Brock Osweiler: New Sheriff in Town?

With Peyton Manning making it official on Monday that he’s finished playing football, it’s time to talk about Brock Osweiler and his possible fantasy value as the Broncos’ new starting quarterback.

Osweiler just finished his fourth year in the NFL, but he hadn’t had much playing time until Manning got benched for the last half of the season. Before the 2015 season, Osweiler had thrown just 30 passes, completing 17 of them for 159 yards. When Manning was playing ineffectively the Broncos gave Osweiler a shot and he completed 170 passes for 1,967 yards and ten touchdowns. He completed 61.8% of his passes and threw six interceptions and lost two fumbles.

Osweiler performed pretty well for seven games before Manning took his starting job back in the season finale on a comeback win over the Chargers. Manning continued to start during the playoffs and the rest is history.

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 3: Quarterback Brock Osweiler #17 of the Denver Broncos passes against the San Diego Chargers during the first half of a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 3, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO – JANUARY 3: Quarterback Brock Osweiler #17 of the Denver Broncos passes against the San Diego Chargers during the first half of a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 3, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

We think Osweiler’s prospects are pretty good, given that he played pretty well in relief and has had four seasons playing behind a Hall of Fame quarterback. Also, Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos’ top receiver, was having an uncharacteristic second half of the season with drops and lower than expected production.

We’re not going to attempt to defend Osweiler’s new contract of $45 million over three years, but the last time we saw a naturally talented quarterback sit behind a Hall of Famer for a few years we ended up with Aaron Rodgers. Not comparing the two, obviously, just pointing out a similar situation where the outcome was a positive one.

Osweiler will have a good receiving corps to work with, if Thomas gets back to feeling like himself and Emmanuel Sanders keeps trending in the right direction. After the top two wideouts, the Broncos have some maneuvering to do. Andre Caldwell and Jordan Norwood are both free agents but if they are lost there are plenty of options to go after.

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 3: Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas #88 of the Denver Broncos runs clear of the San Diego Chargers defense for a 72-yard first quarter touchdown reception during a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 3, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO – JANUARY 3: Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas #88 of the Denver Broncos runs clear of the San Diego Chargers defense for a 72-yard first quarter touchdown reception during a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 3, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

An interesting addition to the Broncos’ receiving corps could be Travis Benjamin, who could play well in the slot if he comes over from Cleveland. Other options on the free agent market are Marvin Jones, Rueben Randle and Anquan Boldin. Suffice to say, the Broncos will likely have three, possibly more, solid options in the passing game to help with Osweiler’s production.

Don’t go crazy with drafting him in early rounds, but if you want to go strong with running backs and wide receivers early, Osweiler could end up being a solid quarterback in mid to late rounds.

Road to the Draft: NFL Combine Forces

With the NFL Combine over we thought it’d be a good time to have a look at some of the top performers at the annual showcase of talent. Some of these players will make immediate impact on your fantasy team while others still have a ways to go. Monday we looked at running backs and quarterbacks. Today we’ll look at the wide receivers and tight ends who impressed at the combine.

Wide receivers

Will Fuller could turn into the kind of player that is a tough call week to week. He’s got speed, he ran a 4.32 40-yard dash at the combine, and could end up being a big-play type player if he can consistently make catches.

Kolby Listenbee ran a 4.39, second-fastest among wide receivers, and could serve well if he fills out and keeps showing he has a good set of hands. The product out of TCU isn’t the prospect his teammate Josh Doctson is, but his performance at the combine could get him some attention.

Texas Christian receiver Kolby Listenbee runs the 40 yard dash at the NFL football scouting combine Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Texas Christian receiver Kolby Listenbee runs the 40 yard dash at the NFL football scouting combine Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

Someone who doesn’t seem like he’ll be ready to contribute early is Trevor Davis out of Cal. His 4.42 40 and good performances in the vertical, 3-cone drill and the 60-yard shuttle drill could help him land a spot as a returner, though.

Ricardo Louis out of Auburn ran a 4.43 and was a top performer in the bench press, vertical jump and broad jump. The results help, but he’s lacking a lot of the things you look for in a consistently good receiver. If he finds a way to catch the ball consistently and run better routes, he could make something of himself in terms of fantasy. Don’t take a risk on him at this point.

