Lets rewind to 2012 when Atlanta finished the regular season 13-3.  They claimed the NFC’s Number 1 playoff seed, knocked out Seattle in the divisional round of the playoffs, and just fell short of going to the Super Bowl.  So when the 2013 season started a lot of analysts had Atlanta to make another deep run in the playoffs and possibly make a Super Bowl run.  The Falcons entered the season with a fearsome passing attack and an upgrade to the run game by adding Steven Jackson from the Rams.

By the time the season started we already started to see some concerns with the Falcons.  Roddy White was hobbled by a high ankle sprain which made it harder for Julio to get receptions.  By the time Roddy was getting his groove back; Julio had broken a screw in his surgically repaired left foot and missed 11 games.  Steven Jackson fell early to injury as well and missed 6 games and Jaquizz Rodgers filled in.  Matt Ryan made the best out of a bad situation by utilizing Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas, but it was very interesting to see how different that offense was without two of its big play makers.  Lets not forget that the defense was missing Sean Weatherspoon and Kroy Bierman.  The defense ended up averaging 27.7 points a game allowed against them.

Now the Falcons are looking to rebound, and I think a lot of people are expecting them to return to glory as well.  It is a big loss not having Tony Gonzalez come back, but they will have Julio Jones and Roddy White coming back strong.  Matt Ryan knows how to utilize his targets and with both of them healthy it should really spread out the offense which will help create running lanes for Steven Jackson and the running game.  The Falcons spent the offseason drafting lineman to protect Matt Ryan; and they spent a lot of money signing crucial players to the roster.  The Falcons did also bring in Devin Hester which will add depth with the receivers and help amp up special teams.  Where the Falcons really need to step up is the defense.  Weatherspoon is coming back from an injury, but he should make an immediate impact along side Paul Worrilow who totaled up 127 tackles last year. 

As long as this team can stay healthy it would not surprise me if they went 12-4 and made a playoff push.  Coach Mike Smith has only had one losing season since taking over as head coach of the Falcons so it should be an interesting year of football in Atlanta.

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This is one of my favorite categories because its much like fantasy football; you just never really know how a player will perform.  Remember what the term comeback means.  More often than not a QB will take the Comeback Player of the Year Award mostly because of they can exceed expectations from a previous year.  Such as Phillip Rivers; he had a very bad season in 2012 mostly due to a bad team effort.  But in 2013 the talent got better around him and he was able to better his play.  Its is much harder for a RB to win the award because more often than not they need to comeback from a terrible injury or explode with a new team.  Its much of the same with WR as well; they need to produce outrageous stats to be considered for this award.

With that in mind; I feel there are a lot of players who could be in the running for the 2014 Comeback Player of the Year.  Some of my possibilities are QB; but there are a bunch of other positions that very well could win it as well.  There were a lot of injuries in 2013; and during free agency this year we saw a lot of players go to new teams.  So it should be very interesting to see who emerges out of the pack to win this award.  Below are my top selections in no particular order.

Robert Griffin III Redskins – Obvious first choice going into the season.  The Redskins have surrounded him with talented players and an upgraded offensive line.  One of the big stories was the Skins picking up DeSean Jackson in free agency which adds a lot of speed to the offense.  Pierre Garcon is healthy and Alfred Morris will be a big part of the pass game now as well.  RGIII should be healthy and ready to go when the season starts and I think the bar will be set pretty high for him in 2014.

Percy Harvin Seahawks – Harvin is another top candidate because after his showing in the Super Bowl; we all got to see his potential when he is healthy.  Now with Golden Tate gone there should be a lot of action in store for Harvin.  Now that is taking into account that he will stay healthy for a full season; we all know he has had some issues with that.  He has all the tools he needs to have a killer 2014 season; lets see if he uses all of them.

Julio Jones Falcons – Julio Jones is amazing anyway and he was on track to have a career year in 2013 until he got a foot injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season.  Jones is going to be healthy by the time the season starts and the Falcons brought in Hester from the Bears to hopefully take some of the pressure off Jones.  Roddy White will be playing the opposite side so there is no reason why Julio should not just explode.  

