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Antonio Brown says of lawsuits — Facts will prove my innocence


Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, who is facing two lawsuits from an April incident in Florida, said Thursday that the claims made against him are false.

Brown allegedly yelled at security and threw items from the balcony of a South Florida apartment last spring, according to documents obtained by ESPN. Both lawsuits are for “damages in excess of $15,000, exclusive of” attorney fees and interest.

A guardian of a 2-year-old boy is suing Brown for “intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault” after items flung from the 14th floor of The Mansions at Acqualina nearly hit the child, according to Miami-Dade County court filings. The child was with his grandfather near the pool area of the complex when large items — including two vases, an ottoman and other pieces of furniture — fell close to them, according to the filings, which say the child has experienced anxiety and trouble sleeping since.

The owner of the multimillion-dollar condo Brown leased also has filed a case against Brown for damages and breaching the apartment agreement.

“It has now been made public that two lawsuits containing false claims have been filed against me,” Brown said. “The facts will soon come out that prove my innocence. My focus will remain on football and I will not let the cases serve as a distraction.”

“We are aware of and will continue to monitor the civil suits” against Brown, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Wednesday.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said at his Tuesday news conference that he has no knowledge of Brown’s situation. The organization will not be commenting on the matter, according to a spokesperson.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ESPN the league is closely monitoring the situation.

Brown’s attorney, Darren Heitner, who has filed a notice of appearance and a motion for extension on the case, declined to comment.



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Fantasy football — Matthew Berry’s 50 facts for Week 4 of 2018 NFL season


At 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, @daviddupree05 on Twitter replied to a tweet of mine about the Arizona game.

DuPree’s Twitter bio reads: “My life mission is to actually save the world and love my kids. The world is crazy with darkness, but life is amazing while our hearts beat one pump at a time.”

That is a beautiful sentiment and I am all for anyone who loves their kids and wants to try to bring light to a dark world. With that, here’s his tweet to me:

Goodness. Four exclamation points. David feels very strongly about David Johnson, my analysis and my current employment status.

I don’t believe I ever said “sit David Johnson.” I rarely make definitive statements like that, because every team is different, every league is different and there’s no way for me to know what other options someone might have. I did express concern for him, both season long and specifically against a very good Bears run defense. And I mentioned all week that I had ranked him 17th in Week 3, lower than I could ever imagine ranking a healthy David Johnson, but that’s where we are.

Johnson finished Week 3 with 12 carries for 31 yards (2.58 yards per carry), and he got more involved in the passing game, catching 4 balls for 30 yards and 1 touchdown. He ultimately finished with 16.1 fantasy points in ESPN PPR scoring, good enough to finish as … the 16th-best running back in fantasy in Week 3, or one spot ahead of where I ranked him for most of the week.

There were plenty of wrong calls by me in Week 3, but I don’t believe Johnson was one of them.

But you see, gentle reader, this is not about me trying to pat myself on the back about my David Johnson rank. And this isn’t to publically shame David DuPree, either. If you know David DuPree, or even if you just run into him online, be kind to him. You see, David is still just in the first stage.

There are five stages to dealing with having David Johnson on your roster this year, and …

Stage 1 is Denial

“There is no way someone as talented as Johnson could be bad in fantasy. He was the No. 1 player in fantasy football in 2016. He had more points than Aaron Rodgers and every other QB! He had 82 more points than any other running back! I used a top-three pick on him this year. I mean, OK, so he had only 67 yards in Week 1 against a Redskins team that allowed the eighth-most RB points in 2017… but, but he’s scored two touchdowns in three games. And, you know, he’s gotten 43.1 percent of Arizona’s offensive touches this season, the fifth-highest rate in the NFL. And, and, um, he’s, uh, RB20 on the season — just, uh, one-tenth of a point behind T.J. Yeldon. Yeah! T.J. Yeldon! You see? Everything is perfectly fine with David Johnson. HE’S KILLING IT, BERRY!”

I know, Mr. DuPree. I know. But while you are still in Stage 1, a quick look at my Twitter shows many folks are now in …

Stage 2: Anger

“What the hell is going on here? Johnson has lined up as a wide receiver just six times in three games. Six! Total! Did you know he averaged more than 10 snaps A GAME as a wide receiver in 2016?!? How could you give him only 13 carries in Week 2? He ran only 13 routes in Week 2. Did you know 169 players ran more in Week 2? This is David Johnson we are talking about!

“Why won’t Mike McCoy run him outside? In 2016, Johnson led the NFL in rushing yards outside the tackles (463), averaging 6.3 yards per carry on those rushes. He had 74 such carries in 16 games (4.6 per game) and 74.7 percent of his rushing attempts were between the tackles. This season? Just five carries for 6 yards outside the tackles, and 85.3 percent of his runs have come between the tackles.

“Arghhh, I hate how they use him this year so much!”

This is the stage many are in, but soon Stage 3 will set in.

Stage 3: Bargaining

“Can we just get him to 15 carries in a game this season, Mike McCoy? Please? I mean, 15 carries per game isn’t that much, right? Derrick Henry averages 15 carries per game. Johnson is at least as good as stuck-in-a-committee Derrick Henry, right? Royce Freeman, who is splitting time with Phillip Lindsay, has more carries than David Johnson this season. So does Isaiah Crowell. And Alfred Morris, who wasn’t even on a team six weeks ago. All these guys in a committee have more carries than Johnson. And he’s not in a committee. Pretty please?

Dion Lewis has more carries than DJ. Let that sink in. Two different Tennessee Titans running backs have more carries than one of the most talented running backs in the NFL. I’m begging here. The touchdowns are nice, don’t get me wrong, but three straight games below 50 yards rushing? Can we count on the scores continuing? What if he gets pulled in the red zone again for another ‘teaching moment.’ Are you aware that there are 31 different running backs with at least one game of 15-plus carries this season? And David Johnson is NOT one of them?

“Come on. You want your prized rookie quarterback Josh Rosen to have a chance, right? So take some pressure off him and, you know, hand the ball off. Just a thought? Yes? Maybe? And you know the Cardinals’ schedule gets a lot easier starting in Week 8, right? And I’ll still be in the playoff hunt by then, right? Probably? Maybe?”

Sigh.

At some point you will realize you are not making any progress. You are a fantasy hamster, running in a circle. Which is still better than running into an eight-man front like your first-round pick keeps doing. So you slowly descend into …

Stage 4: Depression

Everywhere you look, there’s another bad stat about the Cardinals. They have had only two red zone drives this whole season. Two. All year long. Fewest in the NFL. Arizona is averaging just 47 plays per game, also fewest in the NFL. In 2016, they averaged 67.9 plays per game, second most in the NFL.

Every other team in the NFL has at least 51 offensive plays on the opponents’ half of the field. Arizona has run 32 such plays.

Other members in your league are offering trades like Peyton Barber for him. The best offer you’ve gotten is Austin Ekeler. Or Javorius Allen. You can’t trade him for such a low price. This is your first-round pick. You could have drafted Ezekiel Elliott. Or Alvin Kamara. Or Saquon Barkley. Or Melvin Gordon. Look at the people who drafted them in your league. Look at them looking at their phones, laughing and smiling as the fantasy points pile up.

This is what it is. Me and my top-three-pick RB who has scored 6.1 more points this season than Bilal Powell. It hits you like a ton of bricks: “With my first-round, top-four pick … I drafted Bilal Powell. I hate Bilal Powell.”

You can’t get out of bed. You just sit there staring at the ceiling as depressing music plays and raindrops hit the window. You can barely set your lineup. You didn’t even make a waiver claim this week. Why pick up LeGarrette Blount or Nyheim Hines, you think to yourself. I already have a more famous version of either of them.

It is only at this point, when you have hit rock bottom in your depression, that you are ready for …

Stage 5: Acceptance

“OK,” you think. “So I’m stuck with Johnson this year. That’s OK. Hey, it could be worse, right? I could have drafted Le’Veon Bell. At least Johnson is playing in NFL games. And hey, remember Todd Gurley II in 2016? He was a super-high draft pick that year, too. And yes, Jeff Fisher and staff, were not, you know, the most creative offense, but they did use him a lot. Gurley didn’t return the value of his draft pick that year, but he played every game, he ground out yards and when all the dust settled, he still somehow managed to finish as the 15th-best RB in fantasy that season.”

Just one spot and 1.2 points ahead of … Bilal Powell.

You will get through the stages of having David Johnson this year at your own pace, at your own comfort level. Just know that as you move through the stages, we are all in this together … you, me and David DuPree.

As I continue to tinker with the format of my 50 Facts column, I have gotten some feedback that among the things some folks really enjoyed about Love/Hate was that they could skim the piece and look for their players, immediately knowing if one of their guys made the “love” or the “hate” list. There are always going to be people who don’t love change, so resistance to a new format was to be expected, and I will say that I have gotten a number of nice emails and tweets saying they really enjoy the new format. But ultimately, I want this column to be of the most use to as many people as possible, and I understand that quick scan for your specific players was among the appeals of the column.

Let’s get to it.

As always, please check my rankings Sunday morning to know what I specifically think about certain player-versus-player questions, and tune into the Fantasy Focus podcast live every day on Twitter at 11 a.m. ET or download it wherever you get podcasts. Fantasy Football Now will start at 10 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2. Thanks to Kyle Soppe and Damian Dabrowski for their help at various points in this column.

With all that in mind, here are 50 facts you need to know before Week 4. Some are positive, some are negative and not a damn one tells the whole story. What you do with them is up to you.

Positive QB facts for Week 4

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals (at Atlanta)

1. Since Bill Lazor became the Bengals’ offensive coordinator, only Russell Wilson and Tom Brady have thrown more touchdown passes than Dalton.

