Jul 20, 2010
Good afternoon everyone. I’m going to continue my recent series of posts wrapping up our weekend interviews on Sirius XM Fantasy Football, and we have a lot of good stuff to blog about today. Matt Camp and I talked shop with three of the best beat writers in the business:
John McClain covers the Texans for the Houston Chronicle (@McClain_on_NFL on Twitter):
The Texans want to be more committed to the run game in 2010, considering their high-powered offense in 2009 finished just 30th in running the football. McClain mentioned that it’s hard for the Texans to gain consistency in that respect because their offensive coordinators are often scooped up for other jobs, but new coordinator Rick Dennison is a believer in Gary Kubiak’s system. This should help the RBs stay on the same page (or hopefully turn to the next one) from last season.
McClain believes Steve Slaton, if healthy (he had neck surgery this off-season), will be the starting RB and main ballcarrier in
Houston. Slaton bulked up last year to attempt to show that he can handle a full workload, but it backfired, and he lost a good deal of the explosion that made him a star as a rookie. Still, he caught 44 passes, and there’s no reason to think he can’t be an effective PPR receiver yet again. Ideally, Slaton wants to drop enough weight to play around 205 lbs. in 2010, with a focus on creating longer runs. What he needs to focus on is securing the football, and as McClain so aptly put, “there’s no surgery for fumbling problems.” If Slaton improves, the Texans will then mix in Arian Foster (who finished the season in a flurry) as a bigger, more sustaining type of runner.
Obviously, this all raises a few questions, namely “what will the Texans do with rookie RB Ben Tate?” McClain has an interesting observation regarding Tate, whom the Texans lapped up with a 2nd-round pick in April. Right now, Slaton is dropping weight and looking healthy, while Foster seems to be picking up where he left off last season. But in April, that picture wasn’t nearly as clear. McClain believes the Texans drafted Tate so early because they didn’t have another choice. They needed a bigger back because Chris Brown was terrible in that role last season, and they weren’t sure they could count on Foster, given that he only really performed in three games. If they drafted Tate to push their incumbents, it seems to have worked. Right now, McClain thinks Tate is a distant third to Slaton and Foster on the Texan depth chart. That’s a noteworthy blurb for fantasy, considering Tate’s been a consistent mid-round pick, almost always before Foster and sometimes before Slaton.
At the WR position, McClain reiterates that the Texans really like the potential of young Jacoby Jones, but Jones will have to show consistent responsibility and play before he gets on the field with regularity. Still, Jones’ size and speed make him appealing, and McClain specifies Jones as a fantasy sleeper (something we also believe). But he has a long way to go to beat out Kevin Walter, who had a disappointing 2009 but still signed a big deal with the Texans in the off-season. Walter had a hamstring injury that bothered him all season last year, and it allowed others to get involved in the passing game. But he’s just a smart, heady player, and the Texans love his blocking ability, so Jones doesn’t have much of a shot to beat him out for a starting job at this point. Look for Walter to bounce back, if he’s healthy.
The Texans are erring on the side of caution with TE Owen Daniels, who looked like a superstar in the making last season before an ACL tear ended his 2009 after just 8 games. Daniels is confident he can go full speed in training camp and the preseason, but the Texans won’t make him because they don’t believe he needs the mental reps. A healthy return for OD would make QB Matt Schaub very happy, because Schaub loves Daniels on crossing routes off the bootleg. If Daniels were to get hurt again, McClain believes Joel Dreessen will once again get the majority of the reps at TE. Dreessen is the most balanced of the Texans’ backup TEs. Second-year man James Casey may get the ball more in his hybrid TE/FB/H-back role, while Anthony Hill is a great blocker with stone hands. Rookie Garrett Graham is from Daniels’ alma mater, Wisconsin, and is a similar player, but he’s raw.
Ralph Vacchiano covers the Giants for the New York Daily News (@TheBlueScreen on Twitter):
A lot of questions surround the RB position for the Giants this off-season, but Vacchiano doesn’t believe a whole lot has changed from this year to last. Brandon Jacobs says he never felt like himself last season after tweaking his knee early, and he also mentioned that this knee problem was a lot worse than most people knew about. Vacchiano said that Jacobs’ comments at face value seem to suggest that he’s healthy and ready to go, but it’s natural to doubt that at this point. Jacobs also said he has learned to sit out if he gets banged up, and not play hurt, so as to not injure himself further or hurt the team. But Vacchiano said he doesn’t know how to interpret these comments. Does this mean Jacobs will sideline himself at the first sign of trouble? It’s something fantasy owners may want to take into account.
