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Pre-Training Camp Projections and Rankings Update, Supporting Team Notes

NFL training camps are set to get going this week. The first preseason game is not far off now, New York Giants versus Buffalo Bills, on Sunday August 3rd. Things are definitely ramping up on the fantasy football landscape!

I emailed our Draft Buddy customers last Thursday promising a projection update out soon. It didn’t happen Friday, as hoped, but lets start this week off on the right foot. Just published, updated rankings and updated projections based on news, notes, rumours and simply more contemplation of talent, situations and opportunity since our previous update, July 11.

Included below are notes by team that lead to many of the projections and rankings changes. You can see exactly who changed on the web pages, marked by a small up or down arrow. I will make a copy of Projection Pal with our projections included available to Draft Buddy customers, so they can easily import them into their copy of Buddy.

Arizona Cardinals

  • John Brown has upper hand on WR4 spot on the depth chart behind Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Ted Ginn Jr.. Brown continues to be a player to monitor but it will be tough for him to make an immediate fantasy impact from WR4 spot.

  • In early June Robert Housler was having, “a fantastic offseason”, but as of late mid-July he is not projected as a top two TE on the Cardinals. Apparently he doesn’t fit what head coach Bruce Arians wants to do. A talented, athletic TE, but we’re reducing his projections and adjusting John Carlson and Jake Ballard.

Baltimore Ravens

  • Ravens are expected to use WR Marlon Brown in the red zone. He scored 7 TD in 14 games last season as an undrafted rookie. His projections are worth another look.

Carolina Panthers

  • Due to recovery from his ankle surgery, Cam Newton didn’t get much time to work with his new wide receivers in minicamp, but they will reportedly get together prior to training camp to practice. The more time the better.

  • Jason Avant is expected to be the number three WR for the Panthers. We’re projecting Jerricho Cotchery and Kelvin Benjamin to start, Avant three, and not much left over for the likes of Tiquan Underwood or Marvin McNutt.

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

  • BenJarvus Green-Ellis will compete for a roster spot with Rex Burkhead. Given LawFirm’s contract, he could be in tough to hold the spot. Cedric Peerman appears to be set thanks to his special teams play. One Bengals reporter is anticipating 200 carries for rookie Jeremy Hill. We have him less than half that currently. Adjusting Hill up, LawFirm down, and will adjust further if necessary once we see how splits and LawFirm’s status shake out.

Cleveland Browns

  • Brian Hoyer is fully cleared for training camp from his knee injury suffered last year. We still have Johnny Manziel projected at about half of the Browns’ pass attempts as it will be tough to keep him off the field unless the team wins consistently with Hoyer.

Detroit Lions

  • Second-year Theo Riddick is generating buzz through minicamp from various sources. He was a 6th round draft pick in 2013.

Green Bay Packers

  • RB Eddie Lacy is expected to be a three-down back for the Packers.

  • Jarrett Boykin seems to be locked into the WR3 spot for this year ahead of rookies Davante Adams and Jared Abbrederis. No surprise given how Boykin played last season and his experience in a complex offense. If you keep receiving trade offers with Boykin from owners in your dynasty leagues, it is because the rookies are seen as the future in the Green Bay while Boykin doesn’t have the pedigree to hold them off forever.
  • TE job is wide open, but rookie Richard Rodgers seems to have the most positive news out of minicamp relative to Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick and Colt Lyerla. We’re not going to change the current modest projections for veterans Quarless and Bostick, but adding Rodgers to our On The Radar section of the rankings.

Houston Texans

  • Reviewing our projections after publishing the Texans team report, Case Keenum seems high at 180 pass attempts. Adjusting him way down and giving majority to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Also thinking about how Kendall Wright benefited last year catching passes from Fitzpatrick, and if that might similarly impact Andre Johnson or DeAndre Hopkins this season.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

  • QB Tyler Bray expected to compete for backup job.

