Enunwa To IR – Jets’ Passing Game Needs New Flight Plan

By Alexander C. Lawrence

Jet fans were devastated to learn that New York’s top wide receiver, Quincy Enunwa, will miss the upcoming 2017 season due to neck surgery. It makes the Jets roster look even worse than it already was and may speed up the cheers, or jeers, of “Stink for Sam?” It’s pretty obvious the Jets will miss their top WR since they decided to part ways with Brandon Marshall (NYG) and Eric Decker (TEN) this past offseason. That leaves the Jets with little experience at the WR position.

The big question is who will step up and replace Enunwa in the offense? The simple answer to that is no one. No one possess Enunwa’s combination of experience and talent and expecting one of the young Wideouts to replace him is unreasonable. There are some candidates who may surprise fans this season though.

Robby Anderson is the most likely option to shine, being as most of the rest of the receiving corps is comprised of rookies. His talent level and potential seems to put him at the top of the WR Depth Chart and set him up for a lion’s share of passing targets. Right now, aside from Anderson, the best options Gang Green has are Jalin Marshall and Charone Peake. Jordan Leggett is still getting used to life as the soon-to-be every day tight end going forward. ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen could wind up being nice surprises for the team and believe me there won’t be many bright spots on this team overall.

Robby Anderson doesn’t believe they’ll miss Enunwa too much, but he’ll be eating those words after a few weeks; however it is a big opportunity for Anderson and Co. to make their presence known as to why they should be around for the rebuild long-term. He spent the offseason putting on weight and working out with former teammate Brandon Marshall. It’s time for him to show off his hard work and dedication he put in all offseason.

As for Stewart and Hansen their impact is very much up in the air due to their lack of experience. Hopefully for the Jets at least one will be a quick learner and provide a spark to the offense. Stewart could provide a deep, vertical threat and don’t forget is from Alabama; he was well coached prior to joining the Jets.

Chad Hansen, from California, has always been a good fundamental wide receiver and it was easy for scouts to like him as a complementary receiver in the future, but it looks like he will compete right away for snaps as a number 3 or 4 WR on the depth chart. His route running refinement and excellent hands could even make him a safety valve for whatever Quarterback is at the helm.

Charone Peake says the team may have multiple 1,000 yard WRs on the team in 2017 and, while most people would disagree, credit the man for having confidence despite the loss of Enunwa. That quarterback situation is nothing short of a circus and that doesn’t usually lead to multiple average receivers suddenly breaking-out in and having 1,000 yard seasons. This may be the worst offense in the league; New York would be lucky to see one receiver break the thousand mark, much less several. Peake himself does have upside to be a nice asset in terms of a possession WR this season as the Jets have struggled with dropped passes in the not so distant past.

It will be a tough season, but it will be key for the Jets to find the guys who will produce through the tough season ahead. They will have a solid defense to back them up and keep them in games early on, but wins won’t be an often occurrence in 2017. The expectation should be to see what the Jets have in many of their young, unproven players, especially those at the Wide Receiver position.

2017 Fantasy Football Sleepers

By Alexander C. Lawrence

August is a beautiful month for football fans because football is finally back in our lives! Even if it is only preseason football we still get to watch our teams and see how they project for the regular season. Some people, such as myself, use it to scout potential fantasy football players that are strong sleeper candidates. Here’s my list for some of the best sleepers for the 2017 Fantasy Football season!

Green Bay Packers: RB, Jamaal Williams

Ty Montgomery has moved full time to running back but that doesn’t mean he’ll start. I’m not sold that Montgomery can handle a full work-load. Jamaal Williams, the eager fourth-round pick, will step in and make an immediate impact on that high powered offense. We’re not talking Zeke Elliott, but he could wind up being a very productive RB2. Taking a chance on him isn’t even costly- in most drafts he’ll be a late round pick.

Philadelphia Eagles: TE, Zach Ertz

I know most people may think Ertz isn’t an ideal late round sleeper given the fact that he simply hasn’t lived up to his real life expectations let alone fantasy owner’s, but that may not be as true as you think. Since 2013 Ertz has improved each fantasy season from a positional standpoint. 2013: TE-26, 2014: TE-13, 2015: TE-9 and 2016: TE-6. Have faith in Ertz this year!

