Fantasy High 5: Training Camp Edition
Fantasy High 5 is Gridiron Experts group discussion article where the staff add their opinions on popular fantasy football buzzing news stories. This is the first edition since the NFL draft and as we lean closer to the start of the NFL season, articles like the Fantasy High 5 and Mock Draft analysis piece: “You’re on the Clock“, should be more frequent.
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Question 1: Who are you watching once Training Camp opens?
Smart fantasy owners always pay close attention to open training camp battles. Some of the good ones to monitor include the RB competition in St. Louis, the battle to replace Brandon Lloyd in New England, how Le’Veon Bell is utilized in Pittsburgh, chemistry between Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald, how DeAndre Hopkins looks as Houston’s #2 WR, Steven Jackson’s usage, New York’s backfield tandem of Andre Brown and David Wilson and just about the entire offense for the Eagles.
I have to agree with Brian here. I think a large number of teams could use his services. I am watching Montee Ball. Every part of my being wants Ball to take the starting job and run away with it. Ronnie Hillman is the only thing standing in his way and that is because the teammates have completely different running styles that complement each other very well. Right now, it looks like the two will be splitting carries with Ball as the starter. In a league that’s seeing a plethora of split backs, I would like the Broncos situation to shift more towards Ball being the team’s lone three-down back.
Not meaning to be a homer with this, but I will be excited to see how the Buffalo Bills quarterback situation pans out. E.J. Manuel could be a very nice late round quarterback with upside to target in the late rounds of drafts, if he can win the starting job. However, the Bills didn’t bring Kevin Kolb in for nothing. If Kolb wins the job, I don’t see much fantasy impact from Manuel.
Living in Miami, I have my eyes on an interesting RB battle. The Dolphins’ Lamar Miller is the leading candidate for the starting job, but Daniel Thomas and Mike Gillislee could also be in the hunt. Miller has the closest skill set to the departed Reggie Bush, but Thomas is a better power back and Gillislee is said to have a pretty good all-round game. This is a camp battle to keep a close eye on since all three RBs are quite young. If the winner out of camp plays well in the opening weeks, we could be looking at a team’s RB of the future.
Besides the entire Broncos team, I’ll be very interested to see how the running back situation develops in St. Louis. We usually have a general sense of who will get the majority of the carries once training camps start. This is not the case with the Rams’ running backs. Isaiah Pead seemed to have the inside track to being the starting running back. However, now Pead is suspended for the first game and fellow running backs Daryl Richardson and rookie Zac Stacy are primed to prove they belong in the backfield. I’ve been saying Stacy is the most logical choice to be this year’s Alfred Morris, while I really like Richardson’s potential in PPR leagues. The Rams’ backfield situation will be one of the most intriguing scenarios to watch this season.
Two of the more intriguing training camp battles for me come out of Cincinnati, which is why I’m elated HBO’s Hard Knocks is featuring them this year. The Bengals surprised many with their first round pick of Tyler Eifert. I’m anxious to see how they plan to work him into the offense. If given the opportunity, I could see him having an instant impact for Cincy – a potential steal at TE if you wait until the late rounds to draft one (as I imagine I will). I am also curious to see how they plan to use Giovani Bernard at RB. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was a serviceable back last year, but he can’t match the speed and explosiveness Bernard has to offer. I want to see if he’s worth being taken as an RB3 or 4 with upside. Seeing A.J. Green’s third year progression is an added bonus as well.
I have my eyes on the Patriots’ tight end scenario. With the loss of Hernandez and Gronkowski not at 100%, there are a lot of touches up for grabs in that offense. I’ll be monitoring Jake Ballard, Michael Hoomanawanui and Zach Sudfeld closely. I’m also interested in the Cincinnati running game. I am curious to see how they work Giovani Bernard into the plan and whether or not fellow rookie Rex Burkhead shows up 100% to contend for a roster spot, or perhaps more.
J.P. I am watching the Patriots as well, but in a different way. The one thing I am constantly reminding people of, is how this tight end duo came into play. Who can forget the domination by Randy Moss a few years back, he was literally a one man wrecking crew with 47 TDs over a three-year period, including 23 scores in 2007. When Moss left, everyone was wondering who was to step up and fill his spot, yet Bill Belichick went back to the drawing board and introduced his tight end package. Odds are a guy like Jake Ballard will see more reps, but you never know with this team. Bill Belichick is a master of creativity.
