Articles By Braden Gall

Path: /college-football/pac-12-football-2012-all-conference-team-recruit
Body:

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

Related: Athlon Sports 2012 preseason All-Pac-12 Teams

AC100: Athlon Consensus 100 prospect

All-Pac-12 Preseason First-Team Offense:

Matt Barkley, QB, USC (2009) AC100
The Golden Boy from Newport Beach (Calif.) Mater Dei has absolutely lived-up to his top billing as the nation's No. 1 prospect by Athlon Sports. He sat atop the AC100 for the entire 2009 cycle and has dominated college football ever since enrolling at USC.

Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon (2008)
The Riverside (Calif.) Notre Dame prospect was ranked as the No. 38 running back in the nation and the No. 86-rated player in the state of California by Rivals. He was a three-star recruit.

John White, RB, Utah (2011) JUCO
Was listed as a three-star junior college prospect in last year's class. He was completely unranked in the JUCO rankings by Rivals.com.

Keenan Allen, WR, Cal (2010) AC100
The Greensboro (N.C.) Northern Guilford prospect trailed only Tony Jefferson as the nation's top 'athlete' recuit. He was No. 26 in the top 100 and was the No. 2 player it the Tar Heel State (Robert Crisp) by Athlon Sports.

Robert Woods, WR, USC (2010) AC100
The Carson (Calif.) Junipero Serra was named the Athlon Sports High School Player of the Year when he was a senior. He finished as the No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the nation and trailed only Ronald Powell and Seantrel Henderson nationally as he finished No. 3 overall by Athlon Sports.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington (2011) AC100
The record-setting freshman from Fox Island (Wash.) Gig Harbor proved his status as the No. 3 tight end prospect in the nation to be accurate. He was the No. 33 overall player in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Khaled Holmes, C, USC (2008)
The big blocker from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei was the No. 3 offensive guard, was rated No. 104 overall and the No. 14 player in The Golden State by Rivals.

David Bakhtiari, OL, Colorado (2009)
The San Mateo (Calif.) Junipero Serra was teammates with Robert Woods (and other stellar wideouts) but got very little recruiting hype. He was a two-star unrated prospect by Rivals.

John Fullington, OL, Washington State (2010)
The Belfair (Wash.) North Mason product was the No. 70 offensive tackle prospect in the nation and the No. 16-rated player in The Evergreen State by Rivals.

Kevin Graf, OL, USC (2009) AC100
A top 100 talent from Agoura, Calif., Graf was the No. 9-rated offensive lineman and the No. 51-rated overall prospect in the class of 2009 by Athlon Sports.

David Yankey, OL, Stanford (2010)
The massive Cardinal hails from Roswell (Ga.) Centennial and was only the No. 53-rated player in The Peach State back in 2010. He was the No. 47-rated offensive tackle by Rivals.

De'Anthony Thomas, AP, Oregon (2011) AC100
Football's version of the Black Mamba signed with Oregon from Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw High. Thomas was the nation's No. 1 'athlete' prospect and the No. 5-rated player in the entire nation. 

All-Pac-12 Preseason First-Team Defense:

Wes Horton, DL, USC (2008)
The top 100 prospect from Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame was the No. 3-rated strongside defensive end in the nation by Rivals. He was also listed as the No. 40-rated prospect nationally and the No. 6 player in the state of California.

Dion Jordan, DL, Oregon (2008)
Coming to Eugene from Chandler, Ariz., Jordan was a four-star recruit who ranked as the No. 15 overall tight end prospect in the nation and the No. 7-rated player in the state by Rivals.

Travis Long, DL, Washington State (2009)
A lower-rated prospect, Long came to Pullman as the No. 13-rated player in the state of Washington (Gonzaga Prep) by Rivals. He was a three-star recruit.

Star Lotulelei, DL, Utah (2007)
Originally, the Bingham, Utah prospect signed with BYU but didn't qualify. He was a three-star recruit who ranked as the No. 3 player in the state of Utah. He went to Snow College before heading to Utah.

Dion Bailey, LB, USC (2010) AC100
Bailey was a top 100 6-foot-1, 195-pound safety prospect from Lakewood, Calif. He was the No. 12-rated defensive back and the No. 96 overall player in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Michael Clay, LB, Oregon (2009)
A bit undersized — he was listed at 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds as a recruit — Clay came to Oregon from San Jose (Calif.) Bellarmine Prep as a three-star. Rivals rated him the No. 43 outside linebacker and the No. 61 player in the state.

Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford (2008)
From Marietta (Ga.) Walton, Thomas was a three-star outside linebacker prospect by Rivals who ranked as the No. 26-best player in the state and the No. 27-best player at his position.

Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State (2009)
From Astoria, Ore., Poyer was underrecruited by nearly everyone. He was an unranked two-star prospect by Rivals.com who got one D-1 offer: Oregon State.

Nickell Robey, CB, USC (2010)
The cornerback from Frostproof, Fla., was the No. 34-rated defensive back in the nation and the No. 226-rated player overall by Athlon Sports.

T.J. McDonald, S, USC (2009) AC100
The NFL legacy from Fresno (Calif.) Edison was the No. 9-rated defensive back in the nation and the No. 76-rated overall player in the nation by Athlon Sports.

John Boyett, S, Oregon (2008)
Coming from Napa (Calif.) High, Boyett was a middle of the pack prospect with a three-star ranking. He was the No. 91-rated player in California and the No. 64-rated safety in the nation by Rivals.com.

Athlon's 2012 Pac-12 Team Previews

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

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Football: 2012 All-Conference Team As Recruits</p>
Post date: Friday, June 22, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-2012-heisman-contenders
Body:

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

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

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

Notre Dame's Top 5 Heisman Trophy Contenders:

1. Manti Te’o, LB
The star middle linebacker turned down the NFL and could actually build upon his already solid resume. He is searching for his third straight 100-tackle season and has 28.5 career tackles for a loss. He was a finalist for the Butkus Award and the Lott Trophy a year ago and is looking for even more in 2012. Expect an outstanding defensive front to make life easier for the talented tackler.

2. Cierre Wood, RB
The Irish running back rolled-up 1,102 yards rushing a year ago — the most by a South Bend tailback in over half-a-decade (1,267, Darius Walker). Without great quarterback play, Wood will easily the be the focal point of the offense, which could work both for and against the talented tailback. Jonas Gray has moved on, giving Wood the bulk of the touches, but defenses will be able to key on him should Brian Kelly not get improved quarterback play.

3. Tyler Eifert, TE
Fans could make the case that Eifert is the best tight end in the nation. Like Te’o, Eifert also turned down the NFL to return to Notre Dame. With Michael Floyd moving on to Sundays, Eifert is easily the top target in the Kelly passing attack and could improve on his 63-803-5 stat line from 2011. Tight ends also tend to be targeted more by young, inexperienced and “less-effective” quarterbacks as safety valves. And this one is the first-team preseason All-American for 2012.

4. Stephon Tuitt, DE
The 2011 defensive line class for Kelly was simply ridiculous and Tuitt is a huge part of it. He has a massive frame, huge upside and as much physical talent as any Irish defensive lineman in years. By the end of 2011, as only a freshman, Tuitt was transforming into the dominate player fans were expecting to see. The sky is the limit for this monster of prospect.

5. Theo Riddick, WR
Injuries and position uncertainty have caused Riddick’s career to take some unexpected turns. But his raw play-making ability and versatility should finally allow Riddick to achieve his breakout campaign in 2012. He isn’t the same player as Floyd but can be used in more ways by Kelly. Fans should expect to see No. 7 touching the ball in a variety of unique and entertaining ways this fall.

Other Names to Watch:

Zach Martin, OL
Louis Nix III, DL
TJ Jones, WR
Braxton Cave, C
Everett Gholson, QB

2012 Notre Dame Preview Content:

•  Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2012 Team Preview
•  Notre Dame Fighting Irish Greatest Players Since 1967
•  Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2012 Team Predictions
•  The Greatest Moments in Notre Dame Football History
•  Notre Dame Cheerleader Gallery
•  Will Brian Kelly Lead Notre Dame to a BCS Bowl?
•  Jokes About Notre Dame Rivals

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Notre Dame 2012 Heisman Contenders</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 10:03
Path: /college-football/big-east-2012-heisman-contenders-way-it-should-be
Body:

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

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

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

The Big East's Top 10 Heisman Trophy Contenders:

1. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (SO)
The true freshman built his confidence week upon week and now enters his second year as the top Heisman contender in the league. He trailed only Geno Smith in completion percentage last year (64.5%) and posted the Big East’s No. 2 passer efficiency (132.44) mark. Most importantly, he has added bulk and strength to his frame after playing his best ball down the stretch. He posted a career high 274 yards in the bowl loss and chucked five touchdowns in the final two games.

2. Ray Graham, RB, Pitt (SR)
This talented tailback was on a tear when four plays into the primetime showdown with UConn, his season ended with a torn ACL. He had posted 939 yards rushing and nine scores in the first seven games of the year prior to the injury. If fully healthy, Graham could easily be the Big East’s top Heisman candidate now that offensive genius Paul Chryst is calling plays in the ‘Burgh.

3. B.J. Daniels, QB, USF (SR)
Daniels’ raw explosiveness and athleticism have always been obvious, but he has yet to put his whole game together for a full season. However, he came close in 2011 with his best year to date: 2,604 yards, 13 TD, 7 INT, 601 yards rushing, 6 TD. The Bulls must improve on their 1-6 league record (which they should) for Daniels to have a chance at the stiff-armed trophy of Ed Smith.

