Wednesday, August 31, 2011

First Fantasy Draft: Annual League

In a feature I did not follow up on that I plan to do this year is chronicle my misadventures in the DetFan1979 Fantasy Football Leagues.  There are two leagues -- the Annual League, where we draft a whole new league each year and the Dynasty League where we can keep up to 5 players.

Tonight was the Annual League draft.  This is the 4th year of the league, and I had an abysmal showing last season.  It is a 12 team League that starts 1-3 RB, 1-3 WR, and 1-2 TE along with a K, DST, and QB.

Mostly standard scoring, with some long TD bonuses thrown in.  DST is huge in this league as a defense will make or break your year.

here is my final roster:

1.Hasselbeck, Matt TEN QB 6
2.Sanchez, Mark NYJ QB 8
3.Stafford, Matthew DET QB 9
4.Jones, Felix DAL RB 5
5.Thomas, Pierre NOS RB 11
6.Tolbert, Mike SDC RB 6
7.Turner, Michael ATL RB 8
8.Ward, Derrick HOU RB 11
9.Wells, Chris ARI RB 6
10.Burleson, Nate DET WR 9
11.Ward, Hines PIT WR 11
12.Williams, Mike TBB WR 8
13.Williams, Roy CHI WR 8
14.Heap, Todd ARI TE 6
15.Shiancoe, Visanthe MIN TE 9
16.Gould, Robbie CHI PK 8
17.Lions, Detroit DET Def 9
Hint Below: Your league has 17 roster spots, and requires: 1QB 1-3RB 1-3WR 1-2TE 1PK 1Def starters.

As you can see, I am running back heavy so, and more than a little light on wideouts.  Detroit is my only defense, so I'll have to pick up a bye-week replacement.  Overall, I feel like I did pretty decent.  Jones, Turner and Wells are all "feature backs" and Tolbert and Thomas work in shared backfields, so should be good bye week fill ins, or injury fill ins.  I'm not thrilled with my WR position, but Ward and Mike Williams will be my starters.  Hopefully I can upgrade over Roy, or he suddenly shows up ala 2006 (not likely).  At TE, I'm hoping Heap can find synergy with Kevin Kolb.  In his Philly games, Kolb favored the TE Celek who had great numbers when Kolb played.  Whenever Vick played, they dropped off dramatically.  I'm hoping that Kolb will have that effect for Heap in Arizona.

Yes I know I'm a homer.  My team will only go as far as Stafford and the Lions Defense takes them.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tribute to "Killer"

It was with heavy heart and a shock that has still not worn off that I learned of the death of Lions beat writer Tom "Killer" Kowalski. I must have sat at my desk just dumbfounded for more than a few minutes as the shock set in.  I've had my won brushes with heart issues this year, and it really hit home.  It could happen any time.  Celebrity deaths are things that have never really struck me to tears.  But I was close to breaking out tears yesterday afternoon, as they stood unsehd in my eyes.  Tom was just a local celebrity, national figure, he was someone who had been a part of my life the whole time I was a Lions fan.  My whole life.

 Back in the early 2000's, I found the Mlive Lions Forum -- back in those days Tom would log in between practices sometimes, and hang out with us answering questions.  A true insider showing true class.  It was like he was just one of the fans -- only with behind the scenes info that we on the outside could only dream of. 

He had a way of analyzing and adding his thoughts to the news coming out of Allen Park that made it so much more than the standard cut and paste AP articles and regurgitated blather that you get from most outlets.  His Film Breakdowns after each game - even preseason - were priceless for those of us who wanted to watch the film but didn't have the time, knowledge, or experience to do so.  Nor could we ask players and coaches - as he did - what the heck happened on that play fellas?

It was Tom Kowalski who replied to my email encouraging me when I decided to start this blog - and also encouraged me to stay away being just another set of news links.  "Lots of Hot Dogs, not very many toppings" is how he described the basic reporting that we often see of a few facts repeated and thats it. Lots of writers are afraid or unable to really put that stamp on their writing while reporting at the same time.   Despite being fair -- both in praise and criticism --  he was still a fan like the rest of us, rooting for the team.  And that dichotmy led him to delve into his own thoughts and share them with us -- as well as debate, argue, and chat about them with us. 

He was one of us, and made us feel like we were in Allen Park right there with him - that we were all insiders, part of the team. 

Without his great insight, hard work, and dedication none of the vibrant lions blogging community would or will be the same.  You're going to be very missed Killer - not just Mlive -- but all of the fans of the Lions will never feel the same. 

what time is it....?  Theres a 100% chance you know... it's time to say goodbye Tom. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Doing my best Al?

