Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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Bottom 16 Skill-Player Groups

Saturday, April 20, 2013



27. Cleveland Browns

QB: Brandon Weeden > Jason Campbell > Thaddeus Lewis
RB: Trent Richardson > Montario Hardesty > Dion Lewis > Chris Ogbonnaya
WR: Josh Gordon > Greg Little > David Nelson > Travis Benjamin
TE: Jordan Cameron > Kellen Davis > Gary Barnidge > Dan Gronkowski

Skill Player Overview: The Browns are a franchise quarterback away from being serious playoff contenders. They're also a quarterback away from fielding a respectable skill-player group. The good news is new coach Rob Chudzinski has a background in maximizing the performance of big-armed passers who lack athleticism (e.g. Derek Anderson, 2007 Pro Bowler). Weeden throws the football with power and velocity, but is a statue with iffy pocket presence. Already entering his age-30 season, it's probable that this year will make or break Weeden's NFL career.

Richardson's 2012 YPC average of 3.56 isn't indicative of the kind of back he is. He underwent two knee surgeries before the season, robbing Richardson of his explosive burst, and played through multiple rib fractures. He should have more bounce in his 2013 step. Gordon's body type and movement skills are reminiscent of early-career Andre Johnson. His all-around game is still developing at age 22, but Gordon has a chance to be a special vertical threat in Chudzinski's vertical offense. Little has been somewhat disappointing as a 2011 second-rounder, but is only 24 and is now a third-year wide receiver. College basketball player Cameron showed well as a blocker and hands catcher behind Ben Watson last season. He's now penciled in as a starter.

2013 Breakout Candidate: Cameron. At the 2011 Combine, Cameron ran a 4.59 forty with a 37.5-inch vertical at 6-foot-5, 254. He is highly athletic. Cameron was efficient off the bench last season, recording 20 receptions and only two drops. He mixed in a handful big plays down the seam, looking smooth in the open field. A former tight end himself, Chudzinski has either been the position coach, coordinator, or head coach of Kellen Winslow, Greg Olsen, and Antonio Gates in each of their most productive years. Along with new playcaller Norv Turner's, Chud's offense is tight end-friendly. Cameron now needs the Browns to avoid early-round tight ends in the draft.

28. Tennessee Titans

QB: Jake Locker > Ryan Fitzpatrick > Rusty Smith > Nate Enderle
RB: Chris Johnson > Shonn Greene > Jamie Harper > Darius Reynaud
WR: Kenny Britt > Kendall Wright > Kevin Walter > Damian Williams
TE: Delanie Walker > Craig Stevens > Taylor Thompson > Brandon Barden

Skill Player Overview: Last offseason I went back and studied every snap Locker took during his five-game rookie year. I charted every throw. I loved what I saw. Locker has a rocket arm and is a big-play runner. He made accurate, big-time downfield throws to Nate Washington and Jared Cook. With hindsight to crosscheck, that sample size was far too small. Locker's first season as the starter was a nightmare. He got injured twice, his accuracy was brutal, and he was frenetic in the pocket. Locker showed few signs of promise. I would now lean toward predicting he will be a bust. Even if Locker stays healthy this year, I anticipate Fitzpatrick making starts.

Johnson is regressing entering his age-28 season, which may be his last in Nashville because he's owed a non-guaranteed $8 million salary in 2014. Johnson loves to throw his line under the bus for the Titans' lack of rushing consistency, but he deserves more blame. He runs soft and is unwilling to fight for yards. Johnson remains plenty explosive when he wants to be, but he has devolved into a boom-or-bust back who is ineffective more often than not. The Titans have good-looking receiver talent on paper, but Britt is an annual underachiever and the coaching staff didn't use Wright correctly last season. The Walker signing was a head scratcher. He can block, but is maddeningly drop prone and at 6-foot, 242 not particularly difficult for linebackers and safeties to cover.

