Matt Ryan – ATL vs. TB
After allowing the Redskins’ largest comeback in franchise history this past Sunday (24 points), it’s safe to say the days of Warren Sapp, Simeon Rice, Derrick Brooks and company feel like a distant memory. This Buccaneers defense is flat-out atrocious and a visit to Atlanta with Matt Ryan and the 6-1 Falcons isn’t going to stop the bleeding. Playing on the road the previous two weeks and managing only four TDs in Ryan’s last four games, a stop back at the Georgia Dome is just what the doctor ordered. It speaks volumes that over that same four-game span Julio Jones hasn’t topped the 100 yard mark in receiving, which bodes well for the chances of an imminent explosion from this high-powered passing attack. I expect Matty Ice to throw for 250+ yards and multiple scores in what should be a route of the hapless Bucs.
Cam Newton – CAR vs. IND
Coming off a season-worst performance against the Eagles on Sunday Night, Cam Newton and the Panthers look towards an impending matchup against the Colts to get things back on track on Monday night. Despite three Interceptions, Newton still managed to get 17 fantasy points in a lackluster effort. As a run-first oriented offense and Jonathan Stewart on the heels of a 125-yard performance vs. Philly, expect the Colts to try and stop the run-first. Combine that defensive game plan with a Colts secondary allowing 286 yards a game through the air and it’s a safe bet that Cam will improve on his 197 passing yards and one passing touchdown performance from last week.
Eli Manning – NYG @ NO
In what will be a homecoming of sorts for Louisiana natives Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle, Sunday has all of the fixings for a successful reunion in the Bayou. After averaging 22 fantasy points in weeks 2 – 5, Eli scuffled in weeks 6 and 7 against divisional foes Philly and Dallas. This week Eli is primed to right the ship against a New Orleans secondary, which has allowed a whopping 276 passing yards per game. With the Giants running-back carousel still in limbo, and a Saints defense that has allowed at least 20 + points in all seven games this season, fantasy owners can expect fireworks from the Giants passing game this week.
Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, and Jamaal Charles – just a few of the stud RBs that Andy Reid has coached to become some of the most complete backs in both the passing and running game. After Jamaal Charles suffered a high-ankle sprain in last week’s loss to the Broncos, 2nd year RB Knile Davis spelled Charles to the tune of 2 Tds and 95 total yards on 28 touches. Dating back to last year, in the parts of the 3 games Charles has missed, Davis has racked up a total of 6 TDs in relief.
In Andy Reid’s last season with the Eagles in 2012, LeSean McCoy left a Nov. 18th game after suffering a concussion, forcing McCoy to miss the next two games. Bryce Brown came on in relief for McCoy and rolled along to a juicy 43 – 347 – 4 TD line across the two contests.
As we’re well aware, Andy Reid-coached offenses are highly dependent on the Running Back position, as well as their involvement in the passing game. Davis is a shifty, talented runner working in a run-first scheme and as long as JC25 is on the shelf, Davis will be a bonafide RB1. Waiver-wire vultures can feel comfortable flowing with Knile as their top add for the week.
When the Dodgers and Red Sox completed their historic trade in 2012, the impact was far-reaching in terms of shaping identities for the respective franchises. Still riding the fumes from the team’s sale to a group led by Magic Johnson, the Dodgers made a bold, but yet simple statement with the acquisitions of hefty contracts in the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett. The statement was that they were ready to spend, spend, and spend some more – and they have.
In an era of Major League Baseball where lucrative $20+ million-a-year contracts are dominating the headlines and payrolls, it is rare that a franchise ever gets a shot to make amends for these monstrosities that often stunt a team’s success for years to come (I.E. Ryan Howard’s $125 million extension signed in 2010). However, the Red Sox pulled off this seemingly impossible feat, shedding a lucrative $250+ million in salary through the 2012 deal with the Dodgers. Since then, the Red Sox have made it evident that they were going to scrap the careless spending that led them to handing Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez a near combined $300 million when they signed in 2010 and 2011.
The stark change in thinking netted the Red Sox a historic worst-to-first finish last season. Meanwhile, the Dodgers have continued to add the zeros onto their paychecks, as they made Clayton Kershaw the richest pitcher in MLB history, signing him to a seven year – $215 million deal, earlier this year.
