My Favorite Albums & Movies of 2013

The following are my favorite albums and movies from 2o13. They’ve connected with me on some level, through nostalgia and pulling my mind back to old memories or taking me on a journey away from reality and into a story I’ve not yet heard. If you have yet to hear these albums or see these movies, I hope you get inspired to at least check into them a little bit and see if you too can be gripped by these stories.

20. Matrimony- Montibello Drive

19. Imaginary Friend- Fire Escape

18. Relient K- Collapsible Lung

17. Local Natives- Hummingbird

16. Pacific Air- Stop Talking

15. My Epic- Behold

14. Houses- A Quiet Darkness

13. Daughter- If You Leave

12. Air Review- Low Wishes

11. Moving Mountains- Moving Mountains

10. Ghost Ship- The Good King

9. Jimmy Eat World- Damage

8. Sleeping at Last- Atlas EPs: Darkness/Light/Space 1/Space 2

7. Leagues- You Belong Here

6. Dustin Kensrue- The Water and the Blood

5. Citizens- Citizens

Worship music has come a long way from when I first became a christian. Citizens really put out an album full of worship songs that have more depth than most of the K-Love hits, and they are upbeat and fun. This album has honestly helped me grow in my spiritual walk this year and I am glad to have found some genuine and accessible worship music I can enjoy.

4. Gungor- I am Mountain

Gungor has tuned the table around on us again. It seems every time they put something new out it is a new breed of Gungor. This album has it all. From western songs about war to a song completely done with auto tune. It’s eclectic spread of songs make it a good listen any time. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the mood for something upbeat and happy or slow and thought-provoking,  I am Mountain fills my thirst.

3. Twin Forks- EP

Chris Carrabba’s new folk band is the best musical outlet he’s had in a while. Dashboard Confessional has been in a downslide, and Twin Forks has become Carrabba’s premiere venue for his musical tastes. This album always gets me stomping my feet and clapping my hands as I join in with the band. If you get the chance to check these guys out live I highly advise that you do it.

2. Lydia- Devil

Lydia seems to have no shortage of music to make with putting out new music about every year and a half. This time around lead singer Leighton Antelman has some joyful things on his heart which make for an uplifting album (which is a rare occurrence with this band). Lydia is one of a kind, and a musical inspiration that has been with me since I started college. Usually Lydia songs are perfect fall or winter music, but this disc is just so lovely it fits with spring and summer, which just means Lydia will be on year round for me now.

1. I can Make a Mess- Enola

I don’t know if it’s because I had no expectations at all for this, or because I wanted it so badly to be great that it would’ve been no matter what, but this album captured me. Ace Enders first introduced himself to me with The Early’s November’s The Room’s Too Cold (which was one of my favorite albums throughout high school), and shortly after that Ace created my favorite full length disc ever: I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody’s Business self-titled album. I can still remember buying it from F.Y.E. and listening to it constantly that October and November. I still cherish the songs from that album. Ace went on and make more music with The Early November and a few alone as I Can Make a Mess, but nothing has ever rivaled that first ICMAM album… until now.

Enola is great because it holds nothing back. Guitar solo in the middle of the song? ‘K. Heavy techno infused songs mixed with stripped down acoustic songs? Done. Soaring and soothing guitars to balance out the peaks and valleys? Of course. Enola and the self-titled I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody’s Business will be sitting on my musical pedestal for years and years to come. Thank you Mr. Enders.

Click here to listen to my Spotify “Best of 2014” playlist with songs from the above albums and more!

Below are my five favorite movies I saw in 2013. There are a few more I am waiting on seeing, but I’ll list them afterwards.

1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

I think Peter Jackson can do no wrong. Plus Martin Freeman is incredible. And Benedict Cumberbatch is in it. This movie is hysterical and action packed and I watched it all from the edge of my seat.

2. Pacific Rim

The little boy in me loved everything about this movie. The monsters. The giant robots. The pet bulldog. Everything.

3. Now You See Me

Magic that captivated me the entire movie and with a great twist at the end!

4. Star Trek: Into Darkness

My man crush is Benedict Cumberbatch…

5. Despicable Me 2

The minions completely steal the show here. Much improved from the original too.

I have yet to see a few highly acclaimed movies and am waiting on the cheap, easily available route (Redbox) before enjoying them. Here are a few I’m looking forward to viewing soon:

  • Gravity
  • Captain Phillips
  • American Hustle
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  • About Time

One final thing to touch on for the year is my favorite television shows! I have really enjoyed a few years and would encourage others to look into them if they’ve been looking for something fun to watch!

1. Sherlock

Led by Benedict Cumberbatch (as Sherlock) and Martin Freeman (as Dr. Watson), this hour and a half television show is my favorite show of all time. It plays out much more like a movie than a show (which can easily be done in it’s long, but well worth it run time). Cumberbatch and Martin are as great a duo as their is in TV currently. Sadly the show only offers us three episodes per series (season), but if you’re just now finding out about you are in luck! Series three is airing in the United States January 19th with the following two episodes the next two weeks as well!

2. The Walking Dead

Boy oh boy, have things strongly progressed since season three ended. I think each episode so far this season has had something great to offer either in the way of character development or a major plot twist. The zombies have become more of a “background noise” type of occurrence, but more and more dangers are popping up that the group cannot seem to avoid! I can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store for our Walking Dead characters!

3. The Goldbergs/ Trophy Wife

Admittedly these shows are my guilty pleasures. Just some pretty funny sitcoms that consistently make me laugh! The Goldbergs is perfect for anyone born in the 80’s due to all the old school references like Atari, the Delorean, and Run DMC. The Trophy Wife has some very uniquely intertwined family relationships that somehow work don’t overwhelm the show. All of the actors are given just enough time to shine and they each have their own quirks that make it hard to not continue coming back for more!

This is a reflection of my entertainment this previous year, and I look forward to all that 2014 has to offer!

