Huddle up!

Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, but I can explain: I’ve been job-hunting.

And, I’m happy to report, you can now get your 2V fix on a regular basis at The Huddle, where I will be toiling as Senior NFL Analyst. In fact, I already have my first blog up there and am in the process of churning out as much draft information as I can before Christmas in April is upon us.

The response from friends, fans, and family has been fantastic, if only because the threat of me showing up asking if I can crash for the night on their couch has now been lessened dramatically. Heck, I even received a bit of play at RotoNation, one of the online monitors of all things fantasy sports.

So, odds are I won’t be updating this particular site with any degree of frequency; better reset those bookmarks.

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Combine Musings

You can’t let a once-every-four-year occurrence like Leap Day go by without posting, right? Though it may seem like four years since my last post, in fact it’s barely been a fortnight.

In the intervening time, however, the NFL held its annual Indianapolis get-together and invited 400 players and twice as many media. Since I’m a sucker for big fellas in their Under Armors—and thanks to the quantity-over-quality approach of New Coke I had nothing better to do anyway—I tuned in. Here are some of my thoughts.

Jake Long looks every bit the part of a tackle who’ll anchor somebody’s offensive line for years. Scouting reports suggest he’s not quite the pass protector Joe Thomas was coming out last season but he’s already a better run blocker. If he goes to the Rams and plays on the right side for a year or three while Orlando Pace holds down the left side, Steven Jackson should have his pick of places to run. Long also flashed a bit of humor as he took the NFL Network on a tour of the combine, stopping at the hotel’s front desk long enough to leave a 3 a.m. wakeup call for Vernon Gholston, who was one of only two players to slip past Long and record a sack during Long’s four years at Michigan.

• Speaking of offensive linemen, Jeff Otah sure looked like he plays pretty high during his work in the drills. Granted, he’s 6-6 so he’s going to play high, but some scouts might knock him down a peg or two because of it. In Otah’s defense, he is apparently still recovering from a high ankle sprain (which explains his slow 40 time). He’s also relatively new to football, having picked up the game late in high school, and as such can likely be “coached up” at the next level.

• My pick for sleeper lineman who helped himself the most at the Combine is Jeremy Zuttah of Rutgers. Zuttah checked in at 6-3 and 303, then ran a 4.99 40 and pressed 225 pounds 35 times. Size, speed, strength… if scouts go back to the film and see that Zuttah has even a smidgeon of football ability he’ll hear Gene Washington call his name early on Day Two. Odds are a team like the Broncos, Texans, or Packers that employs a zone blocking scheme and puts a premium on the footspeed of their linemen will be making that call.

Matt Ryan impressed teams without throwing a pass. According to published reports, he showed up for his meetings with the various teams dressed in a shirt and tie (as opposed to the sweats many others were sporting), took copious notes and asked intelligent, pointed questions. This all-business approach drew comparisons to Peyton Manning, and it’s not surprising that the two quarterbacks share the same agent. As one scout said, “Now that’s what a first-round pick is supposed to act like!” I’m sure Atlanta will be very proud to have him.

• It wasn’t just the players who were impressing at the Combine. I gained further respect for NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, as there is no question the guy does his homework. Any time he has a point about a player he has video evidence to back it up, and when it came time to talk about some of the surprises of the combine his response was fantastic. It wasn’t “This guy ran a 4.33 and should move up two rounds”; it was “I need to go back and look at more film to see if this guy’s speed and athleticism translate on the football field.” I’d put Mayock up there with Pro Football Weekly’s Nolan Nawrocki and Houston scribe and radio host Lance Zierlein as the guys whose opinions carry the most credibility with me when it comes to breaking down the NFL draft.

• Finally, for those of you who find yourself consumed with the Combine results and what they might mean for future NFL performance, check out the article I wrote last year around combine time. It’s located here.

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Houston, We Need a Running Back

In preparation for the upcoming NFL draft, and the fantasy ramifications of who goes where, I was looking back on how rookies performed last season. While I’ll go more in depth on that later in the draft season (which, in case you didn’t know, officially kicks off with the NFL Scouting Combine next week), one figure jumped out and grabbed me by the throat.

Ranking rookie running backs by per-game fantasy production, the Texans’ Darius Walker drifted near the top of the pack. Sure, he didn’t play much, but his per-game results ranked him between Willie Parker and Fred Taylor for the season.

You read that right: between a guy who was a consensus first-rounder and had a pretty good season (aside from the lack of touchdowns) right up until he broke his leg, and a guy who finished the year as hot as any back in the league.

Does that mean you should snap up the former Golden Domer and expect him to churn out numbers next season? Uh, no. But it did get me to thinking about what the Texans might do if they’re able to cull one of the talented backs from this year’s class.

