Around the AFC: Camp Winners and Losers
With mini-camps wrapping up this week, NFL teams enjoy their only genuine break of the calendar year. Training camp is at least four weeks away, and roster movement in the meantime will be slower than Reggie Williams in the open field.
While coaches re-introduce themselves to family, fantasy owners can put their draft preparation into overtime. It's magazine season, with RotoWorld.com's bible on newsstands now. It's also time to review the value changes which have occurred in the final month of NFL minicamps. With that in mind, we'll pick one fantasy Going Up and Going Down from each AFC squad over the final month of offseason practices.
Going Up: Travis Henry, RB - Travis Henry refuses to show up to Bills workouts, but he's moving up fantasy draft boards. It's only a matter of time until Henry is dealt to Tennessee, Jacksonville, or a surprise team because of a camp injury. Tennessee has offered a fourth-round pick for Henry; the Bills want a third. The disgruntled former Volunteer started the offseason lasting until the end of fantasy Mock Drafts, but don't expect him to last past the seventh round now.
Going Down: Eric Moulds, WR - Moulds is the most likely player to suffer from the quarterback change to first-time starter J.P. Losman. Not only will the Bills throw less this season, Moulds may get a smaller percentage of passes thrown to him. Without Drew Bledsoe always looking first at Moulds, Lee Evans could emerge as the team's top target. With an average draft position in the sixth round, Moulds looks overvalued.
Going Up: Chris Chambers, WR - Miami won't be afraid to go deep this season. Chambers estimates that "90%" of the route adjustments for blitzes or odd coverages are designed to go deep immediately in coordinator Scott Linehan's system. Perennially underused, Chambers could improve his yardage this season with big plays ? if quarterback Gus Frerotte proves competent.
Going Down: Ronnie Brown, RB - It hasn't been a sterling first offseason for Brown. First Ricky Williams plans to return to football, inevitably cutting down on his touches. Next, coach Nick Saban calls Brown out to play with more attitude; to be more "assertive." The kid should be a great one, but these factors plus an offensive line in flux are concerns.
New England Patriots
Going Up: David Terrell, WR - Bill Belichick gives out compliments like injury information, so we took notice when he tossed verbal bouquets in the direction of? David Terrell? "He works hard, he''s very conscientious," Belichick said. "He wants to know what to do, how to do it. I think football is really important to him. And I think he takes a lot of pride in what he does, and I have a lot respect for that.''''
Chicago fans are laughing somewhere, but the Patriots proved that they can rehab a player's image with Corey Dillon. Look for Terrell to challenge for redzone looks as New England's third receiver. He's worth a look at the end of deep fantasy drafts.
Also Moving: P.K. Sam, WR ? This youngster's head-turning camp could mean trouble for Bethel Johnson, Troy Brown or Tim Dwight.
Going Down: Daniel Graham, TE - The Patriots are likely to start two recent first-round picks at tight end- Graham and second-year pro Ben Watson. Watson is the one to target in fantasy leagues. Watson is a sleek receiver, while Graham will be asked to block. Graham's moderate upside makes him a tight end to ignore towards the end of fantasy drafts.
Also Moving: David Givens, WR ? With Deion Branch injured for half of last season, Givens was the primary receiver in New England. Now Branch, Watson, and Terrell threaten to steal touches.
New York Jets
Going Up: Chad Pennington, QB ? Pennington is throwing on the side 80 times every other day as he rehabs his surgically repaired shoulder. While he's still not a lock to be ready for the start of training camp, it appears Pennington's recovery is going as well as possible. Fears of missing any early-season games have quieted down.
Also Moving: Laveranues Coles, WR ? So far, so good for Coles' troublesome toe this offseason.
Going Down: Curtis Martin, RB ? The most noteworthy thing to happen to Martin this offseason was the loss of right tackle Kareem McKenzie. That's a concern, but not a huge one. The NFL's rushing leader of a year ago only makes this list because of his extreme overuse last year (457 touches).
Going Up: Ray Lewis, LB ? IDP owners of Ray-Ray have to be encouraged by Baltimore's switch to the ?46' defense this season. In theory, the scheme will keep blockers off Lewis while he does what he does best- hunt down running backs.
