Articles By Athlon Sports

All taxonomy terms: Richard Sherman, NFL, News
Path: /sherman
Body:

One of the big developments of the 2013 NFL season was the emergence of Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. He was not only a superior football player, but also a fixture in the headlines, making big plays and big noise. We caught up with the league's No. 1 cornerback shortly after he signed a new four-year, $57 million contract extension in early May.

 

Related: 2014 NFL Player Rankings - Defensive Backs

 

Athlon Sports: You might be one of the most recognizable people in the world now, going to the White House Correspondents Dinner, getting saluted by Time Magazine and turning up everywhere. Has this new-found fame surprised you, and do you worry that it might change you?

Richard Sherman: I guess it’s unusual. I never expected to be thrown into the spotlight like this. I take it for what it is. I try to stay the same person. I know who I am. I don’t worry about it changing me too much. I’m pretty set in my ways. I just want to get better and be different.

 

After you were taken to task for speaking your mind, people now want your opinion on just about everything. Do you feel like you are the voice of the NFL?

I don’t mind it. It’s an honor that people think that way. I don’t know if I speak for the entire NFL. Everybody has their voice. But I like giving my opinion. I don’t mind being criticized either.

 

Is the NFC title game play referred to as “the Immaculate Deflection” the biggest play of your career?

Athletically, I’ve made better plays. As far as a big one, I don’t think I’ve made a bigger play. It got us into the Super Bowl. I had a feeling I’d get a chance. It was the final drive, cover 3, the strong safety leaned over. It was something we practice. We practice the tip drill all the time.

 

Who is the toughest wide receiver in the NFL to cover?

Doug Baldwin. I go against him every day. He’s super quick. He’s hard to stop. He runs different routes every time. On other teams? Megatron (Detroit’s Calvin Johnson) is a pretty tough cover. He’s real fast, real big and real strong.

 

What is your favorite opposing stadium to play in?

Dallas. They always have a party going on during the game. You go to a game in Dallas, and you know what I mean.

 

What other coach in the NFL, besides your own, would you like to play for?

Gus Bradley. I played for him before. His message is always the same: Think positive. It’s very similar to what we do in Seattle.

 

Some former Pittsburgh Steelers won four Super Bowls during their careers. With talk of a mini-Seattle dynasty, would four satisfy you? If not, how many?

I don’t know. It would have to be a lot. I’m a guy who tries not to limit himself. I wouldn’t limit myself to that. If we got five, then we’d want six.

 

You were a wide receiver at Stanford before switching to corner. Could you have been an elite NFL pass-catcher?

I think I’d be pretty good. You never know. I think I’d be able to at least hold my own. Elite? I couldn’t tell you unless I got out there. But with a good quarterback, a good system, I think I’d be OK.

 

Who is the best cornerback in NFL history and can that be you some day?

It’s somewhere between Mel Blount and Deion (Sanders). I’d need a lot more interceptions. I’ll figure it out soon enough. Anything is possible.

 

With three Pro Bowlers in the mix, and you and Earl Thomas considered the league’s best at your respective positions, who’s the Seahawks’ best defensive back?

Each one of us thinks he’s the best defensive back on the team. It’s a battle. Do we say anything to each other about it? Not really. It’s a known deal on the team that everybody really believes it’s him.

 

You were mad that you were a fifth-round draft pick. Does that mean you were mad at the Seahawks? And did you ever ask them why they waited so long to take you?

I was mad. I wasn’t as mad at them because they gave me opportunity. You can’t be too mad at them. I did ask them about it and they said they had me in the third round. But they said nobody took me and they had to address other needs.

 

When you were a kid, did you envision yourself playing in the NFL and for what team?

I always pictured it once I figured out they were paying people for a game I was playing for free. It was, oh man, I want to do that. The Raiders were the team. We saw them the most in L.A. I wore their stuff. My whole family did.

 

It’s hard for anyone to play for just one NFL team. Do you think you will spend your entire career in Seattle?

The city surprised me. I was incredibly happy with it. It’s unique from any place I’ve ever been, with its greenery and outdoor stuff, all that boating. It’s been a great opportunity. One team? I get a couple more years with this, so we’ll see.

 

When your pro football career is done, what comes next for you? Will you be mayor of Los Angeles? Or Seattle?

I’m trying to figure out what I want to do. I want to stay around the world of sports, but I want to be a philanthropist and be a positive influence around kids. I’m not sure exactly what I’ll do, but philanthropy will be part of it.

Teaser:
Q&A with Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman
Post date: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/great-coaches-improved-facilities-and-new-tv-deal-have-fueled-pac-12s-rise
Body:

It’s understandable that David Shaw would be somewhat conflicted when it comes to the Pac-12’s nine-game conference schedule. On the one hand, the fourth-year Stanford coach is a competitor, and there is something appealing about being the ruling party two seasons running in a league that tests manhood like no other.

 

He is also a pragmatist, and when he sees the annual parade of late-season scrimmages favored by SEC schools — hello, Furman, Appalachian State, Chattanooga and Florida Atlantic — he gets a little jealous, although he may have chuckled when he saw Georgia Southern knock off Florida last year.

 

“We would have loved to have put a game (like that) between UCLA and Oregon State last year,” Shaw says.

 

Stanford survived that test against back-to-back ranked opponents. It even knocked off Oregon 12 days later. But the Cardinal eventually succumbed to the grind and dropped a 20–17 decision at USC. Shaw can’t complain too much, because even though the loss was in mid-November, Stanford still won the Pac-12 North and then whipped Arizona State for the conference crown. By the time the game against ASU was over, the Cardinal had played six league games against ranked opponents. “And that doesn’t include a ranked Notre Dame team and a ranked Michigan State team in the Rose Bowl,” Shaw says.

 

Shaw would be wise to avoid seeking sympathy for his team’s tough schedule. Not too many people would commiserate, given Stanford’s recent run of success under him and predecessor Jim Harbaugh. His point is less a woe-is-me complaint than a celebration of the Pac-12’s growth and increased success. Once known for its wacky explosions of points and a rather cavalier approach to defense, the conference has become deeper, stronger and more able to make a national impression. Thanks to improved commitments to on-field success throughout the conference and a more focused branding effort from the conference office, the Pac-12 is escaping its previous image as a league on the fringes, whose Saturday night games served as lullabies for half the country.

 

“Right now, the conference is the best it has ever been,” says Oregon coach Mark Helfrich, who grew up in Pac-12 country and has spent more than a decade coaching in the conference. “The depth and talent of teams and coaching staffs are so much better than they were. The facilities and the commitment to the facilities are off the charts.”

 

Last year, Pac-12 schools went 6–3 in bowl competition, an impressive performance that included 75 percent of the conference’s members. (California, Utah and Colorado were the lone exclusions.) Thanks to new deals with ESPN and Fox and the league’s bold step to create its own TV network, media revenues are soaring, and thanks to a new program that divides the spoils equally, there is an opportunity for everyone to benefit. Commissioner Larry Scott, who this fall enters his fifth school year atop the conference, has employed his promotional savvy to help bolster the Pac-12 brand throughout the nation.

 

The Pac-12 still must fight the time-difference issue, but its national image is on the rise, and as one of the lucky Big Five conferences that will get preferred treatment with this year’s debut of the College Football Playoff, it is positioned well for future prosperity.

 

Although the league crows about its success in all sports and has won more aggregate national championships than any other confederation, the true measure of the Pac-12’s — or any other conference’s — health is football. In that regard, things are looking good.

 

“We are heading in the right direction from a football standpoint and from the standpoint of a lot of sports,” Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne says. “We’ve always been strong historically across the board, but we have seen that schools have done a good job investing in their infrastructures, and some of that has been done through increased conference revenue and donations.”

 

When Scott took over the league in the summer of 2009, the Pac-12 was fifth among BCS conferences — ahead of only the Big East — in terms of TV money and national football perception. While USC was playing great ball, and those Oregon uniforms sure attracted the teenage crowd, depth was lacking. There was some discontent among the ranks, because larger-market schools were getting more of the conference pot than were those in outposts such as Corvallis and Pullman.

 

Within a year, the league had announced the additions of Utah and Colorado, negotiated new TV deals with ESPN and Fox that more than tripled revenues from the Pac-12’s previous contracts and decided to split any income evenly among its members. (Utah and Colorado went through a three-year probationary period upon entering the conference, during which they received less than other members.) With the improvement of several programs — Washington State went to a bowl last year! — the Pac-12 is now healthy financially and on the rise on the football field. Throw in a concerted effort to bring the conference brand to a wider audience, the better to boost Pac-12 Networks revenue and also enrollment, and you have an impressive package.

 

“Day to day, as coaches, we don’t think about marketing the conference,” Shaw says. “We have a great combination of an unbelievable group of coaches who are pushing players to be national contenders and a commissioner that is pushing the league to be the best in everything. You have to recognize that.”

 

UCLA coach Jim Mora was nowhere near Westwood when USC and Pete Carroll were winning back-to-back national title in 2003-04. But Mora, who spent part of his youth in L.A. before moving to Seattle and graduating from the University of Washington, understands fully the value for a conference of having the best team in the country carrying the standard. Over the past several years, there have been some with the temerity to suggest that the SEC isn’t the best conference around. They were shouted down by those who reminded them that no matter how bad some of its members may be, the past seven national champs have been SEC schools. That streak ended in 2013, but not without a conference member (Auburn) staging a pretty good run at the crown.

 

So, Pac-12 fans will have to excuse Mora when he doesn’t jump for joy over last year’s 6–3 bowl record. He’s proud to be part of a league with good depth and plenty of talent, but Mora understands that real recognition doesn’t come until someone from the conference can jab an index finger skyward and shout, “We’re number one!”

 

“It’s great when the whole league is good, because it shines a brighter light on teams excelling in any given year and gives teams the respect they deserve,” he says. “But we need to win some national championships.

 

“The only way we will get national respect is by winning a national championship in football.”

 

Mora understands that the recent success by Stanford and Oregon atop the Pac-12 has attracted more eyes to the league. He also understands that real legitimacy comes from having a team on top. That’s why you’ll probably read a bunch of articles leading up to the start of this season about how ACC football is making great strides, thanks to Florida State’s 2013 national title. It’s nice to have teams that can win the Sun and Hawaii Bowls, but that kind of second-tier success only looks good when a league can also wave the biggest banner of them all.

 

Pac-12 coaches believe there is sufficient talent to make it happen. The state of California alone has enough talent to stock three or four national contenders. Throw in major population centers like Seattle, Phoenix and Denver, and there are a lot of top FBS players from which to choose. Thanks to the improved television coverage, it’s possible to expand that area eastward, the better to offset the recruiting efforts of schools from other parts of the country that pillage the Pac-12’s recruiting stocks.

 

“We’re getting farther east,” Helfrich says. “TV makes this a smaller country and allows us to get players from Florida, New Jersey and Michigan. We can get in a living room and tell parents that they will be able to watch their son on TV every weekend. They’ll be able to look at his face and see if he needs a phone call.”

 

Shaw, who insists that Stanford is “the one true national recruiter in college football,” loves the fact that the Pac-12 Networks, while hardly able to boast universal clearance, still reaches parts of the Northeast and Deep South. For a highly selective private school, that’s a big deal. But it’s not just the Pac-12 Networks. The deals with ESPN and Fox have brought the conference’s product to a much wider audience. When Scott took over, only 39 percent of the league’s football and men’s hoops games were broadcast nationally, and 10 percent of the football games didn’t have any TV exposure, according to a November 2013 New York Times report.

 

“We tell kids to find the Pac-12 Networks and watch us,” Shaw says. “They can see the player profiles and learn about the rest of the conference. They can say, ‘I may be from Virginia, but I can see the stadium and see the school.’ It’s more than just a coach telling them about it.

 

“It makes it real.”

 

What the prospects see is a conference with a lot going on. Many people think of Pac-12 football as just Oregon’s funky uniforms and that crazy duck on the back of a motorcycle. That show has certainly helped the conference’s identity. Stanford’s success has done a lot, too. But now that coaches like Mike Leach, Rich Rodriguez and Todd Graham have brought their spread attacks to the league, there may be more potent offenses in the league than ever before.

 

“You have so many different styles,” Shaw says. “You have to tweak what you do every week. You have to be unique with what you do but also be ready to face different kinds of teams every week. There are lots of spread teams, but they are different spread teams. You have to be able to adjust.”

 

Order a copy of Athlon's 2014 Pac-12 Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 12 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

The rise of Mora’s UCLA team has made things interesting, too. Granted, it has helped the Bruins that cross-town rival USC has been struggling with probation, but the Bruins’ success has given the Pac-12 another school capable of attracting national attention.

 

Given UCLA’s recent basketball travails — and the short memories of today’s high school students — the “basketball school” label that has haunted the Bruin football program may not apply in a few years, especially if it can establish itself as the place to go for the Golden State’s talented high school recruits.

 

“California is bursting with talent,” Mora says. “Everybody is in California trying to pluck guys. Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas are all crossing our borders. But there is also a tremendous amount of talent and good football played in the Northwest and throughout the West Coast. There’s a lot of talent here.”

 

Those standouts who choose to stay home and play for Pac-12 schools are doing so as much for the facilities as they are for the cool offensive schemes. And that’s something new. All across the conference, schools are adding new stadiums, offices and workout centers or beefing up existing sites. The new contracts and more equitable distribution program are allowing schools like Washington State to be more competitive with the rest of the league, from a facilities standpoint.

 

Even though Utah didn’t receive a full revenue share during its first three years in the league, that didn’t stop it from transforming the $10 million football center it had planned while still a Mountain West Conference member into a $32 million project once it joined the Pac-12. The school raised half the money through fundraising and the other half through a bond issue, which it had never done before.

 

“We had to decide, ‘Do we want to be in the Pac-12 to have a nice time or to compete?’” Utah AD Chris Hill says. “We want to compete.”

 

While schools boost their facilities’ profiles, and coaches work to make their teams more competitive, Scott sells the Pac-12 brand, bringing football and men’s basketball bosses east before every season to meet with media who don’t cross the Rocky Mountains (or the Mississippi, for that matter) very often. He fights to get the Pac-12 Networks greater carriage on cable and satellite providers across the country. The goal is to create a brand that rivals those of the Big Ten and SEC, which had far better profiles than their western counterpart just a few years ago.

 

It hasn’t all been perfect. Money from the Pac-12 Networks is not exactly pouring in. Rather than partner with an established TV presence like ESPN (SEC) or Fox (Big Ten), Scott decided to go it alone. “No one else has been able to do what we were able to do,” he says. “We can control programming and control branding and the messaging on it. That’s important to our universities.”

 

Some are not happy that the pioneer spirit has resulted in a smaller revenue stream, but Scott points to the opportunity to have flexibility and control down the road.

 

“It’s very much a long-term strategic initiative,” he says. “We are off to a great start.”
 

That can’t be denied. Pac-12 schools are making money, winning on the football field and gaining notice nationwide. There is work to be done, but a lot of problems could be overcome with a national title.

 

“The one thing that will define us as the conference is national championships,” Mora says. “Not one, but multiple.

 

“That will take time.”

 

Not as much as once was thought.

 

Written by Michael Bradley (@DailyHombre) for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2014 Pac-12 Football Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2014 season.

Teaser:
Great Coaches, Improved Facilities and New TV Deal Have Fueled Pac-12's Rise
Post date: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-auburn-florida-and-vanderbilt-media-day
Body:

SEC Media Day is here, and Athlon Sports is live from Hoover, Ala., to talk every team around the league. Day 1 started with comments from commissioner Mike Slive plus Auburn, Florida and Vanderbilt.

 

On the docket for the first day was Mike Slive's push for autonomy, the absence of Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, Florida's hot seat coach and new offense and higher expectations for Derek Mason at Vanderbilt.

 

Joining us today were Brandon Marcello from AL.com and Edgar Thompson from the Orlando Sentinel.