Rob Gronkowski Patriots – Two years ago it was impossible to stop Gronk, now for the last season he has had injury after injury that has slowed his progress.  No TE has ever won the Comeback Award; but if there is a TE to do it; it would be Gronk.  Tom Brady is still delivering the passes; so as long as Gronk can stay on the field he actually has a chance to get this award.

Aaron Rodgers Packers – He is a former league MVP so we all know his capabilities; now he is healthy he should return to form.  He still has weapons around him like Cobb and Nelson, and now the Packers have a strong run game with Lacy so it makes sense that Rodgers should be able to pass often and make a good run to winning this award.

Michael Crabtree 49ers – After being sidelined for most of the 2013 season with an injury; Crabtree came back with a vengeance and was a big impact on the 49ers.  Now being healthy and with other WR options for Kap; it should free up Crabtree to show his full potential.  He wont be putting up Julio Jones numbers; but he still can show how much he has recovered from a serious injury.

There are some others that might have a chance at this award too like Larry Fitzgerald, Randall Cobb, Eli Manning, Michael Vick, and Jake Locker; but they have some stiff competition to get there.  I know I didnt put any defensive players on here and thats because there have only been 3 defensive players to ever win this award and I dont see it happening in 2014.  I may be wrong though; you never know.

 

Receivers are becoming very useful in Fantasy Football over the past few years since most teams are becoming “pass first” teams.  There are some fantasy teams who will draft a receiver first especially if they are in a high passing offense like the Lions or Broncos.  There is still a few months before the season even starts, but it is still a good time to get an idea of what receivers are going to be beneficial to your fantasy team.  Just like with running backs there are a lot of players on new teams so before you draft a receiver make sure you think about who is throwing them the ball and who is protecting the QB.  It doesn’t matter how good a WR is; if the QB cant get them the ball then they are useless.

1. Calvin Johnson – Lions
2. Demaryius Thomas – Broncos
3. Brandon Marshall – Bears
4. Julio Jones – Falcons
5. AJ Green – Bengals
6. Dez Bryant – Cowboys
7. Alshon Jeffery – Bears
8. Jordy Nelson – Packers
9. Antonio Brown – Steelers
10. Randall Cobb – Packers
11. Larry Fitzgerald – Cardinals
12. Michael Crabtree – 49ers
13. Pierre Garcon – Redskins
14. Andre Johnson – Texans
15. Vincent Jackson – Bucs
16. Keenan Allen – Chargers
17. Julian Edelman – Patriots
18. Wes Welker – Broncos
19. Victor Cruz – Giants
20. Roddy White – Falcons
21. Percy Harvin – Seahawks
22. DeSean Jackson – Redskins
23. Golden Tate – Lions
24. Emmanuel Sanders – Broncos
25. Michael Floyd – Cardinals
26. Mike Wallace – Dolphins
27. Kendall Wright – Titans
28. Jeremy Maclin – Eagles
29. Torrey Smith – Ravens
30. Marques Colston – Saints
31. Reggie Wayne – Colts
32. Eric Decker – Jets
33. Terrance Williams – Cowboys
34. TY Hilton – Colts
35. Dwayne Bowe – Chiefs
36. Riley Cooper – Eagles
37. Greg Jennings – Vikings
38. Sammy Watkins – Bills
39. Anquan Boldin – 49ers
40. Mike Evans – Bucs

Now obviously there are a lot more receivers; but after this point in a draft it is really hit or miss with these guys.  I remember in 2013 most people didn’t even know who Alshon Jeffery was, and now he is going to be one of the better receivers in 2014.  You can always find sleepers in this category; you just need to have an understanding of what team they play for and the type of offense they are in.  Remember, if its a young QB under center or even a new QB its hard to really rely on that QB to get the ball to the receivers consistently.  I am not saying they cant, but its a reach to think otherwise.  Also, don’t ever underestimate how good or bad an offensive line is.  If the offensive line cant protect the QB, then obviously the receivers are not going to get many looks. 

