

11. Minnesota Vikings (Draft History): Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

Starting left tackle Matt Kalil has really struggled this season. Among 84 offensive tackles graded by PFF, only Carolina's Byron Bell has received a worse pass-blocking grade than Kalil. If the Vikings were to select Stanley, they could kick Kalil inside to guard where left guard Charlie Johnson has also struggled.

12. Cleveland Browns (Draft History): Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

The highs and lows with Josh Gordon have been extremely high (no pun intended) and low. Suspended by the league for the first 10 games of last season, Gordon was also suspended by the club for their regular-season finale. And based on reports from beat writers, the sense is that Gordon won't be back in 2015.

With two first-round picks in this year's draft, it would only make sense for one of them to be used on a receiver with the uncertainty surrounding Gordon. White has the speed, size and ball skills to be a difference maker and NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah recently tweeted that White was his top-ranked receiver while also comparing him to Julio Jones.

13. New Orleans Saints (Draft History): Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Florida

Bad against both the run (29th in the NFL) and pass (25th), the Saints allowed the second-most yards (384.0 per game) in the NFL and fifth-most points (26.5 per game). They also struggled to get to the quarterback as they finished in the bottom eight in sacks (34). A versatile player with a non-stop motor, Fowler led Florida in tackles for loss (12.0) and QB hurries (15) and ranked second in sacks (5.5).

14. Miami Dolphins (Draft History): Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington

Not only has he played defensive back and linebacker in his collegiate career, Thompson also rushed for 100-plus yards in back-to-back games against Colorado and UCLA this season. Not surprisingly, Thompson won the Paul Hornung Award as college football's most versatile player this year. While he may get the 'tweener label, Thompson is an outstanding athlete that is solid against the run as well as in pass coverage and rushing the passer.

15. San Francisco 49ers (Draft History): DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville

With Michael Crabtree about to enter free agency and 34-year-old Anquan Boldin set to enter the final season of his contract, the 49ers could end up selecting a receiver with this pick. A broken foot sidelined Parker for the first seven games of the season, but the 6-foot-3 wideout finished with a 43/855/5 line in six games. NFL.com's Jeremiah compared Parker to Keenan Allen saying Parker is "smooth, physical & has outstanding instincts/ball skills."

16. Houston Texans (Draft History): Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State

Perhaps the Texans overachieved given their limitations at quarterback, but one of the team's other weaknesses has been their pass defense. Meanwhile, starting cornerbacks Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph are set to become unrestricted free agents in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Given the character concerns of Marcus Peters, who was kicked off Washington's football team, Waynes could end up being the first cornerback off the board in this year's draft.

-> Continue to picks 17-32

-> For more mocks, check out our 2015 NFL Mock Draft Database

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January 07, 2015

Fantasy Football Playoff Rankings (Divisional Round): Tight Ends

Here are my tight end rankings for the Divisional Round of the playoffs:

1. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots (vs. BAL)

The best tight end in football, Gronk returned from his ACL injury to post an 82/1,124/12 stat line in 15 games this season. Not only is he capable of a dominant 9/149/3 line (like in Week 8 against the Bears), but he has an incredibly high floor as well. In 13 of 15 games, Gronk finished as a top-11 fantasy tight end with the two exceptions being TE25 (Week 2) and TE13 (Week 16).

2. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers (at SEA)

Olsen had a career year (84/1,008/6 on 123 targets) and finished as a weekly top-five fantasy tight end in seven games and as a top-12 fantasy tight end in 10 games. Olsen had just one catch for 16 yards against the Seahawks in their Week 8 matchup, but tight ends generally have more success against Seattle than wide receivers. That said, there is a clear drop-off between Gronk and the rest of the tight ends this week.

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3. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys (at GB)

Witten lacks the upside of some of the tight ends below him on this list, but he's going to get a steady amount of targets each week as Tony Romo's safety valve. Over his past four games counting last week's playoff win, Witten has 23 receptions for 271 yards and a touchdown on 29 targets.

4. Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos (vs. IND)

Since Week 11, Thomas has a total of five catches for 66 yards and no touchdowns to go along with a three DNPs during that span. Fortunately, Thomas and the Broncos got a first-round bye, which should continue to help with the recovery from his ankle injury. (He's recently stated that he would benefit from the bye since he wasn't 100 percent.) Back in Week 1 against the Colts, Thomas had his best game of the season (7/104/3). In addition, the Colts have generally struggled defending tight ends as they allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to the position this season. Especially in DFS tournaments, Thomas is an intriguing option.

5. Owen Daniels, Baltimore Ravens (at NE)

Similar to Witten at No. 3, Daniels is a guy at No. 5 on this list that doesn't have as much upside as Thomas above him or the Colts tight ends listed below him. That said, Daniels had four catches for 70 yards last week and I wouldn't be surprised if he posts similar numbers this week as the Ravens receivers will have difficult matchups against the Patriots cornerbacks.

6. Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts (at DEN)

With one catch for 18 yards on two targets, Fleener certainly disappointed any fantasy owners that rolled with him in their Wild Card lineup(s). Over his past eight games, however, Fleener has finished as the weekly fantasy TE1 three times (Week 11, 13 and 17) in both standard-scoring and point-per-reception (PPR) formats giving fantasy owners plenty of upside.

7. Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts (at DEN)

A touchdown-dependent fantasy tight end option, Allen had only 50 targets in 13 regular-season games (3.86 per game) this season. That said, he converted eight of those 50 targets into touchdowns including one in Week 1 against the Broncos. Although Allen is listed as my seventh-ranked tight end, the difference in my projections between No. 4 and No. 7 is only 0.7 fantasy points.

The next 10 fantasy tight ends for this weekend's games:

8. Richard Rogers, Green Bay Packers (vs. DAL)
9. Luke Willson, Seattle Seahawks (vs. CAR)
10. Ed Dickson, Carolina Panthers (at SEA)
11. Tim Wright, New England Patriots (vs. BAL)
12. Crockett Gillmore, Baltimore Ravens (at NE)
13. Andrew Quarless, Green Bay Packers (vs. DAL)
14. Tony Moeaki, Seattle Seahawks (vs. CAR)
15. Virgil Green, Denver Broncos (vs. IND)
16. Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts (at DEN)
17. Gavin Escobar, Dallas Cowboys (at GB)

More fantasy football rankings for the Divisional Round:

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Fantasy Football Playoff Rankings (Divisional Round): Wide Receivers

Here are my wide receiver rankings for the Divisional Round of the playoffs:

1. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers (vs. DAL)

With Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense dominant at Lambeau Field this season, it should come as no surprise that Nelson's home splits are much better than his road splits. In eight home games, Nelson has 40 receptions for 901 yards (22.53 Y/R) and nine touchdowns compared a line of 58/618/4 on the road. In addition, he has scored in seven of his eight home games.

2. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos (vs. IND)

Thomas got off to a slow start, which included a 4/48 performance against the Colts in Week 1, but he finished the season with a career-high 111 receptions for a franchise-record 1,619 yards and 11 touchdowns. Even with the run-game focus down the stretch, Thomas eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the final three regular-season games with a total of 42 targets in those three games. DT should have a much better performance than he had the first time he faced the Colts this season.

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3. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys (at GB)

Even with a drop in targets as the Cowboys threw it less, Bryant still finished with 88 catches for 1,320 yards and a career-high 16 touchdowns. Not only did Bryant lead the league in receiving touchdowns this season, but no player has more than he has (56) since he entered the league five years ago. Seeing plenty of double coverage last week against the Lions, Bryant was targeted only three times and finished with three catches for 48 yards, but he should have more one-on-one opportunities this week.

4. Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers (vs. DAL)

As the 1(a) to Nelson's 1, Cobb (91/1,287/12) was nearly as productive as Nelson (98/1,519/13) this season and both finished among the top-six wide receivers in terms of fantasy points scored. Scoring 10 touchdowns in his first nine games, Cobb ended a six-game scoreless drought with a pair of touchdowns in Week 17. Drawing a matchup against Orlando Scandrick, Cobb's matchup is less favorable than Nelson's, but he's still a top-four fantasy receiver this week.

5. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts (at DEN)

With exactly 82 receptions in back-to-back seasons, Hilton set a new career high with 1,345 yards, which ranked sixth in the NFL. Although he battled a hamstring injury near the end of the regular season, Hilton is healthy again and he had six catches for 103 yards on 14 targets in last week's playoff win.

6. Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos (vs. IND)

Through Week 13, Sanders averaged 6.83 receptions and 96.0 yards on 9.67 targets per game. In the final four regular-season games, however, Sanders averaged just 4.75 receptions for 63.0 yards on 6.25 targets per game.

7. Julian Edelman, New England Patriots (vs. BAL)

Sitting out the team's final two regular-season games with a concussion, Edelman finished the year with 92 catches for 972 yards and four touchdowns. While 2013 seemed to be somewhat of a perfect storm for Edelman, he finished with nearly identical per-game averages in receptions (6.57 in 2014, 6.56 in 2013) and yardage (69.4 in 2014, 66.0 in 2013). In the final six games he played, Edelman had double-digit targets in five of them and averaged 7.83 catches for 84.17 yards during that span. The Ravens allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing receivers during the regular season and the most among remaining playoff teams.

8. Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens (at NE)

Smith finished with 49 receptions for 767 yards on 92 targets, all of which either set or tied career lows, but he also scored a career-high 11 touchdowns. His first playoff game of the postseason was somewhat similar as he had just two catches for 28 yards last week, but he scored another touchdown. Given that Darrelle Revis is expected to shadow Steve Smith, the odds favor Torrey for being the most productive of Baltimore's wideouts this weekend.

9. Steve Smith, Baltimore Ravens (at NE)

Smith had four 100-yard games in the first six weeks of the season, but he fell short of the 100-yard milestone in the team's final 10 regular-season games. Smith went over the 100-yard mark last week (5/101), however, and now has at least five receptions in five consecutive games with a total of 347 yards over that span. As noted above, though, Smith is expected to visit Revis Island on Saturday afternoon.

10. Brandon LaFell, New England Patriots (vs. BAL)

With such a favorable matchup, LaFell has plenty of upside, but I expect him to finish third on the team in targets behind both Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Over the final five regular-season games, LaFell had double-digit targets only once and that was one of the two games that Edelman sat out.

11. Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks (vs. CAR)

Baldwin's splits following the Percy Harvin trade to the Jets were better than his splits prior to the trade. That said, the Seahawks don't throw it enough for any Seahawks receiver to be a reliable weekly fantasy option. In his 11 games without Harvin, Baldwin averaged 4.55 receptions for 58.0 yards on 6.73 targets per game (compared to 3.2/37.4 on 4.8 targets per game). With the improved play from the Panthers defense to close the season, they allowed only one receiver to finish as a top-20 weekly performer (Roddy White, WR16, Week 11) in their final six games.

12. Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers (at SEA)

No team allowed fewer fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season than the Seahawks and no team is projected to score fewer points this weekend by Vegas than the Panthers. On a positive note, however, Benjamin had a solid game (4/94) the first time these two teams met.

Here are the rest of my top-30 wide receivers for this weekend's games:

13. Paul Richardson, Seattle Seahawks (vs. CAR)
14. Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys (at GB)
15. Cole Beasley, Dallas Cowboys (at GB)
16. Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts (at DEN)
17. Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis Colts (at DEN)
18. Jermaine Kearse, Seattle Seahawks (vs. CAR)
19. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts (at DEN)
20. Kamar Aiken, Baltimore Ravens (at NE)
21. Philly Brown, Carolina Panthers (at SEA)
22. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers (vs. DAL)
23. Wes Welker, Denver Broncos (vs. IND)
24. Danny Amendola, New England Patriots (vs. BAL)
25. Marlon Brown, Baltimore Ravens (at NE)
26. Richardo Lockette, Seattle Seahawks (vs. CAR)
27. Jerricho Cotchery, Carolina Panthers (at SEA)
28. Kevin Norwood, Seattle Seahawks (vs. CAR)
29. Dwayne Harris, Dallas Cowboys (at GB)
30. Brenton Bersin, Carolina Panthers (at SEA)

More fantasy football rankings for the Divisional Round:

Has your team been eliminated from the playoffs? Check out my 2015 NFL mock draft. (Or our NFL mock draft database.)

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January 06, 2015

Fantasy Football Playoff Rankings (Divisional Round): Running Backs

Not only is it important for teams to have strong quarterback play in the postseason, but as the weather has turned colder in January, the ability to run the football has increased importance.

Five of my top-seven fantasy running backs are projected for 20-plus touches this week and I have all seven of them projected for at least 18 touches this week.

Here are my running back rankings for the Divisional Round of the playoffs:

1. C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos (vs. IND)

Using Vegas odds, the Broncos are projected to score the most points this weekend. With their recent shift in offensive philosophy (or focus), Anderson has been a major source of the team's scoring with nine total touchdowns in his past six games. And not only has he scored touchdowns in five of those six games, but he has a pair of Matt Asiata-esque performances (three-TD games) during that span. Since becoming the featured back eight games ago, Anderson has finished as a weekly top-10 fantasy running back seven times with the lone exception being an RB16 performance. Among the remaining playoff teams, no team has allowed more fantasy points to opposing running backs this season than the Colts.

2. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers (vs. DAL)

Lacy carried the ball a season-high 26 times against the Lions in Week 17 as he reached the 100-yard rushing mark for the third time this season. Over the past nine games, however, Lacy has exceeded 100 yards from scrimmage every week and has racked up a total of 1,111 yards from scrimmage, 29 receptions and nine touchdowns during that span.

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3. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (at GB)

For the Cowboys to have a chance to upset the Packers, we will likely a see heavy dose of Murray. As much as Tony Romo has been dominant on the road this season, so has Murray with seven 100-yard rushing games this season. In his eight road games, Murray has averaged 26.0 carries for 120.38 yards with a total of seven touchdowns and 4.0 receptions for 24.25 yards per game. Although Murray is ranked as my RB3, I have my top-four running backs projected for very similar production (15.5 to 17.6 fantasy points).

4. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (vs. CAR)

Regardless of any drama surrounding Lynch (holdout, his future, media sessions or not, etc.), he rushed for 1,306 yards and a career-high 13 touchdowns and added 37 catches for 367 yards and four touchdowns. It was Lynch's fourth consecutive season with 1,200-plus rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns; only LaDainian Tomlinson (seven) had a longer streak. As noted above, Lynch is part of the top tier of four elite running backs for the week. That said, the Panthers defense has played much better recently. Since Week 10 and including last week's playoff win, the Panthers have limited opposing running backs to just 3.68 yards per carry and this week's game should be a defensive struggle.

5. Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens (at NE )

With just 36 rushing yards on 16 carries last week against the Steelers, Forsett now has three disappointing performances in his past four games. Facing a team with corners as talented as New England's, however, I wouldn't be surprised if we see even more Forsett than usual this week.

6. Daniel Herron, Indianapolis Colts (at DEN)

Going into this week's game, it appears that Herron won't be penalized for his fumbling issues (two fumbles, one lost) last week, but that could certainly change if he coughs the ball up again against the Broncos. Herron racked up 141 YFS and a touchdown last week on 22 touches including 10 receptions. Facing the league's second-ranked rush defense (79.8 YPG allowed), Herron could limit matchup downside by his involvement as a receiver.

7. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers (at SEA)

Even with the return of DeAngelo Williams, Stewart had 24 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown in last week's playoff win. It was the fourth time in five games that Stewart had 20-plus carries and it was his third 100-yard game during that span. Facing the league's top-ranked defense in terms of points (15.9/G) and yards (267.1/G) allowed, it's little surprise that the Panthers are projected to score the fewest points this week.

8. Shane Vereen, New England Patriots (vs. BAL)

It's always difficult (virtually impossible) to predict how Bill Belichick will allocate touches to the running backs, but given Baltimore's stout run (and poor pass) defense, it would at least make sense that the team's best receiver out of the backfield would see a spike in volume this week. That said, Vereen has a total of 27 touches in his last five games combined.

