Rams Ready for a Breakout Season from Tight End Jared Cook

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher can barely contain his excitement over former Tennessee Titans tight end Jared Cook.

The Rams organization broke the bank in March to snatch up Cook out of free agency and Fisher believe that he’s worth every penny of 5-year, $38.5 million contract. Cook showed flashes of brilliance during his career, but was never able to break out with the Titans.

Fisher couldn’t believe that Tennessee let Cook go in the first place and plans to line up his 6’5, 248 pound tight end all over the place.

Cook has great size and athleticism, but there’s always been a question about his ability to catch the ball.

Fisher believes that the 26-year-old’s ball handling problems are a thing of the past and expects him to morph into one of the top play-making tight ends in the league.

O’s Chris Davis on Pace for 60 Dingers

Can Orioles Slugger Chris Davis knock 30 more out of the park?

Can Orioles Slugger Chris Davis knock 30 more out of the park?

It’s only about halfway through the MLB season and Orioles first baseman Chris Davis has already hit 30 home runs, putting him on pace to hit about 60 this season. If Davis were to do this, he would be the first player to hit 60 or more home runs in a season since Barry Bonds did it with a record breaking 73 home runs in 2001.

Orioles fans and fantasy owners alike are intrigued by the possibility of this happening. However, Davis is slugging at such a stunning pace, that it’s hard to tell whether he can keep this up.

Though Davis was far less sensational last season, hitting only 33 home runs, he showed most of his power during the second half. Of his 33 home runs in 2012, he hit 19 of them in the second half of the season. If his numbers from last season mean anything, his bat could stay hot while the weather gets warmer.

What’s even more encouraging for Davis is his batted ball data. Last season Davis posted a home run to fly ball ratio of 25.2%. This season it’s improved to an MLB-best 31.9%. Though this is bit of a jump, it is not a huge change. What has changed dramatically is Davis’ fly ball percentage, which has skyrocketed from only 37.5% in 2012 to 45% so far this season.

Essentially, he’s making better contact and increasing the amount of balls that he hits into the air. The percentage of fly balls that leave the park is similar; he’s just doing it more often. This is a sign that his home run pace is sustainable. If he can keep hitting fly balls, he has a better shot at 60 homers.

What’s not encouraging for Davis’ chances of continuing his pace is his ridiculously high .380 BABIP.  Davis has normally posted a pretty high BABIP, with a .335 last season and a .366 in 2011. However, this super-high BABIP is still contributing to what would be a career-high .333 batting average for Davis. Odds are he is getting at least a little bit lucky with his BABIP, and it will likely come down. Therefore, he should see some regression in his average.

As Davis’ average falls, we may very well see some regression in his power numbers as well. His numbers are sustainable enough to guess that he will hit somewhere around 20 home runs going forward, but hitting another 30 home runs in the second half might be a bit too much to expect. Yet there’s no reason to be worried, Davis will likely lead the majors in home runs even if he slows down.  A 50 home run season is definitely still in his reach and is something owners will certainly appreciate.

Now or Never for Seattle Receiver Sidney Rice

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Seahawks wideout Sidney Rice could be in danger of losing his starting role, as well as his spot on Seattle’s roster. Rice is under a 5 year deal worth $41 million, but his production hasn’t been convincing enough to ensure that he’s worth the money. In order to secure his position with Seattle, he must increase his level of play during the third year of his contract.

There were some rumors that the 6-4 receiver out of South Carolina could be cut before the 2013 season. Releasing Rice would create an extra $3.5 million in cap space, allowing the Seahawks to pursue other options. Now that Seattle has Percy Harvin to go along with the rising talent of Golden Tate, the team might be ok without Rice.

However, with Harvin’s injury history, the Seahawks might be wise to hold onto to every receiver they can.

Even though Rice hauled in seven touchdown receptions last year, it’s been a long time since his breakout season with the Vikings in 2009. That year, he racked up 1,312 receiving yards to go along with 8 touchdowns. Rice hasn’t been anywhere close to those numbers ever since.

His contract of approximately $8.5 million per year makes it much more noticeable how poorly he has been playing. Going into his 7th season, Rice needs to step up and he needs to do it now. This might be his last chance to establish good chemistry with quarterback Russell Wilson and post better numbers. If not, he will have to take a major pay cut or shop his talents somewhere else.

San Diego Avoids the “Tebow Effect”

The Tim Tebow effect was evident last season in New York, when their offseason acquisition stirred up a slew of media chaos. This intense media coverage may, or may not have created locker room distractions leading the Jets to finish 6-10. For now, it appears that the San Diego Chargers have successfully avoided the “Tebow Effect” while dealing with rookie linebacker Manti Te’o’s offseason drama.

Of course, it’s much easier to avoid intense media scrutiny in San Diego than it is New York City.

As much of the free world is aware, one of the NFL’s most fascinating rookie stories was Manti Te’o, a Heisman finalist who displayed some very bizarre behavior in the middle highly-publicized fake online relationship.

