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I was smitten with an idea the other day, and decided to go through with it for the next few days or so…before the football news really starts going in a few weeks.
I was thinking about how we all get way too excited when we first get football news, and that includes me. I got to thinking that I should go back and re-read all the early preseason game recaps I did, and see what massive mistakes or pure genius I was onto upon witnessing the first preseason games.
So, I am going back through each Week-1 preseason game recap from 2014, and critiquing myself on the spot (my 2015 notes are in teacher-correcting red font). Below is an original, unfiltered, untouched up to avoid my embarrassment, Fantasy-Dynasty game recap from Week-1 of the preseason with my random comments from re-reading them today.
Note – I did not go back and re-watch these games before critiquing myself a year later. I’m just reading and reacting to what I wrote after what I saw last year. I hate re-reading my own stuff, so this will be the first time seeing it since I wrote it. Actually, it’s kinda like photo album or yearbook review. You know, where you look back and think, “What was I thinking when I wore that?”
These 2014 preseason games ‘Rewinds’ will be posting in random order. Here we go…
**Original 2014 reporting in black font, new commentary in red:
— Pre-warning: If I have any Panthers’ fans still remaining with FFM, I’ll probably run you off here, or at least force some of you to send me an email on why “I don’t get it.” Proceed with caution…
The Panthers made the playoffs (…at 7-8-1)! So what do I know?
— Watching C.J. Spiller (3 carries for 22 yards) just be C.J. Spiller in his brief, effective glimpse in this game reminded me: What are we all doing? How long are we going to punish Spiller for his disappointing 2013? He hurt his ankle early, and was never right, but he tried to push through it…and we hate him for it. Doug Martin we can forgive, because he had the decency to disappoint everyone for a few weks, and then leave for the year with his injury. Spiller tried to limp through it, and for that we hate him.
It makes sense. I was Spiller’s biggest cheerleader. I was always thinking (last year) week-to-week, maybe he is 100% now…or I’ll take him at 90%. It never worked. We had a constant reminder of his disappointment every week, but with Martin we more easily moved on.
May I remind me of one truth I hold dear: C.J. Spiller is as, or more talented than Jamaal Charles. There’s like 3-5 guys on Spiller’s level for all-around talent. When at 100%, Spiller could be Charles circa-2013. I know there is Fred Jackson. I know there is Bryce Brown. I know there is E.J. Manuel…and those are all issues. Why do we give a Doug Martin or Gio Bernard or Reggie Bushmore ‘cred’ when they have talented other-RBs on the depth chart who we know are going to take some action too? Why are Gio’s 12 carries and 5 targets per game more exciting than that of Spiller…when Spiller is 10x the talent?
What you are able to pull off in the 3rd-4th-5th round of this year’s redraft is where it will be won (or lost) for 2014.
C.J. Spiller is my ‘Darren McFadden’. The guy who you always think is on the verge of another breakout season, and flashed one big season a while back–just enough of a tease to keep you hooked. However, it always a chasing after the wind since…to no avail. Spiller had 78 carries and no rushing TDs last season.
Whatever you do, don’t look at our top-15 PPR RB rankings in our draft guide.
You know C.J.’s the Saints new ‘Sproles’ right?
— Sammy Watkins (3 rec. for 21 yards on 4 targets) saw his first catches of the preseason, on relatively simple, short passes. I might have taken a few WRs ahead of him in the 2014 NFL Draft, as a ‘real’ team GM, like Jordan Matthews or Cody Latimer, but for Fantasy Football purposes for 2014 (and probably beyond), I begrudgingly have to go with Watkins out of the gate.
The Eagles don’t need to feature Jordan Matthews…they don’t need him to be a savior. Ditto for Cody Latimer. However, Watkins is the face of the franchise…one that they mortgaged a future to acquire. He’s not-not getting the ball in every way imaginable. It’s the same vibe on why Devonta Freeman is held in higher regard than Antone Smith by the coaches…despite all the evidence to the contrary. It just is. Talent be damned.
Well, here we are a year later, and Jordan Matthews is currently ranked ahead of Sammy Watkins in most redraft rankings! Who would have thought that pre-NFL Draft 2014? I mean, besides me…
Watkins is fine, he was just overhyped, and landed on a terrible passing game. A passing game in 2015 that will be worse than it was in 2014.