4. Lyle McCombs, RB, UConn (SO)
Under Randy Edsall the Huskies churned out highly productive runners so McCombs would have done the current Maryland head coach proud in Year 1. The redshirt freshman posted six 100-yard efforts in his first season and finished second in the league in rushing. Three starters and a stud tight end are back to pave the way for the studly sophomore.

5. Matt Brown, RB, Temple (SR)
As a back-up to Bernard Pierce, Brown still finished eighth in the MAC in rushing with 916 yards. He has shown to be a tremendous second option in three seasons with the Owls, but now gets the spotlight to himself in Steve Addazio's system. Defenses will be tougher in the Big East, but Brown should be plenty capable.

6. Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers (SR)
Greene should be the front-runner to claim Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors…again. He led the league in tackles with 141 stops and is the heart and soul of what should be the league’s best unit…again. Fans should expect big things from Ray Graham’s brother. A broken leg sustained in the bowl game a year ago seems like a distant afterthought.

7. Justin Pugh, OL, Syracuse (SR)
An All-Big East first-team selection a year ago, Pugh enters this season as a preseason Athlon Sports All-American and the top blocker in the conference. He paved the way for one of only three 1,000-yard Big East runners a year ago and will now be responsible for protecting senior quarterback Ryan Nassib.

8. Hakeem Smith, S, Louisville (JR)
One of the nation’s top safety prospects, the junior is poised for a huge season after leading the Cards in tackles last year (6.5/game). If the Cardinals are going to win 10 games and earn a Big East championship, it will be on the shoulders of the talented Smith.

9. Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse (SR)
In his third year in the system, Nassib could be poised for his best year. He increased his touchdown passes, yardage totals and completion percentage from 2010 to 2011. With Pugh watching his back, one of the few pro-style passers in the league should continue to develop.

10. Munchie Legaux, QB, Cincinnati (JR)
Has loads of upside with a tremendous throwing arm and athletic ability. He also is the leader in the clubhouse in terms of game experience for the Bearcats. The leash will be short with Legaux, but should things fall into place, he has the upside to win games and post big numbers.

Other Names to Watch:

Devin Street, WR, Pitt (JR)
Keystone product could explode after a very productive 53-754-2 stat line a year ago.

Demetris Murray, RB, USF (SR)
Will take over for Darrell Scott but will also lose time to Lindsey Lamar.

Tino Sunseri, QB, Pitt (SR)
Struggled mightily last year with Todd Graham. Should be that much better with Chryst.

DeDe Lattimore, LB, USF (JR)
Finished 6th in tackles and played behind enemy lines all year: 7.0 sacks, 13.0 TFL.

Alec Lemon, WR, Syracuse (SR)
Leading returning receiver should build on 68-834-6 stat line.

Rushel Shell, RB, Pitt (FR)
Elite level talent who will complement Graham perfectly for Chryst.

Jawan Jamison, RB, Rutgers (SO)
Will split time with talented sophomore Huggins but will build on 897-yard 2011 season.

Savon Huggins, RB, Rutgers (SO)
Way too talented to be kept off the field. Is slated to split carries with Jamison.

Dominique Brown, RB, Louisville (JR)
Needs to break off bigger chunks but has chance to be feature back for top team.

Jarred Holley, S, Pitt (SR)
Does a bit of everything (67 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT) and is the leader of Panthers’ D.
 

Related: 2012 Athlon Sports Big East Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Big East Team Previews

Cincinnati Rutgers
Connecticut South Florida
Louisville Syracuse
Pittsburgh Temple

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Big East 2012 Heisman Contenders: The Way It Should Be</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-2012-heisman-contenders-way-it-should-be
Body:

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

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

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

The Big 12's Top 25 Heisman Trophy Contenders:

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia (SR)
The list of accolades for the Mountaineers' starting quarterback is already long and distinguished, yet he might be ready to add the most important award in college sports. He led the Big East in passer efficiency and total offense a year ago — finishing eighth nationally at 334.8 yards per game. His 4,385 passing yards were a school record and he might possess the strongest throwing arm in the nation. With a deep and talented skill corps, and play calling from offensive wizard Dana Holgorsen, Smith has a great shot at landing in New York come December.

2. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (SR)
There are plenty of question marks surrounding Jones the quarterback — like major statistical regression and a horrible road record. But the Sooner quarterback has as good a shot as any in the league to be Big Apple bound at year’s end. He is surrounded by the most talent of any team in the league and should be the leader of the Big 12 champions. Should Jones correct his road woes and produce another big statistical year, he very easily could land on Heisman ballots, and perhaps, in the national title game.

3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State (SR)
Klein won’t be able to sneak up on any defenses this time around after rolling up a sick 1,141 yards rushing and an NCAA-record 27 rushing touchdowns (by a QB). He added another 13 scoring strikes with 1,918 yards through the air while leading the Wildcats to the Cotton Bowl. What he lacks in pure passing ability he makes up for with grit and toughness. However, he may need to use his arm more in 2012 as coordinators are now prepared for his talented dual-threat skills.

4. Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State (JR)
He may not be built like a true three-down workhorse, but he certainly plays like it. Randle brings speed, power and pass-catching skills to one of the most explosive offenses in the country. With a new quarterback and rebuilt offensive line, it will difficult to top his 1,216 yards, 26 touchdowns or 43 receptions from last year. But if he can come close, Randle could earn his way to Manhattan.

5. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (SR)
Austin is one of the most dynamic and explosive play-makers in all of the nation. He set a school record with 101 receptions last year and led the nation in all-purpose yards (198.0 per game). In addition to his 101 catches (and 1,186 yards), the inside slot man rushed for 182 yards and a score to go with 938 kick return yards and 268 punt return yards. He finished with 11 total touchdowns and could be poised for a C.J. Spiller-type of season in Morgantown.

6. Alex Okafor, DE, Texas (SR)
This local product could be the top defensive end drafted come next April should things fall right for the Horns' defense in 2012. Okafor finished last season with 50 total tackles, 7.0 sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss as a junior. On what should easily be the top defensive unit in the Big 12, Okafor will be a huge part of any sort of Burnt Orange championship push.

7. Casey Pachall, QB, TCU (JR)
In his first season as the starter and only a sophomore, Pachall would have finished second in the league to only Robert Griffin III in passer efficiency (had he been in the Big 12). He had an outstanding 25:7 TD:INT rate and led his team to a conference championship in a “rebuilding” year. Sledding will be much tougher in the Big 12, but Pachall quickly proved he can be a big time quarterback.

8. Trey Millard, AP, Oklahoma (JR)
The physical fullback is one of the most valuable players on the Sooners' roster. He’s known more for lead blocking than getting touches (169 yards rushing, 127 receiving yards and three total touchdowns), so his 61-yard TD run versus Kansas State was a true highlight. Millard also led OU with 14 special-teams tackles and was voted first-team All-Big 12 by the league’s coaches for his all-around play. He may never be appreciated nationally the way he deserves and could be the best all-around football player on the Sooners roster.

9. Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia (JR)
Alongside teammate Austin, Bailey was also a first-team selection in 2011 and he is coming off of a school-record 1,279-yard campaign as a sophomore. He has played alongside his quarterback since his prep days in Miramar, Fla., and should be on the verge of national prominence this fall — if Austin and Ivan McCartney don’t take too many targets from him.

10. Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma (JR)
As the nation’s No. 1 "athlete" recruit two years ago, Jefferson has quietly turned into one of the most promising young defensive backs in the nation. He has played somewhat out of position (down more in the box) but it has allowed him to develop into a big hitter and sound tackler. He has the speed and athleticism to stabilize the backend of the maligned Sooner secondary from a year ago. With Mike Stoops and Tim Kish now coaching him up, Jefferson could be in for stardom this fall.

11. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas (JR)
Okafor may be one year ahead on the development curve, but the upside for this NFL legacy is sky-high. Jeffcoat is the No. 2 returning sack artist in the league with 8.0 sacks and will look to build on his team lead in the category.

12. Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma (JR)
This talented junior to be has all the tools needed to be an NFL receiver and is playing in one of the most quarterback-friendly schemes in the nation. He should only build on his 61-catch, 849-yard, 8-TD 2011 season now as the No. 1 target.

13. Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech (SR)
Has any player ever thrown for a quieter 400 completions, 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns like Doege (and it’s Day-Gee) did last fall? Technically, it was 32 touchdowns and 398 completions, but either way, Tech has a good one under center. Now, it just needs to win games (and any semblance of a defense would help).

14. Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas (SO)
The top running back prospect in the nation did as much to prove his mettle in year one as possible. He carried 172 times for 742 yards and five scores and should only get better — but will have to hold off a talented depth chart that is breathing down his neck.

15. Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State (SR)
It took him a few years and multiple zip codes but Brown has realized his All-American potential. The talented tackler should once again be the heart and soul of the KSU defense. A unit that must show improvement across the board if it wants to compete for a league title.

16. Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor (SR)
Williams is a future NFL star but without Griffin III throwing the ball and Kendall Wright distracting safeties, things will be more difficult for Baylor. But make no mistake, Williams has the talent to be an elite No. 1 target for the new Bears signal caller.

17. Kenny Vacarro, S, Texas (SR)
Versatile NFL prospect can cover in man and zone schemes with ease. Posted 67 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and 6.5 tackles for loss. He is the complete package.

18. Dominique Whaley, RB, Oklahoma (SR)
Health is really the only major concern for Whaley, who was off to an incredible start last year before being lost for the season in Week 6. He had nine scores and was averaging 130 yards from scrimmage per game. He could have a huge final year.

19. Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas (SO)
This Longhorn legacy proved that in one short year that he will be a special player. All he did as a freshman was lead his team in interceptions (4) and kick return yards. He posted 48 total tackles and 13 pass break-ups.

