Odell Beckham Jr.

Dear Mr. Fantasy, Give Us A Clue

Victor Cruz is out for the year, so who should you pick up?

Victor Cruz is out for the year, so who should you pick up?

It’s Mr. Fantasy’s premiere football column. He share his waiver wire grabs, drops, an fuggedaboutits.

Injuries play a huge role in every fantasy football league, just as they do in the actual National Football League. Week 6 had more than their fair share of impactful injuries, so it’s time to go around the NFL and take a look at the newest injuries and how they impact their teams and yours.

Victor Cruz WR, NYG: This is a huge blow to the Giants’ already shaky playoff chances. If you missed it, there will be no salsa dancing for the foreseeable future for Cruz after he tore his patella tendon in Sunday night’s contest with Philly. Swoop up Rueben Randle or Odell Beckham Jr. if one of them is available in your league. Randle is likely to be targeted more at this point of the season, but Beckham, the Giants first round pick in 2014, will get more passes thrown his way as the season goes on. Eli Manning and Randle are often not on the same page, so that could also play into Beckham’s numbers. Preston Parker’s targets should go up as well as a result of Cruz’s injury. The Giants have also signed Kevin Ogletree, but he won’t have much of a fantasy impact.

Darren Sproles RB, PHI: The diminutive, but powerful running back is expected to miss two weeks with a sprained MCL. That could be just one week of games since Philly has a bye this Sunday. (Post-MRI talk even has a possibility of Sproles returning in week eight versus Arizona) Sproles’ nine fantasy points on Sunday was the most since he compiled 14 and 23 the first two weeks of the season.

Not that it has hurt their offense, but Sproles was targeted four times against the Giants on Sunday night, but didn’t have a reception. In the prior week’s victory over St. Louis, Nick Foles didn’t throw Sproles’ way once. Chris Polk, who sat out Sunday’s game due to a hamstring injury has indicated he’ll be ready for the Cardinals game. Even if Sproles is out, Polk is not likely to get too many carries when LeSean McCoy needs a breather.

Stevan Ridley RB, NE: The New England Patriots top back tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee and is out for the remainder of the season. Picking a replacement running back for the Pats, when it comes to fantasy football, is extremely diifficult. Head coach Bill Belichik uses so many situational formations it’s difficult to predict how many touches a game a player will get.

Former Patriot RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a perfect example of this. He rushed for just 667 yards in 2011, but was a goal line specialist and scored 11 touchdowns. That being said, Shane Vereen is the favorite to handle the ball the most of any of NE’s backs…but look for your points from another team.

Knowshon Moreno RB, Mia: Most owners had already picked up Lamar Miller when Moreno injured his elbow in Week 2. Now the former Denver Broncos standout is out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL in his right knee. Miller has been limited in practice due to an undisclosed injury so stowing Damien Williams on your bench might be a good long term investment.

 

Turn out the lights, the party’s over. Time to ride the pines.

Ah, good ol’ “Dandy” Don Meredith singing “Turn out the lights, the party’s over” back in the hey day of Monday Night Football. In this case the party is over for some football players. These guys aren’t hurt, they’ve just become ineffective.

Matt Asiata RB, Min: When Adrian Peterson was suspended, the Vikings gave the ball to Asiata, who responded with 36 yards rushing and 48 yards receiving and a TD in week 2. Week 4 saw him compile the fantasy game of his life. In the 41-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons, Asiata rushed for three touchdowns and compiled 100 total yards rushing and receiving. But the game also was an omen of things to come.

Rookie Jerick McKinnon rushed for 135 yards against Atlanta,  on just 18 carries. The 3rd round pick from Georgia Southern still managed only 10 touches the following week, because Green Bay blew the game open early in a 42-10 rout. Last week, the Vikings held tough against a very good Detroit Lions defense, which saw McKinnon rush for 40 yards (11 carries) and catch all six passes targeted at him for another 42 yards. Meanwhile Asiata, despite 72 yards rushing against the Packers, carried the ball just twice against Detroit and had no receptions. McKinnon is clearly the starter now, though you may not want to start him this week against a tough Buffalo Bills defense.

Larry Donnell TE, NYG: Donnell had a pretty awful 2013 campaign and was a breakout star this season until the last two weeks. He scored 11 points in week 1 vs. Detroit, followed by eight points against Arizona. His big week came in week 4 when he caught three touchdowns against the beleaguered Washington Redskins defense. But Donnell has recorded zero fantasy points the last two weeks. Granted his triple tap touchdown reception this past Sunday against Philly was called back by a holding penalty on offensive lineman Will Beatty, but either defenses have adjusted and/or Manning is looking elsewhere.

