Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Diary of a 2014 NFBC Online Championship Draft

I’ve been playing fantasy baseball since I was 13. I’ve done fairly well over the years in fantasy sports and wanted to dip my toes into this year's NFBC Online Championship league. The format is a 12-team league, 5x5 roto, and I’m facing against 1000 other teams for a very nice grand prize. There are also league prizes for first and second place.

Do I expect to win? Nope. Some of these players do this for a living. They eat and breathe stats, numbers, and more stats and numbers. I’ve adapted more of this type of style over the years, but I still just go with some deep bank of baseball knowledge that’s stowed somewhere in my head.

I had the third pick in the draft. I had two initial strategies and it was vital to pick one or the other. The first was to go big-time power with my first three picks. Power’s become so scarce in baseball that it’s very important to get a leg up. Plus, pitching is extremely deep.

The other strategy thought was to ying when others yanged. I thought about going two pitchers in the first three rounds and really locking up ERA/WHIP. Plus, this draft was after the Australian baseball series, and we’ve seen Clayton Kershaw get a win and allow just one run. Those stats do count, so it was very tempting to get an early guarantee.

In the end though, I went hitting. Before the draft, I looked at how last year’s champ did as well as the leader in each category. Last year's winner had the following

Runs: 1075
HRs: 282
RBIs: 1047
SBs: 207
Average: .272

Wins: 111
Ks: 1539
ERA: 2.75
WHIP: 1.07
Saves: 111

I decided to go with strategy one and hope to find some sleepers in my pitching staff. Here’s my round-by-round picks and thoughts.

Round 1 (3): Paul Goldschmidt was the guy I wanted and unless Mike Trout/Miguel Cabrera was sitting there, I knew I was getting him. I’d rather pick the guy who dominates certain categories than someone like Andrew McCutchen who does a good amount of everything.

Round 2 (22): I was hoping Troy Tulowitzki or Joey Votto would sneak down to my spot (Votto’s had a rough spring), but it wasn’t happening. I could’ve gone pitching with Yu Darvish, but again, I felt power was so necessary. I went with Giancarlo Stanton. I feel like this is the year he puts it all together and goes .270/37/110. And besides, there wasn't much else I loved here (Carlos Gomez might regress. Dustin Pedroia is ridiculously over drafted every year.)

Round 3 (27): Darvish was still sitting there, but so was Jose Bautista and I couldn’t resist. He’s been hurt the last two years, but getting hit by a pitch and breaking your wrist doesn't make you injury prone. I’m a big believer in 1st half/2nd half splits, and people forget that in his first 74 games in 2014, he hit 19 HRs and knocked in 50 RBIs. The average has dipped over the years, but if he can hit 35 to 40 HRs, I'll have anywhere from 105 to 110 HRs with my first three picks. Not too shabby

Round 4 (46): This was the round I was hoping a great SP fell, and no one did. Five of the first nine picks were pitchers. I settled on David Price. He had a down year but still posted a 3.33 ERA and 1.10 WHIP.  If he can go in between his 2013 ERA and 2012 ERA (2.56), I’m getting strong value. The key will be how I can surround Price.

Round 5: (51): I probably should’ve gone pitching here, but I didn’t really love Zack Greinke/James Shields/ Jordan Zimmermann in this round.  I probably should’ve gone with a safe hitter (Adrian Gonzalez) but sitting there was Billy Hamilton. Oh the controversy with Hamilton. The believers have him pegged as a third-round pick. The naysayers think he’s going to be dropped by June. To me, I’m trying to win. And the potential of anywhere from 60 to 80 stolen bases is too good to pass up here. There is no one else in this area who can put up such elite SB numbers. If he bats .250, so be it. But I want to win and Hamilton meeting his potential will get me one-step closer to winning.

Round 6 (70): Yeah, I definitely need to focus on pitching. Jordan Zimmermann was someone I was eyeing in the 5th, so I was happy to take him here. I did want Matt Holliday/Starling Marte/Jose Altuve, but all were taken. I’m fine with Zimmermann,  who hasn’t posted an ERA above 3.25 since 2011.

Round 7 (75): There was another run of pitching and I was right in the middle of it. I saw Anibal Sanchez as elite in strikeouts and strong potential in wins and ERA. I was pretty pleased to take him here. He’s not putting up a 2.57 ERA again. But 3.00 with 200+ strikeouts? I’m definitely good with that.

Round 8 (94): I really liked some of the players picked before me. Ryan Zimmerman took a plunge to the middle of this round, and I was hoping Everth Cabrera and Masahiro Tanaka would be available. After all were taken, I wanted to go back to power with some average. David Ortiz fills both. I think he regresses a little bit (.290/27/95) but he’s perennial picked two rounds later than his production. Yeah, he clogs up by utility spot, but I’m playing Ortiz anyway, so who cares where he slots in?