On the heels of the 2013 season that was both cinematic and magical, 2014 has been nothing but dark and stormy for the Boston Red Sox. One of the few bright spots for the defending World Series champs has been Jon Lester. Over 21 starts this season, Lester has carved out a 10-7 record with a 2.52 ERA and 149 strikeouts across 143 frames. The ERA is on pace for a career best, while the strikeouts are on par with his career bests from 2009 and 2010.
The 30-year-old has spent his entire nine-year career in Boston and has been a member of two championship teams. However, combine Lester’s impending expiring contract with the Sox being 12 games out of 1st place in the AL East and it has all the makings for a departure from Boston.
While Lester’s teammates would undoubtedly miss one of the most respected and talented players on the club, there are a few of his former teammates who would welcome Lester with open arms. Those being Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford – the focal points of the historic 2012 deal.
The Los Angeles Dodgers 2014 campaign has been nothing short of spectacular. Clayton Kershaw has turned in one of the most dominant seasons for a SP in MLB history, Yasiel Puig has broken onto the scene as a budding superstar, and Dee Gordon has finally leveraged his lightning speed to ignite the top of the L.A. lineup.
With the Cardinals, Pirates, and Athletics listed as potential suitors to strike a deal with the Red Sox for Lester, the Dodgers are the destination that makes the most sense. In complete win-now mode, the Dodgers have been throwing more money around than Pac Man Jones at a Las Vegas stripclub. 2012 trade history aside, the willingness to overpay (in both money and prospects) is the reason why the Red Sox should look no further than southern California as the location to ship Lester.
An integral element to the Lester trade-saga is the situation with Tampa Bay Rays ace, David Price. The Rays have climbed back into the hunt for the AL East by winning 11 of their last 12 games which naturally makes it a more complicated decision with Price. This makes Lester the bread-winner for the 2014 trade deadline, which comes to fruition at 4 pm EST tomorrow, July 31st.
The Red Sox have made it clear that they will not move Lester for anything less than two elite prospects, and I expect a few teams to pump the brakes. However, L.A. should remain committed in its pursuit of the Boston ace. Despite its deep rotation that includes Lester’s former top-of-the-rotation teammate in Boston, Josh Beckett, the Dodgers are no strangers to crowded talent. Two months before they acquired Crawford in 2012, the team gave OF Andre Ethier an absurd five year – $85 million extension, that has since seen him relegated to the bench with the inevitable emergence of Yasiel Puig over the past two seasons.
However, the situation with Lester is not comparable to the faulty course of action the team took in retaining the services of Andre Ethier. Success in the MLB playoffs are predicated on elite pitching depth: allowing the top two or three pitchers in your rotation to take the mound and silence the other team’s bats. While the Dodgers have two clear-cut candidates in the unworldly Kershaw and fellow NL All-Star Zack Greinke, Lester would provide the team with more dominant stuff than current #3 starter, Hyun-Jin Ryu. While Ryu has pitched at an extremely effective level this season (12-5, 3.44 era), it would give the Dodgers the luxury of having four highly reliable pitchers, while being able to lean on Dan Haren and Josh Beckett in a more situational/potential long-relief role out of the bullpen.
As the Red Sox look to net a couple blue-chip prospects in return for Lester, the Dodgers are an above-average fit. The main reason is the surplus of talent in L.A.’s outfield and the lack of talent in Boston’s. The end-result will depend on what the Red Sox value more: getting an established, but inconsistent (and injury-riddled) OF on the cheap or receiving a couple of high-level prospects. My inclination is that it could be a combination of both, but that propensity will depend on whether or not the Red Sox think a player like Matt Kemp could invigorate his career in Boston. The Dodgers are financially committed to Carl Crawford and it will be nearly impossible to get a team to absorb the remaining $70 million or so that he is owed through 2017. It is a similar situation with Kemp, but it is possible the Red Sox would agree to eat some of his remaining $107 million on his deal.
If the Sox are to pursue the Dodgers farm-system, it all starts with the club’s top prospect, OF Joc Pederson. The 22-year-old has batted .318 with 22 HRs to go along with 25 SBs for Triple-A Albuquerque. Other top prospects include Corey Seager, a 20-year old SS, and Julio Urias, a 17-year old SP.