Jacksonville Jaguars: WR, Marquise Lee

Lee showed off his WR2 type ability last season and you better believe that if Allen Hurns doesn’t produce early on, Lee can take his #2 WR spot and run with it. Bortles or Henne should get the ball to Lee, who will see a healthy chunk of targets. Lee, drafted as a late round pick, could be a fantasy breakout star in 2017.

New York Jets: TE, Jordan Leggett

The Jets don’t have a clear cut QB just yet, but one thing is clear. Whether it’s Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg, or Bryce Petty under center, Jordan Leggett will see a lot of targets just because he is talented and healthy. He can stretch the field for a Jets’ team that is lacking many offensive weapons. Five of the eight first teams the Jets face gave up the most fantasy points to TEs in 2016.  Don’t get me wrong the Jets will be bad, but Leggett will be one of the few bright spots so, for owners who want to take a late-round chance on him, go for it.

Houston Texans: WR, DeAndre Hopkins

He had a down season last year and left fantasy owners with a lot more to be desired, thanks in large part to the Texan’s horrible QB play. Hopkins believes in Tom Savage and I think with Savage, or even Watson, he can get back to his dominant self. He’ll cost a bit, but he’ll be a top 10 Wide Receiver this season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB, Doug Martin

It’s no secret Doug Martin wasn’t the same guy last fantasy season, so I very much expect a bounce-back season for him once he serves his 3-game suspension for substance abuse. The team has praised him this offseason and competition with Charles Sims and Jeremy McNichols will bring out the best in him. The potential to be an RB1 again is too great to pass up.

Pittsburgh Steelers: WR, Martavis Bryant

There’s no secret that Bryant’s return should get him on most fantasy owner’s radars because his upside potential is so great. He should get back to being the no. 2 WR for the Steelers and help both himself and Antonio Brown. You can’t double everyone there. He’s a steal and I think a strong candidate for double-digit touchdowns in that Pittsburgh offense.

Detroit Lions: QB, Matthew Stafford

Matthew Stafford had what most would say was a normal season for the eighth-year QB out of Georgia. At least until you see his low number of TDs in 2016 (24). With the weapons at his arsenal this season that number should surely increase and I highly expect Stafford to be a QB1 this season. Detroit has a proven leader who can help that offense be elite this season.

Philadelphia Eagles: WR, Alshon Jeffery

Jeffery, just like Hopkins, is due for a bounce-back after injuries and a suspension derailed last season. He should thrive under young gun Carson Wentz throwing the ball his way as the clear no. 1 target with Jordan Mathews gone. The change of scenery will not only help him get a big pay day soon, but should improve his fantasy stock as well.

Los Angeles Rams: WR, Sammy Watkins

A lot of experts say Sammy Watkins is on their “Do not draft list” for 2017. I like to think otherwise since he was on IR last year and  seems fully healthy this year and primed to live up to the second-round hype to be a WR1. I believe this is the year we see Watkins haul in 80+ receptions and produce a 1,200+ yard season. It’s a contract year for him so, he has every reason to make sure his body is in the best condition and perform his best. Don’t be shocked if Tampa Bay WR Mike Evans who is currently being drafted 3-4 rounds ahead Watkins is ranked below him at season’s end.

Indianapolis Colts: RB, Marlon Mack

I know a lot of Frank Gore owners will probably hate me for this, but the way I see it is Frank Gore can’t continue to perform this well forever. At age 34, father-time figures to catch-up to him and I think this may be the year it finally happens. Mack excites me and I can’t wait to see how he is used in the Colts offense that will hopefully feature Andrew Luck earlier rather then later in the season. His speed and agility gives them a valuable asset they haven’t had since Joseph Addai.

Good luck, grab your sleepers, avoid the busts, and happy drafting!

Old Faces, New Places

By Jack Drapkin

Inspired by seeing Victor Cruz salsa after scoring his first (preseason) touchdown for the Chicago Bears. I figured it was a good time to take a look at some familiar players donning new jerseys for the first time in their careers.

The criteria for this list was as follows: The player had to have played with only one team in his career previously and needed at least five seasons in the league. He also needed to be notable enough for you to care.

