High Fives: Training camp prelude

Despite the fact that NFL training camps are still a month from opening, the Yahoo! Sports fantasy experts never run out of topics for fantasy football conversation. In the latest High Fives installment, they identify the following: players who are rising and falling most on their draft boards, most noteworthy upcoming camp competitions, most impactful coaching changes in the offseason and the most enjoyable pigskin flicks of all-time.

Top five position battles you will most intently follow in training camp
Scott Pianowski Says: Andy Behrens Says: Brad Evans Says:
  1. Colts backfield – Indy’s got a wonderful track record for hitting on first round picks (hello, Donald Brown(notes)), but I don’t expect the Colts to kick Joseph Addai(notes) to the curb right away.
  2. Broncos backfield – Everyone realizes that Knowshon Moreno(notes) has the highest upside of the runners here, but the Broncos aren’t handing him anything for free – they brought in as much competition as they could.
  3. Ravens backfield – A three-headed monster filled with backs who are good at different things. I’m intrigued with how far Ray Rice(notes) has come entering his second year.
  4. Patriots backfield – While this looks like a messy committee that could give us four months of headaches, the primary ball-carrier here will be stepping into a plum assignment: running against defenses that are primarily concerned with Tom Brady(notes) and New England’s vertical threats.
  5. Browns quarterback – Can Derek Anderson(notes) recapture some of that 2007 magic or is it gone for good? Did Brady Quinn(notes) lose his mojo forever in the green room on draft night? And can either of these guys find a way to get Braylon Edwards(notes) going again?
  1. Cardinals backfield – On talent, this doesn’t seem like a fair fight. If Chris Wells(notes) remains healthy (not a given), he’ll get plenty of work. The winner between Wells and Tim Hightower(notes) gets to basically camp out in the red zone.
  2. Browns quarterback – Just two years ago, the Browns averaged 25.1 points and 351.3 yards per game. The O-line has a chance to be very good and there’s at least depth at the skill positions, if not elite talent.
  3. Steelers backfield – Mike Tomlin has left Rashard Mendenhall’s(notes) role deliberately undefined, and the Steelers should be transitioning out of the Willie Parker(notes) era. FWP is three years removed from his only great fantasy season.
  4. Cowboys No. 2 receiver – The Cowboys’ No. 2 receiver, be it Patrick Crayton(notes) or Miles Austin(notes), will often be option No. 4 for Tony Romo(notes), but you can’t ignore any starter in such a productive attack.
  5. Colts No. 3 receiver – Indy’s No. 3 receiver always enters the fantasy discussion. Someone will become a household name (in fantasy obsessed households).
  1. Steelers backfield – FWP will likely separate from Rashard Mendenhall by the end of training camp, but the Noise’s former main man-crush could wrestle away 40 percent of touches with a strong preseason.
  2. Colts backfield – All-around Donald Brown has the physical and mental skill set to excel in Indy’s pass-first offense, but the incumbent’s experience will likely force a 60-40 timeshare initially.
  3. Cardinals backfield – Education may not pay for the rookie Wells. Due to Ohio State’s quirky tri-mester schedule, he’ll enter camp as the third depth-chart option.
  4. Bears No. 2 receiver – There’s little doubt Devin Hester(notes) will enter the season as the top wideout, but Earl Bennett(notes) and Johnny Knox(notes), who’ve both turned heads at mini-camp, could develop into fantasy friendlier options.
  5. Giants backfield – The winner for the backup role between Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) and Andre Brown(notes) becomes the new “Bride of Frankenstein.” Derrick Ward(notes) averaged a very serviceable 9.6 fantasy points per game in the No. 2 role last year.
Top five players that are arrowing up on your rankings
Scott Pianowski Says: Andy Behrens Says: Brad Evans Says:
  1. Carson Palmer(notes) – He’s going to love Laveranues Coles(notes), Chris Henry still possesses game-changing talent, and for the moment, Chad Ochocinco actually seems serious about playing football. Just two years ago Palmer was considered a first-tier quarterback.
  2. Trent Edwards(notes) – When you’ve got a motivated Terrell Owens(notes) on your side, your fantasy value is about to spike. But come 2010, all bets are off.
  3. Devin HesterJay Cutler’s(notes) deep passes have to be in someone’s direction, and Hester quietly made strides as a technical receiver in 2008.
  4. Joseph Addai – I’m actually not moving him up but I’ll gladly take him when everyone else runs away. Tremendous value and profit potential here.
  5. Jerome Harrison(notes) – Exciting home-run hitter figures to get more of a chance with a new coaching staff. You can only plod along with Jamal Lewis(notes) for so long.