20. Eric Stephens, RB, Texas Tech (SR)
Much like Whaley, Stephens was off to a red-hot start before a serious knee injury sidelined him in the fifth game of the year. If healthy, Stephens should return to his torrid 2011 pace which featured 565 yards and eight touchdowns in five games.

21. Cyril Richardson, OL, Baylor (JR)
There is a logjam of talented blockers fighting for first-round NFL status and the massive Richardson, at 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds, is one of them. If Baylor can return to the postseason with a reworked offense, this guy could be the main reason.

22. A.J. Klein, LB, Iowa State (SR)
The Big 12’s No. 2 tackler (116) from a year ago claimed Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors and should be just as stout in 2012. No doubt Klein is eyeing his third straight 100-tackle season for the Cyclones.

23. Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State (SR)
One of the most physical players in the league, Knott should also be working towards his third straight 100-tackle season in Ames. Improved defensive line play would go a long way for both Klein and Knott.

24. Stansly Maponga, DL, TCU (JR)
Defensive end Stansly Maponga is a breakout star waiting to happen. The two-year starter led the Frogs with 13.5 tackles for a loss, nine sacks and forced five fumbles last season.

25. Johnathan Gray, RB, Texas (FR)
Freshman Johnathan Gray helped Aledo (Texas) win three Class 4A state titles while rushing for 10,908 yards and setting the national high school record for rushing touchdowns with 205.

Other Names to Watch

Trey Metoyer, WR, Oklahoma
Waymon James and Matthew Tucker, RB, TCU
Josh Boyce, WR, TCU
Jaxon Shipley, WR, Texas
Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas
Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech

Related: 2012 Athlon Sports Big 12 Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Previews

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

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Big 12 2012 Heisman Contenders: The Way It Should Be</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2012-heisman-contenders-way-it-should-be
Body:

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

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

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

The Big Ten's Top 25 Heisman Trophy Contenders:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Names to Watch:

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

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

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

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

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

Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Team Previews

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

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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

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

Related: Athlon Sports 2012 preseason All-SEC Teams

AC100: Athlon Consensus 100 prospect

All-SEC Preseason First-Team Offense:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All-SEC Preseason First-Team Defense:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Athlon's 2012 SEC Previews

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

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> SEC Football: 2012 Preseason All-Conference Team As Recruits</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 05:58
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2012-heisman-contenders-way-it-should-be
Body:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Names To Watch:

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

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

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

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

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

Related: 2012 Athlon Sports Pac-12 Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Pac-12 Team Previews

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

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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

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

Athlons Sports 2012 preseason All-Big 12 Teams

AC100: Athlon Consensus 100 prospect

All-Big 12 First-Team Offense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All-Big 12 First-Team Defense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Previews

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

Teaser:
<p> Big 12 2012 All-Conference Team As Recruits</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: waiver wire, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-june-18
Body:

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

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

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

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

The Waiver Wire

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

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

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

DL Watch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

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

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of last month:

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

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: June 18</p>
Post date: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 11:06
Path: /college-football/2012-sec-heisman-contenders-way-it-should-be
Body:

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

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

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

The SEC's Top 25 Heisman Trophy Contenders:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Names To Watch:

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

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

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

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

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

Related: 2012 Athlon Sports SEC Predictions

Athlon's 2012 SEC Previews

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

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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

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

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

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

The ACC's Top 25 Heisman Trophy Contenders:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Names to Watch:

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

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

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

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

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

Athlon's 2012 ACC Team Previews
 

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

Related: 2012 Athlon Sports ACC Predictions

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> 2012 ACC Heisman Contenders: The Way It Should Be</p>
Post date: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 05:59
All taxonomy terms: Minnesota Vikings, NFC, NFC North, NFL
Path: /nfl/minnesota-vikings-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.

Minnesota Vikings 2012 Schedule:

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

- Vikings fans should have plenty to cheer about in the first two weeks of the season. Opening with games against Jacksonville at home and on the road against the Colts provides Minnesota with a chance to start 2-0. The Jags defense will test Adrian Peterson’s reconstructed knee but Blaine Gabbert hardly scares anyone in purple. And rookie Andrew Luck will be making his first home start of his career while the Colts' defense won’t put up much of a fight against All-Day. Both are winnable and if the Vikes want to improve on their three wins from 2011, starting with at least one win will be key.

- Playing the NFC West is a blessing as well. With Arizona (Week 7), at Seattle (Week 9) and at St. Louis (Week 15) offering three of the few chances for the Vikings to get wins in 2012. Obviously, the home test against the Niners will be a tall order for Christian Ponder and company. The road trip to the Rams couldn’t come at a better time, either, as the last six games of the Vikings' 2012 slate is going to be downright vicious.

- That is because the Purple People Eaters will have to face Chicago twice, Green Bay twice and Houston in five of their final six games (Rams). And four of those six games will come on the road. Certainly, the Vikes play much better against the NFC North at home, but it is hard to see anything but 1-5 for Minnesota over the final month and a half.

- The NFC North might be the best division in the NFL and not getting to face the Vikings — because they ARE the Vikings — makes getting wins that much more difficult. Five of the final seven games will come within the division and all six division games could come against playoff teams. At one point, the horned warriors from the Twin Cities will face four straight NFC North teams (Week 10 to Week 14), including road trips to Soldier and Lambeau Field. Finishing the season with Green Bay at home following a road trip to Houston is about as tough a finish as there is in the NFL.

- As tough as the end of the schedule looks, the heart of 2012 could offer a few chances at victory. Following two tough bouts with the 49ers and Lions in Week 3 and 4, the Vikes play five straight teams that did not make the playoff last fall. All five could be improved but if Leslie Frazier expects to show improvement, his squad will have to make waves in the middle of the year.

- Additionally, should the Vikings improve on their three-win season a year ago, it is likely to assume a win or two in the pair of floating NFC games. Minnesota will face two “last-place teams” in Washington (road) and Tampa Bay (home) this fall. These have to be looked at as opportunities. 

Fantasy Focus: All eyes will undoubtedly be on Adrian Peterson at the start of this season as the Vikings' All-Pro running back will be returning from a torn ACL he suffered in Week 16 last season. Peterson promises he will be ready to go Week 1, but even if he is able to make it back to the field, fantasy owners need to be patient with him. Besides coming back from a serious knee injury that required extensive surgery and rehabilitation, the schedule is filled with some potentially tough match ups for Peterson and his backup, Toby Gerhart. Yes, the Vikings have Tampa Bay, who gave up the most fantasy points to running backs in 2011, along with Indianapolis (3rd-most) and Tennessee (6th), among their first eight games of the season. However, they also have San Francisco, who allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs in 2011, in Week 3. Jacksonville, who Minnesota opens the 2012 season against, allowed the 10th-fewest, and Arizona (11th-fewest), Detroit (13th) and Washington (14th) also ranked among the top 16 stingiest teams in that respect.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Order your 2012 Minnesota Vikings 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> Minnesota Vikings 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Friday, June 15, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC East, Washington Redskins, NFL
Path: /nfl/washington-redskins-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.

Washington Redskins 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at New Orleans
Week 2: at St. Louis
Week 3: Cincinnati
Week 4: at Tampa Bay
Week 5: Atlanta
Week 6: Minnesota
Week 7: at New York Giants
Week 8: at Pittsburgh
Week 9: Carolina
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: Philadelphia
Week 12: at Dallas (Thur.)
Week 13: New York Giants (Mon.)
Week 14: Baltimore
Week 15: at Cleveland
Week 16: at Philadelphia
Week 17: Dallas

- Starting the season on the road against (what should be) Drew Brees and the Saints will be tough for the rebuilding, rookie-led Redskins. But a closer look at the defenses reveals the first six contests could be manageable for Robert Griffin III. No, I am not calling for wins, but only the Bengals should provide any sort of defensive resistance in the first six weeks.

- Hopefully those first six games will get RG3 enough experience, because Week 6 and 7 provide two of the nastiest road trips in football. Back-to-back visits to the defending champs and Pittsburgh will make for a rude awakening.

- Following the bye week (Week 10), the Skins will enter the toughest four-game stretch of the year. This is good news because of the timing of the off-week. However, facing the Eagles then Dallas four days later on the road before hosting the Giants and Ravens in consecutive weeks is about as brutal a run as there is in the league. Both the rival Cowboys and Giants will come on primetime slots on Thursday and Monday respectively.

- Playing in the East was going to be tough for Washington regardless of how the opponents are scheduled. But the NFL did them no favors as five of the final seven games will come within the NFC East. Aside from the trip north to face the defending Super Bow Champs in Week 7, most of the East will be determined in the final month and a half. Three straight divisional games (Week 11 to Week 13) will be tough enough with the regional rival Ravens looming in Week 14. Then the season wraps-up with back-to-back divisional games: at Phily and Dallas at home.

- Facing the AFC North this year will hurt the Skins' case for improvement as it could be the toughest division in the AFC this season. A road trip to the Steel City will be nasty and a late season trip to Cleveland is winnable but could be filled with weather concerns (in Week 15). Hosting Baltimore on the Parkway will be fun for fans — until they look at the scoreboard. Hosting Cincinnati in Week 3 will be a huge indicator of Mike Shanahan’s current level of development. Should they beat the Bengals, a playoff team from last year, fans will have a reason to be optimistic in 2012.

- Within the NFC, Washington will face the NFC South, all of which will take place before the bye week on Week 10. The season opens with a trip to NOLA before a Week 4 visit to the New Sombrero in Tampa. A tough match-up with Matt Ryan and Atlanta in Week 5 and an equally intriguing Cam Newton-Robert Griffin III showdown against Carolina (Week 9) gives the Redskins four NFC South games in their first nine contests.