With Cruz out, Manning could go back to Donnell, but this week’s opponent, Dallas, has allowed just two touchdowns to tight ends this season. That and the other Giants tight end Daniel Fells caught a TD pass in weeks 2 through 4. It’s a  good time to bench Donnell.

Chris Johnson RB, NYJ: Remember when Johnson was the studliest running back in the NFL? It seems like eons ago now. While he put in some serviceable performances in his latter days with the Tennessee Titans, his time with the Jets has been nothing stellar. Fans were excited when he had 68 yards rushing and another 23 receiving in week 1, including a touchdown, but Johnson hasn’t done much since then. He’s found the opponents’ end zone just one additional time.Teammate Chris Ivory is clearly the better back at this time and Johnson is likely to continue to see the football less and less. Cut Johnson loose and get a useful player on your roster.

 

Christmas Comes Early

Jason Witten TE, DAL: The Cowboys tight end has just one TD reception this season and has not recorded more than eight fantasy points in any single game. But the Cowboys host the Giants this week and Jason Witten loves to play his division rivals. Last season alone, Witten caught eight of nine targets for 70 yards and two touchdowns in an opening night 36-31 win. In the Sunday prior to Thanksgiving, the Giants “held” Witten to four receptions for 37 yards, but he still caught two TD passes in a 24-21 Cowboys’ win. Though he didn’t catch a touchdown pass, the second meeting between the two teams in 2012 saw Witten catch a ridiculous 18 passes for 167 yards. In a word, or two words, start him!

 

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Mr. Fantasy can be reached with fantasy football or hockey questions at mrfantasy@d4assignment.com

Giants Continue Turnaround With Come From Behind Win

Rookie Odell Beckham Jr. was a big part of Sunday's come from behind win.

Rookie Odell Beckham Jr. was a big part of Sunday’s come from behind win.

by Drew Sarver

The first half of Sunday’s home between the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons looked much like the Big Blue disaster that were weeks one and two.  The defensive line was bulldozed, resulting in no pressure on quarterback Matt Ryan and the Atlanta running game big chunks of yardage at a time. The offense was ineffective, but the Giants only found themselves down 13-10 at halftime and mounted a second half comeback for a 30-20 win.

After the Falcons’ second possession it didn’t seem the Giants would be extending their two game winning streak. What appeared to be a harmless screen pass almost turned into a back breaker. From their own 26-yard line, Ryan went into a deep drop and connected with running back Antone Smith at the line of scrimmage. Giants’ safety Antrel Rolle missed a bad angle tackle and there was no one there to back him up. The speedy Smith outraced Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, who had initially stopped pursuit on the play, to the end zone for a 74-yard touchdown and a 20-10 Falcons lead.

But as if someone had suddenly flipped the switch, the game turned in the Giants favor and they answered the Falcons touchdown with one of their own. A 9-play, 81-yard drive culminated with rookie running back Andre Williams finding the end zone on a 3-yard run. The drive featured receptions by Williams, Victor Cruz, rookie Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle, and two third down conversions. (One on an Atlanta penalty.)

Then the Giants defense stepped up their game. They only sacked Ryan once on the day, but continually got in his face and/or flushed him out of the pocket. A quick three and out by the Falcons, gave the Giants the ball back  with 24 seconds left in the third quarter. Now it was time for the Giants offensive line to do some bullying, giving Manning time to throw and opening holes for Williams, who took over as the featured back when Rashad Jennings sprained his knee. Manning and Beckham hooked up on a 14-yard completion and Cruz pulled in a 12-yard pass on a third and eight. Facing a third and three at the Falcons’ 15, Beckham outmuscled Robert Alford and got in front of the cornerback in the end zone for his career TD reception.

A second straight three and out led to a Josh Brown 50-yard FG to give the Giants a 27-20 lead. The Giants iced the victory after a questionable decision by Atlanta head coach Mike Smith. The Falcons faced fourth and one on their own 29-yard line with 4:48 remaining in regulation, all three timeouts remaining, plus the 2-minute warning. But instead of punting, Smith showed no faith in his defense, which in fairness had been dominated in the second half, and went for it. The decision backfired when Giants’ defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins dropped Ryan for a nine yard loss. With 2:11 remaining in the game, Brown booted througha  26-yard FG for the game’s final scoring play.