 

Have a question or comment? Contact us at podcast@athlonsports.com or on Twitter at @AthlonSports, @BradenGall and @DavidFox615

Teaser:
Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Auburn, Florida and Vanderbilt from Media Day
Post date: Monday, July 14, 2014 - 18:58
All taxonomy terms: linebackers, player rankings, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/2014-nfl-player-rankings-linebackers
Body:

In the 2014 edition of Athlon Sports’ Pro Football preview, we called on Ourlads Scouting Services to rank the NFL’s best at every position on the field. When it comes to determining who is the best quarterback, running back, wide receiver, linebacker, cornerback, etc., who better to make that determination than a company that’s been in the gridiron talent evaluation business for nearly three decades?

 

Carolina’s Luke Kuechly may be the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, but according to Ourlads, he’s not even the best at his position. The top two inside linebackers — NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis — play for the same team in the NFC West. In fact, when you pair Bowman and Willis with Aldon Smith, San Francisco boasts three of the top eight linebackers overall.

 

Unfortunately for the 49ers, the likelihood of this trio being intact at the start of the season doesn’t appear to be too high. Bowman sustained a serious knee injury in the NFC Championship Game loss to Seattle and is a fairly safe bet to start the season on the PUP list, while Smith is facing a possible suspension of some length from the league for his various off-the-field incidents. It may be more of a one-man show in the middle of the 49ers’ defense this fall.

 

Rankings courtesy of Ourlads Scouting Services

 

2014 NFL Player Rankings: Inside Linebackers

 

1. NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco

Joins teammate Patrick Willis as a Pro Bowl-caliber productive athlete. Instinctive with rare change of direction. Aggressive and competitive. Coming off a knee injury.

 

2. Patrick Willis, San Francisco

Had another Pro Bowl season with his excellent tackling ability versus the run and the speed to excel in coverage.

 

3. Luke Kuechly, Carolina

The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Tackling machine is the heart and soul of the Panthers’ defense. A sideline-to-sideline player who is only entering his third year.

 

4. Derrick Johnson, Kansas City

Was voted to the Pro Bowl for the third consecutive season. A downhill sideline-to-sideline player with speed and a closing burst.

 

5. Karlos Dansby, Cleveland

Signed with the Browns in the offseason. A productive and athletic run-and-hit linebacker with good speed and range. A good blitzer who makes plays.

 

6. Sean Lee, Dallas

Has been the leader of the Cowboys’ defense since stepping on the field in 2010. Injuries have set him back at times, but he’s productive when on the field. (Editor's note: Lee tore the ACL in his left knee during OTAs on May 27 and will miss the entire 2014 season.)

 

7. Stephen Tulloch, Detroit

An undersized but instinctive linebacker who makes plays all over the field. Elevated his game in 2013 after coming off a 2012 knee injury.

 

8. Kiko Alonso, Buffalo

Played beyond expectations as a rookie in the middle last fall and will be moved to the weak side in 2014. A focused and intense competitor versus the run and pass. (Editor's note: Alonso tore the ACL in his left knee while working out earlier this summer and will miss the entire 2014 season.)

 

9. Brian Cushing, Houston

Was lost for two years in a row with injury. When on the field, this big-time hitter is instinctive and active in defending the run and pass.

 

10. Bobby Wagner, Seattle

Battled an injury in 2013 after an outstanding rookie campaign. A quick and explosive reactor who attacks blockers. Has good range and takes good downfield angles in pursuit.

 

11. Daryl Smith, Baltimore

12. Daryl Washington, Arizona (Editor's note: Washington has been suspended for the entire 2014 season for another violation of the league's substance-abuse policy.)

13. Lawrence Timmons, Pittsburgh

14. James Laurinaitis, St. Louis

15. Brandon Spikes, Buffalo

16. Josh Bynes, Baltimore

17. Wesley Woodyard, Tennessee

18. Jerrell Freeman, Indianapolis

19. Akeem Jordan, Washington

20. David Harris, NY Jets

 

2014 NFL Player Rankings: Outside Linebackers

 

1. Von Miller, Denver

Became a more complete linebacker, excelling in coverage before an ACL injury late in the season. His impact is immense — pressuring and sacking the quarterback.

 

2. Lavonte David, Tampa Bay

Is one of the more unheralded and well-rounded linebackers in football. His skills are tailor-made for the new Tampa-2 scheme.

 

3. Robert Mathis, Indianapolis

Versatile enough over his career to play as a down end or a standup rusher for the Colts. Undersized athlete with rare initial quickness and speed. Can turn speed to power. Plays low to the ground with good knee and hip flexibility. (Editor's note: Mathis will miss the first four games of the season for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.)

 

4. Aldon Smith, San Francisco

Has been a productive player on the field, especially when Justin Smith helps clear a free running lane. Has outstanding athletic ability and long arms to rush the passer. Productive with 42 sacks in three years.

 

5. Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati

Led the Bengals in tackles his first two years in the league. Has come a long way from his undisciplined college career, where the talent was evident, but production was uneven.

 

6. Thomas Davis, Carolina

Came back from a third ACL tear to play at a high level in 2013. An aggressive and explosive hitter who is a consistent wrap-up tackler.

 

7. Akeem Ayers, Tennessee

Will be making a move from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme linebacker, which may get him to the quarterback more in 2014. Drives quickly on check-downs and ball-carriers in front of him.

 

8. Danny Trevathan, Denver

Had a breakout year in 2013 and racked up 129 tackles from the weak side. Physical and tough in his play. Quick to key and diagnose a play.

 

9. Dont’a Hightower, New England

Stepped into the starting lineup as a rookie and hasn’t looked back since. A physical run-stuffer who sheds quickly at the point of attack.

 

10. DeAndre Levy, Detroit

Elevated his playmaking ability in 2013. An athletic linebacker who can run and hit. Plays square with good hand and arm use to shed and tackle.

 

11. Malcolm Smith, Seattle

12. Sio Moore, Oakland

13. Jerod Mayo, New England

14. Bruce Irvin, Seattle

15. Alec Ogletree, St. Louis

16. Chad Greenway, Minnesota

17. James Anderson, Chicago

18. Philip Wheeler, Miami

19. Kevin Burnett, Oakland

20. K.J. Wright, Seattle

Teaser:
2014 NFL Player Rankings: Linebackers
Post date: Monday, July 14, 2014 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Boise State Broncos, College Football, News
Path: /college-football/bobby-petrino-ready-succeed-louisville-once-again
Body:

Social media crackled with disbelief on the day word leaked that former University of Louisville football coach Bobby Petrino was in line to become the replacement for Charlie Strong at U of L last January.

 

Talk-radio hyperventilated. Opinions flew from every direction. Louisville can’t be hiring that two-timer, can it? National columnists powered up their keyboards and took their most vicious shots.

 

Considering the way Petrino had walked out on Louisville for the Atlanta Falcons in 2007 and then driven his career (and motorcycle) off the road at Arkansas in 2012, outsiders howled that athletic director Tom Jurich had finally fumbled a big decision.

 

Actually, the decision to bring Petrino back from Western Kentucky was every bit a calculated Jurich move. People who know Jurich know that Petrino was the first option from the moment Strong’s name was linked to Texas.

 

The reaction in Louisville to Petrino’s return for a job that he didn’t want seven years earlier? That he was getting a deal worth $3.5 million per season with a $10 million buyout?

 

Primarily long and sustained applause.

 

“The offense isn’t going to be boring around here any more,” former Louisville running back Michael Bush said on a live microphone in front of 27,500 fans at the Cardinals’ spring game.

 

In the aftermath of Petrino’s arrival, the demand for U of L football season tickets increased. The waiting list grew. Any complaints within the ambitious fan base disappeared after a few days.

 

Why?

 

Because Petrino wins football games, and Louisville has become accustomed to winning after ringing up victories in the Sugar and Russell Athletic bowls the last two seasons.

 

“I don’t think anybody will quarrel with his knowledge,” Jurich says.

 

Louisville is making its move into the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, and the program needed a head coach who could scheme with Jimbo Fisher and the other big dogs in a more demanding league. “He’s as good as anybody I’ve seen or been around,” says Jurich.

 

What about it, coach?

 

Says Petrino, “It’s been great. Every day has been great, for me and my family. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be back.”

 

The Cardinal fan base adored Petrino when he was the head coach from 2003-06, when his teams would routinely score 40, 50, 60 points — and never trailed Kentucky for one second in four games.

 

Louisville started 2013 with a victory in the Sugar Bowl, won the men’s basketball NCAA title, finished second in the women’s basketball tournament and sent its baseball team to the College World Series. If any athletic director had the muscle to sell Petrino, it was Jurich.

 

But there was another reason insiders were not surprised: They knew that Jurich played a critical role in helping Petrino land his initial comeback job at Western Kentucky.

 

Without a strong endorsement from Jurich, WKU athletic director Todd Stewart would have never hired Petrino only eight months after Arkansas fired him for hiring his mistress on the Razorbacks’ staff and then lying about it.

 

Petrino was toxic then. Jurich did as much as anybody to help Petrino repair his reputation and career.

 

Stewart called Jurich to discuss Petrino before WKU hired him as Willie Taggart’s replacement in December 2012. Jurich had every reason to bury Petrino, and why not? Petrino had misled him several times while interviewing for other jobs early in his Louisville career. He flirted with jobs at LSU, Notre Dame, Florida and elsewhere, even though Jurich was the first guy to give Petrino a head coaching opportunity.

 

Then Petrino bolted for the Falcons less than a week after coaching the Cardinals to an Orange Bowl victory over Wake Forest.

 

Jurich is first-team all-loyalty. He’s been at Louisville since October 1997, even though several prime-time programs, including Texas, inquired about his interest. Not only was Petrino always in a hurry to get to the next job, but he’d also later walked out on the Falcons in the middle of his first season and then embarrassed Arkansas.

 

But Jurich did not encourage Stewart to scratch Petrino from his list of WKU coaching candidates. He told him that Petrino deserved a chance — and that he would do excellent work in Bowling Green.

 

Huh?

 

Order a copy of Athlon's 2014 ACC Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 14 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

Petrino and Jurich had repaired their relationship while the coach sat out the 2012 season. He apologized for things that happened at Louisville. He asked Jurich if he would help him mend his career. Jurich told him that the first thing he needed to do was mend his life with his family — his wife, Becky, and their four children.

 

They had several conversations. By the time WKU called to inquire about Petrino, Jurich was convinced that his former coach was ready for another chance. And he endorsed Petrino for that job.

 

The contract and the buyout were structured that if Petrino left during the first two seasons, WKU would make money. If it ­didn’t work out, WKU would only suffer a small PR hit. But it worked — for WKU, for Petrino and for Louisville.

 

How would the Cardinals benefit?

 

Because the stories about everything that Petrino did wrong were written during the buildup to his first season at Western Kentucky. He talked about the mistakes he had made and lessons that he had learned.

 

Becky Petrino came to Bowling Green with him. So did two of their children. Two other Petrino children were already in Louisville, attending U of L. If the family was going to make it again, they were going to make it in Kentucky.

 

Most of the negative stories would be aired out at Western Kentucky. By the end of his first season, there would be a fresh Petrino narrative. He was the coach who beat Kentucky in his season-opener as well as the guy who won eight games, more than WKU had ever won as an FBS program.

 

He was the guy grateful for a second chance, a coach who understood this was his last chance to make it right.

“I think the opportunity to get someone who is very seasoned as we head into the ACC (is critical),” Jurich says. “But somebody who is definitely a changed person.

 

“I think the opportunity to get Bobby Petrino is what sold me. Like I said, if it was the same Bobby Petrino as eight years ago, I wasn’t interested, and I had to be convinced of that.”

 

“The first mistake I made was leaving Louisville,” Petrino says, and he has said it multiple times. “But now I feel like my family and I have come back home.”

 

Written by Rick Bozich (@RickBozich) for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2014 ACC Football Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2014 season.

Teaser:
Bobby Petrino Ready to Succeed at Louisville Once Again
Post date: Monday, July 14, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/oklahomas-bob-stoops-regains-swagger-sooners-poised-playoff-run-2014
Body:

Bob Stoops fired surprising shots at the SEC last offseason, calling out the nation’s power conference and causing his sanity to be called into question in most corners of the country.

 

“They’ve had the best team in college football. They haven’t had the whole best conference,” the Oklahoma coach said in May 2013, just months after Alabama had won another national title, the SEC’s seventh straight national championship.

 

“You’re listening to a lot of propaganda that gets fed to you.”

 

So had Big Game Bob become Big Mouth Bob?

 

Little did we or Stoops know that he’d be staring down the mighty Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl in January. Suddenly, Stoops’ months-old words had become fighting words.

 

Yet the swaggering Stoops and his Sooners hardly backed down.

 

No, they backed it all up, pounding Bama and capping a late-season turnabout that altered everything in Norman, flipping feelings on the season and the program’s recent substandard perceptions, and of course, the future.

 

Big Game Bob was back. And taking a victory lap.

 

Oh, Stoops wasn’t boasting, not in a finger-wagging way. Still, he didn’t waste the opportunity to offer some semi-subtle reminders.

 

“I won’t have to dodge any punches, I guess you could say that,” he said in the aftermath of the Sooners’ 45–31 romp. “I have the utmost respect for Alabama. And I think this shows that obviously we can play with anybody.

 

“So enough of that. And I just watched them go through their entire conference and play pretty well. And, again, I admire the way they play, I really do, and Coach (Nick) Saban and the way they do things. I’m not pointing any fingers, but I think sometimes the comparisons aren’t necessarily very true.”

 

Neither, it seems, are perceptions of Stoops and his program.

 

Not of late, anyway.

 

Stoops reset the high bar at Oklahoma, winning a national championship in his second season and playing for three more in his first 10 years of restoring the Sooners as a college football powerhouse. Entering his 16th season, he’s the winningest coach in OU history, having passed Bud Wilkinson, Barry Switzer and Bennie Owen. His teams have captured eight Big 12 titles, with a 7–1 record in conference championship games, and gone to a program-record 15 consecutive bowl games.

 

Still, critics have picked at Stoops in recent years. They’ve pointed to his 0–3 record in national title games since the 2000 breakthrough. They’ve suggested that he’s beaten a retreat in the Big 12, where three other teams (Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Baylor) have risen up to claim the past three league trophies.

 

Legitimate critiques, or nitpicking?

 

The Sooners, after all, have posted double-digit win totals each of the past four seasons and in seven of the last eight.

 

Have they reached that high bar Stoops has set? Not quite. So in truth, there are probably some valid arguments on both sides. And even Stoops signaled a need to alter course while acknowledging that things may have grown stagnant, firing a total of five assistants in the two years prior to the 2013 season after not sending a single coach packing his previous 12 years on the job.

 

As recently as last November, there was a degree of panic among the fan base, after the Sooners were thumped 41–12 at Baylor in what had been anticipated as a showdown. That, after they’d been gouged 36–20 by archrival Texas in the Red River Rivalry a month earlier.

 

The Sooners were shuffling quarterbacks, with Blake Bell, Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson taking turns behind center, and none thriving.

 

Then, in the span of little more than four quarters, everything turned. For the Sooners. For program pride. For Stoops.

 

It started in Bedlam, with Oklahoma State poised to win for the second time in three years in the series, marching to a 24–20 lead with 1:46 remaining. But Bell, inserted for the injured Knight and an ineffective Thompson, guided the Sooners to their first offensive touchdown of the day, finishing the drive with a 7-yard scoring pass to Jalen Saunders with 19 seconds left to lift OU to the improbable win.

 

Order a copy of Athlon's 2014 Big 12 Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 10 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

Then came the matchup with Bama in the Sugar Bowl, a game analysts and fans from across the country counted as a Tide throwdown before kickoff, before the 17-point underdog Sooners surged ahead early and kept pouring it on.

 

“I get annoyed when people ask me if I’m afraid,” OU defensive lineman Chuka Ndulue said at the time, reflecting his head coach’s brashness. “Just shut up.”