- The two floating games for 2012 will be a blessing for Hog Heads everywhere. A road trip to St. Louis in Week 2 and a home game against Minnesota in Week 6 offer up two great chances for wins this fall. If the Skins want to improve in 2012, wins over the Vikes and Rams will be imperative.

Fantasy Focus: Despite the difficulty of predicting Shanahan’s workload tendencies, Redskins’ offensive players should face few speed bumps in the first six weeks of the season. The Bengals offer the toughest defense over that span, so sell your Skins high before they hit the Pittsburgh, NY Giants, Eagles, Cowboys, Giants, Ravens run of mid-to-late season. 

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Order your 2012 Washington Redskins 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> Washington Redskins 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 06:05
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC West, Denver Broncos, NFL
Path: /nfl/denver-broncos-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.

Denver Broncos 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Pittsburgh
Week 2: at Atlanta (Mon.)
Week 3: Houston
Week 4: Oakland
Week 5: at New England
Week 6: at San Diego (Mon.)
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: New Orleans
Week 9: at Cincinnati
Week 10: at Carolina
Week 11: San Diego
Week 12: at Kansas City
Week 13: Tampa Bay
Week 14: at Oakland (Thur.)
Week 15: at Baltimore
Week 16: Cleveland
Week 17: Kansas City

Order your 2012 Denver Broncos Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Peyton Manning likely analyzed offensive lines, receiving corps, home field advantages, coaching staffs and front offices when making his decision on where to play football in 2012. But the schedule could not possibly have been one of the facets to his choice of the Broncos. There might not be a tougher start to the season than what Denver will deal with this fall. The first five weeks feature four playoff teams, including what could be the top three teams in the AFC (PIT, HOU, NE). In fact, of the first eight games, six will come against playoff teams from a year ago — and that doesn’t include San Diego. The only comfort is that Manning will get three of his first four games at home in Mile High.

- And in case any football fan out there forgot, on Opening Weekend the Steelers will be returning to the scene of the crime last year when Tim Tebow miraculously upset the Steel Curtain on Wild card Weekend.

- Manning and the Orange Crush will be featured prominently, rightly so, on national TV plenty in 2012. However, all three non-Sunday games will take place on the road. A week 2 trip to Atlanta and Week 6 visit to San Diego will be Monday Night showcases while the late-season division road trip to Oakland takes place on a Thursday night.

- The NFC West would not only be easier on the win-loss column but as well as the travel schedule, but playing the NFC South isn’t all that daunting. A road trip to Atlanta in Week 2 will be brutal but hosting New Orleans and Tampa Bay isn’t all that scary. It will be the first time Manning has faced the Saints since his Super Bowl loss. And the storylines for the Broncos-Panthers 1:00 PM ET kickoff in Carolina are too juicy not to appreciate. Manning vs. Cam? John Fox returns to BOA Stadium? What’s not to like?

- Along with an first weekend bout with Pittsburgh, the Orange Stallions will have to face the rest of the AFC North – also known as the best division in the AFC. Road trips to Cincinnati (Week 9) and particularly Baltimore (Week 15) will carry heavy AFC playoff implications.

- The division schedule is evenly spaced out over the course of the year. With the exception of three AFC West tests in four weeks from Week 11 to Week 14 (which will be a key playoff stretch for all teams involved), there are divisional games in each quarter of the season for Denver this year.

- The great news for Fox and Manning is the overall finish to the season. If the first two months will be filled with potential playoff match-ups, the final six games could give the division crown to the Broncos. Other than a road trip to Baltimore, Denver will play five non-playoff teams that could easily all be wins. Kansas City (twice), Tampa Bay, Oakland and Cleveland gives Denver a great shot at locking down the West for the second straight year. Especially, considering the final two games of the year are against the Browns and Chiefs — both at home.

- Notably absent from the schedule is the one game every fan in every city would like to see obviously: Denver and Indianapolis. Not to worry, the AFC West will face the AFC South next year.

Fantasy Focus: With an offense trying to get acclimated to a new quarterback, the start to the 2012 season could be very bumpy for the Broncos. Look for this offense to explode following the bye week (Week 7) and provide huge second-half numbers. Don't reach on Broncos early in the draft, but target them as the first two months play out.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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> Denver Broncos 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 06:05
All taxonomy terms: Green Bay Packers, NFC, NFC North, NFL
Path: /nfl/green-bay-packers-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.

Green Bay Packers 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: San Francisco
Week 2: Chicago (Thur.)
Week 3: at Seattle (Mon.)
Week 4: New Orleans
Week 5: at Indianapolis
Week 6: at Houston
Week 7: at St. Louis
Week 8: Jacksonville
Week 9: Arizona
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: at Detroit
Week 12: at New York Giants
Week 13: Minnesota
Week 14: Detroit
Week 15: at Chicago
Week 16: Tennessee
Week 17: at Minnesota

- The kickoff to the 2012 season will be what many Packers fans believed would be an epic NFC Championship game showdown last year. The Giants obviously thwarted any dreams of a 49ers-Packers title game battle, but these two fanbases will get a shot to start their revenge tour in style. The late Sunday afternoon game on FOX will feature what could be the top two teams in the NFC — with home field advantage potentially determined on Opening Weekend.

- Green Bay then has to deal with an incredibly short week when it welcomes the arch-rival Bears to town on Thursday night. So four days after facing Patrick Willis and Company, Aaron Rodgers will have to deal with Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers and the rest of the Monsters of the Midway. Those could be the top two defenses in the NFC in 2012 and the Packers will face them right out of the gate with a short week of preparation.

- The long trip west to battle Seattle in Week 3 provides the second primetime match-up in three weeks. The Packers will have 11 days to prepare for the Monday night tilt with the Seahawks after their Thursday night bout with the Bears.

- Three of the first four games of the season will be played on the not-yet-frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. However, three straight road games from Week 5 to Week 7 make up for the home-road imbalance. Getting three December home games in four weeks could provide the cold weather home field advantage most Packers fans would prefer.

- There are two small breaks in the round-robin rotation. First, the NFC West will play the NFC North — giving three potential playoff teams from the North a collection of “easy (-er)” games with Arizona, St. Louis and Seattle. It will likely be the worst division in the NFC again this year. Green Bay will have played all four teams from the West by Week 9.

- In crossover play, the Packers get the AFC South. While this creates a brutal road trip to Houston which could be a potential Super Bowl preview, it also means the Jaguars, Colts and Titans are on the schedule as well. Much like the NFC West, this division provides two easy games, one modest test and one physical, nasty throwdown.

- With the exception of the Week 2 Thursday night match-up with Chicago at home, the Packers will play every divisional game post-bye week (Week 10). In fact, four of the final five games of the season will come against NFC North teams. The seven-game stretch to finish the season is not only going to be trying, but could determine a huge chunk of the seeding for the playoffs. Green Bay starts its second half with nasty road trips to the Lions and the Giants. Nothing needs to be said about the storylines of a trip to the New Meadowlands. Green Bay will wrap-up its ’12 season with two road division games and a home game against Tennessee. With the Lions, Giants and Bears (which certainly isn't Kansas anymore) pushing for NFC playoff bids, fans can expect some big-time fireworks in the final seven weeks.

- The two floating games of the 2012 season are New Orleans at home in Week 4 and the Week 12 road trip to the face the Super Bowl champs. Certainly, not many teams will play these type of floating games — and rightly so, considering the Packers might be the preseason favorite to win the NFC. So for two years in a row, the Cheeseheads will host the Saints and visit the Giants.

Fantasy Focus: Many believe James Starks could have a breakout 2012 campaign, but be sure to have other options early in the season. San Francisco, Chicago and Houston provide must-bench weekends for most running games and Green Bay will face all three in the first six weeks of the season. That said, the fantasy-rich passing game should be on cruise control after Week 2.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Order your 2012 Green Bay Packers 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> Green Bay Packers 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 06:01
Path: /college-football/aj-mccarron-vs-tyrann-mathieu-twitter-war
Body:

As if the LSU-Alabama college football rivalry needed any more fuel. 

Monday brought the next chapter in the Bayou Bengals-Crimson Tide SEC epic narrative. Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron and LSU's Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu not only went head-to-head twice last year on the field, with McCarron getting the last laugh, but the two stars have moved their duel to cyberspace. 

The two Athlon Sports coverboys started running their yaps on twitter. To quote McCarron, "this should fuel everything and more now."

It was highly entertaining — unless your name happens to be Saban or Miles, of course. In fact, it looks like someone in both athletic departments got to the two stars to shut them up before it got too out of hand. They both ended the conversation about the same time.

Here is how it all went down:

 

 

 


 

A.J. immediately countered...

 

 

 


 

Honey Badger decided to tell the BCS MVP that it wasn't him who won the title...

 

 

 


 

 

And McCarron was happy to agree...

 

 

 


 

 

Mathieu is clearly ready for November 3...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just called you to the mat Honey Badger. Did you hear him?

 

 


 

 

Alabama wideout Kenny Bell had no problem jumping into the mix...

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

McCarron got the final word — as the defending National Championship Game MVP should:

 

 

 

 


Anyone else excited about Death Valley, November 3, 2012?

