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Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 6:11pm
Tennessee's players and coaches are won over, with receivers aide Shawn Jefferson talking up Justin Hunter as the one who could carry the Titans into the playoffs, while fellow wideout Michael Preston turned heads this offseason by calling Hunter a young Randy Moss -- a claim he didn't back away from Monday.
"I know how great a player Randy Moss was, and in my mind, there's no reason Justin can't be the next greatest player," Preston told Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. "... I just want to be there to support him. I know he's going to grow, make a great leap this year, and impress the city and fans with his talent."
With Kenny Britt out of the way, Hunter owns a legitimate chance to make an impact come September. NFL Films guru Greg Cosell called him "the most intriguing" and "physically talented" wideout in last year's draft -- and his game tape is speckled with flashes of brilliance -- but comparisons to a rock-solid future Hall of Famer are wildly premature.
As a rookie, Hunter checked in with the #18 FP/T (1.41), which is encouraging, especially if he’s able to beat out Nate Washington and get on the field as more than a just a passing-down specialist. He only played 36% of the team’s snaps, while Washington played 82%. The good news is that under then-OC Ken Whisenhunt, Keenan Allen, Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal all played at least 67% of the Chargers’ snaps. So with Whiz calling the plays in Tennessee, there may be room for both Washington and Hunter in the lineup.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 6:04pm
Golden Tate had an outstanding season in 2013 and parlayed that into a big-money deal with the Detroit Lions. But a Seahawks three-receiver formation of Doug Baldwin, Percy Harvin and Jermaine Kearse can be better with Harvin instead of Tate.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 5:59pm
If you've been following along the past two months you know quite well that RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis' future in Cincinnati looks extraordinarily cloudy. Ever since the Bengals picked Jeremy Hill in the second round of May's draft, conventional logic has said that the veteran Green-Ellis no longer has a place on the team. Hill's drafting coincides with Green-Ellis entering the final year of a three-year deal. After lacking production last season, it stands to reason the Bengals are more willing to build for their future, instead of giving a vet like Green-Ellis an opportunity to continue playing. That's the signal Hill's selection sent, at least. Publicly, the Bengals maintain Green-Ellis has a place on this team and that they believe he can contribute. During minicamps and organized team activity practices, though, he was relegated in some cases to third- and fourth-back status, playing behind the likes of Hill, Giovani Bernard and a combination of Cedric Peerman and Rex Burkhead. Green-Ellis has been playing for his job since May, and he'll continue to do so when the Bengals return next week.
Hill is shaping up to be an intriguing middle round pick if he is indeed going to serve as Bernard's backfield partner. BJGE was the #31 RB in standard formats last season, but Bernard's role is expected to expand, so that might be Hill's ceiling, unless he's considerably more productive on a per touch basis.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 5:51pm
Redskins beat writer John Keim discusses the team's backfield split:
"Roy Helu can catch the ball and perhaps he’ll run better out of a shotgun spread formation than in the outside zone. But I can’t imagine him in a Giovani Bernard role; the Bengals’ back had 226 touches from scrimmage last season. Though Helu averaged 4.4 yards per carry, he’s not a move-the-chains runner (eight carries against an eight-man front resulted in a total of 14 yards). Even against seven-man fronts Helu averaged 4.06 yards, which is fine but is much less than Morris (4.96, with an NFL-best 937 rushing yards against that type of front).
"The point? Helu will be able to handle the third-down duties again, but there’s little reason to take a whole lot away from Alfred Morris."
Morris’s stock has taken a bit of a hit after the coaching regime change in Washington, but new HC Jay Gruden intends to keep the same running game (one reason they retained O-line coach Chris Foerster), so Morris’s outlook doesn’t change too much. He still isn’t much of a player in the pass game, so his PPR value is on the low side, though he’s a fairly safe start in any format given his steady workload.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 5:38pm
Eagles beat writer Sheil Kapadia was asked to come up with a couple possible surprises in the team's starting lineup:
"It's difficult to come up with a second one, but I'll go with Zach Ertz. I know that won't "shock" anybody, but the TE situation is a fascinating one to monitor. We won't know until the season starts how much the offense misses DeSean Jackson. But if teams continue to play man coverage against the Eagles, and guys don't get open, Kelly will have to feature Ertz more. He's a superior option to Brent Celek in the passing game at this point.
