Camp Fires: AFC Training Camp Battles to Watch (Guest Column)

Posted: July 24, 2012 in Fantasy, NFL
Tags: , ,


As I deal with my health issue that will restrict the amount of posts I can do over the next couple of months, I’m trying to sprinkle in a few guest columns to keep the blog fresh. I will say that after my first week I’m already more tired than I thought I would be, so these will be a great help until I get back on my feet. Hopefully it will be sooner than later because I’m already driving my wife crazy and it hasn’t even been 10 days yet. Actually, she may kill me before my health does.

In the first of my guest columns, Kenzie MacNeil looks at someAFC training camp battles fantasy owners should keep an eye on over the next few weeks. I don’t really know how to do those lines that signal the end of me talking and the start of Kenzie’s article, so this is it:

With training camps getting ready to jump off around the league this week, it seems fitting to discuss the most important position battles to keep a close eye on.  The fantasy landscape can change pretty quickly and this is the first step toward putting months of speculation to bed.

New England Patriots:  The only thing of interest here is who will tote the rock this year. This is basically a battle between second year players Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. No matter what you hear out of camp from the beat writers do not let it influence you. I don’t care if everyone is calling Ridley the next coming of Barry Sanders, it doesn’t matter. The fact is that Mr. Belichick does not care about your fake football team and will deploy his platoon of RB’s at will.  This will be a RBBC nightmare for any owner of a Patriots back and a situation best to be avoided, unless you enjoy sleepless nights and heartburn.

Buffalo Bills:  It’s safe to say that we should see a decent enough timeshare from both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson to make this a complicated backfield and I don’t think camp will provide anymore insight. The battle to watch is at WR. Donald Jones, David Nelson and T.J. Graham will all be in the mix for touches opposite Stevie Johnson. The Bills use plenty of three and four receiver sets to spread the ball around but one more consistent pass catcher could see a big boost in production. I believe the best bet is Nelson. Look for him to break out in his third year. He has the size to be a red zone threat and is starting to build some chemistry with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Pay close attention to this battle in camp because the Bills do throw the ball quite a bit and if one of their receivers emerges, he’ll be a nice sleeper candidate.

Miami Dolphins:  If your a big believer in garbage time then keep an eye on who wins out at QB, as there will be plenty of garbage points to go around. It’s hard to like any QB because look at who they have to throw the ball to…it’s ugly. My belief is that Matt Moore will hold on to the starting  job. He actually isn’t that bad and deserves to get more credit. The other position of interest is RB.  Expect the backup RB to get some third down chances as well as goal line opportunities. Keep a close eye on Lamar Miller for this job, as it won’t take much to outplay Daniel Thomas. Miller could play a lot on passing downs in Miami’s offense. The battle between Thomas and Miller will be one to watch closely in camp and HBO’s Hard Knocks.

New York Jets:  Does anyone really care about this impending fantasy disaster. Avoid everyone on this team like the herpes infected girl that smokes out by the dumpster on your lunch breaks. If you care about the second receiver in the Jets offense, keep an eye on Stephen Hill’s development in the preseason.

Baltimore Ravens:  Watch rookie WR Tommy Streeter during camp. If he can work himself into a third string role there could be some value during the season. Streeter is raw but has great speed and good size for the position. Anquan Boldin is aging fast and Jacoby Jones has proven to be a pedestrian talent in his time with the Texans. Streeter could end up being a rookie surprise for the Ravens and fantasy owners if he has a good camp.

Pittsburgh Steelers:  Look out for Emmanuel Sanders. If he can stay out of the trainers room then I think Sanders can have a coming out party in his third year. Todd Haley will provide plenty of opportunities for three receiver sets, so Sanders will be on the field a lot.  It was only a year ago that we all had Sanders pegged as the player to own across from Mike Wallace. I still believe Sanders will be a big part of the offense, as Antonio Brown is better fitted to play in the slot.

Cincinnati Bengals:  I know most people already have Mohamed Sanu penciled in as the second WR but I don’t think he’s a lock to win the job. Keep close tabs on this camp position battle and especially on Armon Binns.  He is the big, talented possession receiver the Bengals are looking for to line up opposite A.J. Green. This will be one of the most interesting battles to watch throughout all the camps over the next month.

Houston Texans:  The Texans have been looking for someone to complement Andre Johnson for years and have yet to find that receiver. This is a good camp battle to pay attention to because it’s obvious Kevin Walter is not the guy and easily replaceable. Yeah I know he’s a good blocker but that won’t help me get fantasy points, so here’s hoping he’ll finally lose his job this year. This comes down to rookies DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin, along with second year man, Lester Jean. Jean gets the nod from me as the guy to watch, although he is flying under the radar after going undrafted and then missing all of last year with a shoulder injury. He could finally be the guy that emerges as a productive second fantasy receiver in Houston.

