AFC West Quarterback Preview

Well, there's Peyton Manning at least!

If not for Peyton Manning, the AFC West could contend for having the worst QB's for fantasy purposes in 2013. Manning is the only fantasy starter from this division. There are two others who could be good fantasy backups, but Philip Rivers is a huge question mark after a poor 2012 season and I'm going to need to see Alex Smith not just manage games, but put up some stats doing it before he's more than a low end fantasy backup. As for the Raiders? They'll contend with Jacksonville and the New York Jets for having the worst fantasy QB options in 2013.
Denver Broncos
Starter: Peyton Manning
Backup: Brock Osweiler
Outside of the impressive play of the rookie QB's there couldn't have been a bigger surprise at the QB position than Manning in 2012. Manning answered all concerns about how well he'd return from the neck issues that caused him to miss the 2011 season. His 4,659 passing yards, 37 TD's, and 68.6 completion percentage were the second highest of his storied career in those categories. While the combination of the neck injury and his age (37) have reduced his arm strength from what it used to be, he more than makes up for it with his accuracy and smarts. With DeMaryius Thomas, Eric Decker in a second season with him in the system, along with the addition of Wes Welker, it should mean another stellar campaign from Peyton in 2013. Osweiler reportedly is progressing as his backup.
Kansas City Chiefs
Starter: Alex Smith
Backup: Chase Daniel
We're going to find out a lot about Smith in 2013. Andy Reid has always had a prolific passing attack and Smith will be his starting QB in Kansas City. While in San Francisco, Smith developed into a strong game manager type of QB but was never really a strong statistical performer. There is some upside here for Smith as I think he fits Reid's style. Smith is likely to be undervalued as a fantasy backup because of his prior low statistical production but I think he is a safe backup fantasy QB with enough upside to be a competent starter if he clicks with both the weapons in Kansas City and the new offensive system. Daniel is an intriguing backup who never got much game action as Drew Brees backup in New Orleans.
Oakland Raiders
Starter: Matt Flynn
Backup: Tyler Wilson, Terrelle Pryor, Matt McGloin
Flynn is expected to be the starter for Oakland week 1. Flynn isn't a superior talent and while he is remembered for a couple of great statistical games in Green Bay, he isn't surrounded by nearly the same talent in Oakland. At best Flynn will be a mediocre backup fantasy QB in 2013 and there's a chance that if he fails to get wins or has a couple of poor games, he could lose the starting job to rookie Tyler Wilson. I'd stay away from Flynn on draft day. Wilson is likely to be the top backup as Terrelle Pryor has been awful both in games and practices, and McGloin (an undrafted rookie) is only mentioned here because of the weakness of the talent at this position in Oakland. I would avoid all Oakland QB's.
San Diego Chargers
Starter: Phillip Rivers
Backup: Charlie Whitehurst
Rivers clearly regressed in 2012. For the first time since 2007 he failed to reach 4,000 passing yards and 27 passing TD's. There is speculation that he's lost some arm strength and that his career is on a rapid decline. I'm not ready to throw in the towel yet though on a 31 year old player who put up a combined 17,592 passing yards and 119 passing TD's from 2008-2011. Hopefully having healthy improving WR's will help him out in 2013. While head coach Mike McCoy is known for his work with QB's, new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is not. A poor offensive line and inconsistent running game could hurt as well. Rivers has proven to be very good in the past, but I don't see a return to glory in 2013. However, I will give him the benefit of the doubt to be better than he was in 2012. Consider him a risk/reward type of fantasy backup. And we've seen enough of Whitehurst to know he would be pretty miserable if he were to get any game action.


NFC West Quarterback Preview

Lots of potential from these 4 but only one definite starter from the division

Possibly no division in the NFL provides such a diverse amount of opinions on the fantasy potential of the quarterbacks as the NFC West. You can find analysts who love each QB for fantasy purposes and other analysts who don't buy in. Myself? I think there is only one definite starting fantasy QB and the other 3 all have excellent upside, but also have enough questions to make them dicey as more than top potential fantasy backups.  
Arizona Cardinals
Starter: Carson Palmer
Backup: Drew Stanton
If Palmer truly does still have the arm strength he used to have then he could surprise in 2013 as the Cardinals starting QB. New Cards Coach Bruce Arians has a definite aggressive, vertical offensive style that has proven capable of putting up big numbers from QB's. But I worry that Palmer's arm may not be what is used to and I also question how well an eleven year veteran near the end of his career will hold up if the Cardinals offensive line doesn't show dramatic improvement. But the weapons are there for Palmer to succeed if he can stay upright and show his arm is still able to whip the ball all over the field. A high upside backup fantasy QB in 2013, but also one that comes with considerable risk as well. I was intrigued by Stanton before the Palmer signing as Stanton has a big time arm, but is marked by accuracy issues. Coming from Indianapolis with Arians, at least Stanton knows the system and could surprise with some good games if he was needed, but he could also bomb.
St. Louis Rams
Starter: Sam Bradford
Backup: Austin Davis
While there is a lot of enthusiasm regarding Bradford's new weapons in St. Louis, I think it's unrealistic to expect a major jump up in statistical production. Especially since the Rams lost Steven Jackson in free agency and have no proven rushing attack to support him. I think it may take another year before Bradford starts to become reliable for quality fantasy production on a week to week basis and that's more an indictment of the youth of the weapons he has to throw to more than any lack of talent he possesses himself. One thing Bradford does have is job stability. For 2013, I think of him as being a capable fantasy backup QB with a high upside if his young WR's and new TE gel quicker than I expect. The Rams anointed former undrafted free agent and second year player Austin Davis as the backup to Bradford. While reports on Davis say he looks good, I would seriously worry about his chances to be effective since he has zero regular season game experience. That could explain why they re-signed last season's ineffective backup, Kellen Clemens.
San Francisco 49ers
Starter: Colin Kaepernick
Backup: Colt McCoy
Things were looking a lot better for Kaepernick before Michael Crabtree tore his right Achilles tendon on May 21st. Crabtree and Kaepernick clicked last season when Kaepernick took over and a big 2013 season for both was widely expected. The loss of Crabtree hurts, but Kaepernick proved to be capable as a quarterback and he and his WR's will have plenty of time to get to know each other in training camp. But Kaepernick is also a huge threat rushing as well. In 2012 he was 4th in rushing yards and tied for 3rd in rushing TD's for QB's despite only starting 7 games and not even playing a snap in 3 games. His 181 rushing yards in the playoff game vs. Green Bay were most ever by a QB in a single game. Kaepernick is an exciting young QB who if not for the injury to Crabtree would be in the top 5 of 2013 fantasy football rankings. Even with the loss of Crabtree, imagining Kaepernick with around 3,500 passing yards, 800+ rushing yards, and flirting with close to 30 total TD's isn't that far-fetched. McCoy was acquired from Cleveland to be the new backup and while McCoy is limited as a passer, he could be worth keeping an eye on during preseason in the 49ers offense.
Seattle Seahawks
Starter: Russell Wilson
Backup: Tarvaris Jackson, Brady Quinn
Wilson is one of those guys I'm concerned about having a sophomore slump in 2013. I fully expect his passing yardage total to go up in 2013 (he threw for only 3,118 yards in 2012), but after having a 26-10 TD-INT ratio as a rookie, I wonder if he is really going to be everything expected of him after having that type of unexpected success. Also, it remains to be seen if the Seahawks will transition into more of a passing team after their rushing attack has proven so capable of carrying them offensively. But there's no denying that Wilson flashed some skills to be a capable fantasy QB as a rookie. His 489 rushing yards were 3rd best for QB's and that adds value to him. I'd be very uncomfortable with him as a starting fantasy QB, but happy to have his high upside as a backup. Tarvaris Jackson was brought back to compete to be his backup after the Seahawks saw Brady Quinn in the early OTA's. Neither Jackson nor Quinn have successful track records.  


