NFC Team-by-Team NotesFriday, June 21, 2013
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One of the more under-reported storylines of Lions minicamp was Joique Bell's ascension to No. 2 on the depth chart, behind Reggie Bush but ahead of Mikel Leshoure. Per the Detroit Free Press, Bell was the second back in the three-man rotation "throughout" the three workouts. The small -- and, admittedly, perhaps temporary -- depth chart change really isn't surprising. Bell outperformed Leshoure in 2012 YPC average (5.05, 3.71) and is a far superior pass-game back, coming in handy for the NFL's pass-happiest team. More surprising is Bell and Leshoure's ADP differential; the latter is still going in the single-digit rounds as the RB43, while Bell more often than not isn't drafted. That should change soon. If you're looking to handcuff Bush, Bell is the better bet. ... Ryan Broyles participated fully in minicamp, with the Lions' website deeming his latest quick ACL recovery "by far" the spring's biggest surprise. With a Welkerian skill set, Broyles is a quick-twitch slot receiver and smooth accelerator after the catch. Continue to keep tabs on Broyles' health, but he's a future 100-reception guy as the Welker to Calvin Johnson's Moss.
Green Bay Packers
Many observers poured fantasy hype on Ronnie Hillman for receiving 75 percent of the first-team reps at Broncos OTAs. Alex Green handled Packers No. 1 duties from the start of spring to finish. Why is no one talking him up? Seems like convenient thinking. Green obviously won't be leading the Pack in 2013 carries, and I think it's just as obvious Hillman won't lead Denver's backfield, either. In Green Bay, expect Green to be passed by Eddie Lacy, DuJuan Harris, and Johnathan Franklin at training camp. In Denver, Montee Ball is the best fantasy bet. ... James Jones' league-high 14 touchdown catches is an obvious 2012 regression stat, but he still offers quality draft value based on ADP. He's currently the WR28 off the board, regularly available late in round six. "He’s going to be even better than what he was last year,” receivers coach Edgar Bennett promised in a Green Bay Press-Gazette story. "Last year was just a starting point for James.” Quietly, Jones' role has grown with Greg Jennings and Donald Driver out of the picture. From Week 7 on last year, Jones played 96.0 percent of Green Bay's offensive snaps.
The Vikes' one fantasy-relevant camp battle will take place at X receiver, where Jerome Simpson is attempting to hold off first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson. According to ESPN's Kevin Seifert, the Vikings asked Greg Jennings "to serve as Patterson's mentor on and off the field." So far, so good. Widely considered one of Patterson's weaknesses coming out of Tennessee, Jennings has been genuinely impressed with Patterson's route running and ability to make a "definitive step" at the top of pass patterns to create separation from defensive backs. Simpson has shown time and time again that despite impressive athleticism, he is a slouch of an NFL receiver. Don't be surprised if mega-talent Patterson overtakes him by mid-August. ... Adam Schefter's June 18 report that Christian Ponder could be on an in-season leash likely means one of two things. The Vikings are either trying to send Ponder a message, or they're categorically worried about the 12th overall pick in the 2011 draft. Believe what you want about backup Matt Cassel; he has a history of success when surrounded by a strong defense and run game. And the Vikings have those supporting elements. In all likelihood, the first half of the 2013 season will make or break Ponder.
New Orleans Saints
The offseason signing of OLB Victor Butler was intriguing because he was a highly efficient per-play rusher in Dallas despite spotty usage behind every-down defenders DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. Butler's year-ending ACL tear, suffered at minicamp, will once again leave New Orleans devoid of an explosive edge presence beyond (perhaps) Junior Galette. Defenses that can't generate pressure without blitz manufacture generally get torched by the pass. And while they can't possibly be worse than the '12 version, I think the '13 Saints will fall into that category. They'll be a defense to target for fantasy matchup purposes. ... Jimmy Graham's current ADP is the late second round, and that is absolute robbery for a tier-one fantasy commodity whose value is supplemented by Rob Gronkowski's five surgeries and Aaron Hernandez's legal woes. Let's average Graham's 2011 and 2012 stat lines and say he scores at that per-game fantasy points clip (11.3) in 2013. And let's say Gronk and Hernandez are out of the picture for now. In order, the next best 2012 per-game tight end clips were Tony Gonzalez (8.8), Heath Miller (8.6), and Jason Witten (7.6). If you have Graham and you're going against a team with Greg Olsen (7.1), you're essentially starting off with a four-point fantasy lead. Graham gives you a massive weekly edge.
New York Giants
I don't have any great metrics to prove it, and I don't have inside information. But I really don't trust Hakeem Nicks to stay healthy. Call it a gut feeling. Nicks is already a popular fantasy bounce-back pick -- his ADP is the early fifth round -- but I'd much rather take my chances on Rueben Randle toward the end of drafts. "Not only did he grow, he kind of became the bellcow of the receiving corps," OC Kevin Gilbride said of Randle following spring practices. "He's gonna play. He's gonna play a lot. He'll play first, second down, he'll be an outside receiver for us -- whether he's at X or the Z, he's gonna play." I'm avoiding Nicks and targeting Randle as a cheap breakout candidate. ... An early-June piece on the Giants' website referred to David Wilson as the "starting running back" and confirmed Wilson will "take over for Ahmad Bradshaw." Andre Brown's usage will be tied directly to Wilson's ability or lack thereof to pick up the blitz and stay ball secure. A high-velocity inside runner with lateral explosion, Wilson offers mammoth 2013 fantasy upside.