Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blame the NFL Owners for Injury Wave

By Al Giordano

We’ll lead with the good news: Adrian Peterson is now part of our team. Details below. But, first, our top story is about how NFL owners’ greed has led to a scary rise in player injuries in the opening weeks of this season.

In our last post we boasted two great pick-ups for our team. Both have been hit by injuries. And it’s not just us. Everybody’s getting slammed (imagine having used your first fantasy draft pick for Jamaal Charles or Arian Foster or Michael Vick… at least three teams in every fantasy league are cursing at the gods by now).

As for everybody’s favorite team, The Narcos…

WR Kenny Britt led the AFC in receiving until Sunday, when his knee buckled. Now he’s out for the season.

In Week Two, TE Aaron Hernandez sprained a ligament, and is reportedly out “for four to six weeks.”

Also in Week Two, WR Mario Manningham was concussed and was not cleared to play this past week. And RB Felix Jones separated his shoulder (still, he came back and played real well Monday night and will surely be utilized in many of our starting line ups in the weeks to come).

Related to all this is that América’s team, The Narcos, had its first losing game in Week Three. It was a squeaker of a game with, in the end, a defeat by only five points.

But here we don’t cry. We fight!

Here’s what we’ve done to retool:

Another mega-trade: Adrian Peterson is now on our roster. For the all day running back we traded Lion QB Matthew Stafford, Redskin RB Tim Hightower and Raider WR Denarius Moore. Of the three, we were only using Hightower in starting line ups anyway (and we don’t expect any Mike Shanahan RB to last the season), so we consider AP to be an outstanding upgrade. (And like RB Fred Jackson, who we traded to another team for Britt, these trades have worked out well for our trading partners, too, which we’re glad to see: It helps other owners in the league understand that we’re not out to rip folks off when we offer an exchange for mutual benefit… When The Narcos trade, both teams win.)

So now the Viking AP and the emergent Charger Ryan Matthews are our clear starting RBs. We’re real happy with them.

Cowboy Jones, Saint Mark Ingram (still waiting for him to break out), Packer Starks (the Green Bay RB situation is like a see-saw these days, one week up, one week down) and two new acquisitions – Chief Dexter McCluster (on the Yahoo fantasy platform, he can be played as RB or WR) and Texan James Casey (can be played as RB or TE) – can fill the Flex slot depending on week-to-week match-ups. 

Casey is intriguing to us. We didn’t know he existed until his breakout game this week. He can also be slotted at TE, where we also picked up Redskin Fred Davis on waivers. Davis had great Weeks One and Two, but was “meh” on Monday night, thus the flyer on Casey as the Texans move closer toward a Patriots style two-TE system (which, we think, is where all teams will soon move, bringing on a new offensive era in the NFL).

With the devastating loss of Britt (which because we traded RB Fred Jackson for him, who is presently the third top-fantasy RB in the league, hurts doubly), we picked up Seahawk Sidney Rice and Jaguar Mike Thomas on waivers, two players who may yet break out this season. We’re especially intrigued by Rice, who reappeared from injuries this week to catch ten passes for 109 yards on a Seattle team without other good receiving options. (Thomas is more of a bye-week flyer option as we watch the Jacksonville QB situation shake out.)

We also made a coaching mistake in Week Three, believing the hype on the Philadelphia Eagles “dream team” and dumping the NY Giants defense and their defender DL Jason Pierre-Paul during their Philadelphia vacation in favor of the Tennessee Titans defense and DL Panther DL Charles Johnson. Had we not done that, we would have won our Week Three contest. We’ve repented and grabbed both the Giants and Pierre-Paul off the waiver wires anew. Lucky for us, nobody else did that first.

This current roster leaves The Narcos with one glaring weakness. We have no back-up QB. And two of the better ones on the waiver wires – Jet Mark Sanchez and Raider Jason Campbell – have the same Week Eight bye as A-Rodge, so they’d be useless to us then. We’ll just sweat that out, hoping Rodgers stays healthy, for the next few weeks while looking for our best opportunity and assessing McCluster, Casey, and Thomas, in particular, to see which is cut-able – or who else gets knocked out for the season, which we fear will be an inevitable part of 2011 – when the time comes to slot in a QB2.

