Thursday, April 17, 2008

Top Fantasy Prospects From the 2008 NFL Draft

Yes, I know....right now, the most pertinent Fantasy Sport being played is Baseball. However, some of us Fantasy Gurus never stop thinking about Football. For those of you who play in a Dynasty League, you might be very interested in which players will be coming out of the upcoming Draft.

You might not have the time to properly research all the prospects before the end of April. Meaningless things like Marriage, Kids, Career and Everyday Life sometimes gets in the way. Fortunately, we here at Pigskins and Pucks are burdened by none of these predicaments and are dedicated to preparing you to pick the best player for your team.

Here is a primer for you to peruse.


1. Matt Ryan: Possesses all the intangibles to become a very good pro QB...Has an uncanny ability to scan the field and find the Hot Read...Plays through injuries and is mentally tough...Sometimes has the inclination to try to win games all by himself, resulting in turnovers

2. Brian Brohm: Has a good arm and delivers the ball with excellent velocity...Is known for having good touch on the ball, especially in the Red Zone...Very competitive and hardworking...Has to improve upon the mental game (decision making and staying calm in the pocket)

3. Chad Henne: A good athlete who can scramble well when he needs to...Very accurate on short passes...Possesses good leadership qualities...Needs to continue to work on dropping back and staying in the pocket

Running Back:

1. Darren McFadden: Incredible athlete who has size, speed and strength in abundance...Has the ability to hit top speed very quickly...Follows his blockers very well...Still needs to work on his blocking and blitz recognition skills

2. Rashard Mendenhall: Runs equally well up the middle or to the outside...Has excellent field vision and picks his holes decisively...Possesses an excellent ability to separate from tacklers once he reaches the secondary...There are questions about his durability and route running

3. Jonathan Stewart: Compact, powerful frame (5'11, 234lbs) makes him tough to tackle...Excellent ability to make cuts...Has the intangibles necessary to start as a Rookie...Lacks elite receiving skills

Wide Receiver:

1. Limas Sweed: Fantastic athlete who runs the 40 in 4.45...Has a great ability to make tough catches in traffic...Possesses excellent blocking skills which could allow him to immediately start for some teams...Suffered a badly broken wrist this past season which still bothers him

2. Devin Thomas: Has good speed and has the strength to fight off bigger CB's at the line of scrimmage...Has excellent football instincts...Plays with a load of heart and fire...Needs to run more disciplined routes

3. James Hardy: Tall (6'6) receiver with excellent leaping ability...Is deadly on fade routes in the end zone...Has good agility for a big man...Needs to bulk up to address doubts that he can fight through NFL CB's.

Tight Ends:

1. John Carlson: Is the undisputed top pick at the TE position...Not only tall (6'6) but fast as well (4.67 40 yard dash)...Has a strong ability to fight for yards after the catch...Needs to work on his blocking skills

2. Fred Davis: Possesses big play ability...A former WR, he has excellent hands...Reads coverages very well...Needs to better utilize his size

3. Dustin Keller: Is very versatile, can also play H-back or slot receiver...Has good speed for a TE (4.55 in the 40)...Is a disciplined route runner with above average hands...Undersized (240 lbs) for the position

Monday, April 7, 2008

Islander Season Recap

Note: I will be issuing a series a series of grades regarding the performance of the players and coaches in future blogs. This is a quick overview.

(With apologies to good time rockers Squeeze):

"Now the season is over
I can count the cost"

Many fans had what I feel were misplaced expectations for the New York Islanders this season. They actually believed that, with lots of hard work and a little bit of luck, Coach Ted Nolan's squad might contend for a playoff spot. However, they were really ignoring a very simple fact: This team was never good enough to finish much higher than they did.

Truth hurts, doesn't it?

However, I laud those same fans for their optimism. After all, why should it be a prerequisite that fans have realistic expectations? We deal with enough hard-hitting Reality in our daily lives. If a fan chooses to believe that the Improbable can happen with a hockey team, so be it.

A fan can be as optimistic as they'd like, but anyone who didn't believe that this was a rebuilding year for the Isles was fooling themselves. After the team lost Ryan Smyth, Jason Blake, Viktor Kozlov and Tom Poti to Free Agency and bought out Alexei Yashin, GM Garth Snow was unable to land adequate replacements in the Free Agent pool. He cannot be blamed completely; Long Island is a tough sell for a variety of reasons. However, it should have been apparent right then and there that this would be a lost season.

Though the team initially started well in October, there were signs that the wheels were perilously close to coming off. Two blowout losses to Toronto and Carolina were harbingers of the fact that, the way the Islanders were constructed, if they didn't give their best effort every single game, just about any other NHL squad would be mopping up the ice with them. The margin for error was virtually nil....and that is a recipe that invites Disaster.

Then, the injuries began to mount. Through the course of the season, the Islanders lost 3/4 of their Top 4 defensemen. Though I don't believe in using injuries as an excuse, the fact remains that if Detroit had lost Nicklas Lidstom, Brian Rafalski and Niklas Kronwall for the rest of the year by early March, there is no way they would've won the President's trophy. I'd even wager they would've had trouble retaining a playoff spot.

The biggest blow to the Islander's season was the one dealt by G Rick Dipietro's unfortunate incident during the All Star weekend. He injured his hip (memorably captured on air by the Network's microphone) and was never the same player afterwards. On many nights earlier in the season, Dipietro was the main reason why the Islanders were able to hang on in close games. Sure, he let in soft goals at times, but he stood on his head on too many occasions to count to steal the victories.

Outside of injuries, the Islander's biggest problem was their lack of scoring ability. They finished second to last in the entire league in Goals Scored. Players like Miroslav Satan, Bill Guerin, Mike Comrie and Ruslan Fedotenko did not deliver on the promise of their abilities. The rest of the lineup was comprised of career third liners who couldn't be counted on for more than 15 goals (at best).

However, all was not bad in Islander Country this year. The silver lining in the Injury cloud was that it opened up opportunities for players like Kyle Okposo, Blake Comeau, Frans Nielsen and Sean Bergenheim. Each of these players took a step forward in their development and, Okposo in particular, gave the fans something to be very hopeful about in the future.

Tonight could be one of the biggest nights in Islander history. At 8pm, the Lottery for the Draft Position will occur and the Isles have a slight chance (8.1%) of obtaining the #1 pick in June. If the Miracle happens, they could lay their hands on Steve Stamkos, a difference-maker just below the mold of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.

If that were to occur, it would be worth every bit of angst this season caused.