Articles By Athlon Sports

All taxonomy terms: Chicago Bears, NFC, NFC North, NFL
Path: /nfl/chicago-bears-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

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

Chicago Bears 2012 Schedule:

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

Order your 2012 Chicago Bears Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Chicago will open its 2012 season by helping break in Indianapolis rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, gets the privilege of making his NFL debut against Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and co. on their home turf. Good (ahem) luck.

- After going against Luck, it's the Bears' defense that may need some of its own as Week 2 has them in Green Bay trying to slow down the rival Packers and reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is 6-2 in his career against the Bears as the Packers have won the last three meetings between these two long-time foes.

- Chicago gets the AFC South and NFC West as its cross-divisional opponents in 2012. While Houston and San Francisco, who won their respective divisions in 2011, are bona fide contenders once again this season, the rest of the teams are either on the rise or rebuilding. The Bears should be able to capitalize on this part of their schedule.

- The Bears' two floating games — at Dallas and versus Carolina — offer two intriguing match ups. Both the Cowboys and Panthers feature quarterback-driven offenses, though the teams' respective signal-callers — Tony Romo and Cam Newton — attack defenses differently.  The Monsters of the Midway will likely employ different strategies to try and slow down each offense, but regardless, the defense will need to be at the top of its game if it wishes to be successful in doing so.

- Chicago plays the first of its three Monday night games in Week 4 as it travels to Dallas to take on the Cowboys. The Bears also host the Lions in Week 7 and are on the road against the 49ers in Week 11 for their other Monday night dates.

- The Bears go on bye in Week 6, meaning they will play 11 straight games following it. Although early, the bye comes at a good time as it gives the Bears a week to prepare for what appears to be the toughest stretch of their schedule. Following the bye, Chicago faces off with Detroit on Monday night in what will probably be a pivotal NFC North game then host Carolina. A road trip to Tennessee to take on the Titans in Week 9 precedes a difficult back-to-back offering of Houston (home) and a trip out west to San Francisco. This five-week span will go a long ways to determining how the Bears' 2012 season turns out.

- After playing just two NFC North games in its first six, Chicago will see plenty of its division rivals in the final six weeks of the season. The Bears play Minnesota twice in a span of three weeks starting in Week 12 and then end their regular season home against Green Bay and at Detroit, with a road game versus Arizona sandwiched in between. The final six weeks of the regular season will go a long ways in determining who wins the North and how many teams go on to the playoffs.

Fantasy Focus: Chicago wide receivers finished No. 22 in fantasy points scored in 2011, one reason why the Bears traded with Miami for Brandon Marshall and took South Carolina wideout Alshon Jeffery in the second round of this year's draft. Besides reuniting former Broncos' teammates Marshall and quarterback Jay Cutler, the Bears are hoping they have added some dependable and dangerous weapons to their passing attack. Cutler, who missed six games last season due to a thumb injury, averaged 16.5 fantasy points per game in 2011, which ranked him No. 16 among quarterbacks. If Cutler can re-establish the chemistry that he and Marshall had in Denver and Jeffery can assimilate himself to the pro game quickly, both, and possibly even Earl Bennett and Devin Hester, could become reliable fantasy producers. This season, the Bears will play seven teams that ranked in the top half in terms of fantasy points allowed to wide receivers in 2011. More specifically, all three NFC North foes, who the Bears will play twice, finished in the top seven of this category, led by Minnesota (2nd), followed by Green Bay (3rd) and Detroit (7th). Additionally, Arizona (8th), St. Louis (11th), San Francisco (13th) and Indianapolis (16th) also were ranked in the top 16.

— by Mark Ross, published on June 8, 2012

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

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

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

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

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

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

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

Teaser:
<p> Chicago Bears 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Friday, June 8, 2012 - 06:05
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC East, New York Jets, NFL
Path: /nfl/new-york-jets-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

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

New York Jets 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Buffalo
Week 2: at Pittsburgh
Week 3: at Miami
Week 4: San Francisco
Week 5: Houston (Mon.)
Week 6: Indianapolis
Week 7: at New England
Week 8: Miami
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: at Seattle
Week 11: at St. Louis
Week 12: New England (Thurs.)
Week 13: Arizona
Week 14: at Jacksonville
Week 15: at Tennessee (Mon.)
Week 16: San Diego
Week 17: at Buffalo

Order your 2012 New York Jets Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- New York opens and finishes its 2012 schedule against AFC East rival Buffalo this year. The Bills come to the Big Apple in Week 1, while the Jets get to play at Ralph Wilson Stadium on the second-to-last day of December to end their regular season.

- New York's schedule is spilt exactly in half as the bye comes in Week 9. The first half of the slate has the Jets playing five at home and three on the road, while the last eight reverses that home-away split.

- The Jets play the AFC South and NFC West in 2012, but only have to make one extremely long road trip for this part of their schedule. San Francisco (Week 4) and Arizona (Week 13) are at home, meaning the Jets only have to go out west once to Seattle (Week 10) since St. Louis (Week 11) is located in the Midwest, geographically speaking

- Oustide of a Week 5 Monday night date with Houston, getting the AFC South should present the Jets with a possibility of three wins, provided they take care of business against the rebuilding Colts and Jaguars and an improving Titans team. Regardless of whether new Jet Tim Tebow is the starting quarterback by then, the Week 14 game in Jacksonville figures to present the Jaguars with one of their best shots at a sellout in 2012 as the local legend returns home.

- The Jets play four of their six AFC East games in the first half, with a Week 12 Thursday night date in New England and the season finale in Buffalo the only divisional games among their last eight.

- New York didn't get any breaks with its two floating games — at Pittsburgh in Week 2 and versus San Diego in Week 16 — other than being spared another cross-country trip. This looms even larger considering the Jets play the Chargers on the heels of their Week 15 Monday night game in Nashville, Tenn., against the Titans.

- Overall the Jets' schedule seems manageable as they only have to face four playoff teams from last year, and other than their second game against New England in Week 12, these four games occur in the first seven weeks of the season. Staying away from making any future Super Bowl guarantees is a wise move on the part of Jets head coach Rex Ryan, but a playoff berth appears to be a reasonable expectation for the 2012 season.

Fantasy Focus: New offensive coordinator Tony Sparano has said he fully intends to return the Jets to its "ground and pound" ways of being a run-oriented offense. While that may seem like good news for running back Shonn Greene, who rushed for a career high 1,054 yards last season, a closer look at the Jets' 2012 opponents should at the very least temper any excitement. Greene and the Jets will face four of the five stingiest defenses in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs in 2011. San Francisco was No. 1 last season, followed by Houston and Pittsburgh with AFC East foe Miami coming in fifth. What's more, San Diego, Jacksonville and Arizona were ranked Nos. 9-11 in this same category.

— by Mark Ross, published on June 6, 2012

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

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

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

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

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

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

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

Teaser:
<p> New York Jets 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 7, 2012 - 06:05
All taxonomy terms: Arizona Cardinals, NFC, NFC West, NFL
Path: /nfl/arizona-cardinals-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

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

Arizona Cardinals 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Seattle
Week 2: at New England
Week 3: Philadelphia
Week 4: Miami
Week 5: at St. Louis (Thurs.)
Week 6: Buffalo
Week 7: at Minnesota
Week 8: San Francisco (Mon.)
Week 9: at Green Bay
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: at Atlanta
Week 12: St. Louis
Week 13: at New York Jets
Week 14: at Seattle
Week 15: Detroit
Week 16: Chicago
Week 17: at San Francisco

Order your 2012 Arizona Cardinals Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Arizona must survive its early schedule because six of the Cardinals' toughest games will come after Week 7. After opening with NFC West foe Seattle at home, the Cardinals have to make the long trip east to face New England on its home turf and then turn back around and host Philadelphia at home. 

- The Cardinals' next four games are manageable as they will take on two other AFC East teams — Miami and Buffalo —  at home along with trips to St. Louis and Minnesota. If Arizona can find a way to win three out of these four, that would go a long ways towards possibly making something out of the 2012 season.

- After the Week 7 date in Minnesota, Arizona's schedule really begins to toughen up. The first of two extremely difficult three-game stretches opens with a Monday nighter against defending NFC West champions San Francisco, followed by a trip to Green Bay. The Cardinals will get to lick their wounds come Week 10 during their bye week, but it's back on the road that next week in Atlanta. 

- The fact that Arizona gets both the AFC East and NFC North as its round-robin opposition this season does them no favors, but when you add floating games against the Eagles and Falcons, it could be argued that the Cardinals have one of the toughest non-divisional slates this season of any team in the NFL.

- Starting in Week 12, Arizona reacquaints itself with division rivals Seattle and St. Louis, sandwiched around its final AFC East match up, a road game in New York against the Jets. After that it's a brutal three-game stretch to conclude the regular season. The Cardinals get NFC North members Detroit and Chicago back-to-back at home before finishing on the road against the 49ers in San Francisco.

- With a schedule like this, .500 would be a reasonable goal for the season. Anything above that, especially a playoff berth, would be considered quite the accomplishment for head coach Ken Whisenhunt and his staff.

Fantasy Focus: Larry Fitzgerald is already one of the top wide recievers in the NFL, as he's posted five straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Arizona drafted Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd in the first round in this year's draft, hoping to pair the rookie with the All-Pro and form one of the league's deadliest pass-catching duos. The good news for both Fitzgerald and Floyd is that there should be plenty of opportunities to do some damage this season. Nine of Arizona's 2012 opponents ranked among the top half of teams in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers in 2011. New England gave up the most, followed by Minnesota and Green Bay. Detroit, Chicago, Miami, St. Louis, Atlanta and San Francisco also finished among the top 16 teams in this category. And remember, the Cardinals play the Rams and 49ers twice.

— by Mark Ross, published on June 6, 2012

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

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

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

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

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

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

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

Teaser:
<p> Arizona Cardinals 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 - 05:00
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC East, Buffalo Bills, NFL
Path: /nfl/buffalo-bills-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

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

Buffalo Bills 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at New York Jets
Week 2: Kansas City
Week 3: at Cleveland
Week 4: New England
Week 5: at San Francisco
Week 6: at Arizona
Week 7: Tennessee
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: at Houston
Week 10: at New England
Week 11: Miami (Thurs.)
Week 12: at Indianapolis
Week 13: Jacksonville
Week 14: St. Louis
Week 15: Seattle (in Toronto)
Week 16: at Miami
Week 17: New York Jets

Order your 2012 Buffalo Bills Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Buffalo's offseason priority was to beef up its defense, which finished last season ranked 26th in total defense. The Bills addressed that side of the ball through both free agency (Mario Williams, James Anderson) and the draft (first-round CB Stephon Gillmore), and the first four games of the 2012 season — at New York Jets, vs. Kansas City, at Cleveland, vs. New England — should be a good barometer as to how far this defense has come.

- Buffalo was 28th out of 32 teams in rush defense last season and the Bills' first three games of the 2012 season are against three teams that figure to run the ball a lot. First, it's the season opener on the road against the Jets, a team that has said it will return to its "ground and pound" ways of running the ball, followed by hosting Kansas City and then a trip to Cleveland. The Chiefs' backfield will feature both Jamaal Charles, who finished second in the NFL with 1,467 yards rushing in 2010 before tearing his ACL in Week 1 of last year, and former Cleveland Brown Peyton Hillis, who rushed for nearly 1,200 yards in 2010. Then there's this season's version of the Browns, whose backfield now includes 2012 No. 3 overall pick Trent Richardson.

- After those three rush-oriented teams, the Bills will see how their new pass rush, highlighted by the additions of Williams and Anderson, and remade secondary fares against Tom Brady and the Patriots' aerial attack. Then it's a trip out west to face San Francisco, the first of Buffalo's four games against the NFC West.

- The Bills also will play all four teams from the AFC South as its AFC round-robin opponents this season. They begin that quarter of games by hosting Tennessee at home in Week 7, their last game before their bye week.

- The bye falls at a good time for Buffalo in a couple of respects. First, coming in Week 8, that means that the Bills only have to play nine straight games to close out the season. More importantly, the Bills get a week to prepare for their first two games after the bye — at Houston and home to New England. Besides representing Williams' first game at Reliant Stadium not in a Texans' uniform, the match up with the defending AFC South champs will be another good test for the Bills' revamped defense. This time the task will be to try to slow down Houston's Arian Foster, who has rushed for more than 2,800 yards in the last two seasons combined. Further, if the Bills have any hopes of battling for a playoff spot in 2012, they will more than likely need to beat the Patriots at least once. This game will be at home, which is where Buffalo defeated New England last season in Week 3.

- Following their Week 10 date with New England, the Bills' schedule eases up quite a bit. Buffalo ends the season with five home games, including the Week 15 match up with Seattle in Toronto, and just two on the road— at Indianapolis in Week 12 and at Miami in Week 16. Besides the Seahawks, the Bills will host the Dolpins on Thursday night in Week 11, as well as the Jaguars and Rams in Weeks 13-14 before ending the regular season against the Jets. If the Bills are able to manage the first nine games of their schedule and capitalize on the latter part, they could be in the thick of the playoff hunt in late December, meaning those final two division games against the Dolphins and Jets could be huge.

Fantasy Focus: The Bills' defense will feature a lot of new faces this season and if the new personnel is able to adapt to coordinator Dave Wannstedt's scheme, it could be a surprise fantasy contributor in 2012. For one, the Bills finished near the bottom of the league in terms of sacks, a number that should improve with the addition of Mario Williams and James Anderson. Also, the Bills' schedule features 10 games against teams whose offensive skill positions (QB, RB, WR, TE) ranked in the lower half of the league in 2011 in fantasy points scored. Jacksonville finished last, followed by St. Louis, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Kansas City. San Francisco, Seattle, Miami, and Arizona also finished in the bottom half. In fact, the only one of Buffalo's 2012 opponents to not rank lower than 12th in terms of fantasy points scored by offensive skill position players last season is New England, who fninshed third overall.

— by Mark Ross, published on June 5, 2012

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

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

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

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

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

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

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

Teaser:
<p> Buffalo Bills 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 03:00
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC East, Miami Dolphins, NFL
Path: /nfl/miami-dolphins-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

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

Miami Dolphins 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Houston
Week 2: Oakland
Week 3: New York Jets
Week 4: at Arizona
Week 5: at Cincinnati
Week 6: St. Louis
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: at New York Jets
Week 9: at Indianapolis
Week 10: Tennessee
Week 11: at Buffalo (Thurs.)
Week 12: Seattle
Week 13: New England
Week 14: at San Francisco
Week 15: Jacksonville
Week 16: Buffalo
Week 17: at New England

Order your 2012 Miami Dolphins Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- New Miami head coach Joe Philbin gets the misfortune of making his NFL head coaching debut in Houston as the Dolphins open the season against the defending AFC South champion Texans. After that it's home for two straight games against the Raiders and division rival Jets. If the 'Fins can find a way to win at least one of these two, it would not only mean Philbin's first career win as a head coach, it could prove huge in building confidence for the team moving forward.

- The AFC East gets the AFC South as its intra-conference division cross-over this season. With the Texans as the only bonafide contender from the South, the Dolphins should have a chance to get a win or two against the Colts (road), Jaguars and Titans (both home).

- Miami also gets the NFC West as its non-conference opponents. The West, just like the AFC South, features just one top-tier team, San Francisco. The Dolphins travel to Arizona early and get St. Louis at home in Week 7 before hosting Seattle in Week 12 and making the cross-country trip to San Francisco two weeks later.

- The Dolphins' other two floating games are against Oakland (home) and Cincinnati (road) and happen in the first five weeks of the season. Outside of the opener at Houston, the Dolphins' first six games feature several winnable games. If things break right, a 4-2 record is possible and would be a great opening statement for both the new coaching staff and the team.

- Miami's bye comes in Week 7 and the 'Fins will need that week to prepare them for their 10 games in a row. The week after the bye, the Dolphins go to New York to take on the Jets, followed by a trip to Indianapolis. That game will mark the halfway point in Colts' quarterback Andrew Luck's rookie season, so the Dolphins' defense may not be able to take advantage of his inexperience by then.

- After hosting Tennessee in Week 10, the Dolphins enter the tough part of their schedule. In the final seven weeks of the season, Miami has to play AFC East rivals Buffalo and New England twice each and gets the defending NFC West champion 49ers in San Francisco.

- Miami finally plays division foe New England in Week 13 before making the long trip out west to face the 49ers. It's back cross-country the next week to host Buffalo and then Jacksonville before taking on the Patriots against up in Foxboro to close out the season.

- If the Dolphins have any hopes of making the playoffs in 2012, they will need to capitalize on a manageable early schedule and then as the sesason progresses win all the games they are expected to win. An upset or two along the way, especially in their division, certainly wouldn't hurt either.

Fantasy Focus: Reggie Bush produced the first 1,000-yard rushing season of his career in 2011, but could be looking at less opportunities this season. The head coaching staff that showed so much faith and trust in Bush last year is gone and the Dolphins also have 2011 second-round pick Daniel Thomas and 2012 fourth-rounder Lamar Miller on the roster. The good news is should Bush or one of the other backs establish themselves as the main ball-carrier, there are several games on the Fins' schedule that offer appealing match ups. Half of Miami's 2012 opponents ranked in the top 16 in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs last season — Indianapolis (3rd-most), Buffalo (4th), St. Louis (5th), Tennessee (6th), Oakland (11th), and New England (13th). Remember, the Dolphins play the Bills and Patriots twice.

— by Mark Ross, published on June 4, 2012

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

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

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

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

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

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

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

Teaser:
<p> Miami Dolphins 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Monday, June 4, 2012 - 03:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-weekend-rundown-may-31
Body:

Hurting Aces
Two more aces went down earlier this week as both the Phillies’ Roy Halladay and the Angels’ Jered Weaver were placed on the disabled list. Six pitchers who started their team’s first game of the season are now either currently on the DL or have already been on it at some point this season. The Opening Day starters currently on the DL are Oakland’s Brandon McCarthy and the White Sox’ John Danks, while Colorado’s Jeremy Guthrie and the Cubs’ Ryan Dempster have already spent time on the DL.

And that list doesn’t include the other starting pitchers who either started the season on the DL (Chris Carpenter, Tim Hudson, etc.) or are currently on it (Doug Fister, Ted Lilly, Cory Luebke, Jeff Niemann, etc.). Needless to say it’s safe to assume that everyone’s starting rotation has already been impacted at some point this season by injury.

Then again it’s one thing to lose a starting pitcher; it’s another to lose a two-time Cy Young Award winner like Halladay or a potential future recipient like Weaver. To be fair, Halladay (4-5, 3.98 ERA) hasn’t pitched up to his lofty standards to this point, but perhaps the strain that was discovered in his right shoulder earlier this week is to blame for that. Regardless, Halladay is expected to be shut down for a minimum of three weeks before he starts making his way back to the Phillies’ rotation.

The Angels hope that Weaver, who was placed on the DL on Tuesday with a lower back strain, spasms and disc inflammation, will not miss near that amount of time. Weaver (6-1, 2.61 ERA) was off to another solid start before lasting just 12 pitches on Monday against the Yankees. The team is optimistic that Weaver will miss at most three starts.

Either way, both aces will be out for a while and owners of either will have to look to the waiver wire for short-term replacements. One possibility to keep in mind, especially should either Halladay or Weaver end up being sidelined for more than a month is veteran Roy Oswalt. Oswalt signed a minor league contract with Texas on Tuesday.

The right-hander, who is 34 and went 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA last season with Philadelphia, plans on making three or four starts in the minors before joining the Rangers’ rotation. The Rangers have an opening because Neftali Feliz, last year’s closer turned starter, went on the DL on May 21 with a sprained elbow ligament. Even if Feliz is able to return at some point this season, he is certainly capable of making the transition back to the bullpen.

If not Oswalt, some other starting pitchers that could fit the bill as a short-term substitute include Arizona’s Wade Miley (6-1, 2.41 ERA), Boston’s Felix Doubront (5-2, 3.86 ERA), Kansas City’s Felipe Paulino (2-1, 2.03 ERA), Miami’s Mark Buehrle (5-4, 3.26 ERA) and Carlos Zambrano (3-3, 3.00 ERA), Oakland’s Tommy Milone (6-4, 3.64 ERA), San Francisco’s Ryan Vogelsong (3-2, 2.36 ERA), and Seattle’s Jason Vargas (6-4, 3.45 ERA). Each of these pitchers is owned in less than 70 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Remember Me?
As we headed into May, fantasy owners were wondering aloud if sluggers like Giancarlo Stanton, Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols would ever get their acts together and start producing more along the lines of where they were drafted or big board rankings. Now as we enter June and the dog days of summer those same owners are wishing that May wouldn’t end.

Stanton finished April with one home run and nine RBIs, while batting just .247 thanks in part to just four walks compared to 20 strikeouts. Not surprisingly, the Marlins were 8-14 and in last place in the NL East as of April 30.

In May, all Stanton did was crush 12 home runs in 108 at-bats to go along with 10 doubles, 30 RBIs and 23 runs scored, while batting .343 with a respectable 25:16 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Consequently, the Marlins went 21-8 in May, setting a franchise record for wins and putting them just a half-game behind Washington for first place in the NL East.

Meanwhile, Holliday got off to a rough start in April, posting a .215-4-13 line in the first month causing many to wonder if the Cardinals’ highest-paid player would be the same after the departure of Pujols. Holliday has turned things around quite nicely, batting .340 in May with six home runs, 21 RBIs and 25 runs scored.

And speaking of The Machine, although he’s not back to the old Albert in terms of his production at the plate, at least he showed signs in May that he’s more than just old Albert. After going homerless with a measly four RBIs in April, Pujols hit eight home runs in May and drove in 24.

His batting average stands at just .243 entering June, but he’s been sizzling as of late, hitting .429 with four home runs over the last seven days. As Pujols has gotten warmer at the plate, so have the Angels. After being seven games under .500 at the end of April, the Angels went 18-11 in May to even up their record.

Here are a few of May’s other outstanding fantasy performers:

OF Josh Hamilton, TEX .344, 19 R, 12 HR, 32 RBI, 2 SB, 1.186 OPS
OF Melky Cabrera, SF .429, 24 R, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 4 SB, 1.104 OPS
OF Carlos Gonzalez, COL .336, 23 R, 9 HR, 23 RBI, 3 SB, 1.093 OPS
OF Adam Jones, BAL .298, 20 R, 10 HR, 22 RBI, 4 SB, .985 OPS
OF Carlos Beltran, STL .326, 15 R, 10 HR, 31 RBI, 1 SB, 1.117 OPS
OF Mike Trout, LAA .324, 21 R, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 8 SB, .941 OPS
OF Andrew McCutchen, PIT .360, 16 R, 8 HR, 18 RBI, 5 SB, 1.133 OPS
OF Dayan Viciedo, CWS .351, 18 R, 8 HR, 24 RBI, .995 OPS
C Carlos Ruiz, PHI .418, 16 R, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 2 SB, 1.180 OPS

RP Santiago Casilla, SF 1 W, 10 SV, 12 K, 1.26 ERA, 0.98 WHIP in 14 1/3 IP
RP Aroldis Chapman, CIN 2 W, 3 SV, 3 HLD, 23 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.44 WHIP in 13 2/3 IP
SP Gio Gonzalez, WAS 5 W, 45 K, 2.25 ERA, 0.94 WHIP in 32 IP
SP Cole Hamels, PHI 5 W, 42 K, 2.25 ERA, 1.00 WHIP in 44 IP
RP Chris Perez, CLE 10 SV, 13 K, 1.59 ERA, 0.79 WHIP in 11 1/3 IP
RP Fernando Rodney, TB 1 W, 9 SV, 15 K, 1.23 ERA, 0.68 WHIP in 14 2/3 IP

Other DL News
*Matt Kemp’s return from the DL didn’t last very long. Kemp reinjured his left hamstring on Wednesday night against the Brewers while scoring from first on a first-inning double by Andre Ethier. Kemp had just been activated from the DL on Tuesday and it’s all but certain he’s headed back there again, and this time it will probably be longer than a 15-day stint.

*Troy Tulowitzki left last night’s game against Houston in the seventh inning with what the team has said is a strained left groin. It seems a foregone conclusion that Tulowitzki will miss at minimum a few games, starting with tonight’s series finale against the Astros, but it probably wouldn’t hurt for Tulo owners to start scanning the waiver wire so they can be ready to pounce if he ends up on the DL.

*The Dodgers were dealt another blow earlier this week when the team had to place veteran left-hander Ted Lilly on the DL with shoulder inflammation. Lilly (5-1, 3.14 ERA) was off to a solid start and the team hopes he will be able to return to the mound on June 8 against Seattle, the first day he is eligible to come off of the 15-day DL.

*Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia has missed the last two games and is probably out for tonight’s series finale against Detroit because of a torn abductor muscle in his right thumb. The team is looking for a way, such as wearing a padded brace, that will allow Pedroia to play through with the injury; otherwise he’s looking at a three- to four-week stay on the DL.

