AFC East Training Camp Preview
Is there a bigger mess for fantasy football players than the Bills? No clear cut QB. No clear cut RB. No clear cut TE, and only 1 WR of note. Trent Edwards is likely to be the starting QB, but he will battle Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm during the preseason, with none of them looking like viable fantasy options even as a backup. Fred Jackson should be the primary RB, but the Bills didn’t draft C.J. Spiller to not get him at least 10 touches per game, and probably closer to 15. While Marshawn Lynch is speculated to be traded before the season starts, he is also in the mix at RB and did rush for over 1,000 yards in both 2007 and 2008 while combining for 16 touchdowns. Jackson should be the primary with Spiller the #2, but nothing is written in stone. At WR, Lee Evans is the only star, but he has proven he isn’t a true NFL #1 WR. At least he is a sure starter though as the other WR position is a battle between Steve Johnson, James Hardy, Chad Jackson, and rookie Marcus Easley. None of them inspire confidence, especially considering the QB situation. Shawn Nelson should be the starting TE over Derek Schouman. Nelson is a good pass catcher, but is limited by the QB’s too and has a low fantasy upside. Rian Lindell is the kicker, and while he is good, the lack of offensive talent makes him no better than a backup for fantasy purposes.
Chad Henne is the unquestioned starting QB and has fantasy football sleeper written all over him after a strong finish to the 2009 season. The RB situation is one to watch closely. Ronnie Brown is the starter, but is coming off foot surgery that ended his 2009 season prematurely. Brown also has a DUI case pending in September. When healthy, Brown has been a solid fantasy performer though. Ricky Williams stepped in last season and had an outstanding season and is more than capable of being the primary RB if called upon. Patrick Cobbs, Lex Hilliard, and Kory Sheets will battle for 3rd RB spot and either could be worth keeping an eye on if Brown’s injury or legal situation becomes a concern. Brandon Marshall steps in and provides a legitimate #1 WR for Henne. His recovery from hip surgery is expected to be complete by training camp. Brian Hartline will battle for the other starting spot at WR with Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo. Hartline has the highest upside of the group and should win it. If he does, he would be draft worthy as a WR4/5 in fantasy. Bess and Camarillo both lack speed and playmaking ability, but both sport sure hands and if one of them were to beat out Hartline, they could be viable in PPR formats. Patrick Turner has been a disappointment and barring a great preseason, he is likely to be no better than the 5th WR. TE Anthony Fasano should hold onto the starting job, but he disappointed in 2009 and he is no better than a fantasy backup. Joey Haynos is his likely backup. Dan Carpenter has entrenched himself as the kicker and with an improved offense, he is a viable option in fantasy.
New England Patriots
Tom Brady looks to be back and strong as ever as the starting QB after getting through 2009 without any setbacks. Brian Hoyer is his backup. This is a make or break year for RB Laurence Maroney. Unless he really steps up his game, he will be mired in another season of RBBC with Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, and Kevin Faulk. Faulk is unlikely to have any bigger role than he has in years past, but one of the other 3 could have a legitimate chance to be the primary RB if they can shine in training camp. But the past couple of seasons, the Patriots have played musical RB’s and could do so again in 2010. Randy Moss is an elite WR, but the guy to keep an eye on is Wes Welker. He tore up a knee in January and depending on how it responds in training camp will show whether he ends up on the Physically Unable to Perform list to start the season. If he goes on the PUP list, he’ll likely miss the first half of the season. Some reports say he could be ready by the start of the season though. If he isn’t ready, Julian Edelman and Torry Holt are the most likely candidates to replace him in the starting lineup. There’s an outside chance second year WR Brandon Tate or rookie Taylor Price could sneak in there, but they’re more likely to battle with Sam Aiken, David Patten, and Matthew Slater for the remaining 2 or 3 WR spots. Rookies Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will battle Alge Crumpler for the starting TE job. Crumpler is more of a blocker at this point in his career while Hernandez needs to show maturity to match his pass catching ability. Gronkowski is more of a complete TE than either and if he shows good hands, he could be the starter. It’s not likely any of the TE’s will get enough passes thrown their way to be more than mediocre backups in fantasy though. Stephen Gostkowski is one of the best kickers in the league and with a potent offense, he is a solid fantasy option.
New York Jets
Mark Sanchez is the show at QB with Kellen Clemens amazingly still the backup. How bad must Erik Ainge and Kevin O’Connell be for Clemens to still be the top backup? We’ll see if either step up and challenges Clemens so the Jets have a legitimate backup to Sanchez. The acquisition of LaDainian Tomlinson has many speculating that Shonn Greene may not be a true workhorse, but unless LT really shows he has some impressive skills left in training camp, Greene will bear the load with LT being only a 3rd down RB and occasional goal line substitute. There’s a chance that LT may show well and affect Greene’s status as a good RB1 for fantasy, but it’s also possible that if rookie Joe McKnight shows well in training camp, he could push LT for 3rd down RB duties. Danny Woodhead and Chauncey Washington will try to push McKnight for the 3rd RB spot. WR’s Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards are the starters, but Holmes will miss the first 4 games while serving a suspension so Jerricho Cotchery will start until then, and then he will move into the 3rd WR role when Holmes comes back. Brad Smith and David Clowney round out the top 5 WR’s, but could be pushed by Aundrae Allison. However, other than Holmes, Edwards, and Cotchery, there is no potential fantasy value. Dustin Keller is the starting TE and despite a disappointing regular season in 2009, he and Sanchez really started to click in the post-season and it’s expected Keller is a prime fantasy football sleeper at TE in 2010. Keller isn’t the best blocker though, so his backup is blocking specialist Ben Hartsock. Nick Folk is the only kicker currently on the roster and is expected to be the guy, but he struggled last season and unless he is crisp in training camp, the Jets could look elsewhere.