 

Said Stoops: “We weren’t coming in on a load of wood. We’ve won some games around here. That’s how we feel. Everyone else, we weren’t that concerned about.

 

“We played how we expected to play, to be quite honest. And, again … I’ve got the absolute utmost respect for Alabama. But we have a lot of confidence in what we do, too.”

 

Stoops, in good times and bad, is confident. So his remarks about the SEC ­shouldn’t have come as a shock. Asked a question, he simply answered, honestly and boldly. And that confidence flows through his coaching staff and players, who seem to operate with a permanent chip on their shoulder, despite their status among college football’s elite.

 

“What we were able to do against Alabama was no fluke,” says defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, Bob’s younger brother. “That was our team playing on all cylinders as a young team.

 

“That gave us a lot of momentum heading into the last month of recruiting. … We feel like we’re a championship-caliber team. That’s what the kids want to play for.”

 

Don’t expect that confidence to wane anytime soon.

 

The Sooners’ late-season surge fueled a recruiting rally, provided strong answers to critical personnel questions and thrust OU back into national title talk for 2014 as a heavy favorite in the Big 12.

 

Bob Stoops’ stock enjoyed a surge of sorts, too. Trusting his instincts, he again seems to be pulling all the right strings, whether making over his staff or overseeing tweaks to both sides of the ball or returning to the gambling in-game decision-making style that marked his earlier years at the helm.

 

Big Game Bob appears to be back and charging forward, thankful for the Sugar Bowl rush, yet ready to move on.

 

“They’re not sitting back thinking about that and not doing what they need to do moving forward,” Stoops says of his team. “I think, more than anything, it’s made them hungrier to build on it and to keep improving.”


Written by John Helsley (@jjhelsley) for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2014 Big 12 Football Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2014 season.

Teaser:
Oklahoma's Bob Stoops Regains Swagger; Sooners Poised to Push for Playoffs in 2014
Post date: Monday, July 14, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, NFL
Path: /college-football/10-more-awkward-sports-reunions-wed-see
Body:

Jerseys can’t be unburned, but perhaps the love between a city and an athlete can be rekindled.

LeBron James will put that to the test with his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers and his home state of Ohio. His exit — ahem, taking his talents to South Beach — wounded an entire city in 2010. Four years and two NBA championships later and James will return to team that drafted him.

The move is somewhat unprecedented. Rarely has an athlete, never mind one of the greatest in the world, gone from hometown hero to archvillain and back to favorite son. All while he's still in his prime.

We asked ourselves, what would be some of the other returns in the sports world that could compare? Which would be the most awkward, and somewhat plausible, reunions in sports?

Here are our 10.

Steve Spurrier to Florida
Perhaps one of the closet parallels to LeBron and Cleveland. Spurrier won the Heisman at Florida and built the Gators into one of the premier programs in college football. After Ron Zook was fired, a segment of Florida fans wanted Spurrier to return when the Ol’ Ball Coach was looking for work after his short-lived tenure in the NFL. Florida hired Urban Meyer instead, and Spurrier went to South Carolina. The idea of a Spurrier return to Florida may warm the hearts of older Florida fans. Meyer on the other hand...

Rick Pitino back to Kentucky
Pitino brought back the Kentucky program back after NCAA sanctions. He led “The Unforgettables” to the Elite Eight and won Kentucky’s first national title in 18 years. When Pitino left for the Boston Celtics, he left enough for successor Tubby Smith to win a national title of his own, but what really burned Big Blue Nation was Pitino’s return to the college game at rival Louisville. Kentucky fans are thrilled with the coach they’ve got now, but they had to go through the Billy Gillispie dark ages to get there.

Peyton Manning back to the Indianapolis Colts
Yes, the Colts' offense is in perfectly good hands with Andrew Luck under center. However, the organization's, and, perhaps more important, the fan base's bond with Manning remains. Besides, Manning certainly isn't getting any younger, so perhaps playing time won't be an issue another year or two down the road? After all, the only Super Bowl Manning has won so far has come in a Colts uniform.

Michael Vick to the Atlanta Falcons
Believe it or not, but it's been 13 years since Vick was taken No. 1 overall by the Falcons in the 2001 NFL Draft. Obviously a lot has happened between now and then, but Vick's clearly not the same person (or football player for that matter) that he was when he first entered the league as a young, electric, dual-threat quarterback. They say time heals all wounds, so perhaps the timing is just right for a reunion. And the Falcons wouldn't have to worry about a potential quarterback controversy either, as Vick already seems to have embraced his backup role with the Jets.

Albert Pujols back to the St. Louis Cardinals
Pujols was starting to be mentioned with Stan Musial around St. Louis before bolting for the Angels. Cardinals fans were heartbroken, but they’re doing just fine without him with a trip to the World Series and the NLCS. The longer St. Louis goes without a championship and the more Pujols starts to look like his old self, the more the Cardinals may start to miss him.

Greg Schiano back to Rutgers
Rutgers had one bowl appearance in over 100 years of football before Schiano showed up in Piscataway. So after six bowl appearances and building a posh on-campus home, Schiano broke Scarlet hearts when he tried his hand at the NFL in 2012. His disciplinarian tactics didn't go over well in the pro ranks, and he was shown the door. He’s out of work now, but we're pretty sure the Knights would beg him to return to Jersey.

Texas A&M back to the Big 12
Awkward, yes. Realistic, no.

Bobby Petrino back to Arkansas
Petrino already returned to where he built his name with a return to Louisville. If not for a fateful motorcycle ride, Petrino may still be at Arkansas, where he had the Razorbacks just a step behind Alabama and LSU. Few things would be more Petrino than using Louisville (again) to take a better job.

Kurt Busch back to any former NASCAR team
Busch has burned so many bridges in NASCAR that a return to anywhere (Team Penske, Roush Fenway Racing) would be beyond awkward.

Brett Favre back to Green Bay
Where is Ed Werder when you need him? We set out to look at only active athletes, but retirement is all relative when it comes to Favre. After an ugly divorce in Green Bay, Packers fans weren't all that upset to watch their departed quarterback squirm during a Deadspin-fueled scandal with a Jets broadcaster or when he was on the wrong end of Bounty Gate while playing for the rival Vikings. Green Bay has a fine quarterback of their own now, but you never know when he might need a new backup.

David Fox, Braden Gall, Mark Ross and Matt Taliaferro contributed to this post.

Teaser:
10 More Awkward Sports Reunions We'd Like To See
Post date: Saturday, July 12, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /nfl/2014-nfl-player-rankings-defensive-linemen
Body:

In the 2014 edition of Athlon Sports’ Pro Football preview, we called on Ourlads Scouting Services to rank the NFL’s best at every position on the field. When it comes to determining who is the best quarterback, running back, wide receiver, linebacker, cornerback, etc., who better to make that determination than a company that’s been in the gridiron talent evaluation business for nearly three decades?

 

With the NFL evolving into a pass-happy league, a disruptive defensive line is becoming even more important. Look no further than this past Super Bowl when Seattle relied primarily on its defensive line, instead of blitzes, to put pressure on Denver’s Peyton Manning. Even though the Seahawks finished with just one sack, the pressure was effective. Michael Bennett and company held the record-setting MVP to 280 yards passing and one touchdown, while picking him off twice in their dominating 43-8 victory.

 

So whether it’s a 3-4 or a 4-3 scheme, one of the keys to success in today’s NFL is a strong first line of defense. Just ask the Seahawks.

 

Rankings courtesy of Ourlads Scouting Services

 

2014 NFL Player Rankings: 3-4 Defensive Ends

 

1. J.J. Watt, Houston

A dominant defensive lineman who had another stellar year. Explodes off the snap and plays the game with great passion and emotion. A relentless competitor.

 

2. Calais Campbell, Arizona

Has become a welcomed star on the Cardinals’ defensive line and a disruptive high-effort player. Chases the ball down effectively from the backside.

 

3. Sheldon Richardson, NY Jets

Was voted the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year. Instinctive with lightning-quick reactions and the ability to change direction. An explosive high-effort talent.

 

4. Kyle Williams, Buffalo

Is an explosive up-the-field penetrator who battles every down. Has inside pass-rush ability. Keeps his hands and feet moving with an upfield burst.

 

5. Cameron Jordan, New Orleans

Blossomed at the 5-technique position under Rob Ryan and turned in a big year that included 12.5 sacks.

 

6. Muhammad Wilkerson, NY Jets

Like his running mate Sheldon Richardson, he shuts down the run. He also added 10.5 sacks, showing his quickness, athletic ability and field awareness.

 

7. Justin Smith, San Francisco

Is shedding age and time like the blockers he regularly defeats. Still has an explosive first step and takes on blockers aggressively. Active hands and body control.

 

8. Arthur Jones, Indianapolis

Left the Ravens in free agency after a big year and landed in Indianapolis. A blue-collar worker who is an ascending player with the ability to stop and stack in the run game.

 

9. Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia

Played as a 5-technique in the Eagles’ 3-4 scheme and demonstrated strong pass-rush skills along with lateral quickness and run-stuffing ability.

 

10. Mike Daniels, Green Bay

Is a quick and resourceful defender who had his best year since the Packers drafted him in the fourth round in 2012.

 

11. Cedric Thornton, Philadelphia

12. Vinny Curry, Philadelphia

13. Antonio Smith, Oakland

14. Akiem Hicks, New Orleans

15. Allen Bailey, Kansas City

16. Mike DeVito, Kansas City

17. Cory Redding, Indianapolis

18. Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh

19. Alan Branch, Buffalo

20. Ray McDonald, San Francisco

 

2014 NFL Player Rankings: 4-3 Defensive Ends

 

1. Robert Quinn, St. Louis

An explosive right end who recorded a team-record 19 sacks in 2013. Possesses natural hand, foot and lateral quickness. Tough to block, exhibiting outstanding flexibility.

 

2. Greg Hardy, Carolina

Was awarded the franchise tag tender after recording 15 sacks in 2013 and 11 in 2012. Explosive edge speed. Can bend the corner and turn speed to power.

 

3. Cameron Wake, Miami

A natural 4-3 end who draws protection and frees up guys like Olivier Vernon, who corralled 11.5 sacks in 2013. Has the strength, quickness and leverage to control the blocker and stack the run.

 

4. DeMarcus Ware, Denver

Signed with the Broncos after his Cowboy release and will team with productive Von Miller to form a formidable defensive duo.

 

5. Michael Bennett, Seattle

Led the Super Bowl champions with 8.5 sacks and was re-signed during the offseason. Versatile enough to play end and tackle. A good athlete who plays with strength and leverage.

 

6. Carlos Dunlap, Cincinnati

Signed a contract extension last year and overcame chronic injuries to elevate his overall game and pass-rushing abilities.

 

7. Lamarr Houston, Chicago

A versatile inside or outside competitor whose motor is always running hot. Explosive first-step quickness to split blockers. A disruptive pass-rusher who bats balls down or pressures throws.

 

8. Michael Johnson, Tampa Bay

Was signed in the offseason to pressure the quarterback in Lovie Smith’s Tampa-2. Rare athletic ability with explosive initial quickness.

 

9. Derrick Morgan, Tennessee

Has developed into a solid pro. Demonstrates jolt and explosion to shock the blocker. Relentless player. Could struggle in move 3-4.

 

10. Chandler Jones, New England

Athletic pass-rusher with a long and rangy build. Has elusive first-step quickness and can close laterally on inside runs. Finishes long crossfield pursuit. Flies around the field looking to make plays.

 

11. Chris Long, St. Louis

12. Charles Johnson, Carolina

13. Willie Young, Chicago

14. Robert Ayers, NY Giants

15. Rob Ninkovich, New England

16. Justin Tuck, Oakland

17. Cliff Avril, Seattle

18. Brian Robison, Minnesota

19. Shaun Phillips, Tennessee

20. Everson Griffen, Minnesota

 

2014 NFL Player Rankings: Defensive Tackles

 

1. Ndamukong Suh, Detroit

Is the league’s most dominant interior lineman, with explosive strength and top-level athletic ability. A disruptive player who is generally double-teamed and makes big-time plays because of extra effort. Must eliminate untimely penalties.

 

2. Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay

Finally came into his own in 2013 after avoiding injury. He emerged as a one-gap disruptor and made his second Pro Bowl.

 

3. Geno Atkins, Cincinnati

Collected 20 sacks from the interior in 2011 and ’12, the most in the NFL. He was on his way to another banner season with six sacks when he suffered an ACL injury against Miami in early November.

 

4. Marcell Dareus, Buffalo

Provides quickness and strength to anchor the inside gaps. Long-armed power player becoming more consistent with his hands and technique.

 

5. Jurrell Casey, Tennessee

Led the Titans in sacks with 10.5 last season. He must now make a scheme change to a 3-4 defense from a 4-3. A high-effort competitor who is quick and explosive.

 

6. Randy Starks, Miami

Was re-signed and the big-framed tackle is a solid run-defender and explosive as a leverage player. A good effort competitor who finishes pursuit.

 

7. Jason Hatcher, Washington

Signed in the offseason and is expected to hold down one of the end spots for the Redskins. With the Cowboys, he moved inside to a 4-3 tackle.

 

8. Dontari Poe, Kansas City

Started his career slowly but went from lamb to lion in 2013. He proved that he is an immovable anchor against the run and gets explosive push in the pass game.

 

9. Jared Odrick, Miami

Is physical at defensive end on run downs and is versatile enough to move down inside on pass downs. A disruptive athlete who gets upfield pressure.

 

10. Haloti Ngata, Baltimore

He’s 30 now, but had another productive year at nose tackle. A dominant force when healthy.

 

11. Pat Sims, Oakland

12. Terrance Knighton, Denver

13. Brandon Mebane, Seattle

14. Damon Harrison, NY Jets

15. Star Lotulelei, Carolina

16. Malik Jackson, Denver

17. Kawann Short, Carolina

18. Linval Joseph, Minnesota

19. Paul Soliai, Atlanta

20. Glenn Dorsey, San Francisco

21. Barry Cofield, Washington

22. Kevin Williams, Free agent

23. Cullen Jenkins, NY Giants

24. Jonathan Babineaux, Atlanta

25. Phil Taylor, Cleveland

26. Tony McDaniel, Seattle

27. Karl Klug, Tennessee

28. Corey Peters, Atlanta

29. Nick Fairley, Detroit

30. Clinton McDonald, Tampa Bay

Teaser:
2014 NFL Player Rankings: Defensive Linemen
Post date: Friday, July 11, 2014 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-top-50-2014
Body:

Fall college fantasy football drafts are right around the corner and Athlon is here to help win your league in 2014. Athlon Sports has teamed with Joe DiSalvo of thecffsite.com to provide the latest rankings for the upcoming year.

 

Thecffsite.com is the No. 1 place for college fantasy news, rankings and weekly projections during the year.

Below is the projected top 50 overall performers for 2014. Want to go deeper? Check out thecffsite.com’s draft kit, which contains keeper league information, more rankings and analysis.

 

Scoring system rankings based upon:

 

All draft values are based on a 12-team, 20-round draft using the following scoring system:

 

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point

Passing TD = 4 points

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point

Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

 

Updated: July 4, 2014, by Joe DiSalvo (@theCFFsite)



Visit Fantrax.com to play college fantasy football in 2014.

 

Note: This is not a list of the best players in college football. This is a ranking of the best players in terms of fantasy value (players who will have the best numbers in college football for 2014).

Other Positional Rankings: Quarterbacks Running Backs | Wide Receivers


College Fantasy Football: Top 50 Overall for 2014

 

1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

 

Check out theCFFsite.com's 2014 draft kit, which contains deeper rankings, keeper league information and other draft content to help you win your league this year.

2. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

 

3. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor

 

4. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State

 

5. Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State

 

6. D.J. Foster, RB, Arizona State

 

7. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

 

8. Rakeem Cato, QB, Marshall

 

9. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska

 

10. Matt Johnson, QB, Bowling Green

 

11. Davis Webb, QB, Texas Tech

 

12. Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina

 

13. Antwan Goodley, WR, Baylor

 

14. Justin Hardy, WR, East Carolina

 

15. Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State

 

16. Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana

 

17. Deontay Greenberry, WR, Houston

 

18. Travis Greene, RB, Bowling Green

 

19. Taysom Hill, QB, BYU

 

20. Byron Marshall, RB, Oregon

 

21. Nelson Agholor, WR, USC

 

22. Jahwan Edwards, RB, Ball State

 

23. Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas Sate

 

24. Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh

 

25. Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke

 

26. Keenan Reynolds, QB, Navy

 

27. Duke Johnson, RB, Miami

 

28. Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo

 

29. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

 

30. Josh Harper, WR, Fresno State

 

31. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State

 

32. Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU

 

33. Shane Carden, QB, East Carolina

 

34. DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville

 

35. Shock Linwood, RB, Baylor

 

36. Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State

 

37. T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama

 

38. Javorius Allen, RB, USC

 

39. Desmond Roland, RB, Oklahoma State

 

40. Titus Davis, WR, Central Michigan

 

41. Tommy Shuler, WR, Marshall

 

42. Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State

 

43. Thomas Tyner, RB, Oregon

 

44. Jordan Williams, WR, Ball State

 

45. Marcus Cox, RB, Appalachian State

 

46. Devante Davis, WR, UNLV

 

47. Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State

 

48. Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn

 

49. William Stanback, RB, Central Florida

 

50. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

 

 

To find additional college fantasy football material, visit The College Fantasy Football Site and check out their 2014 College Fantasy Football Preseason Draft Guide.

 

What's included:

 

• Over 500 player rankings (QB, RB, WR, TE, K, and D/ST).

 

• Bullet-point analysis for over 100 players (QB, RB, WR).

 

• 2014 Sleepers

 

• Draft Day Cheat Sheet

 

• Blank cheat sheet to customize rankings for your draft.

 

• Results of a 12-team, 10-round mock draft based on theCFFsite rankings, roster

 

requirements, and scoring system.

 

• Schedule Analysis

 

• 35-plus Freshmen to Watch

 

• 18-page printable PDF document

 

• Access to updates throughout the preseason.

 

Follow theCFFsite on twitter: @theCFFsite

Teaser:
College Fantasy Football: Top 50 for 2014
Post date: Friday, July 11, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/alabama-vs-auburn-iron-bowl-nations-most-important-rivalry
Body:

The scene played out in Jordan-Hare Stadium like an improbable dream or a horrific nightmare, depending on whether you say “War Eagle” or “Roll Tide.” Auburn’s Chris Davis fielded Alabama’s missed field goal opportunity with no time on the clock of a tie game and kept running and running and running.

 

When Davis finally stopped, it was Auburn — not two-time defending national champion Alabama — in position to reach the final BCS National Championship Game. Gus Malzahn had fired the opening shot at Nick Saban in their first meeting as head coaches. After that, Malzahn won — at least for now — the intense offseason debate over hurry-up offenses in college football that drew battle lines in Alabama as if the debate paired Democrats vs. Republicans.

 

Bubbling at the surface of Auburn’s surprising 2013 season and Malzahn’s unique offense is one very important question: Can Alabama and Auburn consistently be elite at the same time in a relatively small state with 4.8 million people?

 

History suggests no. Something usually happens to quickly swing the balance of one of the teams — coaching changes, NCAA violations, or lack of enough players in a state the size of Alabama.

 

But a funny thing happened as the Iron Bowl produced five straight BCS Championship Game participants, including four national champions. The majority of players on both Alabama and Auburn that make up this intensely local grudge match are no longer from Alabama. And the respective teams’ national recruiting efforts will only continue when the SEC Network debuts this season.

 

The 78th Iron Bowl last year produced arguably the highest-stakes game in series history. Not only did Alabama and Auburn meet in a winner-take-all game for the SEC West title for the first time, but both were also in the national championship race.

 

From 1975-2009, the two bitter rivals met as top-10 opponents only once. That’s now happened twice in the past four years, including last season’s first top-4 matchup ever in Iron Bowl history.

 

Did we just witness the reinvention of the Iron Bowl into a high-stakes national game on a consistent basis? Or was 2013 the culmination of the state of Alabama’s dominance on the national scene? Recruiting, as it usually does, plays a significant role in answering those questions.

 

Last season, 34 percent of Crimson Tide players came from the state of Alabama. That was down from 55 percent in 2008 and 66 percent in 2003. Saban, who has built a recruiting juggernaut, can pick and choose while competing for the best players in different states. Alabama had players from 19 different states last season, compared to 12 five years ago. Seventeen percent of Alabama’s 2013 roster grew up west of the Mississippi River.

 

Meanwhile, only 35 percent of Auburn’s 2013 roster hailed from Alabama, down from 45 percent in 2008. The Tigers came from 19 different states, up from 11 five years ago in Tommy Tuberville’s final season. Thirteen percent of last year’s Auburn players came from west of the Mississippi.

 

The trend continued for Alabama’s 2014 recruiting class in which only 30 percent of the signees were in-state recruits. Saban signed a five-star defensive back from Texas, a five-star defensive end from Virginia and a five-star offensive lineman from Louisiana, in addition to three five-star recruits from Alabama. Saban journeyed to faraway places such as Oklahoma, Minnesota, Iowa, Colorado and California in compiling the nation’s No. 1 class.

 

Auburn had only 35 percent of its 2014 class come from Alabama. The class was ranked ninth nationally by Rivals, yet only seventh in the SEC — a sign of how competitive recruiting is in the nation’s strongest football conference. Auburn signed more players from nearby Georgia than from Alabama.

 

There is only so much talent to go around in less-populated states, even a football-crazy state such as Alabama, which is fourth in the nation per capita in producing NFL players. Alabama ranked 11th last season in NFL players with 48, well behind states such as California (225), Florida (186), Texas (184) and Georgia (95).

 

Forty-five percent of Auburn’s roster last year came from California, Florida, Texas and Georgia, up from 42 percent in 2008. At Alabama, 37 percent of its players were from California, Florida, Texas and Georgia, compared to 26 percent five years ago.

 

As the SEC won seven straight national titles and negotiated more lucrative television deals, Alabama and Auburn took advantage. More money and exposure equals more opportunities to recruit nationally. Only three schools produced Rivals top-10 recruiting classes in each of the past five years: Florida State, Alabama and Auburn. Those were your national champions in the past five years.

 

Alabama and Auburn care so much about winning in football that it’s simply unacceptable whenever they drop off. Also, when one team does well or goes on NCAA probation, the other side attempts to bring them down.

 

Over the past 22 years, Alabama and Auburn have never gone more than five years without one of them getting hit with major violations in one sport or another. Some of college football’s great rivalries have never had that occur over any 20-year period: Florida-Florida State, Miami-Florida State, USC-Notre Dame, Texas-Texas A&M, Nebraska-Oklahoma and Oklahoma-Texas.

 

But what happens when both Alabama and Auburn are on top? How long can it last in the ultra-competitive SEC?

 

Gene Chizik won a national title with Cam Newton in 2010. Two years later, amid a program with major discipline issues, Chizik was fired after going winless in the SEC. A year after being fired, Chizik told USA Today that the coach of Auburn must “get up every day trying to figure out how to beat Alabama in everything, and if you don’t get up every day and strategize on how you’re going to beat them on the field and in recruiting, it’s going to be hard to do it.”

 

Order a copy of Athlon's 2014 SEC Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 14 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

In Malzahn, does Auburn have the coach who can both recruit and coach up players to consistently compete with Saban? That question loomed over a proposed rule by the NCAA Football Rules Committee that would have prevented offenses from snapping the ball until 10 seconds had passed on the play clock.

 

The proposal was justified for safety reasons, but up-tempo coaches such as Malzahn doubted that was the reason. Up-tempo offenses, if they don’t substitute, pin defenses at the line of scrimmage and prevent them from making substitutions based on down and distance.

 

Situational subbing has been a major part of Saban’s defenses at Alabama. Saban has publicly questioned whether football should be a “continuous game,” and along with another traditional-offense proponent, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, met with the rules committee prior to the proposal being passed.

 

After the outcry, the rules committee tabled the idea. But the debate isn’t going away. And although it impacts the entire sport, the argument is squarely centered in Alabama between Malzahn and Saban.

 

The questions are fast and furious within Alabama, where football is debated 365 days a year.

 

Auburn fan: Does Saban need a rule change to compete with Malzahn?

 

Alabama fan: Does Malzahn need a gimmick offense to beat Saban?

 

Auburn fans will forever have the 2013 Iron Bowl memory. What remains to be seen is if that was a seminal moment that changed the rivalry moving forward.

Written by Jon Solomon (@JonSolomonCBS) for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2014 SEC Football Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2014 season.

Teaser:
Alabama vs. Auburn: Is the Iron Bowl the Nation's Most Important Rivalry?
Post date: Friday, July 11, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-footballs-biggest-injury-concerns-2014
Body:

As impactful as injuries can be to an NFL team, the damage done to a fantasy football roster when one of your top players go down can be even worse. Just ask those unfortunate owners who were looking to Julio Jones, Arian Foster, Doug Martin or Rob Gronkowski to help lead them to a championship last season.

 

So what does the 2014 season hold for these and other key players who missed significant time last season? Here’s a breakdown of the 2013 fantasy infirmary (In alphabetical order):

 

Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis

Andrew Luck lost one of his favorite targets for all but one game last year when Allen suffered a hip injury in Week 1. His reckless playing style adds long-term concern, but Allen should be healthy for the start of the season.

 

Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis

In four professional seasons, Bradford has played 16 games twice and missed at least six games twice. Last fall, he was off to his best start before a torn ACL in Week 7 cost him the final nine games of the season.

 

Arian Foster, RB, Houston

After three straight seasons with more than 330 touches, Foster missed the final eight games a year ago with a back injury that required surgery in November. He’s made 16 starts only once in his career.

 

Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England

A beast when he’s on the field, Gronkowski underwent back surgery last June. He finally made his 2013 season debut in Week 7, only to tear the ACL and MCL in his right knee in Week 14. Coming back from yet another significant injury, Gronk’s timeline for this season is uncertain at best right now. He could be ready to go by Week 1 or he could start the season on the PUP list and miss the first six games at minimum.

 

Percy Harvin, WR, Seattle

The smallish pass-catcher is perennially an injury concern. Harvin missed seven games in 2012 with an ankle injury and all but one game a year ago due to a hip injury and subsequent surgery in August. He missed the NFC title game with a concussion but played a prominent role in the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory.

 

Chris Johnson, RB, New York Jets

Johnson missed one start in the last five seasons with the Titans but claimed to have played all of 2013 with a nagging knee injury. He underwent surgery in late January to repair a torn meniscus and will begin his career with the Jets this fall.

 

Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta

Jones was on pace to torch all of his personal bests last year before a fractured foot forced him to miss the last 11 games. He’s a big, physical target who takes a lot of hits but should be healthy to start his fourth season.

 

Jake Locker, QB, Tennessee

Oft-injured in college at Washington, Locker has continued his brittle ways in the NFL. He missed five games in 2012 with a shoulder injury and was headed toward his best season a year ago before a severe foot injury (Lisfranc) ended his season after nine weeks.

 

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia

Maclin always has been a bit brittle, but he suffered the worst injury of his career last July during preseason camp, as a torn ACL cost him the entire 2013 campaign. Maclin also missed a combined four games in 2011-12. 

 

Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay

Martin missed the final 10 games of the 2013 season with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He was cleared medically in late March, and new Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith says that Martin remains the team’s feature back.

 

Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota

He’s the best in the game today, but his physical running style has caused him a variety of problems. He’s missed six games in the last three seasons and had groin surgery in January.

 

Jordan Reed, TE, Washington

The tight end went through major highs and lows in his rookie season. He was a bona fide fantasy starter before missing the final seven games with a concussion.

 

Tony Romo, QB, Dallas

The Cowboys signal-caller has missed only one game over the last three years, but a herniated disk in his back required surgery late in the season and cost him the season finale. Reports indicate he will be 100 percent for the 2014 season, but a bad back for a 34-year-old quarterback is cause for concern.

 

Matt Schaub, QB, Oakland

Schaub started 16 games in 2009, ’10 and ’12. He also missed at least five games in 2007, ’08, ’11 and ’13. Last season, he made his fewest starts (eight) since becoming a starter, thanks to an injured ankle (and poor play), and he will be 33 this season.

 

Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis

He played in every game from 2002-12 but missed nine games last year due to the first major injury of his career. Now, Wayne must come back from a torn ACL at age 35.

 

Athlon Sports' 2014 Fantasy Football magazine is now available for purchase at newsstands everyone or online. The ultimate draft-day resource, this year's edition features 419 in-depth player reports, informative features, a 20-round mock draft, team-by-team analysis from NFL beat writers and much more. Whether your fantasy league is head-to-head, roto, PPR or IDP, this magazine has all the stats and insight you need to help you get ready for the upcoming season. Click here to purchase you copy today!
Teaser:
Fantasy Football’s Biggest Injury Concerns for 2014
Post date: Thursday, July 10, 2014 - 12:00
Path: /nfl/2014-nfl-player-rankings-offensive-linemen
Body:

In the 2014 edition of Athlon Sports’ Pro Football preview, we called on Ourlads Scouting Services to rank the NFL’s best at every position on the field. When it comes to determining who is the best quarterback, running back, wide receiver, linebacker, cornerback, etc., who better to make that determination than a company that’s been in the gridiron talent evaluation business for nearly three decades?

 

They may be the least recognized, but there’s no questioning the value of a solid offensive line. Not only is it the primary line of defense in keeping the quarterback upright and on the field, but the success, or lack thereof, in the running game often comes down to how well this quintet functions as a unit.

 

Take the Philadelphia Eagles for example. In tackle Jason Peters, guard Evan Mathis and center Jason Kelce the defending NFC East champions have the top or second-ranked player at their respective position, according to Ourlads. Which makes sense considering the Eagles led the NFL with 160.4 yards rushing per game, finished second in total offense (417.3 ypg) and fourth in scoring (27.6 ppg). Obviously, Chip Kelly’s offensive system and coaching had a lot to do with the Eagles’ production last season, but don’t overlook the contributions of the five men up front.

 

Rankings courtesy of Ourlads Scouting Services

 

2014 NFL Player Rankings: Tackles

 

1. Trent Williams, Washington

Has matured, and he stayed healthy in 2013, which resulted in a Pro Bowl invitation. He is now a team captain and has become the dominant player he was drafted to be.

 

2. Jason Peters, Philadelphia

Is the most athletic and productive left tackle in the league when healthy. Missed 2012 with a ruptured Achilles.

 

3. Joe Thomas, Cleveland

The road-grading left tackle annually spends a week in Hawaii at the Pro Bowl. Solid, athletic and consistent with a nasty style.

 

4. Tyron Smith, Dallas

The Cowboys’ best offensive lineman is heading into his fourth season after a Pro Bowl year in 2013. The long-armed and big-handed tackle is a zone-blocker supreme.

 

5. Joe Staley, San Francisco

Tremendous downfield blocker with unmatched mobility. Pairs with Anthony Davis as one of the best tackle duos in the league.

 

6. Ryan Clady, Denver

Missed most of 2013 with a Lisfranc injury to his left foot. When healthy, he is one of the top 50 players in the league and one of the best blindside pass-protectors.

 

7. Zach Strief, New Orleans

Has developed as a leader. A mauler in the run game and a consistent mirror-and-slide tackle with a solid punch.

 

8. Jared Veldheer, Arizona

The athletic competitor has made a habit of walling off some of the best NFL pass-rushers.

 

9. Nate Solder, New England

The athletic tackle weekly demonstrates his functional strength and quickness. A patient pass-protector who plays in balance.

 

10. Jake Long, St. Louis

Nicked up in recent years, but when on the field he is a physical player who shows quickness, power and a mauler mentality.