AFC South Quarterback Preview

The AFC South division is lacking in potential starting fantasy quarterbacks, except for one team. Other than the Colts, it's hard to feel good about having any of the other three team's signal callers as regulars in starting fantasy lineups in 2013. In the Texans you have a steady veteran who can fill in and produce enough points for a few games if needed; while in Tennessee, this is a make or break season for Jake Locker. He has the supporting cast and just needs to show he was worth the first round pick the Titans spent on him a couple of seasons ago. As for Jacksonville? Just avoid the Jags quarterback situation if you can.
Houston Texans
Starter: Matt Schaub
Backup: T.J. Yates
Schaub is one of the better backup fantasy QB's as he has the ability to put up the occasional huge game and rarely has an outright stinker. More often than not he is middle of the road mediocre. He has a better complimentary WR opposite Andre Johnson for the first time in a long time in rookie DeAndre Hopkins, but the Texans are a run first team with Arian Foster. As long as you aren't counting on Schaub to be more than a spot starter during the season, he makes a fine fantasy backup you can try to trade after he has one of those big statistical games. But if you're hoping he can lead you to a championship, you're going to be disappointed. Yates is a good backup to Schaub as he has a lot of the same qualities. But they aren't qualities that will win you a fantasy championship.
Indianapolis Colts
Starter: Andrew Luck
Backup: Matt Hasselbeck
Luck was better than advertised as a rookie throwing for over 4,000 yards and posting a 23-18 TD-INT ratio. Make no mistake, it was Luck who made his stable of weapons look better rather than the other way around. He may miss Bruce Arians aggressive vertical style passing attack, but should have no trouble in the new system as his new OC (Pep Hamilton) was the OC at Stanford Luck's final year in college. The transition should be fairly seamless. I expect Luck to throw for over 4,000 yards again in 2013 while improving his TD totals to close to 30. There's always concern with a young QB and whether he will be all that he is expected to be, but in Luck, I buy into it and think him among the low end fantasy starting QB's and a terrific fantasy backup. Hasselbeck probably has just enough left in his tank to contribute if needed, but by signing with the Colts it appears he has moved on to the final chapter of his career as the backup and veteran sounding board to the Colts future superstar Luck.
Jacksonville Jaguars
Starter: Blaine Gabbert (projected)
Backup: Chad Henne
No matter who wins this job it is a poor bet for fantasy production. Latest reports say that it is Gabbert's job to lose and I believe that as I expect the Jags will give Gabbert one more chance to show marked improvement as a starting QB before pulling the plug on the former 1st round draft pick. That said, with the exception of a 354 passing yards, 4 TD performance in week 11, Henne was no more effective than Gabbert last season. Neither QB is to be trusted for fantasy purposes unless monumental improvement is shown early in the season by Gabbert. Considering he'll be without WR Justin Blackmon the first four games of the season, it's hard to buy into a great start for Gabbert. I expect both QB's will make starts for Jacksonville in 2013, but it's likely neither should make any starts for fantasy teams.  
Tennessee Titans
Starter: Jake Locker
Backup: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Locker's shoulder is expected to be fully healed by the start of training camp and he is expected to be fine. But this is a make or break season for the talented, yet erratic thrower as the Titans upgraded their backup QB by signing Ryan Fitzpatrick. Locker needs to produce in 2013 but I'm not sold on his capabilities. There are weapons at his disposal in Tennessee, but the Titans have the feel of a dysfunctional team in 2013 where wins will be few and statistical production will be erratic from the players. There is some upside, but there is also a lot of risk with Locker as a backup fantasy QB. If Locker can't get the job done or can't stay healthy, Fitzpatrick could see time in 2013. Fitzpatrick has had some modest success the last couple of seasons in Buffalo as a fantasy QB early in seasons, but his weak arm gets exposed once the weather turns cold and his numbers drop sharply.


