The (Off-Season) Stock Watch

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by John Hansen, Publisher

Published, 4/15/13 

The purpose of this “Off-Season Stock Watch” is twofold. First, it’s a great way for those who aren’t exactly following the league to quickly catch up on the changing landscape. It also serves as something of an NFL draft primer, since many players’ fantasy values this year are hanging in the balance, pending the draft and depending on the route their teams go in terms of drafting players who will directly affect their production.
If you want more detailed analysis on things like this year’s player movement, coaching changes, and analysis of this year’s draft class, we have all that covered on the site. But if you’re looking for a quick overview of the current marketplace with the bulk of the critical free agency activity in the rearview, this first Stock Watch report of the 2013 season should do the trick.
Peyton Manning (Den) – I’ve always said it about the NFL: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. That seemed to be the case in New England last year when Brandon Lloyd was added as what looked like the final piece of their receiving corps puzzle. Lloyd didn’t have a bad year, but he’s no longer a Patriot, so it obviously wasn’t great. But when it comes to Wes Welker in Denver, it doesn’t seem too good to be true – and it seems unbelievably good. The marriage between Manning and the most prolific slot receiver of all time is obviously fantastic on the field, but it will be just as impressive off the field. Both players are incredible competitors who are very willing to put in the work in practice and in the film room to make this fit work from Day One. And teamed with a terrific WR duo in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, Manning has easily the best (or at least the most talented) receiving corps he’s ever had. This is going to work, and it’s going to push Manning into the top-3 at QB this year. 5000 yards and 40+ TDs are both easily attainable in 2013, especially since he said he was still having some issues last year and should be a little better off physically in 2013.
Russell Wilson (Sea) – Wilson’s ridiculous run at the end of the season was going to make him an intriguing fantasy pick this year no matter what, but with WR Percy Harvin added to the mix, things just got a lot more appealing. We’ve seen the Seahawks roll Wilson out to take their shots down the field to guys like WRs Sidney Rice and Golden Tate, so we’d expect more of the same with Harvin. Plus, Wilson became even more effective down the stretch when the read option was introduced, and with Harvin’s ability to work out of the backfield, it should add another explosive element that will be very tough for defenses to handle. If there was still doubt as to whether or not Wilson was a viable fantasy starter in a 12-team league, that doubt should be gone now. Clearly, despite his lack of ideal height, Wilson will be able to get Harvin the ball all over the field due to his movement and ability to see the whole field. 
Carson Palmer (Ari) – Considering his advancing age and the dysfunctional environment the last two years in Oakland, Palmer arguably performed above expectations as a Raider. He really didn’t deliver the goods based on what the Raiders gave up to get him, but that’s not Palmer’s fault, since Oakland paid way too much to acquire his services. Now he gets a fresh start in Arizona, and it does look like a good spot for him. Although the OL is a huge problem, it wasn’t very good in Oakland the last two years, and he was still able to put up numbers. The Cardinals will get T Levi Brown back this year (he missed all of 2012), and they will likely use the 7th overall pick on a tackle, which could quickly solidify their protection up front. Otherwise, Palmer is a great fit for Bruce Arians, who loves to throw the ball and usually prefers player like Palmer who are big, strong guys with powerful arms. Arians is a very proven coordinator, and the Cards have plenty of weapons at receiver, including some emerging talents in WR Michael Floyd and TE Rob Housler, so while Palmer’s stock isn’t exactly soaring with the Cardinals, it is on the upswing, and there’s more upside with him now in the desert.
Colin Kaepernick (SF) – Kaepernick may be the most intriguing fantasy pick on the board in 2013. There are still questions about the effectiveness and sustainability of the various wrinkles the Niners frequently implement, such as the read-option. It’s also fair to question whether or not Kaepernick can play the way he played in 2012 for a full season and avoid injury, although he has no tangible durability issues right now. We’ll have plenty of analysis on Kaepernick this year, but the short version is that we’re sold. We’re sold because of his unique skill set, his intense preparation, and the elite coaching staff in San Francisco. His play this past season is also certainly reason for optimism. The addition of Anquan Boldin isn’t earth-shattering, but it’s definitely a nice pickup. Boldin doesn’t have the vertical speed they need, but he adds an element of toughness to any receiving corps, and his ability to make contested catches and perform in the red zone should definitely help their offense. Even if the Niners do little else to help him this off-season, he’s destined for a top-7-8 ranking at QB and a top-50 ranking overall – and I sense that he will emerge as a huge key to my 2013 draft plan.
Jay Cutler (Chi) – There was a time when we were huge Cutler apologists, but we’ve cooled from him considerably the last 2-3 years because he’s been a mess for fantasy purposes. Some of his issues stemmed from a poor marriage of personnel and scheme, and some were due to a shaky supporting cast, namely an OL that has been laughably bad at times in Chicago. Cutler isn’t perfect, but if placed in a good situation, he can clearly deliver. He will be in yet another new scheme this year, his third in four years, but the early sense is that the offense will have more continuity and consistency. Noted offensive guru Marc Trestman has a lot of experience, and his offense, rooted in the West Coast scheme, should be good for Cutler, who played in a WCO in Denver. Trestman has big plans for RB Matt Forte, which is great, but other than turning the offense over to Trestman’s capable hands, Cutler should have his best receiving corps in Chicago, thanks to beast Brandon Marshall, the emergence of wideout Alshon Jeffery, and the addition of TE Martellus Bennett. My friend Rich Gannon played for Trestman in Oakland and covers the league professionally now, and he absolutely loves the fit for Cutler and the Bear offense. They’ve even addressed the OL with a new LT (although they overpaid for former Saint Jermon Bushrod), so things are looking up for Cutler.   
Ryan Tannehill (Mia) – Although I find it kind of embarrassing that a team needs to go out in free agency and acquire three of their top-five receivers in one single off-season, the fact is they have greatly improved Tannehill’s supporting cast, so he should now be in the conversation when talking about interesting fantasy backup options at QB this year. All things considered, Tannehill’s body of work in 2012 was very encouraging. He took advantage of his high-end physical tools, hung tough in the pocket, and showed an ability to go through progressions and handle the mental aspects of the game. Now, with his added weaponry – mainly speedster Mike Wallace and the athletic TE Dustin Keller – Tannehill will have a legitimate chance to take a significant step forward in his second season. He has a big arm, so he can take advantage of Wallace’s verticality, and he will still have Brian Hartline in the mix, whom he developed nice chemistry with last year. Keller is an upgrade at TE, and former Ram Brandon Gibson gives them good depth, plus slot receiver Davone Bess is still here. So all of a sudden, the Dolphins have a pretty complete and deep receiving corps, which should result in a top-20 finish for Tannehill in 2013.
