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Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-fantasy-football-rankings-defensive-backs

The 2012 NFL Fantasy Season is here. Mock drafts abound. Rookie round-ups are nearly complete. Bye week cheat sheets are everywhere. Positional rankings are popping up everywhere, which at Athlon Sports also includes Individual Defensive Players or IDPs

While the ever-important Athlon Sports 2012 Big Board, the most accurate consensus top 100 list of fantasy footballers on the web, includes the most common and used positions in fantasy football, IDPs are also a part of many leagues out there. So true to our word of providing you everything you need to get you ready for the upcoming fantasy football season, here are our IDP rankings for defensive backs (DB).

Rankings are based on Athlon Sports standard scoring for IDPs:

Solo tackle = 1 pt
Tackle assist = 0.5 pts
Sack = 3.5 pts
Interception = 3.5 pts
Forced fumble/recovery = 2 pts
Defensive TD = 8 pts
Safety = 2 pts
Pass Defended = 0.5 pts
Blocked Kick = 4 pts

Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Positional Rankings: Defensive Backs

Rank, Name, Position, Team (2011 Fantasy Points per Athlon Sports standard scoring)

1. Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs (0.0 FP)
Even if Berry, who is returning from a torn ACL suffered in Week 1 last season, is missing a half-step, he’ll be the last line on a defense that ranked top 11 in most snaps on the field in three of the past four years. If he’s near 100 percent, Berry brings corner-like ball skills to his sure, and willing, tackling ability.

2. Tyvon Branch, S, Oakland Raiders (110.3 FP)
Last year marked the first time in three seasons as a starter that Branch fell outside the top-10 DBs in a typical IDP format. He still managed to rank second at the position in total tackles.  Branch’s fantasy numbers dipped last year because of a lack of turnovers and sacks. Chalk it up to bad luck, and stay confident in him.

3. Patrick Chung, S, New England Patriots (58.5 FP)
Chung suffered one injury after another in his second season as a starter. There was thumb surgery, a foot injury that cost him nearly the entire second half, and a knee problem that hampered him into the playoffs.

4. George Wilson, S, Buffalo Bills (115.6 FP)
Last season marked the first time he opened a year in the lineup, and Wilson led all defensive backs in scoring before a Week 10 neck injury. Two years before, he boasted a top-10 scoring average over just 12 starts.

5. Eric Weddle, S, San Diego Chargers (110.5 FP)
According to Pro Football Focus, Weddle ranked third overall among safeties in 2010 and fourth last year. Weddle is as big an INT threat as any safety in the league, which he finally showed last year.

6. Kam Chancellor, S, Seattle Seahawks (115.5 FP)
Chancellor’s ability to cover ensures he stays on the field in sub packages, and that big body helped tie for 10th among DBs in solo tackles. It doesn’t hurt that his defense ranked second in scrimmage plays over the past three years.

7. LaRon Landry, S, New York Jets (51.3 FP)
Landry is as big of a gamble as anyone at the position. He scored like a linebacker in 2010, though, and was productive despite limitations last year.

8. Charles Tillman, CB, Chicago Bears (138.5 FP)
The Bears’ vet has finished outside the top eight DBs just once in the past four years. He has ranked among the top 16 six of the past nine years. Only once has he finished lower than 27th.

9. Antoine Bethea, S, Indianapolis Colts (119.0 FP)
Bethea delivered 33 more total tackles last year than in any other season. The Colts’ free safety picked off 11 passes over the previous four years and knocked away the second most of his career last season.

10. Morgan Burnett, S, Green Bay Packers (119.5 FP)
Despite a top-five fantasy season, Burnett was actually limited by a broken hand last year. After three interceptions through the first three games, he didn’t pick another until the playoffs.  He still never went more than three games without breaking up a pass and tied for third among defensive backs in total tackles.

11. Mark Barron, S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Rookie, DNP in NFL in ’11)
Barron profiles similarly to Eric Berry coming into the league, if not quite as talented. He has the tackling willingness to play near the line on run downs and the ball skills to stay on the field and deliver big plays. Sean Jones finished top-20 in DB tackles at the back of this defense last year, and Barron has the potential to be even better.

12. Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks (99.5 FP)
Thomas isn’t likely to post the tackle numbers of Kam Chancellor, his bigger teammate at safety, but he actually rated higher in run defense than Chancellor last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Of course, we already knew about the ball skills that helped him pick off five passes as a rookie.

13. Roman Harper, S, New Orleans Saints (119.8 FP)
Tying for 33rd in the league in sacks is no big deal — unless, of course, you’re a safety. Harper’s 7.5 sacks more than doubled the next DB’s total (Chris Crocker, 3.5). Harper’s 73 solo stops last season marked his lowest total in five years as a starter.

14. Charles Woodson, CB/S, Green Bay Packers (121.2 FP)
Woodson has proved his ability to play multiple spots well, whether it be outside, covering the slot or at safety. Fantasy owners need not worry where he’ll play or whether he’ll produce. Woodson has finished four straight seasons among the position’s top seven.

15. Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals (127.4 FP)
If your league awards individual points for kick-return TDs, Peterson isn’t lasting this long in your draft. He electrified on special teams last year, but he has room to grow on defense. Pro Football Focus rated him 89th among all NFL corners in coverage, which could actually help his fantasy outlook.

16. Jairus Byrd, S, Buffalo Bills (120.5 FP)
As a rookie, Byrd posted unrepeatable interception numbers. They disappeared in a second season that saw a tackle spike. In 2011, Byrd put it all together and turned in a top-five performance.

17. Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh Steelers (105.0 FP)
Polamalu has missed 21 games over the past six years. He tied for 18th at the position in total tackles last year, the first time since 2005 he ranked among the top 40. The upside, though: From 2008-10, he averaged one pass defensed per game and more than one INT for every two.

18. Quintin Mikell, S, St. Louis Rams (108.0 FP)
Mikell endured a down 2011, but it wasn’t really reflected in his fantasy stats. Mikell’s pass coverage suffered, including a dip of 10 passes defensed from the previous year, but he managed to finish 15th at the position on tackles and forced fumbles.

19. Bernard Pollard, S, Baltimore Ravens (90.0 FP)
Starting 13 games, Pollard nearly doubled his previous season high for passes defensed and forced more than one fumble for the third time in four years. Ed Reed’s continued presence should allow Pollard to play in his comfort zone, closer to the line.

20. T.J. Ward, S, Cleveland Browns (40.5 FP)
Ward says he’s over the foot sprain that cost him half of last season, but it’s hard to forget injury concerns that followed him into the league. The risk is worth it for a guy was second among DBs in 2010 in solo tackles.

21. Jason McCourty, CB, Tennessee Titans (124.0 FP)
Chalk up McCourty’s breakthrough fantasy season to two factors: He rated tops in the league in run defense among corners, according to Pro Football Focus. He also faced the third-most passes.

22. Antrel Rolle, S, New York Giants (100.1 FP)
A word of caution before you draft Rolle: The Giants spent the third-most plays in the league on defense last year, nearly 100 more than the year before. That means more tackle chances for everyone, and Rolle — not surprisingly — went for career highs in solos and assists.

23. Darian Stewart, S, St. Louis Rams (107.0 FP)
Stewart could have been looking at Roman Harper-type usage under Gregg Williams, before the bounty suspension. Even without Williams last year, though, Stewart was among the most frequent secondary blitzers in the league.

24. Dawan Landry, S, Jacksonville Jaguars (98.8 FP)
The Jags ranked 25th in defensive scrimmage plays last year. That didn’t help Landry’s numbers, though he still tied for 11th at the position in total stops. Landry enjoyed two four-INT seasons among his first three healthy campaigns with the Ravens.

25. Kenny Phillips, S, New York Giants (92.0 FP)
The most important stat for Phillips the past two years was probably games played. His 2009 knee injury led to rumors of a chronic condition that threatened to doom his career, but he has missed just one game since.

26. Antoine Winfield, CB, Minnesota Vikings (46.5 FP)
Three of the past five seasons have seen Winfield miss six games or more. His production remains stellar when he’s on the field, though, and coverage metrics suggest Winfield might even be improving in that area as he ages.

27. Charles Godfrey, S, Carolina Panthers (91.0 FP)
As you get further down the DB list, you should be seeking upside. Godfrey provides that, with five double-digit fantasy outings each of the past two seasons. Godfrey ranked third and seventh the past two years among safeties in yards allowed after the catch, according to Pro Football Focus.

28. Lardarius Webb, CB, Baltimore Ravens (116.5 FP)
Webb was one of 10 cornerbacks not to allow a touchdown in coverage last year. According to Pro Football Focus, he played significantly more snaps than all but one of those other nine guys. Webb’s tackles slipped as last season wore on, and passes defensed carried his value.

29. Reggie Nelson, S, Cincinnati Bengals (111.0 FP)
The free safety didn’t go more than two games without a pass defensed at any point last year and finally topped his rookie season production. Nelson will never be the surest tackler on the field, but the Bengals showed with his new contract that they like him at the back of their defense.

30. Brandon Flowers, CB, Kansas City Chiefs (85.0 FP)
Flowers tied for 22nd among corners in targets faced despite his team seeing the fewest pass plays in the league last year.  Over the past three years, only Darrelle Revis has broken up more passes than Flowers’ 57. That doesn’t even include the 11 INTs.

— Published on June 20, 2012

Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Fantasy Content:

Athlon Sports Big Board: Top 150

2012 Fantasy Football Mock Draft I

2012 Bye Week Cheat Sheet

Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: QBs

Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: RBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: WRs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: TEs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: DLs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: LBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: IDP Top 75

Related: Order your Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Preview Magazine Here

You can preorder your award-winning Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine here.
<p> 2012 NFL Fantasy Football Rankings: Defensive Backs</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2012-heisman-contenders-way-it-should-be

The Heisman Trophy may be the most coveted trophy in all of sports.

Ten of the last 11 winners of this priceless award have been quarterbacks. And since 1950, only one time has a non-offensive skill player — e.g., quarterback, running back or wide receiver — claimed the historic award (Charles Woodson, 1997). Yes, the quarterback is the most important position on the field. Yes, few players touch the ball more than a workhorse running back. But just because big uglies, heavy-hitters and pass rushers don't often get the famed trip to Radio City Music Hall in New York City, it doesn't mean they don't deserve it.

So expect to see more than just signal callers, pass-catchers and tailbacks on Athlon Sports' conference-by-conference Heisman Contenders.

The Big Ten's Top 25 Heisman Trophy Contenders:

1. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (SR)
There is no player in a better Heisman situation in the Big Ten than Robinson, but because Montee Ball was so unstoppable a year ago, they are essentially 1a and 1b. Shoelace has the NCAA records, the electric, big-play, highlight-reel skills needed to enthrall voters, a better chance at a Big Ten title, has multiple national showcase games in and out of conference and plays the all-important quarterback position (11 of last 12 winners). If he can stay healthy, Robinson will have the slight edge over Wisconsin’s workhorse.

2. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (SR)
It is nearly impossible to argue with Ball’s production. But the 2012 Badgers are not going to be the same team that set school records for scoring two years in a row. Gone is uber-leader Russell Wilson, offensive genius Paul Chryst and three first-team All-Big Ten blockers. Ball will still post big numbers this fall, but a 1,700-yard, 18-TD season will pale in comparison to his 2011 output — and won’t get him back to New York.

3. Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska (SR)
Sexy Rexy Superman Burkhead is arguably the most complete football player in the nation. He has every skillset a coach can ask for in a workhorse feature back: Strength, size, toughness, durability, vision, instincts, quickness, hands and leadership. For Burkhead to make it to NYC in December, however, he will likely have to lead his team past Michigan and into the Big Ten title game. A tall order until the defense improves its overall play.

4. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State (SO)
If Heisman voters are trying to find a darkhorse from the Big Ten, they need to look no further than Ohio State’s quarterback. Miller showed flashes of brilliance as only a true freshman on one of the worst Buckeye teams in two decades. And now he has spread guru Urban Meyer tailoring his high-powered attack to Miller’s perfectly suited dual-threat skillset. This team could have the best record in the league, but Ohio State’s offensive leader will have to overcome the program’s current sanctions on his way to the Big Apple.

5. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska (JR)
The Huskers’ quarterback is finally an upperclassmen and will have to show improved consistency and accuracy in the passing game to get into the Heisman mix. However, he has electric play-making ability and is poised for his best season yet at the helm of a program known for its dual-threat Heisman Trophy signal callers. With the Big Ten’s top receiving corps around him, Martinez has a chance to silence all of his critics in 2012. And potentially win a conference title as well.

6. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State (JR)
There are some focus and consistency concerns with Bell, but should things fall into place for the tailback, the junior could be in for a massive year in East Lansing. The Spartans will boast a potent offensive line and will have to turn to the running game in order to break in a new quarterback and receiving corps. Which is exactly how Mark Dantonio wants to win games anyway. There are few running backs with as much upside as Bell in this league.

7. John Simon, DL, Ohio State (SR)
One of the most competitive and dependable defensive lineman in the nation is also one of the strongest players in the history of the Buckeye program. Now, permanently on the edge, Simon is virtually unstoppable. Ohio State should have the top defense in the Big Ten and the burly D-lineman, while not the most talented, is the clear leader of the unit. Offensive tackles beware.

8. James Vandenberg, QB, Iowa (SR)
In a league loaded with explosive athletes under center, Vandenberg is the best pure passer. In fact, he is one of the only true pocket passers in the entire conference. He has a solid duo to throw to in Keenan Davis and C.J. Fiedorowicz, but could be hurting for offensive support otherwise. Replacing record-setting wideout Marvin McNutt without the help of a traditionally potent Iowa rushing attack (12th in Big Ten in rushing last fall and no Marcus Coker) will be tough. It is unfortunate that Vandenberg isn’t playing in a vintage Hawkeye attack, otherwise, he could be a Big Ten POY candidate.

9. Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB, Michigan (JR)
The Wolverines have been looking for a Mike Hart replacement for half-a-decade and Brady Hoke might have found one in Toussaint. The junior-to-be was downright dominant down the stretch last year — rushing four times for 120 yards or more in the final six games. Certainly, this offense will miss David Molk but the O-Line still has enough beef to be very successful in 2012.

10. Silas Redd, RB, Penn State (JR)
It is unfortunate that Redd’s numbers and national awareness won’t match his overall level of talent. He is a power back who would be a top Heisman contender on most Penn State teams. This, obviously, isn’t your regular Nittany Lion squad. The Leaders Division could be wide open, however, and if PSU makes a push for the league crown it will come squarely on the wide, powerful shoulders of Silas Redd.

11. Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
The original Honey Badger is a relentless machine who is constantly around the football and wrecking havoc in the opposition’s backfield. He is a rare big-play athlete at a position that gets little to no Heisman appreciation.

12. MarQueis Gray, QB, Minnesota
At 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds with extremely athletic speed and agility, Gray has the upside to post huge numbers in the Twin Cities this fall. He rushed for 327 yards and three touchdowns on 54 carries in the final two games of the year. If he can only win a few games and be a consistent passer.

13. Travis Frederick, OL, Wisconsin (JR)
A consensus second-team All-Big Ten pick as a guard, Frederick now slides inside to fill the massive void left by Peter Konz. He will be the best player on the best line in the league.

14. Johnathan Hankins, DL, Ohio State (JR)
Arguably the top defensive line prospect in the league, Hankins is a projected top ten pick after dropping weight in the off-season. Simon might be the heart and soul, but Hankins could be the difference maker.

15. Kain Colter, QB, Northwestern (JR)
Few quarterbacks enter their first year under center with this type of stat line: 135 att., 654 yards, 9 TD rushing, 43 rec., 466 yards, 3 TD receiving and a tidy 6:1 TD:INT ratio. Wildcats quarterbacks are also incredibly productive and Colter might be the most talented in recent memory.

16. William Gholston, DL, Michigan State (JR)
Is right there with Hankins for most physically gifted prospect in the league. But Gholston has to mature on and off the field to realize his full potential as a three-down defensive monster.

17. Stephen Houston, RB, Indiana (JR)
A junior college transfer, Houston got the green light from Kevin Wilson a third of the way into 2011. He responded with 856 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns in eight games.

18. Danny O’Brien, QB, Wisconsin (JR)
He is not even close to Russell Wilson so the comparisons end with the fact they are fellow ACC graduates. But he showed some talent as a freshman and will now be in the most stable, best situation of his career.

19. Jacob Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin (JR)
Until the end of the season, Abbrederis was leading the nation in punt returns. He also rarely drops a pass, runs perfect routes and can even make some plays in the rushing game. He could easily be the top wideout in a league devoid of talent at the position.

20. Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
This Boilermaker shouldn't get drafted too far behind Gholston, Hankins and Simon come April 2013. And in a league stacked with defensive line talent, Short has a chance to push for top honors.

21. Nathan Scheelhaase, QB, Illinois (JR)
Which quarterback will Illinois get this fall? Scheelhaase has been both an inconsistent passer and electric game-changer in the same season. The new coaching staff will stablize the junior-to-be in 2012.

22. Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State (SR)
Jacob Pedersen might be the most complete tight end but Stoneburner is the most talented pass-catcher of the bunch — and is named the best, too. He posted eight catches, 93 yards and four touchdowns in the first two games of last year. Look for more of that this fall as Miller develops around him.

23. Tre Roberson, QB, Indiana (SO)
Part of the reason Gunner Kiel is on a different campus in Indiana was the emergence of the speedy Roberson. Try 419 yards rushing in seven weeks as the starter. Kevin Wilson will be better prepared to utilize his developing quarterback’s skills this time around.