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> A.J. McCarron vs. Tryann Mathieu: Twitter War</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 13:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, waiver wire, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-june-11
Body:

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

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (6/4-6/10):

  Name Team Pos. R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Torii Hunter* LAA OF 10 4 10 1 .500 1.605
2. Mike Trout LAA OF 10 0 4 4 .520 1.167
3. Alfonso Soriano* CHC OF 7 4 9 0 .357 1.257
4. Norichika Aoki* MIL OF 9 2 2 3 .375 1.214
5. Jason Kubel* ARI OF 6 2 12 0 .409 1.253
6. Mark Trumbo LAA 1/3/OF 5 4 12 0 .292 1.203
7. Dan Uggla ATL 2B 8 3 9 0 .316 1.342
8. Ben Revere* MIN OF 6 0 3 4 .458 1.022
9. Russell Martin* NYY C 4 4 8 0 .368 1.453
10. Neil Walker* PIT 2B 5 1 6 3 .360 .905
11. Colby Rasmus* TOR OF 7 2 7 0 .379 1.055
12. Allen Craig STL 1/2/OF 7 2 7 0 .357 .990
13. Ben Zobrist TB 2B/OF 6 2 6 1 .348 1.053
14. Ryan Theriot* SF 2B/SS 3 0 6 4 .367 .839
15. Michael Bourn ATL OF 5 1 4 1 .500 1.305
16. Albert Pujols LAA 1B 7 1 7 0 .400 1.174
17. Tyler Colvin* COL OF 4 3 5 0 .600 2.236
18. Scott Hairston* NYM OF 5 2 3 2 .400 1.338
19. Paul Goldschmidt ARI 1B 4 2 5 1 .421 1.395
20. Robinson Cano NYY 2B 4 3 5 0 .409 1.299
21. Seth Smith* OAK OF 3 1 5 1 .550 1.491
22. Jose Altuve HOU 2B 6 1 4 1 .407 1.096
23. Jason Heyward ATL OF 6 2 4 1 .333 1.078
24. Trevor Plouffe* MIN 2/3/SS/OF 5 3 6 0 .304 1.143
25. Jason Kipnis CLE 2B 5 1 5 2 .320 .913

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Summer Farm Waiver Wire Adds

Trevor Bauer's name is widely known as the former UCLA Bruin who will be in Arizona sometime very soon. But there are plenty of other names who could be contributing to your fantasy club in a matter of weeks — or days. Kansas City catcher-turned-outfielder Wil Myers has been crushing the ball —try 20 HRs in 225 at-bats at two levels to go along with a .342/.404/.724 line. He will help with your power numbers instantly and has "C" eligibility even though he will play in the outfield. Anthony Rizzo is back dominating the box score again. He now has 20 bombs with a .363 average in 215 at-bats at Triple-A Iowa. With Alfonso Soriano elevating his stock at the moment, the Cubs would be smart to move the inconsistent outfielder in order to get Rizzo to the Northside. Reds future shortstop Billy Hamilton is hitting .320 with 71 stolen bases in 60 games. No, that isn't a typo. If you need speed, keep a very sharpe eye on the Bakersfield prospect. Career .300 hitter Nolan Arenado could help Colorado today at third base and could help a shallow fantasy position once he is called up. Toronto catcher Travis D'Arnaud might be the hottest prospect in all of baseball — currently hitting .332 with 13 homers at Triple-A Las Vegas. He is also better defensively than J.P. Arencibia. Seattle parted with Michael Pineda so easily because of their pitching depth on the farm. Last year's first rounder, Danny Hultzen, has made 12 professional starts and already has little to prove at Doube-A Jackson. In 70.1 innings, he has a nasty 1.28 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 75 strikeouts. The Padres' two-sacker Jedd Gyorko is close to making it to the show as well, as he is hitting .366 since being elevated to Triple-A. And the Fathers could use any offensive help they can get.

DL Watch

- The Braves have had weird issues with Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann of late, but Tim Hudson and Dan Uggla are the two to watch now. Both are dealing with an ankle issue. Hudson was scratched from his start on Sunday because of it and is now scheduled to take the mound on Wednesday against the Yankees. Uggla is questionable for tonight's series opener.

- BREAKING: Brian Roberts might be playing baseball this week! He is on Triple-A rehab assignment and could be back with the Orioles as early as Tuesday.

- Drew Stubbs is out until at least Tuesday with an oblique strain. Keep an eye on this one.

- Dayan Viciedo and Yoenis Cespedes both were swinging a hot stick until balky hamstrings brought them both to a screeching halt. Both have responded to treatment but they might not be ready to return just yet. Melky Cabrera is also dealing with his own hammy problem as he is questionable for Tuesday's game against Houston.

- Carlos Zambrano got rocked by the Rays his last time out and is now listed as questionable for his start on Friday — against the Rays.

- Nelson Cruz (Achilles) and Alexi Ogando (groin) are both questionable for their next starts — Tuesday against Arizona for Nellie and Saturday against Houston for Ogando.

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Chris Sale CHW 24.1 3 30 1.11 0.66
2. R.A. Dickey NYM 16.1 2 17 0.00 0.80
3. Matt Harrison* TEX 23.2 3 12 1.90 0.80
4. Brandon Morrow TOR 15.1 2 13 0.59 0.65
5. Stephen Strasburg WAS 13.0 2 22 1.38 0.77
6. Clay Buchholz* BOS 17.0 2 13 1.06 0.76
7. Ian Kennedy ARI 13.2 2 19 0.66 0.95
8. Shaun Marcum MIL 19.2 3 23 2.29 1.12
9. Matt Cain SF 15.0 2 16 0.60 1.00
10. A.J. Burnett* PIT 19.1 3 17 2.33 1.03
11. Zack Greinke MIL 13.0 2 19 0.69 1.08
12. Drew Hutchison* TOR 20.1 2 21 2.66 0.98
13. David Price TB 12.1 2 13 0.73 1.05
14. Ryan Vogelsong* SF 21.2 2 14 1.66 1.06
15. James McDonald PIT 18.0 2 15 2.00 1.00
16. Chad Billingsly* LAD 20.0 2 19 2.70 1.00
17. Hiroki Kuroda* NYY 14.0 1 11 1.29 0.71
18. Francisco Liriano* MIN 17.2 1 23 2.55 0.96
19. C.J. Wilson LAA 14.0 1 14 0.64 1.00
20. Ubaldo Jimanez* CLE 13.2 1 11 1.32 0.80

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

1. Ryan Vogelsong, SF: at Seattle (Fri.)
Has been on a nasty tear the last two weeks: 2 W, 14 K, 1.66, 1.06

2. Jarrod Parker, OAK: San Diego (Fri.)
If you can handle a few walks, Parker should contribute nicely against the Fathers.

3. Andy Pettitte, NYY: at Washington (Sat.)
Has been AP of old: Nearly a K/IP and 4+ K/BB ratio. Will get wins if healthy.

4. Alex Cobb, TB: New York Mets (Tues.)
Held his own against steller offenses in four starts: NYY, BOS, CHW and ATL.

5. Hiroki Kuroda, NYY: at Atlanta (Wed.)
Posted tasty 14.0 IP, 2 W, 11 K, 1.29 ERA and 0.71 WHIP over last two weeks.

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of last month:

  Name Team IP W SV K HLD ERA WHIP
1. Joel Hanrahan PIT 13.1 2 11 14 0 1.35 0.90
2. Aroldis Chapman CIN 15.1 1 6 28 3 1.76 0.78
3. Tyler Clippard* WAS 13.1 0 8 16 3 0.68 0.60
4. Craig Kimbrel ATL 10.0 0 7 14 0 0.00 0.30
5. Kenley Jansen LAD 11.0 2 7 15 0 1.64 0.82
6. Ernesto Frieri* LAA 13.2 0 4 27 3 0.00 0.73
7. Fernando Rodney TB 13.0 0 9 12 0 1.38 0.77
8. Jim Johnson BAL 13.1 1 8 4 0 2.02 0.60
9. Chris Perez CLE 10.2 0 9 12 0 0.84 0.84
10. Santiago Casilla SF 13.0 1 10 11 1 1.38 1.31
11. Joe Nathan TEX 12.0 0 5 15 0 0.75 0.58
12. Jonathan Papelbon PHI 12.1 0 7 15 0 1.46 0.89
13. Sergio Romo* SF 9.0 1 3 15 5 1.00 0.44
14. Brayan Villarreal* DET 14.2 3 0 23 0 1.84 1.09
15. Tim Collins* KC 12.1 1 0 20 2 0.00 0.81
16. J.J. Putz ARI 10.0 1 7 10 0 1.80 1.10
17. Matt Capps* MIN 11.1 1 8 8 0 2.38 1.15
18. Charlie Furbush* SEA 12.0 0 0 14 1 0.75 0.25
19. Alfredo Aceves BOS 17.0 0 8 16 0 3.71 0.94
20. Jose Valverde DET 10.2 1 6 6 0 2.53 0.75

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: June 11</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 09:54
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC East, New England Patriots, NFL
Path: /nfl/new-england-patriots-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 England Patriots 2012 Schedule:

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

Order your 2012 New England Patriots Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- The first thing that stands out about the Patriots 2012 schedule are the road trips early on. The season begins with three of the first four — and four of the first six — games taking place away from Foxborough. Even tougher are the opponents as the Titans, Bills and Ravens (the first three road games) should all be around or above .500 on the season. Additionally, the fourth road trip in six weeks will happen over 3,000 miles away in Seattle. Sprinkle-in a developing Broncos and Cardinals defense and the first month and a half will provide plenty of speed bumps for Tom Brady and company.

- Three of the final four games of the year will come at home for Bill Belichick. Which is good news considering Houston, San Francisco and Miami are coming to town. The Texans game could be a preview of the AFC championship game and the winner of that contest will likely claim home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

- The Pats got one big break in the scheduling department by facing the NFC West in crossover play this fall. A home game against San Francisco could be a Super Bowl preview in Week 15 but should have little impact on the final standings or seedings in either league. Road games to Seattle and St. Louis, while long, shouldn’t be arduous while a home game against Arizona won’t press the Pats either. A 4-0 record is easily within reach while anything worse than 3-1 would be disappointing.