Minnesota Vikings

  • Some indications Norv Turner wants Adrian Peterson to catch more passes, getting him in space more. Peterson is no slouch as a receiver. We have him projected at a career high of 50. He’s previously hit 43 (2009) and 40 (2012) in a season.

  • Jarius Wright and Jerome Simpson will compete for the starting slot receiver job during training camp.

New Orleans Saints

  • Saints signed Jimmy Graham to a 4-year, $40-million contract, locking him up and avoiding him playing under the arbitrator ruled TE designation franchise tag this season.

New York Giants

  • All signs are RB David Wilson will be cleared for contact in time to start training camp. Great news for those still holding Wilson in dynasty leagues, eager to see what he can do. We won’t change his rankings or projections just yet.

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Team expects to use Martavis Bryant in the red zone, which could help Bryant get established quickly for fantasy purposes. Steelers threw a lot to their wide receivers in the red zone last year as departed Jerricho Cotchery caught 10 TD.

Philadelphia Eagles

  • Even with the addition of Darren Sproles – who the Eagles insist is a RB, not exclusively a WR – they expect LeSean McCoy‘s workload to be on par with last season.

San Diego Chargers

  • OC Frank Reich indicates Ryan Mathews is the main RB. We aren’t sure why this is even news. Fantasy pundits seem down on Mathews relative to us. We have him ranked 14th, while his ADP hovers around 20th. Talent is not the question here.

San Francisco 49ers

  • Report from Bill Williamson of ESPN that 49ers are expected to reduce Frank Gore‘s carries this year down to around 220. He had 276 carries last season. Looks like we already had Gore projected at 210 carries so we’re in line with this forecast.

  • Marcus Lattimore will be placed on NFL non-football injury list heading into training camp. We already dropped Lattimore out of our main rankings and into the “On The Radar” section. He’ll stay there, or drop out completely, until we see some positive reports on his recovery from his knee injury in college.

Seattle Seahawks

  • Earlier in the offseason a comment by OC Darrell Bevell about a potential RBBC sent fantasy owners into a tizzy downgrading Marshawn Lynch and pumping up Christine Michael. We preached patience, and noted it was so early this wasn’t something to get worked up about. A new report indicates the team plans to reduce Lynch’s average carries per game a little bit, but he is still their workhorse. This seems more realistic at this stage.

Tennesee Titans

  • Positive reports out of Tennessee that rookie RB Bishop Sankey is in great shape and committed to studying with RB coach Sylvester Croom to get up to speed quickly.

Rankings Second Opinion, NFC South: Rookie WR Benjamin, Cooks, Evans Pay Immediate Dividends

Texas A&M Aggies at LSU Tigers: Aggies wide receiver Mike Evans (13) reacts to reception during a game in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. November 23, 2013; Photographer: John Korduner/Icon SMI

Tony loves the wide receivers in this NFL Draft class, and there are a high concentration of them in the NFC South where he says we are being too conservative forecasting them for their rookie season. Photo: Icon Sportswire

We are past the halfway point of this website publishing 32 fantasy football team reports, including cheatsheet rankings plus projection forecasts from Dave Stringer and Mike MacGregor, and player commentary by Dave. For my part, I’ve given my “Second Opinion” on those team reports for half of eight divisions. This is number five, for the NFC South: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, forming one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL.

Saints are always expected to top double digit wins with their high powered offense. Falcons hit a speed bump last season, but expect to rebound with a healthy, talented roster. Buccaneers made a big splash this offseason with a prominent coaching regime change, active free agency period and great draft. Panthers have one of the top defenses in the NFL that propelled them to 12 wins and division champs last season. This division is not only extremely competitive, but also the least predictable.

Atlanta Falcons
Team Report – July 7

Talk about a roller coaster ride for the Atlanta Falcons. In 2012, they were on their way to the Super Bowl only to exit losing a grueling Conference Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. Heading into 2013, they were a bigger Super Bowl favorite than the year before. However, a nagging injury to Roddy White, a freak injury to Julio Jones, and Father Time catching up to Steven Jackson left this team was in shambles, finishing with a measly 4-12 record.