9. Ronnie Hillman, Denver Broncos (vs. IND)

Hillman had 15 carries for 56 yards against the Raiders in the team's bye-clinching Week 17 performance. While I wouldn't expect that many touches this week, Hillman should see (close to) double-digit touches as a change-of-pace back to Anderson against the Colts.

10. LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots (vs. BAL)

In his five games played with the Patriots this season, Blount has averaged 12.0 carries for 56.2 yards per game with a total of three touchdowns. As noted earlier, however, the Ravens have one of the league's best run defenses and no team allowed fewer fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.

Here are the next 15 running backs for this weekend's games:

11. James Starks, Green Bay Packers (vs. DAL)
12. Robert Turbin, Seattle Seahawks (vs. CAR)
13. Jonas Gray, New England Patriots (vs. BAL)
14. Zurlon Tipton, Indianapolis Colts (at DEN)
15. Bernard Pierce, Baltimore Ravens (at NE )
16. Kyle Juszcyk, Baltimore Ravens (at NE )
17. Fozzy Whittaker, Carolina Panthers (at SEA)
18. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers (at SEA)
19. Mike Tolbert, Carolina Panthers (at SEA)
20. John Kuhn, Green Bay Packers (vs. DAL)
21. Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts (at DEN)
22. Christine Michael, Seattle Seahawks (vs. CAR)
23. Lance Dunbar, Dallas Cowboys (at GB)
24. Joseph Randle, Dallas Cowboys (at GB)
25. Juwan Thompson, Denver Broncos (vs. IND)

More fantasy football rankings for the Divisional Round:

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Fantasy Football Playoff Rankings (Divisional Round): Quarterbacks

Three of the four playoff quarterbacks that had a bye last week finished in the top-five quarterbacks in terms of fantasy points scored in 2014. And the other, Tom Brady, finished the season at No. 9.

In other words, it's certainly not surprising that there are plenty of quality options at quarterback this week in a quarterback-driven league.

Here are my quarterback rankings for the Divisional Round of the playoffs:

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (vs. DAL)

Not only did Rodgers lead all quarterbacks in fantasy points this season, no quarterback had more weekly top-three performances this season than Rodgers (six). (Andrew Luck also had six.) Five of those six top-three performances have come at Lambeau Field, where he has posted dominant numbers. In those eight home games (wins), Rodgers averaged 9.73 yards per attempt with a 25:0 TD-to-INT ratio. Even if he's at less at than 100 percent with the calf injury, Rodgers should be able to move the ball at will against the Cowboys.

2. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (at DEN)

Against the Broncos in Week 1, Luck threw it 53 times, which tied his season high, for 370 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Even though Luck threw for less than 200 yards in his final three regular-season games this year, no quarterback had more 300-yard games this season than Luck (10). While Luck may throw a pick or two, he seems to be a lock for 300 passing yards in the game with the highest over-under this weekend.

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3. Tom Brady, New England Patriots (vs. BAL)

Since Week 5, Brady has thrown multiple touchdowns in 10 of 12 games and averaged more than 20 fantasy points per game (20.07). Facing the vulnerable Ravens secondary, Brady should have another strong performance. That said, Brady's three postseason matchups against the Ravens have not gone well -- 56.06 completion percentage, three touchdowns and seven interceptions. In his other 20 career playoff games, Brady has a 40:15 TD-to-INT ratio.

4. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (vs. CAR)

While Wilson has the accuracy and arm strength to make all of the throws, his rushing ability is what drives his upside as a fantasy quarterback. With three 100-yard rushing games this season, Wilson gained 849 yards (7.2 YPC) on the ground and scored six touchdowns this season. In fact, he was tied with Denver's C.J. Anderson for 16th in rushing yards. Over the past five games, the Panthers have been playing great defense and have allowed just 11.8 points per game.

5. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (at GB)

With a career-low 435 pass attempts as a full-time starter, Romo arguably had his best statistical season of his career. Romo led the NFL in completion percentage (69.9%), passer rating (113.2), touchdown percentage (7.8%) and Y/A (8.5). Leading the Cowboys to a perfect 8-0 road record, Romo's road splits were even more impressive -- 70.61 completion percentage, 20:2 TD-to-INT ratio and 121.8 passer rating.

6. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos (vs. IND)

Not only did Manning set single-season records for passing yards and touchdowns last season, but he was averaging 323.5 yards and 3.09 touchdowns per game through Week 12. Since then, however, Manning has just one 300-yard game and has averaged 233.8 YPG with more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (five) over that five-game span. Although the Broncos are projected to score the most points this week based on Vegas odds, a continued emphasis on their rushing attack seems likely against the Colts.

7. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (at NE)

The matchup against the Patriots, who allowed the 11th-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in the regular season, isn't great. For whatever reason, however, Flacco is one of the few quarterbacks that have had (much) more success in the postseason than the regular season. Flacco now has multiple passing touchdowns in seven consecutive postseason games with a combined 17:1 TD-to-INT ratio during that span.

8. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (at SEA)

With rare physical tools, Newton has now thrown for 3,000-plus yards and rushed for 500-plus yards in all four of his NFL seasons even though he missed two games in 2014 and battled various injuries throughout the year. Based on fantasy points per game, Newton (17.78) finished seventh among quarterbacks this season. That said, this week's matchup is certainly a challenging one as the Seahawks have allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season. Against the Seahawks in Week 8, Newton had a season-low 5.24 fantasy points (171 yards, no TDs and one INT with 24 rushing yards).