Jamaal Charles

Charles will be in his 9th career season and first outside Kansas City. He’s currently expected to be a part of a three-headed backfield with veteran CJ Anderson and young Devontae Booker. Charles will be looking to prove he still has ‘it’ after spending much of the last two seasons on IR.

Victor Cruz

Cruz will be playing in his first season outside of the Big Apple. In this instance, I think a fresh start is exactly what Cruz needed. After missing much of 2014 and all of 2015 with devasting knee and Achilles injuries, Cruz rebounded to post a respectable 586 receiving yards last year.

Lawrence Timmons

Timmons joining the Dolphins on a 10-million a year salary was shocking for many around the league. With the recent injury to 2nd-round linebacker Raekwon McMillan, Timmon’s role and importance to this team becomes even more significant.

Andrew Whitworth

Embarking on his 11th season, Whitworth will be hoping to solidify a Rams offensive line that has been a weak spot for many years now. A stalwart on the Bengals offensive line and 3x Pro Bowler expect Whitworth to still have a few good seasons left in him, especially with the warm weather in Los Angeles.

David Harris

After 10 seasons with the New York Jets, Harris will play for the rival Patriots in 2017. With over 700 tackles and 35 career sacks, Harris has nothing left to prove but would like to add a Super Bowl ring after all these years in the trenches.

Adrian Peterson

Arguably the greatest running back of his generation, Peterson will hope to have a career resurgence with Drew Brees and the Saints. With nearly 12,000 career rushing yards in his 10 seasons in the league, Peterson has put up some truly impressive numbers. However, after missing significant time in two of the past three seasons Peterson will have to show he still has that burst in his age-32 season.

Will Coach K Finish 38 and Done at Duke?

by Jack Drapkin

With Coach K approaching his 38th season at Duke and 43rd season overall it’s fair to wonder will this be it for the greatest coach of all-time. A recent knee surgery is just the latest in a long line of surgeries for Coach K. Many of which have been for his oft-injured back. Ask anyone with a back ailment and they’ll tell you, those don’t get better with time.

Look in all honesty, I was poised for last year to be the one in which he walks away. After a dominant regular season and championship run, I figured it would be the right time for Coach K to step away. Wait, that didn’t happen? Oh, nevermind that’s right, his team was injured right along with him last season.

Wait, that didn’t happen? Oh, nevermind that’s right, his team was injured right along with him last season.

To me, this is about how much punishment one man can endure.

With over 1,000 career wins and 5 national championships, Coach K deservedly will have the right to decide when he wants to call it quits. At some point, however, you have to wonder why does he continue doing this to himself. You can clearly see him in pain on the bench during games. And, at times especially last season

You can clearly see him in pain on the bench during games. And, at times especially last season he rarely got off the bench during games, allowing assistant coach Jeff Capel to walk the floor.

I certainly don’t hope this is Coach K’s last season in Durham but if it is, our expectations as fans have only been exceeded during his time at Duke. Thank you K.

Who Is Sam Darnold?

By Alexander C. Lawrence

By now just about everyone knows who Sam Darnold is and how he led the turnaround for USC as all hope for a successful season seemed lost with a record of 1-3. In comes the calm, cool, collected quarterback to save the day. No one saw them winning the Rose Bowl in dramatic fashion against Penn State, but regardless he impressed and raised a lot of eyebrows. The question remains who exactly is Sam Darnold?

A lot of people may think Darnold must’ve been groomed for the NFL level, but that simply isn’t the case. His parents made sure their son, Sam knew he wasn’t going to be forced to focus on one sport and that he had the choice of what his future sport would be. Growing up Sam played Football, Basketball, and Baseball so his parents let him get exposed to various sports.

He has showed a humbleness not many of us are familiar with. His tone doesn’t change; he just talks with a cool and calm sense whether it be about Josh Rosen or the Rose Bowl win that was the best college football game of 2017, if not this decade. He doesn’t have a big ego when reporters talk to him.

