You do NOT rip apart a team that's registered back-to-back 10-Win seasons

 

I simply want to ask: “What was such a problem that required a complete overhaul of the Philadelphia Eagles?” Someone define for me the problem with the Eagles that needed a nuclear bomb solution?

Let this upcoming thought sink in before you pass by it too quickly, because I have written it a few times in the past weeks/months…

Nick Foles was 15-4 (78.9%) as a starter for Chip Kelly (including one game he didn’t start, but came in quick for Vick…and won the game). With the awful, ‘wrong for the system’, lead-footed Nick FolesChip Kelly won 78.9% of his NFL games. In a 16-game season, a 78.9% winning percentage equates to 12.6 wins in a full season.

My question remains—what was so radically wrong with that pace that the entire thing had to be blown up?

How many wins were being left on the table?

LeSean McCoy was there too. So was DJax in 2013, then Maclin returned 2014. The crazy gambling defense was there as well. Chip Kelly was there…and they won 78.9% of their games—under Foles.

How many yachts can you waterski behind, Mr. Gekko?

You do a minor tweak to a 78.9% winning percentage ‘system’…you don’t fire sale it within two weeks and replace all the parts.

My wife’s minivan had no issues for the first two-years of its ‘life’. It has been a champ. The other day our van had a very slight hesitation when I hit the gas pedal coming off a light, but it never happened again the rest of the day. That little blip did not cause me to rush the van back to the dealership and ask them to replace the engine, transmission, and frame because of a minor hiccup.

In Chip Kelly’s case, in my minivan analogy, he has not only taken the no-problem van into the dealership for a massive overhaul—he then replaced all those key components with rebuilt parts that had mostly failed in other vehicles prior. He definitely did not check the Carfax. Most of the new parts have serious wear and tear, and have failed (physically/injury-wise).

How the world generated such a hatred for a 78.9% winning percentage QB–I have no idea. Tim Tebow was lauded as ‘a winner’, as was/is Marcus Mariota….both ’winners’ due to a ‘system’.Nick Foles won in a ‘system’ too…a lot. He is reviled for it. I have no words left to explain why this is.

The world, and Chip Kelly, DID love Michael Vick as Kelly’s anointed starter in 2013…and Vick went 1-3 (25.0%) as the main QB for Philly—and Kelly’s was ridiculed as a joke following an embarrassing blowout at Denver. Somehow the ‘system’ that makes all QBs great didn’t work with Vick. Thankfully, Foles would come in and save Kelly’s precious ‘system’, and took the Eagles to the division title.

The world loved Matt Barkley—“best player in the draft,” many experts told you in January 2013. They would later backpedal from that, and Barkley would fall all the way to Kelly at pick #98 in the draft—despite having Vick and Foles under contract. Barkley was perfect for the ‘system’ per Chip Kelly. However, last season Barkley was doing so well he was discussed as likely to be cut. He was beyond a nightmare in his one start (0-1, 0.0%) in 2013. However, Barkley stays, and Nick Folesmust go.

You think Chip Kelly knows QBs? He picked Michael Vick to start over Nick Foles in 2013…which was a massive mistake; history judged. Matt Barkley is/will be judged a disastrous bust—another ‘system’ guy surrounded by massive weapons in college who then flopped in the NFL…FLOPPED in the ‘system’.

Kelly’s QB brilliance also led to Mark Sanchez being pushed as better than Nick Foles. Sanchez took a 6-2 team on its way to winning another division title, and went 3-4 as a full starter (42.8%) when it mattered (excluding the meaningless Week 17 win over NYG). Once the spotlight got hot…Sanchez lost three in-a-row, and did what he always does…gets rattled, and throws inexplicable picks. That darn ‘system’ couldn’t fix Sanchez or Vick…and couldn’t make Barkley a real QB. FYI, Sanchez signed an extended two-year/$9M deal, and Nick Foles must go.

But trust me…Chip Kelly has got his next QB move figured out…

I thought Chip Kelly was going to have the most brilliant offseason in NFL history. The man who is single-handedly re-defining offense, and practice methods, etc. would certainly use his smarts to run circles around the NFL in personnel moves, right? Wrong.

I still think Chip Kelly is a football genius, but he has totally destroyed everything he has built in a matter of two weeks. He has lost credibility with the football community and players. He has the fans ready to turn on him (the ones who haven’t already). If/when all this personnel overhaul activity fails in a glorious hailstorm…it will undermine everything interesting he was doing in the other areas.

History will recall these past two weeks as the time NFL owners will conclude going forward that no head coach would ever have full personnel power ever again.

I now totally get what Jerry Jones is thinking. An outsider can do this just as well (or poorly) as an insider, or a football ‘genius’. Jerry Jones’ personnel moves are evolving, and improving—while, I don’t know what you call what Chip Kelly just did the last two weeks.