For 2014, all those aforementioned players return, healthy, plus Harry Douglas has another year under his belt and rookie Devonta Freeman is getting set to step in should Jackson falter again. This team is ready to go, except they are missing future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez. After giving it one more kick at the can last season, Gonzalez retired. The Falcons are expected to change up their offensive scheme somewhat to de-emphasize the tight end.

Note they will likely de-emphasize from a player of Tony Gonzalez’s stature, but they won’t eliminate the TE from their offense completely. Levine Toilolo is not a popular name in fantasy football, but expect some weeks this season he gets on the fantasy radar. This offense is too dynamic and quick not to involve their tight end, and it will certainly create open opportunities with defenses focused on the Falcons other weapons.

Currently, this website ranks Toilolo 24th amongst tight ends behind Travis Kelce, Marcedes Lewis and Coby Fleener. In 2013 and 2012, Gonzalez had 119 and 124 targets, respectively. Toilolo will not have that many targets, but I project him more than the current projections of 55, and he should get the most out of them as a solid red zone target, pushing Toilolo into the Top 20 at tight end.

Carolina Panthers
Team Report – July 8

The Carolina Panthers did not make any big free agency moves this offseason to improve their offense. They are sticking with the same running game, relying heavily on Cam Newton’s mobility and a platoon of DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert, rendering each of the running backs rather useless for fantasy football. They released fan favorite Steve Smith, plus let Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn Jr. walk away in free agency, signing Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood to replace them. The offseason moves at wide receiver are curious at best, but perhaps it was all part of the Panthers grand plan that ultimately led them to drafting Kelvin Benjamin in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Benjamin should produce right away for the Panthers stepping in as a Week 1 starter. He is a big body (6’4”) which translates to many targets, especially in the red zone where he can out jump defenders. DraftBuddy.com has Benjamin projected at an extremely conservative 35 receptions, 450 yards, and 3 touchdowns. He is a rookie after all, which causes a natural tendency for conservatism. However, given the opportunity and talent, Benjamin could very well blow away these numbers. Draft him higher than his average draft position based on upside and see what the kid can do.

New Orleans Saints
Team Report – July 9

New Orleans Saints experienced a bit of a shake up this offseason. They lost two key cogs from their offense, Lance Moore and Darren Sproles. The two players combined for 143 targets, 108 receptions, 1,061 yards receiving, and 4 touchdowns last season. With the loss of that kind of production, someone on the team needs to take the opportunity and reap the benefits of having Drew Brees as their quarterback. The player that takes advantage of this is going to be first round draft pick Brandin Cooks.

Brandin Cooks has the tools to be a do-it-all wide receiver. If Drew Brees tops 5,000 yards again as expected, look for Cooks to produce at least 850 of those yards. This should easily put this offensive rookie of the year candidate inside the Top 40 at his position. This website currently has Cooks in their “On The Radar” section of the cheatsheets, but this falls after 65 other wideouts are already ranked. With Marques Colston getting older and Jimmy Graham drawing a lot of double coverage, Cooks will have a nice transition into the NFL to earn immediate fantasy returns for his owners.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Team Reports – July 10

Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a very active offseason. They hired Lovie Smith as their head coach. They signed journeyman QB Josh McCown to become their starter after he rejuvenated his career in Chicago. At the NFL Draft they added arguably the top rookie wide receiver in a deep, deep class at the position, Mike Evans, and one of the top rookie tight ends, Austin Serafin-Jenkins.

Tampa Bay is primed to make a run at the division this year, but if they’re going to do that they need someone else to step up in the passing game. Last season, the only player that truly played to expectations was Vincent Jackson. Multiple injuries and a quarterback soap opera hurt this team severely; however, the Buccaneers addressed their weakness with Mike Evans.