NFC South Quarterback Preview

Division boasts 3 of the top 10 Fantasy QB's for 2013

Hands down, the NFC South has the best group of starting quarterbacks for fantasy football purposes of any division in the entire NFL. It's not even close. The division boasts 3 of fantasy's top 10 QB's heading in 2013 fantasy football drafts, and the 4th QB has as high an upside as any other fantasy backup.
Atlanta Falcons
Starter: Matt Ryan
Backup: Dominique Davis
While the addition of RB Steven Jackson should provide the Falcons with a better rushing attack, I don't expect much of a drop from the 4,719 passing yards and 32 TD's Ryan posted in 2012. In fact, the numbers may not drop at all, and could possibly increase now that there is a RB in Atlanta opponents have to respect. With WR Julio Jones likely to take another step up in his development and the return of TE Tony Gonzalez (along with the presence of WR Roddy White), there's no reason to not expect Ryan to be a great choice for a starting fantasy QB in 2013. Davis has zero game experience, but surprised many by his quick development as an undrafted rookie in 2012 and the Falcons have enough confidence in him to not have any veteran backup to Ryan. Of course, it helps that Ryan has started every game the last 3 seasons without issue.
Carolina Panthers
Starter: Cam Newton
Backup: Derek Anderson
For the first half of the 2012 season, fantasy owners who burned a 1st or 2nd round pick on Newton were extremely disappointed in him as he had only 6 TD's and 8 interceptions while his rushing only produced 347 yards and 4 TD's. But he got it turned around the second half tossing 13 TD's, only 4 interceptions, 394 yards rush yards and another 4 rush TD's. I was worried heading into 2012 that Newton could be a candidate for a sophomore slump, but he still managed to finish as a top 5 fantasy QB in 2012 in most formats. He just didn't elevate his game from the prior season. The expectation of him throwing for more than 4,000 yards again and having another 14 rushing TD's just weren't realistic. While there are concerns with his offensive coordinator having left, the Panthers promoted from within to keep stability for him. It's a bit disappointing the Panthers didn't add any better weapons for him to throw the ball to but Newton has proven to be a guy who can put up big fantasy numbers and makes for a strong fantasy starter. I would be more inclined to grab a high quality backup for him though in case the lack of talent around him brings him down. The fact that Derek Anderson remains his top backup is a testament to just how bad Jimmy Clausen is.
New Orleans Saints
Starter: Drew Brees
Backup: Luke McCown, Seneca Wallace
Brees hasn't thrown for less than 4,300 yards in any of his 7 seasons in New Orleans. He hasn't thrown for fewer than 33 TD passes in any of the last 5 seasons. In 3 of the last 5 seasons he's thrown for over 5,000 yards. His consistently high production makes him one of the safest QB bets in fantasy football. While the Saints say they want to run the ball a bit more in 2013, I still easily see Brees finishing as a top 5 fantasy QB at worst. It also needs to be noted that Brees hasn't missed a game due to injury since the 2003 season. His durability is as good as it gets. McCown and Wallace are battling to replace departed Chase Daniel be the top backup. A position that could hold value just because of the prolific nature of the offense if anything unexpected was to happen to Brees.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Starter: Josh Freeman
Backup: Mike Glennon
Despite throwing for over 4,000 yards and 27 TD's in 2012, the coaching staff is trying to light a fire under Freeman by talking up rookie Mike Glennon a lot in OTA's. While I doubt Glennon is a legitimate threat to Freeman's status as the starting QB, stranger things have happened. Personally, I like Freeman and think with the weapons he has to throw to, and a strong running game to support him, he has a chance to really step up as both an NFL and fantasy QB. I view Freeman as a high upside fantasy backup with a chance to be a borderline fantasy starter. But one thing he needs to do is cut down on his turnovers. If he has a lot of turnovers and the Bucs aren't winning games, there is a chance Bucs head coach Greg Schiano would bench him. Freeman is a great risk to have as your fantasy backup for his tremendous upside to join the top 10 fantasy QB's in 2013, but he would be a risky every week starter.


AFC North Quarterback Preview

Division boasts better backups for fantasy than starters

Today we look at the fantasy value of the quarterbacks who play in the AFC North. What stands out in this division is that while there are no definite studs, there are 2-3 QB's who have fantasy starting potential. When healthy, Ben Roethlisberger has proven to be a very capable starting fantasy QB, although he has been inconsistent in prior years. Joe Flacco has a load of talent but he has yet to reach that 4,000 passing yards and 28 TD's benchmark usually used for measuring a better than average fantasy QB. Andy Dalton has started both of his first 2 seasons very hot, but has also finished on a cold spell the last 6 games of both years. While Norv Tuner and Rob Chudzinski in Cleveland have the pedigree as coaches for having strong passing attacks, what they don't have is a QB who makes you feel he can do it.
Baltimore Ravens
Starter: Joe Flacco
Backup: Tyrod Taylor
Fresh off winning the Super Bowl, Flacco still has yet to become a championship caliber fantasy football QB. He has yet to have a season with more than 3,850 passing yards or more than 25 TD passes. He has the natural skills to attain those numbers but for some reason it just hasn't happened yet. Will it in 2013? I kind of doubt it. While Torrey Smith is intriguing, he hasn't proven he can be a true #1 NFL WR. The loss of Anquan Boldin leaves a gaping hole opposite him as Boldin actually led the Ravens in receptions and receiving yards last season. Flacco is a safe pick as a fantasy backup as he does have the ability to put up big statistical games, it's just that he doesn't have them consistently yet. And I don't expect 2013 is the year they will start coming each week.
Cincinnati Bengals
Starter: Andy Dalton
Backup: Josh Johnson, John Skelton
Dalton repeated the late season fade he had in 2011 once again in 2012. He started both seasons with strong performances but I believe his lack of arm strength becomes a liability once the weather turns cold. And for two years in a row that has been proven right. In the last 6 games of the 2012 season, Dalton averaged 171 passing yards per game while throwing only a total of 4 TD passes. That's actually worse than the 191 average passing yards and 4 passing TD's he had as a rookie in 2010. While he has a great WR in A.J. Green, Dalton has yet to live up to expectation and I think he needs to step up and prove he can finish a season as strong as he starts them or he will be on the hot seat soon. For fantasy purposes, Dalton is a guy you grab as a backup and then try really hard to trade away to someone who doesn't know about his late season fades and is only looking at the first several weeks when he's having excellent stats. At the very least he's been durable starting all 32 games his first two seasons. Josh Johnson and John Skelton are battling it out to be the top backup but neither will see the field barring an injury.
Cleveland Browns
Starter: Brandon Weeden
Backup: Jason Campbell, Brian Hoyer
Weeden will be given another chance by the new Browns regime to prove he is a capable starting QB in the NFL. While Weeden wasn't awful as a rookie in 2012, he also wasn't much above mediocre. Although the new offense is proven to provide big time fantasy numbers, Weeden needs to step up his own performances for me to buy into him as being anything more than a poor fantasy backup in 2013. He could have a short leash if either Jason Campbell or Brian Hoyer show well in preseason. Those two are battling to be the top backup to Weeden and likely it will be played out in preseason. Neither would be a viable fantasy QB though even if put into the starting position as both are just mediocre talents.
Pittsburgh Steelers
Starter: Ben Roethlisberger
Backup: Bruce Gradkowski
In the first 8 games of 2012, Roethlisberger had 2,203 passing yards, 16 TD's, and only 4 interceptions. But then injuries piled on derailing what was looking like to be his best fantasy season ever. In 2013 though, losing WR Mike Wallace in free agency could hurt Big Ben some. A lot will depend on whether this is the year Emmanuel Sanders steps up his game as Wallace's replacement. Also, it's unknown if Roethlisberger's favorite security blanket (TE Heath Miller) will be ready for the start of the regular season. Ben should be drafted as an excellent backup fantasy QB with the upside to be a regular starter. Gradkowski was signed to be a younger backup replacing aging Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch. Rookie Landry Jones will be groomed to be the eventual backup in another year or two.


