Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pre-Combine Thoughts

The #1 Pick


The Houston Texans were perhaps the NFL's biggest disappointment in 2013. Correction: They WERE the league's biggest disappointment. In fact, it wasn't even close.

Houston opened the year as the league's 7th best team according to the ESPN's Power Ranking system. Where did they finish you ask? Dead. Last.

2012 Season: 12-4 regular season. Wild Card victory against Cincinatti.
                       Divisional Round Loss to New England.

2013 Season: 2-14 Regular Season. 14 straight losses.

Casualties: Gary Kubiak, Ray Marciano, Wade Phillips, Rick Dennison, Matt Schaub ability's to throw the ball to his own team.

Complete List of Terminations

How could a unit with so much supposed talent, so much promise, find themselves free falling to bowels of the NFL? As a Houston native I've stayed up many nights crying into my pillow a la Tobais Funke wondering the exact same thing. In summary many aging players who did not deserve lofty contracts(Schaub, Foster, Reed, Walter) inked huge deals and underperformed mightily. The lack of cap space proved deadly, leading to the departure of Mike Brisel and most notably right tackle Eric Winston. The importance of the offensive line cannot be understated. Injuries ensued and an offensive scheme appeared dated. If you are a self-loathing Texans fan my boy Bill Barnwell has you covered with more details. Barnwell is the G.O.A.T.

But for the rest of us after any bad breakup, it's time to move on.

Make no mistake, this is a destitute team with many issues and numerous needs. One draft selection will NOT make this team a contender or even a postseason threat. But as much as any other professional sports league, the #1 pick in the NFL is a powerful beast. Don't believe me? Have a sip of this.

(Per +NFLStats)

Hall of Famer's Selected by Round:

1st: 102
2nd: 32
3rd: 21
4th: 8
5th: 6
6th: 1
7th: 9
8th or more 26
Undrafted: 15

Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Orlando Pace, Troy Aikman, Steve Young, John Elway, Earl Campbell, Jim Plunkett, Bruce Smith, Bo Jackson, O.J. Simpson, Chuck Bednarik.

All #1 Overall Picks.

Tim Couch, Jamarcus Russell, Courtney Brown, Ryan Leaf, Ki-Jana Carter, and last but not least David Carr.

All #1 Overall Picks.

The #1 overall pick boasts more leverage than any financial instrument an investment bank can offer. It's for many teams the first step to super bowl glory, but for other organizations another mistake that sets their franchise back another 5 years. When a #1 overall pick misses coaches are fired, GMs are replaced, and fans are left with bitter tastes in their mouths.

Trey Wingo echoed it best on Twitter yesterday by stating "In the NFL, there is no offseason."

Every day is an opportunity to improve or retrograde. Just as the new Texans coaching staff(THE HOUSTON PATRIOTS) is working intensely to make their mark in the AFC South, as am I. Here are the three primary routes for the Texans to travel in the Bill O'Brien era.

*Assessments to change post combine/pro-day workouts

1. Blake Bortles

I firmly believe O'Brien has found his gunslinger of the future in Blake Bortles. Media reports are swirling that the Texans are closing in on two QB's, presumably Manziel or Bortles.

Blake Bortles has deep ties to O'Brien. Last season at Central Florida, Bortles led UCF to a 27-20 win against O'Brien's Penn State University. The Texans HC got an up close and personal look at the physical and cerebral abilities of Bortles and was impressed to say the least.

Here's what O'Brien had to say regarding Bortles in his opening presser as Texans HC:

“I was able to see Blake Bortles up-close because we played Central Florida at Penn State and they beat us.  He was a smart player. An accurate passer. A guy that could do a lot of different things.  You could tell he was really a student of the game.  He’s a good football player.”

George O'Leary, Bortles college coach at UCF, first hired Bill O'Brien as a graduate assistant in 1995 at Georgia Tech. (Irish Much?)

O'Brien and O'Leary

O'Brien also recently hired George Godsey to serve as Houston's QB coach. Godsey developed a rapport with O'Brien when he coached along side him in New England.(TE's coach)  Oh and did I forget to mention Godsey coached at the University of Central Florida until 2008, Bortles' first season on campus as red shirt freshman? You can't make this stuff up.

