This is the time of year that dynasty owners need to begin keeping a close eye on all of the football news. This article can serve as a place to catch you up on the recent football news as it relates to dynasty leagues. We will look to identify some winners and losers. Keep a close eye on the Footballguys.com news page for the up to date news.
The Seattle Seahawks quarterback battle is one which may have a regular spot in this column. Per Clayton, "(Matt Flynn) hasn't wowed anybody in all the offseason program. And because of that, when they start camp, Tarvaris Jackson will be taking the first snap ... It's still gonna be a three-way competition. Because of that, Flynn's going to have to pick things up and wow everybody or at least take control of it during camp. He's not done it yet." Those are some harsh words. With how poorly Jackson played last season, and Flynn's inability to separate from the pack, dynasty owners might be looking to pick up rookie Russell Wilson cheaply. His time could come soon.
Quarterback Vince Young has been scrutinized as much as any backup quarterback other than fellow New Yorker Tim Tebow. In a Buffalo News article, head coach Chan Gailey acknowledged that Young has had difficulty picking up the Bills offense. Everyone remembers the infamous Wonderlic score so this may not be a surprise to many. Per Gailey, "He has done a very good job, considering the circumstances, ... He is trying to learn what the base concepts are and how we have advanced to where we are today without the benefit of going through the baby steps ... It is very difficult." Young only has to beat out Tyler Thigpen for the QB2 job. It was under Gailey that Kordell Stewart had his monster season so the coach knows how to utilize athletic quarterbacks. Per ESPN.com, Young is guaranteed just $350,000 on his one-year deal. This was a low-risk signing for Buffalo, who was looking to upgrade the backup quarterback job after the late-season swoon of starter Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Jacksonville superstar ball carrier Maurice Jones-Drew finally spoke out about his contract situation. The diminutive back said in a NFL Network interview, "This is the side of the NFL that's just as real as Sunday ... This is what the NFL is really about. What I can say is that I hope that we can get something done." The Jaguars have stated that the team will not extend Jones-Drew's contract so this could ugly. Dynasty owners would be wise to acquire Rashad Jennings before the holdout gets uglier.
One of the biggest hurdles for rookie running backs is picking up the blitz. Most times, opposing teams know the rookie runners will carry the ball since they come off the field in passing situations in order not to get the quarterback killed. It was good news to see the Pewter Report say Tampa Bay rookie Doug Martin was "as advertised" at picking up the blitz during minicamps. In the report, position coach Earnest Byner said, "The thing that [rookies] struggle with most of the time is pass protection and especially nickel pass protection ... But I don’t think that’s going to be an issue with (Martin)." As a former NFL back, Byner knows what he is talking about. With LeGarrette Blount's deficiencies in the passing game, Martin is looking like a three-down player in the Buccaneers run-heavy offense.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently ran an article where Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter admitted concern in regard to Michael Turner wearing down late in the season the past few years. While Turner is a bruising runner, he is no spring chicken and the team has Jacquizz Rodgers waiting in the wings. The team's official web site, atlantafalcons.com, also ran an article saying it expects the running back touches to be distributed "on a more by-committee basis" than in the past. There have been several other recent articles with similar story lines so regular readers of this column should already be looking to acquire Rodgers before the word gets out even further about Turner's fantasy demise.
The Bills' official team website, BuffaloBills.com, recently opined that it expects the team to utilize a "good number" of two-back formations with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. Both played great last season when given the opportunity so it only makes sense that both are on the field as much as possible. Coach Chan Gailey is as innovative as any offensive mind in the league so he will look to take advantage of what opposing defenses offer. Jackson is coming off a broken fibula, but should be back to 100% by training camp. He is expected to be the lead back with Spiller used in motion, in the slot, on gadget plays, and in the passing game. These two ball carriers are the best big-play players on offense so it is easy to see why the coaching staff would want both on the field often.