It’s just too likely that other players will fall to injuries, not just on our team, but on every team. Blame the NFL owners for their lockout of players, which delayed practice camp this year. There is no other explanation for the high injury rate plaguing almost every NFL team. The lack of practice meant lack of conditioning time. In particular, ligaments and legs seem to be vulnerable. And that means more RBs and WRs will be going down in coming weeks, plaguing fantasy owners, not to mention real teams and real human beings.

Anyway, here’s our current roster:

QB: Aaron Rodgers
RB: Adrian Peterson, Ryan Mathews, Felix Jones, James Starks, Mark Ingram
WR: Andre Johnson, A.J. Green, Mario Manningham, Sidney Rice, Mike Thomas, Dexter McCluster (also slottable as RB)
TE: Fred Davis, James Casey (also usable as RB under Yahoo rules), Aaron Hernandez (injured, but stashed for his return)
Flex: Any of the RBs or WRs above.
DEF: NY Giants
LB: Patrick Willis
DB: Kerry Rhodes
DL: Jason Pierre-Paul

Not bad. 

But Kenny… we hardly knew ye.

Update: Noticing that Raider WR Jacoby Ford looks ready to return from his hamstring injury this week, vs. a Patriots team that is giving up a lot of passing yards and scores, we've picked him up on waivers, dropping Mike Thomas. (When we grabbed - and later traded - Raider WR Denarius Moore, it was always with the anticipation that we'd bring back Ford, once healthy. Both are solid WRs who increase each other's value by drawing defender coverage from the other, but Ford is the long ball speedster of the two, we believe, despite Moore's current status as fantasy shiny object.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hernandez & Britt Join América's Team

By Al Giordano


Just a quick update to let all our fans know the good news that The Narcos have picked up Patriot TE Aaron Hernandez (the team now has two Aarons!) on waivers (dropping Jared Cook, for now) and that in a trade with the 100 Bucks o Luck team we acquired Titan WR Kenny Britt in exchange for RB Fred Jackson.

Also picked up off the waiver wire (due to strong Week One matchup): Cardinal defensive back Kerry Rhodes.

This makes our Week One starter line up:

QB Aaron Rodgers
RB DeAngelo Williams, Felix Jones, Tim Hightower (flex)
WR Andre Johnson, Mario Manningham, Kenny Britt
TE Aaron Hernandez
DEF NY Giants
LB Patrick Willis
DL Trent Cole
DB Kerry Rhodes

Projected points: 138.7
Projected points for our Week One rival, Viva Tarvaris: 124.3

Our QB is in tonight's season opener (as are two of our reserve RBs... We're eager to see how Ingram and Starks do this opening week and how the RB pecking order sorts out on those teams). May the opening game be a high scoring game.

The long (contract dispute addled) wait is about to be over. Let the NFL and Authentic League seasons begin!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Meet América’s Team: The Narcos of Fantasy Football

By Al Giordano

Saturday was draft day in the Authentic League, with ten team coaches all showing up on time and gobbling up almost every NFL player of evident value. 

Like most players, I’m happy with my draft. This can be a deceiving sensation. Just look around the table and take note: Almost everyone in every league, no matter how awful his or her draft went, seems ecstatic afterward. How often does one get to “own” some of one’s gridiron heroes, after all? 

Here in Narcos Stadium, there is some impartial backing for this feeling: According to the free Football Guys “rate your team” platform (which only ranks offensive players and the Defensive team slot, but not Individual Defense Players, or IDPs, of which teams in The Authentic League each have three), fantasy guru David Dodds’ rankings project that “with great in-season management” The Narcos have a 99 percent shot at a playoff berth in this league, while his colleagues Jason Wood and Bob Henry estimate our chances at 90 percent.

A half hour before the draft, the Yahoo computer doled out our draft positions. I had hoped more than anything that the Narcos - ¡América’s Team! ¡With an accent! - would land in the top four or five slots (there were four elite RBs I had coveted, and none of them named Arian Foster) but fate doled me the eighth position. Worse, my competitors all drafted running backs in the first round, leaving me with a choice between eighth-ranked LeSean McCoy (with Michael Vick vulturing so many red zone runs, Shady probably will end up a high end RB2 but less likely a top ten runner) or to pull the trigger and try out a strategy I’d been studying all summer: The Upside Down Draft.

