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Preseason fantasy football rankings: Wide receivers 08.22.13 at 10:58 am ET
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We’re back with a look at the receivers. This is our last look at the preseason positional rankings. We’ve previously covered the running backs, tight ends and quarterbacks. For updates on all these rankings, you can check us out at Rotobahn.com, where we refresh our rankings and cheat sheets frequently.

Let’s take a quick look at overall receiver strategy before we dig into the talent pool. When I’m drafting, I break theses receivers into three primary groups.

  • The elite, which is comprised of the top seven options.
  • The WR2 capable receivers. These are the guys who you project to be weekly starters as opposed to matchup plays. For my money, this groups starts to dwindle as we get close to the 30th-ranked receiver.
  • WR3-level options. This group goes on and on, and the way to get value out of it is to not tap into it too early. These players start going off the board in the seventh round, and you’ll be able to get this kind of value all the way through the 12th and often much later. Patience is usually rewarded with this group.

We’ll be getting into the depth and shape of the talent pool over at Rotobahn tomorrow when we start our Drafting In Reverse series. If you like deep sleepers at every position, we have them for you. For alerts to all of our new content, follow us on Twitter @rotobahn. I’ll be happy to address your questions there as well. Send them to me with the hash tag #FantasyWEEI. Finally, listen to our wide receiver and running back rankings podcasts.

1. Calvin Johnson, Lions

He’s going to score more touchdowns this year. Probably a lot more. Like Adrian Peterson and Jimmy Graham, Megatron gets a tier all to himself atop his position group. He’s that good, and he has a QB who can make any throw imaginable. As soon as you just can’t pull the trigger on a RB, you go to Calvin Johnson — not a QB. This dude is the truth. Draft him with confidence. I am looking to take him at about 10 overall unless a highly rated back slips.

2. A.J. Green, Bengals

Green’s an elite option, because nobody can cover him and because he’s the clear-cut No. 1 option on his team. The Bengals got better all around this offseason by bringing in Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard. Now there is enough talent around Green where teams can’t bracket him and get away with it. He should repeat his 2012 numbers and perhaps improve them some. His QB, Andy Dalton, is just decent, but he’s getting better and we should see some more incremental improvement in 2013. Take Green with confidence. His knee issue appears to be over and was nothing serious.

3. Dez Bryant, Cowboys

Injuries worry me with Bryant, because he sells out for the football with little regard for his body, but that’s the ONLY thing that worries me. Bryant is a dominant talent, plain and simple. He’s now the clear No. 1 option on his team and a threat to score more than 15 touchdowns. If he plays 16 games, he’s an absolute monster. Do not hesitate with Bryant. Draft him and enjoy. If you want to take him ahead of Green, I have no problem with that.

4. Julio Jones, Falcons

The freak show continues … Jones is right there with Green and Bryant. Take him over anybody but Calvin Johnson and I have no complaints. He’s getting better every year. He’s got a solid quarterback and there’s going to be more bite in the play-action game with Steven Jackson upgrading Michael Turner’s spot in Atlanta. Count on it. Big plays are coming, and more receptions, too.

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Read More: 2013 Fantasy Football, A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson
Stevan Ridley knows full well Pats ‘can’t have’ his turnovers 01.11.13 at 6:13 pm ET
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Stevan Ridley was in a relaxed mood Friday as he prepares for the playoffs. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Stevan Ridley was in a relaxed mood Friday as he prepares for the playoffs. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — One of the highlights of media availability in the last week has been the Patriots working on ball security, especially Stevan Ridley. Bill Belichick has had Ridley carry a ball in each hand with a defender on each side trying to pry the ball loose. He has been the only Patriot spotted with such focus on taking care of the ball.

Of course, there’s good reason for that. There were the two fumbles at the end of the 2011 season, including in the divisional rout over the Broncos. Then there were the two fumbles in back-to-back games this season against the Texans and the 49ers. His fumble on the first drive of the game against Houston could’ve been costly but Aaron Hernandez raced over and recovered it before the Texans could pounce. He wasn’t as lucky the next week against the 49ers. He hasn’t fumbled since in 38 carries.

“Can’t have it, can’t have it,” Ridley said Friday. “It’s crunch time, man. And turnovers, however they come — fumbles, interceptions, drops, whatever — we can’t have that.”

Then, he turned the focus on himself.

“I don’t want to be that guy that they’re pointing the finger at, and saying, ‘My bad.’ I’m trying to play solid football and play perfect football,” he said.

Of course, if Ridley and the Patriots are going to have offensive success against the Texans Sunday, they need to replicate what they did to J.J. Watt the last time, when they held the All-Pro without a sack or a tackle for a loss.