2. Since Week 6 of last season, only the 49ers have allowed more multitouchdown games than the Falcons.

3. During and after the Falcons’ Week 1 game, they lost defensive starters Keanu Neal and Deion Jones.

4. In Weeks 2 and 3, the Falcons’ defense gave up an average of 365 passing yards per game and 35 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks.

4a. They also just lost starting safety Ricardo Allen.

4b. Dalton is available in about 60 percent of ESPN leagues.

Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers (vs. San Francisco)

5. Since Week 8 of 2016, no quarterback in the NFL has more games with multiple touchdown passes than … Philip Rivers.

6. In that same stretch, no team has allowed more such games than the 49ers.

7. Here are the weekly finishes of the QBs who have faced San Francisco this season, starting in Week 1: QB10, QB9, QB7.

7a. Rivers currently has an ESPN start rate of just 40.8 percent in Week 4.

Case Keenum, Denver Broncos (vs. Kansas City)

8. The Kansas City Chiefs have allowed the second-most completions this season.

9. They’ve allowed the third-most touchdown passes.

10. They’ve allowed the third-most yards per play.

11. They’ve also scored 118 points this year on offense, most in the NFL.

11a. Since the start of last season, Keenum has the sixth-best TD-INT ratio in the NFL when trailing.

Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (at Pittsburgh)

12. So far this season, Flacco has the fourth-most red zone touchdown passes.

12a. He also has the third-highest red zone completion percentage.

13. Since the start of 2017, the Steelers are the second-worst red zone defense in the NFL.

14. Here are the weekly finishes for QBs who have faced the Steelers this season, starting in Week 1: QB6, QB2, QB8.

15. Through three games, Flacco has more fantasy points than Matthew Stafford, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady and Andrew Luck, among others.

15a. He is available in 89 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

Negative QB facts for Week 4

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at Chicago)

16. Since the start of last season, the Bears are allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.

17. The Bears lead the NFL in sacks and sack percentage, despite blitzing less often than any other defense this season.

18. Prior to 2018, when Fitzpatrick is under pressure he completes less than 40 percent of his passes and his TD-INT rate drops by 56 percent.

19. Fitzpatrick threw two of his three interceptions last week while under heavy pressure.

Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders (vs. Cleveland)

20. Carr ranks top five in the NFL in both completions and completion percentage, and yet … there are 24 players with more passing TDs this season.

21. The Browns are allowing a touchdown pass on just 2.8 percent of attempts this season, sixth lowest in the NFL.

22. Here are the weekly finishes of QBs who have faced the Browns this season, starting in Week 1: QB22 (Ben Roethlisberger), QB13 (Drew Brees), QB33 (Sam Darnold).

Positive RB facts for Week 4

Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders (vs. Cleveland)

23. Since Lynch joined the Raiders, he has accounted for 69.4 percent of Oakland’s red zone rushing attempts

23a. The only running backs with a higher rate are Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley II and Melvin Gordon.

24. Since the start of 2017, the Browns are the least efficient red zone defense, allowing a TD on 66.1 percent of red zone drives, well above the league average.

25. Here are the fantasy point totals the Browns have given up to running backs this season, starting in Week 1: 34.2, 21, 26.4.

Carlos Hyde, Cleveland Browns (at Oakland)

26. Dating back to last season, Hyde now has at least 15 carries AND a rushing score in five straight games.

26a. That is the longest such streak since Arian Foster had six straight in 2011.

27. He is averaging 20.3 carries per game.

28. The Raiders are allowing 5.13 yards per carry this season, fourth highest in the league.

29. The Raiders are allowing the second-most yards per carry before first contact (3.59).

Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals (at Atlanta)

30. Since the start of 2017, Bernard averages 17.0 touches, 86.3 yards and 17.3 fantasy PPG in games Joe Mixon doesn’t play.

30a. That would have been RB9 last season on a per-game basis, just behind Mark Ingram II.

31. Since he entered the NFL in 2013, Bernard ranks third among running backs in receiving yards and fifth in receptions.

32. In 2015, the Falcons allowed the most receptions in the NFL to opposing running backs.

32a. In 2016, the Falcons allowed the most receptions in the NFL to opposing running backs.

32b. In 2017, the Falcons allowed the most receptions in the NFL to opposing running backs.

32c. So far in 2018, the Falcons have allowed the most receptions in the NFL to opposing running backs.

32d. They are missing three starters from their defense.

Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks (at Arizona)

33. Last week, Carson had 32 carries.

33a. That was the most by a Seattle running back since Week 12 of 2006, when Shaun Alexander carried it 40 times.

34. Carson is third in the NFL in rushing yards after first contact.

34a. The Cardinals have given up the third-most rushing yards after first contact.

35. The Cardinals have given up a league-high five rushing touchdowns this season.

Negative RB facts for Week 4

Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans (vs. Philadelphia)

36. No team has allowed fewer rushing yards since the beginning of last season than the Eagles.

37. During that stretch, they’ve been above average in limiting yards per carry after first contact (1.69).

37a. The Titans are gaining the sixth-fewest yards per carry before first contact this season (1.86).

37b. Only two teams in the NFL have fewer red zone drives this season than the Titans.

Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions (at Dallas)

38. Johnson has just one red zone carry this season.

38a. Even in Johnson’s breakout game last week, LeGarrette Blount still played 25 snaps. Theo Riddick played 20.

38b. Blount got four of the five red zone carries last week.

38b. Matthew Stafford is third in the NFL in pass attempts this season.

39. The Cowboys are allowing the fourth-fewest yards per carry this season (3.35).

39a. There have been 360 total plays in Dallas Cowboys games this year, fifth fewest in the NFL.

Positive WR facts for Week 4

Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos (vs. Kansas City)

40. Thomas leads the Broncos in slot targets this season.

40a. Since the start of 2017, no team has funneled more targets to the slot than the Chiefs.

41. Thomas now has five or more catches in four straight games (includes a 6-catch, 57-yard, 1-TD effort against these Chiefs in Week 17 last season).

41a. No team has allowed more passing yards per game this season than the Chiefs.

41b. The Chiefs are averaging the second-most yards after the catch per reception this season.

Will Fuller V, Houston Texans (at Indianapolis)

42. During his career, 38.5 percent of Fuller’s receptions and 66.7 percent of his touchdown catches from Deshaun Watson have come on deep passes.

42a. Since the start of last season, no team has allowed more deep completions than the Colts.

Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals (at Atlanta)

43. Boyd now has consecutive games with at least six catches for 90 yards and a TD.

43a. Here’s the entire list of players who did that last season: Antonio Brown, Keenan Allen, Michael Thomas and Adam Thielen.

44. Boyd has accounted for 64.5 percent of the Bengals’ wide receiver slot routes this season.

44a. Since the beginning of last season, the Falcons have allowed the second-most slot completions, the second-highest completion percentage to the slot and the third-most slot touchdowns.

Sterling Shepard, New York Giants (vs. New Orleans)

45. After Evan Engram left the game last week, Shepard had four catches for 54 yards and a TD.

45a. He has received at least five targets in all three games this season.

45b. The Saints have allowed an absurd 190 fantasy points to opposing WRs this season, 43 more than the next-highest team.

Negative pass-catcher facts for Week 4

Golden Tate, Detroit Lions (at Dallas)

46. No team has given up fewer receptions and receiving yards to the slot this season than the Cowboys.

46a. The Cowboys also have allowed the seventh-fewest slot TDs since the beginning of last season.

47. Since 2016, Tate ranks fifth in receptions … but 40th in TD receptions.

47a. During that stretch, 60 percent of the touchdowns he has scored came from the slot.

47b. All that said, Sean Lee is not playing in this game, which should help some.

George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers (at Los Angeles Chargers)

48. From Weeks 6-12 last season with C.J. Beathard under center, the 49ers, on a per-game basis, had the second-fewest red zone drives and the fifth-fewest points.

49. Since the start of last season, the Chargers have allowed the seventh-fewest TE receptions.

50. They’ve also allowed the fewest TE touchdowns since the beginning of last season.

Matthew Berry, The Talented Mr. Roto, is also going through the five stages of grief of having Le’Veon Bell on his team. He is the creator of RotoPass.com and one of the owners of the Fantasy Life app and FantasyLife.com.





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Fantasy football — Matthew Berry’s 50 facts for Week 3 of 2018 NFL season


Wednesday was the Jewish High Holiday of Yom Kippur.

As longtime readers may know, I’m Jewish. Now, I am what some would call a nonpracticing member of the Jewish faith, but hey, I’ve been bar mitzvahed, I celebrate the major Jewish holidays, I’ve seen Neil Diamond in concert seven times.

And Yom Kippur has always been one of my favorite holidays.

I’ll let MyJewishLearning.com describe it: Yom Kippur is “the day at the conclusion of which, according to tradition, God seals the Books of Life and Death for the coming year. The day is devoted to communal repentance for sins committed over the course of the previous year … in order that both the community and the individual be inscribed in the Book of Life for the coming year.”

Or, as I described it to my 6-year-old daughter this past weekend, we ask for forgiveness for all the mistakes we have made in the past year, so that we may start anew with a clean slate, trying to do better in the future.

I am by no means trying to trivialize one of the most holy days in the Jewish religion, but the themes of forgiveness, of looking back and understanding where you were wrong, of acknowledging your own shortcomings with a hope and desire to do better in the future are universal themes.

Themes that, for example, might work well for a fantasy football columnist looking for an intro. Knowing that I would be spending serious time repenting for real-life sins this week, I thought about the calls I’d like back in the world of fantasy football. Situations that I’d like to illuminate now, so as to be helpful to you going forward.

And so, gentle reader, with that In mind, I declare Thursday, Sept. 20, the Fantasy Football Day of Atonement.

