Football

Nick’s 2016 NFL Preview

I know it’s been a few years since I posted an NFL preview, but I really wanted to write something about sports and wrote about 3,000 words over the last two days to satisfy that urge. Below you can find the records I predict for each team in football, as well as who I think will make the postseason.  (more…)

2016 NFL Free Agency Review

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

Giants sign OLB Olivier Vernon
5 years $85 million

Good lord that’s a lot of money! The Giants aren’t messing around, and with the three additions so far (Vernon, Harrison, Jenkins) have completely revamped their defense.

Jaguars sign DE Malik Jackson
5 years $85 million

After year’s of targeting the second tier of the free agency market and getting underwhelming returns, the Jags finally went for a big gun, signing one of the more impressive pass rushers down the stretch last season. The only concern is that Jackson was just one piece in a strong front seven in Denver, and will be “the guy” in Jacksonville.

Washington signs CB Josh Norman
5 years $75 million

When you consider Josh Norman wasn’t close to a household name up until this past season, and that he’s already 28-years-old, a 5-year deal for this much seems almost sure to give headaches down the road. However, right now, it’s the perfect addition for Washington. Their defense showed vast improvements last season but still missed a top-level piece in the secondary. Norman will give them more flexibility, more confidence and take pressure off the offense.

Texans sign QB Brock Osweiler
4 years $72 million

When looking at the numbers, Osweiler posted more or less the same numbers as Brian Hoyer last season. However, Osweiler offers a lot more upside, and gives the team a young quarterback to build around. It is a lot of money for a guy who’s played in seven games. (more…)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL RANKINGS: WEEK 14

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

My final top four of the regular season is Clemson, Alabama, Michigan State, and Stanford, after each team won their conference championship game.

Oklahoma is the odd man out, after not playing this week and only playing 12 games this year, compared to 13 by the four teams ahead of them. Their average per game is actually higher than Stanford’s, but Oklahoma can’t get credit for a game they didn’t play now that we’re at the end of the season. I’m guessing the Playoff Committee will put Oklahoma in, but going by my metric, I’d leave them out.

After the championship games this weekend, the only non-bowl game left is Army/Navy.

last ranking

Fantasy Football: Players That Should Have Their Team’s Trust (and Yours)

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

This piece is pretty easy to figure out. Throughout you fantasy football draft there are a handful of teammates that have similar value, are fighting for roles in their offense, and are going in or around the same spot. Here, I go through a few of these situations for each position (other than quarterback) and explain who should be getting your vote of confidence.

Running Backs

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Fantasy Football: Risks Worth Taking Late In Your Draft

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

On Thursday, I posted a column that talked about the idea of “drafting with hindsight,” an exercise that is meant to help identify high upside plays that may be going too early in the draft, and where projections might stand in the way of common scenes. While picking the right guys with upside could really help elevate your team, by missing on one in the opening rounds, you put yourself at a massive disadvantage from the start.

If you’re going to draft with hindsight in the six rounds or so, it’s nice to utilize the last few picks of your draft on players you think can vastly over perform their draft position, thus giving you a potential edge at the back end of your roster. This is where I want to draft rookies that could break out, players who could see an expanded roll at some point in the season, or historically proven players coming off an unexpectedly bad season.

In this column I’ve listed a few of the guys at each position I would target late. I think the guys on this list have an outside shot at performing much more than their draft-day value, however, it’s very possible that you drop them from your team after a week or two due to lack of performance. Therefore, I just to make sure everybody understands, these are guys I would ONLY take in the final round or two of a draft. I wouldn’t take them any earlier because of their huge bust potential, and wouldn’t want to have to start any of them on day one.

Quarterbacks

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Fantasy Football: Avoiding This Year’s Fantasy Traps by Drafting with Hindsight

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

In fantasy sports, one of most intriguing things I look at every offseason is the draft recaps from previous years. Every few months thought the season I’ll see how my draft is stacking up to others, and in the offseason as I’m making my rankings I go through again to gather valuable and underutilized  information.

What was my strategy going into the draft? Where did I go right and where did I screw up? Where did I really reach for players and which players do I regret not going after? How can I capitalize on the tendencies of my league?  When looking at old drafts, you can answer a bunch of questions, but ultimately, it all tries to answer the same thing: What can I do differently this year to make sure my draft is more efficient?

In analyzing past drafts, there’s one very obvious thing that pops up time and time again, tripping up fantasy owners each after year.  People reach waaaay too early for players who have extremely high upsides and project really well, but who aren’t the least bit proven. Whether it’s a player on a new team, or in a new role, or one who broke out for a few weeks late the previous season, the early rounds are littered with shiny players that wind up being traps in the end.

(Some recent examples include Shonn Greene, CJ Spiller, Doug Martin, Montee Ball, Trent Richardson, David Wilson…the list goes on, especially for running backs, but could be extended to guys like Matt Stafford in 2012, and Cordarrelle Patterson and Percy Harvin just last year )

But not only do owners take these players with premium draft picks, they pick them when there are countless other great players still on the board, guys that are already sure-fire stars or are much more proven over their careers. People are more likely to try and grab “the next big thing,” to outsmart their competition, when there are plenty of already great players for the taking.

In the end, when looking through their old draft, the most common and frustrating thought to people who fall for the traps is usually “How the heck did I take Upside Player X when Proven Player Y was still on the board? What was I thinking?”

One strategy owners can use to combat this issue is to approach their drafts/rankings as if they were reevaluating their picks four months in the future, at the end of the season. Meaning, even if I’m projecting a hype or high upside guy to get a few more points, if there’s a proven player around I’ll tend to stick with the player I know. Owners have to take all projections with a grain of salt. What common sense is telling you is sometimes much more important.

