Every year we head into training camp with our eye on key positions and rookies who could add that extra push. Nobody cares who steps up, as long as the job gets done and the weak links are filled. Focusing on fantasy football, we are going to overlook some of the less important roster spots, and instead fire off questions and predictions for each team in the eyes of the fantasy football fan.
Spotlight Is On: Matt Leinart- A former first round pick who lost his job and found a comfortable spot on the bench is all of a sudden getting his second chance. The NFL usually chews you up and spits you out, so for Leinart a do-over is a real gift. Frankly, we see more attention spent on the running game this season to relieve some of the pressure. Regardless, this second chance could be the last chance for number 7. Can the shoes be filled? Or is Matt about to trip?
Camp Sleeper: Steve Breaston
Star-Brewing: Chris Wells
What’s the Deal with Michael Turner? A power running back who was a yard shy of 1700 yards two seasons ago just fell off the map in 2009. A high ankle sprain left fantasy owners angry and kicking furniture over, with his vanilla type numbers. Is he back? Can we move him up the fantasy boards? What’s the deal?
Camp Sleeper: Harry Douglas
Is there Bonding Going on Here? The Anquan Boldin and Joe Flacco combo is one we’re all not sure of. Flacco has needed a player who can stretch the field for some time, as Mason is more of tough possession wide receiver. The running game is counting on some sort of passing attack, and so are keeper league owners of the recently traded Cardinal.
Camp Sleeper: †TE Ed Dickson
Take a Seat: Todd Heap
So You Have 3 Running Backs…Really? Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson, and C.J. Spiller are apparently going to be used in a very creative offense that we can already predict to be a failure. There are a million questions with this team, but for now let’s just try to figure out who’s going to be the guy at RB. All the other fantasy options shouldn’t be a concern to you right now, or at all this season.
Camp Sleeper: Brain Brohm- our vote to win the $10 beauty contest.
Moore or Clausen to lead? After booting Delhomme to the curb, Matt Moore stepped in and looked very much the part…or at least that’s what he thought. The Panthers found a fallen gem in the draft and couldn’t help themselves with one of this years highest ranked QB rookies. Jimmy Clausen should do his best to overthrow Moore’s spot.
Gimme the Ball- DeAngelo Williams is in a contract year and will be pressing.
WR Numero dos- Our early guess is Brandon LaFell from LSU.
Who’s Cutler Going to Ask to the Big Dance? With a slew of average at best wide receivers, and a master-mind commander calling the plays from the sidelines, Jay Cutler is going to pick and choose his targets carefully. Who will best suit this new offense in Chicago? We will have eyes in training camp all summer.
So Who Does What? -After a breakout rookie season, Matt Forte now has an on the field roommate to share his carries. Chester Taylor wasn’t brought in to get coffee, so the percentage of carries will be watched carefully as well.
Sleeper Brewing In Martz’s System- Johnny Knox
Way To Go Tough Guy- The Bengals start off their season with two very tough AFC opponents ( @ NE | †BAL) and their fan favorite comeback player Cedric Benson is likely to miss around two to three games after his bar fight, although nothing has been announced just yet. The Bengals will want to improve on their 26th ranked passing offense from a year ago, making sure they don’t have to rely on the run game. Can it be done? Or better yet, can it be done with Carson Palmer?
Newly acquired Antonio Bryant is a huge sleeper in our books.
Is There Anybody Worth Drafting Here? Browns fans are in such denial it’s almost sad. This team is lacking a lot of fantasy firepower, and the only training camp question we have is will there be a fantasy gem in the later rounds for us to add to the bench?
How Big Will Things Be In Dallas? For once the saying “Everything is bigger in Texas” may apply to the Cowboys. Romo and company look to be the team to beat in the NFC East, and Dez Bryant is an early favorite for the top fantasy rookie. Roy Williams hasn’t caught on in Dallas, but with the overall firepower this team now has on offense, he probably won’t be under the microscope as much. The big question is at running back. Rumors are that the job may be passed to Felix Jones, making Barber the short-yard & goal-line punch.