More fantasy football rankings for the Divisional Round:

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January 02, 2015

Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS): DraftKings Values for NFL Wild Card Round

Building a DFS lineup isn't purely based on selecting the best players, but it's about finding the best values relative to their salaries. In order to fit higher-priced studs like Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray or Antonio Brown into your lineup, you'll need to find some lower-priced options to provide some salary-cap relief.

With that said, here are some DraftKings value plays for the Wild Card Round (sorted by position, then salary):

QB - Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. BAL), $7,300

It's always difficult to run on the Ravens, but it certainly won't help that the Steelers will be without stud second-year back Le'Veon Bell. That said, it's much easier to throw on them and Big Ben threw for 340 yards and six touchdowns in his last game against the Ravens. Over his past nine games, Big Ben has averaged a massive 343.78 yards per game and he has reached the 300-yard milestone in seven of those games. A Big Ben/Brown stack will be featured in many of my lineups this week.

[Note: DraftKings awards a three-point bonus for reaching 300 passing yards, 100 rushing yards or 100 receiving yards.]

QB - Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (at PIT), $6,700

Earlier in the season, Flacco threw multiple touchdown passes in both meetings against the Steelers. More recently, Flacco has thrown multiple touchdown passes in four of his last five games to close out the season. While Flacco has never posted prolific regular-season statistics, he's been much better in the postseason. Over his past two postseasons (2011-2012) combined, Flacco has a 15:1 TD-to-INT ratio with multiple passing scores in all six of those games including three passing touchdowns in his last three postseason games.

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RB - Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals (at IND), $6,200

At this point, Hill is in all of the lineups that I have constructed so far. Since his emergence as the team's lead back, Hill has been highly productive. Hill has at least 22 carries with 100-plus yards in each of the team's final three games. And over the final nine games of the season, Hill has gained a total of 929 rushing yards at 5.40 yards per carry with six touchdowns. Even though I still have DeMarco Murray as my top-ranked fantasy running back for this weekend's games, the gap between Murray and Hill is slim given Hill's favorable matchup against the Colts, who have allowed the 12th-most fantasy points to opposing running backs (PPR scoring).

[Note: DraftKings uses full PPR scoring. All references made to scoring and points allowed will be based on PPR formats whether stated or not.]

RB - Dan Herron, Indianapolis Colts (vs. CIN), $4,700

As part of the team's Boom (Herron) and Bust (Trent Richardson) backfield, Herron is clearly the better option. Over the past five games, Herron (0.66) has averaged more than double the fantasy points per touch than Richardson (0.30). And while I like the matchup against the Bengals, who have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing backs, Herron's upside is potentially capped by the fact that he has been limited to 13 touches or fewer in five consecutive games.

RB - Kerwynn Williams, Arizona Cardinals (at CAR), $3,700

Since the injury to Andre Ellington, Williams has emerged as the team's lead back. In three of the past four games, Williams has at least 17 touches and he's been fairly productive with his opportunities. Although he has yet to score a touchdown (and the Cardinals are projected to score the fewest points this week), Williams has averaged 4.64 YPC over that four-game span. Williams provides plenty of salary-cap relief if you're looking to load up on the elite receiver options this week.

WR - Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens (at PIT), $5,400

Among the teams playing this weekend, only the Ravens have allowed more fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season than the Steelers. Since Week 4, Smith has scored a total of 11 touchdowns including three over the past two games. Although Smith is my fifth-ranked fantasy wide receiver this weekend, seven other wideouts have a higher salary than he does.

WR - Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati Bengals (at IND), $4,200

With A.J. Green (concussion) officially listed as doubtful and unlikely to play on Sunday, it's a huge boost for Sanu. While Sanu has shown that he can be really productive with Green out of the lineup, Sanu has exceeded 23 receiving yards only once in his past eight games. In the four games that Green had no catches (either sat out or left game early), Sanu averaged 5.25/95.75/0.5 and had nine-plus targets in three of those games. Keeping that in mind, one of those games was against the Colts and Sanu finished with only 3/54 on nine targets in Week 7.

WR - Cole Beasley, Dallas Cowboys (vs. DET), $3,700

Since the team's Week 11 bye, Beasley has averaged 3.5 catches for 46.2 yards and 0.7 touchdowns per game. While he may not be a great option, he makes for a solid punt option in DFS formats this week for those looking for some salary-cap relief. Beasley is my 11th-ranked wide receiver, but he is priced as the 17th-most expensive wide receiver this week.

WR - Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. BAL), $3,100

Many expected a breakout season for the second-year receiver out of Oregon State with Emmanuel Sanders signing with the Broncos in the offseason, yet he finished with a modest 53/644/2 stat line this year. Priced only $100 above the position minimum, however, Wheaton is a punt option that could see an increased volume of targets this week with Bell being ruled out. Bell averaged 5.19 receptions and 6.56 targets per game this season and given the fact that the Ravens run defense is so stout, Wheaton could see more than the 5.44 targets per game he averaged this year.

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TE - Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers (vs. ARI), $5,500

Yes, Olsen is the highest-priced fantasy tight end this week. That doesn't mean he can't still be underpriced. Given that the average salary of all players is $5,555 ($50,000 cap divided by nine players), Olsen carries a below-average (albeit slightly) price tag. Olsen had a career year (84/1,008/6 on 123 targets) and he gets a favorable matchup against the Cardinals, who have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season.