With time allowing me to reflect, I’d like to ask your forgiveness on …

• Not being on board with Brandin Cooks as a star fantasy asset in Los Angeles. A talented but inconsistent fantasy option last season, he was coming to his third team in three years with a “start” percentage of 47.9 percent the past three seasons per Tristan H. Cockcroft’s consistency ratings. I figured he’d be more Sammy Watkins decoy-ish from 2017, and I had both Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp higher. Yeah … that was wrong. He has 246 yards in his first two games with the Rams (he had 213 receiving yards in his final five games with the Patriots). Sean McVay clearly knows how to use his new toy.

• Not seeing that the Bengals’ passing offense would take a major step. I thought the offseason additions pointed toward a much more run-oriented offense, and watching Andy Dalton and A.J. Green last season had me thinking they were trending in the wrong direction in terms of their skill sets. Well. It’s fueled, of course, by the four-touchdown game Dalton just had against Baltimore, but the Red Rifle has now played 16 games under offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Here’s the list of players with more touchdown passes in that time frame: Russell Wilson and Tom Brady. That’s it. That’s the whole list. Green has looked reborn and Tyler Boyd has emerged, running just one fewer route than Green this season and accounting for 46 percent of the Bengals’ slot targets so far.

• Thinking a healthy David Johnson would be immune from a coaching and quarterback change. Arizona has 13 fewer offensive snaps this season than any other team in the NFL. The Cardinals have had the ball on offense less than the Buffalo Bills. DJ is 22nd among RBs in routes run. In his monster 2016 season, he ran more than 100 more routes than any other RB. It’s unlikely to get better against Chicago this week.

• Making people who subscribed to ESPN+ and watch The Fantasy Show see Daniel shirtless all the time.

• Believing that when Le’Veon Bell tweeted this summer that he would play Week 1 and that when his agent said in an interview this summer that Bell would play Week 1, it would happen. I had Bell as my No. 1 player overall in the preseason because of that (I wasn’t alone) and how long he had been an elite option. In 2016 and 2017, Bell missed five games and still had 78 more touches than any other player in the NFL in that span. I am all for players getting as much money as they can in the short window they have, but I believe he is ultimately making a mistake here. Either way, my mistake was not taking his risk into account when ranking him.

• For not thinking Matt Breida could be a workhorse back. You guys know I love his talent — I literally banged a drum on TV for him all last season — but when the injury to Jerick McKinnon happened, I cop to the fact that I backed Alfred Morris over him in my ranks. My concern was that I didn’t believe Breida could shoulder the load and that Morris, who looked good in limited time last season and this preseason, not to mention being familiar with Shanahan’s system, would be the one getting the majority of work, including goal-line work. It’s early, so it remains to be seen if Breida can hold up under this usage, but considering he enters Week 3 leading the NFL in rushing, it’s clear that Breida, not Morris, is the 49ers running back you currently want in your starting lineup.

• For thinking I should apologize to my wife for watching episodes of “Homeland” on Showtime without her, because I’m not actually sorry for doing that. I mean, she fell asleep on the couch. What am I supposed to do? Pause it? It was at a really important part.

• For drafting LeSean McCoy. It was the 10th pick of the third round in a 12-team league and hey, Shady was coming off a two-season stretch during which he touched the ball 630 times. On a team devoid of playmakers, I thought the pure volume would make up for the lack of offensive efficiency. The Bills currently hold a minus-55 point differential and now McCoy is hurt. He has just 21 touches. Yeesh.

• For not banging the drum on Patrick Mahomes enough in the preseason. Look, he was in my big preseason “100 Facts” column with a bunch of positive stats. He also was on the preseason “Love” list. And this is part of what I wrote about him: “I love all the preseason chatter of concern about interceptions. All it does is keep lowering his already crazy-low ADP of QB20 (13th round). Mahomes is my answer to who is most likely to be this year’s Carson Wentz.” That’s what I wrote in early August, all of which is correct and great, but man … I still wasn’t high enough on him. I should have screamed it from the rooftops. He is not a fluke, man. If we drafted today, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady would be the only QBs I’d take over him. And given Brady’s age and Rodgers’ injury, I wouldn’t look at you sideways if he were the first QB off the board.

• For not inventing time travel because, if I did, I would use the technology to travel back in time to Jan. 26, 1992 and tell the young version of Matthew Berry to appreciate the latest Redskins Super Bowl win because he may never see another one in his lifetime. How do we lose at home to the Colts? Come on, guys. Insert your favorite shaking head GIF here. I’m partial to the Captain Picard one.

• For not realizing Javorius Allen would be a thing beyond just a handcuff. Because he’s a thing. With an improved offensive line, actual wide receivers and a more balanced offense, I was looking forward to seeing Alex Collins pick up where he left off last season, when he averaged 16.3 PPG in the eight games in which he got 15-plus carries and had been top 12 in yards after contact. So far this season, Collins has just one more snap in the red zone than Allen and one fewer goal-to-go carry. Last season, Allen was on the field for 54 snaps inside the 15-yard line, a big number compared to Collins’ 31 (and yes, I know Collins missed a game … but he wasn’t getting 23 snaps inside the 15 in that game).

• That Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” keeps going through my head while I write this and, since I’ve mentioned it, I’m sorry that it will probably now go through your head all day as well.

Which preseason thoughts/predictions/draft picks do you want forgiveness for on this, the Fantasy Football Day of Atonement? Tell me on social media (I’m @matthewberrytmr on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram) and I will happily help in the process of you wiping the slate clean and starting anew.

Before we dive into this week’s column, a few housekeeping notes:

First, a huge thank you to everyone who sent kind notes, emails, tweets and texts about Travis Anderson. If you haven’t read his story, I highly encourage you to do so.

Travis asked me say the following: “Just pass along how much I appreciate everyone’s support. When something like this happens and you are all the sudden living one day at a time, having all those positive, encouraging notes really helps. Dirt Merchants lost 95 to 86.52, 0-2 start for first time in years. Might just be that my mind is elsewhere.”

The V Foundation, the Vikings and Kirk Cousins have all been in touch with Travis, as have many of you. If you’d like to reach out to Travis and offer support in his fight, please tweet at him. He doesn’t tweet much, but he reads each one.

Finally, I appreciate all the feedback I have gotten on the new column format. Truly. I get way too many to respond to, but I read every one. People have overall been very kind as I try to work out this new weekly format, but one criticism that has cropped up some is that people find it hard to navigate and (surprisingly, at least to me) can’t tell whether I am high or low on a player for the week. To me, that has always sort of been the beauty of the column. I present facts without comment, but the whole idea is that the facts lead you to the opinion I have of the player. But on a weekly basis I can see where, when you’re just skimming for your guys versus a draft prep overview of lots of players, it might be tough.

As always, I suggest you check my rankings on Sunday mornings and watch Fantasy Football Now (10 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET on ESPN2) to get my definitive opinion on players, but I am going to try to organize it by player and position to see if that helps.

Remember, you can make stats say anything you want them to. So here are a bunch of facts, both positive and negative, about Week 3. Some are about players, some are about matchups, and not a damn one of them tells the whole story. What you do with them is up to you.

Here are 50 facts you need to know before Week 3:

Quarterbacks

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

1. If you took 13 fantasy points away from Mahomes’ two-week total, he’d still be QB2 this season.

2. Over the past 17 weeks (a full football season), the San Francisco 49ers, against whom Mahomes plays this week, rank among the bottom five defenses in passing touchdowns and passing yards allowed.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

3. Fitzpatrick ranks fourth in average air yards per pass attempt this season.

4. He ranks second in number of deep TD passes.

4a. He has four touchdown passes of at least 35 yards this season.

4b. No other QB has more than one.

5. This week, he faces a Steelers defense that has allowed five touchdown passes that travelled at least 15 air yards.

6. The Steelers have also allowed the most completions of 20-plus air yards this season.

6a. This has nothing to do with the matchup, but is mind-blowing to me anyway: Fitzpatrick, a career backup in his 14th NFL season, at age 35, has the most fantasy points by a quarterback through two games … since the NFL/AFL merger.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

7. In the 16 games under offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, Dalton has 3,434 passing yards, 31 TD passes and nine INTs, which adds up to 247.4 fantasy points in ESPN standard scoring.

7a. That would have been QB14 last season.

8. During that same stretch, the Carolina Panthers (Dalton’s Week 3 opponent) rank 24th in yards per pass attempt allowed.

8a. And they rank 23rd in passing touchdowns allowed.

8b. Dalton is available in 78 percent of ESPN leagues.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

9. Since the beginning of the 2015 season, Stafford is averaging 2.54 more fantasy points per game at home than on the road.

10. Stafford has attempted 99 passes this season, his most ever through two games.

11. The Lions have dropped back to pass on an NFL-high 78 percent of plays this season.

12. They have gone 70 straight games without a 100-yard rusher, the fourth-longest drought in NFL history.

13. The Lions’ defense is allowing the fourth-most points per drive.

14. Since the start of last season, the Patriots (Detroit’s opponent Sunday night) have allowed the third-most passing yards in the NFL.

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

15. In the first five games of 2015, Wilson was QB14 (QB2 the rest of the way).

15a. In the first five games of 2016, Wilson was QB21 (QB10 the rest of the way).

15b. In the first five games of 2017, Wilson was QB8 (QB1 the rest of the way).

15c. Wilson is currently QB16 through two games this season.

16. On Sunday, he faces a Dallas Cowboys team that, since the beginning of last season, is creating pressure at the sixth-highest rate.

17. During Wilson’s career, no team has allowed pressure more often than the Seattle Seahawks.

17a. The Seahawks allowed six sacks in each of the first two games.

Running backs

Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears

18. Howard and the Bears are five-point favorites against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

19. Since the start of last season, the Bears rank sixth in rushing percentage when up by at least a field goal.

20. When Chicago has had a lead of at least a field goal this season, Howard has had 26 of the Bears’ 32 running back carries.

21. Since the start of last season, the Cardinals have allowed the fifth-most rushing scores.

Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos

22. So far this season, Lindsay has played 53 snaps and gotten 32 touches for 213 yards and a TD.

22a. So far this season, Broncos running back Royce Freeman has played 44 snaps and gotten 23 touches for 99 yards and a TD.

