Welcome to our first installment of the Camp Report, where we spin you around the league to bring you up to date on the latest news and notes from the prior week. It’s still early yet, but a successful dynasty coach understands why you can’t be asleep at the wheel in August. Now, more than at any other time, there’s the quick and the dead—be the former.
All camps are open, the Hall of Fame game is in the books, and there have already been noteworthy camp developments, injuries, and early action to take note of. Most high profile contract situations have been remedied. This all means we can fully enjoy the preseason without the nail biting that often takes place at this time when words such as “long term holdout” are tossed around.
I’m going to change up the format just a bit to allow for better positional focus. For this series, updates will be done by position rather than by team. Additionally, this series is not meant to focus on every camp battle, tight hamstring or rookie-hazing-Tebow-haircut. Instead, I am focusing on movement or events that directly impact player values. It’s sometimes a fine line as to what is newsworthy and what is not, but I’ll walk it as well as I can and hope to bring you some significant value along the way.
Let’s dive right in…
Not a lot to report from the quarterback position in the first week.
Brett Favre gave many owners a scare when it was supposedly learned that he would not be rejoining the Vikings in 2011. Favre went from retired-again to wait-and-see mode in only a few short hours. Obviously something was said, but there is little doubt in our minds that this is another "Favreian" tactic to address the growing concern in Minnesota by players and media that Favre is, yet again, missing valuable time.
By claiming that his ankle is not yet where he would like it to be, he addresses the perception that he is hanging the club out to dry with his absence while later being able to play the hero when he overcomes the pain and mobility issues to suit up for the last preseason game.
I have very few doubt that Favre will be playing on Sundays in 2010. Bonus points to him should he decide to descend via jetpack from the rafters trailing purple smoke during the pregame warmup for Week One.
There is perhaps no greater rising quarterback than Jay Cutler. Cutler has fully embraced the hiring of coordinator Mike Martz and the two are said to be very much on the same page. If Martz is able to resurrect the greatest show on turf in the windy city come September, there are going to be a lot of happy Bears fans and Cutler owners. This also very much affects the individual values of Chicago’s WR trio of Hester, Knox and Aromashodu (see below for more information).
Another recent riser has been Oakland’s new signal caller, Jason Campbell. Oakland brass have repeatedly mentioned Campbell as fitting in and performing well. Yet, in the end, I just don’t believe this matters for Oakland fans in 2010. Campbell is not dynamic enough as a quarterback to overcome other offensive woes to lead the Raiders to the playoffs.
In Carolina, Jimmy Clausen has drawn praise and should be their QB2 before it is all said and done, whether in 2010 or 2011. Incumbent starter Matt Moore is clearly the QB1 and will get at least the first half of 2010 to establish any level of offensive rhythm and production.
Buffalo still seems to believe that Trent Edwards gives them the best chance to be competitive. The battle rages on and while we still like Brian Brohm as the dark-horse in the race, all choices remain uninspiring and a situation to avoid unless you are extremely desperate or have the roster space available.
Recent fallers are Seattle’s Charlie Whitehurst and Pittsburgh’s Dennis Dixon.
Whitehurst, who signed a very lucrative two year deal prior to the 2010 draft has been clearly beaten by aging veteran Matt Hasselbeck and has even said to be receiving a significant challenge from J.P. Losman. Hasselbeck has clearly ended the competition and the others won’t be seeing time without another injury or sustained losing streak, both of which are likely in my opinion.
In Pittsburgh, it is clear at this point that Byron Leftwich has a firm hold on the positional battle and will open the season as the starter. Dixon remains young, mobile and dynamic, but the lack of organizational confidence in him is palpable.
The big news was the early injury to Knowshon Moreno’s hamstring.
Early reports had him tearing the muscle and missing an indefinite period of time. In the end, reports are of a mildly torn or frayed hamstring, which would sideline him until late August. I’ll believe it when I see it, but all indications point to it being a moderate hamstring injury that won’t affect his long term value.
With notoriously tight-lipped Josh McDaniels in charge of information dissemination, nothing can be assured. To wit, the Broncos signed LenDale White as a camp body. Stay tuned.