*Baltimore outfielders Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are both dealing with wrist injuries. Jones was struck in the wrist by a pitch on Wednesday night, but X-rays revealed no bones were broken. He may not start in Friday night’s opener in Tampa Bay, but at this point he is not expected to miss an extended amount of time. That may not be the case with Markakis who was held out of the Orioles’ lineup on Wednesday because of soreness in his right wrist. He was scheduled to visit a specialist on Thursday to determine the extent of the damage and his playing condition.

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Weekend Rundown: May 31</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 01:00
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC West, Seattle Seahawks, NFL
Path: /nfl/seattle-seahawks-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

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

Seattle Seahawks 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Arizona
Week 2: Dallas
Week 3: Green Bay (Mon.)
Week 4: at St. Louis
Week 5: at Carolina
Week 6: New England
Week 7: at San Francisco (Thurs.)
Week 8: at Detroit
Week 9: Minnesota
Week 10: New York Jets
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: at Miami
Week 13: at Chicago
Week 14: Arizona
Week 15: at Buffalo
Week 16: San Francisco
Week 17: St. Louis

- It's definitely a tale of two halves for Seattle in 2012 as the Seahawks will play four teams that made the playoffs last season in their first eight games, compared to just one in their final eight.

- Seattle also faces a tough slate when it comes to its cross-divsional and AFC opponents in 2012. From the NFC, the Seahawks will play all four teams from the North, which could have as many as three playoff teams in Chicago, Detroit and Green Bay, as well as Dallas and Carolina. Seattle also has the entire AFC East on tap, which means perennial Super Bowl contender New England, along with Buffalo, Miami and the Jets.

- The good news regarding Seattle's difficult non-divisional schedule is that Dallas, Green Bay, New England and the Jets will have to make the cross-country trip to CenturyLink Field. The long trip out west and adjusting to the time-zone change has proven to be an obstacle for the visiting team, while this also brings four teams to Seattle that Seahawks' fans aren't accustomed to seeing up close and personal.

- Seattle opens on the road against NFC West division foe Arizona before hosting Dallas and then Green Bay on Monday Night Football in Week 3. Besides having the national spotlight focused solely on this game, the match up against the Packers will more than likely pit presumed starting quarterback Matt Flynn against his former Green Bay teammates.

- The Seahawks are on the road at St. Louis and Carolina the next two weeks before entering arguably their toughest three- game stretch - home to New England, then at San Francisco on Thursday night and at Detroit the following week. Seattle's defense, which the team attempted to address through this year's draft, will undoubtedly be tested against the Patriots and Lions.

- Seattle's bye week falls in Week 11, the latest of any team in the league, and once the Seahawks finally get the chance to catch their collective breaths, the going shouldn't be near as tough the final six weeks of the regular season. Seattle will host all three NFC West foes, and make trips to Miami, Chicago and Buffalo. If the Seahawks are able to win two out of three on the road the first time around against their West divison rivals, it's possible the NFC West title could be won, or lost, on their home turf. Remember back in 2010 when Seattle defeated St. Louis 16-6 in the final week of the regular season to win the division crown? That could happen again this season as the Rams come calling in Week 17, although San Francisco more than likely will have a say in the division's outcome.

- Also, if there's a team that's somewhat suited for playing December games in Chicago and Buffalo, one would think the team that hails from the Pacific Northwest and plays in a open-air stadium would make the list. Plus, you certainly have to figure that former Bill Marshawn Lynch has that Week 15 match up in Buffalo circled on his calendar.

Fantasy Focus: Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch could be a prime sell-high candidate as the season progresses. Lynch, who finished fifth among running backs in fantasy points in 2011 according to Athlon's scoring, appears to have a very appetizing four-game stretch from Weeks 3-6. During this span, Lynch will go up against four of the teams that finished in the top 14 last season in fantasy points allowed to running backs - Green Bay (14th-most points allowed), St. Louis (5th), Carolina (2nd) and New England (13th). After that, however, the going gets much tougher. Other than Buffalo (4th-most) in Week 15 and the Rams again in Week 17, all of the Seahawks' other opponents ranked no lower than No. 15 in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs in 2011. This 10-game stretch includes two against San Francisco, who yielded the fewest fantasy points to running backs last season.

— by Mark Ross, published on May 30, 2012

Order your 2012 Seattle Seahawks Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine.

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

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

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

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


NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

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

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

Teaser:
<p> Seattle Seahawks 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 03:05
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-may-21
Body:

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

Interleague play kicked off on Friday, and while series that pit Arizona against Kansas City or Miami in Cleveland may not do it for baseball purists or even the casual fan, there were still some more appealing match ups on display.

The Cubs and White Sox got reacquainted this past weekend at Wrigley, with the Sox playing the role of rude house guests and sweeping the offensively deficient North Siders, along with the rivalry by the Bay - Oakland vs. San Francisco, and the battle for the Lone Star State between Texas and Houston. Heck, the Beltway Series for once was deemed important because it featured two first-place teams in Baltimore (AL East) and Washington (NL East).

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (05/14-05/20):

  Name Team Pos. R HR RBI SB AVG OPS
1. Mike Trout LAA OF 7 2 4 4 0.444 1.257
2. J.P. Arencibia TOR C 7 4 10 0 0.360 1.305
3. Dayan Viciedo* CWS OF 5 4 10 0 0.444 1.333
4. Jonathan Lucroy* MIL C 5 2 11 2 0.400 1.244
5. Adam Jones BAL OF 5 4 8 1 0.387 1.230
6. Ryan Braun MIL OF 5 1 7 3 0.444 1.113
7. Andrew McCutchen PIT OF 6 4 7 1 0.320 1.157
8. Carlos Ruiz PHI C 6 1 7 2 0.476 1.227
9. Prince Fielder DET 1B 6 2 8 0 0.464 1.326
10. Jose Bautista TOR 3B/OF 7 3 7 1 0.308 1.033
11. Hunter Pence HOU OF 6 3 5 0 0.393 1.219
12. Justin Upton ARI OF 6 1 5 3 0.304 0.887
13. Ian Desmond* WAS SS 4 2 6 2 0.344 0.969
14. Paul Konerko CWS 1B 5 2 4 0 0.625 1.700
15. Matt Holliday STL OF 6 3 6 0 0.308 0.999
16. A.J. Pierzynski* CWS C 5 1 6 0 0.481 1.148
17. Rod Barajas* PIT C 4 3 5 0 0.471 1.533
18. Martin Prado ATL 3B/OF 5 1 4 0 0.519 1.400
19. Alfonso Soriano* CHC OF 4 3 6 0 0.360 1.207
20. Angel Pagan* SF OF 6 0 3 2 0.440 1.108
21. Mike Aviles BOS 2B/3B/SS 4 3 6 0 0.345 1.138
22. Carlos Lee* HOU 1B/OF 4 2 6 0 0.407 1.115
23. Cody Ross* BOS OF 5 2 5 0 0.438 1.488
24. B.J. Upton TB OF 4 0 1 5 0.360 0.848
25. Corey Hart MIL OF 7 2 4 0 0.323 0.957

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Youth Being Served

Interleague play aside, there were plenty of offensive fireworks this past week and over the past seven days, the best hitter on the diamond has been one of its youngest. And no, I'm not talking about Bryce Harper. Anaheim's Mike Trout has settled in nicely into the leadoff spot for the Angels, as the 20-year-old outfielder topped all at the plate last week, thanks to a .444 average, seven runs scored, two home rusn and four RBIs. To put it another way, Trout hit as many home runs last week, in 27 at-bats, then his teammate, Albert Pujols, hit in his first 146 at-bats of the 2012 season.

That's not to say that Harper was horrible last week, as the Nationals' 19-year-old outfielder posted a .269-2-4 line of his own, matching Trout with seven runs scored.  Harper also has out-paced, if you will, his fellow uber-prospect Trout in terms of media coverage and national attention. But to this point, however, there's no question that Trout (.355-4-11, 15 R, 6 SB for the season) has out-performed Harper (.244-2-7, 14 R, 1 SB) where it really counts, at the plate.

And not to be outdone, Adam Jones and Andrew McCutchen, who aren't exactly exactly "old" at 26 and 25 respetively, enjoyed pretty strong showings last week. Jones (.308-14-29) extendced his hitting streak to 12 games on Saturday and has hit four home runs over his last six.

McCutchen on the other hand, has slugged seven in May, including two two-homer games in the last week alone. For the month, McCutchen is hitting .389 with seven home runs and 13 RBIs. McCutchen has been raking against left-handers, as he has collected 10 hits in his last 15 at-bats versus southpaws, after getting off to a 8-for-25 start.

Catchers Showing They Can Also Handle the Bat

Besides Trout, those who enjoyed the most success at the plate these past seven days, are those who take up residence behind it when on the field. Among the past week's top 25 hitters (below), 20 percent of them (five) are catchers. That's right, catchers, and not one of them is named Mauer, McCann, Molina (pick one), Montero (Jesus or Miguel) or even Posey.

Toronto's J.P. Arencibia and Jonathan Lucroy each used one monster game to get them in last week's top five. Arencibia socked two home runs and drive in six against the Mets on Friday, as all of his home runs and RBIs from last week came in a span of three games versus both New York teams. Lucroy, meanwhile, did just about all of his week's damage (3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 7 RBI) on Sunday against the Twins.

At this point, seeing Carlos Ruiz' and A.J. Pierzynski's names on this list probably shouldn't be that surprising. Ruiz is currently top fantasy catcher according to Yahoo! as he leads the position in average (.355) and RBIs (29), and is tied for the lead in runs scored with 21 and tied for second with seven home runs. Pierzynski is fourth as he has maintained a .301 average through the middle of May, along with six home runs and 27 RBIs. Lucroy, but the way is fourth and Arencibia is currently fifth among all catchers, thanks to their production these past seven days.

DL Watch

- Lance Berkman had just finally got back on the field and in the line up a week ago Sunday after a calf injury sidelined him for nearly a month. Then on Saturday, he lef the game against the Dodgers early with an apparent right knee injury. The early diagnosis is that it's a torn ACL, which will be confirmed with an MRI he is scheduled to undergo later today. If it is a torn ACL, then not only is Berkman's 2012 season over, but the 36-year-old's career could be in jeopardy. He is not signed beyond this season.

- Stephen Strasburg left his start against Baltimore on Sunday with what the Nationals are calling a "tired arm." He went five innings against the Orioles, giving up three runs (one earned) on four hits while striking out eight in five innings and also hit his first career home run in the Nats' 9-3 win. Strasburg was already reportedly under an innnings limit in his his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, so this latest development could result in the team finidng ways to get him more rest between starts, meaning he could be skipped in the rotation here and there. Definitely a situation that bears watching.

- Emilio Bonifacio, who was comfortably leading the majors with 20 stolen bases, was placed on the DL on Saturday after injuring his right thumb in the Marlins' game in Cleveland on Friday. That was just one of several moves the Marlins made this weekend as the team optioned struggling first baseman Gaby Sanchez (.197-1-11) to AAA and recalled outfielder Chris Coghlan from New Orleans.

- Paul Konerko got hit in the face by a Jeff Samardzija during Friday's interleague game, causing him to miss the next two games versus the Cubs with a swollen left eye. He could be back in the lineup on Tuesday, when the White Sox open up a set against Minnesota.

- Austin Jackson hasn't been in Detroit's line up since last Wednesday as he's been sidelined by an abdominal injury. He hopes to be able to return on Tuesday, the Tigers' next game. Jackson is off to a great start at the plate, hitting .331 with five home runs, 17 RBIs, six stolen bases and 29 runs scored.

- Tim Linecum left his start on Sunday against Oakland after four innings because of an apparent thumb injury he suffered in a collision at home plate. He was able to finish the innning, but did not return. The Giants have not said whether Lincecum sustained an injury or not, but it's possible he could miss his next scheduled start on Friday in Miami.

- Chipper Jones injured his calf on Friday against Tampa Bay and missed the next two games. He is questionable for todya's game in Cincinnati. Jones, who's in his last season, has already missed quite a bit of time this season, so this shouldn't come as any surprise. Juan Francisco has received most of the starts at third in Jones' absence.

- Allen Craig, who began the season on the DL, returned there on Friday due to an ongoing hamstring injury. The versatile Craig was hitting .373 with five home runs and 19 RBIs in just 51 at-bats prior to the injury. His health and production will be even more critical to the Cardinals' success this season due to the presumed loss of the aforementioned Berkman.

On the mound, we had Justin Verlander's near no-no on Friday against the Pirates, which was broken up with one out in the ninth. Even though Verlander had to "settle" for the one-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts and just two walks, he wasn't even the most dominant starting pitcher over the past two weeks.

That distinction goes to Zack Greinke, who gave up just one run in 21 2/3 innings over his last three starts. Verlander's 12 punchouts weren't even the best performance on his own team. Max Scherzer whiffed 15 Pirates in seven innings on Sunday, a welcome performance considering he was 2-3 with a 6.26 ERA entering yesterday's start.

And speaking of the Pirates, who would have thought that their starting rotation would produce solid fantasy contributors this season? Over the last two weeks, both James McDonald and Brad Lincoln have been among the best in fantasy baseball, while Erik Bedard (3.07 ERA, 44 K in 41 IP) has been sport-start worthy several weeks.

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Zack Grenke MIL 21.2 2 24 0.42 0.65
2. Justin Verlander DET 22.0 3 26 1.64 0.68
3. Clayton Kershaw LAD 24.0 2 0 0.75 0.79
4. Carlos Zambrano* MIA 23.0 2 18 1.17 0.91
5. Bud Norris* HOU 13.0 2 17 0.69 0.69
6. Brandon Beachy ATL 15.0 2 12 0.60 0.73
7. Scott Diamond* MIN 19.1 3 13 1.40 0.98
8. Aaron Harang* SD 15.0 2 8 0.60 0.67
9. Ryan Vogelsong* SF 21.1 2 9 0.84 0.98
10. Josh Johnson MIA 21.0 2 16 2.14 0.95
11. Brandon Morrow TOR 20.0 2 25 3.15 1.05
12. Ervin Santana* LAA 21.0 2 16 1.71 1.14
13. Tim Hudson ATL 21.2 2 7 1.25 1.02
14. Brad Lincoln* PIT 10.2 2 11 1.69 0.84
15. James McDonald* PIT 13.2 1 19 2.63 0.80
16. Neftali Feliz TEX 16.2 2 19 2.16 1.20
17. Ted Lilly LAD 19.1 2 13 2.33 0.98
18. Jeff Samardzija* CHC 19.1 1 21 2.33 1.03
19. Yu Darvish TEX 13.0 2 14 2.77 0.92
20. Bruce Chen* KC 19.2 3 16 2.75 1.22

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

1. R.A. Dickey, NYM: at Pittsburgh (Tues.), San Diego (Sun.)
The knuckle-baller (5-1, 3.75 ERA) shoots to the top of this list thanks to not one, but two, appetizing match ups this week. On Tuesday he will take the mound in Pittsburgh and also is scheduled to go on Sunday at home versus San Diego. The Pirates and Padres have two of the worst offenses in all of baseball as they rank dead last and next-to-last, respectively, in the majors in runs scored and also are at the bottom in batting average. Dickey also has produced a quality start in four of his last five outings.

2. James McDonald, PIT: New York Mets (Tues.)
Snapped his streak of four straight quality starts on Thursday against Washington (5 2/3 IP, 4 H 3 ER, 1 BB, 11 K), but still got the win. He’s won three of his last four starts with a 2.60 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings pitched during that span.

3. Wei Yin-Chen, BAL: Kansas City (Sat.)
The Taiwanese left-hander is 3-0 with a 1.98 ERA in his home starts this season, having beaten the Rangers and Yankees (twice) at Camden Yards.

4. Gavin Floyd, CWS: Minnesota (Tues.)
Prior to getting lit up by the Angels on Wednesday (10 H, 7 ER in 6 IP), Floyd was 3-3 with a 2.53 ERA in his first seven starts. Minnesota one of the AL’s worst offenses, 12th in runs, 11th in batting average and last in home runs entering Monday.

5. Scott Diamond, MIN: at Chicago White Sox (Wed.)
Diamond has won all three of his starts since being called up on May 8. He gave up three runs on eight hits in Friday’s start in Milwaukee, but they were the first runs he had surrendered this season and his ERA currently sits at 1.40. The White Sox have scored the fewest runs and have the lowest batting average (.210) against left-handers of any AL team.

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of last month:

  Name Team IP W SV K HLD ERA WHIP
1. Fernando Rodney TB 14.1 1 9 16 0 0.00 0.84
2. Jim Johnson BAL 13.0 0 9 9 0 1.38 0.54
3. Craig Kimbrel ATL 11.0 0 9 19 0 2.45 0.91
4. Pedro Strop* BAL 15.2 2 3 12 5 0.57 0.89
5. Santiago Casilla SF 12.0 0 9 11 0 1.50 0.92
6. Kenley Jansen LAD 11.2 1 5 17 4 1.54 0.86
7. Jose Arredondo* CIN 12.2 2 1 18 0 1.42 0.63
8. Aroldis Chapman CIN 13.1 1 1 22 5 0.00 0.83
9. Robbie Ross* TEX 16.2 3 0 9 1 1.62 0.72
10. Ryan Cook* OAK 14.1 1 0 18 6 0.00 0.70
11. Darren O\'Day* BAL 14.1 2 0 14 1 1.26 0.63
12. Joe Nathan TEX 10.2 0 6 12 0 0.84 0.84
13. Chris Perez CLE 9.2 0 8 10 0 2.79 0.83
14. Wilton Lopez* HOU 15.0 2 0 15 4 1.80 0.67
15. Jonathan Papelbon PHI 9.1 0 7 13 0 2.89 0.75
16. Dale Thayer* SD 10.0 0 5 10 0 0.00 0.80
17. Joel Hanrahan PIT 10.2 0 8 12 0 2.53 1.13
18. Alexi Ogando* TEX 16.0 1 0 17 1 1.13 0.75
19. Kevin Gregg* BAL 8.1 2 0 8 0 0.00 0.36
20. Brett Myers HOU 11.0 0 8 5 0 2.45 0.91

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

— by Mark Ross, published on May 21, 2012

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports takes a look at what took place this past weekend on the fantasy baseball diamond</p>
Post date: Monday, May 21, 2012 - 01:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-weekend-rundown-may-17
Body:

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

Kemp Unable to Dodge DL
Back on May 5, Los Angeles Dodgers’ outfielder Matt Kemp suffered a left hamstring strain during a game against the Cubs in Chicago. He missed the following game, pinch-hitting in the seventh, but was back in the starting line up a day later at home versus the Giants.

However, after going 3-for-3 against the Giants last Monday, which pushed his batting average to .406 at the time, Kemp went ice cold. He got one hit in his next 16 at-bats and then left Sunday’s game against Colorado in the fourth inning after apparently reinjuring his hamstring.

Kemp had an MRI on Monday and the Dodgers placed their slugger on the disabled list that night. Kemp, who finished second to Ryan Braun in the NL MVP voting last season, was off to another sensational start in 2012 as he was in the top five of the NL in batting average (.359), home runs (12) and RBIs (28) as of when he went on the DL.

Not surprisingly, Kemp’s absence in the Dodgers’ line up is already evident. In the first three games without Kemp, the offense has generated a total of six runs, losing two of those games in the process. The Dodgers are still in first place in the NL West, holding a six-game lead over the Diamondbacks entering Thursday, but if the team continues to struggle to score, that gap will probably continue to narrow.

As far as the Dodgers go, with Kemp and fellow outfielder Juan Rivera (torn hamstring) both on the DL, recently acquired Bobby Abreu will probably get a lot more playing time. Abreu, who joined the Dodgers on May 4 after being released by the Angels, is off to decent start back in the NL. The 38-year-old is batting .296 with four doubles and four RBIs in his first 10 games. Clearly though his best days are well past him as he has yet to hit a home run in 2012 and can’t be relied on to produce consistently.

Short-term options on the waiver wire could include Boston’s Cody Ross (.252-6-23, 21 R), San Francisco’s Angel Pagan (.293-4-10, 7 SB), the Yankees’ Raul Ibanez (.263-7-22), Tampa’s Luke Scott (.233-7-27), Detroit’s Andy Dirks (.370-3-12, 17 R) or Arizona’s Gerardo Parra (.257-2-3, 18 R, 8 SB) or Jason Kubel (.295-3-15). All of these guys are currently owned in less than half of the Yahoo! leagues.

Finally!
It’s the middle of May, but it appears that some guys who much more was expected from at this point are starting to turn things around. Let’s start with the big guy, “El Hombre,” also known as Albert Pujols.

Pujols didn’t hit his first home run of the 2012 season until May 6. He cranked his second one on Wednesday night, but it’s the overall body of work that has been encouraging. After managing a total of four RBIs in all of April (92 at-bats), Pujols has already driven in 13 in May (58 at-bats entering Thursday). He’s still nowhere close to being the hitting machine he’s been throughout his career, but he’s had at least one hit in his last five games and has five RBIs in the last two.

Better still, perhaps Pujols can call on some familiar foes to help get his bat going. Interleague play kicks off on Friday and the Angels will be headed south to San Diego to take on the Padres. Pujols holds a career .333 batting average, along with 20 home runs and 63 RBIs in 71 games against the Padres. What’s more, his numbers in pitcher-friendly Petco Park (.258-7-17 in 25 G) aren’t that bad, considering that they are better than his current season totals through 37 games.

Pujols isn’t the only slugger starting to get into the swing of things. Alfonso Soriano, who had 340 career home runs entering this season, finally hit his first on Tuesday against the Cardinals in St. Louis. Soriano then hit his second one the following night in Philadelphia.

The Cubs’ outfielder is well known for being a streaky hitter, so now may be an opportune time to take a flier on him if he’s available, possibly even as a fill-in for the aforementioned Kemp. Soriano is batting .292 with two home runs and six RBIs over the last seven days.

The Cubs and cross-town rival White Sox will get reacquainted with one another starting Friday. In his career, Soriano is a .258 hitter with 14 home runs and 33 RBIs in 63 career games against the Windy City team from the south side.

Others who finally connected for their first home run of the season this week included Kansas City’s Jeff Francoeur (20 HR in 2011) and Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins (16 in ’11). Then there’s Bryce Harper, Washington’s passionate 19-year-old outfielder who has already endeared himself to the Phillies’ Cole Hamels.

Harper hit his first career home run on Monday against San Diego and then victimized the Padres again the next night. Harper’s numbers may not stand out (.238-2-5) through his first 63 major-league at-bats, but remember he’s just 19 and to this point, he doesn’t appear to be overmatched either based on his acceptable 13:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

While Harper may be getting the bulk of the attention and headlines, it’s fellow uber-prospect Mike Trout who’s putting up the better numbers. Trout, the Angels’ 20-year-old outfielder is off to a .333-3-8 start since being called up in late April. Trout, who has out-homered teammate Pujols in 90 fewer at-bats (150 to 60), has at least one hit in eight of his last 10 games, with six multiple-hit efforts in that same span.

On the mound, Florida’s Josh Johnson picked up not only his first win of the season, but also his first victory in more than a year on Tuesday. The Marlins’ ace was limited to just nine starts last season (3-1, 1.64 ERA, 56 K in 60 1/3 IP) due to shoulder issues. Johnson looked good during spring training, but the results to this point (1-3, 5.36 ERA, 57 H, 15 BB, 38 K in 45 1/3 IP) have done nothing to quell any suspicions regarding his health.

The good news for those Johnson owners who have been patient with him is there have been some encouraging signs in his recent starts. After giving up 11 runs on 16 hits in a combined nine innings in his last start in April and first one in May, Johnson has produced consecutive seven-inning starts in which he has given up just two runs in each. His next scheduled start is on Sunday afternoon against the Indians in Cleveland. It will be his first time facing them.

DL Watch
*Tampa Bay right-hander Jeff Niemann (2-3, 3.38 ERA) suffered a broken right leg when he was struck by an Adam Lind line drive in the second inning of Monday’s game in Toronto. Niemann is expected to be out at least two months as the team has already transferred him to the 60-day DL. Alex Cobb is expected to take Niemann’s place in the starting rotation. The 24-year-old righty went 3-2 with a 3.42 ERA in nine starts for the Rays last season.

*Philadelphia right-hander Vance Worley (3-2, 3.07 ERA) was scratched from his scheduled start on Wednesday night against the Cubs and was put on the DL with elbow inflammation. The team has since said he will be shut down for a week, but an MRI and other tests have not revealed any structural or extensive damage to his pitching elbow. Kyle Kendrick will take Worley’s place in the starting rotation for the time being and he went six innings against the Cubs last night, giving up just three hits and one earned run in six innings.