 

11. Eugene Monroe, Baltimore

12. Cordy Glenn, Buffalo

13. Michael Roos, Tennessee

14. Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati

15. Orlando Franklin, Denver

16. Russell Okung, Seattle

17. Phil Loadholt, Minnesota

18. Demar Dotson, Tampa Bay

19. Doug Free, Dallas

20. Andre Smith, Cincinnati

 

2014 NFL Player Rankings: Guards

 

1. Evan Mathis, Philadelphia

Has put together back-to-back Pro Bowl-caliber years and is one of the league’s top interior linemen.

 

2. Josh Sitton, Green Bay

A four-year starter who elevated his play in 2013 among the top guards in the NFL. Versatile, tough and physical.

 

3. Louis Vasquez, Denver

Proved his worth as a pass-protector and a consistent run-blocker who makes few mental errors. Earned a Pro Bowl berth.

 

4. Larry Warford, Detroit

Played exceptionally well and was in consideration for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. The burly guard has sudden first-step quickness and an explosive punch.

 

5. Marshal Yanda, Baltimore

A relentless blood-and-guts competitor who is a violent finisher. Had another Pro Bowl year.

 

6. Matt Slauson, Chicago

Was an offseason acquisition after starting for the Jets for three years. He paid dividends his first year with a physical and explosive approach and consistent play.

 

7. Travelle Wharton, Free agent

Is an unrestricted free agent who refuses to retire. A smooth athlete who has quick feet and is effective in space.

 

8. Ben Grubbs, New Orleans

Struggled at left guard in 2012 but had a solid year last season, boosting him into the Pro Bowl in 2013. An athletic competitor who is aggressive in-line or in space.

 

9. Brandon Fusco, Minnesota

Heading into his fourth season with confidence and strength to handle the inside power players. Explosive, with a good pad level and flexibility.

 

10. Geoff Schwartz, NY Giants

Signed with the Giants in the offseason after a strong year in Kansas City, where he beat out incumbent Jon Asamoah. Controls defensive tackles with his huge hands and technique.

 

11. Brandon Brooks, Houston

12. Andy Levitre, Tennessee

13. David DeCastro, Pittsburgh

14. Ramon Foster, Pittsburgh

15. T.J. Lang, Green Bay

16. Jahri Evans, New Orleans

17. Rodger Saffold, St. Louis

18. Logan Mankins, New England

19. Jon Asamoah, Atlanta

20. Mackenzy Bernadeau, Dallas

 

2014 NFL Player Rankings: Centers

 

1. Alex Mack, Cleveland

Is a happy camper, signing a five-year deal worth $42 million. The Pro Bowl pivot is a tenacious run-blocker and a consistent pass-protector.

 

2. Jason Kelce, Philadelphia

Has overcome his lack of ideal size at center with his athletic ability, intelligence and quick-twitch reactions.

 

3. John Sullivan, Minnesota

Is underrated by the casual fan, but is one of the top centers in the league. Had a strong season after recovering from microfracture knee surgery.

 

4. Dominic Raiola, Detroit

The grizzled 13-year veteran keeps holding off the younger talent to help maintain stability in the middle of the offensive line.

 

5. Manny Ramirez, Denver

Stepped in at center when J.D. Walton was unable to play and responded with technique, savvy, instincts and a good use of hands.

 

6. Evan Dietrich-Smith, Tampa Bay

Was signed away from the Packers in free agency after a year in which he demonstrated his ability to play with a good base, knee bend and hand control.

 

7. Chris Myers, Houston

Has been a consistent and solid Pro Bowl-caliber performer who, like fine wine, is getting better with age.

 

8. Travis Frederick, Dallas

Took the heat off Jerry Jones for drafting him in the first round by responding as the anchor of an offensive line that had been substandard in recent years.

 

9. Ryan Kalil, Carolina

Is a rock in the middle for the Panthers and returned to Pro Bowl form in 2013 after missing all but five games in 2012.

 

10. Stefen Wisniewski, Oakland

Moved from guard to center and proved to be  a solid and consistent mainstay for the Raiders to build around.

 

11. Mike Pouncey, Miami

12. Roberto Garza, Chicago

13. Nick Hardwick, San Diego

14. Nick Mangold, NY Jets

15. Jonathan Goodwin, New Orleans

16. Will Montgomery, Denver

17. Brian de la Puente, Chicago

18. Rodney Hudson, Kansas City

19. Max Unger, Seattle

20. Jeremy Zuttah, Baltimore

Teaser:
2014 NFL Player Rankings: Offensive Linemen
Post date: Thursday, July 10, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-2014-wide-receiver-rankings
Body:

Fall college fantasy football drafts are right around the corner and Athlon is here to help win your league in 2014. Athlon Sports has teamed with Joe DiSalvo of thecffsite.com to provide the latest rankings for the upcoming year.

 

Thecffsite.com is the No. 1 place for college fantasy news, rankings and weekly projections during the year.

Below is the projected top 20 fantasy wide receivers for 2014. Want to go deeper? Check out thecffsite.com’s draft kit, which contains keeper league information, more rankings and analysis.

 

Scoring system rankings based upon:

 

All draft values are based on a 12-team, 20-round draft using the following scoring system:

 

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point

Passing TD = 4 points

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point

Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

 

Updated: July 4, 2014, by Joe DiSalvo (@theCFFsite)

 

Note: This is not a list of the best players in college football. This is a ranking of the best players in terms of fantasy value (players who will have the best numbers in college football for 2014).


College Fantasy Football: Top 20 Wide Receivers for 2014
 

1. Antwan Goodley, Baylor

 

Check out theCFFsite.com's 2014 draft kit, which contains deeper rankings, keeper league information and other draft content to help you win your league this year.

2. Justin Hardy, East Carolina

 

3. Deontay Greenberry, Houston

 

4. Nelson Agholor, USC

 

5. Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

 

6. Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh

 

7. Jamison Crowder, Duke

 

8. Josh Harper, Fresno State

 

9. DeVante Parker, Louisville

 

10. Titus Davis, Central Michigan

 

11. Jaelen Strong, Arizona State

 

12. Tommy Shuler, Marshall

 

13. Jordan Williams, Ball State

 

14. Devante Davis, UNLV

 

15. Dres Anderson, Utah

 

16. Rashad Greene, Florida State

 

17. Jameon Lewis, Mississippi State

 

18. Shane Wynn, Indiana

 

19. Ronnie Moore, Bowling Green

 

20. Corey Davis, Western Michigan

Teaser:
College Fantasy Football: 2014 Wide Receiver Rankings
Post date: Thursday, July 10, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: player rankings, wide receiver, WR, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/2014-nfl-player-rankings-wide-receivers
Body:

In the 2014 edition of Athlon Sports’ Pro Football preview, we called on Ourlads Scouting Services to rank the NFL’s best at every position on the field. When it comes to determining who is the best quarterback, running back, wide receiver, linebacker, cornerback, etc., who better to make that determination than a company that’s been in the gridiron talent evaluation business for nearly three decades?

 

There’s little debate, if any, that Calvin Johnson is the top wide receiver in the NFL. Besides holding the single-season record for receiving yards (1,964, 2012), the man known as Megatron has averaged 88 yards per game over his seven seasons. That is No. 1 all-time, even better than Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (75.6 ypg), who is considered the greatest of all-time at the position. If anyone has a chance to potentially supplant Rice as the GOAT, it’s Johnson.

 

In fact, the top four in career receiving yards per game can be found in Ourlads’ top 10. After Johnson, this list goes Andre Johnson (82.2 ypg), A.J. Green (81.6) and Julio Jones (80.5). That said, there is only one team in the league that boasts two of the top 10 wide receivers. The Chicago Bears have both Brandon Marshall (No. 4) and Alshon Jeffery (No. 8) to torment opposing defenses. Two explosive pass-catchers (not to mention the No. 6 RB and No. 9 TE) AND a lucrative, seven-year contract? Jay Cutler is a lucky man.

 

Rankings courtesy of Ourlads Scouting Services

 

2014 NFL Player Rankings: Wide Receivers

 

1. Calvin Johnson, Detroit

Shrugged off some injuries and caught 84 balls, racking up 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns last fall. A rare combination of measurables, athletic ability and intelligence. Can break a tackle or make a defender miss.

 

2. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona

Has been a reliable, sure-handed and consistent playmaker over his career, and 2013 was no different with 82 receptions, 954 yards and 10 touchdowns. A polished route-runner who changes up his speeds well to set up defenders.

 

3. A.J. Green, Cincinnati

An explosive All-Pro talent. Has rare quickness and leaping ability. A consistent and sharp route-runner with a strong and wiry build.

 

4. Brandon Marshall, Chicago

Led the Bears with 100 receptions and was second in yards with 1,295. He is also an uncompromising blocker. A physically strong wide receiver who can beat coverage with quickness or strength.

 

5. Andre Johnson, Houston

Will be 33 this season but hasn't slowed down. Once again, he led the Texans with 100-plus catches and 1,400-plus yards. An imposing physical specimen who is an excellent athlete.

 

6. Demaryius Thomas, Denver

A physically gifted receiver who led the Broncos with 92 receptions and 1,430 yards. A playmaker who will reach and extend for the ball away from his body. Uses his size and strength to dominate between the hash marks.

 

7. Josh Gordon, Cleveland

An exciting and emerging talent for the Browns. Has the speed to get behind secondaries and take the ball away from small defensive backs. Explosive player after the catch.

 

8. Alshon Jeffery, Chicago

Had a breakout year, leading the Bears with 1,421 yards and catching 89 passes. Many of his catches were of the circus-style variety. Makes plays with his big frame and long arms.

 

9. Dez Bryant, Dallas

Is a roller coaster of emotions, but his talent is undisputed as is his production — 93 catches for 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.

 

10. Julio Jones, Atlanta

Was hurt last year and finished the season on injured reserve. He is a big, physical receiver with rare speed for his size. Will sacrifice his body for the ball.

 

11. Anquan Boldin, San Francisco

12. Percy Harvin, Seattle

13. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay

14. DeSean Jackson, Washington

15. Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay

16. Keenan Allen, San Diego

17. Eric Decker, NY Jets

18. Michael Crabtree, San Francisco

19. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh

20. Golden Tate, Detroit

21. Marques Colston, New Orleans

22. Marvin Jones, Cincinnati

23. Wes Welker, Denver

24. Nate Washington, Tennessee

25. Kendall Wright, Tennessee

26. Pierre Garcon, Washington

27. Michael Floyd, Arizona

28. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis

29. Julian Edelman, New England

30. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis

Teaser:
2014 NFL Player Rankings: Wide Receivers
Post date: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: player rankings, tight end, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/2014-nfl-player-rankings-tight-ends
Body:

In the 2014 edition of Athlon Sports’ Pro Football preview, we called on Ourlads Scouting Services to rank the NFL’s best at every position on the field. When it comes to determining who is the best quarterback, running back, wide receiver, linebacker, cornerback, etc., who better to make that determination than a company that’s been in the gridiron talent evaluation business for nearly three decades?

 

Now that there’s no dispute (at least in the NFL’s eyes) that Jimmy Graham is a tight end, there’s absolutely no risk in revealing that Ourlads ranks him No. 1 at his position. Even though he played more than half of last season with a partially torn plantar fascia, Graham still put up numbers (86 rec., 1,215 yards, 16 TDs) that wide receivers dream about, forget tight ends.

 

Right now Graham simply has no peer and that could be the case even if Rob Gronkowski was healthy. Gronk and Graham both ushered in a new era for the tight end with their breakout 2011 campaigns, but Tom Brady’s favorite target has missed (14) nearly as many games as he’s played (18) over the past two seasons. If both are healthy and survive the entire season this could be an entertaining head-to-head battle, if you will, to watch this fall.

 

Rankings courtesy of Ourlads Scouting Services

 

2014 NFL Player Rankings: Tight Ends

 

1. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans

Led the Saints with 86 receptions for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns. Excellent eye-hand coordination. Exceptional leaping ability to high-point the ball. Has developed his route-running over the past four years and is a matchup nightmare.

 

2. Rob Gronkowski, New England

Struggled with health issues in 2013. A big red-zone target with long arms. Physically dominates in the end zone. Can’t be covered one-on-one. Has soft hands with the ability to make the tough catch.

 

3. Vernon Davis, San Francisco

Has elevated his week-to-week and year-to-year consistency to become one of the NFL’s most complete blocking and receiving tight ends. He scored 13 touchdowns among his 52 receptions in 2013.

 

4. Jason Witten, Dallas

Performed at a high level again in 2013. The 32-year-old has been a model of pass-catching and blocking consistency over his career.

 

5. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia

He began to assert himself as the season wore on. He became a reliable blocker and receiver, particularly in two-tight end formations.

 

6. Delanie Walker, Tennessee

Had as big a season as the Titans could hope for after he departed San Francisco. The athletic receiver and willing blocker caught 60 passes for 571 yards and six touchdowns.

 

7. Coby Fleener, Indianapolis

Stepped up last fall to fill a void after budding star Dwayne Allen missed all but one game with an injury.

 

8. Julius Thomas, Denver

Had a breakout season and hauled in 65 passes for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. The former basketball star is a matchup problem with his size and speed.

 

9. Martellus Bennett, Chicago

Responded in his first year with the Bears by snagging 65 passes for 759 yards and stepped up his in-line run-blocking.

 

10. Ladarius Green, San Diego

Made his move in 2013 to receive the pass-catching torch from dependable veteran Antonio Gates. He is fast, athletic and has reliable hands.

Teaser:
2014 NFL Player Rankings: Tight Ends
Post date: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2014-running-back-rankings
Body:

Fall college fantasy football drafts are right around the corner and Athlon is here to help win your league in 2014. Athlon Sports has teamed with Joe DiSalvo of thecffsite.com to provide the latest rankings for the upcoming year.

 

Thecffsite.com is the No. 1 place for college fantasy news, rankings and weekly projections during the year.

Below is the projected top 20 fantasy running backs for 2014. Want to go deeper? Check out thecffsite.com’s draft kit, which contains keeper league information, more rankings and analysis.

 

Scoring system rankings based upon:

 

All draft values are based on a 12-team, 20-round draft using the following scoring system:

 

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point

Passing TD = 4 points

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point

Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

 

Updated: July 4, 2014, by Joe DiSalvo (@theCFFsite)


Visit Fantrax.com to play college fantasy football in 2014.
 

Note: This is not a list of the best players in college football. This is a ranking of the best players in terms of fantasy value (players who will have the best numbers in college football for 2014).


College Fantasy Football: Top 20 Running Backs for 2014
 

1. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

 

Check out theCFFsite.com's 2014 draft kit, which contains deeper rankings, keeper league information and other draft content to help you win your league this year.

2. Jeremy Langford, Michigan State

 

3. D.J. Foster, Arizona State

 

4. Todd Gurley, Georgia

 

5. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska

 

6. Mike Davis, South Carolina

 

7. Jay Ajayi, Boise State

 

8. Tevin Coleman, Indiana

 

9. Travis Greene, Bowling Green

 

10. Byron Marshall, Oregon

 

11. Jahwan Edwards, Ball State

 

12. Duke Johnson, Miami

 

13. Kareem Hunt, Toledo

 

14. Jamaal Williams, BYU

 

15. Shock Linwood, Baylor

 

16. Ezekiel Elliot, Ohio State

 

17. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama

 

18. Javorius Allen, USC

 

19. Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State

 

20. Thomas Tyner, Oregon

Teaser:
College Fantasy Football: 2014 Running Back Rankings
Post date: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/qa-michigan-states-shilique-calhoun
Body:

You can call Shilique Calhoun whatever you want — he has at least three nicknames so far — but be sure to call him one of the best defensive ends in the nation.

 

Calhoun, a 6'4", 257-pound fourth-year junior from Middletown, N.J., shunned early entry into the NFL, despite a first-round draft grade, to return to Michigan State with the intent of earning his degree and leading the Spartans into the College Football Playoff.

