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Fantasy or foolish? Bengals, Browns land three each in top 100 fantasy mock draft; NFL MVP Matt Ryan nearly out of the picture

Published: Friday, July 28, 2017 @ 3:55 PM

Darrelle Revis of the Jets tries to tackle Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green during their game at MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Getty Images
Darrelle Revis of the Jets tries to tackle Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green during their game at MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.(Getty Images)

If you’re a fantasy footballer and a fan of the Bengals, the suggestions of NFL.com Senior Fantasy Analyst Tony Fabiano may appeal on a couple levels as he thinks highly of Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green and believes that rookie running back Joe Mixon is on the rise.

Should you be a combo FF/Falcons fan, not so much.

Fabiano predicts that Atlanta quarterback and defending NFL MVP Matt Ryan will be fantasy’s biggest bust.

Is this guy nuts, or a genius?

In putting up a 10-round mock draft that features 10 selections per round, he has Green going No. 8 overall. His take:

“Green was on pace to finish fifth in fantasy points among wideouts before he went down with an injured hamstring last season, so don't let his finish (34th) fool you. The veteran out of Georgia remains a top-10 overall selection in fantasy drafts.”

In Fabiano’s pre-text, before he rolls out the mock, he writes:

“While the first round of this draft hasn't changed that much, you will see some serious movers and shakers over picks 11-50 (I'm looking at you, Joe MixonTyreek Hill and Martavis Bryant).

With Mixon going in his 30th draft spot: 

“The more I research Mixon, the more excited I get about his prospects at the next level. The Bengals backfield is crowded to be certain, but the rookie should pass Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard on the depth chart. I'll take the risk right here.”

This draft projection pegs Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert at pick No. 88.

Among Browns in there, Fabiano rates running back Isaiah Crowell No. 24, wide receiver Kenny Britt No. 84 and running back Duke Johnson No. 94.

Steelers back Le’Veon Bell is No. 2, wideout Antonio Brown No. 4 and wideout Bryant No. 48.

For the Ravens, running back Danny Woodhead is No. 68, running back Terrance West No. 82 and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin No. 87.

You don’t like this?

What about Ryan, whom Fabian projects at the No. 93 pick, in the 10th and final round. The hack’s take in his opening paragraph (he offers no specific commentary on players selected in rounds 6-10:

“With the turn of the calendar to August and just a few short weeks until the start of the regular season, the fantasy football chatter is heating up across the NFL landscape. Who will be the biggest bust? (Matt Ryan).”

In Fabiano’s estimation, six quarterbacks should be valued higher than Ryan, who last season completed 69.9 percent of his passes for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 117.1 while leading the Falcons to the Super Bowl.

Aaron Rodgers (Packers) No. 36; Tom Brady (Patriots) No. 50); Drew Brees (Saints) No. 55; Andrew Luck (Colts) No. 62; Russell Wilson (Seahawks) No. 77; and Marcus Mariotta (Titans) No. 92.

So, is that all about right?

UCLA’s epic comeback win over Texas A&M ranked as ESPN’s No. 1 game of the year

Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 1:20 PM

In many  ways, it was a season to forget for UCLA. Yes, the Bruins finished 6-6 to score an invitation to the Cactus Bowl, but the season will largely be remembered for the firing of former coach Jim Mora, and of the historically bad run defense, which yielded more than 300 yards a game to its opponents.

And while optimism is bright for the Chip Kelly Era, there was one epic high that may potentially trump people’s view of the Bruins 2017 season.

On September 3, during their regular season opener, the Bruins completed the second-largest comeback in FBS history to beat Texas A&M 45-44. That game was ranked No. 1 on the best games of the year by ESPN’s Jake Trotter.

Trailing 44-10 with a little less than 3 minutes remaining in the third quarter, quarterback Josh  Rosen helped illustrate a legendary comeback. He threw for a career-high 491 yards and threw 4 TD passes in the fourth quarter alone. His “fake-spike” toss to Jordan Lasley with 45 seconds to go sealed the  victory.

No matter what you remember about the 2017 season, which is more than likely the last for Rosen, what he did in the Rose Bowl that Sunday night in September will live on in the annals of Bruins lore forever. It was truly a magical night, and an incredible game.

ESPN includes 2 USC contests on list of 2017 season’s top college football games

Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 1:10 PM

It’s been a memorable season for USC in many ways. The Trojans won their first Pac-12 title since 2008, which was also the last time they got to 11 victories, and now they’re set to play in a New Year’s Six bowl game for the second year in a row when they face Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29.

And the individual games themselves also produced some big moments, such as the victory over Stanford to win the Pac-12 title earlier this month.

Two other games were big enough to make ESPN’s list of the 20 best games of the 2017 season: the Sept. 16 win overtime win against Texas ranked 10 th while USC’s loss at Washington State on Sept. 29 was ninth.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold was singled out in both games, for leading USC down the field for the game-tying field goal against Texas to force OT as well as the strip sack of Darnold that prevented a comeback against WSU.

Marcus Crowley found perfect fit at Miami for his developing skill set

Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 1:05 PM

Verlon Dorminey never had to worry about giving the reins of Trinity Christian Academy’s offense to Marcus Crowley this fall. After waiting a few seasons as a rotational athlete, Crowley was ready to take over as the featured back in Jacksonville and Dorminey was anticipating a breakout year.

For a running back without much of a national profile, Crowley was well established and, most importantly, he had a clear role for the next level. Even before Crowley had the size expected of a true power back, the tailback’s toughness running between the tackles was a defining characteristic. When he arrived at camps almost 30 pounds heavier than his listed weight, Crowley made himself coveted.

