Start 'em, Sit 'em, Smash 'em


While the Sunday live chat is no more, I’m still available to answer any and all fantasy questions throughout the week on twitter @JoeFortenbaugh if you use the hashtags #FSTLV and #GMCFF. Fire over some good ones and they just may end up on the Fantasy Sports Network Sunday morning between 10:00am-12:00pm eastern.


Last week: Dallas (loss), Cleveland (win), Miami (win)

Plan A: Kansas City over NY Jets
Plan B: San Francisco over St. Louis

–However, if you haven’t already used Cincinnati (vs. Jacksonville) or Seattle (vs. Oakland), now is the time.


Record: 2-5-1

Last week: Green Bay Packers (+1.5) over New Orleans Saints (loss)

This week: Arizona Cardinals (+4) at Dallas Cowboys

Analysis: The Cowboys’ biggest strength in 2014 has been a top-flight rushing attack led by DeMarco Murray, but the Cardinals are capable of neutralizing that weapon via the NFL’s third-ranked rushing defense (77.9 yds/gm). Take note that Dallas is working on a short week here and is 1-4 ATS when playing on Sunday following a Monday night game. Meanwhile, Arizona is 6-1 ATS over its last seven road contests and 5-1 ATS over its last six games overall.


Last week: 1-4

Season: 19-21

The Big Puma and I will post our final card Saturday via twitter. For now, here are some of the sides we’re eyeing up:

CLEVELAND BROWNS (-6.5) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
ARIZONA CARDINALS (+3.5) at Dallas Cowboys
NEW YORK GIANTS (+3.5) vs. Indianapolis Colts
BALTIMORE RAVENS (-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (-10) vs. St. Louis Rams
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (+3) vs. Denver Broncos


Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers (vs. St. Louis Rams): Kaepernick has had two weeks to get ready for an opponent in the Rams whom he torched for 343 passing yards and three touchdowns back on October 13 when these two teams got together in St. Louis. No team was in need of the bye week worse than San Francisco, who got smashed up 42-17 at Denver on October 19 to move to a disappointing 4-3 in the standings entering the off week. Take note that the Rams are currently surrendering an average of 22.9 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (seventh-most in NFL).

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Indianapolis Colts (at NY Giants): Bradshaw has already found pay dirt an impressive eight times this season, which includes trips to the end zone in six of his last seven outings. Reliable in both phases of the offense, we like Bradshaw in Week 9 for two big reasons. First, this is a primetime showdown against his former team in the New York Giants, so you know the Indianapolis running back would love to stick it to his old club. Second, Big Blue currently ranks 22nd in the NFL in run defense (122.0 yds/gm) while surrendering an average of 23.0 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (third-most in NFL).

Colin KaepernickKaepernick torched the Rams that last time these two teams got together.

Andrew Hawkins, WR, Cleveland Browns (vs. Tampa Bay): Hawkins is averaging a healthy 8.71 targets per game this season, but with tight end Jordan Cameron out of action for this Week 9 contest, we expect that number to cross over into double-digits. So not only will Hawkins receive plenty of opportunities to make a serious impact on Sunday, he’ll get to do so against a Tampa Bay defense that is currently surrendering more fantasy points to opposing wide receivers than any other team in the league (30.3 pts/gm). That’s the perfect storm if you ask us.

Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver Broncos (at New England): The third-year back out of San Diego State has been on an absolute tear since taking over for the injured Montee Ball, with 357 total yards and two scores in three starts. Hillman enters Week 9 on extra rest, is averaging 22.6 touches per game since being named the starting running back in Denver and faces a New England defense on Sunday afternoon that currently ranks 25th in the NFL against the run (129.6 yds/gm) while permitting an average of 22.5 fantasy points per game to opposing ball-carriers this season (fifth-most in NFL). Fireworks are expected for this matchup and don’t think for one second that Hillman won’t be a big part of that display.

Andre Johnson & DeAndre Hopkins, WRs, Houston Texans (vs. Philadelphia): This is strictly a matchup play, as the Philadelphia Eagles feature a highly suspect secondary that currently ranks 26th in the league against the pass (266.9 yds/gm) while permitting an average of 28.5 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (third-most in NFL). It’s never easy to back an offense led by Ryan Fitzpatrick, but this is a good spot for the Texans to put up some points by airing it out.

