If you haven't read Part-I, read it now. If you have, let's skip the fanfare and get back to the league thought-tour.
Where Is The Aerial Support for Alex Smith?
Dwayne Bowe should be better than he is, but that's a subject for a feature article. Donnie Avery was once a bright-shiny toy, but he's a bit dusty and needs the hinges oiled too often. What Kansas City needs is an unstoppable force against man coverage that requires bracketing and opens the field for guys like Bowe and Avery, who can be "pretty good," when healthy or inspired.
Junior Hemingway is a fun young prospect to watch because he's crafty, physical, and sure-handed. None of those things make him primary receiver material. A.J. Jenkins was supposed to be a future starter according to the 49ers front office. Jenkins' pro game may be wrapped in a Glad bag while Jonathan Baldwin's is in a Hefty, but by year's end I think the 49ers and Chiefs will conclude that regardless of the name, it's still waste.
Mark Harrison was more intriguing at Rutgers than either Jenkins or Baldwin at Illinois and Pittsburgh. It's worth noting that after the trashed hotel room at the NFL Combine that belonged to him and DeAndre Hopkins, Harrison is on his second team in two years.
Is it possible that the hotel room is a reflection of Harrison's approach to his professional life? Yes. Do I have proof? None at all--just a feeling. Too bad though, he has the kind of athleticism to become a good west coast receiver.
The most intriguing receiver in Kansas City might be UDFA Albert Wilson. The Georgia State star is an fine return specialist and an underrated receiver. Wilson's size is more fitting of a traditional slot receiver, but he displayed a knack for winning 50/50 balls as a perimeter option in college. His performance this spring has some beat writers suggesting he'll compete for the starting job in the slot.
It's a great little story, but unlikely to translate to fantasy production in 2014--even with an uninspiring group of receivers. Add Kansas City to the list that includes Carolina and Cleveland (By the way, Paul Grossman introduced me to Miles Austin's nickname, "Hamstrings." Fantastic).
The true hope for this aerial attack might rest with the knee of tight end Travis Kelce. If he can dominate the middle, he'll make life easier for Bowe, Avery, and Jamaal Charles. Kelce's work could also clear underneath stuff for a slot guy like Wilson. Because of the microfracture surgery, we won't know how good Kelce will look until August, which makes his ADP prone to a dramatic shift if he plays in the presason and looks like a stud.
I have an optimistic 55-600-4 statline for Kelce heading into training camp. I think there's room to add another 4-5 touchdowns and 200-300 yards if he looks great or subtract the same yardage if he's struggling earn playing time.
Demetrius Harris, a former basketball player, has looked good enough in OTAs to consider in dynasty leagues if Kelce's knee fails him long-term, but he's not as polished as Kelce. The more I think about it, the more I believe the most exciting think in the air in Kansas City this year might be the 168-foot-tall water slide at Schlitterbahn water park.
I can't justify more than 3500 yards for Smith with this group. If it happens, it would be Smith's career-best season. The Chiefs may not win my preseason vote as the least-inspiring passing unit in fantasy football, but despite the bigger names of Charles and Bowe, they're not far off.
Lamar Miller: Can He Make The Jump? Will Miami Let Him?
Miller's RB37 ADP is the echo of a collective 2013 let-down for a second-year back that was supposed to make the jump. Miller can hear David Wilson standing at the entrance of the "You're Dead To Me in Fantasy" Cave. If Miller doesn't capture the job this year, he'll see the whites of Wilson's eyes.
Too bad, too. Miller and Wilson are better athletic talents with more big-play upside than the likes of Alfred Morris and Zac Stacy, but once a player has the minimum athletic requirements for the job, worth ethic and game savvy matters more. With Moreno's knee surgery bleeding into training camp, Miller has to start strong to fend off the free agent Miami brought in to start.
Miller has all the tools to become a much better runner, receiver, and blocker than Moreno. We'll see if he's worked hard enough to do it. I've projected 250-1100-7 for Miller with 38-320-1 as a receiver. It makes him RB15 on my list and a potential game-changing value if my optimism works out. However, it's worth noting that I'm starting high and working low with Miller.
