How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bye Week

By John Camera

As a beginner in fantasy football, and even into a few years where I had garnered success playing it, it’s easy to look at bye weeks and fear them. The thought of having several players, especially your elite ones, all gone for the same week can be daunting. So you carefully scout the best way to avoid it and sometimes, bypass good players for slightly less good players just so you don’t have a bye week conflict. I was very much the same type of player until a break through happened; I stopped caring.

Yes, it sounds extreme to many who still sculpt their team with bye week clutter as a concern. That could lead to one or even two weeks of massive bye-week fill-ins that could leave me susceptible to a big defeat, you may think. While that is a very appropriate concern the truth is that the positives far out-way the negatives.

One week with a blowout loss is very possible in this strategy but unless you play a league that tallies point totals instead of head-to-head wins, this won’t present a big problem. One loss in a 12 game regular season is not a big concern if it means your team will be better than your peers, who drop value picks in your lap in favor of avoiding bye week problems. Embrace the bye week by not even considering it in your drafting.

Imagine the following team, all with players on a Week 8 bye; Marcus Mariota, Leonard Fournette, Todd Gurley, Odell Beckham, Larry Fitzgerald, Martellus Bennett. That’s a pretty great team right? With Beckham as your lead dog, Gurley and Fournette undisputed RB1s in offenses that will feature them, and Bennett and Fitz solid vets in pass-centric offenses, you could dominate week in and week out. A loss in Week 8, and say one or two other weeks, is not a big deal if you are vying for fantasy supremacy in the playoffs.

So in short, the best way to deal with bye weeks are to not worry about them. Draft the best players on your board and worry about replacing them in the lineup when it comes time to. And losing 110-65 is nothing if it means you finish 11-1 or 10-2. So go ahead, draft to your hearts content, and embrace the bye week as something that is not to be feared but instead conquered.

 

Time’s Tickin’ for Young BALT Weapons

By Jack Drapkin

It’s time for the young skill position talent of the Ravens to step up. General Manager Ozzie Newsome sent a clear message to the young players he drafted in the previous two drafts. Time to step up.

Maxx Williams, Crockett Gillmore, and Breshad Perriman. are on the clock this year. When Newsome, didn’t select a single skill position player in the 2017 NFL Draft many fans were concerned. However, Newsome is relying on his young crop of skill guys to step up. Call his decision to not draft anyone at these positions a vote of confidence.

The problem for all three of these young players in their early careers has been injuries.

Perriman missed his entire rookie season with a prolonged knee injury but rebounded to play in all 16 games last year recording 33 receptions and nearly 500 receiving yards. His return in 2016 and blazing speed make him the best bet to produce for the Ravens next season.

The pair of tight ends, Maxx Williams and Crockett Gilmore are the biggest enigmas to me to start the season.

Let’s start with Gilmore who’s a favorite of mine. In theory, he has the rare combination of receiving and blocking ability to be a top-10 tight end in the league. However, a litany of injuries has caused him to struggle to establish himself as a premier target for Joe Flacco.

Williams, on the other hand, was drafted to be a receiving threat. After posting only 268 receiving yards in his rookie year and recording no stats this past season it’s time to prove he belongs in this league in 2017.

With Dennis Pitta’s hip forcing him to retirement someone needs to step up at tight end for the Ravens and I am not betting that it’s going to be the 36 – year old Ben Watson coming off an Achilles injury.

With the recent injuries of Kenneth Dixon and Joe Flacco, the health of these players and their performance becomes critical for a Ravens team looking to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

Underrated Summer League Breakout Players

By Jack Drapkin

What an exciting Summer League it has been. It seems like each year the event has more and more attention on it and with the explosion of Lonzo Ball, this year was no exception. With all the buzz on the high-profile rookies, I wanted to take a look at some of the players who may be sliding under the radar.

