Making Fantasy Football Sense of This Year’s Rookie Running Backs

Saquon Barkley headlines the rookie running back class, but it will produce plenty of fantasy options.

A rookie has led the NFL in rushing each of the last two seasons, the first time that has happened in consecutive years since the NFL-AFL merger. In 2016, it was Ezekiel Elliott at the top of the heap, rushing for 1,631 yards. Last year, Kareem Hunt’s 1,327 yards gave him the rushing title. The streak may not be coming to an end any time soon.

This week and next I’m still working, and bothering people who are on vacation. My Monday column—the new MMQB—will run this Monday and on July Then, I go to Nantucket for two weeks, my cousin’s wedding in Detroit is over the weekend of July 14-15, and we’ll be back shortly thereafter. Camps open late that week, and we’ll be out there, and have a big camp kickoff MMQB on July 23.

This is a good spot to thank everyone for the feedback over the last three weeks during as we transition. I know I appreciate it, and keep any comments you’ve got (good or bad) coming. Like I’ve said, we’re gonna tinker and tweak, and make it the best experience we can for all of you.

For Smith, who was given the name Romarius, the nickname stuck.

Ito didn’t know of the connection, but doesn’t mind sharing a name.

No, I was unaware of the existence of a pro football prospect by the name of ‘Ito’ Smith, Ito told ESPN. Having looked him up and discovering he is a handsome and talented fellow, certainly not a bad thing. Pro football is a tough business, and I wish him a long and healthy career.

Perhaps the most interesting clip of the year. Besides the fact that he’s playing in alarmingly empty gyms and has a bizarre black eye mask that makes him look like a caped crusader, the producers at Draft Express include a negative section on Musa. In the first half of the video, he can’t miss from 30 feet. Then we see he actually puts up air balls and gets his shot blocked. I’m sorry… YouTube isn’t supposed to a place for realism. It hurt Musa tremendously in this mock draft.

Cardinals president: NFL players are free to speak out just not on game days

Michael Bidwill wants his players to follow a certain protocol when it comes to using their platforms.

During a Tuesday interview on The Mike Broomhead Show, the Cardinals president said he supports players speaking out on social issues but would prefer they keep quiet on games days.

Last year, the 102-win Cleveland Indians were one of the great teams of the modern era: Their starting pitchers had the American League’s lowest ERA, their offense scored more runs per game than all but two AL teams, and their defense was, by Defensive Runs Saved, the AL’s third best.

And their bullpen! Collectively, Cleveland’s relievers had the game’s lowest ERA. Their sOPS+ — OPS allowed, relative to the rest of the league’s relievers — was baseball’s 19th best since 1988, when the current era of bullpen usage more or less began. The Indians’ bullpen was so good and so deep that the club had to leave three relievers with ERAs in the 2s off the postseason roster.

Jerry Richardson has bid the Panthers farewell after the sale of the team was finalized Monday.

Richardson released a statement thanking the organization and saying he will always have the highest respect for the men who wear the Panthers jersey.

We are grateful to the Carolina community for the love and support you have shown your Panthers. Your enthusiasm for football and devotion to the team has been a source of strength for us and for everyone who calls the Carolinas home, the statement read, in part.

Richardson was accused of workplace misconduct in December, including subjecting employees to sexual harassment and racial slurs. Shortly afterward, he put the team up for sale.

The injury kept Miller in the hospital for three weeks before he was cleared to rest at home.

He wound up having at least eight surgeries on the knee, though he was able to walk on it without crutches by last December.

While that’s a similar injury to the one Teddy Bridgewater eventually returned from, Miller will have to complete his rehab at age 33 rather than 23. The odds he makes it back to his pre-injury form are low, but he could still add value as a big red zone target even if his explosiveness is limited.

Jackson promised he’d jump into Lake Erie if the Browns didn’t turn things around in 2017. On Friday, he lived up to his end of the deal.

A day after the Cleveland Browns finished the 2016 season with a 1-15 record, Hue Jackson told reporters there was no way the team would be that bad again in 2017.

I’m not going 1-15, Jackson said, via ESPN’s Pat McManamon. No. I’ll be swimming in that lake over there somewhere. That’s not happening.