Remember Me? Jason Witten had an off year in fantasy stats, but we wouldn’t move him down at all on your draft board.
Knowing Is Half The Battle: Knowshon Moreno is everyone’s fantasy crush this season, and for good reason. The Broncos and the media believe he has the potential to be an elite back, who could give the team what they have been missing. Denver will want to give this 2nd year RB a ton of carries, but high expectations scare some into thinking that he may be a candidate for a sophomore jinx year.
The biggest question is lying with the passing attack. Can Orton improve or even retain the Broncos respectable 13th ranked passing offense, long enough to allow Knowshon room to dance?
You Talk To The Media, We’ll Practice: Tim Tebow
Sleeper Brewing: Demaryius Thomas
Dinosaur Jr- The Lions are prehistoric in many aspects of their overall team, but the fantasy firepower is a monster that will grow before our eyes. Say what you want about the Lions lousy past, the youth on this team will all be highly drafted fantasy picks. The question is at the offensive line; more time means more big plays and lasting drives. Can Stafford read a defense before getting whacked? Our fantasy rankings depend on it.
Get’em While They’re Hot: Jahvid Best to break out in the dome.
Green Bay Packers
Stealing the Name A-Rod: Aaron Rodgers got a new offensive tackle to help with the pass protection problems from a year ago. Now if he could just not hang them out to dry by holding the ball for 10 minutes, everybody will be happy. One of Mike Rodriguez’s predictions in the article he wrote for USA Today’s Magazine was that the Packers were going to become an offensive powerhouse. Everyone should see the ball, yet the big question for the Packers is will there be a change to the 2nd WR spot? Driver is a real talent, but there are some great† up-and-coming players on this receiving core. Will there be a new favorite target?
Throw It At The Sun- At 6’6″ and with great vertical leap, TE Jermichael Finley is every defenses nightmare.
Urgent RB Wanted: The Texans have all the pieces in place to challenge for the AFC South title, but the question many have been asking for years is who’s going to carry the rock? Guys like Steve Slaton have had flashes of greatness, but the search still continues. Arian Foster is a sleeper this year, but the expectations would be happily met if Ben Tate, the Texans highest drafted RB in franchise history, pans out. Tate, the 2nd round pick out of Auburn, will be given every chance to win the job, but it’s anyone’s ball at this point.
5 TE’s but all up in the air? †Injuries make this another question mark on the roster.
Love Triangle: The Colts are excited about getting Anthony Gonzalez back into the line-up, but fantasy owners are left trying to guess where Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie fit in. A lot of talent and just one ball. The Colts used to be a jackpot for drafting fantasy players, but aside from Manning and Wayne, the carousel of fantasy options will no doubt frustrate some this year. Who’s going to officially earn the second WR spot?
Split This: Joseph Addai took the drafting of Donald Brown as a kick in the butt to improve his game..and he did. The waiting might continue for another season for the 2nd year man out of Connecticut.
It Can’t All Go To Jones-Drew: There is no guessing as to who will get things done in Jacksonville, but if this team wants to succeed, they’ll need to find more offensive targets. The receiving core for the Jags is probably one of the most inexperienced groups in the league, making a guy like Terrell Owens a possibility, but the most interesting development to watch for in training camp may be at the tight end spot. Ernest Wilford is making the transition from WR to TE, adding an underrated boost to a talented group. We could see a lot of 2 TE sets this year, with Wilford and Marcedes Lewis either running routes or staying in to block. Both guys are big and know the offense well, so †sleeper grades could be handed out if one becomes more of a receiving target.
Leaving the ultimate debate of training camp for onlookers: McCown vs. Garrard. Who’s the better fit?
