I generally loathe drafting running backs who don’t catch passes, but I’d make an exception for Alfred Morris (and Stevan Ridley) this year. Everyone knows Morris’ unlikely story last season, when the sixth round draft pick entered behind the likes of Roy Helu, Evan Royster and even the immortal Tim Hightower on Washington’s depth chart, not only to secure the team’s No. 1 job from the start, but his 1,613 rushing yards were the third-most by a rookie in NFL history. Any concerns about Mike Shanahan messing with his backfield were immediately thrown out the window. Morris was impressive in doing so, racking up the third-most broken tackles in the NFL (57) while getting an elite 3.0 YPC after contact. In fact, more than 1,000 of his rushing yards last season came after contact. Morris got better as the year went on too, as he ran for 981 yards (5.10 YPC) with eight touchdowns over the final six games. Although he dropped only one pass (on 15 targets), Pro Football Focus did grade him as a poor receiver, but interestingly, PFF also graded Morris as the league’s second best blocking back (behind only Ahmad Bradshaw), so it’s not like he must come off the field during third downs (although it does appear we may see more Helu during these situations this season). It’s also entirely possible Morris improves his pass-catching skills as a sophomore, and he’s going to once again dominate early down work and get all the red-zone carries he can handle in a Shanahan system that’s returning all five members of its offensive line and with Robert Griffin at quarterback. At this point, Morris sure looks like a safer pick than Arian Foster.
Apparently Andrew Luck’s skill of producing dropped interceptions is going to carry over from last season.
Sticking with Colts’ QBs, here’s Pam Oliver taking a football to the face.
I get that most people consider Tony Romo overrated (and also overpaid after he signed a six-year, $108 million extension during the offseason that included $55 million guaranteed, which wasn’t that far off Drew Brees’ record-setting $60). Romo is 17-21 over the past three seasons and hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2009, and his one career postseason win (the only time he's ever played with a top-10 defense, I might add) is far less memorable than this epic failure. He also had a bachelor party in which no alcohol was allowed and featured a game of hide-and-seek. This also exists (I preferred the original version, which featured “Coldplay”). And finally, this pass during the most crucial moment of Dallas’ season last year also resonates. Ron Jaworski just recently ranked Romo as the 15th best quarterback in the NFL, as in, there are 14 better.
So here’s where I take the contrarian view and defend Romo, who led the league with five fourth-quarter comebacks last season. A sixth from 14 points down with five minutes left forced overtime in New Orleans, and a seventh comeback against the Ravens in Baltimore fell short when Dan Bailey missed a would-be game-winning field goal. His 18 career fourth-quarter comeback wins are a Cowboys record, surpassing Troy Aikman (16) and Roger Staubach (15). As Scott Kacsmar points out, Romo’s 100.7 career passer rating in the fourth quarter and overtime (playoffs included) is the highest among all quarterbacks since 2000 (minimum 150 attempts). Romo holds the third-highest adjusted YPA, the sixth-highest completion percentage and the fifth-best QB Rating of all time. And yet, he laughably wasn’t ranked among the top-100 players in the NFL by his peers recently. If you want to focus more in fantasy terms, Dallas has struggled to run the ball of late (DeMarco Murray’s inability to stay healthy is a good thing for Romo’s fantasy value), and there should be a lot of shootouts in the NFC East this season. Romo has never not been a top-10 fantasy QB during a healthy season, and this was before Dez Bryant developed into an absolute monster of an option at WR. Romo just passed for the ninth-most yards in a season in NFL history last year, and yet according to Y! ADP, 11 QBs are being taken ahead of him in fantasy leagues.
Here’s the segment that’s being called the best ever on “The Colbert Report.”
I’d like to discuss two recent fantasy drafts I participated in. Knowing full well no one cares about my specific team, I’ll use the results just as a guide for more general talk. The first being the annual Yahoo! Friends & Family draft, which consists of 14 teams, 2RBs, 2WRs, 2FLEX, 0.75 PPR and an extremely small bench (four spots). I had the sixth pick and only passed on Jamaal Charles because news of his foot injury was murky at the time (props to Andy Behrens for having the stones to pull the trigger). I had a strong internal debate whether to take Chris Johnson or Reggie Bush in the second round, as I believe the latter is going to be a beast in PPR formats. But ultimately I decided on Johnson, who ran for 1,033 yards and got 5.09 YPC over his final 11 games last season. Tennessee added RG Chance Warmack with the 10th overall pick in the draft and LG Andy Levitre through free agency, so the offensive line looks much improved (incumbent Michael Roos was graded as the third best LT in the NFL last season by Pro Football Focus). Johnson may lose goal-line carries to Shonn Greene, but it sure helps facing the Jaguars and Colts (both ranked in the bottom five in run defense last year) in 25% of his games.