Fantasy expert Matt Waldman has recommended that for those in late rounds of drafts that this strategy reaps more dividends than the old-fashioned “draft two RBs first” strategy that so many use. Running backs, after all, are the big-money point scorers of the fantasy world and in a league with a Flex position like our own, you can play three RBs every week. Waldman has done the math: While fantasy experts and websites make projections largely based on the previous years’ performances, the elite running back position has the highest turnover rate: Among top-12 RBs, there is, he calculates with data, a 64 percent change rate. That means that an average of 7.7 previous RB2s and even RB3s and sometimes a rookie or two, year to year, elevate to elite numbers, displacing the old. The trick is to figure out which are most likely to rise and haul them into one’s roster. 

So in round one I nabbed the near-consensus #1 QB, Packer Aaron Rodgers, and in the second round the near-consensus #1 WR Texan Andre Johnson fell to me (the latter might not end up number one, but he’ll certainly be in the Olympus of elite point scorers if he stays healthy), and I didn’t pick an RB ‘til the third round. By then all the “elites” – 14 of the top 14 projected backs - were gone, but lookie here at the RB army that now wears a Narcos uniform from the running back position:

QB: Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford
RB: Felix Jones, DeAngelo Williams, Mark Ingram, Ryan Mathews, Tim Hightower, Fred Jackson, James Starks
WR: Andre Johnson, Mario Manningham, Jacoby Ford, A.J. Green, Pierre Garcon
TE: Jared Cook
TD: New York Giants
LB: Patrick Willis
DL: Trent Cole
DB: Yeremiah Bell

The first four running backs are legitimate RB2s with potential RB1 upside. Panther Williams, Saint Ingram and Charger Mathews each play behind top-five run blocking offensive lines, and each are strong candidates to invade the elite tier this season: Odds are at least one of them will. 

Felix Jones, although not behind an elite line, is the last Dallas Cow-back standing after his competing teammates fell to injuries, free agency, or performed badly in the preseason. He’ll get most of the ground yardage and goal line touches while QB Tony Romo spreads out the defense with triple receiving corps threats in Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Even sharing touches last year with Marion Barber, Jones grossed 1,250 yards on the ground and in the air. Now that Barber has moved on, it’s a great position for any explosive back to be in, and Jones has gained a lot of muscle this year and seems to wear it comfortably without losing his speed.

One of those four guys will likely blow up into top-ten back territory. And, as odds go, another will likely be plagued by injuries, a la Mathews 2010, another will likely be a bust, a la Williams 2010, and another likely ends up in a RB-by-committee (this could happen to Mathews, Williams and/or Ingram, but not as likely to Jones), diminishing his touches.  Truth is, these things will also happen to some of the elite tier backs drafted in the first round, making space for one or more of these guys to displace them.

The second tier of The Narcos RBs, Redskin Hightower, Buffalo Bill Jackson and Packer Starks, were more “swing for the fences” type of moves. In Washington, Coach Shanahan may burn through RBs like Spinal Tap did drummers, but he tends to get a good third-of-a-season out of the one he decides is his man before the guy gets ground down and wounded. Hightower – coming on from a strong preseason - will be an early season shocker-sleeper in the Flex position and I’ll ride him according to the match ups until he burns out. And that will buy me some time to watch how the rest of the RB corps shakes out in their own situations.

Fred Jackson is simply beating the hell out of C.J. Spiller for the touches on the Buffalo squad and last year’s exit by Marshawn Lynch to Seattle made that evident in 2010 when F-Jax put up big numbers. At 30 he’s older than most but he’s only played four pro seasons, making his legs 24 or 25 in mileage yet together with veteran smarts. Fielded in fantasy matchups against weaker run defenses, he’ll have some amazing scoring weeks.

And then there is the obscene luxury of taking Packer James Starks – I had only planned on taking six backs – but I could not help it. He was sitting there unpicked in the SIXTEENTH round, and he’s only a good game or another Ryan Grant injury away from becoming the RB1 in his bid to lead the Green Bay returning champs steamroller.

The problem, of course, with selecting seven RBs on a 19-man squad (7 of 15 offensive players) is that it leaves The Narcos weak at WR3 and at Tight End, as well as without a consensus RB1 until one or more of these guys steps up and proves he’s worthy. And god forbid what happens if injuries strike at WR, I may have to get out my magnifying glass and seek out a Domenik Hixon or a Victor Cruz on the waiver wire. Yikes!

