Mike Clay

Offseason Low Down

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Sittin’ pretty... for now

Monday, April 16, 2012


Bengals RB Bernard Scott

I’ll admit it – I liked Scott going into both the 2010 and 2011 seasons. I didn’t think Cincinnati could continue to run an ineffective Cedric Benson into the ground, all the while letting a potential playmaker like Scott rot on the bench. I was wrong. Combining the two seasons, Benson racked up 602 carries to Scott’s 179 and was even targeted 25 more times (58-to-33). It has become clear that Bengals’ management views Scott as strictly a complimentary back, but OC Jay Gruden has suggested that he’ll see a larger role going forward. That said, not only could that be coachspeak, we’ve also heard rumors that the team hopes to get newly-signed BenJarvus Green-Ellis involved more heavily on passing downs. That doesn’t bode well for Scott, who still seems to be in line for only 10 or so touches per game. Still, he’ll remain on sleeper lists considering Green-Ellis’ underwhelming skills.

Post-draft outlook: Pretty

The Bengals might not view Scott as a workhorse, but it’d be a little bit of a surprise if they take a running back early after talking up Scott and signing Green-Ellis. Even if they do, Green-Ellis isn’t very good and all rookie running backs need to be on injury watch after what happened last season. Scott could be forced into regular playing time in 2012 and, although he won’t be worth a draft pick in most formats, he belongs on your radar.

Bengals WR Armon Binns

Binns is gaining a lot of steam recently as a potential replacement for Jerome Simpson as the Bengals’ No. 2 wide receiver. A standout at the University of Cincinnati, Binns was an undrafted free agent signing by the Jaguars following the 2011 draft. He was later waived and eventually signed to the Bengals’ practice squad. The Bengals’ coaches were impressed with his contributions on the practice field, and he’s a favorite to be in the mix for snaps in 2012. Interestingly, much like Simpson, he projects as a field-stretcher despite not having 4.4 speed thanks to his ability to go up and get the ball.

Post-draft outlook: Ugly

Bengals’ coaches might like Binns, but that doesn’t mean they’re prepared to turn an undrafted free agent with zero experience into a starter on a playoff team. First of all, Binns will get competition from players currently on the roster, including slot men Jordan Shipley and Andrew Hawkins, as well as, the team’s sixth-round pick in 2011, Ryan Whalen. Additionally, the Bengals are very likely to grab a wideout with one of their three picks in the first two rounds of the draft. Binns best case scenario for Week 1 is the No. 4 job.

Colts WR Donnie Avery

A second-round pick by the Rams back in 2008, Donnie Avery has disappointed thanks to a long injury resume. After catching exactly 100 passes over his first two seasons, Avery missed all of 2010 and managed just three receptions on 11 targets in limited action with the Titans in 2011. Still, if the 27-year-old can recapture anything close to the 4.2 40-yard dash speed he had a few years ago, he could be in for a resurgence. Currently, Avery projects as the Colts’ flanker in three-wide sets, but would likely yield to Austin Collie and Reggie Wayne when only two wideouts are on the field. Still, Collie is a possession receiver with health issues of his own and Wayne will turn 33-years-old during the season. If Avery had a chance at turning his career around, this is a prime – and perhaps his last – opportunity.

Post-draft outlook: Ugly

Okay, I know I just talked him up, but that doesn’t mean I think it will all work out as planned. First off, the Colts have to target a wide receiver, or at least a pass-catcher, early on the in draft. Not only are Pierre Garcon, Anthony Gonzalez, and Blair White gone, tight ends Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme are also out. Avery will need to hope the Colts target a pass-catching tight end prospect like Coby Fleener, which would mean less competition on the outside. Additionally, the Indianapolis offense has an excellent chance of being anemic in Year 1 of the Andrew Luck (fine, or Robert Griffin III) era, which means fewer opportunities for touchdowns.

Packers RB Alex Green

Ryan Grant remains an unsigned free agent, which has opened up an opportunity for Alex Green, the team’s third-round draft pick in 2011, to take over as the No. 2 tailback behind James Starks. Green is a speedy, downhill runner who ran a 4.45 40-yard dash despite standing at 6’0, 225 pounds. Green’s main roadblock to playing time may be himself after he tore his ACL after just seven snaps last season.

Post-draft outlook: Ugly

Despite relying on the pass more than all but just one team in 2011, the Packers won’t feel comfortable with just Green and Brandon Saine as insurance for James Starks. They’re extremely likely to draft a tailback in the first round or two and, if they miss out on a top back, would sign one of a long list of veteran free agents. Even if Packers’ management decided to defy logic and stick with what they have, note that 82-percent of Green Bay’s touchdowns in 2011 were of the passing variety, which ranked second in the NFL to only Dallas. Green could work his way into a complimentary role, but he’s not in line for the large workload he’d see if today was Week 1.

Patriots RB Shane Vereen

Although Stevan Ridley emerged as the more productive of the two rookie backs in 2011, it was Vereen who New England picked first in the draft. Vereen, who is the smaller of the two and projects as more of a change-of-pace back, went in round two, while Ridley, an early-down, power back with less to offer in the receiving game, went one round later. Both backs are expected to take on bigger roles in 2012, but Danny Woodhead and a potential free agent or rookie will be in the mix, as well. Both Vereen and Ridley could break out this season, but Ridley is certainly the more well-known of the two right now.

Post-draft outlook: Pretty

The Patriots could very easily throw a curve ball and trade for Matt Forte or draft a tailback like Chris Polk in the second round, but I don’t think they’ll be going out of their way to replace BenJarvus Green-Ellis. They spent a pair of early-round picks on tailbacks a year ago, have Danny Woodhead to work upwards of half the snaps on passing downs, and even have Aaron Hernandez (eight carries in the playoffs) available to handle some snaps out of the backfield. A mid-to-late round draft pick could be added to the mix, but I expect the two sophomore backs to get a chance to emerge.

Other “sleepers” to watch: Ravens RB Anthony Allen, Dolphins WR Clyde Gates, Jets WR Chaz Schilens, Jets RB Bilal Powell, Giants RB Da’Rel Scott, Saints WR Adrian Arrington, Bills WR Donald Jones, Ravens WR Tandon Doss, Dolphins TE Charles Clay, Cowboys WR Andre Holmes, Eagles RB Dion Lewis, Steelers RB Baron Batch



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Mike Clay is a football writer for Rotoworld.com and the Founder/Managing Editor of Pro Football Focus Fantasy. He can be found on Twitter @MikeClayNFL.
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