Chris Wesseling

Draft Analysis

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Training Camp Winners

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Over the last month, values have been shifting across the fantasy landscape. Below are 15 players shooting up draft boards:

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Colts

After completing 70 percent of his passes in training camp practices, Luck has produced 38 points on 11 possessions in the first two preseason games. Showing excellent pocket movement, pre-snap judgment and a rifle arm, Luck is knocking on the door to QB1 territory.

2. Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons

After hitting a wall in his development with conservative playcaller Mike Mularkey, Ryan is hitting his stride in Dirk Koetter’s aggressive, fast-paced offense. Ryan has started the exhibition season a red-hot 27-of-34 (79.4 percent) for 329 yards (9.7 YPA) and two touchdowns while directing the Falcons no-huddle attack.    

3. Jake Locker, QB, Titans

Coordinator Chris Palmer is tailoring his variation of the “Run ‘N Shoot” offense to Locker’s strengths after the highly athletic 2011 first-rounder beat out Matt Hasselbeck for the starting job. On top of Locker’s appealing rushing potential, he’s directing an offense chock full of young playmakers.

4. DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys

Already emerging as a team leader while battling Dez Bryant for training camp MVP honors, Murray is locked in as the feature back in a high-scoring offense while Felix Jones continues to struggle. One of only a handful of fantasy backs with three-down ability and goal-line honors, Murray is worthy of first-round consideration.

5. Peyton Hillis, RB, Chiefs

Reunited with former coordinator Brian Daboll, Hillis has been alternating first-team snaps with Jamaal Charles throughout training camp and in preseason action. Operating as the primary red-zone back behind one of the NFL’s top offensive lines, Hillis is a threat for double-digit touchdowns and 30+ receptions.

6. Cedric Benson, RB, Packers

Presumed starter James Starks is now on the roster bubble due to a disappointing training camp and a bout with turf toe. Enter Benson, fresh off three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and running with a chip on his shoulder. With Aaron Rodgers spreading out defenses, Benson will have plenty of open holes to exploit in Green Bay.  

7. Kevin Smith, RB, Lions

An afterthought throughout the offseason, the revitalized Smith will enter the season as a three-down feature back with Jahvid Best (concussions) sidelined indefinitely and Mikel Leshoure serving a two-game suspension. Even when Leshoure returns, the more well-rounded Smith figures to remain atop the totem pole until injuries strike.

8. Evan Royster, RB, Redskins

Despite offseason proclamations that Tim Hightower would top the depth chart, Royster has spent the entire training camp running with the first-team offense. Now that Roy Helu, a more promising playmaker, is battling soreness in both Achilles’ tendons, Royster is a lock to open the season as the early-down lead back. Hightower will be limited to the pass protection specialist while regaining form in his return from ACL surgery.

9. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Falcons

It’s become painfully obvious that slow-footed Michael Turner is ill-suited to new coordinator Dirk Koetter’s up-tempo offense. Enter Rodgers, a screen-play specialist who should dominate passing downs with a role that continues to increase throughout the season. Rodgers is a player to target in PPR formats as a flex option.

10. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons

An unstoppable combination of speed and power, Jones exploded for 109 yards and a touchdown in just his first preseason quarter under new playcaller Dirk Koetter. The Falcons have made no secret that Jones will be the featured weapon in their more aggressive, pass-heavy offense. Following Rotoworld’s lead, Jones’ ADP has climbed to No. 2 among wide receivers.

11. Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins

Playing Brandon Marshall’s old “X” spot in Mike Shanahan’s offense, Garcon has been Robert Griffin III’s go-to target through training camp and two preseason games. He’s the heavy favorite to lead the Redskins in receiving this year, offering sneaky upside as a fantasy WR3.

12. Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts  

Wayne finished as a top-30 fantasy receiver while catching passes from Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky last season. Now that Austin Collie is battling concussion issues once again, Wayne is entrenched as the only reliable go-to receiver for promising rookie Andrew Luck.

13. Justin Blackmon, WR, Jaguars

Installed as the flanker (Roddy White’s old position) in Mike Mularkey’s offense, Blackmon is the focal point of the Jaguars’ quick-hitting, short-passing base offense. Billed as a run-after-catch threat on par with Hakeem Nicks, Blackmon broke tackles on all four of his receptions in his preseason debut last week.

14. Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers

Ron Rivera’s comparisons to Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham aside, it’s become evident that the coaching staff plans to increase Olsen’s role following the exit of Jeremy Shockey. The two tight ends combined for 82 receptions, 995 yards and nine touchdowns a year ago.

15. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings

Comparable to Rob Gronkowski from a size/speed perspective, Rudolph dominated training camp while earning Christian Ponder’s trust with a humongous catch radius. Likely to finish behind only Percy Harvin in targets this season, Rudolph is the best of the late-round breakout candidates at tight end. 



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.
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