— Kelvin Benjamin (1 rec. for 29 yards TD on 2 targets) made a helluva catch for a TD in this game (clip below). I am warming up to Benjamin a little more after researching for my scouting report on Jameis Winston on College Football Metrics.com. Perhaps he is a little better than we initially gave him credit for. He is still not a 1st-round material type of WR, but I thought he might really struggle…I’ve moved to more neutral with curiosity to learn more on him.
Benjamin was better than we thought in 2014. However, as I have noted on several occasions–there are reasons to still be afraid here. Benjamin owners are not fully ‘out of the woods’ yet. I lay out my main concern in our 2015 Draft Guide.
— This is for my Bills’ fans (and IDP followers): I’m not 100% sure, yet, but make note to keep an eye on rookie OLB Randell Johnson (2 tackles, 1 sack). The Computer liked him as an NFL Draft sleeper.
In this game, on one particular play, he exploded up the middle, after starting out in ILB coverage, and closed ground quickly for a hard-hitting sack. After that, I rolled tape to just watch his play…he is very fast, very instinctive. He came in & out of every other play with the 2nd and 3rd teams…so there was no ‘breakout’ event…he’s still ‘hidden’. When he was in, he was subtly impressive…just watching his movements and coverage, etc. I think you got something there. I want to see if he’ll eventually be a shock starter off the Kiko Alonso injury. Regardless, he is not a ‘who cares’ 7th-round pick. He’s going to start someday, my gut and computer tells me.
Johnson made the team, and popped up in a few spots and on special teams. He was hurt midseason and disappeared. I’m interested to see how he’ll fit with Rex Ryan. I’m not hearing anything new one way or the other so far this offseason. We’ll have to observe him in the preseason games.
— Panthers TE ‘project’ Brandon Williams (3 rec. for 50 yards and 1 TD on 7 targets) really moves well (fluidly) for a TE. Williams was a football player for Chip Kelly for a minute at Oregon, before serious spinal issues forced him to retire. He played small school college basketball, and then re-tried out for the NFL, and has been hanging with the Panthers for the past two seasons. If healthy, they got something here. It’s still raw, but it’s a 4.55+ runner with OK agility, and 26+ bench press rep power. He looks bulked up, but still moving well. If anything, this would be a 2015+ story.
Probably not a 2015 story either. He is seeing more snaps, but doesn’t look like he is getting involved in the offense…especially with Greg Olsen sitting there. Moving on. Nothing to see here (it appears)…
— Kealoha Pilares (1 rec. for 10 yards on 1 target) is almost dead to me. He returned a couple of kickoffs, and saw a late target in mop up time.
Pilares was one of our ‘metrics’ love childs from the 2011 NFL Draft. I don’t know what to tell you. To me, this is Antone Smith all over–the guy just never got a chance, but (to be fair) was banged up too much.
Just note, the last time Pilares caught a pass (mid-2012), he turned the simple bubble screen into a beautiful 36-yard TD. It was so good, he never caught another pass again for Carolina…
…but the Panthers did spend money to bring in Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery last season, so who am I to judge a team’s scouting?
— Bryce Brown (11 carries for 64 yards 2 rec. for 18 yards on 4 targets) ran ahead of Anthony Dixon (9 carries for 28 yards and 1 TD) in this game…barely. Spiller started. F Jax was right in after that, and then Brown running as a backup to Spiller/F Jax. I don’t know what to make of Brown. He had some wonderful power-runs in this game, but he clearly is way behind the top-2 ‘givens’. There is no coup of Fred Jackson that I see.
In 2015: F Jax may be done, and Spiller may be gone via free agency…Bryce could be a sweet 2015 tale, but 2014 is about dead.
Actually, 2014 wasn’t dead–some of us used Bryce for a few weeks, and he mostly delivered. In 2015, he looks dead…again. I pray he is traded or released.
I’ll say it for the 1,000th time: He is Adrian Peterson as a runner. How smart he is, or whether he has a fumble issue…all up for debate. However, do not debate Brown isn’t a massive talent.
**Our ever-evolving, ever-updating to opening-day, Moneyball scouted, 2015 Fantasy Football e-Draft Guide and Cheat Sheets are available now. Direct link: Draft Guide 2015 options **
OK, here’s the ‘good part’:
— OK, Panthers fans…I just have to make this comment as an outsider looking in. Sure, maybe I’m an old fashioned ‘don’t get it‘ guy. I’m willing for that to be ‘on the table’. But here’s my impression of your centerpiece player…
Cam Newton (DNP) did not play in this game coming off the foot injury. He has been unable to do much all offseason, understandably. However, he has still been able to use his vocal cords. Two things he said this offseason caught my attention, and rubbed me the wrong way…and cemented a ‘feeling’ I already had on him.