In Buffalo, the race appears to be down to Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, with Spiller having signed his rookie deal and putting on an early show in camp. Some have gone as far as to suggest that Spiller could receive the lion’s share of touches in the backfield. I still believe it will be a 60/40 split between Jackson and Spiller. I also don’t believe that Marshawn Lynch will be a Bill by the beginning of the season.
In K.C., mixed reports have emerged by the diminutive sensation that is Dexter McCluster. His dynamic ability and skills have been praised, but late week reports had him having a significant issue hanging onto the football, especially in punt and kickoff return drills. Expect McCluster to finish strong and carve out a nice role for himself in 2010.
In the land of the Giants, Brandon Jacobs appears healthy and ready to attempt to hold off Ahmad Bradshaw for primary ball carrying duties. Jacobs was rumored to be demoted to second string, something that head coach Tom Coughlin has firmly denied. Either way, Bradshaw would appear to be the safer bet with Jacobs receiving meaningful touches, especially in short yardage and goal line duties. It still isn’t likely that Jacobs plays 16 games in 2010.
Laurence Maroney is quietly having a good camp. Maroney has never been short on talent, but has been constantly plagued by injuries. Every year, Maroney appears to be a top sleeper candidate and, just as quickly, returns to the bench. This year promises to be no different. If at any point Maroney is able to shake the injury bug, he has the youth and ability to be a playmaker in the NFL. Caveat Emptor.
After a slow start due to a minor tweak in Minnesota, All-Day Adrian Peterson has come on strong and is putting on his usual show. The only RB battle being waged is for the RB2 between Albert Young and rookie sensation Toby Gerhart.
Gerhart started slow but is picking up steam. Albert Young was featured in my last article as one of five running backs not to lose sight of. I fully expect Gerhart to win the RB2 role in 2010, but perhaps not at the onset of the season. Regardless, Albert Young will soon be a free agent and should have more than a few calls for his services. Do not rule out a possible trade to a team such as Seattle or Tampa Bay as the season draws near.
Washington is the land of the veteran running back, where Larry Johnson is said to be having the best camp thus far. The job will remain Clinton Portis’ to lose, and there is little way that Johnson can actually take it at this point. Portis is still young enough to be productive and has a history with head coach Mike Shanahan, be that good or bad. With capable backs behind him to for which to share the load, perhaps Portis will play all 16 games. Not likely.
The Seahawks have a backfield to watch as the preseason progresses. Julius Jones is listed atop the chart but has been less than stellar. The smallish Justin Forsett has shown explosiveness and has been a camp favorite. The recent rumor is that Pete Carroll is still looking to add a bruising, between the tackles runner prior to week one of the regular season.
Reports were that Seattle was very close to landing Buffalo RB3, Marshawn Lynch during the 2010 draft if not for Buffalo’s unrealistic pick demands. This solution still makes the most sense and Forsett and Lynch remain best friends after spending a couple of years together at the University of California. Mark my words, Forsett is being overdrafted.
Lastly, a situation in Oakland needs to be monitored closely. The battle between Michael Bush and Darren McFadden is neck and neck. The majority report that Bush appears to be the better back, but McFadden is obvioulsy more dynamic.
The latter has yet to have an injury free year and has largely been a bust since entering the league. These two backs are far too complementary in my mind to share similar roles. I’m expecting a 50/50 split but believe that Oakland wants the more dynamic McFadden to win the job.
The big news of the week from the receiver position was Dez Bryant being sidelined with a nasty high ankle sprain. Prior to the injury, Bryant had been putting on a clinic and created a buzz that could be heard by all the teams that passed on him before Jerry Jones. Bryant is in a race to be back on the field by opening day. That breeze you felt was current WR2 Roy Williams exhaling. In Big D, a majority of the local media are said to believe that Bryant will be starting by Week Four.
Chicago believes they have a noteworthy trio of wide receivers in Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and Devin Aromashodu. The speedsters in Hester and Knox should complement the taller and rangy Aromoshodu and, if Mike Martz’s transformation is successful, give da Bears could a meaningful air attack in 2010. Good luck at picking the true sleeper at receiver in Chicago. My money is on Aromashodu picking up where he left off in 2009.