*David Robertson, who was pegged as the Yankees’ closer after Mariano Rivera was lost for the season, was placed on the DL on Tuesday with a strained left oblique. Rafael Soriano will assume the closer’s role for now and he picked up the save on Monday against Baltimore when Roberston was unavailable.

*Yankees’ starter Ivan Novoa (4-1, 5.44 ERA), left Monday’s game against the Orioles in the sixth inning after apparently injuring his ankle. Novoa picked up the win in that game despite giving up five runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. He has said he will take the mound on Saturday, his next scheduled start, but Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi has yet to commit to that. Even if Novoa does pitch on Saturday, he may not be 100 percent.

Weekend Series to Watch

Boston at Philadelphia
Two teams that have struggled out of the gate will get together in this interleague series as Boston travels to Philadelphia in hopes that its recent string of strong starting pitching continues. Daniel Bard (3-4, 4.30 ERA) will take the mound in Friday’s opener against Cole Hamels (5-1, 2.28 ERA). Bard had one of his best outings of the year on Sunday when he surrendered just one run in six innings in a win over the Indians. Bard’s control (20 BB, 23 K) has been an issue all season and could lead to bigger problems down the road if he doesn’t start limiting his hits allowed (38 H in 37 2/3 innings).

Jon Lester (2-3, 3.71 ERA) and Joe Blanton (4-3, 2.96 ERA) will take the mound on Saturday. Lester put forth his best performance of the season on Monday against Seattle, going the distance against the Mariners and giving up just one run while striking out six. Blanton was equally solid in his last start on Monday in defeating the Astros (7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 7 K).

Carlos Ruiz (.343-7-24) has been a pleasant surprise for an otherwise plodding Phillies’ offense as the catcher leads the team in batting average and is second only to Hunter Pence in home runs and RBIs. Pence has hit two home runs over the last seven days, but he only has two other hits during this span (.174 average).

For the Red Sox, fill-in outfielder Daniel Nava (.474-1-7, 4 2B last seven days) and catchers Kelly Shoppach and Jarod Saltalamacchia (combined .393-2-6 last seven days) have been doing the bulk of the damage recently, while Adrian Gonzalez (.270-2-20 on the season) is still searching for his power stroke.

Baltimore at Washington
Raise your hand if you had predicted before the season started that this interleague match up would also be a battle between division leaders? The Orioles have been the surprise of the AL thanks to strong pitching and timely hitting. J.J. Hardy has been hitting the ball with authority recently, as he is hitting .381 with three home runs, eight RBIs and nine runs scored in his last 10 games. Teammate Adam Jones has four home runs and seven RBIs over the last seven days.

On the mound, left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (4-0, 2.45 ERA) has been a pleasant surprise for the Orioles. He defeated the Yankees (7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER) on Tuesday and will be matched up against Washington ace Stephen Strasburg on Saturday. Strasburg had one of his rougher outings last time out against San Diego, giving up four runs in four innings in a loss to the Padres on Tuesday. On the season, however, he’s 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA and 56 strikeouts in just 48 innings.

Adam LaRoche (.339-7-29) has shown so far that his pitiful 2011 numbers (.172-3-15 in 43 G) were a direct result of him not being healthy. Health is an ongoing issue for Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who has yet to get it going at the plate, hitting just .222 with one home run and nine RBIs on the season.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports takes a quick look at the latest news, injury updates and more to get your fantasy baseball team ready for this weekend's slate of games</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 01:00
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2012-mock-draft-rosters
Body:

Athlon Sports College Fantasy Football 2012 Mock Draft: Complete Rosters

12-team, 20-round serpentine draft

Click here for the complete round-by-round breakdown

Mock draft based upon a standard scoring system:

1 passing touchdown = 4 points
1 interception = -1 point
1 rushing/receiving/return touchdown = 6 points
25 passing yards = 1 point
10 rushing/receiving yards = 1 point
1 reception = 0.5 points

Starting lineup: 3 QB, 3 RB, 3 WR, 1 Flex (WR or RB), 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DEF, 7 bench spots

  1. Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports
1. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
2. Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
3. Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State
4. D.J. Harper, RB, Boise State
5. Darrin Moore, WR, Texas Tech
6. Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M
7. Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois
8. Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU
9. David Fluellen, RB, Toledo
10. Anthon Samuel, RB, Bowling Green
11. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
12. Eric Thomas, WR, Troy
13. Rio Johnson, QB, East Carolina
14. Brandin Byrd, RB, North Texas
15. Matt Schilz, QB, Bowling Green
16. Cody Wilson, WR, Central Michigan
17. Eric Stephens, RB, Texas Tech
18. Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA
19. Oklahoma DEF/ST
20. Zach Hocker, K, Arkansas
  2. Nick Humbert, CFFL
1. Robbie Rouse, RB, Fresno State
2. Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
3. Nick Harwell, WR, Miami (Ohio)
4. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
5. Alex Carder, QB, Western Michigan
6. Colby Cameron, QB, Louisiana Tech
7. Kedrick Rhodes, RB, FIU
8. Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
9. Tracy Moore, WR, Oklahoma State
10. Chris Gragg, TE, Arkansas
11. Cody Green, QB, Tulsa
12. LSU DEF/ST
13. Alonzo Harris, RB, Louisiana-Lafayette
14. Emory Blake, WR, Auburn
15. Josh Schaeffer, WR, Western Michigan
16. T.J. Moe, WR, Missouri
17. Chip Reeves, WR, Troy
18. Javonti Greene, RB, Eastern Michigan
19. Keith Wenning, QB, Ball State
20. Akeem Shavers, RB, Purdue
  3. Nathan Rush, Athlon Sports
1. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
2. Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson
3. Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming
4. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia
5. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
6. Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
7. Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee
8. Josh Jarboe, WR, Arkansas State
9. James White, RB, Wisconsin
10. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
11. Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
12. Jaxon Shipley, WR, Texas
13. Storm Johnson, RB, UCF
14. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
15. Texas DEF/ST
16. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
17. Joey Iosefa, RB, Hawaii
18. Dayne Crist, QB, Kansas
19. USC DEF/ST
20. Nick O'Leary, TE, Florida State
  4. David Fox, Athlon Sports
1. Joseph Randle, RB Oklahoma State
2. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
3. John White, RB, Utah
4. Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech
5. Titus Davis, WR, Central Michigan
6. Chris Nwoke, RB, Colorado State
7. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri
8. Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech
9. Corey Robinson, QB, Troy
10. Jyruss Edwards, RB, Louisiana-Monroe
11. Philip Lutzenkirchen, TE, Auburn
12. Joe Southwick, QB, Boise State
13. Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall
14. Orwin Smith, RB, Georgia Tech
15. Georgia DEF/ST
16. Spencer Ware, RB, LSU
17. EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State
18. Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State
19. Gabriel Marks, WR, Washington State
20. Brett Maher, K, Nebraska
  5. Patrick Snow, Athlon Sports
1. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
2. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan
3. Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia
4. Cierre Wood, RB, Notre Dame
5. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
6. Keith Price, QB, Washington
7. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
8. Perry Jones, RB, Virginia
9. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
10. Tevin Reese, WR, Baylor
11. Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee
12. Waymon James, RB, TCU
13. Florida State DEF/ST
14. Tavarres King, WR, Georgia
15. John Hubert, RB, Kansas State
16. Ty Montgomery, WR, Stanford
17. Matthew Tucker, RB, TCU
18. Noel Grigsby, WR, San Jose State
19. DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
20. Andre Heidari, K, USC
  6. Alex Esselink, CFFL
1. Robert Woods, WR, USC
2. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
3. Charles Sims, RB, Houston
4. Kain Colter, QB, Northwestern
5. Dominique Whaley, RB, Oklahoma
6. James Franklin, QB, Missouri
7. Bryan Bennett, QB, Oregon
8. Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M
9. Trey Metoyer, WR, Oklahoma
10. Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas
11. Dewayne Peace, WR, Houston
12. Clint Chelf, QB, Oklahoma State
13. Eric Monette, WR, Western Michigan
14. Frankie Jackson, RB, Arkansas State
15. Michigan State DEF/ST
16. Florida DEF/ST
17. Sadale Foster, RB, Texas Tech
18. Terrance Owens, QB, Toledo
19. Dion Sims, TE, Michigan State
20. Bryan Davis, K, Arkansas State
  7. Todd DeVries, College Football Geek
1. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
2. Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas
3. Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech
4. Cody Fajardo, QB, Nevada
5. Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh
6. David Piland, QB, Houston
7. Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
8. Isi Sofele, RB, California
9. Javone Lawson, WR, Louisiana-Lafayette
10. Ryan Otten, TE, San Jose State
11. Nick Florence, QB, Baylor
12. David Graves, QB, Hawaii
13. Daniel Spencer, WR, Houston
14. Brice Butler, WR, San Diego State
15. Jawan Jamison, RB, Rutgers
16. Deontay Greenberry, WR, Houston
17. Duke Johnson, RB, Miami (Fla.)
18. Garrett Gilbert, QB, SMU
19. Dustin Hopkins, K, Florida State
20. Penn State DEF/ST
  8. Braden Gall, Athlon Sports
1. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
2. Ryan Aplin, QB, Arkansas State
3. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
4. Keenan Allen, WR, California
5. Matt Brown, RB, Temple
6. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
7. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
8. Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas
9. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska
10. Jacob Pedersen, TE, Wisconsin
11. Matt Scott, QB, Arizona
12. Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin
13. Virginia Tech DEF/ST
14. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
15. Stephen Houston, RB, Indiana
16. Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
17. DeVonte Christopher, WR, Utah
18. Dan Buckner, WR, Arizona
19. Caleb Sturgis, K, Florida
20. Danny O'Brien, QB, Wisconsin
  9. Zeke Smyczynski, The CFF Site
1. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
2. De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
3. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
4. Darius Johnson, WR, SMU
5. Jesse Callier, RB, Washington
6. Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
7. Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State
8. Zac Dysert, QB, Miami (Ohio)
9. Jawon Chisholm, RB, Akron
10. Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
11. Erik Highsmith, WR, North Carolina
12. Alabama DEF/ST
13. Alec Lemon, WR, Syracuse
14. Jonathan Perry, QB, UAB
15. Demetris Murray, RB, South Florida
16. Jahwan Edwards, RB, Ball State
17. Charlie Moore, WR, Oklahoma State
18. Chandler Catanzaro, K, Clemson
19. Josh Harris, RB, Wake Forest
20. Trayion Durham, RB, Kent State
  10. Joe DiSalvo, The CFF Site
1. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
2. Zach Line, RB, SMU
3. Marqise Lee, WR, USC
4. Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB, Michigan
5. Zac Stacy, RB, Vanderbilt
6. Stepfon Jefferson, RB, Nevada
7. Blaine Gautier, QB, Louisiana-Lafayette
8. Justin Hardy, WR, East Carolina
9. Lyle McCombs, RB, Connecticut
10. Hunter Lee, RB, Louisiana Tech
11. Bryn Renner, QB, North Carolina
12. Brandon Ford, TE, Clemson
13. Antonio Andrews, RB, Western Kentucky
14. Marquel Wade, WR, Arkansas
15. Josh Stewart, WR, Oklahoma State
16. Tony Jones, RB, Colorado
17. Boise State DEF/ST
18. Quinn Sharp, K, Oklahoma State
19. Kyle Prater, WR, Northwestern
20. Rickey Galvin, RB, Washington State
  11. Mitch Light, Athlon Sports
1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
2. Branden Oliver, RB, Buffalo
3. Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma
4. Silas Redd, RB, Penn State
5. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
6. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
7. Raymond Maples, RB, Army
8. Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida
9. Bernard Reedy, WR, Toledo
10. Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State
11. Jordan Rodgers, QB, Vanderbilt
12. Malcolm Agnew, RB, Oregon State
13. Trey Watts, RB, Tulsa
14. Ryan Katz, QB, San Diego State
15. South Carolina DEF/ST
16. Mark Harrison, WR, Rutgers
17. Chris Boyd, WR, Vanderbilt
18. Onterio McCalebb, RB, Auburn
19. Wes Lunt, QB, Oklahoma State
20. Drew Alleman, K, LSU
  12. Mark Ross, Athlon Sports
1. Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska
2. Tyler Tettleton, QB, Ohio
3. Orleans Darkwa, RB, Tulane
4. Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
5. Josh Boyce, WR, TCU
6. Casey Pachall, QB, TCU
7. Kerwynn Williams, RB, Utah State
8. Kasen Williams, WR, Washington
9. Michael Holmes, RB, Virginia Tech
10. Riley Nelson, QB, BYU
11. Ronnie Williams, WR, Houston
12. Latavius Murray, RB, UCF
13. Matt Miller, WR, Boise State
14. Conner Vernon, WR, Duke
15. Mike Glennon, QB, NC State
16. Blake Jackson, TE, Oklahoma State
17. Mike James, RB, Miami (Fla.)
18. Ohio State DEF/ST
19. Ja'Terian Douglas, RB, Tulsa
20. Matt Weller, K, Ohio

— Published on June 15, 2012

Related College Fantasy Football Content

College Fantasy Football: 2012 Mock Draft
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Top 200
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Quarterback Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Wide Receiver Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Tight End Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Kicker Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Team Defense Rankings

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: 2012 Mock Draft Rosters</p>
Post date: Saturday, May 12, 2012 - 12:31
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-oklahoma-state-rivals
Body:

Here are some of our favorite jokes about Oklahoma State's biggest rivals.

 

• Why do Oklahoma football players like smart women? Opposites attract. 

 

• The Foo Fighters are playing Chapman Stadium this fall. They're 10-point favorites.

 

• A man in a bar leans over to the guy next to him and asks, "Wanna hear an Oklahoma Sooner joke?" The guy next to him replies, "Look, fella, I'm six feet tall, 200 pounds, and I'm an OU grad. The guy next to me is 6-2, 225, and he's an OU grad. The big dude next to him is 6-5, weighs 250, and he's an OU grad. You still wanna tell that joke?" The first man replies: "Not if I'm gonna have to explain it three times."

 

• What do you call a beautiful woman on the arm of a Tulsa fan? A tattoo.


• Things you will never hear an Oklahoma fan say: I’ll take Shakespeare for 1000, Alex.

 

• What do Texas fans use for birth control? Their personalities.

 

• You know you’re from Norman if: You’ve ever climbed a water tower with a bucket of paint to defend your sister’s honor.

 

• What do you get when you cross Texas Tech with a groundhog? Six more weeks of bad football.

 

• How do you get an Oklahoma graduate off your front porch? You pay for the pizza.

 

• Did you hear what happened to the Tulsa fan when he found out that 90% of all car accidents occur within five miles of home? He moved.

Teaser:
<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 02:36
All taxonomy terms: College Football, jokes, Stanford Cardinal
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-stanford-rivals
Body:

Here are some of our favorite jokes about the Stanford Cardinal's biggest rivals.

• What do medical marijuana and Cal football have in common? They both get smoked in bowls.

 

• What does the average Oregon football player get on his SAT? Drool.

 

What's the difference between a litter of puppies and Cal fans? Eventually puppies grow up and stop whining.

 

• Did you hear about the new honor system at Oregon?
Yes, your Honor. No, your Honor.

 

• What do you call 20 Cal fans skydiving from an airplane?
Skeet.

 

• What happens when Lane Kiffin takes Viagra? He gets taller.

 

 How many Cal fans does it take to change a flat tire? Just one . . . unless it’s a blowout, then they all show up!

 

• What do you get when you cross Washington State with a groundhog? Six more weeks of bad football.

 

• Why do Cal football players like smart women?
Opposites attract.

 

• Things you will never hear an Oregon fan say: I have reviewed your application.

Teaser:
<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team</p>
Post date: Monday, May 7, 2012 - 01:10
All taxonomy terms: Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees, MLB, News
Path: /mlb/end-mariano-rivera
Body:

Getting carted off of the field before the game even starts. That’s not how anyone wants to end their career, but that could be the case for Mariano Rivera.

Rivera, the New York Yankees’ sure-fire future first-ballot Hall of Fame relief pitcher, saw his 2012 season, and quite possibly his career, end unexpectedly on Thursday afternoon before his teammates took on the Royals in Kansas City, Mo. Rivera was in the outfield of Kauffman Stadium shagging fly balls during batting practice, something he had routinely done throughout his 18-year career, when he slipped awkwardly on the warning track.

Stunned teammates and others present all looked on in disbelief as the 42-year-old closer clutched his right knee and grimaced in pain. Following the game, a 4-3 Yankees’ loss, everyone’s worst fears were confirmed – Rivera tore both the ACL and meniscus in his right knee.

With season-ending surgery almost a certainty, the biggest question is this – has baseball’s all-time saves leader thrown his last pitch?

Before the 2012 season even started, retirement was a hot topic surrounding Rivera during spring training. Rivera himself stopped any immediate speculation by saying he knew if this would be his last season or not, he just wasn’t ready to tell anyone.

That was back in February, but what about now? Will we see one of the greatest pitchers in the history of baseball back on the mound in 2013?

"At this point, I don't know. At this point, I don't know,” is what the understandably distraught Rivera told ESPNNewYork.com’s Wallace Matthews.

Surgery to repair the extensive damage is just the first step Rivera will need to undergo if he plans to pitch next season. The rehabilitation process involved with ACL injuries is grueling and painstaking in and of itself, and that’s before you consider that Rivera will turn 43 in November has pitched in 1,051 games (8th most in baseball history) in his career.

There’s no doubting Rivera’s competitive fire and determination. After all this is a guy who has thrived as a closer, arguably the most pressure-oriented role in all of baseball, for the Yankees, baseball’s highest-profile team, in New York, the media capital of the world.

But you know how the saying goes, the spirit’s willing, but the body is weak. And in Rivera’s case, his body may just not be able to do what he wants to in his mind.

Whether this is the end to Rivera’s Hall of Fame career or not, we won’t know for sure until several months down the road. For now, let’s focus on the present and what Rivera’s loss means to the Yankees.

For starters, as Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Thursday night even before the severity of Rivera’s injury was confirmed, “You lose a Hall of Famer… If that’s what it is, that’s as bad as it gets.”

In his career, Rivera is 76-58 with a 2.21 ERA, which is first among active pitchers and 13th all-time in baseball history. He is a 12-time All-Star whose 608 saves are the most in baseball history and is a total that is all but certain to stand forever.

For all his regular-season success, the postseason is where Rivera cemented his legacy, winning five World Series titles with the Yankees and dominating opposing hitters in October.

In 32 postseason series (16 AL Division Series, nine AL Championship Series and seven World Series), Rivera is 8-1 with a microscopic 0.70 ERA and 42 saves to go along with 110 strikeouts in 141 innings pitched. He also was named the World Series MVP in 1999 and the ALCS MVP in 2003.

This year, Rivera was 1-1 with a 2.16 ERA and five saves in six opportunities prior to his injury. After giving up two runs on three hits and two walks in a 1/3 of a inning against Tampa Bay in his season debut on April 6, Rivera had only surrendered three hits and nary a run with seven strikeouts and no walks in his last eight innings pitched.

So now that Girardi can’t hand the ball off to Rivera in the ninth inning with the game on the line, whom does he turn to? The Yankees have two viable candidates in right-handers David Robertson and Rafael Soriano.

Robertson has developed into a highly productive and reliable set-up man for Rivera as he has not allowed a run in his last 24 1/3 innings pitched, dating back to Sept. 1 of last season. Soriano, who the Yankees signed to a three-year, $35 million deal last year, has closing experience, saving a combined 72 games in 2009-10 with Atlanta and Tampa Bay. However, he was mostly ineffective (2-3, 4.12 ERA, 2 saves) in his first season in pinstripes in 2011 and has been relegated to seventh-inning duty for the most part this season.

Regardless of which direction Girardi decides to go, this much is clear – neither of these options are Rivera and his mere absence results in a shuffling of the bullpen that could find more than one pitcher in a role they are not accustomed to.

It’s just like Girardi said, losing a Hall of Famer like Rivera is bad as it gets, and this is a devastating, potentially season-altering loss for him and the Yankees. It’s also a loss for baseball as a whole, however, especially if Rivera is unable to return in 2013 or decides to call it a career.

And if that’s the case, then it’s truly a shame that Rivera will have ended his career in the back of a cart, rather than saying good-bye the way he wanted to, most likely walking off of the mound after closing out another Yankees’ win.

— by Mark Ross, published on May 4, 2012

Related Content:

Baseball's Best Players 35 and Over
Mariano Rivera to Retire?
Mariano Rivera is Saves Leader and One of the Greatest Pitchers Ever
New York Yankees Mt. Rushmore

Teaser:
<p> Freak accident before Thursday's game could mean the end of New York Yankees' closer Mariano Rivera' s Hall of Fame career</p>
Post date: Friday, May 4, 2012 - 01:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-weekend-rundown-may-3
Body:

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

Tampa Bay’s Third Baseman is Going, Going, Lon-gonia For a While
Stop me if you’ve heard this before – more third basemen have been bitten by the injury bug. This week’s victim is none other than Evan Longoria. Tampa Bay’s two-time Gold Glove-winner and the AL Rookie of the Year in 2008 left Monday’s game after attempting to steal second base. On Tuesday, an MRI revealed that his left hamstring was partially torn, putting him on the shelf for anywhere between 4-8 weeks.

The Rays, who are currently in first place in the AL East, will certainly miss both his glove and bat. Longoria was hitting .329 with four home runs and 19 RBIs in his first 23 games.

Longoria wasn’t the only AL East third-sacker who went on the disabled list this week as Boston placed Kevin Youkilis on the 15-day DL on Wednesday with a lower back strain. The Youker was off to a slow start (.219-2-9), but had been hitting better as of late prior to suffering this injury.

The Red Sox called up top prospect Will Middlebrooks from AAA Pawtucket to take Youkilis’ place on the roster. At this point, Middlebrooks probably won’t have much value in anything but keeper leagues, but the Red Sox’ future third baseman is worth keeping an eye on.

As for third-base alternatives likely to see more playing time, Baltimore’s Chris Davis is off to a solid start, hitting .316 with five home runs and 13 RBIs. Pedro Alvarez also has been crushing the ball recently with four home runs and eight RBIs in his last nine games. Davis and Alvarez are both free-swingers, each of them having struck out at least 20 times so far, so if you add either to your line up you will have to live with the strikeouts and prolonged dry spells.

Astro-nomical Offense
Headed into this season, expectations in terms of both on-the-field and fantasy success, for the Houston Astros was understandably low. After all this was a team that lost a league-worst 106 games in 2011 while trading away two of its best players in Hunter Pence (Philadelphia) and Michael Bourn (Atlanta).

So far this season, the Astros are 11-14, and probably more surprisingly, are fourth in the National League in runs scored. As a team the Astros aren’t hitting lots of home runs, but they have a lot of guys who are getting on base, as they are second in the NL in both walks and on-base percentage entering Thursday.

They also are getting all of this done with a bunch of no-names, at least as far as your draft probably went, but are more than deserving of your full attention now. Their best hitter is second baseman Jose Altuve, who is third in the NL in hitting with a .358 average, to go along with 16 runs scored, seven doubles, 10 RBIs and four stolen bases.

Not too far behind him is Jed Lowrie. The former Red Sox, who was part of the trade for Mark Melancon in the offseason, is batting .329 with three home runs. Lowrie currently has a six-game hitting streak where he’s 11-21 with six runs scored, two home runs, six RBIs, four walks and just two strikeouts. Lowrie is the Astros’ starting shortstop, but in some leagues he may also have third-base eligibility, meaning he could be a possible replacement if you have the aforementioned Longoria or Youkilis on your roster.

The Astros’ starting third baseman is Chris Johnson, who went 4-4 with two home runs and six RBIs in their 8-1 win over the Mets on Wednesday. Johnson, who hit just .251 with seven home runs and 42 RBIs in 107 games in 2011, is hitting .311 right now, although consistent contact (24 strikeouts, three walks) still appears to be an issue.

Houston’s main source of power this year hasn’t been veteran slugger Carlos Lee (.267-2-13), instead it’s 24-year-old J.D. Martinez. The outfielder, who made his major-league debut last July and posted a .274-6-35 line in a little more than 200 at-bats. He’s picked up where he left off this season as he leads the team with 20 RBIs and is tied for Lowrie for first in home runs with three. Martinez also has shown good plate discipline with a near 1:1 ratio in walks (18) to strikeouts (19).

Jordan Schafer, who came over in the Bourn trade with Atlanta last July, also has done his fair share of damage in the runs scored (17) and stolen bases (nine) departments, while offering a little power (two home runs) from the leadoff spot.

This Week’s Other Significant Injuries
*Justin Morneau left Monday’s game in Anaheim early due to a sore left wrist, which immediately raised the alarm since that’s his surgically repaired wrist. Morneau returned to Minnesota for more tests, including a MRI, which didn’t reveal anything that doctors were too worried about. He most likely won’t play until Friday, but when he does return to the Twins’ line up, this is a situation that bears watching. The two-time AL MVP is still trying to find his old form at the plate. So far, he is batting .230 with four home runs and nine RBIs. Half of his home runs and a third of his RBIs came in one game, April 18 against the Yankees in New York.

