What We Can Learn About 2013 Fantasy Football in Training Camp
That cry of relief you heard was a host of writers, fans and players who realized that we're very close to the start of training camps.
The sigh of frustration was probably from family and significant others.
Fantasy owners have a lot to pay attention to in the coming weeks as they get their lists and draft plans ready to go.
Today we'll take a look at some of the things that owners will learn over the course of training camp which will help them carve out a championship fantasy roster.
EJ Manuel Will Win the Starting Quarterback Job: Draft with Caution
You don't draft a quarterback in the top 10 and sit him (Carson Palmer aside).
You really don't do that when you're relying on Kevin Kolb to be the starter.
By the end of training camp, EJ Manuel will be the Buffalo Bills' starting quarterback.
Kolb hasn't shown anything impressive since he left Philadelphia, and while Manuel is raw (uneven accuracy and some mechanical issues chief among his problems), he has upside Kolb just doesn't.
So the first thing you'll learn is Manuel is going to be the guy—that should be obvious early in camp.
Here's the other thing though—Manuel is going to be shaky as a fantasy player. Even as a bye-week filler.
It's going to take time for him to round the rough edges off his game. The upside might be attractive for some owners to roll the dice on late in their draft, but this isn't like Russell Wilson last season.
Wilson's game was mostly polished. A lot of the questions around him were height related—with some concern about whether he was a good enough pocket passer. His game was solid though in a way that Manuel's isn't yet.
So you'll see Manuel get the starting job—but you'd better be careful about when you pick him if you do.
Geno Smith, Mark Sanchez, Greg McElroy—Doesn't Matter Who Starts
You're going to learn who will win this job.
You're also going to learn that it doesn't matter.
You need to avoid this mess from the beginning.
Forget the individual quarterbacks for a moment—we'll get to Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith and Greg McElroy in a minute.
This offense doesn't engender confidence. At best, it feels like Chris Ivory—if healthy—will carry the load for whoever is under center. Training camp is only going to reinforce that this is not a high-flying passing offense.
Santonio Holmes was on pace for a solid year in 2012, but so far his tenure with the Jets has been unimpressive. On top of that, he's still struggling with a foot injury, so we might not even see him this summer. Stephen Hill had issues adjusting to the NFL and the accompanying media last season, is coming off knee surgery (which was still plaguing him in June) and has had issues with drops this summer.
Jeremy Kerley struggled as well during minicamp.
Dustin Keller is gone, leaving oft-banged up Kellen Winslow Jr. and Jeff Cumberland as tight ends.
It's not a pretty picture.
If you get Sanchez as the winner of the starting job (which is the expectation at this point), you get a quarterback who regressed horribly last season, got yanked for a backup and turns the ball over far too much.
If Smith wins, you get a decent quarterback who is fairly raw, has to get used to being under center versus the shotgun, needs to work on sensing pressure and got worse as last season went on at West Virginia. He has the tools to be a solid quarterback in the NFL, but it will take some time.
We saw Greg McElroy last season and while he wasn't awful, he wasn't starter material either. It's hard to imagine Matt Simms making the roster, much less starting.
None of this paints a pretty picture for fantasy owners. By the end of camp, you won't feel better about it either.
Anquan Boldin and A.J. Jenkins Will Emerge as Colin Kaepernick's Top Receivers
When Anquan Boldin made the move from the Super Bowl Champion Ravens to the San Francisco 49ers, some fantasy owners immediately wrote him off.
Which isn't new for fantasy owners and Boldin—he is written off almost every year.
While he hasn't had a 1,000-yard season since he left Arizona in 2009, he's put together some decent yardage anyway, never dipping below 800 yards. Last season was his best in some time, falling just short of the 1,000-yard mark at 921 yards.
One thing Boldin has struggled with almost his whole career has been touchdowns. He only cracked double-digits once, so his value is often lower for many fantasy owners.
The situation behind Boldin is a bit less clear, but in the end, A.J. Jenkins looks like the man to beat and the most likely player for fantasy owners to target.
His chief competition right now is Quinton Patton, though local papers give Jenkins an edge going into camp.
Patton, a rookie, is going to have to work hard to overcome the usual slow starts rookie wide receivers end up having, while Jenkins has had several good weeks of practice already and is looking to put his poor rookie season (where he was watching from the bench) behind him.
Jenkins has the speed and ability to get separation from defensive backs and is willing—and able—to work the middle as well.
Training camp will solidify Jenkins as a solid fantasy prospect for owners going into their August drafts.
Steven Jackson's Fantasy Value Will Return to Its Heights in Atlanta
Steven Jackson has been ridiculously productive during his career, despite numerous injuries and a poor supporting cast. In nine years, Jackson has missed 1,000 yards just once and is usually good for between 35-45 catches as well.
The Atlanta Falcons signed him to a three-year contract, so you know they'd like him to be a big part of the offense going forward. He'll see far less stacked fronts since you can't focus on him and leave Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez to roam free.
So you should see better than average yards in addition to the highest touchdown totals since he had seven in 2008.
While the Falcons have other options, they'll use Jackson to run the ball at the goal line.
We'll start to see how involved he is during camp—and fantasy owners are likely to see his stock rise again as the summer finishes up.
There Will Be NO CLARITY in the Arizona Cardinals Backfield.
The above picture is a realistic depiction of how most fantasy owners feel when they draft an Arizona Cardinals running back.
