BUZZ WORDS / BUZZ WORTHY
During every offseason, there are reports coming out of training camps across the country about the progress of players throughout the league. Their main purpose is to generate buzz about the player as well as the team, while giving the fans some hope the upcoming season will be a Super Bowl season. Players “makes magic happen” all over the practice field, other players shows “grit”, “toughness” and “wiggle” while others are “inconsistent” or unfortunately “dreadful”.
I present to you twelve such players who have a lot of buzz swirling around their names this offseason. I'll let you know if they’re worth the hype in fantasy drafts this season.
Robert Griffin III
“Quarterback Robert Griffin III during the first five training camp practices has taken more than a few sacks because he didn’t get rid of the ball quickly enough. Sometimes he holds the ball in the pocket for what seems like an eternity – really it’s three or more seconds – and the rush gets to him.” – Washington Times
“I feel like he's light years ahead of Michael Vick because he understands mentally what it takes to be great.” – teammate DeAngelo Hall
“It’s going to take time and practice for Griffin to get comfortable with the timing and the mechanics required.” – Washington Times
Robert Griffin III is a beast. He has wheels similar to Michael Vick, insane arm strength and the polish to be a QB who can move the ball downfield from the pocket without scrambling all the time. A consistent dual threat to defenses and he’ll give the NFC East and the rest of the NFL fits.
One thing though….he hasn’t played a single down in the NFL. There’s an adjustment period for him where he learns how to deal with the speed of NFL defenses and as a rookie, there are bound to be ups and downs. The buzz out there reflects that concern about Griffin.
For fantasy owners, Griffin is definitely a high risk that can have a high reward. Drafting him as a QB1 is a very risky proposition but it would be a good idea to keep Griffin in mind as a backup. The Redskins have a good defense, a solid zone blocking scheme that powers the run game and a solid assortment of receivers to throw the ball to so his upside, should he be able to put it all together, could be very high.
“Both QBs looked sharp tonight, but I was really impressed with Jake Locker, who finished 10-14 in team drills. Showed poise and zip on ball” – Jim Wyatt, beat writer for The Tennessean
“Locker has had three good days and two bad days through five practices so far in camp” - Rotoworld
“On the field, Locker was patient and methodical for the second straight day. The second-year QB has completed more than 83 percent of his attempts since a 1-of-10 performance Thursday night.” – CBS Sports
Jake was drafted out of Washington as the heir apparent to Matt Hasselbeck. He’s 6’3” with good mobility and a good arm. The Titans managed to get him some playing time during the year due to Hasselbeck injury and he was very effective in that limited time span. He’s also a bit inconsistent with his completion percentages, which stalled some drives and frustrated coaches.
This year, with a full offseason available to them, a battle in camp rages between Hasselbeck and Locker. Do the Titans go with Hasselbeck, the weaker armed veteran who won’t make as many mistakes? Or do they go with the powerful arm and nimble feet of the gunslinging Locker? The preseason should give us an answer in a few weeks. The Titans want to win the AFC South.
For your bench’s sake, keep an eye of that battle. If Locker gets the starting gig, think of him as a potential backup/ bye week fill in. The receiving corps, with or without Kenny Britt, is a formidable one, full of speedy athletes. If CJ2K makes a return to form, this offense could be one of the better ones out there, capable of shootouts in any week. Make sure you’re aware that he could lose it with a couple of bad weeks. A little bit of risk here but the reward might pay off handsomely.
“He’s throwing the ball well enough in the couple of days he’s been at practice.” – head coach Joe Philbin
"He’s a smart kid, got a great arm,” – teammate Anthony Fasano
“He's so kind of cool and collected,... He just kind of does it in a relaxed manner, which, again works for him. Some other quarterbacks are kind of herky-jerky, really operating fast. I think it will be good to get him into games and then he can really see a true 40-second clock." –head coach Joe Philbin
Ryan Tannehill is a great all-around athlete. His first two years were as a receiver but before his junior year, he then transitioned to QB. He’s used his legs to get him out in space to deliver the ball on the move. During the draft process, his stock shot up the boards due to his mobility and his efficiency passing the ball. But there were a few knocks on him concerning his decision making and the fact he’d only played the position for 2 years, prompting many to wonder if he needed more seasoning.
Tannehill landed in a perfect situation. The Dolphins, heavily rumored to land Matt Flynn formerly of the Packers, saw him go to Seattle instead, leaving behind Matt Moore and David Garrard, two players who instilled little confidence in circles around the league. The new offensive coordinator of the Miami team just happens to be his old college coach, Mike Sherman, who knows his strengths like the back of his hand. With these advantages, one would assume Tannehill would have a leg up on the competition. But we all know where assumptions get us.