Alex Smith (KC) – Smith certainly isn’t a major upgrade, but when you go from a team that features power running, plays top defense, and generally limits your impact as a QB to playing the position for Andy Reid, you have to think the fantasy digits will be on the rise. And the Chiefs do have a nice group of skill players to support Smith, who shouldn’t have to worry at all about intriguing backup and former Saint Chase Daniel, who is also new to the team in 2012. He’ll have a solid #1 in Dwayne Bowe, whom Reid loved coming out of college, and TE Tony Moeaki could be much better off this year, another year removed from ACL surgery (he seemed to turn a corner late in 2012). They’ve added veteran receiver Donnie Avery, who can run, and former #1 pick WR Jonathan Baldwin is extremely talented and could certainly contribute. And with great speed and versatility in the backfield in Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster, Smith definitely has a lot to work with.
Running Backs
Matt Forte (Chi) – The moment the news came down that the Bears hired Marc Trestman as their new head coach, the first name that came to my mind was Charlie Garner, who put up monstrous numbers in the passing game for the Raiders in 2002 under Trestman (91/941/4). And as it turns out, Trestman has not only compared Forte to Garner, but he absolutely loves Forte, so we could be looking at big overall numbers from him in 2013. Trestman is particularly thrilled with Forte’s receiving prowess and his versatility catching the ball, including his strong downfield route-running. Forte’s been underutilized the last couple of years in the passing game, which is a big key because he’s never going to be a big TD guy. Forte has a lot of tread on the tires for a 27-year old back, but he’s missed only five games in his career, and he was able to play in 15 games in 2012, so durability isn’t a huge issue. Especially in PPR leagues this year, expect to see him land high in our 2013 rankings.
Lamar Miller (Mia) – Right now, he’s the favorite to be the lead back for the Dolphins in 2013. Now, he’ll face competition from Daniel Thomas, and they could still draft a back, but they really like and appear pretty comfortable with Miller right now, so his stock is rising quickly. Miller last year didn’t play much, but he did look very good in a limited role. He appeared in 13 games, rushing 51 times for 250 yards (4.9 YPC) and 1 TD, while catching 6/45 on 8 targets. He’s got nice speed and some bulk to him, and the game certainly didn’t seem too big for him when he played, although it was odd he didn’t play a little more. But he’s a solid fit for their blocking scheme and has upside in this retooled offense.
David Wilson (NYG) – Although (current RFA) Andre Brown is just about a lock to return and handle at least the short-yardage and goal-line work, Wilson is as much of a lock – assuming he protects the ball – to be a big part of their running game now that Ahmad Bradshaw is out of town. All observers now know what he can do, and it could be special. But he might not be quite there yet, so it could be important not to go overboard on his draft position. He is certainly a guy whose ADP will be interesting to watch starting after the draft. Speaking of the draft, we’re assuming the G-Men won’t draft a back of note, meaning Wilson is in the driver’s seat to have significant fantasy relevance in 2013. If things go exceptionally well for him this year, he easily has top-10 potential at his position.
Shane Vereen (NE) – Vereen, a former 2nd-round pick (he was drafted before starter Steven Ridley the same season) in 2011, has just 85 career regular season touches in two seasons. But he showed late in the year he can handle the no-huddle offense, and he should certainly see his role increase with Danny Woodhead moving on to San Diego. Woodhead ended the year with 76 carries for 301 yards and 4 TDs, and he added 40 catches for 446 yards and 3 TDs, and there’s a decent chance that Vereen picks up most of that production. After all, when they drafted him, the prevailing thought was that he was going to replace Kevin Faulk in the offense – but that was before Woodhead emerged. Vereen will be a low-end option in fantasy drafts this year, and you never truly know what the Patriots are planning for their skill players, but he’s clearly on the radar now, and he will have some tangible upside in the late rounds.
Wide Receivers
Larry Fitzgerald (Ari) – Although he played a full 16-game schedule, Fitz in 2012 had the worst year of his nine-year career, posting 71/798/4 on 153 targets (a career-worst 11.2 YPC and 46.4% catch rate), averaging only 6.5 FPG, which ranked him an awful 55th among all WRs, behind the likes of Golden Tate, Brandon LaFell, and Darrius Heyward-Bey. I’m not saying Carson Palmer is a great QB at this point, but it’s safe to say he’s a major upgrade for Fitzgerald. And not only that, but Fitzgerald also gets a nice upgrade in the coaching department. New head coach Bruce Arians loves to throw the ball, and last year he did a great job with Reggie Wayne, particularly with how he moved him around to find good matchups. Fitzgerald might not be a top fantasy producer right out of the gate, but you know all parties involved will do whatever they can to enjoy early success, and over the course of a full season, the durable Fitzgerald should be back in fantasy players’ good graces. He’s back in the top-10 at WR, for sure.
Danny Amendola (NE) – It’s actually not easy to say for sure that Amendola is an upgrade moving over to the Pats. After all, he was a major go-to guy for Sam Bradford, who’s a pretty good QB in his own right. In fact, he compares a little to Tom Brady. But ultimately, it’s hard to argue that he’s not at least a mild upgrade now playing for much more prolific offense. And let’s not forget the uninspiring offensive minds leading the Ram offense and team (OC Brian Schottenheimer and HC Jeff Fisher). Josh McDaniels and the Pats will be more creative with how they use the versatile Amendola, and there’s a lot of production to go around here. If Amendola is up for it and can stay on the field, 90+ catches will absolutely be there for him.   
Dwayne Bowe (KC) – Bowe isn’t exactly an “elite” receiver, and he does drop a few too many passes, but it’s hard to deny his productivity, assuming you factor in his poor situation in Kansas City over the last couple of seasons. It probably isn’t going to be an offensive bonanza in KC this year, but the arrow is pointing upward. For one, QB Alex Smith is an upgrade over Matt Cassel. Not a huge one, but it’s an upgrade. We also have a significant upgrade – at least for our fantasy purposes – at head coach and for overall offensive approach and acumen with Andy Reid taking over. Reid liked Bowe a lot coming out of LSU, and the UFA opted to stay with the Chiefs, due likely in part to Reid coming to town. Given the changes this year, Bowe has stabilized as a solid fantasy option and should be a nice #2 fantasy wideout.