Larry Donnell, TE, New York Giants (vs. Indianapolis): With Victor Cruz out for the season, the Giants will have to lean heavily on youngsters Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham and Donnell…all three of which are excellent starts in Week 9. Big Blue is coming off a bye and needs a huge showing here in order to stay in the hunt for the NFC East crown. Also note that Indianapolis is currently giving up an average of 10.2 fantasy points per game to the tight end position this season (sixth-most in NFL).

Cleveland Browns, D/ST (vs. Tampa Bay): Even with a bye week already under their collective belts, the Buccaneers still rank ninth in the NFL in turnovers, with 14. This is a bad team with a disastrous offensive line and a quarterback who lacks the consistency required to lead a top-flight passing attack. The Browns have been a bit underwhelming on the defensive side of the football this season, but this is one of the best matchups on the board for Week 9. Ride Cleveland with confidence.


Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins (at Minnesota): Griffin hasn’t played since September 14 and his teammates are coming off a Monday night road game at Dallas, so expect some rust here. In addition, the Vikings are currently permitting an average of just 17.1 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (second-fewest in NFL), so this matchup doesn’t lend itself to a high ceiling for the Washington signal-caller. There are better options out there.

Jonas Gray, RB, New England Patriots (vs. Denver): Gray grabbed the fantasy world’s attention with a 17-carry, 86-yard effort against the Chicago Bears in Week 8 foll
owing his promotion from the New England practice squad. And while all signs point to the former Notre Dame product stepping into the starting role at RB for the Patriots, Week 9 sets up poorly when it comes to the 24-year-old’s upside. Manning vs. Brady is going to be a classic shootout featuring plenty of fantasy goodness for both quarterbacks as well as their respective wideouts, but we don’t see Gray making a big splash against a defense that is surrendering an average of just 15.3 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (eighth-fewest in NFL).

Robert GriffinRG3 has plenty of rust to kick off before owners can consider starting him.

Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers (at Miami): Quarterback Philip Rivers is spreading the ball around like never before, which has put a serious dent in Allen’s production this season. So far the sophomore wideout has posted just one 100-yard receiving effort with only one trip to the end zone through eight games. That doesn’t bode well for a cross-country, early start time road game against a Miami Dolphins defense that currently ranks third in the NFL against the pass (211.6 yds/gm) while giving up an average of just 19.3 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (sixth-fewest in NFL).

All running backs from the New York Jets & St. Louis Rams (at Kansas City and at San Francisco): We’re passing on Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson, Tre Mason, Zac Stacy and any other running back you can think of who plays for either the New York Jets or St. Louis Rams. First off, Kansas City is surrendering an average of just 13.5 fantasy points per game to opposing RBs this season (fifth-fewest in NFL), while San Francisco is permitting an average of just 13.9 (sixth-fewest in NFL). In addition, both backfields are utilizing running back-by-committee approaches, which does nothing to help the fantasy stock of any player involved. Road games against tough run defenses with limited touches is an disastrous formula for fantasy success.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals (at Dallas): Fitz busted out last week to the tune of a 7-160-1 stat line against the Philadelphia Eagles, but take note that Week 8 was the first time this season that the veteran Pro Bowler notched more than 100 receiving yards in a game. As shocking as it may sound, the Dallas secondary has been much better this season than their counterparts from Philadelphia, surrendering an average of just 16.9 fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts (fourth-fewest in NFL). It’s understandable if your roster is devoid of viable replacements for Fitzgerald, but we still advise you taper your expectations here.

Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins (at Minnesota): We detailed above all the reasons why we aren’t high on the Washington offense in Week 9, so let us leave you with this one thought as it specifically pertains to Reed: The Vikings are currently permitting an average of just 5.8 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season (sixth-fewest in NFL), with just two touchdowns surrendered to the position through eight contests.

Denver Broncos & New England Patriots, D/STs: The Broncos and Patriots have met a grand total of three times since Peyton Manning landed in Denver prior to the start of the 2012 season. And in those three contests these two teams have combined to score an average of 53.0 points per game. Expect yet another shootout between these two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

NFP prospect focus: DeVante Parker & Rashad Greene

In the 2014 NFL Draft we had an exceptionally strong wide receiver class, with 12 wideouts taken in the first two rounds. Many of the receivers who were taken in the second round may very well have been first-round picks during other drafts. I personally gave nine wide receivers first-round grades.

This year, while there are quality receivers led by Alabama’s Amari Cooper, the depth isn’t quite like it was a year ago. Today we profile two receivers who will be given premium round consideration: DeVante Parker from Louisville and Rashad Green from Florida State.

