The Daily Briefing Wednesday, August 30, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

 

Michael Salfino of The538.com has the stats to back up his contention that this has been a particularly bad preseason.

 

For journeyman players and NFL rookies, the final week of preseason is the last live-action audition. For veteran starters, it’s the last chance to get hurt in a meaningless game. Because of this, NFL teams generally won’t play their established starters this week, and they will almost certainly not risk injury for their franchise quarterbacks. But in recent seasons, NFL teams have taken this preseason risk management one step further: Quarterbacks hardly play any preseason games anymore, let alone the last one.

 

The preseason pass attempts of the game’s top quarterbacks are down precipitously. Only one starting quarterback is currently listed among the top 10 in preseason pass attempts: Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (69 attempts) — perhaps not by coincidence, he’s also the only one with an HBO camera crew documenting his summer.

 

Of course, taking fewer snaps on the field doesn’t guarantee that a quarterback will avoid injury — the Dallas Cowboys lost Tony Romo for more than half of last year’s regular season even though he saw only six passes’ worth of preseason action. But coaches seem to be placing special emphasis on keeping star quarterbacks out of harm’s way as much as possible in trivial summer games.

 

From 2007 to 2012, these quarterbacks — as a group — generally averaged around 45 attempts each preseason. But from 2013 to 2017,2 the number has steadily dropped. In 2015, the group averaged 26.9 preseason pass attempts. In 2017, that number has fallen to 18.8.3

Among that group, Aaron Rodgers has thrown only 22 passes in the past two Green Bay preseasons combined. The Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger has just 26 pass attempts in that span.

 

The preseason throws for those two quarterbacks over the 2007 and 2008 preseasons were 113 and 74, respectively. And changing teams doesn’t seem to have an impact: Jay Cutler, who briefly retired in the offseason before getting a job in Miami, has thrown just 14 passes for the Dolphins. By comparison, he threw 42 for the 2014 Chicago Bears.

 

One logical assumption may be that this group of quarterbacks is getting older and thus playing less each preseason, but that theory doesn’t hold. To test this, we looked at the 10 best seasons by a quarterback age 38 or older since 20014 — excluding the two recent ones by Tom Brady. The average number of preseason pass attempts among this group was 40.1, including 54 by Peyton Manning in 2014, 49 by Brett Favre in 2007 and 58 by a 41-year-old Vinny Testaverde in 2004. This suggests that the trend of star QBs throwing less in preseason is less a matter of age and more a philosophical shift in the league.

 

NFL teams are clearly aware that the most prized assets need to be protected. The Minnesota Vikings did not have Adrian Peterson log a single preseason carry for five years. And the Denver Broncos this year have barely played star pass rusher Von Miller, the key to their fearsome defense. But that hasn’t stopped preseason injuries from derailing seasons before they start. Last weekend saw severe injuries to New England Patriots top wide receiver Julian Edelman, Bears No. 1 wideout Cam Meredith and Kansas City Chiefs top running back Spencer Ware. On the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys reportedly lost starting middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens for eight weeks with a fractured knee. And last week started with Odell Beckham Jr.’s status for the regular season becoming a question mark when the New York Giants’ biggest star sprained his ankle.

 

NFL coaches seem to be enacting unofficially at the quarterback position what some around the game are advocating for league-wide — cutting the preseason in half. NFL team owners and the league’s player union have been stuck on whether that means essentially trading a reduction in preseason games for more contests in the regular season. But this month, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told Giants fans that the league would consider cutting preseason games unconditionally.

 

Risking a quarterback’s health seems especially unwise given that teams today are unwilling to even open up their regular-season playbook out of fear of revealing secrets — in other words, the tactics being practiced are as irrelevant as the final score. So it’s no surprise that the predictive value of preseason performance has been steadily declining for nearly a quarter of a century. Some teams have stopped charging regular-season prices for preseason games, largely because of the poor quality of play.

 

Perhaps the best approach is for teams to treat all preseason games, no matter the number, how they do the final exhibition — use them as a proving ground for backups and the bottom of the roster. That way, starters at all positions, not only quarterbacks, are protected from injury. But then, with the uniforms and stadiums the only NFL-like things about these games, all teams would have to price preseason tickets accordingly.

 

NFC NORTH

 

DETROIT

Lots of talk about the contract for QB MATTHEW STAFFORD.

 

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com sez the Lions had no choice:

 

You will look at the numbers being reported on the new deal for Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford, one that reportedly makes him the highest-paid player in the league, and you will scoff.

You will look at his record against teams with records better than .500, and him never having won a playoff game, and it will make you seethe.

 

How can this be? How can he get a deal that reportedly will pay him $27 million per season, more than Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and those who are better than him as a quarterback?

Here’s the justification: If you have a franchise passer, you have to do everything to make sure you keep him around. You can’t play the game of signing journeyman also-rans like Josh McCown, Brian Hoyer or Ryan Fitzpatrick every year and expect to compete. Plus, it was Stafford’s time. He was in the final year of his deal, so the Lions had to be proactive for a guy they clearly like.

 

That’s the thing with these quarterback contracts: The biggest one goes to the next guy up on a team that feels it has their franchise guy.

 

Earlier this year, it was Oakland’s Derek Carr. Now it’s Stafford. Then it will be Matt Ryan. On and on it goes. That’s because without one, you are stuck being the Jaguars or Browns, spending picks and money to try and fix a spot that seems to be getting tougher to fill by the year.

 

Yet as news of the Stafford deal hit, the quarterback vultures swooped in for the kill. They picked apart the Stafford carcass, laying it bare for the world to see. You would think his name was Matt Saracen from “Friday Night Lights” and not Matt Stafford.

 

They point to Stafford never winning a playoff game, with an 0-3 record.

 

@jroybecker

Replying to @AdamSchefter

Tim Tebow has more career playoff wins than Stafford😂

 

They point to his 5-46 record against teams with a winning record, which means he stinks. Well, guess what: Rodgers, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan all have losing records against teams with winning records. Stafford’s overall record is 51-58, which is another bullet to fire against him.

 

@North2North

Replying to @AdamSchefter @juicemendez21

He’s a come close guy….unreal money for a come close guy…

 

The reality is Stafford is a damn good quarterback who is probably a little underrated, especially when you consider what he has dealt with as a starting quarterback.

 

A quarterback’s two best friends are a running game and a good defense. Since 2009, Stafford’s first year, here are the Lions’ rankings in scoring defense: 32nd, 19th, 23rd, 27th, 15th, third, 23rd and 13th. The year the Lions were No. 3 in 2014, they went 11-5. See a correlation?