In a few months it is going to be time to start nailing down your fantasy football league; but its never too early to start researching who are going to be fantasy studs and busts.  More often then not the running backs are drafted early so its good to have an understanding of who is going to be the best options.  In free agency we saw a load of running backs go to different teams, sign huge contracts, and some are now on contract years.  Below is my list (as of right now) of the best value running backs going into the 2014 season.

It amazes me how far some of the 2013 “elite” runners have fallen down this list.  Just last year everyone was after players like Ray Rice, CJ Spiller, and Trent Richardson.  Now I think people are going to be very careful about drafting them because they are now considered risky instead of reliable.  On the opposite end there are now running backs who were just rookies last year and now they are going to be fantasy studs like Eddie Lacy and LeVeon Bell.  I know this list is going to change before the season starts, but for now if this was a final list you can see that some of the backs from last year, are not going to be the backs you want this year.

1. Jamaal Charles – Chiefs
2. LeSean McCoy – Eagles
3. Adrian Peterson – Vikings
4. Matt Forte – Bears
5. Marshawn Lynch – Seahawks
6. Eddie Lacy – Packers
7. LeVeon Bell – Steelers
8. Arian Foster – Texans
9. DeMarco Murray – Cowboys
10. Alfred Morris – Redskins
11. Gio Bernard – Bengals
12. Reggie Bush – Lions
13. Zac Stacy – Rams
14. Montee Ball – Broncos
15. Doug Martin – Bucs
16. Andre Ellington – Cardinals
17. Ben Tate – Browns (new team)
18. Knowshon Moreno – Dolphins (new team)
19. Toby Gerhart – Jaguars (new team)
20. CJ Spiller – Bills
21. Frank Gore – 49ers
22. Chris Johnson – Jets (new team)
23. Ray Rice – Ravens
24. Ryan Mathews – Chargers
25. Rashad Jennings – Giants (new team)
26. Shane Vereen – Patriots
27. Trent Richardson – Colts
28. Steven Jackson – Falcons
29. Fred Jackson – Bills
30. Darren Sproles – Eagles (new team)
31. DeAngelo Williams – Panthers
32. Maurice Jones-Drew – Raiders (new team)
33. Darren McFadden – Raiders
34. Danny Woodhead – Chargers
35. Stevan Ridley – Patriots

Remember when you are choosing running backs there are numerous factors you need to take into consideration.  You need to look at previous years and their stats.  Are they progressively getting worse like Ray Rice; or are they getting better like with LeSean McCoy?  How long have they been on their team?  If they just got to a new team it may take them some time to adjust to the new playbook like we saw with Trent Richardson in 2013.  How is their offensive line?  Did they get any new coaches?  Before the season starts I will post more answers to these questions, but these are things you will want to find out before draft day.

That time of year again is here where NFL players have expired contracts and are either on the prowl for a new team or hoping to stay with their current team for a bigger contract.  Free agency can be a stressful for the fans, owners, and the players.  In the 2014 draft there were some players that were signed quickly because the team recognizes the value in keeping them, but we have also seen some high value players hit the free agency market due to either off field issues or cant afford them anymore.  What has been interesting is seeing how some teams have dived right into this and signed a bunch of players, and to see some teams sit back and let all the players slip through their fingers.  Some teams have had salary cap issues so it makes sense why they have been sitting back not doing anything; and they have been focusing on keeping their current players or waiting for the draft.  Some times the free agent period can make or break a team and its shaping up to be an interesting 2014 season.  Below are some of the big named receivers that have signed to new teams. 

Wide Receivers

1. Steve Smith – Went from the Panthers over to the Ravens.  The Ravens are giving him $11 million with a $3.5 million signing bonus for 3 years.  Even at the age of 35 Smith can still offer a lot to the struggling pass offense of the Ravens.  With Torrey Smith on the other side and Dennis Pitta across the middle it should be an open field for Steve Smith.  And we all know that Flacco could use another weapon in the offense.

2. Eric Decker – Went from the Broncos over to the Jets.  This was kind of surprising since he was in the best pass offense and he is now going to a team that had very serious pass issues.  Now Decker did hit pay dirt by signing a 5 year $36.25 million deal with $15 million being guaranteed money.  The Jets finally released Sanchez, but signed Michael Vick to replace him.  This is going to give Decker to shine now that he is out of the shadow of Thomas and Welker.