DeVante Parker – Louisville

Parker is a fourth-year senior who I thought would enter the draft a year ago after a productive 2013 season. He missed the first seven games of this year with a foot injury but has come back to play very well in the last two Louisville games. Against North Carolina State on October 18 he had nine receptions for 132 yards and Thursday night against Florida State caught eight passes for 214 yards, including a 71-yard reception on the game’s opening play.

DeVante ParkerParker has notched 17 receptions for 346 yards in just two games this season.

Parker is a big, physical receiver (6025 – 215 estimate) who uses his size effectively. He is a good to very good athlete who is smooth and has good, but not great, top-end speed. I would estimate that he will run in the 4.50 range at the combine.

Parker has very good body control, change of direction and flexibility. In his two games this season, Parker looks as though he has improved his route running ability from over a year ago. He shows he can run a precise route with sharp cuts and is able to get separation. A year ago I saw the same thing but I also saw that he would get lazy with some routes and not consistently finish when he wasn’t the primary receiver.

Parker has very good hands, showing he can snatch the ball and tuck it away quickly. He also will have some concentration drops, but I haven’t seen any this season. In 2013, he had some games with excellent production (FIU, UConn, Eastern Kentucky and Cincinnati) and then some games where he was a non-factor (USF, Memphis and Temple). Being that he missed so many games this year, Parker can’t afford to have a poor showing the rest of the season. He has showed excellent consistency in his two games this year.

After the catch, Parker shows he can be a strong runner. While he is not very elusive, he is powerful with a burst. He knows how to use his size when going after a pass and can high-point the ball. He will win most jump balls. While Parker may not time like a burner, he has long speed and can get deep.

Overall, Parker is a talented athlete with the natural traits to be a very good NFL receiver, but he has to continue to play with consistency. He has the talent to start early in his career and develop into a solid No. 2 receiver.

Grade: A 6.7

Rashad Greene – Florida State

The fourth-year senior is a former 4-star recruit who has been productive since he enrolled at Florida State in 2011. Through Thursday night’s game at Louisville, Greene has 229 career receptions for 3,318 yards and 26 touchdowns. He also has returned 31 punts for 429 yards and two scores.

Greene has what all NFL clubs covert in their receivers: Speed. I would estimate that he will run somewhere in the high 4.3s or low 4.4s. Greene has excellent body control and a quick burst that allows him to get to full speed very quickly.

Rashad GreeneGreene is averaging 7.25 receptions per game this season.

Greene is not a real big guy. He is listed at being 6000 – 180 and looks to be all of that. He has a lean frame, but has good muscular definition with long arms.

As a route runner, Greene is quick off the line and does a good job avoiding jams. He can have some trouble when a bigger corner tries to press him at the line, but for the most part, Greene is able to elude. He runs good routes and shows he can uncover against both man and zone. He has quick feet, can make sharp cuts and is consistently able to get separation when coming out of a cut.

Greene is effective as both a short and deep receiver and is a dangerous runner after the catch. With his speed and burst he is very effective on deeper routes. In the FSU system, Greene is used on a lot of crossing routes and against college defensive backs he gets a number of big plays with his speed. He is an excellent space player.

Greene has good hands and shows he can make the acrobatic catch, but he will also double catch some balls or use his body. While he will have some concentration drops, his after the catch numbers are excellent. Greene has top run instincts to go along with speed and elusiveness. He consistently shows the ability to outrun defenders who have an angle.

As a punt returner, Greene tracks the ball well, cleanly catches it and has the ability to make the first defender miss. He has shown the skills to be an effective returner at the next level.

Overall, Greene has the talent to play early in the NFL. I think he would be most productive in the slot but he has the skills to play outside. Most clubs will also utilize him as a returner. He doesn’t have the talent of some of the first-round receivers from a year ago, but he is talented.

Grade: A 6.6

Follow Greg on Twitter: @greggabe

RG3 knows he'll be playing through pain

Sunday will mark the return of Robert Griffin III to the football field.

Griffin, who dislocated his ankle in Week 2 against Jacksonville, has been cleared to play this Sunday against Minnesota. Speaking to the team's official website, Griffin said he's healthy enough to get out there without any worry of a setback.

“This isn't little league football,” Griffin said. “You're going to play with some pain. I'm to the point where I've rehabbed it enough and I feel good going out there. I feel I can be myself.”