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Fantasy Football: Top Five Tight End Tiers

Vernon-Davis-San-Francisco-49ers

 

 

The tight end position in the NFL is ever-changing. They can be players that are one dimensional and only are receivers or are only blocking tight ends. They can be great all-around players (both blocking and receiving), but due to team need stick to one of those skills instead of having a steady balance. They can play as an H-back, can be split out wide, can play along the offensive line, and can also play in the slot. There is almost too much of a variety when it comes to this position. So when “ranking” them for fantasy football purposes, it is important to look at each case individually. Player role, health, and obviously skill will determine the rank, but also it will be influenced by how much I perceive each player will be utilized. For example, a guy like Brent Celek could be ranked fairly high, if not for the fact that the Eagles drafted a tight end in the second round this year (Zach Ertz), picked up another in free agency (James Casey), and still have Clay Harbor who they have previously used on their roster. Compare that to a guy like Dustin Keller or Fred Davis and I know who I’m rolling with. My rankings ahead…

Tier One

Jimmy Graham

Graham finished last season as the number one fantasy tight end, putting up 982 yards and 9 touchdowns. People were disappointed in that production though, because it was worse than his previous year. Graham played with a wrist injury and without his team’s head coach most of the season and still put up solid numbers (despite what fantasy owners think). I think that is floor, and his ceiling is very, very high.

Tier Two

Jason Witten

Witten put up over 1,000 yards in 2012 but only had 3 touchdowns. Witten’s touchdowns have been decreasing the since his career high of 9 in 2010 (5 in 2011, 3 in 2012), so that is definitely something to be a little worried about.

Tony Gonzalez

This hall of fame tight end had 930 yards and 8 touchdowns in the regular season last year. He is the third receiving option on the Falcon’s team, but he is about as dependable as they come, having caught 93 out of his 124 targets last regular season (and 14 of his 15 targets in the postseason).

Rob Gronkowski

The Gronk situation is a very difficult one to predict right now. He would normally be the number one overall tight end, but his multiple surgeries this offseason have put him in danger of missing games. He could even start the season on PUP list and miss the first six games. Still, at some point in your draft even half a season with Gronk plus the production from a waiver wire tight end is worth it. It’s up to you to decide when that gamble pay off.

Tier Three

Vernon Davis

Reports have come out of San Francisco that Davis has been practicing often split out like a wide receiver ever since Michael Crabtree sustained his injury this offseason. This could bode very well for players willing to take a chance on Davis. He’s got an incredible skill set and could easily post numbers to make himself the second best fantasy tight end, but he’s been known to not show up in the regular season, only really producing in the playoffs. Will things change this season?

Greg Olsen

Olsen is the second passing option for Cam Newton and the Panthers. He lead his team in receiving touchdowns last season with 5. During the 2012 season Olsen’s wife was pregnant and they had found out that their unborn son had a heart defect. His son is now born and has been through two open heart surgeries, but is doing well. Having the stress and pain of that situation may help and inspire his play this year.

Kyle Rudolph

Last season Rudolph only had 53 receptions for 493 yards, but made up for it with 9 touchdowns. The 6′ 6″ behemoth should continue to catch a lot of touchdowns, and with the addition of Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson, he may see softer coverage throughout the year to beef up his yardage.

Tier Four

Martellus Bennett

You can tell that Bennet was a big priority for the Bears this offseason just through how well they paid him (4 years, +$20 million). As I’ve stated before, the Bears will throw it a ton this year, and Bennett was a huge redzone threat for the Giants last year, so I expect that to continue. Bennet very likely could be the third receiving option behind Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte.

Brandon Myers

Once an unknown, Myers now is playing in the Big Apple. Eli Manning has made his tight ends fantasy relevant for years. Players like Kevin Boss, Jake Ballard, and Martellus Bennet have seen solid numbers with this team, and Myers is a better pass catcher than any of them. He is not as physically imposing as some tight ends, but he is a reception machine and that should continue in 2013.

Owen Daniels

Daniels is a very serviceable tight end. He had 732 yards and 6 touchdowns in the regular season last year. My concerns lie in the fact that the Texans are very run oriented, and added more of a deep threat in Deandre Hopkins so that may take away even more targets from Daniels in 2013.

Tier Five

Jermichael Finley

Aaron Rodgers has said repeatedly this offseason how impressed he’s been with Jermichael Finley. His route running and catching have improved and he has been much more focused. Finley is in a contract year this year and may finally put it all together, but the Green Bay line is falling apart so I worry that he may be asked to block more (or at least stay back and chip before getting out on his routes). It’s a risk, but in the later rounds it could really reward you.

Fred Davis

Davis was suspended in 2011 for drug use, and in 2012 he suffered an Achille’s tear and missed nine games. In his first preseason game back this year Kirk Cousins hit Davis for 3 yard touchdown. Davis has upside in this offense, but he also could have his fair share of struggles. Hopefully RGIII and Davis strike up some chemistry and he finally stays on the field a whole season.

Jared Cook

Many people had high expectation for Cook last year in Tennessee. Whether it was the fault of Cook, the coaching staff, or the young Jake Locker no one knows, but the Rams paid Cook richly and reports are out that Sam Bradford has said that his confidence is growing in Cook each time the two step on the field together. He is a veteran receiver for that St. Louis team, and could find himself as the primary receiver.

When it comes to fantasy football defenses and kickers should be scooped up at the tail end of the entire draft. Defenses can earn you plenty of points from time to time, but it is too tough to predict the best units. Some teams are easier to predict (49ers, Seahawks) but just one or two injuries and even those teams can falter. I always play it safe and just take the best available defense as late as possible and attempt to play the matchup game via the waiver wire when necessary. Kickers can become rather streaky, so it important to pay attention to free agents on your waiver wire that are earning many kicking opportunities.

Top Ten Defensive Units

1. Seattle Seahawks- This is a defense that is solid at every position. No weaknesses. And a team with a great run game always helps the defense by eating up the clock, and not allowing the opponent’s offense to have time on the field.

2. San Francisco 49ers- Solid defense, but a shaky secondary. They’ll cover up that trouble with their great pass rush. Not a real problem.

3. Houston Texans- JJ Watt. Need I say more? Ok, I will. Just like Seattle, Houston run game will greatly help their defense kill the clock and maintain low scoring games.