Making some high-upside plays are an important part of constructing a fantasy roster, but they’re, by nature, the most risky picks in every draft. That’s why, despite what projections on high-upside guys might hint at, players like this shouldn’t really be drafted in the first few rounds.

CJ Anderson is a prime example of this kind of high-upside player. I currently project Anderson to be the 8th best RB this season with 252 points, and he’s getting drafted as such, going in the first round of ESPN leagues (eighth overall).  He played really well in the second half of last season, ran away with the starting gig, and is in the right situation as a back with Peyton Manning at the helm of a Gary Kubiak run-heavy offense. All signs point to a HUGE season, which makes him extremely tempting to take with the other elite options in fantasy.

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Fantasy Football: 2015 Points Predictions

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

It’s the first Monday of August, which means we’re a little over a month away from the start to the NFL season. If you’re serious about fantasy football, now’s the perfect time to start your fantasy draft prep, especially if you want to create a baseline before all the preseason story lines and hype start altering your opinions of players.

Here are my preliminary offseason positional projections for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. These players aren’t listed in order of when I would draft them, but who I think should get the most points this season (trust me, there’s a difference).

I’ll be updating my projections throughout the preseason, and will be posting more in-depth looks at the numbers occasionally on twitter.  (more…)

2015 NFL Trade Reviews

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

Last year I combined my trade analysis with my free agency recap, but with so many trades this season I had to make a separate article, just to keep everything organized.  Here’s my take on the trades that have taken place so far in the new NFL year.

Mike Wallace traded to Minnesota from Miami
Dolphins gets Vikings 2015 5th round pick. Vikings get 2015 7th round pick.

Like I said after the Stills move for Miami, it was pretty clear they would be getting rid of Wallace, and at least they were able to get an asset (even if the value is minimal) for what would have been a cut if nobody made an offer. I think the offense takes a small hit, but if the Dolphins spend that money elsewhere the trade will be worth their while. The Vikings, after being relatively inactive in free agency, gave up a close to nothing for a player with a lot of speed and an up-and-down history of success.  They weren’t going to spend the money on anything this year anyway, and if Wallace doesn’t work out they can cut him without losing anything.  Probably not the ideal fit for the offense, but it’s a low risk move for sure.

Winner: Tie

Kenny Stills traded to Miami from New Orleans
Dannell Ellerbe to New Orleans from Miami
Saints get Dolphins 2015 3rd round pick

I’m not sure how the Saints got such a haul for Stills, who was a 5th round pick in 2013, has 8 total touchdowns in two seasons and is a pretty one dimensional talent. He has speed, and it’s elite speed, but that’s pretty much it. I don’t think too much of Ellerbe (he’s lucked into some nice stats playing next to Cameron Wake and has a big cap number), so the player swap isn’t important, but the pick seems like too much. I think the Saints will probably wind up cutting Ellerbe or restructuring, but even if they do it’s a nice move.

For the Dolphins, they got a good deep threat. Unfortunately, they already have a better version of that player in Mike Wallace, and if the last two year has taught us anything, it’s that Ryan Tannahill struggles getting the ball downfield.

I could see Miami cutting Wallace now and thinking that the addition of Stills will be a cheaper option for the same level of production, which could be very true. I just don’t think clearing cap space is worth the 3rd round pick.

Winner: Saints (more…)

2015 Football Free Agency Recap

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

Here’s where I’ll be posting my takes on NFL free agents and where they sign.

DeAngelo Williams to Pittsburg from Carolina

The story of what never was. Trapped in a quagmire of running back mediocrity, Williams always showed the most potential in Carolina, and got paid like a top back in the league. His injuries were always untimely, and as a result he hasn’t had a 1,000-yard season since 2009. Now 31, he’ll be the primary backup for Le’Veon Bell.

Darren McFadden to Dallas from Oakland
2 years $5.8 million

It has looked like McFadden lost some of his burst after so many injuries. The Cowboys aren’t giving up much to get him, so it’s a low risk option in the backfield. I have a feeling they’ll add another back (possibly in the draft) before the start of the season.

DeMarco Murray to Philadelphia from Dallas
5 years $42 million

This is a good move in terms of fit. His skills go really nicely with the Eagles play calling and offensive line.  However, the financial aspect of the trade are all out of whack.  In trading McCoy earlier this month, it looked like the Eagles were trying to save money at running back, which would have been smart.  Then they gave a ton of cash to Murray and Ryan Matthews, two very injury prone backs. If Murray stays healthy like he did last season he’ll put up great numbers. That just isn’t a guarantee.

Brian Orakpo to Tennessee from Washington
4 years $32 million

Mostly due to injuries and being part of a bad defense his entire career, Orakpo has never lived up to expectations. He’s probably a good fit in Tennessee, who desperately needed defensive help, and if he plays all 16 games this year should earn his money. It’s a little risky, but a risk that might pay off.

Andre Johnson to Indianapolis from Houston
3 years $21 million

It’s hard not to look at this as a straight Wayne/Johnson swap, and it’s a perfect fit. Johnson is 3 years younger, is faster, taller and has about the same injury risk as Wayne. He’s never been a beast in the redzone like one might assume, but he’s also never had a quarterback close to as good as Andrew Luck. I wouldn’t be completely shocked if Johnson wasn’t nearly as good as most probably expect him to be, but the fit looks right.

Nick Fairley to St. Louis from Detroit
1 year $5 million

Fairly was a beast when he was on the field last year, but a lack of consistent effort through his rookie contract is probably what prevented him from grabbing a long-term deal. He joins an already stacked front seven in St. Louis, so even though his role will be diminished, he’ll have an easy time making an impact.

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