Jacksonville Jaguars:  The Jags are doing their best Mike Brown impression of how to deal with player demands. Meanwhile MJD is taking the Jerry Maguire approach and is vocal with his “show me the money” mantra. I don’t see an end to this any time soon and there is a real possibility that he will sit out regular season games. This will make Rashad Jennings training camp of the utmost importance. A strong camp (especially after missing last season) will only embolden the Jags unwillingness to bend. Keep a close eye on this one and if you already own MJD, then it’s time to break out the handcuffs. The QB  battle will also be underway. No one in the league is as afraid of being hit as Blaine Gabbert and it obviously effects his play on the field. If you hear he is looking good in camp, do yourself a favor and ignore it. A lot of guys look good in shorts but when the bullets are real the game changes. Chad Henne will be the starting QB at some point but don’t expect him to win it in camp, he will just have to wait for Gabbert to lose it….somewhere around week 3. Take a wait and see approach with the receivers until the QB position is fixed. That may not be until Jacksonville drafts Matt Barkley next April.

Indianapolis Colts:  The position to watch here is at RB. Neither Donald Brown nor Delone Carter are anything special, so keep an eye out for rookie Vick Ballard. Ballard is a powerful inside runner, something Brown has struggled with at times in his NFL career. Anyone could end up being the starter here but I suspect it will end up being a frustrating RBBC approach. Another position of interest is TE. Expect both rookies Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen to see plenty of action, although I believe Allen is the more complete player. It should be fun to watch these guys push each other in camp and in the preseason.

Denver Broncos:  Running back will be the competition to watch here as the team is already set at the receiver position. Willis McGahee will miss games with a leg injury at some point this year, so I’m interested to see how rookie Ronnie Hillman will be used in this offense. The dude is electric and the type of weapon that Peyton Manning has never had at RB before. Also keep your eye on Knowshon Moreno in camp this year. I know, I know, he’s being called a bust and is basically being treated like he’s not even on the team anymore, right? I can’t shake the feeling that he will actually be a good fit in a Manning lead offense. Moreno has decent speed and a little shake in his game plus he catches the ball well out of the backfield. If he can improve his pass protection and stay healthy he could be a great sleeper to snag off the wire or in the last rounds of your draft.

Kansas City Chiefs:  The Peyton Hillis/Jamaal Charles timeshare may prove to be another tough one to evaluate and I don’t think training camp will help provide any type of conclusion going forward. Instead pay attention to Charles’ burst and explosion as it may take a while to get that back and the Chiefs coaches will probably go pretty easy on him early anyway. Receiver will be interesting, and all indications are that Steve Breston is hanging on to the WR2 spot by a thread. Look for Jonathan Baldwin to make a real push in camp and end up beating out Breston for that spot. Also keep your eye on rookie Devon Wylie. He has the speed to go over the top of the defense and stretch the field for Matt Cassel.

San Diego Chargers:  Yet again the focus is on the WR’s.  The hype around Robert Meachem will soon become deafening, but I’m not buying in until I see more from him. Meachem has never had to contend with the games top DB’s and the results may not be what some fantasy owners are expecting. All the talk at camp will likely be praising Meachem but instead try to focus on second year receiver Vincent Brown.  I think  this kid can become something special. He’ll find himself as the third option to begin the season but at some point he will be starting in place for an injured Malcom Floyd. Once that happens expect a breakout that will make it hard for the coaches to keep him off the field. Keep your eye out for rookie TE Ladarius Green as well. This kid boasts all the measureables and having Antonio Gates around to show you the ropes is a big asset. If Gates’ recent injury problems resurface, Green could be a fantasy sleeper.

Oakland Raiders:  The big question in Oakland is who will be backing up RUN DMC? His inability to stay healthy is legendary and provides the backup with a starting opportunity at some point during the season. The early favorite for the job is Mike Goodson, although I think Taiwan Jones could thrive under Oakland’s new zone blocking scheme. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp worked wonders during his time in Houston and will provide a nice foundation for everyone toting the rock this year. Whoever shines in camp will have a great chance at being one of the league’s most valuable handcuffs, a la Ben Tate. It is also worth keeping tabs on the TE position as a pair of second year players, David Ausberry and Richard Gordon, will be competing for snaps. On one final note, the trading of Louis Murphy to the Panthers will provide rookie Juron Criner with more opportunities and he has already impressed the coaches in spring workouts. Keep him on your radar.

