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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pick Three: Fantasy NBA free agents

After months of non-stop football, we'll take a quick break for some hoops (please hold your applause until the end).

As always, these are players who are available in more than half of the leagues on and can be started in deeper formats. Today's trio all are owned in fewer than 24 percent of the ESPN leagues.

-- Carlos Delfino, SG/SF, Bucks (owned in 23.3 percent of the ESPN leagues): You might remember him as a bench player for the Pistons. Fantasy players should recall Delfino's last seven games, during which he has averaged 17.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.6 steals. In that span, he's made 22 3-pointers, shot 48.9 percent from three and is 45-for-86 from the field (52.3 percent). During his career, Delfino has struggled mightily from the field (40.3 percent), and he's not much better for the season (41.4). This month, however, he's playing major minutes and, with Michael Redd out for the season, might be the Bucks' No. 3 scoring option behind rookie Brandon Jennings and Andrew "You Might Want To Trade Me Before I Get Hurt Again" Bogut. In deeper category leagues, Delfino is an asset in scoring, 3-pointers and steals, and he's a 78-percent free-throw shooter.

-- Corey Brewer, SG, Timberwolves (21.6 percent): Has the 2008 lottery pick finally turned the corner? Or are the T-Wolves just that bad? Brewer has averaged 20 points, four rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.8 blocks in his last five games. In that span, he's made 12 treys and is shooting 54.3 percent from the field, 85.7 percent from the free-throw line and 52.2 percent from 3-point range. Brewer is averaging 13.3 points per game for the season, but he's not much of a help in rebounds (3.9) or assists (2.0). He is an asset, however, in scoring, 3-pointers and steals.

-- Brandon Rush, SG, Pacers (2.4 percent): I decided to dig deep for the third player on this list, and Rush has been productive of late. The second-year guard has averaged 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and one block in his last four games. He has made 12 3s and is shooting 47.9 percent from the field in that stretch. Prior to this recent run of four solid games, Rush had scored in double digits only nine times since Nov. 27. But he's playing big minutes now and can help you in points and 3-pointers.

Others to watch: Martell Webster, SF, Trail Blazers; Luke Ridnour, PG, Bucks

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pick three: Things we've learned in the NFL playoffs

We already knew the studio crews laugh at everything, Phil Simms talks too much, Shannon Sharpe should provide the audio for every highlight and Tony Siragusa's shtick wore out its welcome whenever it was he worked the sidelines for the second time.

The following we might not have been aware of until the last two weeks:

1. Felix Jones will be a high draft pick next season: In 20 regular-season games with the Cowboys, the second-year running back has averaged 6.5 yards per carry and has six touchdowns on 167 carries. In two playoff games, Jones rushed 30 times for 217 yards and a TD, and he caught four passes for 52 yards.

Marion Barber, who has never rushed for 1,000 yards in a season and has had back-to-back mediocre years, will still be around in 2010 to steal carries, especially at the goal line, but the guess here is the Cowboys will make Jones -- their first-round pick in 2008 -- the featured back.

2. Same goes for Shonn Greene: The Jets' postseason run has been only slightly more improbable than a fantasy development that will get much more notice next season. Greene, a rookie from Iowa who rushed for 540 yards in the regular season, has been the Jets' featured back in the playoffs, not Thomas Jones, who rushed for 1,402 yards and 14 scores in the regular season.

Jones has been hampered by a knee injury, allowing Greene to carry 44 times for 263 yards (6.0 per carry) and two TDs in two postseason games. Jones has 29 carries for 75 yards and a score in that span.

As is the case with the Cowboys, a 2010 time share is likely, but the explosive Greene is big enough (226 pounds) to absorb a 20-carry-per-game pounding. If Greene is allowed to be the workhorse, he should be considered an upper-level No. 2 back.

3. Ravens running back Ray Rice will get strong consideration as the No. 2 overall pick in point-per-reception leagues:
Chris Johnson, who became the sixth player in history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, has cemented his place as the top pick in any format next season. In PPR leagues, however, Rice probably is a better pick than Adrian Peterson, but would we be able to pull the trigger on such a move?

