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.''
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.
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.
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.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott had a mostly disappointing Week 13 performance in a win against the New Orleans Saints. Prescott led the Cowboys to the Thursday Night Football victory by completing 26 of his 40 pass attempts for 238 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He "added" negative three yards on three rushing attempts. Prescott was bailed out on an amazing catch by Michael Gallup for his lone touchdown of the night. He's now been under 250 yards in two of the past three Cowboys games, but should have his receivers back at full strength against an exploitable Washington defense in Week 14.
Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff will have a favorable matchup in Week 13, going up against a Vikings defense that is allowing the seventh most fantasy points to opposing passers this season. Minnesota has allowed 11 passing touchdowns over their last five games but Goff has thrown for only 10 touchdowns all season through 10 games played. Goff is averaging only 169 passing yards a game over his last three played and may be without the teams most dynamic offensive weapon D'Andre Swift. It's possible the embattled Goff could post a positive line yardage wise but has only three touchdown passes over his last six games. It would not be wise to trust Goff in Week 13, even in two-quarterback formats.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith managed only two receptions for 15 yards on seven targets in Thursday's loss to Dallas. Smith's production has dipped in the last two weeks as he has posted 31 yards or below in the last two contests after getting at least 44 yards in all three contests prior to that. The WR hasn't shown consistency this year and he's only a flex play at best if the matchup is favorable.
Detroit Lions T.J. Hockenson will face a Vikings defense in Week 13 that is allowing the fourth fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season. The preseason hype regarding a breakout season for Hockenson has evaporated as the talented tight end's fantasy value continues to plummet. Hockenson found the end zone on Thanksgiving but has amassed only 86 receiving yards over his last three games. The Lions could attempt to feature Hockenson more with running back D'Andre Swift on track to miss this matchup but the Vikings have allowed only one touchdown to the tight end position all season. Hockenson could once again struggle to post TE1-type numbers this weekend.
New Orleans Saints tight end Nick Vannett finished with three receptions for 48 yards on four targets in Thursday's loss to Dallas. Vannett will be seeing a larger role going forward with Adam Trautman (MCL) currently out. The TE managed only one reception for 11 yards and a score last week so he did much better this week. Nevertheless, he will need to show consistency before he can be considered a streaming option in fantasy.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney is trending towards continuing his role as the teams lead receiver in Week 13 against the Cardinals. With teammate Allen Robinson II missing practice once again Thursday, Mooney should lead the team again in targets in the vertical passing game. But there is a tough test in front of him against a Cardinals defense that is allowing the 10th fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers. Arizona has been solid limiting downfield plays, a place where Mooney has thrived en route to racking up 10 receptions for 244 yards over the last two weeks. Mooney's value will be maximized in full-PPR formats, even with the uncertainty at the quarterback position heading into the weekend.
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram II recorded 10 carries for 28 yards and one reception for -2 yards on two targets in Thursday's loss to the Cowboys. Even with fellow backfield mate Alvin Kamara (knee) out, Ingram struggled on Thursday. In five games with New Orleans this season, the 31-year-old has only recorded more than 50 rushing yards once. Ingram is only a secondary option in fantasy at this point given he hasn't posted excellent numbers in the rushing or passing game consistently.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Deonte Harris finished with four receptions for a season-high 96 yards and a score on eight targets in Thursday's loss to Dallas. Harris had his best performance of the year though 70 of his 96 yards came on his touchdown catch. The WR has been somewhat of a frustrating fantasy option this season given his up-and-down weeks. In the two weeks prior to Week 13, Harris had a combined 20 yards in two contests. It will be hard to trust the 23-year-old on a weekly basis given his inconsistency, so it's best to only consider him a flex play at best in favorable matchups going forward.
Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery will go up against a Cardinals defense in Week 13 that is allowing the ninth fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. Arizona was terrorized by the Panthers Christian McCaffrey in Week 10 but have allowed only four total touchdowns to the running back position all season. The Bears leaned on 39 pass attempts from quarterback Andy Dalton on Thanksgiving but would be wise to find a way to generate more touches for Montgomery. Touchdowns and yards have been tough for Montgomery from a fantasy perspective this season but is averaging 16.14 carries this season. Montgomery will represent low-end RB2 value for Week 13.