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Archive for the ‘Running Backs’ Category

Free Agent Running Backs Still Available

As the NFL becomes more of a passing league, the running back position has become de-valued. Though some teams like the Houston Texans (Arian Foster/Ben Tate) and the San Francisco 49ers (Frank Gore/Kendall Hunter) still rely heavily on the run game, other power houses like the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers do not.  Two months into free agency still finds some decent RBs without a job including Ryan Torain and Jackie Battle as well as those listed in the pictograph above. Age, injuries, or diminished play are key factors holding teams back from selecting these remaining RBs. It will be interesting to see if and where they end up. For me, I think it’s no doubt that Benson, Hightower and Grant will find a home.

Note: LaDanian Tomlinson told SI recently that he is “95% retired.” But I think he’d play if the right situation came along.

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My Fantasy Football Team (NFL)

MY FANTASY DREAM TEAM

Even though we’re in the midst of NHL playoffs, NBA pre-playoffs, MLB new season, I STILL LOVE FOOTBALL. This is my idea of a fantasy dream team:

QBDrew Brees (#9) New Orleans Saints….. Led the league in passing yards (5476), touchdown passes (46), pass completion % (71.2) and average yards per game (342.2). He had a passer rating of 110.6. Some might feel this is a risky pick because of the Sean Payton suspension and looming player suspensions. Provided that Brees’ contract situation gets resolved soon, I still think he will have a positive impact on the offense and player suspensions will in all likelihood involve only defensive players. Plan B: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers.

WR: Calvin Johnson (#81) Detroit Lions…… His nickname is Megatron for a reason. He led the league in receiving yards (1,681) and in average yards per game (105.1). He had 16 touchdowns on 96 carries, averaging 17.5 yards per catch. At 6’5″, he is a formidable deep ball threat, outjumping cornerbacks, safeties and most people.

WR: Larry Fitzgerald (#11) Arizona Cardinals….Okay, so this is my one sentimental pick. This is the type of pick that can be a Fantasy Football player’s worst nightmare: a star wide receiver with a not-so-great quarterback. Even with the sometimes shaky tandem of QBs Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, Fitz remained in the top 10 in most relevant receiver categories: 4th in receiving yards (1,411), 5th in avg yards per game (88.2), 8th in receptions with 80, and 9th in touchdowns (8). Besides, he’s a great guy and I’m going to gamble that Kevin Kolb will improve in 2012. I said it was based on sentimentality, okay.

RB: Maurice Jones-Drew (#32) Jacksonville Jaguars ….. He led the league in rushing yards (1,606) and avg yards per game (100.4). He had 8 touchdowns and averaged 4.7 yards per carry. QB Blaine Gabbert struggled in the passing game and MJD accounted for 43% of the offensive scoring. I see similar production this year even with the acquisition of WR Laurent Robinson from the Cowboys. But all this depends on whether MJD gets the contract extension he wants. And if he does not, how will it affect his play. (Note: I would love to pick Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings here, but his health status is unclear right now.)

RB: Arian Foster (#23) Houston Texans…. Proved last year that he wasn’t just a one-year wonder. Posted stellar numbers: 1,224 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns and 94.2 avg yards per game, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. A three-down featured back, Foster also produces fantasy points in receiving, being 2nd on the team only to WR Andre Johnson in receptions.

TE: Rob Gronkowski (#87) New England Patriots … He’s a beast. At 6’6, 265, he plows through secondaries like they were blades of grass. In just two short years, The Gronk has amassed several NFL tight end records (all set in 2011) including most receiving yards (1,327), most total touchdowns (18), and  most receiving touchdowns (17). He is also the first tight end in NFL history to lead the league in receiving touchdowns (17), topping WR Calvin Johnson who had 16. Look for more of the same from The Gronk in 2012 along with more of his trademark touchdown spike.

K: Rob Bironas (#2) Tennessee Titans ….. In general, kickers are not a bonanza of fantasy points. Bironas is a reliable option having made 29/32 FGs and 34/34 PATs. I might also opt for David Akers of the 49ers or Matt Bryant of the Falcons.