 

I once went around asking star quarterbacks if they would rather have a big-play receiver or a top-five defense. They all answered the same: Give me the defense. It makes life a lot easier.

So does a running game. Yet here are the offensive rushing numbers in Stafford’s time with the Lions: 24th, 23rd, 29th, 23rd, 17th, 28th, 32nd and 30th. That’s repulsive.

 

Still, some will say Stafford has been a garbage-time quarterback, but the reality is he has been carrying this team. It helped he had Calvin Johnson until last season, but Stafford has been significantly better than most think despite having little help from the two key areas. In the past six seasons, starting in 2011, he has averaged 4,583.5 yards passing. The only passers with more yards in that time span are Drew Brees and Ryan.

 

Stafford also has 168 touchdown passes in that time, which ranks sixth behind Brees, Rodgers, Brady, Philip Rivers and Ryan. His 87 interceptions in that time frame are the fifth most, but Rivers has 98 and Brees has 88. Ryan has 80. So the idea he is a turnover machine is a little exaggerated.

 

The problem with Stafford is he’s a gunslinger. He will take chances that others won’t, and sometimes the results are bad. But that same mentality is why he can fire a rifle shot for a big play into tight coverage. He doesn’t play scared. I love that.

 

When Stafford was the first overall pick in 2009, he came to the Lions with the hope that their quarterback chasing would be over for a long time. He has done just that, and in the process he has made a ton of money.

 

As one of the last draft classes before the rookie wage scale, he cashed in on his first deal, getting $72 million. That means since he’s 29 now, he will be a $200 million man by the time he is 33 if details of this contract are accurate.

 

That’s unreal. Let’s just say Stafford came into the league at the right time.

 

This was a move that had to be made. Stafford has proven to be far better than his critics think. He has never had much help, yet he’s the only Lions quarterback to have two seasons of double-digit victories.

 

So Lions fans need to get used to his daring ways, his ability to fit passes into tight windows that make your jaw drop and his chancy throws that make you throw things at the TV. That’s who he is now, but if the Lions get more help and actually play good defense and run the ball, Stafford can be even better.

 

Is he worth the $27 million per season? Not when you consider what the top guys are making, but that’s the market now, so deal with it.

 

He’s a lot better than you think.

 

And would you rather be chasing McCown, Hoyer or Fitzpatrick every year? Yep, didn’t think so.

 

 

GREEN BAY

At the moment, he is the mustachioed QB AARON RODGERS.  Dan Hanzus at NFL.com provides a review:

 

Aaron Rodgers is no stranger to facial hair. Like millions of men, he’ll experiment from time to time — quietly convincing himself the reflection staring back at him in the bathroom mirror is new and different and superior.

 

For many men, this period of follicle self-exploration usually ends once your significant other sees what you’ve got going on. In my own past, women come down hard on the 21st-century male mustache. Its immediate banishment is a bummer, but life is dotted with such minor disappointments.

 

Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have to worry about these obstacles. He is single — your proverbial free bird — and if the Packers quarterback wants to channel his inner Wilford Brimley, there’s no one to stop him. It’s easy to envy this level of lip-caterpillar liberation.

 

The Brimley is the type of mustache that makes you look like you’re perpetually perturbed about something. (One unsubstantiated theory: The weight of the Brimley doesn’t allow the facial muscles to curl into a smile.) Perhaps the look represents the story behind the ‘stache for Rodgers.

 

Football is less than two weeks away. Time to put your game face on.

 

 

 

MINNESOTA

Curtis Crabtree of ProFootballTalk.com with a vaguely positive report on QB TEDDY BRIDGEWATER:

 

It’s been a long, arduous process for Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as he attempts to return form a devastating knee injury sustained during training camp last year.

 

While it’s not certain that Bridgewater is ever going to be able to return to full strength, all signs regarding his recovery appear to be pointing in the right direction.

 

“I don’t watch him every single day because he’s over there off to the side while we’re practicing,” head coach Mike Zimmer said, via ESPN.com. “But the reports I get are all positive. And he knows where he’s at and where he’s got to get to. I think he’s progressing well.”

 

Bridgewater will begin the season on the physically unable to perform list, but Zimmer has said there is a possibility Bridgewater could return this season. However, he said Bridgewater will only return to practice when he’s capable of protecting himself on the field.

 

“When he’s there, he’ll practice,” Zimmer said.

 

Bridgewater passed for 3,231 yards with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2015 for the Vikings. He completed 12 of 16 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown last year against the Chargers in the last game he played before his knee injury derailed his career. Hopefully the derailment is only temporary and he will be able to return to the field this season or some time in the near future.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT’s team had a lot to talk about before appeal officer Harold Henderson on Tuesday.  And they will continue to talk today – and maybe into Thursday.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Amid indications that Harold Henderson will be presiding over the Ezekiel Elliott appeal hearing through Thursday, Henderson will be spending the last unofficial weekend of summer officially busting his ass.

 

He faces a tight turnaround to get the resolution finalized before Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. ET, the moment at which players who aren’t officially suspended for a given week won’t be suspended for that week. The league office previously has told PFT that Elliott will be permitted to play until the suspension is indeed finalized. Thus, if Henderson doesn’t issue a ruling by late Tuesday afternoon, Elliott will be available on Sunday night against the Giants in Dallas.

 

Even if Henderson manages to crank out a final decision by Tuesday, a judge could delay the suspension pending the outcome of litigation in federal court. Still, to even get to that point, Henderson has to finish his work. And he’s going to have his work cut out for him on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

 

Jerry Jones tries to work the ref, claiming that all the photos of bruises on Tiffany Thompson amount to “no evidence” in this from Todd Archer of ESPN.com:

 

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has largely stayed silent regarding the NFL’s decision to suspend Ezekiel Elliott six games, but he reiterated his support for the running back on Tuesday.

 

“Unfortunately you get confused in this conversation,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday. “Every person that has any sense at all understands domestic violence and abhors it. On the other hand, I’ve had a lot of experience in this area. For 10 years before I bought the Cowboys I was the head of [a] battered women [organization] of Arkansas. I raised more money and been in more safe houses than a lot of people that talk about it, and so it’s a terrible problem.

 

“On the other hand with what we are today and what we’re trying to be relative to addressing it in the league, [it] has all kinds of issues — and it should. It’s a very complicated issue because you have no evidence here. That’s all I want to say about it. But it creates quite a convoluted approach by Zeke’s representatives and by the league that I really hate is a focus of all of our attention. I do. Even though others would say that the issue needs this kind of focus and you’re using the NFL for visibility.”

