Jason Fitzgerald

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The NFL’s Best and Worst Values on Defense: Week 2

As a new feature I thought that every Tuesday or Wednesday during the season I’ll take a look back at the prior weeks games and pick out the best and worst values each week. To gauge values we’ll be looking at a players salary cap charge for the week and comparing that to Pro Football Focus’ grade for a player. I’ll alternate each week between offense and defense, with offense in week 1 and then turning our attention to defense in week 2. Feel free to leave any feedback in the comments or by email.

Defensive End

Best Value: Mike Daniels ($645.1K cap charge; +5.1 PFF grade)- Daniels had a terrific all around game against the Jets on Sunday racking up 4 pressures, 1 sack, and 4 tackles for stops. The Packers desperately needed a performance like this to settle the game down and eventually take over for the win.

Worst Value: Mario Williams ($18.8M cap charge; -2.5 PFF grade)- Despite the blowout win by the Bills, their star defensive end did not grade out that well, despite the fact that he notched a QB sack on the day. With this type of salary cap charge almost any negative grade will make him the worst value of the week.

Defensive Tackle

Best Value: Aaron Donald ($1.9M Cap charge; +4.1 PFF grade)- A strong performance from the young Donald who put together a strong effort in both phases of the game, notching a sack as a rusher and 2.5 tackles against the run. It would be nice to see a little more playing time but his prime competition this week for the distinction was Henry Melton who was not a huge snap player either.

Worst Value: Linval Joseph ($6.6M Cap charge; -3.5 PFF grade)- This was a close decision between Joseph and Ahtyba Rubin of the Browns who was slightly better but earns slightly more, but Rubin’s grade hinged more on penalties than performance and Ill always weight performance higher. Joseph has the 7th highest cap hit at the position in 2014 and ranked dead last this week, basically doing nothing as his team was steamrolled by the Patriots.

Outside Linebacker

Best Value: Chandler Jones ($2.2M Cap charge; +8.1 PFF grade)- Just a dominant performance by Jones, with 5 pressures, 2 sacks, and 5 stops on defense plus a special teams play that is not even included in his grade. This is one of those career performances that you make sure to keep the tape of.

Worst Value: Kroy Biermann ($4.1M Cap charge, -3.6 PFF grade)- Just a bad day overall for Biermann who graded negatively in all four categories that PFF looks at when grading a player. The pass rush was non-existent and only half of his tackles were considered wins for the defense. He also gave up a catch. A player who must improve.

Inside Linebacker

Best Value: Demario Davis ($764.5K Cap charge, +2.2 PFF grade)- Davis had a terrific game against the Green Bay Packers where he did a little of everything. Davis was solid against the run, posting 4 tackles for the Jets, decent in coverage, and was used in packages that saw him take down Aaron Rodgers one time on the day.

Worst Value: Paul Posluszny ($9.5M Cap charge, -4.3 PFF grade)- Longtime readers of my site know that I feel strongly that Posluszny is one of the worst value players in the NFL, and for this week the tape backs that up. Poslusnzy rated second worst at the position, missing three tackles and giving up 50 receiving yards. His cap figure is 3rd highest in the NFL.


Best Value: Bene Benwikere ($469.8K Cap charge; +2.2 PFF grade)- There were two other strong contenders for this award- David Amerson of the Redskins and Sterling Moore of the Cowboys. I could easily see making a case for Amerson who had the strongest coverage grade, but the ultra low cost of Benwikere gave him the advantage. Benwikere only allowed 20% of his targets to catch a pass and it was essentially an at the line pass. He also was credited with a pressure on the day.

Worst Value: Jerraud Powers ($4.8M Cap charge; -5.2 PFF grade)- A pretty awful day for Powers as there was pretty much no other option for this distinction. Powers gave up 5 receptions for 80 yards and it would have been far worse if Victor Cruz could hold onto the football when it hits him in his hands. Powers had a great first week so hopefully for the Cardinals this will be an aberration.