The only time I’ve seen Darnold give off a wrong impression was when he publicly told the Jets to not tank for him. Even that was not an overly huge deal, but still this young gun doesn’t lose a beat on or off the field and you love to see that in a young QB. He doesn’t care for the expectations placed on him, he just goes out and performs. He isn’t on social media so there is never the issue of the dramas and criticisms that it brings.

Sam Darnold is the popular top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and experts project the New York Jets to have the worst record, making them likely candidates to draft the USC product. With Quincy Enunwa out for the season and preparing for neck surgery and no clear cut answer at QB with McCown or Hackenberg primed to be the QB1 this season, the potential to grab Darnold is there.

The case to draft Darnold is strong, especially since the Jets’ defense has already started it’s rebuild there with LB Darron Lee and DL Leonard Williams (also a USC product). The offense is at a point where it needs a complete do-over and they have cleaned house already so now it’s time to develop that side of the ball through the draft and free agency in the coming years. And let’s be real why not root for the Jets to “Stink for Sam.” It won’t be pretty, but let’s prepare for the future of the Jets and let them grow the right way.

I don’t want to hear about the talk of the USC QB curse and will Darnold be next in line to endure it. Carson Palmer has been a fine QB for the Bengals and Cardinals over the course of his NFL career.  Let’s not even bother bringing up Mark Sanchez as the first three seasons there was reason to believe he was the answer for the Jets even though he came out of USC. Sure he didn’t pan out well, but Sanchez still played some exciting football early on.

Sam Darnold has already been praised as one of the best QBs USC has ever produced. Big title, but nothing Darnold can’t handle with his calm approach to the game. He is a true leader and that is what the Jets need and really any QB needy team would want.

For the time being Darnold is the favorite to win the Heisman award and looks to pick right back up from where he left off after that outstanding 52-49 Rose Bowl win against Penn State. He will be fun to watch and looks primed to make the leap from a great college QB to an elite one. Don’t worry about pressure getting to Sam’s head because he’s already mastered being under pressure and handled it smoothly thus far in his young career.

Time will tell if Darnold will be better than past QBs who have proven to be nothing more than average (talking about you Cody Keesler and Matt Barkley) but my guess is he will be the NFL’s next big star.

How will Grayson Allen be Remembered?

By Jack Drapkin

Grayson Allen began his freshman year in obscurity. Buried on the bench behind a pair of NBA guards in Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook, Allen didn’t see the court much. That began to change with the dismissal of junior guard Rasheed Sulaimon. Allen became the 8th man in the rotation and a 27-point breakout performance against Wake Forest soon followed. Inconsistent play and minutes would restrict Allen’s role from growing much from that point on.

However, as you all know that would prove to not matter as Allen came up huge in the Final Four games against Michigan St. and Wisconsin. Ultimately playing his way into being a deciding factor for the championship team.

Next came a sophomore season in which he led the team in scoring at 21.6 ppg and alongside Brandon Ingram, lead the Blue Devils to a respectable Sweet 16 loss against Oregon. This set up the National Player of the Year conversation that bled into the beginning of his junior season.

Allen obviously was not able to live up to that hype. He battled an ankle injury throughout the season and shot below 40% from the field for the first time in his career. He also battled his own emotions. Costly tripping incidents led to a 1-game suspension for Allen who would be stripped of his captaincy.

With a freshmen laden group, the Blue Devils will be looking for Allen to provide some veteran leadership this season. The question is does he have it within himself to provide that for his young teammates in their first season of college basketball?

It’s up to you Grayson, how will the Blue Devil Nation remember your Duke career.

Training Camp Roundup: QB Edition

By Aaron Weiss

With the NFL training camp season well underway, and our first preseason football game in the books, it seems apt to check in on several player situations across the league, and today we’re starting with the quarterback. We’re not going to look at all 32 teams, but rather focus on where there are developing stories, good, bad, or weird. So, without further ado:

Miami: Perhaps the hottest story in the NFL, Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill injured his left knee on Thursday during a scrimmage, and is potentially looking at a season ending surgery. I say potentially, because nothing about his diagnosis is concrete; not his actual diagnosis, his plan of action, or his timetable.