Miller, like Wilson, or Ryan Mathews before them, has the ability to become a top-15 fantasy runner. The question is the offensive line and scheme. Miami hopes to run a lot of up-tempo sets and it will take a focused and smart player who minimizes errors.
If Miller doesn't win the job full-time and/or Moreno looks healthy enough to go by early August, I'll alter my projections, but I'm skeptical Moreno will be in shape or healthy enough to look like the player Miami hoped it signed from Denver. I'd rather take my chances with Moreno as a waiver wire leftover than draft him this summer.
I'm betting Moreno will be the loser but as optimistic as my projections are for Miller right now, I'm still uncertain he'll be the winner.
Is Greg Jennings Undervalued In Norv Turner's Offense?
I'm banking on this one. If you've been reading fantasy articles for the past two months then you already have heard at least a few times that Jennings performed like he was with the Packers down the stretch with Matt Cassel at the helm. This is not a surprise when considering Christian Ponder's difficulty as a decision maker.
Contrary to a segment of belief, Green Bay did let Jennings go because he was old and his skills were declining; he was too expensive to keep and they had equal or greater talent waiting in the wings. Of course, working with a quarterback like Ponder makes it easier to think a receiver is in decline.
The focus in Minnesota is how to translate Cordarrelle Patterson's otherworldly gifts with the ball in his hands into tangible, weekly production. While Patterson is learning to become a masterful route runner and more consistent catcher of targets, there's Greg Jennings who is capable of 65-900-6 with an aggressive quarterback that isn't a check-down addict.
The 14 YPC is the riskiest part of this projection, but pre-Vikings/pre-Ponder, anything less than 16 YPC was unusual for Jennings between 2007-2012. But there aren't many receivers over 30 in the top 24 of their position each year--maybe 25 percent in a given year. I see Jennings as a low-end WR3, which isn't much of a bump from where he was last year.
However, I believe there will be greater consistency and enough to vault him into low-end WR2 range. As WR52 with current ADP and a 12-round value, I give Jennings a hard look if this remains the case in August.
I also believe Teddy Bridgewater has the kind of aggressive mentality and smarts to keep Jennings a viable threat, but the risk factor climbs if the rookie starts the season. Still, a 12th-round option isn't that risky unless you avoided receivers like the plague for for the first half of your selection process. Unlikely.
New England's Fantasy Prospects Are As Clear As Chowder...
It might be white-washed with delicacies, but the offensive line malfunctioned like an old refrigerator with a frayed plug and all those chunks of goodness spoiled last year because of all the heat it let inside. Other than Rob Gronkowski, whose 1000-yard, 10-touchdown potential is the recognizable lobster meat in the bowl, the rest of the skill players' production could be meaty or wind up as vegetables:
- 192-826-7 for Stevan Ridley? This could be drastically off in either direction.
- 188 touches, 1158 total yards, and 8 touchdowns for Shane Vereen? If the hand doesn't bother him and he stays healthy for once.
- Danny Amendola? Forget chowder, he's the fantasy football version of cooking blowfish. Good luck not killing your season.
- Whose the No.2 outside receiver? League drop leaders Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins or underachieving Brandon LaFell?
- Tom Brady only took a step back because of the performance of the players above and the swiftness the pressure came compared to the rest of the league's offensive lines.
Monitor the state of the offensive line this summer, invest in Gronkowski--and Brady if you must, and be the one to add Patriots receivers from the waiver wire or acquire through trades. Otherwise, you might be doing the bear crawl to the bathroom.
Will Pierre Thomas Lead The Saints In Carries?
I see projections that indicate as such. Maybe I'm a year early on this, but didn't the playoffs indicate that Khiry Robinson and Mark Ingram II were the horses that New Orleans hitched its wagon train to?
Thomas had seven games last year with double-digit rushing attempts. Minus the proper context, the continued feeding of Thomas above the rest of the backs makes sense.
However, Ingram didn't play the entire season and Robinson was the unproven UDFA who slowly proved himself as the year progressed. With that kind of context, I'm having difficulty buying Thomas as the lead ball carrier.