My fantasy advice about Tannehill is to pay him as little mind as possible. Even with a shot at becoming a starter on that team, the run game and defense will have to do all of the heavy lifting. The receiving group in Miami is well below average, to put it nicely and he won’t be able to compile stats relevant enough to be only on anyone’s draft board, outside of dynasty leagues.
“Martin, the 31st overall pick from Boise State, has quickly established himself as the Bucs' most complete back. He makes sharp cuts and explodes through the hole. He can power through arm tackles, he is stout in pass protection, runs great routes and has soft hands.” – Tampa Bay Times
“He made some explosive runs (Sunday) where you really see why they drafted him so high. He reminds you of a Ray Rice or Maurice Jones-Drew. He's very crafty and he really understands the run game” – teammate Davin Joseph
“….he is showcasing his quick burst at the line of scrimmage, showing his ability to decisively hit holes, then use his speed to make defenders miss in the second level. That speed and quickness gives the Bucs the option to use more tosses and perimeter runs, things they haven't been able to utilize much with Blount who lacks comparable speed.” – Bucs Beat, Tampa Bay Times
There’s nothing funny about Doug’s rise up the depth chart*. The 5’9 running back has done everything well in training camp. He was a solid player at Boise State but because he wasn’t as flashy as some of the other running backs in college, he went under the radar until the draft process started. The evaluators noticed how well-rounded a player is was and the buzz for his services shot him up draft boards and got him drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Buccaneers had the 30th ranked rush offense last season so they went out and spent some major coin to fix it. LeGarrette Blount’s in the doghouse and Doug is the favorite to begin the season as a starter. Tampa Bay signed Carl Nicks away from the Saints, re-signed Davin Joseph and installed a power run scheme to take advantage of all that beef on the offensive line. They added Vincent Jackson and Dallas Clark for a bigger threat in the pass game. All of those tweaks on the offensive side of the ball give Doug Martin a good shot at being successful in his rookie season.
There’s another famous Martin that the fantasy community hopes he resembles. Curtis Martin. During his 1995 rookie season, he ran for 1487 yards, had 30 catches and had 15 total touchdowns. Let everyone else reach for Trent Richardson. Sneak in a round or two later and grab Doug. He’s got the better situation and the better supporting cast.
*Yes, that was a Doug reference from Nickelodeon. You know you love it.
“You can’t tackle him….. He makes people miss. He knows how to cut [and] and he knows when to cut.” – head coach Mike Shanahan
“He just has a knack for finding the right hole. He’s a very natural running back, he does it with ease. He doesn’t have to press the situation. He just really slow plays it and gets to the gap. He goes one gap at a time and it doesn’t look real flashy. Usually when you’re like that, you’re going to be a good yards-per-carry guy.” – offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan
“He has a little wiggle to him, maybe the best wiggle of anybody in our running back group. That helps him make people miss and get a little space” – head coach Mike Shanahan
Royster had 2 good games to finish the 2011, running for 100 yards in both games and contributing to the pass game with 3.5 catches a game. Tim Hightower’s is still recovering from ACL surgery so he won’t be a factor until his knee heals. Roy Helu has the most talent and burst for that position but Royster has the head coach and offensive coordinator’s attention. That has to mean something. RGIII is going to need a good run game behind him to help lead that team out of the NFC East basement and the zone blocking scheme suits Royster’s skill set very well.
Many fantasy owners have been plagued by Mike Shanahan’s depth chart management in recent years. You go out and draft what you think is a clear cut RB1 and in 4 weeks, your guy is demoted because Shanahan’s in love with the 3rd stringer’s potential in the offense.
The only advice I’m offering here is if your draft strategy ends up compromised and Royster is there, give him some consideration. At best, you’ve got a starter at a good value and potential trade bait. At worst, he’s a late round pick that you can cut for help at other positions.
“I think the guy has the skill set to play on all three downs. One of the things that stood out to me more than anything is his ability to pass protect” – head coach Mike Smith
“Rodgers has a chance to bring a new element to the offense, and that's what a team trying to get over a big hurdle -- winning a playoff game -- is looking for. “
“I’m almost certain they have big plans for second-year pro , Jacquizz Rodgers and I think those plans might be a lot bigger than people realize” – Pat Yasinskas, ESPN.com
Jacquizz, a 5th round draft pick, didn’t see the field much in 2011. He spelled Michael Turner on occasion only rushing the ball 57 times for 3.6 yards per carry. He was drafted to be a change of pace back but in Mike Mularkey’s offense, he never got the chance to do much changing of the pace.
However, this new offense being brought in by Dirk Koetter, is set on opening up the offense. In order to keep up with the Saints, the switch from a run dominated offense to a spread offense makes some sense. The Falcons want to take advantage of their playmakers on offense and Jacquizz is one of the ones they plan on utilizing.
