Three Reasons Why Odell Beckham Jr. Will Regress In 2015

The man, the myth, the legend. 

Odell Beckham Jr. shattered all expectations last year after posting 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in only 12 games, earning him a Pro Bowl spot and the Associated Press’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award. His miraculous catch (shown below) against the Cowboys led to his jersey being hung in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

 

SB Nation

                                                                        SB Nation

Beckham has been lauded for having the second-best rookie season in the Super Bowl era and some have gone as far as to claim he is the 32nd best player in the NFL. These accomplishments helped make Beckham a young celebrity, including encounters with sports stars LeBron James and David Beckham, the honor of being selected as the cover of EA Sports’ “Madden NFL 16” video game and sponsors ranging from Nike to Trojan Condoms.

Beckham is facing great expectations going into the 2015 season, with many believing the sophomore wide receiver will exceed his level play of last year by playing a full season. However, others believe Beckham will suffer through a “sophomore slump” after facing such early success. Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons some people aren’t buying the hype: 

The History of Rookie WR’s with 1,000 Receiving Yards

Beckham joined the exclusive group of rookie wide receivers achieving 1,000 yards, a group that includes the likes of Randy Moss and Anquan Boldin. Players who are a part of this group can often expect to have long, productive careers in the NFL, with only a few becoming busts. However, many of these receivers experienced a minor slump in their second year. Sports research engine PointAfter plotted the follow-up seasons of the 12 other receivers to debut with 1,000-yard campaigns on the graphic below:

Of the twelve receivers, only four (Randy Moss, A.J. GreenMarques Colston and John Jefferson) managed to gain more yards in their second season. Part of this decline can be explained by the injury bug affecting these receivers: eight of the receivers combined to miss a total of 33 games in their second year.

A possible reason for this could be that second year players are still adjusting to the physicality of the game. Wide receivers are usually not as injury-prone as other positions, such as running back and offensive linemen,who experience hard contact every play. However, these receivers are still adjusting from a 12-game schedule to a 16-game schedule and are playing against bigger, faster and stronger defensive backs than they did in college.

Beckham started only 11 games in 2014, and with a hamstring injury currently limiting his ability to practice, it is reasonable to be concerned whether Beckham will be able to take part in training camp and the preseason come August. 

The Hamstring Injury

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TheNYPost.com

In late May, Beckham felt a slight twinge in his right hamstring while running sprints. As a precautionary measure, the New York Giants decided to rest the receiver during mini camp in order to let him focus on healing his hamstring. It felt like déjà vu for Beckham, who experienced a similar hamstring injury last year which forced him to miss training camp, the preseason and the first four games of the 2014 season. 

Hamstring injuries are tricky for players, as hamstrings are responsible for providing much of the power and hip extension one experiences while sprinting. Hamstring injuries are often hard to treat, and overzealous players who take to the field too soon can expect a re-injury rate of up to 50 percent. 

As frustrating as he has described it, waiting patiently seems to be Beckham’s best option to return to playing with the team. When asked if the wide receiver would be ready for training camp starting on Jul. 30, the Giants head coach, Tom Coughlin, stated that “He just continues with whatever the plan is for them in the training room. He’s been running, but most of it’s been straight ahead. He’ll maneuver into the cutting and so on and so forth. He feels better, but he needs to feel a whole lot better.”

The Return of Victor Cruz

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NJ.com

Coming into the 2014 season, Victor Cruz was expected to be the Giants’ No. 1 wide receiver, easing Eli Manning into the
West Coast offense implemented by new offensive coordinator Ben Mcadoo and mentoring young receivers Rueben Randle and Beckham. But after going down in Week 6 with a knee injury, Cruz left a void at the receiver position. Beckham filled that role well, averaging 8.5 targets and 123.3 yards per game in the 10 games after Cruz was injured. 

Cruz has been reported to be recovering well from his injury and is expected to be ready to go when training camp starts on Jul. 30. The same cannot be said for Beckham, whose situation is still up in the air with the Giants coaching staff. 

Cruz’s return most likely means reduced targets for Beckham. All four wide receivers who exceeded their 1,000 yard rookie performance experienced an increase in targets in their sophomore year. Ben Mcadoo’s West Coast offense prioritizes route running in wide receivers, an area of the game both Cruz and Beckham excel at. The West Coast Offense typically distributes targets evenly among receivers, prioritizing efficient short passes over creating mismatches. This, along with the quiet emergence of Rueben Randle towards the end of last year, gives reason to believe Beckham will experience a drop in targets, and as a result, a drop in production. 

Odell Beckham Jr. faces great expectations going into 2015. At only 22 years old, he is already being heralded as one of the best players in the game. However, expectations of him maintaining his level of play are unrealistic for the upcoming season because of the amazing level he was at in 2014, injury concerns and a probable decrease in targets. But if he manages to post another excellent season, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s shocked the NFL.

