Fri Dec 3 1:54am ET
By JOE REEDY
AP Sports Writer
JoJo Wooden, director of player personnel for the Los Angeles Chargers, stands on the field as players warm up before an NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. JoJo Wooden is hoping that last years interview with Washington for the general manager opening serves as a springboard to other opportunities. Wooden, the Chargers' director of player personnel, has built up a strong resume in nearly 26 years within the league, starting as a scout with the New York Jets to now overseeing the Chargers' pro and college scouting operations. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)
COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) JoJo Wooden thought after he was one of the final cuts by the Arizona Cardinals during training camp in 1993 that his best avenue to progress in football would be through coaching. He later discovered that scouting was his natural calling.
That decision has led to a 25-year career in NFL front offices and could land Wooden a general manager spot.
The 52-year-old Wooden oversees the Los Angeles Chargers pro and college scouting departments as Director of Player Personnel. He came to the Chargers in 2013 after a 16-year stint with the New York Jets.
Compared to coach Brandon Staley or general manager Tom Telesco, Wooden might not be an easily recognizable name to fans, but he is well-known in league circles. The NFL's Football Operations department has him on a short list of minority candidates that teams should consider when general manager openings occur during the upcoming offseason.
''The best thing I heard was from (former Jets GM) Mike Tannenbaum, who said he did not make a decision without checking with JoJo first about it,'' Telesco said.
With college football winding down and the Chargers in the thick of playoff contention, offseason job prospects are the furthest thing from Wooden's mind.
''I'm just taking care of the task ahead,'' he said. ''I will always be prepared when I get an opportunity and just see what happens.''
Those who know Wooden best not only point to his football knowledge, but his lack of self promotion. Scott Pioli, a longtime mentor who first met Wooden at Syracuse University, said that has always been Wooden's way of operating.
''In a profession that has become very much about people self promoting, he still remains one of the most humble people I know. He's outstanding at what he does,'' Pioli said. ''Watching him develop, it makes me happy because he's done everything the right way throughout his career.''
After having only two Black general managers in 2020, the league made gains during the offseason with three of the seven vacancies filled by minority candidates. According to the NFL's 2021 Diversity and Inclusion report, 28 of the 59 GM candidates interviewed were minorities compared to only three the prior year.
Wooden received his first general manager interview this past offseason with the Washington Football Team. Even though he didn't the job - Washington ended up hiring Martin Mayhew - he considers it a good learning experience for the future.
''I enjoyed the conversations with coach (Ron) Rivera and (Dan) Snyder. You didn't know what was going to come from it, but it was a great opportunity to meet people you didn't know and learn their approach,'' Wooden said.
Wooden discovered that scouting might be a better fit while he was an assistant coach at American International College, a Division II school in Springfield, Massachusetts. He said getting to know a player and their background along with analyzing their strengths and weaknesses appealed to him more than the coaching part.
Pioli was a graduate assistant at Syracuse when Wooden was a player. The two remained in close contact, and when Pioli went to the New York Jets as Director of Player Personnel in 1997, he hired Wooden as a scouting assistant. The entry-level job involved cataloging and cutting evaluation tapes, keeping the pro roster boards updated and watching tape for what was a tiny pro personnel department at the time.
Wooden stayed with the Jets when Pioli left to join Bill Belichick in New England in 2000. He spent his first 10 seasons in New York mainly working on the pro scouting side before being named assistant director of player personnel in 2007. The majority of Wooden's final six years with the Jets were related to college scouting, but he was also the only member of the personnel staff that had duties in both college and pro personnel.
During Wooden's 16 years with the Jets, he credits Dick Haley, Bill Parcells and Pioli for helping to teach him the scouting profession, along with former general managers Terry Bradway and Tannenbaum for their approaches.
He also worked with five different coaches and saw an ownership change when longtime owner Leon Hess died in 1999 and Woody Johnson won the rights to purchase the franchise in 2000.
Wooden came to the Chargers after the 2013 NFL draft when Telesco began to revamp football operations. Telesco was hired after the 2012 season, but moves in scouting and personnel departments largely do not occur until after the draft.
Telesco said Wooden's background operating in both college and pro scouting as well as staying with one team for 16 years appealed to him.
''When we come into the league, someone has to teach us about how the league works and putting a program together. He had some great people that he learned under,'' Telesco said. ''This is a heavy scouting job but also a lot of it is working in the office with coaches and pro scouts. He needs to have the short-term vision - like what running back we might have to sign to the practice squad - but also a long-term look at how college players will project.''
Wooden's ability to juggle many different responsibilities in season - from talking with scouts to checking with agents about certain players - might be his biggest quality. It is also what Wooden was looking for when he switched coasts.
