Jul 29, 2012
Today is the first day all 32 teams will be at training camp, so it is about time to officially kick off our preseason coverage.
Obviously, we have been hard at work adding new and updating existing articles, and we have been cranking out a lot of player and injury updates on the site for a little over a week.
We’re going to be rolling out a redesigned Subscriber Homepage hopefully this coming week, and I think it will make our index page a lot cleaner and easier to navigate, and since we’ve already updated a lot of our key articles within the last 1-3 days, we’ll probably start our usual preseason content schedule the week after this week, yet we’ll obviously be still updating and adding a bunch of articles.
It’s a little too soon to writeup a full-fledged “Stock Watch” article, which is a huge part of our preseason material, but there’s enough going on to merit an extensive blog post to cover some straggler items going on right now in the league. The first Stock Watch report will likely come late this week, once all teams have at least practiced in training camp 3-4 days.
The Cardinals were the first team to report to camp and start practicing, and RB Beanie Wells wasn’t ready to go, so he started on PUP. That’s a bad sign. I’m not convinced Ryan Williams will be “the guy,” but if his recovery continues to go well, he’s absolutely in the mix to be at worst a changeup and 3rd-down back. And if Wells is out, then Williams (if healthy) will get a chance to show what he can do. Wells is talented, but I think a healthy Williams is a little more gifted, so he’s the guy I’m targeting, not Wells.
The Bills started camp and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick wasted no time and started slinging the ball all over the field. Considering he played hurt the second half of the season and that his receiving corps is in pretty good shape right now and has good depth and better speed, I’m already warming back up to Fitz as a nice backup or #2 in 2-QB leagues. I really hope Marcus Easley can stay on the field because he’s intriguing as hell.
Some solid vibes so far with some young Bear players, as rookie Alshon Jeffrey and Evan Rodriguez have been flashing a bit thus far. Jeffrey may still be a little raw as he transitions to the pros, as he’s shown in camp, but he can make contested catches and use his physicality to his advantage, and Rodriguez could help this offense right away as a do-it-all type of player.
The vibes are pretty good thus far in Cleveland, although QB Brandon Weeden had a rough first day. RB Trent Richardson does nothing but impress, and newcomer WR Josh Gordon has already flashed and has given a glimpse of why the Browns took a somewhat risky flyer on him in the supplemental draft and giving up a 2nd-round pick in the process. Mohamed Massaquoi certainly feels some pressure, and his weight is down and he’s moving better in camp, so it might bring out the best in him. When you factor in the solid (and young) OL here, I really like what the Browns are doing. They could actually have a great offense in 1-2 years. If Gordon plays up to his potential, he could be the #1 WR, which would make Greg Little one heck of a #2.
In Denver, all eyes are on QB Peyton Manning, and so far, so good. WR Demaryius Thomas is really talented and wants to be the #1 guy, but wideout Eric Decker continues to be the guy with whom Manning is developing the best chemistry. It’s a work in progress, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Decker is a little slow off the mark (although that won’t matter for fantasy if he’s scoring TDs), but it’s blatantly obvious that Decker is a great player to target in the 5th or 6th round, given his potential and value in drafts.
Also in Denver, the RB situation is a pretty big story that needs to be watched. There’s no question veteran RB Willis McGahee is the #1 back, but there will be a lot of work for a second back. Obviously, the hope and expectation is that rookie Ronnie Hillman will be that guy, and Hillman has gotten off to a solid start and has flashed his speed. But if Knowshon Moreno makes this team, that’s a huge problem for Hillman unless he’s stellar in every way and is impossible to keep off the field. Moreno, in theory, would be a really solid #2 RB. He may not have Hillman’s speed, but he has experience and can be very effective as a changeup and 3rd-down back. I’ve been burned in the past being overly excited with complementary backs, so I’m going to be careful to value Hillman correctly.
I know Detroit’s Titus Young has been lighting it up in camp already, but I’m just not yet sold on him as a potential breakout player. He’ll probably finish with solid stats, but I’m just not yet sold on his role and, thus, his reliability. If rookie WR Ryan Broyles can get on the field, he’ll have to be in the slot, so Young will have to earn snaps on the outside over veteran Nate Burleson, and I’m not sure he will. There’s a lot of production to go around, and Young’s emergence is good news for their offense, but I’m still somewhat skeptical about Young, who is still only the #3 WR, even if Broyles can’t play.