When you look at these major moves in time-line order, the illogical nature and abject desperation of them takes more shape. There have been so many flashy, coffee-talk moves to debate we could lose sight of what happened in totality. Let’s take a walk through the time-line:

McCoy-Alonso trade…

I loved this deal. RBs are in high supply and mostly interchangeable in today’s NFL. You especially do not want to spend huge chunks of your payroll and large guarantees on the position where the asset is most likely to be hurt or decline in performance. Kelly ditches McCoy and saves $10M in salary cap instantly for 2015, and gets a useful linebacker (Kiko Alonso) who is cheap (less than $1M in 2015)…with an NFL Draft class upcoming without a ton of ILB options. It’s a brilliant move.

The Eagles address the LB need, so that’s taking +1 step ahead. The Eagles save $10M on a RB, and can deploy that money all over–that’s +2 steps ahead in total. This is a great start to the offseason, but it will become unraveled soon enough.

Scoreboard: Approx. $9M cap space banked for 2015 from this move

Jeremy Maclin walks…

Another smart move. I like Maclin, just not for the likely $8-10M per season it would take to keep him. You can draft a much cheaper WR, if needed…especially if everything is about ‘system’. Maclin cost $5M last year, so now that’s opened up too. This is smart if you redeploy the money properly.

Scoreboard: Approx. $14M cap space opened up for 2015 from the trade and no more Maclin

Cary Williams cut…

This was a bit of a shocker, to me.

Williams was playing like a #1 CB last year. Realize in today’s NFL when you get hung out on an island like the Eagles do with their CBs, and the rules favor ‘no touching’—you will give up some yards and points as a CB. The Eagles did do just that, but if you single out Cary Williams and equivocate his play as the reason for Philly’s yards allowed–you’re out your mind. It was the ‘system’…on defense.

Williams’ crime was more questioning the coach’s methods publicly. Thus, he had to go. The coach (Kelly) can be a noted ‘questioning authority’, football anarchist—it’s just his players cannot question the coach. The coach can humiliate the former GM/current employee publicly by proclaiming his prior year #1 draft pick (Marcus Smith) a bust in multiple press conferences, but a player cannot question the coach’s decision-making in public.

Understand how it works now?

So Cary Williams, a top CB is ditched. It’s a loss of a talented CB, but is also money saved towards cap, and we all assume it will be spent on a DB for sure…you’d think–maybe Darrelle Revis orDevin McCourty?

As we’ve seen the offseason unfold—Williams questioning the coach’s mindset and system last year may have been a reality–a reality, that I (and others) wasn’t ready to hear. Williams may have been right all along…something might have been rotten in Denmark.

Williams would have cost $8M this year, with a year remaining, but did cost a $1.7M hit for 2015 to cut.

Williams just signed a sweet deal with Seattle. So why couldn’t Kelly have traded Williams instead of cold cutting him? This is now twice in my memory banks that the Eagles have given away assets of some value with nothing in return—cutting DJax only see him have a mega-deal signed, and now Williams to a smaller degree. Why weren’t they traded for something, anything?

Scoreboard: Approx. $20M cap space saved so far with all the moves above.

Enter…Byron Maxwell?

Get rid of Cary Williams all you want, but Byron Maxwell is your ‘big answer’? He’s savvy, but athletically limited going into a system that requires solo-island coverage by the CB. Seattle cut the field in half because of Richard Sherman, plus had great defensive talent all over, and opposing teams could only have success throwing at Maxwell—and they had some, even though everyone knew it was coming. Maxwell was a solid CB on the most favorable system and team he could ever be on…now he is going to a team with a wide-open style that’s completely different, and bucking up against his talents. *Unless they change defensive philosophy in 2015…

At best, Maxwell is no better than Williams…at worst this is going to be a disaster. If you thoughtBradley Fletcher struggled at times in this ‘system’, watch Byron Maxwell.

Philly filled a need here, I guess. However, this took a big hit from their 2015 cap space–which is $8.5M this year for Maxwell with $26M guaranteed committed. Devin McCourty accepted $28M guaranteed from the Pats…about 10% more than Maxwell. Do you think McCourty is more than 10% a better player than Maxwell? I don’t think Maxwell is 90% of Cary Williams…and Seattle says, “Thank you, Chip!”

Scoreboard: Approx. $12M in cap space savings left for 2015, based on all the moves above….and a fresh $26M guaranteed commitment to Maxwell.

“Piss off to you, sir (Chip Kelly)”…

The Wizard of Oz curtain started to get a real yank when Mark Ingram was desired by Philly, but went to the Saints. Oz/Kelly really got exposed by Frank Gore agreeing to a deal in principle with Chip…and then walking away from it to go to Indy.