4. Cincinnati Bengals- The Bengals have premier defensive tackle Geno Atkins, and a solid linebacking corps. They’ve consistently been a good defense for years thanks to Mike Zimmer.

5. St. Louis Rams- The Rams have been drafting stud defensive players for years (James Laurinaitis, Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Janoris Jenkins, Alec Ogletree, Michael Brockers) and with the addition of Cortland Finnegan last year they took a big step forward. Their defense may win them (and you) a few games this year.

6. Baltimore Ravens- The loss of Ray Lewis will hurt, but this team has some major veterans on it. Ladarius Webb returning healthy plus the addition of Elvis Dumervil really helps.

7. Arizona Cardinals- The Cardinals recently signed John Abraham to boost their defense, but it’s the jump from Patrick Peterson that should truly help them out. Also, his return game can only help fantasy owners.

8. Chicago Bears- The Bears let go of Brian Urlacher this season, and that is a good thing. They have two good cornerbacks, linebackers ready to step up, and Julius Peppers. Plus Devin Hester. Don’t sleep on him.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Revis Island. I don’t know if this team will be able to muster up a pass rush, but they have good linebackers, safeties, and Revis. That’s gotta count for something.

10. Denver Broncos- Trindon Holliday may have a chip on his shoulder after getting cut by the Texans last year. He was great on special teams, and should be again. Von Miller and Champ Bailey will anchor this unit.

Keep an eye on: New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Top Ten Kickers

1. Blair Walsh

2. Sebastian Janikowski

3. Greg Zuerlein

4. Matt Bryant

5. Stephen Gostkowski

6. Matt Prater

7.Lawrence Tynes

8. Dan Bailey

9. Justin Tucker

10. Josh Brown

Check back next week for my quarterback tiers and my list of 20 sleepers that may help you steal your draft!

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Fantasy Football: Top Five Wide Receiver Tiers

Larry_Fitzgerald_2012_Nightmare_Season_Worst_Ever

Keeping up with the theme of placing fantasy players in tiers, today I’ll be covering the wide receiver group. Next week I will continue my “tiers segment” with the tight end position as well as ranking the top ten kickers and defenses as I see them. In two weeks I will finish my tiers off with the quarterbacks, along with sleepers for fantasy football. Once we are a few weeks into preseason games I will do a recap of my tiers, and I’m sure that there will have been some movement. Now on to the main attraction.

Tier One

Calvin Johnson

Six times. Six times he was tackled at the one yard line last year. If you were getting cute and thinking of taking another wide receiver ahead of Megatron, think again. He is the focal point for a team that throws a ton, and it doesn’t hurt that he is one of the best receivers to ever play the game.

Tier Two

Dez Bryant

Dez hit his stride in the last half of the season, and it became apparent he is an elite receiver. I’m looking for the Cowboys to lean on him, especially when they’re in shootouts due to their lousy defense. If he can keep up his production all year he might reach 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Brandon Marshall

Brandon Marshall caught 118 receptions last year, which was tied for second with Wes Welker (behind Calvin Johnson’s 122). With new head coach Marc Trestman leading the attack the Bears will be throwing more. Marshall is a lock to get +115 receptions, and he’ll make them count.

A.J. Green

A.J. Green scored a touchdown in nine consecutive games last year. He did have a dry spell for a few weeks, but with the Bengals’ new offensive weapons (Tyler Eifert, Giovanni Bernard, and whoever emerges as the number two receiver) defenses should be kept at bay giving Green more open looks throughout the season.

Demaryius Thomas

Thomas had 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns last year. Last season was his big breakout season, this year I look for him and Peyton Manning to make him a household name across the country. I believe this guy is still perfecting his role and refining his skills, and with a teacher like Manning he may see a lot of improvement.

Julio Jones

Jones struggled with a few injuries last year but still ended up with 1,198 yards and 10 touchdowns. He missed one full game, but I can remember multiple times of him leaving the game for a quarter, only to come back out and light his opponents up. The Falcons will have a well balanced offense with Julio, Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White, and Steven Jackson, but Jones has become Matt Ryan’s go to receiver, so his production will most definitely grow.

Larry Fitzgerald

Carson Palmer. Bruce Arians. Michael Floyd. Eric Winston. Rashard Mendenhall. Those are all reasons to look Larry Fitz this year. The guy is hungry for some wins. He wants to carry this team. There are no stats or anything to give good reason for him being in this group, but there is a strong chance he could finish as a top five wide receiver. In math terms, Palmer + Arians+ Fitz= Many yards and many touchdowns. My prediction is he tops 1,200 yards and has 14 touchdowns.

Tier Three

Victor Cruz

Cruuuuuuuz is back in town! Vic had over 1,000 yard and 10 touchdowns last season, and that’s a reasonable expectation for this year as well. The Giants have one of the most well-rounded offenses in the league so no defense will be able to lock down #80. Eli will spread the ball around to receivers like Vic, Hakeem Nicks, Rueben Randle, and new tight end Brandon Myers, and the tandem running attack of David Wilson and Andrew Brown will keep defenses on the toes. I look for Cruz to catch around 7-10 passes a game and contribute consistently for fantasy players.

Randall Cobb

Aaron Rodgers recently said that he expects Cobb to catch 100 passes this year. SOLD! Cobb is a playmaker that the Packers utilize in many, many ways. They like to line him up in the backfield, in the slot, and on the outside, and Rodgers loves to throw to him. Cobb had 954 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns last season, and I’d look for that to increase to 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns (plus some extra rushing yards).

Andre Johnson

Andre was once locked in as a first round pick in fantasy. A few things are building up against him to knock him down this far in the last few years: 1) Arian Foster is the bell cow for the Texans’ offense, 2) he is now 32 years old and is falling out of his prime, and 3) when the Texans get into the red zone they do not throw the ball.  Johnson had only 4 touchdowns last year. Maybe that number will increase up to 7 or 8 this year, but that is his ceiling. Albeit with 1,600 yards attached to that number, that’s a great ceiling.

