SUPER Early Training Camp Notes
Jul 31, 2013
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My friends, the hour is finally upon us. With NFL training camps open and in full swing, we finally have actual on-the-field news and notes to discuss. No more Aaron Hernandez. No more Tony Romo gaining eight pounds in the offseason. No more Colin Kaepernick “Swag-gate” fallout. I for one am overjoyed that the 2013 season has started and that fantasy draft days everywhere are closing in.
Even though training camps have only been officially open for a few days, the fantasy world is buzzing with many big stories and headlines. Key injuries as well as players stepping up and proving their worth will all have an effect on what happens come September when the games start to count for real. Paying attention to early camp developments can put you a step ahead in your league. So without further ado, these are the breaking stories that fantasy football owners need to pay attention to in the first week of training camp.
Arian Foster has has found himself on the Physically Unable to Perform list early in camp. The Texans are downplaying the injury as nothing severe and more of a precautionary move. However, it still should be cause for some concern. We heard about Foster’s calf strain suffered in organized team activities which was also downplayed as nothing serious. Rumors of the Texans possibly scaling back his carries (a probable uptick for Ben Tate) have been swirling this offseason, and this injury will probably only add gas to the fire. I am in no way advocating drafters to let Foster slip out of the top-5. Unless this injury progresses into something much more serious, Foster will get his numbers and get you your points.
As if there hadn’t already been enough spotlight thrown onto Robert Griffin III this offseason concerning his surgically repaired knee, news that the Washington Redskins plan on not playing him at all in the preseason has the talking heads weighing in left and right. I am firmly entrenched in the camp that believes the preseason is vastly overrated. For rookies and guys on the roster bubble, it means everything. But for veterans and players who are guaranteed a roster spot come September, the risks associated with playing in games that don’t count far outweigh the rewards.
Griffin III falls into the latter category. If I were a Redskins fan I would be jumping for joy after hearing this news. While it’s true you cannot simulate game speed by only running drills with no contact, the way that Griffin III burst onto the scene in 2012 makes me a believer that he has the physical ability (with the only question mark being his repaired knee) and the mental capacity to step in Week 1 and be productive. His knee is the only thing keeping Griffin III out of the top-5 fantasy quarterbacks, a level he still may reach in 2013 if all goes well. The news regarding no preseason action for Griffin III should not affect your willingness to draft him in the middle rounds. If anything, it should be encouraging that he will have another month to get healthy.
It seems that every two years or so, Peyton Hillis pops his head out from whatever rock he’s been hiding under and sends waves through the fantasy football landscape. On Tuesday, he made his latest appearance in Tampa Bay. When his signing was announced on Tuesday, some immediately started to doubt Doug Martin’s role in the Buccaneers offense. I call shenanigans! Martin is the unquestioned centerpiece of Tampa Bay’s offense and Hillis’ arrival will do little to change that.
Following his breakout 2010 season in Cleveland that landed him on the cover of Madden (only further proof of the validity of the curse), Hillis disappeared. He missed nine games the past two seasons while posting a measly 3.6 yards per carry. It would take a Madonna-like revival for Hillis to become fantasy relevant again, and I for one don’t see that coming. Competition is rarely ever a bad thing, and this will more than likely push Martin to work harder, only adding to his fantasy value. Hillis will get carries to occasionally spell Martin, but don’t look for Martin’s production to dip very much because of it.
On a more positive note, two players who should be drafted in the first two rounds of every fantasy draft, Cleveland running back Trent Richardson and Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant, have been building favorable momentum early on in camp.
I am an unabashed fan of Trent Richardson. He is a rare example of a true three down back that is the absolute focus of his team’s offense. Even though there are injury concerns and a new offensive coordinator in town, when I see Richardson’s name, I think reliability. News regarding his injured shin has been positive this offseason and offensive coordinator Norv Turner wants to give his star running back 300-plus carries. On Day 1 of Browns training camp on Thursday, Richardson was a full participant, apparently not showing any signs of being hurt. Richardson can easily be the cornerstone of your fantasy team. The good vibes coming out of Browns camp should only increase your faith in the Alabama alum.
Normally, when Dez Bryant made news in the offseason, there was a good chance it was negative. In 2013, however, Bryant has been staying on the right side of the tracks. Rave reviews from early camp workouts have been flooding the internet, solidifying Bryant as the No. 2 fantasy wide receiver behind Calvin Johnson. If he can combine his obvious physical gifts with this newfound mental maturity, the sky is the limit for what he can do in 2013. In a time where very few experts advocate taking a wide receiver other than Calvin Johnson in Round 1, Bryant is making a strong case for himself and may change some minds.
As camps progress and preseason games begin, the storylines are sure to multiply and intensify. Position battles will become clearer, injuries will most likely occur, and stars will emerge. Wise fantasy owners should pay close attention. Just as NFL teams are made in the preseason, the same can be said for fantasy teams.