24. CJ Barnett, S, Ohio State (JR)
The Buckeyes defense should be the top unit in the Big Ten and Barnett is the physical and vocal leader of the secondary. He plays all over the field.

25. James White, RB, Wisconsin (JR)
Expect new coordinator Matt Canada to utilize more two-back sets than his predecessor did and it means more touches for White. He could also be used in the slot as a pass catcher as well.

Other Names to Watch:

Keenan Davis, WR, Iowa (SR)
Very talented pass-catcher needs to take final step in development.

Denicos Allen/Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State (JR)
Explosive sack artists and dependable tackling machine are both stellar.

Jacob Pedersen, TE, Wisconsin (JR)
Long line of All-American Badgers tight ends continues with Pedersen.

Johnny Adams, CB, Michigan State (SR)
Likely the best pure coverman in the Big Ten.

Ricky Wagner, OL, Wisconsin (SR)
Possibly the most Sunday talent of any blocker in the league.
Related: 2012 Athlon Sports Big Ten Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Team Previews

Leaders Legends
Indiana Iowa
Illinois Michigan
Ohio State Michigan State
Penn State Minnesota
Purdue Nebraska
Wisconsin Northwestern

-by Braden Gall


<p> Big Ten 2012 Heisman Contenders: The Way It Should Be</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/sec-football-2012-all-conference-team-recruits

The 2012 college football season is just around the corner, and Athlon continues its countdown to kickoff with a look at all-conference teams from across the nation. But where did all these tremendous all-league performers come from and how did they get where they are today? Some showed up on campus as five-star uber-recruits and others defied all odds as walk-ons. Athlon analyzes how the 2012 preseason All-SEC team ranked as recruits.

Related: Athlon Sports 2012 preseason All-SEC Teams

AC100: Athlon Consensus 100 prospect

All-SEC Preseason First-Team Offense:

Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia (2009) AC100
The Tampa (Fla.) Plant product was a high school state champion and the No. 4 overall quarterback recruit in the nation. He was the No. 31-rated prospect overall in the class of 2009 by Athlon Sports.

Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (2010) AC100
There was little doubt that Lattimore was the No. 1 running back prospect in the nation. The top player in the Palmetto State from powerhouse program Duncan-Byrnes, Lattimore was the No. 5 overall recruit in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas (2009)
The Missouri City (Texas) Fort Bend Marshall tailback was the No. 17-rated running back in the nation, the No. 166 overall prospect and the No. 18-rated player in the state of Texas by Rivals. 

Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee (2010) AC100
The talented Calhoun (Ga.) prospect was the No. 4 wide receiver prospect in the nation and the No. 21 overall recruit regardless of position by Athlon Sports. He was the No. 2 player in the Peach State.

Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas (2009)
The Texarkana (Texas) Texas High recruit was a three-star talent, the No. 63-rated wideout in the nation and the No. 64 player in the state of Texas by

Chris Gragg, TE, Arkansas (2008)
Hailing from Warren (Ark.) High, Gragg was a two-star unranked recruit by He was a 6-foot-3, 195-pound wide receiver recruit.

Barrett Jones, C, Alabama (2008)
The Outland Trophy winner was the No. 1 offensive center prospect in the nation as ranked by Rivals. He was their No. 60 overall prospect, a four-star talent and the top prospect in the state of Tennessee (Germantown-Evangelical Christian).

Alvin Bailey, OL, Arkansas (2009)
Bailey signed with Arkansas out of Broken Arrow (Okla.) High as a three-star offensive guard prospect. Rivals ranked him 27th nationally at his position and 13th in the state of Oklahoma.

Alex Hurst, OL, LSU (2008)
Another Volunteeer State prospect (Arlington, Tenn.), Hurst was a three-star mid-level recruit who ranked as the No. 12 player in the state and No. 59 at his position (OT) by

Luke Joeckel, OL, Texas A&M (2010)
The Arlington (Texas) High just missed making the AC100 as he was the No. 106 overall recruit in the '10 class. He was the No. 13-rated offensive lineman in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Larry Warford, OL, Kentucky (2009)
A three-star recruit from Richmond (Ky.) Madison Central, Warford was the No. 4-rated player in the Bluegrass State by and the No. 30-rated offensive guard in the nation.

All-SEC Preseason First-Team Defense:

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (2011) AC100
Clowney was the No. 1 overall player in the entire nation in last year's class. The Rock Hill prospect topped nearly every major recruiting service rankings for much of the year.

Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn (2010) AC100
From Hialeah, Fla., Lemonier was the No. 7 overall defensive end prospect in the nation two years ago. He was the No. 38-rated player regardless of position by Athlon Sports.

Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU (2009) AC100
The Greenwood (S.C.) High defensive end was the No. 43-rated overall prospect in the nation and the No. 4-rated defensive end by Athlon Sports.

Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU (2009)
From West Monroe, La., Mingo was listed as a 6-foot-5, 209-pound outside linebacker. He was the No. 29 overall linebacker and finished as the 196th overall player in the country by Athlon Sports.

Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia (2009) AC100
Orginially signing with USC, the Columbus (Ga.) Carver was listed as the No. 6-rated linebacker in the nation, was the top prospect in the state of Georgia and was the 28th overall recruit in the country by Athlon Sports.

Jon Bostic, LB, Florida (2009)
Like Joeckel, Bostic just missed the AC100 as the No. 109-rated player in the class of 2009. The Wellington (Fla.) Palm Beach Central tackler was the No. 11 linebacker in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Nico Johnson, LB, Alabama (2009) AC100
Inking with Bama from Andalusia, Ala., Johnson was the No. 5-rated linebacker in the country back in 2009. He was the No. 21 overall prospect in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State (2009)
From Maben (Miss.) East Webster, Banks was listed as a three-star athlete who finished as the No. 23-rated player in the state of Mississippi by Rivals.

Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU (2010)
Rivals listed Mathieu as the No. 5-rated player in the state of Louisiana, the No. 13-rated cornerback and the No. 191-rated overall prospect in the nation.

Eric Reid, S, LSU (2010) AC100
The Geismar (La.) Dutchtown safety was Athlon Sports' No. 9-rated defensive back and No. 80-rated overall recruit in the nation two years ago.

Bacarri Rambo, S, Georgia (2008)
From Donalsonville (Ga.) Seminole County was a three-star recruit by, the No. 40-rated athlete and the No. 29-rated player in the state of Georgia.

Athlon's 2012 SEC Previews

East West
Florida Alabama
Georgia Arkansas
Kentucky Auburn
Missouri LSU
South Carolina Mississippi State
Tennessee Ole Miss
Vanderbilt Texas A&M

-by Braden Gall


<p> SEC Football: 2012 Preseason All-Conference Team As Recruits</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 05:58
Path: /college-football/mac-football-2012-all-conference-team

The 2012 college football season is just around the corner, and Athlon continues its countdown to kickoff with a look at our first and second All-MAC teams for this season.

Athlon's 2012 All-MAC Team

First-Team Offense

QB Tyler Tettleton, Ohio

RB Branden Oliver, Buffalo

RB Anthon Samuel, Bowling Green

WR Nick Harwell, Miami (Ohio)

WR Bernard Reedy, Toledo

TE Garrett Hoskins, Eastern Michigan

C Zac Kerin, Toledo

OL Eric Fisher, Central Michigan

OL Eric Herman, Ohio

OL Dann O'Neill, Western Michigan

OL Brian Winters, Kent State

First-Team Defense

DL Austin Brown, Miami (Ohio)

DL Chris Jones, Bowling Green

DL Roosevelt Nix, Kent State

DL Sean Progar, Northern Illinois

LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo

LB Dan Molls, Toledo

LB Dwayne Woods, Bowling Green

CB Travis Carrie, Ohio

CB Dayonne Nunley, Miami (Ohio)

S Jahleel Addae, Central Michigan

S BooBoo Gates, Bowling Green

First-Team Specialists

K Matthew Sims, Northern Illinois

P Brian Schmiedebusch, Bowling Green

KR BooBoo Gates, Bowling Green

PR Demarius Reed, Eastern Michigan

The Breakdown of Athlon's 2012 All-MAC Team

  First Second Total
Akron 0 1 1
Ball State 0 4 4
Bowling Green 6 1 7
Buffalo 2 2 4
Central Michigan 2 1 3
Eastern Michigan 2 2 4
Kent State 2 1 3
Miami 3 0 3
Northern Illinois 2 4 6
Ohio 3 3 6
Toledo 3 3 6
UMass 0 0 0
Western Michigan 1 4 5

Second-Team Offense

QB Alex Carder, Western Michigan

RB Jawon Chisholm, Akron

RB David Fluellen, Toledo

WR Perez Ashford, Northern Illinois

WR Cody Wilson, Central Michigan

TE Jordan Thompson, Ohio

C Skyler Allen, Ohio

OL Dominic Flewellyn, Bowling Green

OL Jordan Hansel, Ball State

OL Gokhan Ozkan, Buffalo

OL Logan Pegram, Northern Illinois

Second-Team Defense

DL Freddie Bishop, Western Michigan

DL T.J. Fatinikun, Toledo

DL Steven Means, Buffalo

DL Nathan Ollie, Ball State

LB Justin Cudworth, Eastern Michigan

LB Travis Freeman, Ball State

LB C.J. Malauulu, Kent State

CB Marlon Pollard, Eastern Michigan

CB Lewis Toler, Western Michigan

S Johnnie Simon, Western Michigan

S Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois

Second-Team Specialists

K Matt Weller, Ohio

P Scott Kovanda, Ball State

KR Tommylee Lewis, Northern Illinois

PR Bernard Reedy, Toledo

Athlon's 2012 MAC Team Previews

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 All-MAC Team

East West
Akron Ball State
Bowling Green Central Michigan
Buffalo Eastern Michigan
Kent State Northern Illinois
Miami Toledo
Ohio Western Michigan

<p> MAC Football 2012 All-Conference Team</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 04:38
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-worst-head-coaches-2012

Whether a college football coach is entering his first season or coming off a national championship, all are under heavy scrutinty. And just like the best coaches in the NCAA, the record isn't always a true indicator of success or bad coaching. As the 2012 season inches closer, Athlon continues its spring preview with a look at the 10 worst coaches in college football. Although some of these coaches are unproven, their resume is unproven and on paper, a bad hire for the program. If we had to make a head coaching hire tomorrow, these 10 coaches would be at the bottom of our list. 

College Football’s Top 10 Worst Coaches

1. Carl Pelini, FAU (First Year)
Considering FAU has watched its win total decline in each of the last four seasons, hiring Pelini to rebuild the program is a curious move. Pelini has no head coaching experience on the collegiate level and one has to wonder how much control he had over the defense at Nebraska despite the title of defensive coordinator the last four years. Pelini also has no ties to the Florida area, which is certainly a concern for the Owls in recruiting. Although he has yet to coach a game, it’s hard to find reasons to think Pelini will work out as FAU’s head coach.

2. Kevin Wilson, Indiana (1-11, 1 year)
Indiana is not an easy place to win, but Wilson’s first season in Bloomington was not pretty. The Hoosiers lost to Ball State and North Texas, with their only victory coming against South Carolina State (38-21). Indiana did not win a Big Ten game for the first time since 1995 and only one conference game was decided by seven points or less. The Hoosiers played a handful of young players last year, so there’s plenty of hope for 2012 and beyond. Wilson still has plenty to prove, as this is his first head coaching gig on the college football level, and the Hoosiers may have been the worst BCS team last year.

3. Dan Enos, Central Michigan (6-18, 2 years)
Enos inherited a program that won at least eight games in each of the last four seasons prior to his arrival and claimed three MAC titles during that span. Instead of building upon that success, Enos has led the program to a disappointing 6-18 record and finds himself squarely on the hot seat in 2012. Although Enos came to Mount Pleasant after the departure of some key players (quarterback Dan LeFevour and wide receiver Antonio Brown), Central Michigan has underachieved the last two years and will struggle to finish higher than fourth in the MAC West in 2012.

4. Bobby Hauck, UNLV (4-21, 2 years)
Hiring a coach from Montana hasn’t exactly turned out well for a couple of FBS programs. Mick Dennehy compiled a 39-12 record with the Grizzlies, but went 19-37 in five years with Utah State. Joe Glenn went 39-6 in three years with Montana, but went 30-41 in six seasons with Wyoming. Hauck followed Glenn in Missoula and posted an 80-17 record, but has experienced very little success since coming to UNLV. Although the cupboard was less then full when Hauck inherited the team, the Rebels have failed to show much progress and was blown out by FCS opponent Southern Utah last year. Hauck will be allowed a few years to right the ship, but there’s little to suggest UNLV will post a winning mark in 2012.

5. Frank Spaziani, Boston College (20-19, 3 years)
Boston College has been trending in the wrong direction over the last three seasons, and Spaziani will likely need a winning record to return in 2012. The Eagles won 20 games in two seasons under Jeff Jagodzinski, but Spaziani has been unable to continue that momentum, and Boston College’s win total has declined over the last three years. Jagodzinski didn’t exactly leave a full cupboard for Spaziani, but the Eagles have shown little progress under his watch and a very challenging 2012 schedule will make it difficult for this team to get bowl eligible. 

6. Joker Phillips, Kentucky (11-14, 2 years)
Thanks to the victory over Tennessee in the season finale, Phillips may have bought himself a little more time in Lexington. However, there’s definitely some uneasiness over the direction of the program. Phillips inherited a team that was coming off four consecutive bowl appearances, but the win total has declined over the last two years. Although Kentucky ended up with five victories last season, there were close calls against Western Kentucky and Central Michigan and a 30-point loss to Vanderbilt in SEC play. Unless Phillips gets the Wildcats back in a bowl in 2012, Kentucky could be looking for a new coach in December. 

7. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo (5-19, 2 years)
Wins have been difficult to find at Buffalo, as the Bulls have only two winning records since 1996. Success has also eluded Quinn during his two years with Buffalo, as he has just three wins in MAC play. Another 2-10 or 3-9 season could spell the end of Quinn’s tenure with the Bulls, but there are reasons to believe Buffalo could be better in 2012. Running back Braden Oliver should be the MAC’s leading rusher and seven starters are back on defense. If Quinn can get Buffalo to four or five wins this year, he should be safe and easily move off this list for 2013. 

8. David Bailiff, Rice (23-38, 5 years)
Bailiff has experienced some high points during his career, but has mostly been a .500 or worse coach. He led Texas State to a 5-6 record in 2004 and followed that up with an 11-3 record in 2005. Despite a 5-6 mark with the Bobcats in 2006, he was hired to follow Todd Graham at Rice. Bailiff went 3-9 in his first year with the Owls, but posted an impressive 10-3 mark in 2008. However, the last three years have been mediocre, as Rice is just 10-26 during that span. Unless Bailiff shows progress, the Owls will likely have a new coach roaming the sidelines in 2012.

9. Curtis Johnson, Tulane (First Year)
With its last winning season in 2002, the Green Wave is desperately needs a shot of energy and someone who can rebuild Tulane into a consistent bowl team. Johnson brings some positives to Tulane, as he is a native of New Orleans and is regarded as a good recruiter. However, Johnson has never been a head coach or coordinator and his last stop in college was in 2005 with Miami. Just like Carl Pelini, it’s hard to judge anyone that has yet to coach a game. However, Johnson’s resume leaves a lot to be desired and plenty of doubts about whether he can rebuild Tulane.

10. Norm Chow, Hawaii (First Year)
Chow is a well-respected assistant, and is returning home to Hawaii as the Warriors make the jump from the WAC to the Mountain West. However, his offenses the last few years have been so-so, especially as his style and scheme did not mix with UCLA and Rick Neuheisel’s pistol attack. The biggest question surrounding Chow is why he is getting his first head coaching opportunity at age 65. Chow’s background makes him a perfect fit at Hawaii, but this being his first head coaching opportunity this late in his career is certainly troubling.

Ranking the Coaches: Top 25 Nationally
Ranking the Coaches: ACC
Ranking the Coaches: Big East
Ranking the Coaches: Pac-12
Ranking the Coaches: Big 12
Ranking the Coaches: Big Ten
Ranking the Coaches: SEC

<p> Athlon ranks the 10 worst coaches in college football.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 04:19
Path: /nascar/ambrose-vs-road-course-juniors-confidence-level-and-martins-vacation

To break one trend, Marcos Ambrose knows he’ll likely endure another when the Sprint Cup Series competes at Sonoma in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 on Sunday in the first of two races at road courses this season.

Ambrose, who won at Watkins Glen last year for his first Cup victory, seeks to break a string of seven different winners on road courses. To do so, he’ll have to avoid the litany of trouble that lurks on the tight, 12-turn road course.

The last couple of races on the Northern California course have featured beating and banging synonymous with short-track racing.

“It is a technically challenging track, it’s hard to make passes,” Ambrose says. “Even if it’s clean, it’s very easy to make contact.

“The drivers understand that you’re going to have to do a few bump-and-runs, and you’re going to have to make contact to win the race. We’re all prepared for that, and we all understand the consequences of that.”

Ambrose, who is 17th in the point standings, needs a victory to have a chance at a wildcard spot in the Chase.

“We still feel like we’ve got a chance to make the Chase if we can win some races,” he says. “We’ve got speed. We just have to convert those speed runs into good results.”

Ambrose has finished between ninth and 14th in four of the last five races. He goes to Sonoma with higher expectation since his racing background is in road racing.

After finishing 42nd in his first time at Sonoma in 2008, Ambrose has not finished worse than sixth since. He led 35 laps in 2010 but lost the lead when, as he was saving fuel, he turned the engine off and couldn’t restart it under caution. A few cars passed him when he stopped on course and NASCAR placed him in the lineup where he regained caution speed. Only seven laps remained and the mistake cost Ambrose a chance to win. That helped Jimmie Johnson win and continue the streak of different winners on road courses.