Thomas only has 34 games out of 94 total where he's earned double-digit attempts. I think last year went against his typecasting in the Big Easy because his 147 attempts tied his career high from 2009 and the seasons in between where he played at least 15 games included 110 and 105 attempts.
Look for Robinson and/or Ingram to generate at least an even split with Thomas with Robinson--barring an August surge in ADP--as the draft-day bargain. Note, I didn't say Thomas wouldn't benefit from Darren Sproles' absence as a receiver. Thomas should lead New Orleans' backs in receptions.
However, Brandin Cooks might perform well enough that the rise in Thomas' reception totals isn't too dramatic. No, Cooks isn't a traditional scat back and he won't earn near the number of Sproles' carries. However he will see a lot of designed plays then went to Sproles when the dimunitive spark plug worked as a receiver.
Thomas's ADP of RB31 isn't much different from my take of him as an RB33, but I don't see the upside compared to Khiry Robinson at RB40, who could play his way into a larger role than even his ADP indicates.
Rashad Jennings: Welcome to The Overzealous Zone
He's 29, he's never started a full season in the NFL, and he's playing for a team that struggled mightily on offense last year, but I'm projecting 280-1257-8 for Rashad Jennings and then throwing in another 45-365-2 through the air. Yes, Jennings qualifies as the player where I might have lost my fantasy mind after my first run of projections.
I'm not buying Andre Williams, especially earlier this spring when he said he was unsure whether the Giants would have a three-headed backfield.
"I can't really say they're going to build that three-headed monster,' said Williams. 'I'm not really too sure yet. I'm just getting here and learning as much as I can. I think each running back brings a lot of different specialties, and I'm just excited to see what we'll be able to do once we're out on the field."
Translation: I'm drinking through a fire hose right now. I'm not sure if I'll even see the field.
David Wilson's neck still isn't where it needs to be. Michael Cox and Da'Rel Scott are just happy to be here. All this and the projections we're seeing for Jennings amount to 175-205 carries? Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller split time in an offense with a worse passing game and earned more as separate components of a tandem than what's getting projected for Jennings.
Maybe these projections are based on the belief that Williams and or Wilson will have significant contributions. Last week, the coaching staff announced that Jennings would be the workhorse back so perhaps these figures will be revisted soon enough.
What I do know is that "workhorse" means at least 250 carries in my book. Maybe it's not the official meaning in the make-believe, Merriam-Webster Football Dictionary, but 250 attempts feels like a pampered workhorse if you ask me.
Jennings had 163 carries in 15 games with the Raiders,but 127 of those carries were earned during the final 8 weeks of the season, amounting to an average of nearly 16 carries per contest. During that same span Jennings earned 24 of his 36 receptions. We're talking about 19 touches per game when Oakland decided on Jennings being "the guy," for its backfield.
Project this rate over the course of a season and it's 304 touches. I came in at 325 as my 2014 proejction so I realize I'm about to O.D. on Rashad Jennings this summer. In fact, the telltale sign I've O.D.'d is that he's my RB6 heading into training camp and I'm searching the Internet for local projection counseling centers that might help me cope with my problem.
Until then, I'm watching and waiting for any signs of life from Williams and Wilson that can talk me off the precipice of over-projection insanity. None of come yet and Jennings, being a young 29 looked mighty fine for a moribound Raiders offense.
Here I go again. Stay tuned for my August update to see if I've broken through my wall of denial.
The New York Jets Welcome You To The Fool's Paradise
Chris Johnson, Jace Amaro, Decker, and Michael Vick, welcome to Fantasy Fool's Paradise, otherwise known as the New York Jets. Shonn Greene, Mark Sanchez, and Santonio Holmes were the next big things 4-5 years ago.
At least Holmes gave us something for a year.
More recently, we've seen a similar scenario. Chris Ivory was the fantasy community's "It" back last summer. Stephen Hill was the bright and shiny vertical toy heading into Year Two. And Geno Smith was the team's next answer at quarterback.
This year, it's Johnson, Amaro, Decker, and Vick. Is the third time the charm or are we finally going to realize where the hole is in the street before falling into it yet again?
I will give credit where credit is due: None of the projections that I've seen for this quartet of new additions is an enthusiastic endorsement of them as fantasy studs. Not one of them is even a fantasy starter in traditional lineups according to my projections.
The scary thing is that this quartet could turn around and post fantasy starter production across the board. You have to be a masochist to draft a Jet in a shallow league.
Personally, I think I'm nuts to have Chris Johnson sniffing 900 yards in ths Jets offense (224-918-5 and 35-225-2). Chris Ivory on the other hand still intrigues me as the player with the most potential to thrive in this offense. If Ivory stays healthy in the preseason I'll be upgrading him (from 200-880-5) and downgrading Johnson.
Is Matt Schaub Worth A Late-Round Pick Or Is He Tied To The Tracks of The Westbound Carr Express?
A fitting corollary to this first question is: If so, will we see quality fantasy production from Raiders tight ends? I have Schaub starting 75 percent of the season and coming within 15 minutes of a 3000 yards and 20 touchdowns, but I'm admittedly taking another optimistic stand heading into the preseason.
The offensive line needs to make strides, the ground game has to show some teeth, and which of the 5-6 promising athletes (not named James Jones) at receiver will make the transition to reliable veteran? I'm leaning towards Streater as the starter to begin the season, but it seems like a monthly occurrance that the Oakland beat writers are touting the talents of a different option.
The Browns, Panthers, and Chiefs could take one guy each and have a viable offensive contributor. Right now, I have no idea whom to recommend. I know my compatriots are eager for Andre Holmes and it's a wise guess. I just see how Juron Crinor or Streater could render that guess useless.
The better odds might be taking a chance on Mychal Rivera or David Ausberry. Rivera has a lot of Owen Daniels/Garrett Graham-like potential and Ausberry is the whiff of infatuation dust that makes coaches imagine wide receiver-to-tight end conversions like Ozzie Newsome and Shannon Sharpe, but risk winding up with Mikhael Ricks.
Neither Rivera nor Ausberry make my top-20 tight ends at this point of the season, but if Rivera locks down the starting gig without any significant targets to Ausberry, my adjustments will put Rivera within striking distance of the top-10 at the position.
As for Derek Carr, he's going to look pretty good in practice and even the preseason. I'm waiting for the real, honest-to-goodness, big-boy pants defensive pressure. Then come talk to me about Carr's accuracy and poise befitting an NFL starter.
Why Is Darren Sproles' Upside More Limited In Philadelphia Than New Orleans?
There's lots of bad reasons bandied about when it comes to this subject. Jordan Matthews' presence in the slot will take away Sproles' upside as a receiver. And this was the case with Marques Colston?
LeSean McCoy is such a good receiver that Sproles won't earn as many targets. Have we forgotten about Pierre Thomas? Or what about Ladanian Tomlinson's 2008 season in San Diego when Sproles had five receiving touchdowns?
Good skill players in wide-open, prolific offenses create opportunities for teammates rather than roadblocks and the Eagles' offense qualifies. I have Sproles as RB28 entering camp and it's a cautious projection because I'm keeping his rush attempts at 50, McCoy's receptions at 50, and giving Matthews, Ertz, Brent Celek, Jeremy Maclin, and Riley Cooper optmistic production.
If two of these six players don't meet my projections--and mind you, the skill players' aerial totals translate to a 358-completion, 4352-yard, 30-touchdown season from Nick Foles (reasonable stats, considering last year)--Sproles has a strong shot of benefitting and earning quality RB2 totals. I may not be projecting Sproles' max potential, but RB36 (RB32 PPR) is a decent value in August.
I have Moore at 12.5 yards per catch in Pittsburgh and it's a rate that could be a bit high if he's primarily the Steelers' slot man. But two years ago in New Orleans, Moore averaged 16 yards per catch when Drew Brees and company called upon him as a deep threat.
Pittsburgh did say Moore would compete for a perimeter spot. If he wins it--and as a wily veteran, he's capable--he could see outside looks in two-receiver sets as a vertical, play-action threat and move inside in trips and quads sets.
This scenario won't help Moore earn another 16 YPC, but it could bump his average enough that he becomes an every week starter. I'm not counting on it, but I'm keeping an eye out for the possibility. It's this type of information one should tuck away as you watch games and see how the offense develops.