Washington is 3-5, which isn't all too bad considering how it started the season. But the team got solid contributions the past two weeks from backup Colt McCoy, who led Washington to wins over Tennessee and Dallas.

Now with Griffin back, Washington will look to continue that leading streak.

Follow me on Twitter: @JasonHButt

Report: Dave Brandon to resign as Michigan athletic director

For Michigan fans, this probably couldn't have happened soon enough.

According to an ESPN report, Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon will officially announce his resignation later Friday afternoon. A press conference is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

Brandon has received criticism all year on a variety of issues. Those range from the poor performance of his 2011 coaching hire Brady Hoke, the increase in ticket prices during his tenure, his desire to sell advertisements inside Michigan Stadium and the bothced handling of quarterback Shane Morris, who sustained a head injury against Minnesota but was allowed to keep playing.

Calls to fire Brandon have been rampant across the Michigan campus all season. A quick look at his Twitter feed — which will likely be disabled or deactivated in the near future — has fans replying to numerous tweets asking him to step down from his position.

Brandon's most recent hiccup in the spotlight occurred when emails were released showing him taking a snarky attitude toward fans that wrote in showing displeasure with the direction the program was headed.

With Brandon stepping down, it's likely Hoke will be looking for a new job in the near future too. A new athletic director would be unlikely to keep Hoke around any longer given how the Wolverines (3-5) have fared this season.

Follow me on Twitter: @JasonHButt

Five key second half storylines

With the 2014 NFL season at the midway point, here are five situations to watch for the rest of the year.

The Seattle Seahawks’ playoff hopes

The Seattle Seahawks are finding out how hard it is to repeat as Super Bowl champions. Their 4-3 record wouldn’t be good enough for the playoffs if the season ended today.

Seattle lost its offensive identity trying to expand the passing game with more reliance on wide receiver Percy Harvin. The ball is being run 46.8 percent of the time after a 52.3 percent clip last season. Harvin was traded to the New York Jets in Week 7 for a conditional 2015 sixth-round selection (could be as high as a fourth-round pick depending upon Harvin’s performance) because of locker room issues and the difficulty of integrating him into the offense. His departure hasn’t solved Seattle’s offensive problems or the locker room issues. Four-time Pro Bowl running back Marshawn Lynch, who missed eight days of training camp in a contract dispute, reportedly has a fractured relationship with the organization and isn’t expected back next year. The offensive line, which was a question mark last year, has regressed. The defense has also lost some of its intimidation factor with strong safety Kam Chancellor slowed by bone spurs in his ankles.

Seattle’s playoff hopes will likely hinge on how they fare in NFC West contests during the homestretch of the season. There are two games against rival San Francisco and the division-leading Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers are in the same boat as the Seahawks playoff-wise, but their defense should improve with All-Pros NaVorro Bowman (torn ACL) and Aldon Smith (personal conduct and substance abuse policy suspension) returning to the lineup in the second half of the season.

DeMarco Murray’s chase of the record book

DeMarco MurrayMurray has been on cruise control in 2014.

DeMarco Murray is having a historic season in the Dallas Cowboys’ unexpected 6-2 start. He has already broken Jim Brown’s 56-year-old NFL record of six consecutive games with 100 rushing yards or more to begin a season. Murray’s streak is at eight games. He has 1,054 rushing yards and 1,293 yards from scrimmage. Murray is on pace to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards by three yards and Chris Johnson’s single season yards from scrimmage record (2,509 yards). Murray is also on track for 412 carries, which would be the second-highest single season total in NFL history. Durability concerns may be the biggest threat to Murray chasing the records. He’s missed eleven games in his three previous NFL seasons because of ankle, foot, and knee injuries without playing a full slate in any of them.

NFC South mediocrity

None of the teams in the NFC South have a winning record. The New Orleans improved their record to 4-4 and assumed first place in the division with Thursday’s night victory over the Carolina Panthers. The Saints are a Jekyll and Hyde team which plays much better at home than on the road. The Carolina win snapped New Orleans’ regular season road losing streak at seven games. However, their home winning streak (11 games) will be put to test with an upcoming three-game home stand against the San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens.

The Panthers rode a strong defense that led the NFL with 60 sacks and was second in scoring (15.1 points per game) and run defense (86.9 yards per game) to the NFC South crown in 2013. Sacks are way down with 20 in nine games and the team is giving up 26.2 points per game (26th in the NFL). Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy, who had a team-high 15 sacks in 2013, isn’t coming to the rescue. He will remain on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List for the rest of the season since his domestic violence jury trial has been postponed until after the season. The run defense has been atrocious. The Panthers are giving up 131.9 yards per game to rank 27th in the league.