''I'm definitely not the same person compared to when I first walked in here. I think I just know the league better,'' Wooden said. ''When I left New York, I was looking for just an opportunity to grow, see more and be exposed to more.''
The interview with Washington and a possible playoff appearance by the Chargers should bolster Wooden's prospects this offseason. He is also hoping that the hirings of Brad Holmes in Detroit and Terry Fontenot in Atlanta - who have similar resumes as Wooden - will benefit him.
''I think the hardest part is, I think you can have a plan of how you want to do it, but until you're actually sitting in the seat, then that's where you have to execute your plan,'' Wooden said. ''Things are going to pop up in your day other than football operations. You have to learn time management, balance that and have good people in place to be able what you want to accomplish.''
New York Giants wide receiver Kenny Golladay has yet to find the end zone and will look to score his first touchdown of the season against the Miami Dolphins in Week 13. He's been a disappointment for fantasy managers in 2021, catching 23 passes for 372 yards over eight games. Golladay will have a tough matchup this Sunday and is expected to be shadowed by standout corner Xavien Howard. The Dolphins have been tough on WR1s this year and rank eighth in DVOA against the opponent's top targets. Golladay could be without starting QB Daniel Jones (neck) as he's considered questionable for Sunday's game. Even with Jones, the former Detroit Lion is a boom-or-bust flex in Week 13.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley continues to work his way back from a low-ankle sprain. The 24-year-old was removed from the injury report and is set to see a full workload against the Miami Dolphins in Week 13. Since returning from a four-game absence in Week 11, the former No.2 overall pick has rushed for 65 yards on 19 attempts while catching 10-of-11 targets for 44 yards over his last two games. The Miami Dolphins have been solid against the run this season and rank 14th in DVOA. Despite Barkley's recent lackluster performances, he is the Giants' most explosive offensive weapon; whether it's quarterback Daniel Jones (neck) or Mike Glennon under center, the star running back remains a must-start option and is a borderline RB1 in Week 13.
Dallas Cowboys TE Dalton Schultz posted five receptions for 43 yards in Week 13 against the New Orleans Saints.
Fantasy Spin: Schultz finished second on the team in both catches and receiving yards in Week 13, topping 40 yards receiving for the fourth time in five games. His production has tailed off following a hot start, but he's still passable as a fringe TE1.
Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup had five receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints in Week 13.
Fantasy Spin: With Amari Cooper clearly not all the way back, Gallup (9) trailed only CeeDee Lamb (13) in targets. It was mostly underneath stuff, but he caught a nice fade route to put Dallas on the board. It's hard to know exactly what Gallup's involvement will be once Cooper is back up to speed, but he should be playable as a flex in Week 14.
Dallas Cowboys WR Amari Cooper (illness) caught two passes for 41 yards in Week 13 against the New Orleans Saints.
Fantasy Spin: Cooper caught both of his targets but spent a lot of time on the sidelines, trailing Michael Gallup and even Noah Brown in targets in his return from COVID. He'll get a week-plus to further recover his stamina before the Cowboys battle division rival Washington in Week 14. Pencil him in as a possible WR3 with upside in that one.
Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott carried the ball 13 times for 45 yards against the New Orleans Saints on Thursday, Dec. 2. He added two receptions for two yards.
Fantasy Spin: As modest as Elliott's final line was, bear in mind he had a 10-yard carry just before the two-minute warning with the game already decided. His 12 carries during the competitive part of Week 13 resulted in 35 yards, a miserable 2.9 YPC. To say Elliott doesn't look right would be an understatement, and it's anyone's guess why Dallas isn't going to Tony Pollard and telling him to keep the ship afloat until Elliott can turn the corner on whatever is happening with his knee. For fantasy owners, you'll have to decide when enough is enough. You certainly can't justify Elliott as an RB1 or really even an RB2 at this point. Maybe next week he'll get back on track. Maybe not. If you wanted to sit him until he delivers another strong outing, no one could fault you.
Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott completed 26 of his 40 passes for 238 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT against the New Orleans Saints on Thursday, Dec. 2.
Fantasy Spin: While the Cowboys moved to 8-4 on the season with a 27-17 win, Prescott and the offense weren't particularly impressive, making just enough big plays to get the win. That was especially true in the running game where Ezekiel Elliott couldn't get anything going, but Tony Pollard and CeeDee Lamb gained 104 yards on two carries. The passing game was much the same, moments of brilliance mixed in with long bouts of mediocrity. Bottom line, Prescott, who hasn't thrown for more than two TDs in a game since Oct. 17, needs to play better. He should remain serviceable as a QB1 at Washington in Week 14.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Malik Turner caught his lone target in a Week 13 win over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football. Turner's catch went for a 10 yard gain and gives him eight catches for 61 yards on the season. Turner is mostly a special teamer but with Amari Cooper (COVID-19) only playing on 35% of the Cowboys snaps and Cedrick Wilson (ankle) out, Turner saw a little more run on offense. He's not a fantasy option even in the deepest formats.