That’s one hell of a resume, and it’s also partially why he can get away with the rigid demands he makes of his players. His coaching tree gets pretty barren when you’re looking for NFL success because you need that kind of past credibility in order to push the extreme team-first, no-nonsense attitude with which the Patriots have thrived. Without those Super Bowl wins, Belichick is just another hard-ass in danger of losing his locker room.

With those rings, he’s the kind of leader who commands your respect, whether you’re an undrafted free agent looking to make his mark in the league or a grizzled veteran working on one last run at the Lombardi Trophy. The Patriot Way is non-transferable without BB behind it.

The other reason? Because Belichick lives his gimmick. If you’re putting in an 80-hour week, he’s in for 95. He asks you to be a football robot because he, in fact, is a football robot. There’s something relatable to that lack of humanity. The fact Belichick is willing to do everything you have to, minus the physical expenditure, lends some comfort to the fact you just ran your 30th conditioning drill of the afternoon. It’s going to lead somewhere — and I’m not sure I’d be confident suggesting the same for Carroll.

Broncos edge rusher Shayne Ray is heading back to the surgical table.

I wish to congratulate all past, current, and future inductees. It is quite an honor to be part of such elite company. This honor is something that I will cherish forever.

The number of people who are pulling out their pitchforks over this decision makes sense given how Owens was misinterpreted throughout his career. At this point, it’s gotta be hard for him to care, right? He has fought all of these fights before. His career has been played out, and he’s in the Hall of Fame. He’s got nothing left to prove.

We stand together for freedom. We stand together for patriotism. And we proudly stand for our glorious nation under God, President Donald Trump said from his lectern Tuesday afternoon before wading down a path decked in American flags.

This was a familiar tone from the White House. Truly, it could have been any day. The presidential outlook was that the Star Spangled Banner must be honored, and Americans should stand for White America’s original song. A presidential decree, especially in the age of Trumpian authoritarianism, was to be respected. This day wasn’t to prop up protesting athletes, rather, it was made for rebuke.

Another Houston player, Jadeveon Clowney, used some friendly trash talk with Jaguars fans as a chance to donate toys to charity in December.

In Philadelphia, a slew of players are making an impact off the field, including Carson Wentz, who recently presented a $520,000 donation to Mission of Hope Haiti for the construction of a sports complex in Haiti. Wentz’s AO1 Foundation foundation is also starting a food truck named Thy Kingdom Crumb, which will drive around Philly giving out free food to those in need.

Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins is very active in the Philadelphia community too, and spent part of last April with other NFL players fighting for criminal justice reform on Capitol Hill. On Wednesday, Jenkins highlighted the positive steps many NFL players — including Chris Long, Ben Watson and Demario Davis — have taken to make a difference.

Acorss the world, a group of NFL players — and Rex Ryan — recently traveled to Europe as part of the USO’s efforts to show America’s service members how much they are appreciated. NFL.com detailed the trip and it’s a great read.

There’s a three-year waiting period for players who are selected for the Hall of Fame.

I’ve always viewed it as a mandatory cooling-off period to create a little distance between the end of their career and enshrinement. Distance makes the heart grow fonder. I’m not saying that three years after Bettman relinquishes the commissionership, the hockey world will all of a sudden start penning valentines to the guy. But at the very least, his selection wouldn’t be made under the cloud of a lawsuit from ex-players, pending labor strife and all the other problems that would no longer be in his purview as a private citizen.

Rocky Balboa Award: This is the team whose title odds have jumped the most from Opening Day. It’s different from the change in win forecast because it’s more of a knockout game. The winner is … the Houston Astros. There’s a certain amount of randomness built into the simulation model to capture the likelihood of breakouts, collapses and such. The Astros were my preseason favorite, with a 19 percent shot of repeating as champions. That rate is up to 32 percent. Houston is currently winning an average of 107 games in the model. The Astros are good.

From Nolan Ryan to King Felix to, well, more Nolan Ryan, we look at the best gem ever thrown by each franchise and try to predict who could top it.

Sick of seeing pitchers hit? Love NL strategy? Either way, the argument is good for baseball. Plus, a Jeff Luhnow Q&A and Verlander’s next milestone.

The first half of the season has gone as expected and has been completely surprising. It’s been thrilling, and it’s been staid. It’s been heartening and disappointing. It’s been just another season — unlike any before it, but somehow very much familiar.