Round 9 (99): This is the point where you start taking best player available. I had my eye on Desmond Jennings, but the average worried me. Should I go closer with Koji Uehara? Eh, I like to wait on closers. So I plucked Homer Bailey to give me a really solid No. 4 SP. Bailey’s improved every season since 2008 and turns 28 this year. And those splits I like looking at? His second-half ERA was 3.02.

Round 10 (118): Closers are starting to fly off the board and I wanted at least one somewhat safe closer. I thought this was a round to finally cave in, so I went Addison Reed. Reed’s been shaky, but he still saved 40 games last year and posted 72 Ks in 71 innings. Sometimes you have to close your eyes and hope for the best.

Round 11 (123): Despite having Billy Hamilton, I’m still small on steals and we’re starting to run low on available SG guys. A player I really like this year is Leonys Martin. With the Rangers lineup a bit of a mess due to injuries, I think Martin is the biggest beneficiary. All he needs to do is equal his 36 SBs from last year and I’ll be happy.

Round 12 (142): A lot of pitchers were going, meaning some bats were falling. Jayson Werth was sitting at the top of the draft board for about two rounds. I figured it was time to jump on. Werth’s going to help every category. What’s even more fun is comparing these two stat lines: Player A had 27 HRs/70 RBIs/8 SBs/.263 average in 2013. Player B went 25 HRs/82 RBIs/10 SBs/.318 average. Player A is Justin Upton who went in Round 3. Player B is Werth.

Round 13 (147): I was smack in the middle of another pitcher run, with 15 straight pitchers going. I knew if I didn’t take another closer now, I’d be stuck with some huge question marks. I took the bait and went with Jason Grilli. Grilli was fine last year when he wasn’t hurt, saving 33 games with a 2.70 ERA. People worry about Mark Melancon taking the job, but as long as Grilli performs, it’s his to lose. But yeah, I’m a little worried about my closers to say the least.

Round 14 (166): I hadn’t drafted an infielder outside of Goldschmidt, and with the need for 2B/SS/3B plus a corner and middle, I had to start filling some spots. Chase Utley was definitely a need pick. Utley’s best days are behind him, but he can still hold value. I’m not expecting 150+ games, but if I can get similar production to last year (.284/18/69), I’ll take it and move on.

Round 15 (171): Before the draft, Clay Buchholz was a player I bolded, circled, and put an arrow. I just feel that he will finally put it all together and break out. And for a 5th SP, I could do far, far worse. If he gets hurt, then fine, he’s my 5th SP. If he excels, that is quite a nice back of the rotation SP to have. 

Round 16 (190): What’s unique about NFBC leagues is starting two catchers. And with zero and being the middle of the draft, it might be time to go in that direction. Miguel Montero was the last of what I consider the solid upside catchers. Montero took a big dip last year, from hitting around .280 to .230 and cutting his RBI total in half. This is where data does help. He was a bit unlucky last year (His BABIP was 30 to 40 points lower than what he typically averages.) But on the same token, his power also dipped. I’m a big believer that catchers are similar to running backs in that when they fall, they fall hard. So I worry about that with Montero. But he’s still 30, so I think he’s got a good season or two left in the tank.

Round 17 (195): Yep, still need a shortstop. Yep, still need some SBs. And after two shortstops I eyed (Asdrubal Cabrera and Erick Aybar) were picked, I knew I had to take one. Brad Miller is another player I had circled before the draft. He had a pretty solid half season (8 HRs/36 RBIs/5 SBs) and I think he can be a strong contributor. The big worry is being beaten out by Nick Franklin, but if Miller can avoid that, I see a fine season from him.

Round 18 (214): I was fully set on picking a third baseman here. I wanted to wait on 3B the whole draft for either Will Middlebrooks or Mike Moustakas. Well, as fantasy goes, both were taken right before me. Talk about heartbreak. I really believe Middlebrooks breaks out this year. Last year, he went 17 HRs/49 RBIs in just 94 games. With him off the board, I decided to wait a few rounds for Todd Frazier. In the meantime, I filled out my rotation with Chris Tillman. After a rough start to his career, his last two seasons have been really strong. All the sudden, my pitching is looking really nice from top to bottom.

Round 19 (219): I really should’ve taken Frazier here (he wound up being taken a pick later), but Andrelton Simmons kept dropping. He had a pretty quiet 17 HRs and six steals. He ran a lot more in the minors, so maybe 10 to 15 SBs is obtainable. And I’m crossing my fingers he continues his power break out and reached 20 HRs.

Round 20 (238): We’re getting to the round of former greats. C.C. Sabathia (who I was planning to take a shot on), Tim Lincecum, Corey Hart, and Torii Hunter were all picked. I figured I’d follow along with Ryan Howard, who has really fallen hard since his prime years. Would anyone be shocked though if he put up a 30/100 line this year?

Round 21 (243): Still need a third baseman, so naturally, I go with starting pitcher again. I absolutely could not pass on Hiroki Kuroda, another guy who drops each year. He’s a perfect spot starter when the Yankees have a week of playing an Oakland and Seattle.

