Articles By Athlon Sports

All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/2012-fantasy-baseball-catcher-rankings
Body:

Opening Day is next week and Athlon Sports has all the fantasy baseball rankings you need to get ready for the upcoming season.

Athlon Sports has combined nine fantasy baseball big boards from around the web to compile an updated consensus Top 200 as well as positional breakdowns.

There's no change among the top eight catchers with Carlos Santana leading the way followed by Mike Napoli and Brian McCann. Buster Posey and Joe Mauer, both of whom are trying to rebound from disappointing 2011 seasons impacted by significant injuries, round out the top five.

Alex Avila is the biggest riser among the catchers, as he went up 11 spots on the Big Board from No. 119 to No. 108. After Avila, the next five catchers on the list all experienced drops of at least 10 positions on the Top 200.

Two of the biggest fallers, were J.P Arencibia and Russell Martin. The two AL East catchers each dropped at least 25 spots, which resulted in them barely maintaining their Top 200 status.

Fantasy Baseball is coming... and the 25th Anniversary Edition of Athlon Sports' Baseball Preview Magainze is already here. Click here to order yours today!

Rank Position ranking
OVR
Overall ranking on The Big Board
LR — Last Ranked, where player was ranked on The Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012
NR — Not Ranked, means player did not appear on The Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012

AS – Athlon Sports (updated 3/19/12)
CBS – CBSSportsline.com (as of 3/16/12)
ESPN – (updated 3/13/12)
FOX – FOXSports.com (updated 3/7/12)
MLB – MLB.com (as of 3/15/12)
RC – RotoChamp.com (updated 3/18/12)
RS – RotoSummit.com (updated 2/27/12)
USA — USAToday.com (updated 2/13/12)
Y! – Yahoo! Sports (updated 2/24/12)*

*Yahoo! ranked only 120 players on their list, while Athlon's Big Board contains 200. The aggregated scores of the other eight big boards were used to extrapolate Yahoo!’s rankings to 200 players.

Athlon Sports Fantasy Rankings**: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

**Positional rankings will be updated throughout the week

Rank OVR LR Player Team Pos AS CBS ESPN FOX MLB RC RS USA Y!
1 36 33 Carlos Santana CLE C/1B 52 17 52 30 35 32 46 40 41
2 38 38 Mike Napoli TEX C/1B 57 43 47 27 39 30 41 36 53
3 44 44 Brian McCann ATL C 48 41 69 46 43 47 44 39 83
4 67 73 Buster Posey SF C 62 52 127 51 75 44 87 61 75
5 77 76 Joe Mauer MIN C/1B 43 48 131 58 66 77 85 93 95
6 82 86 Matt Wieters BAL C 60 65 84 69 88 106 93 74 90
7 96 97 Miguel Montero ARI C 69 53 117 125 113 86 103 89 122
8 108 119 Alex Avila DET C 122 44 121 99 120 130 126 91 127
9 179 169 Yadier Molina STL C - 132 186 140 - 193 191 164 179
10 196 171 J.P. Arencibia TOR C - 125 - - 178 - - 199 181
11 200 161 Russell Martin NYY C - 116 - - - - - - 171
12 213 201 Wilson Ramos WAS C - 160 - 158 - - - - -
13 225 203 Geovany Soto CHC C - 166 - - - - - 192 -
14 258 NR Kurt Suzuki OAK C - 193 - - - - - - -
15 268 205 Devin Mesoraco CIN C 200 - - - - - - - -

Other names to consider (in alphabetical order): John Buck (MIA, C), Ryan Doumit (MIN, C), Ramon Hernandez (COL, C), Nick Hundley (SD, C), Chris Ianetta (LAA, C), Jonathan Lucroy (MIL, C), Salvador Perez (KC, C), A.J. Pierzynski (CHW, C), Carlos Ruiz (PHI, C), Jarod Saltalamacchia (BOS, C)

— By Mark Ross, updated on March 29, 2012

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

2012 Fantasy Baseball: First Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Outfield Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Relief Pitcher Rankings
2012 MLB Fantasy Closer Grid
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitching
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Closers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2012
2012 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers

 

For more fantasy baseball help, visit our friends at the Fantasy Baseball Hub.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports has updated its consensus fantasy rankings for catcher</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 11:50
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/2012-fantasy-baseball-outfield-rankings
Body:

Opening Day is next week and Athlon Sports has all the fantasy baseball rankings you need to get ready for the upcoming season.

Athlon Sports has combined nine fantasy baseball big boards from around the web to compile an updated consensus Top 200 as well as positional breakdowns.

Matt Kemp still leads the way among the outfielder rankings, but Ryan Braun is nipping at his heels. Braun, who was ranked No. 71 overall on the previous Big Board, soared up the Top 200 this time around and now checks in at No. 4.

It's no secret that the reason for the drastic change in his rankings is because his 50-game suspension for violation of MLB's drug policy was overturned in late February. Now that we know Braun, if healthy, will be eligible to play a full season, it's a matter of if the reigning NL MVP can repeat or come close to last season's numbers without Prince Fielder hitting behind him.

Outside of Braun, the only change among the first fifteen outfielders has nothing to do with rankings. Giancarlo Stanton (No. 32 overall, No. 10 OF) is the Marlin  formerly known as Mike Stanton. The 22-year-old slugger announced in late Februray that he wanted to be called by his given first name, rather than Michael/Mike, which he started using in the fifth grade.

Carl Crawford and Corey Hart are the two among the top 30 that saw their stock drop the most as both are dealing with injuries. Hart (No. 104 overall, down from No. 93) had knee surgery in early March, but there's still a chance he could ready by Opening Day or shortly thereafter. That does not appear to be the case for Crawford (was No. 17 OF, now No. 24), whose recovery from offseason wrist surgery has taken longer than initially expected.

Among the top 50 outfielders, Andre Ethier (No. 130, up from No. 150), Martin Prado (No. 140, up from No. 157), Melky Cabrera (No. 143, up from No. 165), Carlos Lee (No. 172, up from No. 200) and Angel Pagan (No. 185, up from No. 213) were the biggest risers.

Fantasy Baseball is coming... and the 25th Anniversary Edition of Athlon Sports' Baseball Preview Magainze is already here. Click here to order yours today!

Rank Position ranking
OVR
Overall ranking on The Big Board
LR — Last Ranked, where player was ranked on The Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012
NR — Not Ranked, means player did not appear on The Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012

AS – Athlon Sports (updated 3/19/12)
CBS – CBSSportsline.com (as of 3/16/12)
ESPN – (updated 3/13/12)
FOX – FOXSports.com (updated 3/7/12)
MLB – MLB.com (as of 3/15/12)
RC – RotoChamp.com (updated 3/18/12)
RS – RotoSummit.com (updated 2/27/12)
USA — USAToday.com (updated 2/13/12)
Y! – Yahoo! Sports (updated 2/24/12)*

*Yahoo! ranked only 120 players on their list, while Athlon's Big Board contains 200. The aggregated scores of the other eight big boards were used to extrapolate Yahoo!’s rankings to 200 players.

Athlon Sports Fantasy Rankings**: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

**Positional rankings will be updated throughout the week

Rank OVR LR Player Team Pos AS CBS ESPN FOX MLB RC RS USA Y!
1 3 2 Matt Kemp LAD OF 6 4 3 1 1 4 2 1 2
2 4 71 Ryan Braun MIL OF 5 5 4 8 5 2 1 2 6
3 5 4 Jose Bautista TOR 3B/OF 11 2 5 6 3 6 5 5 5
4 8 6 Jacoby Ellsbury BOS OF 19 8 8 2 8 9 6 12 12
5 11 10 Justin Upton ARI OF 14 18 9 14 7 21 10 11 10
6 12 14 Carlos Gonzalez COL OF 12 19 16 18 15 12 11 16 11
7 21 18 Curtis Granderson NYY OF 38 15 23 22 13 23 17 20 22
8 26 25 Andrew McCutchen PIT OF 40 38 26 20 26 29 28 30 27
9 30 32 Josh Hamilton TEX OF 26 46 40 35 36 49 25 27 34
10 32 34 Giancarlo Stanton MIA OF 83 68 25 33 25 22 30 25 25
11 37 39 Matt Holliday STL OF 42 57 30 36 65 45 33 28 36
12 40 40 Hunter Pence HOU OF 45 77 37 66 56 24 29 34 44
13 47 47 Jay Bruce CIN OF 63 90 38 62 34 40 55 38 51
14 50 52 Ben Zobrist TB 2B/OF 93 72 51 41 45 64 43 51 52
15 54 54 Nelson Cruz TEX OF 94 76 44 56 37 95 48 37 37
16 61 65 Michael Bourn HOU OF 80 74 35 72 87 84 51 42 67
17 63 68 Shin-Soo Choo CLE OF 51 75 77 80 85 58 64 49 63
18 64 58 Desmond Jennings TB OF 99 85 104 68 50 54 61 50 43
19 65 69 Alex Gordon KC OF 82 87 50 81 60 73 66 59 66
20 66 77 Shane Victorino PHI OF 102 69 55 65 79 78 58 56 65
21 70 79 Michael Morse WAS 1B/OF 103 83 71 53 82 42 70 83 62
22 80 84 B.J. Upton TB OF 106 99 80 82 73 87 60 64 69
23 83 87 Lance Berkman STL 1B/OF 105 78 59 77 96 52 77 99 86
24 84 67 Carl Crawford BOS OF 79 67 70 29 59 - 71 52 103
25 87 92 Adam Jones BAL OF 86 117 78 102 110 63 83 88 89
26 90 90 Howard Kendrick LAA 1B/2B/OF 85 119 118 79 84 88 91 101 72
27 99 101 Brett Gardner NYY OF 110 109 90 105 104 124 89 78 107
28 102 106 Chris Young ARI OF 117 88 107 110 116 93 81 98 125
29 103 102 Drew Stubbs CIN OF 113 129 112 87 95 136 102 79 92
30 104 93 Corey Hart MIL OF 107 89 100 97 176 114 80 96 93
31 105 108 Ichiro Suzuki SEA OF 116 84 88 120 121 129 90 106 106
32 106 115 Jayson Werth WAS OF 121 140 82 98 94 113 104 100 114
33 112 120 Michael Cuddyer COL 1B/2B/OF 96 152 92 123 156 139 98 121 70
34 113 114 Jason Heyward ATL OF 119 153 109 92 106 182 111 102 85
35 117 104 Nick Markakis BAL OF 88 128 145 111 139 48 112 176 130
36 129 130 Cameron Maybin SD OF 143 139 143 138 99 160 155 81 140
37 130 150 Andre Ethier LAD OF 137 130 140 127 174 100 166 109 120
38 131 132 Carlos Beltran STL OF 128 196 115 135 - 111 120 95 105
39 135 125 Emilio Bonifacio MIA SS/3B/OF 124 114 213 83 - 109 142 172 119
40 140 157 Martin Prado ATL 3B/OF 152 122 168 128 150 115 162 157 150
41 141 149 Nick Swisher NYY 1B/OF 163 170 150 146 115 137 158 114 153
42 143 165 Melky Cabrera SF OF 164 141 149 149 151 102 138 173 157
43 148 142 Logan Morrison MIA OF 146 - 153 118 - 75 171 133 145
44 149 156 Jeff Francoeur KC OF 189 151 180 136 124 133 144 146 164
45 154 154 Torii Hunter LAA OF 172 - 146 159 198 94 149 131 154
46 163 NR Coco Crisp OAK OF - 146 138 167 199 112 153 169 170
47 172 200 Carlos Lee HOU 1B/OF 161 - - 147 - 150 183 123 175
48 176 189 Austin Jackson DET OF 177 148 - 179 144 - - 136 182
49 185 213 Angel Pagan SF OF 187 167 178 187 154 - 163 193 -
50 186 NR Delmon Young DET OF 155 195 - 162 177 177 169 - 200
51 191 187 Matt Joyce TB OF - 150 - 192 - 164 194 163 199
52 192 175 Carlos Quentin SD OF 194 - - 126 - - - 166 183
53 195 NR Josh Willingham MIN OF - - 184 - 183 167 190 158 -
54 204 177 Peter Bourjos LAA OF - 194 - - 155 - 186 167 -
55 207 NR Lucas Duda NYM 1B/OF - - - - - 173 - 143 190
56 209 155 Mark Trumbo LAA 1B/OF - - - 155 - - 177 - 185
57 210 NR Brandon Belt SF 1B/OF - 197 - 190 186 192 - 154 -
58 215 178 Seth Smith OAK OF - - - - - 128 - - 195
59 216 219 Colby Rasmus TOR OF 175 - - - - - - 152 -
60 217 NR Alex Rios CHW OF - - 197 - 175 - 172 186 -
61 222 NR Yoenis Cespedes OAK OF - - - - - 153 - - -
62 223 216 Yonder Alonso SD 1B/OF 181 - - - - 176 - - -
63 227 NR Jose Tabata PIT OF - 184 - - - 178 - - -
64 231 NR Dexter Fowler COL OF - - - 177 - - - 190 -
65 232 NR Mike Carp SEA 1B/OF - - - - - 166 - - -
66 237 223 Jason Kubel ARI OF 169 - - - - - - - -
67 240 221 Jason Bay NYM OF 173 - - - - - - - -
68 249 NR Brennan Boesch DET OF - - - - 196 - - 188 -
69 251 212 Mike Trout LAA OF 188 - - - - - - 200 -
70 254 NR Bryan LaHair CHC OF - - - 189 - - - - -
71 263 NR Ben Revere MIN OF - - - - - - - 197 -
72 264 NR Jon Jay STL OF - - - - - 197 - - -
73 266 167 Alejandro de Aza CHW OF - - - - - 198 - - -
74 267 NR Jason Kubel ARI OF - - 199 - - - - - -

— By Mark Ross, updated on March 29, 2012

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

2012 Fantasy Baseball: First Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Outfield Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Relief Pitcher Rankings
2012 MLB Fantasy Closer Grid
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitching
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Closers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2012
2012 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers

 

For more fantasy baseball help, visit our friends at the Fantasy Baseball Hub.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports' updated consensus fantasy rankings reveal plenty of options in a deep outfield</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 11:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/2012-fantasy-baseball-shortstop-rankings
Body:

Opening Day is just a few weeks away and Athlon Sports has all the fantasy baseball rankings you need to get ready for the upcoming season.

Athlon Sports has combined nine fantasy baseball big boards from around the web to compile an updated consensus Top 200 as well as positional breakdowns.

Troy Tulowitzki remains the clear-cut leader at shortstop followed by Hanley Ramirez and his Marlins' teammate Jose Reyes.

Reports out of spring training are that Ramirez has not only embraced the move to third base due to the arrival of Reyes, but he also has looked good at the plate.

Whether you draft and use Ramirez at shortstop or third, when he becomes eligible there, early signs indicate that you may be getting the offensive force at the plate he was just two seasons ago (.342-24-106 with 101 R and 27 SB). One thing's for sure, if you draft Ramirez, who comes in at No. 19 overall on the Big Board, you certainly don't want a repeat of his 2011 injury-plagued campaign (.243-10-45 in just 92 games).

Overall, there's not a lot of changes in the shortstop positional rankings. Erick Aybar and J.J. Hardy both increased their standing in the Top 200 by at least eight slots, while Emilio Bonifacio went backwards 10 spots, resulting in the three of them swapping positions in the positional rankings.

Stephen Drew cracked the Top 200, but it's all but certain he will not be ready by Opening Day as he continues his recovery from the broken ankle he suffered last July. Drew will most likely start the season on the DL in hopes of returning sometime in May.

Fantasy Baseball is coming... and the 25th Anniversary Edition of Athlon Sports' Baseball Preview Magainze is already here. Click here to order yours today!

Rank Position ranking
OVR
Overall ranking on The Big Board
LR — Last Ranked, where player was ranked on The Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012
NR — Not Ranked, means player did not appear on The Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012

AS – Athlon Sports (updated 3/19/12)
CBS – CBSSportsline.com (as of 3/16/12)
ESPN – (updated 3/13/12)
FOX – FOXSports.com (updated 3/7/12)
MLB – MLB.com (as of 3/15/12)
RC – RotoChamp.com (updated 3/18/12)
RS – RotoSummit.com (updated 2/27/12)
USA — USAToday.com (updated 2/13/12)
Y! – Yahoo! Sports (updated 2/24/12)*

*Yahoo! ranked only 120 players on their list, while Athlon's Big Board contains 200. The aggregated scores of the other eight big boards were used to extrapolate Yahoo!’s rankings to 200 players.

Athlon Sports Fantasy Rankings**: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

**Positional rankings will be updated throughout the week

Rank OVR LR Player Team Pos AS CBS ESPN FOX MLB RC RS USA Y!
1 6 5 Troy Tulowitzki COL SS 4 9 6 5 6 15 8 6 4
2 19 20 Hanley Ramirez MIA SS 27 29 13 9 16 34 15 13 21
3 24 24 Jose Reyes MIA SS 18 32 21 31 18 61 19 14 19
4 45 43 Starlin Castro CHC SS 44 79 57 63 42 59 37 43 38
5 57 51 Elvis Andrus TEX SS 64 108 60 60 63 92 49 41 42
6 71 66 Asdrubal Cabrera CLE SS 97 86 63 47 54 97 56 92 64
7 81 81 Jimmy Rollins PHI SS 104 102 49 54 69 146 53 76 73
8 116 121 Derek Jeter NYY SS 125 118 113 101 97 - 94 105 118
9 118 123 Alexei Ramirez CHW SS 127 138 86 89 123 131 116 145 129
10 127 139 Erick Aybar LAA SS 153 127 129 95 112 - 131 111 135
11 133 141 J.J. Hardy BAL SS 140 168 111 91 129 191 170 90 134
12 135 125 Emilio Bonifacio MIA SS/3B/OF 124 114 213 83 - 109 142 172 119
13 138 147 Dee Gordon LAD SS 138 145 133 157 169 138 139 162 96
14 151 163 Jhonny Peralta DET SS 142 169 126 106 193 200 159 138 149
15 190 NR Stephen Drew ARI SS - - 160 152 - - 197 151 -
16 199 211 Yunel Escobar TOR SS 192 183 200 161 - - - 153 -
17 214 NR Marco Scutaro COL SS - - 169 - 171 - 182 198 -
18 238 222 Ian Desmond WAS 2B/SS 171 - - - - - - - -
19 256 NR Mike Aviles BOS 2B/SS/3B - - - - 191 - - - -

Other names to consider (in alphabetical order): Clint Barmes (PIT, SS), Willie Bloomquist (ARI, SS/OF), Jamey Carroll (MIN, 2B/SS), Alcides Escobar (KC, SS), Rafael Furcal (STL, SS), Alex Gonzalez (MIL, SS), Macier Izturis (LAA, 2B/SS/3B), Jed Lowrie (HOU, SS/3B), Sean Rodriguez (TB, 2B/SS/3B), Ruben Tejada (NYM, 2B/SS)

— By Mark Ross, updated on March 23, 2012

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

2012 Fantasy Baseball: First Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Outfield Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Relief Pitcher Rankings
2012 MLB Fantasy Closer Grid
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitching
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Closers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2012
2012 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers

 

For more fantasy baseball help, visit our friends at the Fantasy Baseball Hub.

Teaser:
<p> Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki remains the clear-cut No. 1 shortstop in Athlon Sports' updated consensus fantasy rankings</p>
Post date: Friday, March 23, 2012 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/2012-fantasy-baseball-second-base-rankings
Body:

Opening Day is just a few weeks away and Athlon Sports has all the fantasy baseball rankings you need to get ready for the upcoming season.

Athlon Sports has combined nine fantasy baseball big boards from around the web to compile an updated consensus Top 200 as well as positional breakdowns.

The top four at second base stay the same as Robinson Cano leads the way followed by Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler and Ben Zobrist.

Brandon Phillips and Michael Young have swapped places at fifth and seventh, respectively, with Dan Uggla falling in between them. Phillips slight move up the Top 200 could be attributed to Reds manager Dusty Baker's assertion that Phillips will star the season as his leadoff hitter. Phillips was moved to the leadoff spot last August and thrived there, hitting .350 with seven home runs, seven stole bases and a .417 on-base percentage.

Chase Utley dropped just a few spots in the Top 200, but that's subject to change as the Phillies' second basemen is dealing with issues with both knees. He left the Phillies' camp earlier this week to see a knee specialist and the team has already said his availability to be ready by Opening Day is in doubt.

Fantasy Baseball is coming... and the 25th Anniversary Edition of Athlon Sports' Baseball Preview Magainze is already here. Click here to order yours today!

Rank Position ranking
OVR
Overall ranking on The Big Board
LR — Last Ranked, where player was ranked on The Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012
NR — Not Ranked, means player did not appear on The Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012

AS – Athlon Sports (updated 3/19/12)
CBS – CBSSportsline.com (as of 3/16/12)
ESPN – (updated 3/13/12)
FOX – FOXSports.com (updated 3/7/12)
MLB – MLB.com (as of 3/15/12)
RC – RotoChamp.com (updated 3/18/12)
RS – RotoSummit.com (updated 2/27/12)
USA — USAToday.com (updated 2/13/12)
Y! – Yahoo! Sports (updated 2/24/12)*

*Yahoo! ranked only 120 players on their list, while Athlon's Big Board contains 200. The aggregated scores of the other eight big boards were used to extrapolate Yahoo!’s rankings to 200 players.