Emmanuel Sanders (Pit) – Sanders had a pedestrian season in 2012, hauling in 44 catches for 626 yards and 1 TD, but at least his yards per catch was a career-best at 14.2. Sanders will likely be an unrestricted free agent in 2014, assuming they don’t sign him to a long-term deal, so Sanders will have plenty of motivation. It was a mild surprise the Steelers opted to match the Patriots’ RFA offer on Sanders, but Pittsburgh is extremely thin at receiver, so there was likely some desperation in play here. But that’s good news for the versatile Sanders, who has good speed and quickness and can play inside or outside. He’ll likely start, and he should have some fantasy value, even as he’s a similar player to #1 guy Antonio Brown.
Jordy Nelson (GB) – Nelson was coming off a fantastic 2011 season, but he didn’t have much of a chance to replicate that, thanks to knee, ankle, and foot problems that kept him at less than 100% for much of 2012. Nelson played in 12 games, catching 49/745/7 (15.2 YPC) on 72 targets, which was good for a 68.1% catch rate and 9.7 FPG (22nd). His 2012 season will go down as a disappointment for fantasy purposes, but his stats suggest that he’s still one of the most dangerous and efficient WRs in the NFL on a per-play basis. His 68.1% catch rate and 10.35 yards per target were both down pretty significantly from 2011, but also well above league averages in both categories. Wideout Randall Cobb has carved a large role here, and James Jones remains. But with Greg Jennings, arguably the #1 WR here the last few years, out of town, Nelson could be a nice value on the heels of a disappointing season. He could assume the #1 role now, as he’s a physical, fast player with good size and a strong rapport with QB Aaron Rodgers.
T.J. Graham (Buf) – Graham has very good deep speed, but his skill set was a horrendous fit with Fitzpatrick, who doesn’t throw a nice deep ball. Graham got a ton of snaps in 2012, at least, but almost no actual production (31/322/1 on 55 targets). Still, with veterans Donald Jones and David Nelson out of town and no free agents of note, he’s the clear starter here. At least between Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson they Bills have a chance to get serviceable play out of the QB position, so Graham is a legit sleeper this year (albeit it a deep one).  
Rod Streater (Oak) – Like Graham, Streater is benefiting from a key receiver leaving the team, and in his case, it’s Darrius Heyward-Bey. Streater isn’t a lock to start, but given Jacoby Ford’s injury problems and ability to play in the slot, Streater is a good bet to play a lot this year. He did suffer a downgrade at QB with Carson Palmer out and Matt Flynn in, but at least Flynn’s not a stiff. We’ll also have to see if the Raiders draft QB Geno Smith. Regardless, Streater is also a legit deep sleeper this coming season.
Tight Ends
Aaron Hernandez (NE) – Hernandez is working hard to stay healthy this year and has set a goal to play all 16 games. That will come in handy for the Pats, who suddenly have some fairly serious issues at receiver with Wes Welker gone, and stud Rob Gronkowski is gearing up for the fourth surgery on his left arm, one that could knock him out for 12-14 weeks. He could still be ready for training camp, but it’s a concern. Another concern is the loss of Wes Welker. They potentially have a great replacement in Danny Amendola, but there’s got to be a drop-off initially, and Amendola has a lot of injury baggage. The team signed RFA Emmanuel Sanders to an offer sheet, but the Steelers matched, so it looks like Hernandez is going to be a major key to the Patriot passing attack this year.  
Jared Cook (Stl) – I’m very comfortable tabbing Cook as an upgrade simply because he’ll get to play with a much better QB than former teammate Jake Locker. Sam Bradford is one of the more accurate passers in the league, whereas Locker is probably the most inaccurate starter. I don’t love Ram OC Brian Schottenheimer’s track record with the Jets with a guy like Dustin Keller, but the QB could have been as much to blame for Keller’s inconsistent production as anything else. The real question is whether or not the talented Cook can completely bust through or if he’ll continue to underachieve. As the season draws nearer, we should have a better idea as to whether Cook is a viable #1 fantasy TE or merely a high-end backup. We’ve always love his raw physical talent, but other than a few “flash” performances, he’s left us a little underwhelmed and wanting a little more the last three seasons. In Tennessee, Cook’s upside was apparent, but other than a few big games, it ended up being more of a mirage than anything else. But on the Rams, as possibly the go-to guy in their passing game, Cook’s upside is very tangible.
Rob Housler (Ari) – I bring up Housler because I specifically remember Kevin Kolb missing Housler running wide-open down the seam for a potential score – twice. Meanwhile, new Cardinal QB Carson Palmer helped Brandon Myers become the breakout fantasy TE in 2012 with a top-7 finish in PPR leagues. So while the team may be a little disappointed with his development thus far, it’s hard to blame a young, raw player trying to emerge in an offense that has been a mess. With Palmer in the fold, we might start seeing more of the extremely-athletic Housler’s upside potential this coming season.
Place Kicker
Phil Dawson (SF) – Dawson in 2012 was selected to his first Pro Bowl after making 29-of-31 field goals (93.5%), which ranked second in the NFL in field-goal percentage. Had he played on the Niners this past year with that percentage, he would have booted 39 FGs. Had he played for the 49ers in 2011 at that percentage, he would have hit a whopping 49 FGs, as former kicker David Akers was afforded an amazing 52 attempts. That’s still 94 attempts total the last two years for the Niner kicker, so Dawson has landed in a good spot. Dawson will be a hot pick (if they exist for PKs) and could be the top fantasy kicker this season. That’s assuming he doesn’t collapse like Akers, and Dawson will be 38 in 2013, so he’s getting up there. The good news is there’s nothing in his history that suggests he’s about to fall off.
Josh Brown (NYG) – Known for his short-range accuracy, Brown will take over a fruitful job, as former Giant kicker Lawrence Tynes finished 2nd among PKs with 9.1 PFG (although he struggled majorly down the stretch). If Brown can get used to the winds of East Rutherford, he should have a chance to be a decent fantasy producer in 2013. Brown has also hit some longer FGs in his career, and he does have a couple of 30+ FG seasons on his resume, so he looks like a solid sleeper type.
Ben Roethlisberger (Pit) – We kind of gave up on Big Ben last year, and while he was actually quite productive for a spell, which is no surprise, he did eventually succumb to injury, which was our biggest concern with him in the first place. Now the bigger concern stems from personnel issues. The team at least retained RFA Emmanuel Sanders, which would have been a big loss, considering they’ve already lost Mike Wallace. Still, Roethlisberger’s most reliable target, TE Heath Miller, tore his ACL, MCL, and PCL in the Week Sixteen game, so it’s foolish to depend on him this year. The OL might finally come together, but he’s another year older, has a shaky running game, and not much to throw to, so it’s not looking great right now for Large Benjamin.
