Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chief Fool named "Football Writer of the Year" (again)

Who says lightning can't strike twice?

I'm very proud and humbled to report that the Fantasy Sports Writers Association has voted me its "Football Writer of the Year," for the second consecutive year. Apparently, this is the first time anyone has won twice. I was also the first to be a finalist two years running.

In addition, one of my columns was voted "Best Humor Column" of the year, across all sports. If you're interested, it's this one. (It was funnier two months ago...)

I didn't prepare a speech, but I'd like to thank the FSWA, the Hollywood Foreign Press and all the little gurus out there who made this possible.

The official press release, which includes winners in other categories and sports, is here.

Hope you're having a great off-season! So far, so good, for yours truly.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Oops, they did it again!

I'm pleased, honored (and quite a bit shocked) to announce that I have once again been named one of three finalists for "Football Writer of the Year" by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. This is the most prestigious award in the biz, and apparently I am the first to have been named a finalist in consecutive years.

Am I being punked? All this time I was thinking last year was just a big mix-up.
Surely either Brad Evans or Alessandro Miglio will win the trophy this year; but it's awesome to be in their company.

I am also a finalist for "Best Humor Article" of the year, which is funny.

Here's the official announcement, if you'd like to see more.

Thanks to Fools everywhere for your support and encouragement. We'll find out next Tuesday night who the winners are.

Perfect Draft: The Final Countdown

Hindsight may be 20/20. But hindsight armed with statistics is just brutal.

What seems so obvious now – of course Victor Cruz was poised for a breakout year; didn’t you see him tear it up in the preseason? – wasn’t quite so crystal clear to most of us just five short months ago.

It’s all part of our elusive quest for the perfect draft, the Holy Grail of fantasy football. One of these days, I’m going to achieve it. Probably right after I cure cancer, win the lottery and get stalked by Mila Kunis.

Until then, I’ll keep torturing myself – and my readers – by exploring what could have been had we made all the right moves during our preseason draft. Yes, it’s time for my oft-imitated, always-controversial, yet magically delicious 2011 Perfect Draft: The Final Countdown.

As usual, we operate under a few key assumptions:

1. We’re in a 10-team league using a standard scoring system that starts one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, one kicker and one defense/special teams.
2. We are drafting from the middle (fifth) position in a zig-zag format, meaning Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster and Ray Rice will be gone by the time we pick.
3. The preseason average draft position (ADP) of each player – according to multiple mock draft sites canvassed during early September – is used to determine the most valuable selections in each round;
4. Since all drafts play out differently, we’ll need a little luck along the way.

And last, in the spirit of truth, justice and the Tebow Way, our goal is nothing short of total domination and the abject humiliation of our opponents.

Now, with the fifth pick of the 2011 Fantasy Draft, we should have selected…

Round 1. LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles. Fantasy’s most reliable tailback scored at least one TD in every game, except Weeks 11 and 16. That last one may still be tormenting some owners, but no running back carried more teams to the postseason than Shady.

Round 2. Drew Brees, QB, Saints. Passing on Aaron Rodgers in the first round might sting, until you realize who’s waiting here. In the season’s second half, Brees turned it up a notch and never let up.

Round 3. Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers. He fizzled a bit down the stretch while Ben Roethlisberger was hobbling; but Wallace’s play-making services are always welcome on our “perfect” roster.

Round 4. Wes Welker, WR, Patriots. Welker has had some impressive seasons, but this one was truly special. In point-per-reception (PPR) formats, Tom Brady’s favorite target is fantasy gold.

Round 5. Fred Jackson, RB, Bills. He was an absolute beast until he pulled up lame in Week 11. We’ll enjoy the ride while we can.

Round 6. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks. Arguably this year’s most underrated fantasy star, Lynch scored at least one TD in 11 consecutive weeks on his way to his first Top 5 finish.

Round 7. Matt Stafford, QB, Lions. Stockpiling elite quarterbacks is fun, even though we’ll rarely start them. At least we keep Stafford’s 41 scoring strikes off our opponents’ rosters.

Round 8. Steve Smith, WR, Panthers. He barely cracked the Top 70 receiver ranks last season, which is why Smith came so cheap this year. Besides, we knew he’d have to fight through the growing pains of a rookie quarterback who didn’t have the benefit of a full training camp. Uh, not so much.

Round 9. Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints. Brees spread the ball around liberally amongst his wideouts, but he played favorites with his tight end. Graham put together a monster season eclipsed only by our next pick.

Round 10. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots. My choice for Fantasy MVP will give this squad a 10 to 15 point advantage at his position most weeks (especially since we won’t have to face Graham).

Round 11. Michael Bush, RB, Raiders. When Darren McFadden went down in Week 7, Bush was expected to be an interim solution. Instead, he carried the load the rest of the season and finished within the Top 10 ranks.

