Gronk participating in mini-camp: It’s been a tough offseason for Rob Gronkowski. The New England Patriots tight end has undergone multiple surgeries and endured an infection on his broken forearm. While there is a chance he could go under the knife for a fourth time, there are reports that Gronk “looks good” while participating in the team’s mini-camp. That’s good news since another operation could make it likely that the tight end is on the shelf for the start of the season. Considering Aaron Hernandez’s struggles to get healthy in time for the start of the season, it could leave the Pats (and fantasy owners) without two big weapons. And it’s already conspired to affect Gronk’s fantasy draft status.
Law Firm to get lots of work: When the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Giovani Bernard, it raised some questions about the future of BenJarvus Green-Ellis. But it appears that the veteran may not have as much to worry about as initially feared and is expected to see the bulk of the carries. Instead, the player most likely to take a hit in playing time would be a different Bernard – Bernard Scott. Look for the rookie to be the suitable handcuff to Green-Ellis while Scott could find himself out of Cincinnati sooner than later.
Weeden likely to start: Reports of Brandon Weeden’s demise as the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback may have been greatly exaggerated. New head coach Rob Chudzinski has repeatedly said the second-year QB would face competition; this offseason it comes in the form of veteran Jason Campbell. However, not everyone believes that Chudzinski is serious about potentially giving the offense over to the journeyman. Weeden is a much better fit for the Browns’ reported offensive plans, so it would be a surprise to see Campbell in the starting role. But until the team officially names a starter, we’ll consider this case ongoing.
Jets open QB competition: Let the games begin! The New York Jets will begin the task of sorting their tangled quarterback situation. Mark Sanchez, for one, is excited about it. Gang Green’s incumbent starter says he’s “thrilled” for the chance to compete and says there’s “no doubt” that he’ll be the starter again in 2013. Most observers predict the race for No. 1 will be between Sanchez and newly-drafted Geno Smith. But there’s also veteran David Garrard to contend with. It’s likely going to be some time before this is all settled. Watch this space for more.
Browns won’t name a starting QB: The hiring of Rob Chudzinski in Cleveland might be causing sleepless nights for quarterback Brandon Weeden. The Browns new head coach is reluctant to name the second-year signal-caller as the team’s starter for Week 1. This offseason, the team brought in veteran Jason Campbell to challenge Weeden for the job. This competition won’t have the same fanfare as the one in New York, but it could be just as intriguing to watch.
Flynn is ‘presumed starter’ in Oakland: For the moment, the Raiders have squashed any appearance of a quarterback competition. General manager Reggie McKenzie says Matt Flynn is the team’s “presumed starter”. That doesn’t bode well for their evaluation of Terrelle Pryor. The team also drafted Tyler Wilson, but he’ll have to really wow the coaches to get a sniff of the starting job. With this situation mostly settled, it should pencil Flynn in as a lower-end No. 2 fantasy option — though it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him as waiver wire fodder in plenty of leagues.
Lacy could face competition: If the draft is any indication, the Green Bay Packers are serious about shoring up their weak run game after selecting Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin. While it creates a logjam in the backfield with DuJuan Harris, James Starks and Alex Green, the rookie from Alabama expects to see work when the seasons starts. It’s not hard to believe that Lacy will be given every chance to play right away, but he’ll likely have to fight for touches with so many other options on the depth chart. It could be some time before we sort out how this committee plays out.
Hopkins could start for Texans: In need of a receiver to pair with Andre Johnson, the Texans drafted DeAndre Hopkins. The team already has high hopes for the Clemson product, with head coach Gary Kubiak expecting immediate production. That should give Hopkins fantasy value a boost. He’ll come off the board in the later rounds as a No. 4 option in plenty of leagues. But in an offense that has been relatively productive in recent years, there’s potential for Hopkins to be a sleeper.
Bucs confident in Stocker?: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers expect to lose tight end Dallas Clark after one season but did nothing in the draft to replace him. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the team could turn to Luke Stocker to be the pass catcher in the middle of the field. Stocker had just 16 catches last season, but he also had only 27 targets. Compare that to Clark’s 75 targets last season. If the third-year man can see attention similar to that, he has the potential to be a quality No. 2 tight end option for many fantasy owners.