Following the offseason media coverage revolving around the incident, the Notre Dame senior was heavily distracted while entering the combine where his 40-yard dash time was less than attractive to NFL teams. Te’o improved on his 40 during his pro day, but apparently not enough to be taken in the first round.

The San Diego Chargers moved up to grab Te’o with the 38th overall pick, and since then, the Chargers have practically suffocated the story. The Chargers franchise did not allow the media to speak to Te’o until after the June minicamp was finished. During this media meet, Te’o answered questions for 17 minutes and was described as mature, polished and polite.

With the lack of distractions, Te’o has been able to impress his teammates and earn their respect in the locker room and on the field. Without the distractions, and with a chip on his shoulder, Te’o has been referred to as one of the most “NFL-ready” rookies coming into the new season.

Yanks Derek Jeter Inches Closer to Rehab Assignment

New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter began running outside on this week for the first time since April, when a second break was discovered in the ankle he fractured during last year’s ALCS back in October.The five-time Gold Glover’s final step before a minor-league rehab assignment will be to run the bases smoothly and without pain.

“It’s a constant progression and that’s the last step,” Jeter said via nydailynews.com. “I’ve done everything else.”

The 38-year-old captain held a sterling .316 batting average with 32 doubles, 15 homers and 99 runs during the 2012 season. Jeter’s exact timetable for return is still unknown. However, the general consensus from the club is that Jeter could return some time shortly after the All-star break.

Fantasy owners who stashed Jeter or recently added him off the waiver wire, will have to keep close tabs on the remainder of his recovery. When he finally makes it back, he could be a solid fantasy shortstop if he picks up where he left off last season.

Daniel Fells, Jake Ballard Must Fill the Void Left by Hernandez

Since the the start of the NFL offseason, Patriots wide receivers and tight ends have been dropping like flies. Between Rob Gronkowski’s laundry list of surgeries and the release of Aaron Hernandez, someone is going to have to pick up the slack in the New England.

The two tight ends behind Rob Gronkowski on the Patriots’ depth chart now are former New York Giant Jake Ballard and six-year veteran Daniel Fells. Both Ballard and Fells are better known for their blocking skills, rather than their receiving capabilities.

Ballard, an undrafted free agent, had his breakout season in 2011 recording 38 receptions for 604 yards and 4 touchdowns before blowing out his knee in Super Bowl 46 against the Patriots. After missing the entire 2012 season, Ballard is still not 100% and was described as “rigid” in practice during the past few weeks. Fantasy owners should be very cautious about the condition of Ballard’s knee and how it holds up during the preseason.

Fells, who has been in the NFL for six seasons, will play his second stint with the Patriots this year. He has a 1,086 career receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. His best seasons came in St. Louis in 2009 and 2010 when he recorded 664 yards and 5 touchdowns through the two seasons.

While Ballard has a slight height advantage over Fells, 6 feet 6 inches over Fells’ 6 feet 4 inches, he is no shoe in for replacing Hernandez. Fantasy owners should not be surprised to see the two tight ends wind up with equal playing time this season as both players take on the ever challenging task of replacing Hernandez. Expect Fells to get more snaps early in the season as Ballard keeps working towards getting his knee back to 100%.

On the fantasy front, neither of these tight ends should be considered in drafts, as they both hold more value as undrafted free agents. The Patriots’ offense has been built around a dual tight end threat over the years and both Ballard and Fells will have balls thrown to them. Expect Tom Brady to heavily target newly acquired wide receiver Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski.

Jags Create Utility Man Slot for 5th Round Pick Denard Robinson

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The biggest question regarding Denard Robinson entering the 2013 draft was where he would fit in on an NFL roster. The former Michigan Wolverines’ quarterback possesses elite speed, but is listed at only 5’10 and 200 pounds.

NFL execs obviously love the speed, but worried about several factors:

1)   Is he too small to be a running back?

2)  Are his hands good enough to be a receiver?

3)  Is he durable enough to contribute to the kick return game?

After drafting him in the 5th round, the Jacksonville Jaguars obviously believe that Robinson has the right stuff.

He is the first player in NFL history to be listed at the position of “OW” or offensive weapon. The moniker started as somewhat of a joke by Robinson, but it gained enough traction for him to be given the position on the Jaguars official website. Robinson is still listed as a running back multiple sites like NFL.Com, Yahoo and CBS Sports.

The Jaguars general manager told reporters that he expects Robinson to get 10-to-15 snaps per game at either running back, wide receiver, quarterback, fullback or returning kicks. While the ambiguity of the term could catch on in a league where coaches try to divulge as little information as possible, it’s unclear how much of a “weapon” Robinson will be for the lowly Jaguars offense.

The team ranked 29th in yards per game last season, and the quarterback position remains a huge question mark after Blaine Gabbert’s disappointing season. On top of that, Maurice Jones Drew is coming off a foot injury that sidelined him for the majority of last year and wide receiver Justin Blackmon will be suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Overall, the term “offensive weapon” sounds pretty cool, but it seems like a long shot that Robinson will have much fantasy appeal in Jacksonville.