Round 22 (262): I’ve always liked Russell Martin. The average is ugly, but 15 to 20 HRs and 6 to 10 SBs holds value. Martin battled a shoulder injury all last season and should be much healthier this year. I just need a .245 average, nothing more. All the other numbers should be there.

Round 23 (267): I needed a third closer, and unfortunately, everyone was officially gone. I took a chance on Sergio Santos. Casey Janssen is having early injury problems. If he’s fine, I wasted a late pick. But if not, Santos has the tools to close. This was nothing more than a lotto ticket.

Round 24 (286): Finally, a third baseman! David Freese is a guy no one is talking about. He’s two season’s removed from a 20 HR year and previously had three seasons of .290+. He’ll be in a relatively strong (and healthy) Angels’ lineup. Freese feels to me like a guy we look up at the end of the year and go “Wow, Freese was pretty solid!”

Round 25 (291): Another lotto ticket round. Can Kendrys Morales sign somewhere?

Round 26 (310): Tim Hudson is Hiroki Kuroda-lite. Thinking back, I should’ve gone a bit more upside. But Hudson helps ERA and WHIP in two-start weeks.

Round 27 (315): There’s really not much SBs to speak of, which was my biggest need. I wanted to go depth, and Daniel Nava provides that. I’ll probably end up dropping him though.

Round 28 (334): Matt Lindstrom is another possible closer. White Sox haven’t named anyone, so you never know.

Round 29 (337): Mike Olt has a 50% chance of winning the third base job for the Cubs. He has the talent to hit, just hasn’t put it together.

Round 30 (356): Scott Feldman had a solid year in 2013. I’ll probably drop him though, but I will take the low WHIP.

Overall, the power and RBIs are there. I think the pitching will be good, although in NFBC, it takes 1500 strikeouts to be atop the leaderboard, so there’s going to have to be some mixing and matching. I need to find stolen bases though, as outside of Hamilton and Martin, there isn’t much. I also need to get a bit lucky with batting average. But as with everyone, I like my team, so we’ll see what happens.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Super Bowl Props and Picks

Who doesn't love some good Super Bowl bets? I'll take you through some of my thoughts and where I'm putting my real (uh, I mean fake) money come Sunday.

Some of my favorite bets are the long shots. A few of them have to hit, right? When looking at long shots, I usually look at a few things. A) Is there any sort of chance of it happening? B) Do the odds meet the percentage chance? C) Find the right odds.

Anyone can bet Robert Turbin to score a TD AND Seattle to win the game at 22-1, but Turbin's never scored a TD in his two seasons. To me, something like that makes no sense despite the juicy odds.

Here's some of my favorite bets:

Julius Thomas to score two TDs +800 

Thomas has done this twice during the regular season. With the Seattle cornerbacks being one of the best groups in the game, Manning will try to utilize the middle of the field more. Thomas is also due for a TD in general as he hasn't scored a TD in the playoffs.

Peyton Manning Throws a Pick 6 +1000

As you'll see with some of my later predictions, I think Manning struggles. Seattle's defense has only scored three TDs this year, but I think the team jumps out early and force Manning to throw the ball A LOT. And I think he makes a big mistake at some point. More than any other game, the Super Bowl is the spot where players want to make a huge play. And we've seen Manning do it before, when he throw a Pick 6 to Tracy Porter years ago. I just think at 10-1, it's a nice bet (and fun to root for).

Seahawks To Have Over 3.5 Players to Score Points (TD, FG, or 2-Point Conversion) +150

Whether you think Seattle is going to dominate the Broncos or even lose, they are going to have to score points. You can pretty much bank on a field goal from Steve Hauschka as he's kicked one in all but one game this season. I'm thinking Marshawn Lynch scores a TD (in his last nine games, he's failed to score twice.) So that leaves two TDs somewhere else. I like my chances and think this bet is a solid value at the +150.

Broncos to Convert a 4th Down (Converting By Penalty Doesn't Count) +130

Broncos converted eight 4th downs in the regular season and one during the playoffs. While the numbers don't really back this up, this goes along with my thinking of Denver to be down for most of the game. All it takes is one!

First Touchdown of the Game Will Be a Non-Passing TD +140

This bet relies on a few things, one mainly being Marshawn Lynch. I think Denver starts out slowly and it takes a little while to get their passing game going. I'm also expecting Seattle to be the first team to score a TD, meaning Lynch will be the guy. And if it's not Lynch, then I still have a defensive/special teams TD or a Broncos rushing TD as a possibility. I think at +140, it's pretty solid odds.

Seahawks ML +115 and Seahawks -7.5 +315

As my article has been hinting, I think it's going to be all Seahawks. Seattle 34, Denver 20!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Pearl Jam: Lightning Bolt Review

Ten seems like a very fitting number for my relationship with Pearl Jam. I consider Ten to be their best album. It's been ten years since I've saw them for the first time at Madison Square Garden. I've seen them over ten times in concert (Okay, cheating a little bit, it's been 13 shows). And finally, they'll be releasing their tenth studio album in Lightning Bolt.