I will also go with a homer pick, but I think it’s one that all fantasy owners should be watching. How will the Packers use their running backs? Eddie Lacy is presumed to be the lead dog in the pack (pun intended), but fellow rookie Jonathan Franklin will likely be involved in the offense too. Then there are holdover, like DuJuan Harris who looked good for Green Bay at the end of last season and Alex Green, a former third-round pick that is expected to be fully recovered from an ACL injury he suffered in his rookie year. Will the Packers use one, or two guys enough in their high-powered offense that we find fantasy gold? Will they spread things around so much that a talented stable of running backs still proves difficult for fantasy owners to count on?
Question 2: Which Current players ADP do you strongly disagree with? (for better or worse)
Doug Martin is my guy this year. He is currently supposed to be the third running back off the board, but I have seen him going first overall in some drafts. My issue is this: Martin is a player that is all over the place week to week. His best game (55.2 points) and his worst game (6.5 points) last year was a difference of 48.7 points in a PPR format. What does that mean? It means he can be very inconsistent. Yes, he has the numbers to be in the RB top 3, but week to week there are five to six running backs that I would take before him.
According to fantasypros.com, Reggie Wayne is the 21st receiver being taken in standard drafts and the 20th receiver being taken in PPR drafts. This is wrong. Shame on you guys! Wayne was the 14th best receiver in 2012 and was even better in PPR leagues. He’s one of the most consistent players in the NFL and deserves some more respect from the fantasy community. Wayne has easy Top 15 potential. Don’t let his doubters try to convince you otherwise.
Rob Gronkowski has been going somewhere in the 4th round of most mocks lately. He is the only Patriots pass catcher that has a chemistry with Tom Brady. New England will most likely lean on Gronkowski heavily this season. Some will cite his latest string of injuries as a concern, but similar things were said about Jason Witten last season and he went on to have success.
Everyone seems to be doubting Eric Decker going into 2013 with Wes Welker in the mix. Why are there not as many doubts about Demaryius Thomas? His production is also likely to go down thanks to Welker, yet he’s the #18 overall player and #6 WR according to MFL’s current ADP rankings. Thomas did have a great 2012 and managed to play every game, but he’s no stranger to injuries. Consider him a low-end WR1 who is a bit of a risk.
Percy Harvin is being selected in the middle of the second round, as the 7th wide receiver off the board. Harvin has never started 16 games in a season and has yet to surpass 967 receiving yards or six receiving touchdowns in any single season. He’s also had numerous injury concerns throughout his career. Harvin also just got his big money contract and joins a run-first team this season. Percy Harvin is an exciting player, but not a second round WR1.
**Update: CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reports Percy Harvin would “likely” miss the entire 2013 season if a second opinion on his hip shows Harvin indeed needs surgery to repair his labrum tear.
I am seeing Dez Bryant being taken as the third receiver behind only A.J. Green and Calvin Johnson. I just don’t trust him, Tony Romo or Bill Callahan enough to invest that high of a pick on Dez. The talent and potential is there, I just want to see it one more time before I go all in.
I like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees as much as the next guy, but they are generally coming off the board in the second round or early third. With the level of depth at quarterback this year, I can’t believe that fantasy owners are willing to spend such an early pick on the QB position.
Question 3: How much of an effect will the return of Sean Payton be on Saints players?
You’ll likely see more balance. Payton knows you can’t consistently win with an offense so pass heavy. We should see much more reliance on the ground game, especially late in games that the Saints are winning. That should help Pierre Thomas and (for those holding out hope of one last chance) Mark Ingram exceed their current ADP values.
Sean Payton is one of the more brilliant play-callers the game has ever seen. Even with Drew Brees at the helm, the Saints offense sputtered at times in 2012. It was still productive, but not nearly as efficient as it was with Sean Payton calling the shots. Expect a more balanced attack to run like a well-oiled machine under Payton’s tutelage. Look for Brees’ turnovers to be down, the run game’s numbers to see an uptick and Jimmy Graham to reach double digit TDs once again.
Sean Payton is one of the brightest offensive minds in the NFL and I think there is a very good chance that he uses last seasons suspension as the motivation to run rough shot over NFL defenses in 2013. If Payton and the Saints are looking to exact a level of revenge on the league, all of New Orleans’ primary weapons – Brees, Graham, Colston, Sproles, etc. – are likely to benefit.
Question 4: Who are you targeting a lot in Mock Drafts?