Michael Turner will be the goal line back but between the 20s, the Falcons need someone to dump the ball off to in the flat or out in space as a satellite player and Rodgers is the man for the job. Turner has stone hands, no burst and won’t play on passing downs.
So keep an eye on Rodgers. He could be a poor man’s Darren Sproles for your team that you can snatch up after round 10.
“Decker's a potential star trolling the middle, sure to be among the league leaders in receptions if healthy for 16 games…” – Peter King, SI.com
“Too bad for Peyton Manning and Eric Decker the regular season is still six weeks away. The quarterback and receiver are working together like they were ready yesterday” – Mike Klis, Denver Post
“Manning is clearly impressed with third-year receiver Eric Decker. Manning called Decker the “veteran” of the receivers group and spoke highly of him. Manning said the coaching staff wants to move Decker around and use him in several different ways” – Bill Williamson, ESPN.com
Eric had an impressive start to his 2011 season, amassing 4TDs in the 1st weeks with Kyle Orton at the helm. But Denver sent Orton packing, activated the Tebow Initiative and Decker’s production suffered because of it. His numbers didn’t suffer too much early on but the TDs dried up after week 13 and the opportunities for catches dried up.
In the offseason, Peyton Manning was brought on board by John Elway and the Denver front office. Any enthusiasm the city felt by bringing in a 4 time NFL MVP to town trickled down to the fantasy masses drooling about the potential of the Denver pass game. There is PLENTY of skepticism concerning Peyton’s recovery from neck surgery but it’s practically impossible NOT to want to be in on that passing game if it clicks like we know a Peyton Manning led offense can click.
Decker stands to be a major beneficiary. He’s 6’3”, has decent quicks, good hands and runs good routes. He’s already clicking with Peyton and could be PPR gold. He will make a solid WR2 on anyone’s team with plenty of potential upside to score like a WR1.
“Cobb will be "impossible to keep off the field" in his second year. "Versatility. Can do everything," - Green Bay Press-Gazette
“If Cobb's snaps increase at Driver's expense, the Packers offense will add another explosive element in the form of a Percy Harvin-like open-field talent.” – Rotoworld
“His value as a returner cannot be underestimated, but coach Mike McCarthy must strongly consider using Cobb more on offense in 2012. He moves in and out of cuts fast, displays reliable hands and has breakaway speed after the catch.” – Tyler Dunne, The Journal Sentinel
During the week 1 shootout between the Packers and Saints. Randall Cobb scored twice, once on a 32 yard strike from Aaron Rodgers and on an impressive 108 yard kick-off return. The hype about Randall after that game was borderline insane. Fantasy experts urged that you pick him up right away. The idea was to get in early because of his skill set and the explosive nature of the Green Bay offense but everybody jumped the gun on that one. Cobb went on to be a valuable part in the return game but his offensive production was minimal.
The buzz is still there this season but the circumstances have changed a bit. Even with the return of Donald Driver, Cobb figures to be the main slot guy this season. The Green Bay run game still has its question marks so Rodgers throwing the ball will be a major part of the offense.
With an entire offseason under his belt, Cobb has a better grasp on the offense now than he did last year. With an increased amount of snaps, the targets will also increase, giving him a shot to be twice as effective. He’ll be a valuable WR4 next season with upside to be a WR3 due to his role on special teams.
“He looks like he's been playing with quarterback Tom Brady for a decade, the two hooking up on some long pass plays that have produced loud roars from the crowd.’ – Mike Reiss, ESPN.com
“Whether it was a one-handed catch, a quick burst down the sideline, or going up in traffic to grab the ball, Brandon Lloyd has routinely provided moments during offseason workouts that cause spectators to step back and take notice of his presence.” – Nick Underhill, MassLive.com
“He’s got great ball skills and great body control……If you get it near him, he’s going to catch it.” – teammate Tom Brady
Lloyd will be playing Randy Moss’ position in this offense. Remember what Randy did back in 2007? Yeah, I knew that might get your attention…
He’s playing with Tom Brady and running the routes drawn up by Josh McDaniels, the coordinator responsible for both the number one passing offense that Patriots had in 2007 AND Lloyd’s career year in receiving in 2010.
There are a lot of proverbial mouths to feed on this offense but do not forget Lloyd when draft day rolls around. He’s an exceptional route runner, has great hands, very good body control and can make tough catches with the best of them. The fact that he knows the playbook as well as he does only helps his cause.
Brady is going to be chucking the ball often in this offense and Lloyd will get his fair share of targets, whether they be deep routes over the middle or fades at the goal line He can be a good WR1 but he’d be a great WR2.
