By: Chase Wheetley
TBB RB Doug Martin- Tampa Bay running backs coach Earnest Byner has been impressed with Doug Martin’s blocking. Speaking about rookie running backs, he said, “The thing that they struggle with most of the time is pass protection and especially nickel pass protection, but I don’t think that’s going to be an issue with him.”
Martin still has to pass incumbent starter LeGarrette Blount on the depth chart, but offseason reports have been positive for the rookie. Early in the season Blount will likely get more carries, but I don’t think that will last long. Martin will end the season with the second most rushing yards for a rookie behind Trent Richardson, and will be startable as a RB2 for much of the year.
CAR WR Brandon LaFell- According to ProFootballWeekly, Brandon LaFell is the frontrunner for the WR2 job in Carolina.
LaFell is the sleeper darling of the dynasty world right now and is being ordained the breakout player of 2012. It is too early to count on LaFell as anything more than a prospect for your fantasy team. LaFell is one of several young players with a shot at a starting job to track during the offseason, along with other such as Lestar Jean, but nothing is set in stone. One factor that LaFell has working against him that he didn’t last season is competition. David Gettis should be healthy again and rookie Joe Adams is another dynamic threat to watch in Carolina. Even if LaFell wins the WR2 job this year, Adams and Gettis will eat into his production. In the coming years the thing to watch will be who replaces Steve Smith. LaFell may have a leg up on the others, but Adams will have a legitimate shot at replacing Smith as well.
WAS RB Tim Hightower- ProFootballWeekly hears reports that Tim Hightower may have the best chance of being the starting running back for the Redskins.
If you haven’t learned yet, stay away from Shanahan running backs. Last year Hightower was the running back everyone expected to post big numbers in Washington, and this year Roy Helu has been getting all the press. Whoever is starting will be a nice play in fantasy, but the price has been too high this offseason for me to buy on Helu. With the Hightower talk sparking up, Helu’s ADP will likely take a minor hit, which is needed to bring his value closer to equilibrium. I don’t think anything changed in Helu’s skillset last year, and before then he was just an average back. Dynasty players pride themselves on valuing talent over situation, but Helu is a prime example of overdrafting based on situation.
MIN WR Greg Childs- Greg Childs is expected to get the first shot at replacing suspended WR Jerome Simpson during his 3 game absence.
After suffering a traumatic knee injury in college, Childs wasn’t himself in his senior year, causing his draft stock to plummet. Supposedly back to full health after the 2011 season, Childs suffered a calf strain during early camps in Minnesota and missed the majority of the offseason program. Childs has the body and speed of a top wideout, but his health is a major question mark. If his health holds up and his skill returns, Childs could not only fill in for Jerome Simpson, but steal his job. At his current price Childs is a worthwhile gamble, since all you’ll be out is a mid-round rookie pick if he never does anything. The upside of Childs is much greater than other rookies picked around his ADP.
SDC WR Malcom Floyd- In a recent AFC West mailbag on ESPN.com, Bill Williamson suggested that Malcom Floyd will be the WR1 entering camp in San Diego, but that the designation doesn’t mean much since both he and Meachem will play big roles.
Everyone knows where I fall on this one. I do like Floyd as nice WR depth for a competing team, especially at his price, but Meachem will outproduce him in 2012 and Floyd’s value won’t last much longer. Floyd will enter camp as the WR1, but that is only because he has been there the longest. Meachem got paid the big bucks this offseason, and he will be given every opportunity to put up big numbers (and I think he will).
TEN TE Jared Cook- Although Jared Cook is entering the last year of his contract, the Titans have not yet engaged in extension talks with the tight end.
Depending on how you feel about Cook, this may be viewed as a gamble by the Titans. If Cook puts things together this season he could be a much more expensive player to sign next season. The spread Mike Munchak is employing in Tennessee offers Cook a great opportunity to break out. Cook posted the best numbers of his career last year, and could be the second option behind Kenny Britt this year. Physically Cook should be a force, and may offer similar production to Jermichael Finley at a much cheaper cost if he hits.
STL TE Lance Kendricks- Lance Kendricks is expected to play a prominent role in the new Rams offense under offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
The Rams are currently carrying 9 tight ends, so it is obviously an important position for Schottenheimer. He turned Dustin Keller into a TE1, but don’t forget that Kendricks struggled in Year 1. Some of Kendricks’ lost explosion has been blamed on injury, but he also struggled with drops. If Kendricks turns things around this year he could be in line for a productive role on the Rams offense. Sam Bradford is twice the quarterback Mark Sanchez is, which will create more opportunities for his weapons. One thing to consider though, is that Sanchez may have been leaning on Keller in the short passing game, and Bradford may not be as likely to dump it off to the tight end.