On the other road course at Watkins Glen, Ambrose has recorded four top 5s in four Cup starts and owns a 2.2-place finish.

Kyle Busch started the different-winner streak when he won at Watkins Glen in ’08. Kasey Kahne won at Sonoma and Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen in ’09, while Jimmie Johnson was victorious at Sonoma in 2010 and Juan Pablo Montoya was first at Watkins Glen. Last season, Kurt Busch won at Sonoma and Ambrose won at Watkins Glen.

<p> Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long looks at Marcos Ambrose and his record on NASCAR's road courses, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s confidence level, Elliott Sadler's title hopes in the Nationwide Series and Mark Martin's Sprint Cup vacation.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 17:07
Path: /nascar/nascar-horsepower-rankings-3

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
We’ve said all along that Earnhardt’s consistency warranted the top spot, but a lack of any wins kept him from it. Well, the 143-race national nightmare is over, and Junior can now lead the way.

2. Jimmie Johnson
Replace the engine and start in the rear of the field? No problem for Chad Knaus and crew. They just handed the ball to J.J., who drove it to a fifth-place finish with blistered tires and an empty gas tank.

3. Matt Kenseth
Third-place runs at Dover and Michigan bookend a seventh at Pocono. Kenseth maintains his lead in the point standings heading to Sonoma, where neither he nor Earnhardt are ... well, good.

4. Greg Biffle
Looked to be the class of the field on Sunday until lap 70, when Earnhardt took to the point and Biffle’s handling went away just slightly. Still, a fourth-place finish works in the grand scheme of things.

<p> Dale Earnhardt Jr. finally ascends to the top of Athlon Sports' Horsepower Rankings after breaking a 143-race winless skid with a victory at Michigan International Speedway.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 13:31
All taxonomy terms: Carolina Panthers, NFC, NFC South, NFL
Path: /nfl/carolina-panthers-2012-schedule-analysis

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Carolina Panthers 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Tampa Bay
Week 2: New Orleans
Week 3: New York Giants (Thurs.)
Week 4: at Atlanta
Week 5: Seattle
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: Dallas
Week 8: at Chicago
Week 9: at Washington
Week 10: Denver
Week 11: Tampa Bay
Week 12: at Philadelphia (Mon.)
Week 13: at Kansas City
Week 14: Atlanta
Week 15: at San Diego
Week 16: Oakland
Week 17: at New Orleans

Order your 2012 Carolina Panthers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Carolina opens its 2012 season with back-to-back divisional games - at Tampa Bay and home to New Orleans. All told, the Panthers play three divisional games among its first four and then doesn't play another until Week 11. Getting off to a good start in divisional play would go a long ways towards setting the tone for the season as a whole.

- The Panthers play the NFC East and AFC West as their cross-divisional opponents this season. This means a visit from the defending Super Bowl champs in Week 3, a Thursday night showcase that offers the Panthers a chance to shine at home. The pairing with the East also sets up a tantalizing Week 9 match up in Washington, which will pit the past two Heisman Trophy winners - Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III - against one another. As far as the games against the AFC West go, there's the Week 10 visit from Denver, which is led by former Carolina head coach John Fox and new quarterback Peyton Manning.

- Carolina's two floating games are against Seattle and at Chicago. The home game against the Seahawks is the week prior to the Panthers' bye in Week 6. The week off will give the team the chance to prepare for a difficult four-game stretch, one that begins with a home date versus Dallas. After that it's consecutive road contests in Chicago and Washington before coming back home to host the Broncos.

- It's fitting the Panthers' Week 12 game in Philadelphia is on Monday night. It offers a primetime slot for what could be, barring injury, a quarterback showcase featuring Newton and the Eagles' Michael Vick.  Both have similar styles in that they are capable of making the big play anywhere on the field with either their arm or legs.

- Carolina will play more games against AFC West foes (three) than its own division (two) in the final five weeks of the season. The Panthers go to Kansas City in Week 13 and will also make the trip cross country to face San Diego in Week 15. Those road contests are sandwiched by a home game against Atlanta. The Panthers host Oakland in Week 16 before ending the season in New Orleans against the Saints.

Fantasy Focus: Quarterback Cam Newton had 14 rushing touchdowns last season, the most of any quarterback in a season in NFL history. The team has said it wants to limit the second-year signal-caller's rushing attempts in 2012, especially in the red zone and around the goal line, to limit the number of hits he takes. To that end, the Panthers added former San Diego running back Mike Tolbert to a backfield that already includes Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. Even though there are several mouths to feed, if Carolina sticks to the running game and follows through on limiting Newton's rushes, there should be plenty of opportunities for all three running backs to provide fantasy value this season. Looking at the Panthers' 2012 schedule, they play seven teams that finished in the top 16 in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs in 2011. Tampa Bay, who Carolina plays twice, allowed the most of any team last season, and fellow NFC South rival New Orleans ranked eighth. Philadelphia (9th-most), Kansas City (10th), Oakland (11th), the Giants (12th) and Denver (16th) also are on Carolina's schedule this season and finished in the top half of this category in 2011.

— by Mark Ross, published on June 19, 2012

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

<p> Carolina Panthers 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 06:02
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC South, Tennessee Titans, NFL
Path: /nfl/tennessee-titans-2012-schedule-analysis

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Tennessee Titans 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: New England
Week 2: at San Diego
Week 3: Detroit
Week 4: at Houston
Week 5: at Minnesota
Week 6: Pittsburgh (Thurs.)
Week 7: at Buffalo
Week 8: Indianapolis
Week 9: Chicago
Week 10: at Miami
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: at Jacksonville
Week 13: Houston
Week 14: at Indianapolis
Week 15: New York Jets (Mon.)
Week 16: at Green Bay
Week 17: Jacksonville

Order your 2012 Tennessee Titans Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- The schedule-makers didn't do Tennessee a lot of favors as far as the start of its 2012 season goes. The Titans play four playoff teams from last season among its first six games. Tennessee opens against New England at home and then has to go out west to take on San Diego. Then it's back home to host Detroit before heading to Houston to face the defending division champion Texans. A road game in Minnesota is the Titans' first break, but it precedes a Thursday night home date with Pittsburgh in Week 6.

- The Titans play the AFC East and NFC North as their cross-divisional opponents this season. They get New England, the Jets, Detroit and Chicago all at home, making their Week 16 trip to Green Bay the toughest road assignment from this part of their schedule. If anything, Titans' fans should be excited about the prospects of seeing the Patriots, Jets, Lions and Bears play in Nashville, Tenn.

- Tennessee's floating games are at San Diego and versus Pittsburgh and both of these come within the first six games of its schedule. West coast trips for teams east of the Mississippi are always difficult, and this one for the Titans comes in between their season opener at home against the Patriots and a Week 3 contest with Detroit. The Thursday night game against the Steelers will represent the fifth straight season these teams will have met. The Steelers have won the last three meetings.

- The Titans' bye comes in Week 11, which means they will only have six games remaining when they return to action. When they get back on the field in Week 12, they will play the first of three straight divisional games. Outside of AFC South contests, the Titans will host the Jets for Monday Night Football in Week 15 and make the dreaded trip to Lambeau Field in December to face the defending NFC North division champion Packers.

- Four of Tennessee's final six games are divisional contests, including two against Jacksonville. Depending on how the Titans manage their first 10 games and the match ups with the Jets and Packers, they could be in a position to control their playoff fate with a strong finish against the rest of the AFC South.

Fantasy Focus: Chris Johnson disappointed fantasy owners last season as he finished 2011 with the fewest rushing yards (1,047) and total touchdowns (four) of his career. In his defense, he did have to deal with the transition to a new coaching staff and offensive system, a process that was made more difficult because of the NFL lockout and its affect on the normal offseason schedule. However, it also should be pointed out that Johnson himself contributed to his lack of preparation time by holding out prior to signing a lucrative, long-term contract before the season started. But that was then and this is now. With no contract to worry about, Johnson has the luxury of a normal offseason to familiarize himself with the playbook and get on the same page with both the coaching staff and his offensive line. Given these positives and his track record, the former CJ2K is a popular choice to bounce back with a big fantasy season in 2012. If there's any caveat to this optimistic outlook, however, it would be the schedule. Tennessee will play six of the 10 teams who gave up the fewest fantasy points to running backs in 2011, led by Houston, who ranked second. Pittsburgh came in third in this category, along with Miami (5th), Chicago (8th), San Diego (9th) and Jacksonville (10th). And remember, the Titans will play both the Texans and Jaguars twice in 2012.

— by Mark Ross, published on June 19, 2012

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

<p> Tennessee Titans 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 06:01
Path: /college-football/big-12-football-2012-all-conference-team-2

The 2012 college football season is just around the corner, and Athlon continues its countdown to kickoff with a look at our first, second and third All-Big 12 teams for this season.

Related: Athlon All-Big 12 Team As Recruits

Athlon's 2012 All-Big 12 Team

First-Team Offense

QB Geno Smith, West Virginia

RB Malcolm Brown, Texas

RB Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State

WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia

WR Stedman Bailey, West Virginia

WR Kenny Stills, Oklahoma

C Joe Madsen, West Virginia

OL Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma

OL Cyril Richardson, Baylor

OL Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State

OL LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech

First-Team Defense

DL Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas

DL Stansly Maponga, TCU

DL Alex Okafor, Texas

LB Arthur Brown, Kansas State

LB Jordan Hicks, Texas

LB A.J. Klein, Iowa State

LB Jake Knott, Iowa State

CB Brodrick Brown, Oklahoma State

CB Quandre Diggs, Texas

S Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma

S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas


First-Team Specialists

K Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State

P Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State

KR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

PR Tavon Austin, West Virginia

The Breakdown of Athlon's 2012 All-Big 12 Team

  First Second Third Overall
Baylor 1 3 2 6
Iowa State 2 1 0 3
Kansas 0 2 2 4
Kansas State 2 3 3 8
Oklahoma 3 8 4 15
Oklahoma State 5 1 6 12
TCU 1 2 3 6
Texas 6 2 4 12
Texas Tech 1 2 0 3
West Virginia 5 2 2 9

Second-Team Offense

QB Collin Klein, Kansas State

RB Eric Stephens, Texas Tech

RB Dominique Whaley, Oklahoma

WR Josh Boyce, TCU

WR Darrin Moore, Texas Tech

WR Terrance Williams, Baylor

C Ivory Wade, Baylor

OL Tyler Evans, Oklahoma

OL Blaize Foltz, TCU

OL Tanner Hawkinson, Kansas

OL Mason Walters, Texas

Second-Team Defense

DL David King, Oklahoma

DL Toben Opurum, Kansas

DL R.J. Washington, Oklahoma

DL Meshak Williams, Kansas State

LB Shaun Lewis, Oklahoma State

LB Corey Nelson, Oklahoma

LB Tom Wort, Oklahoma

CB Demontre Hurst, Oklahoma

CB Nigel Malone, Kansas State

S Ahmad Dixon, Baylor

S Terence Garvin, West Virginia

Second-Team Specialists

K Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

P Kirby Van Der Camp, Iowa State

KR Tavon Austin, West Virginia

PR Quandre Diggs, Texas


Third-Team Offense

QB Landry Jones, Oklahoma

RB Waymon James, TCU

RB Trey Millard, Oklahoma

WR Tracy Moore, Oklahoma State

WR Tevin Reese, Baylor

WR Jaxon Shipley, Texas

C BJ Finney, Kansas State

OL Jeff Braun, West Virginia

OL Lane Johnson, Oklahoma

OL Nick Puetz, Kansas State

OL Duane Zlatnik, Kansas


Third-Team Defense

DL Will Clarke, West Virginia

DL Ashton Dorsey, Texas

DL Vai Lutui, Kansas State

DL Nigel Nicholas, Oklahoma State

LB Kenny Cain, TCU

LB Steve Edmond, Texas

LB Alex Elkins, Oklahoma State

CB Carrington Byndom, Texas

CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

S Daytawion Lowe, Oklahoma State

S Bradley McDougald, Kansas


Third-Team Specialists

K Aaron Jones, Baylor

P Tress Way, Oklahoma

KR Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

PR Brandon Carter, TCU


ALSO CHECK OUT Big 12 2012 All-Conference Team As Recruits

Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Previews

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Predictions

Baylor Oklahoma State
Iowa State TCU
Kansas Texas
Kansas State Texas Tech
Oklahoma West Virginia

<p> 2012 Big 12 All-Conference Team</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 06:01
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-fantasy-football-rankings-linebackers

The 2012 NFL Fantasy Season is here. Mock drafts abound. Rookie round-ups are nearly complete. Bye week cheat sheets are everywhere. Positional rankings are popping up everywhere, which at Athlon Sports also includes Individual Defensive Players or IDPs

While the ever-important Athlon Sports 2012 Big Board, the most accurate consensus top 100 list of fantasy footballers on the web, includes the most common and used positions in fantasy football, IDPs are also a part of many leagues out there. So true to our word of providing you everything you need to get you ready for the upcoming fantasy football season, here are our IDP rankings for linebackers (LB).

Rankings are based on Athlon Sports standard scoring for IDPs:

Solo tackle = 1 pt
Tackle assist = 0.5 pts
Sack = 3.5 pts
Interception = 3.5 pts
Forced fumble/recovery = 2 pts
Defensive TD = 8 pts
Safety = 2 pts
Pass Defended = 0.5 pts
Blocked Kick = 4 pts

Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Positional Rankings: Linebackers

Rank, Name, Position, Team (2011 Fantasy Points per Athlon Sports standard scoring)

1. Patrick Willis, LB, San Francisco 49ers (114.0 FP)
Willis has finished each of his pro seasons among the top five linebackers in fantasy football. Willis produced career highs in pass breakups and forced fumbles despite missing three games.

2. Desmond Bishop, LB, Green Bay Packers (124.5 FP)
Only D’Qwell Jackson delivered a better fantasy scoring average among linebackers last year. Bishop tied for the league lead in sacks for an inside backer, despite losing three games to a calf injury.

3. James Laurinaitis, LB, St. Louis Rams (146.5 FP)
Not a whole lot changed for Laurinaitis in 2011, so it’s tough to nail down the reason for his jump of 21 assisted tackles. Coach Jeff Fisher touted first-round pick Michael Brockers as a guy who will tie up blockers and clear pursuit lanes for his star middle linebacker.

4. Derrick Johnson, LB, Kansas City Chiefs (140.0 FP)
Johnson followed a slow start last season by delivering double-digit fantasy points in seven of the final 10 fantasy weeks, despite the fact that the Chiefs spent two fewer snaps per game on defense than in any of the previous four years.

5. NaVorro Bowman, LB, San Francisco 49ers (144.0 FP)
It would have been unfair to expect Bowman to step in and be Patrick Willis, but he basically did. The question will be whether he can repeat the performance now that the league knows about him. The presence of both on the same defense should help each player, and — like Willis — Bowman will stay on the field in all packages.

6. D'Qwell Jackson, LB, Cleveland Browns (162.3 FP)
Finally back healthy last season, Jackson led the league in solo tackles and ranked second only to London Fletcher in total stops. Jackson also delivered a career high in sacks and can’t help but enjoy the Browns’ improved defensive line.

7. Daryl Washington, LB, Arizona Cardinals (128.0 FP)
Washington tied several others for the sack lead among inside linebackers. Pro Football Focus rated him second-best at the position in pass rushing, fourth-best in coverage. That keeps Washington on the field and keeps opposing offenses from knowing how he’ll be deployed.

8. Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Atlanta Falcons (118.5 FP)
The departure of Curtis Lofton in free agency should turn Weatherspoon into the Falcons’ leading tackler. Weatherspoon is an impact pass-rusher and coverage player who will stay on the field in all packages.

9. Curtis Lofton, LB, New Orleans Saints (143.0 FP)
Jonathan Vilma’s suspension only ensures that Lofton will man the middle for his new team. He ranked fifth in the league in tackles — his second finish among the top six in the past three seasons.

10. Stephen Tulloch, LB, Detroit Lions (131.5 FP)
A two-down type with the Titans, Tulloch graded out as the league’s second-best coverage player at inside linebacker last season, according to Pro Football Focus. That delivered a career high in interceptions and indicates upside beyond his five passes defensed. Three sacks were also a personal best.

11. Jerod Mayo, LB, New England Patriots (91.0 FP)
Mayo became largely a 4-3 outside linebacker last season and fared just fine with it. Mayo’s versatility keeps him on the field across formations, which will prove important with so many new pieces entering the Patriots’ fray. With health, he should continue his late-2011 fantasy production.

12. Colin McCarthy, LB, Tennessee Titans (74.0 FP)
Over the final eight games, McCarthy averaged 9.3 fantasy points in our scoring format. That would have placed him among the top 10 linebackers for the season, just ahead of NaVorro Bowman.

13. Paul Posluszny, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars (114.5 FP)
Posluszny’s numbers dipped last season, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. His career-high nine passes defensed were evidence of arguably his best performance in pass coverage. Poz’s all-around ability provides upside and keeps him on the field.

14. Pat Angerer, LB, Indianapolis Colts (127.5 FP)
A rookie-led unit should still allow the defense to spend lots of time on the field, which was the biggest mark in Angerer’s favor last year. He’s moving to Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 scheme, but Angerer remains the squad’s clear best bet for tackles.

15. Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore Ravens (101.5 FP)
A toe injury cost him four games, but Lewis still managed the position’s 12th-best scoring average. It was his sixth straight season ranking among the top 12 and followed three years of not missing a game. Lewis has delivered two sacks or more in six straight seasons with at least seven passes defensed in five of those.