*San Diego Padres left-hander Cory Luebke was placed on the 15-day DL on Tuesday because of a strained left elbow. Luebke was 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA in his first five starts. The Padres replaced Luebke in the starting rotation with veteran Jeff Suppan, who pitched five scoreless innings against the Brewers on Wednesday. Suppan has pitched in parts of 17 major-league seasons and was making his first appearance since Oct. 3, 2010 with St. Louis. For his career, he’s 138-143 with a 4.69 ERA, so I would proceed with utmost caution before even using him as a spot-starter, even in pitcher-friendly Petco Park.

*Milwaukee first baseman Mat Gamel is more than likely done for the season after tearing the ACL in his right knee while chasing a pop-up in foul territory in Tuesday’s night game in San Diego. Gamel is scheduled to undergo surgery to repair the damage in the near future. The Brewers' former hot prospect was off to a slow start at the plate (.246-1-6), but the team will miss his bat in the line up. For now, it appears that left-handed hitting Travis Ishikawa will receive the bulk of the playing time at first base, and outfielder Corey Hart can play there as well if necessary.

*Boston Red Sox starter Josh Beckett will miss his next scheduled start this Saturday against Baltimore with what the team is calling a lower-back strain. Aaron Cook will be summoned from AAA to take his spot. Cook who signed a minor-league deal with Boston in the offseason, made 17 starts for Colorado in 2011, going 3-10 with a 5.81 ERA in those games.

Weekend Series to Watch

Baltimore at Boston
Don’t look now, but Baltimore, not Boston is in second place in the AL East, thanks to great pitching (2.83 team ERA, tops in the AL) and surprising offense (fifth in AL in average, third in both doubles and home runs entering Thursday). The Red Sox, on the other hand, got off to a 4-10 start, but then won six straight on the road against Minnesota and Chicago to get back to .500. They come back home for this three-game set against the Orioles, however, having lost three of their last four games.

Baltimore will go with Wei-Yin Chen, Tommy Hunter and Jason Hammel on the mound against the Red Sox. While these three are anything but household names when it comes to fantasy rosters, they have combined to go 7-2 in 14 starts with a collective 2.86 ERA. Hammel (3-1, 1.97 ERA) has been the Orioles’ ace so far, as he has given up just 23 hits in 32 innings with 30 strikeouts.

Offensively, Adam Jones (.316-6-12) and Matt Wieters (.303-7-17) have been doing their part, but Baltimore also has gotten unexpected contributions from Chris Davis (.316-5-13) and Robert Andino (.342, 10 R). They need J.J. Hardy (.196-4-8) to get on base a little more, especially with leadoff man Nolan Reimold (.313-5-10) shelved for the time being with a bulging disk in his back. Reimold may be back in the line up this weekend.

Boston knows all about injuries as Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury and Youkilis are all out of the line up and on the DL. David Ortiz (.391-6-21, 17 R) and Dustin Pedroia (.294-3-8, 16 R) have done their part, as have Ryan Sweeney (.361, 12 2B), Mike Aviles (.281-5-19, 19 R) and even Cody Ross (5 HR, 18 RBI). It’s really the Red Sox’ pitching that needs to get it going.

No Boston starter has an ERA under 4.32 right now and the bullpen (5.35 collective ERA) has been even worse. Jon Lester (1-2, 4.65 ERA) and Clay Buchholz (3-1, 8.69 ERA) will go Friday and Sunday, with Aaron Cook making his 2012 season debut on Saturday in place of an injured Beckett (see above).

Milwaukee at San Francisco
Both teams are third in their respective divisions entering Thursday’s action, but this is a series highlighted by some intriguing pitching match ups. Zack Greinke (3-1, 3.94 ERA) and Tim Lincecum (2-2, 5.74 ERA) start things off on Friday night by the bay. Greinke has been solid to start the season, with the exception of his second start against the Cubs at Wrigley Field when he was tagged for eight runs on nine hits in 3 2/3 innings. Lincecum got off to a horrible start, but has pitched better of late, going 2-0 and surrendering just one earned run in his last two starts.

Saturday afternoon will pit Brewers’ lefty Randy Wolf (2-2, 6.84 ERA) against the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner (4-1, 2.53 ERA). While Wolf may not seem like the ideal spot-start option, keep in mind the Giants are batting just .239 against left-handed pitching, which ranks them 11th in the National League.

Wolf also may get the added benefit of not having to face the Giants’ best hitter, Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval, who is off to a .316-5-15 start and had a 20-game hitting streak to begin his ’12 campaign, left Wednesday’s night game early with an apparent hand/wrist injury. His status for the weekend was unclear as of Thursday morning.

The series concludes on Sunday with Shaun Marcum (1-1, 3.19 ERA) facing off against Matt Cain (1-2, 2.35 ERA). Marcum is coming off of his best start of the season, tossing seven scoreless innings in which he yielded just three hits in Tuesday’s win in San Diego, while Cain has allowed just five earned runs in his last four starts, which covers 32 1/3 innings.

Cain will need to be at the top of his game to slow down Ryan Braun. Braun hit three home runs and a triple in the Brewers’ 8-3 win on Monday against the Padres and is batting .400 (6-15, 2B, 3B) in his career against the right-hander.

— by Mark Ross, published on May 3, 2012

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The NFL ran its own version of the no-huddle on Thursday night as the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft was completed in three hours, a record in the modern draft day era according to the league.

Part of the reason for this is that the first two picks had already been decided before either Indianapolis or Washington were officially put on the clock. After that, however, was where things got interesting as the first round played out in Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Eight trades involving 12 teams and a total of 25 picks were made last night alone, with the first pick traded being the third overall selection. In the end, three different picks ended up switching hands a second time before the night's events were finished.

Here's a summary of all that took place last night.

Colts, Redskins, Dolphins AND Browns Get Their Quarterback
Everyone knew that Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were going to the Colts and Redskins, respectively, with the first two picks. It was widely assumed that the Dolphins would select Ryan Tannehill from Texas A&M with the eighth overall pick. What wasn’t necessarily expected, however, was that Cleveland would also join the party, but that’s just what the Browns did when they took Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden with the 22nd pick.

Make no mistake, the jury is still out on how both Tannehill and Weeden will fare in the NFL. In Tannehill’s case, the converted wide receiver has started a total of 20 games under center at Texas A&M, so it’s fair to say he is still learning how to play the position.

On the other hand, Weeden was the Cowboys’ full-time starter the past two seasons and threw for more than 9,000 yards and 71 touchdowns in that span. Weeden, however, is already 28 years old having spent five seasons in the New York Yankees’ minor league system as a pitcher.

The good news for Tannehill is that the Dolphins appear to present the ideal situation for him to continue his development as a quarterback. For one, Miami’s offensive coordinator is Mike Sherman, who was Tannehill’s coach at Texas A&M. Secondly, the Dolphins’ new head coach is Joe Philbin, who served as Green Bay’s offensive coordinator from 2007-11. So not only will Tannehill be reunited with his former college coach, he also gets the chance to play for and learn from Philbin, who helped develop Aaron Rodgers, the reigning NFL MVP.

Despite the skeptics and critics, it’s clear that the Dolphins liked what they see in Tannehill enough to make him the first quarterback the team has drafted in the first round since 1983. That was the year they took a quarterback from Pittsburgh by the name of Dan Marino with the 27th overall pick.

The last time the Browns drafted a quarterback in the first round was 2007 when they took Brady Quinn at No. 22. Just three years later, however, the Browns drafted Colt McCoy in the third round, and that is who Weeden will learn the ropes from, and presumably take over for at some point in the future. That is provided the Browns don't decide to trade McCoy to another team.

Of course, the irony here is that McCoy, the apparent mentor, is nearly three years younger, than Weeden, the student. How quickly the student passes the teacher remains to be seen, but given the first-round pick Cleveland used to get a 28-year-old quarterback, the Browns seem to think it won’t be too long.

Follow the Moving Draft Picks – Part 1
The Redskins were able to take Griffin at No. 2 because in March they agreed to swap places with St. Louis. Although that was more than a month ago, it turned out to be a precursor to what was to come.

Of the first eight picks in the draft, only two of them – the Colts at No. 1 and the Dolphins at No. 8 – were made by the teams that originally held that pick. Before the first round officially started last night, word broke that Minnesota and Cleveland had swapped places at Nos. 3 and 4.

Even though it was only one spot, the Browns did the deal to ensure that they got their guy – Alabama running back Trent Richardson. Minnesota made it known early that it would be willing to move out of the third spot, and reportedly had discussions with several interested teams. One of those teams was Tampa Bay, who also showed serious interest in Richardson, so Cleveland decided to make the deal with Minnesota to prevent the Bucs from getting ahead and taking the coveted back.

The Browns entered the draft with a total of 13 picks, so they had more than enough inventory to use to make the deal. The Vikings were still able to get one of the players they wanted, USC left tackle Matt Kalil, and netted three more picks in return.

The Vikings received a fourth-round pick, which was one of the picks the Browns got last year in their trade with Atlanta when the Falcons traded up to take wide receiver Julio Jones, along with a fifth and seventh-rounder. Minnesota increased their total of picks to 13, which is just what a team like the Vikings, who went 3-13 in 2011, need to try and fill multiple needs in one draft.

Before Kalil walked across the stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York City to shake NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand, the next trade had occurred. Tampa Bay and Jacksonville agreed to swap first-round picks with the Buccaneers receiving a fourth-round selection from the Jaguars in return for moving down two places. The Jaguars then took Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, the player new Jags’ owner Shahid Khan reportedly coveted.

St. Louis and Dallas were next up on the NFL’s version of “Let’s Make A Deal” as Jerry Jones made yet another first-round trade. This time Jones moved up eight spots from No. 14 to No. 6 so he could take LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.

The Rams, who already had gotten the Redskins’ third-round selection this year along with their first-round picks the next two years in the Griffin deal, received the Cowboys’ second-round pick in addition to moving down to No. 14. With those two trades, the Rams now have three (Nos. 33, 39 and 45) of the first 13 picks in the second round.

The reshuffled top 10 continued to play out with Tampa Bay selecting Alabama safety Mark Barron with the seventh pick. Miami took the aforementioned Tannehill at No. 8, finally restoring “order.”

Bruce Almighty?
Seattle switched places with Philadelphia in the first round, moving down from No. 12 to 15. The Eagles moved up to take Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who was expected to be taken at some point in the first round.

The Seahawks moved down and selected West Virginia linebacker Bruce Irvin, who was certainly NOT expected to be taken in the first round. Irvin was the top outside linebacker prospect according to some scouts and received high grades and praise for his pass-rushing ability. In two seasons with the Mountaineers, Irvin registered 22.5 sacks, 14 of those coming in 2010.

However, in terms of overall ability, Irvin was not considered to be on the same level as fellow linebacker prospects Luke Kuechly from Boston College, who Carolina took with the ninth overall pick, Boise State’s Shea McClellin, who went to the Bears at No. 19, Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower, who the Patriots moved up to No. 25 to take, or Nebraska’s Lavonte David. There also were question marks about Irvin's character, as he has had some issues off the field, including one right after scouts came to see him at his pro day in Morgantown.

While Seattle bypassed the others not named Kuechly is anyone’s guess, but the Seahawks are no doubt hoping Irvin will have the same impact on their pass rush that he had with the Mountaineers. Seattle finished tied for 19th in 2011 with 33 sacks, 11 of those coming from defensive end Chris Clemons.

Let’s not forget that the Seattle also received the Eagles fourth- and sixth-round picks as part of the deal, but for all intents and purposes this trade will be considered a success or mistake based on one thing – whether Irvin ends up being Bruce Almighty or Bruce Not-So-Mighty.

Getting Defensive
The first five players to go off the board Thursday night were offensive – two quarterbacks, a running back, a lineman and a wide receiver. After that it was the defense’s turn to dominate.

Starting with the sixth pick, 17 of the next 24 selections were used on defensive players. Eight defensive linemen, five defensive backs and four linebackers were taken with those picks.

Three defensive backs – Claiborne, Barron and South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore to Buffalo at No. 10 – were taken in the first 10 picks. The others selected in the first round were Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick by Cincinnati at No. 17 and Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith by Minnesota, who traded back into the first round to do so, at No. 29. The Bengals got Kirkpatrick with the first-round pick they received from Oakland as part of the package they got from the Raiders last season for Carson Palmer.

Memphis’ Dontari Poe, who many, including me, predicted would fall, ended up being the first defensive lineman taken, going to Kansas City at No. 11 overall. The Eagles moved up to No. 12 to take Cox, and St. Louis selected LSU’s Michael Brockers two picks later at No. 14.

North Carolina’s Quinton Coples was the next DL to come off the board to the Jets at No. 16, followed by South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram, who the Chargers took with the 18th pick.

New England did what the Patriots do best – move up to get the player they want – this time swapping spots with Cincinnati to grab Syracuse’s Chandler Jones at No. 21. Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus (Houston – No. 26) and USC’s Nick Perry (Green Bay – No. 28) rounded out the first-round defensive linemen selections.

Besides Kuechly (Carolina – No. 9) and Irvin (Seattle – No. 15), the other linebackers taken in the first round were Boise State’s Shea McClellin, who the Bears took at No. 19, and Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower, the fourth ‘Bama player taken in Round 1, who the Patriots selected with the 25th overall pick.

Follow the Moving Draft Picks – Part 2
There were a total of eight trades on Thursday night alone, and if you include the St. Louis-Washington deal that went down in March, that would make nine that impacted the first round.

And that’s just this year, don’t forget about last season’s Cincinnati-Oakland deal involving Carson Palmer, and 2011 first-round draft deals between Cleveland and Atlanta, and New England and New Orleans. In other words, there were a lot of moving picks this year, both early and then later on.

Following the flurry of trades involving picks Nos. 3-7 and the Seattle-Philadelphia swap, four more trades went down, starting with the 21st pick. New England made a deal with Cincinnati to move up from No. 27 so they could take Jones at No. 21. Cincinnati moved down six spots, selected Wisconsin offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler at No.27, and also received the Patriots’ third-round pick (No. 93 overall).

But wait, the Patriots weren’t done, this time hooking up with Denver to get the 25th pick, which they used to select Hightower. Denver moved down to No. 31 and also acquired New England’s fourth-round (No. 126) selection in the deal.

Denver didn’t hold on to either of the picks they got from New England very long, however. The Broncos and Buccaneers made the final trade of the night, with Tampa Bay getting back into the first round at No. 31, sending the Denver its second-round pick (No. 36) in return.

The teams also swapped fourth-rounders, which, ironically enough, were picks that neither team owned prior to the start of the draft. Tampa Bay sent pick No. 101, which they got from Jacksonville earlier in the evening, to Denver for pick No. 126, which the Broncos had just received from New England.

The Broncos’ double-header was sandwiched by the evening’s other trade, where Minnesota got back into the first round by acquiring the 29th pick from Baltimore in exchange for the Vikings’ second- and fourth-round selections.

Got all of that? Good, but it’s probably best to write all of this down in pencil. Because if the first round is any indication, chances are these picks could be on the move once again as the rest of this draft plays out.

Offense Comes Off the Board Late
After Tannehill went to the Dolphins at No. 8 the next offensive player to be selected was Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd, who Arizona took at No. 13. The Cardinals now have a young, athletic receiver to team with All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald to form a potentially lethal duo, provided they can figure out their quarterback situation.

Tennessee also went the wide receiver route, taking Baylor’s Kendall Wright with the 20th overall pick. The Titans could have their own deadly duo in Wright and Kenny Britt, provided Britt makes a complete recovery from the ACL tear he suffered last season.

After Weeden went to the Browns at No. 22, the next three offensive players selected were linemen. Iowa’s Riley Reiff, who at one time was projected as a top-10 pick, “fell” all the way to Detroit at No. 23. The Steelers followed that by taking Stanford’s David DeCastro with the 24th pick. DeCastro fills an immediate need for the Steelers, who struggled mightily in protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger last season.

The final offensive lineman to go in the first round was Wisconsin’s Kevin Zeitler, who Cincinnati chose at No. 27, the spot they ended up after swapping places with New England.

The final three picks of the first round were of the skill-position variety, starting with Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins going to the 49ers at No. 30. Jenkins may not have been a projected first-rounder, but he clearly fills a need as San Francisco looks to develop an offense that ranked 26th in the NFL in 2011.

The first round ended with back-to-back running backs coming off the board, the first being Boise State’s Doug Martin, who Tampa Bay took at No. 31. That was the pick that the Buccaneers got from Baltimore.

The defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants then brought the evening to a close by tabbing Virginia Tech running back David Wilson with the 32nd and final pick of the first round. Like Jenkins, Wilson wasn’t necessarily expected to go in the first round, but the explosive back who rushed for more than 1,700 yards last season will bring a new element to the Giants’ running game and should also have an impact as a kick returner on special teams.

— by Mark Ross, published on April 27, 2012

Other NFL Draft-Related Content

NFL Draft: Grading the First Round
NFL Draft: Day Two’s Best Prospects
NFL Draft: A Look at First-Round Trades
2012 NFL Draft First-Round Primer
2012 NFL Draft: Ranking the Positions
2012 NFL Draft Sleepers and Steals
2012 NFL Draft Busts: Ryan Tannehill and Dontari Poe
NFL Draft History: Busts, Sleepers and Solid Picks - Part 1
NFL Draft History: Busts, Sleepers and Solid Picks - Part 2
Biggest Busts in NFL Draft History
2012 NFL Mock Draft: Our First-Round Projection
2012 NFL Draft Stock Watch
2012 NFL Draft: Andrew Luck vs. Robert Griffin III

2012 NFL Must-See Match Ups
2012 NFL Schedule Highlights

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Post date: Friday, April 27, 2012 - 00:04
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Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.

Another Week, Another Elite Third Baseman Hurt
Two weeks ago it was David Wright, who fractured his right pinkie finger, last weekend it was Adrian Beltre, who strained his left hamstring in the first game of Saturday’s double-header against Detroit. This week it’s Ryan Zimmerman, who hasn’t played since last Friday because of a shoulder issue.

The good news for Washington Nationals fans and his fantasy owners is that a MRI done on Wednesday revealed no structural damage. That does not mean, however, Zimmerman won’t avoid the disabled list, so you probably should plan accordingly.

As far as your replacement options go, I would steer away from Zimmerman’s fill-ins as Nationals manager Davey Johnson will probably go with some sort of committee approach with the trio of Mark DeRosa, Chad Tracy and Stephen Lombardozzi. Of the three, Lombardozzi who’s just 23 years old and is hitting .364 in limited action so far, offers the most upside, but you should be able to find better options on your waiver wire.

For one, Zimmerman wasn’t off to the greatest of starts at the plate, posting a .224-1-7 line in 15 games so far. Another third baseman who’s already been injured this season, but is still producing when he’s in the line up is Chipper Jones. The venerable Brave has just 36 at-bats on the season, but he’s already hit three home runs and driven in 10 with a .913 OPS. He may be worth a look if you are willing to accept that he’s no longer an everyday player. Jones’ backup, Juan Francisco also has three home runs and .957 OPS in just 30 at-bats, but his playing time is tied directly to Jones’ health.

Some other hot corner hitters worth taking a look at include Cleveland’s Jack Hannahan, who’s hitting .333 with 13 RBIs on the season. Hannahan has only scored three runs, but if he keeps getting on base, you would have to think that number will increase. Seattle’s Kyle Seager has out-performed Zimmerman to this point as well with a .267-1-7 line to go along with two stolen bases. All of the players mentioned above are owned in 36 percent or less of Yahoo! leagues, meaning there’s a good chance you can find them on the waiver wire in your league.

Another Week, Two More Pitchers Gone for the Season
Before the season even started, Ryan Madson and Joakim Soria went down with elbow injuries that required Tommy John surgery. Brian Wilson was the next to fall and he had the surgery last week. This week, the Yankees’ Michael Pineda and Brewers’ Chris Narverson became the latest to see their season come to an early end.

Pineda, who was traded to the Yankees in January for Jesus Montero, has yet to throw a pitch for his new team as he was sidelined during spring training. On Wednesday, the team announced the young right-hander will undergo surgery next week to repair a labrum tear in his throwing shoulder and is done for the year.

Pineda’s loss is a big blow to the Yankees’ pitching depth, although help could be on the way soon as 39-year-old Andy Pettitte is continuing his comeback after a one-year hiatus in the minor leagues. The Yankees’ starting rotation has not performed well so far this season, as the starters have a collective 5.73 ERA and .303 opponent’s batting average to this point.

Naverson was diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff and he will undergo surgery as well. There also are plenty of pitchers who are currently on the disabled list for different ailments including starters Cliff Lee (strained oblique), Daniel Hudson (shoulder impingement), Ryan Dempster (strained quadriceps) and closer Sergio Santos (strained shoulder).

Fear not, however, as you should be able to find suitable short-term replacements on your league’s waiver wire. And in some cases, some of these pitchers could be worth a longer look in your rotation. Consider:

Ross Detwiler, WAS – The Nationals’ starting rotation has been the best in all of baseball so far this season, with a sparkling 1.71 ERA and a 8-2 record through 18 games. Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman have pitched up to their billing, but Detwiler, has matched them start-for-start. The 26-year-old left-hander has given up one earned run in three starts with nearly as many strikeouts (15) as innings pitched (16). When Nationals’ manager Davey Johnson named Detwiler the fifth starter and the team sent John Lannan down to AAA, many around baseball were surprised. At this point, though, it appears the skipper made the right call as the Nationals currently have the National League’s best record at 14-4 entering Thursday’s action.

Jason Hammel, BAL – Hammel picked up this third win on Wednesday when he pitched seven scoreless innings against the Blue Jays. The 29-year-old righty has seemed to find a home in the Orioles’ rotation after struggling the past two seasons with the Rockies. Hammel’s early season success can be attributed to his 25:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio and and the fact he has allowed just one home run in 26 innings so far. Last season he gave up 21 home runs in 170 1/3 innings, or one every eight innings pitched.

Philip Humber, CWS – By now everyone knows what Humber did this past Saturday, pitching the 21st perfect game in major league history against Seattle. Humber’s ERA and WHIP both stand at 0.63 right now and he has more strikeouts (16) than innings pitched (14 1/3). The right-hander was serviceable last year, going 9-9 with a 3.75 ERA, but he only struck out 116 in 163 innings pitched. No one’s expecting Humber to throw a perfect game every time he’s out on the mound, but if he’s able to continue his increased strikeout rate and consistently throw his slider like he did against the Mariners, he could be more than just a serviceable fantasy option in 2012. His next start comes tonight against the Red Sox, which even though they have been struggling to start the season, are certainly a more formidable line up than what the Mariners have to offer.

Tommy Milone, OAK – The 25-year-old lefty came over to Oakland in December as part of the trade that sent the aforementioned Gonzalez to Washington. Gonzalez (2-0, 1.52 ERA) has certainly done his part for the Nationals and the same cane said for Milone, who earned a spot in the starting rotation out of spring training. Milone is 3-1 after tossing eight scoreless innings against the White Sox on Tuesday. His WHIP currently stands at 0.85 and he’s only allowed 17 hits (just one home run) in 27 innings. If there’s any reason to pause about Milone’s long-term sustainability it’s the fact he doesn’t strike many batters out, with just 13 so far, meaning he will need to continue to limit base-runners to maintain his early-season success.

Weekend Series to Watch

Detroit at New York
The Yankees just dropped two of three to the Rangers in Texas and will welcome Detroit to the Bronx for a three-game set starting Friday. Justin Verlander (2-1, 1.72 ERA) will be paired against Ivan Novoa (3-0, 3.79 ERA) in the series opener. Verlander has picked up where he left off last season, but has been victimized by a lack of run support and some late-inning comebacks early on. Novoa has been the Yankees’ most consistent starter so far, but will need his teammates to get to Verlander as he will try and limit Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and co. Fielder went 2-10 with a RBI last season when the Brewers came to New York to face the Yankees in interleague play.

Even though Robinson Cano has just one home run three RBIs through 18 games, the Yankees trail only Texas in home runs (29) and are currently third in the majors in runs scored (100). Derek Jeter (.420-4-13) has been on a tear to start the season, while Curtis Granderson has shaken off a slow start and has put together a .300-6-12 line in his past 13 games.

Tampa Bay at Texas
The current AL East-leading Rays travel to Texas to face the Rangers, who at 15-4 have the best record in all of baseball entering Thursday. Texas’ offense leads the majors in runs, hits, home runs and batting average, thanks in large part to Josh Hamilton’s ridiculous .390-8-19 start. Ian Kinsler (.304-5-12) has been the catalyst atop the lineup with Mike Napoli (.271-7-14) providing the thunder behind Hamilton.