It's definitely Pearl Jam's most unique effort since Binaural back in 2000. They've released three studio albums since then, two of which -- Riot Act and Backspacer -- I didn't think too highly of. Riot Act was pretty much a swing and miss, as there wasn't really anything special about it. All or None was a really cool song, and Love Boat Captain has become somewhat of a fan favorite, but when you look up-and-down the track listing, does anything really make a fan's top-10?

The self titled album (also known as Avocado) came next, and that was much more well received. There isn't any skippable songs on the album. Quite a few songs are real crowd pleasers when played live (Severed Hand and Life Wasted seem to give the crowd a jolt). And it has one of my personal favorites in Inside Job.

And finally was Backspacer, an album I've heard so many mixed opinions on. I thought it was okay -- definitely better than Riot Act -- but it was missing something for me. I think the sum of the parts is much better than the album as a whole.

Pearl Jam took a bit of a break (four years) to do some solo and side projects, then finally announced Lightning Bolt was coming. We heard some teasers from the album (They released Mind Your Manners as a single, then Sirens, and finally played a few live songs from the Wrigley Field show). Then a few days ago, I saw the tweet heard round the world. Pearl Jam's album was streaming on iTunes.

I quickly put it on, and having many listens since it was released, feel that I have a good grasp of how I feel about the album.

Overall, I think it's an extremely strong album. One of my friends put it best when he said they did a lot of experimentation on the album. Take Pendulum, a slow, chilling track that sounds like something from the No Code era. It works because it isn't your typical Pearl Jam sound.

Sirens -- the second single off of the album -- shows the band's evolution. This isn't an "angry at the world" band anymore. Their older, wiser, and in a much better place. Vedder's voice shines during the chorus.

All of the interviews I've read make me feel like this is the most "at peace" the band has felt. It could be because they took a longer break from the band, but I just think they are all older and have families. They've really shed the label of being a grunge rock group and have become a complete band.

We see a lot more of Mike McCreedy's signature guitar on this album. We have quite a few solos including favorites in the title track Lightning Bolt and Yellow Moon. If you like Vedder's solo album "Ukulele Songs", Yellow Moon incorporates that sound along with the McCreedy guitar to create a really nice song.

Some other favorites from the album include the first song Getaway, just a straight-up fun rock song and My Father's Son, which I feel like could get lost in the shuffle (similar to a song like Cropduster) but a song I really enjoyed.

The standout track to me thus far is Infallible. Honestly didn't expect this, but I legit get goosebumps during this song. Feel like this has the potential to be a live favorite. Well done with this one!

I think the first half of the album is better than the second half, but I also think it is a preference of sounds. On Future Days, it seems like Pearl Jam is going to put at least one of these type of slower songs on their albums moving forward (The End comes to mind). And Sleeping By Myself was pretty forgettable to me, as some Pearl Jam diehards are calling it a Christmas song.

But Pearl Jam is heading into a much different place. If you are looking for angry, angst, grungy hard rock, this isn't that band anymore. This is a band that is focused on not only making great rock music, but making songs which will cater to their live shows. It's amazing to me that they are one of the few that are still thriving out of the early 90s alternative scene.

And here's to hoping they can continue on.

Album Rating: B+

Best Album Moments
-Vedder's voice in Infallible
-Guitar towards the end of Yellow Moon
-3:25 mark of Sirens
-3:35 mark of Sirens

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dexter: What The Hell?

(The following contains spoilers about Dexter)

I started watching Dexter about four years ago. Early enough where I can catch up to it, but late enough where I can binge watch to a point where I’d get a good feel of what I thought of the series. After just two episodes, I immediately remember thinking “Wow, this show is pretty entertaining.”

The show was very easy to watch. I was hooked on the characters and really thought it was unique. It had the mood of a drama but was more a dark comedy.

It had some fantastic moments early on, culminating with the death of Dexter’s wife in the infamous John Lithgow season (the fourth). It easily moved into my top-five shows (Lost is far and away at the top, although now-a-days, Breaking Bad could challenge depending on the conclusion).

And then things started to turn. The show got a bit more outlandish. I found myself bored at times, looking at the clock midway through episodes. Each season after season four was worse. Yes, it had its moments, but the show certainly was not what it was at its peak.

Dexter finally announced it was concluding after eight seasons, maybe two seasons too late, but still, I thought it could go out with a bang.

Then I watched the series finale. It was the worst episode of any show I had ever seen.

It absolutely boggles my mind that someone would write such garbage. Yes, the final season of Dexter was pretty bad to begin with. They introduced a random daughter to one of the minor characters Masuka, a story that went nowhere. They brought in a woman who was extremely important to Dexter’s past and makeup, and besides her being killed off, was just an annoyance throughout the entire season. It felt as if they were forcing things on the audience with no real satisfaction in the end.