Even the addition of Rashard Mendenhall and rookies Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor won't improve that. In fact, it's going to make it more of a pain to figure out which guy to draft.
The solution will be to not draft any of them.
Mendenhall will probably end up with the nominal title of starter, but with his injury history the last few years and the unimpressive yards per carry of the last two (admittedly with only six games to judge from last year), holding that job might be tricky.
Not to mention that he'll likely share some carries with a combination of Taylor, Williams and Ellington.
Hopefully the offensive line will be as improved on the field as it seems to be on paper, which might make it better for whomever gets the lion's share of the carries.
Still, we won't get all that much clarity on who to draft by the end of camp and more than likely even if we do, it won't end up being worth picking any of the backs here before the later rounds. This is a running back by committee with very little upside and a history of annoying fantasy owners.
It's going to be easier just to steer clear of the mess.
How Much Will Giovani Bernard Eat into BenJarvus Green-Ellis' Carries?
When the Cincinnati Bengals chose Giovani Bernard with the fifth pick in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft, the writing on the wall might have started to appear for the end of BenJarvus Green-Ellis' tenure as Bengals starting running back.
Green-Ellis broke 1,000 yards for the second time in his career last season, but he's really a limited running back. He'll keep the chains moving, but he doesn't have the ability to really, truly take over a game and put the team on his back.
Does Bernard? He played at a very high level with the North Carolina Tarheels, has a quick first step, speed and has a nice second gear to shift into at the second level.
At some point, Bernard will take over this offense. The question is how soon?
If he plays well in training camp and shows he can protect Andy Dalton on passing downs, it could be sooner than later.
How Rough Will the New Offense Be for the Chicago Bears?
The Chicago Bears offense has the potential to have a massive amount of fantasy value.
It also has the potential to be really, really bad.
It's a new offense for Jay Cutler and company, but new head coach Marc Trestman has been successful in previous stints in the NFL as well as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes.
We won't know 100 percent how smoothly it will be until Week 1, but we will start hearing things from the press when the Bears open camp on July 25th.
If we don't hear much, we can assume it's going well. If we hear bad things or that things are "shaky," then warning lights should go off.
The potential for this offense is huge. We will soon see if they can reach it.
Who Is the Starting Quarterback for the Cleveland Browns?
At first glance this might not seem all that important for fantasy owners.
It's a new coaching staff though, with some interesting weapons including Greg Little, newly added Davone Bess and (when he returns from suspension) Josh Gordon.
There's fantasy gold in them there hills!
And if that offense can get its feet under it in new head coach Rob Chudzinski and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner's scheme, either quarterback could be a useful bye-week starter.
Brandon Weeden was pretty mediocre in his rookie campaign, but he showed flashes during it as well and has the tools to play well. Meanwhile, Jason Campbell was awful in his brief tenure replacing a banged up Jay Cutler for the Chicago Bears, but played well in Oakland the year prior before being injured.
Either of these players could benefit from the new offensive scheme, a solid running game and a decent offensive line.
We just have to see which one emerges.
The Green Bay Packers Backfield Will Remain a Big, Cloudy Mess
Taking two running backs in the 2013 NFL draft has confused fantasy owners, who have split into a pair of factions.
There are those who look at Eddie Lacy as a guy who should have (or at least could have) gone in the first round and was a steal for the Packers in the late second. They see his skill set and feel that, without a doubt, he should be the bell-cow back and get the majority of the work.
Then there are those who saw the Packers move back into the fourth round for UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin and feel sure that he was selected because the Packers don't trust Lacy to show up in shape and stay focused.
Of course, there are also some who point to DuJuan Harris' excellent work late last season and ask "what about him?"
All of which serves to make this backfield pretty much as difficult to figure out as it ever has been. Lacy has the most talent, but there were concerns with his ability to stay healthy long-term and his poor personal workout last spring may have pointed to concerns with dedication.
Franklin had a great senior year for the Bruins and was productive over the course of his career, but only really put together his whole toolbox his senior year. So was it a flash in the pan or was he a late bloomer?
Harris played well at the end of the season, but that's not exactly a lot to build on, is it?
Of course, there are reports Alex Green of all people had the best minicamp.
See? Murkier and murkier.
Is Ryan Tannehill Ready to Be a Fantasy Starter?
They got the man the toys—now with Miami Dolphins training camp kicked off, we can see if he knows what to do with them.
Ryan Tannehill is almost the "forgotten man" when it comes to last year's excellent crop of fantasy rookie quarterbacks and yet he had a very good first year.
While Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are already considered top-10 (or darn close) fantasy quarterbacks, Tannehill sort of sits off to the side, forgotten.
And sure, his 3,294 yards, 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions aren't Canton worthy by any stretch. Then again, neither was Wilson's stat line (3,118 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions). Griffin's yards weren't much better (3,211) though his touchdown-to-interception ratio was fantastic (20:5).
But being in Miami, on a non-playoff contending team, with an equal number of touchdowns and interceptions is how you get overlooked.
This offseason, the Dolphins signed Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller to help get Tannehill's game going. Matched with Brian Hartline and a decent running game, Tannehill has all the tools.
Now we need to see him take the next level. We should start hearing about how he is getting on the same page as his new weapons, as well as what he is doing on his own to overcome mistakes he made last season.
He's already a solid bye-week replacement. However, if he can prove himself in the next few weeks, Tannehill might be a decent starter for fantasy teams who wait on a quarterback.
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