Texas also has been extremely solid pitching-wise as both Matt Harrison (3-0, 1.66 ERA), who will take the mound in Friday’s opener, and Colby Lewis (2-0, 2.03 ERA) have been spectacular to start the season. Yu Darvish got into the act on Tuesday, holding the Yankees scoreless through 8 1/3 innings, giving up seven hits with just two walks and 10 strikeouts.

Tampa Bay’s trio of James Shields (3-0, 2.76 ERA), who will oppose Harrison on Friday, David Price (3-1, 2.63 ERA) and Jeremy Hellickson (3-0, 2.84 ERA) have done their part, while the Rays are still waiting for young lefty Matt Moore (0-1, 5.12 ERA, 12 BB, 11 SO) to settle into his new role.

Offensively, the Rays were powered early by Carlos Pena (.297-4-13), while Evan Longoria (.328-3-14), Matt Joyce (.309-4-7) and Luke Scott (.298-4-15) have been doing more of the hitting as of late. Tampa Bay also welcomed back B.J. Upton, who was placed on the DL after colliding with teammate Desmond Jennings during a spring training game, and hope his bat will get going soon. Upton is just 3-of-14 since his return, although one of those hits is a home run and he already has six RBIs. The Rays also are looking for Ben Zobrist, who’s currently hitting a measly .180, to start turning things around at the plate as well.

Washington at Los Angeles Dodgers
Besides being a matchup between two current division leaders, the Nationals vs. Dodgers three-game series in Los Angeles features some strong pitching matchups. On Friday, young left-hander Ross Detwiler (2-0, 0.56 ERA) will face off with 2011 Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw (1-0, 1.61 ERA). Saturday’s pairing is Stephen Strasburg (2-0, 1.08 ERA) versus Chad Billingsley (2-1, 3.04 ERA) and the series concludes on Sunday afternoon with a lefty-lefty duel between Gio Gonzalez (2-0, 1.52 ERA) and Chris Capuano (2-0, 3.52 ERA).

The Nationals’ starting pitching has been the stingiest in all of baseball to start the season, but will face a tough task in keeping Matt Kemp (.449-10-23) and Andre Ethier (.288-4-22 off of the bases.

— by Mark Ross, published on April 26, 2012

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Post date: Thursday, April 26, 2012 - 13:01
All taxonomy terms: history, NFL Draft, NFL, News
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The first round of the 2012 NFL Draft will commence on Thursday night, marking the 77th installment of what is officially called the “NFL Player Selection Meeting.” From Thursday through Saturday 253 college players will hear their names called, adding their name to the NFL history books, regardless of whether they ever make it on the field.

Indeed, as history will tell, some past drafts have become more known for the players who were selected and did not enjoy success in a NFL uniform than those that did. There are also those players who did not hear their names called in the draft, but signed on with a team as an undrafted free agent and would eventually become solid players, if not All-Pros.

Here is a look back at the 1998-2007 drafts, as we reminisce and see which picks panned out for teams (Solid Picks), and those that failed miserably (Busts), as well as acknowledging those players that didn’t let disappointment on draft day get in the way of fulfilling their dreams of playing in the NFL (Sleepers).

Note: Part 1 will cover drafts from 1998-2002, Part 2 will cover the 2003-2007 drafts.

2003 NFL Draft
Cincinnati tabbed Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer with the first overall pick. Palmer didn’t play at all in his rookie season but was the Bengals’ starter in 2004 and enjoyed seven fairly productive seasons there. Injuries took their toll on him starting with a significant suffered in the 2006 AFC Playoffs and later an elbow issue that resulted in him missing most of the 2008 season. Palmer’s tenure in Cincinnati came to a messy end as the team began the 2011 season without him before eventually trading him to the Oakland Raiders.

Solid Picks: They don’t get more solid than Andre Johnson, who Houston took with the second overall pick. The wide receiver from Miami is not only solidly built, but he’s a solid and steady contributor, with five 1,100-yard receiving seasons and a total of 706 receptions in nine seasons with the Texans.

The Panthers took Jordan Gross, who has established himself as a franchise tackle, with the eighth pick, and the Ravens found another defensive star in the first round, this time Terrell Suggs (No. 10). The Steelers also did pretty well in taking Troy Polamalu at No. 16, while the Raiders drafted their own All-Pro defensive back in Nnamdi Asomugha with the second-to-last pick in the first round.

Offensively, the Colts took tight end Dallas Clark (No. 24) in the first round, while the Cowboys took fellow tight end Jason Witten (3rd, No. 69) in the third round. Wide receivers Anquan Boldin (Cardinals – 3rd, No. 54) and Brandon Lloyd (49ers – 4th, No. 124) also came out of this draft.

On the defensive side, some of the stalwarts that were drafted in 2002 include Osi Umenyiora (Giants – 2nd, No. 56), Lance Briggs (Bears – 3rd, No. 68), Asante Samuel (Patriots – 4th, No. 120), and Robert Mathis (Colts – 5th, No. 138).

Busts: Detroit’s lack of successful first-round picks continued in 2003 when they selected Michigan State wide receiver Charles Rogers with the second pick. Unfortunately, the local collegiate hero never grew up and his lack dedication and maturity combined with some bad luck with injuries sabotaged his brief time in the NFL. In three forgettable seasons with the Lions, Rogers caught a grand total of 36 passes and scored four touchdowns in just 15 games. Dewayne Robertson (No. 3) never really had the impact of a top 5 pick in his six-year career, but he lasted longer than fellow defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan, whom New Orleans took with the fifth pick. Sullivan had 1.5 sacks in 36 games in his three seasons with the Saints.

In fact, of the eight defensive linemen taken in the first 15 picks of the 2003 draft more washed out than panned out. Suggs, Kevin Williams (Vikings – No. 9) and Ty Warren (Patriots – No. 13) all worked out in one degree or another, while Robertson, Sullivan, Jimmy Kennedy (Rams – No. 12), Michael Haynes (Bears No. 14), and Jerome McDougle (Eagles – No. 15) never really lived up to their first-round billing.

Sleepers: After the draft, San Diego signed a college basketball player as an undrafted free agent and it’s arguably one of the best moves the franchise has ever made. The Chargers took a chance on Antonio Gates, who was a forward on the Kent State basketball team, but has developed into one of the NFL’s top tight ends. Gates was named first-team All-Pro from 2004-06 and has 593 receptions, 7,783 yards receiving and 76 touchdowns in nine seasons. The Chargers found another hidden gem in 2003 in offensive lineman Kris Dielman. Dielman retired in February, after a nine-year career in which he was a two-time All-Pro selection and was invited to four Pro Bowls.

Similar to San Diego, Dallas took a chance on a small-college quarterback by the name of Tony Romo. Romo joined the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2003 and after watching from the sidelines for two seasons, became the starter in 2006. Outside of injury, Romo has been under center since then and has earned three trips to the Pro Bowl in his six seasons as the starter. One of the most criticized quarterbacks in the league, by analysts, fans and even teammates alike, Romo has thrown for nearly 21,000 yards with 149 touchdowns and 72 interceptions in 105 career games, 77 of those starts.

2004 NFL Draft
The 2004 draft will probably go down in history as the Eli Manning draft. When Eli and his famous father, Archie, made it known that the younger Manning had no desire whatsoever to play for San Diego, the holders of the No. 1 overall pick, the Chargers orchestrated a trade with the New York Giants.

The Giants got the rights to the No. 1 pick in exchange for their first- and third-round pick in the 2004 draft and their first- and fifth-round selections in 2005. The Giants got Manning, who has since won two Super Bowls, and the Chargers took Philip Rivers with the fourth overall pick.

The Chargers also selected kicker Nate Kaeding with the 2004 third-round pick they got, and took Shawne Merriman in 2005 with the first-round pick (No. 12 overall) they received from the Giants. The Chargers ended up trading the extra fifth-round pick to Tampa Bay for offensive lineman Roman Oben. Oben was a reliable starter for about two seasons for the Chargers before retiring from football in 2008. All in all, this ended up being a win-win trade for both teams, although Rivers has yet to enjoy the postseason success that Manning has.

Solid Picks: Arizona took Larry Fitzgerald with the third pick and the former Pitt Panther has certainly thrived out in the desert. The 2004 NFL Draft could end up being known as one of the best quarterback drafts of all time as besides Manning and Rivers, Pittsburgh got Ben Roethlisberger at No. 11. Manning and Big Ben combined have already won four Super Bowls. Matt Schaub (No. 90) was taken by Atlanta in the third round and after being traded to Houston in 2007, he has developed into one of the top starters in the league.

Later in the first round, New England took Vince Wilfork (No. 21) and St. Louis drafted running back Steven Jackson (No. 24). The Chargers also got reliable center Nick Hardwick in the third round (No. 66) and defensive end Shaun Phillips (No. 98) in the fourth round of this draft, adding to an impressive haul.

Kansas City drafted Jared Allen (No. 126) in the fourth round, who has become a four-time All-Pro and one of the most productive pass rushers with first the Chiefs and now the Vikings. San Diego’s 2004 draft bounty continued with running back Michael Turner in the fifth round (No. 154). The backup to LaDainian Tomlinson his first four years, Turner signed with the Falcons as a free agent in 2008 and has rushed for more than 5,200 yards 50 touchdowns in four seasons in Atlanta.

Busts: Considering he started 12 games for Seattle last season, it may be too harsh to label Robert Gallery a “bust.” Still, no one can really argue that the offensive lineman has not lived up to his billing when he was drafted No. 2 overall by the Raiders in 2004. A trio of wide receivers never developed into the first-round talents they were drafted as, headlined by Roy Williams, who the Lions took at No. 7. In fairness, Roy was not as bug a bust as Reggie Williams, who the Jaguars took with the ninth pick, or Michael Clayton (Buccaneers – No. 15). Unlike, Manning, Rivers and Roethlisberger, J.P. Losman (No. 22) did not pan out as an NFL quarterback, which was bad news for the team that drafted him in the first round, the Bills.

Sleepers: One wide receiver that didn’t get drafted, but certainly panned out was Wes Welker. The diminutive Welker from Texas Tech was signed by San Diego as an undrafted free agent, but was released before the 2004 season even started. Just think how good the Chargers’ ’04 draft would have been if they had kept Welker?

Welker signed with Miami where he was used mostly on special teams. He finally started seeing action at wide receiver in 2005 and prior to the 2007 NFL Draft was traded to New England for second- and seventh-round picks. All Welker’s done with the Patriots so far is catch 554 passes in five seasons, including leading the NFL three different times, along with 6,105 yards and 31 touchdowns.

The Dolphins ended up with Samson Satele and Abraham Wright, the two players they drafted with the picks they got from the Patriots for Welker, and in many instances a front-row seat to the damage Welker and Tom Brady have done together. Welker is 7-2 in career meetings against his former team, with 75 receptions for 981 yards and four scores in those games.

2005 NFL Draft
Alex Smith went No. 1 overall to the San Francisco 49ers, a decision that up until last season seemed to have “bust” written all over it. Prior to the 2011 season, Smith had gone 19-31 as the 49ers’ starter, with more interceptions (53) than touchdown passes thrown. In 2011, however, he turned things completely around, tossing 17 touchdown passes to just five interceptions and more importantly, leading his team to a 13-3 record, the NFC West title and the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. Smith also showed he could make plays with his legs, which not only earned him the confidence of head coach Jim Harbaugh, but a new contract that should secure his status as the 49ers' starting quarterback moving forward.

Solid Picks: Similar to Smith, Cedric Benson seemed like a bust early, but he has since proven otherwise. Chicago took Benson out of Texas with the fourth overall mark in 2005, but the running back lasted just three tumultuous seasons in the Windy City. The Bears released Benson during the 2008 offseason due in large part to two alcohol-related incidents. Cincinnati took a chance on Benson before the start of the ’08 season, and Benson responded by rushing for 747 yards, or more than he previously done in any of his seasons with the Bears, in just 12 games. However, he was just getting started. Benson followed up his first season with the Bengals by rushing for a career-high 1,251 yards, the first of three straight 1,000-yard campaigns.

As far as the 2005 draft went, the majority of the impact players that were taken came outside of the top 10. At No. 11 Dallas took sack-master DeMarcus Ware, followed by the Chargers selecting the aforementioned Merriman with the first-round pick they received in the Eli Manning-Philip Rivers trade, and Kansas City tabbed linebacker Derrick Johnson at No. 15.

The big prize, however, of the first round was none other than Aaron Rodgers, who Green Bay took at No. 24. At the time, the decision was largely criticized, if for no other reason the presence of one Brett Favre. Three seasons later, however, when Rodgers took the reins from the departed Favre, the Packers were the one getting the last laugh as the quarterback won a Super Bowl and was named the NFL MVP within his first four seasons as a starter. Atlanta and Pittsburgh also have gotten great returns out of their 2005 first-round picks in wide receiver Roddy White (No. 27) and tight end Heath Miller (No. 30).

The second round saw both Vincent Jackson (San Diego – No. 61) and Frank Gore (San Francisco – No. 65) go off the board, with the New York Giants landing defensive line stalwart Justin Tuck (No. 74) in the third round.

Busts: Ronnie Brown (Miami – No. 2) has been hampered by injuries throughout his career, while Braylon Edwards (Cleveland – No. 3) has no one to blame but himself for failing to capitalize on his talents and lost potential. Tennessee also learned a hard lesson when it comes to players with lots of upside but character question marks galore when the Titans selected Adam “Pacman” Jones with the sixth pick. Jones has since ended up in Cincinnati and appears to have gotten his act together and is well aware of the opportunity he wasted in Tennessee.

Busts among the top 10 players drafted also included wide receivers Troy Williamson (Minnesota – No. 7) and Mike Williams (Detroit – No. 10). For the Lions, Williams represented the third straight wideout taken with a top 10 pick that did not pan out, not to mention the selection of Joey Harrington with the third overall pick in 2002. No wonder the Lions didn’t make to the playoffs at all during the 2000s.

Sleepers: Cleveland signed Joshua Cribbs, their dynamic return specialist and versatile offensive weapon as an undrafted free agent, while New England signed kicker Robbie Gould. Gould never kicked for the Patriots, but he has for the Bears the last seven seasons, making it to the Pro Bowl and earning All-Pro honors in 2006.

2006 NFL Draft
Houston decided to take Mario Williams No. 1 overall in 2006, bypassing 2005 Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, who went to New Orleans with the second pick. Tennessee followed at No. 3 by taking quarterback Vince Young. Young went on to win 2006 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, Williams made the Pro Bowl in 2008 and ’09, and showed flashes of his amazing athleticism and play-making ability in isolated moments early on with the Saints.

However, entering the 2012 season, none of the three are still with the team that drafted them. Bush signed with Miami as a free agent in 2011, Williams became the first defensive player to sign a $100-million contract as he left the Texans for Buffalo in March, and Young, who was with Philadelphia last season following his release by the Titans, is still looking for team to join. How quickly things can change in the NFL.

Solid Picks: After the first three, teams fared a little better with their early first-round selections. The Jets took dependable tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson with the fourth pick, followed by linebacker A.J. Hawk to Green Bay, and tight end Vernon Davis to San Francisco. At No. 11 Denver selected quarterback Jay Cutler, who put up decent numbers with the Broncos before being traded to Chicago in March 2009. Baltimore got one of the centerpieces of their defense at No. 12 when they picked Haloti Ngata. Carolina and Indianapolis both used their late first-round picks on running backs and neither team came away disappointed with DeAngelo Williams (No. 27) or Joseph Addai (No. 30).

Second-round standouts from the ’06 draft include Roman Harper (New Orleans – No. 43), Greg Jennings (Green Bay – No. 52), Devin Hester (Chicago – No. 57) and Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville – No. 60). Players taken in the fourth round included All-Pro offensive lineman Jahri Evans (New Orleans – No. 108) and Brandon Marshall (Denver – No. 119), who is now reunited with Cutler in Chicago after being traded from Miami.

Busts: Bush was not the only Heisman winner taken in the top 10 in 2006 as Matt Leinart, the ’04 recipient, was drafted by Arizona with the tenth pick. Leinart’s yet to make any sort of impact in the NFL, first with the Cardinals and now in Houston where he’s the backup to Schaub. Defensive back Tye Hill didn’t play like the top-15 player he was drafted in his brief 40-game career with St. Louis.

Sleepers: Although he was drafted, I am still labeling Cortland Finnegan as a sleeper. Tennessee selected the relatively unknown defensive back from Samford in the seventh round (No. 215) and no one really had any idea what to expect from the small-college prospect. All Finnegan did was develop into an All-Pro cornerback and he cashed in as a free agent this offseason, signing a five-year, $50 million deal to reunite with Jeff Fisher, the head coach who drafted him, in St. Louis.

Dallas wide receiver Miles Austin and Atlanta cornerback Brent Grimes both went undrafted in ’06, but have since established themselves as standouts at their respective positions with the teams that took a chance on them.

2007 NFL Draft
Oakland took JaMarcus Russell, the tall, athletic quarterback with a big arm out of LSU, with the No. 1 overall pick in 2007 and there’s no question it’s a decision they would love to take a mulligan on. Following a lengthy hold out that extended into Week 1 of his rookie season, Russell signed a six-year contract worth more than $60 million with nearly half of that guaranteed. Russell proceeded to play in just four games in ’07 and a total of only 31 in his oh-so-brief NFL career. Russell never took advantage of his seemingly endless potential, which coupled with his well-earned reputation for being lazy and undisciplined, cemented him as the biggest bust in NFL history this side of Tony Mandarich.

Solid Picks: At least Detroit finally got a top 10 pick right. After years of swings-and-misses, the Lions finally hit one out of the park in taking Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson with the second overall pick. Besides quickly establishing himself as one of the league’s premier pass-catchers, CJ also seemingly ended the Lions’ “curse” with first-round picks, as evidenced by quarterback Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick in 2009 and Ndamukong Suh, who they took with the second pick in 2010.

After Johnson, Cleveland took franchise left tackle Joe Thomas with the third pick and four selections later Minnesota chose running back Adrian Peterson, who’s worked out pretty well, wouldn’t you say? The impact talent didn’t stop there, however, as San Francisco tabbed Patrick Willis, the heart and soul of their defense, at No. 11, Marshawn Lynch went to Buffalo with the 12th pick, Darrelle Revis to the Jets at No. 14, Dwayne Bowe to Kansas City at No. 23, and the 49ers hit paydirt once again with tackle Joe Staley at No. 28.

Pittsburgh took LaMarr Woodely (No. 46) and Carolina chose Ryan Kalil (No. 59) in the second round. Green Bay got reliable kicker Mason Crosby in the sixth round (No. 193), while the New York Giants waited even longer, using a compensatory pick at the end of the draft, to select running back Ahmad Bradshaw (7th – No. 250).

Busts: Even though Russell is by far and away the biggest bust of the 2007 draft, if not all time, he was not alone. Other first-round picks that didn’t pan out included Jarvis Moss (Denver – No. 17), quarterback Brady Quinn (Cleveland – No. 22), and wide receiver Craig Davis (San Diego – No. 30). At least Davis has an appropriate nickname in regards to his NFL performance, “Buster.”

Sleepers: No real stand out among the crop of undrafted free agents, but this year did produce running back Pierre Thomas (signed with New Orleans), wide receiver/return specialist Eric Weems (signed with Atlanta, now with Chicago), and quarterback Matt Moore (signed with Dallas, now with Miami).

by Mark Ross, published on April 25, 2012

Other NFL Draft-Related Content

NFL Draft: A Look at First-Round Trades
2012 NFL Draft First-Round Primer
2012 NFL Draft: Ranking the Positions
2012 NFL Draft Sleepers and Steals
2012 NFL Draft Busts: Ryan Tannehill and Dontari Poe
NFL Draft History: Busts, Sleepers and Solid Picks - Part 1
NFL Draft History: Busts, Sleepers and Solid Picks - Part 2
Biggest Busts in NFL Draft History
2012 NFL Mock Draft: Our First-Round Projection
2012 NFL Draft Stock Watch
2012 NFL Draft: Andrew Luck vs. Robert Griffin III

2012 NFL Must-See Match Ups
2012 NFL Schedule Highlights

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports takes a look back at some recent NFL drafts to see which picks worked out and which ones didn't</p>
Post date: Thursday, April 26, 2012 - 06:58
All taxonomy terms: NFL Draft, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-draft-first-round-primer
Body:

The first-round of the 2012 NFL Draft begins Thursday night and although the Indianapolis Colts have the first pick, there's no mystery where the Colts or Washington, who have the second selection are going.

Indianapolis general manager Ryan Grigson confirmed on Tuesday what everyone already knew — that the Colts would take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick. It's also pretty much a done deal that the next name NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces from his podium will be Robert Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Baylor that the Redskins have had in their sights for some time.

Even though the identity of the first two picks in this year's draft is known that doesn't mean there's no reason to follow the rest of the first round. In fact, here are some story lines, players and teams to keep an eye on as the remaining 30 picks play out.

The Fun Starts at No. 3
Since it’s well known what direction the Colts and Redskins are going with the first two picks, that means the Minnesota Vikings, who have the third pick, are on the clock. It also means that what the Vikings decide to do with the pick – use it or trade it – could significantly impact or even alter how the first round plays out.

The Vikings are picking third because they finished 3-13 last season and are a team with plenty of holes to fill, so they could certainly use the pick to meet one of these needs with the player that’s at the top of their draft board at that position. Minnesota is reportedly considering three players with this pick – tackle Ryan Kalil from USC, cornerback Morris Claiborne from LSU or Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon.

If presented with the offer, however, I think the Vikings would gladly move down from the No. 3 pick, in hopes of acquiring additional picks along the way. Again, the Vikings have many needs, and stockpiling picks would allow them the opportunity to address several of them.

Of the teams most likely to swing a deal and move up, I think you can put Miami, Jacksonville, Seattle and possibly Tampa Bay in that group. I also don’t think you can rule out New England, who has two first-round picks it can use as trade ammo, or Dallas, if anything because of Jerry Jones.

I the think the chances that the Vikings trade down are better than 50-50 at this point. However, if Minnesota doesn’t get the offer they are looking for and decided to keep the pick, I think the choice will be Kalil.

What Will the Browns Do?
Cleveland has the fourth pick, the first of its team’s 13 selections in this year’s draft, which is the most of any team. That’s the good news for Browns fans, the bad news is your team also has numerous holes to fill.

If the Vikings decide to trade down and get out of the third spot, then the teams that didn’t put in the winning bid for the pick could turn their attention to the Browns to get their guy at No. 4. However, the Browns are in a unique situation in that they have two first-round picks, Nos. 4 and 22, and 11 more after that, so they will probably only move out of the fourth spot if they are blown away with a package that greatly improves their positioning for the rest of the draft or nets them early future picks.

Since it appears the Browns will be staying put at No. 4, the question then becomes who do they take? Depending on what happens at No. 3, the Browns conceivably could have their pick of Ryan Tannehill, considered to be the best available quarterback on the board, running back Trent Richardson, far and away the top running back in this year’s draft, Blackmon, largely considered the No. 1 wide receiver option, or perhaps even Kalil, the best offensive lineman available. Any of these four would fill a significant need for the Browns.

In the end, I think it comes down to choosing between Richardson or Blackmon, depending on which player the front office and coaching staff likes best. Even though NFL teams are shying away from taking running backs with early first-round picks, I don’t think the Browns will let Richardson slide past them. Production in the running game was a big problem for the Browns’ offense last year, and Richardson by all measures is one of those unique talents that a team shouldn’t pass on.

Where Will Tannehill Land?
The aforementioned Tannehill, and not Luck or Griffin or anyone else, has arguably received the most buzz and attention in recent weeks. The wide receiver-turned-quarterback’s stock has intermittently soared and plummeted on respective draft boards, depending on who you ask.

Teams reportedly seriously interested in the former Texas A&M signal-caller include Cleveland, Jacksonville, Miami and Seattle. All of these teams are slotted in the top 12, but the consensus among draft pundits is that Tannehill will be off the board as early as No. 3 and no later than the eighth pick.

Minnesota has the third pick and they took a quarterback (Christian Ponder) in the third round last year, so the only way Tannehill goes at No. 3 is if the Vikings trade out of that spot. Miami is currently in the eighth slot and are said to be the team that’s highest on Tannehill. The fact that Tannehill’s former college coach, Mike Sherman, is the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator does nothing to diffuse this idea.

If the Dolphins do want Tannehill, do they want him bad enough to trade up to either the third or fourth spot, currently held by Cleveland, to ensure that they get him? In my opinion the Vikings seem more likely than the Browns to trade down in this draft, but either way the price is sure to be high for the Dolphins.

Miami has eight picks in this year’s draft, including an additional third-round selection they got from Chicago in the Brandon Marshall deal. If they do trade up, it more than likely will cost them either a first- or second-round pick in next year’s draft to get a deal done. If that’s the case, the Dolphins’ front office has to decide whether that’s a price their willing to get Tannehill, who is anything but a can’t-miss prospect, or do they take their chances and see if he’s still there at No. 8?