16. Brian Urlacher, LB, Chicago Bears (119.0 FP)
Urlacher isn’t quite the same player he used to be, but you can’t tell by his fantasy numbers. His three interceptions in 2011 were his most since 2007. Beware of a decline, but don’t ignore him.

17. Sean Lee, LB, Dallas Cowboys (109.0 FP)
Lee got off to a fast start in 2011, with three interceptions over his first five games and three 11-plus tackle games in that span. Lee’s strong run defense results in a good tackle base, pairing well with coverage upside.

18. Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers (Rookie, DNP in NFL in ’11)
The early plan in Carolina is for Kuechly to man the weak side and Jon Beason to stay in the middle. Kuechly brings range, speed, smarts, cover skills — basically everything. We don’t yet know if the team will keep all three linebackers on the field for passing downs, but Kuechly shouldn’t go anywhere.

19. DeMarcus Ware, LB, Dallas Cowboys (128.3 FP)
Ware leads the NFL in sacks over the past four years, five years, six years and seven years. Even in a standard format, Ware hasn’t ranked outside the top 30 linebackers since his rookie year. In 2011, Ware never went two consecutive games without a sack. He delivered more than one in six outings.

20. Chad Greenway, LB, Minnesota Vikings (131.5 FP)
Greenway enjoyed his second straight season as a top-five tackle producer in 2011. His 65 assists helped prove the importance of counting that category to any IDP leagues still lagging in the land of solos-only.

21. Karlos Dansby, LB, Miami Dolphins (109.5 FP)
Settling in at middle linebacker when the Dolphins go 4-3 would be good for Dansby's fantasy value. Strong-side linebacker likely wouldn’t be so good. Dansby’s talent as a pass-rusher and in coverage make him worth a risk.

22. Rolando McClain, LB, Oakland Raiders (114.0 FP)
McClain’s criminal conviction obviously adds risk. Even if his sentence doesn’t interfere with the regular season, the league figures to dock him at least a couple of games. McClain broke out as a fantasy factor and might have scored more if not for a foot injury. He could be on a short leash with the Raiders.

23. London Fletcher, LB, Washington Redskins (153.3 FP)
Fletcher led the league in tackles last season with 166 total. This marked the sixth time in seven seasons the veteran's had at least 95 solos, and the 70 assists he had in 2011 marked a career high. Still, he’s 37 and playing next to the emerging Perry Riley. That threatens to siphon some tackles.

24. Lawrence Timmons, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers (95.5 FP)
Timmons is among the league’s fastest, most athletic inside linebackers. Sacks and INTs bring considerable upside.

25. Brian Cushing, LB, Houston Texans (122.5 FP)
Cushing played the third-most snaps of any Texans defender and performed quite well in every facet. Pro Football Focus credited him with 31 combined hits and hurries beyond his four sacks, and Cushing continued to improve in coverage.

26. Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos (103.3 FP)
Miller couldn’t have been much better in his first season. He finished just two of his first 12 games without a sack. A fractured thumb cost him a game and severely limited his production down the stretch, yet Miller tied for ninth in the league in sacks and carries upside beyond that.

27. Jon Beason, LB, Carolina Panthers (4.0 FP)
Two years ago, Beason was among the surest things in IDP. But his numbers dipped as he slid outside for the injured Thomas Davis, and then last year he ruptured his Achilles’ tendon. It’s also a distinct possibility that first-round pick Luke Kuechly pushes Beason out of the middle. Beason gets some benefit of the doubt, but you must draft with caution.

28. Kelvin Sheppard, LB, Buffalo Bills (62.5 FP)
Heading into his first season as Buffalo’s defensive coordinator, Dave Wannstedt has already talked about Sheppard’s fit at middle linebacker in the new 4-3 scheme. Sheppard will need to prove himself in coverage to stay on the field for third downs and keep from capping his production.

29. DeMeco Ryans, LB, Philadelphia Eagles (58.0 FP)
Ryans started a bit slowly last year in his return from a ruptured Achilles’ tendon. Ryans’ biggest problem was that Houston’s new 3-4 scheme left him as a part-time player. That won’t be the case in Philly, where Ryans is poised for bounce-back numbers based on sheer opportunity.

30. Lavonte David, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Rookie, DNP in NFL in ’11)
The Derrick Brooks comparison isn’t fair, because the Bucs no longer deploy the old Tampa-2 defense. On the weak side, David should be able to work around his limited size and leverage the tackling ability that led him to average more than 10 per game each year at Nebraska.

— Published on June 19, 2012

Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Fantasy Content:

Athlon Sports Big Board: Top 150

2012 Fantasy Football Mock Draft I

2012 Bye Week Cheat Sheet

Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: QBs

Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: RBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: WRs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: TEs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: DLs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: DBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: IDP Top 75

Related: Order your Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Preview Magazine Here

You can preorder your award-winning Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine here.
<p> Athlon breaks down each position on the fantasy gridiron, including IDPs.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2012-heisman-contenders-way-it-should-be

The Heisman Trophy may be the most coveted trophy in all of sports.

Ten of the last 11 winners of this priceless award have been quarterbacks. And since 1950, only one time has a non-offensive skill player — e.g., quarterback, running back or wide receiver — claimed the historic award (Charles Woodson, 1997). Yes, the quarterback is the most important position on the field. Yes, few players touch the ball more than a workhorse running back. But just because big uglies, heavy-hitters and pass rushers don't often get the famed trip to Radio City Music Hall in New York City, it doesn't mean they don't deserve it.

So expect to see more than just signal callers, pass-catchers and tailbacks on Athlon Sports' conference-by-conference Heisman Contenders.

The Pac-12's Top 25 Heisman Trophy Contenders:

1. Matt Barkley, QB, USC (SR)
No one in their right mind can make the case that Matt Barkley isn’t the First-Team All-American quarterback and top Heisman contender nationally. He has the records, the stats, the Golden Boy image, the preseason No. 1 team in the nation and a plethora of talented skill players to work with. In fact, the only negative Heisman pundits can lob at Barkley is, in fact, that he is the clearcut Heisman favorite. When was the last time the obvious preseason stiff-armed favorite actually won the award?

2. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State (JR)
Who is the leading returning receiver in the Pac-12? No, it’s not a guy named Woods, Allen or Lee. It’s Wilson with his 1,388 yards. In fact, the 6-foot-4, 190-pounder has had one of the quietest two-year starts to a career in the nation (party due to his current zip code) as he has 137 catches, 2,394 yards and 18 scores in two years. And now he has Mike Leach calling plays for him — a coach who has never had a quarterback pass for less than 3,400 yards. I got two words for you: Michael Crabtree.

3. De’Anthony Thomas, AP, Oregon (SO)
Few players can rip off huge chunks of yards like The Black Mamba, who averaged nearly 12 yards per offensive touch as a freshman. His highlight-reel explosiveness is exactly what Heisman pundits everywhere crave. He contributes to the offense in every imaginable way — 2,235 all-purpose yards, 18 total TDs — and can be completely unstoppable in the open field. Thomas averaged 10.0 touches per game last year, and with LaMichael James no longer on the roster, fans can expect lethal doses from the most poisonous running back in the nation.

4. Keith Price, QB, Washington (JR)
Steve Sarkisian has a great one in Price. In the first six games of Price’s first season as the starter, all he did was lead the nation in touchdown passes with 21 scoring strikes. He set single-season Washington passing records and should only improve in his third year in Coach Sark's system. He has plenty of talent around him and multiple marquee showdowns on the schedule. If he can stay healthy — and gets some improved offensive line play — he could easily find himself in New York come December.

5. Robert Woods, WR, USC (JR)
The uber-talent from SoCal exploded into living rooms as a sophomore in 2011. He not only broke USC receiving records, but set a Pac-12 record with 111 receptions in only 12 games. He caught at least two scores in four straight games at one point and has clearly built a rapport with No. 1 on this list. The only thing keeping this dynamic play-maker from being higher than No. 5 is lingering bone inflammation in his ankle. Following arthroscopic surgery in December, Woods still has yet to begin summer workouts.

6. Keenan Allen, WR, Cal (JR)
This east coast product (Greenboro, N.C.) has already placed himself securely in the Cal record books after only two seasons on campus after a massive 98-catch, 1,343-yard sophomore season. Wilson will have the best stats and Woods might be the most explosive, but there may not be a more physically gifted athlete in the Pac-12 than Allen. If he can reach paydirt a few more times in 2012, which is possible with improved quarterback play, this graceful gazelle might need to book a flight to Manhattan later this year.

7. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon (SR)
Barner has dealt with injury issues throughout his career in Eugene, but should he stay healthy, this senior to be has proven to be plenty capably of carrying the Ducks’ running back torch. In three career starts, Barner posted 433 yards rushing on 58 attempts and 102 yards receiving on three catches to go with eight total touchdowns. Ironically, the only thing keeping him from a potential Heisman trip to the Big Apple could be his backfield mate De’Anthony Thomas.

8. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah (SR)
The Morris Trophy winner from a year ago as the Pac-12’s top defensive lineman, Lotelelei should be in Heisman conversations across the country. Nebraska sent a defensive tackle to New York in 2009, so why can’t the Utes do the same? Utah’s Star up front could be the top DT taken in the 2013 NFL Draft as this defense ranked No. 1 in the league in scoring defense, No. 1 in turnover margin and No. 3 in rushing defense. Using him in some gimmick plays — e.g., along the offensive line or in goalline packages — would go a long way towards boosting his national profile.

9. John White, RB, Utah (SR)
In only his first season on campus, White broke the single-season Utah rushing record with 1,519 yards. What is more impressive is how he did it. The Utes had little-to-no quality quarterback play last year due to injuries and it allowed defenses to stack the box against White. All he did was carry the ball 316 times and score 15 touchdowns in the face of eight- and nine-man fronts. With just a little support from the passing game in 2012, White could post Radio City Music Hall-type numbers.

10. Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State (SR)
There is a lot of projection and finger-crossing going on with Tuel this fall. He has the Tuels needed to be successful, especially for a quarterback genius like Mike Leach. But he has been consistently injured for the better part of his career. Should he stay healthy, the Cougars' offense could set school records and reach the postseason for the first time in years.

11. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford (SR)
The Cardinal's offensive onus sans Luck, Martin, Fleener and DeCastro now falls to Taylor. Things will be undoubtedly tougher without the quartet. However, David Shaw has instilled a physical mindset that begins with the rushing attack and Mr. Taylor.

12. Marqise Lee, WR, USC (SO)
A tremendously talented first-year player got the benefit of defenses focusing on Woods a year ago and it led to a 73-catch, 1,143-yard 11-TD season. Should once again be productive in explosive offense led by elite quarterback.

13. Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford (SR)
Maybe not as physically gifted as Shayne Skov, but Thomas is certainly more dependable. The outside tackle is a fierce competitor and a preseason first-team All-American. The savvy linebacker plays sideline-to-sideline — and in your backfield.

14. Isi Sofele, RB, Cal (SR)
Jeff Tedford recommitted himself to the ground game after starting the year 4-4. Sofele got 88 carries in the final four games and it resulted in 569 yards and three wins. Cal has had a long line of productive backs and this senior to be is the next.

15. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington (SO)
Washington might have the best tight end in the nation. As only a freshman, ASJ landed all over the Huskies' record books. His 6-foot-6, 260-pound frame was virtually unstoppable down the stretch as he caught 19 (of his 41) passes for 209 yards and two scores over the final four games.

16. Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State (SR)
There may not be a better pure coverman in the nation than this senior Beaver. He is also an electric return man and special teamer, which only adds to his Heisman clout. Should Oregon State return to the postseason it will be in large part because of Mr. Poyer.

17. Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State (SR)
Posted his best career game in the spotlight against USC last year (141 yards, 3 TD) and it led to a huge upset. With a new quarterback and new offensive scheme, Marshall should be the focal point of ASU’s offense.

18. Marcus Mariota/Bryan Bennett, QB, Oregon (FR/SO)
If one of these two talented dual-threats can lock down the starting job in Eugene, he will have a great chance to post Heisman-type numbers. The offense is too powerful and both of these quarterbacks are athletic enough to conjure images of Dennis Dixon. 

19. Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona (SO)
Rich Rodriguez has been known to produce Heisman Trophy-caliber backfields. Carey is one of the most talented runners in recent Wildcats memory and proved himself plenty capable as a freshman (425 yards, 6 TD)

20. T.J. McDonald, S, USC (SR)
The preseason first-team All-American hunts heads, delivers huge blows, leads the No. 1 team in the nation and has an NFL pedigree. What’s not to like?

21. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA (SR)
It feels like Franklin has been toting the rock in Westwood forever, but 2012 will be his final, and potentially finest, season. After a 1,000-yard sophomore season, Franklin got 48 fewer carries as a junior. With an increased workload and improved offensive scheme, Franklin should return to form in 2012.

22. Michael Clay, LB, Oregon (SR)
This Ducks defense could be sneaky good and it begins with leadership from its heart and soul. The stocky Clay is lightning quick and incredibly savvy. Expect big things from the senior in 2012.

23. Curtis McNeal, RB, USC (SR)
With little depth on the roster behind him, McNeal looks like Lane Kiffin’s guy in 2012. He established himself as the year went along, finishing with four 100-yard efforts over the final six games. But can his tiny 5-foot-7 frame handle the workload?

24. Shaq Thompson, S, Washington (FR)
Not too many true freshman will show up on Athlon’s Heisman Watch List, but Thompson deserves it. He should start right away, will play all over the field and could restore defensive prominence in Seattle. He is a once-in-a-decade type of safety.

25. Matt Scott, QB, Arizona (SR)
Do dual-threat quarterbacks normally produce big numbers in RichRod’s zone read? If he can stay healthy, Scott should have little problem posting big numbers in the new option attack. I would say redshirting turned into a brilliant maneuver by the senior to be.

Other Names To Watch:

Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State (SO)
Turned the ball over too much but also posted 3,328 yards and 16 TDs as only a freshman.

Kasen Williams, WR, Washington (SO)
Tremendously gifted athlete who showed flashes of brilliance as a freshman.

John Boyett, S, Oregon (SR)
Another heady veteran on what could be best Ducks D in years.

Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA (SR)
Extremely gifted physical talent who needs quality QB play to make a real splash.

Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon (SR)
Overtly talented and versatile yet occasionally inconsistent defensive “drop end.” 

Related: 2012 Athlon Sports Pac-12 Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Pac-12 Team Previews

North South
California Arizona
Oregon Arizona State
Oregon State Colorado
Stanford UCLA
Washington USC
Washington State Utah

-by Braden Gall


<p> Pac-12 2012 Heisman Contenders: The Way It Should Be</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-2012-all-conference-team-recruits

The 2012 college football season is just around the corner, and Athlon continues its countdown to kickoff with a look at all-conference teams from across the nation. But where did all these tremendous all-league performers come from and how did they get where they are today? Some showed-up on campus as five-star uber-recruits and others defied all odds as walk-ons. Athlon analyzes how the 2012 All-Big 12 team ranked as recruits.

Athlons Sports 2012 preseason All-Big 12 Teams

AC100: Athlon Consensus 100 prospect

All-Big 12 First-Team Offense

Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia (2009)
Eugene Smith was ranked as the the No. 14 quarterback in the nation by Athlon Sports and the No. 139 overall player in the nation from Miramar, Fla.

Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State (2010)
From Wichita (Kan.) Southeast, Randle was the No. 20 running back recruit in the nation by Athlon Sports and No. 195 nationally.

Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas (2011) AC100
Brown was the No. 1 running back recruit in the nation in last year's class. The Belton, Texas product was the top Lone State State prospect and was the No. 4 overall recruit in the nation. 

Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (2009)
The all-purpose back from Baltimore (Md.) Dunbar was listed as the No. 19-rated running back in the nation by Athlon Sports, good for No. 164 overall in the class of 2009.

Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia (2009)
From the same high school as Smith, the four-star Bailey was the No. 61-rated player in the state of Florida by He was the No. 48 wide receiver in the country.

Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma (2010) AC100
The Carlsbad (Calif.) La Costa Canyon prospect was the No. 71 overall recruit in the nation and the No. 13-rated wide receiver in the country by Athlon Sports.

Ben Habern, C, Oklahoma (2008)
The Argyle (Texas) Liberty Christian blocker was a Rivals250 member and was ranked as the No. 3 offensive center recruit in the country.

Gabe Ikard, OL, Oklahoma (2009)
This three-star recruit was the No. 15-rated tight end prospect in the nation by He was the 14th best player in the state of Oklahoma (Bishop McGuinness).

Cyril Richardson, OL, Baylor (2009)
The big fella from Crowley (Texas) North was a mid-level, three-star prospect who ranked as the 90th best offensive tackle recruit in the nation.

Lane Taylor, OL, Oklahoma State (2008)
Taylor came to Oklahoma state from Arlington (Texas) Martin and was a two-star recruit who didn't land on any state, national or positional rankings.

LaAdrian Waddle, OL, Texas Tech (2009)
Was a three-star recruit from Columbus, Texas and was listed as the No. 74-rated offensive guard prospect in the nation by

All-Big 12 First-Team Defense

Jackson Jeffcoat, DL, Texas (2010) AC100
The NFL legacy was the No. 2 defensive end prospect in the nation, the top recruit from the state of Texas and was ranked as the No. 4 overall recruit in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Stansly Maponga, DL, TCU (2009)
Rivals ranked the Lewisville (Texas) Hebron native as the No. 20 strongside defensive end prospect in the nation. He was a three-star recruit.

