Training Camp Notes – Monday, July 28th
July 28, 2014 | Jeff
We are now less than one calendar week from the kickoff of NFL preseason action, as the Bills and Giants face off in the annual Hall of Fame Game this Sunday. We have plenty of training camp fantasy football news to tackle before the glorious return of football, so let’s jump in and see what fantasy relevant developments popped up over the weekend:
– Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph inked his name on a new five-year contract extension for a healthy $36.5 million on Sunday, as reported by Ian Rapoport. Rudolph is in line for a big 2014 and is a great candidate at the tight end position. I am the highest on him in our preseason rankings here at The Fake Football and expect him to put up solid numbers under new offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Rudy has shown great red zone skills in the past (9 touchdowns in 2012) but has yet to crack 500 receiving yards in a season, something that will change in 2014. Over the last three seasons, Norv’s top tight end has averaged 744 yards and seven touchdowns, which are both totals that Rudolph will eclipse.
– San Francisco was dealt another blow to their backfield as LaMichael James dislocated his elbow one day after Kendall Hunter tore his ACL. This once crowded backfield is now quite spacious as Carlos Hyde and Marcus Lattimore have brought in an extra recliner and couple nice Ficus trees to fill the empty space. The coveted role of “running back to replace Frank Gore” has been up for grabs since about 2011, and with Gore now 31 years of age, the time is getting closer for another back to take control in San Francisco. With Hunter out for the year and James set to miss at least a month, rookie Carlos Hyde will likely serve as the primary backup to Gore, with Lattimore and his robotic knees in the background. In 2011-2013, offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s offense has averaged 498.3 carries per season so the workload will support multiple backs, especially if Gore’s role is reduced at all. Keep tabs on Hyde’s fantasy draft stock this summer and if you snag Gore in the middle rounds, grabbing Hyde as a handcuff would be a wise idea.
– One of my personal favorite breakout candidates for 2014, Jonathan Stewart, is doing his best to surpress his fantasy draft ADP as he will now miss 2-4 weeks with a bad hammy. I’m not writing off Stewart for 20124 quite yet and you shouldn’t either, although it would be nice to see him in preseason action before Week 1. Stewart’s touchdown total is capped due to the presence of his enormous, red zone pounding quarterback but the upside for Stewart comes in the form of receptions. Ron Rivera’s offense has had around 60 receptions for running backs on average over the last three seasons and in his last healthy campaign, Stewart hauled in 47 passes (2011). Tack those catches onto the carries coming from the offense that was 7th in rushing attempts in 2013 and you have the makings of a severely underrated fantasy back. Now, get some ice on that hammy and get back on the field!
– CBS Sports has reported that Markus Wheaton “is having another strong start to camp and his role will increase greatly,” according to sources at Steelers camp. Wheaton is an interesting target this season, as Pittsburgh’s offense lost 113 catches and 1,342 receiving yards this offseason as Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery left town via free agency. Wheaton, along with Lance Moore and a now healthy Heath Miller, will be looked to as Ben Roethlisberger attempts to spread those targets elsewhere in the offense. Over the last three seasons, Todd Haley’s #2 wide receiver has averaged 64 catches for 787 yards, so if Wheaton indeed claims that spot opposite Antonio Brown, he could make himself fantasy relevant in a hurry. According to MyFantasyLeague.com, Wheaton currently carries a 12th round average draft position and is being selected as WR55. This price tag is fair and Wheaton would be a nice ticket on your fantasy bench.
– The Miami Herald has reported that the Dolphins are hopeful that Lamar Miller “can play the role of LeSean “Shady” McCoy — the Eagles’ running back who was wildly productive during Lazor’s year with coach Chip Kelly in Philadelphia.” Miami’s new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is a bit of a tough nut to crack, as he doesn’t have an extensive track record in the NFL aside from serving as Chip Kelly’s quarterbacks coach in 2013. Of course, anything that involves Chip Kelly would be welcomed warmly in Miami when the Dolphins offensive struggles of 2013 are considered. In any event, rumors that Miami wants Miller to be heavily involved in all facets of the ground game like our main man Shady McCoy are encouraging, as Miller is a solid mid-round target right now in fantasy drafts. This is a certified breakout candidate for 2014 and Miller could attempt to dry up some fantasy tears after he disappointed on an unrealistically high ADP in 2013. The bottom line here is that forecasting Lazor’s offense is tricky, but if the tempo/focus on the running game is carried over from his days in Philadelphia, then Miller is a back you want to own. Leave Knowshon in the dust.