Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Patriots Now Have Two #85s

By Al Giordano

Who's Up? Who's Down? Here is today's edition after a whirlwind of player moves between NFL Teams...


Bengals new QB Bruce Gradkowski (he likely wins a starting gig and with a clean slate with young talented receivers A.J. Green, Jerome Simpson, the overlooked Jordan Shipley and TE Jermain Gresham, it’s a nice opportunity for renewed relevance, even without Ochocinco – although I wouldn’t yet draft him even as QB2)

Bengals rookie QB Andy Dalton (because no novice should have to lead a team in his first NFL game; this gives him time to develop at NFL speed)

Cardinals new QB Kevin Kolb (finally gets his shot, but being an Arizona QB of late has been something like being drummer for Spinal Tap, so it’s a high risk high upside move for him, too)

Cardinal’s elite WR Larry Fitzgerald (even if Kolb doesn’t turn out to be a great starting QB, he’s still going to be better than anyone Fitz had tossing last season)

Chargers RB Darren Sproles (the exit of Reggie Bush from New Orleans creates a vacuum that practically has this receiving back’s name on it… but if that happens, rank WR Lance Moore and other Saints receivers and backs down to where they were yesterday morning)

Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw (Reggie Bush’s move to Miami signals that the Dolphins couldn’t match the offer NY already made to #44. Jints are simply the better team for him to produce with… although presumably Denver is still in the hunt for him)

Panthers management (in spite of itself! Owner Jerry Richardson has long had a rep as a tight-fisted SOB, but the new Collective Bargaining Agreement forces him to spend 99 percent of the cap and suddenly now they’re hanging unexpectedly on to players like DeAngelo Williams and Steve Smith and various defensive gems, trading for former Bears TE Greg Olson and such. Some analysts call this the Cam Newton Effect. Balderdash. It’s the Salary Floor Effect!)

Patriots new WR Chad Ochocinco (I’m of the opinion that he’ll go back to pre-2008 Chad Johnson numbers and may even change his name back: #85 in the red, white and blue is already occupied by TE Aaron Hernandez. And you just can’t claim to know more about winning than Brady or Bellichick the way one could with Palmer and Lewis.)

Patriots QB Tom Brady (another great weapon in Chad Whatever-his-last-name-now-is…)

Vikings new WR, the former Packer James Jones (I thought that Jones would be heir apparent to Donald Driver’s slot on the Packers, apparently so did QB Aaron Rodgers, who reportedly begged the team to keep him, but management said no dice. This will come back to bite GB in the ass, twice a year in division rivalry. Jones fell victim to late season good luck by Jordy Nelson last year, but Jones is the better receiver and a good fit for Minnesota and Donovan McNabb)


Dolphins WR Davonne Bess (new RB Reggie Bush is going to cut into his short yardage receipts, with or without Orton at the helm).

Chiefs new WR Steve Breaston (KC passing game will struggle this year and Breaston will mainly serve to draw coverage away from Dwayne Bowe, but it could be good for Bowe, and certainly not bad news for RB Jaamal Charles to have another receiver to spread out the field. Could even mean a spike for TE Tony Moeki)

Giants RB Brandon Jacobs (presuming Bradshaw is in the Meadowlands to stay, look for a new Brandon-tantrum and for Coach Coughlin to begin testing out new RB2s)

Seahawks new WR Sidney Rice (no way he improves or even stays at game with a struggling new offense).

Jets WR Braylon Edwards (the re-signing of Santonio Holmes makes it extremely unlikely he sticks around Big Green. He might get new life on another team, but the clock is ticking on the game of WR musical chairs, with a lot of good competing talent still out there in free agency)

Jury is still out

Dolphins new RB Reggie Bush (his 2011 prospects depend on Miami nabbing Orton at QB.)

Pats new defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth. (He needs to learn to obey Bellichick’s every command, or he’ll be out on his ass again. This ain’t no Shanahan to kick sand in the face of the coach.)

Tea Leaf?

In a possible sign that at least he thinks the Dolphins are going to get Bronco Kyle Orton or another new QB, Tyler Thigpen has just signed with the Bills where he will back-up to Ryan Fitzgerald. In Miami, Thigpen was reported to be competing with Chad Henne for the starting job. Something changed his mind about that possibility, and we’re guessing it’s an Orton. Caveat Emptor: There is no reason to believe that Thigpen has definitive inside information.

