For some teams, training camp has already started. For others, it will start within a week or so. This is when football season really starts to get going. More reports on players will be released and now is the time Fantasy owners should be paying attention (if you haven’t been during the rest of the offseason). Start doing mock drafts, reading up on players, figuring out your draft day strategy and knowing who you want to draft and who you want to avoid. Here’s some of the latest news around the league.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, IND
Even though Bradshaw insisted that he would be ready for the beginning of training camp, he will be on the PUP list. He can be activated at any time, but Fantasy owners should be cautious. He is still recovering from foot surgery and he has a history of foot/ankle issues. While he may be healthy in time for the regular season, monitor how much practice time he has with his new team. It’s not as hard for a running back as it is for other positions, but not practicing with Andrew Luck and the other team members will show when he does get to play. Sure, he’ll be the starter in Indianapolis, but he gets an immediate downgrade for lack of practice time. He’s a risky RB2.
Trent Richardson, RB, CLE
In 15 games last season, Richardson had 267 carries. The Browns have said that they want him to have 300 carries this season. In a year where many teams have two or three running backs that are going to split time, Richardson will be the bell cow back. He had 950 rushing yards last year, 11 touchdowns, 51 receptions for 367 yards and one receiving touchdown. He was dealing with a shin injury during OTAs, but he’s been cleared for training camp. The Browns offense under new OC Norv Turner looks to be surprisingly powerful this year. Richardson will be drafted in the first round and should be a no-brainer RB1.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, JAX
The good news for Jones-Drew owners is that he’s been cleared to practice in training camp. Coming off Lisfranc surgery, he’s been working to get back in shape. He is pretty much the entire offense for Jacksonville, which is good and bad. Defenses will try to stop him because he’s the only playmaker on the team, but they won’t always succeed. He’ll be a workhorse back and Jacksonville will run him into the ground. While he won’t likely put up his 2011 numbers of 1,606 rushing yards or the double-digit touchdowns he had in 2008 and 2009, he’s still a RB2 based on workload alone.
Peyton Hillis, RB, TB
After a disappointing year in Kansas City, Hillis has signed a one-year contract with Tampa Bay. He’ll likely be used as a fullback, the position he is best suited for. He had a freakish season in 2010 for Cleveland, but that will likely be the best season of his career. He isn’t built to be a quick back. He was getting stopped at the goal line last year, and the Bucs are going to use Doug Martin, not Hillis, in that situation. If you drafted Martin, don’t look at Hillis as your handcuff. There is no clear handcuff yet in Tampa Bay, but it likely won’t be Hillis (personally I think Michael Smith has the best shot at it, but that’s just me).
Santonio Holmes, WR, NYJ
While it’s not a surprise that Holmes is beginning training camp on the PUP list, it’s concerning because he still isn’t cleared to put full weight on his foot. He had a severe Lisfranc injury, and the recovery has been long. Now the question is whether Holmes will even be ready for the season opener. He’s the No. 1 receiver on a team that is likely to struggle offensively. Mark Sanchez is still the quarterback, and he wasn’t exactly the picture of success last year. The Jets are so desperate at receiver they were working out Braylon Edwards this past week. Don’t be surprised if he signs with the team. Ignore Edwards for Fantasy purposes. Only draft Holmes as a late WR4 given the injury history and the poor offensive situation.
Donnie Avery, WR, KC
After missing all of OTAs with a high ankle sprain, Avery has been cleared to play in training camp. He did well in Indianapolis last year, putting up career bests in receptions (60) and total receiving yards (781). However, he also had Andrew Luck throwing to him compared to Alex Smith. While Smith isn’t as bad as some other quarterbacks around the league, it isn’t going to help Avery. He’ll likely be starting opposite Dwayne Bowe, even thoughJonathan Baldwin has been practicing in that spot while Avery was out. There are two problems with Avery, however, that Fantasy owners should be concerned with. First, Avery does have a history of getting injured. Also,Jamaal Charles is in the picture. He’s going to catch the ball, and when there are only so many passes to go around, Avery is going to get the short end of the stick. Look for Charles to end up with more receptions than Avery. He’s a WR4, at best.
Jake Ballard, TE, NE
The Patriots lost Aaron Hernandez. Rob Gronkowski is a question mark when it comes to how healthy he’ll be for the start of the season. Many people thought Ballard would be their answer as the next tight end on the depth chart. However, Ballard is still recovering from knee surgery and hasn’t impressed during mini camps. He’s not quick, he’s currently on the PUP list as well, and he may not even make the final roster. It’s not like the Patriots have plenty of talent at the position – or any receiver position behind Danny Amendola. If you’re drafting now, leave Ballard for someone else. Wait and see how he looks in training camp and the preseason games if you can.
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