What does that mean for Ahmad Bradshaw? Vacchiano thinks the injury question applies to him as well, if not more so. Bradshaw played through foot and ankle injuries in 2009, and he required surgery on both feet and his right ankle in the off-season. None of the surgeries were major, but Vacchiano points out that Bradshaw’s game requires him to cut violently, something he struggled with in mini-camps. He only practiced once, and was noticeably limping afterward. That was certainly expected, but Bradshaw is definitely someone to watch in training camp. If both Jacobs and Bradshaw are healthy, expect much of the same: Jacobs to soften the defense, Bradshaw to throw them off balance. But if either can’t play, we’ll have a fantasy headache. Vacchiano believes the battle for the #3 RB job is wide open between DJ Ware, Andre Brown, and Gartrell Johnson.
The questions at RB and the effectiveness of the Giant passing game last season lead Vacchiano to believe that the Giants will still be a pass-first team in 2010. By the time the season ended, it was clear that Steve Smith was the #1 WR and Hakeem Nicks the #2, with Mario Manningham mixing in as well. Manningham has the most speed of the three, but he’s the least polished, and QB Eli Manning trusted the other two guys to be in the right spots more often. Nicks fought through injuries and blossomed late, while Smith has always been one of Eli’s favorites. That kind of left Manningham as the odd man out, though he’s still expected to have a role. With Nicks assuming a full-time starting role, Vacchiano isn’t sure if it’s wise to expect another 100-catch season from Smith. He said 80 might be more like it, to be safe. Don’t be shocked if Nicks and Smith combine for 160 catches though.
It’s more of the same at TE, too. Manning loves Kevin Boss in the red zone, and the Giants love that Boss is effective as both a pass catcher and a blocker (Vacchiano thinks about 50 catches is right for Boss, making him a solid fantasy backup). The Giants love Bear Pascoe as a #2 guy because of a similar balance. In other words, if talented second-year TE Travis Beckum doesn’t learn to block soon, he will have a hard time finding the field. The problem is that Beckum isn’t even an adequate blocker for a catch-first TE, and that’s going to limit what the Giants can do. As it stands right now, Vacchiano put a 15-catch upside on Beckum, which is a lot lower than the Giants would have liked at this point when they drafted him.
David Neal covers the Dolphins for the Miami Herald (@DavidJNeal on Twitter):
Neal confirmed what we assumed, but it’s good to have a word from a source close to the situation: the Dolphins plan on playing straight-up offense this season, which means a lot less involvement in terms of the Wildcat. Of course, with less Wildcat, what happens to Ronnie Brown’s role in the offense? Neal said Brown started off really quickly in his recovery from a Lisfranc sprain, but has fallen off a little bit. Still, Neal expects a similar rotation to last year if Brown is healthy. Brown will receive slightly more than half the touches at RB, while Ricky Williams will get the rest. Both should once again be viable for fantasy lineups.
The Dolphins are confident enough in Chad Henne at QB that the Wildcat will be little more than something they show every
so often. With the addition of WR Brandon Marshall, Miami believes Henne now has a complete receiving corps and one that can attack every level of the defense. Still, they aren’t expecting big-time numbers from Henne. They want him to be more than a game manager, but they believe the team can be successful without Henne throwing for 4000 yards. That seems to reinforce the belief that he’ll be a viable fantasy backup with some upside this year.
As for Marshall, he’s been extremely well-behaved since bringing his talents to South Beach. His teammates are speaking highly of him, and Marshall has made it a point to become “one of the guys” in the locker room. The issue, of course, is his hip, which required surgery, and it’s a little bit more of a problem than the Dolphins knew about at the time of the trade. He should be ready for training camp, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.
What funny is that the “off-field distraction” at the WR position is on the opposite side of Marshall. Neal gave us details of the strange case of Brian Hartline, whose truck was involved in a hit-and-run with a parked car, though there’s no confirmation Hartline was driving the truck or even in Florida when the accident happened. Hartline’s people released a statement signifying that Hartline was uninjured, but no confirmation that he was driving the car. It’s a murky situation, but doesn’t look like much will come of the accident. As such, Neal says Hartline remains the favorite to start on the outside with Marshall, because he’s more physical and faster than savvy vet Greg Camarillo. However, it might be a strong bet that slot receiver Davone Bess will catch more passes than whoever starts on the outside. Bess is fantastic at finding voids, and the slot job is very clearly his. Young Ryan Grice-Mullen man also factor in.