Athlon Sports Fantasy Rankings**: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

**Positional rankings will be updated throughout the week

Rank OVR LR Player: Team Pos AS CBS ESPN FOX MLB RC RS USA Y!
1 7 8 Robinson Cano NYY 2B 3 16 7 10 10 13 7 8 8
2 15 15 Dustin Pedroia BOS 2B 13 14 15 11 21 16 14 19 17
3 22 22 Ian Kinsler TEX 2B 28 30 19 26 14 35 20 15 20
4 50 52 Ben Zobrist TB 2B/OF 93 72 51 41 45 64 43 51 52
5 53 59 Brandon Phillips CIN 2B 39 101 54 49 49 71 52 47 55
6 55 57 Dan Uggla ATL 2B 100 103 42 52 64 50 45 55 48
7 59 53 Michael Young TEX 1B/2B/3B 74 56 95 43 101 26 57 75 61
8 75 64 Rickie Weeks MIL 2B 95 95 83 45 55 96 67 54 84
9 89 83 Chase Utley PHI 2B 68 100 76 71 98 - 74 67 71
10 90 90 Howard Kendrick LAA 1B/2B/OF 85 119 118 79 84 88 91 101 72
11 112 120 Michael Cuddyer COL 1B/2B/OF 96 152 92 123 156 139 98 121 70
12 123 129 Dustin Ackley SEA 2B 112 144 171 93 135 152 132 103 117
13 146 148 Neil Walker PIT 2B 141 157 167 104 - 117 154 144 147
14 152 146 Jason Kipnis CLE 2B 139 - 174 148 167 135 134 141 156
15 159 164 Ryan Roberts ARI 2B/3B 162 123 165 112 192 162 189 180 155
16 162 168 Danny Espinosa WAS 2B 182 185 189 113 166 140 165 155 160
17 167 186 Jemile Weeks OAK 2B 165 131 - 180 - 156 145 147 177
18 178 193 Kelly Johnson TOR 2B - 161 175 164 141 199 157 - 188
19 229 NR Aaron Hill ARI 2B - 198 - 168 - - - - -
20 256 NR Mike Aviles BOS 2B/SS/3B - - - - 191 - - - -
21 259 NR Darwin Barney CHC 2B - - - 194 - - - - -

Other names to consider (in alphabetical order): Jose Altuve (HOU, 2B), Gordon Beckham (CHW, 2B), Jamey Carroll (MIN, 2B/SS), Allen Craig (STL, 2B/OF), Mark Ellis (LAD, 2B), Orlando Hudson (SD, 2B), Macier Izturis (LAA, 2B/SS/3B), Daniel Murphy (NYM, 1B/2B/3B), Ryan Raburn (DET, 2B/OF), Brian Roberts (BAL, 2B), Sean Rodriguez (TB, 2B/SS/3B), Scott Sizemore (OAK, 2B/3B), Ruben Tejada (NYM, 2B/SS)

— By Mark Ross, updated on March 23, 2012

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

2012 Fantasy Baseball: First Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Outfield Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Relief Pitcher Rankings
2012 MLB Fantasy Closer Grid
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitching
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Closers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2012
2012 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers

 

For more fantasy baseball help, visit our friends at the Fantasy Baseball Hub.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports' updated consensus fantasy rankings at second base reveal no change at the top</p>
Post date: Friday, March 23, 2012 - 09:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/2012-fantasy-baseball-third-base-rankings
Body:

Opening Day is just a few weeks away and Athlon Sports has all the fantasy baseball rankings you need to get you ready for the upcoming season.

Athlon Sports has combined nine fantasy baseball big boards from around the web to compile an updated consensus Top 200 as well as positional breakdowns.

Jose Bautista still leads the way at third base, that is until Miguel Cabrera gains position eligibility at the hot corner.

Hanley Ramirez is also making the switch to third, and for what it's worth, he would come in behind Evan Longoria in these rankings. Neither he nor Cabrera appear below because they have not gained third-base eligibility at this point.

David Wright is someone to keep an eye on these next few weeks as he is dealing with a torn abdominal muscle in his left side. It's the same injury that fellow third baseman Ryan Zimmerman suffered during spring training last season.

Zimmerman originally tried to play it through, but was put on the DL shortly after the start of the season and ended up having surgery in early May. He finally returned in the middle of June, but it took him a few weeks to get going and he finished the season with career lows in both home runs (12) and RBIs (49).

Wright is trying to let his abdominal muscle heal with rest and treatment in hopes of avoiding surgery, but it's a situation that definitely bears watching.

Brett Lawrie has been tearing the cover off of the ball during spring training, which probably is part of the reason for his slight rise in the Top 200 and passing Michael Young in the third base rankings.

The biggest risers at third in the rankings are Martin Prado (No. 140 overall, up from No. 157) and David Freese (No. 166, up from No. 198).

Fantasy Baseball is coming... and the 25th Anniversary Edition of Athlon Sports' Baseball Preview Magainze is already here. Click here to order yours today!

Rank Position ranking
OVR
Overall ranking on The Big Board
LR — Last Ranked, where player was ranked on The Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012
NR — Not Ranked, means player did not appear on The Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012

AS – Athlon Sports (updated 3/19/12)
CBS – CBSSportsline.com (as of 3/16/12)
ESPN – (updated 3/13/12)
FOX – FOXSports.com (updated 3/7/12)
MLB – MLB.com (as of 3/15/12)
RC – RotoChamp.com (updated 3/18/12)
RS – RotoSummit.com (updated 2/27/12)
USA — USAToday.com (updated 2/13/12)
Y! – Yahoo! Sports (updated 2/24/12)*

*Yahoo! ranked only 120 players on their list, while Athlon's Big Board contains 200. The aggregated scores of the other eight big boards were used to extrapolate Yahoo!’s rankings to 200 players.

Athlon Sports Fantasy Rankings**: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

**Positional rankings will be updated throughout the week

Rank OVR LR Player Team Pos AS CBS ESPN FOX MLB RC RS USA Y!
1 5 4 Jose Bautista TOR 3B/OF 11 2 5 6 3 6 5 5 5
2 18 17 Evan Longoria TB 3B 33 20 11 16 17 19 16 7 13
3 28 30 Adrian Beltre TEX 3B 31 37 27 34 29 53 23 29 26
4 34 29 David Wright NYM 3B 73 23 29 24 20 91 26 23 29
5 35 36 Ryan Zimmerman WAS 3B 29 42 34 42 32 60 47 24 33
6 39 48 Pablo Sandoval SF 3B 34 54 33 44 68 27 38 69 39
7 48 56 Brett Lawrie TOR 3B 71 55 46 67 44 33 63 71 45
8 59 53 Michael Young TEX 1B/2B/3B 74 56 95 43 101 26 57 75 61
9 62 61 Alex Rodriguez NYY 3B 98 66 67 50 53 83 72 58 46
10 69 72 Kevin Youkilis BOS 1B/3B 58 45 98 59 77 105 76 68 60
11 74 74 Aramis Ramirez MIL 3B 89 107 58 64 86 62 73 57 74
12 115 113 Mark Reynolds BAL 1B/3B 120 98 156 107 111 101 123 124 128
13 135 125 Emilio Bonifacio MIA SS/3B/OF 124 114 213 83 - 109 142 172 119
14 140 157 Martin Prado ATL 3B/OF 152 122 168 128 150 115 162 157 150
15 159 164 Ryan Roberts ARI 2B/3B 162 123 165 112 192 162 189 180 155
16 166 198 David Freese STL 3B 145 192 194 160 145 169 - 117 167
17 174 180 Mike Moustakas KC 3B 186 181 190 130 - 149 - 148 172
18 203 194 Edwin Encarnacion TOR 3B - - - 144 162 - - - 191
19 220 NR Chase Headley SD 3B - 179 - - - 188 - 184 -
20 256 NR Mike Aviles BOS 2B/SS/3B - - - - 191 - - - -
21 269 NR Pedro Alvarez PIT 3B - - - 200 - - - - -

Other names to consider (in alphabetical order): Lonnie Chisenhall (CLE, 3B), Chris Davis (BAL, 1B/3B), Macier Izturis (LAA, 2B/SS/3B), Chipper Jones (ATL, 3B), Jed Lowrie (HOU, SS/3B), Daniel Murphy (NYM, 1B/2B/3B), Placido Polanco (PHI, 3B), Sean Rodriguez (TB, 2B/SS/3B), Scott Sizemore (OAK, 2B/3B), Ian Stewart (CHC, 3B), Danny Valencia (MIN, 3B), Ty Wigginton (PHI, 1B/3B/OF)

— By Mark Ross, updated on March 21, 2012

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

2012 Fantasy Baseball: First Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Outfield Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Relief Pitcher Rankings
2012 MLB Fantasy Closer Grid
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitching
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Closers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2012
2012 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers

 

For more fantasy baseball help, visit our friends at the Fantasy Baseball Hub.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports' has updated its consensus fantasy rankings at third base</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 10:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/2012-fantasy-baseball-first-base-rankings
Body:

Opening Day is just a few weeks away and Athlon Sports has all the fantasy baseball rankings you need to get ready for the upcoming season.

Athlon Sports has combined nine fantasy baseball big boards from around the web to compile an updated consensus Top 200 as well as positional breakdowns.

At first base, not much has changed in the updated positional rankings. Miguel Cabrera, who's moving to third this season, and Albert Pujols flip-flop places atop the first base rankings, followed by Joey Votto, Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder, the reason why Cabrera is moving over to the hot corner.

The biggest changes are all injury or illness-related as Ryan Howard (Achilles), Ike Davis (lung infection), Justin Morneau (concussion-related symptoms and numerous surgeries) and Mark Trumbo (stress fracture in foot) all dropped in the rankings. Howard is out until at least May, if not longer, which is the main reason why he has fallen in the rankings. Davis and Trumbo were both limited early on in spring training by their situations, but appear to be back on track, while Morneau has struggled to find his timing and power at the plate.

There has been some positive news on the injury front, however. Kendrys Morales, who last played on May 29, 2010 due to a severely fractured ankle, has been making slow, but steady progress during spring training. He is scheduled to make his long-awaited return to game action later this week.

Fantasy Baseball is coming... and the 25th Anniversary Edition of Athlon Sports' Baseball Preview Magainze is already here. Click here to order yours today!

Rank Position ranking
OVR
Overall ranking on The Big Board
LR — Last Ranked, where player was ranked on The Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012
NR — Not Ranked, means player did not appear on The Big Board that was published on Feb. 20, 2012

AS – Athlon Sports (updated 3/19/12)
CBS – CBSSportsline.com (as of 3/16/12)
ESPN – (updated 3/13/12)
FOX – FOXSports.com (updated 3/7/12)
MLB – MLB.com (as of 3/15/12)
RC – RotoChamp.com (updated 3/18/12)
RS – RotoSummit.com (updated 2/27/12)
USA - USAToday.com (updated 2/13/12)
Y! – Yahoo! Sports (updated 2/24/12)*

*Yahoo! ranked only 120 players on their list, while Athlon's Big Board contains 200. The aggregated scores of the other eight big boards were used to extrapolate Yahoo!’s rankings to 200 players.

Athlon Sports Fantasy Rankings**: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

**Positional rankings will be updated throughout the week

Rank OVR LR Player Team Pos AS CBS ESPN FOX MLB RC RS USA Y!
1 1 3 Miguel Cabera DET 1B 2 1 1 4 4 1 4 3 1
2 2 1 Albert Pujols LAA 1B 1 3 2 3 2 3 3 4 3
3 9 7 Joey Votto CIN 1B 16 12 10 12 9 5 9 10 7
4 10 9 Adrian Gonzalez BOS 1B 7 13 14 7 11 11 13 9 9
5 17 16 Prince Fielder DET 1B 17 26 18 15 12 7 18 18 14
6 23 21 Mark Teixeira NYY 1B 22 33 24 23 24 18 27 31 23
7 36 33 Carlos Santana CLE C/1B 52 17 52 30 35 32 46 40 41
8 38 38 Mike Napoli TEX C/1B 57 43 47 27 39 30 41 36 53
9 39 48 Pablo Sandoval SF 1B/3B 34 54 33 44 68 27 38 69 39
10 46 42 Paul Konerko CHW 1B 70 97 36 37 40 38 35 65 47
11 52 49 Eric Hosmer KC 1B 41 106 45 39 74 43 40 60 68
12 59 53 Michael Young TEX 1B/2B/3B 74 56 95 43 101 26 57 75 61
13 69 72 Kevin Youkilis BOS 1B/3B 58 45 98 59 77 105 76 68 60
14 70 79 Michael Morse WAS 1B/OF 103 83 71 53 82 42 70 83 62
15 77 76 Joe Mauer MIN C/1B 43 48 131 58 66 77 85 93 95
16 83 87 Lance Berkman STL 1B/OF 105 78 59 77 96 52 77 99 86
17 90 90 Howard Kendrick LAA 1B/2B/OF 85 119 118 79 84 88 91 101 72
18 98 98 Billy Butler KC 1B 55 111 102 129 153 37 121 85 123
19 109 107 Freddie Freeman ATL 1B 81 147 120 76 143 81 127 97 115
20 112 120 Michael Cuddyer COL 1B/2B/OF 96 152 92 123 156 139 98 121 70
21 115 113 Mark Reynolds BAL 1B/3B 120 98 156 107 111 101 123 124 128
22 141 149 Nick Swisher NYY 1B/OF 163 170 150 146 115 137 158 114 153
23 142 143 Paul Goldschmidt ARI 1B 136 - 182 150 117 126 192 113 98
24 145 136 Adam Lind TOR 1B 158 - 135 142 133 110 115 195 142
25 158 183 Gaby Sanchez MIA 1B 156 182 162 133 200 154 175 115 161
26 160 118 Ryan Howard PHI 1B 159 126 196 171 187 - 160 150 94
27 161 137 Ike Davis NYM 1B 157 149 208 172 152 - 168 140 111
28 165 153 Justin Morneau MIN 1B 59 191 - 176 181 - - 126 151
29 172 200 Carlos Lee HOU 1B/OF 161 - - 147 - 150 183 123 175
30 182 190 Kendrys Morales LAA 1B 154 - - - 168 122 - - 176
31 207 NR Lucas Duda NYM 1B/OF - - - - - 173 - 143 190
32 209 155 Mark Trumbo LAA 1B/OF - - - 155 - - 177 - 185
33 210 NR Brandon Belt SF 1B/OF - 197 - 190 186 192 - 154 -
34 218 NR Carlos Pena TB 1B - - 192 - 182 180 - 178 -
35 223 216 Yonder Alonso SD 1B/OF 181 - - - - 176 - - -
36 232 NR Mike Carp SEA 1B/OF - - - - - 166 - - -
37 236 NR James Loney LAD 1B - - - - - 168 - - -
38 253 NR Adam Dunn CHW 1B/DH - - - - 188 - - - -

Other names to consider (in alphabetical order): Chris Davis (BAL, 1B/3B), Todd Helton (COL, 1B), Aubrey Huff (SF, 1B/OF), Garrett Jones (PIT, 1B/OF), Adam LaRoche (WAS, 1B), Mitch Moreland (TEX, 1B/OF), Daniel Murphy (NYM, 1B/2B/3B), Justin Smoak (SEA, 1B), Ty Wigginton (PHI, 1B/3B/OF)

— by Mark Ross, updated on March 21, 2012

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

2012 Fantasy Baseball: First Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Outfield Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Relief Pitcher Rankings
2012 MLB Fantasy Closer Grid
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitching
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Closers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2012
2012 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers

 

For more fantasy baseball help, visit our friends at the Fantasy Baseball Hub.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports' updated consensus fantasy rankings reveal the AL's strength and depth at first base</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Denver Broncos, Peyton Manning, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/peyton-manning-decides-continue-his-nfl-career-denver
Body:

While we still don't know how well Peyton Manning will look under center come this fall, at least we now know what uniform he will be wearing.

ESPN is reporting that Manning intends to sign with Denver and has instructed his agent to engage in contract negotiations with the Broncos, ending a nearly two-week long saga following his March 7 release by Indianapolis. While as many as 12 teams reached out to Manning’s representatives to gauge the quarterback’s interest in signing with them once he became a free agent, in the end Manning chose the Broncos over Tennessee and San Francisco.

Although Manning’s decision wasn’t announced via a live television special ala LeBron James’, the process leading up to it has been the focus of much attention these past two weeks. Manning’s movements along with those teams interested in signing him have been followed closely, everything from his visits to these teams’ facilities or trips to Durham, N.C., to watch him throw, along with every flight plan filed by any of the parties involved in between.

Fortunately, now that Manning has picked Denver, the Manning Watch can officially come to an end and the 49ers and Titans can move on to their other offseason business. For the Broncos, however, it’s anything but business as usual.

For starters, there will be the obligatory introductory press conference, where Manning, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, Executive Vice President of Operations John Elway, and head coach John Fox will talk about the process, his decision, his impact on the team this coming year and moving forward.

No doubt everyone will be all smiles during this press conference and for all the cameras present when Manning holds up his new jersey. Fortunately, the last and only Bronco to wear No. 18, Frank Tripucka, the franchise’s first quarterback, has already given his blessing to the team to un-retire the number for Manning.

But while Manning’s jersey number should not be a problem, the same can’t be said for the instant quarterback controversy that has been created as a result of his decision to join the Broncos. What happens to Tim Tebow?

It was just two months ago that Elway, who has never been hesitant to share his opinions regarding Tebow’s performance and progression as the Broncos’ quarterback, said Tebow was the team’s starting quarterback entering the 2012 season. With Manning coming to town, it appears all but certain that Tebow will once again be second on the depth chart come this fall.

That was the situation this past season, when Tebow replaced Kyle Orton as the Broncos’ starting quarterback after a 1-4 start. Tebow would go on to lead his team to the AFC West title and a win over the Steelers in the first round of the playoffs. Even though Tebow performed poorly in the Broncos’ season-ending 45-10 loss to the Patriots in the divisional round, all indications were that Tebow had earned the opportunity to be the man in Denver this coming season.

At least that’s what Elway said in January. That was before the Hall of Fame quarterback added Manning, who like Elway will be enshrined in Canton as soon as he becomes eligible for induction, to his roster.

It’s safe to assume that Manning is not coming to Denver to compete with Tebow for the starting job, so for the second straight year, Tebow knows he will enter training camp as the backup. That is if he’s still with the Broncos once training camp rolls around.

The Broncos could end up trading Tebow to another team, looking to capitalize on his value. Questions may persist about Tebow’s ability to develop into a consistent, productive thrower in the NFL, but no one can question his will, determination and drive, nor the fact that he went 8-5 in his first chance at being a starting quarterback in the NFL.

Tebow is already one of the NFL’s most popular, if not polarizing, players in the league, so there’s the added incentive of what he could mean to a team, ranging from ticket sales to fan interest.

With Manning now off the market and Matt Flynn signing with the Seattle Seahawks over the weekend, one could argue that the two most attractive quarterback options that are in need of one are Alex Smith, who is a free agent, and Tebow, who the Broncos could decide to trade.

Whether the Broncos’ brain trust of Bowlen, Elway and Fox decide to trade Tebow or not remains to be seen, but you can bet it’s one of the questions that will be raised during Manning’s introductory press conference. And just like that the Broncos go from celebrating one decision, to having to deal with a new one.

— by Mark Ross, published on March 19, 2012

Teaser:
<p> Peyton Manning decides to resume his NFL career with Denver, choosing the Broncos over the 49ers and Titans</p>
Post date: Monday, March 19, 2012 - 13:13
Path: /college-football/north-carolina-tar-heels-2012-spring-preview
Body:

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

North Carolina Tar Heels 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 7-6, 3-5 ACC

Spring practice: March 15-April 14

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 6

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Bryn Renner, 239 of 350, 3,086 yards, 26 TDs, 13 INTs
Rushing: Giovani Bernard: 239 car., 1,253 yds., 13 TDs
Receiving: Erik Highsmith: 51 rec., 726 yds., 5 TDs
Tackles: Kevin Reddick, 71
Sacks: Kareem Martin, 4
Interceptions: Tre Boston, 3

Redshirts to watch: DL Devonte Brown, OL Kiaro Holts, QB Marquise Williams, S Darien Rankin, OL Jarrod James

Early Enrollees: TE Terrance Knox, LB Shakeel Rashad

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 Elon
Sept. 8 at Wake Forest
Sept. 15 at Louisville
Sept. 22 East Carolina
Sept. 29 Idaho
Oct. 6 Virginia Tech
Oct. 13 at Miami (Fla.)
Oct. 20 at Duke
Oct. 27 vs. NC State
Nov. 10 Georgia Tech
Nov. 15 at Virginia
Nov. 24 Maryland

Offensive Strength: North Carolina has two of the ACC’s top returning offensive players in quarterback Bryn Renner and running back Giovani Bernard. Renner led the ACC in passing efficiency last season as a sophomore, while Bernard, who will be just a sophomore in 2012, is the conference’s leading returning rusher. The Tar Heels also return four starters on the offensive line, which is anchored on the left side by Jonathan Cooper and James Hurst. Both earned 2nd team All-ACC honors in 2011.

Offensive Weakness: There’s no question the Tar Heels will miss wide receiver Dwight Jones. Last year he led the ACC with 85 catches, was third in receiving yards (1,196) and fifth in the conference in touchdowns (12). The focus now shifts to who will step up and help senior Erik Highsmith (51 receptions in 2011) and become a reliable receiver for Renner. There’s also the matter of making the switch to new head coach Larry Fedora’s spread offense from the pro style scheme used last year by interim head coach Everett Withers and his staff.

Defensive Strength: The Tar Heels return six starters on defense, headlined by linebacker Kevin Reddick, cornerback Tre Boston and defensive end Kareem Martin. They also return several experienced players from last year’s two-deep who are ready for the opportunity to become starters. This year’s defense will be under the direction of new co-coordinators Vic Koenning and Dan Disch. Koenning had been the defensive coordinator at Illinois the past two seasons, during which time the Fighting Illini’s defense improved from 91st in the country in total defense in 2009 to seventh in 2011. Disch follows Fedora from Southern Miss where he successfully implemented his brand of a 4-2-5 defensive scheme.

Defensive Weakness: Although the defense returns six starters, it still lost a lot of talent and production in the departures of the other. Defensive end Quinton Coples is projected as a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft and linebacker Zach Brown will more than likely hear his name called in the early rounds as well. Defensive lineman Donte Paige-Moss and Tydreke Powell and cornerback Charles Brown could also get drafted or eventually end up on a NFL roster too. Just like the offense, the defense will be switching schemes as Koenning and Kisch are expected to implement a hybrid 4-2-5/3-3-5 style.