3. James Jones – Went from the Packers over to the Raiders.  I think this is a good move for Jones and his career.  The Raiders have added a lot of people to the roster already and with Jones being a deep threat it should add a lot of depth to the offense.  The Raiders added Matt Schaub and even though Schaub had a terrible 2013 campaign he should be able to connect with Jones.  We have to remember Schaub fed the ball to Andre Johnson for a lot of years so he should have no problem getting it to Jones.  Jones was bound to get picked up quick with how he has a knack for getting in the endzone. 

4. Golden Tate – Went from the Seahawks to the Lions.  I can see this going very well, or very bad.  Tate just helped the Seahawks win their first Super Bowl and now he is going to a team that has never been to the big game.  The plus is that the Lions is a pass happy team who has the best WR in the game in Calvin Johnson.  Now Stafford may not be the most consistent QB in the game, but he will have no problem getting the ball to both Tate and Johnson.

5. Hakeem Nicks – Went from the Giants to the Colts.  This is a great pickup for the Colts and I really think that Nicks needed to get away from the Giants.  As long as Nicks can stay healthy he should be able to have a fresh start with the Colts.  Andrew Luck is just getting better and better and Nicks could be a useful tool to help the team get farther in the playoffs.  Nicks was a big part of the offense in New York and when he was healthy he was almost unstoppable. 

Emmanuel Sanders – Went from Steelers to the Broncos
Andre Roberts – Went from Cardinals to the Redskins
Brandon LaFell – Went from Panthers to the Patriots
Devin Hester – Went from the Bears to the Falcons
Dexter McCluster – Went from Chiefs to Titans

It is no secret that I am a huge San Francisco 49ers fan.  I have been watching Niner football since I was 5 and in that time I have seen the franchise bring out some incredibly good linebackers.  Now, we have not always had the best defense in the NFL, but over the last 5 years the Niner defense has been one of the toughest to score on and its mostly in part because of how good our linebackers are.  If I was to build my perfect 49er defense; these are some of the linebackers I would love to have on my team while they were in their prime.

 

Patrick Willis – Coming out of Ole Miss the Niners wasted no time in drafting Willis in the 2007 Draft.  The Niners drafted Willis with the 11th overall pick and Willis quickly went to work  by winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2007.  Since Willis started in San Fran he has been the leader of the defense and he makes everyone around him better and he normally leads the team in tackles and he always is one of the best linebackers in the NFL.  In his short career so far he has already racked up 854 tackles, 17.5 sacks, 7 interceptions, and 16 forced fumbles.  He has also made 6 Pro Bowls and been named to 6 All-Pro NFL Teams. 

Ken Norton Jr. – Between 1994 and 2000 Norton was the heart and soul of the San Fran defense.  After being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys Norton set a good name for himself.  Once the Cowboys released him the Niners were quick to scoop him up.  Norton helped lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 1994 and helped the Niners dominate and he became the first player to win 3 consecutive Super Bowls.  By the time his career ended he had 1,130 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 6 interceptions, and 2 defensive TDs.  He was also known for being a big hitter who had no problem plugging up holes and putting helmet to helmet and make you hurt.

NaVorro Bowman – Bowman is the other half of Patrick Willis.  Willis and Bowman have become one of the greatest linebacker duos of all-time.  Bowman was drafted out of Penn State in the 3rd round of the 2010 Draft; which was a steal for the Niners.  Bowman not only is a great run stopper; but he is excellent at defending the pass.  So far in his short career he has already had 406 tackles, 6 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 18 passes deflected.  Between him and Willis it is almost impossible to run the ball on the current San Fran defense.  Even without Willis; Bowman is a fantastic LB who will be in the league for a long time.  He earned his first Pro Bowl in 2012 and was a huge help in getting the Niners to the Super Bowl.