Kansas City Chiefs
What To Do With You? Jamal Charles was a waiver wire wonder that people were left smiling about as an unexpected keeper option. That is until Thomas Jones was signed. Jones is a guy that year after year is predicted to break down and call it quits, but time after time he produces. Who in camp will be the man to see the most carries, and will there be an effort to run the ball?
Mr. Everything: RB/WR- Dexter McCluster
Make it happen: Matt Cassel will be on a tight leash this year, expectations are very high.
That’s Gotta Hurt- A screw was taken out of Ronnie Browns surgically repaired foot in June, and his driving under the influence case has been pushed back until Sept. 2, prolonging any answers about suspensions. Throw in Brown’s odds of entering his final year with the team in 2010,and the centerpiece for the Wildcat and Dolphins run game is very unpredictable. Could the Dolphins become a more pass-happy team now that they have Brandon Marshall? Fans of the 20th ranked passing attack are praying that they do.
Deep Sleeper: RB Patrick Cobb. Great hands, built like a bowling ball.
Can You Build On That? The Vikings had an excellent 2009 season, and fantasy players were launched into the high draft rounds for this year. We heard rumors of people grabbing Sidney Rice off waivers, and now he’s being clutched with kung-fu death grips as a fantasy keeper.
Favre looks like he is doing everything possible to return for another season, but will things be as great as they were last year? You could say there was a little magic in the air, with some of those last second victories (Greg Lewis hail mary, anyone?) but will the team still be such a fantasy juggernaut?
I Got Your Back: Chester Taylor was a great change of pace RB for the Vikings last year, so who’s taking over? Rookie Toby Gerhart doesn’t have a ton of competition heading into training camp, but is that a good thing? Taylor added speed to hit the outside corner, where Gerhart is an up the gut type runner.
Fantasy Gem: TE Visanthe Shiancoe
New England Patriots
Bounce Back Or Rebuild Year? The Patriots went 10-6 in ’09 and looked very much the same as they did when they won all those Super Bowls. New England was 12th in rushing and 3rd in passing, yet without Wes Welker and his league leading 123 receptions, those team averages might go down. The Patriots had another huge draft adding even more youth to a team that’s trying to avoid rebuilding, yet fantasy stars like Randy Moss and Tom Brady are being overlooked by fantasy scouts. Some think that the glue that holds the Patriots offense together is built around Wes Welker, and without him they’ll be average at best. This training camp we are looking at a few things, and Welker isn’t one of them.
Julian Edelman and the Patriots running game are the keys to this season’s first half. Rushing Welker back would be a huge mistake, but can the Pats do enough of the little things to create a healthy balance? Many hints should be let out in the Patriots camp, which kicks off July 29th.
Sleeper Brewing: TE Rob Gronkowski
New Orleans Saints
Will The Saints Go Marching On? There weren’t many changes made to this Super Bowl Saints team in the offseason, so to expect the same amazing high-powered offense from New Orleans isn’t much of a stretch.
We could see more of players like Reggie Bush now with Mike Bell leaving through free agency, but the fantasy value shouldn’t really sky-rocket. The only real fantasy question for this team is whether Brees will make Devery Henderson or Robert Meachem the top target opposite Colston. Both players shared a role in New Orleans, grabbing roughly the same amount of receptions, yet Meachem had 9 TD’s and is looked at as the up-and-coming player in this offense. Will he begin to take more of a leading role in New Orleans?
Draft’em Late and Wait: TE Jimmy Graham
New York Giants
The Bigger They Are The Harder They Fall? The G-Men are ready and waiting for a chance to prove that last year’s out of character season was just a hiccup that can be quickly fixed. Brandon Jacobs is in the hot seat ( in our opinion); his build is not doing him any favors as a “Giant” running back. At 6’4″ his knees are exposed to defenders, and after his recent surgery he is a fantasy risk vs. reward player. Questions are not so much talent-wise when it comes to this team, they’re more about depth chart decisions. There will definitely be a few players slotted differently, but who and where? Could Bradshaw emerge as a primary RB? Is Hakeem Nicks ready to take on a starting position?