Free Agent Watch

Still on the auction block: Kyle Orton, Vince Young, Malcom Floyd, Zach Miller, Nnamdi Asomugha, Randy Moss, Braylon Edwards, Plaxico Burress.

Holdout Watch

Frank Gore, Chris Johnson, DeSean Jackson, Matt Forte, Marcedes Lewis. I am guessing that Forte, Lewis and Gore will get quick deals, probably CJ, too, but D-Jax may be going down the same rocky road that V-Jax trod in 2010…

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

McNabb Free At Last: Who's Up? Who's Down?

By Al Giordano

(NOTE: To read about how to join The Authentic League and play fantasy football this season for a worthy cause, scroll down to the next entry...)

The last 24 hours have brought a roller coaster ride of signings, re-signings, cuts, deals and trades. Here is our take on which players' fantasy value has risen and whose has fallen as a result. Some of it is pretty obvious to skilled fantasy players already, but we've got a few out-of-the-box observations below, too.

And some of the biggest cleats are yet to drop, probably in the coming hours and days, we mention them, below, in the category of "in limbo."

The move of the day for fantasy purposes (and possibly with real consequences in the National Football League) is QB Donovan McNabb is free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty free at last!, from the dysfunctional Redskins pop-and-junior coaching staff and is Minnesota-bound to a Childress-free Vikings team, where he'll have much better weaponry, while mentoring rookie QB Christian Ponder, than what was available inside the beltway. Look for his name, and that of some other Vikes, to spike up fantasy football rankings lists everywhere as a result.

Now, who else is up? And who's down?


49ers elite LB Patrick Willis (with sidekick Takeo Spikes gone, more tackles fall to the master in IDP leagues)
Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno (Denver lost bid for DeAngelo Williams)
Chargers WR Vincent Jackson (signs contract, peace comes to San Diego)
Chargers QB Philip Rivers (the V-Jax factor)
Cowboys WR Dez Bryant. (Exit Roy Williams.)
Cowboys RB Felix Jones (Exit Marion Barber)
Colts rookie RB Delone Carter (Exit Mike Hart)
Giants WR Domenik Hixon (off injured reserve, signed to a $900k deal, which makes him better paid than DeSean Jackson, this could be a breakout year for the speed demon)
Jets WR Santonio Holmes (re-signed to mega-million deal)
Jets QB Mark Sanchez (offered to cut own pay to keep Santonio!)
Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (re-signed to mega-million deal) Titans new QB Matt Hasselbeck (more weapons than he had in Seattle)
Ravens RB Ray Rice (with TD vulture Willis Magahee out of the way, should get more short distance red zone touches)
Saints WR Lance Moore (re-signs with New Orleans, where RB Reggie Bush is still in limbo. In games that Bush missed last year, Moore got his red zone receiving touches)
Steelers Defense (keeps CB Ike Taylor)
Titans WR Kenny Britt (now with competent QB)
Titans TE Jared Cook (same for this ignored sleeper)
Vikings new QB Donovan McNabb (with those weapons… wow!)
Vikings WR Percy Harvin (Hello Donovan! And rumored Sidney Rice exit would spike him toward fantasy WR2 status)
Vikings new WR Devin Aromashodu (out of Chicago’s many-mouths-to-feed Martz Offense, with a shot at starter position if Rice leaves)
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (hard to get more up than AP, but McNabb does it)


49ers QB Alex Smith (lost center David Baas to Giants)
49ers Defense (lost LB Takeo Spikes to San Diego)
Bills Defense (lost elite LB Paul Posluzny to Jaguars)
Eagles Defense (loses safety ace Quintin Mikell to the Rams)
Giants WR Mario Manningham (Giants moved fast to re-sign Hixon, and have invited Plaxico Burress for tea this week)
Giants WR Steve Smith (same as above)
Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart (dreams of becoming RB1 dashed with DeAngelo’s re-sign)
Redskins WR Santana Moss (re-signed with a team that has no good QB options)
Redskins new WR Eric Gaffney (traded from Denver for DE Jeremy Jarmon, now on 2011’s most likely last place team)
Redskins new WR Donte Stallworth (he wasn’t making any splash in Baltimore and won’t likely make one in DC either)
Seahawks WR Mike Williams (The Audacity of Tarvaris)
Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (same as above)

In Limbo...

