Archive for April, 2016

Cowboys get a power forward, draft Baylor hooper Rico Gathers (Shutdown Corner)

Saturday, April 30th, 2016
Rico Gathers was a heck of a player at Baylor. It was in basketball, but that was good enough for the Dallas Cowboys. In the sixth round of the NFL draft the Cowboys took a power forward who they hope can become a tight end, selecting Gathers. It's an intriguing pick, considering Gathers hasn't played football since middle school.

Rookie Rundown 2016: Buck up! Elliott to lead fantasy charge (Roto Arcade)

Saturday, April 30th, 2016
The joy of newness is interwoven into the consciousness of all Americans. We love that new car smell, fresh pair of Jordans feel and refreshing swig off a just cracked beer. It’s so good when it hits the lips. When it comes to fantasy football, this psychology permeates into the typical owner’s mindset. [ Yahoo Fantasy Football is open for the 2016 season. Sign up now ] For many, high-profiled, much-hyped rookies are seducing, the sirens of the virtual game. They posted obscene numbers at the college level, were drafted into favorable ‘good fit’ situations and are destined to produce. That’s what eternal optimists, admittedly me included, often believe.  However, the reality is rookies only sporadically deliver on their beaming promises. Since 2009, 33 total players at QB/RB/WR/TE (4.7 players per year) compiled starter-level stats on a points per game basis in standard 12-team leagues. Interestingly, compared to the previous seven-season stretch (2002-2008), the number of first-year impacts, though down slightly across the board (4.2 per year), is up measurably among QBs ('02-'08: 1, '09-'15: 4) and WRs (12, 17). Why? With many elements from the college game, whether being terminology or designed plays, now infused at the pro level, the learning curve has shrunk, making it easier for kids to transition. Additionally, the makeup of the game has evolved from run-centric schemes to more pass-happy attacks. Every year from 2010-2015 ranks inside the top-five in pass yards per game per team. In fact, last season's prolific 243.8 ypg bested 2014 by a whopping 7.0 ypg. Also consider the intense pressure NFL coaches and GMs generally face from bratty, impatient fan-bases – the fantasy community not excluded – and it's no wonder why green commodities, particularly QBs, have undergone a baptism by fire.  Call it the Veruca Salt Effect. We want it all NOW!  Thanks social media.  Although WRs set the pace, largely because most leagues require three starters, numerous rookie RBs from 2009-2015 also left an indelible mark, 12 to be exact. Last year, Todd Gurley , Karlos Williams , David Johnson and Thomas Rawls earned such a designation. Others, like Jeremy Langford and Matt Jones , were useful in spurts. Not to overlook other positions, Marcus Mariota (QB21), Jameis Winston (QB18), Amari Cooper (WR31), DeVante Parker (WR35), Stefon Diggs (WR45) and Tyler Lockett (WR50) were also often sound contributors.  So, will the 2016 class pay immediate dividends?  The historical record may suggest otherwise, but expectations for anyone not named Ezekiel Elliott should be tempered. This year’s rookie crop, particularly at wide receiver, isn’t the strongest. If a generational wideout eventually emerged, it would be quite the shocker special. Others like QBs  Carson Wentz  and Paxton Lynch have incredible potential, but it will take time for them to reach peak maturation.  Even though most first-year players won’t consistently light up fantasy scoreboards this fall, a few are still roster worthy. In a game that rewards opportunity, a handful of youngsters are blessed with an advantageous path to snaps, targets and/or touches. After weeks of poking, prodding and Wonderlicking, destinations are now determined. What newcomers could be cornerstones on fantasy rosters this season? Here are six players poised to make their mark (in order of projected contribution): Ezekiel Elliott, Dal, RB When you think of monsters images of fang-bearing vampires, bloodthirsty zombies and ax-wielding psychos are immediately conjured. Soon, Elliott will trigger similar nightmares. The Ohio St. product is about to terrorize the league. He’s a do-it-all, three-down workhorse, a rusher some scouts have called the most complete back to enter the league since Adrian Peterson . Believe it or not, that high praise is appropriate. The 6-foot, 225-pound stallion left Ohio St. after averaging a school-record 6.7 yards per carry in three years. He’s fast (4.47 40-yard dash), brutalizing between the tackles (57.4 YAC% in ’15), deceptively elusive (18.5 missed-tackle rate in ’15), sure-handed as a receiver, durable and an exceptional pass blocker. Similar to fantasy behemoths before him like Edgerrin James , Marshawn Lynch and Ricky Williams , the youngster is a throwback talent who’s sure to be Dallas' offensive anchor for years to come. There truly are no weaknesses to his game. Though Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris will enter the mix for Jason Garrett's club, Elliott’s impressive skill set should quickly vault him to the top of the depth chart in training camp. Assuming that occurs, he’s a near lock to register some 18-22 touches per game out of the gate. Considering the premiums every-down backs attract, he’s easily worth a late-first round pick in 12-team drafts, standard or PPR. Only David Johnson and Le'Veon Bell rank higher on my RB big board.  