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.