 

Elliott, who was suspended for violating the league’s personal conduct policy for an alleged domestic violence incident in July 2016, testified Tuesday in New York at his appeal hearing, which will last through Thursday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. A source told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that it will take that long because “one witness can’t be made available until Thursday morning at this time.”

 

NFL Players Association attorneys Heather McPhee and Jeff Kessler are part of his group, which includes Frank Salzano and Scott Rosenblum. The Cowboys also had counsel present at the hearing.

 

NFLPA forensics expert testified Tuesday to share his thoughts on the photographic evidence provided to league investigators by Tiffany Thompson. Kia Wright Roberts, the NFL’s director of investigations, also testified.

 

Arbitrator Harold Henderson does not have a time frame in which to make a decision once the hearing concludes. Final briefs on the case are due Friday.

 

 

WASHINGTON

Is WR JOSH DOCTSON injury prone?  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Wide receiver Josh Doctson‘s first NFL season was an almost total washout because of an Achilles injury and his second season hasn’t gotten off to a much better start.

 

It’s a hamstring that’s a problem for Doctson this time and he has missed two of the Redskins’ three preseason games while dealing with the injury. Coach Jay Gruden said Tuesday that Doctson could have played last Sunday if it were a regular season game, but didn’t downplay the impact that injuries have had on the wideout’s brief professional career.

 

“Well, it’s been an issue. We’ve only had him a year, a little bit over a year now, and he hasn’t really done a lot with us unfortunately, but I think he’s going to overcome these,” Gruden said, via ESPN.com. “I think he’s going to be ready to go for Philadelphia and now it’s a matter of keeping him out there, and knock on wood, we hope we can do that.”

 

The Redskins offense has been sluggish in their three preseason outings and getting something out of Doctson would be a good way to start pushing things in the other direction. For now, though, that remains a hope rather than a reasonable expectation in Washington.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com on QB MATT RYAN’s elation at MATTHEW STAFFORD’s good fortune:

 

As most quarterbacks with looming contract negotiations, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was happy to see Matthew Stafford cash in this week.

 

Even if not for his own boat being lifted by the rising tide, Ryan said he was happy for his buddy.

 

“I’m happy for Matthew,” Ryan said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Obviously, he’s played really well and on a high level for a long time. I’m happy for him. It’s well-deserved.”

 

So has Ryan, who happened to win a certain award last year which Stafford hasn’t (last year’s league MVP). Combined with the natural effects of timing, Ryan’s would seemingly eclipse the $27 million average Stafford established as the new bar for quarterbacks.

 

Ryan has two years left on his deal, at a (relatively) cheap $15.75 million in 2017 and $19.25 million in 2018.

 

The Falcons have acknowledged that an extension’s something they’re looking at, likely before next season

 

“He’s another guy,” Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff said of Ryan on the contract list. “He’s got a couple more years. We are going to settle in after this [Devonta Freeman] deal and see how the season goes on everything. Rest assured our time will come with Matt for sure. He knows that and we know that.”

 

And when that happens, Stafford will be able to be happy for his pal, whom he helped get even richer.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

The Buccaneers really like QB RYAN GRIFFIN – who has never played in a regular season NFL game since signing his first contract back in 2013.  Josh Alper at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Griffin was making a push to win the backup job behind Jameis Winston this summer before injuring his throwing shoulder in a preseason game against the Buccaneers.

 

The injury is expected to keep Griffin out well into the regular season, which means Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the No. 2 and that the team had a decision to make about Griffin. They could release him with an injury settlement, carry him on the 53-man roster or put him on injured reserve as he headed toward free agency after the season.

 

Griffin may land on injured reserve, possibly after the cut to 53 so he could return down the line, but he won’t be hitting free agency. Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Buccaneers will announce an extension for Griffin on Wednesday and that he will be under contract through the 2018 season.

 

Griffin signed with the Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2013 and joined the Buccaneers as a waiver claim in 2015. He has never thrown a regular season pass.

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

We put the “news” of the trade of TE VANCE McDONALD to the Steelers in PITTSBURGH, but here is some reasoning from Chris Biderman of USA TODAY’s Niners Wire on why he had worn out his welcome with the 49ers.

 

Vance McDonald never lived up to the billing after he was taken in the second round out of Rice by the 49ers in the 2013 NFL draft. San Francisco did the right thing Tuesday by trading him to the Steelers, the club announced.

 

He was tapped by former general general manager Trent Baalke to play alongside Vernon Davis and eventually replace him. He stepped into Delanie Walker’s role upon Walker leaving for Tennessee, after Walker proved to be an invaluable piece of Jim Harbaugh’s offense that played in the Super Bowl.

 

Walker could block like a tight end and run like a receiver. Physically, McDonald (6-4, 267) could similar things. His 7.08-second three-cone drill at the combine, paired with 31 reps on the bench press, made him an intriguing athlete for his position. His speed was evident last year when he ran away from Luke Kuechly for a 75-yard catch-and-sprint touchdown.

 

But McDonald’s hands were always an issue. 49ers quarterbacks completed just 54 percent of their throws to McDonald throughout his career. His career high in receptions is just 30 (2015) while his best yardage total is just 391 (2016). He logged 10 catches and no touchdowns throughout his first two seasons.

 

@PFF_Jeff

Vance McDonald had the worst drop rate among qualifying TEs over his four-year career. #49ers

 

And before McDonald could hit free agency in the spring, Baalke was allowed to sign McDonald to a five-year extension worth some $30 million if fully realized. That came just weeks before Baalke was fired, leaving many questions about why the deal was approved to begin with.

 

New GM John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed during the NFL draft that they were fielding trade calls for McDonald, which put his future with the team in doubt. Shanahan and Lynch drafted Iowa’s George Kittle in Round 5, who looks like a good value at that slot. He’s a tenacious blocker with untapped receiving skills and intriguing athleticism. And he’s far cheaper than McDonald.

 

The 49ers get a fourth-round pick back after trading away their 2018 fourth-round pick during the draft for Broncos running back Kapri Bibbs and a 2017 fifth-round pick, which wound up being receiver Trent Taylor. San Francisco currently has no fifth-round selections next spring, but they have multiple picks in the second and third rounds after draft-day trades with the Saints and Bears.

 

With McDonald gone, Garrett Celek appears to be the winner of this deal. The 49ers’ top three tight ends are Kittle, Logan Paulsen and now Celek, who was a long shot to make the team with McDonald around. Blake Bell remains on the outside looking in after San Francisco took him in the fourth round in 2015.