- Despite tough games against Houston and Tennessee on the road, playing the AFC South is a nice break. Jacksonville and Indianapolis are as near-locks for victory as it gets in the NFL and the Titans game happens in Week 1. The Titans could be a quality team in 2012 but will be a much better squad come the second half of the year. The implications of the Houston game have been well covered.

- The Patriots have the easiest schedule in the AFC East since they don’t have to face the, uh, Patriots. Road trips to Buffalo and New York certainly won’t be gimmies, but there is no doubt that the division is New England’s to lose. It finishes with three division games in the final six weeks — including back-to-back road games in Week 12 (NY Jets) and Week 13 (Miami).

- The two floating games are not going to be easy for the Pats as both could be playoff previews. A trip to Baltimore in Week 3 provides a rematch of the AFC Championship game from a year ago while Denver at home in Week 5 will be another chapter in the historic Manning-Brady rivalry. These two will be must-see TV.

- By Braden Gall

@bradengall

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 England Patriots 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 07:02
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC West, San Diego Chargers, NFL
Path: /nfl/san-diego-chargers-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.

San Diego Chargers 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Oakland (Mon.)
Week 2: Tennessee
Week 3: Atlanta
Week 4: at Kansas City
Week 5: at New Orleans
Week 6: Denver (Mon.)
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: at Cleveland
Week 9: Kansas City (Thur.)
Week 10: at Tampa Bay
Week 11: at Denver
Week 12: Baltimore
Week 13: Cincinnati
Week 14: at Pittsburgh
Week 15: Carolina
Week 16: at New York Jets
Week 17: Oakland

Order your 2012 San Diego Chargers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Fans have to go back to 2007 to find the last time that Week 1 of the NFL season didn’t end with an AFC West Monday night divisional showdown. The Chargers will begin the season on primetime TV as the second Monday night game by visiting the Raiders. As a fan without a dog in the hunt, I am a huge proponent of the late night West Coast divisional battles to wrap-up the season’s first weekend. The last three have been decided by one touchdown or less with a grand total of 14 points separating victory from defeat.

- The off week is located in Week 7 and should provide a nice respite from the relatively tough first six weeks of the season — that will feature Matt Ryan, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Carson Palmer. However, after resting up, the Chargers should make a big playoff push over the next three weeks. Cleveland, Kansas City — which will feature short rest on a Thursday — and Tampa Bay provide the easiest three-game stretch of the year.

- The divisional slate will be fun to watch this year, and not simply because the AFC West could be wide open. San Diego will play five of its first 11 games within the division — three of which won’t be played on a Sunday. The Chargers will wrap-up the year with a home division game with the Raiders.

- The AFC North will be the AFC round-robin for the Bolts this season. Not an easy draw. A road trip to Cleveland isn’t daunting following the bye week, but three straight games against AFC North playoff teams will be. From Week 12 to Week 14, the Super Chargers will play three Super Bowl contenders in Baltimore, Cincinnati and at Pittsburgh — an odd scheduling twist. Having to visit fellow AFC foes Pittsburgh and New York in the final four weeks of the year won’t be easy.

- There are much worse divisions to face from the NFC than the South (like the North or the East). And the Chargers will get the two tough tests — Atlanta and at New Orleans — out of the way within the first five weeks of the season. This give the Bolts Tampa Bay and Carolina for the second half of the season.

- The home-road schedule doesn’t offer any unique scheduling twists for the Bolts. There are only four truly lengthy trips across the country — at Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and New York. Road games at Denver, Kansas City, Oakland and New Orleans are not as long as the others. And the final playoff push could provide some home-cooking for Norv Turner and Company. Four of the final six games will come at home, including potential wild card showdowns against Baltimore, Cincinnati and Oakland.

- The two floating games for San Diego fit their level of expectation perfectly. While a team like Baltimore must face New England and Houston and a team like the Colts must face Kansas City and Cleveland. Getting the Titans and Jets, two teams that missed the playoffs but were in contention late in 2011, provides appropriate wild card competition for a team like San Diego.

Fantasy Focus: Philip Rivers turned the ball over entirely too much a year ago and fans can bet he won't play nearly as poorly in 2012. And the start to his schedule helps. While there are some potentially "okay" fantasy defenses on the schedule (Tennessee, Denver), the first nine games of the year provide plenty of "must-start" situations for Rivers, Ryan Mathews, Antonio Gates, etc. All Chargers might be moving up my draft board.

- By Braden Gall

@bradengall

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> San Diego Chargers 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Friday, June 8, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC North, Cleveland Browns, NFL
Path: /nfl/cleveland-browns-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.

Cleveland Browns 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Philadelphia
Week 2: at Cincinnati
Week 3: Buffalo
Week 4: at Baltimore
Week 5: at New York Giants
Week 6: Cincinnati
Week 7: at Indianapolis
Week 8: San Diego
Week 9: Baltimore
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: at Dallas
Week 12: Pittsburgh
Week 13: at Oakland
Week 14: Kansas City
Week 15: Washington
Week 16: at Denver
Week 17: at Pittsburgh

Order your 2012 Cleveland Browns Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- The Cleveland Browns have easily the toughest divisional schedule in the AFC. This, of course, is due in large part to the division in which they reside. The AFC North has three potential playoff teams and two perennial Super Bowl contenders. And since the Browns don’t get to face the, uh, Browns twice every year, it makes their AFC North schedule harder than any other team’s in the division. To make matters worse, the North round-robin begins with two road games within the first four weeks of the season. The only comfort for the Dawg Pound is that, following trips to Baltimore and Cincy, three of the final four games within the North will be played on the banks of Lake Erie.

- Interestingly enough, by game nine, the Browns will have played the Bengals and the Ravens twice. And by game 11, only a road trip to the hated Steelers in the season finale will remain on the divisional slate.

- Two rookies will be lined up behind the center this fall as quarterback Brandon Weeden and tailback Trent Richardson will usher in a new era of Browns football. But Pat Shurmur shouldn’t expect too much from the first-round duo right out of the gate. The first six games are against potentially elite-level defenses. The Giants, Ravens and Bengals units speak for themselves but the Eagles' and Bills' front-sevens should be dramatically improved in 2012. Best of luck rooks.

- The Browns will have the unfortunate task of battling the NFC East in crossover play this season as there are no easy outs and three potential playoffs teams residing in the East. Washington at home is a potential win for a team that claimed victory only four times a year ago. But road trips to New Jersey to square-off against the defending champion Giants and a jaunt down to the biggest football stadium in the world to take on the Cowboys loom extremely large. Additionally, facing the Eagles at home on opening weekend is interesting because the two teams will have played two weeks earlier in the third, and most normal looking, preseason game. There will be plenty of familiarity between these coaching staffs when the season kicks off in Browns Stadium.

- The Browns will face the AFC West this fall in intra-conference action. Strangely enough, three of the four contests will take place in a four-week period of time from Week 13 to Week 16. Cross-country trips to Oakland and Denver sandwich a pair of home games against Kansas City and the Redskins. The Chargers come calling in Week 8.

- There isn’t anything special about the home-road splits for the Browns in 2012. Three of the first five are on the road while, more depressingly, the final two games of the year will be on the road against Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. This does mean, however, that the heart of the 2012 season will be filled with home games — six in nine games to be exact.

- For a team trying desperately to win more than five games for the first time since 2007, the two floating games offer some comfort. A home game against the Bills in Week 3 is a winnable game and a road trip to Indianapolis in Week 7 is even easier. Nothing is a sure thing with Cleveland, but these are two games Shurmur and company likely have circled as opportunities.

- The bye week feels like it is perfectly situated to best aid the Browns' rebuilding project in 2012. Following two brutal home games against the Chargers and Ravens, Cleveland will get some time to recoup before traveling to Big D and then hosting rival Pittsburgh. With nine games before and seven after, the off-week should give this team a halftime break that many other teams won’t enjoy.

Fantasy Focus: Trent Richardson is creeping into the back-end of the first round, and while I love his raw talents and upside long term, there will be plenty of growing pains early in his rookie year. The same goes for Weeden too. See the first six games of the season about six paragraphs up from here.

@bradengall

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> Cleveland Browns 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 7, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Dallas Cowboys, NFC, NFC East, NFL
Path: /nfl/dallas-cowboys-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.

Dallas Cowboys 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at New York Giants (Wed.)
Week 2: at Seattle
Week 3: Tampa Bay
Week 4: Chicago (Mon.)
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: at Baltimore
Week 7: at Carolina
Week 8: New York Giants
Week 9: at Atlanta
Week 10: at Philadelphia
Week 11: Cleveland
Week 12: Washington (Thur.)
Week 13: Philadelphia
Week 14: at Cincinnati
Week 15: Pittsburgh
Week 16: New Orleans
Week 17: at Washington

Order your 2012 Dallas Cowboys Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- The season will get started with a bang as Dallas visits the defending champs on Wednesday night in the New Meadowlands. It’s a return to the scene of the 2011 season finale where the Giants crushed the Cowboys' postseason hopes in a 31-14 dismantling that eventually propelled the G-Men to a Super Bowl championship.

- The home and road splits for the Cowboys might be the most intriguing of any team in the league for 2012. First, Dallas will start with back-to-back road games over 3,000 miles apart. Of course, having the 11 days between games helps. Second, from Week 6 to Week 10, the Cowboys will play four road games in five weeks, including road trips to Baltimore, Atlanta and Phily. In fact, of Dallas’ first nine games, six will be played away from Cowboys Stadium.