After all, anyone expecting the aging and oft-injured Ahman Green to suddenly find the fountain of youth is delusional. And Ron Dayne is a plodder who’ll get what the line gives him but little more; plus, he proved last season that there are limits to how much of the load he can handle and still maintain what little effectiveness he possesses.

Chris Taylor was intriguing for one game at the end of 2006, but he blew out a knee at the start of 2007 and is a long shot to contribute even if he’s healthy. And Walker was a desperation plug-in who capitalized on his opportunity but isn’t being looked to as the solution.

Which leads us back to the Texans using Draft Day to replenish their backfield. It’s become relatively clear that passing on Reggie Bush wasn’t the blunder we all thought it was, and Gary Kubiak learned under Mike Shanahan that you don’t need to get your successful backs early.

So don’t expect the Texans to spend that first-round pick on Jonathan Stewart or Rashard Mendenhall; there’s a good chance one or both might be off the board anyway. Moreover, word out of Houston is that they’re eyeballing a corner or a left tackle (hooray, finally!) with that first-rounder.

An aside: how much better will Houston’s offense be with a guy like Ryan Clady or Jeff Otah or even Sam Baker up front? And if Charles Spencer comes back from that devastating knee injury, all of a sudden the Texans’ line is a strength instead of a liability.

But I digress.

With Houston’s second-rounder property of the Falcons thanks to the Matt Schaub trade, the Texans’ first shot to upgrade their backfield might not come until round three. The great news for Kubiak and his charges is that there should be options still on the table.

You want proven? Michigan’s Mike Hart played at a high level for four years, but he’s a bit on the smallish side to be an every-down NFL back. Still, if the wear on his tires isn’t too great, he has the vision and quickness to be very successful in Houston’s zone blocking system.

Or the Texans could stay in-state and take UT’s Jamaal Charles. He faces durability questions but has tremendous speed and is a classic one-cut-and-go runner—ideally suited for the Houston offense. This pick might also extend an olive branch to the faction of their fan base still miffed the locals passed on Vince Young a couple years back.

The list of possibilities also features a couple names unfamiliar to those who don’t worship at the alter of Mel Kiper, Jr.

Kevin Smith of Central Florida has good size and all the tools required of a feature back except the major college pedigree. East Carolina’s Chris Johnson is a tad undersized but has tremendous quickness and the ability to burst through a hole; you can’t hit what you can’t catch.

Either way, the hope here—and I’m guessing in Houston as well—is that the Texans use this draft to replace Ahman with someone you can trust will make it to the field on any given Sunday.

Besides, if an undrafted Darius Walker can have success, someone like Hart or Charles or Smith or Johnson could very easily carve out some fantasy relevancy in 2008.

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Save “Friday Night Lights”!

If you’re a big fan of reality TV—you know, shows that provide living, breathing proof of the decline of civilization—stop reading.

If, on the other hand, you appreciate quality television and don’t want to be subjected to another Guess How Much Money Is In My Pocket or Dance With Attractive People We Found Working At Denny’s, you owe it to yourself to check out Friday Night Lights.

Sure, the programming geniuses have it scheduled at one of the worst possible times—“Hey, let’s put a show about high school kids on at exactly the time high school kids won’t be around to watch it!”—but we’ve got TiVO and DVR and VHS so there’s really no excuse.

As we speak the brain wizards at NBC are planning to cancel Friday Night Lights. This is a move tantamount to buying a successful fantasy sports site then replacing everything that made it great with cheaper, lesser talent; however, unlike that shrewd business move you can actually do something that might prevent this travesty. Sign this petition and maybe, just maybe, we’ll be spared another night of idiots hugging Howie Mandel and passing up six figures for a one-in-72 shot at a million dollars.

Please. Because if we don’t stop them now, they may never be stopped.

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All Day, Baby!

Those who bothered to tune in to Sunday’s Pro Bowl were treated to yet another chapter in the expanding legacy of Adrian Peterson. The rookie rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, earning MVP honors as he helped the NFC topple the AFC 42-30.

And those who didn’t see the game will surely see the highlights on SportsCenter or read about All Day’s exploits in the sports page. And since there won’t be another game played before drauction day, this is the picture that will stick in the minds of fantasy footballers as they head into their draft or auction.

Before I flash the caution lights, let me stress again that I am in no way an Adrian Peterson hater. On draft day I had my eight-year-old son chanting in front of the television with me, “Peterson! Peterson!” as we implored the Purple to make the right pick. For Christmas my son and I exchanged Adrian Peterson jerseys, and last Friday as his school capped Spirit Week with “Jersey Day,” not only did I proudly send him off to second grade adorned in Vikings #28, when I showed up at school to volunteer for the Book Fair I too sported my Peterson jersey.

But one key to fantasy success is to divorce one’s self from their emotional attachment to players and remain objective. And that is why I simply can’t bring myself to champion Peterson for the first overall pick.

In fact, on my personal draft board, I have him fifth.