What does seem to be the case is that he injured this knee back in December, and rather than go under the knife Tannehill opted to let the knee heal naturally, a decision that parallel’s baseball’s Masahiro Tanaka’s choice last year to let a partially torn UCL heal naturally, as opposed to undergoing Tommy John. This may have just come back to haunt Tannehill, but if he can let the knee heal naturally again he could be ready to go in 6-8 weeks, as opposed to missing the 2017 season.

Yet it isn’t the actual injury that makes this the hot story of the week, but rather Miami’s first and final target for a fill in: Jay Cutler. While Miami head coach Adam Gase originally downplayed the legitimacy of this option, saying “I don’t think it’s close to anything,” the final word came this afternoon, with Cutler coming out of retirement to sign a 1 year, $10 million dollar deal with the ‘Fins.

The number of ways in which this is distressing is hard to count. Gase will say that Cutler was the top choice due to his starting experience and his familiarity with the Dolphins’ system (Cutler played for Gase in both Denver and Chicago), but Cutler isn’t close to being a quality quarterback at this point in his career. Last year Cutler threw 1 more pick and 12 less touchdowns than fellow modicum of mediocrity, Colin Kaepernick, who was a hot name thrown into the conversation to cover for Tannehill (Cutler played 7 less games than Kaep in 2016, but depending on the stat that’s only more troubling).

While this signing continues Kaepernick’s apparent blacklisting from the NFL, the real victim here is the one who has been Miami’s Mr. Reliable for years: Matt Moore. Moore is one of the premier backup QBs in the league, and in a 4 game showing in 2016 he had a higher completion percentage (63.2%) and PFF grade (67.9) than either Kaepernick (59.2% and 61.6) or Cutler (59.1% and 41.9), not to mention Moore averaged 2 TDs per game, as opposed to Kaep’s 1.3 and Cutler’s 0.8 per game. Miami should never had gotten into the PR disaster of picking Cutler over Kaepernick when Moore is the obvious choice ahead of either of them.

Moore has the system familiarity that Cutler provides while, at a minimum, being Kaepernick’s equal in terms of skill (although their skill sets vary drastically; Kaep being more of a runner and a little more wild, and Moore is a more prototypical pocket passer), not to mention Moore counts $2.1 million against the cap, as opposed to Cutler’s $10 million, with another $3 mil in incentives.

But Adam Gase “simply would not take no for an answer,” from Jay Cutler, so here we are with the 2-month retiree taking the helm in Miami. Gase is known to be a QB whisperer, and Cutler’s transition to the Miami offense should be quick, but it still remains to be seen if this offense can get off the ground without Tannehill running the show.

Still, for the overlooked Matt Moore, this has to be beyond disheartening, and after being with Miami for 6 years, and gracefully accepting a demotion from the starting job during that time, don’t be surprised if Moore looks to get out of dodge, either this upcoming offseason, or with a midseason trade, particularly with starting opportunities with teams like the Jets, the 49ers, and the Browns

New England: The same day Tanny messed up his knee, division rival Tom Terrific entered his 4th decade on this earth. Not even 48 hours into the decade, and Brady already got himself into hot water, saying “I really don’t think that’s anybody’s business” when asked if he had a concussion in 2016. Now, granted, the question is hard to answer directly, when saying yes throws your team under the bus (and sets you or your team up for severe repercussions from the NFL), and saying no throws your wife under the bus, since she claimed he did have one.

His situation is such that you can almost sympathize for the world’s greatest quarterback. But the crassness of his response is surprising, confusing, and very disconcerting. Mere days after the release of a study on CTE (a brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head) that left a slew of retirements in it’s wake (Andrew Hawkins, Chris Watt, John Urschel, Rob Ninkovich, Jadar Johnson, Tony Hills, and Ryan Clady have all retired in the 8 days since the study was released; that’s more retirements than in the entirely of May and June combined. It is worth caveating that only Urschel specifically mentioned the report as a factor for his retirement, so the timing could just be coincidence), the NFL’s poster boy is not only reluctant to talk about concussions, he is adamant that it isn’t anyone’s business to even ask. The staunchness of his statement both blows the door wide open that he probably did have a concussion in 2016, while also projecting a disregard for player health and safety that will impact anyone who either looks up to the greatest QB of all time, or anyone trying to make it in the NFL.