Roddy White

The other half of the Falcons wide receivers is still a major fantasy receiver. White posted 1,351 yards and 7 touchdowns last season (compared to Julio’s 1,198 yards and 10 touchdowns). White is less dynamic than Jones, and will not be as utilized on the offense as Jones was with reverses, screens, and such, but he gathers up yards like crazy. The two receivers definitely play off of each other’s strengths well.

Vincent Jackson

Vincent Jackson only caught about half of his targets (72 out of 147), but he was obviously being targeted down field more due to his higher average yards per catch which was 19.2 (second most was Cecil Shorts and Danario Alexander at 17.8). He had 1,384 yards in 2012 on 72 catches. That’s pretty outstanding when other receivers are needing at least 90 catches to reach that same plateau.

Tier Four

Wes Welker

Peyton Manning once made Brandon Stokely and Austin Collie very usable fantasy receivers. Enter Wes Welker. Manning and Welker will form a new tandem in the league similar to Brady and Welker. I think Welker may be more of focus with Manning running the show, and even though the Broncos have Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker already, I think Wes catches over 110 balls this year and puts over 1,100 yards.

Jordy Nelson

Due to injury, Nelson only played 12 games last season. He tallied up 745 yards and 7 touchdowns though. In 2011 Nelson played all 16 games and had 1,263 yards and 15 (!!!) touchdowns. I do not expect him to have 15 touchdowns even if he stays healthy all year this year. My expectation is around 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Hakeem Nicks

Nicks is the number one receiver for the New York Giants, even if your friends tell you that it’s Victor Cruz. Nicks has the ability to make incredible plays, but he lacks the ability to stay healthy all year. Nicks played injured for over half of the season in 2012 and it showed. The Giants are even taking it slowly with him right now in training camp. In 2012 he only played in 13 games, he had 692 yards, and 3 touchdowns. His preseason form will really let us know what to expect come September.

Danny Amendola

Amendola is the fantasy poster child for high risk, high reward. He is Tom Brady’s number one wide receiver and replaces Wes Welker, who caught 118 passes from Brady last year. As long as he can stay healthy, which is a huge question mark, he will produce number one fantasy receiver stats. I just don’t know if it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Pierre Garcon

Pierre Garcon played with a foot injury last year (when he actually did play). He only played in ten games and had 644 yards and 4 touchdowns. He showed great chemistry with RGIII, and Mike Shannahan made a point to get Garcon the ball. If he can stay healthy before my draft he’s a mid-round receiver I’m willing to take a flier on.

Dwayne Bowe

The Chiefs have had a lot of change this offseason. Bowe now has pass-happy head coach Andy Reid calling the plays, and Alex Smith is his new QB. The Chiefs have few options when it comes to receivers. Tony Moeaki, Jonathan Baldwin, and Dexter McCluster have been underwhelming. It’s up to Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe to pick up the slack.

Marques Colston

Colston has been very consistent over the last four years. Here are his basic stats since 2009:

2009- 1,074 yards, 9 touchdowns (16 games played)

2010- 1,023 yards, 7 touchdowns (15 games played)

2011- 1,143 yards, 8 touchdowns (14 games played)

2012- 1,154 yards, 10 touchdowns (16 games played)

I think the stats say it all. I’d take that production in the fourth round and feel great about it.

Tier Five

Reggie Wayne

Bruce Arians is gone from the Colts and so Andrew Luck may not be throwing it deep all day. Reggie Wayne was highly targeted last season with 194 targets (behind only Calvin Johnson), and that is a sure bet to decrease. The Colts have said that they are going to focus on the run, and with another offseason on the young receivers’ resumés T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener, and Dwayne Allen are sure to be more involved. Wayne will be good, just don’t expect the same as last season.

Steve Smith

Steve Smith gained 1,174 yards and 4 touchdowns last season, and nothing has changed with the Panthers offense, so I do not expect anything to change with Smith’s stats. In 2011 he did have 200 more yards and 3 more touchdowns, so know there is room for improvement, just not too much.

Eric Decker

The Broncos have 3 good receivers in Demaryius Thomas, Decker, and Wes Welker. Decker is still number two on that list, but the rock will definitely be spread around more. He may still get 1,000 yards this year, but I do not see him getting anywhere close to the 15 touchdowns he had last year.

Cecil Shorts

Cecil Shorts biggest downfall is that he plays for the Jaguars. His quarterback will either be Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne. Luckily, Maurice Jones-Drew is coming back healthy this year so defenses will have to stop Pocket Hercules first, and Shorts may be able to take advantage of that. Shorts averaged 17.8 yard per catch, behind only Vincent Jackson. He also trained heavily with Larry Fitzgerald this offseason and has looked great in camp. If he had a good QB I’d put him in tier three.

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson had 1,000 yards and 6 touchdowns last season, but is changing offensive systems, head coaches, quarterbacks, and even the receivers around him are changing. There are a lot of unknowns here, but his talent is real. Hopefully whoever emerges as the starting quarterback is competent enough to get Johnson the ball often.

Miles Austin

As Dez Bryant emerges, Miles Austin falls into the limelight. Austin is the second and sometimes third option behind Bryant and Witten, but still produces well. He had 943 yards last year and 6 touchdowns. He was only targeted 118 times in 16 games, but he is going late in drafts and is definitely a good plug-and-play receiver.

Josh Gordon

Josh Gordon is gaining a ton of hype this offseason as he really emerged on the Browns during the second half of last season and his new coach, Rob Chudzinski, likes to throw deep. Gordon makes a living going deep. He will be suspended for the first two games of the season, but after that I expect the Browns to lean heavily on Gordon in their passing attack.

Feel free to leave your comments and let me know how you disagree or what you enjoyed about this post. Thanks for reading and make sure to come back next Thursday for my tight end tiers and my defense and kicker rankings!

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Fantasy Football: Top Five Running Back Tiers

11971049-largeI am a true fanatic of not just football, but fantasy football. The game within the game. But fantasy football is more than a game for most, it’s a lifestyle. It brings people together. It brings joy to saddened hearts (It also sometimes saddens joyful hearts, so there’s that). It is trivial most of the time, but for a lot of people it helps them keep their heads above water when things like work, health, or relationships are bringing them down. I plan on doing my own “rankings” and tiers here for the next couple of weeks, posting about players whose upside is looming large, and other players who may go overlooked for whatever reason. Of course the top pickups (i.e. Adrian Peterson, Drew Brees, Calvin Johnson) will get tossed around, but I hope to bring out some new perspectives on various “underground” players if you will.