23. Lindsay is averaging 4.3 yards before contact per rush, second best in the NFL among RBs.

24. In both Broncos games this season, Lindsay has more second-half touches than Freeman.

25. It’s been only two games, but the Baltimore Ravens (Denver’s opponent this week) rank in the bottom 10 in the NFL in second-half yards per carry allowed (4.14).

25a. Doesn’t matter for us — I just think this is cool: Lindsay is the first undrafted player in NFL history with 100-plus scrimmage yards in his first two career games.

Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals

26. In 11 career games with 15-plus carries, Bernard is averaging 4.4 YPC, 112 total yards per game and 18.3 fantasy PPG.

26a. In Weeks 14 and 15 last season, when Bengals back Joe Mixon did not play, Bernard had 32.3 fantasy points and was RB16 in that two-week span.

26b. Over the past six games he has played, Bernard has 85.2 points (RB10 in total points during that stretch).

27. Since Bernard entered the NFL in 2013, he is top five among running backs in both receptions and receiving yards.

28. Since the start of last season, opponents are completing 81.4 percent of passes intended for running backs against the Panthers, third highest in the NFL.

Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins

29. Since the beginning of 2017, opponents are completing 83.6 percent of passes intended for RBs against the Packers (the Redskins’ opponent Sunday), which ranks second highest.

29a. Thompson ranks third in the NFL with 19 receptions this season.

30. Redskins QB Alex Smith has thrown 65 of his 76 passes this season within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.

31. Smith is averaging 5.4 air yards per attempt this season, third lowest in the NFL.

31a. The Redskins are three-point underdogs in a game with a 47.5-point over/under.

31b. In terms of PPG, Thompson is RB10 since the beginning of last season.

Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins

32. This week, Drake plays a Raiders team that, through two weeks, has allowed the second-most rushing yards to opposing RBs.

33. Oakland has allowed RBs to average a league-high 4.13 yards per carry before first contact this season.

Theo Riddick, Detroit Lions

34. Riddick leads the Lions’ backfield in snaps this season.

34a. He is sixth among RBs in receptions this season (14).

35. He plays 50 percent of snaps when the Lions are trailing.

35a. The Lions are seven-point underdogs in a game with a 52.5-point over/under.

David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals

36. The Cardinals are averaging just 47.0 plays per game, fewest in the NFL.

36a. Last season, the fewest plays per game run by a single team was 57.9 by the Bengals.

36b. Two years ago, when Johnson was RB1, the Cardinals averaged 67.9 plays per game, second most in the NFL.

36c. In 2016, Johnson led all running backs in receptions (80) and receiving yards (879).

36d. He also led the NFL in fantasy points when trailing, and also when trailing by double digits.

37. This season, the Cardinals have yet to hold a lead and Johnson is running about half as many routes per game as he did last season.

37a. He has also lined up as a wide receiver only four times in two games.

37b. In 2016, he averaged 11.3 snaps per game lined up in the slot or out wide.

38. In 2016, Johnson led the NFL in rushing yards outside the tackles (463), averaging 6.3 yards per carry on those rushes.

38a. In 2018, Johnson has carried the ball outside the tackles just three times in two games for a total of 3 yards. In all, 86.4 percent of his rushing attempts have been between the tackles.

Wide Receivers

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers

39. Since Week 15 of last season, no WR has more fantasy points than … Smith-Schuster (120.2).

39a. Adam Thielen and Michael Crabtree have combined for 119.8 fantasy points in that span.

39b. The Buccaneers, whom Smith-Schuster faces Monday night, have allowed 10 different receivers to score at least 20 points since the beginning of last season.

Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions

40. Golladay is being targeted on 19.2 percent of his routes.

40a. He leads the NFL in routes run this season.

40b. Please see Nos. 9-14.

Michael Crabtree

41. The Denver Broncos (whom Crabtree faces on Sunday) have allowed the fifth-fewest WR points since the beginning of last season.

42. A.J. Green, Keenan Allen (twice), Jarvis Landry and T.Y. Hilton have all played the Broncos since the beginning of last season. Those four averaged 11.4 PPG against Denver.

43. Not one of them caught more than five passes in a single matchup.

Tight Ends

Jimmy Graham, Green Bay Packers

44. Last week, in Aaron Rodgers’ first full game after suffering his leg injury, Graham led qualified Packers by recording a reception on 19.4 percent of his routes.

45. This week, Graham faces the Redskins, who are a bottom-eight defense against tight ends since the beginning of last season in both yards and touchdowns.

Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

46. Since the beginning of last season, only Graham has more red zone fantasy points than Rudolph.

46a. In that stretch, the Buffalo Bills (Rudolph’s Week 3 opponent) have allowed a league-high 67 drives to reach the red zone.

46b. Since the start of last season, Buffalo is a bottom-10 defense versus tight ends.

George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers

47. Kittle leads the 49ers in targets this season (13) and is tied for sixth among all TEs.

48. The Chiefs, whom Kittle faces Sunday, have allowed the fourth-most points this season (65).

48a. In the process, they’ve given up 40 fantasy points to opposing TEs (third most in the NFL).

Evan Engram, New York Giants

49. Since the beginning of last season, only three times has a TE totaled more than 67 receiving yards against the Houston Texans, Engram’s opponent on Sunday.

49a. Those tight ends were Rob Gronkowski, Rob Gronkowski again, and Travis Kelce.

49b. Only Arizona has fewer red zone trips this season than the New York Giants.

50. When Odell Beckham Jr. is out, Engram has a 29 percent target share in the red zone.

50a. When Beckham is active, Engram has a 15 percent target share in the red zone.

50b. Beckham will be active Sunday.

Matthew Berry, The Talented Mr. Roto, would like to atone in advance for whatever advice is wrong this week, too. He is the creator of RotoPass.com and one of the owners of the Fantasy Life app and FantasyLife.com.





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Fantasy football — Matthew Berry’s 50 facts for Week 2 of 2018 NFL season


Formed in 2005 in Fargo, North Dakota, the “Win the Battle” league is a 10-team non-PPR keeper league comprising a bunch of high school buddies. The teams play three WRs, no flex and you can keep up to two players a year, costing you a draft pick three rounds better than where you got the player the year before.

Their commissioner, Travis Anderson, has been playing for close to two decades in a lot of different leagues, but this league — the one he’s been in for more than a decade, the one filled with many of his closest friends, the one he runs — is the most special to him.

A controller for a local bank and a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan, Travis is 37 years old. He and his wife Donna have three sons: Andrew will be 6 in December, Jackson will turn 3 in January and Ethan is two weeks from his first birthday.

Husband, father, fantasy junkie.

Travis Anderson is one of us.

Like us, he drafted a team he likes. And like for many of us, Week 1 was tough. Other than Drew Brees, it was a poor start for his team, The Dirt Merchants. Kareem Hunt could only watch as Tyreek Hill went nuts, Leonard Fournette left early with an injury, and bad matchups and shaky QB play led to disappointing season debuts for Amari Cooper, Allen Robinson and Devin Funchess. But while you were cursing your team, cursing yourself for drafting them, cursing me for recommending them, Travis Anderson was busy dealing with something else.

You see, in early August, he started getting headaches. This was weird — he’s never gotten headaches before. The back of his neck was hurting a little bit, so he figured it might be spinal. Visits to chiropractors didn’t help and not only did it not go away, he started having difficulty communicating complicated thoughts and explanations, something he often needed to do as part of his job. When we spoke this week, he told me he felt emotionally distant and he knew something was wrong. So he decided to make an appointment to get a CAT scan. Frustratingly, it took him a while to get one, but eventually the day arrived.

While driving to get the scan, he got a call from his doctor’s office. Travis’ insurance wouldn’t cover it. Don’t get me started on this one, but the insurance would, however, cover an MRI, so they scheduled him for a MRI a week later. Travis turned around and drove home. But in the middle of that week, encouraged by his father, Travis couldn’t wait any longer, so he went straight to the ER and got an MRI.

It was Aug. 23. Travis had a league to set up, keepers to decide, and a draft to prep for. Instead, he was sitting in a doctor’s office, where he learned he had a brain tumor.

Within 24 hours, Travis was in surgery, where Dr. Alexander Drofa had come in from out of town to find, and ultimately remove, the tumor.

As you can imagine, people wondered if Travis would keep the league going. Certainly, no one would blame him if he wanted to shut it down, or even take a year off.

But to Travis, that wasn’t even a consideration.

“I wouldn’t not be able to keep the league going,” he said. Travis was told to take it very easy for the next six weeks, and that was a big factor in keeping the league going. “I really enjoy fantasy,” Travis said. “It gives some excitement to Sunday afternoons, Monday nights and Thursday nights. It gives me something to do each day, each week.”

The league, and fantasy football, provides Travis with an escape and comfort. Something happy to focus on. Last year, another member, Mike, had been diagnosed with cancer. He, thank goodness, is in remission now, but it was a long year. That is why the league is named “Win the Battle.”

Travis had spent the previous year being a rock of support for Mike. Now it’s Mike’s turn.

Personally, I don’t know how Travis did it. The day after his draft was the day he would go see his oncologist to get the pathology results from the surgery. Can you imagine having to draft a team knowing what was on the schedule the next morning?

Me either, but Travis is a better man than I. He drafted a strong team and the next morning he went to see his doctor.

He tells me that while they got 99 percent of his tumor, they didn’t get everything. Most importantly, the tumor was not benign.

Travis has brain cancer. A grade IV glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) to be exact.

Thirty-seven years old. Wife, three kids under 6 and The Dirt Merchants, four-time champions of the Win the Battle league. Travis has a lot to fight for, so fight he does.