Tashaun Gipson ($570.5 Cap charge; +4.6 PFF grade)- The Browns had a great day against the Saints on Sunday and Gipson had the best day among safeties. PFF credited Gipson with 4 tackles, 2 stops, an interception, and just 4 yards in coverage. You wont have many days better than that especially from a player on one of the lowest priced contracts in the NFL.

Michael Griffin ($8M Cap charge; -2.4 PFF grade)- It was a bad day for some big priced safeties, but none gave worse value than Griffin, who rated 3rd worst overall despite the 5th highest cap charge at the position. Griffin missed 4 tackles against the run, one of the prime reasons the Cowboys chewed up so many yards on the ground.

NFL Stock Down: Week 2

Every Monday during the season we will take a look back at three players who are entering important stages of their contract that may have hurt their stock in upcoming negotiations with their play on Sunday. In addition we will also look at one player signed in the offseason to a new contract that did not live up to the expectations that his contract sets for the player.

Stock Down

Darren McFadden- McFadden received next to no interest from around the NFL and opted for a one year contract to stay on the Raiders with the intent to prove that there was still a long way to go before his career was over. McFadden got his opportunity on Sunday due to an injury to Maurice Jones Drew and finished the day with 12 carries for 37 yards. Unless the Raiders new GM in 2015 is Marty Hurney, McFadden’s chances of any payday next year look to be next to nothing.

Robert Griffin III- I don’t like to include injured players in this category, but I don’t think there is a way to avoid how devastating this latest injury setback is for RGIII. After this season the Redskins have to decide on the option year for RGIII and could also extend the QB. Two years ago it seemed a given that he would get a monster contract extension in 2015. Now the durability concerns may make the option an issue since its injury protected. What’s worse is that he is now going to be looked at as a project QB especially if he fails to reclaim the job when healthy enough to try again.

Osi Umenyiora- To say Umenyiora’s time in Atlanta has been a disappointment is certainly an understatement and on Sunday he played in just 21 snaps and recorded no pressures in his time in the game. Osi is expected to be a situational pass rusher but at this rate the Falcons may decrease the situational opportunities they put him in. The fit on the team is terrible and if there is trade where both sides benefit it may be this one. But he is killing his chances of finding another home in the NFL next season with games like this.

New Contract Disappointment Of The Week

Matt Cassel- Cassel was re-signed to give the Vikings a professional presence at the QB position and on Sunday he gave them a 3 year old rookie performance. Minnesota had no chance with Cassel throwing 4 interceptions that were a mixture of awful throws and bad decisions. You won’t see many more games in the NFL this bad at this position and one more like this and he will lose his job to the rookie on the bench.

NFL Stock Up: Week 2

Every Monday during the season we will take a look back at three players who are entering important stages of their contract that may have helped their stock in upcoming negotiations with their play on Sunday. In addition we will also look at one player signed in the offseason to a new contract that exceeded all expectations and provided exceptional value to his team.

Stock Up

Philip Rivers- The old guard from the 2004 draft are all entering contract periods where extensions are on the horizon and Rivers sure stated his case on Sunday as he tore up the vaunted Seahawks defense for 284 yards on over 75%completion percentage. Rivers turnaround from where he was two years ago, when he looked finished, is pretty remarkable. He’s fearless and you knew he would challenge the Seahawks this week but nobody expected this kind of performance.

DeMarco Murray- Murray had a bad fumble on Sunday but finished the day with 29 carries for 167 yards. The Cowboys are no stranger to paying big money for top talent and it almost looks as if we are seeing a changing of the guard in Dallas. Tony Romo does not look like the same player and Jason Witten has been MIA for two weeks. If Dallas is going to enter a transition period in which Romo becomes the game manager, Murray is going to benefit with big dollar signs.