Consider the following numbers: Rice had 2,041 total yards, eight TDs and 78 receptions in the regular season. After Baltimore's bye week, he had 1,392 total yards in 10 games -- which equates to 2,227 yards for a 16-game season.

Peterson, meanwhile, had 1,819 total yards, 18 TDs and 43 catches for the Vikings. In TD-heavy scoring formats, he's a safer selection than Rice. In PPR formats, Rice, who doesn't turn 23 until Friday, would seem to be the pick.

Then there's this: Peterson hasn't rushed for 100 yards since Week 10 against the Lions.

Would I love to have him on my team? Yes. At the expense of Rice? We'll have to mull over that one this summer.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Fantasy football: Playoff pools, top TE, K and D/ST

Before we get to the final rankings of this four-part series, here are the links for the rest of the week:

Monday, QBs; Tuesday, RBs; Wednesday, WRs.

On to the rankings, and just to throw you off (and because the other way was getting tiresome), these will not appear in reverse order to build the considerable drama ...

1. Dallas Clark, Colts
2. Antonio Gates, Chargers
3. Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings
4. Jason Witten, Cowboys
5. Jermichael Finley, Packers
6. Jeremy Shockey, Saints
7. Brent Celek, Eagles
8. Todd Heap, Ravens
9. Benjamin Watson, Patriots
10. Dustin Keller, Jets

Quick slants: Clark became the second tight end in history to record 100 catches. ... Gates had more yards (1,157 to 1,106), but two fewer touchdowns (eight, to Clark's 10) and 21 fewer catches (79) than his Indy counterpart. Deciding between the two is as simple as whether you think the Colts or Chargers will advance to the Super Bowl. ... Shiancoe has scored 11 times and has 11 receptions for 134 yards and two TDs in his last two games. ... Witten finished six catches shy of 100 but scored only twice. ... Finley has four TDs and 28 receptions in his last five games, and Shockey did nothing in his final three contests after catching 48 passes in the first 13. ... Celek (76 catches for 971 yards and eight TDs) would be ranked in the top four if there wasn't a good possibility his team will be one-and-done. ... Heap has four TDs in his last three games, and Keller zero in his last seven.

1. Nate Kaeding, Chargers
2. Ryan Longwell, Vikings
3. Garrett Hartley, Saints
4. Matt Stover, Colts
5. Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots
6. Mason Crosby, Packers
7. Shaun Suisham, Cowboys
8. Jay Feely, Jets
9. Neil Rackers, Cardinals
10. David Akers, Eagles

Quick slants: Kaeding scored 146 points and made 32 of 35 field goals in the regular season. ... Longwell has 132 points and has missed only two of 28 field-goal attempts. ... Hartley has scored 37 points in five games after taking over for John Carney. ... Stover has replaced Adam Vinatieri, who has been bothered by a knee injury, as Indy's kicker. ... Gostkowski (125 points, 26 of 31 field goals) is the best of the teams seeded third or lower. ... Crosby (129, 27-for-36) isn't far behind. ... Akers (139 points, 32-for-37 field goals) would be ranked much higher if it wasn't for Philly's sixth seed.

1. Vikings
2. Chargers
3. Colts
4. Cowboys
5. Saints
6. Packers
7. Patriots
8. Jets
9. Bengals
10. Ravens

Quick slants: Following are the rankings for each team's defense among the league's 32 clubs: Vikings -- No. 19 pass, No. 2 run; Chargers -- 11 pass, 20 run; Colts -- 14 pass, 24 run; Cowboys -- 20 pass, 4 run; Saints -- 26 pass, 21 run; Packers -- 5 pass, 1 run; Patriots -- 12 pass, 13 run; Jets -- 1 pass, 8 run; Bengals -- 6 pass, 7 run; Ravens -- tied for No. 8 pass, No. 5 run.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fantasy football: Playoff pools, top WRs

Before we get to Part 3 of this four-part series for those of us who drag the fantasy football season out more than a network television producer, here are the links for the first two posts:

Monday, quarterbacks; Tuesday, running backs. Thursday, we'll rank the tight ends, kickers and defenses/special teams.


15. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals: He'd be ranked higher if a high ankle sprain and a sprained MCL didn't have his status for Sunday's wild-card game against Green Bay in question. The guess here is Boldin will play, but there's also a chance the Cardinals won't make it to the divisional round.

14. Malcom Floyd, Chargers: Yes, he has only 45 catches and one TD, but the fifth-year receiver had nine receptions for 140 yards in the regular-season finale, and he's the No. 2 wideout on a team that is as likely as any outside of Indianapolis and New Orleans to play in February.

13. Donald Driver, Packers: He wasn't at his best down the stretch (14 catches for 185 yards and zero TDs in the last four games), but he reached 70 receptions and 1,000 yards for the sixth straight year and still had better numbers than Greg Jennings.

12. DeSean Jackson, Eagles: If all teams were equal, the speedster who has nine TDs receiving, one rushing and two on punt returns would be in the top three, but Dallas seems to have Philly's number, and if the Eagles are eliminated after one game, Jackson better make it count. He had five catches for 76 yards and no scores in the Eagles' two losses to the Cowboys this season.

11. Robert Meachem, Saints: Like Floyd, his reception (45) and yardage totals (722) are about six games for Andre Johnson, but Meachem has 37 catches and seven TDs in his last nine games, and it doesn't hurt that he should play two games in a dome, possibly followed by the Super Bowl in Miami.

10. Percy Harvin, Vikings: The league's top offensive rookie has 60 catches and 135 rushing yards. The only danger: Would you be surprised if the Vikings lost to the Cowboys next weekend?

9. Greg Jennings, Packers: He gets the nod over Driver due to his six-game production from Weeks 11-16 (541 yards) and his big-play capability. The risk: His team is a wild-card underdog.

8. Austin Collie, Colts: He's Peyton Manning's third or fourth option, but the rookie has 60 catches and seven TDs. And did I mention he has Peyton Manning throwing to him?

7. Randy Moss, Patriots: This might seem too low, but consider these three things: 1. Moss is on a dubious streak of seven straight games with 75 or fewer receiving yards; 2. He doesn't have Wes Welker to take some of the heat off him; 3. Would you really be surprised if the Pats lost to the Ravens?

6. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals: His regular-season yardage total (1,092) was much lower than his average of 1,420 from the previous two years, but his 13 TDs were a career high. Again, he's not higher because of the one-and-done risk.

5. Miles Austin, Cowboys: In his last 12 games, he's been as good as anyone (76 receptions for 1,239 yards and 10 TDs). See Fitzgerald for my only concern.

4. Marques Colston, Saints: He tends to be all (20 of his 74 receptions, 385 of his 1,074 yards and four of his nine TDs were in three games) or nothing (six games with three or fewer catches, and as many contests with 46 or fewer yards). The positive: He's the top target on the best offense in the NFC, even if said offense spreads the wealth a little too much for many fantasy owners' liking.

3. Sidney Rice, Vikings: One of the year's most pleasant surprises, this Pro Bowl selection has 83 catches for 1,312 yards and eight TDs, with three of the latter coming in the last two weeks.

2. Vincent Jackson, Chargers: The negative (two TDs in his last eight games) is outweighed by his season stats (1,167 yards and nine scores) and the chance for him to play three postseason games.

1. Reggie Wayne, Colts: Think 100 receptions, 1,264 yards and 10 TDs are impressive? Imagine if he had been allowed to play more than a few quarters in the last two games.