If the Steelers find that Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton aren't getting the job done, they could lean more on Moore. And "more Moore," could be a nice buy-low opportunity for a (most teams) that need to build on its draft to craft a winner.
Speaking of Bryant and Wheaton, my buddy David Grace wrote me the other day and wondered why he hasn't seen much about Wheaton during the offseason. Grace says he's been drafting the second-year deep threat a lot this summer in the later rounds.
Certainly, it's human nature for people to downgrade a player whose team drafts another early-round receiver after a rookie year where he did not see a lot of playing time. Another point against Wheaton is that Emmanuel Sanders wasn't too productive in the Steelers' system and its Sanders that Wheaton is replacing in the lineup.
I have Wheaton as WR48--a conservative estimate for the reasons above--but like most who are cautious about Wheaton I think it has less to do with his potential than his situation. We simply don't trust Pittsburgh's passing game to transcend Todd Haley's dictates and become a juggernaut aerial attack commensurate with the skill talent available. It could happen, but no one is betting on anyone early, but Antonio Brown.
In 2011 the Steelers had the No.9 (Mike Wallace) and No.24 (Brown) fantasy receivers. Of course, this was the year before Haley arrived in Pittsburgh. One glimmer of hope is that Haley has been asked to compromise some of his schemes and another year of the coordinator loosening his sphincter might help the Steelers offensive production. Maybe offensive line coach Mike Munchak can make enough of a difference for his offensive line to run like a machine on the ground and aid with play action. I'm cautiously optimistic.
One of the biggest bombs of my fantasy preseason was my enthusiasm for Vincent Brown. Mike McCoy praised Browns route running and predicted a 2013 where Brown would be a huge factor in the offense. It never materialized.
Brown saw a lot of vertical tight-window targets where the placement of the throw forced Brown to earn separation he could not attain. Some of the issue had to do with the nature of the target, but Brown didn't appear to have the same burst he had prior to his 2012 injury.
Word from Chargers camp is that Brown "looks fresh." Positive reviews in June are a nice start, but we need to see similar in August preseason games.
I'm sure the majority of fantasy owners are feeling the symptoms of "once burned, twice shy," with Brown -- I certainly am. But Malcolm Floyd, Eddie Royal, and Seyi Ajirotutu, would need their positives to be combined into one player to out-perform what we saw in flashes from Brown in 2011. If the 2011 Brown returns, 55-740-4 could be too low a projection.
However right now, it feels like fantasy whiplash. Stay tuned.
Where fantasy owners are gaga over the Chargers' aerial game is tight end hybrid Ladarius Green, who averaged 22 yards per catch last year. Keep in mind, a 22-yard YPC isn't that impressive with 17 receptions. Talk to me when Green is earning that much per catch with 2-3 times the amount of receptions and no Antonio Gates to distract opposing defenses.
There's a lot of speculation that Green has surpassed Gates as a receiver. Maybe, but has he surpassed Gates as a route runner and reader of defensive coverage? Gates in his athletic prime still beats Green on the ascent. Gates a few years past his athletic prime is still a more complete player and capable of top-12 fantasy production in 2014.
Don't believe me? Quick, who would you rather have this year on your fantasy team, Ladarius Green in San Diego or Tony Gonzalez returning to Atlanta?
For me, it's Gonzalez by a mile. Gonzalez had four seasons in Atlanta where he was clearly past his athletic prime and he was still a top-five fantasy option in three of those campaigns. If you agree with me then it's not much of a stretch to make a similar argument for Gates.
If Vincent Brown and Malcom Floyd fail to return to form or Green makes enough stride between last season and this, then we could see two tight ends with at least 35 catches in San Diego. Gates averaged 11.3 yards per catch on 77 receptions last year. If Green cuts into 33 of Gates' catches from 2013 and earns 50 receptions to Gates 44, what's an appropriate expection for yards per catch?
Gates' best season since his rookie year was a 15.6 average in 2010. I think anything over 16 yards per catch is unrealistic. Truth be told, I'm projecting 16 per catch for Green, but I'm expecting 60 catches from Gates and 38 from Green rather than the near 50-50 split I described above.
Why You Should be Sold on The Seahawks Passing More This Year
Whenever I write about Paul Richardson Jr or Kevin Norwood, I invariably get a reader response that explains they aren't optimistic about either rookie long-term because Seattle is a run offense and they don't see the upside. They don't even acknowledge that Seattle stated it intends to throw more and open up the offense or they react as if someone told them that Russell Wilson will be a 5000-yard passer in 2014.
I have Wilson at 4191 yards, 800 yards more than many of the projections I've seen for the Seahawks' quarterback. For a running back or wide receiver, it's a big difference in yardage. For a quarterback, it amounts to 12.5 yards per quarter--think of four extra receptions per game from a wide receiver in the short range of the field.
Considering that Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin were hurt for much of the year, an increase of 12.5 yards per quarter is not remote at all. Last week, I explained that Golden Tate was No.21 among NFL receivers in percentage of targets that he converted to receptions of 20-plus yards. I also shared that teammate Doug Baldwin was No.3 on the list.
Baldwin was the substitute for Rice and Harvin. Imagine this duo on the field, or even Richardson and Norwood playing well enough to see time. If Harvin and Rice click on all cylinders, two receptions additional receptions per quarter--equaling 25 yards could be within the realm of possibility. If that's the case, Wilson could very well become a 5000-yard passer.
I'm not selling this 5000-yard season as a possibility in 2014, but thinking that Seattle (with healthy receivers and Wilson) will remain a less balanced, ground heavy team (when it was a balanced unit last year) three years from now is leaning on the past rather than projecting the future.
Boldin is coming off an 85-catch, 1179-yard, 7-score campaign in 2013 where Crabtree was out for much of the year with an Achilles' injury and Vernon Davis was the only consistent downfield option. The expectations for Boldin is to put him back in the box of "older, slower veteran with limited upside." This moniker translates to projections of 50-60 catches, 700-800 yards and 5-6 scores.
I'm right there with them -- even less opmistic. I have Boldin at 50-690-5 for 2014. One reason is the presence of Steve Johnson. However, I'm not sold on Johnson, who can't stay healthy in recent years and the 49ers have said he's not a lock to win a spot in the starting rotation.
Johnson has a better year-to-year track record but based purely on talent, I'd take Brandon Lloyd. If Lloyd looks as good as Harbaugh says, Johnson might have a difficult time winning a consistent role. Of course, a rebounding Lloyd and relocated Johnson could cancel each other out for fantasy owners.
But I'm banking on Johnson's groin to flare up and either Lloyd, second-year talent Quinton Patton, or possibly big-time, versatile talent Bruce Ellington to see enough time to make a difference. All three receivers possess the flash to 50 catches, 700 yards, and 3-5 touchdowns in their own right--definitely more for Lloyd if his mind and body are right.
Still, the most consistent, proven option is Boldin, who showed last year why speed can be overrated. Boldin wins in traffic, finds open zones, and breaks tackles. He's a more rugged Marques Colston in a less prolific offense. It's possible that Boldin earns another 70-catch season that translates to 900 yards and puts him solidly on the list of fantasy factors.
The fact that he's WR47 after a WR15 season also makes him worth a hard look because Johnson's recent history comes across like he's damaged goods. We'll see.
Sam Bradford Was On Pace For a 3900-Yard Season. Can He Build On It?
I'm projecting 3838 yards and 25 scores for Bradford, but it's not beyond the realm of possibility that he can do more. What holds him back is the receiving corps with the talent and inconsistency to go in either direction. If there's a receiving corps where I could project a number and in parenthesis add "(+/- 350 yards and +/- 4 touchdowns), the Rams would be at the top of the list with Chris Givens, Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, and Jared Cook.
I have Givens had an overly optimistic 55-869-6, but I could easily see him at 30ish receptions for 520 yards and 2 scores or if he takes the next step and the offense clicks, 1200 yards and 10 scores. He has that kind of big-play ability. I'm leaning towards the low end if you put a gun to my head.
Britt is at 45-700-5, but we know he has the talent to become a 70-1050-11 receiver. It's why we get so frustrated year after year with his behavior that has resulted in chronic on-field underacheivement.