Joe Flacco (Bal) – He got his Super Bowl MVP award and the big new contract, but the reality is Flacco wasn’t very good for fantasy in 2013, and that was with Anquan Boldin on the roster. Boldin is now gone, and there really isn’t a suitable replacement on the roster. In fact, they are perilously thin at wideout right now, so unless a youngster like Tandon Doss or even Tommy Streeter quickly emerges, this does not look like a QB option you’ll want to invest in. Flacco right now is the poster boy for the disconnect between fantasy and reality, since he’s obviously coming off a strong season reality-wise. Veteran wideout Brandon Lloyd is on the street and could be a good fit for Flacco, but there have been no connections between the two parties thus far.
Running Backs
Chris Johnson (Ten) – In 2012, we gave Johnson the benefit of the doubt, despite the fact that it’s been blatantly obvious to us that he hasn’t been the same guy the last 2-3 years. He hasn’t been “hitting it up in there” nearly as well the last few seasons, and he’s clearly left a ton of yards on the field by failing to hit some holes decisively, and he’s no creating yards on his own anymore. It may not be all Johnson’s fault – the OL has been weak for the run and in a state of flux for a couple of years – but that’s the bottom line. Johnson deserves credit for playing all 16 games four seasons in a row, and he had a good 2012, but he also padded his stats with some big games. He topped at least 120 yards in each of his five 100-yard performances, but he also had six separate games in which he finished with fewer than 50 yards rushing, and was under 3.0 YPC in each of those games as well. As disconcerting, his production in the passing game was way down (36/226/0) with Jake Locker in at QB. When the 2012 season ended, we felt Johnson would be better off in a two-man backfield, and the Titans agreed. They signed free agent Shonn Greene, who actually had more yards per catch (7.9) than Johnson (6.3), which is pathetic. With Greene in the mix, Johnson won’t likely be the goal line back, and it’s hard to say he’s a good 3rd down back, so his margin for error has been reduced significantly. There’s no way he can be considered a #1 back now.  
Mikel Leshoure (Det) – I’m fairly sure the Lions do actually want to run the ball, and Leshoure, another year removed from his Achilles injury, could actually be a bit more explosive in 2013. But ultimately, he’s more of a square peg in a round hole on the Lions, who are seemingly poised to continue their high-volume passing, as evidenced by the fact that HC Jim Schwartz recently said that newly acquired tailback Reggie Bush could catch 75-80 balls this year. They also have Calvin Johnson, so it’s easy to be inclined to toss the rock around a bit. Bush has also proven he can carry the load inside the tackles and be a lead back, so Leshoure’s margin for error got a lot smaller. He could still surprise with 10 TDs this year – but with fewer than 600 yards rushing.
Willis McGahee (Den) – The deeper we get into the league calendar – and keep in mind we’re not that deep right now – the more it looks like McGahee is on the way out in Denver. The Broncos have been rumored to be interested in some free agent RBs, and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if they drafted a back of note later this month. And even if they don’t, Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman are on the roster. Nothing’s official yet, but McGahee’s arrow appears to be clearly pointing downward.
Michael Turner (FA) – Turner is a man without a country right now, and it doesn’t seem as if any potential suitors are banging on his door. What a potential buyer may be looking for as the league year progresses is a discount rate for his services. But the deeper we get into the year with Turner out of a job, the bleaker his fantasy prospects should be.
Ryan Williams (Ari) – New head coach Bruce Arians loves Williams and thinks he’s a stud-like player, but he obviously can’t be counted on at this point. The Cardinals signed Rashard Mendenhall, but only for 2013, so they’re not exactly “all-in” on him. Williams will almost certainly back Mendenhall up, so Williams has almost no chance to open the season atop the depth chart, since Mendenhall is a better and more proven option than Beanie Wells. But at least if Mendenhall has issues, then Williams could make a move in this backfield, since the commitment to the former Steeler is minimal.
Jacquizz Rodgers (Atl) – Rodgers was solid for the Falcons in 2012, but he was more JAG (just a guy) than stud in his second NFL campaign. I asked head coach Mike Smith about Rodgers at the Combine, and he said they drafted him to be a complementary player, but he was more of an all-purpose back than they thought. Smith was pretty clear, though, that they don’t really view him as a potential starter. And with Steven Jackson in the fold, you have to believe Rodgers’ numbers will be going down. He finished only 51st among RBs this year, with 5.5 FPG, on 94 carries for 362 yards and 1 TD, and he did more in the passing game (53 catches for 402 yards and 1 TD). Jackson’s catch totals have been around the 40-50 range the last six years, but he is a guy who’s hauled in 90 balls in a season, so you have to believe pass-happy OC Dirk Koetter will get Jackson much more involved in the passing game than Michael Turner was, which again should come at Rodgers’ expense.
Wide Receivers
Pierre Garcon (Was) – It’s easy to assume Garcon would have put up big numbers in 2012 had he not been dealing with a torn ligament near the second toe in his right foot. He had only 4 targets on the season before suffering the injury in Week One, yet he managed to turn those 4 target s into 17 fantasy points. After a quiet return in Week Eleven, Garcon finished the final five games 19th at the position, with 10.3 FPG. For the season, he played in 10 games and had 45/644/4 (14.3 YPC) on 68 targets, which was good for a 66.2% catch rate and 8.9 FPG (26th). He clearly wasn’t 100% the whole season after Week One, but his top-20 finish at less than 100% his final five games was a good example of his upside in this offense. One could assume Garcon will be 100% and ready to rock and roll for 2013, but that’s not exactly the case. Garcon opted against surgery on the injury because it wasn’t going to guarantee results, so there are still some questions about his health this year. Garcon, as of mid-April, can’t guarantee he’ll be 100% for this season, but he did say that he’ll “be healthy enough to play.” That’s not terrible news, but for him to get the top-10 ranking he probably deserves in this great environment, he’ll probably have to turn a corner from now until training camp and be on track to be completely himself, and that does seem too optimistic at this early stage.
