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Early Predictions for NFL OTAs

Eric MackFantasy Football Lead WriterMay 20, 2014

Early Predictions for NFL OTAs

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    David Maxwell/Getty Images

    The wait from the NFL draft to the official start of training camps might be shorter this year than ever, but it still will seem like an eternity. It always does.

    At least we get some offseason training activities kicked up for the next few weeks to feed our spring thirst for some real tackle football. With the action will come news bites, the obligatory "best shape of his career" stories and, gasp, some injuries.

    In this slideshow, we take a look at some of the most intriguing storylines going into OTAs and offer predictions about how these tales might unfold before our anxious, awaiting eyes.

Johnny Manziel Hype Will Be As Loud As Ever

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    Browns Offseason Workout Program

    • OTA offseason workouts: May 20-21, May 23, May 27-28, May 30, June 2-3, June 5-6
    • Voluntary minicamp: April 29-May 1
    • Mandatory minicamp: June 10-12
    • Rookie minicamp: May 16-18

     

    Many of you likely believe the NFL draft coverage focusing on Johnny Manziel was overboard. Here's some advice for those of you who don't want to hear it: Plug your ears or avoid media when the Cleveland Browns are in camp Wednesday, which is the only day the media is allowed to watch and speak to the players.

    With incumbent Brian Hoyer working his way back from a knee reconstruction, expect Manziel to get some first-team reps. Tyler Thigpen is the third quarterback on the roster.

    The good news is Manziel will have Josh Gordon in attendance while his appeal of a potential indefinite suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy is being processed, according to The Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot.

    Regardless of the Gordon hoopla, it is just a sideshow for Manziel. Expect hyperbole like "poise," "command of the team" and "immediate respect of his teammates" to be tossed around in abundance.

Marcus Lattimore Going to Fight in Earnest for Spot in 49ers' Crowded Backfield

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    San Francisco 49ers Offseason Workout Program

    • OTA offseason workouts: May 27-29, June 2-3, June 5, June 9-10, June 12-13
    • Mandatory minicamp: June 17-19
    • Rookie minicamp: May 23-25

     

    Marcus Lattimore was once a future NFL star. Now, he's just one of a slew of 49ers running backs fighting for scraps behind veteran Frank Gore.

    Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James were well regarded. Carlos Hyde was arguably the top running back in this year's class. According to Taylor Price of the 49ers' official website, Lattimore is undaunted:

    I look at it like it's competition. Competition brings out the best in you. It brings out the best in every player in the backfield. We've got a group of great guys, and we all want the best for each other, but at the end of the day, we all want to play. We're going to compete, and we're going to bring the best out of each other, and we're going to have a great backfield.

    Lattimore at least is healthy enough to compete with that group now:

    It’s been going good. I'm real happy because I've had no knee problems, nothing in my knee, no soreness, no swelling. ... It's all the other muscles around the knee getting used to the workload again and going full-speed. That's what I have to get used to, going full-speed again and getting those instincts back that I've had.

    I'm taking it one day at a time. Your hamstring gets sore, your calves get sore, but you push through that. And once you get used to that as the weeks go by, the more I get into football shape, I feel like I'll be fine. ...

    I'm building up towards OTAs, minicamps and when it matters. I want to be in there and that's the season.

    Regardless of whether you are loyal to Gore or high on Hyde, you have to be like most of us: rooting for a storybook Lattimore comeback.

Carolina Panthers Are Going to Realize They Need Free-Agent WR Santonio Holmes

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Carolina Panthers Offseason Workout Program

    • OTA offseason workouts: May 27-29, June 3-5, June 9-12
    • Mandatory minicamp: June 17-19
    • Rookie minicamp: May 15-17

     

    The Carolina Panthers don't care much for Santonio Holmes. His ripping of the Panthers secondary in December, as chronicled here by NFL.com's Kevin Patra, has to still sting.

    Carolina might want to get over that. The lone potential-impact wide receiver remaining on the free-agent market can help a receiver-needy team like the Panthers.

    They are going to camp with rookie Kelvin Benjamin, journeyman Jerricho Cotchery and retread Jason Avant as their best receiving options right now. No matter how little you think of Holmes at this stage of his disappointing career, you have to see him as an upgrade over the alternatives.

    Oh, and Cam Newton just happens to be rehabilitating his offseason ankle surgery still, which will keep him from getting OTA reps with that all-new set of unimpressive targets. Newton updated the Charlotte Observer's Jonathan Jones on his status earlier this week:

    I got a chance to see the incoming rookies and (I'm) very excited about (first-round receiver) Kelvin Benjamin—my future target. Everybody’s coming in hungry, and that's what you expect to happen. I can't wait to get started. I've got to get this ankle back 100 percent. It's a day-to-day process, and it's going along well. I'm feeling great.