Sure there are some strange relational connections between Bortles and O'Brien, but are these legitimate reasons to draft him at the #1 overall pick? No, but Bortles skill set, physical ability, and style of play are reasons to either trade down and draft him or select him before everyone else.

O'Brien's offense is the poster child of a modern day "pro style" attack. He uses multiple tight end sets and loves to use the fullback in the running game. In a league where many full backs are disappearing from rosters due to the integration of the spread, O'Brien still enjoys sending a run blocker in motion.

Running his variation of the pro style requires a heady quarterback who is able to make many checks at the line. His system is "highly complicated." In New England he worked with a future hall of famer in Tom Brady. He won't have that luxury this time around. But he did refer to Bortles as a "student of the game."

Bortles' physical attributes equate to O'Brien's offense better than Manziel's. Bortles is 4 inches taller and possesses a more traditional quarterback style in comparison to Manziel's erratic and often spectacular style of improvisation. Manziel's ability to thrive in a spread offense may make him better suited in Cleveland. (But more on that later)

Bortles Full Game Highlights @ Penn State

Game Winning Drive @ Louisville ^

Trent Dilfer believes one of the most important traits found in a successful NFL quarterback is "competitive poise". Competitive poise is hard to quantity but think of it as the ability to maintain your entire emotional capacity while increasing your competitive edge. Quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck rarely change their facial expressions or berate their teammates for screwing up in pressure situations. When tensions are high it's easy for human beings to lose their sense of poise. Instead these players look within themselves to take responsibility for their team's wins and losses in crunch time. Competitive poise is one of the main qualities I look at in quarterback evaluations.

 Bortles embodies the very essence of this quality. Leading comeback wins against South Carolina, Memphis, Louisville, Temple, and Baylor, Bortles does not waver in moments of pressure. When the moment gets bigger, so does his level of play. He often throws errant passes but manages to move to the next play quickly. He possesses the rare ability to put mistakes in the rear view.

Physically he is the most gifted signal caller in the 2013 class. At 6'4 240 pounds scouts have said he resembles Andrew Luck when moving in and out of the pocket. He is no where near as polished as Luck as far as throwing the ball down field to open receivers. UCF's offense relied on many quick outs and wide receiver screens so the combine will help us know more about his ability to throw the ball down the middle of the field accurately and effectively.

2. Jadeveon Clowney


The smart money may be found in drafting Jadaveon Clowney. At least the owner's money is.

 McNair Envisions Watt & Clowney Tandem

The dude defines the word FREAK. If Clowney tests anywhere near where I think he's capable at the combine, he will shatter records of size and speed. Many people say he has a lack of worth ethic citing his dismal Junior season and overall demeanor. What if Clowney was merely sleep walking with his eyes on NFL glory? He's predicted "amazing" numbers for himself and is saying he "should be the #1 pick."

A Watt and Clowney tandem in the 4-3 as edge rushers would unbearable for opposing offensive lines. Watt's sternness and laser focus on perfection could inspire Clowney to reach his full potential. The great way to negate a future HOF QB in Andrew Luck is to put him on his backside.
Clowney just may be the Texans #1 overall pick if Bortles performs poorly in March.

3. Johnny Manziel

 Certain athletes evoke emotions of love and hatred in the same breath. Johnny Manziel is one of the chosen few.

"Johnny Football" is more than just a quarterback. He's a brand. When you are friends with Drake, you lose the right to be called a student athlete. Sitting courtside at Miami Heat games. On a first name basis with Lebron James. Swagger through the roof. Not a bad life, kid.

Forget the fame and controversy let's talk about that action boss. What Manziel was able to accomplish at the collegiate level was astonishing. 

He followed up his Heisman winning freshman season with 4114 yards, 37 touchdowns, and only 13 interceptions. Coupling that with 800 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground, these are almost video game numbers.

His performance against Alabama sticks out in my mind reflecting on his sophomore campaign. Against the country's best defense Manziel was unstoppable. Time and time again he led A&M's offense down the field at will. That day he told the world I am a legitimate NFL prospect.

I believe Manziel is poised for success at the next level. Whether that success is short lived or long lasting is another story entirely. His style of play may be to the detriment of his physical being. Then again his build is very compact at 6'1 210 similar to Russell Wilson's thickness. I wish him success and tremendous health and hope he can learn to protect his body at the next level.