Doug Baldwin (Sea) – It’s not like the Seahawks truly featured the intriguing Baldwin, anyway, but his prospects for 2013 got a heck of a lot dimmer once the team landed stud Percy Harvin. I view Baldwin as a slot guy all the way, and Harvin obviously does most of his damage inside and near the line of scrimmage, so I just don’t see much production to go around to make Baldwin relevant, especially if TE Zach Miller continues to emerge after a big 2012 post-season. They still like Baldwin because he’s still on the roster, but he’s on the outside looking in when it comes to being on the fantasy radar.
Tight Ends
Rob Gronkowski (NE) – Gronk should have been a 1st round pick in 2010, but injury concerns caused him a slip a little to the 2nd round. And now in 2013 injury issues may cause him to slip a little in fantasy drafts. Fantasy fans know what he can do in this offense, but at this point, you do have to be mighty concerned with his ability to stay healthy. He’s a huge guy who plays with a lot of physicality, and he’s now had injury problems to close out the last two seasons. His forearm issue is an odd one and not a typical injury, but he’s going to have to have his fourth surgery on the left arm, and it’s been delayed now, so it could knock him out for 12-14 weeks. He should be ready for training camp if there are no issues, but he’s a huge guy who gets dirty in the blocking game and is very active, so it might be time to be officially worried about Gronk’s durability.  
Jacob Tamme (Den) – It was interesting this past year to hear Peyton Manning describe Tamme as the key to how the Broncos play offense, based on how teams defended him. That’s because Tamme actually played fewer than half the club’s snaps pretty often. In 16 games, Tamme had 52/555/2 receiving on 83 targets (10.7 YPC, 62.7%), and ranked 29th among all TEs, with 4.2 FPG. Tamme wasn’t often a reliable fantasy guy, with only six games with 4 or more catches, and seven games with 2 or fewer. And with only 2 TDs, you basically had to cross your fingers Tamme was a featured part of the Broncos’ offense on any given day. Enter Wes Welker, and it’s hard to feel okay with Tamme as a fantasy option, and that’s especially true with TD vulture Joel Dreessen on the roster.  
Place Kickers
Holding Steady
Andrew Luck (QB, Ind) – The Colts have tried to beef up their OL this off-season, which is always a worthwhile endeavor, and while Luck did lose Donnie Avery, I view Darrius Heyward-Bey as an upgrade. DHB is hardly perfect, but he had size and speed on his size, and his progression, while slow, has been evident. He’s a good fit for this offense and for Luck, who desperately tried to get the ball to Avery last year with poor results. If they improve for DHB, he’ll definitely help this offense and would have a chance to be relevant for fantasy purposes.
Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster (RBs, KC) – I’m hardly sure the Chiefs plan to use McCluster more at RB, but for our purposes here I’ll group him with Charles. Both are electrifying players who will now play for a coach in Andy Reid known for working with speedy and dynamic skill players. Reid tends to get his backs very involved in the passing game, and when I asked him about Charles and his offense at the Combine, he smiled and gave me a very confident look while saying he’s a special talent who can do well in any system and that he’s going to get him the ball and let him do his thing. As for McCluster, Reid has been a fan dating back to 2010, when he considered drafting him. Reid has big plans for McCluster, so while he’s been a role player with an inconsistent role thus far in his career, there is reason for optimism. If nothing else, Romeo Crennell is gone, and that’s good.
Darren McFadden (RB, Oak) – Obviously, we all need to be skeptical of McFadden after the debacle that was the 2012 season. It doesn’t help that the Raiders are in pretty bad shape offensively after losing three skill position starters in QB Carson Palmer, TE Brandon Myers, and WR Darrius Heyward-Bey. But at least they’ve scrapped the zone blocking scheme, so we won’t have to endure the pain of watching McFadden run parallel to the line of scrimmage nearly as much. McFadden told us last summer he was very comfortable in the zone scheme and ran it in college, but he didn’t look comfortable at all. Now with Tony Sparano in town, they will run power, so McFadden can just get the ball and attack downhill, which is clearly the best approach for him. That’s why he lands in this report. He’s also in the final year of his contract and will once again be working hard to stay on the field. Injuries are a problem, for sure, but I do believe McFadden puts in the work to be physically sound for each upcoming season, so that’s something. Needless to say, he’s off the grid in the 1st round of fantasy drafts, and if he falls to the 3rd round for most due to his durability concerns, then the upside might start outweighing the downside.  
Rashard Mendenhall (RB, Ari) – He’s probably better off as the presumptive starter in Arizona than in a position battle and possible rotation in Pittsburgh, I’ll say that. Although head coach Bruce Arians has been criticized in the past for not utilizing Mendenhall well enough, he obviously doesn’t hate him because he’s teamed up with him once again in Arizona. The Cardinal OL was dreadful in 2012, but they will be getting T Levi Brown back, and they will likely use the 7th pick overall on a LT, so it should improve. Mendenhall will also get support from what should be a solid passing game, so he could be quite serviceable if healthy.
Greg Jennings (WR, Min) – I know Jennings is going from one of the better QBs to ever play the game in Aaron Rodgers to the shaky Christian Ponder, but you have to also recognize his changing role on the Vikings. He was essentially the #1 in Green Bay and saw plenty of targets on the pass-happy Packers, but there were times when others stepped up and bogarted a lot of the production, so Jennings was never a big catch or TD guy. In Minnesota, he will be the unquestioned top option in the passing game, and he will benefit from playing in the same offense as the best RB in the NFL in Adrian Peterson. If Ponder is just decent, I think a healthy Jennings can average 10-11 FPG with the Vikings this year, so he should be a solid #2 in 2013.  Of course, it’s no lock that Ponder improves, so there is more downside to Jennings these days, especially as he hits 30 years old this September and coming off two injury-marred seasons.
Mohamed Sanu (WR, Cin) – Sanu was slow off the mark as a rookie in 2012, failing to register a catch until Week Seven, as he likely had a learning curve in what is a pretty complicated offense. But he eventually pushed himself up the depth chart and settled in as a nice possession receiver with some size and a speck of juice, and he was terrific in the red zone, scoring 4 TDs in his final three games Weeks Ten through Twelve before landing on IR with a broken foot in early December. He ended up with 16/154/4 (9.6 YPC) and 5.1 FPG (11 FPG his final three games). It was fairly obvious at the end of the season that Sanu would be set as a starter going forward, and with Cincy failing to make a move in free agency and not expected to address wideout very early in the draft, that should be the case.