“He’s a playmaker,” Ridley said. “For us, whether it’s in the backfield, catching him on the way out, running routes, whatever we have to do, we have to get away from him, put two hats on him, make sure he’s blocked, make sure he’s covered up because he’s the leader of their defense. If he get momentum, we’re going to have trouble all night.”

Ridley was then asked about Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and the suggestion that Wes Welker is not the “physical” receiver that A.J. Green is and may not require Johnathan Joseph to cover him.

“I have no idea that he said anything about that but Wes Welker is a very important part of our offense,” Ridley said laughing. “We need everybody we can get, and that’s somebody who’s been on the field for the Patriots for a long time, somebody we depend on in crunch situations so I don’t know about his size or whatever that is but Wes gets the job done and I’ll be looking be looking for ’83′ on Sunday.”

Read More: A.J. Green, houston texans, j.j. watt, Johnathan Joseph
Patriots Potential Playoff Opponents: Cincinnati Bengals 12.29.11 at 3:03 pm ET
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Jerome Simpson has helped send Cincinnati head over heels into the playoff hunt. (AP)

With the Patriots attempting to secure a No. 1 seed in the upcoming playoffs for a second straight season with a win against the Bills Sunday, it’s time to start sizing up their possible postseason opponents. This is the fourth in a weeklong series of features on the rest of the AFC playoff teams. Today, we look at the Cincinnati Bengals:

The skinny: No one expected the Bengals to do what they’ve done this year, namely post their third winning season in the last 21. But the Bengals did something before, during and after the lockout they rarely do — they cleaned house with personnel, keeping a young core on defense and building around rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and rookie receiver A.J. Green. They fired Bob Bratkowski — the wildly unpopular offensive coordinator. They let Terrell Owens go off and focus on reality TV and Twitter, and of course, traded Chad Ochocinco to New England, remaking the image of the franchise. They had the incredibly good fortune of a bitter and disenfranchised Carson Palmer holding out, forcing them to go with Dalton at quarterback to start preseason. They had even better fortune when Oakland’s Jason Campbell broke his collarbone 48 hours before the trading deadline, creating a market for Palmer. Owner Mike Brown and his daughter Katie Blackburn finally made the smart football move and traded Palmer for a first and second-round pick. Even if the team needed a 2-for-1 ticket promotion to sell out their final game this Sunday with the season on the line again the Ravens, the worm finally appears to be turning for a Bengals team that is built around young talent. This is a young team that has already exceeded expectations and is playing with house money, even if they house is half full.

Offense: Much has been made of the success — and rightfully so — of Dalton leading the Bengals to a winning record in his first NFL season, and doing it with a group of talented but still young skill players around him. Dalton injured his throwing hand in the opener and it was Bruce Gradkowski throwing the game-winner to Green against the Browns. But Dalton served notice against the Bills he was no ordinary rookie, helping the Bengals erase a 17-3 halftime deficit and leading them to a 23-20 win on a last-second field goal. But just as important to Cincinnati’s success has been the hiring of Jay Gruden as the offensive coordinator, replacing Bratkowski. Gruden — the younger brother of Jon Gruden — came from the UFL’s Florida Tuskers, where he was the head coach. Jay Gruden brought in a West Coast philosophy that has been the perfect fit for Dalton, targeting tight end Jermaine Gresham much more than Palmer did. The throws underneath to Gresham, along with the power running game of Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott, has opened the outside for superstar-in-the-making A.J. Green. The rookie first-round pick (fourth overall) out of Georgia has proven to be a one-man wrecking crew, often beating double teams and coming down with acrobatic catches. Dalton is the first rookie since the merger to throw for 20 touchdowns and win at least eight games. With 63 catches, 1,031 yards and seven touchdowns, Green is having best rookie season for a wide receiver since Randy Moss in 1998. Of course, Green doesn’t even have the most acrobatic catch on the team this season. That distinction belongs to Jerome Simpson, who somersaulted an stunned Darryl Washington and nailed the landing in the end zone for a perfect touchdown. The Bengals weakness offensively comes in the red zone, where they convert TDs just 47 percent of the time, which puts them at 24th in the NFL.

Defense: While the Patriots earned the reputation as a no-name defense early on this season, the Bengals have done likewise but have had even better results. They spent the middle part of the season ranked No. 1 in the NFL in overall defense, led by defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. They have slipped to sixth but still possess a formidable front seven and their base 4-3 defense, while not nearly as well known as the Giants, is as capable as any in the NFL of generating pressure on the quarterback by themselves. It starts with Domata Peko and Geno Atkins in the middle. They feature Frostee Rucker and Robert Geathers on the edge. They back that up with Michael Johnson, Jonathan Fanene and Carlos Dunlap. That is quality depth on the D-Line. Zimmer loves to mix it up in terms of bring extra pressure and will often send the safety or corner in from deep coverage to add to pressure up the middle. This is where things could get dicey for the Patriots, if the Bengals have sort of success getting Brady off his spot in the pocket. The Bengals have done a remarkable job of replacing the losses of corners Jonathan Joseph (free agency to Texans) and Leon Hall (Achilles tendon Nov. 13). Stepping up has been none other than Adam “Pacman” Jones. In addition to helping former Patriot Brandon Tate on kick and punt returns, Jones has shown why he was taken in the first round by the Titans in 2005.