The Irony Of The Redskins Trademark Case

About two week ago, the U.S. District Court upheld the previous court’s cancellation of the Redskins trademark after ruling in favor of a lawsuit brought forth by a group of Native Americans.

Although the Redskins have already stated that they plan to appeal again and believe that they will be successful in that appeal, this is still a fairly significant ruling and a victory for those advocating for the team to change its name.

The movement may have just picked up some momentum as the Obama administration had just a few days before said that they would not support or allow the Redskins to build a new stadium on federal land without them first changing their team name.

So while those on board with the Skins changing their name start to celebrate, let me leave them, and you, with this: the recent ruling by the federal court may end up doing more harm than good to the Native Americans, at least in the short-run.

Just take a second to realize what the ruling does. What it means is that now anyone can sell merchandise or use the Redskins name and logo as it is no longer protected by trademark law.

Daniel Snyder has already made it clear that he does not intend on changing the name. I doubt that he will ever have an epiphany and begin to think that using the name Redskins is wrong and needs to be stopped. The only way that he will change the name is if the league forces him to do it or if his pocketbook does.

Source: thebiglead.com

There are only two ways this thing plays out. The less likely one is that after the ruling nothing really changes: no one starts selling Redskins merchandise, which would otherwise cut into Snyder’s profits. Two, and the more likely scenario, is that they do. At that point Snyder would need to make a business decision on whether the loss of sales is enough to make him re-brand the team to secure a new trademark.

And that is what is terribly ironic about the whole ruling. The only way that the Redskins change their name is if more people start to profit off it. Cheaper memorabilia would be available for purchase with the increased competition from firms that can now use the logo, which would lead to an increase in total Redskins merchandise sales. And for those that think the name is harmful to Native Americans, this certainly puts them in a tough spot with more of the hateful merchandise out on the market.

Those that support the name-change will thus need to advocate for an act that will cause more short-term harm than good. This seems hypocritical, and a consequence that many may not consider when supporting the court’s decision to pull the Redskins’ trademark. Basically, this ruling is a no-win situation for both sides. Both sides should be upset by what could be to come in the future.

This name-change situation has been very heavily media driven and very scapegoat-ey (for lack of an actual word). Other teams with questionable names or logos, like the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo, have more or less been left alone, and America has turned their attention towards the Skins.

Source: blackathlete.net

Many are quick to jump down the throats of Skins fans that don’t want the name changed and are quick to call them bigoted. That’s probably not a fair assessment to make of Skins fans. Personally, I can say that I never even thought of the racial undertones of the Redskins’ name until it became a big deal about three years ago, and that probably holds true for most Skins fans as well.

But none of this really matters. Frankly I don’t think mainstream America’s opinion matters in this case. I think the only thing that matters is what Native Americans think. I don’t think it’s anyone’s job to tell Native Americans whether they should be offended or not.

In an often-cited 2004 survey, 90% of Native Americans did not mind the name. Now the methodology of that survey is very questionable; the poll was done by phone, which means that many Native Americans in rural conditions were not given a chance to express their opinions. In addition to that, the sample size was only 768 persons who self-identified as Native American. Anything under 1,500 should make one pause and think before buying in to the results of a public poll.

However, while the survey methodology is flawed and outdated, I only cite it to suggest that the issue is more nuanced than one would initially think. The fact that the percentage of Native Americans apathetic to the name was 90% rather than something a little lower shows that the issue is not just black and white. It shows that some support or have no problem with the name and that more research needs to be done.

Now some of you may be of the opinion that if 10% find it offensive, then it should be changed. I can’t disagree with that because that’s your opinion. However, I am not quite sure what the correct threshold should be.

I don’t think that a minority of people being offended should necessarily overrule the majority that is accepting of a certain thing. Some may feel that a larger threshold for offense should be considered. Some might think the threshold should be lowered. There is simply no “right” threshold that everyone will agree on.

All I mean to point out is that when choosing one’s own specific threshold make sure to consider the viewpoints of those being offended, but also balance those opinions to make sure that the wants of the few don’t necessarily wash out the wants of the many.

A lot has been covered here. There are other good pieces of literature on the Redskins name-change situation as the debate has rolled on. Monday Morning Quarterback writer Jenny Vrentas wrote an excellent piece on the situation and makes some points in favor of changing the name, that I myself have not made in this piece.

At the end of the day, Native American tribes should be calling the shots here and not anyone else. And those that have an opinion are welcome to have it, even welcome to share it, but it shouldn’t mean a thing in the court of public action. And for those of the opinion that the name should be changed and were cheering the recent ruling, you might want to consider that the consequences for the group being “offended” might outweigh any long-term benefits.

Cowboys, Dez Bryant Agree to 5-Year, $70M Deal

The Dez Bryant saga is set to beat the franchise-tag deadline buzzer, as the Cowboys and their superstar receiver are in agreement on a new contract.

Bryant has reportedly agreed to a new 5-year, $70 million deal with $45M guaranteed. In regards to guaranteed money, Bryant will be second to only Calvin Johnson, who is currently promised $48.75M. 