I’ve drafted Detroit’s Kevin Smith in the 14th or 15th round a few times already this year, and we’ve been all over him for months as your likely Week One starter in Detroit, but get ready for his draft stock to start rising. Mikel Leshoure is not only out the first two games, but he’s also already had a hamstring issue in camp, so he’s not exactly looking like a steal in fantasy this year. He’ll be a big factor later in the year if healthy, but they could be slow with him early on, so Smith looks like a nice rental player for early in the season, at worst. He’s healthy and reported to camp in fantastic shape once again.
There’s some good news for Green Bay’s RB Alex Smith, who managed to avoid the PUP list to open camp, which was yet another step toward fantasy relevance this year. Our position on Green has been covered throughout the site, but our interest is mainly for dynasty and keeper leagues. For 2012, his ceiling is probably only a viable flex starter, and that’s only if James Starks is hurt or if Green is too good to keep off the field once the season progresses. But it’s so far, so good, for Green.
Also in Green Bay, WR Randall Cobb is definitely on the radar. I think some people are going a little overboard for him for 2012, but there’s no question he has a chance to emerge as a player who is too good to keep off the field. If that’s the case, he’ll play at Donald Driver’s expense, since Cobb is really an inside receiver for this offense. Cobb will play more, but unless there are injuries here, he’s probably a year away from truly being relevant for fantasy. Even if he’s ready, you’re still looking at probably the #4 option in the passing game here. There’s a lot of production to go around, but there are also a lot of options.
Also in Green Bay, it was not a great sign to see TE Jermichael Finley suffer a mild concussion. It’s not a big issue, most likely, but Finley continues to be a bit of a pain in the ass, given the high expectations he brings to the table due to his special skill set.
In Houston, WR Andre Johnson was forced out of practice today with a groin injury. That is obviously a terrible sign, especially since he had a knee procedure in the spring. The first things to go on a football player are his legs, and you have to wonder aloud if Johnson’s issues below the waist will continue to dog him.
We learned last week that Colt RB Donald Brown will be challenged for snaps, especially since they want to be physical with their running game, and that’s exactly why Brown hasn’t been on our list of players to target and Delone Carter is. Granted, Carter’s extremely low ADP is a big reason he’s on our list, but I think he has a chance. I’m certainly not expecting him to be a volume runner here unless Brown is hurt, but I did see some flashes from Carter last year that lead me to believe he has a chance to surprise on the chance he actually gets a high number of carries (15+). Carter has to protect the ball and stay healthy, but while Carter is far from special, I do think he has a chance.
Although WR Dwayne Bowe is still a no-show, there are some solid vibes thus far in KC, as Jamaal Charles is practicing and splitting reps with Peyton Hillis, who will clearly have a large role. And WR Jon Baldwin is seeing valuable time with the starters and flashing serious potential. I basically hate Matt Cassel, but the guy’s got a lot around him, assuming Bowe is in the mix and happy enough.
The Dolphins did get QB Ryan Tannehill signed and on the practice field quickly, even seeing time with the ones, as he apparently has a chance to compete for the starting job. With Brian Hartline still not yet 100%, they worked out Braylon Edwards, which is clear evidence that this receiving corps is a mess. Their RB situation is a mess as well. While Reggie Bush is talking about leading the league in rushing, veteran Steve Slaton, of all people, has been in the mix, along with Daniel Thomas and rookie Lamar Miller. I really want no parts of this entire offense this year.
Some solid vibes thus far in New England with Brandon Lloyd, who knows the offense well but also has to familiarize himself with his new environs, which he seems to be doing. With RB Joe Addai gone, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are clearly the top-2 backs. We’re looking at an RBBC here between these two and with Danny Woodhead in the mix. I’m still kind of leaning to Vereen being the better pick, but that’s mainly because he’s going 40-50 picks after Ridley, who is very talented. We’ll be watching him closely to make sure ball security isn’t still an issue for Ridley. That’s absolutely huge for him, as well as doing all the other little things that a back must do to get on the field here. If Ridley is doing all he needs to do to get on the field, he’s clearly the better choice overall. It’s just that he’ll cost more and could be a headache. Vereen has some skills and could be a solid flex option if all goes well, especially in a PPR league.
Good news for RB Mark Ingram, since he was able to avoid PUP to open camp, but I still have serious questions about his role, since Chris Ivory is going to make this team. That means they will carry four viable RBs, so what’s Ingram’s role? He will get the first crack at the “lead” role as a runner, but I do still worry about those injuries as well.