NFC North Quarterback Preview

Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford are for sure fantasy starters

Today, we take a look at the NFC North quarterback situations. There are two definite fantasy starters to be had from these 4 teams and another who could finally live up to expectations and become more than just a mediocre fantasy backup. The last one is on a thin line entering his third NFL season and is one of the weaker fantasy backup prospects.
Chicago Bears
Starter: Jay Cutler
Backup: Josh McCown
Cutler appeared to be on the verge of fantasy stardom his last season in Denver back in 2008. But since coming to Chicago in 2009, his best statistical season was that first year when he threw for 3,666 yards and 27 TD's. Since then he has basically been running for his life behind a shoddy offensive line and a system that required him to take a lot 5-7 step drops. It's hoped in 2013 that new head Coach Marc Trestman will finally be the one who develops Cutler into the QB he's always had the skills to be. Trestman is known for his quicker pace offenses and passing attacks so there is hope it means a bump up in numbers for Cutler while reducing the amount of sacks he takes. But Cutler's history so far suggests he shouldn't be relied on as an every week fantasy starter yet, he does possess high upside as a backup fantasy QB who could finally take the step up if he and the new offense click. McCown is an experienced but underwhelming backup NFL QB who would likely hold little fantasy value if he had to make starts.
Detroit Lions
Starter: Matt Stafford
Backup: Shaun Hill
Stafford nearly reached 5,000 passing yards for a second consecutive season in 2012, but what was disappointing was his TD passes dropping from 41 in 2011 to only 20 in 2012. However, a closer examination of the game logs shows that Lions WR's were tackled at the one yard line 7 times in 2012 while another 9 times they were tackled inside the five yard line. Stafford was really close to having 30+ TD passes in 2012 and I think that type of anomaly happening again in 2013 is unrealistic. The Lions are a passing team and with the best WR in the game (Calvin Johnson) there's no reason to think they won't be a heavily pass oriented team again. A return to near elite fantasy status is certainly attainable and I have no problem with Stafford as a strong starting fantasy QB. His backup, Hill, is certainly a very capable QB on his own who could have probably left two years in free agency and competed for a starting job elsewhere. Filling in when Stafford was injured in both 2009 and 2010, Hill put up a respectable stat line of 3,629 passing yards and 21 TD's in 17 games. Stafford has been able to stay healthy the last 2 seasons but if anything were to happen to him again, Hill would become a priority free agent add at QB in fantasy leagues.
Green Bay Packers
Starter: Aaron Rodgers
Backup: Graham Harrell, B.J. Coleman
Turning 30 in December, Rodgers is in the prime of his career. He's exploded the last two seasons for a combined 8,938 passing yards, 84 passing TD's, and only 14 interceptions. He annually has 250+ rushing yards and scores a few rushing TD's each season as well. A down year for Rodgers would be to have fewer than 4,100 passing yards and under 33 TD's. When your floor is that high, your ceiling is ridiculous. And while everyone thinks the Packers are a throwing team, keep in mind that in 2012, 9 QB's had more passing attempts; in 2011, 15 had more passing attempts than him. The Packers are likely to have a better rushing attack in 2013 than they have had in recent seasons, but I doubt that will hurt Rodgers at all. He is an elite fantasy QB, if not the top fantasy QB. He's only missed one game in the last 5 seasons because of injury and that was back in 2010 when Matt Flynn was his backup, so we haven't had a chance to see Harrell get any meaningful playing time. There is also a chance that 2012 7th round pick B.J. Coleman could beat out Harrell for the top backup job.
Minnesota Vikings
Starter: Christian Ponder
Backup: Matt Cassel
Ponder needs to take a leap up in production or he could find himself eventually benched in favor of Matt Cassel. Losing Percy Harvin hurts, but I think the additions of Greg Jennings and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson give him the best WR tandem he's had yet. While the offense goes through Adrian Peterson (and rightfully so) Ponder still needs to show a lot better than what he has in 2 seasons now. This is a make or break year for Ponder, and while he can probably fare well enough to be a decent NFL QB in a conservative offense, that won't make him any better than a weak backup fantasy QB. Cassel is pretty much a clone of Ponder in terms of his game. An average arm and better game manager who is not likely to succeed if he has to throw a lot.


AFC East Quarterback Preview

Only one QB from this division is a Fantasy starter

Today I turn my attention to the AFC East quarterbacks. Whereas yesterday in the NFC East I raved about the fantasy potential of each of the four teams, today, I have to say the AFC East brings just one fantasy starting QB. There is also one low end fantasy backup QB with some upside. There might be another if Kevin Kolb can stay healthy (a big "if", I know). And then there is a team with a QB situation that is the equivalent of fantasy excrement.
Buffalo Bills
Starter: Kevin Kolb (projected)
Backup: E.J. Manuel
Kolb is battling the rookie Manuel for the Bills starting job and I expect that he will win it. Not because Kolb is a great QB, but rather Manuel is unlikely to be NFL ready week one. After that, it will all depend on Kolb as to how long he lasts into the regular season. Perpetually injury prone, Kolb rarely makes it far before injuries (or just simply ineffective play) gets him benched. Even if Kolb stays injury free, I seriously doubt he'll finish the 2013 season as the starter. Once the Bills are eliminated from playoffs contention, I expect Manuel will be given the job to get him some experience going forward. Neither QB is worth selecting in standard fantasy drafts and both make risky prospects as #3 QB's in leagues where you have to start 2.
Miami Dolphins
Starter: Ryan Tannehill
Backup: Matt Moore
Rather than go after a starting job of his own elsewhere in free agency, Moore chose to remain in Miami and be a well paid backup to Tannehill. Tannehill looked pedestrian and very much like a rookie at times, but he also showed some promise despite a lack of talent at the WR and TE positions. With Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller in Miami, Tannehill now has better weapons to throw to in 2013. He needs to show he's able to step up his performance and prove he is the real deal after a so-so rookie season. I'm still not convinced he's a future great NFL or fantasy QB but he does possess some upside as a backup fantasy QB if he proves to be better than I think he is. Right now, I think drafting him as anything more than a weak fantasy backup or QB3 is a mistake.
New England Patriots
Starter: Tom Brady
Backup: Ryan Mallett
The loss of Wes Welker, along with the concerns about his TE's Rob Gronkowski (back; arm) and Aaron Hernandez (shoulder; potential police situation) has some concerned about Brady's fortunes heading into 2013. And while that does give pause for thought, I am not about to downgrade him by much. With the exception of his injury shortened 2008 season, Brady has been an elite fantasy QB the past several seasons. Approaching 36 years old though, he is getting into those years where QB's start seeing a decline in production, but I believe that even with a new set of WR's Brady is in an offensive system that has proven it will still air out the football with the best of them. I see no reason to not consider Brady as an excellent starting fantasy QB. Mallett sounds like he is really doing well and if anything were to happen to Brady, he might be able to step in and be better than serviceable. The Patriots also have Tim Tebow, but it's really hard to see how he fits into the equation at al as he would not be a good fit. At least not until they work with him on developing better QB skills.
New York Jets
Starter: Mark Sanchez (projected)
Backup: Geno Smith
The most recent reports say that Sanchez will likely start the season over rookie Geno Smith, but I doubt he lasts more than a few weeks before he is benched. The Jets coaches and the fans will be looking for an excuse to sit him despite Smith not likely to be ready as he tries to learn a completely different style of offense than what he ran in college. That said it is possible that Smith passes up Sanchez if the rookie shows well in the preseason. I think Smith is the better Jets QB to have in 2013 but he is unlikely to be a fantasy contributor. The Jets WR and TE corps is possibly the worst in the league. I would stay away from Smith in fantasy leagues as he is better set up for failure than success with the Jets.