Spring Storylines Facing the Tar Heels

1. On Monday, the NCAA announced that the North Carolina football program had been banned from postseason play in 2012 and other additional penalties stemming from numerous violations committed under former head coach Butch Davis. The program was also placed on three years’ probation and increased the reduction of scholarships from nine to 15 over the same period. The school was well aware that this announcement was forthcoming, but it’s still not the way new head coach Larry Fedora wanted to start his first season as head coach. Davis and all the other key figures associated with the violations, which included academic fraud, impermissible agent benefits, participation by ineligible players and a failure to monitor the football program, are all gone so at least now the focus can switch back to the product on the field.

2. Fedora will be working hard to teach his spread offense to his new team this spring and it will be interesting to watch how quickly they pick it up. In his four seasons at Southern Miss, the Golden Eagles finished in the top 20 in the nation in total offense three times. The best North Carolina did in that same time span was 51st in 2010. Tar Heel fans shouldn’t expect to see instant results, as Renner isn’t the prototypical quarterback to run a spread offense, but should like and enjoy the new scheme more and more as the season progresses. Don’t be surprised to see Fedora and offensive coordinator Blake Anderson, who was with Fedora at Southern Miss, tailor the offense more this season to better fit the strengths of both Renner and Bernard, two of the ACC’s premier playmakers.

3. Another reason to temper expectations with the offense is the lack of returning experience and production in the receiving corps. Highsmith is the Tar Heels’ leading returning receiver with 51 catches for 726 yards and five touchdowns. Bernard is next with 45 receptions out of the backfield. After the remaining returning wide receivers combined for 20 catches last year. The returning tight ends had more, but regardless someone will have to step up in the spring if North Carolina wants to develop any sort of consistent passing attack. Senior Jheraine Boyd and sophomore T.J. Thorpe are two receivers to watch, along with senior tight end Nelson Hurst and sophomore Eric Ebron. Two freshmen to keep an eye on are receiver Quinshad Davis, one of the key pieces to Fedora’s first recruiting class, and tight end Terrance Knox.

4. Although the offense will be changing, the defense is undergoing an even more extensive makeover, switching from a 4-3 to a hybrid 4-2-5/3-3-5 scheme. Six starters return, but besides learning all the concepts of the new defense, some of them also may be changing positions as Koenning and Disch figure out where each player fits best. The defensive line lost three standouts in Coples, Paige-Moss and Powell, but linebacker is the position that has the biggest question marks headed into spring practice. Tackle machine Brown is gone and although Reddick is more than capable of assuming the leadership role in the linebacker corps, who will line up beside him remains to be seen. Two players to watch here are junior Darius Lipford and sophomore Travis Hughes. The secondary will play an even more important role in the new scheme putting pressure on returnees like Tre Boston, Jabari Price, Gene Robinson and Tim Scott. Don’t be surprised to see breakdowns in coverage and execution early in the season as the players adapt to and get comfortable in the new system.

5. Fedora and his coaching staff already had enough to deal with in their first season in Chapel Hill, including getting settled in their new surroundings, putting together a recruiting class in a short amount of time and start the process of teaching the players the new offense and defense. Now following the NCAA’s announcement of the additional penalties levied on the football program, they have a new challenge – keeping the team motivated throughout a season that will not include a bowl game. Because of the postseason ban, seniors will be able to transfer to another school and play right away. It remains to be seen if any Tar Heel seniors will go this route, but the success of the North Carolina football program moving forward could very well depend on how the younger players approach this season. Will it be the first step in laying a foundation for the future or will they just go through the motions and not take the opportunity to learn what Fedora and the coaching staff are trying to teach as he works to transform the football program into what he envisions. Only time will tell, but given all the circumstances you could argue no one has a tougher job in college football right now than Fedora and his staff.

Related College Football Content

Athlon's Early Top 25 for 2012
Grading College Football's New Coaching Hires for 2012

C
ollege Football Coaches on the Hot Seat: Spring Practice Edition
College Football's Top 10 Spring Storylines to Watch

2012 ACC Schedule Analysis

Teaser:
<p> Larry Fedora looks to rebuild the North Carolina football program from the ground up while dealing with NCAA penalties that he inherited from the previous coaching regime.</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 15, 2012 - 06:42
Path: /nfl/brandon-marshall-traded-bears-reunited-jay-cutler
Body:

The Chicago Bears have a new wide receiver. Introductions, however, will not be necessary for quarterback Jay Cutler as his new weapon is also a familiar face.

The Bears acquired Brandon Marshall from the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday, a move that overshadowed the beginning of free agency when it was announced. The move reunites Cutler and Marshall, who played together in Denver from 2006-08. Miami will receive Chicago's third-round picks in this year's and the 2013 NFL Draft in exchange for Marshall.

Headed into free agency it was clear the Bears' most pressing need was to add a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver. To that end, there was widespread speculation that the Bears had identified free agent Vincent Jackson as their top target. Instead, the team decided to make the deal for Marshall and can now turn its focus to addressing other needs through free agency.

Whether or not Marshall was their intended target all along isn't clear, but this much is — he comes at a much cheaper cost than Jackson. Marshall is under contract for three more years and stands to earn a little more than $28 million over that period. The amount he will count towards the Bears' cap each of these years is less than $10 million.

Contrast that to Jackson, who signed a five-year contract worth more than $55 million with Tampa Bay on Tuesday night. Jackson's cap hit is reported to be $13 million for the first two seasons of the deal. Marshall's also a year younger than Jackson, as he will turn 28 later this month. Jackson turned 29 in January.

Although it cost the Bears two draft picks, the trade for Marshall allows them the opportunity to use their remaining cap space to address other needs. The Bears had about $24 million in cap space to work with at the start of free agency. This amount places him in the upper-third of the league in terms of available cap space, which should put them in a good position to fill other holes through free agency.

Regardless of what other moves the Bears make, this has already been a successful offseason for first-year general manager Phil Emery. Not only has he filled a glaring need on the roster, he did it with a move that really didn't cost the team a great deal and it's also sure to fire up the city and the Bears' devoted fan base.

One Chicagoan who is definitely excited about Marshall coming to town is Cutler. Cutler's two best seasons as a passer came in 2008 and '09 in Denver. In those two seasons, Cutler averaged nearly 4,100 yards passing and 26 touchdowns, while completing better than 61 percent of his passes. Cutler made the Pro Bowl in 2008 when he threw for more than 4,500 yards and 25 touchdowns.

It's no coincidence that in those same two seasons Marshall was Cutler's top target. In 2008-09 combined Marshall had 205 catches, 2,365 yards receiving and 16 touchdown receptions. He also had a 102 receptions for 1,325 yards and seven touchdowns in 2007, Cutler's first as the Broncos' starting quarterback.

Contrast those seasons with Cutler's first three in Chicago where he's yet to have a 1,000-yard receiver. Johnny Knox came the closest with 960 yards receiving in 2010. To be fair, Cutler only played in 10 games last season because of a thumb injury, but at the time he also was on pace for his worst passing numbers since 2007.

To take it further, the last Bears wide receiver to have more than 1,000 yards receiving in a season Marty Booker, who had 1,189 yards back in 2002. Marshall has had five straight 1,000-yard seasons, including last year's 1,214-yard campaign on just 81 receptions and working with three different Miami quarterbacks - Chad Henne, J.P. Losman and Matt Moore.

Marshall also made the Pro Bowl in 2011, his third trip in four seasons. The Bears on the other hand, the have had just one wide receiver named to the Pro Bowl in the last 10 years and that was Booker in 2002. Knox was selected for the Pro Bowl in 2009, but that was a kick returner, not a receiver.

Even if Marshall doesn't earn an invite to the Pro Bowl in his first season in a Bears' uniform, he's sure to make a lasting impression on the Bears' passing attack, which finished 26th in the NFL last season. The sheer presence of Marshall on the field is sure to draw attention from opposing defenses and secondaries and it also allows other receivers like Knox, Devin Hester and Earl Bennett to fill roles in the offense that are more suited to their respective skills.

Mike Martz, the architect of the potent "Greatest Show on Turf" offense of the St. Louis Rams in the early 2000s, may no longer be calling the plays in Chicago, but I'm sure new offensive coordinator Mike Tice will find a way to get Marshall involved early and often in the Bears' offense this coming season.

Besides Marshall, the Bears also added former Oakland Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell to their roster on Tuesday. Campbell signed a one-year deal to backup Cutler, who missed the last six games of the 2011 season after breaking his thumb in the game against San Diego. Although Cutler is fully expected to be ready to go at the start of training camp, the addition of Campbell, who has started 70 of the 71 games he has appeared in his six seasons with Washington and Oakland, gives the Bears plenty of insurance at the quarterback position.

Last season the Bears went to Caleb Hannie after Cutler got hurt and eventually turned to Josh McCown after Hannie struggled mightily in his four starts. Hannie and McCown led the team to a 1-5 finish, combining for 1,015 yards passing, five touchdowns and 12 interceptions in those last six games. Campbell is 31-39 in his career as a starter with 14,417 yards passing, 74 touchdowns, 50 interceptions and a 60.8 completion percentage.

Once Campbell gets to Chicago, he will no doubt introduce himself to all his new coaches and teammates, including Marshall. That won't be necessary for Cutler. He and Marshall have already connected off and on the field.

And while the duo's relationship off the field will no doubt be analyzed and scrutinized, it's their chemistry and productivity on the field that matters the most. It worked pretty well the first time around and a repeat performance in Chicago is what everyone, from the front office to the fans, are hoping for and eagerly anticipating, even though the 2012 NFL season is more than five months away.

— by Mark Ross, published on March 14, 2012

Teaser:
<p> Chicago Bears trade for Brandon Marshall, reuniting wide receiver with Jay Cutler, his former teammate in Denver</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - 08:11
All taxonomy terms: Free agents, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-free-agency-10-players-watch
Body:

The NFL’s new league year officially starts today. One of the first orders of business will be free agency, which starts up at 4 E.T. this afternoon. With about 600 free agents on the market, there will be lots of activity and business should be brisk from the outset.

Here are 10 key players that everyone will be keeping an eye on in anticipation of where they will end up signing. All of these players are unrestricted free agents, meaning they can sign with whichever team they want to or makes them the best offer.

1. Peyton Manning, QB
Even though he turns 36 in less than two weeks, Manning is the hottest commodity on the market. Released by Indianapolis last week, Manning has crisscrossed the country since then visiting different teams to gauge their interest in signing him so he can resume his NFL career.

There’s no shortage of interest in the four-time NFL MVP despite the questions surrounding his physical condition following three neck surgeries in 19 months and not playing in a single game all of last season. At this stage in his career Manning clearly wants to go to a team that will turn over the offense to him from the start and that has the pieces in place to be a Super Bowl contender.

Interested teams: Manning has already visited Arizona and Denver and teams like Miami, Kansas City, Seattle, Tennessee and Washington have all expressed interest in some form or fashion. I don’t think you should rule out San Francisco either, especially if the 49ers don’t re-sign Alex Smith.

Where he ends up: At this point, it sounds like it’s a two-team race between Arizona and Denver, although Manning is reportedly meeting with both Miami and Tennessee over the next couple of days. Denver, Miami and Tennessee each would allow Manning to stay in the AFC, something he seems to prefer. Miami has the biggest need at quarterback of those three, but Manning's meeting with the Broncos was said to have gone well and Titans owner Bud Adams has said he will do whatever it takes to sign the former University of Tennessee quarterback. Arizona doesn't have a lot of cap space to work with, but the Cardinals can free up some by cutting players, starting with incumbent quarterback Kevin Kolb. Arizona also appears to have the offensive personnel and game plan that fits better with Manning, especially when it comes to one Larry Fitzgerald. In the end, I think Manning will follow in Kurt Warner’s footsteps and relocate, fittingly enough, to Phoenix where he will look to resurrect his career out in the desert. ARIZONA

UPDATE: Manning informed Denver on March 19 of his desire to sign with the Broncos. On March 20, prior to his introductory press conference, Manning and the Broncos agreed on a five-year, $96 million contract.

2. Mario Williams, LB
Houston could have applied the franchise tag to Williams in order to keep him with the team, but they chose not to, making the former No. 1 overall pick a free agent. The Texans instead committed big money to re-signing running back Arian Foster and have several other key free agents and very little cap space to work with, so the chances are Williams will be wearing a new uniform in 2012.

Injuries have limited Williams the past two seasons as he played just five games last season due to a torn pectoral muscle. Still, he is a two-time Pro Bowler who is just 27 years old and he averaged nearly 11 sacks a season from 2007-10. There figures to be a large market for an athletic, dynamic pass-rusher who can play either linebacker or defensive end.

Interested teams: Pretty much any team that can afford Williams would love to add him to their roster. Teams like Dallas, New England and Tennessee will surely reach out to gauge his interest, as could Chicago, Jacksonville, Seattle and Tampa Bay. I also wouldn’t rule out Denver, especially should the Broncos not manage to bring Manning into the fold. Broncos coach Mike Fox had a fair amount of success in Carolina with a player similar to Williams by the name of Julius Peppers.

Where he ends up: Titans owner Bud Adams has already gone on record that he wants Manning on his team. But who is team really needs is Williams, a dynamic defensive player who has an established track record of being able to get to the quarterback. The Titans finished 31st out of 32 teams in sacks last season and have several free agents of their own along the defensive line. Williams fills both needs and the Titans also offer the added bonus of facing his former Texans’ teammates twice every season. TENNESSEE

UPDATE: Williams signed a six-year contract with Buffalo on March 15 that could be worth as much as $100 million.

3. Vincent Jackson, WR
San Diego chose not to use the franchise tag on Jackson a second straight season, granting the Pro Bowl wide receiver the free agent status he has been yearning for. Now’s the opportunity for Jackson, who bounced back from a disappointing 2010 season with 60 catches for 1,106 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011, to finally cash in.

There are about 60 wide receivers in this year’s free agent class, but Jackson’s combination of size, speed and athletic ability will probably make him the most sought after at the position. He would fill the bill for any team looking for a No. 1 wideout, especially one that has a quarterback that likes to throw the ball deep down the field.

Interested teams: Teams like Chicago, Cleveland, Jacksonville and Washington all need a bona fide No. 1 wide receiver. San Diego fits that bill as well and don’t rule out a reunion with the Chargers, who have some cap space to work with. Buffalo, St. Louis and Tampa Bay are possibilities as well. And there’s teams like Carolina, Minnesota and New England who could look to add Jackson as a complement to what they already have. Can you imagine Jackson lining up beside or opposite of Wes Welker with Tom Brady pulling the trigger or Cam Newton having Jackson and Steve Smith as options?

Where he ends up: Jackson wants to get paid and I think he also wants to be the clear-cut No. 1 guy wherever he lands. Jay Cutler likes to throw the ball downfield and the Bears haven’t had a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver since the days of Willie Gault. Or at least that’s the way it probably feels like to Bears fan. Either way, this makes too much sense to me to not happen. CHICAGO

UPDATE: Jackson signed a five-year contract with Tampa Bay worth more than $55 million on March 13.

4. Carl Nicks, OL
New Orleans’ preference would have been to apply its franchise tag to Nicks rather than quarterback Drew Brees. But the Saints were unable to come to terms with Brees on a new contract before the deadline, so they tagged Brees, making Nicks a free agent.

A First-Team All-Pro last season, the Saints’ top priority is to re-sign Nicks, who is certain to draw plenty of attention. If anything, re-signing Nicks could serve two purposes. Besides keeping the Saints’ stout offensive line intact, bringing Nicks back would figure to make Brees, who Nicks helps protect and keep upright, happy and possibly more amenable to working out their differences regarding a new, long-term contract.

Interested teams: Which team wouldn’t want to add an All-Pro left guard like Nicks? That said, New Orleans is going to do everything it can to keep him, but I expect teams like Buffalo, Dallas, Denver, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Minnesota, Seattle and even Washington to be involved and if anything, drive up the bidding.

Where he ends up: Unless some team with a lot of cap space decides to throw a ridiculous amount of money Nicks’ way, I just don’t see the Saints letting him get away and risk ticking off Brees even more at this point in their contract negotiations with him. NEW ORLEANS

UPDATE: Nicks signed with Tampa Bay for five years and a reported $47.5 million.

5. Stephen Tulloch, LB
Probably not a name many would expect on this list, but Tulloch has been one of the best middle linebackers in the entire league the past three seasons and like the aforementioned Williams, he is just 27 years old. Tulloch didn’t miss a beat in his first season with Detroit after being with Tennessee the previous five as he collected 92 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions and recovered three fumbles.

Interested teams: Detroit would like nothing more than to bring Tulloch back as he is a perfect fit for head coach Jim Schwartz’s, who also coached him in Tennessee, defensive system. However, young, productive middle linebackers who can cover a lot of ground and are available like Tulloch are few and far between. Don’t be surprised to see teams that need help at linebacker, like Buffalo, Philadelphia, Seattle and Tampa Bay to be in play either.

Where he ends up: Of these candidates, the Eagles probably have the biggest need, but given how much they spent in free agency last season, probably won’t be able to last long should a bidding war develop. If the Eagles aren’t seriously involved, I don’t see Tulloch wanting to leave a situation like he has in Detroit and some Lions’ players have already restructured their contracts to free up more cap space to help keep last season’s roster intact. DETROIT

UPDATE: On March 20, Tulloch agreed to a new five-year contract to remain with the Lions.

6. Marques Colston, WR
Colston (6-4, 225) has the look of a No. 1 wide receiver, but is probably best suited for a team where he can share the load, and not tote it on his own. He has certainly produced like a top wideout, with five 1,000-yard receiving seasons and an average of eight touchdown receptions during his career.

He also has missed at least one game in four of his six seasons and a pretty extensive medical history for someone under 30. Colston also is more of a slot or possession-type of receiver who is perfectly suited for his role in New Orleans’ passing attack.

Interested teams: I’m pretty sure New Orleans would gladly welcome Colston back, but it would have to be at their price given their other free agents and available cap space. Outside of the Saints, Colston seems to a good fit for teams like Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Minnesota, San Francisco, Tampa Bay or Washington, who could use a possession/slot receiver to help bolster their corps. Chicago could be a player if they are unable to sign the aforementioned Jackson, and Indianapolis and St. Louis are two other teams to keep an eye on.

Where he ends up: The Saints are the best fit for him and who wouldn’t want to catch passes from Drew Brees? I’m just not sure the Saints are in a position to afford him and will be hard-pressed to match any offers made by teams with more cap space. If a bidding war does ensue for Colston, then it may come down to who offers him the most money, even if it means going to a team that doesn’t have the look of a contender next season or even in the immediate future. This may seem a little far-fetched, but we know for sure that there will be a new quarterback in place here and most likely the top two receivers from last year will not be back, so why not the Colts? INDIANAPOLIS

UPDATE: New Orleans re-signed Colston before the start of free agency on March 13 to a four-year contract worth around $40 million.

7. Matt Flynn, QB
Flynn has served as Aaron Rodgers’ back up in Green Bay the past four years. His apprenticeship under the 2011 NFL MVP is similar to Rodgers’ three-year stint as the backup to Brett Favre.

Now does that mean Flynn is going to be a Super Bowl champion and NFL MVP within the next four years? Not likely, but at the very least it does look like he’s going to get his chance at being some team’s starter. Several teams appear to have a need at the position and Flynn could serve as Plan B for these teams if they are not able to lure Manning to their city.

Interested teams: Cleveland, Miami and Seattle appear the most likely destinations for Flynn, and two of these three seem be out of the running for Manning’s services. The Dolphins’ new head coach is Joe Philbin, who served as the Packers’ offensive coordinator the past five seasons.

Where he ends up: Familiarity with the head coach and the offensive system he most likely will implement are no doubt appealing, but let’s not forget about the south Florida climate. Where would you rather play in December – sunny Miami or on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field? Come on now. Be honest. If the Dolphins are unable to lure Manning's talents to South Beach, then I think Flynn is Plan B. MIAMI

UPDATE: Flynn reached agreement with Seattle on a three-year contract on March 18. The deal is reportedly worth $26 million.

8. Brandon Lloyd, WR
After a breakthrough 2010 campaign with Denver, Lloyd started off slowly last season while being caught up in the Broncos’ quarterback controversy. Lloyd was traded to St. Louis after just four games and was fairly productive (51 rec., 683 yards, 5 TDs in 11 games) considering the Rams ranked 30th in the league in passing offense.

Lloyd will be 31 by the time the 2012 season rolls around, but still looks to have plenty left in the tank as he came up just shy of his second consecutive 1,000-yard receiving season in 2011. He would be a perfect sidekick for a team that already has an established No. 1 wide receiver.

Interested teams: The same teams that figure to go after Jackson and Colston will more than likely keep tabs on Lloyd as well. That means teams like Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Minnesota, San Francisco, Tampa Bay and Washington will probably at least kick the tires. Then there's New England, where Josh McDaniels is the offensive coodinator running a system that Lloyd has already had success in at both Denver and St. Louis. Lloyd appears to be a perfect complement to Welker should New England be willing.

Where he ends up: Lloyd’s breakout season in Denver came when McDaniels was the Broncos’ head coach. The two were reunited last year in St. Louis, where McDaniels was the Rams’ offensive coordinator, after Lloyd was traded to the Rams. McDaniels is now back with New England as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator. So guess where Lloyd has already started he would like to end up? NEW ENGLAND

UPDATE: Lloyd and the Patriots reached agreement on a three-year, $12 million deal on March 17.

9. Cortland Finnegan, DB
Tennessee and Finnegan were unable to agree on a long-term contract and the Titans used their franchise tag on safety Michael Griffin, placing the former All-Pro cornerback on the market. The cost of the franchise tag for cornerbacks (more than $10.2 million for a one-year deal) is one of the reasons why the Titans didn’t tag Finnegan, who is certainly looking to be paid like one of the top cornerbacks in the league.

The former seventh-round pick has played with a chip on his shoulder from the start of his rookie season in 2006 and has established a reputation for his physical style of play. Any team looking to shore up its secondary and add some fire to its roster will probably take a close look at Finnegan.

Interested teams: Detroit and St. Louis, two teams with ties to Finnegan already immediately come to mind. Schwartz, the Lions' head coach, previously served as the Titans’ defensive coordinator. Then there are the Rams, now coached by Jeff Fisher who was the Titans’ head coach when Finnegan was drafted through 2010. Cincinnati and Tampa Bay are two other teams that could show interest and I wouldn’t rule out Dallas or Washington either.