If Roger Goodell has any fight in him after effectively losing the battle over something as ridiculous as Deflategate, he should be gearing up to prepare a significant investigation into the Patriots’ reporting on player injuries, with the intention of punishing the Patriots to the fullest extent of the rules should any wrongdoing be found.

Houston: The QB battle between the NFL’s top player by name to skill disproportion, Tom Savage, and first round pick Deshaun Watson, was an easy pick for one of the top training camp battles to watch going into the season. Head Coach Bill O’Brien had stated that “Tom’s No. 1,” but even then he caveated that statement, saying “He knows, like I said from day one, he’s got to earn it every day.” Watson has recently been making strides in camp, and O’Brien praised him, saying that Watson “is really way ahead of any rookie quarterback I’ve been around.”

But the battle took an interesting twist when superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins took a side, saying “I put the stamp on Savage, and I think that’s all that needs to be said about that.” Reminiscent of when wide receiver Brandon Marshall was an avid defender of Harvard grad and semi-pro quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, this is another scenario where a playing created something out of nothing. Hopkins has to know that, whether this season or next, this team belongs to Watson, and putting his chips on Savage may end up alienating his future QB.

While Savage played respectably in his 3 games last season, he’s never shown that his hasn’t come close to his ceiling, whereas Watson’s ceiling is massive. Generally a star WR wants to back the franchise QB, not throw him under the bus. One has to wonder if Hopkins is backing Savage because he truly believes he’s the better quarterback, or because he averaged 84 yards per game with Savage at the helm in 2016, as opposed to 54 yards with Osweiler leading the offense.

The sad truth is that Savage probably will be the starting QB come week 1 no matter what, and so Hopkins’ endorsement did nothing to benefit anyone, while potentially tarnishing the relationship with what should be his QB for the foreseeable future. It’s this sort of action that makes you question Hopkins as a team player, and asks how invested he is in resigning with the team long term.

Indianapolis/Baltimore: Two scenarios where starting QBs are recovering from injury, neither Joe Flacco or Andrew Luck have any guarantee of necessarily being ready for week one of the regular season. The vibe out of Baltimore seems to be more optimistic, with doctors saying Flacco’s back injury is “minor”, but in the meantime the face taking the reins in practice, and potentially the preseason and regular season after that, is former Patriot heartthrob Ryan Mallett. So far his training camp has been a mixed bag, with some good performances at the end of last week that are juxtaposed by a 5 interception performance that prompted Terrell Suggs to question whether Mallett knew who he was supposed to throw to. The Ravens are one of the top names to potentially sign the aforementioned blacklisted Colin Kaepernick, and if nothing else he’d be a good camp body with Flacco on the shelf.

Meanwhile, the story in Indianapolis is slightly more grim. GM Chris Ballard insists Luck will be off of the PUP list by week 1, fully recovered from his shoulder surgery, but just three days prior Luck himself was noncommittal about playing by then (although he could be held out without being on the PUP list). Should he not be able to play to start the season, the Colts are looking to “not Aaron Rodgers”, aka Scott Tolzien, to push this team beyond .500 mediocrity. More grim than the Baltimore situation, and not remotely as entertaining, look to the Colts to try and find a higher upside QB should it seem that Luck may miss more than one game.

Arizona: Our final stop, we come not to look at a first string QB, nor a 2nd string QB. We’re hear to celebrate the beauty that is 3rd string QB Blaine Gabbert, who played the entire first half and schooled a Dallas team that spent a good chuck of that time playing 1st stringers. Gabbert went 11 for 14 with 185 yards and a Passer Rating of 118.8. Now, we grant that this was a preseason game, and even if it wasn’t, the Dallas defense is ridiculously porous (even more so when half the squad is suspended).

I don’t legitimately think that Blaine Gabbert is back. Then again, ask the team that drafted him if they’d swap their current disaster of a quarterback (Blake Bortles) for Yo Gabba Gabbert, and I bet that discussion takes well longer than it should. Realistically though, with a performance like this, the spot for backup QB should definitely be up in the air between Gabbert and the incumbent backup Drew Stanton. And with 1st stringer Carson Palmer being prone to injury (he’s 37, and he missed 1 game last year and 10 three years ago), there’s actually a legitimate path for former top 10 pick Blaine Gabbert to salvage his career. In the meantime, we’ll just have to celebrate that he’s escaped the disaster that is San Francisco.