NFC East Quarterbacks Preview

The fantasy spin on the QB situations for the 4 NFC East teams

We're getting into the dog days of summer now. This is the great calm before the storm that will be the 2013 fantasy football season. We're kind of in a quiet "watch" mode. With that in mind, I figured now is as good a time as any to do divisional reviews of the QB situation for each division.
NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
Starter:  Tony Romo
Backup: Kyle Orton
Few NFL QB's are as maligned as Romo. Few fantasy QB's don't get the respect they deserve as much as Romo either. Since 2007, Romo has averaged 275.1 passing yards per game and 1.9 passing TD's. In the 4 seasons he's been the starter for all 16 games, he has eclipsed 4,000 passing yards in each and thrown 121 TD's. In the last 8 games of 2012 he threw for 2,300 yards (287.5 avg) and 16 TD's. Romo takes a lot of heat for the Cowboys not winning more NFL games or winning in the playoffs, but for fantasy purposes, he's been just outside of the elite QB's. Currently, according to his ADP (Average Draft Position) he's being undervalued as the 12th QB selected. With Dez Bryant coming into his own as one of the elite WR's, and a plethora of other weapons to throw to, Romo is a guy you may be able to get in rounds 6-8 who still produces great fantasy numbers. There is a little concern about surgery to remove a cyst in his back several weeks ago, but Romo is fully expected to be fine for training camp. Orton is one of the better backup QB's in the league as he has a lot of starting experience and has proven himself capable.
New York Giants
Starter: Eli Manning
Backup: David Carr/Ryan Nassib
After falling just short of 5,000 passing yards in 2011, Manning threw for nearly 1,000 yards fewer in 2012 as injuries plagued his WR's. Manning is durable (he hasn't missed a start for 8 consecutive seasons) and has the ability to be a capable starting fantasy QB when all his weapons are healthy. A return to top 10 fantasy QB status for him in 2013 is certainly doable but I'd feel better about him being one of the top backup fantasy QB's as consistency eludes him. 18 of his 26 TD passes in 2012 came in just 5 games. In 4 games, he had zero TD passes. Because of his durability we haven't had to see a reminder of just how terrible Carr is and we probably won't get a chance to see much of Nassib (who apparently was drafted to be Manning's backup for the foreseeable future).
Philadelphia Eagles
Starter: Michael Vick (projected)
Backup: Nick Foles/Matt Barkley
While there is a lot of talk about a QB competition between Vick and Nick Foles, it's believed that it is Vick's job to lose. IF Vick wins the starting job, he should be a good fit for Chip Kelly's offense. Vick is still a dual threat weapon with the ability to put up fantasy points with his legs and he is only 3 years removed from a 2010 season that made him a consideration as the 1st overall pick in 2011 fantasy drafts. IF Vick gets into a groove with this new offense, there's an excellent chance he becomes a strong starting fantasy QB. But there's also a chance Vick doesn't get it and ends up behind Nick Foles. As usual, Vick is a very high risk/very high reward type of fantasy QB. While Foles hasn't been eliminated from being the Eagles starting QB in 2013, I believe it more likely he will be a backup to Michael Vick. That or he'll be traded during preseason. Especially if the rookie Barkley shows well.
Washington Redskins
Starter: Robert Griffin III
Backup: Kirk Cousins
RG3 was one of the most electrifying players in fantasy football in 2012 before a week 14 knee injury. He returned sooner than he should have from that injury and needed complete reconstructive surgery on his right knee due to multiple ligament tears. His rehab has reportedly gone as good as it possibly can and while it's not a sure thing, there is plenty of optimism that he will be ready to start week 1 of the 2013 season. There have been conflicting reports about whether the team will scale back any of RG3's rushing attempts, but until I hear otherwise, I have no problem with RG3 as a solid starting fantasy QB. That said, I would STRONGLY recommend that if you draft RG3 as your starter, you get some insurance by selecting a high upside backup fantasy QB. You could also consider spending a late round pick on Griffin's backup in Washington, Kirk Cousins. Cousins showed well in relief of Griffin in 2012. It's rare I would have a QB handcuff, but this would be one of those cases where I would consider it.


Willis McGahee: Where He Fits Best

Career still has some mileage left in it

With the release of veteran RB Willis McGahee, the Denver Broncos have solidified rookie Montee Ball's position as the primary RB for them in 2013. While normally head coach John Fox has been hesitant to start rookies right away, he clearly has no other option and besides, Ball is plenty ready to step in and be the power RB complement to what promises to be one of the best passing attacks in the league. Don't be surprised if Ball flirts with 1,200 rushing yards and double digit TD's this season.


But where does this leave McGahee? Despite the fact he'll turn 32 years old in October he's easily the best of the remaining RB available in free agency. McGahee has been better than expected the last 2 seasons in Denver. After rushing for 1,199 yards and 4 TD's in 15 games in 2011, McGahee was on pace to duplicate the rushing yards and better the TD's before suffering a season ending knee injury and broken leg in week 11. He was even proving to be capable catching the ball putting his second best receiving yards total (221) of his career despite only playing in 10 games. As long as he is fully healed up McGahee shouldn't find it difficult to find work. There are certainly some teams that could use him.


St. Louis Rams: The Rams lack a proven power style RB. Rookie Zac Stacy is expected to fill that role but he is a rookie and whether he really turns out to be as good as I think he will is unknown. Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson are not big RB's who are likely to pound the ball between the tackles much.


San Diego Chargers: Would make a nice insurance policy for starter Ryan Mathews as Mathews has been unable to stay healthy and on the field despite his talent. His backups, Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown, are role players at best and not suited for taking over more of a featured position.


Oakland Raiders: Darren McFadden's talent is almost as legendary as his inability to make it thru a regular season without missing games because of injury. Behind McFadden are rookie Latavius Murray (who has generated a lot of hype for a 6th round pick) and Jacksonville cast-off Rashard Jennings. McGahee would easily become the top backup here.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers: While Doug Martin was both better than advertised and durable (played all 16 games) as a rookie last year, the depth behind him is lacking. Former Bengals role player Brian Leonard is the top backup with Michael Smith and rookie Mike James behind him. Leonard is a plodder with little wiggle or speed. Smith is a speed guy but appears to have fallen out of favor despite it. James is a lot like Leonard, only younger.