1) He was agitated by not being able to practice early this year, and made an offhand comment on how just sitting around watching tape gets boring quickly. REALLY? The football press just let that go? Fans just let that go? I thought we lauded ‘first guy in, last guy out’, film room junkie QB? I thought that was the gold standard of what we all wanted out of our franchise QB? Here Cam pushes what many have whispered about him: Cam is not honing his craft.
2) Later, in this preseason, Cam slammed former coach Rob Chudzinski for over-complicating the offense, and throwing too much at him to soon. Why make those comments? What did they serve? Is it possible Cam just doesn’t like to study…per his prior comments? Cam ‘just wants to play’, he says. I agree…his talent should be geared toward improv. But can you be a top franchise QB as an ‘all the time’ improviser? Ask Michael Vick, his career performance numbers, and he later he admitted as much…suggests the answer is ‘no’.
I always get the feeling that Cam Newton is not serious about his craft, and that he will go far on athletic gifts, but not to any ‘next level’…he’s like a Tim Tebow. The athleticism can only take you so far in the NFL. Before you flip out on a Cam and Tim comparison…both QBs have taken their teams to the playoffs, and lost a 1st-round game. I know Cam is a better pure QB than Tebow. They are both unorthodox QBs, and ones I suspect cannot be ‘elite’.
So maybe I’m just biased, or old and cranky, but Cam Newton is not my cup of tea as an NFL QB. Fantasy-wise? Sure, get me those running points, but I’m not inclined to pay him six-years/$130+ million to be my NFL QB, like the Panthers will soon.
*It was five-years/$104M signed this 2015 offseason…
What I saw in this preseason game of 2014, did not change my opinion any…
First, Cam Newton was on the sidelines dressed in gray basketball shorts with teal jogger’s tights on underneath, and a gray pullover top…with a winter cap/beanie. Colin Cowherd calls it ‘hat on backwards guy’, expressing concerns about certain QB’s maturity levels. I am all about comfort in apparel, but as for a ‘face of the franchise’ type of look…I think I would have found something more standard issue. At least, I would wait until my new deal before I started dressing like the team’s court jester.
I used ‘court jester’ on purpose. I probably wouldn’t have noticed Cam at the game, because he wasn’t playing, if not for the fact that the home Panthers game feed cut away to Cam in-between every other play. Why did they do that? Because Cam was constantly laughing, dancing, playing with his ‘trademark’ towel. The one announcer, I could tell gritted his teeth at one point and said something like, “Oh, the refreshing, child-like enthusiasm of Cam Newton.” Child-like was about right. It was like watching a 12-year-old with no decorum on the sidelines.
To me, it is sending a veiled/subconscious message to the team, and ownership that “I’m bigger than you. I can dress how I want, and act any way I please…and you won’t do a damn thing about it.“
…and he is right.
I don’t blame him, we all want that ‘power’ in life, but leaders have to be different than one-man island personalities.
“Oh, he’s just having fun!” Maybe he is, and maybe he should. I think the NFL is way too uptight, and bogs players down with too much scripted material. However, going too much the other way isn’t necessarily the answer either. Face’s of the franchise are typically stoic in the preseason, with a headset on, and/or looking over images with backup QBs to help dissect plays. They usually aren’t riding a pretend pony after big preseason plays.
If I am a Panthers fan, I am looking at all this, and wondering if I really want to ‘marry’ this person as my QB for the next 6-10 years. You don’t have a choice…it’s about to happen.
Do I lie?
The Panthers chances at a Super Bowl title are mostly dead with Cam. They’ll always be competitive, but taking that next huge step–it’s just not in the cards with Cam. The Panthers could do worse for a QB, but they COULD do better. We’ll see if they do…about 5-8 years from now.
This rant from 2014 is why I don’t trust Cam for FF either. I just don’t think he takes this seriously, and he is a limited passer as it is–and now he just got another huge pile of money offloaded into his bank account. He was one of the last #1 pick sugar babies, and now he gets a $100M+ deal. He is beyond set for life. Not sure how much he’ll work to push himself to any next level. You can FF-have him…he’s just not what I am looking for in a QB.
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