Today I’d like to start with a simple Tier system for running backs across the NFL. I feel as if running backs are the easiest to diagnose from year to year due to their consistency (or lack thereof sometimes). The hardest thing to predict with this position would be the health factor. Guys like Darren McFadden, Demarco Murray, and even Ryan Matthews could all be great players for fantasy if their health would allow it. With that caveat aside, health is what it is and each player’s injury history will influence where I rank them.

Without further ado, here are my top 5 running back tiers…


Tier One

Adrian Peterson

He stands alone. He had the second most rushing attempts last year, rushed for over 2,000 yards (!!!), and he had by far the most runs of over 20 yards with 27 of them (next highest was C.J. Spiller with 12). I would take him number one even if he had Blaine Gabbert as his quarterback… not that Christian Ponder is Peyton Manning or anything…

Tier Two

Doug Martin

Dougie Fresh is the real deal. He had 319 carries last year, which put him at fourth in the NFL. He had 11 rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown last year. With one of the best offensive lines in the league, I expect Martin to pick right up where he left off.

Jamaal Charles

With the the huge changes to the Chiefs organization this offseason, the biggest constant has been Jamaal Charles. He will be the focus for the Chiefs, whether on the ground or through the air. Charles only tallied 35 receptions last year, but this year under Andy Reid I expect that number to nearly double and be around 60-70 receptions.

Trent Richardson

Trent Richardson has been the workhorse for his team for years. With one year under his belt I expect him to notch up the touchdowns totals from 12 to closer to 15. Also, Norv Turner (Browns offensive coordinator) has recently said he expects Richardson to get around 300 carries this year (he received 267 in 2012).

C.J. Spiller

Spiller was tied among running backs for most rushing yards per attempt at 6.0 with Adrian Peterson. With a run first head coach in place Spiller should finally be utilized the correct way. The only question is, can he do it with Kolb or Manuel at quarterback?

Tier Three

Ray Rice

I am lower on Rice than most due to the emergence of Bernard Pierce for the Ravens, and the loss of Vonta Leach. If Leach does come back to his old team, I would definitely bump Rice up to tier two. Rice is still an elite back having rushed for over 1,100 yards and 9 touchdowns last year, but I expect the Raven’s backfield to be a 70-30 split in Rice’s favor.

Marshawn Lynch

Last year Beast Mode reached 1,590 yards, which put him at the third most yards in the regular season among running backs. It will be really interesting to see how his team’s improved receiving corps and Russell Wilson help keep defenses balanced and in return open running lanes for him.

Arian Foster

Foster has been a dominant force for a few years now, but towards  the end of 2012 we started to see his decline. His yards per game, receptions, and yards per reception all have dropped enough to matter since 2010. The question is, is this Foster’s downfall or is it really an another factor such as the ability and skill of his offensive line. Since losing Eric Winston the right side of his O-Line has not been up to par. Either way, I’m not so sure he’s a risk I want to take in fantasy this year.

Alfred Morris

I am pleased to say Alfred led me to second place in one of my fantasy leagues last year! I got lucky enough to grab him in the preseason just when the hype was beginning, and it really paid off. Morris is a bruising back in a high octane offense. The Redskins would be wise to stop rushing RGIII when they get close to the goal line, and that could potentially increase Morris’ touchdown total from the 13 he had last year.

Lesean McCoy

The Eagles were a complete mess last year, and as a Giants fan I loved every second of it. Lesean McCoy though, has always been the most dangerous player on the Eagles squad and I am not looking forward to seeing what Chip Kelly may do with him this year. He will definitely bounce back from his paltry 840 yards and 5 touchdowns last year (only 2 rushing touchdowns, 3 were receiving). Kelly will get creative with his best offensive weapon.

Tier Four

Steven Jackson

Michael Turner had 10 touchdowns in the Atlanta offense last year, and Steven Jackson is better than Turner. He is 30 years old now and doesn’t have a lot of tread left on his tires, but in a high flying offense with Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez the only question is are there enough touches to go around.

Maurice Jones-Drew

Back from his Lisfranc injury I expect MJD to be the focus once again for the Jaguars. In 2011 Jones-Drew had 343 carries for 1,606 yards and 8 touchdowns, plus 43 receptions for 374 yards and 3 touchdowns. If he can come anywhere near that he will be a total steal in the second round of a draft.

Reggie Bush

Reggie Bush did fine last year as a primary back in Miami, picking up 986 rushing yards and 6 rushing touchdowns, and also 292 receiving yards and 2 receiving touchdowns. Now he’s in a skyrocket offense that throws the ball more than any other team, and has Calvin Johnson. The Lions and Reggie Bush were made for each other. I expect him to have over 1,000 rushing yards and around 350 receiving yards.

Matt Forte

Marc Trestman, new coach of the Chicago Bears, has raved about Forte’s skillset this offseason. I expect the Bears to throw the ball a lot with an uptempo offense featuring Brandon Marshall and Forte. With the tall and fast receivers the Bears have in Marshall, Martellus Bennet, and Alshon Jeffrey, I expect a lot of the short yardage passes to be wide open for Matt Forte on runs, draw plays, screens, and passes.

Chris Johnson

CJ2K(?) has a revamped offensive line and with the addition of Shonn Greene at tailback you’d think the Titans plan on pounding the ball down their opponent’s throat. He is still as fast as ever and we all know it only takes one 60 yard touchdown run to save the fantasy day!