Deep Sleeper: RB Andre Brown
Get Going Already: Ramses Barden. The 6’6″ WR was supposed to take on the Plaxico role.
New York Jets
Big Names In The Big Apple: The Jets are loading up on whoever they can to add that extra push for a chance to become the AFC contender. Defensively New York looks to keep opponents at the 17 points or less mark, making the offense the key factor to the seasons success. Sanchez had a rollercoaster season, but his fantasy value is roughly the same despite all of the excellent experience he gained. With only Santonio Holmes brought in to improve the passing game, Sanchez’s role should be very much the same from a season ago: don’t turn over the ball, and manage the game.
The fantasy question of the day is what will the carry percentage be amongst the running backs? Is this Shonn Greene’s team, or will LT’s ego get in the way?
A Team Worth Wearing War Paint For- The Black Hole will have something to cheer about this season. The Raiders are improving, and they should be able to steal wins away from many teams who are overlooking them once again. Newly acquired quarterback Jason Campbell wants a fresh start in a new system and a reliable running game to lean on. The team could use a leader, and if he’s willing to step up, chemistry could speak volumes.
The big training camp question for the Raiders is at running back. Michael Bush is not going anywhere, and McFadden fantasy owners have been somewhat let down. The 3rd year RB has yet to crack the 500 yard rushing mark, yet his hands have earned him the potential tag. If the wheels can get rolling, McFadden could become a great fantasy steal this year, although he’s going to have to earn it in camp.
Pick Your Poison: The Raiders have no clear-cut number one receiver, yet they have 4 solid up-and-coming potentials.
New QB, New Favorite Target? After a decade with McNabb in Eagles Green, Kevin Kolb is the new star and is calling the shots in Philly. Many are predicting similar numbers for his receiving core, but a different QB could mean different looks. Sure, it’s the same system, but a new set of eyes may target different WR’s through his in-game progression. McNabb was always looking deep, yet Kolb seems to be more about the quick throw, hitting guys underneath in more of a West Coast style. Kolb actually might be a better fit than McNabb in this style of offense, but for fantasy stats guys like Maclin and Avant could see bigger numbers, whereas DeSean Jackson may take a small step back. Training camp should be one to watch as this team will look totally different this summer.
Someone Needs To Step Up: The Pittsburgh Steelers have endured arguably one of the worst drama-filled offseasons in team history. Roethlisberger, once a living legend in Pittsburgh, now has major damage control issues to take care of, whereas former Super Bowl MVP S. Holmes has already been sent packing.
The Steelers have a great shot at salvaging their season while waiting on Big Ben’s suspension, but quality QB play will have to found fast. Byron Leftwich and former Oregon Duck Dennis Dixon will battle it out for the first half of the season’s QB job. Other areas that will have to outperform years past are the offensive line and the rushing attack.† The Steelers got an upgrade in the draft by adding center M. Pouncey (more drama-$100K ) while also adding Jonathan Scott from Buffalo in free agency to compete.
Managing the game would be so mush easier if Rashard Mendenhall exploded onto the scene this season. Fantasy owners are crossing their fingers, but expectations seem a little high for Mendenhall at this point. Is there a temporary quarterback to lead this team? Can the offensive line step up? Or are we about to watch the Browns rent out the basement of the division for a season?