Despite early off-the-field issues, Bryant has made major strides in avoiding further trouble, becoming one of the NFL’s most-feared outside threats. Since 2012, Bryant has averaged 91 catches, 1,311 receiving yards, 13.7 TDs, while leading the NFL with 16 TD grabs a year ago. 

Patriots, K Stephen Gostkowski Strike 4-Year, $17M Agreement

It was never an easy task to replace Adam Vinatieri, but Stephen Gostkowski has gone above and beyond the call of kicking duty. After being franchise-tagged this spring, Gostkowski has officially agreed to a new 4-year, $17.2M deal. 

Gostkowski became the Patriots’ all-time leading scorer, surpassing Vinatieri last season, while leading the NFL with 73 made field goals from 2013-14. Gostkowski has a career 86.8 FG%, including a 93.6 FG% the past two years. 

New England’s 2006 4th-round pick will be the second-highest paid kicker in terms of total contract value, behind only Dallas’ Dan Bailey (22.5M). 

Demaryius Thomas, Broncos Beat Franchise Tag Deadline with $70M Deal

With only minutes to spare before the 4 p.m. ET franchise tag deadline, the Broncos have inked freakishly athletic wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to a 5-year, $70M contract. 

Thomas’ deal is identical to Dez Bryant’s agreement with the Cowboys, though Thomas’ guaranteed money falls slightly lower at $43.5M compared to Bryant’s $45M. 

The former Yellow Jacket will receive $35M in guarantees over the first two seasons of his new deal, while his $43.5M total guarantee is third-most among receivers behind Calvin Johnson and Bryant. 

The Broncos most formidable outside presence has 99 catches, 1,494 receiving yards and 11.7 touchdowns over the past three seasons, including three-consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. 

Chiefs Extend LB Justin Houston to $101M Deal

The Kansas City Chiefs deadly pass-rush combination of Tamba Hali and Justin Houston has quickly become one of the NFL’s more explosive duos. Today, Houston inked a record-setting deal that will keep the self-dubbed “Sack City” attack in Kansas City for the foreseeable future.

Hours before today’s 4 p.m. ET franchise tag deadline, Houston and the Chiefs agreed to a 6-year, $101M contract extension, the biggest contract in the history of the Chiefs and for a NFL linebacker. 

Houston will be given the second-highest guaranteed money ($52.5M) in regards to defensive players in today’s NFL, behind only Miami’s Ndamukong Suh ($59.95M). 

Houston led the NFL with 22.0 sacks in 2014, only a 0.5 sack shy of Michael Strahan’s single-season record of 22.5 set in 2001. In his career, the 2011 3rd-round pick has averaged 49.5 tackles, 12.1 sacks and 1.8 forced fumbles in his four seasons, having only missed four games. 

NFL Preseason Power Rankings


1. Green Bay Packers

I don’t want to seem biased here, but Green Bay has a lot of upside this year. The offense is bringing back every starter from last year and the defense boosted the secondary with a first and second round pick. This may be the year.

2. Seattle Seahawks

Seattle finally has a great receiving threat in Jimmy Graham. My problem is that Russell Wilson has yet to sign the big contract. Seattle either needs to get the man under contract or capitalize on him now.

3. New England Patriots

New England should have the top spot. However, I don’t believe Brady will be starting the first few games of the season. Without Brady, and with a much weaker secondary, the New England Patriots find themselves the third most powerful team in the NFL.

4. Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis is at this weird stage in their NFL existence where they are not elite but they are more than just good. The defense continues to be a problem for the Colts, so Chuck Pagano is on the hot seat after a string of weak playoff performances.

5. Denver Broncos

The Broncos bolstered the defense, but that has not been the issue. Peyton Manning was a shell of himself last year and will struggle even more with the absence of Julius Thomas. Denver’s window for a Super Bowl is closing.

6. Dallas Cowboys

Dallas made their offensive line even better than last year, if that was somehow possible. Greg Hardy will come off his suspension at some point as well. Losing DeMarco Murray and his 1845 rushing yards will be missed. I don’t think McFadden can produce across a whole season.

7. Arizona Cardinals

This team was on the verge of a Super Bowl run if any one of their quarterbacks could have stayed healthy for more than ten games. They will be a fully recovered team on both sides of the ball, which will allow these red birds to finally fly.

8. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers were yet another team derailed by injuries last season. They could’ve won the Super Bowl if Le’Veon Bell had been healthy for the later part of the season. That being said, it will be a more difficult road to the postseason without Dick LeBeau leading the defense.

9. Baltimore Ravens

The players that the Ravens kept were key to making a return to the playoffs. They did lose some stars on both sides of the ball though in Torrey Smith and Haloti Ngata. The Ravens will be hard-pressed to find an easy game in the AFC North.