The Atlanta Falcons are in the midst of a five-game losing streak. The offensive line has been decimated by injuries, with five linemen on injured reserve. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offseason roster overhaul isn’t paying dividends. It’s resulted in a 1-6 record.

It’s taken at least 12 victories to win the NFC South in the previous six seasons. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the division winner makes the playoffs with an 8-8 record.

AFC North dogfight

The AFC North is the NFL’s toughest division, with every team in the division owning a winning record at the moment. The Cincinnati Bengals are in first place at 4-2-1. All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green’s toe injury derailed Cincinnati’s 3-0 start. He is expected back in the lineup after missing the last four games.

Andy DaltonICONWill Dalton and the Bengals withstand the onslaught from their divisional foes?

The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers are nipping at Cincinnati’s heels with matching 5-3 records. The Ravens have the NFL’s best point differential, outscoring opponents by 86 points on the season. They have been able to put aside the distraction of running back Ray Rice’s early-season release because of his domestic violence incident. The running game has been effective without him. Journeyman Justin Forsett is leading NFL running backs with 5.5 yards per carry and is fourth in the league with 571 rushing yards.

The Steelers have lacked consistency. They are responsible for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ only win of the season, but also easily handled the AFC South leading Indianapolis Colts with their best offensive output (51 points) in Mike Tomlin’s eight years as the team’s head coach. The Cleveland Browns have a surprising 4-3 record under first-year head coach Mike Pettine. The team hasn’t won more than five games in a season since 2007. Brian Hoyer has solidified his grip on the quarterback job after beating out 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel during the preseason. The passing attack should get a lift from Josh Gordon’s return for the final six games when his drug suspension is over.

Cincinnati’s season sweep of Baltimore could loom large in determining the division champion. The drawback to the competitiveness within the division is the number of teams that make the playoffs may be limited. A combined 12-5-1 record outside of the division suggests there should be at least one AFC North wild card team.

Oakland Raiders’ futility

The Oakland Raiders are the NFL’s only winless team at 0-7 and currently own a 13-game losing streak. Head coach Dennis Allen was fired at the bye week after an 0-4 start. The team is more competitive under interim coach Tony Sparano, but it isn’t being reflected in the bottom line. It’s conceivable that the Raiders could join the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only 0-16 teams in NFL history. The Raiders have the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL. These opponents have a combined 40-25 record (.615 winning percentage). There’s one game left against a team with a losing record. The Raiders face the 2-5 St. Louis Rams at home in Week 13.

Follow me on Twitter: @corryjoel

Joel Corry is a former sports agent who helped found Premier Sports & Entertainment, a sports management firm that represents professional athletes and coaches. Prior
to his tenure at Premier, Joel worked for Management Plus Enterprises, which represented Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ronnie Lott. You can email Joel at

Too good to pass up

With 30 players drafted in the 1960s, scouts in the National Football League became well versed on the route to Grambling, La., home of the Grambling State University. In the fall of 1968, wide receiver Charlie Joiner [drafted in the fourth round by the Houston Oilers and voted into the NFL Hall of Fame after a 18-year career] and quarterback James Harris were putting on quite a show.

“We had seven or eight scouts at every game,” said Douglas Porter, who was the offensive coordinator from 1966-74. He was the head coach at Howard [1974-78 and Fort Valley State [1979-1996] before returning to live in Grambling. “With the players we had: running back Essex Johnson [1968, sixth round by Cincinnati], defensive back Delles Howell [1970, fourth round New Orleans] and receiver Frank Lewis [1971, first round Pittsburgh] there were always guys here. Jackie Graves [who became director of player personnel with the Eagles], Joe Perry [49ers], Emlen Tunnell [Giants], Bill Nunn [Steelers] and Elbert Dubenion [Bills] were some of the regulars. They’d come in on Wednesday and stay through Saturday.”

Still, there was no indication if Harris would be drafted.

Harris drops back to pass with the Buffalo Bills.

“The scouts were very discreet,” said Porter. “We thought there might be an opportunity with the Rams because of Tank Younger, but we really had no idea. He was planning on getting into coaching after college. In our mind, there was no doubt that Harris could be a starting quarterback in the NFL. With his arm, size and overall understanding of the game, we knew he’d be able to adapt to any offense. We had a great quarterback with Mike Howell [1964], but he didn’t have the size and the Browns [1965-72] made him a defensive back.”