 

Overall, this trade looks like a win for the 49ers. They moved on from McDonald’s contract and upgraded their fifth-round draft choice to the Steelers’ fourth (which will likely come at the end of the round). They also can give Kittle more time to develop within Shanahan’s offense. Undrafted rookie Cole Hikutini is a candidate for the practice squad.

 

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Times change.  Jeff Fisher is gone and Eric Dickerson is now part of the Rams front office.  Ryan Kartje in the Orange County Register:

 

Last November, as the Rams season descended into a downward spiral, Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson found himself locked in a feud with the Rams head coach and its front office.

 

How quickly things change.

 

On Tuesday – the same day he was signed to a symbolic one-day contract, allowing him to officially retire as a Los Angeles Ram – Dickerson was given an official title in the team’s front office. The Hall of Fame running back will serve as the Rams’ vice president of business development – a largely ceremonial role – just nine months after then-coach Jeff Fisher allegedly told Dickerson he wasn’t welcome on the Coliseum sideline.

 

Fisher was fired in December. Since, the franchise has clearly buried the hatchet with one of its legendary players.

 

“I’m really happy for this moment,” Dickerson said. “Even when I left the Rams, I was always a Ram.”

 

That doesn’t mean he won’t be critical of the team. Dickerson will continue to serve as an NFL analyst for FOX, as well as host his local radio show. Asked whether he would hold back, Dickerson was unequivocal. He turned to Rams coach Sean McVay, who was sitting next to him.

 

“Coach, I’m letting you know now, if you play well I’m going to say you’re playing well,” Dickerson said. “If you’re not playing good, then you’re going to hear it from me. I’m your biggest fan and your biggest critic. That’s just me.”

 

That’s been Dickerson’s reputation since his playing days. As a player for both the Rams and Colts, Dickerson rubbed some front office officials – and even teammates – the wrong way, publicly clashing with team officials and carrying on several prolonged contract disputes.

 

With that experience, Dickerson offered his opinion on what All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald might be thinking, as his holdout threatens to extend into the first week of regular-season practice.

 

“I’ve been in Aaron Donald’s shoes,” he said. “He wants to come back here very badly. Trust me, I know how a football player thinks. You want to get paid because this is, you do it for a living. This is his job. I know he’s not trying to be selfish with his football team, but like anything else, he has to take care of him and also the team has to move forward too. It was the same thing when I was holding out.”

 

As Week 1 draws closer, the possibility of Donald missing regular-season games becomes more of a reality.

 

The team and their All-Pro defensive tackle are still at an impasse, and the Rams have kept most details of their negotiations close to the vest. But on Tuesday, General Manager Les Snead made it clear the Rams have tried to get “creative” with their contract offers to Donald, in order to get a deal done.

 

“I do know in this situation we have definitely tried to come up with creative scenarios to get this done,” Snead said. “This is a unique situation, in that you have a player, and there’s no, per se, finite end date where the contract expires.”

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

The Broncos are signaling that S T.J. WARD is expendable, even if the head coach professes not to know about it.  Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:

 

T.J. Ward might be on the move.

 

The Denver Broncos have received calls from and engaged in trade conversations with other teams regarding the veteran Pro Bowl safety, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday.

 

Speaking with reporters, Broncos coach Vance Joseph said he hadn’t heard anything about Ward being on the trade block, per NFL Network’s James Palmer.

 

“He’s one of our better players,” Joseph said. “I’d be surprised.”

 

Ward, who is entering the final year of his four-year pact with the organization, is owed $4.5 million in base salary. A pioneering member of the “No Fly Zone” Broncos secondary, he is slated to start this season with free safety Darian Stewart.

 

However, as NFL Network’s James Palmer noted, Denver is enamored with their young safeties Will Parks and Justin Simmons, both of whom the team drafted in 2016.

 

With the Broncos’ defense under new management — secondary coach Joe Woods was promoted to defensive coordinator in the offseason after Gary Kubiak retired and Wade Phillips shipped off to warmer pastures — Ward, due to his contract and the emerging talent around him, looks to be the odd man out in the renovation.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CINCINNATI

Whether or not he is able to sway NFL Justice on appeal – and the fact that he caught former WR James Thrash as his appeal officer as opposed to fellow LB Derrick Brooks can’t help – LB VONTAZE BURFICT is still a knucklehead according to Jarrett Bell of USA Today (with backing from Mike Pereira):

 

Some people never learn.

 

Vontaze Burfict is facing another NFL suspension. At first glance, you may wonder what the Cincinnati Bengals linebacker could have possibly done to warrant a five-game benching — and loss of more than $1.1 million in salary — after a seemingly casual collision with Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman.

 

On the NFL’s mayhem meter, Burfict’s hit during an Aug. 19 preseason contest was a love tap. There was no flag, and Sherman hasn’t missed any time since.

 

So what’s the big deal?

 

Burfict, of all people, should know better — especially by now. He lowered his shoulder to upend a defenseless player running a crossing route. Worse, it occurred away from the action. On replay, it does appear Burfict hit Sherman in the chest rather than the head. But rules enforcer Jon Runyan, with the benefit of hi-def freeze frames, is surely hyper-vigilant after the league tightened protection for defenseless receivers last spring. Burfict, the league concluded, violated rules on two levels — hitting Sherman away from the flow of the play and hitting him high.

 

In any event, with Sherman uninjured, five games seems a bit outrageous … for most players.

 

Yet in this case, the ban, occurring months after the NFL warned it would issue longer suspensions for flagrant fouls, is undoubtedly imposed on the Burfict Scale. Repeat offenders get longer suspensions. That’s NFL justice for you.

 

The last time Burfict was suspended, it was for three games at the start of last season as punishment for an absolutely horrifying cheap shot to the head of Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown that essentially cost the Bengals a victory in the 2015 playoffs while also crippling the Steelers’ chances the following week.

 

With fines totaling $805,400 during his first five NFL seasons, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer, Burfict’s track record has essentially erased the benefit of the doubt. The NFL would look silly by giving him anything less than the three games assessed for the hit on Brown, even though the blow on Sherman wasn’t nearly as egregious. However Burfict has been warned repeatedly by a league trying to convince the world that it’s concerned about player safety amid increasing awareness of risks associated with head trauma.

 

Burfict, whose appeal hearing is slated for Tuesday, told the Bengals’ website he believed the hit on Sherman was legal as it occurred near the line of scrimmage, well within the 5-yard zone for contact between defenders and receivers. The Bengals are supporting him, maintaining that the hit came when Burfict was squared up and face-to-face with Sherman.