Stevan Ridley

No Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd, and possibly Rob Gronkowski for a few weeks. The Patriots leaned on their running game last year more than you might imagine, and I expect them to do so even more this year. Ridley had over 1,200 yard and 12 touchdowns rushing last year and I expect the yardage to rise, but not too much because the Shane Vereen hype is rising faster and faster…

Tier Five

David Wilson

Wilson has the ability to be a top ten running back if he can put it all together. He is already splitting carries with Andre Brown, and I expect it to be a 60-40 split in favor of Wilson, but he is plenty capable of being a goal line and feature back. He just needs to improve in pass protection, catching, and route running. And maybe he already has…

Darren McFadden

The Raiders do not seem to have any true direction with their personnel lately, and this may contribute to a fantasy boost for McFadden. Having abandoned the zone-blocking scheme, the Raiders will let DMC do his own thing and it will produce better results. He NEEDS to stay healthy this year though. The stats haven’t been there lately to prove he is elite, but with that team maddeningly in flux can you really blame McFadden?

Chris Ivory

Going from the New Orleans Saints to the New York Jets is going to be a change of football culture, but Ivory will finally get the chance to be a feature back. He has run hard his career when given the opportunity and seems like a mini Marshawn Lynch. If he stays healthy he can definitely outproduce his average draft position of the 6th round (via ESPN.com).

Darren Sproles

Sproles had 667 reception yards and 7 reception touchdowns last season, and only 244 rushing yards. With Payton back coaching we will see if the rushing yards start going to Mark Ingram or if they stay with an aerial attack and continue using Sproles the way they have been.

Demarco Murray

Demarco Murray is brittle. He is a great running back and if he could stay healthy for a season could reach 1,000 rushing yard, around 8 rushing touchdowns, and 250 receiving yards. I just highly doubt he can stay healthy. If he does he’ll be great. That’s a big if though.

A few clarifications: these tiers are just groups of players I see as “equals” for fantasy, and they are not ranked as they are listed from top to bottom. Also the stats I’ve used have been found on ESPN.com. These are my predictions. I have read many other predictions and studied players, and things will surely change once preseason games start showing glimpses of true NFL game simulation.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading, and feel free to leave me your rankings.

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Summer Movie Reviews (Pt. 1)

It’s summer time, and for me that means time with friends, family, completing my “honey-do” list, and movies. Smoovies one might say. I consider myself a movie nerd. Not in the way that I know every actor/actress or enjoy analyzing deep, layered films, but rather in the way that I enjoy watching movie upon movie upon movie for the entertainment purpose. My brief reviews will be based on how entertaining the film was for me… I hope you enjoy what I have to say about the film’s I’ve enjoyed!

Iron Man 3– The third part of the Iron Man film was very, very fun. Explosions, Tony Stark one liners, great character development, and a surprising twist included. The thing it lacked was believability. A superhuman villain that was hard to believe. There were parts where the good guys should have been able to do more, but to make the movie more interesting they made our heroes tasks more challenging to attempt to enhance the film (which made the film more hard to believe as well). Believability aside, as it is a superhero film, the movie was a step in the right direction overall for the Iron Man franchise, and even a good followup to last summer’s “The Avengers”

Rating: 7.5/10

 

Star Trek: Into Darkness– Again, another super entertaining film with many, many explosions. If you’re a Trekkie at heart I hope this “remodel” of the series suits you, because it is an incredible interpretation of the Star Trek story. The brotherhood and loyalty aspect between Captain Kirk and Spock is taken to a deeper level. The enemy of the film is given a great role and truly has a sinister demeanor. Also, when a film can make me believe the characters are actually on a ship in space getting attacked and flying around, it’s a huge plus.

Rating: 8/10

 

Now You See Me– This movie’s tag line is “in a summer of sequels there’s one movie that is original, unique, with surprises like nothing you’ve ever seen before” , and it is very true. This movie stands strong in that it is very unique and original. It contains many twists, and like real magic tricks, it captures the audience’s attention from start to finish. The movie kept me guessing until the very end. Some may say it’s predictable, but no matter what the movie is fun, entertaining, and magical. If you were to mesh “The Tourist” and “National Treasure”, you’d come up with a movie not really similar to “Now You See Me”, but somewhat reminiscent due to the fun, lighthearted nature that keeps you guessing. It really is difficult to describe this movie… but that’s a good thing.

Rating: 8/10

 

Fast and Furious 6– This movie… just kidding. I’m not ever going to see this. Nothing about stealing/racing/flipping cars, tanks versus cars, cars versus planes, etcetera interests me. But whatever floats your boat…

Rating: pshhh

 

Overall I have enjoyed what this summer has offered so far. We haven’t received anything near the realm of “The Dark Knight” or Rises, the “Harry Potter” movies, or “The Avengers” but Hollywood is still keeping us in the theater. Here are a few more flicks I’m interested in for the second half of the summer of 2013:

  • Pacific Rim- What’s not to love about giant robots fighting giant monsters???
  • The Heat- Sum it up in two words? Lady hilarity. I’ll see it.
  • Monsters University- I never saw “Monsters Inc.”, but this clever idea of them in college has me intrigued.
  • World War Z- Mark me down to see any big budget zombie movie.
  • Despicable Me 2- Those little minions are adorable.
  • The Lone Ranger- I love Johnny Depp in those outlandish roles.
  • Elysium- I highly enjoyed “District 9”, and the directors of it are teaming up to make “Elysium”. Ummm, yes please!

Thanks for reading!

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32 Bold Predictions for the 2013 NFL Draft

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It is very tough mock out the 2013 NFL Draft. I have worked it over and over and over… but I keep coming back to the same teams with a huge question mark. However, I do have some predictions I will throw out just for the heck of it from draftniks and beat writers I have followed. The following is my best guess at what I think could happen during draft night!

 

1. The Kansas City Chiefs, with the 1st overall pick, select…

 

Eric Fisher.

 

It’s been reported that the Chiefs coaching staff prefers Fisher over Joeckel. The choice has got to be down to these two tackles, it’s just a matter of which they prefer. My guess is Fisher (from what I’ve heard).

 

2. Just call it “The Draft of the Offensive Line”

 

Callin’ it. 5 offensive linemen will be drafted in the top 11 picks. That means Joeckel, Fisher, Lane Johnson, and some combination of two of these three: D.J. Fluker, Jonathon Cooper, and Chance Warmack.

 

3. The Best Guard

 

Jonathon Cooper gets drafted before Chance Warmack.