It won’t be easy. He is looking at six weeks of radiation and lower-dose chemo, five days a week. When he is done with that, he will do six different cycles of higher-dose chemo at a five-days-on, 23-days-off schedule. And after the first six weeks, he will need to wear an Optune electrical stimulation cap for, well, basically forever. But to the extent you can be with something like this, he told me doctors have been encouraged by what they have found in subsequent tests. And as he said toward the end of our conversation, “There are people that beat this. And I intend to be one of them.”

I have no doubt, Travis. Because he is not going into this battle alone. Donna, of course, has been a rock. As has his family. And his league, especially “Tweets,” as everyone calls Mike.

And now he has all of us. I have often spoken of the power of fantasy football, the community and love that family, friends and strangers alike have for this game we play. How it brings people together, lifts them up and can shine light into even the darkest of places. This is one of those times.

Travis is on Twitter @TMA2112. He doesn’t tweet much, he tells me, but I am sure he’d love to hear from you and read your words of support, encouragement and love.

Travis will “Win the Battle,” and he will do it with all of us behind him. That’s a group that includes Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.

I asked Travis if I could write about his story, so he obviously knew this article was coming, but this part he doesn’t know until now.

When Travis and I spoke, one of the things I found out is that, due to living in Fargo — approximately 235 miles from Minneapolis – he has never seen a Vikings game in person.

So when Kirk Cousins heard about Travis’ story, he said he immediately wanted to rectify this. Kirk, and the entire Minnesota Vikings organization, asked me to pass along that they would love to host Travis and his family at a game, along with on-field passes for the pregame and anything else they can do to make Travis’ first Vikings game a special one. Kirk specifically asked me to tell you, Travis, that he can’t wait to meet you and your family.

Here at ESPN, we are getting Travis in touch with The V Foundation to see if there’s anything we can do to help.

Because, you see, Travis Anderson is one of us.

Which means he’s busy getting The Dirt Merchants ready for Week 2. Just like we all are. Let’s get to it.

What follows are a bunch of accurate statistical statements. Heavily researched, well-thought-out, 100 percent true, can’t be argued with, fully vetted facts.

That tells only part of the story. The part of the story I want you see.

Just like everyone else does.

And that might be the most important thing you ever learn about fantasy football research. Nothing you read/watch/hear from me in this column (or from anyone) or anything in the future is black and white. It’s all shades of gray.

As you go through the process every week of choosing your lineup, making waiver claims and trade offers, you’ll hear countless analysts give you all sorts of reasons why this player is awesome and this one is a bum and why you gotta start that guy but must avoid another one … and it’s all just opinions. Facts and stats and snippets of game film parsed to show you the side that supports their belief. Their opinion. And ONLY that opinion. Just remember that. Always remember that. Question everything, find someone whose thinking aligns with yours, and make a call. Because that’s what all of us are doing. Taking a slice of a larger pie and making a call.

What follows below is completely accurate. Some of it is about players, some of it is about matchups and not a damn bit of it tells the whole story.

These are 50 facts you need to know before Week 2. And what you do with them is up to you.

1. Since 2015, Drew Brees has 30.1 more points AT HOME than any other QB.

1a. On Sunday, Drew Brees is at home.

1b. He faces a Browns team that just gave up 313 passing yards.

1c. … in a storm, to a quarterback who turned over the ball six times in that game.

2. Last season, there were six instances in which a QB totaled 21-plus fantasy points against the Browns.

3. Among the QBs to accomplish that feat last season were Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett, Brett Hundley and Joe Flacco.

3a. Drew Brees is a lot better than those guys. #analysis

4. The quarterback opposing Brees in this game is Tyrod Taylor.

4a. Taylor has at least eight rushing attempts OR a rushing score in nine of his past 16 games.

5. In Week 1, Taylor ripped off three runs of 15-plus yards.

5a. All other QBs totaled six such runs in Week 1.

5b. In Week 1, Ryan Fitzpatrick had 36 yards rushing against the Saints.

6. Last season, the Saints allowed a league-high 6.4 yards per carry to QBs.

6a. That was the most YPC allowed to QBs since 2014.

7. Vegas has set the over/under for this game at 49 points.

8. For his career, Taylor is averaging 20.9 fantasy points in games that see at least 49 points scored.

9. Since 2014, Ben Roethlisberger averages 23.3 points per game at home, which leads all QBs (minimum five starts).

10. Since the start of last season, there have been five instances of a quarterback scoring at least 25 points against the Chiefs.

10a. All of them have come AWAY from Arrowhead.

10b. This offseason, the Chiefs lost Marcus Peters and Derrick Johnson, among others, and as of this writing (Wednesday afternoon), safeties Eric Berry and Daniel Sorensen are not expected to play Sunday against Pittsburgh.

10c. In 2017, Philip Rivers had just 10.6 points TOTAL in his two games against the Chiefs.

10d. In Week 1 of 2018, Rivers had 29 points against them.

10e. Vegas has listed this game as having the highest over/under of Week 2 (52.5 points).

11. Last season, there were 413 total points scored in Pittsburgh home games.

11a. That was the second most in the NFL, behind only New Orleans.

11b. Patrick Mahomes is my No. 5 quarterback this week.

11c. He is somehow still available in 15 percent of ESPN leagues.

12. Since Week 8 of last season, the Detroit Lions are allowing the sixth-most yards per play, the fourth-most passing yards and the third-most red zone drives.

13. Since the beginning of last season, the Lions are pressuring the QB at the fifth-lowest rate (25.5 percent).

14. After his first two passes on Monday night, 21-year-old rookie Sam Darnold went 16-for-19 for 198 yards and two TDs against the Lions.

14a. … who now travel on a short week to face Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers.

15. Between current Packer Jimmy Graham, current Redskin Paul Richardson and the injured Doug Baldwin, 64.1 percent of Russell Wilson’s red zone targets from 2017 will not be on the field when Seattle plays in Chicago Monday night.

16. Last season, the Chicago Bears allowed the third-fewest touchdown passes in home games.

16a. They allowed six.

16b. In eight home games.

16c. Six.

16d. They allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing QBs.

16e. That was without Khalil Mack.

16f. … but with an offense that wasn’t very productive and often left the defense with poor field position.

17. Since the start of 2014, Wilson averages 4.6 fewer points per game on the road than at home.

18. In each of the past three seasons, no team has allowed more receptions to running backs than the Atlanta Falcons.

19. On Sunday, they face the Carolina Panthers.

19a. … without linebacker Deion Jones and safety Keanu Neal, two of their best defenders.

20. In 2017, Christian McCaffrey led all running backs with 110 targets.

20a. That tied for the third most by a RB during the past decade.

21. Last season, in the seven games Greg Olsen played, McCaffrey had 39 targets on 187 routes (targeted on 20.9 percent of those routes) and averaged 11.96 fantasy points per game.

21a. Last season, in nine games without Olsen, McCaffrey had 71 targets on 259 routes (targeted on 27.4 percent of those routes) and averaged 16.10 fantasy points per game.

21b. Olsen will not play on Sunday.

22. Since Week 12 of last season, the Houston Texans are allowing the eighth-most yards per carry (4.31) and the third-most rushing yards per game (135.6).

23. Last week, only 11 teams allowed more rushing yards than the Texans.

24. Among the 44 running backs with at least 250 carries since 2015, only Mark Ingram II is averaging more yards per carry than … Dion Lewis (4.82).

25. In his past five games, Derrick Henry is averaging 2.31 yards per carry.

25a. Last week, Lewis played 47 snaps.

25b. Henry played 20.

26. Since Week 14 of last season, 97 players have at least one carry that gained 15-plus yards.

26a. Henry is not one of them.

27. Since the start of 2017, Henry has two massive runs of 70-plus yards.

27a. Remove those two outlier carries and Henry is averaging 3.39 yards per carry.

28. Last week, Henry accounted for less than 35 percent of the Titans’ running back touches.

28a. … and was in on less than 30 percent of snaps.

29. Since the start of 2017, the Indianapolis Colts have allowed 16 rushing touchdowns.

29a. That’s tied for fourth most in the NFL.

30. This week, the Colts face the Washington Redskins and their starting running back, Adrian Peterson.

31. Last week, no running back had more yards after first contact than … 33-year-old Adrian Peterson.

31a. He was second in the NFL in touches last week, with 28.

32. The past nine running backs to get at least 20 touches against the Colts averaged 18.4 fantasy points per game.

33. Speaking of that game, last season, the Redskins gave up the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing RBs.

33a. They also gave up the seventh-most receptions to opposing running backs.

34. Since the beginning of last season, per ESPN Stats & Information, the Redskins have created pressure on 33.6 percent of dropbacks, the highest rate in the league.

35. Last week, Colts rookie running back Nyheim Hines had nine targets and was targeted on 32.1 percent of his routes.

35b. He’s available in 92 percent of ESPN leagues.

36. In Week 1, despite pregame reports of his expected usage, Josh Gordon was on the field for 78.6 percent of Cleveland’s offensive snaps.

37. Despite being the third-most blitz-happy defense in the league since the beginning of last season, the Saints create pressure at a below-average rate.

38. For his career, 25 percent of Tyrod Taylor’s deep completions when not pressured have resulted in TDs.

38a. The NFL average is 17.3 percent.

38b. Taylor targeted Gordon three times last week: 31.7 air yards per target.

39. In nine games without Greg Olsen last season, Devin Funchess had a 24 percent target share.

40. In 2017, 26 of the Panthers’ 40 red zone targets to WRs or TEs went to Kelvin Benjamin, Olsen and Funchess.

40a. Only one of them will play Sunday against the Falcons.

41. Over the past two seasons, the Buccaneers have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing wideouts.

41a. They just allowed 439 yards passing to the Saints.

41b. And they just lost starting cornerback Vernon Hargreaves for the season and starting cornerback Brent Grimes missed last week (and at least Wednesday’s practice) with a groin injury.