 

Mike Pereira, previously the NFL’s officiating director and now a rules analyst for Fox, isn’t buying that argument. He points out that face-to-face is typically a tight end coming off the line to encounter a linebacker, whereas Burfict was in coverage before hitting Sherman from the side.

 

“It was so ugly,” Pereira told USA TODAY Sports when asked about the play. “It’s so clearly a cheap shot and a foul.

 

“When I saw it, I felt the intent was one thing: To hurt the guy.”

 

There can be gray area in determining intent in the heat of game action. Maybe Burfict didn’t aim to hurt Sherman but wanted to send a message about running routes over the middle.

 

No matter. That’s way out of bounds, too.

 

“The 5-yard zone does not give you liberty to go after somebody and go high like that,” Pereira said. “You can’t block anybody in the back in the 5-yard zone, either.”

 

The NFL has gone to great lengths to get messages across to players about curbing flagrant hits. It has progressed from fines to bigger fines, from suspensions to bigger suspensions. The odds were fat that Burfict, with his reputation as a hothead and cheap shot artist dating back to his Arizona State days, would be the first to draw the stiffer penalties the league warned about.

 

None of the perceived deterrents, nor behind-the-scenes conversations with coach Marvin Lewis, have apparently taken root. Maybe this time, the message sinks in deeper. It’s one thing to lose a key defender due to an injury, but much worse to lose him over a boneheaded play.

 

Too bad for the Bengals and Lewis, who continues to support an often spectacular talent. Burfict’s playmaking skill was on display Sunday at FedEx Field, when he slipped over to intercept a pass from Washington’s Kirk Cousins and raced 62 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.

 

If only Burfict could outrun his past so easily.

– – –

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is fine with not having a contract for 2018.  Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com:

 

– Coach Marvin Lewis is just days away from beginning his 15th season with the Cincinnati Bengals with no new contract in sight. As the season opener looms Sept. 10, Lewis said he’s not losing sleep over it.

 

“That doesn’t affect anything,” Lewis told ESPN. “I’ve coached here for 15 seasons. … The relationship you have with the team and the organization is a two-way street. That’s been the thing, I’ve been the one to not want to move a lot. That’s not been a big deal to me. Because we’ve been able to build something.

 

“… [Owner Mike Brown] and I have a great working relationship. Sometimes you don’t want to start that over again, but sometimes you need to. And I’m prepared to do that. It doesn’t affect me one way or another.”

 

Lewis, 58, has been with the Bengals since 2003 and has the most wins in franchise history. However, the team is coming off a 6-9-1 season and has not won a playoff game during his tenure. The Bengals’ last playoff victory came during the 1990 season, marking the longest current drought in the league.

 

Lewis last entered a season without any job security in 2010, when he signed a two-year deal. Since then, Lewis has maintained his two-year status by signing four one-year extensions.

 

 

CLEVELAND

The Browns are battling the Jets to see who can jettison the most veterans.  Today’s round goes to Cleveland as they cut ties with CB JOE HADEN (one of the team’s few productive first round picks) over some cash.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The sudden decision of the Browns to cut veteran cornerback Joe Haden came after the Browns tried to trade him. It also came after the Browns tried to get him to take less money.

 

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Browns asked Haden to reduce his $11 million base salary before releasing him. Haden, obviously, declined.

 

He exits with $4 million in guaranteed money, but the Browns likely won’t be on the hook for that amount. The belief is that Haden will end up with more money elsewhere than what the Browns offered on a reduced deal.

 

Like all players with four or more years of service released before the trade deadline, Haden instantly becomes a free agent. He can pick any team he wants. He could be inclined to pick a team that is likely to do something he’s never done — play in the postseason.

 

Josh Alper, also of PFT, is quick to hear about at least two teams that will be interested in Haden:

 

His agent doesn’t think too much time will pass before Haden finds that next stop.

 

“Tons of interest in him,” Drew Rosenhaus said, via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. “He will have a new deal with another team by tomorrow afternoon.”

 

The Browns weren’t able to trade Haden before cutting him, but the equation is a much different one for teams now that they don’t have to take on a contract calling for the corner to make $11.1 million while also giving something up to the Browns.

 

Schefter reports that the Chiefs and Saints are expected to have strong interest in Haden. The Saints are currently without cornerback Delvin Breaux due to a fractured fibula while the Chiefs could see Haden as an upgrade on Phillip Gaines in the starting spot opposite Marcus Peters.

– – –

QB DeSHONE KIZER had a good moment with JAMEIS WINSTON on “Hard Knocks” on Tuesday night.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Winston and Kizer met at midfield after the Browns’ 13-9 victory over the Bucs on Saturday night. Winston did all the talking.

 

“Hey, patience is the easiest way. All right? Take my word for it because I’m a risk-taker. Have patience. Who you got? You got coach [Hue] Jackson. So listen to him. Let him guide you. But patience is the easiest way. Taking that ball down, even though you got that cannon. Listen to me, because they ain’t going to tell you that. You’re spoiled You’re blessed. Do your thing,” Winston said.

 

Kizer offered his thanks.

 

 

PITTSBURGH

TE VANCE McDONALD, a darling of the prior regime in San Francisco, has been traded to Pittsburgh.  Kevin Patra at NFL.com:

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers added an athletic tight end to their roster.

 

The Steelers acquired tight end Vance McDonald and a 2018 fifth-round draft pick from the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a 2018 fourth-rounder, both teams announced Tuesday.

– – –

In four years with the 49ers, McDonald has started 30 games, snagging 64 receptions for 866 yards and seven touchdowns. The former second-round pick signed a five-year $35 million contract extension with San Francisco in December. The new regime has attempted to trade the 27-year-old this offseason. They finally found a taker.

 

The 49ers will move forward with rookie George Kittle — who has impressed coaches this offseason — Logan Paulson, Garrett Celek, and Blake Bell at tight end.

 

An already potent Pittsburgh offense just upgraded a position of need ahead of the season opener, moving down a single round in the draft to add a potential playmaking weapon to their tight-end room. McDonald should push Jesse James for playing time as soon as he gets up to speed.

 

This from Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin didn’t sugar coat it when asked about the team’s trade for Vance McDonald on Tuesday. Of the Steelers’ trio of tight ends, Tomlin said they were “not consistently varsity enough.”

 

He then called McDonald an “NFL-caliber tight end.”