  1. Matt Ryan(notes) – The supporting cast improved substantially, and Ryan himself continues to develop. Fullback Ovie Mughelli(notes) says, “It’s actually scary how much he’s improved … People thought he couldn’t get much better.”
  2. Ronnie Brown(notes) – The next negative offseason report I read will be the first. Expect a healthier Brown and a greater workload. He’ll be more than a one-game wonder in ’09.
  3. Darren McFadden(notes) – Write off McFadden at your own peril. He’s a fantastic talent and he’s finally healthy. The early reports from minicamp were encouraging.
  4. Ahmad Bradshaw – He seems to be well ahead of Andre Brown and Danny Ware(notes), if there’s a position battle here at all. The Giants offense produced a pair of 1,000-yard RBs last year and you should always take Brandon Jacobs’(notes) back-up seriously.
  5. Brian Robiskie(notes) – The rookie has a clear path to a significant role in Cleveland, and there are few questions about his NFL readiness. He’s a solid route runner with reliable hands, in line for a fair number of targets.
  1. Donald Brown – His pass-catching is still unrefined, but the rook’s elusiveness, cut-back ability and Addai’s general brittleness could launch him into the RB top-20 by year’s end.
  2. Earl Bennett – Based on mini-camp reports, his rekindled chemistry with former Vandy teammate Jay Cutler has Bennett on the inside track for significant targets.
  3. Steve Slaton(notes) – Bulkier and more comfortable with the Texans juggernaut offense, the second-year sensation deserves top-seven consideration, even in non-PPR formats.
  4. Chad Ochocinco – Carson Palmer’s stellar mini-camp combined with No. 85’s renewed commitment are enticing. The face tattoos, if they were real, would’ve boosted his draft stock tremendously.
  5. Kevin Smith(notes)Guaranteeing a playoff appearance is completely delusional, but Scott Linehan’s power running game greatly benefits Motown’s latest mouth.
Top five players that are arrowing down on your rankings
Scott Pianowski Says: Andy Behrens Says: Brad Evans Says:
  1. Brandon Marshall(notes) – Too many loose remarks and off-the-field problems, and he’s a high-contact player to begin with. I’ll be shocked if he stays happy all year, or plays 16 games.
  2. Antonio Bryant(notes) – I know he won your league for you last year, but that came with Jon Gruden’s offense and respectable quarterback play. And Bryant doesn’t have a track record of consistency, anyway.
  3. Clinton Portis(notes) – A longtime favorite of mine, but he’s 28 going on 38 with that workload of his. Don’t forget that he collapsed in the second half of 2008.
  4. Chris Wells – Love the player and the upside, but I’m worried that the baton switch might take too long to justify Beanie’s draft-day cost.
  5. DeSean Jackson(notes) – Too much of a boom-or-bust player for my liking, the Eagles keep adding mouths to feed in the passing game, and I’m not enamored with Donovan McNabb’s(notes) accuracy on the intermediate and deeper throws.
  1. Brandon Marshall – Marshall’s value hasn’t exactly collapsed. He remains a huge talent. But there’s a medley of concerns here – recovery from surgery, trade demands, court dates – and it’s enough to rattle me near the top of a draft.
  2. Carson Palmer – Maybe you’re encouraged when Palmer says things like this about his elbow: “It’s starting to get to the point where the ball is not dying on me.” But I hate that we’re even discussing the strength and durability of his arm.
  3. Eli Manning(notes) – There’s no question that Manning improved substantially from ’07 to ’08. But the ’09 receiving corps still has a conspicuous lack of play-makers.
  4. LenDale White(notes) – OK, so perhaps he could stand to lose a little weight. But 30 pounds? He might miss that girth on the goal line.
  5. Ravens runnings backs – A three-headed committee? No thanks. I don’t know anyone who guessed right on the Baltimore backfield each week in ’08.
  1. Tony Romo – Doughy and somewhat out-of-sync with wideouts in mini-camp, Mr. Jessica Simpson has an overvalued look.
  2. Brian Westbrook(notes) – Ankle surgery, advanced age, hot-shot rookie waiting in the wings – two week-old sushi seems more appealing.
  3. Reggie Wayne(notes) – Brand name and Peyton Manning(notes) has grossly inflated consensus perception; finished 16th in points per game among WRs last year.
  4. Ben Roethlisberger(notes) – Super Bowl rings don’t score points in fantasy. When Jeff Garcia(notes), Chad Pennington(notes) and an ancient Brett Favre(notes) outscore you in points per game – overrated.
  5. Chris Wells – Current depth chart position, unsupportive offensive philosophy and history of physical softness are unfavorable qualities to possess.