Chad Ochocinco, Bengals; Pierre Garcon, Colts; Julian Edelman, Patriots; Derrick Mason, Ravens; Steve Breaston, Cardinals; Devery Henderson, Saints; Jeremy Maclin, Eagles; Bernard Berrian, Vikings; Jerricho Cotchery, Jets; Roy Williams, Cowboys; Braylon Edwards, Jets

Quick slants: Ochocinco doesn't make the top 15 for one reason: Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, who shut him out Sunday night. ... Mason has impressive stats, but he also has six games with three or fewer catches. ... Henderson's value has plummeted since the emergence of Meachem. The former has 11 catches for 106 yards and zero TDs in his last four games, after catching 40 passes for 698 yards in the first 12. ... Maclin, a promising rookie, hasn't reached the end zone in his last seven contests. ... Garcon, a Mount Union product who had 45 catches for 776 yards in 14 games before resting the last two weeks, is one to watch. ... Edelman, a Kent State product, is a possible sleeper. He had 21 receptions in the three games in which Welker didn't play or exited early, including 10 catches for 103 yards last week. ... Edwards and Cotchery should be considered last resorts for pools in which you draft more than a few receivers.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Fantasy football: Playoff pools, top RBs

Fifteen players rushed for 1,000 yards this season -- tying the 2001 campaign for the lowest number of four-figure rushers since 1999.

Of the 15, only five made the postseason (think the game has changed?), which makes choosing the top backs for playoff pools difficult, especially considering four of the five play for teams seeded fourth or lower (Thomas Jones, Ray Rice, Ryan Grant and Cedric Benson) -- making them a risk to be one-and-done.

Before we get to the rankings, here is a link for the top quarterbacks, posted Monday.


10. Marion Barber, Cowboys: He ran for 932 yards and seven TDs, but didn't score in two games against the Eagles (Dallas' opponent Saturday night) and was outplayed by Felix Jones down the stretch.

9. Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals: Prior to resting for much of last week's loss to the Packers, the rookie from Ohio State had a three-game stretch in which he tallied 319 total yards and three touchdowns.

8. Cedric Benson, Bengals: He has 1,362 total yards in 13 games, and he has a decent chance to play twice.

7. Thomas Jones, Jets: Between Benson and Jones, one will play in Round 2, and if it's the latter, he could be a threat to have a big game against the Colts. Jones finished third in the NFL with 1,402 yards rushing and had 14 TDs.

6. Ray Rice, Ravens: With 1,339 rushing yards, 78 receptions and 2,041 total yards, he has the best stats of any postseason back who doesn't go by All Day, but the Ravens will be lucky to play more than once in the playoffs. Rice, who has eight TDs, frequently loses goal-line carries to Willis McGahee.

5. Ryan Grant, Packers: He was a disappointment to many fantasy owners until the final four weeks, when he accounted for six of his 11 TDs. Grant was seventh in the league with 1,253 rushing yards.

4. Pierre Thomas, Saints: He failed to top 800 yards on the ground and barely broke a sweat as the Saints went into cruise control the last three games (12 total attempts), but Thomas scored eight times and caught 39 passes. Plus, there's the likelihood he'll play two home games for a team that could advance to the Super Bowl.

3. LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers: With 730 yards, L.T. didn't reach 1,000 for the first time in his nine-year career, but he did have 12 touchdowns -- 11 of which occurred in a nine-game stretch that ended in Week 16.

2. Joseph Addai, Colts: His rushing numbers (828 yards, 3.8 per carry) are less impressive than Jerome "Coach Mangini Held Me Back" Harrison, but Addai did have a TD in 11 of 15 games. He also caught 51 passes.

1. Adrian Peterson, Vikings: His 1,383 rushing yards ranked only fifth, but his 18 TDs on the ground were three more than the next-closest challenger (Maurice Jones-Drew), and Peterson also caught 43 passes (three more than his combined total from his first two seasons).


Darren Sproles, Chargers; Reggie Bush, Saints; Felix Jones, Cowboys; LeSean McCoy, Eagles; Mike Bell, Saints; Laurence Maroney, Patriots; Sammy Morris, Patriots; Tim Hightower, Cardinals; Brian Westbrook, Eagles; Donald Brown, Colts; Willis McGahee, Ravens; Shonn Greene, Jets; Fred Taylor, Patriots

Quick slants: Sproles has seven total TDs and 45 catches. ... Good luck finding a consistent back among the Patriots' three-headed monster of confusion. Maroney was the best of the bunch until he was benched after fumbling in Week 16. ... Bush has eight TDs and 47 catches, and Bell has five scores for the Saints, who certainly like to share the wealth. ... The electric Felix Jones has 49 carries for 258 yards (5.3) and nine receptions in his last four games. ... McCoy, after a promising start to his rookie season, had only 32 carries for 109 yards (3.4) in his last five regular-season games. Westbrook returned from a concussion to carry 14 times for 49 yards in the last two weeks. ... McGahee has 14 TDs (12 rushing, two receiving), including five games with two or more scores. ... Greene, a rookie from Iowa, has 29 carries for 157 yards in his last two contests.