The bigger question is if the Dolphins don’t take Tannehill, then who does? Do the Browns, Jaguars or Seahawks like him enough to pull the trigger early? Or does Tannehill do his best Brady Quinn imitation and become the last man waiting in the green room?

I would be surprised if Tannehill slips past No. 8 and I think in the end, he will be taking his talents to South Beach. After all, the last time the Dolphins drafted a quarterback in the first round was in 1983. The quarterback they took 19 years ago with the 27th pick in the first round? Dan Marino. That worked out pretty well for the Dolphins didn’t it?

Players to Watch

Mark Barron, S, Alabama
LSU’s Claiborne is considered the best defensive back prospect in this year’s draft, but Barron isn’t too far behind and he’s the No. 1 safety. His size and overall skill set could be tempting enough for a team with a need at the position to trade up in order to get him. Barron is projected by most to go somewhere in the 12-17 range.

Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
This year’s workout warrior at the Scouting Combine, Poe’s stock seems to have fallen just as quickly as it rose back in February. Poe appears to be the complete package on paper, it’s the lack of production on the field that’s causing teams to think long and hard about calling his name early in the first round. Plenty of teams have a need for a defensive tackle, and Poe is considered among the best available at the position. But if Poe makes it past the teens, he could be waiting until the end of the first round to hear Commissioner Goodell announce his name.

Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Fellow linebacker Von Miller went No. 2 overall last year to Denver. Kuechly won’t go that high, mainly because the Redskins are taking Griffin with the second pick, but the tackling machine should be the first linebacker to come off the board, most likely in the 10-15 range. Like Barron, Kuechly is another player that a specific team could trade up for to grab.

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
As has already been mentioned above, he could go as early as third overall if the Vikings decide to trade down or the Dolphins could wait to see if he’s still there at No. 8. If he gets past Miami, it will be interesting to see which team decides to pull the trigger and when.

Teams to Watch

Cleveland Browns
The Browns have 13 picks in this year’s draft, the most of any team. Cleveland has two first-round picks (Nos. 4 and 22) and five of the first 100. The Browns have many needs to fill and should be in a position to address several of them, especially in the early rounds.

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota has the No. 3 pick and because the entire world knows the first two picks are going to be Luck and Griffin, all eyes are on them. The Vikings can either use the pick to address one of their most pressing needs or they can trade out of the spot in hopes of improving either their position in this year’s draft or a future draft. What the Vikings end up doing could dictate how the first round plays out.

New England Patriots
For once, the Patriots don’t have an abundance of draft picks to work with as they have a total of six in 2012. However, that doesn’t mean Bill Belichick and co. won’t be heard from this year as they have two first-round choices (Nos. 27 and 31) and a total of five in the first 100 picks. New England could use some young talent and fresh blood to help revitalize a defense that finished next-to-last in the league in 2011.

Don’t rule out the hooded one from doing what he’s done better than anyone in the draft – working with what he has to improve his draft position to get who he wants. In this case, don’t be surprised if New England tries to package some of their picks together to move up and take one of the impact defensive players, like a Barron or one of the defensive linemen.

St. Louis Rams
The Rams are also in an interesting spot, having already traded down from No. 2 with the Redskins. The Rams got an extra second-round pick in this year’s draft as well as the Redskin’s first-round picks in 2013 and ’14. It’s not out of the question that the Rams could trade down again in order to stockpile even more picks as new coach Jeff Fisher looks to remodel the roster to his liking.

Washington Redskins
Yes, the Redskins are getting Griffin, the guy they wanted all along, but it also cost them a lot – a second-round pick this year, along with their first-round picks the next two years. During Daniel Snyder’s tenure as Redskins’ owner, the team’s success in the draft has been spotty at best, thanks in large part to focusing more on free agency rather than the draft as the means to improve their roster.

And just because they made the trade to secure Griffin at No. 2 doesn’t mean this stance is going to change anytime soon. After they make it official and take Griffin with the second overall pick, the Redskins won’t be on the clock again until early in the third round (No. 69) and then have five picks after that, including two fourth-round selections.

Remember, this is a team that was originally slotted to pick No. 6 because they were just 5-11 in 2011. The Redskins have a lot of holes to fill, and while Griffin addresses their biggest need, they still have a lot of work to do, which must be accomplished with the inventory of picks they have to work with. This puts even more pressure on those who will be in the Redskins’ war room to target and draft those players in the later rounds who best fit their needs. This is a team that can’t afford many “misses” in this year’s draft.

— by Mark Ross, published on April 25, 2012

Other NFL Draft-Related Content

NFL Draft: A Look at First-Round Trades
2012 NFL Draft First-Round Primer
2012 NFL Draft: Ranking the Positions
2012 NFL Draft Sleepers and Steals
2012 NFL Draft Busts: Ryan Tannehill and Dontari Poe
NFL Draft History: Busts, Sleepers and Solid Picks - Part 1
NFL Draft History: Busts, Sleepers and Solid Picks - Part 2
Biggest Busts in NFL Draft History
2012 NFL Mock Draft: Our First-Round Projection
2012 NFL Draft Stock Watch
2012 NFL Draft: Andrew Luck vs. Robert Griffin III

2012 NFL Must-See Match Ups
2012 NFL Schedule Highlights

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports looks at some story lines, players and teams to watch as the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft unfolds on Thursday night</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: history, NFL Draft, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/nfl-draft-history-busts-sleepers-and-solid-picks-part-1
Body:

The first round of the 2012 NFL Draft will commence on Thursday night, marking the 77th installment of what is officially called the “NFL Player Selection Meeting.” From Thursday through Saturday 253 college players will hear their names called, adding their name to the NFL history books, regardless of whether they ever make it on the field.

Indeed, as history will tell, some past drafts have become more known for the players who were selected and did not enjoy success in a NFL uniform than those that did. There are also those players who did not hear their names called in the draft, but signed on with a team as an undrafted free agent and would eventually become solid players, if not All-Pros.

Here is a look back at the 1998-2007 drafts, as we reminisce and see which picks panned out for teams (Solid Picks), and those that failed miserably (Busts), as well as acknowledging those players that didn’t let disappointment on draft day get in the way of fulfilling their dreams of playing in the NFL (Sleepers).

Note: Part 1 will cover drafts from 1998-2002, Part 2 will cover the 2003-2007 drafts.

1998 NFL Draft
We start with 1998 because of the obvious synergy with this year’s draft involving No. 1 picks, quarterbacks and the Indianapolis Colts. In 1998, the Colts took Peyton Manning No. 1 overall over Ryan Leaf. While Manning is no longer with the Colts, no one can say the franchise didn’t make the right pick as Manning led them to 150 wins, eight divisional titles, two AFC championships and a win in Super Bowl XLVI in 2007. The Chargers didn’t have near the same success with Leaf, who lasted just three seasons in the league and won a total of four games in his short-lived career. To make matters worse, Leaf has had his share of personal and legal issues since his NFL playing days.

Just like what happened with Manning in 1998, the Colts are hoping history will repeat itself 14 years later as they have informed Andrew Luck they will take him with the No. 1 overall pick on Thursday night. The Colts have decided to go with Luck over Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, who will presumably go to the Washington Redskins at No. 2. Whether Luck becomes the second coming of Manning for the Colts remains to be seen, but the Redskins certainly hope that Griffin doesn’t follow in the forgettable footsteps of Leaf.

Solid Picks: The Colts weren’t the only team to draft a franchise player in 1998. The Raiders took Charles Woodson with the fourth overall pick and the Vikings took a chance on Randy Moss that turned out pretty well for them. Fred Taylor and Alan Faneca also were taken in the first round. Other players selected include Olin Kreutz (3rd – No. 64), Hines Ward (3rd – No. 92), Matt Birk (6th – No. 173), and Matt Hasselbeck (6th – No. 187).

Busts: While Leaf is certainly the headline in terms of busts from the 1998 draft, he was not alone as many recall the career of Andre Wadsworth, who went No. 3 overall to the Arizona Cardinals, and Bears’ fans are still trying to forget Curtis Enis, who was taken with the fifth pick.

Sleepers: Besides a franchise quarterback, the Colts also ended up with an All-Pro offensive lineman from the class of 1998. Jeff Saturday, Manning’s long-time center, originally signed as an undrafted free agent with Baltimore. He ended up in Indianapolis in 1999 and went to become a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro in his 13 years with the Colts. London Fletcher and David Akers also went undrafted, but ended up on an NFL roster and both made the Pro Bowl and earned All-Pro recognition in 2011.

1999 NFL Draft
Although this draft is probably remembered more for the New Orleans Saints trading all of their picks in 1999 plus two more in 2000 to the Redskins for Ricky Williams, it also represented the last draft in which the first two players taken were quarterbacks. In fact, quarterbacks were taken with the first three selections as the Cleveland Browns took Tim Couch, the Philadelphia Eagles took Donovan McNabb and the Cincinnati Bengals took Akili Smith.

Everyone knows what happened after that, Couch never panned out, lasting just five seasons and finishing his career with more interceptions (67) than touchdowns (64). Smith fared even worse, as he was in the league for four seasons, but only played in a total of 22 games. McNabb clearly had the best career of the three and now will wait to see if his overall body of work (37,276 passing yards and 234 passing touchdowns, 3,459 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns) is worthy of induction into the Hall of Fame.

Solid Picks: After the Saints took Williams fifth overall, the St. Louis Rams selected Torry Holt and the Redskins took Champ Bailey. Holt retired as a Ram earlier this month after a productive 11-year career, while Bailey, an 11-time Pro Bowler, is entering his 14th year in league, ninth with the Denver Broncos, this fall. The Steelers took both Joey Porter (3rd – No. 73) and Aaron Smith (4th – No. 109), while the Green Bay Packers drafted Donald Driver in the seventh round (No. 213), who has since become the Packers’ all-time leading receiver.

Busts: Couch and Smith weren’t the only quarterbacks taken in the first round who didn’t pan out. The Bears took Cade McNown with the twelfth overall pick. McNown’s career was even shorter than Smith’s, as he was done after the 2000 season after winning three games in 15 career starts under center.

Sleepers: I’m not so sure two punters (Chris Hanson and Brian Moorman) qualify, although both had careers that lasted more than 10 years and earned at least one Pro Bowl invitation.

2000 NFL Draft
Let’s face it, the first draft of the 21st century will forever be known as the Tom Brady draft. The Patriots took Brady, a relatively unknown quarterback from Michigan with 199th overall pick in the sixth round. Three Super Bowl rings, nearly 40,000 yards passing, 300 touchdowns, 124 regular-season wins and counting, this is arguably the greatest value pick in the history of the NFL Draft.

Solid Picks: That’s not to say Brady was the ONLY player taken in the 2000 draft, mind you. The Ravens took running back Jamal Lewis, who had just the fifth 2,000-yard season in NFL history in 2006, with the fifth overall pick, and the Arizona Cardinals selected fellow back Thomas Jones seventh. Jones has rushed for more than 10,000 yards in his career. The Pittsburgh Steelers took Plaxico Burress with the eighth overall pick, but unfortunately Burress’ career will always be overshadowed by what took place off the field, rather than on it.

Chicago got Brian Urlacher with the ninth pick and he quickly became the next great Bear linebacker, following the likes of Hall of Famers Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary. The New York Jets got more than lucky with John Abraham at No. 13, while the Seattle Seahawks took Shaun Alexander from Alabama with the 19th pick. All Alexander did was earn NFL MVP honors in 2005 as he led the league in both rushing (1,880 yards) and touchdowns (27) as the Seahawks rode his legs all the way to the Super Bowl.

Also let’s give some credit to the Oakland Raiders, who have earned more than fair share of criticism when it comes to draft decisions. In 2000, however, they got two picks right when they selected kicker Sebastian Janikowski with the 17th overall pick and punter Shane Lechler in the 5th round (No. 142). All these two have done is form the NFL’s most valuable kicking duo for 12 years running. Too bad their success and productivity hasn’t rubbed off on the team as a whole.

Busts: The Browns missed big on Courtney Brown, who they took No. 1 overall. Brown never adjusted to the pro game, lasting just six forgettable seasons. The Bengals didn’t fare much better with Peter Warrick, who they took with the fourth overall pick, and Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, who was selected by the Giants at No. 11, was never able to establish himself in the NFL.

Sleepers: As has already been mentioned, Brady is probably the biggest draft sleeper of all time, but he was drafted. That was not the case for offensive linemen Shaun O’Hara and Brian Waters. O’Hara won a Super Bowl with the Giants, while Waters is a two-time All-Pro and been named to six Pro Bowls in his career.

2001 NFL Draft
The Atlanta Falcons and the San Diego Chargers swapped first-round picks, a trade which gave the Falcons the No. 1 overall pick in exchange for a third-round pick in 2001, second-rounder in 2002 and a player (wide receiver Tim Dwight). All in all, it was a trade that worked out for both sides as the Falcons took Michael Vick with the first pick and the Chargers ended up with LaDainian Tomlinson at No. 5. Vick took what was a moribund franchise to new heights and helped usher in a new era of athletic, mobile quarterbacks, while Tomlinson, who is currently third on the all-time touchdowns list and fifth in rushing yards, will go into the Hall of Fame as soon as he is eligible.

Solid Picks: Besides Tomlinson, Richard Seymour (No. 6 overall) and Steve Hutchinson (No. 17) could both end up in the Hall of Fame eventually. Other notable first-round selections include Justin Smith (No. 4), Santana Moss (No. 16), Deuce McAllister (No. 23), Reggie Wayne (No. 30) and Todd Heap (No. 31). Drew Brees (No. 32) was taken by the Chargers with the first pick in the second round and Chad Johnson was taken by the Bengals four picks later. The New England Patriots took Matt Light (No. 48) later in the second round. Light is expected to retire at some point this offseason after a 10-year career as the Patriots’ left tackle otherwise known as the blindside protector for the aforementioned Brady. In the third round, the Carolina Panthers selected Steve Smith (No. 74), who holds all of the franchise’s receiving records.

Busts: While Wayne, Johnson and Smith were hits for their respective teams, there were several wide receivers drafted in 2001 that ended up being big misses. In the first round alone, the Bears whiffed on David Terrell (No. 8 overall), the Redskins with Rod Gardner (No. 15) and the Eagles with Freddie Mitchell (No. 25). Mitchell was known more for what he said (including his infamous “FredEx” nickname) than what he accomplished on the field. Not what you want in any draft pick, let alone a first-rounder.

Sleepers: The Redskins signed linebacker Antonio Pierce, who would go on to make the Pro Bowl as a Redskin in 2006, as an undrafted free agent, while the Tennessee Titans (Rob Bironas) and Buffalo Bills (Shayne Graham) signed reliable kickers. Bironas was named first-team All-Pro in 2007, while Graham would only be with the Bills for one season before eventually becoming a Pro Bowler with the Bengals. Several other solid players got their start as undrafted free agents in 2001, including offensive lineman Stephen Neal (Patriots) and Rich Seubert (New York Giants).

2002 NFL Draft
Another draft with quarterbacks taken early that didn’t pan out. This time it was David Carr, who the Houston Texans took with the franchise’s first-ever No. 1 overall pick. Carr spent most of his five years with the Texans running around for this life, as he was sacked a NFL-record 76 times in his first year. It didn’t get much better in the years that followed as in many ways Carr was a victim of a lack of support. Detroit took Joey Harrington third, who in four years with the Lions won just 26 games and finished with more interceptions (62) than touchdown passes (60).

Solid Picks: In between the two quarterbacks, the Carolina Panthers selected defensive end Julius Peppers with the second overall pick. The athletic freak of nature was named the 2002 NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year and racked up 81 sacks and 37 forced fumbles in his eight years with the Panthers. He signed with the Bears as a free agent in 2010 and is still one of the NFL’s most-feared defensive players. The Colts also selected a defensive end with their first-round selection, Dwight Freeney (No. 11), and like Peppers, Freeney is a three-time, first-team All-Pro and has 102.5 sacks in his career.

While Peppers and Freeney could end up enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Canton when their careers are over, one player who’s already secured his spot is Ed Reed. The Ravens drafted the dynamic ball-hawk from Miami with the 24th overall pick and he has not disappointed. Reed is an eight-time Pro Bowlers, been named first-team All-Pro five times and is ninth in career interceptions with 57. The 2004 AP Defensive Player of the Year, Reed is the record-holder for longest interception return in NFL history, 108 yards.

The 2002 NFL Draft also had Clinton Portis (No. 51) and Brian Westbrook (No. 91) taken in the second and third rounds, respectively.

Busts: Besides Carr and Harrington, other first-round picks that didn’t exactly work out included defensive tackle Ryan Sims (Chiefs – No. 6), running back William Green (Browns – No. 16), wide receiver Ashely Lelie (Broncos – No. 19), and quarterback Patrick Ramsey (Redskins – No. 32).

Sleepers: The Steelers and the Ravens both found hidden gems among the undrafted free agents as the Steelers signed James Harrison and the Ravens brought in Bart Scott. Harrison was the 2008 AP Defensive Player of the Year, while Scott was a key member of the Ravens’ defense, which consistently ranked among the NFL’s best, for seven seasons.

Part 2: 2003-07 NFL Drafts

— by Mark Ross, published on April 23, 2012

Other NFL Draft-Related Content

NFL Draft: A Look at First-Round Trades
2012 NFL Draft First-Round Primer
2012 NFL Draft: Ranking the Positions
2012 NFL Draft Sleepers and Steals
2012 NFL Draft Busts: Ryan Tannehill and Dontari Poe
Biggest Busts in NFL Draft History
2012 NFL Mock Draft: Our First-Round Projection
2012 NFL Draft Stock Watch
2012 NFL Draft: Andrew Luck vs. Robert Griffin III

2012 NFL Must-See Match Ups
2012 NFL Schedule Highlights

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<p> Athlon Sports takes a look back at some recent NFL drafts to see which picks worked out and which ones didn't</p>
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The NFL released its 2012 regular-season schedule on Tuesday night, laying out the slate of 256 games that will start in September and carry through December. Here are some of the games that caught our attention.

2012’s Must-See NFL Regular-Season Match Ups
(listed in chronological order)

Sept. 9, San Francisco at Green Bay
The defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants get the spotlight on Wednesday, opening up the 2012 NFL regular season by hosting Dallas at home, but the game to watch in Week 1 may just be this one. The top seeds from last season’s NFC playoffs meet in Green Bay as the Packers (No. 1) welcome San Francisco (No. 2) to Lambeau Field.

This figures to be a contrast of strengths as reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense (No. 1 in the NFL in scoring in 2011) will face off against All-Pros Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, NaVorro Bowman and the rest of the 49ers’ stout defense (No. 4 in total defense). The game also features a battle of coaching acumen between Mike McCarthy, who was the 49ers offensive coordinator before becoming the Packers’ head coach, and Jim Harbaugh, the NFL’s Coach of the Year in 2011.

Sept. 9, Pittsburgh at Denver
Peyton Manning will make his Denver Broncos debut at home on Sunday night, which is a must-see event in and of itself, but the NFL didn’t do him or the Broncos any favors with their opponent. Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers come back to Sports Authority Field at Mile High, where their 2011 season came to a stunning end, thanks to a 80-yard Tim Tebow-to-Demaryius Thomas connection just 11 seconds into overtime.

Tebow is now with the New York Jets, but the Broncos replaced him with Manning, the four-time NFL MVP. With Manning under center, the Broncos’ offense figures to be more dynamic and dangerous in the passing game, but may not be clicking on all cylinders come Week 1. The Steelers’ defense, which was No. 1 in the NFL in both total and scoring defense last season, will not only offer a good barometer of what Broncos’ fans can expect in 2012 from the revamped offense, it also will apply all the pressure it can on Manning to see if he’s fully recovered from his neck injuries and lengthy absence from the field.

Sept. 30, Buffalo at New England
On the surface this Week 4 encounter may not seem like a must-see match up, considering New England is the defending AFC Champion and Buffalo finished 6-10. However, remember that the AFC East foes split their two meetings in 2011. The Bills won the first game in Week 3 of last season, overcoming a 21-0 second-quarter deficit and kicking a game-winning field goal with no time left on the clock to secure the 34-31 thrilling victory at home. The win also snapped the Bills; 15-game losing streak to the Patriots.

The Patriots got even in the regular-season finale, but it wasn’t easy. This time it was Buffalo who jumped out to a 21-0 lead in Foxboro in the first quarter before Tom Brady and the Patriots answered back. And they answered back in a big way, out-scoring the Bills 49-0 in the final three quarters to become the first NFL team in history to win a game by 20 or more points in which they trailed by 20 or more points.

The Bills finished the season ranked No. 26 in the league in total defense, but signed former Houston Texan Mario Williams as a free agent to help fix that. The former No. 1 overall pick signed a six-year contract that could be worth up to $100 million, the first-ever such pact for a defensive player. The Bills added Williams to show their serious about defense and getting back to postseason and this first match up against Brady and Patriots’ offense, which finished No. 2 in the NFL in total offense in 2011, in Foxboro will be as good a test as any.

Sept. 30, New Orleans at Green Bay
The winners of the previous two Super Bowls heading into last season served as the opening act for the 2011 regular season last September, a game won by the Packers 42-34. The Saints return to Lambeau again this September and fans can expect plenty of offensive fireworks.

The Saints finished 2011 No. 1 in total offense, with the Packers coming in at No. 3 and both teams averaged more than 34 points per game. This Week 4 meeting also means the Saints will have already played three games, so hopefully by the time they play the Packers they will have completely shifted their focus from their tumultuous offseason to on-the-field business.

Oct. 7 Denver at New England
Yes, it’s Manning vs. Brady, although No. 18 will be a different uniform this time around, but this game offers much more than that. First there’s the matter of the 45-10 beat down the Patriots gave the Broncos in last year’s playoffs. Denver gets to return to the scene of the crime, if you will, and try and exact a little payback.

There’s also the Josh McDaniels factor. McDaniels left the Patriots in 2009 to become the Broncos’ head coach. Among the things McDaniels did while he was leading the Broncos was trade then-quarterback Jay Cutler to the Bears, ship Brandon Marshall off to the Dolphins and then trade up back into the first round to draft Tim Tebow in the 2010 NFL Draft.

McDaniels never found success on the field as Denver went 11-17 in his two seasons before being fired following the end of the 2010 season. McDaniels resurfaced last season as the St. Louis Rams’ offensive coordinator, but was let go after the season following the dismissal of head coach Steve Spagnuolo.

The Patriots brought him back into the fold during last season’s playoff run, during he served as an offensive assistant coach. When Bill O’Brien left to become the head coach at Penn State, Bill Belichick tabbed McDaniels once again as his offensive coordinator. You have to think McDaniels has definitely circled this game on his calendar.

Oct. 7, San Diego at New Orleans
Three seasons ago, the Chargers finished 13-3, which tied for the second-best record in all of the NFL. Seemingly a team on the brink of putting it all together, Norv Turner’s squad has missed the playoffs the past two seasons. Both times they were done in by slow starts, struggling to a 2-5 start in 2010 and suffering a crushing six-game losing streak following their bye week last season.

Turner is still calling the shots and the Chargers, led by quarterback Phillip Rivers, appear to have the pieces in place to contend in the AFC West, although they did lose wide receiver Vincent Jackson to Tampa Bay in free agency. If the Chargers are to be taken seriously, they must get off to a better start. This match up against Drew Brees and the Saints in the Big Easy, along with a Sept. 23 visit from the Falcons will serve as early indicators of whether they are contenders, or once again, pretenders, in 2012.

Oct. 14, Green Bay at Houston
The Giants and the Patriots played each other in Week 9 of last season, and at the time few people, if any, thought we would see them face off again in Super Bowl XLVI. Could this Week 6 Sunday night contest between Green Bay and Houston serve as the precursor for Super Bowl XLVII?

It’s entirely possible, but even if they don’t see one another again the rest of the way, this figures to be a highly entertaining game as Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will travel to Houston to face the Texans, a team that appears to be on the cusp of taking that next step as a contender. The match up of the Packers’ offense versus the Texans’ defense (No. 2 in total defense in 2011) will be a fun one to watch, as will Clay Mathews, Charles Woodson and company trying to slow down Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson on their home turf.

Nov. 4, Carolina at Washington
This Week 9 offering is all about the quarterbacks. If everything goes according to plan in next week’s NFL Draft, the last two Heisman Trophy winners should be under center. The Panthers’ Cam Newton, who won the Heisman in 2010 and followed that up by being named Offensive Rookie of the Year last season, will have the experience edge over the Redskins’ Robert Griffin III, the reigning Heisman Trophy recipient, who is expected to be the starter by this point.

Both quarterbacks are similar in style, as they can beat you with their arm and their legs, and the Redskins and coach Mike Shanahan would like nothing more than for Griffin to follow in Newton’s footsteps in his first NFL season. Last season, Newton set numerous records, including most passing yards by a rookie (4,051) and the single-season record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (14).