41c. Since the start of 2017, the Bucs also have allowed the highest yards per attempt and completion percentage to slot receivers.

41d. They also have given up the third-most completions to the slot.

41e. Nelson Agholor, who faces Tampa Bay on Sunday without teammate Alshon Jeffery, often lines up in the slot.

42. Tampa Bay wide receiver Chris Godwin has gotten 45-plus snaps three times in his career.

42a. He averages 16.2 fantasy points in those games.

42b. DeSean Jackson is currently in the NFL’s concussion protocol.

43. Last week, with Doug Baldwin banged up, 64.9 percent of Tyler Lockett’s routes run came from the slot.

43a. Last season, the Bears were a bottom-12 defense when defending the slot, in terms of both completion percentage and touchdowns.

43b. Randall Cobb caught all eight of his slot targets last week against Chicago for 133 yards and a touchdown.

43c. While much of Cobb’s production came on one big play, it’s not like Lockett doesn’t have big-play potential.

43d. Lockett played 98 percent of offensive snaps last week.

43e. Baldwin will not play Monday night against the Bears.

44. After Aaron Rodgers returned from his injury in the second half last week, 90.5 percent of his targeted throws came while in the shotgun.

45. Since the beginning of 2015, Cobb leads the Packers in receptions (145), targets (216) and receiving yards (1,574) when Rodgers is in the shotgun.

46. Since the beginning of last season, 85.7 percent of TD passes allowed by the Vikings have come from QBs in the shotgun.

46a. The league average is 74.1 percent.

47. Since Week 15 of last season, George Kittle is the third-best tight end in fantasy.

47a. He has 1.5 more fantasy points than Zach Ertz during that stretch.

47b. That number would have been even bigger had a potential 80-yard touchdown not slipped past his fingers last week.

47c. He had nine targets last week on 49 snaps, his most snaps since Jimmy Garoppolo joined the team.

47d. He is still available in 32 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

47e. COME ON PEOPLE!

48. Last week, Ricky Seals-Jones ran 34 routes and stayed in to block just once.

49. He played 92 percent of snaps and got six targets, a 19 percent target share.

50. This week, he plays the Rams, a team that just gave up 180 yards to Jared Cook.

50a. JARED COOK!

A reminder, you can stream episodes of The Fantasy Show, including the Week 2 edition of Love/Hate, on ESPN+. Thanks to Kyle Soppe and Damian Dabrowski for their help, as always, and good luck to you in Week 2.

Matthew Berry, The Talented Mr. Roto, had a bunch of good stats about Jack Doyle, but ran out of room. Start Jack Doyle. He is the creator of RotoPass.com and one of the owners of the Fantasy Life app and FantasyLife.com.





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Fantasy football — 100 facts to consider for the 2018 season


Everything you are about to read is false. Except that statement, which is true. And that last statement about the first statement, that one is also true. As is that third sentence, about the second. And, well, this one. But everything else, OK, everything else, is a lie. Not counting, of course, the declaration that everything else is a lie. Because that part is true. About lying, I mean. It’s not a lie that the statement that everything you will read in this article is a lie, because that part is true. Everything else is a lie, except the declaration that everything is a lie is true. That’s the part that’s not a lie, even though I said everything else is a lie.

Confused yet? Like, you follow the logic, but then it gets a bit fuzzy? Get used to it. Because the 2018 fantasy football season is officially underway. Hello, old friend, and welcome back. Put your feet up and relax. Can I get you a smoothie?

I have written this column for 13 years now. Often imitated, never duplicated, it’s always the first column I write and I do so for a few very specific reasons. One, it’s among my most favorite columns to write. Always good to start the season off with a fave. And two, because it’s CRUCIAL to read first so you understand what you are looking at once you start your research and prep for the 2018 fantasy football season. Because your fantasy football success this year is not going to be based on how much you research, but rather how you interpret what you research. Consider these two quarterbacks.

Quarterback A is, well, a work in progress. And that’s being kind. There were 31 quarterbacks last season who had at least one game with at least 22.5 points. C.J. Beathard, Brian Hoyer and Brock Osweiler were among the QBs who reached that threshold at least once. Quarterback A did not. He failed to throw multiple TD passes in seven of his final 11 games and he finished poorly, tying Joe Flacco on a fantasy points-per-game basis in the second half of last season. While averaging 10 percent fewer pass attempts in wins last season than losses, the less our guy did in the passing game, the better the team did on the field, which is good for his NFL team, bad for us. Is this the end of the line for the veteran QB? His 2016 sure seems like a fluke after his touchdown pass total in 2017 fell by 36 percent from the previous year (he had fewer TDs than Andy Dalton, for Pete’s sake), and his QBR dropped for a third consecutive season. Despite playing all 16 games, he still had his lowest rushing total in five seasons, but don’t think that means his passing is improving. Last season was not only his first with his current team without a completion of 55-plus yards, but also his worst in terms of air yards per pass attempt. Given the state of the NFL, it makes sense why his NFL team has to trot him out this year, but that doesn’t mean you have to.

Meanwhile, Quarterback B is one of those set it and forget it, draft him early and don’t worry about it types. Another year with more than 4,000 passing yards, another year of being top 10 in pass attempts. This QB always airs it out and that’s good for fantasy players. Because when he throws, it’s high quality. Last season, he was top three in the NFL in completion percentage, completion percentage on play-action and red zone completion percentage. And you see that high completion percentage and I bet you think he’s a dink-and-dunk guy, right? Nope, our guy also led the NFL in yards per attempt last season. He’s consistent as they come. In his many seasons with his current team, he has never been outside the top 12 in terms of total touchdown passes, even in the seasons he got hurt. A weekly warrior last season, he posted the lowest interception rate of his career and played in all 16 games. In fact, only one other qualifying QB who played all 16 games threw fewer interceptions. When you keep the ball, good things happen, which explains why, over the past three years, only five QBs have more weekly top-two finishes than our guy. He can single-handedly win you a week, which explains why he’s top five in total fantasy points over the past three years as well. Instead of trying to play the matchups each week, just draft Quarterback B and never worry about the position again.

So, which quarterback do you want this year?

Realize that every single thing I wrote about each player is true.

Which one do you want? Go ahead and pick. Think you know which guy you want? Feel confident one guy is significantly better than the other? Know which of these two guys you would draft and why?

Fair enough, but before you click “draft,” you should probably know one other fact.

Quarterback A’s name is Drew Brees.

And Quarterback B? Well, that’s also Drew Brees.

Yeah.

You see, I can make stats say anything I want. I can talk up or talk down any player I want, I just have to choose the right stats for the job. Or just ask my friends Kyle Soppe of ESPN Fantasy or Mackenzie Kraemer of ESPN Stats & Information to get me the right stat, which I did at various points in this column. Everything you are about read below is an accurate statistical statement. A heavily researched, well-thought-out, 100 percent true, can’t be argued with, fully vetted fact.

That tells only part of the story. The part of the story I want you see. That’s why I say it’s all a lie. And lie is a strong word. It’s more like half-truth. Oh, it’s definitely part of a picture. But not all of it. Just the part that supports whatever opinion I have of a player. Whatever opinion I want to try to convince you of.

You see, there’s very little in this world I am good at, but one thing I am a world class master at? Manipulating stats to tell the story I want. But here’s the other big secret:

I am not the only one.

Everyone does it. Some do it better than others, but everyone does it. They do it in fantasy football analysis, they do it in politics, in pop culture, in office presentations and happy hour debates. Everyone tells you the stats or side of the story that supports what they think. But they don’t tell you the whole story.

And that might be the most important thing you learn about fantasy football research all season.

It’s why I start this column off every year with this same message, and the same confession. Because it’s that important. Nothing you read/watch/hear from me (or anyone) in this column or anything in the future is black and white. It’s all shades of grey.

As you go through this preseason (and, frankly, life), you’ll have countless analysts give you all sorts of reasons why this player is awesome and this one is a bum and why you need that guy but must avoid another one, and it’s all just opinions. Facts and stats and snippets of game film parsed to show you the side that supports their belief. Their opinion. And ONLY that opinion.


In a league of All-Pro players, who ruled the gridiron more than the rest? Vote now to determine who takes home the ESPY for Best NFL Player on July 18.


We are in an era of information overload. I work for a 24/7/365 sports news and information media company that has an around-the-clock cable network, radio network, popular website and two apps (ESPN and ESPN Fantasy) that will send you alerts and keep you up to date on any stat, trend, news, highlight, piece of content you could ever possibly want to know at any given time. I have a podcast, a daily TV show, there will be digital video clips from both shows, I am on social media everywhere and then I have rankings, columns and, during the season, a three-hour TV show before kickoff. And that’s just me. There are tons of men and women just like me. Many other media companies like ESPN. And we’re all talking, writing, arguing, tweeting, performing. Blah blah blah blah.

Your job? Watch the games, do the research, figure out which analysts you trust and whose thinking aligns with yours. Question everyone and everything you hear, many times over, take it all in, and then make your own call.

Because ultimately, that’s all any of us are doing, especially me: taking a small piece of a big picture and making a call.

Everything that follows is completely accurate. Some is about players, some about tendencies, and not a damn bit of it tells the whole story.

These are 100 facts you need to know before you draft. And what you do with them is up to you.

1. Carson Wentz threw a touchdown on 7.5 percent of his passes last season.

2. Deshaun Watson threw a touchdown on 9.3 percent of his passes last season.

3. Since 2001, the highest rate of TD passes per attempt over a full season is Peyton Manning in 2004 (9.9 percent).

4. The league average TD rate for a QB last season was 4.3 percent.

5. In 2014, from Weeks 13-16, Tom Brady was QB14 (QB7 in points per game Weeks 1-12).

5a. In 2015, from Weeks 13-16, Tom Brady was QB8 (QB1 in points per game Weeks 1-12).

