The NFL isn't immune to strange story lines. Here is a review of the compacted preseason - "News of the Weird," style and some predictions based on them.
Note: News of the Weird Stories came from Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird site.
The Irony File
An 18-year-old man, celebrating on the evening of May 21 after it had become clear that the world would not end as predicted by a radio evangelist, drowned after jumping playfully off a bridge into Michigan's Kalamazoo River. [Kalamazoo Gazette, 5-21-2011]
In related fantasy news Robert Irsay and Bill Polian ask Kerry Collins to put team's season in his back pocket while doing cartwheels on a bridge rail.
So let me get this straight: Irsay and Polian bring a quarterback out of retirement who is among the worst in the past decade at throwing the deep ball with anticipation to head an offense that thrived on the precision of a quarterback with perhaps the best deep ball anticipation in a generation. I know Collins hit some big plays with Kenny Britt in Tennessee, but do you see a big, physical receiver capable of out muscling defenders for jump balls in Indianapolis? Unless Reggie Wayne is flashing biceps ala Thomas Jones in 2011 (and I'd still think he was wearing a Tony Atlas body suit), I don't understand this move.
Fantasy Prediction: If Kerry Collins exceeds 250 yards passing against the Texans this weekend I believe half of it will come in garbage time with the Colts down by three touchdowns. Joseph Addai better be ready for a 20-25 carries this weekend and as a Manning owner, let's hope this undetermined date of return is within four games. I expect we'll see a lot of Addai with cameos from Delone Carter, a lot of Dallas Clark, and a lot of passes off play action on first down from Kerry Collins.
A quick side note: As with any higher risk plan you have to prepare for some glitches. But talk about irony, my Inside Men plan was to insure your selection of Peyton Manning with Matthew Stafford. Last year this was laughable. It might still be, but funny how perception can change in 12 months.
The Incompetence File
People Who Accidentally Shot Themselves Recently:
Sean Murphy, 38, destroyed most of his finger trying to shoot off a wart (South Yorkshire, England, June). Yorkshire: [Yorkshire Post, 6-15-2011]
A Secret Service agent (assigned to Nancy Reagan) shot himself in the hip holstering his gun (Ventura, Calif., February). Ventura: [DailyCaller.com-AP, 2-5-2011]
A training officer at the Ohio Peace Officer Academy shot himself in the thigh (December). Ohio: [Plain Dealer (Cleveland), 12-22-2010]
Johnathan Hartman, 27, holstering his gun in his back pocket (after threatening his girlfriend), shot himself in the butt (Billings, Mont., December). Billings: [Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.), 12-17-2010]
A man trying to scratch his nose with a pellet gun shot himself in the face (Amherst, Mass., November). Amherst: [Daily Hampshire Gazette (Northampton, Mass.), 11-17-2010]
In related fantasy news, Plaxico Burress is back (and for his sake, hopefully unarmed).
It's an old gag, but c'mon Burress deserves a little ribbing. Then again, the city DA probably saw this as an election goldmine - 1 out 3000 voters might even remember his name!
Fantasy Prediction: David Dodds has a conservative projection for Burress - 3 catches for 45 yards - this weekend against the Cowboys. I'd double it to 6 catches for 90 yards this week. The secondary is still the most inconsistent part of this Dallas defense and I think Burress is going to earn some opportunities in the middle of the field to test the safeties' ability to communicate with each other. It's not like Sanchez hasn't seen a Ryan-influence defense before.
The Bad (and Clueless) Talent File
The Talented Mr. Zhou: Zhou Xin, 68, failed to get a callback from the judges for the "China's Got Talent" TV reality show in June, according to a CNN report (after judge Annie Yi screamed in horror at his act). Zhou is a practitioner of one of the "72 Shaolin skills," namely "iron crotch gong," and for his "talent," he stoically whacked himself in the testicles with a weight and then with a hammer. [CNN. 6-21-2011]
In related fantasy news, Tiki Barber is devastated and flabbergasted that he didn't get a callback.