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Read More: A.J. Green, Adam Pacman Jones, AFC North, Andy Dalton
Revisiting a notable 2011 mock draft from SI.com and looking at what might have been 05.05.11 at 1:21 pm ET
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A few alert Tweeters pointed me toward this 2011 mock NFL draft (I believe it was WAD1980 who sent the link to me first) which was done in the days immediately following the 2010 NFL draft. Lots of fun to go back and check out what might have been — of course, it was far too early to try and figure out which teams might have been drafting where (and it wasn’t known if Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck would be leaving school early either).

As for New England, writer Andrew Perloff had the Patriots at No. 5 (thanks to the Oakland trade) and No. 21, going with George wide receiver A.J. Green and Pitt defensive end Greg Romeus, respectively.

But it was a couple of other names and where they were slotted that really caught our eye. Perloff had Ryan Mallett going first overall to the Seahawks. (Mallett, of course, was taken in the third round by the Patriots.) In addition, Perloff also had Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling being taken 16th overall by the Eagles — instead, Dowling ended up going at No. 33 to New England.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, A.J. Green, Andrew Luck, Greg Romeus
Mock Draft, Take 6: Could Robert Quinn go first overall? 03.21.11 at 12:14 am ET
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We’ve got a new No. 1 pick in the latest edition of the WEEI.com mock draft, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see it continue to change as we get closer. That’s generally the kind of madness that occurs when there isn’t a quarterback worthy of the top pick in a given year. Last year, it was only a matter of time before people realized Sam Bradford should have been the first overall pick. This year, there isn’t that simple solution, as Blaine Gabbert is very good, but not special.

Meanwhile, two of the Patriots’ first three picks are different from the last edition, and Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo is moving up.

Robert Quinn was suspended last season, but he makes sense for the Panthers. (WEEI.com photo)

1. Carolina (2-14) Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina Da’Quan Bowers was hanging on by a thread to the top spot, and with word emerging that teams are concerned with his knee, he drops out of this position for the first time. Some have Cam Newton going in this spot, but I don’t buy it. The last time the Panthers were in this situation was 2002. They had to choose between a quarterback who was not a slam-dunk (Joey Harrington) and a star pass-rusher (Julius Peppers). Marty Hurney and the Panthers chose correctly last time, and they would be correct to go with the pass-rusher (who just so happens to be a local guy) this time.

2. Denver (4-12) Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU If you can come out of a draft with the best player, it’s not a bad thing at all. That’s exactly what will happen for the Broncos if they opt to grab Peterson. He would start alongside Champ Bailey immediately, and take over as the No. 1 when the 32-year-old (he’ll be 33 at the start of next season) decides to retire. Given his talent, it wouldn’t be surprising it all to see Peterson have as big an impact as Bailey has had over the course of his career.

3. Buffalo (4-12) Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M Not to ogle a linebacker’s 40 time, but a sub-4.5 40 at Miller’s Pro Day only confirms that the Butkus Award winner can get to the quarterback in a hurry. Miller’s addition would give the Bills a type of exciting player on defense that they simply don’t have. The only question is his size, but he hasn’t been stopped in the past. With the Bills planning on being scheme diverse this season, Miller should be able to fit in both the 3-4 and 4-3.

4. Cincinnati (4-12) Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri Perhaps ignored in the midst of the whole Cam Newton debate is how good Gabbert actually is. He is by no means a top-tier quarterback, but he is the only signal-caller in this draft that seems a safe bet to be a solid starter in the league throughout his career. In a quarterback class this weak, that goes a long way. Carson Palmer apparently means business with his demand to be moved, so if the Bengals end having to do so once a new CBA is in place, it makes sense to grab a quarterback here.

5. Arizona (5-11) Marcell Dareus, DL, Alabama There isn’t much not to like about Dareus, but because he’s clearly this draft’s best five-technique prospect, he might be a better choice for a 3-4 team. Some like him to go as high as No. 1 overall, but since Ron Rivera is sticking with a 4-3 defense, Quinn makes more sense for the Panthers than Dareus if they want an end. That being said, the Cardinals would have to be ecstatic to see Dareus available at No. 5.

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Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, A.J. Green, Aaron Williams, Aldon Smith
A.J. Green: ‘I want to be mentioned with the best’ 02.25.11 at 1:17 pm ET
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A.J. Green wants to stand out. (AP)

INDIANAPOLIS — What are things you look for in a No. 1 receiver. Size? Experience in a pro-style offense? Experience playing with Matthew Stafford? One guy has all three.