The Howell brothers [Lane, Mike and Delles] grew up across from Harris on Atkinson St. in the Bryant’s Addition neighborhood and attended Carroll High School in Monroe, La. All three went to Grambling and played in the NFL. “Coach Rob [Eddie Robinson] felt he would be our first quarterback to make it into the NFL when he brought him in,” said Porter. “I had a chance to see Harris against Coleman High School [of Greenville, Miss.] and you could tell he was a special player. They beat Coleman which was quarterbacked by George Scott [who played first base for the Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers] and the top team in Mississippi. We always tried to get as much information on any techniques we could use from all the scouts who came through. Coach Rob was always adding new things on offense and defense. We learned a lot from Dub Jones.” Jones was quarterback Otto Graham’s primary receiver when the Browns won titles in 1950, ’54 and ’55 and their offensive coordinator from 1963-68. Jones lived in neighboring Ruston, La., his son Bert Jones was a quarterback for the Baltimore Colts in 1973-81.

Two scouts responsible for Harris getting drafted were Bill Groman and Elbert Dubenion. Growing up in Tiffin, Oh., Groman lived at home while attending Heidelberg University, riding his bike one mile to campus. Setting a number of records in football and track, Groman was signed as a free agent by the Houston Oilers [1960]. Catching 72 passes and 12 touchdowns from George Blanda as a rookie [he was tied for second in the AFL with Don Maynard], he followed up his second year with 50 and 17 touchdowns. The Oilers beat the Los Angeles Chargers 24-16 for the title in 1960. They beat the Chargers 10-3 for the championship in 1961 [the Chargers moved to San Diego in ‘61]. The Oilers lost in 1962 to the Dallas Texans 20-17 in double overtime. Groman’s last two years were with the Bills 1964 and ‘65 championships; they beat San Diego 20-7 and 23-0. His roommate was quarterback Jack Kemp.

Dubenion, who grew up in Griffin, Ga., attended Bluffton University in Bluffton, Oh. Drafted in 1959 in the 14th round by the Browns, a leg injury prevented him from attending training camp. Picked up by the Bills as a free agent, Dubenion [1960-68] is ninth on their all-time receiving list with 294 receptions, and 35 touchdowns. Nicknamed ‘Golden Wheels’, in 1964 he was All-Pro catching 42 passes for 10 touchdowns and a 27-yard average. Dubenion became an area scout in 1969.

Groman, who spent 36 years scouting for the Bills, Blesto, Oilers and Falcons, was absolutely certain about Harris’ NFL makeup. “There was no question about James Harris,” said Groman, who was the Oilers director of player personal in 1977 and ’78. “We both gave him high grades and said he should be drafted in the top three rounds. If he was white and from a big school that’s where he would’ve been drafted. He was like a black Joe Namath, but bigger [at 6-4]. Harris had size, was strong, threw the ball very well, was able to take a hit and get away from the grasp of the defender. He was a leader and you could see what he was doing would translate well at the pro level. Harris and Charlie Joiner had a special chemistry, they complimented each other; they understood the offense and knew how to play the game. I traveled to games working [only] on the weekends then. I had the Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma area. I’d watch tape with coach Robinson; he offered me a job coaching the wide receivers. Going to Grambling or Jackson State [In 1968 Jackson State had 11 players drafted and five signed as free agents under coach Rod Paige, who later became the United States Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush] back then was like going to Alabama or USC today. You’d have eight- ten-twelve guys to watch who had the ability to play in the NFL.
“When we gave our report to the general manager Harvey Johnson a couple weeks before the draft, he asked, ‘Can he play tight end?’ I said, ‘He’s not a tight end, he’s a quarterback!’ We kept pushing for him and it’s a good thing [area scout] Elbert Dobinion was there to back me up. I think he just got tired of us talking about Harris and finally pulled the trigger.”

Seth Schwartz is a freelance writer in Chicago. He can be reached at

The AFC at the halfway point

Before I started wring this article, I went back to my column from September 5 which had my predictions for the 2014 NFL season.

In the AFC East I picked New England to win easily, as I felt the rest of the division was very weak. In the AFC North, I picked Cincinnati with the thinking that Andy Dalton has matured as a quarterback and the overall Bengal team was strong. I also had Baltimore coming from the AFC North as a wild card playoff team.

Like most, I felt that Denver would win the West and Indianapolis the South with the second wild card team being Kansas City from the West. Now with most clubs having played eight games, this is where they stand.