If a head coach is respected and/or liked and/or is building something magical…he will get players taking a minor discount to come join in the fun. However, key veteran players are actually snubbing Philly at this stage in the time line (no McCourty, no Ingram, no Gore, etc.). Out of nowhere Chip Kelly went from being seen as a ‘mystic’ that would attract free agents, to turning Philly into a somewhat toxic team free agent players eschew…the Eagles have suddenly become Raiders East or Jacksonville North, in a sense. It’s a situation where you can’t get talented players to come willingly or at any friendly discount, so you and your giant offseason bank account have to overspend frantically…and often overspending on lesser players…your 3rd and 4th options at various positions.

Kelly is taking hits in local and national media for ditching respected players and veterans like McCoy, Maclin, and DJax. Kelly is taking massive hits locally and nationally as appearing to have no real personnel plan. It may be all over-sensationalized, but the reality is that many players appear to be voting against Chip Kelly with their feet, and bank accounts. Thus, he is left to pursue the Ryan Mathews’ of the world.

Frank Gore’s snub might have been the Happy Days “Jumping the shark” moment on Chip Kelly. Kind of like Rick Pitino’s cosmic blaze entry into the NBA, and then disastrous ending running the Boston Celtics (Robert Parish never did walk through those doors, did he?). In case you forgot,John Calapari used to coach and run the New Jersey Nets. On field geniuses with huge personalities and bravado don’t always instantly win as personnel heads at the next level…great in college, but they rub pros/adults the wrong way. People with options tend to exercise them…away from situations like this. Not every great head coach can evaluate and properly price talent to the marketplace—a marketplace they have little familiarity with because they are extraordinarily busy coaching. It’s a (dual) role that lends itself to failure for most all who traverse its rocky path.

Foles for Bradford…

I like Sam Bradford as a QB talent. I think everyone did. It’s just that most of us have a brain with memory capability. I recall that Bradford has racked up so many injuries back to college that it is sad and tragic. The re-occurrence of injury is almost assured in the next 1-3 years. I’ve had multiple medical people tell me, when I did a little research on ACL injuries: “One ACL repair is OK to overcome. Two to the same knee—it’s pretty much over in the NFL.”

Bradford is definitely not something you or I or the Rams would invest heavy on in 2015…because of the fear of a looming re-occurrence…but not Chip Kelly. Not only is he an unconventional offensive genius, he also has no need for conventional biology. He went ahead and added a QB due $13M in 2015…with just the one-year remaining on his contract.

This Bradford move is breathtakingly bad for business.

If the Browns did something like acquire Bradford for a conditional 3rd-round pick, and paid him $13M for one-year as well, I would clap my hands. The Browns have to take shots on players like that. No one wants to join Cleveland willingly…that’s not a cheap joke; that’s reality. We’d all clap and hope it worked out well for the Browns. We would absolutely expect it NOT to work out, but we would get their ‘reasonable desperation’. The Browns have been lovable NFL losers for a while now, and have trouble bringing in talent…we all get that.

However, Chip Kelly spit at a 78.9% winning percentage QB (Foles), and basically gave him away to the Rams in exchange for a QB who is 78.9% likely to blow out his knee again…or shoulder…or whatever body part. The only player more likely to get injured this year is Ryan Mathews…and, oh so close on the Eagles landing him too (update: Of course, they added Mathews. This week couldn’t be complete without one more injury-history reach-signing).

Sam Bradford has never produced a winning record in the NFL as a starter.

Sam Bradford racked up a 15-26 (36.5%) record in his first three NFL seasons…Nick Foles was 15-9 (62.5%) in his first three NFL seasons.

Sam Bradford threw 45 TDs in 41 games (1.1 per game) in his first three NFL seasons… Nick Folesdropped 46 TDs (1.6 TD passes per game) in his first three NFL seasons, and ohhh by the way: More TDs thrown, but played in 13 less games than Bradford in his first three seasons.

Sam Bradford threw 34 picks in 41 games (0.8 per game) in his first three NFL seasons…the god-awful turnover machine (so says the media) Nick Foles threw 17 picks in 28 games (0.6 per game) in his three NFL seasons.

Sam Bradford posted a 58% completion percentage in his first three NFL seasons… Nick Foles - 61.6%.

Sam Bradford achieved a 75.0 QB rating in his first three seasons…Nick Foles 94.2 QB rating.

Sam Bradford had two ACL surgeries on the same knee in the last two seasons… Nick Foles none, ever.

Let’s not even mention the fact that Bradford was drafted, and handed everything—the starting job, and had WRs and TEs acquired for him, and working with the ‘first-team’ ever since day one. Nick Foles was racking better numbers while working under two radically different head coaching philosophies, and barely working with the first-team in his first two years prior to stumbling into the starting lineup.

Hey, maybe if Bradford stays healthy all year, and really picks up the Chip Kelly ‘system’—he could have a great season. I mean, almost like what Nick Foles was producing in said ‘system’. If the Eagles don’t win 13+ games in 2015…then this borders on a failed experiment compared to Foles’ winning percentage.