Dallas Cowboys: Much like Darren McFadden in Oakland, Cowboys' lead RB Demarco Murray is an immense talent that has yet to make it thru a regular season without missing games with injury. Rookie Joseph Randle was drafted to be his backup, but he is unproven and has missed all of the off-season programs because of a hand injury. Behind him are only Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner, both of whom were very disappointing when given chances in 2012. Of all the places McGahee could land, I can see him in a Cowboys uniform easiest.


And of course, there's always the chance that McGahee will just wait until training camp injuries start to happen and a team can offer him more of a featured role. But approaching age 32, McGahee should be happy to finish out the final years of his career as a top backup and power complement.  


Tebowmania Hits New England!

Patriots sign Tim Tebow: Reunites with Josh McDaniels

Tim Tebow: New England Patriot. The words go together like peanut butter and olive loaf.
I know several weeks ago I blogged about how Tebow deserved better than he received from the Jets. Not because he is a good QB (he's not) but because he handled himself with class during their debacle and was never given a chance despite the Jets having nothing to lose. But of all the places Tebow could have landed, the Patriots seemed the least likely.
It was reported by Yahoo several weeks ago that Patriots Coach Bill Belichick "hates" Tebow. So a reunion with Tebow and the coach who made him a first round draft pick back in 2010 (Josh McDaniels, who is now the Patriots offensive coordinator) was deemed to be a pipe dream. Should have guessed it was most likely just blowing smoke.
However, an even more than normally unhappy looking Belichick cut short his press conference today to address the signing. Peppered with what seemed like questions he should have expected, Belichick seemed disgruntled having to answer questions about why the Patriots signed him, and what position he is going to play? His answers of how talented Tebow is, and that the Patriots will do what is best for the team just had the feeling of someone who has had a player forced on him.
Get used to it Bill. It comes with the Tebowmania that follows him wherever he goes.
Maybe it was McDaniels saying that he'd rather have Tebow to develop than Mike Kafka (the 3rd string QB released by the Patriots when they signed Tebow)? Maybe it was Bob Kraft seeing some type of marketing deal? Maybe it was secret resentment that the Bruins and Red Sox were getting all the media love in Boston while the Patriots were still being questioned for letting Wes Welker get away to a conference rival? Who knows?
Or maybe it was that they were intrigued by the fact that Tebow, despite his shortcomings as a typical NFL quarterback simply has the heart of a winner? Has proven capable of defying the conventional thinking of "he can't win as a quarterback" by having won as a starter in the NFL? Maybe there is some magic there that an organization lie the Patriots can develop? McDaniels obvious saw something in Tebow when he made him a first round selection while running the show in Denver. Now this sounds more like the Belichick we know. And it cost the Patriots nothing besides their already established 3rd string QB. Reportedly, there was no guaranteed money in the two year deal Tebow signed.
Can McDaniels and Belichick develop Tebow? Can they find the right mix of uniting poor traditional QB skills but intriguing talent with an offense that can win in the NFL? Maybe. Maybe not. We won't know until it's tried. And since Tom Brady has a couple more years left in him, there will be no rush to find out. And at worse, they simply cut Tebow without any financial ramification.
So for now, let the media hype this up. It gives them more of what they know the public likes: Tim Tebow.


2013 Fantasy Quarterback Situations to Avoid

4 NFL teams have bleak fantasy QB prospects in 2013

Heading into the 2013 fantasy season, there are a few teams that have competition's going on at the QB spot. Now the rule of thumb for fantasy football drafts when it comes to quarterbacks in situations like this is to either completely ignore these teams or to take a late round flier on the young guy. Usually when a team has a veteran competing with a rookie it means the veteran hasn't done well enough in his career to be considered a firm starter. In cases like that, unless the rookie has phenomenal skills, it has typically meant the veteran will get first crack to play himself out of the job (which he usually does). There are a few QB situations in the NFL that I will be avoiding like the plague come draft day and I recommend you do to.
Team: Oakland Raiders
Contenders: Matt Flynn, Tyler Wilson
Wilson was getting a lot of pub early in OTA's but Flynn is expected to be the starter for Oakland week 1. Flynn isn't a superior talent and while he is remembered for a couple of great statistical games in Green Bay, he isn't surrounded by nearly the same talent in Oakland. It takes a lot of imagination to believe that, at best, Flynn will be more than a mediocre backup fantasy QB in 2013. There's also a very good chance that if he fails to get wins or has a couple of poor games (both of which are very possible), he could lose the starting job to the rookie Wilson. I'd stay away from Flynn on draft day.
Team: Buffalo Bills
Contenders: Kevin Kolb, E.J. Manuel, Tarvaris Jackson
Kolb is battling both rookie Manuel and veteran Jackson for the Bills starting job. I have a hard time believing Jackson actually stands any realistic chance to win it since he was the holdover from the prior coaching staff while the team signed Kolb in free agency and then selected Manuel in the first round of the 2013 draft. While Manuel will be given every chance to win the starting job, I think Buffalo will acknowledge that Manuel is more of a project than a ready talent to start right away. I expect Kolb to be the first game starter and I also expect him to have a chance of doing well for a while. But consistency (both in game performances and ability to avoid missing games because of injury) is hard to count on with Kolb and sooner or later I expect he will play his way out of the job before the Bills decide to get Manuel some valuable in game experience towards the end of the season.
Team: New York Jets
Contenders: Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith
While there's a chance the rookie Smith will beat out Mark Sanchez in preseason and start in week 1, I'm expecting the Jets to give Sanchez one more chance to redeem himself by starting the 2013 season. I also expect that will be because Smith isn't going to "wow" anyone in preseason. But I also fully expect that after a few games, Sanchez will have played himself back into the doghouse and that Smith be given a chance to get some good experience the rest of the 2013 season. Not all the blame can be placed on Sanchez as it doesn't help him (or Smith eventually) that his WR and TE corps is possibly the worst in the league. And even if Sanchez is the first game starter, I want no part of him on my fantasy football roster. Equally, in re-draft leagues, I would stay away from Smith as the whole Jets QB situation is better set up for failure than success. In dynasty league's Smith could be a late round flier. And if I had to choose one of the two for 2013, I would say Smith is the better Jets QB to have. He hasn't had the chance to play himself out of all consideration like Sanchez has.
Team: Jacksonville Jaguars
Contenders: Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne
 Henne had better stats last season as the Jags starting QB, but the team is again likely to give Gabbert one more chance to prove he isn't a complete and utter first round draft bust. If Henne doesn't win the job by a substantial margin, I expect the Jags to start the 2013 season with Gabbert at the helm. However, I haven't seen nearly enough potential out of Gabbert to think he will last as the starter for long. And it is only a matter of time before the Jags will turn to Henne. However, unless Henne shows improvement himself (he's never been more than mediocre or else he would walk away with this competition) he wouldn't be someone I would be thinking as more than a desperation acquisition during the fantasy season. Henne showed he can have some good statistical games last season, but consistency has always eluded him. I'm not going out on much of a limb by saying the Jags starting QB for the 2014 season isn't currently on the roster.