In San Francisco, Josh Morgan continues to quietly have a very good camp and should be the starting receiver opposite Michael Crabtree. In an offense with Frank Gore, Crabtree and Vernon Davis, Morgan has enough skill to be a productive target and is a substantial buy-low target prior to the beginning of the season.
In injury news, Matt Ryan lost veteran receiver Michael Jenkins for up to 6 weeks after a weekend injury. He is expected to return but has never been a viable fantasy starter due to inconsistency. Roddy White will continue to receive double teams and lightning quick Harry Douglas will be asked to fill in. Tight end Tony Gonzalez may get a few more looks. When Jenkins returns near week one, nothing really changes unless Douglas really takes advantage of his opportunity.
My favorite camp battle is in Green Bay, where the recently extended Donald Driver and his knees, attempt to have one (if not two) more productive seasons. It is my full expectation that a new WR2 will emerge this year in Green Bay and that receiver should be James Jones.
To date, Jones has been drafted well below where I believe his value should be. He’s currently being selected in the early teens in dynasty leagues. His value should be three or four rounds higher. Jones is locked into a battle for the WR3 with Jordy Nelson, who is also having a very good camp, but Jones has the NFL body, the big play dynamic, and the toughness to win the position outright. Nelson is not without talent and the race is far from over, though
Patriot receivers are enjoying a nice camp. Aging stud Randy Moss is looking quick and is catching everything thrown to him. Up and coming receiver Brandon Tate has the early lead in the slot receiver (WR3) competition.
Perhaps the best news of the early preseason is that Wes Welker is on pace to begin 2010 as the starting WR2, less than a year after tearing his ACL. Welker’s conditioning, toughness, and work ethic are no less than stellar and those who were willing to take a chance with an early selection of him appear to be in line for a nice reward. He may not catch 120+ balls again, but in PPR leagues, Welker is a serious contender as the top WR.
In Seattle, Mike Williams is emerging as a potential factor. Really?
Yes. But will it stick?
Probably not. But if he does, you can’t say DLF didn’t mention it. Rookie Golden Tate has been impressive early and veteran T.J. Houshmandzadeh plans on being more vocal about getting his catches. Good for him! Housh is still a reliable receiver and redrafters should not be afraid to roster him, especially in PPR leagues where his value will be much higher.
In Tampa Bay, the other Mike Williams continues to perform and is said to be the odds-on favorite for the WR1 role. The more interesting battle may be between veterans Sammie Stroughter and Michael Clayton along with the highly drafted Arrelious Benn.
Clayton is not guaranteed a roster spot and Benn is said to be finally turning up the heat in camp after a lackluster spring and early summer. Whether or not Tampa gets the quarterback play that would see any of the receivers have a any degree of fantasy relevance remains to be seen. Mike Williams is clearly the better prospect in fantasy at this stage of the game.
In New England, Rob Gronkowski appears to have the early lead to be the starting TE. Aaron Hernandez is said to be fluid and capable as well so the battle has not yet been won by Gronk. In this offense, the TE1 has value that is notable. Brady does like to spread the ball around and a capable tight end will be an asset that should receive a relatively heavy number of targets as Moss and Welker open up the middle of the field.
Still a bit early for many defensive notes, but in Oakland, Rolando McClain is appearing as advertised. A hard hitting and intelligent inside LB, McClain stands to be an immediate impact on defense and should be an early selection in IDP leagues.
The big loss thus far has been in Denver where sack king Elvis Dumervil will likely miss a majority of the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
In Detroit, rising LB DeAndre Levy has been sitting out with a mild injury. Levy is young, capable and plays in DET which should be fantasy gold for IDP leaguers. But Levy also missed far too many tackles in 2009 and is no guarantee to stay and MLB should he falter early on.
Recently signed by the Giants, Keith Bulluck would seemingly be an immediate fill-in for their vacated MLB role. Jonathan Goff was running with the ones early on but Bulluck has too much experience and talent to remain on the bench.
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