Alex Okafor, DL, Texas (2009) AC100
Athlon Sports had Okafor as the No. 40 overall prospect in the nation and the No. 3 defensive end recruit in the country.

Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State (2008) AC100
From Wichita (Kan.) East, Brown was ranked by Athlon Sports as the No. 1 linebacker recruit in the country and was No. 7 overall regardless of position.

Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas (2010) AC100
The West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West tackler was the No. 1 player in the state of Ohio by Athlon Sports, the No. 16-rated prospect in the nation regardless of position and the No. 2 linebacker in the country.

A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State (2009)
Hailing from Kimberly, Wisc., Klein was the No. 6-rated player in the Badger State and was the No. 86-rated outside linebacker recruit in the nation by Rivals.

Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State (2009)
The sure-handed tackler from Waukee (Iowa) High was rated as the No. 9 player in the state of Iowa by He was a two-star prospect.

Brodrick Brown, CB, Oklahoma State (2008)
From Spring (Texas) Westfield, Brown was a three-star recruit who failed to land on any state, positional or national ranking of any kind.

Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas (2011) AC100
The NFL legacy from Angleton, Texas was the No. 4-rated defensive back in the country and was the No. 38-rated player in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma (2010) AC100
The Chula Vista (Calif.) Eastlake prospect was the No. 1 "athlete" recruit in the nation by Athlon Sports. He was the No. 25 overall player in the country.

Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas (2009)
From Brownwood (Texas) Early, Vaccaro was the No. 18-rated safety in the nation and the No. 38-rated player in the state of Texas by

Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Previews

Baylor Oklahoma State
Iowa State TCU
Kansas Texas
Kansas State Texas Tech
Oklahoma West Virginia

<p> Big 12 2012 All-Conference Team As Recruits</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/sun-belt-football-2012-predictions

With the defections in the WAC, the Sun Belt is no longer college football’s worst conference. The addition of South Alabama brings the Sun Belt to 10 football members for 2013, and this conference will undergo a bit of a makeover next year, as North Texas and FIU will be moving to Conference USA, with Texas State and Georgia State picked as replacements.

Arkansas State will be one of the most intriguing teams to watch outside of the BCS. Former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is taking over as head coach, and has the perfect triggerman for his spread attack in quarterback Ryan Aplin. The senior should post monster numbers under Malzahn’s watch, but the Red Wolves have to replace two all-conference performers on the line. The defense also suffered some key departures, as seven starters are gone from last season’s unit.

Arkansas State is Athlon’s projected Sun Belt champion for 2012, but FIU and Louisiana-Lafayette aren’t far behind. The Golden Panthers must replace quarterback Wesley Carroll and receiver T.Y. Hilton, but should have the Sun Belt’s best defense. Mark Hudspeth proved to be a terrific hire for Louisiana-Lafayette last year, and the Ragin’ Cajuns will be in the mix to earn another bowl trip.

There’s a drop off after the top three teams in the projected standings, but Louisiana-Monroe, Western Kentucky, North Texas and Troy are all capable of pushing for a fourth-place finish and a winning record. The Warhawks are led by junior quarterback Kolton Browning, who should be healthy after dealing with a sternum injury most of the 2011 season. The Hilltoppers are on the rise, but must replace star running back Bobby Rainey. The Mean Green is in a similar position to Western Kentucky, as they have to replace running back Lance Dunbar, but should have an improved passing attack in 2012. Troy was the conference’s biggest disappointment last year and need a big year from quarterback Corey Robinson to get back in the mix for the conference title.

MTSU has watch its win total decline over the last two years, and the pressure is starting to build on coach Rick Stockstill. Only eight starters return, but quarterback Logan Kilgore will be surrounded by a handful of playmakers. The Blue Raiders struggled on defense last season and brought in former Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix to help solve some of the problems.

FAU and South Alabama are expected to finish at the bottom of the conference in 2012. Legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger retired at the end of 2011, and the school picked Nebraska assistant Carl Pelini to be its next head coach. Pelini is a curious fit at FAU and will have his hands full with an offense that averaged just 248.8 yards per game last year. South Alabama is one of four new FBS teams this season and has recorded an impressive 23-4 record in three seasons under coach Joey Jones.

Athlon's 2012 Sun Belt Team Previews

Arkansas State MTSU
FAU North Texas
FIU South Alabama
Louisiana-Lafayette Troy
Louisiana-Monroe Western Kentucky

<p> Sun Belt Football 2012 predictions.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 04:04
Path: /nascar/nascar-silly-season-primer

Joey Logano, you captured your first race win since 2009 less than two weeks ago. You passed a future Hall of Famer, Mark Martin, to do it. You’re now just 51 points away from the Chase with a possible wild card ticket in your back pocket. What’s next for you?

The answer, surprisingly enough, may not be Disneyworld, but the unemployment line. Unless Mickey Mouse can find a few million hidden inside Epcot Center, Logano faces the possibility that Home Depot, Dollar General and other major sponsors may start drooling over a free agent class that’s the biggest NASCAR’s had in several years. The catch, of course, is whether some of these companies will stick around or opt for a veteran considering the alarming number of blank quarterpanels of late. But assuming the money is there, the long list of drivers available could mean we have a mean game of musical chairs in a few months.

Here’s a look at how some of the major NASCAR teams stand for next year and which wheelmen could be hotly pursued as Silly Season heats up:

Hendrick Motorsports
Driver Lineup:
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne
Signed For 2013: All four.
Analysis: Think Hendrick Motorsports is slumping? Try telling that to the guy polishing the trophies. He’s been working overtime this month, as HMS has won five of the last six races (including the All-Star event) since Mother’s Day weekend. Moving forward, driver and sponsor stability should only help as it attempts to place all four team cars in the Chase for the first time in HMS history. Jeff Gordon’s a longshot there, but should he make the playoffs along with his trio of teammates, they’ll have the added benefit of avoiding a media circus over future plans. You can still win the Chase in that environment (see: Tony Stewart, cutting crew chief Darian Grubb) but it’s not an obstacle you’d like to place in your path.

Roush-Fenway Racing
Driver Lineup:
Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth
Signed For 2013: Biffle, Edwards.
Analysis: Jack Roush has been publicly adamant that he wants Kenseth, the only Cup champion on Ford’s roster, signed for the long-term. And why not? He’s the 2012 Daytona 500 winner, leads the standings and has been with the team for a dozen years. But the fact he’s run the last two Sundays unsponsored — particularly the one in Ford’s backyard (the EcoBoost sponsorship means no company stepped up to cover) — is a troubling sign. Young Ricky Stenhouse Jr., one of the sport’s up-and-coming talents, is rolling over the competition in the Nationwide Series. Ideally, Roush wants to bring him up and expand to four cars, but how long can he fund Kenseth partially out of his own pocket? A similar situation occurred with Jeff Burton, in 2004 and he wound up at Richard Childress Racing despite a sterling track record.

So where would Kenseth go? Remember, Penske Racing is switching to Ford next season and has a possible opening in AJ Allmendinger’s No. 22, and there’s already a Roush-to-Penske pipeline history (Kurt Busch). I’d call it an unlikely scenario, for certain, but if the money doesn’t materialize here … it may dictate some moves.

Joe Gibbs Racing
Driver Lineup:
Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano
Signed For 2013: Busch and Hamlin.
Analysis: Gibbs’ contracts are a little tricky to figure out in the press — there’s no public end date for Busch and Hamlin’s deals — but it’s assumed both will be back in 2013. Hamlin, in particular, is surging back towards his 2010 brilliance with new crew chief Darian Grubb. The real question mark surrounds the No. 20, which was almost handed to Carl Edwards in 2011 before he spurned Gibbs’ advances for Ford. Logano now has a victory, but he’s still led less than 200 laps over a four-year Cup career. Rumor has it Home Depot has been looking for someone who could run up front more consistently; Kurt Busch had been mentioned as a possible replacement, pushed heavily by his brother until this month’s Dover debacle took that signing off the table.

Will Logano have yet another chance to save his job? I would have to think it’s Chase or bust despite Joe Gibbs’ vote of confidence at Michigan on Sunday. Without the postseason, summer’s success will be forgotten once the No. 20 gets ignored over the final 10 races. Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers (a Toyota guy) and possibly even Martin Truex Jr. could be available to replace him. Logic would have it Logano wouldn’t look elsewhere – this ride would be the best opportunity available for him. So it’s on the Gibbs family to decide whether Logano will ever match those lofty expectations Mark Martin anointed him with all those years ago.

Richard Childress Racing
Driver Lineup:
Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick, Paul Menard
Signed For 2013: All three.
Analysis: RCR may be having an awful season by tits standards – only Harvick is currently in the Chase – but the Childress lineup appears to be set moving forward. Burton is signed for the next two years, while Menard brings sponsorship to the table. The only question is whether Childress wants to expand to a fourth car, having equipment ready for Austin Dillon’s rookie run in 2014. Kurt Busch was briefly rumored here, but that is again off the table and RCR can easily stick with what it has. So unless a top-tier driver is available, with the right sponsor and the right opportunity, RCR is probably out of this year’s free agent chase.

Penske Racing
Driver Lineup:
A.J. Allmendinger, Brad Keselowski
Signed For 2013: Keselowski
Analysis: Now here’s where it gets interesting. With the nightmare season Allmendinger has had – six finishes outside the top 30 in 15 races – it’s hard to imagine him being re-signed. So who gets the offer? Parker Kligerman, a Newman-like prospect, has excelled in the Truck Series this season but is at least a year away. Sam Hornish Jr. has had a B-plus year in the Nationwide Series, at best, and Penske would rather put him in a third Cup car when ready than the No. 22.

That means Penske will look outside for a replacement for a ride that hasn’t won a Cup title but remains well-respected inside the garage (and has a solid sponsor). Would Penske take a chance on Logano if the youngster were set free? Or how about Regan Smith, whose contract with single-car Furniture Row is also up? Darkhorses include Kenseth, Vickers or even Stenhouse with the switch to Ford. Remember, Kurt Busch came out of nowhere the last time Penske plucked a big name – he was even under contract and had to buy out of the deal at Roush. Expect this domino to make the biggest difference in where drivers head.

Stewart-Haas Racing
Driver Lineup:
Ryan Newman, Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart
Signed For 2013: Patrick, Stewart.
Analysis: Stewart has made it publicly clear he wants Newman back for 2013. What he doesn’t have right now is the money to do it. Should the U.S. Army be prevented from sponsoring a car next year, patchwork deals aren’t enough to keep the No. 39 competitive enough to Newman’s liking. On the fringes of the Chase and without a top-10 finish in two months, Newman’s team is acting like one that’s turning into a “lame duck” program. But would Stewart really be willing to stick to a two-car operation with Patrick as the only option for direct feedback? There was speculation Kurt Busch, who drives for Phoenix Racing with Hendrick chassis, could have been an option (oh, the irony in how Stewart defended him). But again, sponsorship becomes a concern — as does Stewart and Busch’s history) making this one a bit of a question mark.

Michael Waltrip Racing
Driver Lineup:
Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin, Martin Truex Jr., Brian Vickers
Signed For 2013: Bowyer
Analysis: We’ll start with Truex, who is in position to make the Chase for the first time with the NAPA Toyota. Considering the auto parts company stuck through tough times in the worst of the Michael Waltrip years, it’s hard to see it leaving as long as Truex sticks around and continues to perform. Will the New Jersey native, enjoying his finest season, think this car is the best option for the long-term? As long as he makes the Chase, the answer will almost certainly be yes. If not, in-house Vickers becomes an immediate option. Martin, as always, will have the ball in his court on a possible return; at 53, he’s still driving at a 30-year-old level.

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing
Driver Lineup:
Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya
Signed For 2013: Montoya
Analysis: 2010’s Cinderella story lost his slipper in the winter that year – and he’s still looking to get it back. Jamie McMurray has just two top-5 finishes in his last 49 starts, far removed from Daytona and Brickyard glory. And with sponsorship in question for 2013, so is his employment. The problem for Earnhardt Ganassi is getting a top-tier replacement to believe in the future of its NASCAR program. Despite a full-scale overhaul last season, letting longtime employees like Steve Hmiel and Tony Glover go, it’s still on pace to miss the Chase with both cars. Only once, in 2009 (Montoya), has an EGR car made the postseason, meaning only another Cinderella-in-waiting might look at that car. A long way to go, but if Allmendinger gets released, he has the open-wheel background and resume that’s perfect for that seat.

Richard Petty Motorsports
Driver Lineup:
Marcos Ambrose, Aric Almirola
Signed For 2013: Ambrose?
Analysis: RPM’s possible switch to Dodge in 2013 continues to be the hot topic around the garage. A rumor the switch would be announced last weekend was firmly denied by officials on both sides — and it did not. Were it to eventually happen, it could mean tough times for Aric Almirola despite recent improvement behind the wheel. Why? Wouldn’t Dodge go after a marquis name after losing Brad Keselowski from its lineup? Ambrose, too, continues to be an enigma after a strong first season in the No. 9 Ford. Remember, he had a similar beginning driving for JTG-Daugherty’s No. 47 but by the end of his second season, a “sophomore slump” had him moving elsewhere. With zero top-5 finishes in 15 starts this season, success on the road courses will be critical to making the Chase. Without them? It’s almost certainly a disappointing year.

Single-Car Teams
One thing we know for sure at Phoenix Racing: Kurt Busch will not be back in 2013, either after being kicked to the curb or signing with another high-profile ride. As for Furniture Row, Regan Smith will be a hot commodity and this time, it’s going to need to show improvement for him to re-sign. The team had recently pursued sponsorship to land Busch and may need to expand to keep last season’s upset Southern 500 winner.

by Tom Bowles
Follow Tom on Twitter: @NASCARBowles


<p> Athlon Sports contributor Tom Bowles looks ahead to NASCAR's Silly Season, examining which drivers may be switching seats in 2013.</p>
Post date: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 21:42
Path: /college-basketball/2012-nba-mock-draft-first-round-tiers

Athlon Sports’ 2012 NBA Mock Draft (updated June 27, 4:45 p.m. ET) breaks down all 30 picks in the first round, highlighting each “tier” of talent and exploring several trade rumors in the opening round of the June 28 draft.

Potential 2012 Olympian, one-man band headed to the Big Easy.

1. New Orleans Hornets
Anthony Davis, F/C, Kentucky
The “Uni-blocker” enters the league as a Marcus Camby-caliber shot blocker with Tim Duncan-dominant all-around potential. Fair or not, expectations are of the Hall of Fame, multiple-championship variety.

Immediate starters with All-Star upside, minimal downside.

2. Charlotte Bobcats
Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina
The direction the dominoes start to fall will be determined by the Cats, who have plenty of options to choose from. The Harrison Barnes “brand” may not be what fans and scouts thought they were buying into, but Michael Jordan likes his fellow Tar Heel; that’s all that matters in Charlotte.

3. Washington Wizards
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky
MKG has a jump shot that looks like Charles Barkley’s golf swing. But he can run, rebound, defend and is a “winner.” The value of intangible toughness and being a good teammate will be pushed to the limit by Kidd-Gilchrist.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers
Bradley Beal, SG, Florida
Graybeard Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving) would love to have another old head with a grown man’s game to join him in the backcourt. Beal has been compared to Jesus Shuttlesworth (Ray Allen); He Got Game worthy of the No. 2 pick.

5. Sacramento Kings
Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas
Could go as high as No. 2, but likely won’t fall past the Kings — a team looking to trade former Rookie of Year ball-hog guard Tyreke Evans and build around monster in the middle DeMarcus Cousins. The steady Robinson would be a great fit next to big DMC.

TRADE RUMOR: Look out for Bobcats and Cavaliers swap of the Nos. 2 and 4 picks; potential trade could also include Cavaliers’ No. 24 pick.

Trade territory with two fast rising guards, one big enigma.

6. Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State
Portlandia can’t stop smiling about Lillard, who has a small school chip on his shoulder to go along with Derrick Rose size and nearly as much athleticism at the point.

7. Golden State Warriors
Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse
Outside shooters like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have range from the other side of the Bay. A combo guard like Waiters — who attacks the rim like a pit bull from Philly — would add another dimension to Mark Jackson’s team.

8. Toronto Raptors
Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut
The big enigma has the 6’11” frame, 275-pound size and coordinated athleticism that teams drool over during draft season. Between the ears and on the left side of his chest, however, there are major Kwame Brown-sized concerns.

TRADE RUMOR: If Drummond falls to the Raptors, expect the Rockets — a club with the Nos. 12, 16 and 18 picks in the first round — to rapidly rise up the board via trade.

Solid professionals, eventual starters with room to grow.

9. Detroit Pistons
Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois
The American version of Darko Milicic or another beast down low to pair with Greg Monroe? Leonard is a workout warrior with limited on-court production at Illinois.

10. New Orleans Hornets
Austin Rivers, SG, Duke
Doc’s son thinks he’s Kobe Bryant. And hey, he did hit the shot of the year — with a game-winning rainbow bomb over Tyler Zeller as time expired at North Carolina. Rivers is either a star or a cancer, maybe both.

11. Portland Trail Blazers
Terrence Ross, G/F, Washington
Ross looks the part of an ultra-athletic NBA wing, with dunk contest moves and downtown range. Plus, Paul Allen loves hiring guys from UW.

12. Houston Rockets
Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina
The Rockets continue their climb up the board, moving Samuel Dalembert and the No. 14 pick to the Bucks in order to move up two spots. Tyler, the older brother of Indiana rising star sophomore Cody Zeller, can run the floor and finish at the rim for the next decade.