Cheik Diallo has been balling for the New Orleans Pelicans this summer along with their other roster player Quinn Cook. Both players and especially Diallo look much improved and ready for regular rotation minutes. Diallo has added a great deal of skill to a game that almost relied exclusively on his motor two seasons ago at Kansas. Diallo has had tremendous confidence in his mid-range jump shot and has shown a great feel for the pick and roll/pop game.

Eric Moreland is a name some NBA fans may be familiar with. After spending a couple seasons in the D-league with the Kings, Moreland emerged this summer and earned himself a contract with the Detroit Pistons. His shot blocking ability and quick feet should enable him to see minutes behind Andre Drummond on an improving Pistons roster.

All of the talk this summer around the Philadelphia 76ers has been surrounded on the #1 pick Markelle Fultz. For good reason, Fultz was tremendous in the summer league until his ankle injury. This has allowed the Australian Jonah Bolden to fly under the radar. Bolden has been outstanding on the defensive end of the court with his ability to block shots and create turnovers. If he can become a more consistent rebounder, his defensive presence could become very valuable off the bench for the 76ers.

Jabari Bird and Abdel Nader have showcased great shot-making ability throughout the summer league. Especially with the trade of Avery Bradley, there are some minutes available for one of these two players to make a contribution off the bench for the Celtics this season.

What are some of the players you saw over the summer who stood out to you?

 

5 NFL Vets Who Could Lose Their Jobs to Rookies

By John Camera

With rookies adjusting to the complexities of the NFL, some new-guys are not just treading water but excelling and looking to take jobs from their more experienced teammates. These are five NFL veterans who could see themselves passed on their squad’s depth chart in favor of a rookie:

1. Mike Glennon, Chicago Bears

There’s no surprise or drama with this one. Despite Glennon getting a massive deal on a very small sample size, the Bears were willing to give him the reigns of their offense up until April 27th. Then they traded up to get UNC QB Mitchell Trubisky, who should be expected to start sooner rather than later. Although he would be a very expensive back-up, the Bears could turn to their future now with Trubisky if he proves to be as good, if not better, than Glennon. While Glennon has the requisite arm and body of a pocket passer at Quarterback, his accuracy and ability under pressure may not measure up to Trubisky’s.

2. Latavius Murray, Vikings

After moving on from future Hall of Famer Runningback Adrian Peterson, the Vikings invested in former Raider Latavius Murray, coming off a career year for Oakland. But with FSU’s star tailback Dalvin Cook on the clock when Minnesota made their first selection of the 2017 draft, they didn’t resist selecting a player who could very well be their next historically-great back. While Cook isn’t quite as powerful as Peterson was in his prime, he does bring the same level of home-run hitting and explosion in his speed and agility that Murray doesn’t measure up to. Cook should be the starter by Week 1 and leave Murray in a complimentary role.

3. Jeremy Hill, Bengals

Jeremy Hill surpassed all expectations in his breakout rookie season of 2014, rushing for over 1,100 yards and 9 Touchdowns. Since then he has failed to find consistency in his game and capture the role of the Bengals backfield’s lead man. Enter Joe Mixon, the talented yet troubled RB from Oklahoma. Mixon’s on-field gifts are unquestionable and Marvin Lewis and company have shown a willingness to gamble on players with less than clean off-the-field records and get great results. With Gio Bernard an effective threat on third down and Mixon possessing the speed, size, and strength to be a bellcow, Hill could slide all the way to the bottom of the lineup or even out of Cincy altogether.

4. Chris Long, Eagles

Chris Long joined the Eagles after a solid year with the Super Bowl champion Patriots, looking to grab the starting job from the overpaid and disappointing Vinny Curry. But with star Tennessee pass-rusher Derek Barnett on the board at pick 14, the Eagles snatched him up to complete a nightmare-inducing D-Line; Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, and Barnett. Long will likely slide into a rotational role but with Barnett’s excellence as a QB disrupter and run stuffer, Long may find fewer snaps than initially anticipated.