Giant WR Hakeem Nicks is on track to be ready by mid-August, which is good, but we’re talking about durability with Nicks before a single 2012 snap, which is bad. He’s not soft, but his physical playing style will always leave him vulnerable to injury, and he does have a major propensity to break down physically. At RB, Ahmad Bradshaw is healthy for now, which is good, but the question is, can he hold up during the season? I have serious doubts. Meanwhile, rookie David Wilson has been active as a runner and receiver. We’ll be watching him closely to make sure he’s gained the trust of the coaches because that’s the big key for him as a rookie. Also, at TE, I’m not counting on Martellus Bennett, but he did report to camp in shape, and he has the tools to make a big impact, and no team coaches up the TE position better than the Giants, so Bennett’s on my radar.
The Jets clearly want to run the crap out of the ball, and they even ran 22 straight running plays today in team drills. This we know, but is RB Shonn Greene and the OL good enough? That’s the question. Big picture, I’m avoiding these Jets because they don’t exactly look like an offense that will be fantasy-friendly, thanks in large part to Tim Tebow’s ability to steal goal-line touches and other snaps. And that’s also due to a poor receiving corps and a mediocre QB.
I’m still grappling with the Steelers because there’s obvious potential if WR Mike Wallace is there. But Wallace isn’t there right now. What I’d really like to see for Antonio Brown’s sake is Wallace there but behind Brown in terms of picking up the revised scheme and terminology. I love Brown, but only if Wallace is there to challenge defenses vertically. I’m not sure Brown will handle the #1 role all that well production-wise without Wallace.
It seems some people are expecting huge things from Charger WR Eddie Royal, but I don’t really see that this year. If you were around in 2008, you may remember Royal being my deep sleeper of the year, and he came through big time, but he’s been dead ever since. That may not be his fault, but it’s not exactly encouraging. The main point is that I simply see this as a WRBC, and as I write this Vincent Brown, who can play inside or outside like Royal, just made a great catch on an underthrown deep ball thrown by Phil Rivers. You also have Robert Meachem and Malcom Floyd, of course, and TE Antonio Gates is going to be the #1 option in the passing game. Plus, Ryan Mathews could catch 60-70 balls if he’s healthy. I like Royal and his presence is good news for their offense, but until I see more in training camp and the preseason, I’m not that interested in Royal.
Seattle added veteran WR Antonio Bryant, who was out of football last year. Bryant has always had high-end talent, but he’s been a bit of a mess in his career, to be kind. The signing likely speaks to their thin receiving corps in terms of good options on the outside alongside Sidney Rice. I don’t think it’s a problem for our guy Doug Baldwin, who should be set playing a lot of snaps inside.
Certainly not a good sign in 49er camp that WR Michael Crabtree is already hurt, and that injury could help Randy Moss, who I believe has been seeing time in Crabtree’s spot in practice.
The vibes have been very good in Tampa, and if you’ve read the site and/or heard me on the radio, I’ve been leaning toward the positive here for a while now. QB Josh Freeman reported very slim and trim, and Vincent Jackson continues to be all over the place. As we passed along in the spring, Freeman has been locking in on Jackson from Day One. And RB Doug Martin was running with the ones, as expected. I’ve said he was the guy and a rock- solid pick all spring, but that he had to actually earn the job and so far he is doing that.
Titan rookie WR Kendall Wright needs to get signed and in camp because any practices missed could hurt him. He’s clearly going to be given a chance to earn a significant role here, given Kenny Britt’s issues. But he’s got to sign soon.
While there’s risk in totally backing them with a rookie QB, I really like the Redskin offense this year. WR Santana Moss looks like a key to me. I said way back in February, when rumors of Moss’ possible departure were heating up, that it would be wise for them to keep Moss around because he can be very handy and versatile, and he can help RGIII move the chains in more of a possession role. And he’s still got a spring in his step and he’s clearly very much in the mix here, which should give them a solid group of receivers overall. As for the running game, again, I’d be careful. At this point, I’d rather be wrong and miss out on a potential breakout year for someone like Roy Helu than try to be a hero by totally backing Helu only to be Shanahan’d again. I like Helu a lot, and he was our guy in the preseason last year, but in 2011 he was like a 10th-round pick. He’s going higher this year, yet Evan Royster is very much in the mix, and Tim Hightower will be in the mix if and when he’s ready and healthy. I think the running game will be very good this year, especially with RGIII being a major threat to run on the outside, but I’m far from convinced we’ll see only one guy (or even two guys) racking up the numbers.