13. Phoenix Suns
Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecticut
Is he about to cry? Lamb’s hound dog demeanor and watery, half-moon eyes have somehow overshadowed the fact that Jim Calhoun has never touted a two-guard who wasn’t pretty good (see: Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon, Kemba Walker).

14. Milwaukee Bucks
John Henson, PF, North Carolina
Dangerously skinny, pogo stick of a power forward, Henson can swat shots and run. But can he bang for boards or defend anyone in the post.

15. Philadelphia 76ers
Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina
Lefty with eyes in the back of his head, Marshall is a pass-first point who could run the show alongside the Sixers’ collection of talented, young ath-a-letes.

16. Houston Rockets
Moe Harkless, SF, St. John’s
Quick riser may sky his way into the late lottery when it’s all said and done — especially if coaches keep watching the tape of the one-and-done’s 30-point, 13-rebound game in an upset win at Duke.

Talented but troubled prospects who should have entered last year’s draft.

17. Dallas Mavericks
Terrence Jones, PF, Kentucky
Texas-sized talent could bring what Mavs wanted from Lamar Odom trade last season.

18. Houston Rockets
Perry Jones III, PF, Baylor
PJ3 is no RG3. Will be a value pick if the Rockets can keep his fuel cell full.

19. Orlando Magic
Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State
Big Sully’s bad back was red-flagged by NBA doctors, but his polished below-the-rim offensive moves, good hands, quick feet and track record of production at every level should keep him in the first round.

TRADE RUMOR: The Magic’s Dwight Howard is the biggest name on the trade market, and draft night would be a great time to move the big man who just had back surgery. The Lakers and Nets have long been rumored, but the Rockets now appear to be all-in.

Role players with specific skills or raw projectable talent.

20. Denver Nuggets
Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi State
Physical rebounder with coveted size, can come off the bench and clean the glass.

21. Boston Celtics
John Jenkins, SG, Vanderbilt
Exit Ray Allen, enter Jenkins: the premier sharpshooter in a shooting guard heavy class.

22. Boston Celtics
Festus Ezeli, C, Vanderbilt
Knee injuries are a concern, but 6’11” Nigerian import has shown unbelievable growth as a player since starting his basketball career in 2007.

23. Atlanta Hawks
Will Barton, G/F, Memphis
Versatile scorer needs to add weight, become more consistent shooter; but the talent and work ethic are worth a gamble.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers
Andrew Nicholson, PF, St. Bonaventure
Stretch-four with high basketball IQ and impressive shooting range, would fit in well with fellow Canadian first-rounder Tristan Thompson.

25. Memphis Grizzlies
Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky
Jeff’s little brother is the latest (and least talented) of John Calipari’s high profile point guard recruits.

26. Indiana Pacers
Jeff Taylor, SF, Vanderbilt
Defensive stopper with elite athleticism, the Swiss Army knife could fill several roles for a playoff team.

27. Miami Heat
Fab Melo, C, Syracuse
Brazilian big man has a short fuse, weight issues and has struggled to grasp the nuances of the game. But the 7-footer has shot-blocking ability and six fouls to give — already a one foul improvement over his limit at Cuse.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder
Evan Fournier, SG, France
The only international prospect being mentioned as a potential first-round talent, the Frenchman is a slasher with a streaky jumper.

TRADE RUMOR: Fresh off a runner-up finish in the NBA Finals, the Thunder have long-term planning to take care of — as far as James Harden and Serge Ibaka’s contracts are concerned. OKC doesn’t need or want any more guaranteed first-round rookie deals on the books and will likely trade out of the No. 28 pick.

29. Chicago Bulls
Doron Lamb, SG, Kentucky
A combo guard glue guy who can shoot from NBA 3-point range, defend, handle and pass, Lamb will help fill the black hole left in the wake of Derrick Rose’s knee injury.

30. Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green, SF, Michigan State
The last guaranteed contract of the night goes to Green — a point forward who lacks a traditional position due to his wide body, lack of athleticism and ability to create as a ball-handler and passer.

by Nathan Rush

<p> Athlon Sports' 2012 NBA Mock Draft starts with Kentucky's Anthony Davis, the only Tier 1 player available, and includes usual Tier 2 suspects like Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Ghilchrist, North Carolina's Harrison Barnes, Kansas' Thomas Robinson, Florida's Bradley Beal and Connecticut's Andre Drummond.</p>
Post date: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 17:56
Path: /mlb/2012-major-league-baseball-power-rankings-june-18

1. Dodgers — Dodgers and opponents batting .239 in June.

2. Yankees — Rafael Soriano had five saves during nine-game win streak.

3. Rangers — Just one game over .500 since their torrid April.

4. Reds — New ace Mat Latos is 5-0 over last 10 starts.

5. Rays — Two shutouts and extra-inning loss in series win over Miami.

6. Orioles — Tossed back-to-back shutouts at Atlanta.

7. Nationals — Swept Red Sox and Blue Jays, then swept by Yankees.

8. Angels — D’backs hitters were no match for Halos’ pitching.

9. Braves — Losing woes at home continue.

10. Giants — Seven games above .500 vs. NL Central.

11. Blue Jays — Lost three key starting pitchers to injury in matter of few days.

12. White Sox — Won three of nine vs. NL.

13. Mets — Lost nine of 10 when not playing the Rays.

14. Marlins — 8-14 in April, 21-8 in May and 4-10 in June.

15. Pirates — Where would lineup be without Andrew McCutchen?

16. Diamondbacks — Entire infield batting .300 or better in June.

17. Cardinals — Closer Jason Motte couldn’t preserve series vs. Royals.

18. Indians — Pitchers hit .333 in interleague play.

19. Red Sox — Big Papi leads Sox in just about every offensive category.

20. Tigers — Won two of three in each of three interleague series.

21. Phillies — Jim Thome swatted 100th homer for third team.

22. A’s — Five different pitchers have saves already this season.

23. Brewers — Need to get Rickie Weeks going.

24. Mariners — Lowest OBP in the American League.

25. Royals — Fewest runs scored in AL.

26. Twins — Drawn at least 30,000 to every game at Target Field this year.

27. Astros — Lost 16 of 21 — 0-11 when scoring less than five runs.

28. Rockies — Were .500 on May 2, now 15 games under.

29. Padres — Enjoying interleague play.

30. Cubs — Last four saves have come from four different pitchers.

<p> 2012 Major League Baseball Power Rankings</p>
Post date: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 15:28
All taxonomy terms: Brandon Moss, Colby Lewis, Matt Cain, Ryan Braun, MLB
Path: /mlb/baseball%E2%80%99s-players-week-cain-braun-lewis-moss

Each week Athlon Sports looks back at the previous week's best baseball players in the American and National Leagues and recaps the most outstanding pitching performances. Here are last week's — June 11-17 — standouts.

NL Pitcher of the Week
Matt Cain, San Francisco
The Giants have won Cain’s last eight starts, but none came in as dramatic fashion as his perfect game last week. The righthander retired all 27 Astros he faced, striking out 14. It was the first perfecto in Giants history and tied Sandy Koufax’s record for 14 Ks in a perfect game. Cain, who leads the National League with a 0.85 WHIP, needed 125 pitches to complete the game. In three June starts, Cain has a 0.38 ERA and 0.63 WHIP.

NL Player of the Week
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
It was a tough road trip for the Brewers last week — losing four of six games — but not for Braun. The Brewers’ leftfielder had at least one hit in every game and added four homers and seven RBIs. The reigning MVP had three multi-hit games and slugged .793.

AL Pitcher of the Week
Colby Lewis, Texas
The Rangers’ ace dominated in two starts last week with wins over Arizona and in-state rival Houston. Lewis tossed nine innings allowing just four hits with the lone run coming off a solo homer to defeat the Diamondbacks. He followed that effort with seven strong innings of three-hit ball over the Astros. For the week, Lewis struck out 17 in 16 innings while allowing only nine baserunners.

AL Player of the Week
Brandon Moss, Oakland
The Oakland rightfielder had eight extra-base hits over six games — all wins for the A’s. Moss, who found National League West pitching to his liking, delivered five home runs in a four-game span against Colorado and San Diego. For the week he batted .348 with five homers, 10 RBIs and a 1.530 OPS.

<p> Baseball’s Players of the Week: Cain, Braun, Lewis, Moss</p>
Post date: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 14:59
Path: /nascar/dale-earnhardt-jr-wins-michigan

Four years and 143 races. That’s how long it had been since NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., had won a Sprint Cup Series race.

In that time, the sport’s favorite son went from wildly popular to wildly questioned. The theories from fans and talking heads alike grew in relation to his winless skid: Would Earnhardt ever be a championship contender again? Heck, was he even capable of engineering a race win? Was he all “show” and no “go?” Had the surname simply carried him this far, to a cushy ride at stock-car behemoth Hendrick Motorsports? Was he the Anna Kournikova of NASCAR, or a great athlete slumping beneath the pressures of his singular situation?

The answers, of course, are as elusively undetermined as the questions are radically rash and, often, unfair, borne out of ignorance of the sport, the driver and/or the circumstances that have shaped his career. But that comes with the territory when a legion of fans — residing within the sport and in the hazy midst of casual onlookers that value sticks ’n’ balls over gears ’n’ lugs — expect, then simply yearn, for results. Big-time results. Race-winning results. Results that are assumed when interest resides at a fever-pitch.

All that said, Earnhardt’s 2012 season has been more successful than most in the Sprint Cup ranks. A series-best 11 top 10s in the season’s first 14 races — including two runner-up and two third-place showings — found him second in the point standings. He and crew chief Steve Letarte have been on the brink of a return to Victory Lane, but until the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway, it had eluded them.

On Sunday, that consistency was trumped by dominance, as Earnhardt led a race-high 95 laps en route to a nearly 4.5-second win over Tony Stewart.

It was a performance that harkened back to his six-win season in 2004.

“I feel like we are getting stronger,” Earnhardt said of his team’s performance. “One of the things that we did last year throughout the season was kind of maintain, and I was a little — even though I was happy as hell to be with Steve and be able to run well and be competitive — I was a little disheartened that I didn’t progress through the year. I didn’t find more speed as the year went on.

“This year, we have gotten faster throughout the year. We started off pretty quick and we have gotten quicker, and quicker, especially these last couple weeks. So that’s been a thrill for me.”

His No. 88 team certainly did not disappoint on Sunday. With a repaved racetrack, record speeds and new tires flown in to curtail blistering, the event had the feel of a perfect storm —a perfect storm of uncertainty, that is.

But while other drivers came and went — Stewart, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth all spent time atop the pylon — Earnhardt’s crew took one big setup-adjustment swing in the early stages of the race and left the driver to do the rest. It worked, as Earnhardt ascended to the point on lap 70 and remained there for 95 of the remaining 130 circuits.

<p> Dale Earnhardt Jr. broke a 143-race winless skid by visiting Victory Lane in the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.</p>
Post date: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 14:59
All taxonomy terms: waiver wire, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-june-18

Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (6/11-6/17):

  Name Team Pos. R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Brandon Moss* OAK 1B/OF 7 5 10 0 .348 1.530
2. Trevor Plouffe* MIN 2/3/SS/OF 8 5 7 0 .391 1.587
3. Brandon Phillips CIN 2B 4 3 10 0 .407 1.170
4. Mark Reynolds* BAL 1B/3B 7 2 7 0 .429 1.315
5. Casey McGehee* PIT 1B/3B 6 2 7 0 .435 1.258
6. Ryan Braun MIL OF 4 4 7 0 .357 1.240
7. Pedro Alvarez* PIT 3B 4 4 10 0 .261 1.146
8. Jim Thome* PHI UTL 5 3 10 0 .261 1.022
9. Joey Votto CIN 1B 5 2 6 0 .476 1.464
10. David Murphy* TEX OF 3 2 6 1 .259 1.556
11. Brandon Belt* SF 1B/OF 4 3 7 0 .400 1.400
12. Adrian Beltre TEX 3B 6 1 6 0 .435 1.110
13. John Mayberry* PHI 1B/OF 3 3 9 0 .316 1.192
14. Kirk Nieuwenhuis* NYM OF 6 3 4 0 .333 1.174
15. Michael Cuddyer COL 1B/2B/OF 5 3 6 0 .296 .988
16. Ike Davis* NYM 1B 5 1 6 0 .450 1.192
17. Tyler Moore* WAS OF 3 2 5 1 .667 2.583
18. Seth Smith* OAK OF 6 2 5 0 .333 1.288
19. Cliff Pennington* OAK SS 5 1 4 2 .333 .986
20. Curtis Granderson NYY OF 4 3 6 0 .308 1.150
21. Steve Pearce* BAL 1B/3B/OF 5 1 7 0 .381 1.036
22. Adam Dunn CHW 1B/OF 5 3 6 0 .235 1.174
23. Scott Podsednik* BOS OF 4 0 2 3 .417 .879
24. David Ortiz BOS 1B 5 2 5 0 .353 1.220
25. Matt Holliday STL OF 4 2 6 0 .348 1.139

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

The Waiver Wire

Obviously, it was a great week for the waiver wire. Hopefully, you added Pedro Alvarez for the weekend series in which he cranked four home runs. But, no, it's not time to give him another chance. But there are plenty of 3B options left on the wire. Trevor Plouffe is worth rostering if you need some short-term pop, but beware once the homers stop coming as he is a career .232 hitter. Pirate three-sacker Casey McGehee raised his average nearly 30 points over the course of his six-game hitting streak. But like his teammate Alvarez, this Pirates offense is still going to struggle to score runs and won't get to face Kansas City, Baltimore and Cleveland every week.

The name that stands out for me is Mark Reynolds. At 43% owned, he seems to be wildly underrated at this point. It is no secret as to what Reynolds will provide for your fantasy team: Home runs, RBIs, playable OPS, strikeouts and a poor batting average. Since coming back from the DL on May 28, he has raised the BA from .191 to .238, elevated the OPS from .661 to .785, has hit three dingers and drove in 12. He hasn't hit fewer than 28 homers in any of his four full major league seasons so if you need power in the second half, Reynolds is a dependable place to turn.

I need to see more from Brandon Moss, Brandon Belt, Steve Pearce and John Mayberry before I consider adding them to any of my rosters. 

DL Watch

- The Braves can't catch a break (neither can my rotation) as they had to place the majors' leader in ERA (2.00) Brandon Beachy on the DL with elbow soreness. Elbow soreness is almost always worse than is seems. Handle with care.

- The BoSox also placed Josh Beckett on the 15-day DL this weekend. His shoulder has been acting up (inflammation) and his line reflected it: 21 hits, 10 ER over his last three starts.

- Scott Rolen is on a Triple-A rehab assingment and should be back either Monday or Tuesday.

- The Rockies' star OFer Carlos Gonzalez is questionable for Tuesday's game against the Phillies with a knee issue.

- The Mets placed Jason Bay on the 7-day concussion DL but he might miss more time due to a history of head injuries. This should open up playing time for the sneaky valuable Kirk Nieuwnhuis.

- The Twins' Joe Mauer is questionable for Tuesday's bout with the Pirates due to a quad issue.

- Josh Hamilton is questionable for Monday's game with San Diego with his serious illness. He appears he will be ready to go later this week though.

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Ryan Dempster CHC 22.0 3 12 0.00 0.64
2. Matt Cain SF 16.0 2 23 0.00 0.50
3. R.A. Dickey NYM 16.1 2 20 0.00 0.43
4. Colby Lewis TEX 24.0 2 20 1.50 0.63
5. Ivan Nova* NYY 22.2 3 15 0.79 0.84
6. Johnny Cueto CIN 23.2 3 21 1.90 0.85
7. Clay Buchholz* BOS 16.0 2 15 0.56 0.75
8. Lance Lynn STL 13.1 2 23 1.35 0.90
9. Wade Miley* ARI 15.2 1 13 1.15 0.45
10. Andy Pettitte* NYY 20.1 1 24 1.77 0.93
11. Ryan Vogelsong SF 21.2 3 12 2.08 0.97
12. Matt Harrison* TEX 16.1 1 7 0.00 0.80
13. Justin Masterson* CLE 14.0 1 15 0.64 0.86
14. Garrett Richards* LAA 20.0 2 17 0.90 1.20
15. Hiroki Kuroda* NYY 13.0 2 15 1.38 1.00
16. Trevor Cahill* ARI 14.1 2 15 1.26 1.05
17. Madison Bumgarner SF 21.2 2 20 2.49 0.97
18. Matt Moore TB 13.0 2 17 2.77 0.85
19. Zack Greinke MIL 22.0 1 26 2.05 1.05
20. Stephen Strasburg WAS 12.0 2 21 3.00 1.00

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Top 5 Spot Starts for the Week (Tues. - Sun.):

1. Wade Miley, ARI: Chicago (Sun.)
Get him into the line-up on Monday for Seattle if you can, as well.

2. Clay Buchholz, BOS: Miami (Tues.), Atlanta (Sun.)
A two-start week for a guy who is hot at home against those offenses?

3. Andy Pettitte, NYY: at NY Mets (Fri.)
Pitched well against Mets last weekend and is close to old self — miraculously.

4. Trevor Cahill, ARI: Seattle (Wed.)
On a roll, at home and against that offense.

5. Francisco Liriano, MIN: at Pittsburgh (Wed.)
Has been much more effective of late and the Pirates are the worst offense in baseball.