Evans is going to compliment Vincent Jackson in a very positive way. At 6’5”, the connection between McCown and Evans is going to be very similar to the McCown-Alshon Jeffery (6’3”) connection in Chicago last year. Throw it up (McCown) and watch him come down with it (Jeffery, Evans). I’m not saying Evans is going to have an elite year right out of the gate like Jeffery had last year, but look for him to sky rocket above expectations and potentially find himself inside the Top 30 wide receivers by the end of the season.

Tennessee Titans Fantasy Football Player Projections, Rankings and Commentary

Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker (10) throws downfield against the Jacksonville Jaguars during 1st half action at LP Field in Nashville, Tn. November 10, 2013; Photographer: Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

Its a make or break year for Jake Locker. He must convince the new Titans brass that he is the team’s future at quarterback. Fortunately he has new head coach Ken Whisenhunt on his side, who worked wonders for Philip Rivers last season. Photo: Icon Sportswire

Player Tier · Rank Passing Rushing Receiving FPts
QB J. Locker
7 · 29th
260-425-3,100 14 TD 9 INT
45-200 2 TD
243.0
QB C. Whitehurst
NR
45-80-500 4 TD 5 INT
0-00 0 TD
41.0
RB B. Sankey
4 · 22nd
200-975 5 TD
35-300 1 TD
163.5
RB S. Greene
8 · 49th
100-400 4 TD
6-35 0 TD
67.5
RB J. Battle
NR
25-100 2 TD
0-00 0 TD
22.0
WR K. Wright
5 · 23rd
90-1,050 5 TD
135.0
WR J. Hunter
8 · 52nd
45-725 6 TD
108.5
WR D. McCluster
NR
22-225 0 TD
30.5
WR N. Washington
NR
30-400 2 TD
52.0
TE D. Walker
4 · 19th
50-575 3 TD
75.5
TE C. Stevens
NR
15-150 1 TD
21.0

QB Jake Locker

Three years into his career, Locker faces a season in which he must convince the new Titans brass that he is the team’s future at the quarterback position. Taken in the 1st round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Locker finally appeared to be turning the corner last season before suffering a Lis franc foot injury that landed him on season ending injured reserve. In the seven games that he appeared in, Locker completed a career-high 60.7% of his passes for 1,256 yards with eight touchdowns and just four interceptions. One obstacle Locker faces is his own inability to remain healthy, having missed 14 games over the past two seasons. New head coach Ken Whisenhunt helped revive Philip Rivers career in San Diego and the hope is he can get Locker on track in 2014. However, with a mediocre group of receivers, Locker’s prospects aren’t great. Consider him as a waiver wire add since there are plenty of other quarterbacks with more upside.

RB Bishop Sankey

With Chris Johnson no longer in their plans, the Titans used a 2nd round pick in the draft to acquire Washington’s Bishop Sankey. At 5’9” and 209 pounds, Sankey isn’t a pile mover but he proved durable in college despite having been handed a heavy workload. Adept at catching the ball, running between the tackles and with solid yet not great speed (4.49-40 time), Sankey should quickly ascend to the top of a Titans running back depth chart that consists of Shonn Greene, Dexter McCluster and Jackie Battle. With that type of competition, we’re banking on the rookie approaching the 300 touch mark in a Titans offense that has loaded up along the offensive line in recent years and should rely heavily on the run with the still unproven Jake Locker at quarterback. Sankey rates as the top rookie running back in dynasty formats and as a low end RB2 with upside in 2014.

RB Shonn Greene

You don’t always get what you pay for. After signing Greene to a hefty three-year, $10-million contract with $4.5-million in guarantees, the Titans watched as the former New York Jet struggled mightily in his first year in Tennessee, rushing for a career low 295 yards on 77 carries. Greene missed five games after getting a knee scope early in the season and never was a factor other than in Week 16 when he rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Having undergone knee surgery in May, Greene figures to be ready for training camp and he will square off against Jackie Battle for the right to backup rookie 2nd round pick Bishop Sankey with Dexter McCluster also expected to get touches out of the backfield. While we expect Greene to hold onto his roster spot, he rates as nothing more than a low end RB4.