Fantasy Prediction: Although half Xin's age chronologically (but age equivalent in RB years), the financially (and ethically) bankrupt Barber has been "banging his gong" all summer for an NFL team to give him a chance much to the horror of general managers screaming for it to stop. Either Miami - who chose Larry Johnson for a shot (and then cut him) over Barber - belongs in the Incompetence File or Barber was so bad that they opted for the "KC Spitter."
I'm actually torn here. Miami has to really believe in Reggie Bush to make him the feature back and that's quite a bit of faith in a player who hasn't been able to stay healthy. This could develop into one of the most intriguing storylines of the season if Bush performs consistently like the back we've seen flashes of. I'm skeptical. It means that the Dolphins must believe Daniel Thomas is going to turn the corner quick enough that they can rotate him, Bush, and Lex Hilliard effectively.
I think Bush is a sell high type of player. Hopefully his extended audition gets him as far as Motown Week on Miami Idol. Then you can deal him at a premium.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit File
Who Knew? "The streets of 47th Street are literally paved with gold," said one of New York City's gold wranglers, as he, down on all fours and manipulating tweezers, picked specks of gold, silver and jewels that had fallen off of clothing and jewelry racks as they were rolled from trucks into stores. The man told the New York Post in June that he had recently earned $819 in redemptions for six days' prospecting. [New York Post, 6-20-2011]
In related fantasy news, the Green Bay Packers sure know how to pick talent.
Aaron Rodgers? Late first round. Greg Jennings? Second round. Matt Flynn? Seventh round. Jermichael Finley? Third round. James Starks? Sixth round. Promising CB Sam Shields? An undrafted free agent. Not that they haven't had their share of misses, but when they've hit they've hit big.
Fantasy Prediction: While it's no surprise to predict that Greg Jennings will get his 1000 yards in 2011 and I might not get even a raise of an eyebrow with the idea that Jermichael Finley earns 1000 yards, I think we're going to see Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and Randall Cobb meet or exceed the 500-yard mark. My bets are still on Cobb earning the most of the four I just mentioned. I believe by week six of the season, he will begin to look like an appealing flex-option for fantasy owners. If you want a bargain equivalent in the AFC, look to Super Bowl Runner Up Pittsburgh. Their passing game is going to be very good, but I've already told you about 2010 late round jewel Antonio Brown.
Heavy Handed Authority Figures File: Fish and Wildlife Agent ‘pulls a Goodell.'
According to WUSA-TV in Washington, DC, The heavy hand of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service landed on 11-year-old Skylar Capo and her mom in June, after an agent happened to spot Skylar holding a baby woodpecker in her hands at a Lowes home improvement store in Fredericksburg, Va. Actually, Skylar had minutes before saved the woodpecker from the primed teeth of a house cat and was providing temporary TLC, intending to release the bird when the trauma had passed. The agent, apparently, was unimpressed, reciting a provision of the Migratory Bird Act, and two weeks later, another Fish and Wildlife agent knocked on the Capos' door (accompanied by a Virginia state trooper) and served Mrs. Capo a citation calling for a $535 fine. (In August, Fish and Wildlife officials relented, calling the agent's action a mistake.)
In related fantasy news, Roger Goodell is at it again.
Doesn't this news remind you a bit of Roger Goodell punishing Raiders supplemental pick Terrelle Pryor and Colts consultant Jim Tressel for their behavior at Ohio State? Not that Pryor and Tressel's behavior was well intentioned like the Capos, but why is Goodell punishing these two for NCAA violations? Have either been arrested or convicted of a crime?
Based on conversations with a legal scholar with some research expertise with anti-trust issues in sports, this is very questionable from a legal perspective. What will stop Goodell from suspending NFL veterans for acts that occurred before they became pro? The NFL shouldn't be allowed to have its cake and eat it when it comes to having a minor league system that they do not subsidize in any way, shape, or form.
Who will Goodell suspend next? Jonathan Vilma for his photos with Nevin Shapiro years ago while at he University of Miami? Why suspend Terrell Pryor, but not Cam Newton?
Fantasy Prediction: Pryor has a case to sue, but he knows he'll be blackballed from the NFL if he does. He's going to play along, because he knows deep down that he's lucky to even be in the NFL and get a shot as a quarterback. Remember Isaiah Stanbeck? No? Even if you do - that's my point.