Peterson wants big numbers: Last season, it was quite a big deal that Adrian Peterson finished the year just nine yards short of the single-season rushing record. This year, he’s looking for more … a whole lot more. A.D. reiterated his goal of rushing for 2,500 yards in an interview with SI.com, repeating something he told NFL Network at the end of last season. Right now, the biggest question about the Vikings star is whether he’ll be the first pick in most fantasy drafts over Arian Foster. If you believe he can reach his goal, it’s hard not to take him No. 1. Sure, it’s a huge number, but at this point, would anyone doubt Peterson?
Bell aiming for No. 1 job: In need of a boost to their running game, the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell and all signs point to him taking the top spot on the depth chart. That’s bad news for Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, who temporarily seemed in line for the job after the departure of Rashard Mendenhall. Bell’s physical running style seems to fit the Steelers’ personality and he’ll have every opportunity to make his presence felt in training camp. He could find himself as a No. 2 option on plenty of fantasy rosters this season.
Hightower to visit Giants: The battle for the New York Giants No. 1 running back job looks like it will be between Andre Brown and David Wilson. But Big Blue looks like it’s adding depth to the position. The team plans to meet with free agent Tim Hightower who sat out all of 2012 after suffering a knee injury in 2011. Hightower’s most productive season was in 2010 with the Arizona Cardinals and he was running well before tearing an ACL five games into his 2011 campaign with the Redskins. If he lands in Gotham, the journeyman will find himself in a pitched battle for a scant amount of carries.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon has been suspended for the first four games of the season after violating the league’s substance abuse policy. It’s a setback for a player who made big strides in the latter half of the 2012 season and was garnering big expectations headed into 2013.
Last season, Blackmon averaged just 3.04 fantasy points per game in his first seven games. But he took off later in the year, posting an average of 14.21 points over his final nine games of the year. In the process, he retook the role of Jacksonville’s No. 1 receiver from Cecil Shorts, who had been the breakout surprise of the year.
As an aside, it’s worth mentioning that Blackmon’s best production came with Chad Henne playing quarterback in place of the injured Blaine Gabbert. Henne and Gabbert are expected to compete for Jacksonville’s starting job in training camp. The winner of that battle will likely have an effect on the fantasy value of the players around them.
But back to Blackmon … not being on the field for the first month of the season is going to knock him down a lot of draft ranks, though it probably won’t be as damaging as it seems. Before this news, the man from Oklahoma State was projected as No. 3 wideout in most fantasy formats. While the suspension will push him a little bit lower, his value should remain about the same.
Cruz yet to sign offer sheet: Now that we’re past free agency and the draft, the New York Giants expected that wide receiver Victor Cruz would sign the offer sheet he was presented. So far, that hasn’t happened and the Big Blue brass are starting to get concerned. It was never expected that the situation would be resolved quickly, but the longer it drags on, the greater the chance of a holdout. For fantasy owners, it’s a tad too soon to really worry about it, but it could be worth keeping an eye on someone like Louis Murphy … just in case.
Bess excited about being a Brown: After five seasons with the Miami Dolphins, Davone Bess will be making his new home in Cleveland with the Browns. It’s an interesting pairing — a fairly productive slot receiver joining an offense that has plans to stretch the field a little more in 2013. Bess won’t ever be an enormous fantasy producer, but he could have some value as a No. 3 or flex option, especially in PPR leagues.
Jones drafted as Big Ben insurance?: Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch has a suspicion that Landry Jones was drafted as the long-term replacement for Ben Roethlisberger. While it’s certainly possible, it seems more likely that Jones is in Pittsburgh to give the Steelers more options in the (very likely) event that Roethlisberger gets hurt. Big Ben hasn’t played a full 16 games since 2008, and that doesn’t take into account the number of games in which he plays noticeably hurt. If past is prologue, Roethlisberger will spend some time on the shelf in 2013 — which means Jones could see meaningful snaps.
After watching a wild 2013 NFL Draft unfold, Jason Smith and Michael Fabiano break down which rookies will make the biggest fantasy impact with their new squads and which rookies you should steer clear of in your fantasy drafts. Hour 1 concludes with speculation of a retired fantasy football legend contemplating a return to the gridiron.