49ers RB Frank Gore (rumored holdout)
Bengals rookie QB Andy Dalton and Bengals receiving corps (owner’s messy refusal to trade Carson Palmer could actually bring Palmer back to spite owner, collect on mega-contract)
Broncos QB Kyle Orton (rumors fly of imminent deal, though)
Chargers WR Malcom Floyd (Ravens may take him, and that would make him fantasy relevant again)
Eagles QB Kevin Kolb (no deals yet)
Eagles WR DeSean Jackson (rumored holdout for more money)
Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw (still unsigned)
Jaguars TE Marcedes Lews (rumored holdout)
Titans RB Chris Johnson (rumored holdout)

Media spin watch: Are there any free agent RBs that Miami and Denver have not been rumored to covet?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Are You Ready for Some... Football Fundraising?

By Al Giordano

Football is a coach's game, of strategy, and of leadership of unruly youngsters, many of whom get in plenty of trouble both on and off the field. It's like chess, except the pieces weigh 300 pounds and hit each other really, really hard.

Football, like life, is a contact sport. It is also about community organizing and managing the seemingly unmanageable against tough odds, obstacles, and adversaries.

Obsessed with NFL football and a student of how head coaches organize their players to win, it still wasn't until the 2010 season that I waded into the world of fantasy football. Late to the game, I was around the 35 millionth player in the stadium. I named my team, The Narcos, drafted and traded for players, engaged in predatory waiver wire and free agent feeding, and The Narcos took me to a league championship.

The usual emptiness one feels when the football season is over was compounded with the realization that I had just spent hours per week on a game without consequences all for a puny, pixelated cyber-trophy. That got me thinking about about how to make those hours work for something good and worthwhile other than bragging rights to nine other fantasy team coaches who must have felt even emptier: after all, they had just lost to the rookie.

Thus came the idea of the Fantasy Football-a-Thon, to benefit The Fund for Authentic Journalism, which supports my work and that of other journalists, especially those at Narco News and its School of Authentic Journalism. Now I've recruited one of my competitors from the 2010 season, Sarah Lawrence College professor Dominic Corva - whose fantasy team had the best won-lost record and highest points scored in our league last year (only to lose in the first round of the playoffs, right Dom?) - to be the commissioner of this, The Authentic League. As Commish, he'll referee and arbitrate any disputes over how league rules are interpreted.

If you're anything as crazy about this sport as we are, you probably have one of those 35 million fantasy football teams out there.

And if you are going to be a champion, why not be an authentic champion?

You can, now, finally, make all the hours you spend on this silly game work for a worthy cause: funding independent investigative journalism and the training of authentic journalists.

Here is how this league will work:

1. Name your team: Send me an email at to reserve your team name. In August, you will receive the league rules and settings and a coaches agreement, as well as pointers to help you with the next step.

2. Get your fans and friends to donate or pledge: Between now and September 1, 2011, get pledges of pennies-per-point from your friends and fans to be donated to The Fund for Authentic Journalism in this calendar year. It's a tax exempt nonprofit organization that supports Narco News and the School of Authentic Journalism.

A one penny pledge will amount to about $15 or $20 by the end of the year. Here's how: An average team will score a little over or under 100 points a week (or sometimes on a really great week, maybe 140 or more). Over the first 14 weeks of the season, when all ten teams play, that adds up to between 1,500 and 1,800 points. A great team will score slightly more, as much as 2,000 points. An awful team (say, one that picks all Buffalo Bills players) still scores about 1,000 over the course of the season. Two cents? About $30 to $42. A nickel? About $75 to $105.... And if your team goes to the playoffs in Week 15 and 16 of the NFL season in December, it will make another few bucks for the cause.

The pennies - we'll keep track of the math for you and post the running total each week of funds your football team and fans have raised here on this blog and also at our highly trafficked mothership, The Field, on Narco News - add up into needed resources for real independent journalism. And your fans (and you, if you pledge to your own team) can even get a tax-deduction for the final amount donated. Recruiting your friends and fans to pledge to your team is also a great way to spread the word about Narco News and the authentic journalism movement that is accomplishing lots to shake up and attack the problem of media in our times. You'll probably get some interesting conversations out of it because you'll hear what we have learned: that the public has legitimate grievances against the mass media and would like to see something done about it.