Nov. 22, Houston at Detroit
The first-game in a stuffed Thanksgiving triple-header (Washington at Dallas, New England at New York Jets are the other games), Detroit’s successful 2011 season, which ended the Lions’ 11-year playoff drought, adds even more significance to this game against Houston. Besides being a match up of two teams who will more than likely be in the thick of the playoff hunt in their respective conferences, this game features several of the NFL’s rising stars.

Both teams have potent offenses and while Houston’s defense (No. 2 in total defense in 2011) may have been more productive, the Lions’ defense is already pretty nasty in one sense, and has the pieces and potential to be fairly stingy in the other.

The Texans’ offense includes quarterback Matt Schaub, running back Arian Foster, while the Lions counter with quarterback Matthew Stafford, but all eyes will be on the wide receivers. It’s a Johnson vs. Johnson face off as the Lions’ Calvin and the Texans’ Andre will get the chance to steal the spotlight from the other on Thanksgiving Day.

Nov. 25, Green Bay at New York Giants
The last two Super Bowl winners face off in this Week 12 Sunday night affair as the Giants welcome the Packers. The reigning champs ended the Packers’ 2011 season with a convincing 37-20 victory in Lambeau in the Divisional Round of the NFC Playoffs, and Green Bay would like nothing more than to return the favor this time around in MetLife Stadium in the Big Apple.

Besides the payback factor, the outcome of this game could go a long ways to deciding playoff seeding in the NFC, if not much more. Remember last year the Giants defeated the Cowboys in Week 17 to win the NFC East and get into the playoffs. Had they not won that game, they wouldn’t be hosting the Packers in this game as the defending Super Bowl champions.

Nov. 26, Carolina at Philadelphia
It remains to be seen if this Week 12 contest will have any playoff-related implications or not. But one thing this Monday night game does offer is a great quarterback pairing. It could be the passing of the guard as Michael Vick and his Eagles welcome Cam Newton and the Panthers to Lincoln Field.

Besides representing Newton’s inaugural appearance in the coveted Monday night time slot, this could serve as a passing of the guard between the two signal callers whose style of play appear to mirror one another. Vick burst on the scene after the Falcons drafted him No. 1 overall in 2001 and immediately dazzled and thrilled with his athleticism, dual-threat abilities and numerous highlight-reel plays.

Vick will be 32 once the 2012 NFL season starts, while Newton, who the Panthers took No. 1 overall in the 2011 draft, is nine years younger. Despite the critics and skeptics, Newton put together arguably the best statistics of any rookie quarterback in NFL history, shattering numerous records along the way with both his arm and his legs. There’s no more fitting backdrop than this Monday night to witness the passing of the torch between these two dynamic quarterbacks.

Dec. 10, Houston at New England
AFC supremacy, including possibly the top seed in the playoffs, could be on the line in Week 14 when Houston travels to New England for this Monday night contest. New England captured the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs last season thanks to a 13-3 mark and rode home-field advantage to the Super Bowl.

The Texans, meanwhile, won the AFC South with a 10-6 mark, earning the first playoff berth in the franchise’s 10-year history. The Texans defeated the Bengals in the Wildcard Round only to fall to the Ravens 20-13 in the Divisional Round. If Houston wants to take that next step toward becoming a legitimate championship contender, a victory over the Patriots in New England would go a long ways, for both 2012 and beyond.

Dec. 16, Pittsburgh at Dallas
Winners of a combined 11 Super Bowls will meet up in the regular season in Week 15 when Dallas hosts Pittsburgh. The two have actually faced each other in the Super Bowl three times with the Steelers claiming victory in Super Bowls X and XIII, while the Cowboys won the most recent title game match up, a 27-17 victory in Super Bowl XXX in 1996.

The Cowboys hold a 14-13 head-to-head advantage over the Steelers in regular-season meetings, but Pittsburgh has won the last two (2004 and ’08). Given the history and winning tradition associated with these two proud, long-standing franchises, this is a game that’s sure to attract plenty of attention.

— by Mark Ross, published on April 18, 2012

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<p> Athlon Sports presents its list of NFL regular-season games you don't want to miss in 2012</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - 12:44
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The 2012 NFL season is still more than four months away from kicking off, but the path to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans is set. The NFL released its 2012 regular-season schedule on Tuesday. Here are some highlights of the upcoming slate.

Heavy is the Schedule For the Team That Wears the Crown
Seven teams have won consecutive Super Bowls in NFL history, the last being the New England Patriots in 2004-05. The New York Giants will aim to accomplish this feat this season, but the road back to the Super Bowl will be anything but easy. The Giants open the 2012 season by hosting the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 5. Besides their NFC East division games against the ‘Boys, Eagles and Redskins, the G-Men’s schedule includes games against seven teams that made the playoffs last year.

The Giants’ other games against NFC opponents include trips to both Atlanta and San Francisco, and a home game against Green Bay, the three teams they defeated to get to the Super Bowl last year. The Giants also host New Orleans, who won its division last season, and all four AFC North teams – Baltimore (road), Cincinnati (road), Cleveland (home) and Pittsburgh (home).

Rough Ride Ahead for Manning, Broncos
Welcome to Denver Peyton. I hope you are taking full advantage of the uninterrupted offseason to get acclimated with your new surroundings and team because the league sure didn’t do you or the Broncos any favors schedule-wise. Year 1 for Manning in Denver opens in Pittsburgh. The Steelers would like nothing more than to exact a little revenge for last season’s stunning overtime playoff loss in Denver. That’s followed by a trip to Atlanta and a visit from Houston, Manning’s former AFC South divisional foe who are coached by former Bronco assistant Gary Kubiak.

It just wouldn’t be right if Manning and Tom Brady didn’t face one another at some point during the season, and this year’s match up comes Oct. 7 in New England, where the Broncos’ 2011 campaign ended unceremoniously in a 45-10 playoff beat down provided by the Patriots. The Broncos then fly back west to meet Phillip Rivers and the Chargers in San Diego on Monday Night Football in their last game before their Week 7 bye.

After the bye, the Broncos host the Saints on Sunday night, and go to Cincinnati and Carolina the next two Sundays. The final seven games include four divisional contests, including trips to Kansas City and Oakland, along with a Week 15 visit to Baltimore to play the Ravens.

Welcome to the League Rookies
Barring something unforeseen happening, quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are fully expected to be the first two picks in next week’s NFL Draft, where they will be taken by the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins, respectively. It's also possible that both will be under center starting in Week 1. So what lies ahead for the two first-year signal callers?

The Colts took Peyton Manning No. 1 overall in the 1998 NFL Draft and inserted him as the starter in Week 1. If history repeats itself in 2012 the former Stanford star will need every bit of Luck he can muster as he will make his NFL debut in Chicago against Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and the rest of the Bears defense. Luck also will have the opportunity to observe some of the league’s premier quarterbacks in action as the Colts’ schedule includes a home game against reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and his Packers on Oct. 7 and a Nov. 18 visit to Gillette Stadium, home to Tom Brady and the defending AFC champion Patriots.

Luck’s other inaugural NFL road tests include games against the Jets in the Big Apple, the Lions in Detroit and the Chiefs in Kansas City. The Colts and Steelers also have the earliest bye week, coming in Week 4, meaning Luck’s first season will have him dealing with a stretch of 13 straight games. Luck and Stanford played 13 games in 2011, but not in a row, and nearly 40 days separated the Cardinal’s regular-season finale from their appearance in the Fiesta Bowl.

If Redskins coach Mike Shanahan inserts RGIII as his starting quarterback right away, the Heisman Trophy winner will start his NFL career on the road in New Orleans against the defending NFC South champion Saints. His home debut would come in Week 3 against Cincinnati and the Skins’ three games leading up to their bye in Week 10 have them on the road in back-to-back weeks facing the Giants and Steelers followed by a home date with the Carolina Panthers in a match up featuring the last two Heisman winners – Griffin and Cam Newton.

Following the bye, Griffin will familiarize himself with his NFC East rivals as the Redskins will play five of their six divisional games in the final seven weeks of the season. Their post-bye slate opens up with the Eagles on Nov. 18 with a trip to Dallas just four days later. The Giants come calling the first Monday in December followed by the Ravens that next Sunday. Washington concludes the regular season with a trip to Philadelphia and a Dec. 30 home date versus the Cowboys.

Turkey Day Trifecta
Thanksgiving and football go hand in hand. This season the NFL has done its part, serving up three mouth-watering match ups for fans to feast on. The appetizer will be Houston at Detroit. Not only will this game feature two of the league’s up-and-coming teams, but it also will have two All-Pro wide receivers named Johnson – Calvin and Andre – in action.

The main course, if you will, is a NFC East showdown between Washington and Dallas in the house that Jerry Jones built. This is always a tasty match up, regardless of the records, but the presumed presence of the aforementioned Griffin in a Redskin uniform only adds to the intrigue. Griffin won the Heisman last year playing for Baylor and went to high school in Copperas Cove, which is about three hours away from Cowboys Stadium in Arlington making this somewhat of a homecoming for him.

And to finish things off, the NFL Network will serve up New England at the Jets on Thursday night to round out this football feast. This won’t be the first time these AFC East divisional rivals will have met during the regular season, but still it’s the Patriots vs. Jets, Bill Belichick vs. Rex Ryan, Tom Brady vs. Tim Tebow, oops, I mean Mark Sanchez. What better way to end a day that’s all about family, friendship and food than to watch two teams that absolutely, positively can’t stand one another leave it all on the football field?

Monsters of Monday Night
The Chicago Bears have already reunited wide receiver Brandon Marshall and quarterback Jay Cutler through an offseason trade and the duo will get plenty of chances to showcase their chemistry in a coveted time slot. The Bears are the only team scheduled to make three appearances on Monday night. Contrast that to the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants and the New England Patriots, who the Giants defeated in Super Bowl XLVI, who each have just one Monday night game on tap.

Chicago will travel to Dallas on Oct. 1 to play the Cowboys, host Detroit in a key NFC North match up on Oct. 22, and face off against former Bear and current San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh and his 49ers on their home turf on Nov. 19.

Coach, I Don’t Think You’re in Piscataway Anymore
Tampa Bay reached into the collegiate ranks to fill its head coaching vacancy, luring Greg Schiano away from Rutgers. The Bucs then presented free agent acquisitions Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Eric Wright as housewarming gifts to their new coach.

Once the season starts, however, the Bucs’ early season opponents will be more than willing to pull the welcome mat out from under Schiano’s feet. He will make his NFL head coaching debut at home against NFC South foe Carolina and then instead of the Big East, he will get a full helping of the NFC East, as Tampa Bay’s next three games are on the road against the Giants and Cowboys, followed by a home date with the Redskins.

Schiano and the Bucs will get to catch their breaths in Week 5 with a bye, which also will allow them the chance to prepare for the rest of their slate which includes home games against the Chargers and Eagles, along with a trip to Denver and two games against both Atlanta and New Orleans. There isn’t a Tulane or Howard, Rutgers’ first two opponents this season, anywhere to be found on this slate.

What We Won’t See
Those who were hoping for a New York Giants vs. New England Patriots rematch this year are out of luck. Next January? We’ll have to wait and see. Speaking of Luck, while Andrew and RGIII will most likely go Nos. 1 and 2 in the upcoming NFL Draft, they won’t get the chance to size each other up on the field as the Colts do not play the Panthers in 2012.

The Jets and Broncos don’t meet up in the regular season either, meaning any Tebow reunion with his former teammates will have to wait until the playoffs, if it even happens at all. We also won’t see Sean Payton on the sidelines this entire season as he serves his one-year suspension handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for his role in the Saints’ defense’s bounty system.

What you will see is a full 17 weeks of NFL action that will carry you from September to the end of the year and set the stage for another exciting postseason starting in January. Now we just have to wait a mere 140 days for the games to begin. Sept. 5 can’t come soon enough.

— by Mark Ross, published on April 18, 2012

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<p> Athlon Sports offers its observations and impressions of the 2012 NFL regular-season schedule</p>
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Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.

David Wright’s Latest Tough Break
Poor David Wright, he just can’t seem to catch a break. Well, actually he did and that’s the problem for both him and his fantasy owners. Wright, the Mets’ third baseman who was plagued by injuries last season and dealt with a abdominal issue in spring training, was off to a sizzling start to the season. In the first four games, Wright had gone 7-12 (.583 average) with one home run and four RBIs.

Unfortunately, Wright injured his right pinkie finger sliding back into first base on a pickoff throw in Monday’s game against Washington. Further examination revealed he fractured the finger and while he has yet to be placed on the disabled list, he missed the Mets’ next two games, which coincidentally were the first two the team lost after starting 4-0.

Wright may be back in the lineup on Friday against Philadelphia as for now he’s wearing a splint and hoping to avoid surgery. If he does try and play with the broken pinkie, you have to figure at the least he will be limited at the plate. If he does go on the DL, the Mets will probably move Daniel Murphy to third and put Justin Turner at second base.

Murphy is off to a solid start at the plate, hitting .320 with three doubles and three RBIs, and his versatility adds to his fantasy value. However, the left-handed hitter doesn’t have near the power (20 career home runs in three MLB seasons) that Wright has.

Turner is more of an unknown, but could be worth a look in deeper leagues if he gets the starting job at second because of Murphy moving to third. In his first full major league season last year, Turner hit .260 with four home runs, 51 RBIs, 49 runs scored and 30 doubles in a little more than 400 at bats.

If Wright does go on the DL one replacement option, depending on the size and position eligibility requirements of your league, could be David Freese, who’s picked up where he left off during last year’s World Series, hitting .429 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in his first seven games. If he stays healthy, Freese could be in for a big season.

Other names to consider include Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion, who’s off to a decent start (.269-1-6, 2 SB), San Diego’s Chase Headley, who hit a grand slam Sunday against the Dodgers, and Arizona’s Ryan Roberts, who could provide a little pop and speed as he posted a near 20-20 campaign (19 HR/18 SB) last season with the Diamondbacks.

There’s also Chipper Jones, who had knee surgery during spring training, but came out swinging when he made his season debut on Tuesday with a home run. Health and regular playing time are things to take into consideration with Jones, who is playing in his final season, but the veteran switch-hitter’s resume speaks for itself - .304 career batting average, 455 home runs, 1,563 RBIs, more walks than strike outs in 19 seasons.

Struggling Aces
It’s still early, but several frontline pitchers who were undoubtedly drafted rather high by the vast majority of fantasy owners are aiming for a much better showing on the mound as they make their second starts on Thursday.

Dan Haren got knocked around by the Royals in his first start, giving up 11 hits, including two home runs, and five earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. The good news is that he struck out five, while just walking one and this time around he will take the mound against Minnesota in Target Field. The Twins are currently second-to-last in the majors with just 12 runs scored through their first five games and as a team they are hitting .190 entering Thursday’s game against Haren and the Angels.

San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner was a popular Cy Young pick headed into the season, but the 22-year-old lefty certainly didn’t get off to the start he was hoping for. Bumgarner lasted just four innings in his first start against Arizona, yielding four earned runs on seven hits, two of those leaving Chase Stadium, in just four innings. Unfortunately for Bumgarner, his second start comes today against a Colorado Rockies team that pounded out 22 hits and scored 17 runs against the Giants on Wednesday night.

The Cincinnati Reds gave up a lot to get Mat Latos in the offseason to be their ace, but he didn’t pitch like one in his first outing. Latos didn’t get out of the fifth inning against the Marlins in Great American Ballpark, giving up seven hits and four earned runs in the process. His second start will be on the road, taking on a Nationals team that’s gotten off to a 4-2 start.

These three are not the only top-flight starting pitchers struggling, however, as aces Josh Johnson, Tim Lincecum and CC Sabathia are among those who have not had much success in their first two starts of the season.

Johnson, who was limited to just nine starts in 2011 due to shoulder issues, has been knocked around hard in his first two starts. Johnson, who held opposing hitters to a .185 average in 2010, has given up 21 hits in 9 2/3 innings (.447 average) to start the season.

Lincecum has looked nothing like his Cy Young self in his first two starts as his ERA currently stands at 12.91. He gave up five earned runs on six hits, two of those home runs, to the Diamondbacks on April 6, but still struck out seven with just one walk. On Wednesday night against the Rockies in Colorado, however, Lincecum didn’t make it out the third inning, as the Rockies collected eight hits and scored six runs in the shortest start (2 1/3 IP) of his career. There have already been questions raised regarding Lincecum’s diminished velocity, but command also has been an issue for the 27-year-old right-hander to start the season.

Sabathia won his second start, a 6-4 decision over Baltimore on Wednesday night, but the big lefty has surrendered 16 hits and nine earned runs in 12 innings so far. His ERA stands at 6.75 and although he has a 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (5:15) right now, his owners no doubt would like him to not give up so many hits in the process.

It’s entirely too early to give up on any of these pitchers, but their next starts bear careful monitoring as the last thing any owner wants to do, especially to start the season, is have to worry about their ace hurler.

Weekend Series to Watch

Los Angeles Angels at New York Yankees
The Yankees make their 2012 home debut on Friday, hosting Albert Pujols and the Los Angeles Angels. Pujols will look to get on track at the plate, as the slugger is hitting just .222 with two RBIs and one run scored in his first five games. This is Pujols’ first game in new Yankee Stadium. He went 3-10 with one HR in 2003 inter-league series with the Cardinals in old Yankee Stadium. As a team, the Angels have hit just two home runs in their first five games.

For the Yankees, Derek Jeter has gotten off to a sensational start, batting .370 with one home run, which is the same number that Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira have hit combined. Granderson is the only one of this quartet to go deep so far, while Cano and Rodriguez are looking for their first RBI of the season. A-Rod has been struggling the most, as the third baseman is currently batting just .174 with a total of four hits in his first six games.

Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox
Tampa Bay travels to Boston for a four-game set starting Friday, which could go a long ways to determining how the AL East race plays out. The Rays are off to a 4-1 start entering Thursday’s series finale in Detroit thanks in large part to hot start of Carlos Pena. The first baseman has thrived in his second tour of duty with Tampa, as he’s batting .389 with two home runs and seven RBIs in his first five games. Last season with the Chicago Cubs, Pena didn’t hit his second home run until May 4.

Boston has struggled mightily out of the gate with just one win in its first six games. The bullpen has been a disaster as closer Alfredo Aceves (27.00 ERA) and setup man Mark Melancon (36.00 ERA) have each already blown a save and have combined surrendered more home runs (two) than strikeouts (one) so far. The offense hasn’t exactly done its part either with just two home runs and 22 runs scored to this point. Jacoby Ellsbury (.130, 2 RBI, 0 SB) and Kevin Youkilis (.100, 0 R, 0 RBI) both hope to find their hitting groove at home. Last season, Ellsbury batted .326 with 15 home runs and 19 stolen bases in home games, while Youkilis is a career .305 hitter at Fenway.

— by Mark Ross, published on April 12, 2012

Teaser:
<p> Athlon has some things to watch to get you ready for this weekend's fantasy baseball action</p>
Post date: Thursday, April 12, 2012 - 12:46
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketballs-early-top-25-2012-2013
Body:

Kentucky has cut down the nets and added another championship banner to Rupp Arena. The question now is how deep the NBA draft will cut into the Wildcats roster, and what kind of influx of talent will arrive in Lexington.

Ten days since the national championship game, the outlook for the 2012-13 is a little clearer. The NCAA deadline for college underclassmen to remove their names from NBA draft consideration passed April 10, but the NBA’s deadline for underclassmen to enter the draft is April 29. In short, any underclassman who declares between now and April 29 cannot return to school.

Most players around the country have declared their draft intentions, but some major notable exceptions apply, including five key players from Kentucky, Florida guard Bradley Beal and N.C. State forward C.J. Leslie.

As for the new roster additions for 2012-13, Kentucky added one more Wednesday to perhaps the nation’s top recruiting class with an announcement from center Nerlens Noel. A number of other top prospects could sign during spring signing period, but here’s our first look at the potential top teams for 2012-13.

1. INDIANA (27-9, 11-7 Big Ten)

Key departure: G Verdell Jones III

Key returnees: F Cody Zeller, F Christian Watford, G Jordan Hulls, G Victor Oladipo, G Maurice Creek, F Will Sheehey

Top newcomers: G Yogi Ferrell, F Jeremy Hollowell, F Hanner Perea

Outlook: After four seasons in the depths of the Big Ten, Indiana has turned the corner. The Hoosiers’ 27 wins last season was one fewer than the first three seasons of Tom Crean’s tenure combined. Look for Indiana to make another leap in 2012-13. Cody Zeller and Christian Watford announced they would remain in Bloomington, meaning Indiana will return its top five scorers. The Hoosiers also hope guard Maurice Creek, who missed all of last season with injury, will be able to contribute. If Indiana is going to be a Final Four-caliber team, though, the Hoosiers will need to improve their 3-6 mark in Big Ten road games. Verdell Jones is gone, but incoming freshman point guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell will be a major addition.

 

2. KENTUCKY (38-2, 16-0 SEC)

Key departures: G Darius Miller

Still undecided: F Anthony Davis, F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, F Terrence Jones, G Marquis Teague, G Doron Lamb

Key returnee: F Kyle Wiltjer

Top newcomers: C Willie Cauley, G Archie Goodwin, G Ryan Harrow, F Alex Poythress, C Nerlens Noel

Outlook: Kentucky’s top five underclassmen are waiting until the NBA’s April 29 deadline, but it’s safe to say the bulk of them, if not all, will head to the draft. As usual, that’s no cause for concern in Lexington. Cycle one recruiting class out, and bring in the next. On Wednesday, Kentucky added the replacement for Davis with an announcement – via a UK shaved into the back of his head – from center Nerlens Noel (the No. 1 prospect according to Scout.com and ESPN). On the same day, the Wildcats lost out on Shabazz Muhammad (the No. 1 prospect according to Rivals.com), who landed at UCLA. Still, Kentucky adds one of the nation’s elite freshman classes with Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin and Willie Cauley plus N.C. State transfer Ryan Harrow. If forward Kyle Wiltjer is the only holdover from the 2011 class, he’s no throw in. He’ll be a star as a sophomore. And without Muhammad in the class, Kentucky is still pursuing another elite recruit during the spring signing period, forward Anthony Bennett.

 

3. KANSAS (32-7, 16-2 Big 12)

Key departures: F Thomas Robinson, G Tyshawn Taylor, G Conner Teahan

Key returnees: C Jeff Withey, G Elijah Johnson, G Travis Releford

Top newcomers: F Perry Ellis, G Ben McLemore, F Andrew White

Outlook: One way or another, Kansas always seems to have a player deep on the bench who will eventually become a star. Think of Thomas Robinson in 2010-11 or Cole Aldrich in 2007-08. Guard Ben McLemore may be the next revelation after sitting last season while he was ineligible for his first season. Robinson is gone, but the Jayhawks should have a formidable backcourt with Johnson taking over the point and all-around guard Travis Releford entering his senior year. The Jayhawks have failed to win 30 games only once in the last six seasons, when they won 27 in 2008-09.

 

4. LOUISVILLE (30-10, 10-8 Big East)

Key departures: G/F Kyle Kuric, G Chris Smith

Key returnees: G Russ Smith, F Chane Behanan, G Peyton Siva, C Gorgui Dieng, G Mike Marra, G/F Wayne Blackshear

Top newcomers: G Luke Hancock, G Terry Rozier

Outlook: Louisville finished the season winning eight of its last nine games with a Big East tournament title and a trip to the Final Four. The Cardinals will look to use that as a springboard, but the key to Louisville playing consistently from beginning to end without the mass injury problems that plagued the Cardinals the last two seasons. Peyton Siva, who averaged 11.3 points and six assists in Big East and NCAA tournament play, returns as does rising sophomore forward Chane Behanan. Two of the top three scorers are gone in Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith, but the Cardinals will look to have Wayne Blackshear, who averaged only seven minutes in 15 games, healthy for the whole season, plus George Mason transfer Luke Hancock is now eligible. Russ Smith must improve his shot selection, and Gorgui Dieng can improve in the weight room.

 

5. NORTH CAROLINA (32-6, 14-2 ACC)

Key departures: F Harrison Barnes, F John Henson, G Kendall Marshall, C Tyler Zeller

Key returnees: G/F Reggie Bullock, G Dexter Strickland,G P.J. Hairston, F James Michael McAdoo

Top newcomers: G Marcus Paige, F Brice Johnson, C Joel James, F J.P. Tokoto

Outlook: Losing Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Kendall Marshall early to the NBA draft was no great surprise. North Carolina loses four players who started at least 30 games and return no double-digit scorers. The Tar Heels won’t lack for talent. Forward James Michael McAdoo probably made the wise decision to return to school and could become a breakout player now that takes a larger role. Like McAdoo, guard P.J. Hairston is another McDonald’s All-American who was a role player as a freshman but could break out as a sophomore.  Veterans Reggie Bullock and Dexter Strickland (who played only 19 games because of injury), the top two returning scorers, also look to take expanded roles. North Carolina expects to have guard Leslie McDonald back from a torn ACL and, as usual, a top-notch signing class.

