Falcons beat writer Vaughn McClure:
The running back position became compelling when the Falcons drafted Indiana’s Tevin Coleman in the third round. Coleman, a 2,000-yard rusher last season, boldly claimed he was ready to take over the starting job. Problem is, the Falcons have expressed plenty of faith in second-year player Devonta Freeman, who told me he wants to take his game to another level and maybe be in the MVP conversation one day. Freeman and Coleman will push each other daily, which should only benefit the Falcons going into the 2015 season. Freeman has impressed the new coaching staff with his pass-catching skills, while both players have to show the ability to consistently block when it comes to pass protection. I anticipate a two-back system with equal reps as the Falcons make a concerted effort to bring more offensive balance with a stronger run game. And don’t count out the contribution of explosive Antone Smith, who could be back to his old self once he fully recovers from a broken leg.
We currently project Coleman for 248 touches and Freeman for 160, with Smith seeing 68 touches if his leg is fully recovered. This could be a fairly ugly committee, though the overall production could be solid with Kyle Shanahan running things.
Pat Yasinkas on the Buccaneers running back situation: The Bucs will have two position battles that I find especially compelling. First, there's running back. Doug Martin has been the starter the past three seasons. But he's coming off a disappointing season and the coaching staff and front office don't seem sold on a player they didn't draft. They did draft Charles Sims last year and the coaches are very high on him. Sims could end up beating out Martin.
Sims averaged 2.8 YPC on 66 carries last year but fared well in the passing game (19 catches for 190 yards). The best running back on the roster last year was Bobby Rainey, but no one seems to think he's a threat for a major role as long as Sims and Martin stay healthy.
Redskins beat writers Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir on the team's running back situation:
Tandler: The change from the zone-blocking scheme that Alfred Morris rode to over 3,600 yards rushing over the last three years to more of a power scheme represents a change that Morris needs to start to figure out. The coaches seem to be confident that he can make the adjustment but learning to hit the hole as opposed to looking for a crease, planning a foot, and cutting will take some time. The Redskins could be trying to make one of the biggest third-down backs in the league out of rookie Matt Jones. He will spend a lot of time catching passes and doing what he can to master pass protection, although the real work on blocking will have to wait until the pads go on in Richmond in July.
El-Bashir: My gut tells me Jones is going to have a bigger role in 2015 than some are anticipating. Sure, Morris is the starter. But Jones is big, powerful and, most important, has good enough hands to be a threat out of the backfield. The question right now is how quickly can he grasp the playbook?
Morris has worked on his pass-catching skills but hasn't had much of an opportunity to shine in that area. If Jones wins the job, Morris will continue to be a dicey week-to-week play in PPR formats.
NESN's Doug Kyed on the team's passing-down running back competition:
Kyed also mentions Cadet, whom the Patriots went out and signed to a three-year deal. We would have thought White had the inside track as well, but that doesn't explain why the team signed Cadet. Whoever wins the job will become instantly relevant in PPR formats.
As Donte Moncrief pointed out last season, young Colts receivers are at a slight disadvantage compared to other rookies because they must learn the X, Z, slot and the inside (F) spot in Pep Hamilton's offense rather than concentrating on one position.
"I've been all over the place," Phillip Dorsett said. "Basically, playing receiver here, you can't just learn one position. You've got to learn them all."
So far, so good. Dorsett believes he's picking up Hamilton's scheme quickly.
After dialing up a few deep throws to his new weapon, Andrew Luck noted that "it's definitely not too big for him. ... He fits in very, very well."
Long-term, Dorsett is in a good situation, but he’s going to have a tough time getting on the field as a rookie with T.Y. Hilton and Andre Johnson locked in as the team's top two receivers. Dorsett will have to compete with Moncrief for snaps at WR3. It sounds like he's off to a good start, so the Dorsett/Moncrief competition will be one to watch this summer.
On the field for the first day of OTAs (organized team activities) Tuesday, Andre Ellington proclaimed himself healthy and ready to go.
"I'm not limited in anything," he said. "I'm out here running, running around, feeling good."
None of Ellington's injuries were the type that would keep him out long-term or inhibit him going forward. Once healed, he would essentially be the same player he was prior to getting hurt.
The Cardinals drafted David Johnson to lighten Ellington’s workload, and a reduction in touches may actually help his effectiveness, though it's unlikely to help his per game fantasy production. Ellington averaged 22.0 touches per game, but only managed 3.3 YPC after averaging 5.5 YPC in his rookie season.
Lions beat writer Kyle Meinke on Theo Riddick's role in 2015:
HC Jim Caldwell has already said he expects Riddick to be a bigger part of the fold this year. But I think it could end up being mostly as a pass-catcher. I could see a scenario where many of his reps came out of the slot.
Think of it this way: Detroit's running game was awful last year, finishing 28th. Reggie Bush struggled with ankle injuries for a couple months. And the Lions still gave Riddick only 20 touches on the ground.
If Detroit didn't think Riddick could help on the ground under those circumstances, I have a hard time seeing how it happens this year after adding Ameer Abdullah. Unless Riddick totally remakes his game, which I guess is possible. I'm just not banking on it.
Panthers second-year receiver Kelvin Benjamin strained his hamstring last week, a team spokesman confirmed. As a precaution, he likely won’t participate in next week’s activities, though he has been with the team on the field and in the locker room recently.