Ryan was missing 2/5 of his starting offensive line, but it didn’t seem to matter through the first 30 minutes of the game. Trailing 7-0 after a first quarter TD pass from Eli Manning and Randle, the Falcons drove 80 yards in nine plays that culminated with running back Stephen Jackson practically walking into the end zone for a game tying 10 yard touchdown. The drive, which took 4:43, featured 22- , 11-, and 12-yard  completions from Ryan to receiver Julio Jones. Each time, Jones was wide open. Stephen Jackson also reeled off an 11-yard run before he scored his second touchdown of the season.

Atlanta got the ball back immediately when return man Preston Parker was stripped of the football on the ensuing kickoff.  The Falcons’ Eric Weems recovered the pigskin on the Giants 21-yard line. The six-play drive crossed into the second quarter and ended with a Matt Bryant 22-yard field goal for a 10-7 Atlanta lead.

The Giants went three plays and out and the Falcons had the ball back yet again in less than two minutes. This time the Giants defense stopped the Falcons after they marched 37 yards to the Giants 38 yard line. 21 yards rushing by Jennings and an 18 yard completion to Randle helped the Giants get to the Falcons’ 34, but on second and nine, former teammate Osi Umenyiora sacked Manning for a seven-yard loss. The Giants eventually settled for a Brown 49-yard FG.

Upon getting the ball back, the Falcons quickly moved 73 yards as Ryan completed six straight passes. But with 2nd and goal at the two, Ryan’s passes to Jones and Roddy White fell short. The Giants were fortunate to escape the first half down 13-10 after Bryant nailed a chip shot from 20 yards.

The Giants rookies came up big and will have to continue to in the coming weeks with Philadelphia and Dallas next on the schedule. Williams finished the game with 65 yards on 20 carries and two receptions for 18 yards. Beckham wasn’t on the field for a large number of snaps, but there appears to be a solid comfort level between he and Manning despite missing the pre-season and the first four regular season games with an injured hamstring. He was targeted five times and finished with four receptions for 44 yards.

With a lingering foot injury keeping middle linebacker Jon Beason out of the lineup, six-year veteran Jameel McClain also turned in a strong game. The 29-year old free agent signee – after six season with the Baltimore Ravens – recorded seven tackles and defended two passes.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

2014 NY Giants Preview: Can Eli Still Make Fans BELIeve?

EliManning

Eli Manning must stay on his feet and keep the ball out of the opponents’ hands if the Giants are to make the playoffs.

by Drew Sarver

Tom Coughlin’s tenure as head coach of the NY Giants has seens its ups and downs. Those same highs and lows have been experienced by his starting quarterback, Eli Manning. Despite two Super Bowl victories, each of which saw Manning take home the game’s MVP Award, the Giants are in a period of transition. One that could cost both Coughlin and Manning if things don’t work out right.

Based on the pre-season, the Giants have their work cut out for them.

Key New FA Additions: RB Rashad Jennings, OL Geoff Schwartz,  CB Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, LB Jameel McClain

The Giants counted on running back David Wilson to be an integral part of their offense in 2013, but the former stand out at Virginia suffered a season ending neck injury and was forced to retire after a scare during training camp this year. Andre Brown missed half of the 2013 season, but led the team with 492 yard rushing. With his departure as a free agent, the Giants turned to Jennings, who rushed for 723 yards for the Oakland Raiders and looked sharp during the exhibition season.

With the retirements of Chris Snee and Dave Diehl, and the departure of ineffective center David Baas, Schwartz was a major signing to bolster an offensive line that was one of the weakest links on last season’s team. Unfortunately, Schwartz suffered a dislocated toe during the exhibition season and will miss the first half of the season.

The Giants secondary is one of the deeper area’s on this year’s squad, but the acquisition of Rogers-Cromartie give the Giants another top cover guy. He’ll need to be since he’s not particularly physical or consistent.

The Giants linebacking corp are many years removed from the LT years, Jessie Armstead, and Aaron Pierce. Jon Beason was a great addition last year and the Giants hope they can get big-time production from McClain, an excellent run stopper.

Key Departures: Justin Tuck, Chris Snee, David Diehl, David Baa, RB Andre Brown, WR Hsakeem Nicks, TE Brandon Myers, RB Brandon Jacobs

NFL Draft Additions:

Round 1: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

Round 2: Weston Richburg, C, Colorado St.

Round 3: Jay Bromley, DT, Syracuse

Round 4: Andre Williams, RB, Boston College

Round 5: Nat Berhe, S, San Diego St.

Round 5: Devon Kennard, LB, LSU

Round 6: Bennet Jackson, CB, Notre Dame

Beckham is being heavily counted on to take pressure off the Giants’ number one playmaker, Victor Cruz. Unfortunately, Beckham missed the pre-season with a bad hamstring and won’t suit up in week 1.