When I watch Manziel escape the pocket as he spins to his left, I see shades of Tony Romo. What Manziel needs is a coach to adapt to his style, not the latter. His skill set is rare.

Manziel to Cleveland makes sense to me. Kyle Shanahan is the new OC in town and he lit the world on fire with a variation of the pistol/zone-read with a mobile quarterback named Robert Griffin III.

Wade Phillip's told the Texans before he exited the door they should draft Johnny Football.

Could you imagine Manziel in a Texans uniform? The amount of revenue the Texans could generate off a ticket and jersey sales from the local A&M base would be some AUTOGRAPH STACKS.

Key Upcoming Dates:

  • NFL Combine (February 19-25)
  • Free Agency Period Begins (March 11th)
  • NFL Annual Meeting (March 23rd-26th)
  • 2014 NFL Draft (May 8th-10th)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Beating the Spread week 3

SD + 3

CLE +7

DAL - 4

TB + 7

WAS + 1

GB - 3

NYG - 2

BUF + 3

SEA - 19

DEN -15

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Fan Duel Line up

Want to make an easy buck using your weekly match up skills? Look no further than Fan Duel. You can play heads up matches or large field tournaments with 20 participants for a bigger score. They match whatever you deposit up to $200. Take advantage of the free money the site will provide and begin letting your fantasy skills start paying bills.

line up rules: Line up is salary based allotted 60,000 in salary to disperse across QB RB RB WR WR WR TE DEF K.


I'm going with Vick for 8,100 - Luck is a very tempting at home vs Oakland for 8,500 but Im saving 400 and siding with Vick on Monday night in what looks to be a shoot out in the making vs WAS.


David Wilson 7,700 - He's set to explode with the injury to Andre Brown and the first victim is Dallas. Ranking 22nd against the run last year opportunity is knocking for Wilson as they haven't done much in the offseason to sure up the front 7.

Jamaal Charles 8,300 - The Jags were 30th against the run last year and Jamaal Charles has a career 5.8 ypc.... The Chiefs should also be playing with a lead for much of the game leading to more carries and check down throws for Mr. Check down himself Alex Smith. Massive potential in this match up


Julio Jones 8,000 - Playing a defense that was historically bad last season and continues to look lost thus far from preseason play. The game also has the highest scoring potential of any week 1 match ups and with Roddy White returning from a sprained ankle more targets could be in line for Jones who could easily be the number one WR scorer week 1.

Pierre Garcon 6,200 - RGIIIs much anticipated debut at home on Monday night will have an electric feel. The skins and RGIII will be pumped with adrenaline and ready to explode. Garcon will be a target monster in the "X" position in the offense. Finally healthy again (for now) Garcon holds massive potential week 1 in a high scoring affair.

Cecil Shorts 6,300 - A target monster as the teams clear go to WR with Blackmon suspended. Although not a great match up Shorts is one of the most talented WRs in the league. Give him the targets and watch him score.


Jordan Cameron 4,900 - Probably the best buy their is week 1. Cameron is in a very TE friendly offense that has produced career years for Greg Olsen Kellen Winslow JR and Antonio Gates. Cameron with Jimmy Graham skills is next in line and with Josh Gordon suspended the first two weeks he will be the focal point of the passing attack. Did you see his 2 TD preseason debut? J-Cam is ready to rock.


IND 5,000 - They are at home versus what looks to be the worst offense in the league with an erratic QB making just his 2nd career NFL start. They are a cheap buy but definite top 10 play.


Adam Vinatieri - Dome kicker on a very efficient based offense with top 5 potential playing quite possibly the worst defense in the league. He will be needing to ice his foot after the game from all the work

Well there's my fan duel line up. Good luck guys I hope you all jump aboard and have fun taking home weekly cash playing fantasy football on Fan Duel.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Running Back Break Outs in 2013

The Art of YPC Analysis

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication" -Leonardo Da Vinci

Beauty is not often found amidst the complexity of life, but rather in the most customary of settings. A sunset, a single mother working two jobs to provide for her family, a friend selflessly standing up for another, a young child's laughter. This things move us. They create a stirring within our very being. And yet these moments are ordinary, every day occurrences. 