2013 Breakout Candidate: Britt. We've been waiting for Britt to break out for four years. He's only teased. Off-field issues, quarterback woes, and hard-luck injuries have prevented Britt from reaching his sky-high ceiling, including multiple 2012 knee surgeries that rendered Britt a shell of his usual game-breaking self. For the first time in his pro career, Britt is enjoying a healthy offseason, and he's entering a contract year. This star-crossed player is beyond "due" to ball out.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars

QB: Blaine Gabbert > Chad Henne
RB: Maurice Jones-Drew > Justin Forsett > Montell Owens > Jordan Todman
WR: Cecil Shorts > Justin Blackmon > Jordan Shipley > Mohamed Massaquoi
TE: Marcedes Lewis > Allen Reisner > Brett Brackett > Matt Veldman

Skill Player Overview: I have no idea whether Jags rookie GM Dave Caldwell intends to seriously consider West Virginia's Geno Smith with the No. 2 pick. I do feel like it would have to be awfully tempting considering how ineffective 2011 No. 10 selection Gabbert has been through two seasons. Gabbert had poor pocket presence and was a checkdown machine at Missouri, and both of those qualities have followed him into the pros. Henne has been given opportunity after opportunity by Florida NFL teams and consistently shown he's not a long-term solution. Henne lacks athleticism and doesn't trust his arm. For what it's worth, he is slightly better than Gabbert.

Aside from Eugene Monroe, the strength of Jacksonville's offense is out wide. In just his second season, Shorts displayed top-end route-running chops while ranking second in the NFL in yards per reception (17.8). He has a chance to be a very good player. Blackmon struggled to get open early in his rookie year, but came on in the second half with 38 catches for 615 yards and four touchdowns over the final seven games -- numbers that extrapolate to an 87/1,406/16.2/9 line across 16. New OC Jedd Fisch's West Coast offense plays to Blackmon's run-after-catch and strong-handed strengths. Jags stalwarts Jones-Drew and Lewis can usually be counted on for quality impact, although MJD is recovering from foot surgery and Lewis is not a big-play threat.

2013 Breakout Candidate: Blackmon. He's going to need more consistent quarterback play to become a consistent producer, but Blackmon looked every bit the top-five pick ex-GM Gene Smith made him down the 2012 stretch. Blackmon is not a vertically explosive receiver and lacks elite separation skills, but his after-catch power and reliable mitts make Blackmon arguably an even better scheme fit for Fisch than Shorts. He could emerge as Jacksonville's go-to guy.

30. Buffalo Bills

QB: Kevin Kolb > Tarvaris Jackson > Aaron Corp
RB: C.J. Spiller > Fred Jackson > Tashard Choice > Zach Brown
WR: Stevie Johnson > T.J. Graham > Brad Smith > Marcus Easley
TE: Scott Chandler > Lee Smith > Mike Caussin > Joe Sawyer

Skill Player Overview: Kolb is a band-aid quarterback. He's capable of keeping an offense competitive if well protected, but isn't anybody's idea of a long-term solution. Spiller and Johnson are the heart of Buffalo's skill-position corps. The former is immensely gifted, but unproven as a true workhorse runner. Buffalo's front office has identified the latter as a better fit for the slot after Johnson played X receiver the past two years. While he is one of the league's finest route runners and short to intermediate threats, the Bills understand Johnson isn't a true No. 1 NFL wideout.

Chandler is coming off reconstructive knee surgery and may not be ready for Week 1. Jackson returns from an injury-ravaged season where he suffered two separate knee injuries and was ineffective in between. At age 32, it wouldn't be stretching to suggest Jackson's best days are behind him. Brad Smith is a gadget guy. Lee Smith is a blocker. Graham has great stopwatch speed, but showed little as a rookie. The Bills have a long way to go before they'll be playing explosive offense. They're missing a starting tight end, No. 1 receiver, and franchise quarterback.

