2 former Canes are on the move, who will it effect for fantasy purposes?

The NFL is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately kind of league, so it should come as no surprise that 2 former Miami Hurricane standouts and key members of the 2001 National Championship team, Clinton Portis and Jeremy Shockey have found themselves cut by their respective teams over the past week.  Both players have been to their share of Pro Bowls and have had impressive careers for which they should be proud, but nagging injuries and a heavy workload have slowed both of these players down. 

Portis will have to look for a return to glory in 2011 somewhere other than Washington

Remembered just as much for their off-field antics as their production on the field, Portis and Shockey are at the point in their career where many veterans have found themselves before- at a point where they are irrelevant to fantasy owners.  As Portis and Shockey look for new places to play in 2011, let’s take a look at what we can expect from a fantasy perspective in New Orleans and Washington after their departures, including one player that you will not want to pass up on draft day.

Draft Jimmy Graham.  Do not worry if you are picking him too early, this fellow Miami alum will have a monster season for the Saints.  Jeremy Shockey is no longer standing in his way and taking his snaps and the Saints offense will continue its aerial assault in 2011.  Do you realize what happened the last time Drew Brees teamed with a tight end with as much athletic ability as Graham?  Antonio Gates had 89 catches for 1100 yards and 10 touchdowns.  He was named to the Pro Bowl as well as a first team All-Pro.  Graham has many of the same skills as Gates (while standing at 6’8″) and he showed flashes of greatness late in 2010.   As a former basketball player, Graham is still learning the position and defenses will suffer as he gets more and more comfortable as an NFL tight end.

The Redskins backfield without Clinton Portis does not offer the same opportunity for fantasy owners.  Ryan Torain would seem to be the back with the most to gain by the departure of Portis, but his inability to stay on the field will keep him from being a early fantasy pick in 2011.  Mike Shanahan has always liked to mix things up in his backfield.  Keiland Williams and James Davis both saw action in 2010 while Torain nursed injuries, but I do see either one emerging as the every down back in Washington.  I would not be shocked to see Shanahan draft a player like a Dion Lewis from Pitt or a Jacquizz Rodgers from Oregon State and to look at a running back by committee (the fantasy football owner’s nightmare) in 2011.  We will have to keep an eye on this situation before making any conclusions.

More cuts are sure to come throughout the off-season and we will do our best to keep you informed on the fantasy implications for both the player that has been cut as well as for the players on the team that did the cutting.

NFL Combine: Are there any impact running backs?

Typically, running back is the one offensive skill position where a rookie can come in and make an immediate impact, and, thus draws the interest of fantasy owners.  From Edgerrin James, to Adrian Peterson, to Chris Johnson, rookie running backs can be some of the most dominant players in a fantasy year and finding the right back can lead to a fantasy title.

2010 was not that kind of season.  Fantasy owners that relied on Ryan Mathews, CJ Spiller, Ben Tate, Toby Gerhart, or Montario Hardesty were sorely disappointed.  The only back who made a regular season impact was LeGarrette Blount, and, even in most deep leagues, the once-cut big back with a short temper was a waiver wire pick up.  What does the class of 2011 offer?  Let’s take a look at some of the prospects heading into the combine.

Mark Ingram, Alabama – The former Heisman trophy winner has lost weight to try to improve his speed and agility during combine drills.  Ingram benefited from playing in a great college program but his production against SEC defenses on a weekly basis cannot be ignored.  He has decent speed, good vision, and consistently finds the right hole in the line.  Can he run a 4.4 at the combine and sneak into the top 10 in the draft?  Mel Kiper says he is the next Emmitt Smith.  Getting picked in this year’s top 10 will assure he does not get a chance to run behind an offensive line like the Cowboys of the 90s.

Mikel Leshoure, Illinois – Leshoure made huge progress in 2010 and suddenly started drawing comparisons to former Illinois running back (and Super Bowl goat) Rashard Mendenhall.  I am not sure if those comparisons are completely legit as Leshoure is not as fast as Mendenhall but he does have tremendous strength and runs very hard.  At 6’0″ and 230 pounds, Leshoure could find himself in the late first round with a solid performance at the combine.  Can he find a way to sneak under the 4.5 mark in the 40?  Keep an eye on him because a playoff team with questions in the backfield picking late in the first round (maybe New Orleans or Indianapolis) could make Leshoure a solid option for your fantasy backfield.

Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech – After a phenomenal freshman season, Williams struggled to stay healthy during his sophomore season.  Williams is a quick back with good speed, and at 212 pounds he has a punishing style. 

Is Ryan Williams the second best back this year?

Williams needs to have a solid combine to cement his status as a second round pick (and could push Leshoure as the 2nd back on most teams draft boards with an incredible performance).  At only 20 years old, without a ton of college experience, ane with labor issues potentially reducing the amount of time rookies get to spend with coaching staffs this off-season, I worry Williams may struggle to pick up on some of the intricacies of the position in the NFL.  If Williams does not prove he can pick up blitzing linebackers or that he can run decent pass routes, I worry he may not see the field as much as a fantasy owner would like.       

Daniel Thomas, Kansas State – Thomas has the size and strength at 6’2″ and 228 pounds to be an every down back in the pros.  He is not as fast as some backs and looks to be more of a between-the-tackles runner.  I am not sure how much Thomas can change his draft stock at the combine this weekend since he will not have a great 40 time or be the star of agility drills.  I think most scouts expect him to be impressive benching 225 pounds so even an great number here will not help much.  Concerns come up with his running style.  Most of the reports I see on Thomas talk about his tendency to run very upright which will lead to him taking a ton of big hits.  Will someone still take a chance on him and give him the starting role?  We will have to wait and see. 

This year’s crop of running backs does not appear to be loaded with talent that can make an immediate fantasy impact but rather a lot of backs who will figure to play Darren Sproles-like roles on Sundays.  Do not get fooled into thinking Dion Lewis, DeMarco Murray, or Jacquizz Rodgers will be an every down back.  With their smaller stature, their speed and agility will not be enough of a reason for a team to turn over the reigns to them on a full-time basis.

NFL Combine: What Quarterbacks to watch

The NFL combine is upon us and, forgetting about the poking and prodding that happens to the draft hopefuls, we get our first chance to get a look at the athletic ability of many of the potential NFL draftees and rookie free agent signees.  I, for one, have always tried to keep from getting too excited about the yearly workout wonders.  I have too many memories of teams falling in love with a player for what he did while wearing shorts rather than wearing pads (see Mike Mamula, Vernon Gholston, Darius Heyward-Bey).

With that being said, I like to use the NFL combine to differentiate players which I see being of similar value which is why I am extremely excited to see the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft compete.  First and foremost, I am extremely excited to hear that all the quarterbacks in this year’s crop will be throwing (it drives me crazy that top quarterbacks often skip many of the drills at the combine- how can this guy lead your team and instill confidence in the players around him if he will not even compete on this stage).  Secondly, I like the fact that 2011’s QB class does not have a clear-cut, consensus top player.  Here are the guys to keep an eye on this weekend as each one has the potential to be a fantasy option in 2011 in deeper leagues.

Cam Newton, Auburn – The 2010 Heisman winner and National Champion has incredible physical gifts.  He has a strong arm, swift feet, and tremendous strength.  He will be transitioning from a less complex spread offense to a pro-style offense and I am curious to see how accurate he can be on deep outs as well as on short timing routes, both key elements of the pro game.  Additionally, I want to see if the self-proclaimed icon says anything he shouldn’t in interviews with teams.  The most successful quarterbacks in the league are meticulous students of the game (i.e. Manning, Brady, Rodgers, Brees) and I want to see if teams feel Newton can dedicate enough of his valuable time to being successful.

Blaine Gabbert, Missouri – The 21 year-old former Tiger has an ideal build, a strong arm, and solid footwork.  Some of you may have recently seen on Sportscenter the work he is putting in to prepare for the combine.  I am curious to see what scouts feel are Gabbert’s ceiling as a player and how close he is to already hitting it.  He seems like a safer pick than Newton but a poor showing at the combine could change that.

Jake Locker, Washington – Locker made the mistake of returning for his senior season (let the academic crowd chime in) and played poorly at times.  The consensus top 10 pick last year finds himself forced to have a solid combine to cement his status as a first round pick.  Locker is a tremendous athlete, has good size for the position and decent arm strength but questions came up at the Senior Bowl about his accuracy.  He will need to prove he can make the deep sideline throws as well as show accuracy on deep balls to improve his draft status.  He has seen the biggest slide in the past year which would lead me to believe he also has the biggest opportunity to climb.