Fearless Forecast: 266 carries, 1,173 rushing yards, 47 receptions, 463 receiving yards, 12 total touchdowns  Josh Doctson, Was, WR For the most part, this year’s WR class is rather unexciting. As discussed above, there are no definitive WR1 prospects available. Doctson, however, has the most potential to exceed the generally lukewarm expectations. Far and away my favorite rookie wideout, the TCU standout is a long, lanky target with an expansive catch radius. He isn’t a blazer (4.50 40-yard) by any means, but his Zach LaVine-like hops (41-inch vertical), shielding ability on slants, versatility and tacky hands (85% catch rate on contested throws) make him a likely WR3 contributor, at a minimum, this fall. The kid is going to win a ton battles on 50/50 balls, particularly inside the red-zone. Tilting the scale at just 202 pounds, he should always layer the bacon and his route tree is limited due to TCU’s skeleton ‘air raid’ scheme, but he comps similarly to Keenan Allen , Allen Robinson and Jordan Matthews , receivers fantasy owners have hungered for in recent years. Because of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon's downsides, he'll instantly entice some 6-8 targets per game. And because of his insane hops, it won't take long for him and Jordan Reed to dominate red-zone looks. Suffice it to say, Kirk Cousins is going to love his new toy. Consider him a viable WR3 this season.  Fearless Forecast: 67 receptions, 1,044 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns  Sterling Shepard, NYG, WR The last Sterling to catch footballs for a living was some dude named Sterling Sharpe . Soon, the rookie of the same name may also leave an indelible mark on the position. On film, Shepard has the look of an energetic hamster. At 5-foot-10, 194 pounds he's on the small side, but his marvelous footwork, 4.48-40 yard speed and elusiveness in space, reminiscent of Brandin Cooks , makes him extremely difficult to contain. Because of his diminutive frame press coverage could initially be a challenge. Still, he was a highly efficient, reliable weapon for Oklahoma logging considerable time in the slot. He dropped only four balls on 89 catchable passes and notched an 82.0 catch percentage on hitch/stick routes last year per Pro Football Focus. With defenses focused on neutralizing Odell Beckham , Victor Cruz a complete wildcard and Rueben Randle playing elsewhere, he should have plenty of opportunities right away possibly enticing some 7-8 targets per game and many of those against favorable coverage. Behind Doctson, there isn't a first-year WR with more fantasy starter potential.  Fearless Forecast: 64 receptions, 864 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns  Kenneth Dixon, Bal, RB The second-best RB on my big board, Dixon is an open-field magician who typically makes the first guy miss (No. 3 elusive rating among FBS RBs last year). His exceptional hands, laser vision, patience, quickness around the edge and respectable pass-blocking ability are three-down traits. Some have questioned his toughness between the tackles, but, believe me, the kid has the tenacity of a junkyard dog. His 60.6 yards after contact rate from 2015 offers supportive evidence. He isn't without warts – he racked 889 total touches in four years at LA Tech and fumbled four times on 197 carries last fall – but his pluses should quickly convince Baltimore coaches he's a top-of-the-totem-pole producer. Given Justin Forsett's advanced age, Buck Allen's mediocrity and Trent Richardson's overwhelming suckiness, Dixon's chances of stealing the show are reasonable. Behind a quality offensive line (No. 14 in run-blocking per Football Outsiders in '15), he could invigorate the fantasy masses if he can ascend up the depth chart in August. If not, he will be an 8-10 touch per game rusher at a minimum.  Fearless Forecast: 181 attempts, 785 rushing yards, 29 receptions, 241 receiving yards, 5 total touchdowns  [ Yahoo Fantasy Football is open for the 2016 season. Sign up now ] Jordan Howard, Chi, RB Scorching HOT take alert! Scrawl it in cement, Howard will overtake Jeremy Langford at some point this season. Believe it. Admittedly, I drove the bandwagon for another Indiana RB, Tevin Coleman , last year, but unlike his predecessor, Howard is a stronger, interior runner. He routinely bulled through contact (58.7 YAC% in '15) even against stiff Big Ten competition (e.g. 22-174-2 vs. Iowa). Additionally, the new Bear evades tacklers well (17.8 MT%), halts on-coming rushers and protects the football. Also displaying impressive vision, patience, cutting and pad level, he is a rock solid early-down contributor. His upright running style raises durability concerns and the jury is still out about his pass-catching, but he will most certainly compete for the Bears' starting gig immediately. Recall Langford, undeniably the most overvalued RB in early drafts (RB15, 31.1 ADP), scored negatively in several secondary measurements including average yards after contact (No. 77 among RBs) and tackles avoided per attempt (No. 80). Despite his stellar performances against San Diego and St. Louis last year, he simply isn't engineered to be an every-down back. It's not a matter of if, but when, for Howard.  Fearless Forecast: 168 attempts, 712 rushing yards, 13 receptions, 94 receiving yards, 5 total touchdowns  Laquon Treadwell, Min, WR Largely perceived as the top pass-catching option on many draftnik boards, Treadwell is an undeterred, intelligent target with ideal NFL size (6-foot-2, 220-pounds) and route savvy, a player with characteristics some scouts have compared to Dez Bryant , Alshon Jeffery and DeAndre Hopkins . A prolific producer at Ole Miss, he hauled in 82 passes (on 122 targets) for 1,146 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Rebels last year. His willingness to do dirty work across the middle on slants (71 catch%) and crosses (75 catch%) and effectiveness on go routes exhibit his versatility. Because of his pedestrian speed (4.63 40-yard) many have questioned whether he’ll gain adequate separation at the next level, particularly on sideline streaks beyond 20 yards. Though that concern is warranted, he should be an impactful possession/red-zone weapon from the get go, provided he wraps his mitts in double-sided tape. According to Pro Football Focus, Treadwell dropped nine of 91 catchable balls last season, good for the 80th-best catch rate among FBS WRs. In order for him to stay out of the doghouse this season, lapses in concentration must be few and far between. The Vikings, who chucked it a 'whopping' 454 times last year, aren't an ideal employer, but OC Norv Turner will almost surely heavily involve the rookie right away. Tab him as a WR4/WR5 on fantasy draft day.  Fearless Forecast: 67 receptions, 774 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns 

