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Obviously things change fast in training camp, so keep up-to-date with incoming news, but this is where we stand currently.
· Isaiah Pead – The St. Louis Rams drafted Pead because they needed a backup behind the old and often injured Steven Jackson. Pead will only be a change-of-pace back initially, but make no mistake – the Rams believe he’ll eventually be Jackson’s successor. Jeff Fisher, the Rams’ new head coach, previously drafted Chris Johnson and saw similar numbers between the two: both had 197-pound combine weigh-ins and both ran 10-yard splits in the 1.4s. Don’t forget that Jackson has 485 more carries than any other active starting running back ...
· Rueben Randle – An intriguing wide receiver out of LSU, New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese has compared Randle’s game to new teammate Hakeem Nicks. He’s got all the speed and talent to exploit the single coverage he’ll get because of Nicks and Victor Cruz. The only question is if there will be enough to go around. But don’t forget about him in the late rounds – Tom Coughlin was quoted as saying Randle is “pro-ready.”
· Doug Martin – After trading up to the 31st slot to select running back Doug Martin, there is little doubt in my mind that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers expect Martin to handle most of the touches out of the backfield. Martin is much more talented than LeGarrette Blount, who showed last year he doesn’t have what it takes to be an all-around NFL running back. Martin is capable of many things Blount just cannot do, showing big-play ability and above-average skills as both a pass-catcher and a pass-protector. Expect Blount to steal carries and goal-line duties, but there’s no reason he can’t produce immediately in points per reception leagues.
· Trent Richardson – I’ll start out by saying I’ve previously been destroyed by rookie running backs and hate drafting them, but this guy is too good to pass up. The best all-around talent at the running back position since Adrian Peterson, Richardson is a dynamic talent with little competition. One of the rules in fantasy is that talent prevails – remember Peterson’s rookie year, Maurice Jones-Drew’s rookie year, Chris Johnson, Matt Forte. On a terrible offense, he could surpass 300 carries. If Peyton Hillis can amass 1,654 total yards and 13 touchdowns on the Cleveland Browns, there’s no reason that Richardson can’t. You’re going to have to spend a high pick on him, but his potential is off the charts.
· Alshon Jeffery – At 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds, Jeffery has NFL size but he’s still extremely raw. Jeffery is more of a deep-sleeper. A lot has been said about his great hands, but with Brandon Marshall, Devin Hester and Earl Bennett in the mix, he’ll need an injury to become significant.
· Brian Quick – Another young wide receiver with size, the St. Louis Rams drafted Quick with the 33rd pick. Analyst Greg Cosell says Quick has a chance to be the best receiver in the 2012 draft class, and Rams’ wide receivers coach Ray Sherman compared the youngster to Terrell Owens. Some draft evaluators saw the pick as a reach, but he’s expected to immediately step in as the club’s No. 1 wideout. Sam Bradford is a good enough quarterback to get him the ball, and over the past few years, rookie wide receivers have thrived (A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Mike Williams ...). He could very possibly be this year’s guy – just don’t reach for him over a proven talent.
· Titus Young – After finishing last year with at least four catches and four touchdowns in his last four games, there are signs of a breakout for Young. There’s no reason to worry about pass attempts because the Detroit Lions have done little to improve their weak rushing attack, and with Calvin Johnson on the opposite side, the defense already has someone to key in on. You’ll have to pay attention to early training camp reports and preseason to see how he’s doing, but the opportunity is certainly there.
· Roy Helu – After rushing for at least 100 yards in three straight weeks last season, Washington Redskins head coach Shanahan cannot question Helu’s overall talent. Shanahan even complemented his ability to “... not get worn down ...,” and with Robert Griffin III coming to town, a huge breakout is certainly possible. We’ve all seen how the rushing ability of Michael Vick and Tim Tebow opened up holes for LeSean McCoy and Willis McGahee, and there’s no reason the same won’t be true for Helu. Helu already showed he’s extremely talented, especially in points per reception leagues; this may be just what he needs to be great. The problem here is Evan Royster, who finished with 312 total yards in the last two games of the season. Pay attention to the early season reports – big potential here though.
· Rashad Jennings – Jennings was hyped last offseason for being the handcuff of the often-injured Maurice Jones-Drew. Fast-forward to this season and it was Jennings who got hurt while Jones-Drew amassed 386 touches. That said, injuries are a big part of fantasy football, and after last season there’s even more reason to believe Jones-Drew won’t survive the season. Jennings is now fully healed, and if Jones-Drew does get injured, the talented Jennings will benefit.
· Leonard Hankerson – After only starting two games last season, Hankerson flew under the radar. However, he showed special talent and his upside makes him an intriguing late-round flier. He’s still recovering from hip surgery but is expected to be Washington’s No. 2 wide receiver. And the addition of Robert Griffin III only helps.
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