In the spirit of longtime fellow Lions blogger Al at The Wayne Fontes Experience, I decided to follow up a declaration of blogging regularly again with a brand new major health issue.  While he certainly has me beat overall in the category of "Lions Blogger with Most Health Issues" (Ty leads "Best Beard Award") I spent a good chunk of the past week either in the ER or in bed.  Often both.  Or getting my blood drawn.  Or having yet another test.

I'm sure you get the picture.  The Lions' preseason performance was by far a high point in a week I would like to otherwise forget. (which included nearly collapsing at work) I have one final test Tuesday, at least, final if it comes out all clear.  If not... well, I'm doing my best not to worry about "If not" unless it gets here.  Needless to say, I am at least halfway semi on my feet.  Kinda.

On another note, there is at least two, possibly three openings in the DetFan1979 Dynasty (Keeper) League.  They are some good teams, and have some good keeper potential. Please email me as soon as possible if you are interested.  If you are already in the league, and haven't let me know if you're coming back please do so ASAP.  I'm having trouble getting this to come together this year, and would hate to have to close down the Dynasty League after 3 great years.

As for now, I will continue to intermittently blog as I get slowly back to my feet yet again.  I also plan to get the band back together for the Lions Congregation at least in time for the regular season.  Hopefully.

Thanks again for reading!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Leshoure"ly not likely to be the same player

I hope I'm wrong.  I'd love to be wrong.  It would be great to be wrong, as I have been on many occasions in the past. (Remeber my "great things" feeling after that 4-0 Preseason champs in 2008? Yeah.  I try to forget about that too.)

In this case, I'm going to have to agree and disagree with a good friend and fellow blogger, Ty over at The Lions in Winter.  I'm sure if you haven't read this piece I've seen too many places to properly credit the original finder in regards to recovery rates from ACL ruptures, you will now.  The thing with any injury is that you are never the same - period.  Where I take exception with Ty's take is that A. Brown of the Giants should be the case study to give us hope. While it is true that he could give an idea of the possibilites, there are other factors at play here that must be considered. 

The foremost is NFL training and rehab facilities and trainers.  Brown was not an elite college runner.  He also, up until being the in the NFL, did not have that extra training to develop all the minor muscles in ways us amateurs miss.  We bench press thinking it's upper body... but do we work the other severl hundred small muscles around the shoulders and back? Brown is not only coming back from injury, but benefitting from targeted, high level development and training.  Over a two year period.  For his job.  These are things he did not have at near the same level -- meaning that this development is also tapping into untapped potential for burst, strength, speed that come from a focus on supporting muscle groups not just the primary ones. (although there was/is, I'm sure, plenty of work there too)

Of course, my same argument above is also what leads me to agree with Ty and that to say Leshure's careeer is over right now is just absurd.  What we have to acknowledge is that it won't really start for one or two years. We won't see the final version of Leshure until the 2013 season, if we ever do.  I just feel that he had less untapped potential than Brown as far as how developed physically he is -- in other words, he was already operating at a high level.  Its more about can he get back there versus can he get there.

That same training facility, staff, and time most of all is something we must not underestimate in its impact.  I'm going to quote an anonymous comment from Ty's Blog first:

Don't want to be a "downer," but I know first hand about ruptured Achilles tendons. I completely ruptured my left Achilles in late 2009, had surgery, and endured 3 months of physical therapy (three times a week), etc. I'm back to playing basketball in the driveway, shagging fly balls, playing catch, hiking, etc. However, I don't think I will ever be 100% again. The range of motion isn't the same, I have to stretch all the time, and am unable to push off the same as before the injury. Granted, I never went beyond HS athletics, but I can't see anyone being the same after this injury.
In February I fell wrong on my shoulder and had to have surgery to fix my rotator cuff, a torn labrum, as well as a bone spur. I had the surgery in May and went to physical therapy a couple hours each morning at 5am three days a week for a month before heading off to work. At the end, I had okay strength back and near full mobility and was on my own. I'm still ever so slowly getting back into shape but its a rough road. I don't have near the strength or speed I had before the injury.
Does this mean Matthew Stafford wasn't going to recover from his ifseason shoulder sugery? How is he doing so well? The difference is in the treatment.

I went 3 days a week for 2 hours to a physical therapy location.  For one month.  Matthew Stafford worked with multiple trainers doing shoulder and full upper body rehab and strengthening for 5 1/2 hours each day.  For 3 months. 

Starting to see the diffence? 

This is their occupation, and Leshoure as a second round pick will have one full time job: healing and rehabilitiation.  With sometimes more than one on one training/trainers.  On the best equipment.  For more hours in his first week than most of us regular joes would get total. 