Ryan Kerrigan- I don’t care that it was against the Jaguars, 4 sacks in a game is an incredible accomplishment. Kerrigan has his option picked up for next season, but with teams wisely locking up player inn the 2011 draft class he is putting himself in a great position for a new deal. Hes been incredibly steady since entering the NFL and should set a new career high in sacks this year following this game. With JJ Watt and Robert Quinn getting massive extensions, the payscale is rising for players that can rush the passer and Kerrigan should benefit.

New Contract Player Of The Week

Ted Ginn- I know it’s a strange position to take for this distinction, but in watching that game Ginn’s touchdown return changed the whole game. New York had taken control of the game, despite their mistakes, and seemed like they were wearing down the banged up Cardinals. Ginn’s return took the air out of the Giants and the Cardinals players even alluded to that after the game insinuating that the Giants were mentally beaten. You can’t have much more impact than that.


Trading Adrian Peterson Only Real Option for Vikings

There were some reports yesterday that the Minnesota Vikings were considering releasing running back Adrian Peterson in light of his recent charges of child abuse.  This morning Pro Football Talk clarified those rumors as the Vikings being open to trading Peterson but not necessarily releasing the running back.

The reason for this is more or less financial. Had the Vikings been aware of the severity of the charges or the fact that he would be indicted about a week ago they could have released Peterson and taken a $2.4 million salary cap charge in each of the next two seasons and washed their hands of him. However, the fact that this occurred after the first game of the season entitles Peterson to Termination Pay under the terms of the CBA.

Termination Pay protects the entire salary of a veteran player in the event he is on the active roster for the first game of the season, which Peterson was. Once Peterson suited up for the game against the Rams, his $11.75 million base salary was guaranteed for the season. Any release of Peterson puts the Vikings on the hook for paying him the large salary while still allowing him to go and seek employment and a further paycheck from another NFL team that is willing to deal with the charges and negative PR associated with the move. This was different than the situation of Ravens running back Ray Rice who was on a reserve list in week 1 and thus not entitled to Termination Pay.

By trading Peterson they are relieved of the salary obligation, which now transfers to a new team. The difficulty in trading Peterson lies in finding a trade partner. Besides the fact that certain teams would not be willing to touch him due to the charges, the team in question must also have about $10 million in cap space if that trade was to be executed this week. Based on our estimates the only teams capable of doing that trade would be  the Jaguars, Jets, Browns, Eagles, Titans, Bengals and maybe Patriots. Of those teams the Jets, Bengals, Eagles, and Patriots would likely have no interest from a football perspective.

Each week that Peterson remains on the Vikings roster reduces the cap space required to execute the trade by just over $690,000. If they carried him to the trade deadline (which would require paying him an extra $4.14 million) teams would need around $6 million in cap room to execute the trade. That would open up about half the NFL to being financial able to trade for him.

So this is a complex issue for the Vikings that goes far beyond just cutting a player because it seems the right thing to do. There may be more justice in letting the legal system play out and allowing the NFL to potentially suspend Peterson without pay than being in a position where they pay Peterson millions of dollars to go away.

Lost Salary Cap Dollars in the 2014 NFL Season

I was looking over some salary cap numbers on the site this morning and realized just how much money the St. Louis Rams had lost to injured reserve. The Rams usually utilize high cap figures for their star players and most of their total is from the Sam Bradford and Chris Long landing on IR, so its not as bad as teams that are losing multiple players with low accounting cap charges for a year, but with over $32 million on IR the Rams are essentially giving up nearly 25% of their cap to players who can not participate in games this week.

That got me to thinking about what would be the largest losses of cap dollars to players on IR and dead money charges for players not on the team. These are the primary figures of players who can not contribute to the organization anymore. Remember these are all estimates and don’t include all injury settlements and some splits that I have not yet accrued, but it should paint a reasonable picture. Note that I include in dead money salary for games played by players released. At this stage of the season that is a minimal contribution.