In Hour 2 of their 2013 NFL Draft recap, the guys debate about current NFL quarterbacks. Which signal callers were helped most in the draft? Which QBs are in for a down year? Plus a fresh edition of the Fantasy Cantina awaits.
Welcome to my Fantasy Man crush list, Chris Ivory.
The talented running back was dealt to the New York Jets over the weekend, a move that will make him one of the top sleeper/breakout candidates in fantasy football. Buried on the depth chart over the last three years with the New Orleans Saints, Ivory showed flashes of brilliance when he did have a chance to tote the rock. He’s averaged better than five yards per carry in his career, and his body is fresh from the lack of attempts he’s received since 2011.
Ivory will fill the role of departed starter Shonn Greene, who finished among the top 20 running backs in the league based on fantasy points last season while averaging a less-than-impressive 3.9 yards per carry. To put it simply, Ivory is a better back than Greene with youth on his side (he’s 25). And now he’ll have a chance to see 275-300 carries for the first time as an NFL back. While he will lose some third-down work to Mike Goodson, Ivory will be about as close to a featured runner as you can have in a league that has installed more committees in recent seasons.
I wouldn’t hesitate to draft him in one of the first four- to five rounds as a No. 2 runner in 2013.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!
Sanchez to take first team reps: For a team struggling to stay relevant on the field, the New York Jets sure know how to stir things up. First, the team drafted Geno Smith to go along with a cadre of quarterbacks that already ran five deep. Then on Monday, the team released Tim Tebow. So what does that mean for Mark Sanchez? For the moment, it means he’ll take the first team reps in OTAs, according to head coach Rex Ryan. Take it with a grain of salt. As the incumbent (and highest-paid QB on the roster), Sanchez will be given every opportunity to earn the starting job. But whether it’s Sanchez or someone else, New York’s roster is too devoid of any supplemental talent for the quarterback to be an impact fantasy option.
Cowboys seek RB help: Before the draft, the Dallas Cowboys intimated that they could chase a running back to support DeMarco Murray. After the draft, owner Jerry Jones reiterated the desire to add depth to the backfield and suggested fifth-round selection Joseph Randle could be that player. Color us skeptical. It’s no secret that Murray hasn’t been the most reliable option. He’s been effective when he’s been on the field, but missing nine games in two seasons won’t endear you to coaches, GMs and fantasy owners alike. Still, it seems odd that the ‘Boys would wait so long to fill a position of need — especially when there was decent RB depth available on the board. The plan might be for Randle to share snaps. We’ll see what the reality is.
Manuel to compete for Bills job: It was a surprise to plenty of observers that E.J. Manuel was the first quarterback selected this weekend. It’s not such a surprise that the rookie will be given a chance to compete for the Buffalo Bills starting job. Team president Russ Brandon called Manuel “a bell-cow quarterback” and expects him to battle for the gig. It’s far from certain whether that bell will ring in 2013 — or how often it might, but there’s certainly no reason to think Kevin Kolb will be automatically handed the keys to the offense.
Two tight ends for Bengals?: When the Cincinnati Bengals selected Tyler Eifert in the first round of the draft, the immediate question was “What does this mean for Jermaine Gresham?” According to offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, it means the two players could be on the field at the same time. It also means Gresham is likely to lose a few targets. The Bengals offense is certainly upgraded, but not enough to make this pair of tight ends anything more than No. 2 options in most fantasy formats.
Mendenhall is presumptive starter: It certainly won’t be official for some time, but (as we all thought), Rashard Mendenhall is the favorite to be the starting running back for the Arizona Cardinals. Head coach Bruce Arians has said he will go with a featured back, which bodes well for Mendenhall. The hope is that the veteran runner can remain healthy after missing 10 games with injury last season. If he can, he could be a solid low-end No. 2 fantasy rushing option.
Posey will start on PUP list: Houston Texans receiver DeVier Posey is expected to start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. With the wideout forced to miss the first six games of the season, it provides an opportunity for newly-drafted DeAndre Hopkins to challenge for the team’s No. 2 receiver slot. Right now, it’s hard to imagine Hopkins wouldn’t have a fair shot at the job — the combination of Posey, Lestar Jean and Keshawn Martin caught a combined 22 passes for 323 yards and two touchdowns.