Though he was introduced here at Lucas Oil Stadium as Adriel (his real name) and A.C. (Mario Lopez‘ character’s name on Saved by the Bell), Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green wants his name to be one people remember at the next level.

“I’m tall, I’m big and I’m physical,” the 6-foot-4 4/8, 211-pound top-five prospect said Friday.

“I’m not going to settle for being an average receiver. …I want to be mentioned with the best.”

Green is good friends with Alabama receiver Julio Jones, as the two of them prepared for the combine at Athletes Performance Institute. He said that despite the two of them battling to be the first receiver off the board (Jones is widely considered to be the second-best receiver prospect in the draft), they have a good relationship and that “it doesn’t really matter” which one goes first.

The best answer of Green’s presser came when a reporter asked him for a prediction of his 40-yard-dash time.

“Y’all [are] going to see when I run it,” he said with a grin.

Green had 848 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in his junior year at Georgia. His best season was his freshman year in 2008, when he had 963 receiving yards and eight touchdowns playing with Stafford.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, A.J. Green,
Pre-Combine Mock Draft: How much will Cam Newton help himself? 02.23.11 at 1:39 pm ET
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Surprisingly, Cam Newton will throw at the combine, something top quarterback prospects generally shy away from. (AP)

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s the most wonderful time of the year: the NFL scouting combine. Christopher Price and I will be bringing everything from reports on players, videos, and CBA goings on at a sickening rate.

Before all the fun starts, let’s take one last pre-combine look at how things might shake out. After all, the combine can change things drastically, and there are sure to be a few names entering the mix when all is said and done.

1. Carolina (2-14) Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson Last season, it appeared a defensive lineman could have gone with the first pick of the draft, but the popular line of thinking changed to Sam Bradford around the time of the combine despite the quarterback’s shoulder reconstruction surgery. This year, another quarterback is flying up the board, but the safe line of thinking is that Bowers or Auburn’s Nick Fairley will be the first defensive lineman to go No. 1 overall since 2006 (Mario Williams).

2. Denver (4-12) Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn What better way to switch to a new defensive scheme (John Fox’s Broncos will have a 4-3 defense) than to add a ferocious presence on the line? Fairley’s MVP performance in the BCS championship game gives him a bit more star appeal than Bowers at the moment, but both prospects seem worth it this high.

3. Buffalo (4-12) A.J. Green, WR, Georgia I’ll still try to stay ahead of the curve and predict that Lee Evans might not be in this team’s plans going forward. The 13th overall pick of the 2004 draft is coming off a down year, and it’s debatable whether the team would willingly pay him his $1 million roster bonus or go the route of trading/releasing him. With the emergence of Stevie Johnson at one receiver spot and last year’s eighth overall pick in C.J. Spiller potentially stepping it up in year two, the Bills actually could boast a few offensive weapons with the selection of Green.

4. Cincinnati (4-12) Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU The Bengals took cornerbacks in the first round of both the 2006 and 2007 drafts, but neither Jonathan Joseph (2006) nor Leon Hall (2007) were as highly heralded. Joseph has been the less impressive of the two at the professional level and is set to become a free agent. Hall’s contract has just one year left, so this pick both gives them an elite corner to pair with Hall for the time being and insurance should the Michigan product leave down the road.

5. Arizona (5-11) Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina Interviews with teams this week will really help them get a feel of what Quinn’s all about, and in turn will help us figure out whether talent will win out over all that he’s been through. Quinn was considered one of the best pass-rushers in the nation after his 11-sack sophomore season, but was suspended for his junior season for improper dealings with an agent. With his speed and 6-foot-5, 270-pound frame, it makes sense that 3-4 teams would use him at outside linebacker.

6. Cleveland (5-11) Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M Miller was previously projected to go No. 5 to the Cardinals, but one shouldn’t rule out the possibility of teams passing on the speedy outside backer due to his lack of size (6-foot-2, 237 pounds). This pick would greatly help a defense that finished tied for 25th in the league with 29 sacks. Miller, whose athleticism makes him a favorite to put on a show here in Indianapolis, had 11 sacks in his senior year.

7. San Francisco (6-10) Cam Newton, QB, Auburn A year ago, everyone was astonished that a mid-round prospect named Dan LeFevour thought he was too cool for school by refusing to throw. Now, Cam Newton is fully participating in the combine. He says he’s doing it to be as transparent as possible in the pre-draft process, and it should pay off. The more teams see Newton’s athleticism and potential (he still remains a project but with tremendous upside) the better standing he’ll be in with talent evaluators. This might be a big premature, but assuming he wows everybody in Indy, he could be the first quarterback taken in a pretty weak class. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, A.J. Green, Akeem Ayers, Cam Newton
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