AFC East

New England is indeed the first place team with a 6-2 record to date. The Patriots started slowly with a loss at Miami and were also beaten soundly at Kansas City. There were many who said that Tom Brady was done and we have seen the last of the Patriots dynasty.

Well, as Lee Corso likes to say, ”Not so fast, my friend.” The demise of Tom Brady was greatly exaggerated and the Patriots are strong as usual. This past Sunday they played perhaps their best game of the season in a 51-23 trouncing of the Bears. The Pats have a key game coming this Sunday against Denver and that matchup may tell us which team in the AFC is the strongest.

Tom Brady and Bill BelichickBrady and Belichick have won four straight since that blowout loss at Kansas City.

Two clubs that have done much better than expected are the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins. Buffalo has come on strong since veteran Kyle Orton took over at quarterback. The Bills sit at 5-3 and may be one of the surprise teams in the NFL. Orton has solidified the quarterback position and the defense keeps games close.

A month ago in Miami it looked as if both Joe Philbin and Ryan Tannehill were done. However, since the team’s bye week, the Dolphins lost a close game to Green Bay and had convincing wins against Chicago and Jacksonville. Dan Marino has done an excellent job helping Tannehill with his game, as the quarterback has played better as of late. Miami’s next three games will tell the story, as the Dolphins play San Diego, Detroit and Buffalo.

At the bottom of the AFC East resides the New York Jets. The Jets have struggled all season and were blown out by the Bills last Sunday. Quarterback Geno Smith was replaced by Michael Vick but that may be too little too late. I can see the Jets competing for the first overall pick in the draft.

AFC North

The AFC North has been much more competitive than I thought it would be. Cincinnati is in first with a 5-2-1 record but they hold only a half-game lead over both Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

The Bengals started out strong, winning their first three games, but have struggled in October with two losses and a tie. It has been difficult for the Bengals to overcome the loss of All-Pro receiver A.J. Green. A strong win over Baltimore last Sunday helps and Green should be back shortly. I still see Cincinnati as the best team in the division.

A.J. GreenThe loss of A.J. Green has stung the Bengals in recent weeks.

Baltimore has done a good job overcoming the Ray Rice scandal, but their season still has been a bit of a roller coaster. The Ravens’ best win was over Pittsburgh in Week 2, but their two losses to division-rival Cincinnati may turn out to be a difference maker when it comes time to decide who gets in the playoffs.

Like Baltimore, Pittsburgh has been up and down, but as of late it has been more up. They have won two in a row with the 51-34 victory over Indianapolis on Sunday being very convincing. In that game, Ben Roethlisberger threw for 522 yards and six touchdowns.

This week’s game against Baltimore on Sunday night will tell us a lot. The winner will be in the driver’s seat for a wild card slot if not the division championship.

Like Buffalo in the East, Cleveland has been one of the surprise teams in the NFL. This year was supposed to be the coming out party for rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel. That hasn’t happened, as veteran Brian Hoyer is playing mistake-free football and has led the browns to a 4-3 record. Meanwhile, Manziel is frustrated, having thrown only one pass all season.

AFC South

As I figured, Indianapolis sits on top of the division, but barely with a 5-3 record and a one-game lead over Houston. The Colts started slow, losing their first two games but came back to win five in a row. That win streak came to a halt Sunday as the Steelers romped over the Colts 51-34.

The Colts offense can score points, but the defense is suspect having given up 23 points per game. While Indy should hold on to win the division, if they want to do anything in the playoffs, the defense has to play better.

I don’t think you will find too many people who thought Houston would be 4-4 after eight games. They are winning with a very average quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick. The defense is playing great football led by probable league defensive MVP J.J. Watt.

Andrew LuckNo surprise here as Luck and the Colts are on top of the AFC South through eight weeks.

The defense could be even stronger in the second half as first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney is back after an early-season knee injury. Rookie head coach Bill O’Brien is doing an outstanding job in his first year leading an NFL club.

Tennessee has a new head coach in Ken Whisenhunt, but the results haven’t changed. They are struggling with a 2-6 record going into their bye week. Things don’t get any better after the bye as the Titans will face Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. One of the reasons for Tennessee’s poor play is that the team doesn’t have a quarterback. Former first-round pick Jake Locker is a bust and has been benched. An early-season injury didn’t help Locker. The Titans then went to Charlie Whitehurst and he wasn’t any better. Last week, rookie Zach Mettenberger got the start and while he threw for 299 yards, he also threw an interception and took a few sacks.