 

Michigan State finished last season 13–1 and ranked No. 3 in the nation after a 24–20 victory over Stanford in the Rose Bowl and a 34–24 win over previously unbeaten Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.

 

Calhoun scored three defensive touchdowns for the Spartans in 2013 and recorded 7.5 sacks, 14 tackles for a loss and 18 QB hurries en route to being named the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year.

 

Coordinator Pat Narduzzi, whose defensive units have ranked in the nation’s top six each of the past three seasons, referred to Calhoun as “Shilique the Freak’’ in the days leading up to the Rose Bowl.

 

Athlon Sports caught up with the loquacious Calhoun, the unofficial spokesman of Spartan Nation, during the offseason.

 

Why did you choose Michigan State?

 

The biggest reason for me to come to Michigan State was not only the players, but also the coaches. It was like a close family here. Being here I was a part of a family. I didn’t feel like I was leaving home. My mom loved it here, and after my official visit here, she told me Michigan State was the measuring stick. When I came here, I actually had a Mohawk, and the guys at the table were having fun with me. It was like they were my older brothers, so I felt like it was family, even though they didn’t know who I was, and I was a simple recruit. It was like they’d known me for years. I just bought into this program.

 

Why do you think you weren’t rated higher than a 3-star recruit coming out of high school?

 

I’m not worried about where I’m rated or ranked. I feel like if I come out and play as hard as I can each and every day, I’ll be fine. Those stars and numbers don’t mean much to me. Part of the ratings process is going to camps, and I didn’t go to many; Rutgers was the only camp I went to. I didn’t have the resources to go to those camps. What I could do was go hard every play. It did push me to work harder. It was a motivator for me to work hard.

 

What are your various nicknames, and where did they come from?

 

Bane, Lynx … it depends on who you’re talking to. Different people have different nicknames for me. I have so many because of the personalities I have with different people. I don’t switch up, but sometimes I may be happy or sad. The nicknames vary. I don’t know really where they come from. I love Bane, I think that’s one that will stick with me when I’m 50. It is unique, and people around the country know it. Hopefully I can get Lynx to stick, too. I want a couple nicknames, because I like to change things up.

 

Other than Michigan State, what is your favorite place to play in the Big Ten?

 

Other than Spartan Stadium, the Woodshed, it would have to be Michigan. Seeing all those Michigan fans booing you out there on the field and telling you how much you suck. That pushes me. I can’t deal with Nebraska, who’s so nice to you. That’s kind of off base. Playing at Michigan, they want to throw you down and give you all these negative comments.

 

What’s your least favorite place to play in the Big Ten?

 

Order a copy of Athlon's 2014 Big Ten Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 14 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

It would have to be Minnesota. It’s the icy tundra. It’s too much. We played there two years ago, last game of the season. It was freezing. I thought my fingers were going to fall off, and I wasn’t even outside yet. That has to be my least favorite because of the weather.

 

Why did you choose to come back for another season?

 

I would say one main reason was I wanted to get my degree. My mom and my dad were unable to obtain a college degree, so I felt that would be even greater than

making it into the NFL. It’s something that’s special to my family, and something that would be special to my mom would be walking across that stage. But another reason is I wanted to come back and have another year with my brothers. Being out there is like nothing else, running out of the tunnel and playing in front of Spartan Nation is a blessing, and I didn’t feel ready to give that up. I wanted to come back another year, and do great things, and please the coaches, and please the crowd, and play more games with guys I love and the guys I have built relationships with.

 

Who is the best offensive lineman you’ve gone against?

 

I have two. The best offensive lineman I’ve gone against when it pertains to run-blocking would be (Spartan center) Jack Allen, because he was a wrestler, and that man is great with his hands. He knows exactly where to place them to get you off balance. The best pass-protector would be (Spartan left tackle) Jack Conklin. He does that best on this team. He has an idea of the type of ways you’ll set, and how you’ll use your hands. Bull-rushing him isn’t going to work. He’s 320 pounds, so that’s not going to work. He’s not moving. Those are the best I’ve gone up against so far. Just when I think I’m getting a step ahead, they are finding new ways to win against me.

 

Who is the best running back you’ve faced?

 

There are two. One would be (former Spartan and current Pittsburgh Steeler) Le’Veon Bell. He did things you wouldn’t think a guy his size could do. Hurdling guys at 240, but then he wasn’t afraid to run you over and he could also spin. You never knew what you were going to get. The other one is (current Spartan tailback) Jeremy Langford, a guy with a lot of speed who was definitely an underdog. People didn’t know he was as good of a player as he is before last season because we had other great running backs. He’ll beat you with speed, and he’ll try to run you over, also. He’s not big on chopping you. If he has to pass-protect, he’ll stand you up and hold his ground, going against guys 260 and 300 — he doesn’t take the easy way out.

 

Which teammate would make the best coach?

 

That’s a hard one. Two guys come to mind, actually. I would say (former MSU linebacker) Max Bullough definitely. He knows defensive schemes. He knows offensive schemes. He knows the game of football, and his family is embedded into football. He knows all aspects of the game. Then (former MSU defensive end) Denzel Drone. He was an aggressive football player, but he knows how to work with little kids. It didn’t seem like it fit him because of how aggressive he was, but he could work with kids, and he could calm himself down. He was one of my teachers that I looked up to that mentored me. Coming in, I knew close to nothing about football, and he was definitely an influential person to me.

 

What is your hidden talent?

 

My hidden talent would be that I can actually do gymnastics. I can do backflips. When I was younger, me and my brother would try to find different things to do. That was one of the neat things we taught each other, watching other people do it, it was like, “I kind of know what to learn.” Of course, I fell on my head a couple of times, but I was always a trooper, I got back up, and I got back at it, and still to this day I can do it, even at this size. When people see it, they’re like, “Really? That just happened? Do it again.” I definitely don’t do it as often as I used to, but here and there I’ll do a couple flips for the kids.

 

Something interesting that we don’t know about coach Mark Dantonio?

 

Where it pertains to me, something people wouldn’t know is I have not gotten yelled at by Coach Dantonio yet. Maybe I’m doing something right, sitting up straight in the meeting room, or looking him in the eye. That man is a hard book to read sometimes, even for his players. But he is someone willing to talk to you, even though his facial expressions might not always indicate it. He is always willing to listen.

Teaser:
Q&A with Michigan State's Shilique Calhoun
Post date: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas Longhorns, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/charlie-strong-right-hire-critical-time-texas
Body:

Player after player rotated through Charlie Strong’s office at 15-minute intervals. It was mid-January, and the dead period for recruiting was about to end.

 

Strong was about to leave Austin to crisscross the state and try to salvage Texas’ 2014 recruiting class, some of whom he’d never met — with three weeks left until Signing Day. But before he left, he wanted to make a personal connection with each of his players. It was critical in Strong’s mind, not only for first impressions, but also because he knew they were about to be subjected to the grueling workouts of his hulking strength and conditioning coach Pat Moorer.

 

“When a young man knows you care about him, then he’ll do everything that you ask of him,” says Strong, who went 23–3 the past two seasons at Louisville.

 

Much like a military officer conducting basic training, Moorer’s job would be to break down players and rebuild them while Strong was out selling recruits on helping to “Put the ‘T’ back in Texas.” In Strong’s mind, that ‘T’ stands for toughness, trust, togetherness and teamwork.

 

“Those things have to happen,” Strong says.

 

To make those things happen, Strong outlined his expectations for the players, most of which he learned coaching under Lou Holtz at Notre Dame and South Carolina: Live on campus the first three years; go to class every day and sit in the first two rows; no texting in class; no hats, headphones or jewelry in class; no drugs; no stealing; no guns; and treat women with respect.

 

Players were told coaches would be checking on them constantly to ensure compliance.

 

The consequences for violations:

 

A first offense would result in the player running.

 

A second offense would involve that player’s position group running.

 

A third offense would involve the position group and position coach running.

 

A fourth offense would involve the whole team running.

 

Strong also suggested to his new players they not throw their horns up — the hand gesture that has become synonymous with the Longhorns — until they earned that right and truly appreciated what it meant.

 

Gone, too, were the air-conditioned buses that used to take players the half-mile from the football complex to the practice fields.

 

Order a copy of Athlon's 2014 Big 12 Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 10 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

Then, Strong introduced players to Moorer, who never smiles, and puts injured players in “the pit,” where they often work out harder than the healthy players.

 

Two players — safety Leroy Scott, who expected to be in the two-deep this season, and backup fullback Chet Moss — were dismissed from the team before spring ball. Others were told to pick it up.

 

When Strong wrapped up recruiting on Signing Day, he said his top priority was getting to know his players.

 

“For right now, I just need to find out who this football team is without distraction,” Strong said at the time.

 

Strong doesn’t sleep much, usually five to six hours tops. He gets up every weekday morning at 4:30 a.m. and runs five to six miles. It’s when he clears his mind and sets his priorities for each day. It also allows him to show his players that they are not outworking him.

 

“Every time we work out at 5:30 a.m., he’s already full of sweat,” says Texas offensive coordinator Joe Wickline. “Whatever he’s going to ask a player or a coach to do, he’s going to do more, and that’s an unbelievable mark of leadership.”

 

Strong, a former walk-on at Central Arkansas who can still bench 350 pounds according to friends, spends a lot of time in the weight room with his players. He talks trash, stirs them up, challenges them to bench-press contests and constantly pushes them.

 

“Don’t let this 53-year-old man outwork you,” he yells.

 

And while several Texas players say they’ve never worked harder than they have since Strong arrived, they say it’s what was needed.

 

“I’m sure everybody, at some point in their career, has had hard coaching,” says junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown. “When the new staff came in, I just felt like everybody knew by the way Coach Strong was talking he was serious about what he was going to do. And everything he said he was going to do, he has done.

 

“He outlined the punishments for us, and if you mess up, you’re going to get in trouble. They’re on that. So I feel like everybody knows we have to stay in line. If we do, we’re going to get it right.”

 

Strong knows the key is getting close to his players. So he took the electronic key card locks off the coaches’ offices. He invited players to come hang out in his office or do their homework in his conference room. If they didn’t show up, he reminded them until they did.

 

“He’s always visible, always around them,” says assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson. “He shows the demanding side and shows the humorous side. He does a great job from a fathering aspect. We’ll go to class. We won’t go to interrupt things. We’ll go to make sure the guys are there.

 

“Charlie raises these guys,” Watson adds. “And it’s the same way with the assistants. We want the players around us. They’re starting to be up around our offices now, which is really good. We’re going to be in a foxhole together. The more you get to know each other, the closer you are, the faster you get through issues.”

 

Texas athletic director Steve Patterson has said he narrowed a list of 30 candidates to six to replace Mack Brown. Those finalists included James Franklin, now at Penn State, UCLA’s Jim Mora, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and Baylor’s Art Briles.

 

In the end, Patterson says he was struck by Strong’s desire to have the interview in the kitchen of his Louisville home with Strong’s wife and two daughters sitting there with him.

 

Strong stressed to Patterson that he was relentless about his players going to class and graduating, because he knows it’s the ticket to a better life for many kids who couldn’t otherwise afford an education. And he’s all about building toughness and togetherness through discipline and structure, because he knows kids need it and respond to it, even though they may think otherwise at first.

 

“He’s a tireless worker,” says Wickline, who coached with Strong at Florida under Ron Zook in the early 2000s. “He’s unbelievably organized.

 

“The players see that. The morals he stresses and the fact that he truly cares about them graduating and being a successful human being — you can’t fake that. And it pours out of him.”

 

While Strong was the defensive coordinator at Florida, where he helped win national titles in 2006 and 2008 under Urban Meyer, he recruited quarterback Chris Leak.

 

Leak says Texas will never have to worry about being labeled soft again under Strong.

 

“It’s the mindset he brings,” Leak says. “You see it reflected in the program. You’ve seen it at Louisville. They bought in. Everyone there. Charlie’s been through a lot of adversity in coaching, getting passed over for a bunch of jobs, and all he’s done is prove himself over and over.

 

“As a team, you take on the personality of your coach, and his toughness is one of the biggest things you see reflected.

 

“He’s had that drive to succeed from Day 1. That’s who he is. He’s goal-oriented and has his priorities straight. He wants to win it all, and he has a plan. Charlie always has a plan. He’s always prepared. He wakes up thinking about every detail.”

 

Written by Chip Brown (@ChipBrownHD) for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2014 Big 12 Football Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2014 season.

Teaser:
Charlie Strong: The Right Hire at a Critical Time for Texas
Post date: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: fullback, player rankings, running back, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/2014-nfl-player-rankings-running-backs
Body:

In the 2014 edition of Athlon Sports’ Pro Football preview, we called on Ourlads Scouting Services to rank the NFL’s best at every position on the field. When it comes to determining who is the best quarterback, running back, wide receiver, linebacker, cornerback, etc., who better to make that determination than a company that’s been in the gridiron talent evaluation business for nearly three decades?

 

Even though the NFL has become more of a pass-happy league in recent seasons, there’s still plenty of talent at running back. Adrian Peterson, whose career average of 98.2 yards rushing per game ranks third all-time behind only Jim Brown and Barry Sanders, won’t turn 30 until March and checks in at No. 1. LeSean McCoy, the reigning rushing champion, is next followed by Jamaal Charles, whose 5.6 yards per carry average is tops (min. 1,000 rushing attempts). One other thing worth noting, the lifespan of an elite running back isn’t as long as other positions, as evidenced by the fact that 31-year-old Frank Gore (no. 5) is the only one in the top 10 who is older than 29.

 

Related: Fantasy Football 2014: Who's Number 1?

 

And not to be left out, Ourlads showed some love to the fullbacks as well. Usually called on to block more than to tote the rock, a valuable fullback’s contributions can’t be overlooked. Of the top five identified by Ourlads, three (Anthony Sherman, John Kuhn and Bruce Miller) led the way for 1,000-yard rushers last season.

 

Rankings courtesy of Ourlads Scouting Services

 

2014 NFL Player Rankings: Running Backs

 

1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota

Rushed for 1,266 yards despite being banged up in 2013. Powerful, strong and punishing are his descriptors. Classic downhill runner who gets yards after initial contact.

 

2. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia

Is one of the league’s elite runners and is the feature back in Chip Kelly’s run-oriented high-performance offense. Excellent vision, cutting ability and running skills. Dangerous in space.

 

3. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City

Is a slashing downhill runner who can catch the ball out of the backfield. He produced 1,287 yards as the Chiefs’ leading ball-carrier and snatched 70 passes as the leading receiver.

 

4. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle

His physical running style is catching up to him despite being only 28. Runs between the tackles with battering-ram power. Is blessed with exceptional contact balance and breakaway speed.

 

5. Frank Gore, San Francisco

He is the perfect back for this offense as both the featured runner and pass-protector. The ageless warrior is a competitive runner with great vision and balance. Runs through arm tackles. Has top-level run skills and instincts.

 

6. Matt Forté, Chicago

Was as productive and versatile as any back in the league last year with 1,339 rushing yards and 594 receiving yards. Quick feet in the hole. Finishes his runs with strength.

 

7. C.J. Spiller, Buffalo

A shifty and speedy back who teams up with Fred Jackson to give the Bills a solid one-two punch. A cutback runner with good vision and rare quickness. Quick-twitch enough to get yards out of a poorly blocked play.

 

8. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay

Was voted the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year after rushing for 1,178 yards. Ran with a low pad level and gored tacklers at times like he was back in the SEC. A thick and powerful runner who excels tackle to tackle.

 

9. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh

Is an ascending talent who was drafted in the second round in 2013. He started off slowly with some nagging injuries, but by season’s end was the hammer the Steelers selected.

 

10. Ryan Mathews, San Diego

Had a breakout season in 2013, rushing for 1,255 yards. He was a completely different back playing healthy for the first time in his career. Presses the hole and runs behind his pads.