Where he ends up: Detroit and St. Louis both bear watching if nothing else for their connections to Finnegan and need for a top-flight, tough cornerback. The Rams are in better shape cap-wise, but the Lions appear to offer the better opportunity to make it to the postseason and possibly contend for a Super Bowl. However, Finnegan has made it clear he wants to be paid and paid well, so I think he will end going to the team that makes him the best offer, which usually brings Dallas and Washington into play. However, on Monday the NFL announced it was taking away millions of cap space from both the Cowboys and Redskins for front-loading contracts during the uncapped 2010 season, which could take both teams out of the running for Finnegan and any of the other marquee free agents for that matter. That leaves the Bengals and Buccaneers, both of which have plenty of cap space to make Finnegan a big offer. On the surface, the Bucs seem to be the better fit and have the more pressing need for Finnegan, who is reportedly trying to convince a certain free agent wide receiver with the last name Jackson to join him in Tampa as a package deal. If this happens that would be quite the housewarming gift for new Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano.TAMPA BAY

UPDATE: On March 13, Finnegan signed a five-year deal worth approximately $50 million with St. Louis on where he will be reunited with Jeff Fisher, his former head coach when he was wtih the Titans.

10. Reggie Wayne, WR
Wayne, who will turn 34 in November is on this list for the same reason that I could have put fellow Indianapolis cast-off tight end Dallas Clark. They both were very productive playing with Peyton Manning and it's not out of the realm of possibility that either of them could be reunited this fall.

Wayne has already put together a Hall of Fame-worthy resume with 862 receptions, 11,708 receiving yards and 73 touchdowns in 11 seasons. The majority of that came with No. 18 throwing the ball to him. Wayne's days as a true No. 1 wide receiver are probably behind him, but he could be a very productive complementary wide receiver for some team who also could serve as a mentor for young players at his position.

Interested teams: The ties to Manning connection shouldn't be overlooked, but when you consider the teams Wayne's former quarterback has either visited or is scheduled to visit, only Denver and Miami seem to fit. Arizona has cap space issues to negotiate and other needs they will need to fill other than wide receiver, while I don't think Tennessee is that interested in a Manning-Wayne reunion. If Wayne is willing to play with another quarterback than I think his market could increase quite a bit and teams like Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville, San Diego, Seattle, Washington and possibly even New Orleans could get involved.

Where he ends up: As I said earlier, I think Manning ends up in Arizona, but I don't see Wayne joining him there. I actually think Clark would have a better chance of ending up with the Cardinals in that scenario than Wayne for what it's worth. If he can't play with Manning then I think Wayne will look to either get back to Miami, where he played in college, or to New Orleans, where he's from. The Saints will more than likely lose Colston to another team, so Wayne would be a nice replacement. And if he can't catch passes from Manning, I think Wayne would "settle" for Brees. NEW ORLEANS

UPDATE: On March 13, Wayne agreed to a new three-year deal to return to the Colts.

— by Mark Ross, published on March 13, 2012, updated at 2 p.m. CT on March 29

Related NFL Free Agency Content:

2012 NFL Free Agency Primer
2012 NFL Free Agent List

Teaser:
<p> <font id="yui_3_2_0_17_13315952532584354"><span class="yui_3_2_0_17_1331595253258257" id="yui_3_2_0_17_13315952532584353">A look at 10 of the most interesting NFL free agents available and where they may end up</span></font></p>
Post date: Monday, March 12, 2012 - 21:30
All taxonomy terms: free agents, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/nfl-2012-free-agency-primer
Body:

This time last year, the NFL lockout had just begun, claiming free agency as one of its first casualties. When the NFL finally got back to business on July 30, free agency was just one of numerous pieces of business that happened in earnest as teams had to scramble to make up for lost time.

Fortunately for teams, players and especially fans, that was then and this is now. The lockout is totally in the rear-view mirror and the NFL has resumed its normal operating schedule with free agency set to start at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

Considering there about 600 free agents out on the market, more than 1/3 of all the players in the NFL, there’s no doubt teams have used all of the time afforded them to get ready for the flurry of activity that will begin Tuesday afternoon.

To keep you up to speed, we've put together a quick rundown of how this year’s free agent class shapes up.

For starters, this year’s class of free agents is heavy on the defensive side of the ball. About half of the entire class are defensive players. The biggest group of available players is cornerbacks and wide receivers, each of which numbers around 60. Safeties and outside linebackers follow on the defensive side, each having more than 50, while the number of available inside linebackers in this year’s class is fewer than 40.

It’s a widely held belief that championship teams are built up front, meaning the offensive and defensive lines. If that’s the case, then teams will have plenty of potential building blocks to choose from as there are more than 90 available players from each group.

On offense, it’s little surprise that wide receivers are the largest group (about 60) considering the proliferation of pass-oriented offenses in recent years. There are also nearly 50 running backs (including fullbacks) and more than 30 tight ends looking to land with a team.

Of course, we can’t forget about the quarterback, right? This year’s free agent quarterback class numbers nearly 40 and includes some guy named Manning.

And to be fair, we can’t leave out the special teams guys, represented by about 30 punters, kickers and long snappers, who round out this year’s free agent class. In fact, of the 21 teams that used the franchise tag this year, five of them applied them to their kicker. In addition, the New York Giants, the defending Super Bowl champions, applied their franchise tag to their punter, Steve Weatherford.

Click here for a complete list of 2012 NFL free agents

Now let’s take a closer look at each position group.

Quarterbacks
Peyton Manning is hands down the biggest prize of this group and he is the first domino that needs to fall to get the rest of the movement started. Manning’s decision not only dictates what will happen to some of the other free agent quarterbacks, but it’s also sure to have an impact on the upcoming draft as several teams will look to one (free agency) or the other (draft) to fill their signal-caller needs.

Besides Manning, Drew Brees is technically a member of this class, but he’s not going anywhere as New Orleans slapped the exclusive franchise tag on their field general. Brees may not be thrilled with the move by the team, which could hamper progress toward a long-term contract, but regardless he’s with the Saints at least for one more year because of the exclusive tag.

Then there’s Alex Smith, who, like Manning, is a former No. 1 overall pick. Smith played the best football of his career last season as his 49ers went 13-3 and won then NFC West. If Smith doesn’t re-sign with San Francisco, one of the many rumored potential destinations for Manning, it remains to be seen if another team’s willing to make him their starter.

The other interesting name out there is Matt Flynn. Flynn’s served as Aaron Rodgers’ back up in Green Bay the past four years, but could find himself headed to Miami. There he could become the Dolphins’ starter and be reunited with former Packers’ offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, who is Miami’s new head coach.

Other notable free agent quarterbacks: Jason Campbell, Rex Grossman, Chad Henne, Kyle Orton, Curtis Painter, Brady Quinn, Vince Young

Running Backs
Baltimore and Chicago both used their franchise tag on their running backs, so it doesn’t appear that Ray Rice and Matt Forte will be changing uniforms this season. Two other marquee running backs were removed from the potential free agent pool recently when Houston signed Arian Foster to a five-year deal and Seattle kept Marshawn Lynch in the fold with a four-year pact.

There’s still plenty of backs to keep an eye on, including Peyton Hillis, who is almost guaranteed of a change of scenery given how his last season in Cleveland went, both on the field and off of it. Staying in the AFC North, Cedric Benson’s time in Cincinnati may be coming to an end, but it seems highly likely that some other team will find room for a running back who’s rushed for 1,000 or more yards the past three seasons and doesn’t turn 30 until the end of the year.

Joseph Addai, LeGarrette Blount, Ronnie Brown, Ryan Grant, Brandon Jacobs and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are other 1,000-yard rushers who are currently less than 30 years old that are on the market. At first glance, it appears that Green-Ellis, depending upon what direction Tampa Bay goes with its first-round pick (Alabama’s Trent Richardson perhaps?), is the likeliest to remain with his old team. Addai and Jacobs are among the most recent free agents added to the pool as they were both released on Friday.

Thomas Jones and LaDainian Tomlinson headline the group of veterans with more than 10 years of experience looking for jobs. In the case of Tomlinson, he’s looking for the right fit on a team that has a good shot at winning the Super Bowl, the only thing missing from his impressive resume.

One other situation that bears watching is in Pittsburgh. Isaac Redman is a free agent, but don’t be surprised if he stays with the Steelers. Redman took over the starting duties after Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL in the team’s final-regular season game on New Year’s Day. While nothing’s been decided, it’s entirely possible that Mendenhall will be lost for the entire 2012 season, which would put even more impetus on bringing back Redman.

Other notable free agent running backs: Lance Ball, Michael Bush, Justin Forsett, Earnest Graham, Tim Hightower, Jerious Norwood, Kevin Smith, Mike Tolbert, Cadillac Williams

Wide Receivers
With nearly 60 wide receivers available, there figures to be a fair amount of movement within this group. This is also a group from which several bidding wars among interested teams could take place in the hopes of adding the likes of a Vincent Jackson, Brandon Lloyd, Mike Wallace or Reggie Wayne.

That group doesn’t include Dwayne Bowe, DeSean Jackson and Wes Welker, who each tagged by their respective teams and most likely won’t be switching uniforms this coming season.

One wide receiver that is looking to cash in after a big season is Laurent Robinson. Robinson started last season with San Diego, but was released by the team at the end of training camp. Robinson quickly signed with Dallas, only to be released less than a week later due to a hamstring injury.

Robinson got a second chance with Dallas, however, due to a rash of injuries to the Cowboys’ wide receivers, and this time he made it count. In just 11 games, Robinson led Dallas and finished tied for fourth in the NFL with 11 touchdown receptions. Other than those already mentioned, there’s arguably no other wide receiver in a better bargaining position right now than Robinson.

There’s also one other interesting name out there that certainly bears watching – Randy Moss. Moss didn’t play in 2011 after a disappointing 2010 that saw him suit up for three different teams. However, it looks like Moss wants to return in 2012 as he worked out for New Orleans last week. Does any team have any interest in the mercurial Moss, who is currently second all-time in touchdown receptions, fifth in receiving yards, ninth and receptions and turned 35 in February? We shall see.

Other notable free agent wide receivers: Danny Amendola, Deion Branch, Plaxico Burress, Early Doucet, Lee Evans, Pierre Garcon, Ted Ginn Jr., Brandon Lloyd, Mario Manningham, Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal, Jerome Simpson, Donte Stallworth, Roy Williams

Tight Ends
Washington used its franchise tag on Fred Davis, so it appears the Redskins will stick with him even though he missed the last four games of the season after being suspended for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy.

While Davis may not be going anywhere one former All-Pro tight end is definitely looking for a new team. Dallas Clark was one of five players cut by Indianapolis on Friday, just two days following the release of Manning. Clark was hampered by injuries all of last season and will turn 33 in June, but he's also a productive and dependable tight end with more than 400 receptions, nearly 5,000 yards receiving and 46 touchdowns. He compiled most of these numbers with Manning, could a reunion be in order?

Other notable free agent tight ends: Martellus Bennett, John Carlson, Kellen Davis, Joel Dreessen, Randy McMichael, Leonard Pope, Bo Scaife, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jeremy Shockey, Jacob Tamme

Offensive Line
When New Orleans decided to use the franchise tag on Brees, that meant the team was not able to tag left guard Carl Nicks. The Saints top priority is to re-sign Nicks, but the First-Team All-Pro in 2011 is sure to attract plenty of interest from other teams.

Jeff Backus, Marc Colombo, Leonard Davis, Ryan Diem, Russ Hochstein, Steve Hutchinson and Kareem McKenzie are among the veterans of this group hoping to continue their NFL careers.

Center will be an interesting position to watch as well as free agent options include Matt Birk, Dan Koppen, Jeff Saturday, Scott Wells and Casey Wiegmann.

Other notable free agent offensive linemen: Stacy Andrews, Demetrius Bell, Jacob Bell, Dan Connolly, Ben Grubbs, Andre Gurode, Artis Hicks, Montrae Holland, Chris Kemoeatu, Doug Legursky, Deuce Lutui, Sean Locklear, Todd McClure, Chris Myers, Barry Richardson, Jake Scott, Max Starks

Defensive Line
Cliff Avril (Detroit) and Calais Campbell (Arizona) were tagged, as was Robert Mathis (Indianapolis). That tag wasn’t on there long, however, as the Colts and Mathis quickly came to terms on a new long-term contract. Kroy Biermann also re-signed with Atlanta before making it to free agency, but that still leaves about 90 defensive linemen who are available.

The defensive end pool includes John Abraham, Raheem Brock, Shaun Ellis, Israel Idonije, Aaron Maybin and Cory Redding. Teams looking to bulk up the interior of their defensive line have plenty of choices as well, including Brodrick Bunkley, Tommie Harris, Albert Haynesworth and Paul Soliai.

It’s a pretty safe bet that Haynesworth won’t be signing another $100-million contract in the immediate future, However, considering the two-time First-Team All-Pro will be just 31 this season, there’s a good chance another team will take a chance on him, provided the price is right.

Other notable free agent defensive linemen: Anthony Adams, Dave Ball, Michael Bennett, Adam Carriker, Wallace Gilberry, Kelly Gregg, Williams Hayes, Jason Jones, Jeremy Mincey, Amobi Okoye, Cory Redding, Shaun Rogers, Aaron Smith, Dave Tollefson, Gerard Warren

Linebackers
Last year four linebackers were tagged by their respective teams. This season, the only team to use its franchise tag on a linebacker was Dallas on Anthony Spencer.

One team that could have used its tag on a linebacker was Houston on Mario Williams, but the Texans chose not to, making the former No. 1 overall draft pick a free agent. Even though injuries have limited Williams the past two seasons, including just five games played in 2011 due to a torn pectoral muscle, the two-time Pro Bowler who is just 27 figures to be one of the most attractive free agents in this year’s class.

The teams that miss out on Williams have other options including Chase Blackburn, who made the biggest play of his career when he picked off Tom Brady in the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVI in February, as well as Gary Brackett, Dan Connor, James Farrior, London Fletcher, David Hawthorne, Curtis Lofton and Stephen Tulloch.

Other notable free agent linebackers: Bobby Carpenter, Mario Haggan, Geno Hayes, E.J. Henderson, Erin Henderson, Leroy Hill, Bradie James, Manny Lawson, Rocky McIntosh, Joey Porter, Matt Roth, Barrett Ruud, Ernie Sims, Wesley Woodyard

Defensive Backs
This season teams applied the franchise tag to three safeties and one cornerback. So while Tyvon Branch (Oakland), Dashon Goldson (San Francisco), Michael Griffin (Tennessee) and Brent Grimes (Atlanta) are more than likely staying put, there are still more than 110 defensive backs who are free agents.

Cortland Finnegan, LaRon Landry and Reggie Nelson are three options who will probably draw a lot of attention in hopes of landing a lucrative long-term contract. Some other names to watch include Brandon Carr, Brian Dawkins, Jim Leonhard, Richard Marshall, Terence Newman, Tracy Porter, Carlos Rogers, Aaron Ross and Lardarius Webb, to name a few.

Other notable free agent defensive backs: Jason Allen, Will Allen, Oshiomogho Atogwe, Ronde Barber, Melvin Bullitt, Chris Carr, Cedric Griffin, Kelvin Hayden, Chris Hope, Adam Jones, Justin King, Jacob Lacey, Brodney Pool, Bob Sanders, Greg Toler, Madieu Williams, Gibril Wilson, Eric Wright, Tom Zbikowski

Kickers/Punters
Thanks to the franchise tag, it appears that Connor Barth, Phil Dawson, Mike Nugent, Matt Prater and Josh Scobee won’t have to worry about trying on a new uniform this season. The same cannot be necessarily said about Jay Feely, Nick Folk, Shayne Graham, John Kasay and Neil Rackers, who are free agents.

And while Weatherford won’t be hitting the market, some punters who could be on the move include Britton Colquitt, Donnie Jones, Brad Maynard, Matt McBriar and Matt Turk. And let’s not forget about the long snappers, either, as nine of them are part of this year’s free agent class.


Regardless of your positional preference, the size and makeup of this year’s free agency class offers plenty to watch and monitor as the process gets underway on Tuesday afternoon. Football fans had to do without it out last year because of the lockout, but it’s back this year.

Fittingly enough, the NCAA Tournament also kicks off on Tuesday, as opening-round games will take place in Dayton, Ohio. So while the first step in determining this year’s men’s basketball champion happens Tuesday night, earlier in the day the fate of about 600 NFL players will begin to play out as well with the start of free agency. Welcome to March Madness, NFL-style.

— by Mark Ross, updated at 3 p.m. CT on March 13, 2012

Teaser:
<p> A look at what NFL players are available and may be joining a new team once free agency starts on Tuesday</p>
Post date: Monday, March 12, 2012 - 06:50
All taxonomy terms: free agents, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/nfl-2012-free-agent-list
Body:

The following is a list of NFL players who are expected to be free agents on March 13 provided they are not re-signed before then. Players are grouped by position with their 2011 team.

Players who had the franchise tag applied to them by their respective team are included in this list.

This list will be updated as information becomes available.

Click here for a more in-depth breakdown of this year's free agent class

Quarterbacks
Richard Bartel, Arizona
Charlie Batch, Pittsburgh
Kyle Boller, Oakland
Tom Brandstater, St. Louis
Drew Brees, New Orleans (Franchised)
Mark Brunell, New York Jets
Kellen Clemens, St. Louis
Jake Delhomme, Houston
Dennis Dixon, Pittsburgh
A.J. Feeley, St. Louis
Jeff Garcia, Houston
Chris Greisen, Dallas
Max Hall, Arizona
Byron Leftwich, Pittsburgh
Matt Leinart, Houston
J.P. Losman, Miami
Luke McCown, Jacksonville
Kevin O'Connell, New York Jets
Curtis Painter, Indianapolis
Tyler Palko, Kansas City
Vince Young, Philadelphia

Running Backs
Joseph Addai, Indianapolis
Lance Ball, Denver
Jackie Battle, Kansas City
Kahlil Bell, Chicago
Cedric Benson, Cincinnati
LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay
Brock Bolen, Jacksonville
Lorenzo Booker, Minnesota
Ronnie Brown, Philadelphia
Tashard Choice, Buffalo
Kevin Faulk, New England
Tony Flammetta, Dallas
Justin Forsett, Seattle
Matt Forté, Chicago (Franchised)
Earnest Graham, Tampa Bay
Ryan Grant, Green Bay
Ahmard Hall, Tennessee
Bruce Hall, Buffalo
Jerome Harrison, Detroit
Jacob Hester, San Diego
Tim Hightower, Washington
Thomas Jones, Kansas City
Matt Lawrence, Baltimore
Mewelde Moore, Pittsburgh
Maurice Morris, Detroit
Sammy Morris, Dallas
Moran Norris, San Francisco
Jerious Norwood, St. Louis
Lousaka Polite, New England
Issac Redman, Pittsburgh
Marcel Reece, Oakland
Ray Rice, Baltimore (Franchised)
Mike Sellers, Washington
Owen Schmitt, Philadelphia
Alfonso Smith, Arizona
LaRod Stephens-Howling, Arizona
Chester Taylor, Arizona
LaDainian Tomlinson, New York Jets
Derrick Ward, Houston
Chauncey Washington, Dallas
Cadillac Williams, St. Louis
Kris Wilson, Baltimore

Wide Receivers
Seyi Ajirotutu, Carolina
Danny Amendola, St. Louis
David Anderson, Washington
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City (Franchised)
Plaxico Burress, New York Jets
Greg Camarillo, Minnesota
Michael Clayton, New York Giants
Mark Clayton, St. Louis
Jerricho Cotchery, Pittsburgh
Patrick Crayton, San Diego
Dominique Curry, St. Louis
Rashied Davis, Detroit
Lee Evans, Baltimore
Richard Goodman, San Diego
Jesse Holley, Dallas
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Oakland
Bryant Johnson, Houston
Legedu Naanee, Carolina
Jordan Norwood, Cleveland
Kassim Osgood, Jacksonville
Preston Parker, Tampa Bay
Roscoe Parrish, Buffalo
Courtney Roby, New Orleans
Jerome Simpson, Cincinnati
Micheal Spurlock, Tampa Bay
Maurice Stovall, Detroit
Chansi Stuckey, Arizona
Brett Swain, San Francisco
Jerheme Urban, Kansas City
Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh
Wes Welker, New England (Franchised)
Roy Williams, Chicago
Matt Willis, Denver

Tight Ends
Billy Bajema, St. Louis
Anthony Becht, Kansas City
Richie Brockel, Carolina
Dallas Clark, Indianapolis
John Gilmore, New Orleans
Anthony Hill, Indianapolis
Tory Humphrey, New Orleans
David Johnson, Pittsburgh
Edgar Jones, Baltimore
Reggie Kelly, Atlanta
Donald Lee, Cincinnati
Jeron Mastrud, Miami
Matthew Mulligan, New York Jets
Jake O'Connell, Kansas City
Bear Pascoe, New York Giants
Justin Peelle, San Francisco
Leonard Pope, Kansas City
Martin Rucker, Jacksonville
Bo Scaife, Cincinnati
Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota
Jeremy Shockey, Carolina
Stephen Spach, St. Louis