Vikings make German WR the 1st player drafted from Europe (The Associated Press)

Saturday, April 30th, 2016
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -- The Minnesota Vikings have made German wide receiver Moritz Boehringer the first player drafted straight into the NFL from Europe.

Awkward! Years ago, Dak Prescott ripped new teammate Tony Romo (Shutdown Corner)

Saturday, April 30th, 2016
In late 2012, Dak Prescott likely wasn't thinking about an NFL future. He was just a Dallas Cowboys fan with some angst and a Twitter account. Who knew that on Dec. 30, 2012, he wasn't just ripping Tony Romo on Twitter, he was ripping future Cowboys teammate Tony Romo? The Cowboys picked Prescott late in the fourth round on Saturday, presumably to possibly be Romo's successor someday. [ Yahoo Fantasy Football is open for the 2016 season. Sign up now ] Here's are the tweets, which Prescott hadn't deleted as of Saturday afternoon but probably will soon: I'm DONE Taking up for Romo. #hadenough — Dak Prescott (@15_DakP) December 31, 2012 @JaceyPunches No! He doesn't finish & None of those INTs were Bc of the O-line. #noexcuses — Dak Prescott (@15_DakP) December 31, 2012 @JaceyPunches Nah Jacey!! You're suppose to Throw it over the guys head. That was the most embarrassing one of them all. #stoptakingupforhim — Dak Prescott (@15_DakP) December 31, 2012 And the 2016 draft has yet another embarrassing social media issue. It's really not that big of a deal. Prescott was 19 years old and at that point had 29 career college passes. There's no way he could have known that day, as Romo threw three interceptions in a Week 17 game at Washington with a playoff spot on the line, that he'd work with Romo someday. And it's definitely not as inflammatory as another similar issue, when Larry Nance was drafted by the Lakers in 2015 and people found a tweet in which he called Kobe Bryant a racist. Prescott's tweets are pretty funny, really. Hopefully Romo has a sense of humor and has some fun with his new teammate over it. - - - - - - - Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Raptors prepare to take on Pacers in season-defining Game 7