So that’s the round up for now! There’s other interesting QB notes around the league, from Pittsburgh to Cleveland to New York, but perhaps we’ll cover those another time, or maybe another position! Let us know what we should cover next, and what you think of these stories across the league. Until next time, I’m signing off!

Top LA Laker Stories For 2017-18

By Alexander Lawrence 

1) What can we expect in the Magic Johnson regime this season?

Lonzo Ball has played his first summer league game and although he struggled, in the beginning, to score, Ball capped the summer league off as the MVP. Granted the sample size is small thus far, but Ball does have high expectations set for him, by everyone, especially the Lakers. He was brought in to be the face of the team for years to come. Maybe not this season, but we can expect him to be a nice asset this season and will prove to be efficient in his first season in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Magic Johnson has publicly stated that he expects Brandon Ingram, the Lakers current small forward, to be the man this season and believes Ingram will lead the Lakers in scoring. Ingram very well has the potential to be an elite scorer and lead the Lakers in scoring but he has to show more consistency this season. One thing for certain is that Magic is building this team around his young guys; Ball and Ingram. At worst, it’ll be a fun season for a team that could wind up fighting for a playoff berth if they can manage to stay healthy. The youth and talent is there to be a low 8 or 7 seed team.

Jordan Clarkson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be a nice combo to man the 2-guard spot this season. Caldwell-Pope is a guy who has improved his shooting over his first four seasons in the NBA. Let’s not forget his defensive ability and how he’s really made that an identity of his game. If he exceeds expectations he could even wind up re-signing with the Lakers. Newly acquired center Brook Lopez will look to stay healthy and be a dominant center again as we knew him to be in the earlier stages of his career. Lopez could still be a nice surprise and clearly Magic saw something when he gave up D’Angelo Russell over Julius Randle for the veteran big-man.

2) LeBron James to L.A. talks real this time?

After Kyrie took the NBA by surprise and publicly announced he no longer wants to be in Cleveland playing with LeBron, it caused a great deal of commotion. LeBron has always had control of his career and his future was uncertain as he has made his frustrations known with Cleveland’s lackluster moves this offseason. Kyrie Irving wasn’t sure what LeBron’s plans were and didn’t want to be under his shadow anymore so he made the first move. His landing spots are considered to be the Knicks, Spurs, Heat, and Timberwolves, among others.

LeBron apparently no longer has an attractive team to help him win a championship and surely Derrick Rose will not replace Irving’s production in the lineup. Truth be told, LeBron has the chance to be a free agent next season, since he said he won’t waive his no-trade clause in his deal for any team this season, he will almost certainly stick it out in Cleveland for the 2017-18 season. That opens the door for him to play with potentially Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball to go with Lakers legend Magic Johnson running the Lake Show. Let’s not forget Julius Randle who still has a high ceiling. Caldwell-Pope and James are represented by the same agent, so the chance they pair-up together with the storied franchise seem even more likely.

3) The biggest concern for the Lakers are the big-men.

Julius Randle had a not-so impressive season in 2016-17, but this offseason he is looking to bounce-back in a big way. He’s been working on improving his conditioning and has reportedly shed 14lbs of body weight from last season. He’s working with a trainer and apparently enhancing his game.

The next concern is Brook Lopez who has an injury history but has proved to be a productive center in the league when he’s on the court. If Lopez stays healthy for the Lakers, he can without a doubt be one of the top offensive scoring centers this season. He was a post-player for quite a while during his career, but his newly utilized 3-point shot has helped him reshape his game a bit and his offensive game could be a dream come true for LA if the pieces all fall in place.

Those are the three stories fans of the Lakers need to be aware of as we head into the end of the dog days of summer. Temper your expectations for Lonzo Ball in year one and see if the big men can pay off this season to help them contend for a playoff berth as this team figures to be a competitive team this year. This season will be key for Luke Walton developing this team to make them an attractive free-agent landing spot for 2018 when LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, DeMarcus Cousins, and Isaiah Thomas can all hit the market.


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.