Tight ends

Ben Braunecker, the tight end out of Harvard, scored in the top-5 among tight ends in every drill at the combine. He’s a real interesting prospect in that he has size to be a matchup problem but is a little rough around the edges. He needed to do well in the 40, but his 4.73 probably won’t turn many heads. The jury will be out on him until he makes a camp.

 

Road to the Draft: NFL Combine Forces

With the NFL Combine winding down we thought it’d be a good time to have a look at some of the top performers at the annual showcase of talent eligible for the NFL draft. Some of these players will make immediate impact on your fantasy team while others still have a ways to go. Today we’ll look at the running backs and quarterbacks who impressed at the combine and you can check back here tomorrow when we look at wide receivers and tight ends.

Running backs

Keith Marshall was a highly touted recruit when he showed up at Georgia. He impressed early as a freshman, rushing for 759 yards and eight touchdowns. A torn ACL the next season led him to play in just eight games over two years. He only rushed for 350 yards in relief as a senior, but his showing at the combine could boast him up some draft boards. He posted the top 40-yard dash time among running backs and had the most bench press reps among non-fullback running backs with 25. He isn’t the known commodity that Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry are, but his performance at the combine has turned some heads.

Georgia running back Keith Marshall runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Friday, Feb. 26, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Georgia running back Keith Marshall runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Friday, Feb. 26, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Tyler Ervin was the second-fastest running back at the combine, clocking a 4.41 40-yard dash time. He also had the second-best broad jump and vertical jump. He lacks size and doesn’t look like an every down back, but he’s not afraid to run between the tackles. He has potential as a kick returner and could contribute as a versatile player on a team that uses multiple backs.

Kenyan Drake, the second fiddle to Derrick Henry at Alabama, ran a 4.45 40 and performed well in both the broad jump and the 20-yard shuttle drill. He broke a couple of bones during his college career but out of the shadow of his Heisman trophy winning teammate he has the opportunity to be a versatile back in the NFL. He had 29 receptions as a senior and rushed for 408 yards. His 95-yard return for a touchdown in the national championship proved he puts the “all” in “all-purpose.” If he finds a role in a good offense, he could turn into quite the sleeper pick.

Alabama running back Kenyan Drake catches a pass as he runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine, Friday, Feb. 26, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
Alabama running back Kenyan Drake catches a pass as he runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine, Friday, Feb. 26, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Daniel Lasco is a name we may, or may not, become familiar with in terms of fantasy football. The product out of Cal ran a 4.46 40-yard dash and then had the best vertical and broad jumps. He was second in the 60-yard shuttle drill. His best season was two years ago when he rushed for 1,115 yards and 12 touchdowns to go along with 33 receptions for 356 yards. He injured his hip and ankle as a senior and failed to reproduce the numbers he had in 2014. He doesn’t seem to be an instinctual runner and that could keep him from having a fantasy impact.

Quarterback

Dak Prescott ran a 4.79 and also performed well in the vertical and broad jumps. He really helped himself in passing drills and could possibly emerge as the top quarterback option after Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, both of whom performed as well as expected.

Fantasy outlook for top NFL free agents

We’re just a couple of weeks away before the NFL’s top free agent players are available to hit the open market. There’s a lot of value here, but you may have to make sure some of these guys end up in the right situation. Of course, for a few of these players it doesn’t really matter where they end up since they’ll produce no matter what.

Kirk Cousins, QB—It looks like he’s headed towards a franchise tag which would be fine for his fantasy outlook. He’ll still be playing for a contract which should keep him driven and focused. He broke out in the 2015 season and Washington would be foolish not to see how far he can take them. He threw for 4,166 yards and 29 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. He even scored five rushing touchdowns.

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 10: Quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Washington Redskins scores a third-quarter touchdown against strong safety Morgan Burnett #42 of the Green Bay Packers during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at FedExField on January 10, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD – JANUARY 10: Quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Washington Redskins scores a third-quarter touchdown against strong safety Morgan Burnett #42 of the Green Bay Packers during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at FedExField on January 10, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Alshon Jeffery, WR—He’s the top free agent wide receiver, but he’s coming off a lot of nagging injuries. If he were completely healthy, the Bears would very likely sign him to a long-term contract or designate him as the franchise player. But it looks like it’s possible they’ll let him test the market. There are few places he could go that would lower his fantasy value very much.