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of last month:

1. Joel Hanrahan PIT 12.1 2 9 16 0 1.46 0.89
2. Craig Kimbrel ATL 10.0 0 7 18 0 0.00 0.20
3. Tyler Clippard WAS 11.1 0 9 14 1 0.00 0.53
4. Aroldis Chapman CIN 13.2 1 8 23 1 2.63 0.66
5. Ernesto Frieri* LAA 13.2 0 7 23 2 0.00 0.88
6. Brayan Villarreal* DET 17.0 3 0 25 1 1.59 0.82
7. Tom Wilhelmsen* SEA 14.1 2 4 16 1 1.88 0.70
8. Frank Francisco NYM 11.1 0 7 14 0 0.79 0.71
9. Chris Perez CLE 10.0 0 9 10 0 0.90 0.80
10. Kenley Jansen LAD 11.2 1 7 18 0 2.31 0.94
11. Tim Collins* KC 14.0 3 0 19 2 1.29 0.86
12. Jonathan Broxton KC 12.0 1 8 11 0 0.75 1.17
13. Rafael Soriano NYY 11.1 0 11 9 0 0.79 1.24
14. Santiago Casilla SF 9.2 1 8 9 1 0.93 1.14
15. Jim Johnson BAL 11.0 1 6 6 0 2.45 0.45
16. Fernando Rodney TB 13.0 0 7 11 0 2.08 0.68
17. Joe Nathan TEX 9.0 0 4 12 0 0.00 0.44
18. Heath Bell MIA 11.2 0 10 16 2 2.31 1.37
19. Jake McGee* TB 9.1 2 0 10 2 0.96 0.32
20. Ronald Belisario* LAD 16.0 3 0 11 3 1.69 0.94

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues


<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: June 18</p>
Post date: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 11:06
All taxonomy terms: Webb Simpson, Golf
Path: /golf/top-20-golfers-2012-majors-no-12-webb-simpson


For some casual fans, it may seem like Webb Simpson came out of nowhere. For Athlon and Brandel Chamblee, though, Simpson's breakthrough is not that surprising. Here's what we had to say about Simpson in our 2012 preview back in February, when we ranked him No. 12 among our 20 players to watch in the 2012 majors. 


No. 12: Webb Simpson

Born: Aug. 8, 1985, Raleigh, N.C.  | Career PGA Tour Wins: 2 | 2011 Wins (Worldwide): 2 | 2011 Earnings (PGA Tour): $6,347,353 World Ranking: 8


Brandel Chamblee's Take:

One of the biggest surprises of 2011 was the play of Webb Simpson and his improvements over his first two years on Tour. Webb gained yardage and improved every other aspect of his game, as evidenced by his being ranked No. 1 in the All Around category on Tour. Not surprisingly, he also won twice. His 110 putts at the U.S Open represented the lowest total in the field, and at the British Open he had 111, a number that was bettered by only two players. 
His combination of length and accuracy with all clubs, his ability to get out of the rough and his knack for putting fast greens well make him a player to watch in every event, and in particular at the majors in 2012.


Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 3
Wins: 0

2011 Performance:
Masters - DNP
U.S. Open - T14
British Open - T16
PGA Championship - Cut

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - n/a
U.S. Open - T14 (2011)
British Open - T16 (2011)
PGA Championship - Cut (2011)
Top-10 Finishes: 0
Top-25 Finishes: 2
Missed Cuts: 1

—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter. 

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Post date: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 10:09
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-fantasy-football-rankings-defensive-linemen

The 2012 NFL Fantasy Season is here. Mock drafts abound. Rookie round-ups are nearly complete. Bye week cheat sheets are everywhere. Positional rankings are popping up everywhere, which at Athlon Sports also includes Individual Defensive Players or IDPs

While the ever-important Athlon Sports 2012 Big Board, the most accurate consensus top 100 list of fantasy footballers on the web, includes the most common and used positions in fantasy football, IDPs are also a part of many leagues out there. So true to our word of providing you everything you need to get you ready for the upcoming fantasy football season, here are our IDP rankings for defensive linemen (DL).

Rankings are based on Athlon Sports standard scoring for IDPs:

Solo tackle = 1 pt
Tackle assist = 0.5 pts
Sack = 3.5 pts
Interception = 3.5 pts
Forced fumble/recovery = 2 pts
Defensive TD = 8 pts
Safety = 2 pts
Pass Defended = 0.5 pts
Blocked Kick = 4 pts

Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Positional Rankings: Defensive Linemen

Rank, Name, Position, Team (2011 Fantasy Points per Athlon Sports standard scoring)

1. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants (146.8 FP)
Pierre-Paul finished third at the position in sacks with 16.5. He delivered at least a half-sack in 12 of 16 games, including 6.5 over the first five weeks and six over the final four. He also led the position in tackles.

2. Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings (157.0 FP)
Allen not only flirted with the single-season sack record (finished with 22), but he also ranked as the sixth-best run-defender at the position, according to Pro Football Focus.

3. Justin Tuck, DE, New York Giants (53.0 FP)
Tuck got overshadowed last season by the first guy on this list and undercut by his own injuries. Remember, he was fantasy’s No. 1 D-lineman in 2008 and '10.

4. Trent Cole, DE, Philadelphia Eagles (84.0 FP)
Cole’s first season under D-line coach Jim Washburn might have seemed a bit disappointing, given the two games missed and big sack numbers for so many others. Along with the best per-game sack rate of his career, though, Cole ranked second in the league in Pro Football Focus’ pass-rushing productivity, which measures QB hits and pressures.

5. Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago Bears (93.5 FP)
 Peppers has gone for 10-plus sacks in three of the past four seasons, averaged more than four forced fumbles a year over that stretch, and deflected four or more passes in eight straight years.

6. Mario Williams, DE, Buffalo Bills (30.5 FP)
Welcome back to the line, Mario. Wade Phillips’ defense last year rendered Williams a linebacker in many IDP outfits, but Buffalo’s 4-3 base puts him at end. A line that boasts Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams inside should also help limit double teams.

7. Jabaal Sheard, DE, Cleveland Browns (90.3 FP)
Sheard collected six of his 8.5 sacks over the final seven games, including three against division foes. The rookie also ranked fifth among 4-3 defensive ends in pressures for the season and second among linemen in forced fumbles.

8. Calais Campbell, DE, Arizona Cardinals (117.0 FP)
Campbell finally put it all together in his fourth season, ranking third among linemen in total tackles, posting a career high in sacks and ranking first at the position in total passes defensed.

9. Charles Johnson, DE, Carolina Panthers (72.5 FP)
Johnson dealt with a back injury last year and saw his playing time dip late in the season as the Panthers deployed more 3-4 alignments. Johnson was a top-10 lineman through the first half, though, with sacks in seven of eight games.

10. Elvis Dumervil, DE, Denver Broncos (72.3 FP)
From Weeks 9-16, Dumervil delivered at least a half-sack in every game. Dumervil’s 2009 sack high (17) came in a 3-4 base defense, but he spent a lot of time at end even then and has proven to be productive from that spot.

11. Jason Babin, DE, Philadelphia Eagles (107.5 FP)
Babin is the perfect fit for Washburn’s wide-9 end alignment and produced the league’s second-highest sack total (18) a year ago. The only question is whether Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham cut into Babin’s chances.

12. Cliff Avril, DE, Detroit Lions (110.5 FP)
Avril played all 16 games for the first time in 2011 and produced a career-high six forced fumbles. His speed is a killer, especially with all of the surrounding talent.

13. Chris Long, DE, St. Louis Rams (82.5 FP)
Long’s sacks have increased each of the past three years. According to Pro Football Focus, he led all 4-3 ends in QB pressures after ranking second in 2010. Luck could trim the sack total, but bet on a guy who gets to the quarterback so often.

14. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans (81.8 FP)
Pro Football Focus rated Watt fifth-best among 3-4 ends in pass-rushing and third-best against the run. After a solid-if-unspectacular fantasy regular season, the rookie shined in the playoffs — a sack and an interception against the Bengals and then 12 tackles and 2.5 sacks at Baltimore.

15. Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore Ravens (89.0 FP)
Ngata ranked third among linemen in assists last year, giving him a second straight top-nine tackle total among the big guys. The versatile Raven has also deflected four passes or more in three of the past four seasons and he picked off two passes back in 2008.

16. Aldon Smith, DE/LB, San Francisco 49ers (93.0 FP)
If you can use Smith as a lineman, count yourself lucky.  Smith’s 14 sacks in 2011 were the second-best rookie total ever. Stat regression might well occur, but more playing time should balance it out.

17. Osi Umenyiora, DE, New York Giants (56.5 FP)
Injuries limited the veteran to just nine regular-season games, but he finished three of them with two sacks apiece. He added 3.5 more over four playoff contests. When on the field, he’s one of the position’s best.

18. Jeremy Mincey, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars (90.5 FP)
Mincey returns to the Jaguars after a top-10 fantasy season in his first full year as a starter. Mincey finished just three games last year with fewer than two combined sacks, hits and pressures.

19. Justin Smith, DE, San Francisco 49ers (86.8 FP)
Smith’s 2011 fantasy numbers likely fell short of his 2010 numbers in your league. Smith’s 2010 was inflated by three multi-sack games. Including the playoffs, he delivered sacks in eight different games last year.

20. Carlos Dunlap, DE, Cincinnati Bengals (44.3 FP)
Dunlap is determined to start at left end this time and has set his sights on double-digit sacks. His performance in two shortened seasons indicates that is well within reach.

21. Mathias Kiwanuka, DE/LB, New York Giants (93.8 FP)
He played nearly one-third of his snaps on the line last year despite starting at strongside linebacker. The standup post elevates the tackle total by DL standards.

22. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions (49.5 FP)
A phenomenal rookie season for Suh set expectations up to be crushed in Year 2. If Suh proves his shoulder is healthy, though, and his attitude under control, the Lions will be hard-pressed to find someone better.

23. Cameron Wake, DE/LB, Miami Dolphins (70.8 FP)
Wake didn’t make it as a 4-3 end his first time around. That led to his stint in the CFL. He has been awesome as a 3-4 outside linebacker since returning, though, and was among the position’s best in run defense last year.

24. Chris Clemons, DE, Seattle Seahawks (89.5 FP)
Clemons had a career-high 51 total stops last year, which tied him for 22nd among linemen. He also added his second straight double-digit sack total.

25. Kamerion Wimbley, DE, Tennessee Titans (87.0 FP)
A move from Oakland to Tennessee turns Wimbley into a full-time end for the first time in his career. Wimbley has never matched the 11 sacks of his rookie season in Cleveland, but his numbers play better up front.

26. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (67.8 FP)
Clayborn compiled 7.5 sacks as a rookie, including a five-game stretch in the second half with at least a half-sack each week. He also tied Jason Pierre-Paul for 12th among 4-3 defensive ends in Pro Football Focus’ pass-rush ratings last year.

27. Ahtyba Rubin, DE, Cleveland Browns (87.0 FP)
Rubin has finished his two seasons as a starter ranked first and second among defensive linemen in total tackles. Last year included at least four total stops in all but three games and also brought out a pass-rushing flair.

28. Robert Quinn, DE, St. Louis Rams (44.0 FP)
Considering that Quinn spent 2010 out of football, his pro debut was pretty impressive. The first-round pick got onto the field for nearly as many pass-rushing situations as veteran James Hall, who he is expected to replace in the starting lineup this season.

29. Matt Shaughnessy, DE, Oakland Raiders (10.0 FP)
Shaughnessy offers better value when the Raiders use him as an end in a 4-3 rather than in a 3-4. He plays the run well and brings pass-rush upside, which makes him worth an IDP shot at this point.

30. Shea McClellin, DE, Chicago Bears (Rookie, DNP in the NFL in '11)
Going to Chicago’s 4-3 defensive scheme boosts McClellin's  fantasy outlook, as the rookie appears to have a clear path to starting at left end, opposite Julius Peppers. Combine that with the tutelage of D-line coaching great Rod Marinelli, and the talented, versatile McClellin could quickly emerge as a pass-rushing threat for the Bears.

— Published on June 18, 2012

Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Fantasy Content:

Athlon Sports Big Board: Top 150

2012 Fantasy Football Mock Draft I

2012 Bye Week Cheat Sheet

Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: QBs

Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: RBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: WRs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: TEs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: LBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: DBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: IDP Top 75

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<p> Athlon breaks down each position on the fantasy gridiron, including IDPs.</p>
Post date: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 06:30
Path: /college-football/2012-sec-heisman-contenders-way-it-should-be

The Heisman Trophy may be the most coveted trophy in all of sports.

Ten of the last 11 winners of this priceless award have been quarterbacks. And since 1950, only one time has a non-offensive skill player — e.g., quarterback, running back or wide receiver — claimed the historic award (Charles Woodson, 1997). Yes, the quarterback is the most important position on the field. Yes, few players touch the ball more than a workhorse running back. But just because big uglies, heavy-hitters and pass rushers don't often get the famed trip to Radio City Music Hall in New York City, it doesn't mean they don't deserve it.

So expect to see more than just signal callers, pass-catchers and tailbacks on Athlon Sports' conference-by-conference Heisman Contenders.

The SEC's Top 25 Heisman Trophy Contenders:

1. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (JR)
If healthy, there is no running back in the nation with more physical talent than the Gamecock junior. The per-game averages are astounding for No. 21 and there is no reason to think he won’t maintain his elite level of production behind one of the better O-Lines in the SEC. He has averaged over 100 yards rushing and has scored 30 total touchdowns in 20 career games. Lattimore can move the pile with power, can get to the edge with speed and will make defenders look silly trying to cover him in the passing game. He has averaged an absurd 130.5 yards from scrimmage for his career and has topped 170 yards rushing five times in 20 games. He has missed time in both seasons due to injury, mostly due to his incredibly physical running style, and he was held back in spring ball this year. However, Lattimore appears ready to lead the Gamecocks in 2012 and, needless to say, he is the complete package in the backfield.

2. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia (JR)
Only USC quarterback Matt Barkley returns to college football with more touchdown passes than Murray’s 35. He has posted back-to-back 3,000-yard seasons as an underclassman and has accounted for 65 total touchdowns over the last two years. He also led his team to its first SEC Championship game since 2005. The junior quarterback from Tampa, Fla., is a gamey, tough, poised leader who has competed for championships at every level of play. He will only get better in 2012.

3. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas (SR)
The Hogs quarterback was more efficient (63.2% to 59.1%) than Murray, had a better TD:INT ratio (24:6 to 35:14) and topped the Bulldog in passing yards (3,638 to 3,149). Wilson has all the tools to continue to grow into an NFL quarterback but will likely struggle to repeat his ’11 numbers. There is plenty of talent around him, but replacing Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs won’t be easy. Most importantly, the top offensive mind in football, Bobby Petrino, is no longer calling plays and making adjustments. Wilson should have another great year in Fayetteville, but significant improvement from last year’s already solid numbers seems far fetched.

4. Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee (JR)
The lanky junior has plenty of growing up to do — both mentally and physically — but all signs point to the 6-foot-6 gunslinger having his best season in 2012. He has one of the nastiest wide receiver duos in the nation at his disposal and a developing offensive line blocking for him. He was on pace for video game numbers after throwing for 332 yards per game and 14 touchdowns in the first four games of last year. A broken thumb forced him to miss five games and all but ended his breakout sophomore campaign. He has the best frame in the SEC at quarterback and possibly the best throwing arm in the league, so if he can stay healthy, he will post big numbers. If Tennessee wins enough, he could be in New York at season’s end.

5. Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama (JR)
Mark Ingram. Trent Richardson. And, now, Mr. Lacy. Besides running behind one of the nation’s top offensive lines and playing in Tuscaloosa, what do these three have in common? They are all big, burly, powerful, bruising power backs who provide Nick Saban with exactly what he wants: A feature back. Lacy will lose touches to a plethora of talented back-ups, but Saban’s offenses have proven to be plenty lucrative for multiple runners. And with a 7.2 career yards-per-carry average, fans can bet Lacy is getting the most touches.

6. Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas (JR)
As a sophomore in 2010, Davis rolled-up 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns in basically seven games. He averaged 146.8 yards per game and scored 12 touchdowns once given the starting reins in Week 7. A season-ending ankle injury cost him the entirety of 2011 but should allowed Davis to be rested heading into his junior season. He is expected to be at full strength to start 2012 behind what should be an excellent QB-OL combination. Yet, he too will miss superstar offensive guru Bobby Petrino on the sidelines — whose high-flying passing attack was predicated first on the power running game.

7. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (SO)
The preseason first-team All-American was named SEC Freshman of the Year in 2011 after completely justifying his lofty recruiting status as the nation’s top prospect. He posted 36 total tackles, 8.0 sacks and 12.0 tackles . He made big plays as his five forced fumbles indicate. There may not be a bigger impact player on defense in the entire nation as the freakish pass rusher must be accounted for on every play — whether he is lined-up at end or tackle.

8. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama (SR)
The senior from Germantown, Tenn., is the most versatile, experienced and dynamic offensive blocker in the nation. He has been an all-league performer at all three offensive line positions and claimed the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman a year ago. He has two national championship rings and will pave the way for a third Heisman contender in as many seasons. There is little left for Jones to prove.

9. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee (JR)
The only thing that was going to stop Hunter from dominating SEC opponents last year was a season-ending torn ACL in his left knee. He had posted 16 catches for 302 yards and two scores in only two games before his year was ended on his first catch in The Swamp in Week 3. All signs are pointing to his knee being fully healthy for the start of the season, but rebuilding strength and explosiveness is much easier said than done. If healthy, J-Hunt has a chance to be an All-American who will be drafted in the first round next April.

10. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU (JR)
The LSU defensive back is a really, really, really good player with a tenacious attitude. But his Heisman candidacy was built more on a popular YouTube video, creative nickname, two punt returns in blowout wins and the support of the best defensive back in the nation more than anything else. Mathieu can be a game-changer on special teams and find himself around the ball constantly, but can the 5-foot-9, 175-pounder be the top coverman now that Morris Claiborne, and leader Brandon Taylor, are gone from the secondary? That remains to be seen.

11. Zac Stacy, RB, Vanderbilt (SR)
The senior to be is the only running back in the SEC who topped the 1,000-yard mark a year ago. His 1,193 set a new Vandy record, and now, Stacy will be the focal point of arguably the most talented Dores offense in decades.

12. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia (JR)
The electric play-maker on defense was a Butkus Finalist a year ago after leading the SEC in sacks (13.5) and tackles for a loss (19.5). The USC transfer should be that much better in Year 2 in Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme.

13. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia (SO)
The sophomore has an innate ability to stay upright, battle through tackles and gain positive yards. He also has proven to be immature, inconsistent and temperamental. With some seasoning (and some support along the O-Line), Crowell has a chance to be great.

14. Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M (SR)
Behind what could be an elite offensive line, Michael has an opportunity for a memorable final year. He’s scored 23 times and averaged nearly 100 yards from scrimmage for his career in 29 games. However, he has missed at least four games in each of the last two seasons.

15. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama (JR)
The BCS title game MVP led the SEC in completion percentage last year (66.8%) and will be asked be more of a play-maker this season. With an upgraded receiving corps and stellar offensive line, McCarron should have high hopes in 2012.

16. Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina (JR)
It took a while, but Shaw finally proved Steve Spurrier right with his play down the stretch. After taking for the Kentucky game, Shaw tossed 14 touchdowns (and only six INTs) and 1,419 yards while rushing for 485 yards and eight more scores on the ground. Can he take the next step?

17. Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee (JR)
Rogers has all the physical talent in the world but his dedication to his craft and team are large question marks. Should he keep his head screwed on straight, he could be a superstar in Knoxville. If not, he could be catching passes for Georgia State.

18. James Franklin, QB, Missouri (JR)
An electric dual-threat talent, Franklin produced big numbers in his first season as the starter: 2,971 yards passing, 981 yards rushing, 36 total TDs. But a spring injury to his throwing shoulder has called into question his upside in 2012.

19. Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas (SR)
Three wideouts have moved on, leaving Hamilton as the go-to target for quarterback Tyler Wilson. He has the physical tools to be a great player in the SEC, but will also suffer from Bobby Petrino’s departure.

20. Odell Beckam, WR, LSU (SO)
It didn’t take long to see the raw talents of No. 33. The freshman posted 41 catches for 475 yards last fall. Now, he will add the vertical game to his repertoire with Zach Mettenberger under center. The heady, handsy wideout is a star in the making.

21. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt (JR)
The junior had eight catches in the first seven games last year. All he did over the final six games was catch 33 passes for 669 yards and four touchdowns.

22. Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU (JR)
The junior might be the most physically gifted draft-eligible defensive end in the nation. He led LSU in sacks a year ago (9.0) and posted 49 tackles and 13.5 tackles for a loss in 2011.

23. Spencer Ware/Michael Ford/Kenny Hilliard/Alfred Blue, RB, LSU
Should any one of these names get the bulk of the carries, move him into the top 15 on this list. Each of the four is extremely talented and capable of a 1,000-yard, 10-TD season. But, for now, they cancel each other out.

24. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri (FR)
The most prolific wide receiver in America prep football history will be joining the Gary Pinkel high-flying attack this summer. Expect the 6-foot-6, 220-pound wideout to make an immediate impact.

25. Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M (SR)
Even though Ryan Tannehill is gone, Swope should still be productive. He has 161 catches, 2,032 yards and 15 scores over the last two years, and now, Kevin Sumlin is his coach.

Other Names To Watch:

Malcolm Mitchell, WR/DB, Georgia
If used like Charles Woodson, he could be much higher on this list.

Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida
Someone has to produce yards for the Gators, right?

Onterio McCalebb, RB, Auburn
Solid O-Line and the ball is all his now. Can he handle the workload?

Jameill Showers, QB, Texas A&M
Should he start all year, he would easily land in Top 25.

LaDarius Perkins, RB, Mississippi State
Can he be a feature back in spread attack sans Vick Ballard?

Related: 2012 Athlon Sports SEC Predictions

Athlon's 2012 SEC Previews

East West
Florida Alabama
Georgia Arkansas
Kentucky Auburn
Missouri LSU
South Carolina Mississippi State
Tennessee Ole Miss
Vanderbilt Texas A&M

-by Braden Gall


<p> 2012 SEC Heisman Contenders: The Way It Should Be</p>
Post date: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/2012-acc-heisman-contenders-way-it-should-be

The Heisman Trophy may be the most coveted trophy in all of sports.

Ten of the last 11 winners of this priceless award have been quarterbacks. And since 1950, only one time has a non-offensive skill player — e.g., quarterback, running back or wide receiver — claimed the historic award (Charles Woodson, 1997). Yes, the quarterback is the most important position on the field. Yes, few players touch the ball more than a workhorse running back. But just because big uglies, heavy-hitters and pass rushers don't often get the famed trip to Radio City Music Hall in New York City, it doesn't mean they don't deserve it.

So expect to see more than just signal callers, pass-catchers and tailbacks on Athlon Sports' conference-by-conference Heisman Contenders.

The ACC's Top 25 Heisman Trophy Contenders:

1. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech (JR)
In only his first full season as the starter, Thomas showed why he has such a high ceiling. He threw for over 3,000 yards with 19 touchdowns while rushing for 469 yards and 11 more touchdowns on the ground – which tied a school record for rushing TDs by a quarterback at a school with a long history of scamblers. His 6-foot-6, 262-pound frame has drawn Cam Newton comparisons, and while he isn’t nearly as explosive, Thomas has the capability of posting huge numbers and winning an ACC title this fall. He just needs to play better against Clemson.

2. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson (JR)
Last fall the Tigers quarterback led the ACC in total offense at 289.0 yards per game. His 3,828 ranked first in the league as did his 33 touchdown passes. He added 218 yards rushing and five more scores on the ground. With a loaded collection of receivers and running backs returning this fall, Boyd should be able to post another huge year under the tutelage of Chad Morris. A big performance on the road against Florida State would go a long way to getting Boyd to New York.

3. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (SO)
Few players have ever been ready to compete at a Heisman level right out of high school like Watkins. As a true freshman, Watkins led the ACC in all-purpose yards: 1,219 receiving, 231 rushing, 826 kick return and 12 punt return yards. He scored a total 13 touchdowns and would likely be No. 1 on the this list if his ability to contribute in all 12 Clemson games weren’t in currently in question.

4. Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina (SO)
Another freshman in the ACC, Bernard burst onto the scene with four touchdowns in his frist two career games. He then rattled off five straight 100-yard efforts, to finish with 1,253 yards and 13 scores in his first year on a collegiate gridiron. With arguably the top offensive line returning in front of him and a stellar quarterback we’ll address in just a moment, the South Florida product is poised for a huge second year in Chapel Hill.

5. Bryn Renner, QB, North Carolina (JR)
The strong-armed Tar Heel passer had an excellent first year as the starter in Chapel Hill. He led the ACC in completion percentage (68.3%) and topped the 3,000-yard mark to go with 26 touchdowns. Take away two tough games against Clemson and Rutgers in which he tossed three interceptions in each, Renner’s TD:INT ratio would have been an admirable 23:7. With a new up-tempo offense installed behind an awesome offensive line and running game, Renner has all the pieces in place to push for the stiff-armed trophy. His team’s bowl eligibility (or lack thereof) is what will likely keep him out of Manhattan in December.

6. Mike Glennon, QB, NC State (SR)
There was a reason Tom O’Brien let Russell Wilson walk to Wisconsin and his name is Glennon. In his first season as the starter, the lanky Glennon finished second to only Boyd with 31 touchdown passes and topped the 3,000-yard mark. He finished the year with a flurry, tossing 11 touchdowns in three straight wins over Clemson, Maryland and Louisville. He has a all the talent to be a pro passer and is playing on the sleeper team to watch in the ACC this fall.

7. EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State (SR)
This will be the uber-talented Manuel’s final chance to realize his recruiting potential. His physical skill drips off his massive 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame. He has a big arm and in battled injuries during his first full season under center in 2011. Manuel still mustered 2,666 yards and 22 total touchdowns against only eight interceptions for an offense that lacked play-makers. Look for his final season to be his best in Tallahassee.

8. Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson (SR)
Finally, Ellington is a senior. The Tigers tailback enters his final year after 454 career touches in three season in Death Valley. He has scored 26 times and is coming off his first 1,000-yard season after battling injuries for the better part of his career. If he can stay healthy, and hold off talented back-ups, Ellington has a chance to be the league’s top rusher in the explosive Clemson offensive attack.

9. David Amerson, CB, NC State (JR)
It is hard to argue that Amerson isn’t the nation’s top coverman. He led the NCAA with an absurd 13 interceptions — returning them for a total of 205 yards and two for touchdowns. He totaled 59 tackles for one of the ACC’s better defensive units. He has to guard the opponents top receiving threat and will start the season checking the Tennessee Vols superstar Justin Hunter. A big game against that passing attack in primetime in the Georgia Dome could vault Amerson into the Heisman mix in short order.

10. Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State (SR)
One of the nation’s top defensive lineman was the focal point of most offensive line coaches a year ago and it hurt his statistics. Still, Jenkins finished second in the league in sacks (8.0) and led the Noles in tackles for a loss (12.0). He has posted 104 total tackles over the last three years and will lead what could be the best Florida State defense in over a decade.

11. Tevin Washington, QB, Georgia Tech (SR)
Started hot and cooled off throughout ACC play, but returns in a great offensive scheme behind a stellar offensive line and deep stable of backs. Could easily top his 987 yards and 14 touchdowns rushing in 2012.

12. Sean Renfree, QB, Duke (SR)
Underrated passer finished third in ACC in total offense per game (236.1) and 18 total touchdowns. He trailed only Renner and Manuel in completion percentage (65.0%) in the league and has a star wideout to lean on in Conner Vernon. But he still plays for Duke.

13. Orwin Smith, RB, Georgia Tech (SR)
Finished second amongst ACC running backs in TDs (11) and will be running behind one of the league’s best offensive lines. Rarely will a Tech back get enough carries to reach Heisman status, but Smith has the big play ability — try 10.1 yards per carry — to star in this league.

14. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson (JR)
Despite being the No. 2 option for Boyd, Hopkins finished fifth in the ACC in catches (72) and fourth in yards (978). He has the skillset to compliment Watkins and produce big numbers in Morris’ system.

15. Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State (SO)
The freshman was on the verge of a breakout campaign until an ankle injury forced him to the sideline for four games. Greene posted a huge 12-catch, 163-yard, TD performance the week earlier against Wake Forest. He should be Manuel’s top target.

16. Erik Highsmith, WR, North Carolina (SR)
Despite being the No. 2 for the Tar Heels, Highsmith posted 51 receptions, 726 yards and five scores. With a new, high-flying offense under Larry Fedora, a great running game and tremendous quarterback, Highsmith should flourish as the top target.

17. Mike James, RB, Miami (SR)
The Canes were a mess in 2011 and the running game was no exception. But Al Golden is committed to growing his rushing attack and James will get the first look. He scored four of his seven touchdowns in the final four games of the year.

18. Lamarcus Joyner, S, Florida State (JR)
In his first season as a safety (he played corner as a freshman), Joyner delivered on his lofty recruiting stature. He finished fourth in the ACC with four picks and flashed play-making skill on special teams. His leadership and athletic ability make him one of the best safety prospects in the nation.

19. Kevin Parks, RB, Virginia (SO)
The carry split in Charlottesville is tough to pinpoint but Mike London wants a power running game and Parks gives him that. The record-setting prep back scored fime times in his first two career games and is much better suited for short yardage and goalline carries than Perry Jones. These two could easily be flipped and both could get 200 touches.

20. Perry Jones, RB, Virginia (SR)
The smaller more explosive Jones compliments the (also small) stronger and more physical Parks perfectly. Jones got more carries (184 to 152) and will catch tons of passes (48 receptions for 506 yards, 3 TD last year). Both backs will get plenty of touches.

21. Conner Vernon, WR, Duke (SR)
The top target for Renfree finished with 70 receptions for 956 yards and six scores last year. He is a tremendously dependable player in a system that is very passing game friendly. But it’s still Duke.

22. Kevin Reddick, LB, North Carolina (SR)
One of the top LB prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft should have a huge senior season as the leader of the Tar Heel defense. At 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, Reddick should only build on his 71-tackle season.

23. Tanner Price, QB, Wake Forest (JR)
As only a sophomore, Price posted arguably the top TD:INT ratio with 20 scoring strikes and only six interceptions. He topped the 3,000-yard mark and led the Deacons to the postseason.

24. Tobias Palmer, WR, NC State (SR)
Entering his final season of eligibility, Palmer has a chance to explode onto the ACC scene. He showed flashes of ability with 37 receptions, 495 yards and five scores a year ago. His big-play skill plays well with star quarterback Mike Glennon.

25. Marcus Davis, WR, Virginia Tech (SR)
Few players have the raw athletic ability of the 6-foot-4, 230-pound wideout. If he can play with more consistency, he will be Thomas’ top target and will buld upon his 30-catch, 510-yard, 5-TD season of 2011.

Other Names to Watch:

Wes Brown/Stefon Diggs, RB/WR, Maryland (FR)
Burly runner could be the feature back while explosive dynamo is this year’s Watkins.

Greg Reid, CB, Florida State (SR)
Dynamic and explosive but needs to be more consistent on the outside.

Michael Holmes, RB, Virginia Tech (FR)
Could be next great Hokie back, but has rebuilt O-Line and deep backfield to hold off.

Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Dependable, consistent bookend opposite Jenkins on league’s top D-Line.

James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech
Should lead what should be one of the nation’s best defenses.

Athlon's 2012 ACC Team Previews

Atlantic Coastal
Boston College Duke
Clemson Miami
Florida State Georgia Tech
Maryland North Carolina
NC State Virginia
Wake Forest Virginia Tech

Related: 2012 Athlon Sports ACC Predictions

-by Braden Gall


<p> 2012 ACC Heisman Contenders: The Way It Should Be</p>
Post date: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 05:59
All taxonomy terms: Detroit Lions, NFC, NFC North, NFL
Path: /nfl/detroit-lions-2012-schedule-analysis

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Detroit Lions 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: St. Louis
Week 2: at San Francisco
Week 3: at Tennessee
Week 4: Minnesota
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: at Philadelphia
Week 7: at Chicago (Mon.)
Week 8: Seattle
Week 9: at Jacksonville
Week 10: at Minnesota
Week 11: Green Bay
Week 12: Houston (Thurs.)
Week 13: Indianapolis
Week 14: at Green Bay
Week 15: at Arizona
Week 16: Atlanta (Sat.)
Week 17: Chicago

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- Detroit gets the NFC West and AFC South as its cross-divisional opponents in 2012. Those are two conferences that each feature one Super Bowl contender (San Francisco in the NFC West, Houston in the AFC South) and three other teams that are still a year or two, if not more, away from any title aspirations.

- The Lions open the season at home against St. Louis and then has to go out west to face San Francisco, the defending NFC West champions. After that, a visit to Tennessee and a home game against NFC North rival Minnesota is all that is between the Lions and their Week 5 bye.

- With only four games scheduled before their off-week, the Week 5 bye means the Lions will have to play 12 straight games after it. Their post-bye schedule doesn't start easily either, as Detroit has back-to-back road contests in Philadelphia and Chicago, with the latter being a Monday night showcase at Soldier Field.

- Detriot gets a break in terms of competition over its next three — versus Seattle, at Jacksonville and at Minnesota — before it has to face Green Bay and Houston in back-to-back weeks. The good news is both of these games are at home, but these are two contests against Super Bowl contenders. What's more, the Week 12 meeting with the Texans is on Thanksgiving Day, which means it's just four days after the Lions will have played the rival Packers.

- Indianapolis in Week 13 represents a third straight home game for the Lions and a chance for the team to make sure it's firing on all cylinders leading into the following week's game at Lambeau Field. It's never easy playing the Packers at home in December. After that it's a trip out to the desert to face Arizona.

- Detroit's final two games — home against Atlanta and Chicago — will more than likely have playoff implications tied to them, whether it be seeding or determining if the Lions, or either the Falcons or Bears even make the playoffs. While there's a level of comfort that comes from playing at home, the Lions also will have to deal with the pressure that comes with the increased expectations for a team that ended the franchise's 11-season playoff drought in 2011.

Fantasy Focus: Everyone is well aware of how dangerous wide receiver Calvin Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford can be, if healthy. But while the Lions' wide receivers and quarterbacks scored the third- and fourth-most fantasy points at their respective positions last season, their running backs finished 20th. Some of this could be attributed to injury as both Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure missed either significant time (Best) or the entire season (Leshoure). If they can stay healthy this season, both running backs could provide fantasy value. Detroit plays six teams that finished in the top half of teams in 2011 in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs. Indianapolis gave up the third-most fantasy points to running backs last season, while St. Louis (5th), Tennessee (6th) and Philadelphia (9th) also ranked in the top 10 in this category. NFC North rivals Green Bay (14th) and Minnesota (15th) finished in the top half in this category, and the Lions play each team twice. On the flip side, Detroit also has San Francisco and Houston on its 2012 schedule, the two teams that gave up the fewest fantasy points to running backs last season.

— by Mark Ross, published on June 18, 2012

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

<p> Detroit Lions 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 05:58