Round 12. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers. “Mr. Big Play” amassed 15 touchdowns (second only to Calvin Johnson among wide receivers), including scoring receptions of 36, 37, 40, 50, 55, 58, 84 and 93 yards. If we can’t have Rodgers, it’s nice consolation to secure the services of his most prolific receiver.

Round 13. Darren Sproles, RB, Saints. New Orleans’ prized free-agent acquisition combined for 1,313 rushing and receiving yards and nine touchdowns, flourishing in the multi-purpose role originally designed for Reggie Bush.

Round 14. Cam Newton, QB, Panthers. Rookie quarterbacks aren’t supposed to be fantasy forces, much less NFL record-breakers. Especially when they are drafted by the worst team in the league. Oh yeah; Newton was his team’s best running back, too.

Round 15: 49ers defense/special teams. In many scoring formats, the 49ers finished the season as the top-ranked unit, thanks to 38 turnovers and the second-fewest points allowed. San Francisco went undrafted in most leagues.

Round 16. Victor Cruz, WR, Giants. We’ll have to tell our friends who Cruz is, but they’ll curse us in Week 3. We now own four of the top six wideouts in Fantasyland. It pays to be omniscient.

Round 17. David Akers, K, 49ers. Once again, owners who wasted an earlier pick on an “elite” kicker were out-maneuvered by those who waited patiently. While Akers had a stellar pedigree, few expected him to remain relevant once he moved cross-country.

There you have it. Piece of cake, right?

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 Biro’s Heroes and Zeros Awards

Before we close the books on another exciting/frustrating/awesome/unpredictable (circle one) fantasy season, we must take a quick stroll back through 2011 to examine the players we rooted for and against and – with as much objectivity as we can muster – give credit where credit is due.

As always, our annual accolades (and condemnations) have but a few important criteria:

1. Consistency on a weekly basis is next to godliness.
2. Production during the fantasy playoffs – for our purposes, NFL Weeks 14 through 16 – is given extra weight. Players who let their owners down at the worst possible time earn our eternal scorn. (Hear that, Eli?)
3. For the most part, Week 17 is dead to us. (Sorry, Matt Flynn.)

Without further ado, I am pleased to present the 2011 Biro’s Heroes & Zeros Awards:

Most Valuable Player: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots. I made my case for Gronkowski in a column three weeks ago, in which I examined the disproportionate advantage he gave his owners at the tight end position on a weekly basis. Though Aaron Rodgers might seem the obvious choice, Drew Brees was nearly his equal. LeSean McCoy was outstanding; but in any given week, other backs out-produced him. Runner-up: Rodgers, QB, Packers.

“Peerless Price Memorial” Bust of the Year: Chris Johnson, RB, Titans. A top three selection that plays every game yet scores just four stinking touchdowns is the definition of a bust. “CJ1K” started off slow and finished nearly as poorly. Runner-up: Andre Johnson, WR, Texans.

Rookie of the Year: Cam Newton, QB, Panthers. Everyone knows rookie quarterbacks make awful fantasy passers, especially when they’re drafted by the worst team in the league. Apparently nobody informed Newton. Runner-up: A.J. Green, WR, Bengals.

Surprise of the Year: Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks. Three years removed from fantasy respectability in Buffalo, all Lynch did was score in 11 consecutive weeks on his way to a Top 5 fantasy ranking. Runner-up: Newton.

Comeback Player of the Year: Steve Smith, WR, Panthers. He played 14 games in 2010 and barely ranked among the top 70 fantasy receivers. Enter a rookie passer, and Smith once again resides among the elite. Go figure. Runner-up: Reggie Bush, RB, Dolphins.

Mr. Reliable: LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles. From Week 1 to Week 15, Shady found the end zone at least once every week but one. Until he stumbled in the fantasy postseason, no player was more consistently productive than the multi-talented McCoy. Runner-up: Brees.

Best Waiver Wire Acquisition: Victor Cruz, WR, Giants. Last season, owners plucked Brandon Lloyd off waivers and cashed in on the top wideout in Fantasyland. This year, Cruz was the game-breaking receiver everyone wished they had grabbed. Runner-up: Laurent Robinson, WR, Cowboys.

Mr. Big Play: Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers. Among Nelson’s 15 TD receptions were scoring strikes of 36, 37, 40, 50, 55, 58, 84 and 93 yards. Runner-up: Cruz.

Most Devastating Injury Loss: Peyton Manning, QB, Colts. You know your absence is conspicuous when you take an entire franchise down with you. Runner-up: Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs.

Steal of the Draft: Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions. Available in the 8th or 9th round of most 10-team drafts, Stafford delivered elite production from start to finish. You’ll pay dearly for him in next season’s draft. Runner-up: Gronkowski.