“He’s going to be the best tight end in the NFL this year….The best. You can’t guard him … I know there are a lot good tight ends coming up in the league, but Antonio is the best. He looks that good. He hasn’t looked this good since my rookie season” – teammate Eric Weddle
“He is in shape. He looks skinny. He was burning cornerbacks left and right in practice. ... He is feeling healthier now than he's been in a couple of years. He is really looking like he's primed for a big, big season." -Ian Rapoport, NFL Network
“Antonio Gates running with no limp after a 2011 season spent with constant foot pain, and smiling almost every time he took his helmet off, and saying afterward, "I appreciate my health so much now that I've got it back." – Peter King, SI.com
From 2004 to 2009, whenever there was talk about the best TE in the game, Antonio’s name always came up. His numbers resembled those of a number one receiver. The stats he put up plus his consistency got him numerous trips to the Pro Bowl and plenty of accolades.
In 2008, he underwent surgery for a turf toe injury sustained in the playoffs but he wasn’t the same. The tough minded TE gutted it out through turf toe, a twisted ankle and recurring plantar fasciitis the next few seasons, limiting his explosiveness on the field and effectiveness in the fantasy realm.
This year should be interesting for Gates. His feet are reportedly healthier than they’ve been in years and if that’s the case, he should be picked early in many drafts this year. He is the first read in the San Diego passing offense now that Vincent Jackson has taken his talents to Tampa Bay. With the potential of an improved run game and an improvement in Philip Rivers accuracy, Gates should be able to get back his chain moving, TD scoring self this season. Give him your full attention.
“After practice, quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Aaron Hernandez stayed after for some extra work, with Brady handing the ball off to Hernandez. “ – Mike Reiss, ESPN.com
“I found myself unable to look away from him during several sessions. He simply stood out above the pack and seems to already be showing improvement from his sophomore season.” – Nick Underhill, MassLive.com
“Meanwhile, fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez looks explosive. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is going to have fun finding ways to get the football in his hands, and even special-teams coach Scott O'Brien has gotten into the mix, seeing how Hernandez looks as a punt returner.” – Mike Reiss, ESPN.com
Aaron Hernandez had a very good 2011 season. 79 catches, 910 yards and 7 TDs good. Heavily targeted by Tom Brady, the fleet of foot tight end took advantage of mismatches all over the field. Whenever defenses looked to take Gronkowski away (however infrequent that was!), Hernandez was the man who benefited. He was heavily targeted in the redzone and was the best move tight end in the game.
Josh McDaniels came over to the team as an offensive consultant right before the playoffs. Next thing you know, those tricky Pats introduced a new wrinkle to their offense, lining up Hernandez in the backfield as an H-back and letting operate from there to great success.
Hernandez should be a great option early on while Rob Gronkowski gets back to form after offseason ankle surgery. Aaron is amongst the best in the league as a fantasy TE, and his ability to line up at multiple positions will get him more opportunities for touches and targets, which what we all look for in a player. If grabbing a very good tight end in the first 4-5 rounds is your thing, give Aaron a look.
” QB Christian Ponder is not afraid to look Rudolph’s way, and until someone finds a way to slow the 6-6, 258-pound beast, he’s going to keep catching passes.” -Mike Wobschall, Vikings Blog
“Kyle Rudolph is in many ways a perfect target for a young quarterback who could use a security blanket in the early stages of his development. Quarterback Christian Ponder will look often for play-making wide receiver Percy Harvin this season, I'm sure, but I wouldn't be surprised in the least if Rudolph finishes the season as his most frequent target. “ – Kevin Seifert, ESPN.com
“…tight end Kyle Rudolph has 10-foot fishing nets for hands.” –Mark Craig, Star Tribune
The Viking passing offense isn’t known as an explosive one where receivers are streaking down the field like the St. Louis Rams of old. It was in the bottom third of the league in many categories last year but I’m here to shine a light on a potential steal late in your draft. Kyle Rudolph.
There are plenty of opportunities for Rudolph to make waves this season. Visanthe Shiancoe, the guy who topped the depth chart last year, is now the 3rd string TE on the Patriots. His backup, John Carlson, is already hurt with an MCL sprain and Jerome Simpson, their #2 receiver, is suspended for 3 games to start the season. His lack of competition for targets on this team should ensure him a ton of opportunities to rack up some catches, TDs and sneaky production on your fantasy team.
Will he be a top 5 guy in this league? I'm not saying that. But if the strategy is to wait until the later rounds for a TE and you’re in a deep league (12 teams +), put an asterisk next to Rudolph’s name. He’s got good chemistry with Christian Ponder and his height makes him an ideal red zone target. The fantasy game is all about opportunity and he’ll definitely have that this upcoming season.
Listen & subscribe to our Pyro® Weekly Podcasts: http://pyromaniac.buzzsprout.com
Follow Pyro® on Twitter: https://twitter.com/pyroman1ac
Like us on Facebook: http://facebook.com/pyromaniac