Bill Romanowski – One of the most controversial defensive players of all-time; but you cannot argue with how good of a player he was.  Romanowski was a brutal hitter who had great speed and excellent vision for an LB.  Between the years of 1988 and 1993 Romanowski did great work for the San Fran defense.  The Niners drafted Romanowski out of Boston College in the 3rd round of the 1988 draft.  He helped lead the Niners to 2 NFC Championships and was a 4 time Super Bowl Champion.  By the end of his career he had 1,116 tackles, 39.5 sacks, and 18 interceptions.  Despite his on field issues I would still take Bill any day of the week.

Gary Plummer – Most people may not remember him, but between 1994 and 1997 Plummer was an absolute beast on the field.  The reason I would pick him is because he had great vision and was very good at stopping the run.  He was also a quite guy who never had bad publicity; he just went out and played the game.  Plummer was drafted out of California by the Chargers, but eventually landed in San Fran.  When his career ended he had 1,029 tackles, 6 interceptions, and 4.5 sacks.  I view Plummer as a silent killer who would punish you if you came in the middle.

Aldon Smith – He has recently had some off-field issues, but regardless, Smith is going to be one of the NFL greats by the time his career is over.  In 2011 the Niners used their first round draft pick to get Smith out of Missouri.  In his rookie year he won Defensive Rookie of the Year and the NFC Defensive Player of the Year.  He also holds a franchise record for 19.5 sacks in a season; and he holds an NFL record for being the fastest player in NFL history to get to 30 sacks.  In just 2 seasons he has 121 tackles, 38 sacks, and 5 forced fumbles.  He may be young, but he will be a legend soon.

 

 

For the first time in my blog I am not concerned about NFL stats; I am concerned about how the players played in college.  College football has had almost 150 seasons of different players from all around the country.  Obviously its hard to really say who the best college football players are/were, so the way I am doing this is I am just going to list players who I feel had incredible college careers.  It doesn’t matter what school you went to, what years you played, or how many championships you won; all I care about is how did you perform in those short years that they were in college.  I am sure there will be players that are not on this list, but I will do my best to outline who I feel had the best college careers.

Herschel Walker RB Georgia – From the first time he touched the ball he was impressive.  Just in his freshman year he rushed for 1,891 yards and 18 TDs.  Also, as a freshman he finished second in the Heisman race being beat out by Marcus Allen.  As a freshman he was a huge part in leading the Bulldogs to a National Title.  There was not a time where Walker failed to impress; even his work ethic was better than you could find in any other player.  As a junior he won the Heisman Trophy by rushing for 1,752 yards and 16 TDs.  There are few players who could even come close to the career that Walker had and earned his spot in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Archie Griffin RB Ohio State – Griffin is the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner and he delivered some epic performances.  Between the years of 1972 and 1975 Griffin rushed for more than 1,400 yards in 3 seasons; just in his junior year he rushed for 1,695 yards and 12 TDs.  By the time he ended his college career he totaled up 36 TDs, 5,589 rushing yards, and averaged 6 yards per carry.  There is still yet to be another player to win two Heisman trophies and during his time; there was no better RB than Griffin.

Barry Sanders RB Oklahoma State – Obviously cant have this list without including Barry.  All I need to say is “The 1988 season” and people will know what I am taking about.  Just in 1988, Sanders rushed for an amazing 2,850 yards, 37 TDs, averaged 7.6 yards per carry, and averaged 237.5 rushing yards per game.  He also easily won the Heisman Trophy during the 1988 season and it was well deserved.  I dare you to find a better season for a RB then that; and after that season Barry went pro. 

Tony Dorsett RB Pittsburgh – He was not the biggest guy on the field, but he knew how to make people miss.  Tony led the Panthers to the 1976 National Title and won the Heisman Trophy in the process.  Dorsett made first-team All-American three times and when he graduated he had rushed for 6.082 yards which was a record that stood until 1998.  Dorsett also still hold numerous team records and made the College Football Hall of Fame. 

Bo Jackson RB Auburn – “Bo Knows”.  Between the years of 1982 and 1985; Jackson terrorized defenses across the country.  In the 4 years Bo played at Auburn he totaled up 4,303 rushing yards, 43 TDs, and averaged 6.6 yards per carry.  His best season came in 1985 when he rushed for 1,786 yards in a season which earned him the Heisman Trophy.  After he retired the University of Auburn retired his number and named him to the college Hall of Fame.