Mettenberger is supposed to be the starter for the remainder of the season, but I think the Titans brain trust will find out that he isn’t the answer. While Mettenberger has a strong arm, he has no movement skills and is a very inconsistent passer.

The plan in Jacksonville was for first-round quarterback Blake Bortles to sit and learn for a year and become the starter in 2015. That plan lasted only a few weeks as Bortles took over in Week 3.

The Jaguars may have been better off sticking to the plan as Bortles has struggled. While he has completed 63 percent of his passes and thrown six touchdowns, he also has 12 interceptions. Bortles has arm strength and athleticism but he is not very instinctive and that may prove to be the thing that slows his development. It’s still a wait-and-see situation.

AFC West

The West just may be the most competitive division in the AFC. While Denver is the class of the division with a 6-1 record, both San Diego and Kansas City are competing for wild card slots. Last year, this division had three teams in the playoffs and the same may happen again in 2014.

In Denver, as good as Peyton Manning has been his whole
career, this year just may be his best. He has already thrown for over 2,200 yards and 22 scores. His interception total is only three through seven games.

Philip RiversWill Rivers and the Chargers rebound this weekend in Miami?

The Broncos’ only blemish this season is an overtime loss in Seattle. In the last four games, the Broncos have won by an average of 16 points. While Manning is leading the offense, the defense as a whole is playing outstanding football.

Denver’s next three games are on the road, beginning with a matchup at hot New England this Sunday. That three-game road trip will tell us a lot about the Broncos.

It’s hard for me to get a strong feel for San Diego. After a one-point loss at Arizona to open the season, the Chargers put together a five-game win streak. During that streak, they were playing as good as any team in the NFL.

However, over the last two weeks, San Diego has had a close loss at Kansas City and then was beaten at Denver by 14. Injuries have played a big part in the losing streak. The problem with those losses is that both were against division rivals which can hurt their playoff chances.

This week the Chargers play at Miami in a game that has to be classified as a “must win”. A loss will seriously hamper the team’s playoff chances.

Like San Diego, Kansas City is a hard tem to get a handle on. They opened the season with two straight losses but have come back to win four out of their last five. The last two wins against San Diego and St. Louis have been impressive and the Chiefs just may be on a roll.

The next four games are all winnable as Kansas City plays the Jets, Buffalo, a struggling Seattle team and Oakland. If they win all those games, I feel the Chiefs are as good as in come playoff time.

Oakland hasn’t won a game all season and the head coach has already been fired. While there still could be more changes coming after the season, the good news is that the Raiders have found their quarterback of the future. Second-round pick Derek Carr is the best of the rookie quarterbacks and looks to have a bright future. Now the job is to surround him with a strong supporting cast.

Follow Greg on Twitter: @greggabe

Cowboys RB Joseph Randle joking around on tape after arrest

Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle didn't take his arrest for shoplifting seriously, joking around and acting cocky in the Frisco, Texas city jail, according to a video reported by CBS.

“If I give you $100, can you give me a massage?” Randle asked a female jail employee.

She said sternly: “No.”

He stole underwear and a tester bottle of cologne.

“Take a good picture,” Randle said. “I'm not about to look like I'm a criminal in this mug shot. How's my mug shot look?”

Randle was reprimanded for making an unauthorized phone call.

"Do you want to get you another charge on you? Are you crazy?” a female jail employee asked, ending the phone call.

Randle said: “Hey, is this gonna be on the news, you think?” Randle asked.

Two days later, Randle said: “It's the biggest mistake I've ever made in my life I've never gotten in any kind of trouble in my whole life. This is just something I'll have to learn from and move forward.”

Follow me on Twitter: @RavensInsider

Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun

Taylor Lewan pleads guilty to misdemeanor crimes

Tennessee Titans rookie offensive tackle Taylor Lewan plead guilty to a pair of misdemeanor charges, resolving a battery case in Michigan.

Lewan pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace and being drunk and disorderly following the Michigan-Ohio State football game. He's expected to avoid jail time and get probation at sentencing on Dec. 15.

Lewan was originally charged with one count of misdemeanor aggravated assault and two counts of assault and battery. Ohio State fans alleged that Lewan assaulted them. A deal was reached recently.

A first-round draft pick from Michigan, Lewan is starting for the Titans.

Follow me on Twitter: @RavensInsider

Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun