We scour the news around the NFL to bring you what matters most for you and your dynasty team: the most current news on players, both superstars and the relative unknowns, and analysis to decipher the respective situations.
The biggest news of the offseason has to be the Aaron Hernandez situation. He has been charged with first degree murder and was subsequently released from the New England Patriots. After this bombshell, news has surfaced of the tight end's involvement in an earlier double murder. It is very safe to say that his career is finished. Many dynasty owners are overreacting and making the mistake that Jake Ballard will fill in the void left by Hernandez's legal woes. Ballard will only be roster worthy in dynasty leagues if Rob Gronkowski misses significant time. Hernandez was moved around the formation to take full advantage of his superior athletic ability, something the plodding Ballard does not possess. Expect Shane Vereen or a receiver to fill the spot vacated by Hernandez. But, on the topic of Gronkowski, he is far from a sure thing to be healthy for week one after his most recent back surgery. He has a very serious injury. The news will be negative for the next month as the big tight end is not close to returning to practice. This provides the perfect opportunity for a savvy dynasty owner to buy low. Yes, the back injuries could shorten Gronkowski's career. However, he is still very young and will have some elite fantasy seasons in the meantime.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree suffered an Achilles tear in the offseason training activities. It was a brutal blow for both the team and Crabtree, who was looking to build on the momentum gained from the strong push at the end of last season. The good news is that the injury is not a career ender, as in the past. But, there will be doubt as to whether Crabtree will be able to regain his speed and ability to change directions quickly. The trade for Anquan Boldin will soften the blow for the team. Expect second-year pro A.J. Jenkins to have the first shot at replacing Crabtree. Jenkins was a first round draft pick a year ago and is now given a golden opportunity. Veteran Mario Manningham would have stepped in, but is recovering from a knee injury himself. Rookie Quinton Patton is the sleeper in the situation. He does not possess the big-time speed of Jenkins, but is a polished route runner and will be able to get open against NFL defenders. There is a slim chance Crabtree can return for the final portion of the season and playoffs.
Before the deadline, the New York Giants were able to reach an agreement with slot receiver extraordinaire Victor Cruz that will allow the salsa-dancing pass catcher to remain in the Big Apple until 2019. Originally wanting to receive in excess of $10 million per season, Cruz signed for roughly $7.5 per year. After this new deal, the focus will now shift to Hakeem Nicks. Cruz was a restricted free agent and was going to play the 2013 season on the tender. Nicks is entering the last year of his rookie contract. If he and the Giants cannot come to an agreement, New York will be faced with the choice as to whether to slap Nicks with the franchise tag or allow him to walk via free agency. With Rueben Randle waiting in the wings, it will be a difficult decision for the team. Do they want to invest in two high-priced receivers?
Another contract extension was reached between the Detroit Lions and quarterback Matthew Stafford. Many forget that the quarterback is still just 25 years of age. The agreement will add three more years to Stafford's contract and $53 million to his bank account. This pact will allow him to become a free agent before the age of thirty. With the acquisition of tailback Reggie Bush, the Lions are hoping to make a run at the playoffs while Calvin Johnson is still in his prime. Keeping the gunslinging quarterback will help.
Players generating buzz coming into training camp
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is expected by many to take a giant leap in his development. Tannehill is now surrounded by talent (with the additions of Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller) and the buzz is building.
Jordan Cameron has the chance to become a fantasy starter in the Cleveland Browns offense. Coach Rob Chudzinski is well known for his use of the tight end and has bragged about the upside of the athletic Cameron. Quarterback Brandon Weeden referred to his tight end as "one of the most athletic big guys I’ve ever been around in any sport."
The Arizona Cardinals team website called tight end Rob Housler the leading breakout candidate. Like Cameron, Housler is athletic and steps into the starting lineup for a full offseason for the first time as a professional.
Lamar Miller has been training with Frank Gore, hopefully helping the youngster in pass protection and the finer parts of the position. Miller is very fast but lacked aggressiveness … something Gore is known for.
Bernard Pierce has been getting serious buzz of late, with some even suggesting the young runner will steal carries away from Ray Rice. It is entirely possible that Pierce's role increases, but the extent is unknown at this time. He has added ten pounds of muscle and is bulked up for a larger workload.
Many are hoping San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis will have a larger role in the pass offense with the Crabtree injury.
Players with the negative vibe
New York Giants young ball carrier David Wilson was mistake prone as a rookie in 2012. In the offseason, coaches Gilbride and Coughlin have stated publicly the need for the explosive runner to reduce the mistakes. This is a likely a motivational ploy to push for improvement.
Denver tailback Ronnie Hillman has been beaten down by pundits all offseason. His role will likely be as a change of pace player to begin the season with a chance to expand the playing time with strong play.
Tennessee receiver Justin Hunter has yet to get healthy from a hamstring injury. There has been almost weekly reports out of Nashville encouraging the rookie to get healthy.
One player who has seen all negative reports is Washington Redskins rookie tight end Jordan Reed. He had an injury to his quadriceps and knee going back into his career at Florida. The third round pick had a thigh injury which impacted his knee. The injury has been categorized as "concerning" and could lead to a slow start to Reed's rookie campaign.
Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon was already going to miss the first four games of the season due to a league-mandated suspension. But, a recent groin injury - and subsequent surgery - is of concern as well. Expect another slow start this season.
Indianapolis receiver LaVon Brazill will endure a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. He tested positive for marijuana. For a young player trying to earn more playing time, this is not good news.
If you have questions of any variety, please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (Twitter.com/JeffTefertiller) or in the Wannabee thread in the Assistant Coach Forum.