Key Position Battles Heading into Camp: WRs & TEs

Key Position Battles Heading into Camp: WRs & TEs

By Matt De Lima (4for4 Scout), last updated Jun 12, 2012

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Matt is an experienced sports writer and fantasy football expert. He contributes his opinions and insights across multiple sports to numerous sites, including here at

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The days of drafting two running backs in the first two rounds are long gone for most owners. Calvin Johnson and Aaron Rodgers are coming off the board by the fourth or fifth overall pick. In a 12-team league, at least six WRs will be drafted by the end of the second round. Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham are Top 20 picks in many redraft leagues. 

The disparity betweet the No. 1 fantasy WR or TE and the No. 12 fantasy WR or TE has never been larger. In a standard scoring league, Gronkowski put up 240.9 fantasy points, that's 15.1 fppg. If placed among running backs who played at least 13 games last year, Gronkowski would have been the fifth highest scorer. 

Drafting studs is easy though. Most managers have fairly even teams four or five rounds into the draft. It's your bench players and depth that will separate you from the pack. 

With 24 NFL teams starting mandatory minicamps this week, the NFL news cycle is about to hit overdrive with depth chart movement seemingly every day. We've got you covered! Here's a rundown of some WRs and TEs competing for their place on that depth chart, looking to earn more prominent roles on their teams with a shot at making a legit fantasy impact for your team.

Wide Receivers

The entire WR depth chart for the San Francisco 49ers

In the top four spots, San Francisco has one incumbent (Michael Crabtree), a new wily veteran (Mario Manningham), a head-case Hall of Fame lock (Randy Moss) and a rookie (A.J. Jenkins). 

Crabtree is unlikely to see the 114 targets he had last year. Moss will be a late-round flier and could easily be cut after one week. Manningham shouldn't be drafted and Jenkins has value in dynasty leagues only. Crabtree only cracked into the Top 40 at his position due to a fluke Week 17 performance where he hauled in eight receptions for 86 yards and two TDs. Regardless, Crabtree should retain the top spot with Manningham having the slight edge as the No. 2 starter. Moss is firmly at No. 3 (but with Moss-like upside), with A.J. Jenkins likely earning more and more playing time as the season wears on.


The entire WR depth chart for Chicago after Marshall

Johnny Knox's back injury was scary to see and you have to hope the man is able to lead a normal, healthy life first and foremost, let alone play football again. His departure paved the way for the Bears to acquire Brandon Marshall. How things pan out behind him on the depth chart is another mess all together.

Chicago continues the "Devin Hester is a receiver" experiment even though he had his worst year statistically since 2007. Earl Bennett has to stay healthy after missing five games. He also only had 43 targets and he should be a player entering his prime at 25 years old, instead he's still waiting to get over that hump. Rookie Alshon Jeffery will compete to see the field early but it's hard to imagine a rookie having an impact at receiver for a team that has utilized their receivers so poorly over the years.


New York Jets' Chaz Schilens vs. Stephen Hill

Santonio Holmes has the top spot locked up. His production has dipped since arriving with the Jets. In his final season with the Steelers, he had 138 targets, 79 receptions for 1,248 yards and five scores. He's failed to eclipse more than 55 receptions or 750 yards receiving the last two season. His TD totals (six and eight) have kept him afloat for fantasy owners.

Let's not be naive, Chaz Schilens is insurance and not very good insurance at that. Stephen Hill has all the promise in the world and he'll go through all his growing pains front and center in the starting lineup. Schilens' single season career-high for receptions is 29 so don't get your hopes up.


Green Bay's No. 3 spot

The Packers were hoping to trade James Jones on draft day to no avail. That doesn't mean he isn't any good. He just hasn't blossomed (yet). Donald Driver is now 407 years old in football player years and did you know he actually started 15 games last year? Little factoid for you.