You cannot trade Nick Foles for Sam Bradford, plus pay 10x as much payroll to him for one season in the hope Bradford stays healthy against all odds…so that if everything goes right, he’ll be about as good as Foles. It’s the stupidest, most expensive gamble I’ve seen…it didn’t need to happen. There was no reason this HAD to happen.

It is the height of Chip Kelly arrogance…and really amazing stupidity. Not that Kelly is stupid, obviously he is not. He is way smarter than I am, but not on personnel/risk management…sorry. Sam Bradford is/was a great QB prospect…Kelly’s not chasing after a Johnny Manziel or anything silly. I get liking Bradford, but you cannot build your whole fortune on Bradford not getting hurt…or letting down. There was no problem to solve. The Browns have problems. The Jaguars and Bills have problems. Nick Foles and his 78.9% winning percentage was not a problem needing a weak-handed, ‘all-in’ change.

All these Chip Kelly moves have been so swashbuckling that Kelly has now painted himself into a corner he almost cannot escape—everything has to go right and no key player with a history of injury issues gets hurt again, and thus he gets the Eagles deep into the playoffs…OR he will be forcibly removed from the ‘city of brotherly love’ by its inhabitants by this time next season…or by October this year. Everyone is ready to draw and quarter him—he did it to himself.

He is drawing to a near impossible ‘inside straight’ here, and discarding all the wrong cards…and drawing even worse ones.

Scoreboard: The Eagles are now approx. $1M more spent in salary cap toward 2015 after all the moves listed above….plus the extra $26M guaranteed commitment (Maxwell).

 

What does it mean when Jerry Jones has more fiscal discipline and personnel restraint than your coach/GM, Philly? A.K.A. welcome to Philly, hated Demarco Murray!

The last one off the Chip Kelly bandwagon, please turn off the lights.

I thought the LeSean McCoy trade was genius because super-expensive RBs are the most ridiculous investment in the NFL. One-year heavy deals make sense for the best RBs, but you don’t want to lock in long-term with big guarantees. When McCoy was traded—I thought Kelly was a genius. However, all he did is flip McCoy, and spent even more on Demarco Murray. If ditching McCoy was smart…then making a last-second overspend on Murray (who brilliantly used your panic to his advnatage) is beyond ridiculous planning.

If Murray was the plan all along, that deal would have been done a while ago…with no other RB flirting. There would not have been a Frank Gore ‘thing’, nor a Ryan Mathews one-night stand (later a commitment). All Chip Kelly looks like now is a desperate person who will sign or trade for anybody…as long as there is some questionable injury history. There is no plan. Kelly is flailing away, as we all watch him burn.

The last few weeks have been the greatest/fastest destruction of a football idol, that I think I have ever seen.

If you take all these high-profile moves together, it looks like this:

Murray for McCoy (Even exchange? In 2013, you would have laughed this out of existence. In 2015 it’s supposedly brilliant)

Maxwell for C. Williams (Even-ish?)

Bradford for Foles (Let’s say Bradford is better…do you really think he won’t get hurt again?)

Money saved with passing on Maclin, but used for Brandon Graham and Mark Sanchez (yikes)

Kiko Alonso for Trent Cole (Will be OK, if Alonso doesn’t go down again)

Would you trade?…

McCoy, C. Williams, Foles, Cole, and Maclin

FOR

Murray, Maxwell, Bradford, Sanchez, B. Graham, Alonso?

If you think it looks like an even swap of talent…what if I told you doing the deal would cost you about $6-10M more dollars in 2015 payroll, and lock you into $55M+ more in fresh guaranteed contracts ahead.

Hey, at least you have a QB for the future who is definitely never going to get hurt again…and will probably weasel a $50M contract extension in April just to add nitroglycerine to this forest fire. 

 

LATE ADD: No way Ryan Mathews gets hurt…

I was a fan of Ryan Mathews…before I realized he would be hurt every other week. I really likedSam Bradford, before injury ripped his career away. Now they are together…all under one roof.

You know, I love Colin Cowherd, but he has lost his mind—when McCoy was traded he went on all day about how RBs are meaningless, and that the move was so smart to free up cap space…and I absolutely agreed. Since then, Philly has added $26M in guaranteed dollars with RBs Murray and Mathews…plus another $3.5M guaranteed due to Darren Sproles…but he’s now talking about how brilliant these RB adds are? Colin, come on!

What I noticed with Mathews’ deal, and then went back and looked at Murray’s too—I see what is happening. The deals are being back-loaded. The bigger money is due later. Either Chip Kelly’smaster plan pays off in 2015 with a Super Bowl worth of future insolation from scrutiny…or if it fails, the payroll burden shifts to the future GM.