In terms of IR the average spend per team is about $5.5 million which shows you how crazy the Rams loss on IR is this year. The next closest teams are the Chiefs, Falcons, and Redskins which range from $10-$12.7 million. So it is not the best of luck for the Rams this year who are way over any realistic expectation. Their hope will be to get Long back towards the end of the season which makes things less of a burden. Teams not really devastated by the injury bug yet are the Steelers, Bears (though they may lose Brandon Marshall for a game tonight), Patriots, and Jets.

The Cowboys and Bills lead the way with dead money charges with about $25 and $24 million respectively. The Cowboys made a tough decision with DeMarcus Ware earlier this year to help fuel their charge while the Bills have been all over the place with roster decisions the last few years. The average cost is around $11 million. Other big dead money teams are the Panthers, Texans, and Patriots.

When we add the two columns together we can assume that most teams should budget for about $16 million in wasted cap dollars when doing their accounting for a season. The Rams loss is an outlier so Id take that out from the averages. Overall the Rams lead the way with around $39 million in useless cap space this year, though they will receive a credit for Cortland Finnegan signing with the Dolphins this season, which makes their effective total closer to $36 million. Dallas is next with around $31 million. They are followed by the Bills, Cardinals, and Redskins. The Bengals, Broncos, Vikings, and Lions make out the best so far in least wasted money against the salary cap.

2014 Lost Salary Cap Dollars

TeamEstimated IR SalaryEstimated Dead MoneyTotal

NFL Predictions 2014: Week 2

Not the best start to the season with a 10-6 record SU and just 6-9-1 ATS. I already took a loss on Thursday so lets see if I can redeem myself this week.

PANTHERS (-2.5) over Lions- Detroit had a great game on Monday, but it’s a short week on the road against what should be a much tougher pass rush and defense than the Giants presented Monday. Carolina gets Cam Newton back who is out playing for a new contract and should give the offense a bit of a boost over last weeks’ performance. Panthers 20 Lions 17

Dolphins (+1) over BILLS- I feel like the Bills win last week against the Bears was more about the Bears imploding than the Bills exploding. Miami I felt completely differently about as I thought they just steamrolled New England, specifically in the trenches. I think EJ Manuel will be called on to do much more this week and won’t be up to the task. Dolphins 24 Bills 14

REDSKINS (-6) over Jaguars- If the Redskins can not come alive at home and handily beat the Jaguars you can pencil them in for a top 3 pick this year. Maybe I have too much blind faith in RGIII but Ill roll with them this week. Redskins 20 Jaguars 9

Cowboys (+3.5) over TITANS- Statement game for Dallas off last weeks debacle. If Tony Romo can not bounce back and look like he has in the past then this may be the year Dallas falls completely out of the hunt. Titans played well last week and Id guess they take DeMarco Murray away, but I still think the Cowboys are the better of the two teams. Cowboys 24 Titans 17

Cardinals (-1.5) over GIANTS- I know the history of the Cardinals going east is not good and there are some QB questions, but New York looked lost last week and has looked lost all preseason. Even if they cut down on half the mistakes the Giants would still make enough mistakes to hand the game to another team. Cardinals 23 Giants 13

Patriots (-5.5) over VIKINGS- I would have made this pick even if Adrian Peterson was playing.  Yes the Patriots looked bad last week, but we have seen this from them at times in the past and they usually work through it. If they can get it through their head that Tom Brady is not the Brady of 4 or 5 years ago they should be fine. Patriots 27 Vikings 14

BROWNS (+6) over Saints- I don’t think much of the Browns but they are feisty on offense and I don’t believe in the Saints defensively. Saints should win as I cant see them going 0-2, but I think the points are just too much to give. Saints 24 Browns 19

BENGALS (-5.5) over Falcons- If Atlanta comes out and wins this game I think Id been even more bullish on them this season, but I see this as a letdown and a bad opponent for them. The Bengals will present a much different defense than what they saw last week and the Falcons defense will have a difficult time unless the bad Dalton shows up. Bengals 27 Falcons 20

