AFC Team-by-Team NotesTuesday, June 18, 2013
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Arian Foster's inability to practice all spring due to a right calf strain opened opportunities for other backs to shine. Talented but injury-prone No. 2 man Ben Tate didn't miss a workout and enjoyed a "really good offseason," according to coach Gary Kubiak. UDFAs Ray Graham, Cierre Wood, and Dennis Johnson are competing with underwhelming veteran Deji Karim for the No. 3 job -- a fantasy-relevant position because of Tate's historical durability woes and Foster's numerous workload-related red flags. Johnson stood out from the pack. ... Second-year WR DeVier Posey flashed late in his rookie season before tearing his Achilles' in Houston's Divisional Round playoff loss. Posey's recovery is said to be ahead of schedule, but he's now comfortably blocked by first-round pick DeAndre Hopkins. ... By all accounts, Hopkins had a nice spring and looks like the real deal, but year-one fantasy expectations should be governed. Kubiak promises Andre Johnson will remain a high-volume target monster, and the Owen Daniels-Hopkins tandem could end up canceling itself out on a decidedly run-first team. Hopkins is a WR3/4. Daniels' value is dropping.
The signing of Ahmad Bradshaw tells you precisely how GM Ryan Grigson felt about his running back situation: It wasn't good enough. Vick Ballard is a workmanlike, try-hard runner with backup-caliber talent. Kerwynn Williams is a kick-returning seventh-round rookie, and Delone Carter and Donald Brown are competing for one roster spot. Bradshaw (foot) sat out OTAs and minicamp, but he will be the starter on Opening Day. ... It's no secret the Colts will play more two-tight end offense under new playcaller Pep Hamilton, keeping Dwayne Allen on the field and increasing Coby Fleener's snaps. The fallout of increased "12" personnel will be limited usage of "11," the three-receiver base formation preferred by old coach Bruce Arians. From a fantasy perspective, it makes Indianapolis' second receiver battle that much more critical, because the third receiver isn't going to play as much. Darrius Heyward-Bey will open camp atop the depth chart opposite Reggie Wayne, but he'll face stiff competition from explosive (and more versatile) sophomore T.Y. Hilton.
Literally speaking, Cecil Shorts' fantasy breakout occurred in 2012. He finished as the No. 22 wideout scorer, and accounted for at least 100 yards and/or a touchdown in seven of eight games from Weeks 7-15. But Shorts is getting better. Multiple media outlets praised Shorts' spring, and he's now headed to Larry Fitzgerald's legendary summer workouts for a training camp headstart. With Justin Blackmon suspended the first four games, Shorts will soak up targets and could flirt with WR1 value even if Blaine Gabbert is quarterbacking the Jags. There is still room for growth. ... Rookie SS Johnathan Cyprien is poised for a monster IDP season. The Jaguars will use him near the line of scrimmage behind a leaky front seven on a team that will be playing defense often. The Florida Times Union deemed Cyprien the Jags' spring MVP "in a landslide." ... In an interview with reporters last week, Maurice Jones-Drew (Lisfranc surgery) was noncommittal on his status for the start of training camp. Others may disagree, but MJD is going to be tough for me to get behind as a fantasy pick due to his debilitating injury, wear and tear, advancing age, and what looks -- other than Shorts -- like an abominable Jacksonville offense. I'm staying far away.
Kansas City Chiefs
Much of the talk out of Chiefs OTAs concerned Jamaal Charles' role in new coach Andy Reid's offense. He'll be a PPR doozy. "I’m like Westbrook and McCoy as far as how I fit into (Reid’s) offense," Charles said. "This offense will get me open. They’re going to throw me the ball more. I think I’ll continue to stack Pro Bowls on Pro Bowls." Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy were good, but Charles is the most talented back Reid has ever coached. ... Free-agent pickup Donnie Avery missed the spring with a high ankle sprain, allowing Jon Baldwin to soak up first-team reps. At a mid-May practice, however, Reid lit into Baldwin for "being lackadaisical getting to the line of scrimmage." Talented but enigmatic, Baldwin figures to take a backseat to Avery and Dexter McCluster when training camp convenes. ... I think it's fair to wonder if Alex Smith will be a square peg in a round hole under pass-happy Reid. Far more so than most West Coast offensive minds, Reid emphasizes a vertical passing game. Except when protected by play-action, Smith has always thrown the ball poorly downfield. And his only career success has come on run-first teams.
I'm always skeptical of teams that binge-spend in free agency, essentially building large portions of their roster with other clubs' castoffs. The 2013 Dolphins fall into that category, paying eight free agents a combined $146 million in max deals -- easily a league high. The 2011 Eagles imploded with a similar strategy; Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin were all fantasy disappointments. Perhaps I'm a pessimist, but I think it's something to keep in mind when entertaining 2013 Dolphins. ... The most notable exception to the 2011 Eagles' "Dream Team" collapse was tailback LeSean McCoy, who totaled 1,624 yards from scrimmage and led the NFL in all-purpose touchdowns (20). It's obviously not fair to compare Lamar Miller to McCoy based on their teams' similar offseason strategies, but there are a lot of reasons to expect a big year out of Miller. He comfortably handled all first-team OTA reps -- ahead of plodding fumbler Daniel Thomas -- and made major improvements in pass protection, according to quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Miller is a bit straight-linish and lacks tackle-breaking physicality, but he's long on big-play ability and a sensational fit for the Dolphins' one-cut-and-go zone-blocking scheme.