 

11. DeMarco Murray, Dallas

12. Darren Sproles, Philadelphia

13. Reggie Bush, Detroit

14. Ray Rice, Baltimore

15. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay

16. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati

17. Pierre Thomas, New Orleans

18. Knowshon Moreno, Miami

19. Fred Jackson, Buffalo

20. Arian Foster, Houston

21. Alfred Morris, Washington

22. Zac Stacy, St. Louis

23. Chris Johnson, NY Jets

24. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina

25. Danny Woodhead, San Diego

26. Joique Bell, Detroit

27. Andre Ellington, Arizona

28. LeGarrette Blount, Pittsburgh

29. Rashad Jennings, NY Giants

30. Trent Richardson, Indianapolis

 

2014 NFL Player Rankings: Fullbacks

 

1. Anthony Sherman, Kansas City 

A willing blocker who has some “pop” in his kickout blocks. Good vision, feet and strength to lead on isolation blocks. Has the courage to create off-tackle running lanes by driving his legs on contact.

 

2.  Mike Tolbert, Carolina
A versatile role player who is tough as a third-down runner and receiver out of the backfield. Has had a positive impact on kickoff and punt coverage units. An explosive blocker with a low pad level.

 

3. John Kuhn, Green Bay
Is an explosive and effective lead-blocker. Solid in pass-protection. A collision player who can put a linebacker or safety on his back. Also productive as a core special teams contributor.

 

4. John Conner, NY Giants
A consistent lead-blocker who takes pride in his blocking. A classic short-necked fullback who is physical kicking out or sealing an off-tackle defender. A major special teams coverage talent.

 

5. Bruce Miller, San Francisco
Is a high-motor, great-effort finisher who sells out every play. A productive lead blocker who is key to the Niners’ physical running game.

Teaser:
2014 NFL Player Rankings: Running Backs
Post date: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-whos-number-1
Body:

You have the first pick in your fantasy football draft and you are on the clock. Who are you taking? Peyton Manning may have lapped the field in fantasy scoring after his record-breaking season, but does that mean you should take him with the No. 1 pick?

 

Not according to the Athlon Sports editors and fantasy football contributors who were posed this exact question. In fact, everyone was in agreement that the first player taken should be a running back, not a quarterback. Which one? Well that apparently is something clearly up for debate.

 

Related: 2014 NFL Player Rankings: Running Backs

 

Jamaal Charles for No. 1

As my draft results in this magazine’s mock draft proved, I’m behind Jamaal Charles as the 2014 No. 1 overall pick. In his first season under new head coach Andy Reid, with Alex Smith at quarterback, Charles posted a career season, with highs in yards, touchdowns, receptions and fantasy points. His 19 touchdowns were five more than the second-best running back.

 

It has often been said that you should draft this year’s fantasy team, never last year’s. There is one caveat with that saying — the person with the No. 1 overall pick shouldn’t be guessing at this year’s best fantasy player. He should take the guy who, barring injury or major offseason roster overhauls, is the best player in fantasy and has yet to be knocked from his seat.

— David Gonos, SI.com/FantasySports.About.com

 

Jamaal Charles for No. 1

This is not exactly a safe pick, because of Charles’ stature — listed at just 199 pounds by the NFL — and injury history, but Charles was the workhorse in Andy Reid’s running back-friendly offense. He is the reigning scoring leader thanks to his added use in the Chiefs’ short passing game, racking up 70 receptions for 693 yards. Charles can take the ball to the house on any given play, and he will touch the ball well over 300 times again, if he stays healthy.

 

Perhaps the clincher is we all should be inclined to knock some value off LeSean McCoy, because the Eagles added Darren Sproles to take some receptions from their lead back. Charles is very clearly his team’s No. 1 weapon. He also happens to be at his physical prime of age 27, which is the same year Adrian Peterson went over 2,000 yards. A.P. is too close to 30. Charles is No. 1 this preseason. 

Eric Mack, Bleacher Report

 

Jamaal Charles for No. 1

Is it not said, “To the victor go the spoils”? Well, in that case, Jamaal Charles should be the choice for No. 1, unless you think Peyton Manning will replicate his record-breaking success from last season. After all, Charles not only led all running backs in fantasy points in 2013, but he also finished with more points than every player but five quarterbacks. And only Manning and Drew Brees outscored Charles by more than 12 points.

 

As difficult as it will be for Charles to duplicate his 19 total touchdowns from last season, let’s not forget that he finished third in rushing yards, even though he wound up 10th in the NFL in carries. The appeal with Charles is that you know Andy Reid will do whatever he can to get the ball to him, as evidenced by his 70 catches, and it’s not like the Chiefs have upgraded their pass-catchers this offseason. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Charles gets more than the 329 touches he got in 2013. If that’s the case, who wouldn’t take the guy who has averaged 5.6 yards per carry in his career? 

Mark Ross, Athlon Sports

 

LeSean McCoy For No. 1

Chip Kelly’s high-powered offense led the NFL in rushing last season, as the Eagles averaged 5.1 yards per carry and finished with an average of 160.4 yards per game. LeSean McCoy was the team’s workhorse on the ground, posting career-high numbers in carries (314) and rushing yards (1,607). McCoy has never recorded back-to-back seasons of more than 270 carries, but Chris Polk and Darren Sproles won’t eat into his workload in 2014.

 

Another factor working in McCoy’s favor is his offensive line. Philadelphia kept its starting five intact, which should allow McCoy to push for 1,600 yards again. Even if McCoy doesn’t match last year’s rushing yards, he has two scoring areas in which to improve in 2014. He had just two touchdown catches despite hauling in 52 passes, and he recorded only nine scores on the ground on 314 attempts.

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

 

LeSean McCoy For No. 1

If you’re sitting in the top spot, grab LeSean McCoy over Adrian Peterson.

 

I took no college math classes, but even I can see regression potential throughout Jamaal Charles’ 2013 numbers. He more than doubled his career high in total touchdowns and blew up his receiving stats. And then the Chiefs lost their three highest rated O-linemen — according to Pro Football Focus — in free agency.

 

McCoy vs. Peterson is close only because Peterson is superhuman. His 2,000-yard 2012 shows why you can’t judge him by the late-career decline of most backs, but he has missed seven games over the past four years.

 

McCoy’s 26, he just finished leading the league in touches and rushing yards, and he still has touchdown upside. He also tied for just sixth in rushing scores last year despite playing for the league’s No. 4 scoring offense.

— Matt Schauf, DraftSharks

 

Matt Forté for No. 1

In his first year in Marc Trestman’s offense, Matt Forté jumped nine spots from 2012 to finish behind Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy for third place in fantasy points among running backs. And the biggest difference between Forté and leading scorer Charles was the seven additional touchdowns the Chiefs’ workhorse scored.

 

That said, the Chiefs lost three starters on the offensive line, and they still didn’t address the receiver position. Also, De’Anthony Thomas was drafted as a situational back, and Knile Davis is expected to chip away at Charles’ workload. Meanwhile in Chicago, rookie fourth-rounder Ka’Deem Carey is the only one set to challenge Forté. You can’t go wrong with Charles, McCoy or even Adrian Peterson, but I prefer Forté and the weapons around him more than any of the other three. 

Corby Yarbrough, Athlon Sports

 

Adrian Peterson for No. 1

Adrian Peterson is the best running back to come through the NFL in a long while, and there is no reason to expect a slowdown for All Day — at least, not in 2014. His long-term keeper value is certainly more of a question, but for the immediate future, there is no one better in the league than Peterson. The Vikings’ offensive line was one of the better run-blocking units in the league last year. In seven pro seasons and three college campaigns, Peterson has never scored fewer than 10 touchdowns and only once rushed for fewer than 1,000 yards — and that was due to his torn ACL late in 2011. He’s not yet 30 years old, and, with rumors swirling about this being his swan song in Minnesota, A.D. should be extremely motivated to produce in ’14. 

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports

 

Athlon Sports' 2014 Fantasy Football magazine is now available for purchase at newsstands everyone or online. The ultimate draft-day resource, this year's edition features 419 in-depth player reports, informative features, a 20-round mock draft, team-by-team analysis from NFL beat writers and much more. Whether your fantasy league is head-to-head, roto, PPR or IDP, this magazine has all the stats and insight you need to help you get ready for the upcoming season. Click here to purchase you copy today!
Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2014: Who's Number 1?
Post date: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2014-quarterback-rankings
Body:

Fall college fantasy football drafts are right around the corner and Athlon is here to help win your league in 2014. Athlon Sports has teamed with Joe DiSalvo of thecffsite.com to provide the latest rankings for the upcoming year.

 

Thecffsite.com is the No. 1 place for college fantasy news, rankings and weekly projections during the year.

Below is the projected top 20 fantasy quarterbacks for 2014. Want to go deeper? Check out thecffsite.com’s draft kit, which contains keeper league information, more rankings and analysis.

 

Scoring system rankings based upon:

 

All draft values are based on a 12-team, 20-round draft using the following scoring system:

 

Passing — 25 pass yds = 1 point

Passing TD = 4 points

Rushing — 10 rushing yards = 1 point

Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving — .5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

 

Updated: July 4, 2014, by Joe DiSalvo (@theCFFsite)


Visit Fantrax.com to play college fantasy football in 2014.

 

Note: This is not a list of the best players in college football. This is a ranking of the best players in terms of fantasy value (players who will have the best numbers in college football for 2014).


College Fantasy Football: Top 20 Quarterbacks for 2014


1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon

 

Check out theCFFsite.com's 2014 draft kit, which contains deeper rankings, keeper league information and other draft content to help you win your league this year.
2. Bryce Petty, Baylor

 

3. Braxton Miller, Ohio State

 

4. Rakeem Cato, Marshall

 

5. Matt Johnson, Bowling Green

 

6. Davis Webb, Texas Tech

 

7. Taysom Hill, BYU

 

8. Keenan Reynolds, Navy

 

9. Jameis Winston, Florida State

 

10. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State

 

11. Shane Carden, East Carolina

 

12. Nick Marshall, Auburn

 

13. Brett Hundley, UCLA

 

14. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State

 

15. Cody Fajardo, Nevada

 

16. Taylor Heinicke, Old Dominion

 

17. Chuckie Keeton, Utah State

 

18. John O’Korn, Houston

 

19. Marquise Williams, North Carolina

 

20. Maty Mauk, Missouri

Teaser:
College Fantasy Football: 2014 Quarterback Rankings
Post date: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 - 10:15
All taxonomy terms: player rankings, quarterback, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/2014-nfl-player-rankings-quarterbacks
Body:

In the 2014 edition of Athlon Sports’ Pro Football preview, we called on Ourlads Scouting Services to rank the NFL’s best at every position on the field. When it comes to determining who is the best quarterback, running back, wide receiver, linebacker, cornerback, etc., who better to make that determination than a company that’s been in the gridiron talent evaluation business for nearly three decades?

 

If there ever was any doubt about the importance of the quarterback on an NFL team, look no further than the five Super Bowl MVPs among the top 10 at the position. And that group doesn’t include Russell Wilson, who led the Seahawks to the world title this past season, just his second in the league. Don’t overlook the NFC North either, as three of its four signal-callers crack Ourlads’ top 10.

 

Rankings courtesy of Ourlads Scouting Services

 

2014 NFL Player Rankings: Quarterbacks

 

1. Peyton Manning, Denver

The reigning NFL MVP threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns with the second-highest passer rating (115.1) in the league. His arm strength is not what it has been in the past, but his anticipation and ability to get out of a bad play are unparalleled.

 

2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay           

Was derailed for seven games with a broken collarbone but came back to lead the Packers on a late run for the division title. Continues with his outstanding accuracy and decision-making. Good timing and touch on passes. Has vision, feel and natural running ability.

 

3. Tom Brady, New England           

The consummate pro overcame a leaky line, a young receiving corps and a depleted stable of tight ends to play in the AFC Championship Game. Age has not slowed his quick release and accuracy. Poised and confident.

 

4. Drew Brees, New Orleans           

Turned 35 in January, but is coming off a year in which he threw for more than 5,000 yards and 39 touchdowns and won a road playoff game. Slides away from the rush and throws well on the move. Has outstanding touch and timing to keep receivers on their routes.

 

5. Philip Rivers, San Diego

Cut down on his interceptions while maintaining his gunslinger style and passed for 4,478 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2013. Plays with great patience, intelligence and confidence. A good improviser.

 

6. Russell Wilson, Seattle

Has now officially answered all of the questions about his height, arm strength and the ability to win from the pocket. Threw for more than 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns in his Super Bowl-winning season.

 

7. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis           

Cut down on interceptions and continued to grow in his second season. He proved that he could win the game in the pocket but is mobile and athletic enough to avoid a rush to extend a play.

 

8. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh           

Is 32 years old and had a solid season in which he played all 16 games for the first time since 2008. He almost pulled out a playoff berth with a late-season run. A playmaker who can extend a play and pressure the defense.

 

9. Jay Cutler, Chicago           

Battled injury and still passed for 2,621 yards with 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. A competitive leader who can take a hit and throw under duress. Adjusts his throws well under pressure.

 

10. Matthew Stafford, Lions           

Completed 2013 with 4,650 yards passing with 29 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He is physically gifted with excellent arm strength. A streaky passer who is more on than off.

 

11. Tony Romo, Dallas

12. Matt Ryan, Atlanta

13. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco

14. Cam Newton, Carolina

15. Nick Foles, Philadelphia

16. Sam Bradford, St. Louis

17. Alex Smith, Kansas City

18. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati

19. Jake Locker, Tennessee

20. Eli Manning, NY Giants

21. Josh McCown, Tampa Bay

22. Joe Flacco, Baltimore

23. Carson Palmer, Arizona

24. Robert Griffin III, Washington

25. Michael Vick, NY Jets

26. Ryan Tannehill, Miami

27. Geno Smith, NY Jets           

28. Matt Cassel, Minnesota

29. EJ Manuel, Buffalo

30. Matt Schaub, Oakland

Teaser:
2014 NFL Player Rankings: Quarterbacks
Post date: Monday, July 7, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Georgia Bulldogs, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/jeremy-pruitt-missing-piece-georgia
Body:

It has been a rapid rise for Jeremy Pruitt from high school assistant coach to anointed savior of a major college football program.

 

Eight years ago, he was a defensive coordinator at Hoover (Ala.) High School. Five years ago, he was a non-coaching quality control assistant at Alabama. As late as last year, few fans of college football knew who he was.

 

But when Pruitt walked into a team meeting at Georgia in January, minutes after being hired as defensive coordinator, he received a standing ovation. It wasn’t so much for his credentials, though by then many players were aware of them. It was more because he represented a new start, something Georgia’s defense desperately needed.

 

“A lot of guys probably needed a fresh start,” senior cornerback Damian Swann says.

 

Before getting into why Pruitt is seen as the right guy at Georgia, it’s important to know the state of the defense — both playing-wise and emotionally — after last season.

 

Todd Grantham had his good moments in four years as defensive coordinator, especially the first two. He brought a much-needed fire to the defense, which was one of the best in the nation in 2011. But the unit struggled the following season, which was a surprise given all its talent, and last year it struggled even more, crippled by youth and inexperience.

 

After the regular season, head coach Mark Richt said Grantham would be retained, citing the need for coaching stability, and Grantham said he thought “the arrow was up” on his defense, due to returning all but one starter. But when Louisville came calling in January with a lucrative offer to Grantham, Richt and Georgia didn’t match it.

 

There was a sense around Georgia — fans and media, and some within the program — that Grantham’s act had worn thin. His self-assured attitude and fiery demeanor were great when the defense was doing well, especially in 2011. But when the unit struggled, Grantham rarely took personal blame. And given his NFL background, Grantham was also reluctant to simplify his scheme or go deep into his bench.

 

When Grantham bolted, Richt’s phone started lighting up, with plenty of coaches eager to get involved in the search. But the most important phone call was taking place between Pruitt and Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend, who were roommates at Alabama and remained close friends.

