2 Months Dallas Cowboys
Kyle Orton has restructured his contract.
Unable to agree to an extension with Tony Romo, the Cowboys put the screws to his backup instead. Details are unavailable, but it's likely a good chunk of Orton's $3.25 million salary has been converted to a bonus. It's possible, but not likely, he's agreed to an outright pay-cut. Orton attempted just 10 passes last season.
It's easy to call a player a bust. Simply look at where he was drafted and where he finished. If his fantasy point production didn't match or exceed his average draft position, then we cuss his name for the rest of eternity, vowing never to draft him again.
Again, that's the easy approach. However, our goal from one season to the next is to learn from past mistakes and apply them to the future. We do so by exploring the reasons he had a down season. Below is a small list of players who qualified as a bust, along with knowledge gained.
Maurice Jones-Drew; During the preseason every fantasy outlet from here to Beijing was warning us about the injury history of players who holdout through the entire preseason. We read names like Steven Jackson, Larry Johnson, Darrelle Revis and Dorsey Levins (for you old-schoolers). But an ADP in the mid/late second round was simply too appealing for a guy who led the league in rushing the year before. Lesson learned.
Brandon Lloyd; Many opined that Lloyd was set for a stellar season thinking, "If he can finish number one in fantasy scoring with Kyle Orton and Josh McDaniels, just think what he'll do with Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels" (myself included). However we failed to realize that Lloyd was the only receiving threat while in Denver, meaning he led the Broncos in targets. In New England Lloyd was third in the "target pecking order" behind Wes Welker and whichever tight end was healthy. The sudden increase in rushing attempts didn't help matters. Lesson learned.
Ryan Mathews; This is an easy one. The term "injury prone" isn't the Madden Curse, it's a reality. Certain players have a propensity for injury like me and Playboy. Other names come to mind such as Darren McFadden or DeMarco Murray, but Mathews had the worst of it by far. We should also note a severely depleted offensive line working against Mathews. If injuries weren't a part of football, each of the guys listed would be a solid top 10 pick. But I digress. Lesson learned.
Larry Fitzgerald; Oh, poor Larry. Perhaps the most physically gifted of all wide receivers, Fitz was hung out to dry by the torturous rotation of quarterbacks down in the desert (Dwayne Bowe also makes this list). Wide receivers devoid of a competent signal caller are severely limited by a lack of team talent. Fitzgerald might have been better off throwing the football to himself. Lesson learned.
Philip Rivers; Not the highest of draft picks, but managers who snagged Rivers early...
When you watched the 49ers vs Bears game on Monday Night Football, what were you thinking as Colin Kaepernick lit up the scoreboard? You probably had a mixture of thoughts run through your mind, so let me tell you the most important underlying statement that was made during that game - the 49ers offense as a whole possesses more upside with Kaepernick playing quarterback than it does when Alex Smith is at the helm.
First off, there was a different energy around the team when the offense took the field. I talk about this all the time and it is becoming more evident in today's NFL each week. When a team takes the field knowing what they are going to get - example being the Chiefs defense with Matt Cassel, or the 2011 Broncos with Kyle Orton, their attitude is such that they themselves realize that even if they were to play their best game, that their influence on winning and losing the game is of a limited capacity.
Now when Vernon Davis, Kyle Williams and the big men up front saw the upside of Colin Kaepernick in practice, they realized the possibilities are endless. The crazy thing about the game Monday night was Kaepernick carved up one of the top units in the league by doing things that were considered his weaknesses. His poise in the pocket was excellent, his downfield accuracy was spot-on and his command of the offense was like that of a veteran player. Maybe there is a controversy to the outsiders of the 49ers organization, but people inside of it know deep down that the upside of the franchise is higher with Kaepernick under center over Smith.
If you are a true NFL junkie, you probably don't need me to tell you that once you start to think you have things figured out, NFL parity reminds you that you don't. It is the best and worst thing about the game today. When I say 'get open,' I am simply saying to keep an open mind about every game and every situation that arises. The Texans and Jaguars game from Sunday was a perfect example of the saying 'expect the unexpected.' The NFL is the poster-boy for this saying. Justin Blackmon, a player who had yet to acclimate to the speed of the pro game with his lack of suddenness to separate, broke out in epic fashion. Beyond that, he did it with Chad Henne throwing him the football.
Furthermore, if you were an Arian Foster fantasy owner, you probably thought you were sitting pretty heading into a game the Texans were supposed to control throughout. A game in which...
Finding Clarity in Crowded Backfields, QB Battles and Other Murky Pictures Do not attempt to adjust your computer screen; there is not a problem with your reception. The hazy static you are experiencing is none other than the dulling impact on your brain from the misinformation, mixed statements and general clandestine coach-speak coming from your team's front office.