DEF: San Francisco 49ers …. After coming so close to a Super Bowl appearance, I think the 49ers will be hungry in 2012. They had the No. 1 run defense, allowing only 77.3 rushing yards per game. Most impressive was that they went 14 games before allowing a rushing touchdown and ended up only allowing 3 for the season.  Opposing teams averaged only 14.3 points against them which was 2nd in the league behind the Steelers who allowed 14.2. Essentially a young squad, I think the 49ers defense is only going to get better. No wonder they ask, “Who’s got it better than us?” Noooobody!!

Ray Rice — Pay Da Man

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice is another key player that was franchised last month. And like QB Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and RB Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears, Ray Rice has not signed his franchise tender and can not join his team in the voluntary offseason workouts that started this past Monday.  As the Ravens featured back, Rice is a key component in their offense. For the 2011 regular season, Rice rushed for 1,364 of the Raven’s 1,995 total rushing yards and had 15 of the 41 touchdowns (12 rushing/3 passing). His 1,364 rushing yards was 2nd in the league behind Jaguars’ RB Maurice Jones Drew who had 1,606. Rice has rushed for at least 1,200 yards and caught at least 60 passes in each of the past three seasons.

With the franchise tag, Rice would receive $7.7 million for one year. And of course, down here on earth, we all wonder what’s the problem with that? Your average Joe would be happy to sign any tag that would net $7.7 million for the year. We wouldn’t even squawk if they dropped the .7.   But consider this, the market rate for the services of a quality veteran running back in the NFL is far greater than $7.7 million. Arian Foster, running back for the Houston Texans, recently signed a five-year deal for $43.5 million with $20.75 million guaranteed. And at the start of the 2011 season, Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson was given an extension on his rookie contract. Price tag — $53 million with $30 million guaranteed covering him through the 2016 season. The going rate for a top tier running back has been set and Ray Rice is a top tier running back.

C’mon man, Pay the man!

Matt Forte — Pay The Man

Running back Matt Forte is not feeling the love in Chicago. A month ago he took to Twitter to express his unhappiness after the Bears signed RB free agent Michael Bush to a 4-year deal to the tune of $14 million with $7 million guaranteed. The Bush deal was done after the Bears had placed the franchise tag on Forte which right now is good for one year and worth a little over $7.5 million. On Twitter, Forte wrote:

There’s only so many times a man that has done everything he’s been asked to do can be disrespected! Guess the GOOD GUYS do finish last…

for the record I’m not mad at the signing of another running back. This is 4th time that’s happened. I embrace competition as well as help

But as for not taking care of ur own and undervaluing a player under his market value is another story! #twitterrant”

I think he has the right to be disappointed. In 4 years with the Bears, Forte has been one of the most productive backs, both in rushing and receiving. He has total rushing yards of 4,233 and 21 touchdowns and has 223 receptions for 1,985 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. Forte has helped bolster the Bears’ shaky receiving corps while also producing as the featured back. When a team delays giving one its star players a long-term deal and signs an outsider to one, it leads to a situation like the Eagles had with DeSean Jackson last season. Jackson played much of the season uninspired, presumably due to not getting an extended contract. The Eagles had signed or re-signed several players to sweet deals much like the Bears have done this offseason. Since the beginning of free agency on March 5, the Bears have traded for WR Brandon Marshall and also picked up QB Jason Campbell, LB Blake Costanzo and WR Eric Weems.  They have re-signed QB Josh McCown, TE Kellen Davis, DE Israel Idonije, DB Tim Jenings and S Craig Steltz.

Forte missed the last four games of the season last year with an minor MCL injury. Some say the Bears will use this to justify not giving him an extended contract. But every player in the NFL knows they are just one play, one hit, one sharp cut away from a season-ending, or worse, a career-ending injury. And before that injury, Forte had started every game for three years. C’mon, Pay Da Man.

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