2013 Breakout Candidate: Spiller. New Bills coach Doug Marrone's Syracuse offenses finished with more rushing than pass attempts in each of Marrone's four seasons on the job. While Marrone and rookie coordinator Nathaniel Hackett are bringing an up-tempo, shotgun-heavy "K Gun" offense to Buffalo, the foundation of their philosophy is the run game. Spiller is ticketed for career highs across the board. You're going to want him on your fantasy team.

31. Oakland Raiders

QB: Matt Flynn > Terrelle Pryor
RB: Darren McFadden > Rashad Jennings > Jeremy Stewart
WR: Denarius Moore > Rod Streater > Juron Criner > Jacoby Ford
TE: David Ausberry > Richard Gordon > Mickey Shuler

Skill Player Overview: It's worth wondering if the Flynn trade will lead to second-year GM Reggie McKenzie's demise. Although he inherited the league's most dysfunctional organization after leaving Green Bay's front office last winter, the Raiders' roster has gotten worse through 1 1/2 offseasons, including at the most critical position. Weak armed and not particularly athletic, Flynn is a backup-caliber quarterback in the Colt McCoy/Ty Detmer mold. Observers of Flynn at Packers practices were thoroughly unimpressed by his physical tools, even if Flynn had a strong grasp of the offense. He was beaten out decisively by a third-round rookie in Seattle last year.

McFadden and Moore, theoretically, are the two players on which the Raiders can hang their hat. Except Moore is coming off a disappointing, inconsistent year that culminated in a late-season benching. McFadden cannot stay healthy. 2012 undrafted free-agent find Streater has flashed solid possession-receiver skills, but almost certainly isn't the answer for Oakland's No. 1 receiver void. Criner was drafted in last year's fifth round and hardly got on the field. Raiders coaches and management have been open about the fact that they don't have a starting-caliber tight end.

2013 Breakout Candidate: Ausberry. A college wide receiver, Ausberry has bulked up to 6-foot-4, 258 after entering the league at 233. Brandon Myers' departure opens Oakland's starting tight end position to a wide-open competition, and Ausberry is easily the best athlete of the bunch.

32. New York Jets

QB: Mark Sanchez > David Garrard > Greg McElroy > Matt Simms
RB: Mike Goodson > Bilal Powell > Joe McKnight > John Griffin
WR: Santonio Holmes > Stephen Hill > Jeremy Kerley > Clyde Gates
TE: Jeff Cumberland > Hayden Smith > Konrad Reuland

Skill Player Overview: This skill-position group is a mess that rookie GM John Idzik undoubtedly wants to attack in the draft. His flirtation with Saints restricted free agent Chris Ivory indicates the Jets are not done adding to the backfield. Though blessed with versatility, starting-caliber talent, and some big-play ability, Goodson is among the NFL's most injury-prone backs. Powell is a plodder who shouldn't be guaranteed a roster spot. McKnight is a scatback at best.

I suspect the Jets will stick to a run-oriented offense if only because their passing-game personnel are so putrid. Sanchez wouldn't be on the roster if not for a guaranteed $8.5 million salary. Holmes is coming off a Lisfranc fracture and tends to play when he wants to play. Cumberland is a stiff, upright catch-first tight end lacking field-stretching ability. He's not a viable replacement for Dustin Keller. Kerley is a solid slot weapon and Hill is 22 years old with a high ceiling, but neither is a legitimate No. 1 receiver. It remains to be seen whether Holmes can (wants?) to be that guy.

2013 Breakout Candidate: Goodson. The Jets gave Goodson a nice contract -- $6.9 million over three years -- which suggests he's a big part of their plans. Goodson's breakout candidacy could take a hit if Ivory or an early-round rookie back were acquired, but for now he's penciled in as the starter. For his career, Goodson averages 4.51 yards per carry. If his health cooperates, Goodson will have no trouble running circles around Powell in training camp practices. If Ivory comes board, he would surpass Goodson as the Jets' top breakout candidate.



Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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