Jody Smith and I are both in agreement that Matt Ryan is ready to make the jump into another tier. I am targeting Matt Ryan in the fifth round, but have pulled the trigger as earlier as the late 4th round if I feel there’s no chance he finds his way back to me in a snake draft. I discussed more about my fantasy man crush in our latest edition of “You’re on the Clock“.
Other players I like include: Cecil Shorts, LeSean McCoy, Sam Bradford and Reggie Wayne -due to his low stock.
My new crush this year is Dwayne Bowe. There is no doubt Bowe is a WR2, but there is so much hype surrounding him and the Chiefs that I can’t help but target him as a low end WR1. He’s currently the 15th receiver off of boards and we have him ranked as our 18th WR. There is no doubt in my mind that Bowe will be a WR1 at the end of the season. I just hope he stays where he currently is and does not start crawling up draft boards like my old crush, Montee Ball.
It has been well-documented by now that I think Shane Vereen is kind of a big deal. With all the integral pieces the Patriots have lost and may be without (Welker, Hernandez, Lloyd, Woodhead, Gronkowski), Vereen himself has now turned into one of those integral pieces for New England’s perennial potent offense. While I prefer Vereen’s counterpart, Stevan Ridley, in both standard and PPR leagues, Vereen has the potential to be a legitimate RB2 in PPR leagues. He’s extremely versatile and sure-handed. He will reportedly be utilized as a wide receiver on occasion. Vereen’s current ADP sits at 34, but I would gladly take him early in the fifth round.
Darren Sproles and Jason Witten for me. They are both very consistent and that’s what I’m looking for in players when I draft. Sproles can be a RB1 in PPR leagues and a solid RB2 in standard leagues. Witten is a great tight end target if you decide to pass on a Gronk or Graham.
Here are a few players I’m targeting right now in fantasy mock drafts: QB – Matt Ryan and Matt Stafford. RB3 – Rashard Mendenhall. WR2 – Jordy Nelson. WR4 – Jeremy Maclin. TE2 – Rob Housler and Tyler Eiffert.
I think Danny Amendola is going to blow up this season. He can do everything Welker did in New England and more. His durability is not a concern for me as both of his big injuries were freak arm injuries. His legs will be 100%. I’m also excited about what Matt Forte can do in Chicago’s new offense.
I am fantasy man-crushing on Dez Bryant. His second half of 2012 was ridiculous, as he piled up 879 yards and 10 touchdowns from Week 10 through Week 17. Now we’re hearing about how great he looks in camp and how much he has developed as a player and a person in the offseason. If Dez can stay healthy and not get in his own way, I think he challenges Megatron for the top spot among fantasy wide receivers.
Question 5: Tell us your thoughts on Dolphins Lamar Miller?
I think Lamar Miller has the potential to be a great running back both for real life and fantasy. However, we haven’t even seen a full season from him as a starter. If he can stay healthy and productive, the job is his. I also really like rookie Mike Gillislee and it wouldn’t surprise me if this turns into a running back committee.
Miller is the favorite to nail down the full-time gig in Miami, but that doesn’t mean he’s a tremendous fantasy value. His ADP has crept up into the late third/early fourth round, simply because of the extreme shortage of quality fantasy running backs. There are a lot of reasons to like Miller – he’s a good pass-catcher and has a nice blend of power and speed – but he got so little playing time last season that it’s a bit risky this early into the offseason to be relying on him as your RB2. If Miller looks great in camp or in the preseason games, then we can start considering him a good second running back option.
I really liked Lamar Miller last season, but it was obvious he needed more time to develop. The kid has blazing speed and is a sleeper for the 2013 season. I hate using the word sleeper, but realistically that’s what he is. Hype has already driven his fantasy stock through the roof, and it will be unlikely that you will be able to draft Lamar Miller later than the third round. The ideal situation would be, and bear with me here… a poor preseason game. Fantasy owners have short memories and if Lamar Miller has a great training camp, looks the part and is getting solid reviews from around the league but falls short in a preseason game prior to your fantasy draft, you’ll have a very good chance of stealing this high quality gem. I know this sounds unlikely, but you’re probably giving the fantasy owners in your league too much credit. It’s amazing how often people will be swayed in the final days leading up to their fantasy draft. Overall, Gridiron Experts is projecting solid fantasy numbers for Miller in 2013 and I would be happy with this Dolphins RB as my RB3.
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