It feels like there has been more chatter than usual about the state of baseball, with attendance down and debates over tweaks to the game popping up almost daily. The drop in attendance is real, though the theories about it are not. The fact is, we don’t know why attendance is down. We suspect the likely factors — the weather, the stratification of the leagues, the lack of action generated from balls in play — but we don’t really know what is behind the slowly clicking turnstiles. We also don’t know if it’s a trend or a blip.

Bradley’s homer, his sixth, in the seventh off of Noe Ramirez pushed Boston’s lead to 4-1.

The Red Sox were busy packing their bags in the locker room after the game and were headed to New York, where the three-game series was scheduled to open Friday. The Red Sox (55-27) hold a slight lead on the Yankees (52-26), who were off Thursday.

While the series is big, Bradley said the division title is not on the line — yet.

The Dallas Mavericks have made center DeAndre Jordan their primary target as free agency nears, league sources told ESPN.

Jordan, who infamously spurned the Mavs in 2015 free agency after making an oral commitment to come to Dallas, has a deadline of 11:59 p.m. ET Friday to make a decision about the player option that would pay him $24.1 million next season.

If Jordan declines the option with the Los Angeles Clippers, league sources say the Mavs plan to aggressively pursue him in free agency, which begins Sunday. The interest is mutual, according to league sources, as hard feelings from three years ago have been forgiven.

His numbers have been abysmal in those brief outings, too. In them, Price has an ERA of 24.92, and he has allowed six home runs, leading to a home run percentage of 22.2 percent.

He’s now 0-2 against the Yankees in 2018 and 9-4 against every other team he has pitched against. It all leads to the question: Why has he struggled so much in recent outings versus the Yankees?

I’m sure there’s a lot of things, Price said. To pinpoint one of them, it’s kind of tough. Just execution in those big spots, that’s something I need to do a better job of.

Price missed his previous start against the Yankees and had an earlier appearance cut short. A late scratch from his start in the Bronx in May, Price was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome nearly two months ago. That diagnosis came after he failed to make it into the second inning of an outing against the Yankees on a cold night in April at Fenway Park.

More K’s than hits in June; second time in 3 months that deviation has occurred

Strikeouts exceeded hits in the major leagues for the second time in three months, a deviation that had never occurred before this year.

There were 6,776 strikeouts and 6,640 hits in June, the Elias Sports Bureau said Sunday. That leaves the season totals at 21,090 strikeouts and 20,671 hits about halfway through the season.

The average climbed from 1.90 before the 2015 All-Star break to 2.17 in the second half that year, then rose to 2.31 in 2016 and a record 2.51 last season.

Thus far, 32 percent of 94,241 plate appearances ended without a batted ball in play: 21,090 strikeouts, 8,081 walks, 952 hit batters and 23 catcher’s interference calls.

Houston nearly reached the NBA Finals last season, losing in seven games to the Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

The Rockets are desperately trying to lure LeBron James to Houston this offseason with the four-time MVP potentially joining reigning MVP James Harden.

D’Antoni’s fast-paced offensive philosophy worked best with the Suns from 2003-200He also coached the Knicks and Lakers, but found success hard to come by at both of those stops.

With the Rockets, D’Antoni finally has the pieces to run the system he’s most comfortable with, and the possible addition of James would make Houston favorites to win the title.

He missed the final two games of Colorado’s first-round series loss to the Predators after suffering a lower-body injury in Game 4.

Bernier was the odd man out, however, after the Avalanche acquired Philipp Grubauer from the Capitals.

Bernier, a 2006 first-round pick by the Los Angeles Kings, has also played for the Maple Leafs and Ducks in a 10-year career.

Phillies, Orioles, Blue Jays, Twins, Indians. Given Miguel Sano’s uncertain future in Minnesota, re-signing Escobar might be a priority. The Jays could use Escobar at shortstop, unless they think Bo Bichette can remain there. But here’s an idea: The Indians move Jose Ramirez to second base and go with Escobar at third adding another switch-hitter to go with Ramirez and Francisco Lindor.

Keuchel has been fine with a 4.15 ERA, but given his fastball velocity and some minor injury issues in the past, he hasn’t pitched well enough to receive a $100 million mega-deal.