Benjamin had a strong rookie season, finishing as the #15 WR in PPR formats and #16 in standard leagues. However, after his team’s Week 12 bye, Benjamin was just the #42 WR the rest of the way. Benjamin admitted to suffering from mental fatigue as a rookie, which is understandable given how much he was asked to do in his first year.
Hyde did not practice on Thursday. Coach Jim Tomsula said the second-year running back is being held out due to an undisclosed leg injury.
“He’s working through the leg. It’s nothing," Tomsula said. "We want you 100 percent. We’re doing this offseason thing and we’re doing things fast and we’re doing all those things, so we’re not going to push. It’s not the season, so we’re trying to treat that the right way.”
Tomsula's "it's nothing" comment is as encouraging as Hyde's tweet is discouraging. Hyde is expected to take over as the team's primary ball-carrier, with Reggie Bush assuming the passing down role. Given Bush's presence and Hyde's 4.0 YPC during in his rookie season, Hyde is probably being overdrafted as he's been going in the middle of the 3rd round of early PPR drafts. Expect 250 or so carries and a limited role in the passing game.
"Coach Bruce Arians does a great job of calling plays, and it's actually designed for anybody to make plays and be that guy," he said. "Because it's just when the ball is in the air, you have to get it.
"And I think I'll be used more in underneath routes trying to turn and beat (the defense)."
Brown was the #49 receiver as a rookie and that's about where we have him ranked heading into the 2015 season. The main concern is his opportunity to find consistent playing time and targets behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, though he did lead the team in targets (103) and averaged a solid 6.7 T/G with Carson Palmer in the lineup. Fitzgerald averaged 6.8 T/G while Floyd averaged just 5.0 T/G in those six games.
Falcons running back Antone Smith, who suffered a fractured right leg while covering a punt against Carolina on Nov. 16, has started running during his rehabilitation.
“The recovery is going pretty good,” Smith said on Tuesday. “I’m up and running. I’m almost full force, but not quite where I need to be. In time, that will take care of itself.”
Smith is not likely to be cleared when the Falcons open their organized team activities on Tuesday.
Smith believes that he’s a fit for the team’s new outside-zone blocking scheme.
“It’s a fit for my skill set, but it’s a fit for anybody that wants to run the ball,” Smith said. “They want to run the ball here and that’s the biggest thing. They want to run the ball. I don’t care who’s the running back you want to be in this scheme right here. I’m happy for this scheme.”
Along with Devonta Freeman, Smith is a reason we're tepid about rookie Tevin Coleman. It's possible that Coleman wins a feature job in the Falcons' backfield, but Freeman showed some pass-catching chops as a rookie and Smith has racked up 518 yards and seven touchdowns on 44 career touches.
Shane Vereen caught 124 balls in 29 games over the past two years. His presence will undoubtedly be missed.
No single player on the Pats roster will fill his void. So here's what may happen: The Patriots have more talent at the No. 2 tight end spot than they did a year ago, so that position figures to command more targets while the running backs figure to command less.
Of that group, Cadet, a free agent signee from New Orleans, is the most intriguing. He has great receiving skills, as you'll see here, and seems comfortable splitting out wide and running routes, a rare trait for a running back.
If any single back wins the Patriots' pass-catching role outright, he'll suddenly be a factor in PPR formats. Vereen averaged 4.3 catches per game over the past two years (including the postseason). That projects to 68.8 receptions over a full 16-game season.
Scott Chandler isn't a "move" tight end, though. At 6-foot-7, 260 pounds, he's similar to Gronk. He's a massive in-line tight end and a matchup problem for all safeties.
The addition of Chandler could mean more snaps at wide receiver for Gronk. The Pats offense was particularly effective a year ago when both Gronk and Julian Edelman were split together on one side.
Keep an eye on Fred Davis here, too. In the midst of the Deflategate madness, the Pats signed the troubled tight end to a one-year deal. It's a flier, for sure, but Davis is a "move" tight end with plenty of talent and plenty of past off-the-field issues.
Chandler is no slouch. He produced in spots for the Bills and while he doesn't fit the profile of a typical "move" TE, the Pats could elect to use Gronk in that role while leaving Chandler inside.
While Bills running backs coach Anthony Lynn would like to see LeSean McCoy’s workload stay the same, he’d prefer if Fred Jackson’s was scaled back. Jackson played 548 snaps last season, a number Lynn said he’d like to see cut in half.
“I think he wore down a little bit at the end of the season,” Lynn said. “If we could take half of that off his plate, I think you’re going to see a fresher Fred Jackson and a more explosive Fred Jackson.”
We currently have Jackson projected to touch the ball 114 times after he racked up 207 touches in 14 games last season, so Lynn's expectations mostly jibe with our projections. As for McCoy, he's going to have a tough time matching the 340 touches he had in 2014 due to the potency and pace of the Philadelphia offense compared to the Buffalo offense. We do have McCoy projected to see 329 touches since OC Greg Roman and HC Rex Ryan both love to run the ball. Just don't expect McCoy's receptions to increase; Roman barely used the very capable Frank Gore in a pass-catching role while calling plays in San Francisco the last few seasons.
Jets OC Chan Gailey on the team's quarterback situation: “Right now, Geno’s the starter…That’s the way it sits and that’s the way we expect it to be.”
Ryan Fitzpatrick is a safe fallback option if Geno Smith doesn't pan out. Neither player is a particularly good fantasy option at this point in the offseason, but the team has a couple of good receivers in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, and an up-and-coming tight end in Jace Amaro. It's not inconceivable that the Jets' starter is stream-worthy at some point this fall.
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