10. Kansas City Chiefs

I like the Jeremy Maclin pick up a lot because: 1. the Andy Reid connection and 2. it fills what might be the most glaring position need in the NFL. The Chiefs defense also promises to continue it’s steady rise into the elite class of play.

11. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals progress as Andy Dalton does, so they continue to be a dominator of the weak and a pretender against real playoff competition. The truth is, Cincy didn’t do anything substantial to make themselves much better than last year’s team.

12. Detroit Lions

The Lions are rising back into the playoff ranks. I like what Jim Caldwell did with the team last season, and I think with a fully healthy Calvin Johnson, they can be even better. With tough losses across the defensive line though, the heart of the Lions might have just been ripped out.

13. San Diego Chargers

The Chargers would be higher, but the loss of Antonio Gates through the first few games is going to be a real missing element in that offense. With a new running back though, San Diego might finally be able to make a playoff run (HA!).

14. Carolina Panthers 

The Panthers are another team, like the Lions, that are just continuing to flourish at the right time. They made the playoffs last year in a terrible NFC South, and have the defense to make an honest run at a championship. The offense just needs to finally find a groove behind Cam Newton.

15. Houston Texans

The quarterback situation is still……. crap. At least the defense still has JJ Watt, and that’s what is important. Maybe if Watt took some snaps under center, the Texans would be back in the playoffs.

16. Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins haven’t done anything wrong this off-season. They won the Suh lottery. The only problem is that they lost Mike Wallace, and didn’t really find an answer for that position to help Ryan Tannehill’s continued development.

17. New York Giants

With the potential loss of JPP, or at least a lowered ability of play, the defense once again becomes the concern with the New York Giants. Hopefully, a second year in McAdoo’s system will help Eli limit the turnovers.

18. Philadelphia Eagles

I don;t like the downgrade at quarterback. I don’t like the trade of Shady McCoy for a linebacker. The Eagles made a series of weird moves that continue to make them the most interesting little project the NFL has to offer its fans.

19. Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings will be a better team. Bridgewater will improve, especially with the new receivers the team brought in. Adrian Peterson will return, and that will at least add another dimension of offensive for teams to gameplan around. Beware the Vikings. 

20. Buffalo Bills

Rex Ryan will be a good coach for the Bills. He will bring defensive intelligence and charisma to a city that deserves good football. I just hope he knows what he is doing at the quarterback position, otherwise all the effort will be wasted.

21. New Orleans Saints

I don’t think trading away your best offensive weapon to one of your conference’s best teams is a good strategy for winning. That being said, the defense is better and the Saints used early draft picks on the offensive side, so they are on the right path to a playoff comeback. 

22. St. Louis Rams

The Rams may finally have the quarterback that the franchise has searched for since Kurt Warner. That may not be the case, but at least they solved the Sam Bradford problem with ease and something to show for it. The Rams just need to continue to grind and build their young team under Jeff Fisher. 

23. New York Jets

The Jets had the best off-season in the NFL if you ask me. However, they still have plenty of question marks at quarterback. Not to mention, the loss of Sheldon Richardson will hurt their defense, even if it is just slightly.

24. San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers have fallen off the face of the Earth. Two years ago, it was a prime destination for NFL free agents. Now, it is where players go to spontaneously retire. The 49ers are going to continue their slide from last year.

25. Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons still have problems with the defense and offensive line. However, the draft gave them a chance to rebuild somewhat. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are still there though, so at least this team can be entertaining, if not good.

26. Cleveland Browns

The Browns are just the NFL sad sacks. Even when a season shows some potential, it always ends up crashing and burning for Cleveland. They drafted well though, and made some strategic free agency pickups, so there is some hope for the Browns.

27. Oakland Raiders

The Raiders are going to be good… in like three years. Let Amari Cooper and Derek Carr get acquainted with each other first. Khalil Mack will also continue to rise up the charts of NFL stardom. The future is your’s, Raider fans.

28. Washington Redskins

This is just a bad situation to be in. The quarterbacking is a joke and the defense is the punchline to an even worse joke. The only thing that makes this team better than the next team is that they can abandon their quarterback.

29. Chicago Bears

The Bears are stuck with that slob, Jay Cutler. He continues to mope his way through his NFL career and still has nothing to show for it. The Bears defense may be slightly better under Del Rio, but turnovers are the problem.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars

I think Blake Bortles will continue to develop nicely. I don;t know about the rest of the team, but at least Bortles will continue to get better. Too bad about Fowler, though.

31. Tennessee Titans

The Titans will be bad because they need time to develop their quarterback. At least they have an offensive line to put in front of their rookie. The defense could use some work next.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs will not be good. I have seen that team in person, they have one of the worst offensive lines I have ever seen. Good luck out their your first season Jameis, you’re going to need it.

Seven Numbers The Redskins Must Improve In 2015-16

Several Washington Redskins have expressed their high expectations for the 2015-16 season. But like any 4-12 team, they have a list of problems begging to be addressed this offseason.

Here are seven metrics the Redskins must improve and the corresponding offseason moves the team has made that point them in the right direction.