Now the main purpose of my article is not to hit every nail on the head, but rather to offer hard insight based on serious statistics and straight talk, bypassing grade-school caliber girl gossip from the world of football. I will not waste your time by spouting off about soap opera style baby mama drama or locker room dysfunction coupled with megalomaniac coaches and their foot fetishes. I promise not to take up your time focusing on the trials and tribulations of specific teams or use this as a soapbox to glorify mine. This is all about making your fantasy team better, so come September you can start posting your league standings and smack-laden "power rankings" on your Facebook page or office fridge to remind your friends what pathetic losers they are.
QB Picture Quarterback is one position you do not want to whiff. This does not mean go Tom Brady in the second round. I'm simply talking about leadership, Jack. Here is where I see certain scenarios playing out in a series of quarterback quandaries from around the league.
Ready to Roll
This group of playmakers, despite last year's bungles, have been gaining their coaches trust and making strides in organized team activities and mini-camps to impress teammates and media folks alike. I'm not going to even entertain the idea of Kyle Orton beating out Tony Romo, so just stop it. Draft these individuals in the late rounds with confidence.
Robert Griffin III -- In case you live under a rock, well ... just don't be tempted to draft him above Round 7.
Christian Ponder -- Coach Leslie Frazier has just handed him the keys, and his backup is Joe Webb.
Brandon Weeden -- Already lauded as the next Roger Staubach, Colt McCoy's weak mobility was the clincher.
Proceed with Caution
These are rookies or aging stars from yesteryear that could carry more risk than reward. These guys could be good backups on your fantasy squad for the first six weeks.
Matt Flynn -- Kevin Kolb references aside, Pete Carroll favors a zone blocking run game (see Tarvaris Jackson).
Matt Hasselbeck -- He is almost 37 years old and averaged 196 yards per game...
12 Months Dallas Cowboys
NFL owners voted Tuesday to approve moving the trade deadline back two weeks.
The change will go into effect for the 2012 season, moving from Week 6 to Week 8, if the owners and NFLPA can agree on the details. The issue came under scrutiny last year when the Broncos waived Kyle Orton just after the early trade deadline, preventing the Bears from making a deal when Jay Cutler was lost for the season. The owners also approved a change to injured reserve that would allow one player to return to game action eight weeks after being placed on I.R.
1 -- Eric Decker -- I'll be eyeing Decker five rounds after someone else jumps on the Demaryius Thomas bandwagon. Decker is a proven talent, and quite frankly Thomas' injuries scare me off. Decker will blow away the stats we saw when he was with Kyle Orton, never mind the stats he had with Tim Tebow. Look for a big jump here. The talent is there and he has an actual quarterback now. Thomas' newfound game-breaking ability will earn him some additional coverage in 2012. That means Decker will see more one-on-one, and Peyton Manning should be more than able to take advantage of that.
2 -- Marques Colston -- There's never been anything flashy with Colston. You know exactly what you're going to get -- somewhere around 1,000 yards and high single-digit touchdowns. But this year there is one less prominent player to have to deal with. Robert Meachem is now running fly routes with San Diego. Those extra targets are going to have to go somewhere. The only two Saints' receivers I really trust are Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston, so the nod goes to them. Colston could have a career year with the additional opportunities added to Drew Brees' want for a mega-deal.
3 -- Antonio Gates -- For the better part of the decade, the San Diego Chargers' bread and butter has been running the ball and exploiting the Gates' mismatch. With Vincent Jackson out of town, look for that philosophy to be reinstated. As long as Gates can stay on the field, he'll finish no worse than the third best fantasy tight end. The clock is ticking away on Gates and this could be his last elite season. With the return to normalcy added to the additional targets, Gates is certainly on the rise, even if only for a season.
4 -- Darren McFadden -- Just like with Gates, as long as McFadden stays on the field the sky is the limit. Michael Bush is no longer stealing precious goal line carries away. This is McFadden's chance to put up MVP type of numbers. With Carson Palmer under center, McFadden will see the least amount of stacked boxes since entering the league. The ultra-valuable combination of touchdowns, additional carries and a softened defensive front makes McFadden a potential fantasy freak show in 2012. His injuries are Felix Jones-like, so you'd be better draft well at running back or he could ruin your season before it begins. He'll single handedly win your league or move you into last place. McFadden is this season's Michael Vick.
5 -- Brandon Marshall -- Let's face it, he was drowning in...
Free-agent quarterback Kyle Orton reached a three-year agreement with the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.