Top five most impactful coaching changes for fantasy purposes
Scott Pianowski Says: Andy Behrens Says: Brad Evans Says:
  1. HC Todd Haley (KC) – Can his beautiful offense work with 50 percent less talent? And can he justify the cash the Chiefs threw at Matt Cassel(notes)?
  2. HC Jim Caldwell (Ind) – Tony Dungy and Tom Moore didn’t get their full due for the success of the Peyton Manning era, but their absences will be felt.
  3. OC Greg Knapp (Sea) – It’s going to be odd watching a Seattle offense that has no Mike Holmgren influence in it.
  4. HC Rex Ryan (NYJ) – Here’s a guess that the Jets play better when 95 percent of the players don’t hate the HC.
  5. OC Jeff Jagodzinski (TB) – Can he find a respectable quarterback, and can than QB keep Antonio Bryant happy and productive? And how is he going to divide the work between Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham(notes)?
  1. HC Todd Haley (KC) – His demeanor isn’t necessarily for everyone, but you have to like the track record. Haley was the OC for the Arizona Cardinals in ’07 and ’08, and there’s talent to work with in KC.
  2. OC Greg Knapp (Sea) – Knapp has a history of producing solid rushing attacks, but he’s not exactly dealing with extraordinary RB talent in Seattle. Still, expect a sneaky-good fantasy line from T.J. Duckett(notes) and greater run/pass balance.
  3. HC Josh McDaniels (Den) – You can’t argue with the pedigree, and McDaniels’ in-season work with Matt Cassel last year was thoroughly impressive. But he’s replacing pretty fair coach in Denver and he seems to be scaring off the talent.
  4. OC Scott Linehan (Det) – OK, so his time in St. Louis was not entirely successful. But he’s a well regarded coordinator with success in his past, and he’ll have talent to work with in Detroit.
  5. OC Jimmy Raye (SF) – As a Frank Gore(notes) dynasty league owner, I endorse this hire.
  1. HC Josh McDaniels (Den) – Dink-and-dunk passing style molds perfectly with Kyle Orton’s(notes) characteristics. But possible running back carousel will seem like things in Denver never changed.
  2. HC Todd Haley (KC) – Skyward strategy will be the primary reason why Dwayne Bowe(notes) surges into the WR top-10.
  3. HC Raheem Morris (TB) – Wants to add a grittier component to revamped West Coast scheme – great news for managers who invest in Derrick Ward.
  4. OC Jimmy Raye (SF) – The antithesis of Mike Martz, the OC’s physical philosophy upgrades Frank Gore’s statistical potential.
  5. OC Scott Linehan (Det) – Excellent mixture of smash-mouth ground game with vertical shots will definitely enhance Kevin Smith’s value.
Top five favorite football movies
Scott Pianowski Says: Andy Behrens Says: Brad Evans Says:
  1. North Dallas Forty – Ahead of its time, it almost flows like a documentary.
  2. Dazed and Confused – Randy Floyd looked like another Ken Stabler before music pulled him away from football.
  3. The Longest Yard – Still as impactful as ever at age 35, but the remake never should have happened.
  4. Everybody’s All American – Gavin Grey’s one season in Denver ruined a lot of fantasy football teams.
  5. Two For The Money – It’s a guilty pleasure at best, but the great football gambling movie has yet to be filmed. Consider this a place holder.
  1. The Longest Yard – No one needed the remake. The original is both my favorite football film and favorite prison flick. That’s versatility.
  2. Everybody’s All-American – A cautionary tale for fantasy gamers still reliving the glory days of ’95, when Emmitt Smith and Herman Moore led us to imaginary titles.
  3. Remember the Titans – Also my favorite Bruckheimer, narrowly edging “Cat People.”
  4. Gus – How they trained the mule for that role, I’ll never know. Not with kindness, that’s for sure.
  5. Lucas – Totally underrated teen film. The Glenbard West kids held “Lucas” over our heads for years.
  1. Rudy – The Noise houses disdainful feelings for Notre Dame football, but every time Ruettiger is carried off the field during the film’s climax, I weep like Michael Crabtree(notes) in mini-camp.
  2. Remember the Titans – Any film with Denzel Washington and a meaningful historical backdrop is sure to induce the waterworks (See also “Glory”).
  3. The Waterboy – The Lions could use about 50 Bobby Boucher’s on defense. LT cameo is classic.
  4. Necessary Roughness – The dude from Quantum Leap, Sinbad and Kathy Ireland at her peak – that’s a recipe for rewatchability.
  5. Brian’s Song – Stockpile the Kleenex, but a necessity for football fans.

Updated Friday, Jun 26, 2009