Fitzgerald to return to elite?: You might have heard by now that Larry Fitzgerald had a bad season in 2012. New coach Bruce Arians aims to fix that. In a radio interview, the Cardinals head man said he’d like Fitzgerald to have “100 catches and 10-15 touchdowns” in 2013. That’s sweet music to the ears of fantasy owners. And with Carson Palmer under center (as opposed to last season’s QB quartet of disappointment), there’s a much better chance the veteran wideout sees those numbers. If the Redbirds really can get him the ball that often, he’s solidly back in the realm of elite N0. 1 receivers.
Giants looking at RB tandem: Questions have swirled around whether the New York Giants had plans to add any depth to their backfield. According to running backs coach Jerald Ingram, the answer is … maybe. However, all signs point to Andre Brown and David Wilson sharing the bulk of the carries. That’s good and bad news. There are the normal pitfalls of trying to manage a fantasy football rosters around the dynamics of a running back timeshare. However, the silver lining is that the timeshare should be limited to primarily two backs — instead of a possible three.
Cowboys looking for complementary RB: It appears DeMarco Murray won’t have the chance to be a featured back. It’s not a surprise considering Murray’s inability to make it through a 16-game schedule, but Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones told a San Antonio radio station that the team will take a look at drafting “a complementary back”. In reality, this won’t have a major effect on Murray’s fantasy value. He remains a No. 2 option in most formats. The only change is who you should consider drafting as his handcuff.
Dwyer, Redman seen a complements: With Rashard Mendenhall taking up residence in Arizona, there was a question as to whether Jonathan Dwyer or Isaac Redman would take up the mantle as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ No. 1 running back. The answer to that questions appears to be “no” and “no”. According to the Post-Gazette, the Steelers are still in the market for a back. Whether they find that player in the draft or through free agency remains to be seen. Whoever takes that top spot on the depth chart will have some fantasy value, but with the other two backs lurking around seeking carries, that value will be limited.
Smith ready to be No. 1 WR: Now that Anquan Boldin is no longer in the nest in Baltimore, it falls on Torrey Smith to be the team’s No. 1 receiver. It’s a role that Ray Rice believes the young wideout is prepared for. Smith has certainly been consistent, posting nearly identical numbers in each of his first two seasons. But so far he’s been regarded mostly as a deep threat. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts when defenses are geared more toward slowing him. Right now, he slots as a No. 2 option in most leagues.
Flynn will have to compete: New Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn won’t be handed the keys to the offense. Instead, he’ll be forced to compete in training camp to be the team’s No. 1 signal-caller. It’s not a major surprise considering the team has said it wants to see what it has with Terrelle Pryor. It might also have something to do with the fact that Flynn has just two career starts. While it appears that Flynn has the inside track to the job, this could be one of the training camp battles to keep an eye on.
McGahee is Broncos’ ‘big back’: It’s been reported repeatedly that the Denver Broncos are in search of a big running back to add to the backfield. Turns out, they might already have that guy. John Elway said in a press conference Monday that Willis McGahee“is that big back for us right now”. He also went on to mention Ronnie Hillman as a change-of-pace option for the team. That would seem to leave little for Knowshon Moreno to do. Of course, this could all be a smokescreen and the Broncos could still draft a running back later this week. Stay tuned.
Britt’s knee rehab going well: It’s taken Kenny Britt some time to recover from the major knee injury that cost him most of 2011 and sapped his skills in 2012. But if his teammates at Titans mini-camp are any indication, Britt’s back to his old self. We’re all still waiting on the big breakout season from the talented wideout. With 2013 being a contract year for Britt, it could be a case of now or never. He’ll rank as a No. 3 receiver with sleeper potential until we see otherwise.