Austin has the athleticism to become a 90-980-11 receiver, but until the offensive coordinator and Austin prove the understanding of defenses to exploit those skills, 55-630-5 might be the better bet.
Then there's Cook, the Wilie Mays Hayes of professional football. I'm projecting 50-700-4, but it could go either way--the penthouse or the dumpster.
If the Rams can keep these four players at least at the projected figures, a 3800-yard season should be easy for Bradford. If one of the three wideouts plays to his potential, Bradford could be a surprise as a low-end fantasy QB1.
With the ground game figured out and an aggressive defense, there's enough potential for the Rams offense to have balance and big-play ability. Fantasy owners may have given up on Bradford, but I haven't abandoned him as a football talent.
Tampa Bay Tight Ends: Why The Jimmy Graham Semantics Argument Might Be Important Around Ybor City
Is Graham a tight end or a wide receiver? Position may matter with the financials, but effective teams often know how to use players that possess talent, but may not have a clearly defined position. Ozzie Newsome was a star wide receiver for Bear Bryant in Alabama. Cleveland used him as a tight end even if he was never a great blocker.
Art Monk -- as Chase Stuart mentioned last week in his Football Perspective blog -- was used as an H-Back in Joe Gibbs' offense. Aaron Hernandez: H-Back, tight end, or receiver?
This leads us to Tim Wright. He was a possession receiver at Rutgers and one of the better performing rookies at the tight end position in the history of the league. Now the Buccaneers have Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Brandon Myers.
Seferian-Jenkins might be the future as a dual threat at the line of scrimmage, but I'm leery of most first-year tight ends and the big fella isn't all that good when he doesn't get a clean release of the line. Myers is a middle class Brent Celek.
Maybe these two imports help with the ground game and short passing zones, but I'm not ready to give up on Wright as a potential slot receiver. Sure, Robert Herron is a speedy rookie with potential and Chris Owusu still catches my eye as a prospect. However, Wright might have the Colston-Crabtree-Boldin-Jordan Matthews quality as a big-slot man.
I have Wright at 36-400-3, but I'm poised to upgrade those numbers upon any news breaking that he'll be the slot guy or remain a true contributor in the Buccaneers offense. At worst, I'm keeping tabs on him as a waiver pickup.
For all the hype over my take that Bishop Sankey is a player to regard more carefully than many rookie runners, I have projected a 224-940-6 campaign. The reason? The Titans can road grade and execute the gap game.
Sankey to me isn't the high-end, long-term solution in Tennessee, but he can develop into a solid contributor. But the player who could surprise is Dexter McCluster.
The former Chief appeared to be a promising fit in Kansas City when he earned 844 yards on 160 touches, but a change in coaching staff and offensive scheme forced McCluster to be a true slot receiver rather than the hybrid runner that he is. That's the rub with McCluster: If he had Sankey's physical dimensions, he'd be a top-15 back in the NFL because of his decision-making, agility, and how he finishes runs.
The former San Diego offensive coordinator did a fine job with Danny Woodhead last year and I can see McCluster earning 600-700 combined yards easily. If Sankey struggles, the 55 carries I projected for McCluster could easily double (he had 113 with KC in 2011) and we're now looking at the potential for 800-900 yards from scrimmage.
The fact that McCluster is in a town that will allow him to play the role where he fits best makes him a viable late round pick once again.
I'm Reversing Field On Robert Griffin
Now that Griffin has shed the brace and looks as explosive as he did in 2012, I'm back on the bandwagon. Pierre Garcon, Desean Jackson, and Jordan Reed are an excellent trio and when you have Andre Roberts as a No.4 option, that's pretty darn good, too. Alfred Morris should have plenty of room to run because Washington will stretch the field and get away from that crazy max protection work it did to overcompensate with Griffin on the field last year (and no, he shouldn't have played at least half the season) that allowed defenses to crowd the box and force Washington to throw.
Look for 4100 yards and 24 touchdowns from Griffin through the air and 100-500-5 on the ground. It's top-seven fantasy quarterback production for a player I expect to rebound now that there's strong evidence that the knee is back to normal.