Ryan Mallett, Arkansas – The ex-Razorback has not gotten the same hype as some of the other quarterbacks in this year’s class. 

Will Mallett leave teams forgetting about his off-field issues?

His tremendous size and arm strength have forced scouts to look deeper into his value as a quarterback though.  Since Mallett has not received the same attention as the other quarterbacks, a great showing at the combine could do wonders for his draft status.  He will be faced with questions though concerning some off the field drug issues and I am curious to see how teams treat those issues.  We have seen drug-related issues hurt the draft stock of great talents before with Randy Moss and Warren Sapp both falling out of the Top 10.  In a year where so many teams have questions at quarterback could Mallett erase those fears with his arm?  We will have to wait and see.

Remember, when evaluating these players for fantasy purposes, it is not just the talent that you see but also the team that picks the player.  Oftentimes, a team will pick a quarterback with the intention of sitting him for a year before he gets into game action, unless you are sitting behind Brett Favre that is.  Carson Palmer was the first pick in the draft, however he would be of no value because he sat his first season behind Jon Kitna.  Sam Bradford on the other hand was throw to the wolves in St. Louis because no other option was in place and would have been a capable fantasy starter in very deep leagues or a solid backup in normal-sized leagues.  What if Arizona picks Blaine Gabbert?  Will he mesh quickly with Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston and prove to be a fantasy option?

Carmelo to the Knicks: Could this happen in the NFL?

Vincent Jackson tried to hold out in 2010

After months of speculation, Carmelo Anthony got his wish.  In a trade involving 13 players, cash, and draft picks, Carmelo is now a member of the New York Knicks.  He made his intentions known that he wanted to play in New York and would not agree to sign a contract extension with any other team.  The Denver Nuggets were left with no real option but to move him to the Knicks for the best package they possibly could.  Do not blame Anthony for this situation, he operated within the constraints of the modern day NBA.

With that being said, could a similar situation emerge in the NFL?  The NFL tries to shield itself from such situations by allowing teams to maintain the rights to their biggest stars with the franchise tag.  Due to this tag, star players find themselves stuck with the option to sign a one year guaranteed contract (while being paid like a top 5 talent at their respective position or by getting a 20% raise over their previous year salary, whichever is greater- for details read this Wikipedia page) with their current team or to hold out – see San Diego Chargers, 2010 – and lose game checks.  I guess a player could also do his best Randy Moss or Terrell Owens impersonation- they seem to do a pretty good job of moving from team to team.

Fitzgerald in San Diego?

With a new collective bargaining agreement being worked on by NFL owners and the NFL Player’s Association, I would love to see the new agreement change the rules involving franchise players.  Trust me, I do not want to see Peyton Manning wear anything but a Colts jersey, but I would like to see players have the ability to gain more long term security through multiyear deals.

What if a limit was set for the number of years a player was given the franchise tag?  It could be a limit on the consecutive years a player faces the franchise tag or a limit on the total number of years a player would be allowed to be franchised throughout his career.  I propose 2 years.

I would look forward to the added strategy that teams would need to incorporate.  Would the Patriots still use the franchise tag on Logan Mankins in 2011 for the second straight year if it meant that they would not be able to ever do so again?  Would the Eagles use the franchise tag on Michael Vick in 2011 instead of working on a long term deal because they are worried about the number of hits he takes and how those hits will effect his long term health?

If these changes in the franchise tag rules occur you will see the opportunity for a Carmelo-like situation to occur in the NFL.

Could you imagine Adrian Peterson deciding that he wants to play with Tom Brady and forcing the Vikings to work out a deal with only the draft pick-hoarding Patriots?

What if Larry Fitzgerald, tired of the quarterback ineptitude in Arizona, decided he wanted to play with Philip Rivers and held Arizona’s feet to the fire to get something for him before he left via free agency?

The NFL is already the most entertaining sport year-round.  Adding the “Carmelo” element would just raise the bar.  And can you imagine the fantasy implications?

Top 15 Kickers For The 2011 Fantasy Season

Kickers. Yes they are football players too. And believe it or not many times they can be the difference between winning and losing on any given fantasy Sunday.

Which kickers can boot you to the championship. Once again, Frank and Evan of Two Guys Fantasy break down the top kickers for fantasy football in 2011.