5b. In 2016, from Weeks 13-16, Tom Brady was QB9 (QB2 in points per game Weeks 1-12).

5c. In 2017, from Weeks 13-16, Tom Brady was QB20 (QB4 in points per game Weeks 1-12).

5d. In 2018, from Weeks 13-16, three of the four teams to play the Patriots were top 10 in fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs last season.

6. Last season, quarterbacks who went undrafted in more than 50 percent of ESPN leagues finished as a top-10 weekly performer at the position 89 times.

7. Last season, quarterbacks who were drafted in more than 50 percent of ESPN leagues finished as a top-10 weekly performer at the position 81 times.

8. Since 2015, Kirk Cousins ranks fourth in fantasy points off play-action.

9. Over the past three years, Cousins has a 70.1 percent completion rate off play-action, best in the NFL among qualified QBs.

9a. (Excluding my colleague Matt Hasselbeck’s eight games in that time frame. Shoutout to Matt.)

10. Last season, Vikings pass-catchers led the league in receptions (102) and yards (1,312) off of play-action passes.

11. Over the past three years, only Cam Newton and Tyrod Taylor have more rushing touchdowns among QBs than … Kirk Cousins.

12. Speaking of rushing QBs … during the past three years, Alex Smith has the fifth-most rushing yards by a quarterback.

13. Three of the past four years, a Jay Gruden offense has been top 12 in the NFL in pass percentage.

14. Be it as an offensive coordinator or a head coach, the offense with Jay Gruden at the controls has finished inside the top 10 in terms of total QB fantasy points four times in the past five seasons.

15. Alex Smith, last season’s QB4 in total fantasy points and now starting for Gruden in Washington, is currently being drafted in the 13th round, as QB18.

16. Here is a list of quarterbacks who have thrown for at least 4,000 yards and 25-plus touchdowns each of the past three years: Kirk Cousins and … Philip Rivers.

16a. Rivers has thrown for at least 4,000 yards and 25-plus touchdowns in nine of the past 10 years.

16b. Since 2006, he has not missed a game.

17. No quarterback in the NFL had more 300-yard games last season than Rivers, who had six.

18. Last season, Rivers’ ADP was QB17. He finished as QB8.

18a. In fact, over the past five years, Rivers has finished an average of 5.6 spots higher than his ADP.

19. Rivers is currently going as QB15.

20. Over the past two years, “Player A” has played 32 games and and thrown for 6,991 yards and 45 touchdowns.

21. Over the past two years, “Player B” has played 29 games and thrown for 7,594 yards and 47 touchdowns.

21a. Player A is Dak Prescott. Player B is Jameis Winston.

22. Prescott has run for six touchdowns in each of the past two seasons.

23. In the past 15 seasons, there has been only one QB who has run for six or more touchdowns in three straight seasons: Cam Newton.

24. Of Dak’s six rushing touchdowns in 2017, four of them came from at least 10 yards out, tied for most in the NFL … among all positions.

25. During Prescott’s NFL career, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten have combined for 40.4 percent of his completions, 40.9 percent of his passing yards and 46.7 percent of his passing touchdowns.

25a. As of this writing, neither Bryant nor Witten is expected to play for the Dallas Cowboys this season.

26. In Jimmy Garoppolo’s five starts last season, the San Francisco 49ers averaged the fourth-most yards per play.

27. In each of the past two seasons, four of the top five offenses in terms of yards per play have produced a top-nine fantasy QB.

28. Over the past decade, Andy Reid’s quarterbacks have scored 2,755.4 fantasy points.

29. If Reid were an NFL franchise, that would rank fifth best in the league during that stretch.

30. Tyreek Hill ranks second in catches that have gained 35-plus yards the past two seasons.

30a. Travis Kelce leads all tight ends in deep receptions during the past two years.

30b. Here is the entire list of players with more catches than Sammy Watkins who are averaging more air yards per target since Watkins entered the NFL in 2014 …

30c. At his pro day at Texas Tech, on his 68th pass attempt, Patrick Mahomes effortlessly threw a 78-yard Hail Mary pass.

31. Last year, Todd Gurley became the fifth running back in the past 10 years to score 19 touchdowns in a single season.

32. Only one of the previous four scored more than eight the following season.

33. In the six games Alvin Kamara got 15 or more touches last season, he averaged 115.5 scrimmage yards.

34. Despite ranking tied for 24th in total touches, Kamara led all running backs with 35 touches that gained 15-plus yards.

34a. Only one other running back had more than 25 (Todd Gurley).

35. Here’s the list of running backs with at least 195 carries and 35 catches in each of the past three seasons: Devonta Freeman.

36. Here’s the list of running backs with at least 1,100 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns in each of the past three seasons: Devonta Freeman.

37. Jerick McKinnon is one of six running backs with at least 150 carries and 40 receptions each of the past two years.

37a. During those two years, McKinnon averaged 31.4 snaps a game.

37b. During Jimmy Garoppolo’s five starts last season, Carlos Hyde averaged 44.6 snaps per game.

38. Last season, the 49ers ranked top five in the NFL in RB receptions, RB targets and RB receiving yards.

39. During Kyle Shanahan’s two years in Atlanta, the Falcons were eighth in RB receptions, fifth in RB receiving yards, led the NFL in RB red zone receiving yards and were second in RB red zone receptions.

40. In three of the past four seasons, the offense that had Shanahan on the sidelines has ranked above average in goal-to-go rush percentage.

41. Last season, only Le’Veon Bell, Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt had a higher percentage of their team’s red zone carries than … Marshawn Lynch.

42. Lynch averaged 2.47 yards per carry after first contact.

42a. That was the second-highest rate of his career.

42b. … and was fifth best in the NFL.

43. Among other offseason moves to improve the offensive line, Oakland drafted offensive tackles in the first and third rounds this year.

44. Lynch, who had at least 19 touches in five of his final six games last season, is currently being drafted as RB24, in the sixth round.

45. There have been eight rookie running backs who finished top 10 at the position during the past three seasons.

46. Last season, under now Giants head coach Pat Shurmur, the Vikings ranked second in rush percentage.

47. While in Minnesota (2016-17) and Philadelphia (2013-15), Shurmur’s offense was sixth in red zone rush percentage.

48. During those stops, running backs in Shurmur’s offense averaged 5.35 catches per game.

49. Last season, under Shurmur, the Vikings running backs got 108 targets.

49a. The Giants selected Saquon Barkley with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft.

50. Derrius Guice is the only player in SEC history with three 250-yard rushing games.

51. In his three-year collegiate career, Guice averaged 6.5 yards per carry, the second highest in SEC history.

51a. Only Bo Jackson (6.6) was higher.

52. Despite an injured offensive line and a struggling running game, Jay Gruden’s Redskins ran the ball 54.7 percent of the time in goal-to-go situations, 10th most in the NFL.

53. If you combined Rob Kelley’s and Samaje Perine’s goal-to-go carries from last season, that “player” would rank tied for third in goal-to-go carries with 21.

54. In 2017, LeGarrette Blount converted just one touchdown on 13 goal-to-go carries, a rate of 7.7 percent.

54a. The league RB average was 28.5 percent in 2017.

55. In the first seven years of LeGarrette Blount’s career (2010-16): 33 touchdowns on 98 goal-to-goal carries, a rate of 33.7 percent.

55a. The league RB average during that time was 29 percent.

56. In 2017, the Lions ran the ball 42.9 percent of the time in goal-to-go situations, their highest rate since 2009, which is before Matthew Stafford became the regular starter at QB in Detroit.

57. Last season, Aaron Jones had 81 carries.

58. Eight of those carries went for at least 15 yards, a rate of one such rush every 10.1 carries.

59. Among running backs with at least 75 carries last season, here’s the list of running backs who had a 15-plus-yard rush more frequently than Jones’ once every 10.1 carries: Alvin Kamara, once every 9.2.

60. Among running backs with at least 75 carries last season, no running back was worse in this metric than Jones’ teammate Jamaal Williams, who had one such run in 153 attempts.

60a. Second to last in 2017 was Mike Gillislee, with one in 104 attempts.

61. In the four games in which Aaron Jones got 10-plus carries last season, he averaged 5.6 yards per carry and 14.8 fantasy PPG.

62. Jones is currently being drafted in the 13th round on ESPN.com, as RB43.

63. Last year, Kenyan Drake averaged 5.21 yards per carry in the first three quarters, second best in the NFL.

64. In the fourth quarter last season, Drake averaged 3.41 yards per carry, 27th among running backs.

65. On the same number of fourth-quarter carries last season, Drake had 10 fewer rushing yards than … Ameer Abdullah.

66. Drake had a rush result in 30-plus yards on 4.5 percent of his carries last season, the greatest rate (minimum 100 carries) in the past six years.

67. From 2012 to 2016, there were eight running backs (minimum 100 carries) who had a rate of higher than 2.5 percent.

68. The season following their elite big run rate, those eight running backs combined to see just 1.1 percent of their carries gain 30-plus yards.

69. Subtract Drake’s two biggest runs from last season and he averaged 0.42 fantasy points per carry.

69a. In 2017, Frank Gore averaged 0.44 fantasy points per carry.

70. Last season, Drake converted 8.3 percent of his red zone carries into scores.

70a. That was half of the NFL average of 16.6 percent.

71. From 2015 to 2017, there were only five individual seasons in which a running back carried the ball at least 260 times AND failed to run for more than 1,050 yards.

72. Frank Gore in 2015, Frank Gore in 2016 and Frank Gore in 2017 are three of the five.

73. Among the 82 RBs with at least 275 college carries over the past two seasons, Miami Dolphins 6-foot-2, 228-pound rookie running back Kalen Ballage scored on the 10th-highest percentage of carries (7.1 percent).

73a. For comparison, here are some other current rookies in that same time frame: Saquon Barkley (7.4 percent). Ronald Jones II (7.1), Sony Michel (6.5), Derrius Guice (6.2).