Possible RB Carousel: Jonathan Dwyer
San Diego Chargers
Chargers Camp is the Place to Be: No one player in fantasy football could move up a draft board faster than rookie running back Ryan Mathews. Tomlinson is gone, and Mathews has huge shoes to fill. Although fans were used to seeing L.T. destroy defenses over the years, his last few seasons have been marginal at best. While the buzz is stronger than Ron Burgundy’s scotch, we are a little skeptical about this years Chargers team, as written in an article by Diesel:† Chargers 2010 Forecast: Overly Confident
Sleepless In Seattle (alright, you name it then): Pete Carroll is about to unveil a new looking Seahawks team at training camp, one with many jobs open for competition, possibly including a secret quarterback battle. More than 10 players came and went over the offseason, creating opportunities across the board for jobs. Carroll must have a master plan for his complete overhaul, and for the must-have acquisition of Charlie Whitehurst, but until then the roster line-up is as mysterious as an episode of Lost. Should be interesting, our writers will have eyes on it all month.
Glazed With Sprinkles: Golden Tate
Early Favorite: Justin Forsett
San Francisco had an excellent draft, adding two huge offensive bulldozers to the line. Frank Gore looks to bounce back for a strong season, but it’s the passing attack that will be under the microscope. Michael Crabtree’s rookie season was a bit of a waste (holding out and missing training camp), but with a full off-season of getting to know his surroundings, the passing attack might see an added spark. Throw in unwanted 1st round Miami pick Ted Ginn Jr., and all of a sudden QB Alex Smith has speedy deep threats. There are no real glaring fantasy questions with the 49er’s just yet, but we’re anticipating a few surprise camp battles that will shake up your draft boards.
St. Louis Rams
Can Sam Bradford Improve These Rams? It’s almost amazing that Steven Jackson hasn’t wanted off this Rams team. Jackson produces almost all of the Rams offensive yardage and yet is fine with being a part of another rebuilding year. Bradford does add hope for the future, and with recent rookie QB success in the NFL, fans and even curious fantasy owners are interested in watching him this preseason, that is if the Rams can get him under contract.
There is a lot of young talent on this Rams team, including WR Mardy Gilyard, a 4th round pick that has our interest as being a deep sleeper, but after setting all time lows on offense last year, there’s not a lot to get excited about.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2 Rookie WR’s To Start? Most earlier predictions had rookies Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams starting as the Bucs top wide receivers this year, although rumors at mini camps have ex-Eagle Reggie Brown in line for a possible starter job. Deciding who lines up in the starting position after training camp could be just about who has the best rhythm with Josh Freeman. At this point, the passing game looks like the blind leading the blind. Training camp has almost every fantasy spot up for grabs this year for the Bucs, except Kellen Winslow at tight end. Freeman is a former first round pick and has been handed the starting job, but if he doesn’t improve on his 54.5 throwing accuracy percentage, he’ll end up as a clipboard holder on the bench.
Comeback Tour: Cadillac Williams
Drama Will Be Overlooked At Titans Camp-† Vince Young was cited for assault and star running back Chris Johnson wants more money. That’s not a good start heading into a new season. Despite the headlines, the Titans have edured worse in the past and should be able to get it together in time to bounce back after what was considered a huge letdown ’09 season. Tennessee was amazing at churning yards out on the ground, thanks to their league leading 2000 yard man at running back. The next step to an even stronger Titans attack would be improving the passing game numbers. The Titans were ranked 23rd in passing yards per game last year, which is not bad for a run-first team, yet Vince Young will be pushed to improve this training camp as a quarterback (and mentor off the field). Will the Titans return to their 13+ winning ways from only 2 seasons ago? And can Kenny Britt emerge as a number one WR?
Boom or Bust: LeGarrette Blount
McNabb In The Right System? D-Mac was the scapegoat for years in Philly, and with a running game behind him for the first time in his career, McNabb should now get to experience the luxuries other QB’s have on a regular basis. Too bad the playmakers are a step below the young talent he was just starting to get used to, but the invite to Arizona for “Hell Week” should pay off, for any bonding that needs to happen.
The Redskins have huge questions at running back, with a trio of older talent who can all add flashes into the offense. Will we see a 3 man rotation, or will there be a winner beween the Portis, Johnson and Parker battle?
Better late than Never: Devin Thomas