It is extremely ironic, because that is exactly how the finale went. The whole episode snowballed to the point where I was laughing out loud during the final 15 minutes. Let me explain:

-Dexter’s sister Deb was shot and brought to a hospital where she seemed to be doing okay. The doctor’s said no major arteries were hit; there was no real lead up to anything potentially bad. Then completely out of nowhere, her conditioned turned for the worse and she went brain dead. It just felt like another thing that was just force on the audience.

-Dexter – who was leaving the country to be with his girlfriend Hannah and young son Harrison – comes back to be by Deb’s side. Hannah was a convicted serial killer herself who had just poisoned Dexter and his sister earlier in the season. And now Dexter is not only going away with her, but letting his son go with Hannah alone. “I’ll meet you there,” Dexter said to Hannah and Harrison. Who in their right mind would EVER let their son just fly to another country with a serial killer?

-At the hospital, Dexter confronts the killer (Oliver Saxton) he has been trying to capture. He was re-captured in the hospital, which is something I actually bought. But while Saxton was sitting in jail at Miami Metro (Where Dexter used to work before resigning to run away with Hannah and Harrison), Dexter somehow was able to freely visit his jail cell using a lame excuse. Who decided that letting a former employee walk into the prison cell of the man who shot his sister was a good idea? Dexter provokes Saxton to attack him, Dexter then kills Saxton, the two cops he is friends with reviewed the security tape and determined…it was self-defense. Yeah okay, sure.

-Dexter goes back to visit Deb (on life support), and decides to cut the cord so she wouldn't suffer. Now for my favorite part. While all this is happening, the hospital is moving patients due to a hurricane that is coming. Dexter takes Deb from her hospital bed and just wheels her out of the hospital to his boat which is docked. There were probably 40-50 people he walked by without anyone even glancing at him. He continues to wheel out dead Deb and carries her onto his boat. He takes the boat and drives out (with impending Hurricane conditions) and drops her into the water.

-And now for favorite part No. 2: It hits Dexter that he causes everyone he cares about to suffer. So with a son with a serial killer in another country, Dexter decides to seal his fate and drive his boat into the heart of the impending Hurricane (which really looked like something out of the movie The Perfect Storm). The next day, they find parts of his boat destroyed. This into sequence felt like a part out of the movie The Room, which is considered the worst movie of all time. But The Room is so bad, it’s good. This was just so bad though.

-They focus in on Hannah and Harrison sitting. Hannah sees on her iPad an article about Dexter’s presumed death. She barely reacts to the death, wiping one tear away, and then asks Harrison if she wants ice cream. That’s your first reaction? One tear and some Ben and Jerrys?????

-And finally, we pan in on the final scene of some workers cutting down trees. For about ten seconds, I thought it was a preview to some new show on Showtime. Then we see a man walking, and guess what, it’s Dexter! Somehow, he survives driving into the heart of a hurricane. They show him getting into his new home (a lifeless log cabin), and he sits down, he stares into the camera, and end series.

All of this in the final 15 minutes.

Just typing all of this gives me anxiety. People devote hours upon hours of to these shows. I went online afterwards and read that this ending was planned for years. Someone actually had this idea and no one said “Ya know…you might want to change it.”

I learned a lot from watching Dexter. Shows seem to have a shelf life of about 4-5 seasons before things turn. Usually there’s one or two defining moments that turn out to be the peak of the show. Dexter’s moment was his wife’s shocking death.

I also learned that it is never a good sign when a showrunner is replaced midway through a series. The showrunner for the first four seasons left and was replaced by two people. Coincidentally, season five is when the show took a turn for the worse. I actually read an interview with the old showrunner where he stated his thoughts on how he wanted the show to end. And it was far and away better than how it did.

Dexter will always have a soft spot for me. In one breath, it was simple, entertaining, and had some great characters. But it’s a tale of two shows, and unfortunately, the second half put a very dark cloud over what was supposed to be a strong series.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How to Dominate the Fantasy Football Season

Everyone's favorite sport is here. I've been playing in fantasy football leagues since I was 13-years old. Do I think I am any better than anyone else? Well, yes, I do. So feel free to use this as a little cheat sheet to dominate the 2013 fantasy football season (With season predictions at the bottom).

NOTE: Based off of standard 12-team PPR leagues.


My Top 5
Aaron Rodgers
Drew Brees
Peyton Manning
Cam Newton
Tom Brady

-Michael Vick: Vick is probably the biggest "what if" in fantasy football. What if he stays healthy? What if he recaptures his form from a few years ago? What if everything clicks in Chip Kelly's new offense? Quarterback is such a deep position this year, but after the top five, you have to look for home runs. Vick is that home run. Even if he doesn't play a full season, if you spot start him, he's going to produce some stud weeks.
When to draft: 9th Round or later.