Matt Forte, RB—His numbers were way down from recent years as he rushed for 898 yards and scored a total of seven touchdowns in 13 games. His total of 389 receiving yards was his least amount in three years. There’s talk of him joining the Colts, but that would hurt his value, sharing time and touches with Frank Gore. If he finds another spot where he’ll be featured, we think he still has good value when healthy.

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 13: Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears runs the ball in the third quarter against the Washington Redskins at Soldier Field on December 13, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL – DECEMBER 13: Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears runs the ball in the third quarter against the Washington Redskins at Soldier Field on December 13, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Doug Martin, RB—If he isn’t signed to a long-term deal, he’ll be a free agent. He had a great year, reminding everyone of his rookie season. If things don’t work out in Tampa Bay, he could get an increase in value if he ends up on a team like Dallas, with a solid offensive line.

Lamar Miller, RB—The Dolphins didn’t use him as much as they could have. He wants to be featured and if he lands in the right situation he could produce like many expected him to in the 2016 season. If he stays in Miami, the new coaching staff will have to let him loose.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 27: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets in action against the New England Patriots during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 27, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – DECEMBER 27: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets in action against the New England Patriots during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 27, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB—The Jets have hinted that they could draft a quarterback, but Fitzpatrick could be back. You’ll have to keep an eye on where he ends up if he does leave as a free agent. If he returns he should do well if not better than his 2016 season. With great targets like Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, his numbers should stay consistent. He finished the year with 3,905 yards and 31 touchdowns. If he does leave New York, you’ll have to make sure he has good talent around him.

Brock Osweiler, QB—He and the Broncos are waiting on Peyton Manning to decide on whether or not he retires. Osweiler had some good moments, but you have to believe he would have had a longer leash if Manning wasn’t sitting behind him. We’ll take a wait and see approach on this situation, but if he becomes the starter, he’s worth a look.

Sam Bradford, QB—It’s a toss up whether or not he’ll return to the Eagles. They don’t want to use the franchise tag on him and will probably let him test the market. He’s thrown for at least 3,000 yards in just three out of his first six seasons, mostly because of injury. His career high for touchdown passes in a season is just 21. You can’t trust a guy who only plays at just a decent level every other year for fantasy football.

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 29: Marvin Jones #82 of the Cincinnati Bengals heads up the field during the game against the St. Louis Rams at Paul Brown Stadium on November 29, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH – NOVEMBER 29: Marvin Jones #82 of the Cincinnati Bengals heads up the field during the game against the St. Louis Rams at Paul Brown Stadium on November 29, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Marvin Jones, WR—Something tells us he won’t be back in Cincinnati. It will be interesting to see where he ends up. Possible destinations include New England and Detroit. He’s got over 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns in his last two full seasons combined. If Calvin Johnson makes it official that he’s done playing, Jones could benefit if Detroit ends up signing him. If he lands with the Patriots, he’ll have an excellent chance to play a bigger role in the offense.

Antonio Gates, TE—He’ll re-sign with the Chargers and should remain a big red zone target. Ladarius Green will probably continue to expand his role, but Gates will have value until he no longer plays.

Travis Benjamin, WR—He had a nice breakout season with inconsistent play at the quarterback position. He’s likely to return to the Browns and could remain a solid flex player if he can find enough passes coming his way with the return of Josh Gordon imminent.

Puppy Bowl XII Fantasy Preview

You’ve heard all about Cam Newton, Peyton Manning, and the stout defenses about to take the field on Sunday for Super Bowl 50. It’s time to take a look at a game that really matters. The Puppy Bowl, televised on Animal Planet on Sunday at 2 p.m., is about to be played for the 12th time. Animal Planet, along with 44 different animal shelters and rescue organizations, collected a rag tag group of 49 puppies to participate in Puppy Bowl XII. The collection of “wide retrievers” and “linebarkers” will be competing for the Most Valuable Puppy award as a member of Team Fluff or Team Ruff. This year’s contest will even feature two dogs from Austin.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a legitimate sport if you couldn’t make it into a fantasy contest. For the third year in a row you’ll be able to pit(bull) your favorite pups against the rest of the litter for a chance to beat your friends in a friendly fantasy Puppy Bowl game.