As fantasy analysts, we consistently search for the one statistical anomaly that will separate us from our opponents. Examining strength of schedule, trends, NFL draft combine results, offseason player movement, offensive line grades, and other methods, we hope to gain an advantage in our draft preparation. But frequently these efforts get lost in the complexity of meaningless numbers. We are bogged down in the lies of mass quantities and irregularities of information.
[Note: FanDuel is hosting a $100,000 Fantasy Football Contest in Week 1. It's $25 to join and first prize is $15,000. Here's the link to register.]

The truth is found in the ordinary.

Running backs should be measured by one thing. Yards Per Carry. No stat in all professional sports more accurately gages the effectiveness of a player at any position. Aside from pass protection and receiving, a running back's only goal is to run behind his lineman and gain as many yards as possible. Conversely, a quarterback possesses a multitude of duties that include calling the play, reading the defense, finding open receivers, and keeping his team on the same page. There are a lot less intangibles with backfield players. YPC truly assesses the efficiency of a ball carrier. How good are you really at your job? 

Yards Per Carry is obviously not a perfect statistic. It fails to take into account performance of a running back's offensive line, which is vitally important. A great offensive line can take a mediocre ball carrier and turn him into a good one. But despite their efforts, 5 dominant men cannot transform a good back turn him into a great one. A great back simply is. Regardless of the big uglies in front him, a great runner makes plays happen that leave our jaws on the floor. An elite back makes cuts, jukes, and moves that make up for missed blocks and blow assignments. As a former offensive lineman (cue the fat jokes), I could pin my man on the ground but if I was blocking for someone with average speed, vision, and explosion, the results were four yards at best. Barry Sanders is this theory's best illustration. The lions offensive line defined mediocrity. And yet no rushing attack made defenses over prepare and cringe with fear like the Detroit Lions. Why? Because Barry was great. And his YPC demonstrates that to us.

Using YPC Analysis

YPC is not only a powerful statistic, but more relevantly a tremendous forecaster for future fantasy success. 

Let's give this discussion some context.

Over the years I've studied the running back position quite extensively. The point differential between the 1st and 25th best player is greater at RB than any other fantasy position, and this is where you can gain a huge leg on the competition. For the last 5 years, I've drafted RBs based strictly on the player's YPC and talent demonstrated on tape. I have had tremendous success using this method. Below are my rules for drafting RBs.

YPC Forecasting Rules:

  1. Search for young players with near or above a 5.0 YPC. 
  2. Must have a sample size of over 50 carries.
  3. Must be receiving an increased workload from previous season

Prior Forecasts

Upon my 2009 fantasy draft, I scoured player lists searching for young sleeper running backs heading into the season. I had a strategy in place to draft two stud running backs, and the roll the dice on young talent in the later rounds for a flex position. A young player for the Kansas City Chiefs caught my eye.

Jamaal Charles
  • 67 Attempts
  • 5.3 YPC
  • 357 Yards Rushing

Even though 67 carries is a fairly small sample size, the 5.3 YPC over that period was staggering. Kansas City at the time boasted a very good offensive line(we salute you Willie Roaf), but Charles was amassing substantially more per carry than Larry Johnson or any of his other backfield mates competing for carries. Talent will usually win out, and Charles' quietly a cut above others on his team. I knew if he could just stay healthy and see an increase in workload, the yards and gaudy fantasy numbers would follow.
Jamaal Charles 

  • Attempts: 190
  • YPC: 5.8
  • Rushing Yards: 1120

The rest was history. Jamaal currently possess the highest YPC in NFL history, and is viewed by fellow Reservations 4-Six contributor Joe Turnbull and I as the most efficient player in the history of the position. What do Barry Sanders (5.0), Adrian Peterson (5.0), Gayle Sayers (5.0), and Jim Brown (5.2) have in common? They all earned career YPCs over 5.0, and yet trail Charles' average of 5.8. His upside is only capped by his physical frailty and the coaches choice to limit carries. In 2013, he will easily eclipse 300 total touches and barring injury have his best season to date. Quite possibly the best season among NFL running backs. And why you ask? Because he's good. Really good. And his YPC demonstrates this to us.
Stevan Ridley 


  • Attempts: 87 
  • Yards: 441 
  • YPC 5.1


  • Attempts 290
  •  Yards 1263
  • YPC 4.4

Same song, different dance. Ridley's 5.1 YPC in his rookie was a huge indicator of the ability to run for big numbers in his sophomore season. Large YPC's show a back's potential and need for a larger work load. And while his average diminished due to a greater workload, he far from disappointed fantasy owners putting solid yardage and a hefty 12 touchdowns. Cash money.

