Chris Wesseling

Training Camp Lowdown

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AFC Team-by-Team Notes

Friday, August 19, 2011


Depth charts are in flux entering the second weekend of preseason games. With the regular season less than a month away, here's the latest on every team in the AFC. Evan Silva covered the NFC teams in impressive detail earlier in the week.

Editor's Note: Get Rotoworld's updated rankings, projections, and fantasy analysis in the 2011 Fantasy Football Draft Guide.

Baltimore Ravens

Rookie Torrey Smith looked lost in the preseason opener. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome wasted no time dealing for vertical threat Lee Evans, who should provide Anquan Boldin with room to operate underneath. A bulked up Joe Flacco is easily the best QB of Evans' seven-year career. The two are a match made in heaven, as Evans' skills are highlighted by a QB with the arm to go deep and Flacco has long needed a receiver with the speed to take the top off a defense. Evans is back on the radar as a bounce-back candidate capable of 1,000 yards. … Somewhat surprisingly, OC Cam Cameron indicated that Ray Rice will play a major role at the goal-line even after the signing of Ricky Williams. Rice scored 45 TDs in his final two season at Rutgers, leaving little question that he can thrive at the stripe. Double-digit scores are possible for the first time in Rice's career. … Ed Dickson hasn't been able to pull away from Dennis Pitta at tight end. The duo isn't without promise down the seam, but they will likely cancel each other out for fantasy purposes.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills don't have depth issues on the offensive line because there's little separation in talent between the starters and the third-stringers. Coach Chan Gailey can scheme with the best of the offensive minds in the game. He'll need to get extra creative after GM Buddy Nix failed to address the "offen-sieve" line. … Coaching staff favorite Donald Jones, undrafted out of Youngstown State last year, will start opposite Stevie Johnson following the Evans trade. Jones carries SI.com's Peter King stamp of approval, which bodes poorly for his chances of fantasy success. We wouldn't be surprised if David Nelson plays more snaps than Jones by season's end. Johnson will have to prove he can beat double teams without a proven NFL talent on the opposite side. … Slot receiver Roscoe Parrish (hamstring) will miss a second straight game. … Fred Jackson will enter the season as the clear-cut starter for the first time in his career, which caps any breakout potential C.J. Spiller might have enjoyed. We are shying away from the Buffalo backfield altogether.

Cincinnati Bengals

The tailspin is coming. Bengals players have "a feeling that this year will be better,' yet "a fear that this year will be the same" as the other debaculous fiascos NFL fans have become accustomed to under owner Mike Brown's watch. … Speaking of which, the best OC Jay Gruden could muster about Andy Dalton's 4.6 yards per attempt against the Lions was that it "wasn't a total debacle." … A.J. Green has been everything he was advertised to be coming out of Georgia, but fantasy owners have to be concerned that Dalton's dink-and-dunk style will put a straitjacket on his production. … Slot receiver Jordan Shipley and TE Jermaine Gresham have the skill-sets to benefit from Dalton's short passing style, but their output will be limited by a run-heavy attack and a spread-the-wealth philosophy through the air. … Cedric Benson's fourth arrest as a pro could land him in commissioner Roger Goodell's doghouse to start the season. Overworked the past two seasons, Benson is an old 28 coming off a plodding 3.5 yards per carry in 2010. He's the perfect storm of ominous fantasy signs.

Cleveland Browns

Peyton Hillis played over 90 percent of the Browns' offensive snaps from Weeks 3-15 last year. Only three other NFL backs (Chris Johnson, Frank Gore, LeSean McCoy) even cleared 80 percent. Hillis' new coaching staff has taken note of his aberrant workload and subsequent December fade. With Montario Hardesty (knee) finally showing signs of life and Brandon Jackson as a third-down possibility, we hesitate to project Hillis as a top-15 fantasy back. … The Browns' only viable standard-scoring fantasy receivers are Mohamed Massaquoi and physical second-round rookie Greg Little. Heading into the second exhibition game, though, Brian Robiskie and Josh Cribbs are still listed as the starters. … Jordan Norwood is a name to tuck away in PPR leagues, as the Danny Amendola clone appears to have the slot role locked up. … Ben Watson may be the only other member of the Cleveland passing game worth a look on draft day. Evan Moore's strong camp gives us pause, however, as he could eat into Watson's production. … Even with one impressive preseason performance under his belt, Colt McCoy remains on our "do not draft" list.

Denver Broncos

Knowshon Moreno is having his best camp as the "healthiest, fittest, and fastest" he's been since entering the NFL as the No. 12 overall pick in 2009. HC John Fox wants to run the ball 30+ times per game, though Moreno is shaping up as a better pick in PPR formats with Willis McGahee looming as a goal-line vulture. … Fox has been impressed with Brandon Lloyd's playmaking ability since the start of camp, but it's fair to wonder how often the Broncos' No. 1 receiver will see the ball this year. As NFL Films guru Greg Cosell points out, Lloyd arrived at a career year in 2010 through the confluence of outstanding play-design and play-calling from Josh McDaniels. It's easy to forget the Broncos were the best play pass offense in the NFL for a long stretch of last season. That won't be the case under Fox. … Eddie Royal and Eric Decker will split production as the second and third receivers. … Kyle Orton's skills merit a QB2 selection in fantasy drafts, but Tebow mania will have him sent to the bench once the season goes in the tank. … Freakishly athletic rookie TE Julius Thomas has already emerged as a red-zone weapon, but he remains behind Daniel Fells on the depth chart.



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Chris Wesseling is a senior football editor and Dynasty league analyst for Rotoworld.com. The 2011 NFL season marks his fifth year with Rotoworld and his third year contributing to NBCSports.com. He can be found on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.
Email :Chris Wesseling



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