5. Sean Smith, Raiders

While Sean Smith was not especially bad last season as a free agent pick-up, he had a rough start with his new team and had several other bumps along the way. To add to the pressure on the highly-paid Cornerback, the Raiders selected one half of Ohio State’s talented CB tandem in the 22-year-old Gareon Conley. Conley’s combination of size and ball skills, and with slightly better speed than Smith, could get him into the starting lineup next to David Amerson sooner rather than later, especially if Smith continues to play inconsistently on the outside.

It’s NBA Draft Night!

By Jack Drapkin

We’ve been waiting, or at least myself and those of who root for the 28 minor league teams currently parading the NBA, have. Tonight’s the night of hope. There are no draft busts tonight, just questionable decisions and shocking selections. Thon Maker at 10?! Are you kidding me? (By the way it sure looks like the Bucks were right again, note to self don’t question those guys again).

Anyway, the Knicks get their shot at returning to the glory years with the promise of potentially adding Dennis Smith Jr., and the Lakers seem poised to try and bring back ‘Show Time’ with the addition of Lonzo Ball. Meanwhile “The Process” sure seems to be well under way in Philly with the presumed addition of Markelle Fultz.

This is the time to be positive and rejoice for many lottery teams who frankly will be lottery bound again next season. (Looking at you Sacramento, let’s see what Georgios Papagiannis does this season huh).

So here are three things I’ll be looking for come draft night.

Number one:

Does my favorite NBA Draft Prospect Jonathan Isaac sneak into the top-5? I think this comes down to whether the Phoenix Suns pull the trigger at four. Pairing him with Booker, Bledsoe and last year’s selections Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender would  give the Suns an exciting young core.

Number two:

Speaking of the Kings, which draft prospect gets thrown into the tornado that is Sacramento. I think it will be difficult for a non-PG to have success there with the number 5 pick. Therefore, it is vital that the Kings end up with either De’Aaron Fox or Dennis Smith Jr.

Number three:

When will the first senior be selected? The first senior has typically been selected just outside the top-10 the past five seasons. This season should be no different, in fact my prediction is that no senior will be selected in the first 20 selections. If I had to bet I’d say Wesley Iwundu from Kansas State will be the first one selected near the end of the first round. If your reaction is ‘Who?’, I don’t blame you, long gone are the days of 4-year dominate collegiate players.

T.O. 2.0? Not Even Close

By John Camera

The prodigal son returned. Odell Beckham Jr. was back at the Giant’s practice facility last week for mandatory team OTAs and if you listened to much of the mainstream media, you would think Beckham was holding out and threatening not to play until he got a new contract. Beckham is going into the fourth year of a four year rookie contract with a fifth year option that the Giants have already picked up. During interviews, Beckham committed himself to his teammates and to playing, noting that his absence at voluntary mini-camp had nothing to do with his quest for a new deal despite what anyone said, wrote, or tweeted.

Still, since Beckham achieved super stardom quickly into his 2014 rookie campaign, the spotlight has followed the young Wide Receiver for better and for worse. In this case, it has been negative, Beckham’s absence from New Jersey overshadowing other players who decided not to show up for their team’s voluntary practices, including his teammate and fellow blue-chip player Defensive End Olivier Vernon.

With all this noise about Beckham, his contract, and practice, the New York sports media has a wealth of stories to publish based on these rumors that attract readers with a big-name during the deadest part of the NFL off-season. And in the wake of it, one media and fan-driven storyline has been dredged back up from its ugly depths; Odell Beckham is a diva and locker room cancer akin to Terrell Owens.

Beckham hasn’t exactly been a quiet player since achieving his near-immediate fame, enjoying the lime light while fellow stud receivers like Julio Jones shy away from it. But there’s a big difference between being a loud mouth and being a distraction. Detractors of Beckham’s and supporters of the latter point to Beckham’s issues with Josh Norman, and while Beckham escalated things in their infamous 2015 clash, many leave out that Norman initiated the cheap shots and Beckham held back greatly in 2016.