Kickers (1 – 10 ) – Part 1

Download Part 1

Kickers (11 – 15) – Part 2

Download Part 2

2 Guys Fantasy - Top 15 Kickers For 2011 Fantasy

PlayerTeamFGMTeam Red Zone TD percentage
Sebastian JanikowskiOAK3352%
Josh BrownSTL3336%
David AkersPHL3252.4%
Nate KaedingSD23 (missed 3 games)56%
Matt BryantATL2860.7%
Neil RackersHOU2762.3%
Adam VinatieriIND2667%
Billy CundiffBAL2649%
Mason CrosbyGB2263%
David BuehlerDAL2459.6%
Garrett HartleyNO20 (missed 2 games)51.5%
Dan CarpenterMIA3053%
Nick FolkNYJ3044.3%
Rob BironasTEN2458.1%
Jay FeelyARI2443.2%

Top 15 Defenses For The 2011 Fantasy Season

Defense! Defense! Many a crowd has and will chant this hoping that their respective team’s defensive unit will be able to come up with a game changing play.

Likewise, many fantasy owners hope to strike gold each year with a fantasy defense for the ages. However, this can be tricky and Frank and Evan of Two Guys Fantasy help sort out the real value behind fantasy behind fantasy defenses for the 2011 season.

Defenses (1 – 10) – Part 1

Download Part 1

Defenses (11 – 15) – Part 2

Download Part 2

Top Fantasy Defenses for 2011

1PittsburghStill great at forcing turnovers and getting sacks.
2PhiladelphiaNmadi Asoughma makes this an elite unit.
3New York JetsRex runs his mouth but Gang Green is damn good.
4Green BaySecondary stil solid and red zone defense still stingy.
5ChicagoJulius Peppers proved he makes those around him better.
6BaltimoreT-Sizzle and Ngata provide a formidable challenge for offenses.
7New EnglandAddition of Haynesworth should make this unit dominant.
8DetroitSu and Fairley should be fun to watch.
9New York GiantsFront four as good as any team in the NFL.
10St LouisSpagnoulo is developing something special in St. Louis.
11MinnesotaJared Allen and the Williams Wall still have some tread left.
12Tampa BayYoung but has potential to be an elite unit.
13OaklandDefense and special teams reason why Raiders were improved in 2010.
14San DiegoAlways talented but will they show consistency in 2011?
15AtlantaAbove average unit but not lack of pass rush keeps them from being elite.

Top 20 Tight Ends For The 2011 Fantasy Season

20 years ago most tight ends were thought of as being nothing more than an extra lineman.

Today an elite tight end can be just as valuable as many wide receivers.

Frank and Evan of Two Guys Fantasy break the top 20 tight ends for the 2011 fantasy season.

Tight Ends (1 – 10)  – Part 1

Download Part 1

Tight Ends (11 – 20) Part 2

Download Part 2

Top 25 Fantasy TEs for 2011

1Dallas ClarkDespite injury, still the best option at tight end.
2Jermichael FinleyWas on record pace before injury.
3Vernon DavisProduction finally matching physical talent.
4Antonio GatesRecent injuries are a cause for concern.
5Kellen Winslow JrMark him down for 70+ catches.
6Rob GronkowskiI think he just scored again.
7Jason WittenPretty good year, despite injuries at the QB position.
8Zach Miler - OAKProbowl selection in 2010 was no fluke.
9Greg OlsenWill be Cam's favorite target in Carolina.
10Jimmy GrahamShockey's exit leaves him the keys to Saints TE position.
11Brandon PettigrewEmerged as a solid red zone target in 2010.
12Dustin KellerMarc Sanchez's go to guy on third downs.
13Chris CooleyCatches not a problem, but tds are.
14Owen DanielShould see plenty of passes in 2011.
15Heath MillerStill a threat near the red zone.
16Mercedes LewisFound the endzone quite a bit in 2010.
17Tony MoeakiHas potential to be special in Kansas City offense.
18Visanthe ShiancoeMcNabb could make him a factor again.
19Kevin BossBest hands on the Giants and fearless to boot.
20Tony GonzalezFather time has caught up with Tony.
21Jermaine GreshamSolid rookie season but faces major questions marks at QB.
22Ben WatsonCould develop a chemistry with Colt McCoy.
23Aaron HernandezCould get lost with all passing options now in New England.
24John CarlsonGreat fill in starter for bye weeks.
25Todd HeapNear the end, but can fill in as a spot starter.