BUCCANEERS (-5.5) over Rams- The Rams offense looks atrocious and I think they will miss Chris Long on defense far more than many seem to think. They cant be as bad as last week, but I just can’t pick them for anything right now. Buccaneers 17 Rams 10

Seahawks (-5) over CHARGERS- Its hard to see San Diego matching up well with the Seattle defense though Philip Rivers will certainly try his best to test the defense.  Chargers defense won’t be able to slow down the Seahawks offense either. Seahawks 24 Chargers 13

Texans (-3) over RAIDERS- Oakland looked awful last week against the Jets. The team did not look like they had real faith in the QB and the defense was non-existent. I don’t think much of Houston, but I think more of them than Oakland right now. Texans 20 Raiders 13

PACKERS (-7.5) over Jets- The Jets are walking into a buzzsaw. The Packers have been siting on a really bad game for a long time and will likely take their frustrations out on the Jets. If they don’t do it here it might say something really bad about the Packers team. Packers 31 Jets 20

Chiefs (+13) over BRONCOS- I don’t think the Chiefs have much of a chance in this one, but 13 points is a tremendous amount of points to give and I think its an overreaction to their game in week 1. I don’t expect the Broncos to sweat much but even if it’s a backdoor cover I think Kansas City is within 13. Broncos 27 Chiefs 17

Bears (+7) over 49ERS- This is another game where I feel the line is too much of a reaction to week 1. San Francisco had no pressure on them in the last game as the Cowboys handed them the game just a few minutes in. Chicago should put forth a much better effort and be right in this until the end. 49ers 24 Bears 21

Eagles (+3) over COLTS- Should be an up and down shootout game but the Eagles can give a more competent effort on defense and a more balanced offensive game.  Colts will be in this until the end, but I prefer the Eagles to win outright. Eagles 30 Colts 26


Fantasy Football Thoughts: Week 2

So last week I gave you one of my FanDuel team lineups and hopefully nobody followed that advice as that team was pretty bad. I played two games last week and my other team was far better but still ended up out of the money. Hopefully we’ll have better luck this week, but first I wanted to touch on some of the better performers last week.  I want to look at the players from a point per play standpoint as well as looking at usage numbers for the skill players.


We had three standout performers last week in Matt Ryan (0.455 pt/play), Matt Stafford (0.452), and Andrew Luck (0.410). There was a major drop from Luck down to Peyton Manning (0.33).  Of those players the most impressive was Stafford who did not have his number called, due to the blowout nature of the game, nearly as much as Ryan and Luck. Luck was the primary handler of the football on nearly 90% of the plays in his game, which I cant imagine holding up all season, but perhaps will this week against the Eagles.

A QB to be happy with was clearly Carson Palmer who was about as effective as Manning and was not as TD dependent. Colin Kaepernick was very effective in his brief opportunities (0.317) and of the efficient guys with the lower scores Id anticipate his usage to increase to make him a more viable option.  The worst QBs of last week were both of the Rams QB’s, who simply stunk, Tom Brady (0.132), RGIII(0.143), and Eli Manning (0.152). Other QBs under 0.2 pts per play were Aaron Rodgers, Nick Foles, Ryan Tannehill, and Tony Romo. Based on history Id anticipate a big bounceback for Rodgers. Id hedge my bets more on Romo and Brady.

Running Back

We had five runners produce more than 0.3 pts per play in week 1. They were Le’Veon Bell (0.442), Marshawn Lynch(0.402), DeMarco Murray(0.313), Rashad Jennings(0.314), and Matt Forte (0.303). The players getting the most team carries are Murray (100%), Forte(94.4%), Arian Foster (93.1%), Adrian Peterson (87.5%), and Toby Gerhart (85.7%). Players who are big factors in the passing game are Giovani Bernard (26.3% of pass targets), Chris Johnson (20.7%), Bell (20.6%), Reggie Bush (18.8%), and Forte (18.4%).  Probably a few disappointing players in terms of use were Ben Tate, Jamaal Charles, and Shane Vereen. A few teams like the Titans, Jets, Patriots and Panthers seem to be clearly using a split system.