- The script will be flipped in the second half, however, as Dallas gets plenty of home cooking after Week 9. The Cowboys will play five of their final seven games in Jerry’s Palace in Arlington. This slate includes brutal playoff-type games against Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Philadelphia as well as two rivalry games with Washington. This lopsided home-road slate seems unique to the Cowboys. Can we start the Roger Goodell is trying to get Dallas into the playoffs conspiracy talk?

- Within the NFC, the East will square-off with the South. Road trips to Carolina and Atlanta will be intriguing tests as both feature stellar quarterback play. Getting the Saints at home in Week 16 could easily decide a Wild Card spot as both should be fighting for a playoff berth. Tampa at home in Week 3 will be a welcome sight as it will be the home opener in 2012.

- In crossover play with the AFC, the Cowboys — and the rest of the East — catch no breaks by facing the AFC North. Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are all playoff teams from a year ago and Cleveland should be improved. The road trip to Baltimore in early October follows the bye and could be a classic bout while heading north to Cincinnati in December is always tricky. After surviving the elements in Cincy, the Cowboys welcome perennial Super Bowl contender Pittsburgh to town.

- The bye week, while possibly earlier than most coaches would prefer in Week 5, offers a perfect two-week prep time for one of the nastiest five-week stretches in all of the NFL. Dallas will play four road games in five weeks immediately following the off week. Oh, and the lone home game in that stretch? A visit from the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants.

- The two floating games will be the road trip to Seattle and a primetime Monday night affair with Chicago. The Bears game could have long-reaching Wild Card implications while the road trip to Seattle will be a rematch of that infamous Tony Romo botched field goal.

Fantasy Focus: The home-road schedule is easily the biggest thing that stands out about the Cowboys' 2012 slate. If the 'Boys struggle in the first half, don't be scared to buy low as five of the final six games of the fantasy season (not counting Week 17) will be played on the fast track of Cowboys Stadium.

@bradengall

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:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC North, Baltimore Ravens, NFL
Path: /nfl/baltimore-ravens-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.

Baltimore Ravens 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Cincinnati (Mon.)
Week 2: at Philadelphia
Week 3: New England
Week 4: Cleveland (Thur.)
Week 5: at Kansas City
Week 6: Dallas
Week 7: at Houston
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: at Cleveland
Week 10: Oakland
Week 11: at Pittsburgh
Week 12: at San Diego
Week 13: Pittsburgh
Week 14: at Washington
Week 15: Denver
Week 16: New York Giants
Week 17: at Cincinnati

Order your 2012 Baltimore Ravens Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- The first three weeks of the 2012 season will be difficult for the Ravens to say the least. The year gets cranked up with a primetime Monday night affair with playoff team and division rival Cincinnati before a road trip to Phily and a home game against the New England Patriots. All three passing games should challenge the young corners and aging safeties of the Ravens. The good news? Three of the first four games of the year will come at home.

- Within the division, the Ravens' slate is somewhat unorthodox. Two of the first four games of the year will be home division games to be played on days other than Sunday. The Bengals' opener is on Monday night while the Week 4 contest against Cleveland is on Thursday night. That creates a very quick turn around after having to battle Tom Brady. It also means that four of the final six divisional games will be on the road, including the season finale against the Bengals. The season series with arch-rival Pittsburgh will also be intriguing. These two play some of the best games each and every year and Baltimore will face the Steelers twice in three weeks as the calendar flips to December. Making matters worse is a long road trip to San Diego slapped in between the two AFC North bouts.

- In NFC play, the Ravens will face the NFC East, creating more than one interesting match-up. The road game against the Eagles will be tough sandwiched between two key AFC contests. The Cowboys will come to town in mid-October. Baltimore also gets to welcome the defending Super Bowl champs to town in Week 16. And lastly, an inter-regional battle along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway should be fun for both fan bases. There are more than plenty juicy storylines in this round robin.

- In the AFC, Baltimore will play the AFC West this year. A raod trip to Kansas City and a home test against Oakland look like wins for the Ravens. The Broncos game at M&T Bank could be a Wildcard showdown in Week 15. And the extremely taxing cross-country trip to visit the always tricky Chargers is amplified by the fact that the Ravens must face the Steelers the week prior to and following the trip to San Diego. Both divisional rotations should provide some fireworks for the Ravens.

- The two floating games in 2012 are about as brutal as possible. New England and Houston could be considered the two favorites in the AFC this season and both are eyeing first-round byes. And Baltimore will have to face both — one at home (NE, Week 3) and one on the road (HOU, Week 7). Luckily, the Ravens get a much-needed off week following the trip down to Houston. In fact, the Week 8 bye falls nearly perfectly in the middle of the season and comes on the heels of one of the tougher seven-game stretches to open the season.

- Three of the last five games, all against major playoff contenders, will come at home.

Fantasy Focus: The Ravens DEF/ST used to be utterly unstoppable. While the unit has aged in recent years, it still will be one of the higher drafted DSTs of this year. But don’t bank on big numbers until after the bye week. Michael Vick, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Matt Schaub and Andy Dalton will all take aim at the Ravens' secondary in the first seven weeks. But after the break, the Ravens will have six straight quality match-ups to finish the fantasy regular season. Look to buy low with this unit at midseason.

@bradengall

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> Baltimore Ravens 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 03:05
All taxonomy terms: New York Giants, NFC, NFC East, NFL
Path: /nfl/new-york-giants-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 Giants 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Dallas (Wed.)
Week 2: Tampa Bay
Week 3: at Carolina (Thur.)
Week 4: at Philadelphia
Week 5: Cleveland
Week 6: at San Francisco
Week 7: Washington
Week 8: at Dallas
Week 9: Pittsburgh
Week 10: at Cincinnati
Week 11: Green Bay
Week 12: BYE
Week 13: at Washington
Week 14: New Orleans
Week 15: at Atlanta
Week 16: at Baltimore
Week 17: Philadelphia

Order your 2012 New York Giants Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- In the NFL, heavy is the head that wears the crown normally. Starting the year with two mid-week games in three weeks will likely keep the Giants from getting into any sort of normal rythmn until Week 4. Having said that, the defending Super Bowl champions start with a pretty easy slate. The first playoff team the G-Men will face will be an NFC title game rematch with the 49ers in Week 6. Even though the Cowboys and Eagles will be brutal NFC East tests, the Giants won’t face a team with a winning record from last year until that Week 6 game with San Francisco. A 4-1 start is almost all but certain.

- One of those primetime games early on is a road game against Cam Newton and the Panthers. The Giants will have a round robin with NFC South this year, giving the Giants a two back-to-back tough late season games against the Saints (home) and Falcons (road). Tampa Bay in the New Meadowlands should pose little problem to the nasty Giants front seven.

- Speaking of a tough way to end a season, the Giants have one of the nastiest finishes to 2012. After the bye in Week 12, the G-Men will face four playoff teams in six weeks to end the year. Toss in a road division game with the improved Redskins and home season finale against the Eagles, and the Giants will have their work cut out for them come December.

- Having to face the AFC North in crossover play offers few breaks as well. A home game against Cleveland is an easy win, but a November trip to Cincinnati and a December trip to Baltimore won’t be too kind to the Giants, on the field or on the Doppler radar. Mixed in is a home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers to make matters worse. Unfortunately for New York, the North appears to be the deepest and toughest division in the AFC.

- On the whole, the Giants will face seven teams that made the playoffs a year ago, including three of the four teams who earned byes a year ago. Additionally, the Giants will face 11 weekends in which the opposition posted at least a .500 record a year ago. Meaning, New York will face only four teams, the Redskins twice, with a losing record from 2011. And three of those five games will come in the first five weeks of the year.

- The Giants’ two floating games are tough tests as they are forced to play the top two seeds from the NFC a year ago. The Packers (home) and 49ers (road) were the best two teams in the regular season a year ago and could both be on bye in the first week of the playoffs again this fall. New York landed arguably the toughest floating schedule in the NFL. The Colts, for example, will face Cleveland and Kansas City in their extra two games while Oakland gets Miami and Jacksonville. As Super Bowl champs, fans should expect this type of challenge in 2012.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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 Giants 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Monday, June 4, 2012 - 03:05
All taxonomy terms: Bye Week, Fantasy, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/fantasy-football-2012-nfl-bye-week-cheat-sheet
Body:

The all-important bye week can make or break a fantasy football season.

Finding quality spot starters doesn't have to be just a last-minute, Sunday morning race to the waiver wire, either. A quality fantasy general manager plans well ahead of time for off weeks. And while I, personally, am willing to sacrifice one week loaded with byes in order to draft the best team for the other 16 weeks, most GMs will address the off week in the draft room.

In a move that I applaud, the NFL has decided to condense its off-week scheduling into a tighter eight-week window.