Also Moving: Terrell Suggs, DE ? Suggs avoided a mandatory prison sentence in his current assault trial. While it's still possible Suggs could face jail time, most observers believe it's unlikely.
Going Down: Mark Clayton, WR - Clayton has been bothered by nagging, albeit minor, hamstring troubles for most of the offseason. For an undersized rookie receiver, it's a concern. Clayton can be the best fantasy rookie wideout, but may struggle to stay healthy like many of his classmates.
Going Up: Rudi Johnson, RB ? Chris Perry's insistent injury problems make it possible that Ru-di could rack up 361 carries again this season. If he could only catch the football, he'd be a candidate for a first-round pick.
Also Moving: Odell Thurman, MLB ? Thurman landed on the absolute perfect team, a middle linebacker on a Marvin Lewis defense. The comparisons to Ray Lewis have unfairly started. The talented second-rounder already has a starting job in hand. He's our favorite for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Going Down: Peter Warrick, WR - Because of knee troubles, Warrick hasn't practiced with regularity for nearly two years. The Bengals are remaining patient, but he'll need to show progress in training camp to be the team's third receiver. He's simply not draftable in most formats.
Also Moving: Kelley Washington, WR - Numerous reports have Washington "on the bubble" to make the Bengals roster this season. If Peter Warrick proves healthy, we're not sure where Washington fits with rookie Chris Henry also in the mix off the bench.
Going Up: Antonio Bryant, WR - According to FOXSports.com's Off-season Blitz, Bryant emerged from off-season workouts as the team's No. 1 receiver. Andre Davis, Bryant's main competition for a starting role, appears buried at the No. 4 slot. The Browns won't light it up offensively, but Bryant can set career highs as a 16-week starter.
Also Moving: Dennis Northcutt, WR - For now, Northcutt is starting over Braylon Edwards. While that's not likely to continue into the season, it's a good sign that Northcutt will continue to have a big role in the offense.
Also Moving: Lee Suggs, RB - The Browns can't talk about Suggs without using the word special. After a fine offseason, it's clear he's the starter. Reuben Droughns and William Green will duke it out for the starting job. As always, the only concern with Suggs is his health.
Going Down: Andre Davis, WR - Few of Butch Davis' favorites will survive the coaching change to Romeo Crennel. Davis is the biggest loser so far, dropping to No. 4 on the depth chart behind Antonio Bryant, Dennis Northcutt, and Braylon Edwards. Davis is no longer draftable and his dynasty league value has reached a nadir.
Also Moving: Charlie Frye, QB - The Browns didn't like what they saw from their third-round pick, so they signed veteran Doug Johnson to backup Trent Dilfer. Any hopes of Frye playing a big role this season look dashed.
Going Up: Ben Roethlisberger, QB - The Steelers simply have to let Big Ben throw the ball more this season. After a historically conservative attack last year, Roethlisberger could easily increase his passing attempts by 100 this season. It's great news for Hines Ward, Heath Miller, and Antwaan Randle El.
Going Down: Jerome Bettis, RB - Duce Staley is healthy again, returning Bettis to the bench. That's where he wants to stay. After a huge workload last year, Bettis doesn't believe his body can handle more than 100 carries this time around. Be careful about overpaying.
Re: Camp winners/losers
Going Up: Corey Bradford, WR - After being re-signed, Bradford reportedly had his best offseason as a Texan. Jabar Gaffney's shoulder surgery gives Bradford a chance to start again. But once again, it looks safe to ignore Texans receivers other than Andre Johnson.
Going Down: David Carr, QB - Carr was pummeled last season, yet the front office barely addressed the offensive line. The Texans still don't know who will play left tackle. Carr also did not have a reliable second receiver last season after Andre Johnson. Houston's solution: re-sign Corey Bradford and draft fourth-round pick Jerome Mathis. Ugh.
Going Up: Edgerrin James, RB - Sure, he's holding out. But edgy owners everywhere should rest easy after James told ESPN.com that he would not miss any playing time this season. After LaDainian Tomlinson, there may not be a safer choice in fantasy leagues.
Going Down: Dallas Clark, TE - This is Clark's season to emerge as a top tier tight end. That's why it was so frustrating to hear that the oft-injured tight end underwent hernia surgery in April. He should be ready for training camp, but that's an injury that tends to re-occur. Clark remains a notch below players like Randy McMichael and Alge Crumpler.