Saturday, April 30th, 2016
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Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan know that despite roaring to their best regular-season in franchise history — 56 wins and a first-ever No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference — the results of Sunday's Game 7 will ultimately define their season.

Colts hope to have new deal with Luck before training camp (The Associated Press)

Saturday, April 30th, 2016
Colts owner Jim Irsay said Saturday that negotiations on Andrew Luck's contract extension are getting serious and a deal could be reached before training camp begins. Irsay has repeatedly said he plans to pay market value to keep his franchise quarterback and has even used the term ''shocking numbers'' to describe how high he's willing to go to keep Luck in town. Both sides are trying to figure out how to come up with a salary-cap friendly deal that would assure Luck will be surrounded by good players for the duration of the deal.

NCAA all-time TD leader, Navy’s Keenan Reynolds, drafted by Ravens (Shutdown Corner)

Saturday, April 30th, 2016
One of the greatest service academy players in many, many years — really, in the storied history of service academy football — will get a shot in the NFL. Navy's Keenan Reynolds, who set an NCAA career record with 88 touchdowns and an FBS record with 4,559 rushing yards, was taken in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens. That's not far from Annapolis, where Reynolds became a big-time college football player. He finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting last year.

Achtung! Vikings make history drafting German receiver in Round 6 (Shutdown Corner)

Saturday, April 30th, 2016
The Minnesota Vikings made history on Saturday. Moritz Boehringer became the first straight-from-Europe draft pick in NFL history when the Vikings used a sixth-round selection on him. Boehringer quickly is becoming a folk hero here. His story is incredible. He played — get this — for the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns of the German Football League and put up monster numbers in 2015: 59 receptions, 1,232 yards, 13 TDs. At his pro day, held at Florida Atlantic, the 6-4, 227-pound Boehringer put on a show — a 4.43-second 40-yard dash, a vertical of 39 inches, a 10-foot-11 broad jump, 17 reps on the bench press, a 4.10-second short shuttle, 11.15-second 60-yard shuttle, and a 6.65-second three-cone. Those are elite testing numbers for any receiver, much less one with his terrific size. Teams started digging immediately. Who was this guy exactly? Several teams really did work on him, and the Vikings were among them. NFL Network's Mike Mayock really took to Boehringer and promoted his cause, and it turned out that Vikings were listening to it. Wait, so @MikeMayock asks the #Vikings to take German WR Moritz Boehringer… and they do! Pick No. 180. Very cool. — Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 30, 2016 Oh, and it just so happened that a 17-year-old Boehringer watched an Adrian Peterson video and was inspired to give football a try and remained a Vikings fan since. Now he's in the NFL, playing for his favorite team. You can't make this stuff up. A unicorn indeed. So how good is the German Football League? One college scouting director who watched Boehriger's tape said "D-III or lower," so that gives you an idea of the competition he's faced. Now he'll go against Xavier Rhodes in camp. It will be a system shock for sure. But this story is just too good. That same scout also recycled a joke that has made the rounds in NFL circles: that Boehringer is the German Jeff Janis, the Packers receiver who had an incredible playoff game against the Cardinals after seemingly coming from nowhere. It will be fascinating to see of Boehringer can make it in what truly would be a unique path to the NFL. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Cowboys finally get a quarterback, drafting Dak Prescott (Shutdown Corner)

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

Buckeyes national title hero Cardale Jones lands with the Bills (Shutdown Corner)

Saturday, April 30th, 2016
Cardale Jones watched eight quarterbacks get selected in the NFL draft before he finally heard his name called. Ohio State's hero from the 2014 season finally went off the board with the last pick of the fourth round, to the Buffalo Bills with a compensatory pick. Jones was taken 139th overall on Saturday.  Jones' decision to go back to school for one more season has been debated many times, though Jones himself never has seemed too stressed about it.