No Free Agency in a Potential Lockout: Does this effect Fantasy Football?

Michael Vick is guaranteed to be an Eagle in 2011.

As I am writing this, I have all the hope in the world that an NFL lockout will not occur. I am excited for the best off-season in sports, starting with the combine, peaking with the draft, and ending with training camp. Sprinkled thorughout the off-season are opportunities for teams to meet, incorporate new players and coaches into offensive and defensive schemes, and allow players to get a feel for playing together. I fear 2011 may not offer teams the same opportunities.

One of the main issues with the proposed lockout will be the loss of free agency. Teams are able to sign players through March 3rd, and we have seen teams resorting to the tactics of the current labor agreement by placing the franchise tag on players like Michael Vick, Peyton Manning, and Chad Greenway- basically assuring that these players will not switch uniforms in 2011.

But what about the other 700 or so potential free agents? It is quite possible that a prolonged work stoppage would lead to a year without free agency. Since teams would not have the time to properly make roster moves, potential free agents may be required to join their 2010 team on a one year contract (with a modest pay increase: see this link for details). Players do not have a long shelf life in professional football and I cannot imagine many would love the idea of missing a chance to cash in through free agency. It also means a majority of NFL players will be playing for new contracts coming into 2012.

See, Albert was happy to be going to Washington at one point.

What does this mean for 2011 fantasy football? I have always looked for big years from players who are playing for a new contract (Albert Haynesworth anyone?)

I would expect a 2011 season in which veterans who are missing out on free agency put up monster years- especially at the skill positions. Running backs like DeAngelo Williams, Ronnie Brown, and Ahmad Bradshaw thought 2011 would their chance to cash in on one more big contract. Wide receivers like James Jones, Braylon Edwards, and Malcolm Floyd looked forward to using their success in 2010 to land them a big payday in 2011 will all of the sudden find themselves needing to put up big numbers again.

Remember, a lockout is not what I want to see. The potential situation does lead to some interesting story lines for the coming season and fantasy owners need to use this added motivation to their advantage.

Top 25 Fantasy Running Backs For The 2011 Fantasy Season

Running back is still one of the premier positions in fantasy football even with the NFL’s recent emphasis on the passing game and protecting the quarterbacks.

Frank and Evan of Two Guys fantasy break down the top 25 ball carriers to have in your fantasy backfield for the 2011 season.

Running Backs (1 – 10) – Part 1

Download Part 1

Running Backs (11 – 20) – Part 2

Download Part 2

Running Backs (21 – 25) – Part 3

Download Part 3

Top 25 Fantasy RBs for 2011

1Chris JohnsonHold out could affect his value. Stay tuned.
2Maurice Jones-DrewPocket Hercules still one of the best.
3Adrian PetersonFumbling issues seemed to have been cured in 2010.
4Arian FosterEmerged as an elite player in his first year as a starter.
5Ray RiceUndersized and Underrated.
6Jamaal CharlesOne of the most explosive backs in the league.
7LeSean McCoyFits the Eagles scheme perfectly.
8Darren McFaddenFinally showed what he could do if healthy in 2010.
9LeGarrette BlountSucker punched NFL defenses with his powerful running style.
10Steven JacksonStill going strong.
11Michael TurnerLack of receptions limits his fantasy value.
12Rashard MendenhallBroke several long runs last year.
13DeAngelo WilliamsWill see more carries with young QB under center.
14Peyton HillisPunishing running style is cause for concern.
15Ahmad BradshawFumbling issues and B. Jacobs vulturing TDs hurts value.
16Matt ForteUnderrated but still productive when he gets opportunities.
17Pierre ThomasWith Bush gone to Miami receptions will increase.
18Frank GoreHip injury and hold out is a major red flag.
19Knoshown MorenoIf only he could stay healthy.
20James StarksEmerged during Packers Superbowl run.
21Ben-Jarvus Green-EllisLaw Firm gets the job done in Fox-borough.
22Felix JonesShould be better in 2011 as Dallas focuses more on ground game.
23Shonn GreeneDisappointed many fantasy owners in 2010, but still a good back up option.
24Beanie WellsFantasy owners expected a lot more in 2010.
25Cedric BensonWill see a lot of carries with the problems at QB.