 

Conclusion:

The last laugh is on you, Philly fans.

If all this doesn’t work out, Chip Kelly leaves for any college program he wants in January 2016…for even more money than he makes now. To start 2016, Eagles fans could be left with no coach, a bunch of guaranteed contracts plus a super expensive RB (in an era where that is totally stupid) and a free agent QB (Bradford) with Mark Sanchez as the listed starter. Kelly will have the last laugh, and land on his feet and then some.

Howie Roseman has to be laughing his ass off right now. However, Kelly cannot hear him from the other building he was banished to.

OR

Everyone stays healthy. Bradford leads the Eagles to a 14+ win season and the Super Bowl, and I write a few thousand words about how I was wrong. That might happen, Chip Kelly is that good—I just think it’s a ticking time bomb now. We will look back at this period in 3-5 years and marvel at the wreckage that was the Phill 2015  offseason.

They will probably make a documentary about in 20 years or so on like a ‘30-for-30’.

Fantasy Football implications…

 — This is a minor FF-hit (bad) for Nick Foles. Not because of the precious ‘system’, but because of the volume of plays/activity in Philly vs. St. Louis. There likely is a small tick down in FF-output—if not just for less rushing action/TDs from Foles, as he ran the ball decently in Chip’s ‘system’, for a lead-footed guy.

There is an upside hope: Foles lands in a great spot here—eight home/dome games. The hidden bonus to me: As Jeff Fisher landed in St. Louis, he started off as a run-centric team with a limited Sam Bradford at first…and then Fisher started cutting Bradford loose later. When the passing game ramped up, Bradford’s numbers started humming…and then he got hurt. It showed me Fisher is not just sold out to the running game (from his days in Tennessee). I thought Bradford was a sleeper every year…and was really having a nice 2013 when it got derailed by injury. Foles now steps into the same dynamic.

I like Foles for 2015+, because I think he could be great as it is, but I think additional 2015 FF-excitement with Foles hinges on what STL does at WR in the draft. This looks a whole lot better withAmari Cooper or Kevin White at pick #10…which means don’t get too excited for Stedman Bailey or Kenny Britt just yet.

I could ‘dig’ Cordarrelle Patterson being traded there as well.

 — Sam Bradford is a really good QB. I don’t want that lost here—I just think you cannot bank on a multiple-ACL + major shoulder injury guy.

The same people who scoff at Ryan Mathews being a walking injury waiting to happen, are probably constructing stories on how Bradford has to be clean in order to be traded for, etc. Sam Bradfordbefore his injuries = terrific. Post-multiple injuries = skeptical and doubtful. Good to take a cheap Dynasty risk on (too late now), but not to bank on.

 — Jordan Matthews is fine. He did even better with Mark Sanchez last year…he is coming into his own. He’s fine with Bradford or Sanchez…especially with Maclin gone.  He could be a breakout NFL fantasy star this season.

 — Zach Ertz, to me, was connected with Foles. I am not a fan in general, but even less so minus Foles.

 — Jared Cook maybe is an ounce more interesting. Foles spreads it around, and Cook cannot catch well…so I’m not too hot.

 — Tavon Austin gets a bump assuming Cooper or White joins the fray.

 — You would have never believed LeSean McCoy having a total and utter collapse in 2014 after his 2013…so don’t be cocky on Demarco Murray + Chip Kelly = McCoy-2013…it may mean it equals McCoy-2014.

More on all this and other NFL player news when our Fantasy Football Draft Guide hits this summer!

**Fantasy Football Metrics and College Football Metrics IDP Dynasty (three-year) projections now exist on the Fantasy Football Management technology: “The Machine.” See “The Machine” here (link): The Machine via FFM

 

R.C. Fischer is an NFL Draft analyst for College Football Metrics.com, and a football projections analyst and writer for Fantasy Football Metrics.com. He is also a lead writer for ‘Play The Draft.com’. His group also provides player projections for Advanced Sports Logic’s football software “The Machine.” See “The Machine” here: The Machine via FFM

 

Jimmy Graham instantly transforms into Russell Wilson's top goal line target

 

TE Fantasy Football News

One of the most impactful trades of this offseason was fantasy TE beast Jimmy Graham being shipped from the New Orleans Saints to the Seattle Seahawks. The Saints exchanged Graham for center Max Unger and the Seahawks’ first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

It's not like the Seahawks needed much help to begin with, but having a huge red red zone target will make Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson even more dangerous. Wilson hasn’t had that elite pass-catching weapon during his tenure with the Seahawks. Adding Graham to an already potent offense makes the Seahawks a prime contender for another trip to the Super Bowl.

Now let’s slow down a bit and lower some expectations for Graham and the Seahawks. During his time with the pass-happy Saints offense Graham caught 386 passes for 4,752 yards and 51 touchdowns in his four seasons. Graham will add some much-needed help on the red-zone offense and stretch the field out wherever he’s placed, but he won’t produce those gaudy numbers like he did for the Saints.