Adoptable pit mixes from the East Bay SPCA compete at Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl Cafe at Gott's Roadside on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016 at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. (Alison Yin/ AP Images for Discovery Communications)
Adoptable pit mixes from the East Bay SPCA compete at Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl Cafe at Gott’s Roadside on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016 at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. (Alison Yin/ AP Images for Discovery Communications)

Animal Planet’s fantasy contest is pretty straight forward. Touchdowns are worth seven points, field goals are worth three, takeaways are worth three and tackles are worth two points. In our opinion tackles should be worth more, since there’s a higher cute factor. One thing we do like is the inclusion of negative points (-2) for penalties. What’s a penalty in the Puppy Bowl? Well, there’s a five yard penalty for “fertilizing the field,” for example. One of the bigger penalties is “excessive napping” or “illegal lounging.” That can lead to an adorable ejection.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at our fantasy picks of the litter, sleepers and runts.

Picks of the Litter

Timber, male Labrador retriever for Team Ruff—He’s the puppy everyone’s talking about. The 14-week-old has been drafted over 5,000 times according to the Puppy Bowl website and he just looks like he’ll be the most active. Labs are like the best flex players in a regular fantasy football league, they can do it all.

Timber has been drafted over 5,000 times, leading Puppy Bowl participants.
Timber has been drafted over 5,000 times, leading Puppy Bowl participants. (Animal Planet)

Cooper, male Great Pyrenees/Collie for Team Fluff—The 15-week-old looks the part, and has all the measureables. He’s been selected in over 4,000 drafts.

Atticus, female Husky/Labrador for Team Fluff—She’s young at 12 weeks, but her length could prove to be a big advantage.

Ranger, male Springer Spaniel for Team Ruff—He’s got the look, the name and he’s of a high-scoring breed.

Ranger looks ready to go. He's most likely to produce well for your fantasy team. (Animal Planet)
Ranger looks ready to go. He’s most likely to produce well for your fantasy team. (Animal Planet)

Sleepers

Darby, male Jack Russell Terrier for Team Ruff—What he lacks in size he makes up for in energy. He’s got a motor and highly valued elusiveness. Terriers have a solid history of performing well in the Puppy Bowl.

Darby can provide elusiveness and agility to your lineup. (Animal Planet)
Darby can provide elusiveness and agility to your lineup. (Animal Planet)

Leah, female Rottweier for Team Ruff—The 15-week-old has the people’s attention, having been drafted over 4,000 times. You could definitely see her tossing a toy through the uprights for a field goal.

Miss Sassy, female Boston Terrier for Team Fluff—Don’t be fooled by her name, she’s likely to turn some of that sass into fantasy points for your team. She’s young, at 12 weeks old, so you know she’s hungry. You could probably take that literally as well.

Don't be surprised if Miss Sassy finds the end zone and then tries to bury it. (Animal Planet)
Don’t be surprised if Miss Sassy finds the end zone and then tries to bury it. (Animal Planet)

Timon, male Terrier for Team Fluff—He’s being undervalued so far, having been drafted less than 2,000 times. This 13-week-old may very well end up the MVP if things fall right.

Runts of the Litter

Star, female Chow Chow/Labrador for Team Ruff—She’s got that puppy in the headlights look. The stage may be just too big for her.

The stage might be too big for Star. (Animal Planet)
The stage might be too big for Star. (Animal Planet)

Kevin, male Schnauzer for Team Fluff—Schnauzer’s are typically tenacious, but we can tell this pup won’t perform well on name alone. Seriously, who names a puppy Kevin? He’s only been drafted 2,000 times, so the people can tell he won’t do well.

Magic, male Chihuahua for Team Fluff—At just 1,000 drafts this 16-week-old pup is most likely to make a lot of noise, but that’s probably it. His bark is bigger than his bite.

Boris, male Havanese for Team Fluff—Boris doesn’t even feel like standing up for his promo photo so he’s at high risk of getting flagged for an “excessive napping” penalty.

Just look at this lazy little guy. (Animal Planet)
Just look at this lazy little guy. (Animal Planet)

Now go give your team a nice pup talk and beat your friends in the battle for barking rights. OK, I’m done.