3. How you can qualify for the main league: We will fill as many leagues as we can, but even if we start with only one it will be a fun and worthwhile experiment. First, all coaches will sign an agreement to remain active setting their rosters and managing their teams for the entire season, regardless of whether the team is in the stellar or the cellar, and also to be responsive to the other players in the league and their trade offers (even a simple email of "no thanks" will suffice, but we don't consider nonresponse to be in the spirit and competitive camaraderie of the league). From that pool, the eight teams whose coaches have raised (through pre-paid pledges or one-time donations received by September 1, 2011) the highest total in donations will be invited to compete in the main league against Commissioner Corva and me. And I'll be reporting from this blog on each week's games, offering weekly projections, and analyzing this fantasy league and NFL football in all its glory. Your team will likely receive more attention and fans than you thought were possible while playing fantasy football. You will earn the love and respect of hundreds of journalists, donors and supporters of authentic journalism, as well as hundreds of thousands of readers of Narco News. And you'll be doing good by playing well.

If there are enough coaches signed up to create an additional league (or leagues) we'll do that, find a way to make each one special and noticeable, and highlight them to our readers, too. We invite you to come in on the ground floor of something that might catch fire, maybe even as "the new hot" in nonprofit fundraising. And even if it doesn't, we'll all have a great time raising funds for authentic journalism.

4. Draft your team: Once you make the league, a live online draft date will be set shortly before the regular NFL season begins.

The main league will be on the Yahoo Fantasy Football platform, with this roster: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 Flex (RB or WR), 1 TE, 1 DEF, 7 bench players (any position) and three Individual Defense Players (IDPs): 1 LB, 1 DL and 1 DB. Note that this is a placekicker-free-zone, we've dropkicked that position through the goal posts (no more coaches blaming the kicker for their loss). League rules, to be announced, will favor attentive coaches whose obsession with the game leads them to pounce quickly to take advantage of injuries or surprise sleepers and busts, because we believe your obsession should be rewarded: There will be no "waiting period" for free agent pick-ups, only for players that another team drops onto the waiver wire. (Of course, if you want to organize a group of coaches to have your own league with more traditional rules - like "waiting periods" for free agents - and want to make your league work for this worthy cause, we'll definitely want to feature your league, too, in our coverage.)

5. Manage your team: Set your roster each week, trade through mid-November, and compete each week with rival teams to get to the playoffs in December, weeks 15 and 16 of the NFL season. The three top playoff teams will receive shining real-life trophies for your trophy cases, as will the Most Valuable Player (the coach that raises the most resources for the cause).

6. Win a real trophy: The main league champ, plus the second and third place finishers, will each receive a genuine Authentic League Trophy immortalizing your triumph, and all players will receive a certificate of appreciation for your service. There will also be a league MVP trophy for the team that raises the most funds in this contest, regardless of the final outcome on the fantasy season scoreboard.

Finally, let's all congratulate the NFL Players Association for staring down the owners in recent contract negotiations.

We agree with Dave Zirin, who writes:

"What the NFLPA has done is the equivalent of the Bad News Bears squeaking out a victory against the 1927 New York Yankees… It’s workers, in an age of austerity, beating back the bosses and showing that solidarity is the only way to win.

"I remember talking to NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith at the start of this process, and hearing his optimism in the face of these odds, as he spoke of the bravery of workers in Wisconsin and the people of Egypt who he said were inspiring him to fight the good fight. He mentioned the books he was reading like the classic Civil Rights history Parting the Waters: America in the King Years by Taylor Branch. I remember smiling politely at De Smith and thinking, 'This guy is going to get creamed.'

"I was very wrong…."

Well played, gentlemen, well played.

Today's Organizing Challenge for Coaches, Players and Fans: To minimize any "flake factor" we will count only the actual donations raised by September 1 - and not pledges yet unreceived - to qualify the teams in the main league. And we'll make this offer to create a little competitive incentive: the team that raises the most funds by midnight the evening of September 1 will be able to choose its own preferred draft position among ten slots. The Commish and I are disqualified from that contest, so you'll already have a leg up on us if it is you. The remainder of draft positions will be chosen randomly by Yahoo's Fantasy Football computer.

Don't forget to reserve your team name, today, and thus let us know of your interest in the league by writing to We'll send you a confirmation email with more details and keep you in the loop as we develop this new way to play the game.