TE - Owen Daniels, Baltimore Ravens (at PIT), $3,300

Daniels is an interesting punt option in Gary Kubiak's TE-friendly offense. In his two games against the Steelers this year, Daniels had 5/28/2 and 6/53 stat lines and a total of 14 targets in those two games. Scoring two touchdowns again seems unlikely, but I wouldn't be surprised if he saw seven or so targets, which is typically not the case for tight ends this close to the position-minimum salary of $3,000.

In addition, check out our site's DraftKings Wild Card Round Cheat Sheet.

Here are my fantasy football rankings for the Wild Card Round of the playoffs:

Has your team been eliminated from the playoffs? Check out my 2015 NFL mock draft for a look ahead to this April's draft.

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Fantasy Football Playoff Rankings (Wild Card Round): Wide Receivers

Here are my wide receiver rankings for the Wild Card Round of the playoffs:

1. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. BAL)

Among playoff teams, no team has allowed more fantasy points to opposing wide receivers than the Ravens. Either way, Brown is essentially matchup-proof. Brown has a minimum of five catches and 50 yards in all 32 regular-season games over the past two seasons.

Even though he has not finished as the top-scoring fantasy wide receiver in any given week this season, he led all wide receivers in both receptions (129) and yards (1,698) as well as full-season fantasy points in both scoring formats. Brown averaged 16.12 fantasy points per game in standard-scoring leagues and 24.18 in PPR formats.

2. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (at DAL)

Since missing a few games, Megatron has racked up a line of 49/729/6 on 91 targets over his past eight games. Megatron has double-digit targets in six of those eight games and 100-plus yards in four games.

3. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys (vs. DET)

Not only did Bryant lead the NFL in touchdown receptions (16) this season, but no player has more receiving touchdowns than he has over the past three years (41). Scoring in each of the past three games, Dez has a total of six scores during that span. While Bryant is in the discussion to be the top-ranked fantasy receiver this week, he now has seven consecutive games with single-digit targets. Since Week 10, Bryant has averaged 7.14 targets per game; Megatron (11.38/G) and Brown (11.14/G) have both averaged at least four more targets per game over that stretch.

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4. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts (vs. CIN)

A hamstring injury has limited him to just four catches for 50 yards in Week 15 and no catches on three targets last week. (He sat out Week 16.) In the 13 games prior to that, however, Hilton averaged 6.0/99.6/0.5 per game. Although the Bengals have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers this season, Hilton had 7/107 in his matchup against them earlier this season. It's unclear how healthy his hamstring is, though.

5. Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens (at PIT)

Among the teams playing this weekend, only the Ravens have allowed more fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season than the Steelers. Since Week 4, Smith has scored a total of 11 touchdowns including three over the past two games.

6. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals (at IND)

One of the league's most talented wideouts, Green is currently going through the league's concussion protocol although it appears that he will gain clearance prior to Sunday's matchup against the Colts. In addition, Green suffered a biceps injury in Week 16, but he played with that injury last week and finished with eight catches for 82 yards on 13 targets. With one of the better cornerbacks (Vontae Davis) in the league, the Colts limited opposing receivers to the fifth-fewest fantasy points this season.

7. Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers (vs. ARI)

With 73/1,008/9 as a rookie, Benjamin was one of three rookie receivers to exceed the 1,000-yard milestone this season. This was the first year that more than two rookie receivers have done so. That said, Benjamin is coming off his worst game of the season with just one catch for nine yards in Week 17 against the Falcons. Furthermore, Benjamin has only one touchdown and one game with more than 56 yards over his last five games.

8. Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals (vs. CAR)

After his breakout sophomore campaign, Floyd disappointed fantasy owners expecting his continued ascension, but much of the blame for his regression can be attributed to the team's injuries at quarterback. That said, Floyd is coming off his best performance (8/153/2 on a season-high 12 targets), which gives owners some hope heading into this weekend's games. Fantasy owners shouldn't get too giddy, however, as the Panthers have allowed only 12.5 points per game over their past four games and no team is projected by Vegas to score fewer points this week than the Cardinals.

9. Golden Tate, Detroit Lions (at DAL)

When Megatron was out, Tate really stepped up as he had five 100-yard outings in a six-game span in the middle of the season. More recently, however, his production has been much more modest. Tate has only one score over his past eight games and he has averaged 48.75 yards over the past four games.

10. Steve Smith, Baltimore Ravens (at PIT)

Smith has only two touchdowns in his past 10 games, but he has seen double-digit targets in three of his past four games. During that four-game span, Smith has a minimum of five catches in each game with a total of 25 receptions for 246 yards.

11. Cole Beasley, Dallas Cowboys (vs. DET)

Since the team's Week 11 bye, Beasley has averaged 3.5 catches for 46.2 yards and 0.7 touchdowns per game. While he may not be a great option, he makes for a solid punt option in DFS formats this week.

12. Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. BAL)

Getting his career off to a great start, Bryant scored a total of six touchdowns in his first four games and finished as a top-10 fantasy wide receiver in three of those games. Since then, however, Bryant has finished outside the top-50 receivers in four of six games with an average of 2.0 receptions per game over that span. While he's unlikely to score two touchdowns against the Ravens once again, the matchup is favorable (as noted above) and the Steelers could throw it more frequently due to the likely absence of Le'Veon Bell (knee).