Most Overrated: Shonn Greene, RB, Jets. On a team replete with underachievers (see Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes), Greene is the ultimate imposter. It’s time to put to rest the notion that he will ever be a workhorse back. Runner-up: Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys.

“Thomas Jones Memorial” Most Underrated: Marshawn Lynch. Even after weeks of consistent production, his owners routinely questioned whether or not he was start-worthy. Runner-up: Eli Manning, QB, Giants.

Made Chicken Salad from Chicken Scratch: Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars. With virtually no talent to support him in the Jacksonville offense, the 5’-8” bowling ball led the league in rushing and reclaimed his status among the game’s elite. Runner-up: Michael Bush, RB, Raiders.

Biggest Postseason Disappointment: Eli Manning. If his 250-yard, zero-TD, three-interception performance didn’t knock you out in Week 15, his mediocre 225-yard, one-TD, one-interception outing the following weekend surely did. Runner-up: LeGarrette Blount, RB, Buccaneers.

Too Little Too Late: Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers. His end-of-season statistics look respectable; but through Week 8, Rivers had just seven passing TDs and 11 interceptions. By the time he started clicking, many of the owners who were counting on Rivers were out of contention. Runner-up: DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers.

Most Spectacular Bench Performance: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers. He headed into his Week 5 matchup with an injured foot and just three passing scores over his first four games. Big Ben then proceeded to amass 228 yards and five touchdowns against the Titans. Runner-up: Plaxico Burress, WR, Giants (25 receiving yards, 3 TDs vs. Chargers, Week 7).

Lived Up to the Hype: Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints. My pick for “Most Likely to Succeed in 2011,” Graham was everyone’s favorite sleeper tight end coming into the season. With a little help from a guy named Brees, Graham was nearly unstoppable. Runner-up: A.J. Green.

Most Marginalized by Pathetic QB Play: Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts. The once-elite wideout was barely startable with Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky under center. Runner-up: Austin Collie, WR, Colts.

“Frisman Jackson Memorial” Irrational Exuberance Award: Devery Henderson, WR, Saints. Star-crossed fantasy owners watched Henderson post 100-plus yards and a touchdown in each of the first two games. Shouldn’t they have known, after all these years, that Henderson is the most inconsistent wideout on the planet? Runner-up: Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins.

Worst Sophomore Jinx: Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers. After a sensational rookie campaign that saw him flirt with elite status, Williams quickly became fantasy irrelevant in the Bucs’ moribund offense. Runner-up: Sam Bradford, QB, Rams.

Team Bust of the Year: Indianapolis Colts. For the first time in the modern era, you would never regret not having a Colt on your roster. What a mess. Runner-up: Cleveland Browns.

“Plaxico Burress Memorial” Bonehead of the Year: Rex Ryan, HC, Jets. Confidence is one thing. Continuing to predict Super Bowl glory as your team implodes around you is just plain asinine. Eat some humble pie over the offseason, coach. Runner-up: Rob Ryan, DC, Cowboys.

Most Likely to Succeed in 2012: DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys. He’ll enter the season as the unquestioned workhorse of the Dallas offense. Provided he can stay healthy, Murray should have an outstanding sophomore season. Runner-up: Robert Griffin III, QB, Sic ‘em, Bears!

As always, I’m open to your feedback on these awards. Feel free to email me, and be sure to begin your message with “You’re an idiot because…”

Next week: The Perfect Draft: Final Cut, wraps up the season.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Week 17 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

Matt Stafford, Lions – Amassed an amazing 520 yards and 5 TDs, plus 2 INTs.
Matt Flynn, Packers – Put Aaron Rodgers to shame with his 480-yard, 6-TD effort, with 2 turnovers.
Drew Brees, Saints – Piled onto his NFL record with 389 yards and 5 TDs, with just 1 INT.
Eli Manning, Giants – Dominated the Cowboys with 346 yards and 3 TDs, plus 14 rushing yards, without a turnover.
Tom Brady, Patriots – Passed for 338 yards and 3 TDs, with 1 INT.
Michael Vick, Eagles – Tallied 335 passing yards and 3 TDs, plus 2 turnovers. Only 3 yards rushing, though.
Philip Rivers, Chargers – Threw for 310 yards and 3 TDs, plus an INT.

Ray Rice, Ravens – Ran for 191 yards and 2 TDs.
Michael Turner, Falcons – Barrelled over the Bucs for 172 yards and 2 TDs.
Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants – Rushed for 57 yards and 1 TD, and caught 3 passes for 12 yards and a second score.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots – Had 2 short TD runs to go with 22 rushing yards, and caught a 53-yard pass.