Fantasy Football Radio Show Returns!

17th season of The Red Zone to start in August

Well, another year, another season of my fantasy football radio show!
I met with Santisi Brother's Pizzeria and Sports Grill and NBCSports Radio AM 1060 in Phoenix, Arizona yesterday and we came to an agreement for bringing back my radio show, "The Red Zone: Talking Fantasy Football and the NFL" for the 17th consecutive year.
For those new to this blog or to Fantasy Football Starters, I started a radio show dedicated to fantasy football and the NFL back in 1997. Back then you couldn't get a television network to talk fantasy football. There wasn't any stat tracker. Announcers and color analysts didn't mention it. NFL shows shunned it and those who played it were widely ridiculed.
Amazing how times have changed. How attitudes have changed. Now you can hardly get thru any sports radio show from August thru December without fantasy football being mentioned! And you can bet that once again, I'll be amongst them as I devote my show to it.
For those in Phoenix, the show starts Tuesday, August 20th and I will be on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings from 6-7pm Arizona time. And once again, all three nights I will be doing the show from Santisi Brothers inviting people to come out and play the free fantasy football challenge game I have been running out there since 1999. The last show will be on Thursday, December 26th. The show won't be on Thanksgiving night, Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day.
I am hopeful we will again be carrying a live stream of the show here at STARTERS. I would assume so, but I have to do some work on that still. I'll let you know when I know for sure one way or the other.
I can't wait to start up again. Every year it is a lot of fun and thru it I have been able to meet many of our STARTERS members that are local in the Phoenix area. I look forward to seeing those who can make it out again this season!


Free Agent RB's: Who's Left?

And which teams are likely to be looking at them first?

OTA's are winding up and minicamps beginning for most NFL teams. Training camps will be up next. The 2013 NFL (and fantasy football) season is approaching. And that will mean injuries. So who is left from the 2013 free agent running backs crop of value? There are a few who are likely to be on a short list for many teams as teams incur injuries at the position. The following is a list of teams with RB needs and then the free agent RB's who are still available.
Arizona Cardinals: It all depends on whether Rashard Mendenhall is really able to recapture his prior abilities before the torn ACL injury that he was still recovering from throughout the 2012 season. If he does, the Cardinals are set with him. If he still has troubles, they would be in the market for another RB as Ryan Williams hasn't been the same since he missed his rookie season with a knee injury and the other RB's for the Cardinals (William Powell, and rookies Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor) aren't superior talents.
Dallas Cowboys: DeMarco Murray has flashed brilliance when healthy, but has been unable to stay healthy throughout a season yet. Rookie Joseph Randle is his backup and after him there is a dearth of mediocrity in Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar. If Murray (or Randle for that matter) gets injured, the Cowboys will be calling RB's in. It's likely they might do so even before training camp.
Indianapolis Colts: Vick Ballard was serviceable in 2012, but nothing special. Donald Brown is in a contract year and has never lived up to potential (or stayed healthy). Delone Carter has been disappointing. Rookie Kerwynn Williams simply isn't built to stand up as more than a complimentary RB. The Colts could be the first team to go looking at available free agent RB's.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew is recovering from surgery to repair the Lisfranc foot injury that ended his 2012 season and while reports say he should be okay by training camp, I'm not so sure. They signed Justin Forsett to be his new backup as insurance, but Forsett is barely a good RB anymore. While there is talk of rookie Denard Robinson getting plays, he isn't going to hold up with more than a complimentary role. Jordan Todman and Jonathan Grimes have bounced around teams in their brief careers and don't look like viable answers.
San Diego Chargers: Ryan Mathews has yet to live up to expectations and has also shown a penchant for injury. The Chargers added former Patriot Danny Woodhead to be his top backup, but Woodhead is limited in how much of a load he can realistically handle. Ronnie Brown was re-signed but he is a shell of the RB he was before knee injuries sapped him of his speed. I have a hard time believing San Diego would really feel good about Edwin Baker or Fozzy Whitaker if anything were to happen to Mathews.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: While Doug Martin was excellent as a rookie, there is little good depth behind him. Former Bengals RB/FB Brian Leonard is okay, but not great. Rookie Mike James is more of a plodding power runner while second year RB Michael Smith is a scatback type. Tampa is one of the first teams I wouldn't be surprised to look at what remains from the free agent RB's.   
Available Running Backs
Ahmad Bradshaw (Turned 27 years old in March): Bradshaw has been cleared medically cleared after having yet another surgery on his troublesome feet. Earlier in the off-season there was some speculation that his career could be over as he has continually battled foot injuries. While no signing appears imminent for him, he's going to be one of the first RB's called in for a tryout once injuries start happening.
Chris "Beanie" Wells (Turns 25 years old in August): Wells is still young and if not for injuries, he had a promising career going. But his knee issues could be chronic and he also is coming off a bad case of turf toe. It's unsure if he can stay healthy but he has talent and has shown ability when healthy.
Brandon Jacobs (Turns 31 years old in July): A lost 2012 season with the 49ers where Jacobs barely was active at all on game days, I expected Jacobs to garner some interest this off-season, but no team has even brought him in. Perhaps he is at the end of his career after so many opportunities to show that his huge size would translate into superior power. I still think someone will bring him in at some point.
Cedric Benson (Turns 31 years old in December): Recovery from surgery to repair the 2012 Lisfranc foot injury has prevented Benson from being able to make any trips around during free agency. It's likely the injury will end his career but that's not certain. If he can show that he is recovered from it, he could be signed to provide depth somewhere as he wasn't looking bad before the injury.
Michael Turner (Turned 31 years old in February): Turner turned in his worst season as a Falcon in 2012 as he played thru a nagging groin injury (and he has a history of those). Maybe it's that, or maybe he's simply got little left in the tank that has led to him having had no interest from any teams since his release from Atlanta in March. But some team that needs a power RB is sure to kick the tires on him as he hasn't scored fewer than 10 rushing TD's in any of his 5 seasons while with the Falcons.
Peyton Hillis (Turned 27 years old in January): I only mention Hillis because he did turn in one magical season back in 2010 for Cleveland. But since then, he has looked very much like a converted FB who doesn't have the speed or elusiveness necessary to be a regular contributor.  