    Newton would feel a lot better if the Panthers could add some help like Holmes.

Minnesota Vikings Quarterbacks Will Play Nice with Teddy Bridgewater

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    Minnesota Vikings Offseason Workout Program

    • OTA offseason workouts: May 28-30, June 3-5, June 9-12
    • Voluntary minicamp: April 29-May 1
    • Mandatory minicamp: June 17-19
    • Rookie minicamp: May 16-18

     

    Christian Ponder has dealt with the pressures of being a first-round pick and the quarterback of the future. Matt Cassel, not so much. Both Vikings incumbent quarterbacks are going to be unified in their comments supporting incoming first-round quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

    Ponder and Cassel are going to say the right things. They are going to be thinking something completely different. They want to beat Bridgewater out and salvage their own fledgling careers.

    The Star Tribune's Matt Vensel reported Bridgewater is already scheduled to get first-team reps in lieu of Cassel and Ponder.

    Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told Vensel he likes what he saw from Bridgewater at rookie minicamp:

    He's throwing the ball good. I think he's got a good presence, a good command of the way he's taking things. It was good for him to be out here with the veteran quarterbacks a little bit last week for a few days.

    Cassel and Ponder might publicly support Bridgewater's candidacy for the starting quarterback nod, but they have had their credentials questioned themselves. They want to return the favor.

    Remember the old football adage: "When you have three quarterbacks, you actually have none."

Rob Gronkowski Won't Do a Thing, and the Patriots Won't Talk About It Either

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    New England Patriots Offseason Workout Program

    • OTA offseason workouts: May 27, May 29-30, June 2-3, June 5, June 9-10, June 12-13
    • Mandatory minicamp: June 17-19
    • Rookie minicamp: May 16-18

     

    Here is much ado about nothing. Rob Gronkowski is coming off another career-threatening injury—if knee reconstructions even are that anymore—but the Patriots are not going to acknowledge his existence.

    It is the Bill Belichick way. The Pats don't talk about injuries. They also don't allow Gronk to do too much too soon.

    Expect Gronk to be idle and Belichick to resort to a statement such as this one: "No. 87 is working his way back from injury. We have no update on his status. We are only going to talk about players who were participating in team activities."

    It is about vanilla as it gets. But it won't stop everyone from wondering just how Gronk is doing.

Jadeveon Clowney's Presence Won't Completely Mask the Quarterback Question Mark

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    Houston Texans Offseason Workout Program

    • OTA offseason workouts: May 27-29, June 2-3, June 5, June 9-10, June 12-13
    • Voluntary minicamp: May 6-8
    • Mandatory minicamp: June 17-19
    • Rookie minicamp: May 16-18

     

    Jadeveon Clowney could set the Texans camp on fire—literally or figuratively—but that smoke still wouldn't be able to cloud the real news in Houston. Heck, Andre Johnson won't be there either, as Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle wrote, and the media could try to focus on that too.

    Nothing will be more pressing to the media than the lack of a starting quarterback, assuming you see newcomer Ryan Fitzpatrick as the backup he was a year ago and fourth-round pick Tom Savage as a project. One-time starter T.J. Yates and backup Case Keenum are also in the mix.

    The good news for all of them is there is no clear-cut favorite in this "free-for-all," as the Chronicle's Dale Robertson writes. That is also the bad news for the Texans. Welcome to quarterback controversy hell.

Someone Is Going to Share Michael Crabtree's Fate from a Season Ago

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Before Michael Crabtree became the "sorry receiver" Richard Sherman famously outed him to be after the NFC Championship Game, there were people everywhere just plain feeling sorry for Crabtree. The San Francisco 49ers wide receiver suffered a torn Achilles tendon during OTAs last year, which threatened to keep him out all of last season.

    We know how his storybook comeback ended...as a pseudo cautionary tale. Someone else of significance is going to be injured again before training camp opens.

    Venturing a guess as to whom will be fruitless, but we will say it will be someone whose loss will hinder his team's Super Bowl hopes. The 49ers were still a pass one foot deeper to Crabtree away from the Super Bowl, perhaps, but they felt his loss for most of the season.

    It is only a matter of time until we have another "sorry" injury situation to deal with. There are about two months before players officially get training camp underway. That is a lot of time for something (bad) to happen.

     

    All of the dates for each team's offseason workout program are from NFLmedia.com (credentials required). Dates are tentative and subject to change.

    Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, was the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this past season. He is now an NFL featured writer here. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game.

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