RB/WR Dexter McCluster

In one of the most astoundingly stupid moves of the offseason, the Titans signed McCluster to a three-year, $9-million contract with $4.5-million in guarantees and another $3-million available through incentives. For reference sakes, the Browns acquired Ben Tate on a two-year, $6.2-million contract with $2.5-million in guarantees and $1.5-million available in incentives. It says something when the Cleveland Browns read the market better than your team did. Rant OVER. Do we like McCluster in 2014? Not a chance. Not big, not fast, not that shifty, McCluster has done nothing to warrant any expectations of a breakout season during his fifth year in the league. This is the perfect example of somebody thinking they can buy the restaurant on the corner that has failed 100 times and turning it into a moneymaker. Not happening. If Andy Reid can’t get much out of McCluster, what makes you think Ken Whisenhunt can? And, no, we don’t care that Whisenhunt turned Danny Woodhead into a fantasy factor last year in San Diego. Woodhead is good. McCluster…

WR Kendall Wright

Taken in the 1st round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Wright has put together a solid two year run in Tennessee. The 5’10”, 195 pound Baylor product has locked down the slot receiving position for the Titans, posting 94 receptions for 1,079 yards and a pair of touchdowns last season after catching 64 passes for 626 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie. If there is one thing missing from Wright’s game, it is his ability to generate big plays, having averaged just 10.8 yards per reception in his career with six touchdowns. Looking ahead to 2014, Wright should once again approach or surpass the 1,000 receiving yard mark given the lack of depth the Titans possess at the wide receiver and tight end positions. We wouldn’t be surprised to see his production take a slight dip given that a large part of his targets last season came from noted dump off artist Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is no longer a Titan. We like Wright as a low end WR3 in standard scoring formats and move him up in PPR leagues.

WR Justin Hunter

If there is one wide receiver on the Titans roster capable of emerging as a true leading wideout, it is Hunter. Taken early in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft, Hunter contributed little during much of his rookie season before posting a pair of 100 yard games in Weeks 12 and 14. The 6’4”, 203 pound Tennessee product finished his rookie season with 18 receptions for 354 yards and four touchdowns, averaging a healthy 19.7 yards per reception. While Hunter has all of the physical tools required to be a number one wide receiver, what he is lacking is experience. And it would also be nice if Jake Locker could provide some deep ball accuracy. We love Hunter’s upside in dynasty formats but in 2014, we would hedge our bets in redraft leagues. Add him as a mid-tier WR4 with major upside.

WR Nate Washington

Eight years into his career, Washington has established himself as a solid pro, serviceable as a starter but really best used as a deep threat in a reserve role. After topping 1,000 yards in 2011, Washington has posted 746 and 919 yard seasons while scoring seven touchdowns over the past two years. If there’s one thing that is for certain it is that Washington will end up carving out some type of role with the Titans in 2014, whether it is because of his deep speed or because of injuries. However, with the Titans committed to developing Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter and having added Dexter McCluster in the offseason, we expect Washington to have a reduced role in 2014 which makes him waiver wire material in all but the deepest of leagues.

TE Delanie Walker

In his first season as a full fledged starter, Walker didn’t disappoint, finishing the season with career highs in receptions with 60, yards with 571 and touchdowns with six. That was good enough to finish as the 12th ranked fantasy tight end during his first year in Tennessee. With a new coaching staff led by Ken Whisenhunt, Walker is expected to see lots of action in 2014 as the Titans have pledged to run plenty of two tight end sets. While this all sounds great, we aren’t buying into Walker as a potential breakout candidate at 29 years of age (30 by opening day). He rates as a solid mid-tier TE2 with little risk but not much upside.