Going Up: Reggie Williams, WR - Last year's bust got a lot of positive press last offseason too, so we're a bit skeptical. But the trimmed down former Washington player will continue to get opportunities after a strong summer. Matt Jones, Troy Edwards, and Ernest Wilford are not great challengers for his starting job.
Also Moving: LaBrandon Toefield, RB - If Fred Taylor's knee remains a problem, it's hard to imagine Jacksonville not acquiring a veteran running back. But for now, Toefield is running with the Jaguars first team. He'd probably split carries with Alvin Pearman, making him draftable in summer leagues. Just don't reach.
Going Down: Fred Taylor, RB - Fred Taylor went on the NFL Network recently to assure fans he'll be ready for the 2005 season. His appearance had the opposite effect. Taylor spoke about his long recovery, alluding to working with the same trainer who rehabbed Willis McGahee and Edgerrin James after their ACL surgeries. Taylor also said that he could succeed in the regular season without training camp work, a bad sign for his availability this August.
Going Up: Brandon Jones, WR - There are three rookie Titans wideouts vying for significant roles: Jones, Courtney Roby, and Roydell Williams. Jones has shown the best combination of size, explosiveness, and route-running ability. With Tyrone Calico still banged-up, Jones has an outside chance to start opposite Drew Bennett.
Also Moving: Steve McNair, QB - Okay, so the wide receiver group isn't ideal. Yeah, the offensive line is in flux. But McNair is healthy and participated in a full offseason of workouts for the first time in years. The Titans will need to score big to win this year, making McNair a high upside QB2 with a fair share of risk.
Going Down: Ben Troupe, TE - This promising sleeper had foot surgery in late May. He remains on target to return in the middle of training camp, but could lose snaps to Erron Kinney in the process. He's still a fun, late tight end pick if you decide to carry two players at the position.
Going Up: Mike Anderson, RB - It's only June. Mike Anderson's place on top of the Denver depth chart at running back could be cosmetic. Coach Mike Shanahan is probably making second-year pro Tatum Bell earn his stripes. That said, Anderson's lofty status is a reminder that he's still on the fantasy radar. If he's the primary backup in Denver, he's highly draftable.
Going Down: Quentin Griffin, RB - It's disappointing that Q hasn't practiced all summer following ACL surgery last season. While he should be ready for camp, it looks like the Broncos don't expect Griffin to have a huge role. The drafting of Maurice Clarett doesn't help matters.
Kansas City Chiefs
Going Up: Freddie Mitchell, WR - Put FredEx on 31 other teams and we're not sure he's a fantasy factor. But Kansas City is the perfect chance for him to catch 50 balls out of the slot. Even if Samie Parker starts in front of him, Mitchell should beat out Marc Boerigter and Craphonso Thorpe for the number three role. While not quite draftable in most leagues, Mitchell has a chance to make an impact.
Also Moving: Derrick Johnson, LB - He's impressed coaches and media alike with his instincts and quickness all summer. A surefire week one starter, Johnson will be an IDP factor.
Going Down: Jerome Woods, S - He used to be a IDP stud, but now Jerome Woods looks unlikely to start in Kansas City. Greg Wesley is likely to line up across from Sammy Knight this season.
Going Up: Ronald Curry, WR - Curry's rehab from a torn Achilles tendon was going well enough for Oakland to re-sign him to a long-term deal. Already running, it now looks very possible that Curry will be ready for training camp. He's a great flier as a late-round fantasy pick this season.
Going Down: Marques Tuiassossopo, QB - Hardly a natural fit for Norv Turner's offense, Tuiassossopo could lose his backup job to rookie Andrew Walter this season.
San Diego Chargers
Going Up: Eric Parker, WR - Parker probably doesn't have the size to be an every-down receiver. But the Chargers will give him a better chance to stay healthy this season by using Darren Sproles on their return units. Keenan McCardell and Reche Caldwell are both injury risks ahead of him, so Parker could end up on the field plenty.
Going Down: Keenan McCardell, WR - McCardell has struggled this summer with the same hamstring troubles that bothered him last season. Now 35, it's fair to wonder if the once-durable McCardell can stay healthy.
Re: Camp winners/losers
Going up, the Steelers! Going down all other AFC teams.
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