Compelling Explanations File
Though a university study released in June linked birth defects to the controversial mining industry practice of mountaintop removal, lawyers for the National Mining Association offered a quick, industry-friendly rebuttal: Since the area covered by the study was in West Virginia, any birth defects could well be explained merely as inbreeding. (A week later, the lawyers thought better and edited out that insinuation.) [Charleston Gazette, 7-11-2011]
In related fantasy news, maybe some NFL personnel departments need to spend less time together locked away in the film room.
I think this same inbreeding explanation is probably in the thoughts of most Seahawks and Bengals fans about their team's personnel staff when it comes to their failures to acquire or keep a viable NFL quarterback. Tarvaris Jackson never was, never has been, and never will be a quality starter in this league. Sorry. I know he felt like he got a raw deal in Minnesota - and he probably did - but I don't think the "I was just getting warmed up," excuse is a good one.
And I love watching Jon Gruden do his thing, but other than picking up Brett Favre at the airport and getting a seasoned Rich Gannon in Oakland, has he ever developed a quarterback? Has he ever picked a good quarterback?
Let's not even talk about Jay Gruden.
Look, I know that evaluating quarterbacks is difficult. Trust me, I fail at it a lot, too. However, I just don't understand what the Bengals see in Andy Dalton that makes him a potential starter along the lines of Drew Brees. I guess when you're in a football desert like Cincinnati you begin to experience mirages. I know I'd be experiencing frequent hallucinations of Drew Brees after not seeing a quarterback for several months on my squad.
Fantasy Prediction: I think Carson Palmer will be playing in one of these two cities by the end of the year. For A.J. Green's sake I hope its Cincinnati. For Palmer's sake, I hope its Seattle. Don't pick him up now in re-draft leagues, but keep your eyes peeled for relevant news on the veteran signal caller.
My Subscriber Contest Squad
As of tonight, here is my roster for the Footballguys Subscriber Contest. Last year, I did a fair job of outlasting most of the staffers. This year I want to take more chances. This might not turn out to be my final team because I'm considering some late changes, but I know a lot of folks commented on my team via email last year and kept up with it.
Dollars Used: $250
QBs: 3 RBs: 7 WRs: 9 TEs: 3 PKs: 4 TDs: 3
Quarterbacks - Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, and Mark Sanchez
I went for the mid-to-low tier guys. I expect Stafford and Sanchez to outperform their value because of the weapons around them and two years of maturation in the NFL. Manning might not be on this roster, but he's my backup for now. I'm still thinking about John Beck, I don't think Grossman is going to last a month as a starter.
Running backs - Mark Ingram, LaGarrette Blount, Felix Jones, Delone Carter, Pierre Thomas, Jerome Harrison, Ben Tate
I love the first three backs this year. I think all three are in for at least 240 touches. I also believe Carter and Harrison can produce when called upon. Thomas and Tate might be gone from my team by the time this is posted, but I like the offenses the play for.
Wide Receivers - Santana Moss, Mike Sims-Walker, Nate Burleson, Earl Bennett, Bernard Berrian, Harry Douglas, Antonio Brown, Randall Cobb, and Denarius Moore
This is the all-bargain receiver corps with only one player over $12. I think this is the place to see if I can get a few unique players that can help me outlast the competition. Of course, the problem here is I could be gone very early with this strategy. That's what I've seen from folks who overthink it like this.
Tight Ends - Aaron Hernandez, Lance Kendricks, and Evan Moore
I wouldn't be surprised if all three are top-12 fantasy performers at the position by year's end.
Kickers - Matt Bryant, Nick Folk, Ryan Longwell, Jay Feely
I think these kickers are on teams where one will be prolific enough to earn 2-3 extra points and 2-3 field goals per week.
Team Defenses - St. Louis Rams, Buffalo Bills, and Denver Broncos
These are the bargain defenses that I believe have a chance to do a better than anticipated job of pressuring the quarterback. Do that well enough on a consistent basis and we're going to see some turnovers leading to fantasy points.
Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to email@example.com.