 

After all the talk of Warmack being a top prospect in the draft and the only thing counting against him is the fact that he is solely a guard, I think teams will be more impressed with Cooper’s athleticism.

 

4. Quarterback Conundrum

 

Two quarterbacks will be drafted in the top 10 picks.  At least three quarterbacks, and quite possibly four, will go overall in the first round.  Geno Smith,  Matt Barkley, and either Ryan Nassib or E.J. Manuel.

 

5. The Bills at 8…

 

With the eighth overall pick the Buffalo Bills select not quarterback Ryan Nassib, who is highly rumored to be selected here, but rather Matt Barkley. Supposedly it’s down to one of these two and my guess is they like Barkley’s intangibles enough to take him here.

 

6. Over/Under 9 Trades           

 

I’m taking the over here. This draft is not very top-heavy with talent, but the depth and how quickly some positions will dry out (offensive line, outside linebacker, defensive line), will cause many teams to trade up for “their guy”.  My guess is 10 total trades in the first round.

 

7. Speed Talks           

 

Tavon Austin, the small but amazingly fast wide receiver from West Virginia, will be drafted in the 11-15 range. And more than likely a team will trade up for him. Vikings, Rams, and Jets are just three teams that are said to be interested in Austin.

 

8. The Philadelphia Iggles

 

In the first round the Eagles do one of two things: take Geno Smith at pick 4, or they trade back from 4/ up from the 2nd round pick to select E.J. Manuel at the tail end of the first round. Just a gut feeling. Vick is gone after this year and Chip Kelly will want his own guy at the helm.

 

9. A Target for Bradford

 

The Rams miss out on Austin, but wind up drafting Deandre Hopkins. Sam Bradford should be happy to get someone new to throw to.

 

10.  Silver and Black

 

The Oakland Raiders’ pick at 3 becomes the first pick in the draft to be traded. I don’t see any value matching up with what they need and where they pick, so that coupled with other teams needing one of the elite offensive tackles I bet a trade gets done here.

 

11. Play That Song Mr. DJ

 

D.J. Hayden, cornerback of the University of Houston, is the second cornerback drafted. I expect they go in this order for the first round: Dee Milliner, DJ Hayden, then Xavier Rhodes.

 

12. J-E-T-S, JETS JETS JETS!

 

The New York Jets trade back from pick 13 into the middle of the first round and wind up taking tight end Tyler Eifert with the pick. …. They really need play makers.

 

13. Round 1 Running Back

 

Edie Lacy will get drafted in round 1. He is too talented to fall into the second round, no matter how devalued the position has become. Teams like the Bengals, Packers, Rams, Jets, and Steelers could all use him.

 

14. Lennay Kekua Who?

 

Manti Te’o is not the first middle linebacker drafted. That would be Arthur Brown. But I still think Te’o is a lock for the first round. The Giants, Vikings, Ravens, and Bears are all likely suitors.

 

15. Tackles All Around

 

First it was the offensive tackles, now it’s the defensive tackles. I’m saying four defensive tackles are taken in the top 20 picks. They are: Star Lotuleilei, Shariff Floyd, Sheldon Richardson, and Sylvester Williams.

 

16. 49ers are Movin’ On Up

 

With 14 overall picks in the draft the team to watch is the San Fran 49ers. My guess is they trade up into the mid to late teens and take a defensive linemen. Maybe they go with Ziggy Ansah, Sheldon Richardson, or Star Lotuleilei if any of them are somehow available in the middle of the first round.

 

17. Menelik… How do You Even Say That?

 

Menelik Watson, a left tackle from Florida State University, gets drafted somewhere in the last 7 picks of the first round. If teams stay pat, that means I’m looking at teams like the Packers, Ravens, Texans, and Falcons to possibly draft him. It could happen.

 

18.  IT’S MILLINER TIME

 

Dee Milliner, whom I think will be the first corner taken, does not get taken until at least the tenth pick. I think he’ll be skipped over by the first nine teams, but definitely goes in the 10- 14 range. With news of all of his recent surgeries, it will be interesting to see if he starts to slide…

 

19. Safety is a Priority

 

Kenny Vaccaro is thought to be the top safety of this draft class. I say he goes in between the 12th and 19th pick of the draft. Many, many teams in that range need a safety (Cowboys, Giants, Rams, Saints, Dolphins, Steelers). There was also a report that some teams like him better than safety Mark Barron, who was selected 7th overall in the 2012 draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

 

20. A Different Kind of Trade

 

The Cleveland Browns will trade outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard during the draft at some point, all the while selecting the best OLB available at 6. The pick at 6 could be one of: Barkevious Mingo, Ziggy Ansah, or Dion Jordan.

 

21. 3 Corners in 6 Picks

 

I suspect there will be a run of cornerbacks drafted in the last 7 picks of the first round.  From pick 26 through 31 I bet 3 of these individuals will be taken: Darius Slay, Jonathon Banks, Jamar Taylor, Desmond Trufant, and Blidi Wreh-Wilson.

 

22. Speaking of Corners…

 

Tyrann Matthieu is picked in the second round. Baggage and all.

 

 

The next 10 predictions are simply predictions of players I think specific teams will draft.

 

23. Steelers will take Jarvis Jones in round 1.

 

24. The Eagles will take Kyle Long to fill the offensive tackle need in round 2.

 

25. The New York Football Giants scoop up Chance Warmack.

 

26. The Jaguars jump back into the first round from pick 33 and select Ryan Nassib.

 

27. The Rams take Alec Ogletree in the first to compliment James Laurinaitis.

 

28. D.J. Fluker to the Cardinals in the first round. Hopefully they are able to trade back and achieve this pick.

 

29. The Carolina Panthers select Sheldon Richardson in the first round…. Unless they are able to nab Star Lotuleilei.

 

30. The Atlanta Falcons move up in the draft and steal Tank Carradine from defensive end/ outside linebacker hungry teams like the Broncos and Colts.

 

31. The New England Patriots pick wide receiver Robert Woods… in the second round.

 

32. With the recent troubles coming upon Rolando McClain reports are running rampant that the Ravens will soon release the middle linebacker, thus freeing up a need in the draft. I’m pegging them to take MLB Kevin Minter.