"If I'm putting money down, I still say Celek starts and plays more snaps - primarily because he's a much better run blocker. But the TE situation is one to keep an eye on."
For Ertz, snaps may be the only thing standing in the way of a breakout season. Ertz averaged 2.8-32-.56 over the final nine games of the season (including the Eagles' sole playoff game) and that included two goose eggs in Week 10 and Week 14. That equates to 6.6 fantasy points per game, which is what Martellus Bennett averaged as the #10 TE in fantasy football. With Jason Avant and DeSean Jackson gone, Ertz could play a lot in the slot, though the arrival of WR Jordan Matthews may limit Ertz’s snaps there.
Chargers WR Malcom Floyd was the MVP of OTAs
Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 5:18pm
Tom Krasovic of U-T San Diego labeled the 32-year-old wide receiver the MVP of the team's spring sessions after Floyd was the "most-targeted" pass-catcher on the roster.
Floyd was "tested repeatedly" in the passing game and "won more than he lost" against San Diego's rash of defensive backs, according to Krasovic.
"I don't have any doubts in my mind right now," Floyd said last month of his status for this month's training camp.
From 2010 to 2012, Floyd finished #36, #32 and #36 as the second or third option in San Diego. He returns from a neck injury at the age of 32 (turning 33 in September) and will compete with Vincent Brown to be the team’s WR2 opposite Keenan Allen. Brown flopped in a starting role (scoring just 0.06 FP per snap) last year, so the job is Floyd’s for the taking. If he’s starting and can stay healthy (a rather big “if”), he should be fantasy-relevant once again in 2014, making him a nice value in the final rounds.
DeSean Jackson 'probably won't' match 2013 production
Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 1:14pm
Whether it’s by getting open deep or by snagging a pass in stride on a crossing pattern, the Redskins want WR DeSean Jackson to eat up big chunks of yards on a regular basis. So while he has the ability to catch 80+ passes for 1,300 yards, he probably won’t. With Garçon on the other side and Jordan Reed roaming in the middle, he won’t need to. The goal will be to make his touches count in a big way.
He's changing teams, which is rarely a good thing for a wideout unless he's moving into a larger role. In this case, he's joining a team with a proven target-hog (Pierre Garcon) and an up-and-coming tight end (Jordan Reed). New HC Jay Gruden does have a reputation for being pass-happy, but the Redskins actually attempted more passes (611) than the Bengals did (587) last season, so the pie may not grow as expected. In Cincinnati, Marvin Jones was the WR2 and saw 80 targets while playing just 48% of the snaps. If Jackson plays 80% of the snaps and sees the ball at the same rate, he would be targeted roughly 133 times. That’s plenty of work for D-Jax to post top 20 numbers, though Reed demands more targets than Cincinnati's Jermaine Gresham/Tyler Eifert combo last season.
Michael Crabtree 'as healthy as ever' entering camp
Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 12:52pm
49ers WR Michael Crabtree didn’t have to do a whole lot during offseason workouts – coaches took a calculated approach with the team’s sure-handed receiver. Even so, Crabtree demonstrated 2012-like burst during the limited time he worked with quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Crabtree missed 11 games last season because of a torn left Achilles, but he’s as healthy as ever while he enters a contract season. Expect big things.
Including three playoff games, Crabtree appeared in eight contests last season and averaged 4.3 catches for 61 yards and 0.13 TD. For a better indication of his potential for 2014, we should include the 10 games he played with Colin Kaepernick in 2012 (and in the 2013 playoffs). When those numbers are rolled in, Crabtree averaged 5.3 catches for 76 yards and 0.50 TD, which equates to 10.6 PPG, or strong WR2-type numbers. He looked liked himself during the 49ers' playoff run, so we're expecting a productive 2014 from the 6th-year receiver.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 12:21pm
This is Year 3 for the Jets' talented, but inconsistent WR Stephen Hill, which means it's time to earn his scholarship. He showed positive signs in the spring, and he'll probably have a solid training camp. The problem is maintaining it into the season. The former second-round pick tends to fade when the pads go on, resulting in a Mr. August reputation. It's all there for him. He could win a starting job with a strong camp or he could play his way out of a roster spot if he regresses.