1) Net passing yards per attempt

When Redskins quarterbacks stayed upright, they were pretty efficient. Excluding plays that ended in a sack, Washington averaged 8.2 yards per pass, which was fourth in the league and better than prominent passing offenses like Denver and Indianapolis. But when you factor in sacks, that number decreases to 6.0 yards per attempt. Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy were sacked a combined 58 times, second-worst in the NFL.

Tight ends and running backs need to do their part in pass protection, and QBs need to get rid of the ball sooner. However, the most improvement must come from the O-line. Washington used three of its ten draft picks on offensive linemen: tackle Brandon Scherff (first round, fifth overall), guard Arie Kouandjio (fourth round) and center Austin Reiter (seventh round). They also signed tackle Takoby Cofield, who went overlooked in the draft.

2) Rushing attempts

The top rushing offenses averaged about 31 attempts per game in 2015. The Redskins averaged 25 attempts per game, good for 21st in the NFL.

Washington needs to run the ball effectively. Third-round draft pick Matt Jones will help shoulder some of the load. A “big boy,” as head coach Jay Gruden describes him, the running back stands at 6-foot-3 and 231 pounds and will be a threat to defenders. Veteran Alfred Morris returns with three 1,000+ yard seasons under his belt. The team is also switching from a zone-blocking offense to a power-heavy offense, which Morris says is “right up my alley.”


3) Third down conversion

Washington converted 31.5 percent of third downs, which put them at 30th in the league. That’s only better than Tennessee and Cleveland– not the best of company. The best third down teams in the league – New Orleans, Green Bay and Dallas – convert about 50 percent of the time. But third down conversions are more about timing, especially near the end zone. In 34 third-down snaps in the red zone, the Redskins gained an average of 1.5 yards per play and scored three touchdowns (8.8 percent conversion rate).The rest of the NFL averaged 2.85 yards per play and converted a touchdown 23 percent of the time.

The team brought in Bill Callahan from Dallas as offensive coordinator. Callahan has studied offenses for 35 years, 16 of those with NFL teams. Improving play in there d zone is one of Gruden’s major focal points heading into training camp. A majority of mini camp involved 11-on-11 and seven-on-seven end zone efficiency drills.

4) Defensive yards per play

The Redskins gave up 5.8 yards per play, 26th in the league. That number was worse on third down, where the ‘Skins fell to 29th, allowing 6.8 yards. And guess what?When opponents gain yardage, they move closer to the red zone. That’s why opponents scored 27.4 points per game against the No.30 Washington defense.

Joe Barry, who spent the last five seasons as linebackers coach in San Diego, was brought in as defensive coordinator. The line was upgraded with the additions of Terrance Knighton, Stephen Paea and Ricky Jean Francois. Then Chris Culliver, Dashon Goldson and Jeron Johnson were signed to improve the secondary. Although DeAngelo Hall was unable to participate in OTAs and minicamps with a torn Achilles heel, he used the offseason to mentor a young group of defensive backs.

5) Opponent passer rating

This may not be the most accurate way to analyze a pass defense, but a number this bad deserves attention. The average passer rating against Washington was 108.3, worst in the league by a long stretch. This means the average quarterback facing the Redskins had a higher passer rating than Ben Roethlisberger (103.3), Peyton Manning (101.5), Tom Brady (97.4) and Drew Brees (97.0).

Washington’s new strength and conditioning coach, Master John Kim, is a seventh-degree black belt who has worked with eight different NFL franchises. As a pass rush specialist, he incorporates martial arts into drills to help defensive linemen work their hands, feet and hips while avoiding opponents and tracking the ball.

6) Turnovers

The Redskins’ 31 turnovers ranked third-worst in the league. Their takeaway-giveaway differential was -12, also third-worst. The teams with the best differential and fewest number of turnovers? New England, Green Bay and Seattle. You see where I’m going with these comparisons.

Another one of Gruden’s major points of interest is improving the turnover differential. He says this begins with the defense forcing more fumbles and interceptions. During this summer’s offseason practices, defenders are being trained to go after the ball every time it hits the ground, even after incomplete passes.

7) Penalties


Unnecessary and avoidable penalties were a dagger for a team that already struggled with production. The ‘Skins lost 1,130 yards to penalties last season, which was second worst in the league. Most of the Redskins’ league-leading144 penalties were false starts (22) or holding (17) calls.

Callahan stresses the importance of discipline and eliminating mental errors. He makes linemen run laps around the field during practice when they jump offsides. Kim’s training will help with the holding issue.

What do you think about these numbers? Leave a comment below.

Why I Traded For Adrian Peterson

Opinions about Adrian Peterson’s fantasy value in 2015 are all over the place. Many doubters cite the fact that he is 30 years old, an unforgiving benchmark in the running back world. Others are wary of the fact that he’s played in only one regular season NFL game in the last 22 months. 