Jordy Nelson, Packers – Reeled in 9 passes for 162 yards and 3 TDs.
Marques Colston, Saints – Caught 7 passes for 145 yards and 2 TDs.
Calvin Johnson, Lions – Torched the Packers with 11 catches for 244 yards and a TD.
Victor Cruz, Giants – Salsa’d his way to 178 yards and 1 TD on 6 catches.
Michael Crabtree, 49ers – His 9 receptions produced 92 yards and 2 TDs.
Percy Harvin, Vikings – Caught 10 passes for 115 yards and ran for 13 yards and 1 TD.
Malcom Floyd, Chargers – His 7 receptions were good for 127 yards and a score.
Julio Jones, Falcons – Scored twice on his 4 catches for 76 yards.
Laurent Robinson, Cowboys – Took 4 balls and turned them into 61 yards and 2 TDs.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders – Had 9 catches for 130 yards and a TD.
Dezmon Briscoe, Buccaneers – Came out of nowhere to score twice on 8 catches for 53 yards.

Rob Gronkowski, Patriots – His 8 catches resulted in 108 yards and 2 TDs.
Aaron Hernandez, Patriots – Pulled down 7 passes for 138 yards and a score.

This was a great week to play against…

Tim Tebow, Broncos – Passed for 60 yards and an INT, and ran for only 16 yards, with a fumble.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers – Played the entire game, but only had 221 passing yards and no TDs.

Brandon Jacobs, Giants – Had just 16 yards on Sunday night.
Donald Brown, Colts – Ran for 24 yards and caught 2 passes for 15 more.
LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers – Combined for just 26 yards.
Peyton Hillis, Browns – Just 30 rushing yards, and lost 3 yards on his only reception.
Daniel Thomas, Dolphins – Got his chance to start and only totaled 40 yards.
Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers – Left injured after gaining just 45 total yards.
Shonn Greene, Jets – Just 55 yards on the ground.
Cedric Benson, Bengals – Ran for 51 yards and caught 2 passes for 10 more.

Santonio Holmes, Jets – Benched for most of the game and held catchless.
Greg Little, Browns – Also had a goose egg.
Mario Manningham, Giants – So did he.
Eric Decker, Broncos – Caught one 5-yard pass.
Early Doucet, Cardinals – Had a 7-yarder.
Steve Breaston, Chiefs – He had a 9-yarder.
Mike Wallace, Steelers – Held to an 11-yard catch.
Andre Johnson, Texans – Played sparingly and caught just 2 passes for 21 yards.
Pierre Garcon, Colts – He collected 22 yards on his 2 catches.
A.J. Green, Bengals – Held to 2 receptions for 26 yards.
Mike Williams, Buccaneers – Had a 31-yard catch to show for his day.
Demaryius Thomas, Broncos – Only 34 yards on his 3 receptions.
Santana Moss, Redskins – Limited to 3 catches for 45 yards.

Tony Gonzalez, Falcons – Barely kept his streak alive with a single 8-yard reception.

Sunday morning updates -- Week 17

Good morning, Fools, and welcome to Week 17. As I've stated all week, you shouldn't be playing your championship today. Rather, I hope you're waging a "Free for All Bowl," per this week's column.

Whatever you're playing for, here's the news you can use to emerge victorious. Keep in mind, when the inactive lists come out, you can't assume the active players will necessarily be very active. Andre Johnson, for example, is likely to be active and to start the game; but he's expected to be on a strict snap count. Also, if Detroit wins the early game, all bets are off for the Falcons in the later game.

OK, here's what we know so far:

Aaron Rodgers, LeSean McCoy, Arian Foster, Mark Ingram, James Starks, Lance Moore and Owen Daniels have all been declared inactive already.

I like Matt Flynn's chances against the Lions. He's a sneaky starting option and he's the kind of guy who typically emerges at the top of the passing rankings in Week 17.

It will be another start for Kellen Clemens, with Sam Bradford and AJ Feeley inactive for the Rams. Sorry, Brandon Lloyd owners.

Jackie Battle has been placed on IR, so look for Dexter McCluster and Thomas Jones to split the backfield work. It's hard to like either (they've scored one TD between them all year), but it also wouldn't be a total surprise if one of them has a nice afternoon. If I had to bet -- and I'm glad I don't -- I'd say Jones gets the TD run.

Reggie Bush is out today, leaving the rushing duties to Daniel Thomas. He faces a strong Jets run defense, but the rookie should still have a decent day.

Jacoby Ford is expected to suit up. Wouldn't be surprised if he found his way into the end zone against the Chargers.

There's 100% chance of snow on the frozen tundra of Green Bay. Both of these teams are pass-centric, though; so it will be interesting to see how the weather affects the offensive game plans. Kevin Smith could have a very nice day for the Lions.

It will be very windy in Cleveland, with a 50% chance of rain or snow. Lousy conditions for kicking field goals, and it should put more emphasis on the runners. Mendenhall is positioned for a great game, but Peyton Hillis has a tough row to hoe against the Steelers' run D.

OK, that's it for now. Inactive tweets (@ladd_biro) coming up next. Good luck, Fools!