Many "draftniks" had high hopes for Baltimore Ravens rookie tailback Bernard Pierce, but a report in CSN Baltimore said that the rookie "didn't stand out in the OTAs or minicamps." With Ray Rice not present showing his displeasure for the contract situation, last year's seventh round pick Anthony Allen lined up with the offensive starters. Per the report, Allen "had some nice moments" while "everyone from the coaches to Joe Flacco have done nothing but praise him." With Ricky Williams now retired, the Ravens are still looking for a reserve behind Rice, especially with his contract situation. Allen makes a viable dynasty stash unless - or until - the team signs a veteran ball carrier.
This is the time of year where NFL coaches spew optimism so fantasy owners should not overreact when hearing that San Diego Chargers coach Norv Turner compared receiver Eddie Royal to Charlie Joiner and Henry Ellard. Turner said, "He's a real smooth receiver, ... He reminds me of Charlie Joiner, and reminds me of Henry Ellard, guys that I've been around. He's very deceptive. And sometimes he doesn't look like he's going that fast, and he's hauling." This story ran in the North County Times. The Union-Tribune San Diego also had a recent story about Royal. The report said Royal looked "sharp, explosive in and out of breaks," and "consistently gets separation." Before buying into these reports too much, let's remember that the Chargers also have been touting Robert Meachem as a potential 1,000-yard receiver and tight end Antonio Gates as finally fully healthy. Even with a Philip Rivers rebound season in sight, the chances of both Royal and Meachem making a difference in fantasy leagues is quite remote.
It was a surprise to many when The Florida Times Union called wide receiver Laurent Robinson the "obvious leader of the receiving corps" at Jaguars minicamps. Most fans and fantasy owners expected that role to go to first round pick Justin Blackmon. It may take a year for the rookie to pick up the intricacies of a NFL offense from the spread attack of Oklahoma State. Robinson made plays in Dallas last season and Jacksonville gave him much more money than expected so he is a player who could jump into the spotlight if quarterback Blaine Gabbert can improve ... or is beaten out by Chad Henne. Outside of the quarterback play, injuries are the main concern with Robinson.
Chris Brown, of BuffaloBills.com, recently stated Marcus Easley has the team's best physical skill set for the outside receiver role across from Steve Johnson. Easley's main competition for the WR2 job will be rookie T.J. Graham. Finally back to full health, the young Easley is a sleeper in dynasty leagues. The pass-happy Bills could make a fantasy starter out of Easley or Graham.
ESPN NFC East blogger Dan Graziano opined that Santana Moss still "retains a chance" to be the team's No. 1 receiver in 2012. After the Redskins signed Pierre Garcon to a monster contract, many worried that the veteran Moss would be a salary cap casualty. The improvement at the quarterback position, combined with a better receiver than Jabar Gaffney lined up across the formation, Moss has a slim chance to be fantasy relevant this year. Leonard Hankerson also has a shot to emerge. No matter the reports, it will be very difficult for any of the Washington pass catchers to top 750 receiving yards in 2012.
The Sacramento Bee reported last week that San Francisco rookie receiver A.J. Jenkins "had a hard time staying on his feet" in offseason workouts. The first round pick struggled. Beat writer Matt Barrows said that the rookie was "very often" on the ground after the play, and Jenkins' need for "improved strength was evident." Then, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported that Jenkins "looked like one of the worst receivers on the field" during the June minicamps - and that is saying something with Ted Ginn in San Francisco. On a team which struggles throwing the ball, and has a talented group of receivers ahead of him on the depth chart, Jenkins may need a year or two before hitting the fantasy radar. The presence of Michael Crabtree, a motivated Randy Moss, and free agent addition Mario Manningham will impede Jenkins' chances of seeing the field any time soon.
The Cincinnati Bengals have a talented group of young receivers. Mohamed Sanu was selected in April's NFL Draft to be the team's WR2 and possession receiver across from A.J. Green. But, Brandon Tate is making a push to start either as the WR2 or in the slot. The team's website, Bengals.com, recently ran a quote by offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. Gruden remarked that Tate "has been one of the best surprises of camp ... He's got all the ability ... He runs all of the routes great, he's got great feel, and he's done an outstanding job." Tate was a prolific receiver in college who is just now healthy from a knee injury suffered in college. He is a receiver who is dangerous with the ball in his hands, both as a receiver and returner. But, the upside of the Bengals second receiver position is limited ... at least until quarterback Andy Dalton develops further.