Forrest Gump’s mother has clearly never played fantasy football, because the only way life is like a box of chocolates for a fantasy player is if that box exclusively contains torn ACLs and first-round busts. I mean, even the good chocolates eventually succumb to fractured ankles, or something. The fantasy pitfalls can sometimes seem endless, which is why you need a comprehensive blog post to steer your team through the dangers that lie ahead. Luckily, that's exactly what you happen to be reading!
It’s that time of year — when snakes, auctions, ADPs, keepers, and sleepers start to rule our football hearts and minds. This season, last year’s Fantasy Island contest winner, Matt Borcas, will be providing some fantasy insight, starting with the tools you need for a league-winning draft.
Did you know that Denver is the only place in the whole wide world Wes Welker would’ve left New England for? I did, because I read Chris Ballard’s revealing profile of Boston’s biggest traitor since Johnny DamonRoger Clemens Benedict Arnold. Some other crucial tidbits from the piece:
What's that? You were wondering exactly how many days until the start of the NFL season? Well, you're in luck! We here at the Triangle are set to spend the next three months providing a daily reason to get excited about pro football's return.
Last week, in a move that inspired five “What the hell is happening?” texts from my best (read: only) Packers-fan friend, Green Bay released inside linebacker Desmond Bishop. Two years ago, Bishop was the best inside linebacker on the Green Bay roster, but he missed all of last season with a torn hamstring. When healthy, Bishop would be an upgrade over both of Green Bay’s current starting options, but judging by the Packers’ choice to cut him loose despite having plenty of cap flexibility, it doesn’t seem like Bishop’s old team was buying his claims that he was good as new.
Not surprisingly, there were several teams in the market for Bishop’s services, including the Chiefs, Giants, and Vikings, but in the end, Bishop chose to be the latest Packer defector to head to Minnesota. When asked if the opportunity to play against the Packers played into his decision, Bishop said this: "It was part of the reason. And if I can get a chance to play against Aaron Rodgers, I think that right there, in itself, is a motivation. You know, you want to play against the best.” It wasn’t an answer that approached Favre-ian levels of bitterness, but that the question was asked at all seems to be all that matters.
A tertiary allegiance to a MAC team is a crucial component of the well-rounded college football fan's existence. (Actual MAC alumni: Go pick yourselves out a nice Pac-12 squad to get behind this season. Might we suggest Arizona?) When weeknight mid-major football becomes a regular fixture late in the year, smart consumers will want to begin storing games away in preparation for the long bleakness of the offseason, like squrirels with overstuffed DVRs. And as long as you're not super picky about weeknight time with your family or watching your chosen team operate in its own stadium, you can even see these games on television. The cruel odds of a short season also make it highly likely your primary rooting interest will be nearing an unsatisfactory end come November, and nothing cures late-autumn football malaise like an untidy Tuesday-night pointsplosion. (NB: Speaking of cruelty, understand when making your MAC selections that Buffalo football cannot be viewed on television because of a longstanding and inexplicable V-chip glitch.)
On Friday, Greg Jennings accepted an offer from the Minnesota Vikings that could pay him as much as $47.5 million over the next five years, with $18 million in guaranteed money. As a Packers fan, I feel 20 percent sad and 80 percent indifferent about this. I’ll always remember Greg Jennings as the best receiver of Aaron Rodgers’s early years. He was to no. 12 what Sterling Sharpe was to Brett Favre — or (for you non-Packers fans) what David Caruso was to NYPD Blue or Paul Di’Anno was to Iron Maiden. In seven seasons, Jennings caught 425 passes for 6,537 yards and 53 touchdowns. The bulk of that production occurred from 2007 to 2010, the period when the Packers transitioned from Favre to Rodgers and ended up winning their fourth Super Bowl. Jennings was a pivotal player in that process; as Ted Thompson put it over the weekend with typical samurai terseness, Jennings was a “Good man. Good player.”
Alas, I come not to praise the Packer Greg Jennings was but to bury the Viking he is now. He was arguably the fourth-best guy in a stacked receiving squad last season, behind Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and the ascendant Randall Cobb. He hasn’t been healthy lately, missing 11 out of his past 22 games. And it was widely assumed that he’d been leaving anyway; Rodgers was already reminiscing back in September about the favorite deep balls thrown to his onetime go-to big-play threat. The most important contribution Jennings made to the Packers lately was not re-signing before the 2012 season, when he could’ve reportedly made $11 million per year, and instead milking the desperate Vikings, the league’s second-worst passing team (just ahead of the Chiefs) last year. Jennings freed up cap space for the Packers and forced a hated divisional opponent to overpay. What a generous parting gift!
With free agency and the draft process revving up, there are plenty of questions for every NFL team. But for most, there's one issue that trumps the rest. This is the latest in a team-by-team look at the offseason tasks that just can't get botched.
The AFC Championship Game featured a pair of offenses that for most of the season could not have been more different. As was brought up countless times during the playoffs, Joe Flacco was the best deep-ball thrower in football in 2012, but the Ravens struggled in their intermediate passing game and in manufacturing first downs. For the Pats, manufacturing first downs is all they do. They had 444 in all, 62 more than any other team.
Much of this middle-of-the-field dominance was — and has been — a product of Wes Welker. The 31-year-old receiver has caught 627 passes in his six seasons as a Patriot, and as every other piece of New England’s backfield and receiving corps has turned over, Welker has remained a constant for Tom Brady. Welker had another typically outstanding season in 2012, catching 118 passes for 1,354 yards while Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski missed significant time with injuries, and Brandon Lloyd, well ... didn’t do anything.
This steady production is what’s made Welker’s treatment by the Patriots and Bill Belichick a bit puzzling. Before the 2011 season, Welker, coming off his worst year as a Patriot, was offered a two-year, $16 million contract. He turned down that deal before getting the franchise tag that spring. Last offseason, coming off his best season as a Patriot, Welker was given a lesser offer, which he again turned down before getting the franchise tag. In total, Welker brought home more than he would’ve by signing the original sheet, but what had become clear was that to the Pats, Welker’s value had been defined. In New England, that usually means a line in the sand. When it came time this week for the Pats to decide whether to again use the franchise tag on Welker, they declined, meaning that Welker will likely become a free agent when the league year begins.