 

“We’re not going to anoint him in any way,” Tomlin said, via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. “We’re going to put him in uniform like the rest of them and continue to allow them to sort themselves out. It’s reasonable to expect the guys that are here to respond positively in the right way to his presence and elevate their play.”

 

Jesse James, Xavier Grimble and David Johnson have combined for 89 career catches for 816 yards and seven touchdowns. McDonald made 64 catches for 866 yards and seven touchdowns in his four seasons with the 49ers, who made him a second-round pick in 2013.

 

Fowler speculated that McDonald and James eventually could split first-team reps, with Grimble as a situational tight end and Johnson remaining as a key blocker. That is if the Steelers choose to keep four tight ends.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

The Texans may not have to make a Saints-Katrina like voyage to San Antonio for the duration of the 2017 season – NRG Stadium itself seems to have survived Harvey in somewhat good order unlike the Superdome.  But, like Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com, we had been figuring they would at least be flipping their Week One game with Jacksonville.

 

Oh contraire.

 

Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

On Monday, PFT’s Mike Florio proposed the Texans and Jaguars flip home games because of unprecedented flooding in Houston.

 

The Texans currently are scheduled to host Jacksonville in the season opener, with Houston going to the Jaguars on Dec. 17. Houston already has moved its preseason finale against the Cowboys on Thursday to AT&T Stadium.

 

But the Texans made it clear Tuesday that not only do they want to play at NRG Stadium on Sept. 10 if at all possible, but they believe it’s “important” for the city that they play at home.

 

“If our stadium’s ready to go, it’s important to have that game at home,” coach Bill O’Brien said, via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. “Maybe it gives our fans a chance, for three hours at least, to cheer and kind of forget about the trials and tribulations of what would be the last two weeks.

 

“I think we have the best fans, anyway, so just imagine what NRG Stadium will be like for that first home game. Football’s big in Texas, anyway, but when you put it in Houston and take into consideration such a catastrophic event, football becomes even bigger. It gives our fans a chance to cheer and let off some steam.”

 

Texans linebacker Brian Cushing said playing at home would “help the healing process” in

 

“I think that would be the most important thing for the people,” Cushing said. “Knowing how much people care about football in Houston, it’s more important than just about anything.

 

“For us to play that first game at home, it would smooth a lot of things over. I’m not saying completely, but, I believe it would help.”

– – –

Brian T. Smith in the Houston Chronicle on the work being done by DE J.J. WATT and others in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey:

 

He has been a beacon during the devastation and chaos.

 

I’m not saying J.J. Watt has been a hero. That is a revered word reserved for the mostly anonymous, who have risked their lives over and over to save and preserve others, ever since Harvey wrecked Houston.

 

But true colors and real people shine through during times like this. And we’ve seen the best of this city’s most famous athlete since a Category 4 hurricane became the flood that won’t end.

 

A week ago, Watt was with the Texans in New Orleans, playfully asking his 3.9 million Twitter followers where the best place was for a beignet. He took a ride around the city. He played one series in a pointless preseason game against the Saints.

 

Then Friday, there was just this: “Stay safe Houston. We’re thinking about you.”

 

Two days after that – on Sunday, when Harvey’s local destruction was becoming a numbing reality – Watt posted the first of the personal videos that haven’t ended.

 

He didn’t wait for anyone else to speak up first. He beat Bob McNair, Leslie Alexander, Jim Crane and so many others to the podium. Watt composed an honest message, reached out to all those who follow him and shined a spotlight on Houston’s unthinkable struggles.

 

“That’s our city. It’s very tough to watch your city get hit by such a bad storm and not be there to help. … So what I do want to do is, I want to start a fundraiser, because I know that these recovery efforts are going to be massive,” Watt said. “There’s going to be a whole bunch of people that we need to help get back on their feet and there’s going to be a lot we need to do to help rebuild.”

 

His goal was $200,000.

 

Watt brought it halfway himself, donating $100,000 to the Houston Flood Relief Fund for Hurricane Harvey victims at YouCaring.com/JJWatt.

 

The same day that No. 99 posted his first video – staring into a lens; simple and direct with no fancy production tricks – he was forced to add this: “Hey @youcaring I think we may have broken the website. Can you please help so that we can raise as much money as possible for these folks???”

 

And this: “The initial 200k was raised in less than 2 hours. I have now raised the goal to 500k. Your support is phenomenal!”

 

New Rockets guard Chris Paul soon kicked in $50,000, which allowed Watt to reach his second goal within 24 hours.

 

The videos just kept coming. As did a CNN appearance to promote the fund and raise more donations for Harvey victims.

 

“$1 MILLION! New Goal: $1.5 Million,” Watt tweeted.

 

“$2 MILLION! New Goal: $3 Million,” just 16 hours later.

 

As I type this, the current total is more than $4,900,000 which has been raised by 48,565 donors in only two-plus days.

 

Remember when hating on the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year was so hip and cool?

 

Too many commercials. Too much endless attention. Total overexposure.

 

Uhhh, hey J.J. … Houston will never forget this.

 

“It’s been an unbelievable display of what can happen when people come together. … That’s what Houston’s all about,” Watt said. “It’s a very diverse city. It’s a very resilient city. It’s been through things like this before – maybe not of this magnitude, but it’s been through these types of situations. People are coming together, people are helping raise each other up.”

 

Bill O’Brien gave a shoutout to Watt’s efforts while the Texans adjusted to their temporary home in Frisco. The team’s coach then issued his strongest statement since he became a Houstonian, again proving that he runs much deeper than his tough exterior.

 

“We’re going to dedicate this season to the city of Houston, the people of Houston,” an emotional O’Brien said. “There are no guarantees in football. … But I will guarantee that this team will go out every Sunday, Monday, Thursday – whenever they ask us to play – and we’ll play our (butts) off for the city of Houston. I promise you that.”

 

Since Watt started his fund, McNair’s Texans pledged $1 million to the United Way, which was matched by the NFL Foundation. Crane’s Astros have promised $4 million that will go toward Harvey relief efforts.

 

Alexander one-upped them all, increasing his initial $4 million pledge to $10 million Tuesday.

 

The same day, Tennessee Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk donated $1 million to the fund that Watt started with one short video.

 

“Humanity is incredible. The positive vibes are unbelievable,” Watt said. “Houston, we’re all thinking of you. The whole world is wishing you the best. Stay strong. We’ve all got your back.”

 

 

INDIANAPOLIS

The Colts will be exposing the best of their bad options to QB ANDREW LUCK to the Bengals on Thursday night.   And Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com points out an important procedural date for Luck coming up on Saturday.