Donald Jones (WR, NE) – With the Steelers matching the offer on wideout Emmanuel Sanders, Jones right now should be set as a starter and the replacement for Brandon Lloyd. Jones hasn’t been very productive in Buffalo over the last two years, despite getting opportunities, but he does have talent. He has good size and he can run a little, so he has some downfield potential. If the Pats don’t draft a wideout of note, Jones should at least be on the radar as a starter here. There could also be some upside with a larger role than expected, if injury concerns with Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski carry over into the 2013 regular season.  
Keyshawn Martin (WR, Hou) – Martin is a talented guy who head coach Gary Kubiak told me at the combine can play inside or outside, and there is now a great need at receiver with veteran Kevin Walter out of town. Kubiak told me that he thinks Martin can reach another level this year, and that after a strong preseason the regular season “got a little long for him,” which explains his drop-off. I got the impression from Kubiak that they really like fellow second-year receiver DeVier Posey, but he’s coming off an Achilles injury and can’t be counted on early in 2013. The Texans will absolutely address WR in the draft, perhaps with their first pick. But for now, Martin’s stock is inching upward.
Tony Gonzalez (TE, Atl) – The Falcons might look to finally draft their TE of the future this year, but the bottom line is they are set for 2013, since Gonzalez somewhat surprisingly opted to return for another season. There’s no reason to believe he won’t continue to produce excellent totals, so those with Gonzo in a keeper league will be fortunate to get another campaign out of the future Hall of Famer.  
Brandon Myers (TE, NYG) – Myers had just 16 catches for 151 yards in 2011 in 16 games, but he jumped up to 79 catches for 806 yards and 4 TDs to finish 11th among TEs this past year with 6.5 FPG. He won’t be the volume receiver he was for the Raiders in 2012, but I do love the fit on the Giants, who have repeatedly turned no-names into viable fantasy options under TEs coach Mike Pope, whose latest reclamation project, Martellus Bennett, cashed in with the Bears as a free agent. Myers probably won’t catch more than 60 passes, but with Eli Manning pulling the trigger and the Giants being a team that looks for the TE in the red zone, Myers could bump his TD total up to 6-7 this year, which would offset his drop in catches.
We’ll See
Robert Griffin (QB, Was) – We warned everyone to temper expectations about RGIII’s ACL recovery, and that comparing him to Adrian Peterson was both unrealistic and unfair. But those close to Griffin are certainly stoking those flames. Late last month Dr. James Andrews, who performed Griffin’s surgery, called the QB “way ahead of schedule” on his recovery, according to ESPN. And then, coach Mike Shanahan told the Washington Post that Griffin is constantly around Redskin facilities and will “set a record for coming back” from the injury. Griffin is expected to begin running soon, so everything looks incredibly promising at this point. But remember, we’re still five months from Week One, which has always been Griffin’s target goal. There’s a lot of work to do between now and then.
Tom Brady (QB, NE) – The Patriots haven’t had a bad off-season at all, and that’s saying something because they lost Wes Welker. But there are legit health concerns with his guy Rob Gronkowski, so Brady’s receiving corps is looking shakier. Veteran Danny Amendola is as good of a replacement for Welker as possible, but his reckless playing style has led to numerous injuries, so he can’t be truly counted on. So there are no legit injury concerns for Brady now.
Sam Bradford (QB, Stl) – The truth is Bradford has lost his go-to guy and veteran WR leader in Danny Amendola, so Bradford should really be a downgrade. But the team will likely address the wideout position early in the draft, and I am a Bradford apologist. I really do believe he’s the most under-appreciated QB in the league, but he hasn’t been appreciated because the production hasn’t been there, and some of that is certainly on him. He’s had some injury issues, but durability isn’t really a big concern now, and it’s definitely worth pointing out that this is his first NFL season in which he’ll play in the same offense in consecutive seasons.  And while the Rams do have some receiving talent on the roster and could (and likely will) still snag a marquee wideout in the draft, you have to be concerned about the loss of Amendola.
Josh Freeman (QB, TB) – As of mid-April, there is nothing too alarming here when it comes to Freeman. The Bucs have been connected to the likes of Carson PalmerChase Daniel, and Matt Cassel, but they haven’t yet added anyone who can be a perceived threat to Freeman’s hold on the starting role. In fact, the Bucs have added some potentially nice weapons for Freeman, adding competition at WR in Steven Smith and Kevin Ogletree, plus an intriguing TE talent in Tom Crabtree. But the biggest concern is a recent Tampa Times report that coach Greg Schiano is down on Freeman, and was seriously turned off by his inconsistencies during the 2012 season, and he certainly saw the tape from Freeman’s inconsistent 2011 season. At this point, it would be an upset if the Bucs didn’t use an early pick on a talented QB. It would function as a motivational tool for Freeman, but the Bucs seem to want some real competition here. There are enough talented arms in this draft that Freeman could be looking over his shoulder. His work ethic has never been questioned, but he’s got to put it into practice on the field during their games.
Matt Flynn (QB, Oak) – For now, Flynn is the projected starting QB for the Raiders. But we emphasize for now, given what happened with Russell Wilson last year, even after Flynn’s big free-agent deal with the Seahawks. Outside of his big game in Week Seventeen of 2011 and one other start in 2010, we haven’t seen much of Flynn in his five seasons. Now, Flynn will join a Raider team that looks like it may be one of the worst in the league. His top receiver, Denarius Moore, had 51/747/7 on 112 targets last season. With the departures of WR Darrius Heyward-Bey and TE Brandon Myers, the Raider with the most catches after Moore is WR Rod Streater, who had 39/584/3 on 74 targets as a rookie. For Flynn, we need to see if the Raiders add more weapons to his arsenal, or if they add more competition for his job on top of Terrelle Pryor. Then we’ll be able to get a decent read on his fantasy handicap. But for now, it’s hard to imagine him projecting as anything more than a very low-end fantasy backup.
Christian Ponder (QB, Min) – Not that veteran Matt Cassel is a world-beater or anything, but it was crystal clear after backup Joe Webb’s performance in the team’s playoff loss to the Packers that Webb’s freakish athletic ability simply isn’t enough to seriously challenge Ponder for playing time. In fact, there’s been talk of moving Webb back to WR. There is no QB controversy in Minnesota now, but if Ponder struggles, there could be now with Cassel in the mix. Again, I don’t think much of the sluggish Cassel, but he is a guy who threw 27 TD passes against only 7 INTs just three years ago, so he’s a viable option if Ponder continues to struggle with inconsistency.