I immediately regretted taking Denarius Moore over Reuben Randle, and that was only exasperated with the news of Oakland’s LT (and probably best player) Jared Veldheer out for the season with a torn triceps. Moore has shown flashes before, but he’s regressed since his rookie season and relies on downfield throws, which isn’t exactly an ideal fit for a team with a poor (and that's being generous) offensive line and a quarterback in Matt Flynn who might have the weakest arm among all projected starters. Randle is currently a WR3 on his own team, but he’s in a vastly superior environment, and if Victor Cruz (who left Sunday night’s game with a heel injury) or Hakeem Nicks (who’s one of the most injury prone WRs in football) goes down, he has the upside to be a top-20 fantasy WR, easy…There wasn’t a quarterback taken in this league until the 45th pick of the draft, and while I understand this means the results aren’t going to represent most leagues, I’d argue this is what should be the norm, assuming you can only start one. I hate the term “experts,” but this strategy is commonplace in most “industry” leagues for a reason.
Headlines of the Week: Drunk Chinese Man Nearly Shipped to US...Man With “Micropenis” Discovers He’s Actually a Woman At Age 66...Instructor Shoots Student In Ohio Gun Safety Class...Chinese Zoo Under Fire For Disguising Hairy Dog as Lion...BMW Drivers Really Are Jerks, Studies Find...“Pull-Out” Method Tied to Unintended Pregnancies...Florida Beach Flasher Leaves Notes Offering $200 if Women Let Him “Kiss Their Butt”...British Youths Escape Forced Marriage With Spoons in Underwear...CIA Acknowledges Existence of Area 51 but Makes no Mention of UFOs...Roadkill Gains Traction as a Home Menu Item...Romanian Princess Among 18 Charged in Oregon Over Cockfighting.
The other league I wanted to talk about was the Stopa Law Firm league, which is a 12-team auction (0.5 PPR) with big starting rosters (QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE, TE, W/R/T, Q/W/R/T). This makes it essentially a 2-QB league, as you’d be crazy not to use a quarterback in a league in which they are flex eligible. I prefer to “spread the wealth” in these type of formats, but I ended up buying LeSean McCoy (whom I own both in this league and F&F). He’s 25 years old and one season removed from leading the NFL in touchdowns and will be playing alongside a very underrated offensive line in a Philly offense that projects to lead the NFL in carries. While I love McCoy, it’s not like he came at a great bargain price, but what I don’t get is Stevan Ridley at $24 (22 other RBs went for more, including Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Lamar Miller, Darren McFadden and DeMarco Murray). And while auction values can look silly after the fact, this wasn’t a sequencing effect. In New England’s uptempo offense with a terrific line that attempted the second-most rushing attempts last season, Ridley (who had the second-most goal-line carries in the NFL last season) has an argument to be drafted in the first round (although I’m not overly thrilled to have two backs who suffered serious concussions at the end of last year)…I continue to be amazed just how cheap Golden Tate and Chris Givens are (I got them for a total of $8). But this also illustrates just how deep the wide receiver position is this year, as the following players went for $3 or less: T.Y. Hilton, Miles Austin, Josh Gordon, Rueben Randle, Kenny Britt, Chris Givens, Anquan Boldin, Denarius Moore, Vincent Brown and Mike Williams, among many others.
Longread of the Week: “Murder by Craiglist.”
(Not so) Longread of the Week Part 2: "What’s With Rich People Hating Vaccines?"
Quick Hits: Matthew Stafford was the 10th most valuable fantasy QB last season despite attempting 36 more passes in a season than any other quarterback in NFL history while playing in a dome and having one of the greatest wide receivers ever at his disposal. Pointing to the many times his receivers were tackled inside the five-yard line is actually a bad argument, as that helped Stafford somehow run for four touchdowns. He’s still just 24 years old, so there’s room for growth, but he has a 6.9 career YPA. Just imagine what a disaster he’d be if Calvin Johnson suffered a major injury…The Chiefs have somehow sent the most offensive players to the Pro Bowl (33) since 2002...Only A.J. Green and Heath Miller had more targets than Darren Sproles inside the 10-yard line last season, and the RB missed three games…A.J. Jenkins has been targeted five times this preseason, which has resulted in three turnovers…Tim Tebow went 1-for-7 for minus-1 yard Friday against the backups of a Tampa Bay team that allowed the fourth highest YPA (7.9) in the NFL last season. Tebow is the only Heisman winning QB to win a playoff game over the last 25 years…If Danny Amendola stays fully healthy (and he suspiciously was held out of practice Monday), my over/under for his receptions this season is 124.5. Wes Welker dropped 9.4% of his passes from 2010-2012. Over that same span, Amdendola dropped 3.7%. I’d be more surprised if Russell Wilson isn’t a top-3 fantasy QB this season than if he’s not top-10…At this point, Arian Foster is outside my top-12 running backs…Larry Fitzgerald finished last in yards per target among all wide receivers last year, but prospective fantasy owners need not worry, as this stat has little predictive value...Tony Gonzalez has one fumble over the past 13 years (H/T Bill Barnwell). WOW…In regards to Le’Veon Bell suffering yet another injury Monday, here’s a list of running backs with 380+ carries in a college season since 2000.