We all know Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson are the top dogs after compiling 197 targets, 135 receptions, 2,212 yards and 24 touchdowns combined. Driver, Jones and Randall Cobb jockeying for position behind them. Driver isn't going anywhere and will get his 30 receptions and four touchdowns yet again so let's say he's the WR5. Cobb and Jones will earn opportunities to be the No. 3 guy and in the end, Cobb will get his shot but Jones is the safer choice for fantasy owners for now. Jones' big play potential is proven (11 20-yard receptions last year) while Cobb did very little to suggest he's ready to make a huge leap into fantasy relevancy.


A few extra battles for good measure

The Titus Young hype has already begun and rightfully so. As a rookie he totaled 48 receptions for 607 yards and six scores. Not bad, right? He will have to beat out Nate Burleson and rookie Ryan Broyles is nipping at his heels as well. Considering his rookie year though, it seems he has an inside track to start alongside Calvin Johnson.

Don't forget about Sidney Rice over in Seattle. With Matt Flynn aboard, he finally has a legit quarterback and more importantly, he needs to stay healthy after only playing 15 games these past two seasons. Behind him though it's a mess with Mike Williams, Ben Obomanu, Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate all vying to see the field. 

Jerome Simpson and his acrobatic ways are gone. So setting A.J. Green aside, who's next in line at receiver? The Bengals have Armon Binns, Brandon Tate and Jordan Shipley. And oh wait, they also drafted rookies Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones as well. Consider this an open competition with no definitive leader.

The Bills were smart to lock up Steve Johnson to a long-term deal in March (five years, $36 million). Behind him on the depth chart though, it's a little fuzzy. Buffalo dealt with a ton of injuries last year at the position which gave just about everybody in the organization a crack at the starting lineup. Now the task of putting them in some kind of order isn't easy. There's Donald Jones as the early favorite to start beside Johnson with David Nelson and Naaman Roosevelt competing for the slot. They also drafted T.J. Graham out of North Carolina State who might earn some playing time further into the season.


Tight Ends

A couple young Colts

The Colts not only secured Coby Fleener, Andrew Luck's favorite target at Stanford, but they also landed Dwayne Allen. When writing up a player profile for Allen some months ago before the draft, I compared him to Antonio Gates. Clemson enjoyed a resurgent year in the ACC due in large part to Allen's receiving talents. Both of these rookie tight ends have very bright futures ahead of them. Now before I crown them as the next Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez dynamic duo, it's important to remember that this Colts team needs work. Lots of it.

Fleener is the TE1 as he has more experience as a blocker. The word on the street is that Indianapolis will implement more two-TE sets now that former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is the OC for the Colts. New head coach Chuck Pagano confirmed this as well by saying, "[Two-tight end sets are] a matchup nightmare."


Who's the Boss in Kansas City?

Kevin Boss was cut by the Raiders and added this offseason to the Kansas City Chiefs roster. When Boss was with the Giants from 2007 to 2010, he always seemed to be just under the fantasy radar. Now that he's in Kansas City, he has another shot to start but standing in his way is Tony Moeaki. Now, you either know about this guy or you don't. What I mean by that is that Moeaki has a high ceiling in spite of his obscurity. The reason why he's relatively unknown is because he was placed on injured reserve in September 2011 after a torn ACL. He's on schedule to start in Week 1 but he's obviously a high-risk, high-reward option. Moeaki showed a lot of promise in his rookie year by hauling in 47 receptions for 556 yards and three TDs and he's someone to keep track of on the waiver wire.


Luke Who?

The Tampa Bay Bucs signed Dallas Clark in May and you'd think Peyton Manning's former favorite target would be a lock to start for the Bucs since Kellen Winslow is gone, right? Nope.

According to GM Mark Dominik, Luke Stocker, a second-year TE out of Tennessee, is an "every-down tight end." At 6'5" and 250 pounds, he is a better fit to be used as an in-line blocker. Clark also may not have the tread on those old tires to see a lot of playing time. He's only played in 17 games in the last two seasons combined. Stocker put up a whopping 12 receptions for 92 yards as a rookie. No, not per game, for the whole season. So if you were thinking about grabbing Clark as a sneaky TE2 option with a high ceiling, don't push your luck now that he's on a new team.

Filed Under: Preseason, 2012

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