Maurice Jones-Drew (RB, Jac) – MJD has always been one of my favorites, and it’s not just because he’s into fantasy football and because I know him personally. His resume speaks for itself, but it’s time to be concerned about his fantasy fortunes. He finished a disappointing 2012 season with 414 yards and a TD on 86 carries (4.8 YPC) while adding 14/86/1 on 18 targets, putting him 24th among RBs with 10.3 FPG. Obviously, the mid-foot fracture he suffered midseason was a huge problem. MJD has been durable, but he’s had some injury issues now in two of his last three seasons, and the wear and tear has been adding up for such a physical runner. The team, as usual, is a bit of a mess, and this year they are transitioning to more of a zone blocking scheme. This won’t be as bad a transition to zone as Darren McFadden in Oakland was last year, and the Jags did run some zone in 2012. But I’m not sure zone blocking is best for MJD, who is a power rushing guy all the way. He also lost FB Greg Jones this off-season, which could hurt. Jones-Drew is entering the final year of his contract with the Jags, and there are more questions about him now than ever, so it will be interesting to see when he’s getting drafted later this spring and summer. I’m thinking might be “only” a 3rd-round pick in a 12-team league.
Chris Ivory (RB, NO) – Ivory is a restricted free agent, and he’s the team’s only unsigned player, so his situation is still fluid. He visited the Jets on Friday, but New York may not be willing to give up a 2nd round pick, and indications are that they aren’t willing to give up such a high pick for Ivory. However, with a logjam at RB in New Orleans, the Saints could still trade Ivory. Ivory’s slow start in the preseason kept him off the active gameday roster until Week Nine, when he finally made his season debut. He was very productive on a per-touch basis, but injuries continued to be a problem, which is disconcerting because of his minimal touches. A hamstring injuring limited him to just six games. Ivory ran 40 times for 217 yards and 2 TDs (5.4 YPC), but caught just two passes to finish 45th at 5.9 FPG. Ivory has shown some serious flashes as a tough, violent runner, who can be explosive and occasionally break one, but the sample size has been too small to decide if he can truly handle a bigger role, especially with his injury issues. He also offers very little in the passing game. But with former #1 pick Mark Ingram slowly emerging and complementary backs Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas still well in the mix, Ivory should be better off playing elsewhere.
T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill (WRs, Ind) – There’s definitely a big role here for Hilton, who flashed nice downfield playmaking ability in his rookie 2013 season, but the Colts view new target Darrius Heyward-Bey as the replacement for Donnie Avery, who was the official starter opposite Reggie Wayne. DHB’s a very good fit here, as well, so he could surprise this coming season. That should make Brazill a non-factor and Hilton still a little hit-or-miss, depending on the big plays. 
We’ll See (Pending the draft)
Brandon Weeden (QB, Cle) – If Weeden was not pushing 30 years old there probably wouldn’t be much of a QB controversy in Cleveland this year. But he’ll say goodbye to his 20s in October, so he doesn’t have as much of a margin for error as someone in his early 20s would – especially since the Browns have new ownership and a new coaching staff. I personally thought he acquitted himself fairly well as a rookie, all things considered, but there have been rumblings all year about how he’ll have to earn the starting job and how there will be at least one player acquired this off-season who could legitimately push him. Veteran Jason Campbell could certainly do that, but I don’t view Campbell, who will be 32 in December, as a major threat. He’s certainly not the type of threat that a #1 pick at the position would pose. I actually think Weeden can be a good fit for the offense new OC Norv Turner will be implementing, and for now he’s the favorite to be the starter. Of course, with a capable veteran behind him, Weeden will have to play well to keep the starting gig. More important, we do still have the draft forthcoming, and it’s not out of the question the Browns even use a #1 pick on a QB, so Weeden isn’t out of the woods yet.
Kevin Kolb (QB, Buf) – Despite adding the veteran Kolb earlier this month, the Bills claim the acquisition will not change their approach to the draft at the QB position – and at this point in Kolb’s career, it shouldn’t. But I do get the signing, since Kolb, in theory, is a good fit for their version of the old Buffalo "K-Gun" offense. Kolb put up big numbers in college in a similar up-tempo offense, one that took advantage of his timing and accuracy. Of course, we’ve learned a lot about Kolb in the NFL and it’s not very good, plus the Bills are very thin at receiver and will have a hard time spreading out defenses with multiple receivers who are actually viable. Even if the Bills don’t use an early pick on a QB, Kolb will have to beat Tarvaris Jackson out, but he’s at least on the radar as the potential starter for the Bills in 2013.  
Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson (RBs, Stl) – This is going to be one of the more interesting situations to watch come draft weekend because a starting job is up for grabs in St. Louis, who said goodbye this year to veteran Steven Jackson. Richardson certainly flashed early in the season with his good speed but also his solid inside running, yet he hardly found the field late in the year with Jackson at full health. He had 82 carries for 451 yards in the first 11 games but only 16 carries for 24 yards in the last five games. Richardson also had 24 catches for 163 yards to finish 70th among RBs for the year with 4.0 FPG. His burst is clearly visible, and when he’s on the field, defenses have to key on him because he can take it to the house on any play. Richardson beat Pead out for the #2 job in the preseason, after Pead missed most of the 2012 spring because his college was on the quarter system. But Pead was the more touted prospect over Richardson, with Pead drafted in the 2nd round last April and Richardson went in the 7th round. HC Jeff Fisher compared Pead to his former Titan RB Chris Johnson last summer, and our Greg Cosell compared this running style to Jamaal Charles coming out of college, where he was a decisive runner who was explosive North/South. He also has some lateral explosiveness and he can catch the ball in various roles. His size is an issue, as he lacks power and could struggle in pass protection, but there have been rumblings that he could actually start this year. But he won’t if the team, for example, drafts Eddie Lacey, which is a possibility. The Rams will definitely draft a back later this month; it’s just a question of who that is and if he’s a legit threat to both of these two incumbents. 
Ahmad Bradshaw (RB, FA) – So far, there’s a lot of chatter about Bradshaw, but no team willing to throw money at him. He’s met with the Steelers and has drawn interest from the Bengals and Broncos, but the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Bradshaw still has not recovered from the foot surgery he received in January. The Steelers, and other teams, could check in on Bradshaw in a few weeks once his recovery is further along, preferably before the draft. After all, he’s still only 27. But the fact that no teams are in a hurry to sign him is clearly a sign that we have to be careful with him, no matter where he signs. After the draft, logical landing spots may be easier to spot, but there should be fewer of them.