Here are the rest of my top-25 fantasy wide receivers for the Wild Card round of the playoffs:

13. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals (vs. CAR)
14. John Brown, Arizona Cardinals (vs. CAR)
15. Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. BAL)
16. Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys (vs. DET)
17. Jerricho Cotchery, Carolina Panthers (vs. ARI)
18. Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati Bengals (at IND)
19. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts (vs. CIN)
20. Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts (vs. CIN)
21. Kamar Aiken, Baltimore Ravens (at PIT)
22. Marlon Brown, Baltimore Ravens (at PIT)
23. Philly Brown, Carolina Panthers (vs. ARI)
24. Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis Colts (vs. CIN)
25. Michael Campanaro, Baltimore Ravens (at PIT)

More fantasy football rankings for the Wild Card Round:

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January 01, 2015

Fantasy Football Playoff Rankings (Wild Card Round): Running Backs

Steelers second-year running back Le'Veon Bell rushed for 1,361 yards, which is good enough to finish second behind only DeMarco Murray for the league's rushing title this season and fifth-most all-time in franchise history.

Bell's versatility as a do-it-all workhorse is even more impressive than his success as a runner. Not only did Bell break the franchise record for most receptions (83) by a running back, but he also broke the club's record for most yards from scrimmage (2,215).

More than likely, Bell (knee) will miss the Saturday night matchup against division-rival Baltimore as Bell missed practice once again on Thursday.

If he does play, however, it will be at less than 100 percent in an extremely difficult matchup. No team has allowed fewer fantasy points to opposing running backs this season than the Ravens.

Assuming that he sits out this week's game, I've left him out of my running back rankings. And given the difficulty of the matchup, it's hard to have any confidence in the team's other options in the backfield.

Here are my running back rankings for the Wild Card Round of the playoffs:

1. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (vs. DET)

No team has allowed fewer rushing yards per game (69.3) or yards per carry (3.2) than the Lions and only the Ravens have allowed fewer fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. That said, the league's rushing champion is a lock for a massive workload behind one of the league's best offensive lines. Not only has Murray averaged 28.13 touches per game, but he has at least 22 touches in all 16 games this season. In addition, Murray has at least 100 rushing yards or a touchdown (or both) in 15 of 16 games this season.

2. Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals (at IND)

With an expanded role in the team's ground attack, Hill has at least 22 carries with 100-plus yards in each of the team's final three games. Over the final nine games of the season, Hill has gained a total of 929 rushing yards at 5.40 YPC with six touchdowns. With a top-12 matchup against the Colts, Hill (16.2 projected fantasy points) and Murray (17.8) have quite a bit of separation between the rest of this week's running backs in my projections.

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3. Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens (at PIT)

After picking up only 67 rushing yards in Weeks 15 and 16 combined, Forsett had a strong showing against the Browns in Week 17 with 119 rushing yards as well as two catches for 17 yards. One of the biggest surprises of the 2014 season, Forsett finished fifth in rushing yards (1,266) and a league-high 5.4 YPC among running backs. Forsett had single-digit carries in three of 16 games, but two of those three games were against Pittsburgh.

4. Joique Bell, Detroit Lions (at DAL)

After averaging 21.75 touches per game from Weeks 12 to 15, Bell had just 15 and 13 touches over the past two weeks, respectively. And after hauling in 13 receptions in his previous four games, Bell was not even targeted in Week 17. That said, Bell has a total of five touchdowns in the team's past five games and is a solid option this week.

5. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers (vs. ARI)

With DeAngelo Williams sidelined, Stewart has 79 carries for 399 yards plus five catches for 33 yards over his past four games. As good as The Daily Show has looked down the stretch, it's somewhat concerning that Williams will return considering the team's preference for a platoon although I expect Stewart to lead the team in touches this week. Another concern this week is that the Cardinals have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.

6. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals (at IND)

Even as Hill has emerged as the team's featured runner, Bernard has been productive down the stretch as well. In the team's final three games, Bernard has finished as the RB11, RB17 and RB13 in weekly fantasy running back performances, respectively. In PPR formats, he has finished as a top-12 fantasy running back in each of those three games. In PPR formats, Bernard gets bumped up to my fourth-ranked running back behind only Murray, Hill and Forsett.

7. Kerwynn Williams, Arizona Cardinals (vs. CAR)

Since the injury to Andre Ellington, Williams has emerged as the team's lead back. In three of the past four games, Williams has at least 17 touches and he's been fairly productive with his opportunities. Although he has yet to score a touchdown (and the Cardinals are projected to score the fewest points this week), Williams has averaged 4.64 YPC over that four-game span.

8. Daniel Herron, Indianapolis Colts (vs. CIN)

As part of Boom (Herron) and Bust (Trent Richardson) backfield, Herron is clearly the better option among the team's running backs. Over the past five games, Herron (0.66) has averaged more than double the fantasy points per touch than Richardson (0.30). And while I like the matchup against the Bengals, who have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing backs, Herron's upside is potentially capped by the fact that he has been limited to 13 touches or fewer in five consecutive games.

9. Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions (at DAL)

It's been a disappointing season for Bush, who has just 550 yards from scrimmage in 11 games and only two top-30 performances this season. Bush has averaged 3.64 receptions and 5.09 targets per game this season so he gets his customary boost for PPR formats, but his average weekly rank among running backs in PPR formats this season has been RB35 with only three top-24 outings.