Despite these concerns I am fully aboard the Adrian Peterson bandwagon. Jamaal Charles, Eddie Lacy, Le’Veon Bell, Marshawn Lynch, and AP are at the top of most draft boards, and they currently compose my top five. I’ve had each of them first overall at one point or another, but as of now I have Charles first overall. Arian Foster and Jeremy Hill could make a run at this group when all is said and done. 

AP isn’t the safest pick of the group, and for that reason he won’t end up in my first overall spot. However, I still believe he is an elite NFL running back and a much safer pick than many perceive him to be. 

As long as Peterson has been on the field he’s been productive. He has scored double digit touchdowns in all seven NFL seasons in which he has played in more than one game. In what is essentially a contract year (the next two years of his contract are not guaranteed), I would rather bet on AP than against him.

Opportunity is just as important to high-level fantasy performance as talent, and AP should see plenty of touches in 2015. Minnesota has little incentive to limit his workload next season if he proves to be effective. He will likely move on from Minnesota after the 2015 season given the turmoil between the two parties this offseason. If the Vikings want to let AP walk after he endures a heavy workload (i.e. Demarco Murray this offseason) they can. 

AP could catch more passes in 2015 than he traditionally has in his career. Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner has frequently involved his running backs in the passing game throughout his career. Peterson has never derived much of his fantasy value from the passing game. A bump in receptions would be huge for Peterson’s fantasy value. 

The Vikings offense should move the ball consistently in 2015 and put AP in position for goal-line touches. Teddy Bridgewater improved down the stretch in 2014 and should carry that momentum into his sophomore season. 

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image: usatoday.com

He will have more weapons at his disposal in 2014 with the addition of WR Mike Wallace. Wallace is the deep threat the Vikings need to keep defenses from stacking the box. WR Charles Johnson is also another player to watch who could have a nice year and keep teams from focusing too intently on AP. 

The thought of acquiring Adrian Peterson was extremely enticing, and I was lucky enough to trade for him about a month ago. He had not yet reported to Vikings camp, and this led to the price tag being lower than it would likely be today.

To give proper context as to the value of the players involved in the deal, I need to explain the rules of the league. It is a keeper league, which means you can retain players on your team from season to season. The keeper rules are explained below.

  • 10 Team Keeper/Dynasty League

  • Lineup: 2 QB/2 RB/2 WR/1 TE/2 FLEX/1  K/1 D/ST

  • Standard Scoring

  • A player drafted in rounds 1-5 must be kept in rounds 1-5 the following season. If you only keep three players in this range, they would have to be kept with your first, second, and third round pick.

  • A player drafted after rounds 1-5 can be kept in that same round the following season. That player must be kept a round earlier than they were originally drafted in their second keep year. The player must be kept in rounds 1-5 in the third keep year and every following year the player is kept.

  • You must keep a player in your top 5 picks if you were not the first owner to touch that player in the previous season. This includes trades and players who were previously dropped to waivers.

  • Only eight players total can be kept.

  • All draft picks are tradeable.

Below are projections of who I would have kept and who the person I traded with likely would have kept prior to the trade. 

My Keepers:

1st-3rd round: QB Andrew Luck, QB Aaron Rodgers, WR Jordy Nelson 

4th-5th: Two out of WR T.Y. Hilton, RB Alfred Morris and RB Justin Forsett 

8th: TE Greg Olsen 

16th: WR Jordan Matthews         

His Keepers: 

1st-5th: QB Peyton Manning, RB Jamaal Charles, RB Adrian Peterson, RB DeMarco Murray, QB Tom Brady

17th: RB Dan Herron

After some intense negotiations, the deal was done. Here’s how it went down:

I receive: RB Adrian Peterson

I trade: WR T.Y. Hilton, RB Alfred Morris, 9th Round Pick

I gave up two consensus top 30-35 players (Hilton and Morris) and a 9th round pick (will be 89 overall) for Adrian Peterson. In a league with two flex spots, depth matters. At first it wasn’t an easy decision to part with two of my key players. That hesitation vanished when I realized I had been looking at this trade the wrong way. 

I would have had to use my 4th and 5th round picks to keep Alfred Morris and T.Y. Hilton. To keep Adrian Peterson I will only need to use my 4th round pick. By liberating my 5th round pick, I can keep Justin Forsett instead of releasing him to the draft pool. 

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image: baltimorebeatdown.com

Forsett started 2014 as a relative unknown but finished the season as the eighth overall RB in standard leagues. I wasn’t planning on keeping Forsett following the 2014 season. I thought the Ravens would let him walk in free agency.

To my surprise and delight, the Ravens re-signed Forsett to a three year, $9 million dollar deal. Forsett is going to have the pleasure of running behind one of the better offensive lines in the NFL and could have a big year catching passes in new Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman’s system. 

Bears RB Matt Forte caught 102 passes last season with Trestman calling plays. That was good for 4th among all players in the NFL. Forsett is no Forte, but Forsett’s ADP will certainly be higher than the 49th pick, the pick I would get if chose not to keep him. If he can produce at an RB2 level I will be happy with the decision to keep him. 