Offensive Linemen
Stacy Andrews, New York Giants
Demetrius Bell, Buffalo
Jacob Bell, St. Louis
Jason Brown, St. Louis
Patrick Brown, Minnesota
Vernon Carey, Miami
Cooper Carlisle, Oakland
Kirk Chambers, Atlanta
Chris Clark, Denver
Marc Colombo, Miami
Leonard Davis, Detroit
Derrick Dockery, Dallas
Brandyn Dombrowski, San Diego
King Dunlap, Philadelphia
Trai Essex, Pittsburgh
Jeff Faine, Tampa Bay
Ramon Foster, Pittsburgh
Adam Goldberg, St. Louis
Andre Gurode, Baltimore
Rex Hadnot, Arizona
Kevin Haslam, Jacksonville
Anthony Herrera, Minnesota
Stephon Heyer, Oakland
Corey Hilliard, Detroit
Russ Hochstein, Denver
Montrae Holland, Dallas
Brandon Keith, Arizona
Chris Kemoeatu, Pittsburgh
Scott Kooistra, Minnesota
Dan Koppen, New England
Kyle Kosier, Dallas
James Lee, Tampa Bay
Doug Legursky, Pittsburgh
Mark LeVoir, St. Louis
Sean Locklear, Washington
Daniel Loper, Dallas
Deuce Lutui, Arizona
Kareem McKenzie, New York Giants
Marcus McNeill, San Diego
Pat McQuistan, New Orleans
Scott Mruczkowski, San Diego
Lydon Murtha, Miami
Ryan O'Callaghan, Kansas City
Tony Pashos, Cleveland
Chilo Rachal, San Francisco
Jamey Richard, Indianapolis
Barry Richardson Kansas City
Chad Rinehart, Buffalo
Dennis Roland, Cincinnati
Brett Romberg, Atlanta
Jake Scott, Tennessee
Max Starks, Pittsburgh
Eric Steinbach, Cleveland
Kasey Studdard, Houston
Robert Turner, New York Jets
Tony Ugoh, New York Giants
Kraig Urbik, Buffalo
Fernando Velasco, Tennessee
Casey Wiegmann, Kansas City
Bobbie Williams, Cincinnati
Pork Chop Womack, Arizona
Tony Wragge, St. Louis

Defensive Linemen
Victor Abiamiri, Philadelphia
C.J. Ah You, St. Louis
Ikaika Alama-Francis, Miami
Cliff Avril, Detroit (Franchised)
Remi Ayodele, Minnesota
Dave Ball, Tennessee
Justin Bannan, St. Louis
Rocky Bernard, New York Giants
Tyler Brayton, Indianapolis
Raheem Brock, Seattle
Mason Brodine, Oakland
Desmond Bryant, Oakland
Tim Bulman, Houston
Calais Campbell, Arizona (Franchised)
Andre Carter, New England
Jeff Charleston, New Orleans
Nate Collins, Jacksonville
Tim Crowder, Tampa Bay
Jermelle Cudjo, St. Louis
Leger Douzable, Jacksonville
Shaun Ellis, New England
Eric Foster, Indianapolis
Aubrayo Franklin, New Orleans
Clifton Geathers, Dallas
Gary Gibson, St. Louis
Wallace Gilberry, Kansas City
Kedric Golston, Washington
Howard Green, Green Bay
Kelly Gregg, Kansas City
Tony Hargrove, Seattle
Tommie Harris, San Diego
Jovan Haye, Tampa Bay
William Hayes, Tennessee
Albert Haynesworth, Tampa Bay
John Henderson, Oakland
Sammie Lee Hill, Detroit
Vonnie Holliday, Arizona
Jimmy Kennedy, New York Giants
Sergio Kindle, Baltimore
Derek Landri, Philadelphia
Trevor Laws, Philadelphia
Kyle Love, New England
Bryan Mattison, St. Louis
Aaron Maybin, New York Jets
Ryan McBean, Denver
Albert McClellan, Baltimore
Clinton McDonald, Seattle
Brandon McKinney, Baltimore
Steve McLendon, Pittsburgh
Phillip Merling, Miami
Jayme Mitchell, Cleveland
Amobi Okoye, Chicago
Jeremy Parnell, Dallas
Zach Potter, Jacksonville
Nick Reed, Tampa Bay
Fred Robbins, St. Louis
Shaun Rogers, New Orleans
Malcolm Sheppard, Tennessee
Aaron Smith, Pittsburgh
Ronald Talley, Arizona
Marcus Thomas, Denver
Dave Tollefson, New York Giants
Gerard Warren, New England
Jimmy Wilkerson, Seattle
Brandon Williams, Arizona

Linebackers
Xavier Adibi, Minnesota
Antwan Applewhite, Carolina
Marcus Benard, Cleveland
Kevin Bentley, Indianapolis
Chase Blackburn, New York Giants
Darryl Blackstock, Oakland
Jerome Boyd, Oakland
Gary Brackett, Indianapolis
Keith Brooking, Dallas
Cody Brown, Detroit
Titus Brown, Cleveland
Bobby Carpenter, Detroit
Jonathan Casillas, New Orleans
Stephen Cooper, San Diego
Andra Davis, Buffalo
Na'il Diggs, San Diego
Tim Dobbins, Houston
Jo-Lonn Dunbar, New Orleans
Dannell Ellerbe, Baltimore
Isaiah Ekejiuba, Detroit
James Farrior, Pittsburgh
London Fletcher, Washington
Keyaron Fox, Washington
Omar Gaither, Carolina
Jonathan Goff, New York Giants
Larry Grant, San Francisco
Quentin Groves, Oakland
Gary Guyton, New England
Mario Haggan, Denver
Clark Haggans, Arizona
David Hawthorne, Seattle
Geno Hayes, Tampa Bay
E.J. Henderson, Minnesota
Leroy Hill, Seattle
Ramon Humber, New Orleans
Bradie James, Dallas
Brandon Johnson, Cincinnati
Bryan Kehl, St. Louis
Niko Koutouvides, New England
Manny Lawson, Cincinnati
DeAndre Levy, Detroit
Matt McCoy, Seattle
Rocky McIntosh, Washington
Brit Miller, St. Louis
Marvin Mitchell, Miami
Jarvis Moss, Oakland
Ashlee Palmer, Detroit
Mike Peterson, Atlanta
Brady Poppinga, St. Louis
Joey Porter, Arizona
Matt Roth, Jacksonville
Barrett Ruud, Tennessee
Jordan Senn, Carolina
Tim Shaw, Tennessee
Ernie Sims, Indianapolis
Dan Skuta, Cincinnati
Anthony Spencer, Dallas (Franchised)
Austin Spitler, Miami
Reggie Torbor, Buffalo
David Vobora, Seattle
Erik Walden, Green Bay
Philip Wheeler, Indianapolis
Chavis Williams, Baltimore
Thomas Williams, Carolina
Wesley Woodyard, Denver

Defensive Backs
Hamza Abdullah, Arizona
Husain Abdullah, Minnesota
Oshiomogho Atogwe, Washington
Alan Ball, Dallas
Dominique Barber, Houston
Yeremiah Bell, Miami
Will Blackmon, New York Giants
Tyvon Branch, Oakland (Franchised)
Tramaine Brock, San Francisco
C.C. Brown, Jacksonville
Stevie Brown, Indianapolis
Phillip Buchanon, Washington
Melvin Bullitt, Indianapolis
Jarrett Bush, Green Bay
James Butler, St. Louis
Chris Carr, Baltimore
Reggie Corner, Buffalo
Jon Corto, Buffalo,
Kennard Cox, Seattle
Travis Daniels, Kansas City
Craig Dahl, St. Louis
Brian Dawkins, Denver
Quintin Demps, Houston
Abram Elam, Dallas
Matt Giordano Oakland
Dashon Goldson, San Francisco (Franchised)
Cletis Gordon, Carolina
Danny Gorrer, Baltimore
Deon Grant, New York Giants
Courtney Greene, Jacksonville
Michael Griffin, Tennessee (Franchised)
Brent Grimes, Atlanta (Franchised)
Chris Harris, Detroit
Kelvin Hayden, Atlanta
Roderick Hood, St. Louis
Chris Hope, Tennessee
James Ihedigbo, New England
Kelly Jennings, Cincinnati
Rashad Johnson, Arizona
Tyrell Johnson, Minnesota
David Jones, Jacksonville
Nathan Jones, New England
Sean Jones, Tampa Bay
Justin King, St. Louis
Jacob Lacey, Indianapolis
Reshard Langford, Kansas City
Jim Leonhard, New York Jets
Keenan Lewis, Pittsburgh
Roy Lewis, Seattle
Bret Lockett, New England
Corey Lynch, Tampa Bay
Elbert Mack, Tampa Bay
Derrick Martin, New York Giants
Bryan McCann, Oakland
Kyle McCarthy, Denver
Brandon McDonald, Detroit
Bryant McFadden, Pittsburgh
Jon McGraw, Kansas City
William Middleton, Jacksonville
Jeromy Miles, Cincinnati
Antwaun Molden, New England
Ryan Mundy, Pittsburgh
Terence Newman, Dallas
Paul Oliver, San Diego
Jarrad Page, Minnesota
Sabby Piscitelli, Kansas City
James Sanders, Atlanta
Bob Sanders, San Diego
Benny Sapp, Minnesota
Lito Sheppard, Oakland
Anthony Smith, Tennessee
Reggie Smith, San Francisco
Darian Stewart, St. Louis
Donald Strickland, New York Jets
Leigh Torrence, New Orleans
Frank Walker, Dallas
Lardarius Webb, Baltimore
Byron Westbrook, Washington
Jonathan Wilhite, Denver
Cary Williams, Baltimore
Madieu Williams, San Francisco
Gibril Wilson, Cincinnati

Kickers
Connor Barth, Tampa Bay (Franchised)
David Buehler, Dallas
Brandon Coutu, Buffalo
Graham Gano, Washington
Shayne Graham, Baltimore
Steven Hauschka, Seattle
John Kasay, New Orleans
Richmond McGee, Cleveland
Mike Nugent, Cincinnati (Franchised)
Matt Prater, Denver (Franchised)
Neil Rackers, Houston
Dave Rayner, Buffalo
Josh Scobee, Jacksonville (Franchised)

Punters
Britton Colquitt, Denver
Nick Harris, Jacksonville
Donnie Jones, St. Louis
Jeremy Kapinos, Pittsburgh
Brad Maynard, Cleveland
Mat McBriar, Dallas
Daniel Sepulveda, Pittsburgh
Matt Turk, Houston
Dave Zastudil, Arizona

Long Snappers
Kenneth Amato, Tennessee
Morgan Cox, Baltimore
Clark Harris, Cincinnati
Matt Katula, Minnesota
Chris Massey, Chicago
Mike Windt, San Diego

Updated at 12 p.m. CT on March 30, 2012

Teaser:
<p> A complete list of NFL free agents broken down by position</p>
Post date: Monday, March 12, 2012 - 06:41
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/2012-fantasy-baseball-deep-sleepers
Body:

— by Mark Ross, published on March 8, 2012

When it comes to fantasy baseball, you pretty much know what you’re getting in players like Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Roy Halladay, and other sure-fire lottery picks. However, only one owner in a given league can lay claim to each of these fantasy studs.

With 30 teams and 25 players on each roster come Opening Day, there’s more than enough supply to fill out a roster. Here are some names at each position that you won’t find on Athlon Sports’ consensus Top 150 that may be worth a look later in your draft as well as some that you may want to keep your eye on once the season starts.

Note: Players are listed at the position(s) they are currently eligible. Some of these players may gain eligibility at additional position(s) once season starts, depending on your league's eligibility requirements.

Athlon Sports Fantasy Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

2012 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers

Catcher:

Late-Round Target
Wilson Ramos, WAS, C
Washington acquired Ramos as part of the trade that sent Matt Capps to Minnesota in July 2010. In 2011, all the 24-year-old backstop did in his first full season with the Nationals was hit .267 with 15 home runs and 52 RBIs in 113 games. He should get even more plate opportunities this season and a .270-20-80 line is entirely possible.
Other candidates: J.P. Arencibia (TOR, C), Jonathan Lucroy (MIL, C), Geovany Soto (CHC, C)

For Even Deeper Leagues
Ryan Doumit, C, MIN
Doumit is known more for his bat than his glove, which has limited his opportunities. However, when he has been given the chance to play, he's produced. In 2008, he posted a .318-15-69 line along with 34 doubles and 71 runs scored in just 116 games. Injuries have been an issue for Doumit, who played in just 77 games last year for the Pirates, but now he’s in the American League with Minnesota so he should get a fair amount of at bats as the Twins’ DH. He’s also another Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau injury away from even more plate opportunities.
Others worth considering: Devin Mesoraco (C, CIN), Sal Perez (C, KC)

First Base:

Late-Round Target
Gaby Sanchez, MIA, 1B
In 2010 and '11 Sanchez scored the exact same number of runs (72) and hit the same number of home runs (19) each season. He also finished each season with  roughly the same number of hits, doubles and RBIs. He has been steady, but not spectacular, so the question becomes is .270-19-80 his ceiling? Perhaps not considering he posted a .293-13-50 line, along with 22 doubles and 46 runs scored in the first half of 2011 before cooling off considerably (.225-6-28) after the All-Star break. If anything, he’s certainly worth late-round consideration and could become a steal should he take that next step in 2012.
Other candidates: Carlos Lee (HOU, 1B/OF), Justin Morneau (MIN, 1B), Mark Trumbo (LAA, 1B/OF)

For Even Deeper Leagues
Mitch Moreland, 1B/OF, TEX
Moreland was bothered by a wrist injury the second half of last season that greatly hampered his production at the plate. After hitting 11 home runs in the first half, he managed just five in his final 56 games. He underwent surgery on the troublesome wrist in late November and should be good to go by Opening Day or shortly thereafter. Texas ended up passing on free agent Prince Fielder, so the starting job at first base should still be Moreland's, which also guarantees him a spot in the Rangers’ potent line up.
Others worth considering: Brandon Belt (1B/OF, SF), Mike Carp (1B/OF, SEA), Lucas Duda (NYM, 1B/OF), Adam LaRoche (1B, WAS)

Second Base:

Late-Round Target
Jemile Weeks, OAK, 2B
Rickie, Jemile’s older brother, most likely will be the first Weeks sibling drafted this year, but that may not be the case in 2013. Jemile more than held his own after making his major-league debut last June, batting .303 with 26 doubles, eight triples, 22 stolen bases and 50 runs scored in 97 games. Oakland’s offense will probably be among the worst in baseball next season, but Weeks should still serve as a valuable source of steals and runs scored, just the sort of production you are looking for in a middle infielder taken late in the draft, no?
Other candidates: Danny Espinosa (WAS, 2B), Aaron Hill (ARI, 2B), Ryan Roberts (ARI, 2B/3B)

For Even Deeper Leagues
Johnny Giavotella, 2B, KC
Giavotella got his first taste of the majors last August and is penciled in as the Royals’ starting second baseman in 2012. A career .305 hitter in the minors with good plate discipline, Giavotella did a little of everything (20 R, 9 2B, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 5 SB) in his 46-game debut. Over the course of a full season, he could be a sneaky source for runs and possibly stolen bases.
Others worth considering: Jose Altuve (2B, HOU), Mike Aviles, (2B/SS/3B, BOS), Alexi Casilla (2B/SS, MIN)

Shortstop:

Late-Round Target
Stephen Drew, ARI, SS
Drew produced a .278-15-61 line in 2010 and was on his way to even bigger numbers in 2011 before a broken ankle ended his season shortly after the All-Star break. At the time, Drew was on pace to score more than 80 runs and drive in more than 80 with about 40 doubles. It remains to be seen if Drew will be ready to go on Opening Day, but even if he isn’t any shortstop capable of hitting more than 20 home runs (21 in 2008) is someone worth monitoring.
Other candidates: Jhonny Peralta (DET, SS), Marco Scutaro (COL, SS)

For Even Deeper Leagues
Zack Cozart, SS, CIN
Cozart got off to a hot start (.324, 2 HR in 11 games) after making his major league debut last summer before suffering a season-ending elbow injury on July 23. He ended up having Tommy John surgery, but is expected to be the Reds’ starting shortstop come Opening Day. A .270 hitter in the minors, the 26-year-old has also shown decent power and speed, as he hit 17 home runs and stole 30 bases in AAA in 2010.
Others worth considering: Mike Aviles, (2B/SS/3B, BOS), Willie Bloomquist (SS/OF, ARI), Alexi Casilla (2B/SS, MIN), Jed Lowrie (SS/3B, HOU), Tyler Pastornicky (SS, ATL)

Third Base:

Late-Round Target
Mike Moustakas, KC, 3B
Moustakas was brought up from the minors about a month after Eric Hosmer, but didn’t enjoy the same kind of early success as that of his fellow left-handed hitting teammate. In June and July, Moustakas hit just .198 with one home run and 10 RBIs. He started figuring things out in August (.283) and really turned it on in September, batting .352 with four home runs in his final 22 games. Hosmer will most likely post better overall numbers for the Royals in 2012, but don’t be surprised if Moustakas out-homers him. The former No. 2 overall pick hit 10 in 55 games in AAA prior to his call up last June.
Other candidates: Chipper Jones (ATL, 3B), Martin Prado (ATL, 3B/OF), Ryan Roberts (ARI, 2B/3B)

For Even Deeper Leagues
Ian Stewart, 3B, CHC
Last season (.156, 0 HR, 6 RBI in 48 games) was an utter disaster for Stewart no matter which way you look at it. He now gets a chance to start over in Chicago and new Cubs’ manager Dale Sveum has told everyone willing to listen that Stewart is his everyday starter at the hot corner. Stewart is not going to hit for a high average, but he could be a sneaky source for power as he clubbed 25 home runs two years ago for the Rockies and now calls Wrigley Field his home ballpark.
Others worth considering: Pedro Alvarez (3B, PIT), Mike Aviles, (2B/SS/3B, BOS), Mat Gamel (3B, MIL), Jed Lowrie (SS/3B, HOU), Brent Morel (3B, CHW)

Outfield:

Late-Round Target
Mark Trumbo, LAA, 1B/OF
Trumbo is a little behind the rest of his teammates this spring training thanks to a stress fracture in his right foot. He’s also trying to make the transition to third base, a move necessitated by the signing of Albert Pujols. Whether it be third, first, the outfield or DH, the Angels are going to do whatever they can to get Trumbo’s bat in the lineup as soon as he’s ready to go. Last year Trumbo finished second in the voting for AL Rookie of the Year as he led the Angels in both home runs (29) and RBIs (87). Anyone who has the ability to go 30-100 and play multiple positions is worth taking a chance on late.
Other candidates: Melky Cabrera (SF, OF), Jeff Francoeur (KC, OF), Torii Hunter (LAA, OF), Carlos Lee (HOU, 1B/OF)

For Even Deeper Leagues
Jose Tabata, PIT, OF
Before a quadriceps injury in June ruined his season, Tabata was off to a respectable start (.265, 39 R, 14 SB, .351 OBP in 71 games). He’s still just 23 years old and if healthy, should maintain his starting spot in right field and near the top of the Pirates’ line up. He’s definitely worth keeping an eye on this spring and once the season starts.
Others worth considering: Alejandro De Aza (CHW, OF), Brandon Belt (SF, 1B/OF), Mike Carp (SEA, 1B/OF), Chris Heisey (CIN, OF), Bryan LaHair (CHC, OF), Cody Ross (BOS, OF), Alfonso Soriano (CHC, OF), Denard Span (MIN, OF), Eric Thames (TOR, OF)

Starting Pitching:

Late-Round Target
Derek Holland, TEX, SP
C.J. Wilson is gone and Yu Darvish is getting all of the hype, but Holland could end up being the Rangers’ ace this season. A 16-game winner in 2011, Holland was at his best after the All-Star break. He went 9-1 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in the second half of the season and went 2-0 in four postseason starts, including 8 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 2 of the World Series against St. Louis. If he can build off of his second half performance and improve upon his numbers at home (4.69 ERA, 1.56 WHIP in 16 GS in ‘11), he could be an extremely valuable fantasy contributor.
Other candidates: Jhoulys Chacin (COL, SP), Doug Fister (DET, SP), Jaime Garcia (STL, SP), Jeremy Hellickson (TB, SP), Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE, SP), Ervin Santana (LAA, SP), Max Scherzer (DET, SP)

For Even Deeper Leagues
Carlos Zambrano, MIA, SP
No one needed a change of scenery more than Zambrano, who will get another chance in Miami pitching for his friend and fellow Venezuelan, Ozzie Guillen. His volatile temperament is well documented, but this is also a guy who’s only 30 years old and once won 18 games. He may not throw as hard as he used to, but he has averaged more than six innings as a starter in his career with a 3.57 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP. He still has the talent to go along with his temper, but if he’s able to harness the former while controlling the latter for his new team, he could pay big dividends for both the Marlins’ and your fantasy rotation.
Others worth considering: Erik Bedard (PIT, SP), Zach Britton (BAL, SP), Clay Buchholz (BOS, SP), Trevor Cahill (ARI, SP), R.A. Dickey (NYM, SP), Phil Hughes (NYY, SP), Jonathan Niese (NYM, SP), Jarrod Parker (OAK, SP), Brad Peacock (OAK, SP), Johan Santana (NYM, SP)

Relief Pitching:

Late-Round Target
Jordan Walden, LAA, RP
Walden may have led the majors with 10 blown saves last season, but he also was successful 32 other times and he’s just 24 years old. Walden struck out 67 in 60 1/3 innings and if he improves his command (26 BB) chances are his other numbers (2.98 ERA, 1.24 WHIP) will go down. One stat that’s likely to go up this season is his saves total as the Angels improved their offense by signing Albert Pujols and also could get Kendrys Morales back. A 40-save season is not out of the question.
Other candidates: Rafael Betancourt (COL, RP), Kyle Farnsworth (TB, RP), Carlos Marmol (CHC, RP), Joe Nathan (TEX, RP), Joakim Soria (KC, RP)

For Even Deeper Leagues
Andrew Cashner, SD, RP
Cashner started last season as a starter for the Cubs and promptly lasted all of 5 1/3 innings before suffering a rotator cuff injury that sidelined him until September. He was sent to San Diego in the Anthony Rizzo trade and although his future with the Padres may be as a starter, he will most likely work out of the bullpen this season. A power arm with 58 strikeouts in 65 innings, Cashner could end up as either the setup man for Huston Street or possibly the Padres’ closer should Street stumble.
Others worth considering: Grant Balfour (OAK, RP), Javy Guerra (LAD, RP), Kenley Jansen (LAD, RP), Jason Motte (STL, RP), Addison Reed (CHW, RP), Sergio Santos (TOR, RP)

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

2012 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: The Big Board
2012 Fantasy Baseball: First Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Outfield Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Relief Pitcher Rankings
2012 MLB Fantasy Closer Grid
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitching
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Closers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2012

Teaser:
<p> Who are some players that may be worth a late-round flier in your fantasy baseball draft?</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 8, 2012 - 06:02
Path: /nfl/colts-set-to-release-peyton-manning
Body:

— by Mark Ross

Peyton Manning's last pass in an NFL game came on Jan. 8, 2011. It also represents his final game as an Indianapolis Colt as the team is set to release its long-time quarterback.