74. Over the past three seasons, only Antonio Brown has more receiving touchdowns than … Doug Baldwin.

75. Over the past three seasons, Baldwin has the eighth-most receptions.

76. In those three seasons, only five receivers have more total fantasy points than Baldwin.

77. Last season, Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham had 175 targets.

78. Graham and Richardson combined for 33 red zone targets last season.

79. Over the past two years, no player in the NFL has more red zone targets than Graham.

79a. Richardson (Redskins) and Graham (Packers) are on new teams in 2018.

80. Baldwin is currently going in the fourth round on ESPN.com, as WR12.

81. Under Jon Gruden from 2005 to 2007, Joey Galloway accounted for 34.5 percent of Tampa Bay’s receiving yards (third-highest rate in the NFL in that time frame).

82. In 2008, under Jon Gruden, Antonio Bryant accounted for 32.9 percent of Tampa Bay’s receiving yards (eighth-highest rate that year).

83. In Amari Cooper’s 13 career games with 10-plus targets, he has averaged 21.8 PPG.

83a. In Amari Cooper’s 22 career games with eight-plus targets, he has averaged 18.0 PPG.

84. Last season, Michael Crabtree, Cordarrelle Patterson and Clive Walford combined for 42.2 percent of Oakland’s red zone targets.

84a. All three of them are no longer with the Raiders.

85. Cooper is currently going in the sixth round, as WR22 on ESPN.com.

85a. He is only 24 years old.

86. Last season, Cooper Kupp was tied with Davante Adams and Dez Bryant for fourth in the NFL in red zone targets.

87. The last time the Green Bay Packers had a top-10 fantasy tight end was 2011.

88. Last year, only five of Aaron Rodgers‘ 32 red zone targets went to tight ends.

89. Here’s the entire list of tight ends to have at least five receiving touchdowns in each of the past three seasons: Kyle Rudolph.

90. Here’s the entire list of tight ends with at least seven receiving touchdowns each of the past two seasons: Kyle Rudolph.

91. Since 2015, the only tight end with more touchdowns than Kyle Rudolph’s 20 is Rob Gronkowski, with 22.

92. Over the past three years, Rudolph has the fifth-most fantasy points among tight ends.

93. Since 2015, new Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins ranks first in completions, third in completion percentage, third in passing yards and fifth in touchdown passes to the tight end position.

93a. Rudolph is currently going in the 10th round on ESPN.com, as TE11.

94. From 2014 to 2016, only Tom Brady averaged more touchdown passes per game targeting tight ends than Andrew Luck.

95. In two years with current Colts head coach Frank Reich as their offensive coordinator, the Eagles led the NFL in receptions by tight ends and were third in receiving yards.

96. They ran the fourth-most plays with two or more tight ends on the field and the second-most pass plays.

97. Jack Doyle’s drop percentage last season was 1.9 percent.

97a. Eric Ebron’s drop percentage last season was 6.0 percent.

98. Jared Cook has never caught more than five touchdowns in a regular season.

98a. Cook has never had 800 receiving yards in a regular season.

98b. Cook has never caught 55 passes in a regular season.

99. Over the past three seasons, in 42 NFL regular-season games, Cook has three touchdowns.

100. That’s not a typo. Three.



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21 facts about New York Jets QB Sam Darnold on his 21st birthday – New York Jets Blog


New York Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold celebrates his 21st birthday on Tuesday, which means the soon-to-be-millionaire finally can legally go to a bar or casino. To honor the milestone, we’ve compiled 21 age-related factoids and memorable moments:

1. If Darnold cracks the starting lineup as a rookie, he’ll be the youngest quarterback to start a game for the Jets. The mark is held by Joe Namath, who was 22 years, 118 days old when he made his starting debut on Sept. 26, 1965. Namath got his famous nickname — Broadway Joe — as a rookie. Is there a catchy moniker waiting for Darnold?

2. Would Darnold be the youngest QB in NFL history if he starts? No, but he would be really close. Tommy Maddox was 21 years, 81 days old when he made his first start for the Denver Broncos on Nov. 22, 1992. For the record, Darnold will be 21 years, 97 days old on Sept. 10, when the Jets open the season at the Detroit Lions.

3. This might not come as a shock, but Darnold is the youngest player on the current roster. In terms of Jets history, he could be the fourth-youngest to play in a game. The three youngest, according to Pro Football Reference: wide receiver Jalin Marshall (21 years, 52 days) in 2016, linebacker Marvin Jones (21 years, 69 days) in 1993 and defensive end Leonard Williams (21 years, 85 days) in 2015.

4. Darnold is a babe among babes. Of the 13 quarterbacks drafted in April, he’s the youngest by four months. The second-youngest is former college rival Josh Rosen, who turned 21 on Feb. 10. It must be an L.A. thing.

5. Not only was Darnold an early entrant into the draft, but he was also an early entrant into … well, life. He was born two weeks early (June 5, 1997), checking in at 8 pounds, 5 ounces at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, California, according to Bleacher Report. His father wanted to name him Buck, but he was overruled. Broadway Buck actually has a nice ring to it. If they had only known.

6. As a kid, Darnold participated in a lot of sports, including basketball, baseball, soccer and taekwondo. His parents, Mike and Chris, wanted him to enjoy the full sports experience instead of focusing on one. That might explain why Darnold didn’t become a starting quarterback until late in his sophomore year at San Clemente High School. Because of a broken foot, he started only two games as a junior, which means he has played only three seasons as a starting quarterback: senior year at San Clemente and two years at USC. You might say he’s a young 21, if that’s possible.

7. His first high school start was the stuff of legend. With three minutes remaining in the game, Darnold rallied his team from a 21-7 deficit to win 29-21.

8. Darnold was only 2 when his grandfather died. Dick Hammer lived a storybook life: He was a basketball player at USC, a member of the 1964 U.S. Olympic volleyball team, an actor on TV (he played Captain Hammer in the series “Emergency!”) and an original Marlboro Man in cigarette advertisements in the 1970s. He also served as a firefighter in the Los Angeles area. “He was a stud,” Darnold once said of his grandfather.

9. Keeping up a family tradition, Darnold dabbled in volleyball. Well, there was that one time when he was 16. Despite having no competitive experience, he played in a Manhattan Beach doubles tournament with his older sister, Franki, who competed at the University of Rhode Island. Somehow, they managed to make the playoffs. Did someone say, “Sandbagger?”

10. Sam was raised by athletic parents. His father was an offensive lineman at the University of Redlands in California, and his mother played volleyball at Long Beach City College.

11. Living in Orange County, about an hour south of Los Angeles, Darnold rooted for the Dodgers, Lakers and USC. Eric Gagne, Kobe Bryant and Reggie Bush were among his favorite athletes.

12. Darnold narrowed his college choices to USC, Duke and Utah. If he had picked Duke, he would’ve played for David Cutcliffe, who coached Peyton and Eli Manning in college. Darnold could have been an adopted member of the Manning family, but he decided to stay close to home, even though the Trojans had already signed two highly-rated quarterbacks, Max Browne and Ricky Town. Darnold wasn’t intimidated by the competition, and ultimately, he prevailed.

13. How cool is this? At USC, Darnold co-hosted his own weekly podcast, “Season of Sam.” Joined by Yogi Roth, a former college player and Pac-12 analyst, Darnold shared with listeners his journey through the season. They had guests, too, including funny man and USC alumnus Will Ferrell.

14. Darnold was only 19 years old when he delivered his signature performance, beating Penn State in the Rose Bowl. Suddenly, an entire nation knew his name.

15. Darnold respects his elders, especially when they’re NFL legends. In early March, he and fellow rookie quarterback Josh Allen visited Bill Parcells at his home in Jupiter, Florida. They’re all represented by agent Jimmy Sexton, who arranged the meeting. For close to four hours, the draft hopefuls absorbed wisdom from Parcells.

Recalling the meeting, Parcells told ESPN, “I was impressed with them. They were highly respectful. They knew how to behave. They were inquisitive. They were both eager to hear what I had to say. Neither of them is ready to be a star — and that’s a good thing. They’re both intent on being good football players. Whatever comes with that eventually comes with it, but they’re not trying to precede it.”

16. One funny anecdote from the Parcells summit: The Hall of Fame coach said he was taken aback when the quarterbacks told him they use elastic bands for their lower-body training. That’s how Tom Brady does it, they told Parcells.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Parcells told Darnold and Allen. “Tom Brady is 40 years old. Tom Brady is in a preservation state. You’re in a developmental state. You can’t do the same things as him.”

Parcells suggested leg squats, among other lifting techniques. Three weeks later, he texted both quarterbacks to see how they were doing as the draft approached. Darnold texted back immediately:

“Plenty of squats, coach. My legs are already stronger.”

17. Speaking of Brady, he was between his freshman and sophomore years at Michigan when Darnold was born. Now they’re AFC East rivals. Crazy.

18. The Jets’ quarterbacks room includes the youngest player on the team and the oldest, Josh McCown, who turns 39 on July 4. McCown fired off this funny tweet after the draft:

When the tweet was mentioned in a recent interview, McCown was asked if he could develop a father-son relationship with Darnold.

“More like an older big brother,” he said with a smile. “Father-son is a little too close to home.”

19. Does age matter for a quarterback? Let’s go back to our conversation with Parcells. In 1993, age factored into his decision about whether to choose Drew Bledsoe or Rick Mirer with the No. 1 overall pick. Bledsoe was only 21 at the time of the draft; Mirer was 23. Ultimately, Parcells felt Bledsoe at 23 would be ahead of Mirer, and he was right — good thing for the New England Patriots.

“Age is a number,” Parcells said. “So much of it is getting to the right place with the right people to help you.”

20. Darnold was 15 when he first posted on his Instagram account. His initial post? John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success.

21. Now that he’s 21, Darnold is old enough to drink legally. Cheers!





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