CJ Spiller


  • 107 Attempts  
  • 561 Yards   
  • 5.2 YPC
After a nice sophomore season, Spiller was the back I had to have last pre season. His 5.2 YPC along with unbelievable speed, hands, and vision screamed a break out for him in 2012.


  • 207 Attempts 
  • 1,244 Yards 
  • 6.0 YPC

I knew Spiller would burst onto the scene, but  I cannot honestly say I saw him turning the league upside down. CJ will be drafted in the first round for the next 5 years if he can stay healthy.

So what do these applications and stories have anything to do with 2013? 

The here and now?   

More than you ever thought possible. 

Running Back Break Outs in 2013

1. David Wilson

2012 Rookie Season: YPC 5.0

"I just can't draft a player that high in a timeshare. It's a 50-50 split for carries"

Fret no more scared of time share guy. The league's best young back will be running solo due to the unfortunate injury of Andre Brown, giving David Wilson the opportunity of a life time. For the first 4-6 weeks and possibly the entire 2013 season, the league will be mesmerized by the sheer talent and explosiveness of my favorite player heading into 2013. His 5.0 YPC in his rookie season is just the beginning of an illustrious career. Wilson exploded in the preseason, rushing for 90 yards on only 5 carries in one game. Not only is wilson's balance the best I have ever seen, he will also provide PPR support catching dump offs from Eli. Hop on the bandwagon while you still can and hold on for dear life.

2. Chris Ivory

This is where it gets controversial. The haters are trolling in droves to doubt Chris Ivory's fantasy potential in 2013. The negatives are evident to anyone who knows Ivory's situation. I GET IT. Historically horrendous health, terrible situation, zero ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. 

But take one look at these numbers, and I'll make you think twice.

YPC History
2010: 5.2 (139 Attempts)
2011: 4.7 (79 Attempts)
2012: 5.4 (40 Attempts)

Ivory has so much wiggle room on YPC it's scary. Even his workload increases dramatically(it will) and his average falls by an entire yard, all he has to hit is 228 carries to eclipse 1,000 yards. Shonne Greene rushed for over 1K on a ridiculous 276 attempts. And let's be honest, Shonne Greene might be one of the least talented players running the rock in the game today. Not the case with Ivory. Just watch his highlights on youtube. He runs like he's mad at the grass. Sure the Saints offensive line is one of the league's best, but don't forget all pro guard Carl Nicks left for Tampa in 2011. Injuries are the only thing in my mind that can stop the "Pain Train" from eclipsing 1,300 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. Fingers crossed and keep the ambulances at bay.

3. Lamar Miller

2012: 51 Attempts, 4.9 YPC

Did someone order another running back from "The U" with scary speed and acceleration? Lamar Miller at your service. In limited work for Miami last season, Miller demonstrated killer burst to get to the edge and the willingness to run hard between the tackles. Amassing a YPC of almost 5.0, we must pause and take notice. Oh yeah, and Miller put in WORK this offseason. All caps WORK. Miller trained at Bommarito Performance systems with other elite running backs across the league, including another Canes legend Frank Gore. For those unfamiliar with Pete Bommarito, he is a man that has trained a number of elite-level backs for many years.  Basically he's seen more talent walk through the door than a "We Are the World" music video. So when he states Miller is "the fastest running back" he's ever seen, we must again pause and take notice. Pause. Take Notice. Repeat.

Miller is by far the most talented player in the Fins backfield if not the most talented back in the AFC East behind CJ spiller. RIP to the rumors of a timeshare developing between him and Daniel Thomas. Miller won the job outright and according to Dolphins' writer Armando Salguero has "sewn up" the starting role. Massive amount of carries, catches, yards and touchdowns to follow. It's Miller Time. And yes, I do hate myself a little for that pun.

It's Time

Yards per carry forecasting is far from an exact science. But there is no greater meter of a running backs ability, efficiency, and means to predict future success. These three names will light up scoreboards, highlights reels, and opposing fantasy teams this season. I just hope for your sake they are on your roster. 

On the last Sunday before a full slate of games and mass national hysteria, enjoy the peace and quiet. This is the calm before the storm.

Welcome to the art of YPC.