10. Josh Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. BAL)

Bell's absence means that Harris could lead the Steelers' running backs in touches this week. As noted earlier, that's a stiff challenge for an undrafted free agent with a total of nine career rush attempts for 16 yards this season.

Here are the next 10 running backs for this weekend's games:

11. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers (vs. ARI)
12. Stepfan Taylor, Arizona Cardinals (vs. CAR)
13. Ben Tate, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. BAL)
14. Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts (vs. CIN)
15. Dri Archer, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. BAL)
16. Joseph Randle, Dallas Cowboys (vs. DET)
17. Bernard Pierce, Baltimore Ravens (at PIT)
18. Theo Riddick, Detroit Lions (at DAL)
19. Fitzgerald Toussaint, Baltimore Ravens (at PIT)
20. Lance Dunbar, Dallas Cowboys (vs. DET)

More fantasy football rankings for the Wild Card Round:

Has your team been eliminated from the playoffs? Check out my 2015 NFL mock draft.

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Fantasy Football Playoff Rankings (Wild Card Round): Quarterbacks

While four elite (fantasy) quarterbacks (Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers) have a first-round bye, the quarterbacks playing in the Wild Card round have relatively favorable matchups.

Three of four road teams this week -- Arizona, Detroit and Baltimore -- have elite run defenses, but the same cannot be said for their pass defenses.

So, in other words, we could possibly see game plans skewed more towards the pass. Especially for those playing in salary-cap (DFS) formats, six of my top-eight fantasy quarterbacks are potential options this week.

Here are my quarterback rankings for the Wild Card Round of the playoffs:

1. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (vs. CIN)

Entering the postseason with three consecutive games of sub-200 passing yards, Luck still managed to finish the season with the second-most fantasy points behind only Rodgers. Luck set career highs with 4,727 yards and a league-high 40 touchdowns while also rushing for 273 yards and three scores. In Luck's regular-season matchup against the Bengals, he threw for 344 yards and two scores.

2. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (vs. ARI)

Although Newton (back) missed Week 15 following an automobile accident, he surprisingly picked up where he left off as a runner in Week 16. In his past three games (one before the accident and two after), Newton has rushed for a minimum of 51 yards and a score in each game. In those three games, Newton has finished as a top-seven fantasy quarterback with an average of 25.78 fantasy points per game during that stretch. In fact, he averaged 12.57 fantasy points per game from his rushing stats alone over that span.

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3. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. BAL)

It's always difficult to run on the Ravens, but it certainly won't help that the Steelers will (likely) be without stud second-year back Le'Veon Bell. That said, it's much easier to throw on them and Big Ben threw for 340 yards and six touchdowns in his last game against the Ravens in Week 9. Since throwing six touchdowns in back-to-back games, Roethlisberger has averaged just 1.43 passing scores in his final seven games to close the season. From a yardage standpoint, however, Big Ben has averaged a massive 343.78 yards per game over his last nine games, a stretch that includes seven 300-yard outings.

4. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (vs. DET)

There is no doubt that the Cowboys will remain comitted to running the football, but Detroit's team strength is their top-ranked run defense (69.3 YPG, 3.2 YPC allowed). In other words, Romo's matchup against Detroit's secondary is much more favorable than DeMarco Murray's matchup against Detroit's front four especially with Ndamukong Suh's suspension overturned.

While Romo's pass attempts dropped from 648 (2012) to 535 (2013) to 435 (2014), he threw 34 touchdowns, a seven-year high. In addition, Dez Bryant has been dominant with six receiving scores over the past three games. Although the Cowboys haven't faced a defense of Detroit's caliber over the past month, they have racked up 165 points in their past four games combined and no less than 38 points.

5. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (at PIT)

Earlier in the season, Flacco threw multiple touchdown passes in each of the two meetings against the Steelers. More recently, Flacco has thrown multiple touchdown passes in four of his last five games of the season. While Flacco has never posted prolific regular-season statistics, he's been great in the postseason. Over his past two postseasons (2011-2012), Flacco has a 15:1 TD-to-INT ratio with multiple passing scores in all six of those games.

6. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (at DAL)

It's been a disappointing season for Stafford, who finished 15th in terms of fantasy points scored just behind fellow disappointments Jay Cutler (14th) and Colin Kaepernick (16th). Stafford has finished as the QB20 or worse as many times (seven) as he has finished as a top-12 QB this season (also seven). While he has three multiple-touchdown games in his past five, he has thrown for just 204.3 yards per game over his last three.

7. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals (at IND)

Dalton has three really bad games (5.04 fantasy points or less) this season and one of them was against the Colts. To be fair, the Bengals were without A.J. Green when they faced the Colts this season. That said, Dalton has been an inconsistent quarterback for much of his career and his postseason struggles have been well-documented.

(Note: Green is currently going through the concussion protocol, but early signs point to him suiting up on Sunday.)

8. Ryan Lindley, Arizona Cardinals (vs. CAR)

Despite losing on the road to the 49ers, Lindley had his best game as a pro last week (316 yards, two TDs and three INTs). Although the Panthers get into the tournament with a losing record, their defense has been playing well down the stretch. Opposing quarterbacks have a combined 3:5 TD-to-INT ratio against them over their past four games and the Panthers have not allowed a top-16 fantasy quarterback since their Week 12 bye. In addition, they have allowed a total of 50 points (and no more than 17 points) over their past four games.

More fantasy football rankings for the Wild Card Round:

Has your team been eliminated from the playoffs? Check out my 2015 NFL mock draft.

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