The Saints obviously want to focus on other things except offense by making a move like this. New Orleans had one of the worst defenses in the NFL by numbers. Now that the Saints have acquired an additional first-round draft pick they can take two defensive players in the 2015 draft.

Saints fans shouldn’t panic too much even with this loss of Graham. The offense will still be above-average with Drew Brees at the helm and Sean Peyton calling the plays. Max Unger is a terrific offensive center and Saints fans should be happy to have him – we know Brees will be. With the Saints re-signing Mark Ingram and gaining a great offensive lineman, maybe we are seeing a shift in emphasis from passing to running.

Only time will tell how this trade pans out. As of now we give the edge to the Seahawks simply because this trade makes so much sense for them. They get an all-pro tight end for Wilson to throw to and some pressure taken off Marshawn Lynch and the run game. This will be an exciting team to watch next season.

For the most comprehensive fantasy football TE news, keep reading ASL!

If you can burn a space for this season, Stroman could pay dividends in 2016

 

By now you have likely heard the unfortunate fantasy baseball news that Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman will miss the 2015 season with an ACL injury. Stroman injured his ACL during a Blue Jays fielding drill. The 23-year-old obviously has zero value for your 2015 fantasy baseball season, but in keeper or dynasty fantasy leagues, he’s one player you should really hold on to.

Stroman was poised for a huge year this season and was listed as on of the top sleeper picks. Some fantasy projection sites had him with the upside of becoming a top-20 starting pitcher. Stroman struck out 111 batters in 130.2 innings and held a 1.17 WHIP throughout 2014. So, it’s fair to assume that in 2016, Stroman could be in line for a huge season assuming he has a complete recovery.

If you can grab Stroman for maybe $1 or in the last round of your 2015 draft, fantasy owners could have an ace up their sleeves for 2016. Surely it is difficult to carve out a spot for an injured player for an entire season, but the upside is undeniable.

Drafting injured players is always a risk, and this is no different, but Stroman may very well be the future face of the MLB pitching landscape and this is a great opportunity to make him yours for years to come.

Stay tuned to ASL for the most updated info on NFL fantasy sleepers, fantasy football keepers, and MLB fantasy keepers and sleepers.

The highest paid defender in the game could shift the balance of power in the AFC East

 

In NFL player news, Ndamukung Suh is headed to South Beach to join the Dolphins after signing a six year $114 million contract. Suh got $60 million up front before he ever played a single down and is now the highest paid defensive player in the NFL. Suh is only one of several big names heading to the AFC East this off-season.  

While the Dolphins, Bills and Jets keep acquiring Pro Bowl talent via free agency and trades, the defending champion New England Patriots have already lost several key players to free agency and the gap between the Patriots and their division rivals appears to be shrinking. 

The Dolphins still have issues on the offensive side of the ball, but with the addition of Suh, they now have a front seven that can get after Brady and cause major problems for him. Suh makes everyone on the defensive side of the ball a better player and will also help the Dolphins slow down the run which will come in handy when facing the Bills and LeSean McCoy twice a year. 

The Dolphins also added fantasy football stud TE Jordan Cameron, while the Bills added exciting NFL fantasy RB LeSean McCoy and signed OG Richie Incognito back in February. The Jets hired a new coach and made a major splash this off-season after signing Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie in free agency and trading for WR Brandon Marshall.

New England is still the team to beat in the AFC East, but after losing several key players from their Super Bowl run, they are not as good as they were last year. Miami, New York and Buffalo have all gotten significantly better on paper. Football fans should enjoy a more competitive AFC East that has been completely dominated by the Patriots for the last decade. It's been an exciting off-season so far and it will be interesting to see how Patriots replace some of their key losses during the remainder of free agency and in the draft.

Time may be running short for Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City

 

In basketball news, reigning MVP Kevin Durant should return to action in 1-2 weeks, completely changing Oklahoma City's game plan. The Durant-less Thunder have been riding Russell Westbrook during his incredible hot streak, so implementing him back into their offense could be quite difficult.

Since Durant began to miss time due to a foot injury, the team has gone 7-4 and is currently tied for 8th in the Western Conference with the New Orleans Pelicans. Russell Westbrook has stepped up in his absence and questions have surfaced about their ability to be truly effective when playing together. Moves made before the trade deadline completely changed the look of the Thunder team, and it may be possible that they are now better suited for Westbrook, but not Durant. 

Westbrook has been playing better than ever before, and Durant may be what was limiting his potential. They both need the ball in their hands to be at their best and maybe it's about time that they move on. For now, Durant will be back and they will have to work on their team chemistry, but he could be gone in the offseason.