With this in mind, lets re-examine the trade when factoring in that I get to keep Forsett. 

I Get: Adrian Peterson, Justin Forsett

He Gets: Alfred Morris, T.Y. Hilton, 9th round pick

I love my end of this trade. When I started to break down AP’s prospects for the upcoming season, I saw a player who is a safe bet to finish as a top 10 running back and who has a very high ceiling if he stays healthy. I don’t see the same level of security or upside in Hilton or Morris. 

That’s not to say Hilton or Morris couldn’t both produce at a high-level. They were both consistent performers last season and are ranked in ESPN’s top 30. I just don’t see either player being elite next season.

Indianapolis added WR Andre Johnson in free agency and drafted WR Phillip Dorsett in the 1st round. Andrew Luck will now have the deepest group of pass-catchers in the NFL in my opinion: T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, Phillip Dorsett, 2014 3rd round pick WR Donte Moncrief, TE&
nbsp;Coby Fleener, and TE Dwayne Allen. For a 5’10 receiver who isn’t going to catch a lot of red zone touchdowns, my concerns about Hilton’s usage made him expendable to get AP. 

Washington took Matt Jones to serve as their 3rd down back and replace Roy Helu. Morris has been one of the most consistent running backs in the league over the past three years, but he is extremely touchdown dependent and offers next to nothing in the passing game.

I like that the Redskins drafted an offensive lineman in the 1st (Brandon Scherff, Iowa) and 4th Round (Arie Kouandijo, Alabama) and their line should be a bit better than it was last year. The limited upside is the biggest issue for me and allowed for the inclusion of Morris. 

When accounting for the fact that I get to keep Forsett by making this trade, the deal is a no-brainer. Last offseason I traded a 7th round pick for DeMarco Murray (whom I have since traded) in this league. I’m hoping I can hit lightning in a bottle again with this trade. 

The biggest lesson to be learned from this trade is that in keeper leagues, you must factor in the draft pick required to keep an extra keepable player when you acquire more players than you give up in a pre-draft trade. This can drastically change the evaluation of a trade offer, both for better and worse.

Last but not least: 

If your league doesn’t trade, you’re doing it wrong. 

For updates on all things NFL, follow me @mrosekNFL

Started From The Bottom

In a sample space as minuscule as sixteen NFL games, there are bound to be statistical outliers–teams that were unusually lucky or unlucky by certain measures over the course of the season. It is the unavoidable curse of football. No matter how good the players are or how well they are coached, the team is at the mercy of the bouncing will of an oblong sphere. 

These teams often find that this remarkable luck, good or bad, is often unsustainable due to the statistical tendency of regression to the mean. Over a large enough sample, statistics subject to randomness (e.g. fumble recovery, record in close games, etc.) approach an even 50% rate. In this article, we will take a look at teams that significantly under-performed in these areas of randomness, likely to see their luck improve. For some of them, normalized performance in these areas might mean the difference between a winning or losing record, or even making or missing the playoffs.


Record in Games Decided by 7 Points or Fewer

Teams’ records in one-score games gravitate towards .500, so any squad that loses an inordinate number of them might hope to get some of those wins back the following season. Perhaps outside of having an excellent time-wasting run game, luck and intangibles like “grittiness” are the clearest deciding factors in one-possession games. Below are the NFL teams who had a winning percentage below .400 in such games:

Team Record (W/L) Win Pct
New Orleans Saints (3-5) .375
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) .333
Baltimore Ravens (2-4) .333
Houston Texans (2-4) .333
Atlanta Falcons (2-4) .333
New York Jets (3-6) .333
Oakland Raiders (2-5) .286
Tennessee Titans (1-4) .200
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8) .111
New York Giants (0-3) .000
Chicago Bears (0-4) .000

Most of these teams could have really used the one or two wins that would have brought them to .500 in one-score games. Had the Texans closed out at 3-3 instead of 2-4, they would have finished 10-6, a wild-card-worthy record. The same goes for the Saints: if they had pulled out the victory in just one of those five losses, they would have finished 8-8 on the season, good enough for the division crown in the putrid 2014 NFC South. 

Speaking of the NFC South–my goodness, Bucs. Of Tampa Bay’s 16 games, nine came down to a single possession. This reveals two things about the Buccaneers: (1) their fans are probably still in pain from having their hearts broken so many times, and (2) their league-worst 2-14 record is probably far from representative of their true talent level. Regardless of how well QB Jameis Winston plays in his rookie year, Tampa is a big candidate to improve, simply because they will not fare as poorly in close games next year.

While the Buccaneers are the most dramatic case, if you see your favorite team in that table, you might have an extra couple of wins coming your way in 2015.