 

The man who likely will be the starting quarterback of the first regular-season game for the Colts also will be starting the fourth preseason game. Yes, Scott Tolzien will play — and start — Thursday’s game against the Bengals.

 

“We’re still building,” Tolzien said Tuesday, the Colts’ official website. “I mean, this is a very important week just to get better as we prepare for the regular season.”

 

On Monday, Pagano hadn’t decided whether Tolzien would play in the preseason finale. By Tuesday, the call had been made.

 

With Stephen Morris and Phillip Walker also on the roster, the Colts have made another call: They won’t be calling anyone else to join the team.

 

“We’re moving forward with who we have on this football team right now, and who’s practicing,” Pagano said.

 

Who isn’t practicing is franchise quarterback Andrew Luck. It’s still not known what he will. By Saturday, the Colts will have to activate Luck from the physically unable to perform list. Otherwise, he’ll be unavailable for at least the first six weeks of the season.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

The Bills have not one, but two QBs in the concussion protocol.  Vic Carucci in the Buffalo News:

 

The Buffalo Bills continue to have a quarterback health quandary with starter Tyrod Taylor and third-stringer T.J. Yates still in concussion protocol.

 

How long will Taylor and Yates, each of whom suffered a concussion in last Saturday night’s preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens, be kept out of practice and games? The Bills have no clue.

 

“Very little information flows out of that,” coach Sean McDermott told reporters Tuesday. “We just respect what’s going on there. They’re in the protocol, and that’s basically the information I get every day.”

 

The uncertain status of Taylor and Yates forced the Bills to sign a fourth quarterback, Keith Wenning, Monday. McDermott said the Bills are planning to play Wenning and rookie Nate Peterman in Thursday night’s preseason-finale against the Detroit Lions at New Era Field.

 

They would clearly prefer to give Wenning more action, because of the distinct possibility of Peterman starting in the Sept. 10 season-opener against the New York Jets.

 

“A lot of it just depends on how quickly Keith gets up to speed,” the coach said. “It’s a short week, so there’s a challenge. But Keith’s been in the system before, in Baltimore (during his rookie year in 2014, when Bills offensive coordinator Rick Dennison was the Ravens’ quarterbacks coach). And that was the main attraction with Keith.

 

“He’s a good football player, so look forward to seeing him in action Thursday night. How much remains to be seen. The balance of Nate and Keith are what we’re driving at right now for Thursday night.”

 

Who is this KEITH WENNING, a “good football player” we’ve never heard of?

 

Well, he is 26, from Ball State and has been kicking around NFL teams and their practice squads since 2014 (Baltimore, Cincinnati, the Giants, and now Buffalo) when the Ravens expended a 6th round pick on him.  Productive in his four-year career at Ball State with 11,402 yards and 92 TDs through the air while starting most of four seasons.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

As if the Jets haven’t purged enough assets, they are letting teams know a veteran running back can be had.

 

Ahead of this weekend’s roster cut down period, plenty of teams are gauging the trade market for desirable veterans.

 

The New York Jets, with running back Matt Forte, are no different.

 

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported on Tuesday, via sources with knowledge of the trade talks, the Jets are looking to move the dual-threat back. Forte, 31, rushed for 813 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago in New Jersey, adding 263 yards and a touchdown receiving.

 

As Pelissero noted, moving Forte with his $4 million guaranteed salary will not be easy. They’ll have to consider at least eating a portion of Forte’s check to attract a higher bidder.

 

It’s actually a surprise it has taken so long for Forte’s name to surface. The Jets began shedding veteran contracts in March but kept the still-useful Forte all preseason. Pivoting toward a youth movement, the Jets would be far better off feeding the younger Bilal Powell or any of their recent draft picks and undrafted free agents.

 

Forte remains a valuable asset. He rushed for more than four yards per carry this preseason and, in the bigger picture, has not missed more than three games in a season since 2011. He has never played fewer than 12. Teams looking to break in a rookie quarterback could do far worse than one of the best receiving backs of the last decade. Of course, any team with Super Bowl aspirations and a thin running back depth chart might also be high on the two-time Pro Bowler at the right price.

 

With DOUG MARTIN out for the first three games with a suspension, the DB wonders if Tampa Bay might not be kicking Forte’s tires.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

PREDICTIONS BASED ON FPI

Seth Walder of ESPN.com makes some bold predictions based on another of those secret sauce ESPN formulas – The Football Power Index. We have an edited version below, the whole thing is here:

 

Today, FPI is going all-in.

 

Normally, our Football Power Index delivers information in degrees: a percentage chance of this and the likelihood of that. That’s the responsible approach to take with a model like this one. But on the precipice of the NFL season, we’re throwing caution to the wind and letting FPI deliver predictions with stone-cold certainty.

 

Of course, keep in mind that in order to do this exercise, we’re taking the information that FPI is giving us and then making a leap toward the black and white. FPI does not feel 100 percent certain about anything — there’s a 3.1 percent chance the Patriots will miss the playoffs, after all — but we’ll pretend, for a minute, that it does.

 

For what it’s worth, the 50 percent marker is not special here, either. Some of these predictions are less than 50 percent likely to occur, but that’s because they may be the most likely scenarios of possible options or simply because this is, after all, a story about bold predictions. Anyone can guess that the Browns will be bad.

 

1. The Chiefs will win the AFC West

In a tightly packed division, FPI has decided to push its chips to the middle of the table on … quarterback Alex Smith?

 

Right off the bat, this is one of those predictions that comes with a caveat. In this case, FPI thinks there is only a 38.5 percent chance that Kansas City will win the AFC West, though that is the highest in the division.

 

2. The Panthers will return to the postseason

Granted, FPI thought Carolina would walk into the playoffs last year, but then again, who didn’t?

– – –

The chance of this prediction hitting, per FPI, is 45.9 percent, though the model considers the Panthers the 11th-most likely team to reach the postseason.

 

3. Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension won’t stop the Cowboys

ESPN’s Brian Burke noted recently that the expected-points-per-play difference on Cowboys’ rushing attempts with Elliott on the field amounts to about 1.1 net points per game. That’s significant, but not enough to hold back Dallas’ prolific offense out of the postseason.

 

4. The Broncos are no longer a good football team

While Denver missed out on the postseason last year, the Broncos were still widely considered a very solid squad. Those days are over.

 

5. The Jets will draft another quarterback from USC

Just because it didn’t work out with Mark Sanchez doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try again.