Richburg was a nice choice for an offensive line that needed help. With the injury to Schwartz, Richburg is going to have to adapt quickly.

Bromley joins a line that struggled last year to get to the quarterback last season. A Giants’ fan growing up, Bromley is expected to use his strength and speed to clog up the middle.

Williams could eventually emerge as the team’s number one back this season. That will all depend on the success or failure of Jennings. Either way, Williams should get a good amount of carries in reserve.

Berhe adds more depth to a deep defensive backfield. Extremely athletic, Berhe could have a big impact down the road.

Kennard is a physical player that the Giants will need to contribute immediately. Linebacker continues to be a weak spot on the Giants roster.

Jackson will start the season on the practice squad.

The Offense:

The biggest addition to the Giants is new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. For years, fans have been all over Kevin Gilbride, not affectionately known as “Killdrive” by his detractors. McAdoo brings his version of the west coast offense to a team that has relied on deep QB drop backs and long passes from Manning. The first string offense, particularly the passing game, was a disaster during the exhibition games. The quicker the offense adapts to McAdoo’s schemes, the more successful the team will be. So far, a .500 record might be a stretch.

Jennings, Williams, and Peyton Hillis will need to run the ball effectively to give Manning time to find his receivers. The heaviest pressure is on the re-tooled offensive line to open holes for the aforementioned trio and to keep Manning off his back. Versatile fullback Henry Hynoski returns after missing most of last season due to injury.

Rueben Randle continues to not be on the same page as Manning. At times, Randle looks spectacular; at other times he looks completely lost. Beckham’s injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for an offense in transition.

The Giants tight end position is up in the air after another free agent, Brandon Myers, left after one year. Larry Donnell, Daniel Fells, and Adrien Robinson are the underwhelming trio that will split time at tight end, at least until someone better comes along.

The new line, for now, has J.D. Walton at center with Will Beatty and Richburg filling out the left tackle and guard positions. Brandon Mosley starts at right guard with second year man Justin Pugh getting the nod at right tackle.

In addition to Cruz and Randle, Jerrel Jernigan, Preston Parker, and Corey Washington are the other wideouts. Washington could be the break out star of latter trio.

The Defense:

The key to the Giants defense has been to put pressure on the opposing quarterback. When the line and linebackers get in the quarterback’s face, the Giants coverage in the secondary holds and makes run stopping easier.  The pass rush was one of the team’s biggest weaknesses last season. The primary reason the team was 23rd in the NFL against the pass. The squad finished tied for 25th in the league in sacks.

Veteran leader Justin Tuck is gone and Jason Pierre-Paul is coming off a season in which he struggled post-back surgery. Mathias Kiwanuka, who has played linebacker as well for the Giants, will lineup at the opposite end of Pierre-Paul. Damontre Moore will fill in, in pass rushing situations. Cullin Jenkins and  Johnathan Hankins are plugged in at the tackles spots, with Bromley spelling them.

Jon Beason begins the season with a foot injury, but will start at middle linebacker. He’s also one of the team leaders. Mcclain and Mark Herzlich will back him up. Jacquian Williams starts at the weakside with Kennard lined up at on the strong side. Spencer Paysinger will see some time as a back up and will be a regular on special teams.

The defensive backfield is deep with Rogers-Cromarte and the ever-improving Prince Anukamara at the corners and Stevie Brown, back from knee surgery, at free safety. Veteran mouthpiece Antrel Rolle, who had one of his best seasons in 2013, returns at strong safety. He’ll serve as a good mentor for Berhe.

Special Teams:

The Giants’ special teams have struggled over the years, particularly at stopping the opposing returner. The Giants return men was nothing special last season, as the team finished in the bottom five  of all teams. Due to injuries and ineffectiveness, the Giants have tabbed Parker as the punt returner to being the season. Quinton Demps gets the nod on kick returns, with Parker as his backup.

Kicker Josh Brown and punter Steve Weatherford return to their respective positions.

Outlook:

The Giants could finish in second place in the NFC East this season and not come close to a playoff spot. That’s because of how flawed the teams in the division are.  There’s plenty of pressure on head coach Tom Coughlin, quarterback Eli Manning, o-coordinator Ben McAdoo, and DE Jason Pierre-Paul to turn things around from last season’s medicore 7-9 mark.

It will be far from easy, 8-8 looks about as good as the team will be. It’s not out of the question that the Giants will split their six division games against Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington. But Seattle, Indianoplis, Arizona, and Detroit are on the schedule, and what should be an improved Atlanta squad.

The key to the season is for Manning to keep his turnovers down from the last two seasons. That will at least give the Giants a fighting chance.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.