Other issues that have cropped in Beckham’s career include sideline explosions against Tampa and Carolina in 2015 as well as 2016’s incidents against Washington, Minnesota, and the kicking net. Opponents of Beckham’s, not just Norman but other Cornerbacks like then-Bills’ CB Stephon Gilmore have accused him of being a prima donna, cheap shot artist, and generally an annoyance.

Perhaps the biggest piece of evidence Beckham fed critics was his much-publicized boat excursion with fellow Giants’ Wide Receivers as well as Justin Bieber and Trey Songz. Their next game, a Wild Card matchup against Green Bay, saw the Giants’ receiving corps, and Beckham in particular, rack up drop after drop. Those who see Odell Beckham as an antagonist to his team are fair in using these examples in their argument but more often than not, choose to ignore or conveniently leave out what makes Beckham a great teammate and locker room leader.

A scan of several Giants’ Snapchat stories, including Jason Pierre-Paul, Sterling Shepard, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, shows Beckham joking and interacting with his teammates in a positive manner. One in particular depicts Beckham showing DRC a particular dance and another centered on Beckham and Defensive Tackle Jay Bromley having a dance battle. Beckham is not just a guy who sticks to his teammates on offense but seems to get along with everyone on his team.

Beckham is also not a player who is ever content or satisfied with what he has done. His first three seasons have been the best of any receiver in NFL history. And yet, he is still always working at his craft. Beckham trained in the offseason with Vikings Hall of Famer Chris Carter and has discussed how new acquisition Brandon Marshall has given him tips he can take and adapt to his own game.

While some of the things Odell Beckham does has attracted negative attention to himself and his team, Beckham has been an important player both on the field and in the locker room for the New York Giants. He has been a franchise-changing player, perhaps the biggest star the Giants’ have drafted since Lawrence Taylor in 1981. Don’t let anyone tell you Beckham is a locker room divider ala Terrell Owens; they simply aren’t telling the whole truth.

The 2017 NBA Draft Starts with Number Three

By Jack Drapkin

While I would love to be surprised come Draft Night, it sure seems to be that the top two selections are set in stone. Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball are penciled in as the first two picks of the NBA Draft to the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers respectively.

That’s great and the intrigue will be there for their first games in the Summer League, however, for all intents and purposes, the draft starts with the Philadelphia 76ers at pick number three. Boy is it an interesting decision for them.

They have needs at guard and on the wing, with their supposed two best players, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, combining for 36 games over four NBA seasons. The Sixers should really be able to select the best player available.

And boy do they need to get this pick right. Look, Simmons and Embiid and especially Embiid, look like generational players. But with the major injuries Embiid has suffered and the fact that Simmons has yet to hit the floor, it’d be nice to add another prospect with a high ceiling, but also an established floor.

To me, there are four players who are in play for the Sixers, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, Jonathan Isaac, and Malik Monk.

I just don’t think it’s likely they select a point guard here at three as they have gone out of their way to say that Ben Simmons would operate as a point guard and not a point forward ala LeBron James.

So it becomes a question of which wing prospect do they feel suits their team best.

Look, I think the Sixers are in a tough spot here.

Monk has the best shot-making ability of the group but is the most limited in the other aspects of his game, especially the defensive end. For a team, built on size and length, Monk would seem a curious fit at this selection.

Tatum has the offensive acumen, but he is best suited with the ball in his hands. Will there be enough basketballs for an Embiid, Simmons, Tatum trio not to mention outstanding rookie Dario Saric.

Speaking of Saric, his presence along with Robert Covington makes it tough to believe that Jonathan Isaac is the selection here. Isaac seems best suited to play the 3-4 position and with the glut of talent there for the Sixers, it may be tough for him to get playing time.

This leads to my conclusion that Josh Jackson has to be the selection here. His ability to play as an over-sized two guard is vital for this pairing to work. However, I feel it is the best possibility and fit of all the possibilities.

If you’re a Sixers fan, you better hope though that Jackson’s 3-point stroke is legitimate because that team will have major spacing issues if it’s not.

I think the Sixers, end up picking Jackson, but they are a true wildcard in a Draft sure to provide some fireworks come June 22nd.