-E.J. Manuel: RG3 and Andrew Luck showed that rookie QBs can make an impact. While Manuel isn't at their level, he still holds a lot of value. The key is in his legs. In college, he rushed for over 300 yards and four TDs in his final season at Florida St. His offense is going to be sneaky good too. The Bills drafted Robert Woods who is an immediate upgrade over (fill in the blank) Bills No.2 WR. They also have a speed guy in Marquise Goodwin who is going to catch a few deep balls. Oh yeah, and don't forget about C.J. Spiller. I think if Manuel is a full-time starter (at some point this year, Manuel is going to start), he's worth the chance. And his latest injury might scare a few more owners off.
When to draft: Final few rounds or pickup as a free agent.

-Carson Palmer: Doesn't it seem like each season, Palmer is rostered by about half your league's teams? I don't think people realize that Palmer has been pretty solid as a fantasy QB in the last three years (Real life? Not so much). Palmer threw for over 3900 yards in two of the last three years, and in 2011, if he played 16 games (he only played 10), he would've been right around that mark. When the conditions are right -- think at home, versus a subpar defense -- Palmer is a perfect fill in.
When to draft: 11th Round or later.

-Russell Wilson: I'm not buying the Wilson hype just yet. Yes, he's gaining a year of experience, but the hype is just wayyyyy too much on him. Forgetting the fact that I think a regression is in order, he's also still without a true No. 1 WR (assuming Percy Harvin doesn't play this year) and still competes in the same division as the 49ers. I don't like paying for guys in a career year, and I think Wilson absolutely overachieved in 2012
When to draft: I wouldn't touch him until the 10th round or until you are in backup fantasy QB rounds.

-Ben Roethlisberger: You probably won't find Big Ben on any of my fantasy teams. Everything has been trending towards the downside. He's had four seasons in a row where his yards-per-attempt have dropped. He's missed multiple games in two of the last three years. Roethlisberger also lost his best WR in Mike Wallace and might lose his tight end to a few games in Heath Miller. And he's not so young anymore (31). If I'm drafting a fringe starter/backup QB, I want upside. Roethlisberger just does not provide that.
When to draft: At best, the last three rounds.

Running Backs

My Top 5
Adrian Peterson
Doug Martin
C.J. Spiller
Jamaal Charles
Ray Rice

-Daryl Richardson: I'll throw some numbers at you on Richardson. He didn't even amass 100 carries last year yet had 475 yards rushing. He quietly caught 24 balls as a full-time backup. Everything is just screaming undervalued. And it's stunning to be that he's being drafted as a 7th-to-9th rounder, behind guys like Rashard Mendenhall, Andre Brown, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. I'll take the guaranteed starter over the question marks.
When to draft: 6th round

-Bilal Powell: Listen, Powell is never going to be a top-five back. I don't think the talent is there. But Powell will make for a nice bye-week stop gap or a fringe starter for a few weeks. Powell will start some games this year (Chris Ivory has played in 12 total games in two seasons). He's also looked a bit quicker this preseason. You could do a lot worse towards the end of your draft.
When to draft: 13th round

-Ryan Mathews: Mathews has burned pretty much everyone in the past. But this is the first year you can count me on board. I think you have to sometimes go against the trend, and this is the perfect case. Two years ago, he rushed for close to 1100 yards and also caught 50 balls. Is it that crazy to think he can do that again? The hate on Mathews has gone waaaay to far. I wouldn't reach for him, but if he's sitting there at the right spot, he could provide some value.
When to draft: 5th-6th round

Names to Stash
Lance Dunbar, Knile Davis, Daniel Thomas

-Frank Gore: I thought Gore would be a complete bust last year, and I am doubling down. Gore's wound up having quite the career, but father time has to catch up to him at some point. There's very little upside to Gore. Plus, the Niners have a boatload of solid RBs. I just don't want to be on the boat when it starts to sink.
When to draft: At best, 5th round

-Rashard Mendenhall: This is another guy who will not be on any of my teams this season. I don't know why you'd even consider making him your RB2. The Cardinals are going to be throwing A LOT this year (why else would you get Carson Palmer) so there will be quite a few games where Mendenhall puts up low single-digits. I have absolutely no faith.
When to draft: 10th round or later as a backup

Wide Receivers

My Top 5
Calvin Johnson
Dez Bryant
A.J. Green
Demariyus Thomas
Julio Jones

-T.Y. Hilton: Love Hilton this year. In his final eight games, he had 26 catches for 506 yards and five TDs.  He also had eight catches in the Colts' lone playoff game. I just feel like he's going to step that next step forward and be a 1,000-yard WR, especially considering I expect Reggie Wayne to take a small-step backwards.
When to draft: 6th round seems like a solid spot, although you may be able to sneak him into the 7th.