The official announcement ending Manning's 14-year career with the Colts is expected to come in a press conference this afternoon. The decision to release the former No. 1 overall pick and four-time NFL MVP coincides with the $28 million roster bonus Manning was due come Thursday.

Besides not paying the roster bonus, the decision to release Manning also means the Colts are not picking up the four years remaining on his contract, making him a free agent. That contract is the five-year, $90 million extension Manning signed last July, just days after the NFL lockout ended. Now, less than eight months later, Manning is looking for a new team. 

Make no mistake about it, the Colts' decision to release Manning is all about the future, both Manning's and the franchise's. Manning has had three different surgeries on his neck in 19 months and will turn 36 in less than three weeks. Although he has been medically cleared to resume his career and is reportedly making progress to that end, it remains to be seen if he is physically capable of playing in an actual game.

Meanwhile the Colts are in full rebuild mode following last year's 2-14 disastrous season with a new general manager and head coach in place. The team's focus now shifts fully and entirely to the upcoming draft. Just like they did with Manning 14 years ago, the Colts hope they will be selecting their next franchise quarterback on April 26 when they are expected to take either Stanford's Andrew Luck or Baylor's Robert Griffin III with the No. 1 overall pick.

For now, Manning has made it clear he fully intends to be under center come Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season. So the question then becomes which uniform will he be wearing this fall? What sort of market exists for a Super Bowl-winning quarterback who took his team to the playoffs 11 times in 14 seasons? Let's take a look.

For starters, forget about teams who already have established quarterbacks on their roster. As good as Manning has been in his career, teams like Green Bay, New England, New Orleans, the New York Giants, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Dallas are already in pretty good shape at quarterback. So you can forget about any dreams of the Manning brothers playing together in the Big Apple.

Then you have teams who either appear to be fully committed to their current starter, like Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia, or those who think they already have their franchise quarterback on their roster, like Carolina, Cincinnati and St. Louis.

That still leaves 16 teams, or half of the NFL, technically still in the running. Here’s how those teams stack up:

Nice Idea But…

Buffalo Bills
Current starter Ryan Fitzpatrick signed a six-year, $59 million contract extension in October, which includes $24 million in guaranteed money. Ironically enough, Fitzpatrick struggled after signing his extension, throwing just 12 touchdown passes with 17 interceptions in his final 10 games with the Bills going 2-8 in that same stretch. That said, the Bills already have invested a lot in Fitzpatrick and appear to be fully committed to “The Amish Rifle”

Denver Broncos
This is just what Tim Tebow and Denver needs, another quarterback controversy. While Tebow’s NFL future is anything but certain, he has earned his standing as the Broncos’ starting quarterback headed into training camp. The last thing he needs is another Hall of Fame quarterback to worry about. He’s already got that in his boss, Broncos Executive Vice President of Operations John Elway.

Houston Texans
Houston would have to appeal to Manning if anything because the Texans are ready to win now and he would be guaranteed two shots each season against Irsay and the Colts. However, Matt Schaub is the entrenched starter and is expected to be fully recovered from last season’s foot injury by the time training camp starts and the Texans also have capable backup Tyler Yates on their roster.

Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings drafted Christian Ponder in the first round of last year’s draft and handed the starting reigns over to him in late October. The rookie went 2-8 in 10 games as the starter, while the Vikings finished with a 3-13 mark overall. Despite Ponder's struggles in his first season, the team appears to be committed to him moving forward, not to mention the fact that it has plenty of other holes to fill on the roster. The bottom line: this Vikings team does not present the same opportunity to Manning that it did to Brett Favre back in 2009.

Oakland Raiders
The Raiders already have a 30-something quarterback on their roster, Carson Palmer, and they paid a hefty price to get him. Oakland sent a 2012 first-round draft pick and a conditional second-round pick in 2013 (that could end up being a first-rounder) to Cincinnati last October to get Palmer, who played adequately (13 TDs, 16 INTs) in 10 games for the Raiders. Oakland also is a team in transition as Dennis Allen was hired in January as the Raiders’ seventh head coach in the past 10 seasons.

Tampa Bay
Josh Freeman had a disappointing 2011 season following a breakout 2010 campaign during which he led the Buccaneers to the playoffs. His touchdown passes fell from 25 to 16, while his interceptions increased dramatically from just six in 2010 to 22 last season. However, Freeman is just 24 years old and will enter just his fourth season as the Bucs’ starter this fall. New Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano will lean heavily on Freeman as he makes the transition from the collegiate head coaching ranks to the NFL.

Tennessee Titans
It reads like a fairy tale – former University of Tennessee star returns to his adopted home state to lead the Titans back to postseason glory, no doubt some of that coming at the expense of his former team and division rival, the Colts. Titans and UT fans can dream all they want, but it’s not going to happen. For one, the Titans already have a 36-year-old quarterback on their roster in Matt Hasselbeck. More importantly, they also believe they have their franchise quarterback of the future waiting in the wings in Jake Locker, the No. 8 overall pick in last year’s draft.

Now You’re Talking:

Cleveland Browns
Although he is signed for two more years, Colt McCoy’s future in Cleveland is uncertain at best. While Manning would appear to be an upgrade, the Browns will probably look to the draft to find their future franchise quarterback. With two picks, Nos. 4 and 22, in the first round, Cleveland is seemingly in prime position to select Baylor’s Robert Griffin III early or wait for either Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill or Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler later. Besides, I’m not sure Manning’s that thrilled about having to play the Ravens and Steelers twice each season.

Kansas City
Yes, Kansas City was a nice landing spot for Joe Montana in 1993, but I don’t see history repeating itself. The current incumbent is Matt Cassel, who is under contract through 2014 and the Chiefs have already invested a good deal of money in him. This is a team looking to establish its identity under new head coach Romeo Crennel and bringing in a new quarterback does not appear to be part of his plan.

New York Jets
Peyton and Eli in the same city? I can just hear the New York media types and football pundits everywhere salivating at the sheer thought. However, I suggest you go ahead and wipe that drool from your mouth because I don’t see this happening. For one, that would mean the departure/demotion of the Big Apple’s current favorite whipping boy, Mark Sanchez, who is signed for two more years and put up his best numbers yet last season. Second, I don’t think Peyton longs to play in New York and he is certainly aware of the ramifications that would come with it, for him personally and his family as a whole.

San Francisco
This appears to be an appealing destination because the 49ers are a team on rise under the leadership of head coach and former Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh. However, Manning doesn’t seem to fit what Harbaugh is looking for in a quarterback, as Alex Smith made plays with both his arm and his legs last season. Smith is a free agent, but even if he does not return, the 49ers still have 2011 second-round pick Colin Kaepernick on their roster.

Here’s Where It Gets Interesting:

Arizona Cardinals
Why it could work: Two words – Larry Fitzgerald. Just the thought of Manning throwing to Fitzgerald is enough to get anyone, other than Arizona opponents, excited. Manning has played with some Hall of Fame-caliber wide receivers in Indianapolis, most notably Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, but Fitzgerald tops them all. Arizona being in the NFC West also presents an opportunity to possibly return to the playoffs right away. And don’t forget that Kurt Warner had a decent five-year stretch in the desert after arriving in 2005 at the age of 34.
Why it won’t happen: Two other words – Kevin Kolb. The Cardinals traded Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2012 second-round pick to the Eagles for Kolb last July and then promptly signed him to a five-year, $63 million contract, $21 million of it guaranteed. Kolb is signed through 2016 and even though he struggled last season (9 TDs, 8 INTs in just nine games), the Cardinals have a lot invested in him and it’s probably too soon to simply cut ties.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Why it could work: Blaine Gabbert (50.8 completion rate, 12 TDs, 11 INTs, 65.4 passer rating) struggled mightily in his first NFL season with the Jaguars, so Manning would not only represent an upgrade under center, he also could help develop his young backup. New head coach Mike Mularkey comes from an offensive background and spent the past four seasons working with and developing Matt Ryan in Atlanta.
Why it won’t happen: The Jaguars are several years away from competing for a playoff spot. Besides a new head coach and uncertainty at quarterback, the Jaguars have plenty of holes to fill, including wide receiver, and it remains to be seen if the team’s long-term future is even in Jacksonville. This is not the ideal situation for Manning to resume his NFL career.

Miami Dolphins
Why it could work: The Dolphins hired Joe Philbin as their new head coach in January. Before landing his first NFL head coaching job, Philbin served as Green Bay’s offensive coordinator for five seasons working first with Favre and then Aaron Rodgers, who won a Super Bowl in 2011 and was the NFL MVP last season. The only quarterback under contract right now is Matt Moore, the Dolphins have an appealing target to throw to in Brandon Marshall, and an All-Pro, franchise left tackle in Jake Long.
Why it won’t happen: The weather may be nice in South Beach, but I don’t see Manning taking his talents there should the opportunity present itself. The Dolphins play in AFC East, the same conference that the Patriots and Jets are in, and both teams appear to be ahead of them from a competitive standpoint in both the present and immediate future. The Dolphins have a new head coach taking over and appear to be a team in transition. I don’t think Manning will want to take his lumps at the hands of Tom Brady/Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan under these circumstances.

Seattle Seahawks
Why it could work: Seattle’s current quarterback is Tarvaris Jackson and the Seahawks, like the aforementioned 49ers and Cardinals, play in the NFC West and could potentially be back in the playoffs with Manning at the helm. Owner Paul Allen doesn’t lack for money and seems like the type who would be willing to spend it for someone like Manning to make his team better.
Why it won’t happen: Earlier this week the Seahawks took care of some important business when the team re-signed running back Marshawn Lynch. Even with Lynch entrenched in the backfield, however, Seattle has some question marks at wide receiver and this just doesn’t feel like a fit for Manning. And if you’re into conspiracy theories there’s also this: head coach Pete Carroll may be looking to “tank” this season so he will be in prime position to draft Matt Barkley, his former quarterback at USC, in 2013.

Washington Redskins
Why it could work: Whenever Redskins owner Dan Snyder is involved you never rule anything out. This man has shown time and time again that money is no object when it comes to getting who he wants. Albert Haynesworth anyone? The Redskins clearly have a need at quarterback, as John Beck is the only one under contract. Mike Shanahan is no stranger to coaching Hall of Fame-caliber quarterbacks (Elway) and desperately wants to win after posting an 11-21 mark in his first two seasons in Washington.
Why it won’t happen: The Redskins may be targeting the aforementioned Griffin or another quarterback in the draft, looking to land their next franchise signal-caller instead of trying to win now with Manning. Snyder’s free-spending days also may be a thing of the past. Otherwise, the Redskins appear to be the one of the best possible landing spots for Manning should he become a free agent.

NFL teams can sign free agents beginning at midnight ET on March 13. All indications at this point are that Manning fully intends to play for another team, arguably making him the most sought-after player on the market. At the very least, he will be the most-watched player as free agency plays out, which is saying something considering he didn't even throw a single pass last season.

Teaser:
<p> A look at possible fits for Peyton Manning, who is expected to be released by the Colts and become an unrestricted free agent</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 - 20:09
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-sleepers-and-busts-outfield
Body:

— by Mark Ross, published on Feb. 29, 2012

Who are the biggest sleepers and busts to watch out for on the fantasy diamond?

Using Athlon Sports’ consensus Top 150 as the barometer, here are some potential sleepers to keep an eye on and some possible busts to be wary of when it comes to drafting your fantasy teams this season.

Note: Outfield includes all players who have OF eligibility. Ranking in the Top 150 is listed, if applicable. UR means player was not ranked in the Top 150.

Athlon Sports Fantasy Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

2012 Fantasy Baseball Outfield Sleepers:

Michael Cuddyer, COL, 1B/2B/OF (No. 120 overall)
Cuddyer, who also has eligibility at two different infield positions, put together a pretty solid 2011 season (.284, 20 HR, 70 RBI, 11 SB) and his numbers should get a boost this season as he moves from the Twins to the Rockies. Besides the home park advantage (switching from Target Field to Coors Field), the Rockies' line up packs more offensive punch than the Twins. Colorado finished tied for seventh in the majors in runs last season, while Minnesota was 25th.

Andre Ethier, LAD, OF (No. 150 overall)
Ethier was bothered by knee pain throughout much of last season and ended up having surgery on his right knee last September. If the knee was the reason behind the precipitous drop in his production (11 HR, 62 RBI) in 2011, he could be a late-round steal. Three seasons ago, Ethier posted a 31-106 season, along with 92 runs scored and 42 doubles.

Corey Hart, MIL, OF (No. 93 overall)
Hart missed the first three weeks of the season, but he still managed to finish it with 26 home runs, 80 runs scored and a .285 average. In the second half alone he posted a .297-16-37 line with 49 runs scored. Hart, who spent most of last season batting leadoff, could move down in the order and get the chance to drive in more runs, especially with Prince Fielder now in Detroit. If that happens, a repeat of his 2010 campaign (.283-31-102) is not out of the question.

Adam Jones, BAL, OF (No. 92 overall)
In 2011, Jones posted the best all-around season of his short career, batting .280 with career highs in home runs (25), RBIs (83) doubles (26) and stolen bases (12). If he can cut down on his strikeouts (113) and find ways to get on base more (.319 OBP), his numbers, especially runs scored (68) will get better. Improved plate discipline combined with Jones’ talent and tools, could very well translate to a .280-30-100 season with some speed thrown in for good measure.

Kendrys Morales, LAA, 1B/OF (UR)
If healthy, and that’s a rather large “if,” Morales could put up huge numbers in an Angels lineup that now includes Albert Pujols. In 2009, Morales broke out in a big way with a .306-34-108 season and was on pace for similar numbers in 2010 (.290-11-39 in 51 games) before breaking his ankle celebrating a walk-off home run. He hasn’t played in a game since May 29, 2010, but if he’s able to prove he’s ready during spring training, he could pick up where he left off almost two years ago.

Logan Morrison, MIA, OF (No. 142 overall)
Morrison gets more attention off the field, thanks in large part to his active Twitter account, than on it, but this may be the season that changes that. Morrison hit 23 home runs and drove in 72 in 123 games last season. A career .290 hitter in the minors, Morrison could be in for a huge 2012 if he can improve upon his .247 batting average from 2011.

2012 Fantasy Baseball Outfield Busts:

Michael Bourn, ATL, OF (No. 65 overall)
In the case of Bourn, it’s all about over-paying or over-drafting for one or two categories. Bourn will steal bases, as he has averaged 58 swipes the past three seasons, and score runs (94 in 2011), but don’t expect him to do much more. He has 13 career home runs in six seasons and his .294 batting average in 2011 was 31 points higher than his career .263 mark prior to that. Put the whole package together and I don’t see a player you necessarily want to draft in the seventh round.

Nelson Cruz, TEX, OF (No. 54 overall)
Will Cruz ever play a full season? That’s the question fantasy owners have been asking for the past three years as the Rangers’ slugger has tantalized with his power (33 home runs in 2009, 29 in ’11) and all-around talent (.318 average in 2010, 20 SB in ’09), but has yet to put it all together. He’s played no more than 128 games in any of the past three and his batting average dropped 55 points last season compared to 2010, while his strikeouts increased by 35. His potential alone is worthy of a fifth/sixth round selection. However, to this point, the overall production and reliability just hasn’t been there.

Josh Hamilton, TEX, OF (No. 32 overall)
Hamilton, whose history of injuries and off-the-field issues is well documented, has played in more than 133 games in season just once. In 2008, he played in 156 games and put up MVP-worthy numbers (.304, 32 HR, 130 RBI). The only other time he played in at least 133 games was in 2010, when he won the AL MVP with a .359-32-100 campaign. Otherwise, he has played in 90, 89 and 121 games his other three seasons. If you draft Hamilton in the fourth round, you are hoping for the 2008 and ’10 seasons and not the other ones. The fact that you don’t know which one you are getting is more than enough reason to let someone else take him that early.

Desmond Jennings, TB, OF (No. 58 overall)
I like Jennings and fully believe he will develop into a fantasy stud, I just don’t think it will happen this season. After all he has a grand total of 311 plate appearances in his career. He was called up in late July last season and after a hot start (.333, 8 HR, 20 RBI, 14 SB in 37 games), he struggled mightily (.160, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 6 SB) in September. Although I have no doubt he will get there, perhaps as early as next season, I think it’s a little early to call Jennings a top 60 overall player in 2012.

Michael Morse, WAS, 1B/OF (No. 79 overall)
First, let’s give credit where credit is due: Morse clubbed 31 home runs, drove in 95 and hit .303 in his first full season. So by calling him a “bust,” I’m not saying he’s going to pull an Adam Dunn this season and bottom out, but I am concerned that he won’t put up similar across-the-board numbers. You can’t ignore his low OBP (.360) and ugly walk-to-strikeout ratio (36:126). The power will probably still be there, but don’t be surprised if the average dips and he profiles more along the lines of a Mark Reynolds (No. 113) when looking at the complete package.

Other Fantasy Baseball Content:

2012 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: The Big Board
2012 Fantasy Baseball: First Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Second Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Shortstop Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Third Base Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Outfield Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Catcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitcher Rankings
2012 Fantasy Baseball: Relief Pitcher Rankings
2012 MLB Fantasy Closer Grid
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitching
2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Closers
Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2012
2012 Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers

Teaser:
<p> Who are the biggest sleepers and busts to watch out for on the fantasy diamond?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 07:08
All taxonomy terms: Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/where-will-peyton-manning-play%20
Body:

— by Mark Ross

Peyton Manning wants to resume his NFL career. The question of whether or not he’s healthy enough or physically capable of has to be answered first. But for the sake of argument, let’s say he is. The question then becomes what uniform is No. 18 wearing in 2012.

Manning is under contract with the Indianapolis Colts having signed a five-year, $90 million extension last summer. As part of this contract, he’s due a $28 million roster bonus on March 8. Without getting too deep into the specifics related to Manning’s contract and this roster bonus, the important part is this: should the Colts decline to pay Manning his bonus he becomes a unrestricted free agent.

What sort of market exists for a quarterback who will be 36 years old by the time the 2012 NFL season rolls around? Here’s a look at some possible fits should Manning decide to give another uniform a try.

For starters, forget about teams who already have established quarterbacks on their roster. As good as Manning has been in his career, teams like Green Bay, New England, New Orleans, the New York Giants, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Dallas are already in pretty good shape at quarterback. So you can forget about any dreams of the Manning brothers playing together in the Big Apple.

Then you have teams who either appear to be fully committed to their current starter, like Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia, or those who think they already have their franchise quarterback on their roster, like Carolina, Cincinnati and St. Louis.

So even though new Rams head coach Jeff Fisher may have once worn a Manning jersey to a fundraiser while he was still coaching the Titans, don’t expect the two to come together in St. Louis, not with former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford under contract.

That still leaves 16 teams, or half of the NFL, technically still in the running. Here’s how those teams stack up:

Nice Idea But…

Buffalo Bills
Current starter Ryan Fitzpatrick signed a six-year, $59 million contract extension in October, which includes $24 million in guaranteed money. Ironically enough, Fitzpatrick struggled after signing his extension, throwing just 12 touchdown passes with 17 interceptions in his final 10 games with the Bills going 2-8 in that same stretch. That said, the Bills already have invested a lot in Fitzpatrick and appear to be fully committed to “The Amish Rifle”

Denver Broncos
This is just what Tim Tebow and Denver needs, another quarterback controversy. While Tebow’s NFL future is anything but certain, he has earned his standing as the Broncos’ starting quarterback headed into training camp. The last thing he needs is another Hall of Fame quarterback to worry about. He’s already got that in his boss, Broncos Executive Vice President of Operations John Elway.

Houston Texans
Houston would have to appeal to Manning if anything because the Texans are ready to win now and he would be guaranteed two shots each season against Irsay and the Colts. However, Matt Schaub is the entrenched starter and is expected to be fully recovered from last season’s foot injury by the time training camp starts and the Texans also have capable backup Tyler Yates on their roster.

Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings drafted Christian Ponder in the first round of last year’s draft and handed the starting reigns over to him in late October. The rookie went 2-8 in 10 games as the starter, while the Vikings finished with a 3-13 mark overall. Despite Ponder's struggles in his first season, the team appears to be committed to him moving forward, not to mention the fact that it has plenty of other holes to fill on the roster. The bottom line: this Vikings team does not present the same opportunity to Manning that it did to Brett Favre back in 2009.

Oakland Raiders
The Raiders already have a 30-something quarterback on their roster, Carson Palmer, and they paid a heavy price to get him. Oakland sent a 2012 first-round draft pick and a conditional second-round pick in 2013 (that could end up being a first-rounder) to Cincinnati last October to get Palmer, who played adequately (13 TDs, 16 INTs) in 10 games for the Raiders. Oakland also is a team in transition as Dennis Allen was hired in January as the Raiders’ seventh head coach in the past 10 seasons.

Tampa Bay
Josh Freeman had a disappointing 2011 season following a breakout 2010 campaign during which he led the Buccaneers to the playoffs. His touchdown passes fell from 25 to 16, while his interceptions increased dramatically from just six in 2010 to 22 last season. However, Freeman is just 24 years old and will enter just his fourth season as the Bucs’ starter this fall. New Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano will lean heavily on Freeman as he makes the transition from the collegiate head coaching ranks to the NFL.

Tennessee Titans
It reads like a fairy tale – former University of Tennessee star returns to his adopted home state to lead the Titans back to postseason glory, no doubt some of that coming at the expense of his former team and division rival, the Colts. Titans and UT fans can dream all they want, but it’s not going to happen. For one, the Titans already have a 36-year-old quarterback on their roster in Matt Hasselbeck. More importantly, they also believe they have their franchise quarterback of the future waiting in the wings in Jake Locker, the No. 8 overall pick in last year’s draft.