Don’t Expect Much from Rams RB Isaiah Pead

Rams running back Isaiah Pead should not be relied on to produce consistently through out the 2013 season. Though Pead is currently listed as the number one back on the depth chart, his job is far from safe.

The 23-year-old tailback out of Cincinnati has been making headlines during the off-season, but for all of the wrong reasons. Pead has to serve a one game suspension to start off the year for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy for marijuana. Pead needs to keep himself in check off the field to even get close to a starting job for St. Louis for the 2013 season.

Pead had a less than impressive rookie season totaling just 54 rushing yards on 10 carries during the 2012 season. He also has to contend with the versatile rookie back Zac Stacy and find a way to beat out 2nd year back Daryl Richardson who spilt time with 3-time Pro Bowler Steven Jackson last season.

It’s also been rumored that the Rams will go with a two man rushing attack which would also limit Pead’s value for next season. He’s definitely a running back to keep your eye on during this season’s fantasy draft, but there’s no pressing need to look his way until the 4th or 5th round.

 

Season Ends for Teixeria – Are the Yanks Done?

Teixeira will undergo season-ending wrist surgery.

Teixeira will undergo season-ending wrist surgery.

Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira will undergo season-ending surgery on his right wrist next week. Wrist issues have kept Teixeira sidelined for all but 15 games of the 2013 season and now it looks like he will not be returning this year at all.

Teixeira batted just .159 in the 15 games he played when he came back, but also had 3 home runs and 12 RBIs in that relatively short span. Teixeira could have been a power bat in the Yankees lackluster lineup, an offense that could use runs any way that they could get them. It’s obvious that the season is now a lost one for Teixeira, but is it a lost one for the Yankees?

The Yankees are 42-35 and currently tied for first in a very tight American League East. The Yankees have held the season together through decent pitching, but are not performing well enough at the plate to keep up with the pack. The club ranks 22nd in the MLB with 302 runs scored in 77 games and 25th in the MLB with a team batting average of .240.

Last season, the Yanks ranked 1st in the majors in home runs and second in runs scored. This season the team ranks just 15th in home runs, which is a dramatic drop. While it’s not good for a team to rely on home runs, the Yankees would truly be better off this way. The 15 to 20 home runs they likely would have gotten from Teixeira for the rest of the season could have definitely contributed to helping the team win.

The Yanks will have to continue playing 36-year-old veteran Lyle Overbay at first base, a player who was expected to lose a majority of his playing time with the team upon Teixeira’s arrival. Overbay is batting just .239 through 68 games, but has managed to hit 9 home runs.

The team is batting just .223 in June, and is almost completely relying on the bats of Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner, and Ichiro Suzuki. They certainly aren’t getting the help from Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells and David Adams, who are all hitting under .200 during the month of June.

The outlook is not good for the Yankees, who aren’t going to see their injured stars Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter or Kevin Youkilis any time soon. The team will have to rely on its pitching to have any chance of making the playoffs this season.

Despite ranking 11th in pitching with a 3.78 ERA, team pitching has been breaking down during the month of June.

The last hope the Yankees seem to have on the hill is Michael Pineda. Pineda is recovering from a labral tear but is pitching very well in the minors for Double-A Trenton. He should push either Phil Hughes or David Phelps out of the rotation once he returns to action.

Unfortunately, relying on the return of a 24-year-old starter is likely not enough. The Yankees are still plagued with injuries and have a while to wait until their lineup looks somewhat like it did last season. Until then, the team will have to try and keep up with the other four teams in the division, who all rank in the top 10 for scoring.

If the Yankees expect to stay relevant, they have to win now and losing Teixeira will only make the job that much harder.

Cowboys Wide Receiver Dez Bryant Reaching for the Stars

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Dez Bryant, the Dallas Cowboys most talented receiver, should be on all fantasy radars as a top 3 wideout for the upcoming 2013 season.

Bryant’s 2012 season was nothing short of spectacular when he wasn’t dealing with health issues, personal distractions or legal problems. Bryant believes that if he can steer clear of trouble, he could have a record breaking season.

Bryant has reportedly been the most impressive player in the Cowboys OTAs and mini camp, but that’s hardly surprising coming from a player who finished the 2012 season with almost 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett has had nothing but praise for Bryant, saying that his receiver had “found himself” during the offseason. One of things Bryant is focussing on is his explosiveness off of the line of scrimmage.

Bryant has buckled down on his training, stayed out of trouble and even gotten some advice from NBA legend, Michael Jordan. Bryant, who signed a three-year deal with the Jordan Brand, says he received just one piece of advice form MJ – “Stay out of trouble.”

However, it will take much more than a positive attitude for Bryant to reach his stratospheric and perhaps unrealistic goal of a 2,500 receiving yards season. There’s never even been a 2,000 yard receiver, although Calvin Johnson came close last year with his record breaking season total of 1,964 yards.

Bryant has the talent to set records, but his injury issues and lack of maturity will make his goals that much more difficult to reach.