 

6. The Patriots won’t match their regular-season win total from 2007 … or even from 2016

But that has almost nothing to do with any potential weakness the Patriots may have.

 

In a parity-obsessed league such as the NFL, New England’s playoff projections seem ridiculous. A 49.6 percent chance to make it to the Super Bowl. A 32.3 percent chance to win the Super Bowl.

 

So why not project the Patriots to win 14 games, as they did last season? There’s just too much variance in the NFL.

– – –

A 12-4 record might not live up to the lofty expectations of the fans in Foxborough, but it would almost certainly win the Patriots the AFC East.

 

7. The Titans will win the AFC South

QB Andrew Luck’s shoulder appears likely to keep him out Week 1, and it might keep the Colts out of the playoffs, too.

 

8. The Dolphins were never going to the playoffs in 2017, no matter the QB

 

The Miami Dolphins were profoundly lucky last season.

– – –

Miami won 10 games last year. Expect just seven wins in 2017.

 

 

FANTASY THOUGHTS

Corey Gunkel of RealClearSports.com offers 10 tips for your upcoming Fantasy Football draft:

 

Don’t Draft Based on Fame

There will inevitably be one person in your draft who wants to take Adrian Peterson in the third round because he’s Adrian Peterson. Stop doing this. The Baltimore Ravens defense was amazing in 2000, but that doesn’t mean you should reach for it before all others in 2017 just because you remember watching Ray Lewis terrorize the middle of the field 20 years ago. Stop drafting players based on their fame, your recognition of their name, or the fact that you like that one Eli Manning DirecTV commercial. Don’t abandon your cheat sheet and go off-script just because Marshawn Lynch won you a title five years ago.

 

Drop Fandom at the Door

“I wasn’t going to take Kenny Stills so early but I really wanted a Miami player.” First of all, this is an example using one of three Dolphins fans that actually exists in real life. Second, this is the mentality of a fantasy loser. Nobody is keeping score of your fandom, so it’s OK to take Julio Jones if you’re a Saints fan. Don’t handcuff yourself because of your allegiances. This is about winning, not making yourself feel better or finding a way to root for a team you love.

 

Take a QB Late

Quarterbacks matter, and it’s imperative you find a signal caller who can become a consistent producer in your lineup. But unless Aaron Rodgers falls in your lap, you need to wait on a quarterback until at least the middle rounds. There are other positional needs that are more important, and finding a starting wide receiver in the third round and developing depth thereafter is much more imperative than making sure you get Drew Brees. Not only do wideouts and running backs have multiple potential slots in your lineup, but waiting on snagging a guy under center allows you to develop a full roster with the needed depth to make a run. Jameis Winston in the ninth round is more beneficial than wasting your first-round pick on Tom Brady. Blake Bortles (yes, that is not a typo) has finished in the top 10 in fantasy QB rankings twice, so make the intelligent play and be patient here.

 

Ignore Bye Weeks

Are you really concerned about overloading on bye weeks when you have the entire season to plan for? You can sacrifice one week to the fantasy gods if you’ve selected a team based on research rather than worrying about something inane like bye weeks. This is a classic newbie mistake, and one that will negatively impact your drafting strategy if you’re reading bye weeks instead of past and future point predictions.

 

Aggregate Your Cheat Sheet

Most of the people you’re playing against will use a cheat sheet designed by ESPN or Yahoo Sports and call it a day. You’re better than that, obviously, because you’re reading this right now. Our friends at Fantasy Pros have put together a table of the most accurate fantasy football websites of the past five years that you can aggregate to make the ultimate fantasy football cheat sheet. I was a journalism major, so I don’t do math, but it seems to me your odds of winning increase by using a mean of the most reliable websites on the internet. Set yourself apart and become the envy of all of the friends who still talk to you with this method.

 

Don’t Draft for Positions

“This is the year of the running back.”

 

“Wide receivers rule in this year’s draft class.”

 

“Kick it up another notch with early kickers.”

 

OK, so that last one isn’t at all believable, but you get the idea. There is no reason to specifically draft a position. Be like Sean Payton when accumulating your team: Always look for the best player on the board. So what if you end up with seven running backs and four wide receivers? Depth is what wins fantasy football championships, and specifically ignoring better players in the middle rounds because they’re not tight ends and you still have a roster hole is foolish and counter-productive. Snag the best talent when you can.

 

Acquire Handcuffs

The most underrated tip you’ll read today. It seems so simple. If you draft a star running back, take his backup in case of injury or, God forbid, a benching. But you’d be shocked at the inability of some to grasp this basic concept. If you’re going to use a first-round pick on Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, you need to gobble up his backup, Tevin Coleman, at the appropriate time as an insurance policy.

 

Don’t Think About Trades

I’m not saying don’t make trades, or that trades aren’t important, only that in many leagues, trades are as rare as a 20-point game from a kicker. Develop your team through the draft and on the waiver wire without dreaming up scenarios in which you can package players to other squads. Sure, it sounds great, but is your friend in Montana who auto-drafted the last five rounds really going to respond to your trade requests in a timely manner? If you can put together great deals, that’s a fantastic bonus, and many leagues have a healthy trade environment that fosters a fun atmosphere. A lot of leagues, and probably yours included, don’t, so it’s important to remember that. Assemble a roster as if you won’t make trades often.

 

Remember Every Position Counts

Just because you’re drafting a kicker last doesn’t mean you can simply guess and take whoever the ticker says you should. These are starters who will (hopefully) play the entire year while racking up points, so pay attention to the minor positions. The end of a fantasy draft can be a brutal affair, as people get too buzzed, tired, or indifferent to really continue the torrid pace of the opening couple of rounds. Use it to your advantage by stealing away the best available players at the positions that some people discount.

 

Don’t Be ‘That Guy’

You know the guy. Doesn’t set his lineup for weeks at a time. Offers ridiculous trades so one-sided it would make the Louisiana Purchase look fair. Takes the league so seriously you’ve contemplated suggesting therapy. There are many variations of “that guy” in fantasy football leagues around the world, and it’s absolutely imperative you don’t end up like any of them. Set your lineup each week without forgetting, don’t take things too seriously, and play to win the game. But most of all, have fun and trash talk mercilessly. Those tears from your enemies will taste even sweeter when you’re hoisting a homemade trophy over your head at the end of the season.

 

The DB thinks most of these are good, but we would quibble about taking the QB late.  We don’t see how you go wrong if you pick up someone like Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers who is practically automatic every week instead of a second running back who is likely to get hurt.  And we’ve found there are usually some good value receivers late in the draft, as much so as quarterback.