Despite waiting on the development of outfielders Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley, the Red Sox have a clear need for an upgrade at OF, as Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava will not be in the plans for the future. Boston could wind up hedging their bets by acquiring a MLB ready OF in Kemp and a top prospect in the minors in Pederson. With an already stacked SS position in the minors (Devin Marrero and Michael Chavis), it would not be pragmatic for the Red Sox to pursue Seager.
With Lester already 30 years-old and set to command $20+ million a season in his new contract, Boston could use their better judgement and acquire valuable, cheaper pieces, while getting something on the open-market for their ace. With the addition of Lester to the Dodgers rotation, they would instantly have the upper-hand in post-season pitching match-ups and would instantly become World Series favorites.
After spending his first six NFL seasons with the Titans, Jets newcomber RB Chris Johnson is ready to begin training camp with Gang Green. Johnson underwent surgery in January to clean up a torn meniscus in his knee, but has officially been given the green light for camp.
Chris Johnson gets some reps in Jets camp
The Titans focused on upgrading their offensive line last season with the hopes of revitalizing CJ2K’s career, but the result was tumultuous, leading to his departure from Tennessee. Now in New York, the 27 year-old Johnson will look to regain his explosiveness from the 2009 and 2010 seasons, where he ran for the most yards and touchdowns in his career.
While CJ will have to fight off Chris Ivory for carries, look for the Jets to use the two in a timeshare with Ivory’s thunder complementing Johnson’s lightning in Marty Mornhinweg’s offense.
NFL Guru William Elam’s 2014 NFL Mock Draft 1.0
1. Houston Texans – Jadeveon Clowney DE, South Carolina – The Texans are envisioning a front seven featuring future hall of famer J.J. Watt, Clowney and his 4.5 wheels, Brian Cushing and emerging pass rusher Whitney Mercilus. Some experts believe the Texans will select a QB the likes of Teddy Bridgewater, I disagree. New Head Coach Bill O’Brien will develop Case Keenum, sign a veteran free agent (I.E. Mark Sanchez) and select a developmental QB in the third or fourth round.
Pro Comparison: Aldon Smith
2. St. Louis Rams – Greg Robinson OT, Auburn – The Rams need to evaluate if Sam Bradford is the long term answer at QB. The best way to assess Bradford is to provide him with maximum protection. Robinson could be the next Orlando Pace in St. Louis or he could be the next Jason Smith (2009 Draft bust, #2 overall). In my opinion, Robinson will be a Pro Bowl talent and should assist Bradford in taking the Rams O to the next level.
Pro Comparison: Orlando Pace
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Teddy Bridgewater QB, Louisville – At number three this pick will be a no brainer for the Jags. The Florida native has a lot of similarities to Russell Wilson and Donovan McNabb. The struggling franchise cannot afford another year of the Henne-Gabbert musical chairs of 2012-2013. Bridgewater will start immediately and will be a steady QB for the Jags organization for 6-8 years.
Pro Comparison: Russell Wilson
4. Cleveland Browns – Blake Bortles QB, UCF – Trading down to improve multiple positions would be the best option here. However, a Big Ben clone such as Bortles will accelerate the Browns long awaited resurgence to the playoffs.
Pro Comparison: Ben Roethlisberger
5. Oakland Raiders – Sammy Watkins WR-KR, Clemson – The Raiders have many needs on both sides of the ball. The Raiders will use this pick to gain a dynamic number one weapon alongside an emerging offensive line. Watkins gives the Raiders a speed threat with elite return capabilities alongside an above average possession receiver, Denarius Moore
Pro Comparison: Andre Johnson
6. Atlanta Falcons – Taylor Lewan OT, University of Michigan – 2013 was obviously a major disappointment for “Dirty- Bird” fans. Lewan would be the most intelligent draft pick for the Falcons due to his ability to provide time for Matt Ryan to locate his elite target Julio Jones.
Pro Comparison: Jake Long
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Anthony Barr OLB/DE, UCLA – The Bucs defense is full of talent. A premier outside pass rusher appears to be the only missing piece. I also see Khalil Mack and DT Aaron Donald as strong possibilities as well. Trading down for more picks would be a serious option. If the Bucs do decide to keep the number seven pick, Barr will provide the Buccaneers with much needed pass rush assistance.
