I know, I know. It’s June. But I know there are some out there like me that just can’t get into the NBA finals, and whose baseball team sucks (lets Go Cubbies!) So here’s a quick run down of the things I’m looking for from teams that have mini-camps going on and some things that we’ll have to wait until training camp to figure out.
Ray Rice is one of the few workhorse backs in the league. Who’s going to be his handcuff? I’m watching Bernard Pierce and Anthony Allen battle for the main backup role. I expect Pierce to out perform Allen this summer and to open camp as the clear handcuff to Rice.
The wideout position in Baltimore depends largely on Flacco who has been extremely consistent, but unremarkable. He’s thrown for almost exactly 3600 yards and 22/12 Td to INT every year. I don’t expect him to take a step in his 5th year, so only the WR1 will probably have any value. I expect some people will rank Boldin too high in the preseason. Right now Smith’s ADP is in the 6th and Boldin is going off the board in the 10th. I think thats about right for Smith, but I see another decline in Boldin’s stats this year. He is an offseason sell for me.
With all the changes on the defensive side of the ball, the offense looks relatively unchanged. I think you can pretty much plug in last years stats as the projections for this years Bills. The one thing to watch is the changing of the guard at the running back position. I think theres a chance that there could be a complete reshuffling and the contract extension Fred Jackson signed seems to show that the team agrees with me. He is under contract through 2014 (his age 33/34 season) but his cap his is relatively small is he is cut after this year.
The Bengals are young and dynamic. They have aced the draft in terms of getting skill position players. Dalton, Green, and Gresham should be fixtures in that offense for a long time. This young offense is only going to get better from last year when they ranked 18th in total points. The only thing they’re missing is the running back. I’m watching Green-Ellis but I don’t expect to see much. He did average 4.4 ypc in NE last year, but that was with teams focusing on stopping the high powered passing game. I don’t expect to find any running backs worth starting in Cincinnati.
The Browns could warrant their own article. A new QB a new RB and two very inexperienced wideouts make this anyones guess as to who will have fantasy relevance. Weeden may pan out, but rookie QBs rarely (Cam Newton aside) make an impact in their first year. Richardson landed in one of the worst spots for fantasy owners. Not only is he on a below average offense, but he has to play the Ravens, Steelers, and Bengals six times per year.
This one’s easy. Everyone’s value goes up if Manning is healthy. The Broncos are one hit away from Caleb Hanie taking over the offense. John Fox loves running backs, just look at his time in Carolina. McGahee recently said he thinks he can run for 1200 yards saying that if James could do it with Peyton Manning then he can too. He’s not the runner that James is, but I can see someone coming out of the backfield for 1000 and 8-9 tds. I just don’t know if McGahee can continue his late career run. My dark horse at training camp is 2011 UDFA Mario Fannin, he was having a great preseason last year until he got hurt.
The only starting spot up for grabs with fantasy relevance is the 3rd wideout spot. There are a lot of bodies fighting for the last spot, but it could have some relevance as Schaub gets back to his pre-injury 2009 and 2010 season form where he threw for about 4500 yards and 26 Tds each year.
There are a lot of questions about the Colts this year. I’m an Andrew Luck skeptic, but it will be neat to see how he performs and how that affects the value of Wayne and Collie. The biggest fantasy impact will probably come from being able to predict who gets the lions share of carries between Donald Brown and Delone Carter.
How can a state that produces so many football players and has such great winter weather have such bad NFL teams? MJD is consistently drafted in the top 10, but there are a lot of red flags with him. He’s probably going to miss some preseason workouts and that typically leads to a decline in stats the next year. He’s 27 and has an average of almost 360 touches every year for the last 3 years. He’s going to be expected to carry the load for a young and potentially bad Jacksonville team.
I want to see how Charles returns from his injury. This offense is very underrated, with Cassel, Charles, Bowe, Baldwin, and Moeaki. The division is win-able and not too many people are giving them a shot. The current Vegas line on total wins for the Chiefs is 7.5. Take the over, more on that later.
I’m staying away from most things Miami this year. Moore will probably give way to Tannehill. Bush, Thomas and Miller will all eat each others value, and their best wideout is now Chad OchoCinco. Enough said.
Quick, where did the Pats rank in rushing TDs last year? Does third sound too high? They had 18 rushing touchdowns behind only the Panthers and the Eagles. Someone has to step up and take the redzone carries now that Green-Ellis is gone, and that player will warrant starting running back considerations. Keep an eye on the addition of Addai, he might be a sneaky late round pick despite not cracking 500 yards rushing since 2009.
New York Jets
The Jets ranked in the bottom third in just about every offensive category last year. I want to see how rookie Steven Hill adjusts to an NFL offense, and can Shonn Greene finally handle the load? The Jets defense will keep them in games, but the offense needs to improve.
Carson Palmer finished 8th in passing yards last year over the last 8 weeks of the season. I’m watching his chemistry with a young and dynamic receiving corp. There is going to be a lot of value in Oakland in the late rounds of redraft leagues. Heyward-Bey and Moore will be the battle to watch. Which receiver will stand out and become Palmers number one option?
Some of the biggest fantasy news out of Pittsburgh for this year happened in week 17 of last year. After most fantasy owners stopped paying attention after the week 16 championship, Mendenhall tore his ACL. The running back position is very cloudy at the moment. Right now Redman is the favorite to be the workhorse early but might get some pressure from Dwyer or the rookie Rainey. Also at some point Mendenhall might come back and cloud things up even more.
Also the receiver position is going to be fun to watch, Wallace hasn’t signed his tender and his production really tailed off at the end of the year last year. His last 100 yard game was week 7 against Arizona. Antonio Brown entering his third year is also playing for a new contract.