Graham seeking opportunity: Now that Donald Jones and David Nelson are gone from Buffalo, it would appear to open things up for T.J. Graham to be a No. 2 receiver option for the Bills. As a rookie last season, the speedster caught 31 passes for 322 yards and a touchdown. There’s certainly a chance he could surpass those numbers, but it’s dependent upon the quarterback situation … which is far from settled in Buffalo. It’s likely to be Kevin Kolb, but expect some competition in camp. Either way, the guy tossing passes won’t inspire enough confidence to make Graham more than a late-round flier in most leagues.
Bowe likes new attack: New Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid already has one fan for his offense — wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. Bowe raved about the new style of playcalling, saying it was “totally different from last year. It’s not check downs or putting it in the running back’s hands. This guy likes to go down the field, take the top off (the defense) and that’s something we haven’t done in the past, put up a lot of points.”
That comment immediately raises red flags among anyone who watched how inconsistently Reid used LeSean McCoy in Philadelphia. One would hope that a similar fate doesn’t befall Jamaal Charles, especially since he’s been Kansas City’s most productive weapon in recent seasons. It’s hard to imagine the Chiefs being a much more vertical offense considering Alex Smith isn’t known for having a big arm. Bowe may be excited now, but we’ll wait until more of the offense is installed before we follow his scouting report.
Hernandez looking at recovery timetable: The saga of the Patriots banged-up tight ends continues. After having recent shoulder surgery, Aaron Hernandez is expected to endure a four-month recovery that could land him on the Physically Unable to Perform list when training camp begins. Right now, it doesn’t appear that he will miss any time during the regular season. That’s good news considering the status of Rob Gronkowski remains an unknown for the time being.
Burleson ahead of schedule: Detroit Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson says he’s ahead of schedule in his recovery from a broken leg. The veteran will likely head into the 2013 season as the No. 2 receiver behind Calvin Johnson. Yet with the addition of Reggie Bush, Burleson will get pushed down the pecking order a notch or two. Plus, with Ryan Broyles hoping to compete for more targets, there may not be much reason for fantasy owners to clamor over Burleson in drafts.
In a move that’s been discussed for weeks, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers acquired cornerback Darrelle Revis in a trade with the New York Jets on Sunday in exchange for a 2013 first-rounder and a conditional third- or fourth-round pick in 2014. The Buccaneers also have signed Revis to a new six-year, $96 million contract — the deal averages $16 million annually. Typically, trades that involve a defensive player as it’s centerpiece don’t have a major impact on fantasy football leagues.
This is one of those rare cases when it does.
In the past, facing Revis was a statistical death sentence for the opposing team’s No. 1 wide receiver — even an elite player like Andre Johnson became somewhat of a risk in fantasy starting lineups when he was going up against the NFL’s best cover cornerback.
Of course, whether or not Revis will be as dominant in his first season back from major knee reconstruction remains to be seen. Regardless, he’ll have his work cut out for him — just look at the list of wide receivers Revis will face twice a year in the NFC South — the Atlanta’s Falcons Roddy White and Julio Jones, the New Orleans Saints’ Marques Colston and the Carolina Panthers’ Steve Smith.
The best non-division opponents Revis will go up against are a virtual who’s who among fantasy football’s best wideouts and includes New England’s Danny Amendola (Week 3), Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald (Week 4), Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson (Week 6), Seattle’s Percy Harvin (Week 9), Miami’s Mike Wallace (Week 10), Detroit’s Calvin Johnson (Week 12), Buffalo’s Steve Johnson (Week 14) and San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree (Week 15).
Add them all up, and you have 11 different wideouts ranked among the top 25 at their position in fantasy football (heading into the 2013 season) who will be slated to make a visit to Revis Island.
So, should owners now look to avoid most of these receivers in drafts? Of course not, but keep in mind that the Buccaneers are a virtual lock to drastically improve a pass defense that gave up the second-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers just one season ago. That makes what would have been a favorable matchup on paper for wideouts now far less attractive.
In New York, Revis’ departure isn’t a reason to downgrade the Jets’ pass defense. Remember that he missed all but 14 games with the anterior cruciate ligament tear last season, and the Men in Green still allowed just 11 touchdowns and the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. That had much to do with the emergence of cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who is now the best player on the team’s roster. So, instead of having two of the best cover corners on the same team, NFL wide receivers will now have to face Revis and Cromartie much more often.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or via Facebook!