Fumble Recovery Percentage

Even the most agile, observant player cannot jump on a loose ball if it lands in an opponent’s lap. Fumble recovery almost entirely comes down to luck, which creates an interesting dynamic given how impactful a turnover can be during a game. Again, since the chances of recovering a fumble should hover around 50%, the teams grabbing loose balls at a significantly lower rate could see fewer turnovers, more takeaways, and maybe more wins.

Team Recovery Pct
Cleveland Browns 44.74
Chicago Bears 44.19
Oakland Raiders 42.55
Pittsburgh Steelers 42.50
New Orleans Saints 37.84
New York Giants 36.96
San Francisco 49ers 32.43

Unlike with one-score games, which might lend themselves somewhat to ability (just ask Andrew Luck and his career 18-4 regular season record in those games), players have virtually no control over whether they are the ones at the bottom of the pile. Therefore, there is good news around the corner for teams in this table, especially the bottom three.


Strength of Schedule

It is not quite accurate to call a difficult slate of games “unlucky” in the same way as losing a fumble is unlucky, but analyzing strength of schedule in 2014 (and projected SOS for 2015) gives us another metric to predict improvement. Below is the more difficult half of schedules; each of these teams faced opponents with a collective winning percentage above .500.

Team Opp Win Pct
Tennessee Titans .506
San Diego Chargers .512
Kansas City Chiefs .512
Miami Dolphins .512
New York Giants .512
Jacksonville Jaguars .514
New England Patriots .514
Buffalo Bills .516
Denver Broncos .521
Arizona Cardinals .523
Seattle Seahawks .525
San Francisco 49ers .527
Chicago Bears .529
St. Louis Rams .531
New York Jets .543
Oakland Raiders .570

Obviously, this is not quite enough information. These teams had tough roads, but not all will get a reprieve in 2015. All the teams from the NFC West appear on this list by virtue of playing in a tough division, which does not change, and they play the NFC North and AFC North next season, each with at least two teams that will give them some trouble. Eight of these sixteen teams will see a significantly easier projected schedule (sorted from smallest to largest difference in SOS):

Team 2014 Opp Win Pct 2015 Opp Win Pct
Miami Dolphins .512 .492
Oakland Raiders .570 .545
Buffalo Bills .516 .486
New York Giants .512 .478
New England Patriots .514 .477
Jacksonville Jaguars .514 .463
New York Jets .543 .488
Tennessee Titans .506 .435

Each of these differences is significant but will clearly help some teams more than others. The Raiders, for example, still have an opposing winning percentage over .500, going from the hardest schedule in the league to the 7th-hardest — not exactly cause for celebration. The Patriots, meanwhile, face an even easier schedule one year after going 12-4 and winning the Super Bowl. Square up AFC East!

Tennessee once again find themselves on the right side of these stats; they did not have an exceedingly difficult schedule in 2014 but now get the 7th-easiest projected slate this season by virtue of playing the Jaguars twice, the Browns, the AFC East, and the NFC South. You cou
ld not do much better custom designing a schedule for a rookie QB.


Estimated and Pythagorean Wins

The last big predictive stat we will use here tries to more accurately understand a team’s talent and how many wins they would merit under normal circumstances. If either of these measures indicates a win total higher than a team’s actual wins, then we know that squad to be better than their record would suggest. Pythagorean wins is a relatively simple calculation, judging an appropriate number of wins based on point differential. Estimated wins (from FootballOutsiders.com) “emphasizes consistency as well as DVOA in the most important specific situations: red zone defense, first quarter offense, and performance in the second half when the score is close. It then projects a number of wins adjusted to a league-average schedule and a league-average rate of recovering fumbles.” I limited the teams in this table to those with six wins or fewer, or those with the most room for improvement–that is the cutoff where you really begin to see some disparity between real wins and estimated/Pythagorean wins.

Team Actual Wins Est. Wins Pyth. Wins
Atlanta Falcons 6 7.2 7.1
New York Giants 6 7.0 7.5
St. Louis Rams 6 6.1 7.1
Chicago Bears 5 6.4 4.9
New York Jets 4 5.9 4.8
Washington Redskins 4 4.4 4.5
Jacksonville Jaguars 3 3.3 3.6
Oakland Raiders 3 4.8 3.1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2 4.1 4.4
Tennessee Titans 2 4.0 3.3

Notable disparities between estimated and Pythagorean wins–the case with the Jets and the Bears–make prediction difficult. Both agree that Gang Green was better than 4-12; while they had the score differential of a 4.8-win team, estimated wins puts them closer to six wins. The Bears, meanwhile, did slightly better than their Pythagorean expectation.

On the more straightforward side, 2015 might hold some good tidings in the form of regression to the mean for teams like the Falcons, Giants, and Titans, each of whom under-performed their win total by at least a win by both stats–the Bucs underachieved by at least two wins in each. 

If at any point in this article you saw your favorite team, congratulations! However, it seems some teams were particularly unlucky, and in several areas, they are. In no particular order, the preseason picks for Most Improved: Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Tennessee Titans.

Wish them and all other teams luck in the 2015 season; everyone needs some of it.