Order your preseason Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Preview magazine

2012 NFL Bye Week Schedule:

Week 1: None
Week 2: None
Week 3: None

Week 4: Indianapolis, Pittsburgh

Week 5: Dallas, Detroit, Oakland, Tampa Bay

Week 6: Carolina, Chicago, Jacksonville, New Orleans

Week 7: Atlanta, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Philadelphia, San Diego

Week 8: Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Houston

Week 9: New England, New York Jets, San Francisco, St. Louis

Week 10: Arizona, Cleveland, Green Bay, Washington

Week 11: Minnesota, New York Giants, Seattle, Tennessee

Week 12: None
Week 13: None
Week 14: None
Week 15: None
Week 16: None
Week 17: None

2012 NFL Fantasy Rankings:

2012 Athlon Sports Big Board: Top 100

2012 Positional Rankings: QBs

2012 Positional Rankings: RBs

2012 Positional Rankings: WRs

2012 Positional Rankings: TEs

2012 NFL Schedule Analysis:

Pittsburgh Steelers

Jacksonville Jaguars

New Orleans Saints

Seattle Seahawks

Philadelphia Eagles

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Oakland Raiders

Indianapolis Colts

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Football 2012 NFL Bye Week Cheat Sheet</p>
Post date: Monday, June 4, 2012 - 02:58
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, waiver wire, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-june-4
Body:

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

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (05/28-6/4):

  Name Team Pos. R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Dexter Folwer* COL OF 13 2 8 3 .556 1.599
2. Carlos Gonzalez COL OF 8 4 9 1 .500 1.531
3. Hanley Ramirez MIA SS/3B 6 4 6 1 .500 1.625
4. Jason Kipnis CLE 2B 7 1 6 5 .320 .810
5. Michael Cuddyer COL 1/2/OF 8 2 9 1 .364 1.208
6. Curtis Granderson NYY OF 7 3 8 2 .286 .989
7. Mark Trumbo LAA 1/3/OF 6 3 7 1 .375 1.302
8. Justin Smoak* SEA 1B 7 3 8 0 .348 1.266
9. Carlos Quentin SD OF 5 3 7 0 .474 1.650
10. Willin Rosario* COL C 7 2 7 2 .318 .984
11. David Ortiz BOS UTL 5 3 7 0 .385 1.294
12. Darwin Barney* CHC 2B 6 2 5 1 .400 1.278
13. Mike Trout LAA OF 5 1 8 1 .385 1.138
14. Gordon Beckham* CHW 2B 5 3 8 0 .310 .954
15. Alejandro De Aza CHW OF 3 0 3 5 .421 .963
16. Josh Willingham MIN OF 5 2 8 0 .348 1.162
17. Marco Scutaro* COL 2B/SS 5 1 7 2 .320 .873
18. Miguel Cabrera DET 1B/3B 6 2 4 1 .355 1.117
19. Ty Wiggington* PHI 1/3/OF 4 2 8 0 .389 1.333
20. Joey Votto CIN 1B 6 1 4 0 .526 1.302
21. Hunter Pence PHI OF 7 2 4 1 .318 1.021
22. Paul Goldschmidt* ARI 1B 3 3 4 0 .455 1.475
23. Lucas Duda* NYM 1B/OF 4 3 8 0 .286 1.074
24. Justin Maxwell* HOU OF 5 2 5 0 .500 1.745
25. Kirk Nieuwenhuis* NYM OF 8 1 4 0 .400 .979

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Not Buying the Post-Hype

Justin Smoak and Gordon Beckham have been on fantasy sleeper lists for the last four or five seasons. And not once has it paid off for either of them. Both had excellenet weeks but I am not going anywhere near them. With options at both 1B and 2B a-plenty on the wavier wire, I would much rather take a risk with a player like Lucas Duda or Paul Goldschmidt. And while Darwin Barney and Marco Scutaro don't inspire greatness, I might lean that direction over Beckham too. I would watch list both and monitor the situation closely. Beckham, in the 2-hole for the White Sox, has a much better chance of performing than Smoak.

Colorado Avalanche

Dexter Fowler has avoided his dreaded yearly demotion and went directly to fantasy production. He can contribute in all five categories - especially with his ability to get extra base hits in that big park. And the Rockies offense has really taken off of late. Todd Helton has a nine-game hitting streak, CarGo is raking, Michael Cuddyer has delivered all season and names like Scutaro and Willin Rosario have started to produce. This team always has solid fantasy options, and when scouring the waiver wire, there are much worse places to look for help than Denver, Colo. If you are in backstop trouble, Rosario might be a must add. Fowler should already be rostered and Helton is a solid option if you are desperate at 1B.

The Farm Update

Names to keep an eye on who have either been called-up already or will be joining the big league ranks soon: San Diego switch-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal, Seattle flame-throwing reliever Stephen Pryor (2.1 IP, 4 K, ER thus far), Arizona's future ace Trevor Bauer, Dodgers outfielder Alex Castellanos (2/5, 2 RBI in debut) and Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo should all be fantasy contributors in the second half of the season.

DL Watch

- Brian McCann took a pitch off the knee and is questionable for Tuesday's game against Miami.

- Adam Jones is still battling with his wrist issue but it doesn't seem to have affected him much while Nick Markakis landed on the 15-day DL on Friday with a hand injury.

- Dustin Pedroia still hasn't played since May 28 but has yet to land on the DL. At first, his thumb injury didn't seem too serious, yet a trip to the DL might still be in the cards.

- Alejandro De Aza didn't play Sunday due to an illness and is questionable for Tuesday's game against Toronto.

- Carlos Santana is on the 7-day DL and should begin a Class A rehab stint on Monday — which could get him back onto the field by Tuesday.

- Aramis Ramirez is questionable for Tuesday's game against his former club the Cubs with a quad issue. Ryan Braun is also dealing with both a hip and Achilles issue and is also listed as questionable for Tuesday.

- Desmond Jennings is set to return to the field on Tuesday for the Rays against the Yankees.

- Joe Mauer is questionable for Monday's game against Kansas City with a thumb problem.

- It is doubtful he will miss the start but King Felix Hernandez is questionable for his Wednesday start against the Angels.

- Edwin Encarnacion is questionable for Tuesday's game against the White Sox with a wrist issue.

- Jemile Weeks is questionable with his own hip injury.

- Troy Tulowitzki and Matt Kemp both landed on the 15-day DL last Thursday.

- According to the official Tigers website, Alex Avila, Joaquin Benoit and Gerald Laird are all questionable for Tuesday's game against the Indians.

- Santiago Casilla is dealing with a knee injury as Sergio Romo has picked-up a pair of vulture saves. It doesn't seem to be too serious.

- Huston Street has begun his Class A rehab assignment and could return to the closer's role in San Diego sometime this weekend.

- JJ Putz is questionable this week with an illness...and a sore neck...and control issues.

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. R.A. Dickey NYM 23.1 3 30 0.39 0.69
2. Chris Sale CHW 23.1 3 29 1.16 0.69
3. Johan Santana NYM 24.1 2 22 1.48 0.78
4. James McDonald PIT 21.0 2 21 0.86 0.81
5. C.J. Wilson LAA 20.0 2 17 0.45 0.75
6. Dan Haren LAA 21.0 2 23 1.29 1.00
7. Brian Matusz* BAL 19.2 2 21 2.29 0.92
8. Homer Bailey* CIN 15.0 2 11 1.80 0.67
9. Gio Gonzalez WAS 17.2 2 24 2.55 1.13
10. A.J. Burnett* PIT 12.1 2 9 0.00 0.97
11. Matt Cain SF 21.2 3 19 2.49 1.20
12. Jonathon Niese* NYM 18.2 2 22 2.41 1.12
13. Felix Doubront* BOS 18.1 2 22 2.95 1.04
14. Matt Harrison* TEX 21.2 3 14 2.49 1.11
15. Madison Bumgarner SF 21.2 1 28 2.91 1.06
16. Shaun Marcum MIL 20.0 2 22 3.60 1.00
17. Felipe Paulino* KC 18.1 2 18 1.47 1.31
18. Mike Leake* CIN 18.2 2 17 2.41 1.12
19. Cole Hamels PHI 22.2 2 22 3.57 1.06
20. Adam Wainwright STL 21.1 2 17 3.38 0.98

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

1. James McDonald, PIT: Kansas City (Sat.)
Was the No. 4 starter in the game over the last two weeks and will get a start against the Royals.

2. Homer Bailey, CIN: Pittsburgh (Tues.)
When he gets hot, he is very useful. He's won three straight with 18 Ks and only 3 BBs.

3. Edwin Jackson, WAS: NY Mets (Wed.)
Has allowed three or fewer earned runs in five straight starts.

4. Bud Norris, HOU: St. Louis (Wed.)
Was scortching hot until last start (9 ER) with four total ER in five previous starts. Lots of Ks.

5. Philip Humber, CHW: Houston (Sun.)
Gets two starts this week, including a home games against lowly Astros.

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of last month:

  Name Team IP W SV K HLD ERA WHIP
1. Aroldis Chapman CIN 14.2 2 5 27 3 0.00 0.48
2. Fernando Rodney TB 14.0 1 8 13 0 1.29 0.79
3. Ernesto Frieri LAA 14.1 0 4 30 3 0.00 0.84
4. Craig Kimbrel ATL 9.0 0 7 14 0 0.00 0.33
5. Santiago Casilla SF 13.2 1 10 11 1 1.32 1.17
6. Jim Johnson BAL 12.1 0 9 6 0 1.46 0.57
7. Joel Hanrahan PIT 12.0 1 10 12 0 2.25 1.08
8. Kenley Jansen LAD 10.0 2 4 14 1 0.90 0.80
9. Nate Jones* CHW 18.0 3 0 20 2 1.50 0.94
10. Joe Nathan TEX 12.0 0 5 16 0 0.75 0.75
11. Alfredo Aceves BOS 17.0 0 9 15 0 3.18 1.00
12. Heath Bell MIA 13.0 2 9 10 2 3.46 1.31
13. Tyler Clippard* WAS 10.2 0 4 15 4 0.84 0.56
14. Chris Perez CLE 9.2 0 7 12 0 1.86 0.83
15. Sergio Romo* SF 8.2 1 2 15 6 1.04 0.46
16. Jonathan Broxton KC 12.0 0 8 7 0 1.50 1.17
17. Jake McGee* TB 10.2 2 0 12 3 0.84 0.75
18. Scott Atchison* BOS 16.1 0 0 13 2 0.00 0.80
19. Rafael Soriano NYY 10.0 0 7 10 2 1.80 1.10
20. Jason Motte STL 13.1 2 4 9 0 3.38 0.98

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: June 4</p>
Post date: Monday, June 4, 2012 - 02:30

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