 

Pruitt has only been a college defensive coordinator one year. But it was a very good year: Florida State ranked first nationally in scoring defense, third in yards allowed, and, oh by the way, won the national championship. He also helped win two national titles as Alabama’s secondary coach.

 

Friend lobbied Pruitt to join him in Athens. Richt secured the promise of a big raise. And within 48 hours, Pruitt was in.

 

“If you follow this business, there’s highs and lows everywhere,” Pruitt says. “For the seven years prior to this year the SEC has won national championships and FSU’s on top right now, so there’s never an easy time to leave a place, especially a place where you have such good friends and the place that gave you an opportunity. But the opportunity to come to the University of Georgia and the opportunity to work with Coach Richt — well, there’s a lot of folks who would like to be sitting in this chair today.”

 

But Georgia players, without ripping into their former coach, made it clear during the spring that there was more benefit to them.

 

“It’s a fresh start. But it feels like it’s a different vibe around here,” junior outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins says. “Guys want to be holding everyone else accountable for something. We’re not letting guys get away with the small stuff, and the coaches certainly aren’t either. They’re getting on us. I feel like we’re doing a lot of the small things now. We’re doing the technique work. … The coaches really just want to see us succeed. They’re always available for us. They’re just going the extra mile, compared to last year.”

 

Georgia was eighth in the SEC in total defense last year, yielding 375.5 yards per game, the most of the Richt era.

 

The pass defense was mostly at fault: It yielded 227.4 yards per game, ninth in the SEC. (Georgia’s run defense was a respectable sixth in the league, and actually improved over 2012.)

 

Georgia also didn’t force turnovers, getting just 15 in 13 games, the second-worst rate in the conference.

 

Grantham-to-Pruitt doesn’t actually mean a sea change in defensive philosophy: Both run the 3-4 as a base defense, and both come from the Nick Saban coaching tree.

 

Order a copy of Athlon's 2014 SEC Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 14 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

But Pruitt began making smaller changes in the spring:

 

• He asked players to drop weight, in order to form a lighter and quicker defense, one with speed more suited to defend no-huddle offenses. (Such as Clemson, the season-opening opponent.) Grantham preferred big, physical nose guards and even bigger defensive backs.

 

• Pruitt vowed to sub more, and use different packages. Grantham rarely employed a dime package last year.

 

• And perhaps most important, Pruitt simplified the defensive playbook. Last season, Georgia’s young players were clearly confused on the field.

 

“It’s a lot more easy,” senior inside linebacker Ramik Wilson said this spring.

 

Pruitt came up through the ranks as a high school coach, so it’s not surprising he would go that way. Teaching technique and fundamentals is central to his philosophy.

 

“There are a lot of details to it that I think get overlooked, and I think with my background in high school you’re sitting there teaching junior high kids about the fundamentals of how to play the game and how to get in a stance,” Pruitt says. “That’s how I’ll coach, and that’s my approach, so I think when you put emphasis on turnovers, hopefully you get the results.”

 

Pruitt owns three national championship rings, but he doesn’t wear them. He says he has them in a safe deposit box and doesn’t touch them.

 

But Pruitt didn’t have to wear the rings for his new players to be aware of them.

 

“He’s a smart guy. He’s got rings for a reason,” sophomore cornerback J.J. Green says.

 

“So his defense is gonna work.”

 

On Signing Day, a fan tried to bait Richt into saying something about Grantham, asking if Richt would thank Bobby Petrino for hiring Grantham away. The Georgia coach declined to answer the question, but as he walked away decided to say something.

 

“I’ll say this,” Richt said, looking at no one in particular, “I’m as excited and as energized as I’ve been in a long time. This whole thing has turned out to be quite a good thing for Georgia.”

Written by Seth Emerson (@SethEmerson) for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2014 SEC Football Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2014 season.

Teaser:
Is Jeremy Pruitt the Missing Piece at Georgia?
Post date: Monday, July 7, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /nfl/39-things-never-happened-nfl-until-2013
Body:

Even though the Denver Broncos lost Super Bowl XLVIII to the Seattle Seahawks, they still set the single-season record for points scored (606). This, of course, was fueled in large part by Peyton Manning’s record 5,477 yards passing and 55 touchdowns.

 

Manning and the Broncos weren’t the only player or team that made history last season. And even in the AFC champions’ case, when it comes to record-setting moments during the 2013 season, some “firsts” are better left forgotten. As in what happened just 12 seconds in to Super Bowl XLVIII. 

 

In 2013, for the first time in NFL history a team…

 

Featured a 450-yard passing game (Aaron Rodgers) and 125-yard rushing performance (James Starks) in the same game (Packers).

 

Allowed 25 points and committed at least three turnovers in each of its first six games (Giants).

 

Was pick-6’d in five consecutive contests (Texans).

 

Was favored by as many as 27 points in the Vegas line (Denver — which failed to cover — against Jacksonville).

 

Scored 17 touchdowns in its first eight games of a season, but none of them was rushing (Rams).

 

Scored on three rushes from 30 or more yards out in the same quarter (Eagles).

 

That won at least 12 games the previous season endured a 12-game losing streak in the next (Texans).

 

Gained 400 or more yards in 14 games (Broncos).

 

Rallied from as many as 28 points down to win a non-overtime playoff off game (Colts over Chiefs)

 

Won a postseason affair despite allowing 40 points and turning the ball over four times (Colts).

 

Scored on six consecutive drives of a conference championship game (Broncos).

 

Scored as quickly as 12 seconds into a Super Bowl (Seahawks).

 

Whose offense ranked more than 20 places higher in rushing than passing won a Super Bowl (Seahawks).

 

A quarterback…

 

Threw 20 TD passes in a season before being intercepted (Peyton Manning).

 

Had an INT returned for a TD in four straight games (Matt Schaub).

 

Completed at least 25 passes in more than 10 consecutive games (Drew Brees).

 

Fired 16 TD passes in the first month of a season (Manning).

 

Scored on a run of longer than 80 yards (Terrelle Pryor).

 

Had a streak of more than 600 aerial attempts without completing one for a TD of longer than 20 yards (Christian Ponder).

 

Threw for multiple TDs in 21 consecutive home games (Brees).

 

Fired 359 TD passes for the same coach (Tom Brady for Bill Belichick).

 

Had 20 games with both a passing and rushing TD in the first three seasons of his career (Cam Newton).

 

Had a string of 16 TD passes in a single season that all came only in road games (Nick Foles).

 

Ran his career total of 300-yard/four-TD games to 23 (Brees).

 

Reached 50,000 aerial yards in fewer than 190 games (Brees).

 

Threw four or more TD passes in nine different games of a single season (Manning).

 

Flung 30 or more scoring passes in six straight campaigns (Brees).

 

Accounted for 8,000 total yards in his first two seasons (Andrew Luck).

 

Amassed more than 1,700 passing yards in a calendar month (Manning in December).

 

Started a postseason game for the 26th time (Brady).

 

A receiver…

 

Caught 100 yards worth of his passes in his first game with a third different team (Anquan Boldin).

 

Caught four TD passes in one game on plays that started in the red zone (Marvin Jones).

 

With at least 50 career TD receptions nabbed as many as 84 balls in a row without scoring (Andre Johnson).

 

Caught 774 yards worth of passes in a four-game span (Josh Gordon).

 

Caught 861 yards worth of passes in a five-game span (Calvin Johnson).

 

Recorded back-to-back 200-yard performances (Gordon).

 

A rusher…

 

Averaged 5.5 yards on his first 1,000 NFL carries (Jamaal Charles).

 

Ran for at least 125 yards and four TDs in a playoff contest (LaGarrette Blount).

 

Needed fewer than three carries to lead both teams in rushing in a Super Bowl (Percy Harvin).

 

— Compiled by Bruce Herman for Athlon Sports. This article is featured in Athlon Sports' 2014 NFL Preview magazine, which is available on newsstands or can be purchased online.

Teaser:
39 Things That Never Happened in the NFL Until 2013
Post date: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/weirdest-things-happened-nfl-last-season
Body:

The NFL is like any other sport in that not everything goes according to plan. And while mix ups on play calls, botched handoffs, dropped passes and special teams breakdowns are just part of the game, there are often other things that occur, both on and off the field, that are a little harder to explain.

 

Here’s a rundown of the most bizarre things that took place during the 2013 NFL season, also known as Athlon Sports’ “Calendar of the Weird.”

 

August

Aug. 21 The league fines Bears linebacker Jon Bostic $21,000 for an “illegal” hit that, for the past several days, had been featured on the video module of the NFL.com website.

 

September

Sept. 8 The first scores of three different games on Kickoff Weekend are safeties.

 

Sept. 9 For the 19th straight season, the Eagles’ initial offensive play of a season is something other than a handoff to a running back.

 

Sept. 12 The Patriots win a game for the first time in the 14-year Bill Belichick era in which they have more punts (11) than first downs (nine).

 

Sept. 15 Packers receivers gain 283 yards after the catch in a rout of Washington.

 

Sept. 15 The Texans open their campaign with two victories on the final play of the game, making them the first team to do that since the merger. (They then fail to win again all season.)

 

Sept. 16 Fewer than 20 people — about the same number that actually enjoy watching the Jaguars — attend the Sign Tebow Rally in Jacksonville.

 

Sept. 22 The Jets beat the Bills despite 20 penalties — most by a victorious team in 62 years.

 

Sept. 22 Spencer Lanning of the Browns punts five times, lines up for a fake punt that results in a first down run, throws a TD pass as the holder on a fake field goal and kicks an extra point.

 

Sept. 22 Jordan Cameron and Cameron Jordan finish the week among the league’s top 10 in receptions and sacks, respectively.

 

Sept. 23 Peyton Manning puts 37 balls in the air against Oakland — 32 complete, four that hit his receivers’ hands but are not caught, and one that is batted away.

 

Sept. 24 Nate Burleson breaks his arm in a car wreck, losing control when he reaches to keep pizza boxes from sliding off the passenger seat.

 

October

Oct. 6 6:47 after the Seahawks score on a blocked punt, their opponents — the Colts — score on a blocked field goal.

 

Oct. 6 With 1:55 left to play, opposing second-year stars Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck each have completed 15 passes in 27 attempts for two TDs and no INTs. Wilson has thrown for 210 yards, Luck for 209.

 

Oct. 13 291 defensive plays into their season, the Steelers register their first takeaway.

 

Oct. 13 The Raiders commit 11 penalties, take 10 sacks and don’t snap the ball a single time in the red zone during a loss to the Chiefs.

 

Oct. 13 The Red Sox pull out an AL Championship Series contest in which their chances at one point (according to ESPN) were 3.8 percent. A few

hours later, their state-mate Patriots score with five seconds left to stun the Saints in a game in which their chances were once 5.3 percent.

 

Oct. 13 Oakland runs a play on a third-and-48.

 

Oct. 14 The week ends with 71 percent of games to date having been within seven points during the fourth quarter — an all-time high at this juncture.

 

Oct. 20 The first-ever implementation of Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3 — which makes it a penalty to push a teammate into the formation — gives Jets kicker Nick Folk a second chance at a game-winning field goal, which he nails to beat the Patriots in overtime. Controversy over its interpretation ensues immediately and, within two hours after the game, the wording of the rule on NFL.com is changed.

 

Oct. 27 Fantasy enthusiasts revel in Calvin Johnson’s regulation-game-record 329 yards, but cringe as he gets tackled inside the Dallas 5-yard line four times.

 

Oct. 31 The league’s three Florida teams go 0-for-October. Technically. The Dolphins’ overtime victory occurs after midnight.

 

November

Nov. 3 Of the 38 teams since 1968 to rush fewer than 10 times in a game, the Cowboys (who beat the Vikings) are just the second to win. Meanwhile, the Raiders endure the largest margin of defeat (49–20 to the Eagles) in 35 years by a team that rushes for 200 yards.

 

Nov. 3 For the second time this season, three of one team’s receivers catch at least 120 yards worth of passes and score a TD, doubling the number of previous times it had happened in NFL history.

 

Nov. 7 By hanging a goose egg on Washington in the fourth quarter, the Vikings end their streak of having allowed points in 24 consecutive quarters.

 

Nov. 10 A trio of former 1,000-yard rushers (Chris Johnson, Shonn Greene and Maurice Jones-Drew) combine to gain 93 yards on 42 carries.

 

Nov. 11 Miami, which had rushed for its season highs (120, 156 and 157 yards) in three straight weeks, is held to a franchise record-low two yards on the ground in a loss to the previously winless Bucs.

 

Nov. 17 Matthew Stafford eclipses Bobby Layne — quarterbacks who both attended Highland Park High School in Dallas — for most passing yards in Lions history.Nov. 17 Ten games into the season, Jacksonville scores its first TD in the state of Florida.

 

Nov. 17 The Jets, who have been outscored by 85 points to date, move to 5–5.

 

Nov. 17 Jacksonville’s Jason Babin proudly brandishes a handful of Andre Ellington’s five-year-old dreadlocks that he yanked out while tackling the Cardinals rookie.

 

Nov. 24 The Packers and Vikings battle to the seventh NFL tie since 1989 — all in the month of November, but the first to end in a score of 26–26. They also become the only opponents since overtime was adopted to play each other to a draw twice.

 

Nov. 25 For the first time in either college or the pros, a Robert Griffin III-led offense fails to score a touchdown.

 

Nov. 28 The Ravens and Steelers play a ninth game in their last 10 regular-season meetings that is decided by three or fewer points.

 

Nov. 28 Detroit wins by 30 points despite four turnovers, and Baltimore prevails despite allowing two more TDs than it scores.

 

December

Dec. 1 Toronto mayor Rob Ford — he of the crack-smoking in a “drunken stupor” — arrives at the Rogers Centre with six minutes left in the Falcons-Bills game wearing a Fred Jackson jersey just as the Buffalo back scores, then steals the seat of Canadian rocker Matt Mays, who appeals to security to get him relocated.

 

Dec. 1 The Giants’ Justin Tuck begins the game with 2.5 sacks, then plants Robert Griffin III four times in the span of seven Washington snaps.

 

Dec. 1 Geno Smith becomes the first QB since 1977 to neither complete 10 passes nor throw for a TD in four consecutive starts.

 

Dec. 8 The Patriots are the first team since 1993 to win three straight games in which they trail by double digits in the second half.

 

Dec. 8 As per the Elias Sports Bureau, Eli Manning suffers his NFL-high 41st tipped interception of the decade.

 

Dec. 8 Tavon Austin carries the ball just once in a Rams-Cardinals game that includes 50 other totes, yet he leads both teams with 56 rushing yards.

 

Dec. 9 The Cowboys become the first team in 73 years that fails to force its opponent to punt in two games of a season.

 

Dec. 12 Philip Rivers beats the Manning brothers in back-to-back weeks — something only Vince Young had ever done.

 

Dec. 15 The Chiefs, who score 56 points despite just 51 snaps from scrimmage, are the second team ever to notch at least 35 points in the first half of back-to-back games. (The first was the 2002 Chiefs.)

 

Dec. 15 Buoyed by five losing teams that tallied at least 30 points, the league scores a one-day-record 763 points.

 

Dec. 22 For the fifth time in six games, the Lions are vanquished despite holding a fourth-quarter lead.

 

Dec. 29 Michael Floyd’s string of 25 straight receptions that moved the chains ends on the first snap of the game.

 

January

Jan. 19 Colin Kaepernick is intercepted twice by Seattle in the NFC title game, giving the Seahawks seven of the 16 picks he has thrown in his career (including the postseason).

 

February

Feb. 2 Elias reports that, in the more than 10,000 regular-season and playoff games since the merger, the Super Bowl-winning Seahawks are just the third team to score in the first minute of each half.

 

— Compiled by Bruce Herman for Athlon Sports. This article is featured in Athlon Sports' 2014 NFL Preview magazine, which is available on newsstands or can be purchased online.

Teaser:
The Weirdest Things That Happened in the NFL Last Season
Post date: Tuesday, July 1, 2014 - 14:00

Pages