-DeSean Jackson: Injuries are obviously the biggest concern for Jackson, who seems to miss at least one game every year. With Jeremy Maclin out for the year, someone is going to have to catch passes for the Eagles. I think Jackson takes the step up. And let's hypothetically say he played 16 games last year and performed at the pace he was playing at. His stats would've been 70 catches for 1017 yards and 3 or 4 TDs. Not too shabby of a season. Feel like he's similar to Hilton in how he's being drafted
When to draft: 6th round.

-Brian Hartline: He's a boring name who had one amazing game last year. But I think Hartline is going to be a perfect FLEX/bench player for your team. Hartline took the leap last year with 74 catches and 1083 yards with an astounding 131 targets. People think that Hartline is going to underproduce with the addition of Mike Wallace, but remember, Reggie Bush and Davone Bess are out of the picture and Dustin Keller is hurt. Hartline's going to be a poor man's Wes Welker.
When to draft: 11 round or when you are up to your backup WRs.

Names to Stash
Cordarrelle Patterson, Chris Givens, Jeremy Kerley

-Mike Wallace: Everything here screams bust. Even when Wallace is at his absolute best, he'll have one great game followed by one clunker. Looking at his situation, he moves from Ben Roethlisberger to Ryan Tannehill. That has to already downgrade him by at least 100 to 150 yards. But looking closer at the stats, Wallace's total receiving yards have dropped each of the last three seasons despite an increase in targets. Wallace will have a few big games, but I'd be stunned if he was anywhere near a Top 20 WR.
When to draft: 8th or 9th round (Torrey Smith area).

-Stevie Johnson: Johnson has been a solid, consistent WR since he became a starter in 2010. He's never really made any kind of leap, but you know exactly what you are going to get. I think he's hit his peak though. But I think a lot of that success was due to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Listen, Fitzpatrick was not the greatest QB, but he moved the ball down the field. The Bills offense is drastically changing though. Enter E.J. Manuel, a running QB with not a great arm. Enter an offense focused on getting the ball to C.J. Spiller. I'm going to go out on a big limb and say Johnson becomes unstartable by midseason.
When to draft: Completely avoid at all costs.

-Eric Decker: I'm scratching my head over why Decker is drafted as a 4th-5th rounder. It's no knock on Decker's talent, but West Welker was signed to take on most of the targets that went Decker's way. They also added Monte Ball, which should continue to make the running game an underrated focal point (Denver runs the ball a lot more than people think). I think we average Decker's 2011 and 2012 stats and you end up with his 2013 stats.
When to draft: Avoid

Tight Ends

My Top 5
Jimmy Graham
Rob Gronkowski
Jason Witten
Tony Gonzalez
Jermichael Finley

-Delanie Walker: I'm really picking a flier here in Walker. I've always been a fan of him. Feel like his talents were never used properly in San Francisco. Solely as a backup the last three years, he combined for six total TDs. He also had his highest yardage total in 2012 at 344. Moving to Tennessee, he is now THE tight end. That offense isn't exactly packed with stars, so I expect Walker to have a sneaky solid year. He's a perfect matchups guy as well as a bye week fill in at the cost of a late pick.
When to draft: Last round

-Brandon Pettigrew: After improving in year's two and three, Pettigrew took a big step back in his fourth season. He had some nagging injuries that cost in two games and the Lions offense seemed like a complete mess at times. I think Pettigrew is primed for a bounce-back season. Detroit is going to throw the ball and with Calvin Johnson continuing to draw attention on the outside, Pettigrew should continue to get opportunities in the middle of the field. The only drawback with him is touchdowns, as his highest season total is five. But if he can approach the 83 catches he had in 2011, you have yourself a nice starting tight end.
When to draft: 12th round

Names to Stash
Julius Thomas, Tyler Eifert, Fred Davis

-Greg Olsen: It's not that I don't think Olsen is talented, but explain to be the difference between Olsen (drafted in the 7th round) and Pettigrew (drafted five rounds later)? Olsen also had eight games with single-digit fantasy points and just four games where he scored a touchdown. There's just no difference between Olsen and the rest of the field.
When to draft: 10th round

Season Predictions

AFC East: Patriots
AFC North: Ravens
AFC South: Texans
AFC West: Broncos
Wild Cards: Colts and Bengals

NFC East: Redskins
NFC North: Packers
NFC South: Saints
NFC West: 49ers
Wild Cards: Seahawks and Falcons

MVP: Peyton Manning
Offensive ROY: Cordarrelle Patterson
Defensive ROY: Jarvis Jones
Surprise Team: Cardinals
Bust Team: Steelers

AFC Divisional: Broncos over Texans
NFC Divisional: 49ers over Packers
Super Bowl: Broncos over 49ers

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How To Dominate A Wedding

I recently got married (woooo, crowd goes crazy!) It's the happiest time period of my life and one of the best days I've ever experienced. The whole wedding day just warps on by and before you know it, you are off on your honeymoon.