Rumors have surfaced that Durant could be on the move to avoid having him walk into free agency after next season, leaving them with nothing. As far as his outlook for the rest of the season, Durant should be considered a top fantasy NBA option as he provides owners with points, threes, rebounds, assists, FG% and FT%. He should be considered one of the best fantasy NBA players in leagues across the board and can be unleashed the second he returns to the court.

Keep reading ASL for the best fantasy basketball news!

Astros starter Colin McHugh is still flying underneath fantasy radars

 

Owners looking for fantasy baseball sleepers would do well to pick up Houston Astros starter Collin McHugh. He was arguably the American League's best rookie starting pitcher last season, finishing fourth in Rookie of the Year voting with a 2.72 ERA and 11-9 record.  

His 1.02 WHIP was good for sixth-best in the league, and a variety of peripheral statistics suggest the breakout year wasn't exactly a fluke either. He posted a 3.11 FIP, struck out just over a batter per inning, and worked a very strong 3.83 K/BB ratio. Simply put, McHugh was great last year and had he played in a higher-profile market more people would likely have noticed.

His relative anonymity, however, makes McHugh a prime late-round target to fortify the back-end of your fantasy pitching staff. Though it will be difficult to reach the very high bar he set last season, there is still much to like about his talent and repertoire. His breaking pitches ranked among the game's best; he threw his curveball and slider over 50% of the time last year and he threw them for strikes.  

Support from an improved offense and bullpen might net him a few extra wins in 2015 as well. Even with some presumed regression, McHugh should continue to do good things this season and be a legitimate SP4/5. Aim to draft him around the 180th pick.

The Rangers are a different team now that Yu Darvish is done for the season

  

Yu Darvish - Texas Rangers

In MLB fantasy news, it appears that the 2015 season will close on Yu Darvish before it ever begins. Barring a miracle, Darvish will be shut down for the season to have reconstructive surgery elbow surgery. It’s been almost a week since Darvish felt tightness in his arm and two doctors have already advised him to undergo Tommy John surgery as soon as possible. If the 28-year-old were to have surgery today, he would miss not only this season, but probably the beginning of next season as well. Time to go to Plan B and look for other options.

Drew Smyly - Tampa Bay Rays

Spring Training has not been a good time for Drew Smyly so far. The left-hander was behind in his training program after a strained tendon in his left middle finger. To make matters worse, Smyly is now dealing with tendinitis in his left shoulder. Smyly will most likely not be ready for the start of the regular season for the Rays while dealing with these issues. Smyly was the key piece in last year’s trade of David Price and had a good few months with the Rays. This will hurt Smyly’s draft position, especially if his health continues to be a lingering issue. Smyly is still a good choice to make late in your draft as either your 4th or 5th starter.

Chris Sale - Chicago White Sox

Sale is dealing with a fracture in his right foot as well as a sprained ankle early in spring training. With the start of the season just four weeks away, Sale’s participation looks gloomy. After his fracture, the initial diagnosis was three weeks, but now with conflicting reports of his injury, Sale might not be ready to pitch on opening day. Even if Sale isn’t ready by opening day, he should not miss more than 2 starts. When healthy, Sale is one of the best starting pitchers in the game today. He will still go high in the draft, based on straight talent. If you can grab Sale as one of your top 2 starting pitcher spots, he’s worth taking.

Homer Bailey - Cincinnati Reds

After offseason arm surgery, Homer Bailey is a question mark to start the 2015 season. Bailey broke out in 2013, but struggled at times during the 2014 season. Bailey will try to bounce back from a disappointing 2014 season and try meet the expectations that come with the six-year, $105 million contract that he signed last offseason. Bailey will likely miss a few starts to start the season but his draft stock will stay consistent. In most leagues, he is being drafted as a third starting pitcher.

 

Chip Kelly's decision making may ground the Eagles for years to come

 

Being a standout college football coach rarely translates into success at the professional level. There are notable exceptions of course, but it’s highly unlikely that Chip Kelly will ever be recognized with the likes of Jimmy Johnson or Pete Carroll. The Philadelphia Eagles are suddenly an organization in crisis and no amount of coaching genius (real or imagined) is going to help them recover. Maybe coach Kelly’s next masterstroke will be calling on the Phillies to send over Cliff Lee to join his island of “Misfit Toys.”

There is no question that Kelly is doing things “his way,” even though each move seems to put Philly deeper into a hole that seemingly no coach could possibly dig his way out of. He’s scooping up players with serious injury issues (many of them former Oregon Ducks) and tossing away his best players without a second thought. The only ex-factor that changes the entire equation is DeMarco Murray. If he becomes a member of the Eagles - Kelly actually is a genius.

In NFL player news, LeSean McCoy is inexplicably in Buffalo, Jeremy Maclin is on his way to Kansas City and Nick Foles suddenly finds himself in a Rams uniform.