Now You’re Talking:

Cleveland Browns
Although he is signed for two more years, Colt McCoy’s future in Cleveland is uncertain at best. While Manning would appear to be an upgrade, the Browns will probably look to the draft to find their future franchise quarterback. With two picks, Nos. 4 and 22, in the first round, Cleveland is seemingly in prime position to select Baylor’s Robert Griffin III early or wait for either Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill or Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler later. Besides, I’m not sure Manning’s that thrilled about having to play the Ravens and Steelers twice each season.

Kansas City
Yes, Kansas City was a nice landing spot for Joe Montana in 1993, but I don’t see history repeating itself. The current incumbent is Matt Cassel, who is under contract through 2014 and the Chiefs have already invested a good deal of money in him. This is a team looking to establish its identity under new head coach Romeo Crennel and brining in a new quarterback does not appear to be part of his plan.

New York Jets
Peyton and Eli in the same city? I can just hear the New York media types and football pundits everywhere salivating at the sheer thought. However, I suggest you go ahead and wipe that drool from your mouth because I don’t see this happening. For one, that would mean the departure/demotion of the Big Apple’s current favorite whipping boy, Mark Sanchez, who is signed for two more years and put up his best numbers yet last season. Second, I don’t think Peyton longs to play in New York and he is certainly aware of the ramifications that would come with it, for him personally and his family as a whole.

San Francisco
This appears to be an appealing destination because the 49ers are a team on rise under the leadership of head coach and former Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh. However, Manning doesn’t seem to fit what Harbaugh is looking for in a quarterback, as Alex Smith made plays with both his arm and his legs last season. Smith is a free agent, but even if he does not return, the 49ers still have 2011 second-round pick Colin Kaepernick on their roster.

Here’s Where It Gets Interesting:

Arizona Cardinals
Why it could work: Two words – Larry Fitzgerald. Just the thought of Manning throwing to Fitzgerald is enough to get anyone, other than Arizona opponents, excited. Manning has played with some Hall of Fame-caliber wide receivers in Indianapolis, most notably Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, but Fitzgerald tops them all. Arizona being in the NFC West also presents an opportunity to possibly return to the playoffs right away. And don’t forget that Kurt Warner had a decent five-year stretch in the desert after arriving in 2005 at the age of 34.
Why it won’t happen: Two other words – Kevin Kolb. The Cardinals traded Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2012 second-round pick to the Eagles for Kolb last July and then promptly signed him to a five-year, $63 million contract, $21 million of it guaranteed. Kolb is signed through 2016 and even though he struggled last season (9 TDs, 8 INTs in just nine games), the Cardinals have a lot invested in him and it’s probably too soon to simply cut ties.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Why it could work: Blaine Gabbert (50.8 completion rate, 12 TDs, 11 INTs, 65.4 passer rating) struggled mightily in his first NFL season with the Jaguars, so Manning would not only represent an upgrade under center, he also could help develop his young backup. New head coach Mike Mularkey comes from an offensive background and spent the past four seasons working with and developing Matt Ryan in Atlanta.
Why it won’t happen: The Jaguars are several years away from competing for a playoff spot. Besides a new head coach and uncertainty at quarterback, the Jaguars have plenty of holes to fill, including wide receiver, and it remains to be seen if the team’s long-term future is even in Jacksonville. This is not the ideal situation for Manning to resume his NFL career.

Miami Dolphins
Why it could work: The Dolphins hired Joe Philbin as their new head coach in January. Before landing his first NFL head coaching job, Philbin served as Green Bay’s offensive coordinator for five seasons working first with Favre and then Aaron Rodgers, who won a Super Bowl in 2011 and was the NFL MVP last season. The only quarterback under contract right now is Matt Moore, the Dolphins have an appealing target to throw to in Brandon Marshall, and an All-Pro, franchise left tackle in Jake Long.
Why it won’t happen: The weather may be nice in South Beach, but I don’t see Manning taking his talents there should the opportunity present itself. The Dolphins play in AFC East, the same conference that the Patriots and Jets are in, and both teams appear to be ahead of them from a competitive standpoint in both the present and immediate future. The Dolphins have a new head coach taking over and appear to be a team in transition. I don’t think Manning will want to take his lumps at the hands of Tom Brady/Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan under these circumstances.

Seattle Seahawks
Why it could work: Seattle’s current quarterback is Tarvaris Jackson and the Seahawks, like the aforementioned 49ers and Cardinals, play in the NFC West and could potentially be back in the playoffs with Manning at the helm. Owner Paul Allen doesn’t lack for money and seems like the type who would be willing to spend it for someone like Manning to make his team better.
Why it won’t happen: The Seahawks have several key free agents, most notably running back Marshawn Lynch. If Lynch does not re-sign that creates an enormous hole in the Seahawks’ offense. Seattle also has some question marks at wide receiver and this just doesn’t feel like a fit for Manning. And if you’re into conspiracy theories there’s also this: head coach Pete Carroll may be looking to “tank” this season so he will be in prime position to draft Matt Barkley, his former quarterback at USC, in 2013.

Washington Redskins
Why it could work: Whenever Redskins owner Dan Snyder is involved you never rule anything out. This man has shown time and time again that money is no object when it comes to getting who he wants. Albert Haynesworth anyone? The Redskins clearly have a need at quarterback, as John Beck is the only one under contract. Mike Shanahan is no stranger to coaching Hall of Fame-caliber quarterbacks (Elway) and desperately wants to win after posting an 11-21 mark in his first two seasons in Washington.
Why it won’t happen: The Redskins may be targeting the aforementioned Griffin or another quarterback in the draft, looking to land their next franchise signal-caller instead of trying to win now with Manning. Snyder’s free-spending days also may be a thing of the past. Otherwise, the Redskins appear to be the one of the best possible landing spots for Manning should he become a free agent.

Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay are reportedly meeting soon to discuss No. 18’s future with the only team he has every played for. So for all intents and purposes the talk about a new place for Peyton could soon be a moot point.

However, should the Colts decide to end their 14-year relationship with Manning and he become an unrestricted free agent, all eyes will no doubt be watching closely to see what happens next. In the end, it could come down to Manning’s preference where (Arizona? Washington? Somewhere else?) he wants to play, or if he decides he’s thrown the last pass of his illustrious NFL career.

Teaser:
<p> A look at possible fits for Peyton Manning should the Colts cut ties with their long-time quarterback</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Florida Gators, Kentucky Wildcats, News
Path: /news/college-basketball-kentucky-dominates-florida-keep-home-winning-streak-intact
Body:

By David Schuman

It’s getting a little repetitive to say at this point, but John Calipari has one hell of a team on his hands. That fact was proved yet again Tuesday night, when the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats (24-1, 10-0 SEC) ran No. 7 Florida (19-5, 7-2 SEC) out of Rupp Arena. The ‘Cats will only be shedding crocodile tears for these Gators though.

 This was supposed to be the first test of a difficult week for Kentucky. Florida’s four-guard lineup spreads the floor and has been too quick for many opponents this season. Plus, they came in leading the nation in 3 pointers. It was a bad night to go cold.

 They shot 6 of 27 from deep, a pitiful 22.2%. It was the worst first half Billy Donovan’s squad has played all year, with season lows in points and three balls made. It’s no surprise they were down by 12 at the break.

 What more can you say about Kentucky? Anthony Davis is making a strong case for National Player of the Year honors; he is a true difference-maker on defense. There was a distinct feeling Florida was reluctant to drive the lane, especially after Davis recorded two monster blocks in the same possession early in the second half. He scored 16 points as well, but that’s not so hard when seemingly all you’re doing is finishing alley-oops from point guard Marquis Teague.

 Yes, the freshman has come a long way from the early season and you get the feeling that this team will go as far as he takes them. That’s a scary thought when you see how much Teague is improving. Tuesday night he had his first career double-double: 12 points and 10 assists.

 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had another strong performance, with 13 points and 13 rebounds. He’s got crazy athleticism and it’s easy to see why NBA scouts love him.

 With all these freshmen, Terrence Jones somehow gets a little overlooked. Need I remind you he was voted the Preseason Player of the Year in the SEC. With Jones, Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist, it’s hard to find a better frontcourt, outside of maybe Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

 Also of note, Coach Cal has still never lost at home as head coach of the Wildcats. It’s a 48 game winning streak. In other words, if Kentucky’s got a home game, you might as well not even tune in.

I would suggest turning on ESPN this Saturday night though when UK travels to Memorial Gym to take on Vanderbilt. Vandy’s not a team to overlook when they’re playing in Nashville. That place gets raucous. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance when John Wall and Demarcus Cousins came to town in 2010, and it was the most electric sports atmosphere I’ve ever been a part of. All I’m saying is there is potential for an upset.

Florida, on the other hand, should not be so disheartened by this loss. There’s a reason Kentucky’s ranked #1. Coach Donovan would be wise to have his guys move on quickly, as they take on the Tennessee Volunteers at home on Saturday. It should be a good bounce-back kind of game for them.

Overall, Tuesday night’s game wasn’t the most entertaining to watch, but if you appreciate hard-working, team basketball, then this Kentucky team is a must-see. For that, I’ll keep tuning in. Even if they are playing in Rupp Arena.
 

Teaser:
<p> The Wildcats win an important SEC match-up</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - 01:52
Path: /nfl/which-super-bowl-team-was-better-1986-or-2011-ny-giants
Body:

By RALPH VACCHIANO

There was magic back in 2007 when the Giants made the run to Super Bowl XLII, just like there was something special happening when the 1990 Giants won Super Bowl XXV. Those are moments that Giants fans will cherish forever.

But there’s still nothing that can compare to the first time for the franchise – when the 1986 Giants won Super Bowl XXI.

No matter what any of the other Giants teams has done, the ’86 squad is still the measuring stick. Every team, every player, gets measured against that significant part of the Giants’ past.

So as the 2011 Giants make their run at a championship – possibly the second one for the franchise in the last five seasons – it’s only fair that they’re held up in comparison to the greats from 25 years ago. If the 1986 Giants and 2011 Giants were matched head to head, who would come out on top and how would they compare?

There may be no way to compare teams from different eras in the NFL, but for fun, it’s worth a try:

DEFENSE
The 2011 Giants are trying to find out if it’s really true that “Defense wins championships,” because the revival of their defense – particularly their pass rush – is what has fueled this Super Bowl run. But if they really want to know what a defense can do, they should look back at their own history, because defense won three Super Bowls for this franchise.

And none was more dominant than the one in 1986.

This current Giants team can’t compare to that one, even with a dominant pass rush led by Jason Pierre-Paul. He’s dangerous, but not the scary figure that Lawrence Taylor once was. And Taylor was rushing from behind Leonard Marshall, George Martin and Jim Burt.

Add in linebackers like Carl Banks, Gary Reasons and Hall of Famer Harry Carson, and it’s not even clear that many of the Giants’ current front seven would have a starting spot on the ’86 team. And when you add in the fact that the genius, Bill Belichick, was the ’86 defensive coordinator, it easily puts the Super Bowl XXI champions over the top.

EDGE: ‘86

OFFENSE
This is where the comparison gets a little more even, because Eli Manning is beginning to look like the best quarterback the Giants have ever had. He’s obliterated any numbers that Phil Simms ever put up, and he’s the first Giants quarterback to lead two teams to Super Bowls, too.

And Simms never had receivers as explosive as Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz. He did a wonderful job of getting the most out of Lionel Manuel, Stacey Robinson, Bobby Johnson and Phil McConkey, but none of them were as dangerous as what the Giants have now.

What Simms had was a much better tight end – Jake Ballard can’t compare to the greatness of Mark Bavaro – and probably a better running game, too. Joe Morris was a true, No. 1, workhorse back and he was backed up by Ottis Anderson. Brandon Jacobs, in his current form, is a shell of his former self and Ahmad Bradshaw is running on a fractured foot. It’s no wonder this Giants’ rushing attack was the worst in the league.

But it didn’t matter. The 2011 teams can put up points in a hurry. It’s one of the most dangerous offenses the Giants franchise has ever seen.

EDGE: 2011

QUARTERBACK

Just a few years ago Giants fans would’ve gagged at the thought of Manning being mentioned in the same sentence as Simms, who is one of the most beloved figures out of the Giants’ past. He was tough, blue-collar, fun to watch and a winner, and he threw better than people sometimes remember, too.

This season, though, has separated Manning from the pack. He rebounded from an ugly, 25-interception season, started talking tough when he declared himself “elite”, won over New York by backing up his words, and captured the heart of the city by leading fourth-quarter comebacks six times. He’s proven to be gritty, tough (see the pounding he took in the NFC championship game), and the franchise has never seen a better quarterback when the game is on the line.

He’s already passed Simms as the greatest quarterback in franchise history, and a second Super Bowl championship could be his ticket to the Hall of Fame.

EDGE: 2011

COACHING

It’s a little eerie how similar these two coaches are. Their regular season records are nearly identical. Both were former Giants assistants (Coughlin worked under Bill Parcells). Both had sometimes prickly personalities (though Parcells was always a bit more jovial than Coughlin). Both were tough and set in their ways.

History will likely remember Parcells as the greater coach, especially if he ends up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He resurrected four different franchises in his career and had success everywhere he went. He won his two rings with the Giants, just like Coughlin, but he got his by pulling the Giants out of one of the darkest eras they ever had.

Still, when it comes to coaching these teams, it’s hard to separate the jobs they’ve done. Parcells slowly built a powerhouse, then tweaked it at the right moments to turn it into a mini-dynasty. Coughlin, in the free-agent era, was forced to rebuild on the fly and for the second time pulled his team back from rock bottom in December to make an unlikely title run.

Both are great coaches. Both are great leaders. This matchup would be a wash.

EDGE: Even

OVERALL

History has shown that the two most important ingredients in building a contender are quarterbacks and defenses. Both teams had good enough ones to win a title. But if these teams were ever somehow matched up against each other in a theoretical battle in the middle of their primes, the ’86 defense would prove to be the far superior unit and the most dominant factor on the field.

Manning could out-play Simms in a numbers game, but there was always something about Simms and his ability to find a way to win. Couple that with a smothering defense and the most dominant player in the matchup – Lawrence Taylor – and his job wouldn’t be all that hard.

The ’11 team is more explosive. It can score quicker, too. But its pass rush would have trouble getting to Simms, and he certainly wouldn’t be rattled. Simms and the ’86 offense wouldn’t have any trouble operating a smooth, efficient, ground-controlled game. Meanwhile, the ’86 defense wouldn’t give ground to anyone. It wouldn’t be missing tackles all over the field.

So yes, defense really does win championships, and the ’86 team had the far superior defense. This 2011 Giants team may win a championship, too, but there’s still no doubt the 1986 Giants were by far the better team.

EDGE: 1986

Teaser:
<p> We break down which Big Apple team was better</p>
Post date: Sunday, February 5, 2012 - 10:28
All taxonomy terms: Florida Gators, Vanderbilt Commodores, News
Path: /news/college-basketball-vanderbilt-commodores-florida-gators-preview
Body:

While Vanderbilt seemed to be approaching conference play with an undeniably improved focus compared to that of their preseason play, a mental lapse and lackadaisical efforts combined cost the ‘Dores a clutch SEC victory Tuesday night against Arkansas. However, the Commodores look to bounce back against the (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today, No. 12 AP) Florida Gators this Saturday.

After kicking off conference play with a disappointing loss to Tennessee Jan. 7, the Gators have regained their swagger and dashed through conference play on a 6-0 winning streak.

Needless to say, Vanderbilt definitely has their hands full as they take on the extremely versatile guard play of Florida’s Kenny Boynton and Bradley Beal, while also withstanding the jeers of 90,000 roaring fans in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Regardless of the challenge facing the ‘Dores, Forward Lance Goulbourne believes there is an internal solution to securing the win Saturday afternoon:

“We need to make a focused effort to improve our second half difference. Last game and in previous games, our defense let us down in the second half. If we maintain our focus for 40 minutes, we have a great chance to win the game.”

This attitude may get the Commodores in the right gear to avenge their loss to the Razorbacks and to pull off an upset in the swamp.

Don’t miss this SEC Showdown Saturday, Feb 4, 2012 at 1p.m. ET.

By Jordan Coleman

Teaser:
<p> Will Vandy be able to take down a tough SEC foe on the road?</p>
Post date: Saturday, February 4, 2012 - 11:10
Path: /nfl/super-bowl-xlvi-numbers
Body:

The New England Patriots and the New York Giants will face one another in Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday in Indianapolis. As football fans across the country, not to mention the world, get ready for the “Big Game,” here are some numbers to whet your appetite.

1 – Times Indianapolis has hosted the Super Bowl. The game will be played in Lucas Oli Stadium, which is home to the Indianapolis Colts, and it will have a Manning playing in it. Only it’s Eli, and not Peyton.

3 – Times Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin have coached in the same Super Bowl. This will be the second time they have faced each other as head coaches, but the two also were part of Bill Parcells' staff when the Giants played the Bills in Super Bowl XXV in 1991. Belichick was the defensive coordinator, while Coughlin served as the wide receivers coach for that Giants team, which beat the Bills 20-19. Ironically enough, both would leave the Giants for head coaching jobs — Belichick with the Cleveland Browns and Coughlin with Boston College — following that Super Bowl victory, only to meet up once again on the same stage 17 years later.

4 – Years since these two teams faced off against each other in Super Bowl XLII on Feb. 3, 2008 in Glendale, Ariz. The Giants upset the heavily favored and previously undefeated Patriots 17-14 in one of the most exciting Super Bowls in recent history. It also represents the number of consecutive decades each team has played in a Super Bowl. The Giants and the Patriots have each played in at least one Super Bowl during the 1980s, ‘90s, 2000s and now 2010s. They are the only two teams in the NFL to boast such a streak.

5 – Super Bowl rematches in the game’s 46-year history. Besides the Giants and the Patriots, the most frequent Super Bowl match ups have been Pittsburgh vs. Dallas (Super Bowls X, XIII and XXX), Miami vs. Washington (VII and XVII), San Francisco vs. Cincinnati (XVI and XXIII) and Dallas vs. Buffalo (XXVII and XXVIII).

9 – States that have hosted the Super Bowl with Indiana becoming the ninth this year. Florida has hosted the most Super Bowls with 15, followed by California (11), Louisiana (9), Texas (3), Arizona (2), Georgia (2), Michigan (2). Minnesota and Indiana have each hosted one.

17 – Combined sacks by the two teams in their five playoff games. The Giants have tallied nine sacks in wins over the Falcons, Packers and 49ers, while the Patriots have eight in their victories over the Broncos and Ravens. Which team is able to consistently pressure the opposing quarterback will be something to watch for on Sunday. The teams combined for eight sacks (Giants 5, Patriots 3) in Super Bowl XLII.

19 – Players (12 from the Giants, seven from the Patriots) who will be on the field Sunday and also played in Super Bowl XLII in 2008.

24 – Combined turnover differential of the two teams in the regular season. The Patriots were second in the NFL with 23 interceptions and forced a total of 34 turnovers, while giving the ball away only 17 times for an AFC-best +17 differential. The Giants forced 31 turnovers (20 interceptions, 11 fumbles) and committed 24 for a differential of +7. In the playoffs, the Giants have forced six turnovers and only committed one, while the Patriots have committed more (four) than they have forced (three).

44.4 – Percentage of Tom Brady’s touchdown passes caught by tight end Rob Gronkowski this season. “Gronk” has caught 20 (17 in the regular season, three in the playoffs) of Brady’s 45 total touchdown passes to this point. He also is dealing with an ankle injury he suffered in the AFC Championship Game that put him in a walking boot and limited his practice time. While he’s fully expected to play on Sunday, questions surrounding his mobility and effectiveness have been one of the key storylines.

83.3 – Combined percentage of made field goals by Giants’ kicker Lawrence Tynes (6 of 8) and Patriots’ kicker Stephen Gostkowski (4 of 4) this postseason. Both have picked up their games from the regular season, during which Tynes made 19 of 24 (79.2) and Gostkowski 28 of 33 (84.9) field goal tries. Most importantly, the two were on target when it counted the most – Tynes hitting from 31 yards away in overtime in the Giants’ win over the 49ers and Gostkowski nailing all three of his attempts against the Ravens – in their respective conference championship games.

156 – Passing yards Tom Brady needs to break Kurt Warner’s record for most career passing yards in Super Bowl history. Warner had 1,156 passing yards in his three Super Bowls. Brady, who already holds the Super Bowl record for career completions (100), will tie John Elway with his fifth Super Bowl start on Sunday. With a win, he will tie Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the only starting quarterbacks with four Super Bowl victories, further cementing his legacy as one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks.

8,785 – Combined passing yards allowed by the Giants’ and Patriots’ defenses in the regular season. That averages out to 274.5 yards per game. The two teams also surrendered a total of 54 touchdown passes and combined allowed opponents to complete nearly 62 percent of their passes. The Giants finished the regular season as the 29th-ranked passing defense in the NFL, while the Patriots came in second-to-last in that category.

10,258 – Combined passing yards of Tom Brady (5,235) and Eli Manning (4,933) in the regular season, to go along with 68 touchdowns. When the two met back in Week 9, a game the Giants won 24-20, the duo combined for 592 yards through the air.

$3.5-$4 million – Average cost of a 30-second commercial spot during NBC’s broadcast of Super Bowl XLVI, according to TIME magazine. While that’s no small chunk of change, consider this: last year’s Super Bowl drew an average audience of 111 million viewers, making it the most watched American television program ever.

— by Mark Ross

Teaser:
<p> A look at some numbers and statistics related to Sunday's Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis</p>
Post date: Friday, February 3, 2012 - 12:09
Path: /nfl/what-makes-grumpy-bill-belichick-smile-surprisingly-its-giants
Body:

By RALPH VACCHIANO

There isn’t much that can get a rise out of Bill Belichick, the stoic, unemotional, coach of the New England Patriots. He’s been to four Super Bowls as a head coach, won three, and built himself a dynasty in New England. But talking about the power he’s built rarely elicits a smile.

It’s different, though, when Belichick is asked about the past – specifically the great New York Giants teams he was a part of in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. He was the genius defensive coordinator back then under the future Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, helping to guide one of the NFL’s greatest teams.

Ask Belichick about that if you want to see him smile. Talk to him about those teams if you want an expansive answer. Even as his Patriots prepare to face the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, he was peppered with questions about his days as an assistant with the Giants. That is something he could talk about for hours.

That was an experience he described as “awesome.” It was a enough to make him smile.

“It was a great job,” Belichick said. “It was awesome. I loved that job. I loved coaching the Giants’ defense. Being in New York, being a part of that great organization and those great players I had the opportunity to coach.

“In all honesty, I wasn’t thinking then about if this was what I was going to do at some other point. We were trying to win there. We won in 1986, and it was a great year. We rebuilt the team, and we won again. I was consumed with that. I really just try to live in the moment.”

It was a great moment in time, of course, and Belichick was a major part of it. The Giants’ defense, choreographed by Belchick led the way to Super Bowl titles in 1986 (XXI) and 1990 (XXV). It helped that he had great players like Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Carl Banks, George Martin, Leonard Marshall, Jim Burt and so many more.

Belichick, though, is the one that put them together. Belichick is the maestro who made them sing.

“We had a great staff and great players,” the Patriots coach recalled. “One of the biggest things I learned, that I can’t do today, but I know, is how tough those players were. We practiced every day in pads -- every single day in pads. There were years that we practiced every single day on the turf before we had the grass practice fields up there on the hill

“We did 9-on-7 -- which is a good-tempo running drill -- on a regular basis. In training camp, we went out in pads every day. We hit every day. We did 9-on-7 every day. There was no way Bill (Parcells) would go out on the field without doing 9-on-7. We’d skip stretching before we’d skip 9-on-7.”

Times, of course has changed and so have the rules, which has forced Belichick to – reluctantly – change, too. Still, he made sure to have his Patriots practice at least once in pads during Super Bowl week. The lessons he learned from Parcells and those great Giants teams were not easily forgotten.

And the biggest lesson he learned is that football players – really great football players – are supposed to be unbelievably tough.

“When you get those guys crashing into each other – Jumbo (Elliott) and Mark Bavaro blocking (Lawrence) Taylor, (Carl) Banks, (Jim) Burt and all them – they just lined up and played football,” Belichick said. “I know it was a different era, but it will never be like that again. I learned players can be tough, they can be physical, they can do more than they think they can do.”

He tried to take that approach with him in his first job as a head coach with the Cleveland Browns. But when the results weren’t good, he was criticized for being too tough on his players – something he even still finds a little hard to believe.

“Maybe I took it a little too far in Cleveland, I don’t know,” Belichick said. “It was kind of the same thing when I got there. People said that we were too demanding and we were doing too much. I was thinking to myself, ‘I was with the Giants for 12 years. I saw this every day for 12 years. Don’t tell me we can’t go out there and have 9-on-7 two days in a row. I know we can.’ ”

Now, all these years later, he finds other ways to get the toughness out of his players. It’s his responsibility now, and he’s the undisputed king of the coaching fraternity. He won’t talk much about that during the run up to Super Bowl XLVI, but he will gladly talk about where all his strengths came from. He was once a Giant, and he still considers that one of the best jobs he ever had.

Teaser:
<p> The Patriots coach looks back on his time with the Giants</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 2, 2012 - 10:31
Path: /news/it%E2%80%99s-national-signing-day-anything-possible
Body:

By David Schuman

 Alabama beat LSU for the national championship 23 days ago, but for the true diehards, the second season was just getting underway. I’m talking about the offseason, the recruiting season. For those who consume college football in a manner similar to the way Morris Claiborne gobbles up an entire half of the field, today is Christmas and the Super Bowl all wrapped up into one glorious bonanza.

It’s the holiday known as National Signing Day.

Do you feel that? That tingly feeling in your gut? How about the lightheadedness? We call that hope, my friend. Hope that with this recruiting class, your program is ready to take that next step. Hope that college football’s next star just signed his letter of intent to walk on your campus. Hope that your prayers have been answered.

Nowhere is all of this a bigger deal than in SEC country. Being a Vanderbilt student originally from New York, I have only recently been introduced to the rowdy institution that is football in the South. The enormity of National Signing Day became clear pretty quickly though. Legions of fans, including grown men and women who have jobs and families, unashamedly hang on every word of 18 year olds they have never met. You can now add the Twitterverse to that as well, which brings a whole new dizzying quality to the hysteria.

I say “hysteria” because there is a potent measure of irrationality about the whole thing. You know how it goes. If your archrival picks up a commitment from a guy you wanted, the first assumption is that the rival must have bent the rules. You pull out all your defense mechanisms, saying things like, “Well, if he’s susceptible to being seduced by Rival U, he’s not the kind of kid we want anyway. We’re probably better off without him.”

Anyone who follows the recruiting battles even a little can see how heated it gets. The controversy even manages to wedge itself between families. The most recent example is what happened with Landon Collins this year. At the Under Armour All-America game, the five-star safety from Geismar, Louisiana committed to Alabama in front of the national TV audience. His mother proceeded to…well, check it out for yourself.

Now, some may say the hype has gotten out of control. With top prospects now holding press conferences to announce their choices, there is justified criticism that these teenagers are being celebrated before they have accomplished a thing. Remember Jimmy Clausen with his limousine and rings? The image still makes me nauseous, but the fact is National Signing Day has become a spectacle because there is a demand for it. Websites such as Rivals and Scout have made recruiting a year-round event that doesn’t look to be waning in popularity any time soon.

Basically, we obsess over Signing Day because of the rush. The unbeatable thrill of reeling in the big fish after months on the recruiting trail. For an Auburn fan, beating out Alabama for a prized recruit can feel almost as good as winning the Iron Bowl. And you’re not paying attention if you don’t think Michigan fans, after the insufferable Rich-Rod era, are outright giddy about their Top 5 class.

So sit back and enjoy today, the day where the wellspring of hope runs eternal. Even for non-SEC fans. Well, let’s be real. They don’t have a shot.
 

Teaser:
<p> Every college football team has a little hope today</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 08:08
All taxonomy terms: New England Patriots, Tom Brady, NFL
Path: /nfl/tom-brady-greatest-quarterback-all-time
Body:

— by Mark Ross

Tom Brady the greatest quarterback of all-time in NFL history? Believe it or not, this may not be as far-fetched a statement as it may have seemed.

Let’s start with Tom Terrific’s numbers — a two-time NFL MVP with nearly 40,000 yards passing, 300 TDs and a career passer rating of 96.4 in his 12 seasons. He has started 159 games in the regular season and won 124 of them, which is the fifth-most of all-time. To put in another way, No. 12 has won nearly 80 percent of the games he has started in the regular season.

As impressive as that may be for the regular season, Brady has nearly the same winning percentage (76 percent) in the postseason. For his career, Brady is 16-5 in the playoffs, which ties Joe Montana for the most postseason wins by a starting quarterback.

Brady also is the in top 5 on the all-time list when it comes to postseason touchdowns (36, 3rd), passing yards (5,009, fourth) and completions (472, 2nd) in the Super Bowl era (since 1966). Montana has the most career playoff touchdown passes with 45, while Brett Favre has the most yards (5,855) and completions (481).

Most importantly of all, Brady will have his chance to claim the record for most postseason wins and add to his playoff stats this Sunday when his New England Patriots take on the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis. This will be Brady’s fifth Super Bowl as a starting quarterback, which will tie John Elway for the most starts in the “Big Game.”

A win would be Brady’s fourth in five Super Bowl appearances, which would tie him with Montana and Terry Bradshaw for the most victories by a starting quarterback. Brady also will tie Montana for most Super Bowl MVPs if he gets his third one in Sunday’s game. Brady already holds the record for most career completions in Super Bowl history and could break the marks for both passing yards and touchdowns on Sunday.

The bottom line with Brady is this – he’s a winner, a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer and deserves to be in the “Greatest of All-time” conversation, even if his Patriots fall to the Giants on Sunday. Not bad for someone taken in the 6th round, no. 199 overall, of the 2000 NFL Draft.

Consider that Brady will be 35 when the 2012 NFL season starts this fall. Outside of missing basically the entire 2008 season after going down with a knee injury in Week 1, Brady has been durable. Since taking over for Drew Bledsoe as the Patriots’ starting quarterback in Week 3 of the 2001 season, Brady has started all 159 regular-season and 21 postseason games he has played in.

Brady should have several more productive years ahead of him, meaning he should only add to his already impressive statistics. Further, considering the Patriots have been in the playoffs all but two of his 11 seasons as the starter (with one of those being 2008 when he only played in Week 1), Brady should have plenty of opportunities to claim basically every postseason passing record that exists.

The point is this, all but one of the quarterbacks that have already been mentioned — Montana, Favre, Elway, Bradshaw — are Hall of Famers (Favre will be once he’s eligible) and generally a part of the “Greatest of All-time” conversation, to some degree. One would probably want to add Johnny Unitas, Dan Marino, and perhaps one or two others to the list as well.

Regardless of who is on this list, Brady measures up to them all, whether your measuring stick for greatness is statistics, wins or postseason production. And while he may not be your choice for “Greatest of All-time,” he at least needs to be mentioned any time you have the conversation.

After all, Brady already has won more Super Bowls than Favre, Untias, and Marino combined. How’s that for your conversation starter?

Teaser:
<p> Is Tom Brady the greatest quarterback of all-time?</p>
Post date: Monday, January 30, 2012 - 11:51
Path: /nfl/real-and-overblown-stories-super-bowl-xlvi
Body:

Believe the hype. As far as intrigue goes, Super Bowl XLVI has the potential to be one of the greatest ever.

Yet, potential is just that. Much as we would like, there’s no way to know whether Sunday’s Giants v. Pats battle will come down the last play, like its Week 9 counterpart did. We can hope that Super Bowl XLVI will be an edge-of-your-seat slugfest, similar to New England’s Week 17 victory in 2007, but we just don’t know. It’s foolish to pencil in a game even half as exciting as either of those, let alone (arguably) The Greatest Game Ever Played.

But we know what’s on the line. Not many Super Bowls have has as many – legitimate — storylines and angles heading into media week as this Big Game does. There’s no need for manufactured stories. This is Brady vs. Eli, in Peyton’s House. Tom vs. Billy Boy. Red Face vs. Hoodie. New York vs. Boston. Part Deux.

Of course, having real things to talk about has never stopped the media from talking about other things. This is the story of those things, and why they are WTF-worthy.

As always, quotes below are paraphrases of general idiocy.

“The Giants and the Patriots Are Two of the Worst Teams to Ever Play in the Super Bowl.”
There’s some truth to this. The Giants are owners of a -4 point differential in their 9-7 regular season as well as Aaron Ross. An eighth grade substitute math teacher is their chief signal caller on defense. That defense, for parts of the regular season, was something beyond porous while their running game, ranked dead last, was even worse.

Meanwhile, the Patriots didn’t beat a winning team until the season’s 20th week and prominently feature five or six trashcans as defensive starters. Their best outside receiver, Deion Branch, had his last relevant moment nearly a decade ago, when he won the MVP of the last Super Bowl without a roman numeral ‘V’ in its title. And most recently, their GOAT quarterback was severely outplayed in the AFC Championship game by an opponent known best for his ‘goat’ status and his weird, half-goatee choice in facial hair.

Yet, everything is relative, and the Giants and Pats’ apparent shared mediocrity is no exception. The 2011 NFL season was nearly unparalleled in its parity, with 18 of the league’s 32 teams winning between six and ten games.

The Kansas City Chiefs, despite losing perhaps their three best players to season-ending injury, won seven games and finished in fourth in the AFC West. The three teams ahead of them each won eight times.

The Colts, the league’s worst team, were without services of the best damn spokesperson the quarterback position has ever seen. Conversely, the league’s best team – the 15-1 Green Bay Packers, may they rest in peace – was quite literally one-dimensional.

Never as great as we were made to believe, the Packers were able to succeed against middling competition as eventual league MVP Aaron Rodgers and the team’s 3rd-ranked passing attack compensated for a 27th-ranked rushing attack and the league’s worst defense. Once they reached the postseason, Rodgers’ margin for error narrowed. No one else was able to pick up the slack.

If the 2011 NFL Season is remembered correctly, it will be thought of as a season of the extra-ordinary, a year in which the mediocrity of the majority allowed the select talented few to look even more talented by comparison.

Matt Stafford and Eli Manning are very good players, but it is difficult to believe they are half as good as Dan Marino once was. Eli fell 150 yards short of breaking Marino’s single-season passing mark, while Stafford and Brady and Drew Brees were able to break the nearly 30-year-old record.

More important, however, the watered-down competition presented the perfect opportunity for an underdog to start gnashing its teeth. Recipe for 2011 success: get hot at the right time, do two or three things right while everyone else only does one, make as few mistakes as possible, then pray. The Giants can confidently say they followed that recipe better than anyone else. Lucky? Perhaps. Opportunistic is probably more apt. The Giants did both what they needed to and what no one else was able, and now they’re in Indianapolis as a result.

On the other side, the system meant a team as flawed as the Patriots would face as little resistance as possible on their path to Indy. Their flaws, especially in the regular season, would go relatively unexploited. Top it off with Tebow and Flacco in January, and its fair to say the Pats haven’t faced a team better team all season then they will on Sunday.

They did lose to the Giants in Week 9. But these ain’t November’s Giants. And while the 2012 iteration might not be The Best Team Ever, in the Year of the Extra-Ordinary, it’s difficult to make the case that they don’t deserve to be there.

“If Eli Wins The Big One – Again – He Might Just Be Better Than Peyton”
No, he won’t be. Not even might be. There’s no question here, no debate, not even if Eli wins, throws for 600 yards, wins the Super Bowl and somehow steals Giesel away from Tom in the process. Probably not even if he came back next year, dropped Gisele for Kate Upton, then threw for 600 yards in a third Super Bowl MVP performance.

In sports, we value two things above all else: the now and the championship. We elevate our winners while forgetting the ones who have done so in the past. Yes, winning is the most important thing. But contrary to what we’ve been told, it’s not the only thing. It’s completely foolish to eschew a decade of achievement in favor of two February nights, glorious though they may be.

Over thirteen seasons, Peyton Manning passed for less than 3,700 yards exactly never. He’s passed for over 4,000 yards on 11 different occasions, a feat Eli’s accomplished thrice. Peyton’s thrown at least 30 touchdowns six times and 49 touchdowns once and won four MVP awards and made five All-Pro first teams and three All-Pro second teams.

Eli’s thrown for 30 touchdowns once, in a season in which he threw 25 interceptions. He’s made two Pro Bowl teams. And great as he may be, he can’t make claim to any of the other accolades and statistics that make big brother quite possibly the greatest player of all time.

Before the 2011 season, Eli wasn’t even considered the best quarterback in his division, let alone his family. And while he has been consistently great this year, and while his past has been better than anyone gives him credit for, there’s no way thirteen extra wins can bring a man from good to G.O.A.T. Perspective, people. Have some.

“Tom Brady is As Good As Ever.”
Patently false. Don’t get me wrong, Brady is still the league’s best quarterback and quite possibly the best to ever play the position. He threw for five thousand yards and 39 touchdowns this season. Not exactly Rex Grossman-type numbers.

But watching him on a game-to-game basis, it is quite clear this isn’t the same unbeatable stalwart we’ve always watched. Maybe you can blame that on a weaker-than-usual offensive line and outside receivers, and maybe you’d be right. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that there aren’t a few more passes thrown astray and a few more balls held a bit too long than ever before. The numbers say this is one of Brady’s best seasons, but the eyes say something different. And if there’s anything this upside-down, Eli-better-than-Peyton season has taught us, it’s to trust your eyes. And your gut. And then give both of them a whole lot of open field and shitty defensive backs to work with.

“Lock Up Tom Coughlin, He’s Going to Be Here For a While.”
There’s no debate: Tom Coughlin has earned himself a long term contract extension. But that’s if he wants it.

Last week, Coughlin and son-in-law/Guard Chris Snee shot down suggestions that retirement might be in the old man’s near future, but it’s certainly something to still keep in mind. Coughlin is the league’s oldest coach and will also be it’s only active one – other than Bill Belichick — to have his name on multiple Lombardi trophies. There’s little left for him to accomplish and not much time left for him to do it. Even if Tom sticks around for his ninth season in New Jersey, it’s hard to see him coaching for much longer. Bill Cowher, anybody?

Jesse Golomb is the Editor-in-Chief of TheFanManifesto. Follow him on twitter, or drop him a line via email. 

Teaser:
<p> Some idiotic notions are being put forth in the media about this game. What's real?</p>
Post date: Monday, January 30, 2012 - 11:33
Path: /nfl/peyton-mannings-uncertain-future-indianapolis
Body:

What once seemed unfathomable – Peyton Manning NOT in an Indianapolis Colts uniform – seems not so improbable with every passing day. Picking up the pieces from a disastrous 2-14 season, Colts owner Jim Irsay, new general manager Ryan Grigson and just-hired head coach Chuck Pagano have a lengthy to-do list on their hands. And that list most likely starts with who will be under center for the Colts next season.

For starters, Manning is due a $28 million roster bonus on March 8 as part of the five-year, $90 million contract extension he signed last summer. Everyone knows what happened after that — he had neck surgery in September, missed the entire 2011 season during which the Colts win just two games, which in turn
“earned” them the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft where everyone is expecting them to select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.

Irsay has already publicly stated that even if Manning is given a clean bill of health that the Colts will take a quarterback with the first overall pick in the upcoming draft. Whether that be Luck or Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III from Baylor remains to be seen, but in some ways this is similar to the situation the Colts found themselves in back in 1998.

Back then the Colts had the No. 1 overall pick and were reportedly somewhat torn between drafting Manning, who played for the University of Tennessee, or Washington State’s Ryan Leaf. In the end, the Colts took Manning and the Chargers traded up to get Leaf at No. 2. The rest, as they say, is history.

Whether or not the Colts find their next franchise quarterback in April in either Luck or Griffin only time will tell, but it still doesn’t answer the question what to do with their current franchise quarterback. The good news is that under the terms of the new CBA, the financial cost of keeping both Manning and the No. 1 overall draft pick isn’t nearly as burdensome as it once was.

Two years ago, the St. Louis Rams took Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford with the first pick and signed him to a six-year, $78 million deal. The contract had $50 million in guaranteed money and was the largest contract ever for an NFL rookie. Last year, the Carolina Panthers took Auburn quarterback Cam Newton No. 1. Under the terms of the new CBA, which introduced a rookie wage scale, Newton signed a four-year, $22 million deal, all of it guaranteed.

In guaranteed money alone, the Panthers will pay $28 million less to Newton than the Rams will for Bradford. Whoever the Colts select at No. 1 will sign a contract similar to Newton’s and that alone will make it considerably easier for the team to afford their new franchise quarterback and Manning. Remember, Manning still has $63.6 million left on his contract extension, including the $28 million roster bonus due on March 8, which goes through 2015.

In fact, because of the structure of Manning’s contract and NFL rules, in many ways it will cost the Colts less to keep Manning than it would to get rid of him, whether that be by trading him to another team or simply releasing him.

For one, while Manning’s roster bonus is due on March 8, the Colts actually can’t trade him until March 13 because of league rules. At that point, if the Colts did decide to trade him, it would cost them the $28 million for the roster bonus and then an additional $38 million towards their cap.

This just doesn’t seem like a wise move for a team that already is dealing with cap space issues. And that’s without even discussing finding a feasible trading partner, a team that has a need for a 36-year-old quarterback with an ever-growing medical file and, more importantly, the cap space to fit him.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t several teams out there who wouldn’t jump at the chance to bring Manning on board. It’s just that given all of the factors, there probably aren’t that many teams that are in a position to even consider a trade, should the opportunity become available.

It also doesn’t seem likely that they would simply cut Manning. For one, it would still cost the Colts an estimated $10.4 million cap hit to end ties with him. Although that would be cheaper than the cap hit associated with trading him, it would amount to “dead” cap space for them since Manning would no longer be on the roster.

Cutting Manning also makes him a free agent, meaning he can sign with any team and the Colts would get nothing in return. Given Manning’s success with the Colts, not to mention his rapport with fans and standing within the Indianapolis community, that doesn’t seem like a wise move either.

There’s also the option of reworking Manning’s contract and push the date the $28 million roster bonus is due back, although it remains to be seen if that’s even possible or it’s something Manning would even consider.

So while the Colts’ leadership mulls over the options and potential ramifications associated with them, the underlying question to all of this goes back to one thing – is Manning healthy? He will have to undergo a physical prior to the March 8 roster bonus due date, and if he passes, then the aforementioned options are fully in play.

If he doesn’t pass his physical, cutting him probably comes into play even more as the Colts will have to weigh the risks of keeping him on the roster in hopes that he will eventually become healthy. Failing his physical would also greatly impact his chances of signing with another team should he become a free agent. Manning himself could also take the decision out of the Colts’ hands, healthy or not healthy, and choose to retire. It still seems a little early to discuss that possibility, but you never know.

In the end, if Manning is healthy, cleared and able to play, the Colts could be looking at a situation similar to the one the Green Bay Packers had just seven years ago. In 2005, the Packers drafted Rodgers with the 24th overall pick. He backed up Brett Favre, who like Manning is a future Hall of Famer, before taking over as the starter in 2008. Two years later, Rodgers led the Packers to a win in Super Bowl XLV and has established himself as one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL

To be fair, when the Packers drafted Rodgers in 2005 no one had any idea that he would become the elite NFL quarterback he is or that Favre’s career in Green Bay would end like it did. That said, one cannot help but notice the similarities, or irony even, between the Packers’ situation then and the Colts’ now.

So in many ways, the Colts’ future is tied directly to Manning’s fate. If healthy, the Colts’ leadership and fans are both hoping for a path similar to one the Packers started on in 2005. If he’s not healthy, then they will turn their attention to 1998 when a young, franchise quarterback came on board and took the team to places it had never been before. Either way, it appears that No. 18’s days as the Colts’ field leader are numbered. 

— By Mark Ross

Teaser:
<p> The Colts' face of the franchise will likely be moved this offseason</p>
Post date: Friday, January 27, 2012 - 11:20

Pages