Monday: Quarterbacks; Today: Running backs; Wednesday: Wide receivers; Thursday: Tight ends, kickers and defenses/special teams.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Fantasy football: Playoff pools, top QBs

Sixteen weeks -- or if you're in a league that inexplicably plays its championship game in Week 17, aka The Game The Colts Refuse To Play -- weren't enough, so you entered a fantasy postseason pool.

Whether it's a league in which you have an actual draft or one in which you pick a certain amount of players, but not more than one from each playoff team, there are three questions to keep in mind.

1. How many games will Player X give you? 2. What is his likely lineup of opponents? 3. Do Mark Sanchez and Braylon Edwards really have to get selected?

With that in mind, here are my rankings for the top quarterbacks, with running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, kickers and defenses to follow later in the week.


12. Mark Sanchez, Jets: He's thrown eight more interceptions (20) than touchdown passes (12), and he hasn't accounted for a score in five games.

11. Carson Palmer, Bengals: Sanchez or Palmer will play into Round 2 at least, but neither should be much of an option unless you're in a 12-team league or you're forced to select two QBs. Palmer has had only five games with two or more touchdown throws.

10. Joe Flacco, Ravens: He's thrown one or zero TD passes in 10 of 16 games, and there's a strong chance his team will be one-and-done.

9. Donovan McNabb, Eagles: The good: He tallied 24 TDs (22 passing, two rushing) in 14 games. The bad: He had one TD in two losses to the Cowboys, whom the Eagles will play Saturday night on the road.

8. Aaron Rodgers, Packers: With 4,434 yards passing, 30 TD throws and five scores on the ground, he's much better than this ranking. But the Pack would have to win at Arizona and likely at New Orleans just for you to get more than two games from Rodgers.

7. Kurt Warner, Cardinals: Rodgers is better, but Warner would seem to be more likely to play a pair of games, and would you really be surprised if the Cardinals beat the reeling Saints in the divisional round?

6. Tom Brady, Patriots: Wes Welker's knee injury bumps Gisele's husband down a couple spots, and then there are the broken ribs and fractured ring finger from which Brady reportedly is suffering. Sixteen of Brady's 28 TD passes occurred in four games.

5. Tony Romo, Cowboys: If Dallas defeats Philadelphia for a third straight time, Romo would face a Vikings defense that has allowed 26 TD tosses. In his last six games, Romo has 1,859 yards passing, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.

4. Brett Favre, Vikings: He finished the regular season by throwing for a combined 637 yards and six TDs, with no picks, in Weeks 16 and 17, and his NFC playoff opponents could be the Cardinals (No. 23 vs. the pass), followed by the Saints (No. 26).

3. Drew Brees, Saints: This might be one spot too low for an MVP candidate who plays for the NFC's No. 1 seed, but the next QB on the list is playing for a team that has won 11 straight. Brees had mediocre numbers in Weeks 15 and 16 (556 yards and two TDs), then rested in the regular-season finale -- all Saints losses.

2. Philip Rivers, Chargers: His likely Round 2 opponent, the Patriots, have given up 25 TD passes, and he seems to have as good of a chance of any QB to play three postseason games. Rivers accounted for a TD in 15 of 16 games.

1. Peyton Manning, Colts:
When the Colts actually cared, Indy was 14-0 and Manning had 4,213 yards passing (300.9 per game) and 33 TDs. Indy's first-round opponent (the Ravens, tied for No. 8; Jets, No. 1; or Bengals, No. 6) is guaranteed to rank in the top eight against the pass, but, barring a huge upset next week, Manning will play two games at home -- and the Colts actually will be trying.

TUESDAY: Running backs

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