It all started when the Eagles sent all-star running back LeSean McCoy packing to Buffalo, so they could grab linebacker Kiko Alonso, a player who is still recovering from a torn ACL.

Then the Birds chased QB Nick Foles out of town to bring in Sam Bradford, a player who’s had two reconstructive knee surgeries on the same leg in successive seasons. Bradford, who hasn’t played in a regular season game since October of 2013, is now reunited with his offensive coordinator from the Rams, Pat Shurmur.

There is rampant speculation that this is nothing more than a move by Kelly to help Philadelphia trade up and grab Marcus Mariota, a kid with a lot of NFL fantasy potential, but the odds are stacked against the Eagles whether they land the former Ducks quarterback or not.  

However, if the Eagles land fantasy football stud running back DeMarco Murray from the Dallas Cowboys - I take it all back!

Just shy of 37-years-old, Cliff Lee would do well to call it a career

 

Phillies former Cy Young winner Cliff Lee is struggling with a torn flexor tendon in his elbow that has been troubling him since last season and which lands him in our fantasy injury updates list. The fact that his elbow is flaring up during spring training is a red flag that can be seen for miles.  

A recent MRI shows that nothing has changed or worsened in the elbow, but Lee says that if he feels any discomfort, he won’t take to the mound. This leaves fantasy owners in a very perilous position with some big decisions to make.

There are several factors working against Lee including the fact that he will turn 37 this summer and managed only 13 starts last year because of his elbow issues. Lee even admits that surgery to repair the elbow will likely close the book on his career once and for all. It seems that any risk on drafting Lee this season is much higher than the possible reward. Even if he forgoes surgery, he’ll likely encounter more discomfort at some point during the lengthy season.

Even if Lee struggles past his elbow issues, his advanced age is impossible to look past. Risks are necessary to win a fantasy baseball title, but the most educated and bigger payoff risks are the better ones. Fantasy owners need to look for another solution in this year’s fantasy draft, one that won't be parked on the injury updates list.

Check back for the latest MLB and NFL injury updates! 

Justin Verlander is still worthy of being a SOLID middle round pick in your 2015 fantasy draft

  

Justin Verlander - Detroit Tigers: 

It would have been hard to imagine Verlander as a bounce-back candidate just three years ago when he captured both the AL Cy Young and MVP awards. He uncharacteristically struggled in 2014, posting a bloated 4.54 ERA and seeing his once lofty K/9 rate fall to 6.9. The realities of age and declining velocity make it unlikely he will reclaim his status as one of the game's premier aces, but a 3.74 FIP suggests he may have been the victim of some poor defense and bad luck last season. It's not like Verlander is on the list of fantasy baseball sleepers, he's not going to sneak up on anyone. But the former ace could enjoy a markedly improved 2015 and is a valid middle round draft pick.

Brandon McCarthy - Los Angeles Dodgers:

2014 was a tale of two seasons for McCarthy, as his performances before and after a July trade to the Yankees were like night and day. After pitching to a 5.01 ERA in 18 starts for Arizona, a renewed emphasis on his cut-fastball and a sterling 6.31 K/BB rate helped McCarthy turn things around in a big way in New York. While expecting him to duplicate his second-half numbers is unrealistic, playing in front of the Dodgers' strong infield defense should allow the groundball-inducing McCarthy continued success. Draft him somewhere around pick 200.

Homer Bailey - Cincinnati Reds:

A slow start and ailing elbow saw Bailey underachieve last season. He sported a 5.04 ERA after his first 11 starts, hurt by an inflated home run rate. He steadily improved throughout June and July, trimming that ERA to 3.71 with six quality starts in his last seven appearances before being shut down in early August. His status for Opening Day is questionable but he is not expected to miss much time, giving MLB fantasy owners prime opportunity to nab him around pick 175.

Clay Buchholz - Boston Red Sox:

Buchholz endured a painful 2014 in more ways than one, putting up a 5.34 ERA before undergoing knee surgery in September. Health issues are nothing new for the right-hander, who has never reached 30 starts in a season. There are reasons for optimism, however. Still just 30, Buchholz is not far removed from an outstanding (though abbreviated) 2013 campaign in which he went 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA. If he can strand more runners and improve his overall consistency, it should not be difficult to have a much better year supported by an enhanced Red Sox lineup. Pick him up with one of your final selections.

Nathan Eovaldi - New York Yankees:

The Yankees hope to be acquiring a young pitcher on the rise in Eovaldi, and fantasy owners might consider doing the same. The 25-year old flamethrower has been hamstrung by lack of control, surrendering a National League-leading 223 hits in just under 200 IP for the Marlins last year. However, his opponents' .323 BABIP should drop closer to league average this season, and increased use of his splitter to go along with a 97 MPH fastball might help Eovaldi miss more bats. Consider taking a flyer on him towards the end of the draft.