Wide Receiver

Calvin Johnson led all players with a 0.515 pts per play score. There was nobody else even close to that mark as the next closest was UDFA Allen Hurns at 0.368. Other big players were AJ Green, DeAndre Hopkins, and Antonio Brown. Other than Megatron who was targeted on nearly 35% of pass attempts the other players were all in the 20’s and below.

The most targeted, as a percentage of pass attempts, were Jordy Nelson (42.9%), Andre Johnson (40.9%), Anquan Boldin (39.1%), and Donnie Avery (37.1%). There is nothing to make of Avery there as Dwayne Bowe was out plus Avery was unproductive, but the others are all strong players especially those numbers keep up.

Tight End

Julius Thomas had a career day and averaged a ridiculous 0.469 per play. Vernon Davis ranked second with about 0.34 pts per play and there were just four others with over 0.2 points per play. Id like to keep an eye out to see how Greg Olsen is used with Cam Newton back as starting QB. Olsen was targeted on over 32% of passing plays, highest among tight ends, and he’s probably playing for a new contract which could make him a nice play moving forward. Likewise Antonio Gates looks to be a popular target on a depleted Chargers roster and he was your highest scoring player that did not catch a touchdown pass. Big disappointments were Jordan Cameron and Jason Witten.

Week 2 Games

I’ll be donating $5 to the FanDuel 35K SUN NFL Spike game this week and may opt for a second game as well. Who are some of the players I like this week?  At QB I’m big on Aaron Rodgers against the Jets secondary. The Jets were rarely tested by the Raiders and Rodgers should be sitting on a big game following his dud of a opener. At $9,100 he is not cheap but I think worth the salary.  Nick Foles and Rusell Wilson at $8,300 and $8,200 I think can be top performers at a moderate price. Both have good matchups this week. Carson Palmer is a steal at $6,900 but with a possible injury making him limited its probably not worth the risk. Of the cheapest QB’s I think Ryan Tannehill could have a surprising game against the Bills.

I don’t like Arian Foster as a NFL RB right now, but for fantasy purposes I know hes getting almost all the work in Houston and they have a great matchup against the Raiders. I don’t care if he averages 3.8 yards a carry if he gets me 100 yards and a score. I think Matt Forte is the other high priced back worth a play this week. I like both Jets runners this week, though Id probably lean more towards Chris Johnson over Chris Ivory. I think the Jets will fall behind and Johnson should be the guy in there on passing downs as they try to get back into it. Likewise I like both Saints backs because of the matchup but would lean more on Pierre Thomas due to the pass catching.

Of the top tier receivers I would take AJ Green at home against a bad Falcons defense. I think Green will be the most consistent receiver on the season and I like him at  $8,500.  Both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb should have big games and I don’t think there is anything wrong with doubling up one of them with Rodgers. Kelvin Benjamin costs just $6,600 and I think before long he is going to be the top target in Carolina. He certainly will be their most targeted wide receiver. Jeremy Maclin and Reggie Wayne both cost just a shade above $6,000 and both should be good plays against one another this week. If you need a lower cost player Id go with Andrew Hawkins. He looks like he could be the top target in that offense and the game should be a shootout, or at the least have the Browns throwing a lot trying to catch up.

As stated above Im high on Olsen at Tight End. I like the matchup against the Lions who gave up some catches and a score to an unknown last week  Zach Ertz costs just $5,200 and is matching up against a Colts team that couldn’t cover that position even if they knew the route being run. He’ll be fighting for targets but I would think they may make him a focal point this week.

So good luck this week with your games and if you want to get in the action on FanDuel just follow through on this link or click one of the banners below. Use the promo code OTC100 when signing up. Remember that each week is a new game so its never too late to sign up.