When it comes to injury and recovery, we can't compare our buddies ACL tear, or Achilles injury, or shoulder surgery outcome to what it will be for an NFL player.  Will Stafford stay healthier now that he has strengthened and worked on all the little extra muscles I started to learn about in my short therapy window that should make him stronger and more durable?  Only time will tell. 

In regards to Leshoure, the only way to know whether or not he can recover is time. However, no matter the spin we like to put on it multiple sources say that a return to full power after an achilles injury simply does not happen.  Not unless other factors (better training in the case of Brown) are helping compensate for what was lost fromt he injury.  The real question is not will Leshoure come back -- When he comes back will he be enough of the back he was to be back in the backfield for the Lions?  IF...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Starters to Backups: Linebacker

Of the many things we can say about how Martin Mayhew is building the Lions, one is that he drafts talent and shops free agents for need.  He is also all about "value" - he isn't going to break the bank Millen style for that "one guy" if he has 5 or 6 or more holes. 

Most significant in the Lions developing over the past two years since Mayhew took over is the trend of players who were starters transitioning to backups.  Last year this process was done on the defensive line - Guys like Sammie Hill and Andre Fluellen who were starting became backups/rotational players.  Guys like Landon Cohen, Shaun Cody, and Joe Cohen were shown the door.  Now Sammie Hill is developing and blooming into a starting caliber tackle who is valuable in the rotation.

The sign of a good team is solid starters.  The sign of a great team is depth. 

This year, Mayhew took on the linebacker position.  Despite the revolving injury door in the secondary, no position started more backup caliber players last season than at linebacker.  Jordon Dizon was lost before the season and never even got a chance to show if he had anything. This was only significant because Levy was also injured most of last season.  This left the Lions with about Paris Lenon level talent at MLB. 


What followed was Follett, Palmer, Havner, Johnson, Carpenter et al churning through at the position.  Carpenter looked really good as he got comfortable.  Palmer looked like a solid rotational guy.  Everyone else played solid special teams. 

Fast Forward to this truncated ifseason -- the Lions drafted Doug Hogue in the 5th, re-signed Carpenter, Levy is healthy and they added Justin Durant and Stephen Tulloch.  Palmer is also still on the roster -- along with a host of young tryouts and other guys trying to make a special teams roster spot.

In terms of 2010 to 2011 the starters are now backups, and there is very solid depth.  Durant and Levy will man the outside spots, and Tulloch will hold down the middle.  Levy will still be a 4 down LB as well as serving as the backup middle linebacker.  No more Spencer Havner in the middle.  +whew+

Backing up the outside spots will be Carpenter first (and I expect him to rotate in frequently), with Palmer next and Hogue mostly special teams and still learning.  From the rest of the pile on the roster I expect them to keep Ekejiuba due to his special teams impact.

In other words, if the Lions lose both Tulloch or Durant they would be plugging in Carpenter.  Even if they lose two of their three starters -- unless both Tulloch and Levy are injured -- they will still have a solid rotation and at the very least a starting caliber player at the ever important MLB position.

It is phenomenal to see where this team has gone since Martin Mayhew took over amidst the catastrophe of the 2008 0-16 season.  Finally Lions players that are released or not re-signed are catching on -- and in some cases starting -- for other teams.  To  have come so far so fast is a testament to his abilities to create a plan that works and sticking with it.  From starters to backups -- the Linebackers are looking like they will no longer be a liability this year.  Especially with Detroit's defensive line.  IF...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Roster Game, Set, Match?

We used to play a game every ifseason called our roster "30 lock".  The Lions were so untalented, it was actually difficult to figure who the starters would be, much less the backups and who would make the final roster.  Churn was high.  Talent was low.  UDFA were the next savior of the franchise.  Draft picks from rounds 1-5 were expected -- Needed -- to be quality starters.

As I sit after a few days of de-liquifying our home, just scanning over the Lions' new roster it hit me:
This team is both talented, and at several points - there is depth.  Honest to goodness depth!  We're not talking about the kind of Matt Millen depth where there was a group of similarly talented players at a position - where one got injured and there was another, equally bad player, there to take his place.


We are talking about starters ranging from solid to superstar at every position.  We are talking about backups and rotational depth that can step in and step-up to maintain quality play.  We are talking about an honest to goodness NFL roster!

Are we talking about a playoff roster?  It's too early to tell.  This is the ifseason, and while I'm growing more excited every day for this season full of new possibilities to start - I still hold the caution of "IF"  What I do know is that for the first time in many years we Lions fans know for certain that we have a real NFL front office capable, willing, able, to assemble a real NFL roster.  That alone gives the Lions a fighting chance each Sunday.

No more laughingstock of the league in Motown.  Think we can handle watching a real NFL team in action? I know I'm ready!!