I didn't realize how much fun weddings could be until I went to my first one a few years ago. I've been to a few and have started to see what separates the "haves" from the "have nots". You can know zero people at a wedding and become the MVP by the end of the night. If you aren't having fun, you aren't following these little tips.

1) Drink...Drink...And Drink

-Alcohol can solve many things. And luckily, weddings have lots of alcohol. I cannot stress enough, but make sure you drink a lot. Drinking just brings people and positive things together. BUT, don't be THAT GUY that throws up at the end of the night.

2) Cocktail Hour Is Your Meal Ticket

-You can make Tip No. 1 go a lot smoother if you follow this. Cocktail hour is usually where the best food is. It's a buffet of your absolute favorite appetizers. There's shrimp, mini hot dogs, pastas, sliders, salads, you name it. And it all just surrounds you in one giant room. Take advantage of this. Not only will it fill you up early (meaning your chances of getting sick from drinking go down), it'll give you more time to do some of the other tips I suggest.

3) Mingle Early and Often

-Whether it is your wedding or you are attending one, talking to a lot of people early on will set you up for success. If you are the one getting married, you can get through a lot of people before the music starts. If you are just attending as a guest, you can gain a lot of allies (and future drinking buddies) by putting yourself out there before the party starts.

4) Just Dance

-I'm probably the worst dancer you'll ever see. Luckily, about 75% of guests at a wedding are just as bad. But effort goes a long way. Take a few notes of some of the people who actually know how to dance, and then just dumb it down a bit. People respect the ones who are smack in the middle of the dance floor. We're all in this (badly) together.

5) Take A Shot...At A Shot

-Most bars at weddings will pour all of the shots you want. And for some reason, weddings and shots go hand in hand. Be the one to gather a bunch of people and lead a group shot. If you see the groom/bride or their parents, involve them in a shot as well. My friend made my Dad (who isn't a big drinker) take a few shots at the wedding and he's still talking about it. You'll be an instant star just by rallying the troops together.

6) Put A Ring On It

-For the single people, weddings could also be a time where the opposite sex is most vulnerable. The girls start to think "When am I going to be married?" That internal clock speeds up to about 40 mph. Guys, take note. Be on a close lookout for those girls who don't have a boyfriend. Many people have found their future spouses this way.

7) After Party Madness

-By the time a wedding is over, everyone is drunk and still looking to party. Usually there's an after party either in the wedding suite, another room, or a hotel bar. After parties are usually where the real fun begins. Make sure you save some energy (and your voice) for the post-wedding festivities. If you have an iPod with some old 80s or 90s tunes, pop it on and host a few sing-a-longs.

8) It's Not About You

-Don't be too much the center of attention. Ultimately, the day is about the bride and groom. Make the focus on them.

9) Have A Great Freakin' Time

-The most important thing is to just have fun. Don't sit in a corner half the night looking at your watch. Just get out there and dominate the wedding!

Friday, June 21, 2013

In Defense of Lebron James...

Can EVERYONE just stop for a second and admit that Lebron James is the greatest NBA player since Michael Jordan?

And when it is all said and done....he might even be better than Jordan.

I know this is a sore subject to people. How can anybody be better than Michael Jordan? He never lost an NBA championship (6-for-6). He won the scoring championship ten times and MVP five times. You can list accomplishment after accomplishment. But that doesn't mean James won't go down as being better.

We have to remember how James started out. As a junior, his High School games were being broadcasted on ESPN. the amount of hype as he entered the NBA was absolutely astonishing. Sports-media outlets engrained into everybody's heads that this guy was going to be THE guy. How many times have we seen athletes live up to the high bar placed on them? I can't think of too many. And we've certainly seen player after player in all sports completely fail. James not only met the expectations, but has far exceeded them.

He does everything. And has only gotten better. People said James needed a low-post game, and he developed one. Naysayers claimed James will never have a good outside shot, and he developed one. List any blemish on his resume, and James has come out and erased any doubt.

Let me just throw some numbers that stood out to me.

-It took Jordan seven years to make the NBA finals.
-In the ten seasons James has been a pro, he's already made four finals and won two. Jordan won three in the same time span.
-If we're looking at postseason numbers, James has put up a career per-game line of 28.1 pts/8.6 rbs/6.7 assists while averaging 43.1 minutes per game. Read that game. 43.1 minutes per game! While Jordan has scored more, he's 2.2 rbs and 1 assist short of James.
-And then there's the triple-doubles. Just type in Lebron's name next to that term. And just be astonished.

If you are pro James, you can continue to rattle off stat after stat. And if you are pro Jordan, you can do the same. And quite frankly, we haven't even put a major dent into James's career.

But he needs to be in the conversation.

Do I think the hate on James will ever go away? No, I really don't. "The Decision" left such a sour taste in everyone's mouths that people want nothing more than to see him fail.

But we're living in a time period where we can witness one of the greatest athletes in sports history and certainly the best current athlete.

Let's appreciate it.