Pro Comparison: Jason Pierre-Paul
8. Minnesota Vikings – Khalil Mack DE/OLB, University of Buffalo – With the anticipated departure of Jared Allen in Minnesota, the Vikings will look to replace their most accomplished DL since John Randle retired. Mack provides a defensive tool for the Vikings for the next decade with pro bowl potential.
Pro Comparison: Terrell Suggs
9. Buffalo Bills – Eric Ebron TE, UNC – The Bills need to provide young QB EJ Manuel with a dynamic weapon to help him progress. Ebron is a poor man’s version of Jimmy Graham. I expect 7-9 touchdowns as a rookie for Ebron.
Pro Comparison: Jermichael Finley
10. Detroit Lions – Justin Gilbert CB, Oklahoma State- In a division featuring star receivers such as Brandon Marshall, Jordy Nelson, Alshon Jeffrey, Randall Cobb and emerging Cordarrelle Patterson, the Lions will need to compete in the secondary. With a front seven featuring Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Ziggy Ansah and DeAndre Levy, a skilled corner like Gilbert could be the piece the Lions have been coveting.
Pro Comparison: Joe Haden
11. Tennessee Titans – Jake Matthews OT, Texas A&M – How beautiful would it be if Matthews can join the original organization in which his father Bruce Matthews played his Hall of Fame career. Matthews fits a need for the Titans, as well being the best player still available at 11. Matthews will anchor the Titans offensive line for the foreseeable future.
Pro Comparison: Joe Thomas
12. New York Giants – Mike Evans WR, Texas A&M – It appears to be almost a guarantee Hakeem Nicks’ tenure with the Giants is coming to an end. Evans is a great option here and gives Eli a huge target within the red zone. Evans will have an opportunity to become offensive rookie of the year, if he finds himself in Giant blue on draft day.
Pro Comparison: Plaxico Burress
13. St. Louis Rams – Ha Ha Clinton-Dix S, Alabama – Dix is a rangy safety and will be the final piece to an emerging elite defense. With talents such as Robert Quinn, James Laurinaitis and Janoris Jenkins, the Rams are building a Top 5 defense. Nix will provide a physical presence and intelligence to what will be an improved Rams secondary.
Pro Comparison: Michael Griffin
14. Chicago Bears – Louis Nix III DT, Notre Dame – The Bears run defense was pitiful in 2013 to say the least. Nix will help the middle of the Bears D-line stand strong against the run and provides additional pass rush for the aging Bears defense.
Pro Comparison: Kevin Williams
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Darqueze Dennard CB, Michigan State – Quite frankly, the Steelers secondary is old and slow. The time has come for younger replacements. Dennard will learn from the veterans for a year or two before becoming the Steelers next great shut down corner.
Pro Comparison: Ike Taylor
16. Dallas Cowboys – Calvin Pryor S, Louisville – After passing on Pro Bowl Rookie Safety Eric Reid a year ago, the Cowboys can begin to right the wrongs amidst their secondary. Pryor is a heavy hitter with good hands and range. He’ll provide a presence in the middle of the field that Dallas has lacked since the days of Darren Woodson.
Pro Comparison: Earl Thomas
17. Baltimore Ravens – CJ Mosley LB, Alabama – Mosley is a smart and instinctive linebacker who will be making plays in B-More for many years to come. I would love for the Ravens to select a big WR, however with Evans off the board, FSU Kelvin Benjamin wouldn’t be a value selection at this position.
Pro Comparison: Sean Weatherspoon
18. New York Jets – Brandin Cooks WR, Oregon State – This guy is amazing, lost in the college ranks within the Pacific Northwest. Cooks is a Steve Smith clone, who will be extremely productive. The Jets need playmakers for an offense, which was quite offensive to 2013 Jets fans. Adding Cooks along with a free agent wide out such as Jeremy Maclin or Eric Decker will pay major dividends.
Pro Comparison: Steve Smith
19. Miami Dolpihins – Zach Martin OG/OT, Notre Dame – The Dolphins simply don’t have enough bodies on the offensive front. Martin can play all positions on the O- Line and helps Miami pick up the pieces on the heels of the Jonathan Martin bullying case.