 

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think could happen in the replies!

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Reflecting on: The Walking Dead

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It’s only been a week since season 3 ended, and I’m already having withdrawals.

…Not that I overly enjoyed season 3. Many conversations with friends were spent griping about plot lines, poor character development, and just Andrea in general. But despite its flaws The Walking Dead remains my favorite television show. It is the only show I make sure I watch every night it airs, and only one of two TV shows I watch weekly that is not sports related. (The other being Duck Dynasty. I cannot get enough of that family…)

Season 3 began with our favorite zombie killing group stumbling upon a prison outside of Atlanta, Georgia. They cleared a section of the prison of zombies and made this safe haven their home. Throughout the first few episodes A LOT, and I mean a lot, of action happened. Their was great character growth. Zombies were being killed. People were being killed. A lot of tough moral decisions were being made. Fans were being pleased. Herschel, our once religious father figure veterinarian, became a one-legged, do what is necessary fierce fan favorite. Michionne, the silent warrior, was introduced. Daryl continued being Daryl, a regular shoot ’em the face with your crossbow pro.Our villainous Governor took center stage for main creeper.  And Lori died. All was well.

Then the show slid hard. We spent 3 episodes whose main plot lines were that Rick is friggin’ crazy now and is losing his mind. Another consistent(ly boring) back story was having Andrea trying to decide where her loyalties lie; with the group at the prison, or her new lover, The Governor. Random “fights” between The Governor and our prison group take place, and no resolution is every truly reached in these battles besides many meaningless characters are killed off and Season 4 is coming and Woodbury is finally moving on without its leader. Gah! So much potential!

A friend of mine was telling me that my perception would be much different if I wasn’t watching the episodes one at a time, but rather had the opportunity already to view them on dvd (blu ray strictly for me), without interruption. His point being that the story would flow much better as it progressed and would entertain more than bore.

But therein lies part of the problem… this is a TV show, not a movie or web series. It’s going to be viewed by millions and millions of people one episode per week. Keep us wanting to come back, The Walking Dead! Keep us tantalized with Michionne beheading zombies. With a Daryl/Rick zombie WWE tag team match. With a group loose cannon who is always pushing peoples’ buttons *cough cough- Shane and Merle- *cough cough.

Season 4 does have some things to look forward to though. The main thing being a new showrunner is being introduced. Scott Gimple, who wrote the three episodes “Pretty Much Dead Already”, “Hounded”, and “Clear”, is hailed as an excellent replacement for Glen Mazzara, who had run his stay into the ground. Also, it’s been reported that the character of The Governor will get much more evil, the walkers will be a factor again (finally…), and of course, it’s being promoted as the best season yet.

The season 3 “finale” (if you can truly call it that) left our group taking in the women, children, and elderly from the abandoned Woodbury. Carl is questioning his father’s methods and is not allowing himself to be weak or soft and just committed his first murder in this post-apocalyptic world. Andrea, oh so ironically, got to off herself after being bitten. And Tyrese is here! Comic book fans understand…

The Walking Dead will always have a special place in my heart due to the nature of the show- zombies, moral dilemmas, and a desire for hope. A hope for a safe life. A hope for a promising future. A hope for a cure. As fans let us hope the characters do not find a permanent solution to what they’re searching for, or else The Walking Dead will just be referring to the zombies.

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The Citizens

Album Cover for the Citizens new release.

Album Cover for the Citizens new release.

The Citizens hit the scene last year with their EP “Already Not Yet”. The short, but highly encouraging album consists of three remade hymns (“Amazing Grace”, “In Tenderness”, and “Nothing but the Blood”) and one very powerful closer in their original song “Oh God”. All three hymns are very upbeat with a purpose, and remade to fit the music scene today with the style that The Citizens are trying to achieve- energetic worship in the style of indie (I know, it’s a bit wordy). Regardless of how you would try to categorize their style of worship, one thing is for sure: it is genuine and it is good.

Their new self-titled  album that released this week follows suit of the previous EP as it contains three hymns with the other eight songs being original creations. The band chose to cover two new hymns in “I Surrender All” and “Praise to the Lord”, as well as include “In Tenderness”. Each hymn brings a new dynamic to the album and provides the listener with a different worship experience.  “I Surrender All” slows down the pace and enables to listener to reflect and meditate throughout the track.

The original songs are truly what steal the show though. “Made Alive” boasts a catchy chorus that you’ll get stuck in your head all day (in a good way). The instruments throughout are top notch and unique. The bass in “Hail the King” really stands out, and is a forefront sound when typically just heralded as background noise. Most of all though, it is the lyrics and poetic writing truly written for God that are the cornerstone for the album. These lyrics from their song “I am Living in a Land of Death” exemplify what the band strived for while crafting and writing each song:

 

“So I feel alive with a life that’s not mine,

And I’m believing that it is Your intended design”

 

The song continues and eventually ends with this verse:

 

“So much more than precious gold,

Is the beauty I behold,

Give me the glorious reward,

Of knowing You my King, my Lord.”

 

The Citizens’ calling card is their ability to make worship a natural thing, with their powerful lyrics and style of music that is current with today’s top artists, this band is reaching out to the masses. If you are searching for a different type of worship, one that ups the ante in this genre, be sure and check out The Citizens. There is nothing to regret.

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It’s Amazing How You Think You Know A Person…

… and then they go and amaze you in with a senseless act of selfishness. It’s human nature but we, or at least I, still expect more. The one thing my mind always winds back up at is the idea that people just are who they are. Some people may never change from the bad habits they’ve incurred. Some people are imprisoned by the behaviors they subject themselves to, and have fallen victims to before in their lives. It’s a tough concept to remember about humanity, but when I do I feel more caring, less frustrated, and more Jesus driven.

People are just people. I am no better. We all have a history that has molded us, shaped us, and we have been formed into something, good and bad, by our past. We can grow. We are called to overcome. But more often than not, we are called to help others overcome.

Love.

Empathy.

A heart after God’s own will.

God loves us through thick and thin, we’ve got to learn to love each other through the same.

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