 

6. OHIO STATE (31-8, 13-5 Big Ten)

Key departures: C Jared Sullinger, G William Buford

Key returnees: F Deshaun Thomas, G Aaron Craft, G Lenzelle Smith, F Evan Ravenel

Outlook: The lingering question after Ohio State’s Final Four run was if forward Deshaun Thomas would return to the Buckeyes or follow Jared Sullinger to the draft. As a full-time player in 2011-12, Thomas took major strides, improving his shooting percentage from 47.9 percent as a freshman to 52 percent as a sophomore. With Sullinger and William Buford gone, Thomas is the go-to player for the first time in his career. Point guard Aaron Craft is the floor general and top defender, but he may need to expand his offensive role. Amir Williams, Shannon Scott and LaQuinton Ross were decorated recruits in 2011, but they played sparingly as freshmen.

 

7. MICHIGAN (24-10, 13-5 Big Ten)

Key departures: G/F Zack Novak, G Stu Douglass, F Evan Smotrycz

Key returnees: G Trey Burke, G Tim Hardaway Jr., F Jordan Morgan

Top newcomers: F Mitch McGary, F Glenn Robinson III, G Nik Stauskas

Outlook: Point guard Trey Burke’s late decision to return to school gives Michigan the look of a Final Four contender. Incoming freshman forward Glenn Robinson III will give the roster another player with NBA bloodlines, joining guard Tim Hardaway Jr. However, Robinson won’t be the top incoming freshman. That distinction belongs to Mitch McGary, who will give coach John Beilein his first legitimate big man since he arrived in Ann Arbor. Top rebounder Jordan Morgan also returns, but the Wolverines lose two veterans, Zack Novak and Stu Douglass, who started on three NCAA tournament teams.

 

8. DUKE (27-7, 13-3 ACC)

Key departures: G Austin Rivers, F Miles Plumlee

Key returnees: G Seth Curry, F Mason Plumlee, G Tyler Thornton, G Andre Dawkins, F Ryan Kelly, G Quinn Cook

Top newcomer: G Rasheed Sulaimon, F Marshall Plumlee

Outlook: After losing to 15th-seeded Lehigh in the NCAA tournament (a major shock) and losing Austin Rivers to the NBA draft (not a shock), Duke received some good news with the return of forward Mason Plumlee, who averaged 11.1 points and 9.2 rebounds last season. Apart from Rivers and Miles Plumlee, Duke returns every other key player. With Rivers gone, the class of second-year players is now led by sophomore guard Quinn Cook and redshirt freshman center Marshall Plumlee. Duke will add freshman shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon and remains in contention for other recruits, but will that be enough to help a Duke team that couldn’t advance through the NCAA tournament even with Rivers?

 

9. N.C. STATE (24-13, 9-7 ACC)

Key departures: G/F C.J. Williams

Still undecided: F C.J. Leslie

Key returnees: F Richard Howell, G Lorenzo Brown, F Scott Wood

Top newcomers: G Rodney Purvis, F T.J. Warren

Outlook: After defeating San Diego State and Georgetown to advance to the Sweet 16, N.C. State may be a popular preseason pick to win the ACC. If C.J. Leslie (14.7 points, 7.3 rebounds) returns, N.C. State will return its top four scorers. All four averaged at least 10.8 points per game. The Wolfpack also adds an elite guard recruit in Rodney Purvis. Given the personnel, N.C. State may be poised for a long-awaited banner year in Mark Gottfried’s second season. If there’s any reason for pause, N.C. State defeated only four NCAA tournament teams during the regular season – UNC Asheville, Texas, St. Bonaventure, Virginia. None of which were seeded higher than 11th and none won a tournament game.

 

10. MICHIGAN STATE (29-8, 13-5 Big Ten)

Key departures: F Draymond Green, G Brandon Wood, G Austin Johnson

Key returnees: G Keith Appling, C Derrick Nix, F Branden Dawson, C Adreian Payne, G Travis Trice

Top newcomers: G Gary Harris, F Matt Costello, F Kenny Kaminski

Outlook: Draymond Green may be the most difficult to replace player in the nation next season, but there’s good reason to have faith Michigan State and Tom Izzo can recover and continue to challenge for a Big Ten title. Keith Appling adapted well to a full-time role. Centers Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne managed the most of their split time, averaging a combined 15.1 points per game. The biggest reason for optimism will be the development of rising sophomore Branden Dawson, who averaged 8.4 points and 4.5 rebounds before he sat the final six games with a torn ACL.

 

11. FLORIDA (26-11, 10-6 SEC)

Key departures: G Erving Walker

Still undecided: G Bradley Beal

Key returnees: G Kenny Boynton, F/C Erik Murphy, F/C Patric Young, G Mike Rosario

Top newcomers: G Braxton Ogbueze, G Michael Frazier

Outlook: If Bradley Beal decides to return, Florida is a top-five team. That said, Beal has been projected as a top-five pick, so the Gators shouldn’t hold their breath. Leading scorer Kenny Boynton and standout forward Patric Young both said they will return to a team that was a second-half collapse against Louisville away from the Final Four. The Gators have three guards committed and are continuing to recruit forward Anthony Bennett. Even without Beal and Bennett, Florida appears to be the clear No. 2 in the SEC after Kentucky.

 

12. BAYLOR (30-8, 12-6 Big 12)

Key departures: F Perry Jones, F Quincy Acy, F Anthony Jones

Key returnees: G Pierre Jackson, F Quincy Miller, G Brady Heslip, G A.J. Walton

Top newcomers: C Isaiah Austin, F Ricardo Gathers

Outlook: Losing Perry Jones to the draft was all but a given and Quincy Acy was a senior. The Bears still have talent left on the roster, especially after Quincy Miller (10.2 points, 4.9 rebounds) elected to return to school. The guard duo of Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip returns, giving Baylor a strong perimeter presence. Miller’s return will be huge for a frontcourt in transition, though the bears add seven-foot center Isaiah Austin and forward Ricardo Gathers.

 

13. SYRACUSE (34-3, 17-1 Big East)

Key departures: F Kris Joseph, G Dion Waiters, G Scoop Jardine, C Fab Melo

Key returnees: G Brandon Triche, F C.J. Fair, F Rakeem Christmas, F James Southerland

Top newcomers: C DaJuan Coleman, F Jerami Grant

Outlook: Syracuse loses Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters, Scoop Jardine and Fab Melo from a team that battled distractions from the start of the season to the end and still managed to win 34 games. Brandon Triche and C.J. Fair will need to become the team’s veteran leadership for a group that will have plenty of unproven pieces. Forward James Southerland played well late in the season when he played additional minutes with Melo out, and Rakeem Christmas had 11 rebounds and eight points against Kansas State in the NCAA tournament. Syracuse won’t have trouble finding talent on the roster with sophomore Michael Carter-Williams in the backcourt and incoming freshmen DaJuan Coleman and Jerami Grant in the frontcourt.

 

14. SAN DIEGO STATE (26-8, 10-4 Mountain West)

Key departures: F Garrett Green, F Tim Shelton

Key returnees: G Jamaal Franklin, G Chase Tapley, G Xavier Thomas, G James Rahon

Top newcomers: F J.J. O’Brien, F Dwayne Polee  F James Johnson, F Winston Shepard

Outlook: With the Pac-12 continuing to struggle, San Diego State should be in contention for the top team in the West. The top four scorers all return, though all are guards – Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley, Xavier Thomas and James Rahon. For a team that hadn’t won an NCAA tournament game until 2011, the Aztecs have pulled some key recruiting victories in recent years, first with Kawhi Leonard (who was two and done) and then forward Winston Shepard, who committed in February. Beyond Shepard, San Diego State will try to boost its front court with transfers Dwayne Pollee (a starter at St. John’s in 2010-11), J.J. O’Brien (6.4 points, 5.5 rebounds as a freshman at Utah), and James Johnson (who redshirted his only season at Virginia).

 

15. ARIZONA (23-12, 12-6 Pac-12)

Key departures: G Kyle Fogg, F Jesse Perry

Key returnees: F Solomon Hill, G Nick Johnson, G Josiah Turner, G Brendon Lavender, G/F Kevin Parrom, G Jordin Mayes

Top newcomers: F Brandon Ashley, C Kaleb Tarczewski, C Grant Jerrett, G Gabe York

Outlook: The Pac-12 must have a top-25 caliber team in 2012-13, right? Arizona may be the team that reclaims a little respect for the conference. Kyle Fogg (13.5 ppg) and Jesse Perry (10.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg) are gone, but Solomon Hill, the team’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, is back. Kevin Parrom, who averaged 7.5 points per game on the Elite Eight team a year ago, will be healthy. Guards Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson, highly prized recruits from a year ago, will be sophomores. Oh, and Arizona adds one of the nation’s top recruiting classes.

 

16. KANSAS STATE (22-11, 10-8 Big 12)

Key departure: F Jamar Samuels

Key returnees: G Rodney McGruder, G Will Spradling, G Angel Rodriguez, F Jordan Henriquez, F Thomas Gipson, G Montavious Irving

Outlook: Kansas State was one of the Big 12’s pleasant surprises once again, but now the Wildcats have some uncertainty in their future as former Illinois coach Bruce Weber takes over for Frank Martin. Weber inherits a roster that is mostly intact other than the departure of forward Jamar Samuels. Rodney McGruder, who averaged 15.8 points last season, will be a senior while Angel Rodriguez and Thomas Gipson started a combined 39 games as freshmen last season.

 

17. WISCONSIN (26-10, 12-6 Big Ten)

Key departure: G Jordan Taylor

Key returnees: F Ryan Evans, F/C Jared Beggren, G Josh Gasser, G Ben Brust, F Mike Bruesewitz

Outlook: Jordan Taylor is gone. That’s a major hit, but the Badgers return five other players who averaged at least 20 minutes per game last season. Wisconsin still won 26 games and reached the Sweet 16 even though Taylor was not as productive as he was as a junior and the Badgers were uncharacteristically vulnerable at home. The Badgers tend to stick around the top of the Big Ten despite personnel changes, but Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren, Josh Gasser, Ben Brust and Mike Bruesewitz must adjust to not having a star player on the court.

 

18. CREIGHTON (29-6, 14-4 Missouri Valley)

Key departure: G Antoine Young

Key returnees: F Doug McDermott, C Gregory Echenique, G Grant Gibbs, F Ethan Wragge, G Jahenns Manigat, G Josh Jones

Outlook: Doug McDermott again will be a national player of the year candidate after earning first-team All-America honors. Between McDermott and Gregory Echenique again will have a formidable frontcourt duo, but the Bluejays must replace Antoine Young, who averaged 12.6 points and 4.8 assists combined the last two seasons. Every other key player returns.

 

19. GONZAGA (26-7, 13-3 West Coast)

Key departure: C Robert Sacre

Key returnees: F Elias Harris, G Kevin Pangos, G Gary Bell Jr., F/C Sam Dower, F Guy Landry Edi

Outlook: The guard duo of Kevin Pangos (13.6 ppg) and Gary Bell Jr. (10.4 ppg) are only sophomores while the frontcourt duo of Elias Harris (13.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Sam Dower (8.3 ppg) will be seasoned veterans. Robert Sacre, who first stepped on campus in 2007-08, is gone. The Bulldogs should be poised for another 25 wins with a chance to make a run in the NCAA tournament.

 

20. MEMPHIS (26-9, 13-3 Conference USA)

Key departures: G Will Barton, G/F Wesley Witherspoon

Key returnees: G Joe Jackson, F Tarik Black, G Chris Crawford, G/F Adonis Thomas, G Antonio Barton

Top newcomer: F William Goodwin

Outlook: A handful of Memphis players are still looking to reach their full potential. The Tigers will need it after losing Will Barton, who led the team in scoring and rebounding. After a loss to UTEP on Feb. 18, Memphis beat its final seven opponents before the NCAA tournament by an average of 21 points per game before losing to Saint Louis in the round of 64. Memphis has the ability to win Conference USA again, but will the Tigers have the consistency to be a player on the national stage?

 

21. NOTRE DAME (22-12, 13-5 Big East)

Key departures: F Tim Abromaitis, G Scott Martin

Key returnees: F Jack Cooley, G Jerian Grant, G Eric Atkins, G/F Pat Connaughton, G Alex Dragicevich

Top newcomers: F Cameron Biedscheid, F Zach Auguste

Outlook: Notre Dame was one of the nation’s biggest overachievers last season, finishing third in the Big East despite playing on two games with top player Tim Abromaitis. The Irish are awaiting word on a sixth year of eligibility for Abromaitis and guard Scott Martin. Even if the NCAA grants neither player an extra year, Notre Dame still return three veterans who averaged at least 12 points per game last season – Jack Cooley, Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins.

 

22. VCU (29-7, 15-3 Colonial)

Key departures: G/F Bradford Burgess

Key returnees: F Juvonte Reddic, G Troy Daniels, G Rob Brandenberg, G Darius Theus, G Traveon Graham, G D.J. Haley

Outlook: With Bradford Burgess gone, none of the top five scorers from VCU’s 2011 Final Four team will be back for 2012-13. That shouldn’t be a huge deal for VCU. Coach Shaka Smart resisted overtures from Illinois and will return to a veteran team. Burgess in the only major loss from a team that lost two games (George Mason on the road and Indiana in the NCAA tournament) after Jan. 8 by a total of three points.

 

23. TENNESSEE (19-15, 10-6 SEC)

Key departure: G Cameron Tatum

Key returnees: G Trae Golden, F Jeronne Maymon, F Jarnell Stokes, G Jordan McRae, G Skylar McBee, F Kenny Hall

Notes: Stokes played only 17 games last season

Outlook: After starting 10-12, Tennessee finished the season 9-3 in February and March. On the good side, the Volunteers defeated Florida on the road and Vanderbilt in Knoxville, but two of the last three games were losses to Ole Miss in the SEC tournament and Middle Tennessee at home in the NIT. Cam Tatum is the only major departure, but the Volunteers will have a full season of Jarnell Stokes. The freshman was a major reason for the Vols’ turnaround late in the season when he arrived in January.

 

24. MURRAY STATE (31-2, 15-1 Ohio Valley)

Key departures: G Donte Poole, G Ivan Aska, G Jewuan Long

Key returnees: G Isaiah Canaan, F Edward Daniel

Top newcomers: G Dexter Fields

Outlook: The return of Isaiah Canaan will make Murray State a favorite in the Ohio Valley Conference (which will now include Belmont), but the Racers will have difficulty in reaching the 30-win mark again. Donte Poole, Ivan Aka and Jewuan Long were the next three scorers on the team behind Canaan.

 

25. SAINT LOUIS (26-8, 12-4 Atlantic 10)

Key departure: F Brian Conklin, G Kyle Cassity

Key returnees: G Kwamain Mitchell, F Cody Ellis, F Dwayne Evans, G Mike McCall Jr., G Jordair Jett, F Rob Loe

Outlook: Saint Louis improved from 12 wins to 26 in one season before picking up the program’s first NCAA tournament win 1998. Leading scorer Brian Conklin is gone as is starter Kyle Cassity, but the balanced Billikins return two other double-digit scorers and four who averaged at least seven points per game. 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon looks far ahead at next season's top programs</p>
Post date: Thursday, April 12, 2012 - 11:47
All taxonomy terms: Contests, Jamie McMurray, sweepstakes, NASCAR
Path: /nascar/best-nascar-contests-sweepstakes-facebook
Body:

It's never easy trying to win free things, especially when the contests and sweepstakes are scattered across the Internet. So to make it easier, we rounded up our favorite Facebook contests and sweepstakes with NASCAR prizes to save you the trouble. 

 

The Ultimate LiftMaster Racing Experience

For fans of NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray, this one is a must-enter. And even if you don't root for the driver of the No. 1 car, it's well worth checking out just to win a trip to fabulous Charlotte Motor Speedway. 

GRAND PRIZE: A trip for two to Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C., and VIP attendance at the Coca Cola 600 NASCAR Race (5/26/12 – 5/28/12). Prize includes round-trip coach airfare, rental car, hotel accommodations, behind-the-scenes tour of the garage, LiftMaster racing cap and T-shirt, a signed Jamie McMurray Hero Card, LiftMaster Garage Door Opener 8550 installation, and an Apple iPod Touch.

Contest ends May 11.

For more details and to enter, visit Facebook.com-LiftMasterPro

 

Hunt Brothers Pizza's "Flat Kevin" Photo Contest

This contest requires a little effort and creativity. You must print and clip out a photo of Kevin Harvick off Hunt Brothers Pizza's Facebook page and then photograph it at NASCAR events or with NASCAR-themed scenes. Not a bad deal if it helps you meet the real Harvick at a race in Kentucky. 

GRAND PRIZE: Two tickets and two garage passes to the 2012 NASCAR race in Kentucky on June 29, plus souvenir racing gear and a meet and greet with Kevin Harvick (schedule permitting).

Contest ends May 15.

For more details and to enter, visit Facebook.com/hbpRacing

 

Ace 2012 Champion's Week Getaway Sweepstakes 

If you're hoping to meet NASCAR drivers and take part in numerous NASCAR events, this may be the sweepstakes for you. 

GRAND PRIZE: A VIP trip for two to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week, which may include access to view the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony and the NASCAR Victory Lap event and NASCAR After the Lap event. Also includes airfare, three nights hotel lodging, ground transportation and $250 spending money.

Contest ends April 30.

For more details and to enter, visit  Facebook.com/AceBrand

 

Banana Boat Cool Zone Pit Crew Sweepstakes

If you miss out on the LiftMater Racing Experience mentioned earlier, and you're still hoping to meet Jamie McMurray, here's another opportunity. Not only do you get to meet McMurray, but you'll also get to hang with his pit crew. You can enter this sweepstakes daily. 

GRAND PRIZE: A winner and guest(s) get to experience a NASCAR race at Talledega (Ala.), which includes hotel accommodations, gift bags, and some face time with McMurray and his pit crew prior to the Oct. 7 race.

Contest ends July 9.

For more details and to enter, visit Facebook.com/BananaBoatBrand

Teaser:
<p> Rounding up the best NASCAR prizes on social media</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 15:48
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/2012-fantasy-baseball-week-1-preview
Body:

It’s been 158 days since the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Texas Rangers in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series, but baseball — and yes, fantasy baseball — is finally back. OK, the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners played two games in Tokyo last week, but the official Opening Day is Thursday, so play along with me.

Speaking of that two-game series in Japan, can you guess who’s currently leading the majors in batting average? None other than Ichiro Suzuki, who gave his countrymen plenty to cheer about by collecting four hits in the opener. Young stars Dustin Ackely and Yoenis Cespedes each hit a home run and drove in two during their short stay in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Here are some other storylines and players to watch this opening week as the 2012 fantasy baseball season gets underway.

Say Hello to Marlins Park
The Cardinals begin defense of their World Series title by helping the Marlins christen their brand-spanking new downtown stadium on Wednesday night. While eyes will no doubt be focused on the Marlins’ new 37,000-seat home, complete with a retractable roof, aquariums behind home plate and outfield glass panels, fantasy owners should also play close attention to the mound.

Josh Johnson will be toeing the rubber for the first time since last May 16 when shoulder issues limited him to a total of nine starts and 60 1/3 innings in 2011. Johnson has pitched very well during spring training and has experienced no setbacks with the shoulder. It also doesn’t hurt that Johnson will be facing a Cardinals line up without Albert Pujols, who’s now in Anaheim with the Angels.

For the Cardinals, Kyle Lohse gets the opening night assignment, as Chris Carpenter has been sidelined with nerve issues in his neck and shoulder. Lohse will be tasked with facing a Marlins line up that now includes Jose Reyes at the top of the order.

No one knows how Marlins Park is going to play just yet, whether it will favor the hitters or the pitchers, but don’t be surprised if new Miami manager Ozzie Guillen gives the green light early and often to his base stealers at the top of his line up. That’s good news for owners who have Reyes (39 SB in ’11), Emilio Bonifacio (40) and Hanley Ramirez (32 in ’10).

AL MVP Ballot on Display in Detroit
Five of the top 10 vote-getters in last year’s AL MVP balloting will be in action in Detroit as the defending AL Central champion Tigers open up against Boston. In fact, the first at bat will feature a match-up of the top two finishers as Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox will step into the batter’s box against Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who took home both the AL MVP and Cy Young Award last year.

Besides Ellsbury and Verlander, the game will have Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez (7th in AL MVP voting in ’11) and Dustin Pedroia (9th), along with Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (5th). Batting behind Cabrera will be new Tiger Prince Fielder, who finished third in the NL MVP voting and will make his Detroit debut. Fielder and the rest of the Tigers will be facing Jon Lester, who like the rest of his Red Sox teammates, will be looking to put last season’s September collapse behind him.

New Citi, Same Results?
The New York Mets will open their season on Thursday against NL East rival Atlanta in newly configured Citi Field. The Mets brought some of the outfield fences in during the offseason in hopes of giving the park an offensive boost. Last season the Mets finished 13th in the National League in home runs with 108 and only 50 of those coming at home.

This opening series against the Braves will be an early indicator to see if the Mets’ sluggers like David Wright, Ike Davis and Lucas Duda will be able to take advantage of the new dimensions or not. Tommy Hanson, who yielded 17 home runs in 130 innings pitched last year, will be on the mound for Atlanta in the series opener, followed by Jair Jurrjens (14 HR in 152 IP) on Saturday and Mike Minor (7 HR in 82 2/3 IP) on Sunday.

For the Mets, Johan Santana gets the Opening Day assignment. Santana, the two-time AL Cy Young Award winner (2004, ’06), last pitched in 2010 when he went 11-9 with a 2.98 ERA. He missed all of last season recovering from a torn capsule in his shoulder and it will be interesting to see how he fares in his first start in more than 19 months.

Mauer Out to Prove He’s No Ordinary Joe
It seems a lot longer, but it was just three years ago that Joe Mauer was the AL MVP when be won the batting title with a .365 average, hit 28 home runs and drove in 96. Perhaps it’s because in the past two seasons combined he’s hit just 12 home runs with 105 RBIs, while battling a myriad of injuries.

The good news is that Mauer has fared well at the plate during spring training and appears to be 100 percent healthy headed into the season, something he wasn’t last year. Now it’s just a matter of seeing if he’s the 2009 version or something more along the lines of 2010 (.327-9-75).

Mauer’s not the only Twin looking to stay healthy and rebound from a disappointing 2011. Justin Morneau, Denard Span and Francisco Liriano also dealt with injuries last year and saw their production plummet as a result. Lirianio has arguably had the best spring of them all, posting a 33:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 27 innings.

Span appears to finally be free of the concussion-related symptoms that wrecked his 2011 season, and while Morneau may never be the same player he was from 2006-08, he has looked more comfortable at the plate lately.

It also doesn’t hurt the Twins that they open their season in Baltimore against an Orioles staff that’s not expected to be very good. Target Field has not been kind to the Twins’ power hitters as the team hit more home runs (57) on the road than at home (46) last year. More to the point, Mauer has hit a grand total of one home run in 112 career games played at Target Field while Morneau has just seven in 74 games played there.

Quick Hitters

  • Stephen Strasburg will make his first start of the season in the Nationals’ opener in Chicago against a Cubs line up that has more question marks than clear-cut answers. Strasburg should be a productive starter every time he takes the mound, but owners should not overlook his projected innings cap (around 160) in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. The Nationals took the same approach with Jordan Zimmerman last season and were more than happy with the results.

  • The aforementioned Pujols and C.J. Wilson will make their Angels debuts at home against Kansas City. It will be interesting to see what effect Pujols has on the Angels’ offense as a whole, while Wilson should benefit from no longer having to pitch his home starts in Rangers Ballpark. Last year, Wilson’s home ERA was 3.69 compared to a 2.31 mark on the road. For the Royals’ young hitters like Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas, this opening series against Anaheim will be a good test as they will have to face Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Wilson. That trio combined for 50 wins and 596 strikeouts in 697 1/3 innings pitched in 2011.

  • Besides being a key NL West series, the Giants vs. Diamondbacks opening three-game set starting on Friday features arguably the strongest collection of fantasy starting pitching. The opener has Tim Lincecum vs. Ian Kennedy, followed by Madison Bumgarner against Daniel Hudson, and ends with Matt Cain vs. Josh Collmenter. With the exception of Collmenter, the other five won at least 12 games and struck out 169 or more batters last season, while all six pitchers posted sub-3.50 ERAs and finished with a WHIP of 1.21 or lower in 2011.

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy baseball is back and here are some players and storylines to watch this week</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 - 10:48

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