Pro Comparison: Bryan Bulaga
20. Arizona Cardinals – Johnny Manziel QB, Texas A&M – Despite many experts believing Johnny Football to be a top pick, a lack of size and questionable decision making will ultimately harm his draft stock. However, Manziel will be immediately given the keys to the Cardinals offense and relied upon to be the future. Head Coach Bruce Arians will slowly develop Manziel and look for O- Linemen in the 2nd and 3rd round.
Pro Comparison: Post-prison Michael Vick
21. Green Bay Packers – Aaron Donald DT, Pittsburgh – Donald really helped himself at the combine. Donald won all the major defensive linemen awards in 2013 and is extremely productive. Some teams see him as undersized, but his speed and strength are elite for his position.
Pro Comparison: Jurrell Casey
22. Philadelphia Eagles – Marquise Lee WR, USC – Lee is an all-around receiver which the Eagles can utilize in 2014. With D- Jax asking for more money, Riley Cooper being an upcoming free agent, and Jeremy Maclin coming off season ending knee surgery, Lee would be the best option here. Expect a productive rookie season for the USC product who Chip Kelly had a first-hand look during his time in the Pac-10/Pac-12.
Pro Comparison: Torrey Smith
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Tim Jernigan DT/DE, Florida State – Jernigan is a top 10 talent who fits perfectly into the Chiefs 3-4 scheme as a DE. Teaming Jernigan with Pro Bowl Nose Tackle Dontari Poe can be a scary combination for the years to come.
Pro Comparison: Sheldon Richardson
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Bradley Roby CB, Ohio State – Roby is a talented young man with good speed. He will need time to develop however I can see him being a starter by season’s end. The Bengals should consider themselves lucky to get Roby this late in the draft.
Pro Comparison: Tim Jennings
25. San Diego Chargers – Scott Crichton DE, Oregon State – The Chargers struggled against the run in between the tackles in 2013. Crichton provides a tough presence in the trenches for a finesse defensive team.
Pro Comparison: Justin Smith
26. Cleveland Browns – Ra’Shede Hageman DT/DE, Minnesota – Hageman adds much needed beef upfront for the Browns. He will be a serviceable DE in the 3-4 for an underrated Browns defensive unit.
Pro Comparison: Muhammad Wilkerson
27. New Orleans Saints – Kony Ealy DE, Missouri – Ealy is a serviceable DE whom I expect to produce 8-11 sacks for a long time. Not an elite prospect at DE, however he will be a valuable piece to what the Saints do defensively for years to come. Look for him to fill the void that recently cut Will Smith has left in New Orleans.
Pro Comparison: Trent Cole
28. Carolina Panthers – Lamarcus Joyner CB/S, Florida State – Joyner is a versatile DB whom I envision playing the slot as well as lining up at free safety. He will help the Panthers defense immediately.
Pro Comparison: Tyrann Mathieu
29. New England Patriots – Stephon Tuitt DE, Notre Dame – Tuitt is perfect for the Patriots 3-4 scheme and will be an effective DE for years down the line. Tuitt will add much needed strength upfront to help Chandler Jones sack the opposing QBs.
Pro Comparison: Darnell Dockett
30. San Francisco 49ers – Jason Verrett CB, TCU – Verrett is a gifted all-around corner who will become Carlos Rogers’ replacement. Verrett will succeed in the 49ers system due to the elite pass rush from the front 7.
Pro Comparison: Brandon Browner
31. Denver Broncos – Odell Beckham Jr. WR, LSU – Meet Eric Decker’s replacement. Fantasy gurus be alerted that 900 yards and 11 touchdowns is within reach in a potent Broncos attack. Beckham fits the mold of what Peyton Manning likes at receiver and will be productive for as long as Manning is at the helm.
Pro Comparison: Dwayne Bowe
32. Seattle Seahawks – Austin Seferian- Jenkins TE, Washington – The two elements currently missing from Seattle’s offense are big red zone WRs and athletic TEs to keep the defense honest. The 12th man gets the TE needed to help Russell Wilson put up more points than last year.
Pro Comparison: Julius Thomas