Kenzie MacNeil

  1. budrick says:

    So whats the health issue? Cancer? Whatever it is best of luck battling it, and look forward for you to be healthy & keep pumping out the articles

    • ThePigskinGuy says:

      I’ve been a Type I diabetic for 30 years and I’ve run into a bit of a roadblock. Hopefully it won’t become too serious and I’ll be back to 100% soon. Thanks a lot.

  2. Irish says:

    “Campfires”. Great title Tom. My mom developed Type I late in life so we dealt with it as a family before. keep us informed on situation brother. Looking forward to following your posts.

    • ThePigskinGuy says:

      Thanks as always Irish. Looking forward to following our Lamar Miller debate this year and beyond. It really gives me a reason to give a damn about Hard Knocks too.

    • ThePigskinGuy says:

      Also, I didn’t come up with camp Fires, Kenzie did. If it’s a good title or headline I didn’t think of it. I have no talent for that at all. When I worked at my awful headlines were a running joke. Whatever that skill is I don’t have it. Hence my catchy headlines like “Updated 2012 Fantasy Quarterback Rankings.” Only a true talent could come up with that.

  3. Irish says:

    The more I watch Lestar Jean, the more undecided I am about him. I just read another article where scouts knocked him in the draft because he had difficulty separating from defensive backs in that elite Sunbelt Conference and that’s what I saw too. He is great at making contested catches and high pointing the ball, but the only times I saw him wide open was when the defense was in a zone or just blew the coverage. Just looks like a big possession receiver and a good red zone target, which is not the end of the world if you are looking for the next Plaxico Burress.

    Hillman…..holy sheep *&^%, this guy is shooting up the rankings now. Some people are mocking him before David Wilson now in rookie dynasty drafts. Thanks for hyping him out of sleeper status PG.

    Lamar Miller, who I know you love PG ;), is about to get hyped out of my dynasty draft spot as well, Hard Knocks will see to that. I have him as underrated right now. He has some work to do to pick up the finer points of the game, but if he continues to shine in camp, I can see him grabbing some of the early down work as the season progresses, not just situation snaps.

    Great stuff as always PG.

  4. Manuel says:

    Is Kenzie MacNeil your alter ego? I could swear I read Casale in the Jaguars and Jets bits. And loved every word of them.

  5. Kenzie MacNeil says:

    thanks Manuel, flattery will get you everywhere. I indeed exist, on some insignificant, lonely fantasy island in a far away land….like Canada. I would like to thank Tom for giving me a chance to contribute to his blog and if it didn’t suck too bad I’ll hopefully be back again. thanks to everyone that posted feedback.

  6. anarchyraliv says:

    I’m still targeting Run DMC with my 2nd pick. I don’t care what people say: every RB out there is one hit away from season ending injury. McFadden can carry my team when healthy. Everyone called Stafford an injury risk until he wasn’t.

    • JT Marlin says:

      I agree, I am still a sucker for RunDMC. The guy is a fantasy difference maker when on the field. The loss of MBush just makes his fantasy prospects that more appealing. Eventually Fred Taylor shook off early career injuries and made it thru multiple very productive seasons. Stafford is a great example from last year. I’m sure there are many other examples I can’t think of right off the top of my head. Who would of thought AP would have sprained his ankle and then come back and tear all is CL joints. Injuries are very unpredictable and I don’t think McFad is really more likely to get injured than AFoster.

  7. JT Marlin says:

    I’m really starting to like the idea of using a mid round pick on Ridley and late round pick on Vareen at RB. Addai is gone and I don’t think Woodhead is going to be that big of a factor. There’s a real good chance that Ridley goes for over 1,000 yd and 10TD. That offense is loaded at WR/TE and he should never have to worry about defenses gearing up to stop him. If he isn’t able to resolve his fumbling issues or doesn’t perform, then Vareen should get the next crack at the starting gig. I believe the Pats have the most rushing TD over the last 3 seasons. There is production to be had in that backfield and Ridley looked like a future stud at times last season. Plus PSG was singing his praises coming out of college last year. Definitely worth the risk in the middle of your draft.

    • ThePigskinGuy says:

      Woodhead is basically finished. Belichick has gotten all he can out of that average talent. He’ll make the team and be a valuable backup but I don’t see him being a serious threat for playing time anymore. His playing time drastically decreased last season. His best days are behind him. I think Belichick really likes the two young guys from everything I’m hearing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s