The silver lining is that I’ve just dried up the RB pool for other teams that now are slotting WR4s in the Flex position. They’ll find out after one or two games what a losing strategy that is and my gambit is that then they will be open to trades which they will need to salvage their playoff hopes. (It also helped that at least one other team in the league, Dominic Corva’s Viva Tavaris, got RB greedy as well and now most other teams will be scrambling soon enough… There’s not a decent RB left on the waiver wire in this league.)

I also consider it somewhat of a miracle between gobbling up RBs plus an elite QB and elite WR that I nailed Matt Stafford (ninth rated QB according to my numbers-crunching) as backup quarterback (if he plays as I expect, he’ll be trade bait once somebody’s QB gets wounded, which happens pretty fast…).

Giant Mario Manningham – I was lucky to get him in round six - will be no slouch at WR2 now with Steve Smith gone to Philly and Hakeem Nicks drawing double and triple coverage. Even last year he was the 17th top WR fantasy scorer, with only upside at the threshold of the 2011 season.

I wish I felt as confident about Colt Pierre Garcon as my WR3, but I don’t, not until Peyton Manning gets healthy again and proves it, and thus am shopping for WR trades with my army of RBs-with-upside. But with Raider Jacoby Ford and Bengal rookie A.J. Green at WR4 and WR5, I should be able to tack together a decent week-to-week matchup play, or so I hope.

Titan Jared Cook at TE is The Narcos weakest link (even though certain fantasy experts, including Jeff Pasquino, who was rated best at TE projections in 2010, is touting him heavily now that the Titans have a Hasselbeck and not many WRs to which to throw), but week-to-week waiver wire pickups at TE are fairly easy, and there is a Patriot-happy coach in my league who drafted both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez who may determine that Stevan Ridley won’t do in the Flex position at least in the first part of the season and so why not trade one of those guys? And that’s what I like about this “Seven RB2 and Flex RB” roster: The Narcos have what six or seven other teams in the league are going to realize very shortly that they really, really need. And unlike some fantasy teams, we don't fear the trade; we hunt for it.

Finally, there are the Narco IDPs, one linebacker, one defensive back, and one defensive lineman. 49er Patrick Willis is by far the top LB in our league’s tackle-heavy system, and Dolphin Yeremiah Bell will be an elite DB as usual. I’m not so sure about Eagle Trent Cole (Giant Justin Tuck, Viking Jared Allen and Bear Julius Peppers fell to others before I could take them) but there are some other powerful D-linemen out there to cull from the waiver wire when and if the need arises.

As The Narcos team Defense, the Giants are a two-week fill-in strategy: They get the Redskins’ ridiculous QB situation in week one – can you say, "Sack City!" - and then the Rams on the week two Monday Night Football game (for some reason, my Jints’ D always fires it up for primetime national TV, usually wounding a QB, which is another reason why I grabbed Stafford and not the also impressive Sam Bradford in the QB2 position… stay away from QBs that NYG plays early in the season is a lesson learned from 2010). But by week three, when the Giants play the Eagles, I’ll probably have to work the waiver wire for a team defense that and most weeks afterward. The Narcos won our championship last year in part because we got good at that.

Anyway, in Week One of this season I will get to play my 2010 nemesis, league Commissioner Dominic Corva and his Viva Tarvaris team (note that the Seahawks fan didn’t actually DRAFT Tarvaris, although Jackson might do better than his starting QB Matt Schaub - #11 rated in a ten-team league - and certainly than his backup Cassel - #18 and sinking fast - before the season is done), and that’s going to be a tough fight. And if the Narcos lose it – and we might well struggle in the season opener – you’ll all underestimate us for a while.

Because in football, as in life, things do tend to go awry: and that’s when it gets interesting to rise to the challenges.

That’s when I’ll be hitting up all my readers at Narco News (and here!) up for penny-per-point pledges, based on our team’s weekly fantasy point totals, to benefit The Fund for Authentic Journalism based on the points we score each week.

Then again, we may pull it out starting in Week One. As Vince Lombardi said, “winning isn’t everything… it’s the only thing.” Football, glory, glory be, is back. And we’ll see what real-life lessons and benefits we can accrue in 2011 by watching this one-of-a-kind game called NFL football together all season long…

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 narconews@gmail.com 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 narconews@gmail.com. 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.