Because as dazzling as he was in Hawaii, as outrageous as he was against the Chargers when he set the NFL rushing record, right now there are too many question marks to make him No. 1.

For starters, the AFC defense wasn’t exactly motivated to bring their A-game, and they didn’t spend the entire week scheming to shut down Peterson.

Second, there was just a wee bit more talent at quarterback for the NFC squad than what the Vikings will bring to the table next fall. And that may qualify as the greatest understatement of the year.

Finally, despite the collection of talent in the NFC backfield Peterson didn’t surrender much in the way of carries. After AD’s 16, Marion Barber III had the next most with six. Unless Brad Childress changes his spots, expect Chester Taylor to top that total in almost every game next year.

NFC coach Mike McCarthy said he would have run Peterson 50 times if he could have. Of course he would have; and if Peterson would have blown a knee or snapped an ankle it would remove another obstacle from the Packers’ path to another NFC crown. I’m a little surprised Brad Childress wasn’t on hand to send Taylor into the game after each Peterson carry of more than 20 or so yards.

Is Peterson capable of snapping ankles and dropping jaws every time he touches the ball? Abso-freakin’-lutely. Do I love the fact that he’s on my team on Sundays, and by my team I mean the Vikings? You betcha. And if he also winds up on my fantasy team, you’ll hear no complaints when he dissects a defense for 200 yards and three scores.

But unless the Vikings upgrade significantly at quarterback and Childress decides to stop splitting the carries and Minnesota finds a way to keep defenses from putting eight and nine and ten defenders in the box, there are going to be too many days like his 11-36-0 effort against the Broncos in Week 17. Or his 9-27-0 outing against the Redskins in Week 16. Or his 14-3-0 stat line from Week 14 in San Francisco. Or… see where I’m going with this?

Hey, I as much—probably more—than anyone hope the Vikes correct their deficiencies and Peterson reaches the 2,000-yard goal he’s set for himself.

But unless he falls into my lap on drauction day, I do believe he’ll be doing his fantasy damage—both positive and negative—on another fantasy squad.

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Let’s Chat

Because unlike Morten Andersen I’m not particularly adept at blowing my own horn, I’ll let the blurb from Fantasy Football Traders tell the story:

JOHN TUVEY CHAT
Feb. 8th at 9 pm EST.

The Super Bowl just ended less than a week ago – why in the world would we be scheduling a Fantasy Football chat in February!?

Because NOW is the time to reflect back on ’07 and begin applying what we saw toward value projections for 2008. That, along with the fact that our host is a recent Free Agent after a 9 year stint with Fanball.com and it’s highly unlikely he’ll be available for an opportunity like this much longer!

Trust us when we say you won’t have this level of access to John again any time soon so get those questions ready and we’ll see you tomorrow night!

Chat is only viewable by forum members so do yourself a favor and get registered in advance at FantasyFootballTraders.com.

So, if you haven’t talked enough fantasy football over the past six months, why not join me in getting a jump on the 2008 season? I’ll answer any and all questions, with the possible exception of what happened at last week’s “End of Fanball as We Know It Party”, specifically after the Jag-bombs and before the White Castle—but only because I don’t have any recollection of that time frame.

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The Daily Show Goes Pro

With only the meaningless sham that is the Pro Bowl left of this glorious near-perfect football season, I’m busy doing what any true leatherhead is doing: prepping for the NFL draft.

Eventually you’ll find profiles, rankings, and maybe even a mock draft or two from myself and esteemed colleague Jon Lopuch (of Pooch Report fame) at DraftStock.com. But let me drop this first bit of knowledge on you here first:

Jonathan Stewart is going to be a stud. And soon.

The Oregon product ranks second in our running back rankings, but it wouldn’t at all surprise me if he goes off the board before the much more ballyhooed Darren McFadden. The Falcons say they want a power running game, and if they’re not going to take Matt Ryan third overall Stewart would give them exactly what they’re looking for. Think of Jamal Lewis before prison, back when he ran for 2,000 yards in a season; that’s the kind of talent Stewart brings to the table.

Will it happen that way? Probably not. Most mocks I’ve seen have Stewart going mid-first to the Cardinals (thanks for the memories, Edge, drop your gold teeth in the cup on your way out) or later to the Seahawks (is that a salad fork or full-fledged dinner fork sticking out of Shaun Alexander’s back?). Either way, Stewarts falls into a solid offense where he doesn’t have to carry the load and will work behind an improving offensive line.

In fact, at the risk of blowing my good friend Taz’s sleeper rookie pick I’ll go out on a limb and make Stewart my odds-on favorite for offensive ROY if he lands in either ‘Zona or Seattle. He won’t put up Adrian Peterson numbers, but they’ll be north of Marshawn Lynch and at minimum worthy of a very helpful No. 2 fantasy back.

Yes, draft prep season is officially upon us!

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