Dallas Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein made all five of his kicks in a Week 13 win over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football. He attempted two field goals and three extra points and made all five of those kicks. The field goals came from 55 and 34 yards out. Zuerlein has been a solid kicker all season long and should continue in that role for the remainder of the year.
New Orleans Saints WR Tre'Quan Smith had two receptions for 15 yards during the team's Week 13 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Fantasy Spin: While Smith did little, his seven targets tied for second on the team behind Deonte Harris, who is facing a multi-game suspension that could begin as early as next week. If Harris is gone, Smith could offer some short-term appeal as a flex candidate.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (COVID-19) returned to the field in Week 13 but played sparingly, making just two catches for 41 yards. He ended up only seeing two targets in his first game back after suffering from COVID-19 without being vaccinated. Cooper only played on 35% of the offensive snaps for Dallas in this game. He should be back to his full role in Week 14, but won't be able to be relied on as more than a high-floor WR3 in that game.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup caught a touchdown pass in a Week 13 win over the New Orleans Saints. Gallup's touchdown was the only score the Dallas passing game was able to score. In total, Gallup saw nine targets, catching five passes for 36 yards and the score. His touchdown came on a fantastic catch on a goal line fade from a yard away in the first quarter. With Amari Cooper (COVID-19) only playing sparingly in this one, Gallup operated as the WR2 on the Cowboys offense. He'll likely fall back into his WR3 role in Week 14 against the Washington Football Team.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Noah Brown made two catches in a Week 13 win over the New Orleans Saints. Brown saw three targets and gained a total of 14 yards with his two grabs. With Amari Cooper (COVID-19) playing sparingly and Cedrick Wilson (ankle) out, Brown operated as the third wide receiver in this game. He'll likely make his way back to his minor role in Week 14 with Cooper expected to be able to play in full.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (concussion) returned to the field in Week 13 after missing Week 12 due to a concussion he suffered the previous week. Lamb led the Cowboys in catches, targets, and yards, catching seven of the 13 balls thrown his way for 89 yards. It wasn't a great game in general for the Cowboys passing attack, but Lamb looked healthy and should return to his solid WR1/2 numbers going forward.
Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz made five catches in a Week 13 win over the New Orleans Saints. Playing on Thursday for the second week in a row, Schultz was targeted five times and caught all five for 43 yards. It wasn't a great game for the Cowboys offense in general, but Schultz did the best with the opportunities he was given. He ended up second on the team in catches and yards and should be able to maintain TE1 numbers throughout the rest of the season.
New Orleans Saints LB Kwon Alexander was credited with nine tackles (seven solo) against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday, Dec. 2.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (knee) struggled his way through another game in Week 13's Thursday Night Football matchup against the New Orleans Saints. "Zeke" ran the ball 13 times for 45 yards and caught two of his three targets for just two more yards. Once again, Elliott was outplayed by Tony Pollard, who looked healthy and explosive while Elliott slogged through, clearly hampered by his knee injury. There were rumors that Dallas could hold Elliott out completely, but they've allowed him to keep playing despite his struggles. He can't be seen as more than a high-floor RB3 until he shows that his injury has improved.
Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard scored a huge touchdown in a Week 13 win over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football. Pollard ran the ball seven times, gaining 71 yards and scoring a touchdown while adding two catches for three yards. Pollard was actually stuffed for just nine yards on the ground in the first half, but a 58-yard rushing touchdown in the second half made his teammates and fantasy managers happy. Once again, Pollard looked more explosive than injured starter Ezekiel Elliott (knee). If the Cowboys finally decide to actually let "Zeke" sit out a game to rest, Pollard would immediately jump into the RB1 conversation.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown will have a tantalizing matchup in Week 13 against the Vikings. Minnesota is allowing the second most fantasy points to opposing receivers this season, surrendering 14 touchdowns to the position this season. The rookie receiver is averaging six targets a game over his last seven played and 16 different receivers have posted 10-plus fantasy points against the Vikings defense through 12 games. St. Brown earned raves in training camp and has made small progress each week in an abysmal Lions offense. But St. Brown is not worth a gamble in fantasy lineups and yet has an opportunity to flash on the waiver wire radar moving forward if he can deliver against a vulnerable Vikings secondary.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Kalif Raymond could have an opportunity to make some plays in Week 13 against a shaky Vikings secondary. Minnesota is currently allowing the second most fantasy points to opposing receivers and 17 different receivers have posted 50-plus receiving yards against them. Raymond has contributed some solid stat-lines this season but has only 12 targets and 45 receiving yards over his last four games. Raymond will carry an extremely low floor into Week 13's action.