The talk out of San Diego is that Mathews will be given every chance to carry the load for the Chargers. The thing to watch in camp is how Rivers and Floyd reacts to the departure of Vincent Jackson.
The obvious story to watch is the camp battle between Hasselbeck and Locker, but I think the most fantasy relevant story is that CJ1.04K will be back for a full training camp this year and I think that will make all the difference. There have been a few articles saying that he looked disinterested and slow during games, but I think that’s how I’d look if I held out too. He’s motivated and talented, he’s a buy candidate for me. Britt, Washington, and Wright could be a very good wide receiver corp, but someone has to be able to get them the ball.
Ryan Williams is coming back from injury, will he be able to regain his explosiveness? The addition of Michael Floyd to Fitzgerald should help whoever wins the quarterback camp battle. Kolb should benefit from having an offseason to work with the offense, but Skelton should put up a decent fight.
This offense should be more explosive than the 14th ranked yards per play that they were in 2011. There should be two torches passed this year, I predict that Rodgers and Jones score more fantasy points than Turner and White.
2011 had a resurgence of fire power for the Panthers. The only thing I’m watching at mini camp is who takes the number two spot at wider receiver, early money is on Brandon LaFell.
This is the best offense Chicago has fielded, ever, on paper. Things I’m looking for in camp are will Matt Forte sign his tender? What does the often talked about Hester package look like?
DeMarco Murray burst onto the scene in week 7 last year, and carried a lot of fantasy teams into the playoffs. I’m looking to see how he carries the load from day 1 and want to see how nicked up he gets in camp. This offense has a chance to be very good, but I think the only way that happens is if Bryant is Romos top target and not Miles Austin.
With Stafford, Best, Leshoure, and Johnson the Lions have assembled some of the best young offensive talent in the league. For fantasy purposes the only one I’d trust to give me a full season is Johnson. Stafford put it all together last year and delivered 5000 yards and over 40 touchdowns, but his shoulder is put together with silly putty. Best is a hard tackle from a concussion, and to LeShoure smoking/eating pot is more important than football.
As long as Aaron Rodgers is your quarterback you’ll have a chance to win. There isn’t much value in the running back position. I’m watching the wideouts. Nelson was one of the best surprises last year for fantasy owners, but this year I’m looking at Randall Cobb. On this team there are 5 guys that could have 1000 yards receiving, the trick is going to be picking which one (or two) does it.
Minnesota will be in the running for the top pick in the NFL draft next year. I don’t believe in Ponder as my fantasy quarterback or as an NFL signal caller. Adrian Peterson has a lot of miles on his legs (around 1600 touches in 5 years) and he’s coming back from a severe knee injury. He has an ADP of around 20 right now, but I think that’s too much risk to take. Yeah he’s already out running his teammates, but that’s in a straight line.
As long as Brees gets signed before training camp I won’t be worried about him this year. If you’re in a redraft league look to see his ADP slide from the current 13 down to the 20’s as training camp approaches and then take advantage of that. Owning a Saint running back is maddening, Ingram, Sproles, Thomas, and Ivory have all have had pretty good value at different times in their career. I want to see how they’re used, my feeling right now is Ingram will get the carries when the game is close or the Saints have the lead as a more traditional back and Sproles comes in on long down and distance or the Saints are behind.
New York Giants
Eli Manning is a great NFL quarterback and a solid fantasy pick. Last year he averaged 16.45 fantasy points, which puts him 4-10 points behind the elite guys (Rodgers, Newton, Brees, Brady) but 2-3 ahead of the average guys (Rivers, Roethlisberger, Sanchez). I want to see how the addition of David Wilson changes the run/pass dynamic of the team. Also, can Cruz repeat what he did last year? He just strikes me as a player thats going to take a step back in his sophomore season.
My first pick in a dynasty startup today would be McCoy. I think you’ll get pretty much what you got last year out of Vick, 3800 total yards and around 30 total touchdowns. I want to see how Maclin comes back from being sick all of last offseason, and how Jackson plays after getting paid.
Sam Bradford has quite a bit to prove this year. This front office/head coach didn’t draft him, so this year is the year that he has to make that step forward. The Rams spent 2 of the top 100 picks in the draft on the wide receiver position, so at least he has options to throw to. Steven Jackson surprised me last year, I thought it would be a down year for him, and he stayed pretty steady. It will happen this year, the addition of Pead this offseason shows I was one year too early.
Easily the best fantasy team defense last year. They’ve added 5 guys that will need to get sorted out during camp. I’m watching LaMichael James, and Moss as the two guys that could contribute most from that group of 5 new additions. I’m also curious to see if Kaepernick can push Alex Smith for the starting spot.
I am not a Marshawn Lynch believer. He was a decent surprise for owners last year and his Beast mode runs made highlights in the fantasy playoffs won a lot of games, but it was also a contract year. The only flaw in my own thinking is there’s really not anyone to take the ball from him. I’m looking at Doug Baldwin from, the wideout group he quietly put up 50 more fantasy points than any other receiver in Seattle last year, and I think he grows that margin even more this year.
There are no more excuses for Freeman. He followed up a promising 2010 with a very disappointing 2011. The team went out and got a new lineman in Nicks, a top end wideout in Jackson, and drafted a running back in Martin. They do play in a tough division, but there’s no reason they shouldn’t put up points.
Let the RGIII era begin in Redskin nation. I think RGIII outscores Luck over their fantasy careers. Unfortunately he has nobody to throw to. None of the group of Garcon, Hankerson, Moss, or Morgan scare me as an opposing defensive coordinator. Helu is a serviceable back and there have been many fantasy victories riding Shanahan’s workhorse backs. But as long time players know Helu’s chances of putting up a big season are about as good as any other running back on the Redskins roster.