Broncos have 'big plans' for WR Emmanuel Sanders
Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 12:19pm
One of the team's best free-agent signings might be Sanders.
The Broncos get a fast-twitch receiver who makes defenders miss once he has the ball. He can play outside or in the slot in a creative three-wide-receiver look. Sanders gets the opportunity to show what he can do in an offense that was the highest scoring in league history last season.
Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase has big plans for Sanders and there is plenty of draw-it-up potential to work the middle of the field with players like Sanders, Welker and tight end Julius Thomas working out of the slot. Sanders gets himself away from bump coverage well and the Broncos, after getting pushed around at times at the line of scrimmage last season by some of the more aggressive secondaries, want to make teams pay more for pressing the issue this time around.
Sanders was the #35 WR in 2013, when he saw WR2 targets (112) for the Steelers. Eric Decker (138) and Wes Welker (111) saw a combined 249 targets as Denver's WR2 and WR3. With Decker gone, Welker (and TE Julius Thomas) could see a bit more work, but Sanders should be stepping into a big role. As OC Adam Gase said, Sanders is a good fit for his system and is versatile to play both inside and outside. He is very quick and is adept at making people miss, so he should thrive in Denver’s screen game.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 12:12pm
Mark Bullock of The Washington Post believes Redskins WR DeSean Jackson will play the "Z" position in Jay Gruden's offense, which was A.J. Green's spot under Gruden in Cincinnati. Pierre Garcon will play the "X" receiver (Marvin Jones's position), while Andre Roberts will play "Zebra" (Mohamed Sanu's position in the slot).
The article does a nice job of using snapshots to illustrate how each receiver might be used.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 8:26pm
Bengals beat writer Paul Dehner looked at the team's TEs and offered the following:
This will be the year Tyler Eifert becomes a difference-maker and the two-tight-end offense truly pays dividends. Assuming Jermaine Gresham continues along the line of his career averages, a breakout from Eifert brings a combined 95 catches and 1,000-plus yards into the realm of possibility.
He also mentioned in the story that if a typical increase from year one to two holds true, Eifert could be looking at 700 of those 1,000 yards. Our projections aren't quite as high, and we see Eifert just shy of 500 yards and Gresham around 400. Neither are getting drafted in early drafts and both sit outside our top-20.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 6:43pm
Part of the expected release of pressure on Eagles RB LeSean McCoy comes in the addition of Darren Sproles, the dynamic running back who is the NFL’s leader in all-purpose yardage since 2007. That the Eagles parted with a fifth-round pick tells you that the team has a large role in mind for Sproles, who had no fewer than 71 receptions in each of his three seasons with the Saints.
Meanwhile, Sproles should be expected to contribute as a returner on special teams as well – which is something the Eagles are well aware of after his 39-yard kickoff return in the Wild Card round put New Orleans in great field position to set up the game-winning field goal as time expired.
Given the amount of plays the Eagles should run, McCoy shouldn't lose a ton of fantasy value with the presence of Sproles. However any hit will likely be some receptions. Still, we think McCoy and Sproles are around the 50-catch mark this year. Sproles could have some value in deeper PPR leagues.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 6:19pm
Those who call Paul Brown Stadium their place of employment couldn't care less. They believe that Wright could have a real impact in their offense, even if it's been a while since he directly contributed to someone else's. When training camp opens next week and the battle for spots on the 53-man roster begins in earnest, Wright could be one to watch.
If Wright makes the team, he'll be expected to do a lot on special teams, but it sounds like the Bengals are hoping he plays on offense too. He stood out a little on deep passes at OTAs, but camp will be a different animal.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 6:13pm
After Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski, depth gets hazy, which is surprising, since the Patriots were expected to go hard after a tight end in the NFL Draft or in free agency. So far, though, the Patriots have come up with only the rookies, Justin Jones and Asa Watson.
Michael Hoomanawanui is a serviceable tight end and is likely to make the roster, save for an unforeseen development from the rookie tight ends or a free agent signing. The only reason he's not a lock is because the Patriots' options remain so open, especially with Jermichael Finley and Dustin Keller still available in free agency.
In terms of fantasy, no one after Gronk will likely make an impact. In fact, you can probably expect the Pats to use more WRs in their formations, since they are pretty deep at that position, but especially if Gronk isn't ready to go.