Deacon Jones: Thanks for the Memories

Sad day as another of the NFL's greatest players ever passes away

I'm going to miss Deacon Jones. Growing up as a Los Angeles Rams fan I already loved him from his time with the team when my memory picks up in 1970. He and Merlin Olsen were my two favorite players from that time. Even at the age of 4 I knew the history behind them and the original Fearsome Foursome. Watching Deacon and Merlin on television are some of my earliest memories I can recall.
Good times; great memories.
But with Deacon, like with Merlin (who passed away in 2010), it was more than just the passion of a fan of a NFL team blindly following what his favorite player's are up to after football. Deacon had personality and was fun to listen to as both a former player being interviewed, and as a broadcaster just sharing his opinions on sports. To listen to Deacon talk about the way football was played in the 1960's and early 1970's was compelling. He was smart, articulate, and funny. Back at the start of the 21st century when ABC was having difficulties finding a way to stop cable television's inevitable dip into the Monday night football ratings pocketbook, there was a lot of speculation about who would make up a great Monday night football broadcast booth? I always thought Deacon would have been a great choice as one of the three broadcasters. I was always a little surprised he never got consideration for it.
With Deacon's passing, it leaves Rosey Grier as the last surviving member of the Los Angeles Rams original Fearsome Foursome. Lamar Lundy, who was paired with Rosey, Deacon, and Merlin to form the original 4, passed away in 2007. At the age of 80 years old, I sincerely hope Rosey Grier is healthy and has many years left in him. While I never saw Lundy and Grier play, I do remember Diron Talbert and Coy Bacon being in their places along that Rams defensive line in 1970 and how the unit was stilled referred as the Fearsome Foursome.
I find myself saddened. Condolences go out to Deacon's family and friends, along with those who were lucky enough to know the man himself. To Deacon himself, thanks for all the great memories you brought to many. Including myself. 


2013 Minicamp Preview Part 1

Mandatory Minicamps Hope to Shed Light on Questions

We're into June now and the mandatory minicamps for some NFL teams will be starting up tomorrow. Here are the team's starting their minicamps tomorrow and any interesting battles pertinent for fantasy football I'll be tracking into training camps next month.
Cleveland Browns: At QB, it really is Brandon Weeden's job, but the Browns brought in Jason Campbell and signed Brian Hoyer to give some competition. Weeden is only in his second NFL season and showed pretty well at times last season, but also had his share of rookie mistakes. The new management and coaching staff inherited Weeden and rumor is that they aren't as high on Weeden as the prior staff so Weeden is definitely on a hot seat to show improvement in his second year. It won't help that he has to learn an entirely new offense, but one of the strengths Weeden supposedly had coming into the NFL as a 28 year old rookie was his maturity and ability to learn. While Weeden will be given every opportunity to be the starter, if he is severely outplayed by either Campbell or Hoyer, he could have a very short leash.
Green Bay Packers: RB is the position to be watching here. Veterans Alex Smith and James Starks failed to stay healthy last season and neither showed well when playing. And while DuJuan Harris did okay to finish out the season, he isn't viewed as a featured type of RB. To rectify the situation, the Packers drafted two RB's (Eddie Lacy in round 2; Johnathan Franklin in round 4). Lacy is the most talented of the group and is the favorite to win the starting job. He has 3 down skills and his only concern is whether a toe he had surgery on will turn into a career long issue. I don't expect it to, but he'll need to show his power and explosion in minicamp and training camp to lay claim to the job. Franklin is a bit smaller and is viewed as best fitting as a change of pace type of RB and potential 3rd down pass catcher. It's a certainty that both Lacy and Franklin will make the final 53 man roster leaving the trio of Green, Harris, and Starks are competing for 1 or 2 roster spots. While none of these three are likely to win the starting job, it's not out of the realm of possibility.
Kansas City Chiefs: There are two intriguing battles going on in Kansas City. First is at TE where you have 3 players to watch. The second is at WR. At TE, Anthony Fasano was signed as a free agent and appears to be the favorite to start. Fasano isn't an elite talent at the position, but he is a steady veteran who hasn't lived up to full potential entering his 8th NFL season and 3rd NFL team. Tony Moeaki is the returning starter from last season but he has been unable to participate in any activities so far this off-season because of some issues with the knee he had surgery on in 2011. He may not be ready for the start of training camp. It's even possible Moeaki could be as low as third on the depth chart as the Chiefs also drafted an intriguing pass catching TE in Travis Kelce. Kelce is a superior athlete to both Fasano and Moeaki and if he can quickly assimilate the playbook, he could push for playing time as well. But that seems unlikely. Meanwhile, at WR, Dwayne Bowe is locked in as a starter on one side, but across from him will be one of two guys. 2011 1st round pick Jonathan Baldwin is the leading candidate to be the Chiefs #2 WR, but he has yet to translate his enormous natural skill set into actual games. Donnie Avery had a bit of a rebirth in his career last year in Indianapolis and was signed as a free agent to compete with Baldwin. These two will likely compete all throughout training camp and preseason to be the other starter. If Baldwin wins the job, Avery should slide into the 3rd WR role. If Avery wins it, Baldwin could drop as low as being the 4th WR as Dexter McCluster appears to have finally settled into one position (he's been both a RB and WR in his short career). McCluster is best suited for slot duties, but an anticipated bigger role on special teams may push him down to being the teams #4 WR.
New Orleans Saints: Other than the competition for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th WR spots (Marques Colston and Lance Moore are locked in at WR1 and 2), the biggest question for the Saints is how will they split up the rushing duties again in 2013? Sean Peyton has stated that the team needs to run the ball more often, and that should translate into 2011 first round pick Mark Ingram finally getting a chance to crack 200 carries in a season. But we simply don't know. The Saints don't use Ingram in the passing attack as they have two great pass catching RB's in Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. And while Ingram has had more rushing attempts than either the last two seasons, he hasn't been as effective as these two. It's probably because opponents know the Saints are more likely to run when Ingram is in the game. The Saints have thrown the ball so much, Ingram had less than 10 rushing attempts in 8 games last season. Only once did he get more than 16. Each RB is talented enough to have fantasy value and if one were to emerge as the primary it would pay off for fantasy owners, but it has the look and feel of another season where Ingram gets about 160 rushing attempts, Sproles catches another 75+ passes, and Thomas has around 100 rushing attempts and catches around 40 passes. But I am hoping we see a bit more of Ingram this season and that would start with him dominating camps.
Philadelphia Eagles: With the Eagles, it's all about the QB position. Michael Vick is still the clear favorite to win the starting job, but I can't help but wonder about the team's insistence on it being a competition between him, Nick Foles, and rookie Matt Barkley. I am also a bit confused about why the immediate hype of Dennis Dixon back in February, but now Dixon is clearly just battling to make the roster. I think there are a lot of questions here that need to be answered and hopefully minicamp and training camp can clear them up. I guess it really boils down to one thing: can Chip Kelly get the best out of Michael Vick? If so, Vick has the talent to be great. If Vick is looking good, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Eagles try to trade Nick Foles to a team that is either QB-needy, or has suffered an injury. And while the Barkley hype machine has him looking great, I find it far-fetched to think he will compete for anything more than to be the top backup.