“That’s what Miami’s looking for. They were looking for a kid that’s a little bit bigger back,” said Dorminey, Crowley’s high school coach. “Marcus — by the time he graduates — will probably 200-205 pounds, once he gets to that level and we put a few more pounds on him.”

For the past two seasons, Crowley would describe himself as a bruiser. During the past season, though, the halfback transformed from a tough, thin runner into the sort of burly back the Hurricanes will need to fill out their Class of 2019. Until the past few weeks, Crowley was listed as a 6-foot, 165-pound running back. Now he’s up to 195 pounds and his growth helped him piece together a breakout season in Jacksonville.

While Crowley is unranked in the 247Sports composite rankings, the back is due for a significant bump this offseason and had interest from a number of other Power 5 programs. He already had offers from North Carolina State, Georgia, Penn State and UCLA when Miami finally extended its offer during the summer. Last Wednesday, Crowley committed to the Hurricanes.

This past fall, Crowley ran for 1,210 yards and 12 touchdowns on 197 carries, and added another 4 catches for 38 yards. The only obvious flaw in his play was the 4 fumbles he lost this year during the Conquerors’ run to the region finals in Class 5A.

“Just his progress, his maturity,” Dorminey said. “He played a lot as a ninth grader, played a ton as a 10th grader, but this year he was that feature back and just the maturity of how he developed over the season.”

And as Miami began to take notice of Crowley, the junior felt his interest in the Hurricanes solidify. He made his way to Miami Gardens early in the season to watch the Hurricanes beat Toledo, then returned to Hard Rock Stadium for Miami’s win against then-No. 3 Notre Dame in November.

The Hurricanes’ defense includes a pair of Trinity Christian alumni, defensive lineman Kendrick Norton and defensive back Derrick Smith, and they were able to tell Crowley about what it was like to play for Miami. Seeing the Hurricanes in person, particularly for the game against the Fighting Irish, solidified Miami as Crowley’s favorite.

“The atmosphere of the games. It’s a whole different atmosphere than a different college game,” Crowley said. “The fans are crazy and Miami’s bringing the swag back.”

Crowley previously viewed the Hurricanes like a lot of kids around his age do. The idea of Miami was always tantalizing and he can remember small pieces of its latter glory days from when he was really young. Even though they had struggled for the better part of a decade before this season, the Hurricanes were always on Crowley’s radar because of what they could become.

Crowley finally picked up an offer from Miami during its Paradise Camp in July and special teams coordinator Todd Hartley, the Hurricanes’ area recruiter for Jacksonville, started to keep in touch. The descriptions Hartley gave excited Crowley.

“I’ve been interested in Miami …, since I was a kid,” Crowley said. “When Coach Hartley was talking to me it sounded nice and then I wanted to get up there, and when I got up there it was everything he said. It was nice. It felt like home.”

While Crowley is the first running back committed in the class, he’ll most likely wind up being the No. 2 running back for 2019. The Hurricanes appear to be the early front runners for 4-star athletes Kenny McIntosh and Mark Richards, both of whom play running back in high school, and are also in the mix for 5-star running back Noah Cain and 4-star running back Daniel Carter.

Crowley’s powerful running style would be an ideal complement to any of these backs.

“He’s that typical 6-foot, 200-pound back in high school that is going to be tough to deal with and then once he gets to college I’m sure they’ll make him even bigger,” Dorminey said. “I think a lot of that is what they need.”

Ohio State football: What’s driving Buckeyes’ success on the recruiting trail?

Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 1:04 PM

All week long, our Land of 10 reporters following the Buckeyes will address pressing questions on the minds of the Ohio State fan base with our new daily feature. To ask Austin Ward a question, follow along on Twitter and suggest a topic right here. Check back Monday through Friday as we dive into the Ohio State Question of the Day. Go here to see all of our previous answers.

Just in case there was anybody concerned that Ohio State’s recruiting success was slowing down, Urban Meyer and his staff emphatically erased those doubts with a Tuesday tandem of elite targets offering commitments. And just like that, the Buckeyes on Tuesday solidified their chances of finishing with the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class with the early signing period set to open next week.

So, why has Ohio State been so successful putting together this group? I’m not sure there’s just one way to explain it, which I suppose is a big part of the answer.

The success in the NFL of Ohio State products such as Marshon Lattimore is part of the recruiting pitch. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Any top-shelf recruit with plans to head to the NFL has to notice the pipeline the Buckeyes provide to the next level, and it’s an even easier sell when players such as Michael Thomas or Marshon Lattimore turn into stars almost immediately when they get to the next level. It’s no secret Ohio State makes that a part of the pitch, and while Alabama and Michigan can both do the same in some respects, right now the hottest brand in that department is the one with Meyer’s signature on it.

Of course, there are way more factors that go into this process, and at the moment Ohio State has everything trending in the right direction to put together what is shaping up to a special group. It has had relatively stable continuity with the position coaches, which helps to build early relationships and clear expectations of the situation a player will be in once he arrives on campus. The Real Life Wednesdays program has been a major hit with players and families alike, and after a few years it has grown and become more appealing. And, obviously, the Buckeyes are winning a lot of games, competing for championships every year ― and drawing some of the biggest crowds in the nation both in person at the Horseshoe and on television.

Right now, it has to be hard to say no to the Buckeyes. And that’s one surefire way to build a class that is in line to finish No. 1 in the country.

Read more answers to questions about the Ohio State Buckeyes here