DuJuan Harris (RB, GB) – Harris, who was selling cars at one point last fall, found himself on the Packer practice squad and then on the active roster in a matter of weeks. He was initially used as a change-of-pace back, but with the team not having a clear starter, Harris began to get more opportunities with the team using a hot-hand approach. He ended up with 34/157/2 on the ground and just a pair of catches for 17 yards, good for 7.4 FPG. However, he finished the regular season strong and kept it going into the playoffs, rushing for 47 yards and a TD on 17 carries and putting up 5/53 in the Wild Card Round, followed by 11/43/1 and 2/11 in the Divisional Round loss to the 49ers. I know GM Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy like him a lot, and they have said so publically. But the question remains as to whether or not he should be utilized as a complementary back, or whether the diminutive (but strong) Harris can actually be a lead guy. The Packers will likely tell us the answer to that question depending on how they draft. If they opt not to use an earlier pick (first 2-3 rounds, let’s say) on a back, then that can be considered an endorsement of Harris, and his fantasy potential will come into greater focus.
Bilal Powell and Mike Goodson (RB, NYJ) – We’re probably looking at an RBBC with these two, but that’s assuming the Jets don’t draft another back or even acquire Saint Chris Ivory, who they have interest in. Both guys have talent, but neither are ideal starters, so they will need help in terms of a high number of snaps and a good opportunity to come through. If the Jets draft a back of note or get Ivory, it would be a significant hit to both Powell and Goodson’s potential in 2013.   
Vick Ballard (RB, Ind) – For now, the Colts are standing pat, and he’s hanging strong in his position as the #1 back, but for good measure, let’s hold off until after the draft to truly determine Ballard’s value in 2013. If they don’t take a back in the first 3-4 rounds, it should be very safe to assume the lead job is his. Do keep in mind Donald Brown and Delone Carter are on the roster and are threats. But they love Ballard, and he essentially beat those guys out last year.
Jonathan Dwyer (RB, Pit) – Right now it looks like it’s just Dwyer and Isaac Redman again in the Steeler backfield with Baron Batch, but keep in mind Ahmad Bradshaw is still available, and the Steelers could absolutely grab one of the top backs in this month’s draft. But until there’s some movement, and I don’t mean Baron Batch, Dwyer is the guy who is holding the most value.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis (RB, Cin) – I was critical of the Bengals last spring for not pulling the trigger on RB Doug Martin with one of their two #1 picks, and while Law Firm was pretty darn solid for Cincy this past year, this is a team that really needs another difference-maker on offense, and Green-Ellis really isn’t that. The team has brought Bernard Scott back, but he’s coming off an ACL and hasn’t done much when healthy. They also haven’t added a back in free agency, so BJGE’s value this year really comes down to the draft. He’s fortunate in that it’s not a great draft for RBs, but they could still select one of the high-end options either at 21 or 37 overall (or even a little later) and that option could seriously challenge Green-Ellis for touches.
Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno (RBs, Den) – Both players did a nice job late in the season with the playing time afforded to them, especially Moreno, but you do get the feeling the team is wanting more. For one, they prefer a back with a little more size and power. Both Hillman and Moreno are under contract, and Hillman isn’t going anyway, but there’s a very good chance the Broncos use an early pick on a back – possibly as early as the first round if former Alabama starter Eddie Lacey is available at pick #28. If they do draft a RB “of note,” that would be bad news for Moreno, and probably terrible news for Willis McGahee. As for Hillman, he will still have a role as an active complement, but it wouldn’t be great news for him, either.
Chris Givens and Brian Quick (WRs, Stl) – Based on their 2012 seasons, Givens should have a decided advantage over Quick, who was a project and extremely raw coming out of Appalachian State. Quick has the physical tools to be a productive #1 WR here, but he has to continue to develop on the field and with QB Sam Bradford. In theory, they would make a solid tandem, as Quick has the size and #1 WR tools, and Givens has speed to burn. But things should change after the draft, since the Rams are a good bet to use one of their two #1 picks on a wideout. Givens led the team in receiving yards as a rookie, and he became the first player since 1966 to have a catch of 50 yards or more in five consecutive games. Givens finished with 42 catches (52.5% catch rate) for 698 yards and 3 TDs to finish 63rd among WRs with 5.9 FPG. Givens gave the team a much-needed deep threat, but defenses did adjust in the second half of the year, as he had just 9 catches for 139 yards in his final four games. He did have one promising game in Week Eleven, when he was used strictly as a possession guy, and he responded with 11 catches for 92 yards, so he looks like he’s more than a one-trick pony. Both are penciled in as starters right now, but we’ll truly have a handle on their 2013 values after the draft.
Jarius Wright (WR, Min) – The rookie Wright, who posted 22/310/2 on 36 targets (14.1 YPC, 61.1%) in seven games of action, exceeded expectations in 2012. Wright is an elusive slot option, which makes you wonder if the Vikings saw the writing on the wall when it came to Percy Harvin last year and opted to draft a potential replacement. Wright isn’t nearly as good or versatile as Harvin – no one else in the league is – but he is a slot guy, and Harvin is gone. If the Vikings don’t get a crack at wideout Tavon Austin, and they likely won’t, Wright could be poised to have a large role in this offense in 2013.  
Jordan Cameron (TE, Cle) – I asked head coach Rob Chudzinski about Cameron at the Combine, and he said that he liked him and his potential, but that he has to really see him up close to get a real gauge, and even at this point in mid-April, Chud still hasn’t done that. However, teams do sometimes tell us what their plans are by the moves they make, and they opted not to sign free agent Fred Davis or anyone else of note other than two low-end guys in Kellen Davis and Gary Barnidge. So now it comes down to the draft for Cameron, and the bad news is that he’s a great TE class. We’ll see what they do in the draft, but it’s fair to say Cameron’s 2013 and long-term value is hanging in the balance. The good news is reports out of Cleveland have the Browns already planning on starting Cameron. But again, that will change if they draft a TE early.  

David Ausberry (TE, Oak) – A former WR in college with the USC Trojans, Ausberry put on enough weight to convert to TE at the next level. And while he doesn’t have much experience as an in-line blocker, he has the skillset to create mismatches when separated from the formation. He’s a long strider, but he has quick feet and good hands. The transformation for Ausberry has taken two years (he caught only 7 balls in 2012), but the timing could be right in 2013, since the Raiders lost starter Brandon Myers. He’s definitely someone we’ll be keeping our eyes on, but for him to have a chance the Raiders will have to pass on a TE “of note” in this month’s draft.


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