In an era of high-octane passing offenses and bigger and faster athletes, wide receivers with size and speed will always be coveted in Fantasyland. With teams continuing to tinker with 3-5 receiver sets more often than needed and with rookies expected to contribute immediately, fantasy owners at times have too high of expectations. Staying on top of the news helps you filter out "coach-speak" and bad analysis that creates expectations that are too high. That will give you an edge on draft day, and knowing who will stay on top of the depth chart will allow you greater success with late-round flier picks.
Less than a week after his surgery, Hakeem Nicks is stating he’s pain free after having a screw inserted into his fractured right foot to speed up the healing process. Some reports suggested he may only miss 4-6 weeks, but the team is going to be conservative with his rehab, which likely will be a 12-week process. He should be back by Week One, but it’s now time for rookie Rueben Randle to show he is NFL ready, as many believe. Nicks retains his No. 1 fantasy value but does drop a few notches from elite value if there are any setbacks in his quest to be healthy for Week One.
Stevie Johnson (groin) tweeted his groin procedure was a success, but he could be sidelined until training camp. However, the team hopes he can return before then. The team is going to be cautious, but there are no long-term worries and Johnson keeps his value as a No. 1 fantasy receiver.
After issuing an apology we see Titus Young is back with the Lions after the team barred him from team facilities for taking a cheap shot at FS Louis Delmas. He will try to get back on track in his battle with Nate Burleson for the No. 2 role. I expect Burleson to keep his starting job with rookie Ryan Broyles recovering from a torn ACL, leaving Young best suited for the slot position this year.
Hitting the ground running
Brandon Lloyd has been impressive so far in OTAs and his familiarity with Josh McDaniels' offense has allowed him to come in and immediately proclaim himself the No. 2 receiver. The difference between Lloyd and the rest of the wideouts is telling and displayed with the example of Deion Branch telling Chad Ochocinco where to line up last week. Branch is returning punts in OTAs and the soon-to-be 33-year-old could be doing whatever it takes to make the roster. Like Jabar Gaffney, Branch can play both the inside and outside and could stick around as quality depth. For fantasy owners, though, he is only a late-round flier on draft day. Lloyd is a quality No. 2 fantasy receiver with Ochocinco a likely to be a camp casualty.
On the bubble?
There was a report stating Mike Thomas’ future with the Jaguars could be ending with the additions of Laurent Robinson and Justin Blackmon. However, with much of Thomas’ salary guaranteed, don’t look for the team to cut ties. By shifting to the slot, he will play to his strengths and offers continuity for QB Blaine Gabbert as the team moves to new schemes. Thomas has no fantasy value and will make an in-season waiver wire matchup play if he shows any relevance.
The battle for No. 2
Brandon Tate played opposite Bengals stud WR A.J. Green during recent OTAs and "coach-speak" has him battling for a bigger role on offense. He will compete for the No. 2 job with Armon Binns and rookies Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Sanu is the favorite to win the job, but the Bengals' website states Binns’ could still be the favorite and has looked great in current OTAs. This will play it out in camp, but if you draft early, your late-round flier should be Sanu then Jones, as he’s a polished route runner who understands the offensive schemes.
Mike Williams may have reverted to old habits that contributed to the Seahawks having to put him on injured reserve with an injury last season. He has yet to take part in any OTAs as he continues his rehab from a fractured ankle and fibula and is falling behind. Counting approximately $3 million against the cap this season, he may not make the final roster. Golden Tate injured his hand in OTAs last week and was seen with a cast. How long he will be out is unknown, but the injury does not appear to a long-term concern. A potential deep sleeper right now in larger leagues, he’s a late-round flier with no immediate value. Williams has no value.
Injury quick hits
- The Vikings are letting Percy Harvin (shoulder) sit out OTAs, but he will be ready well before camp and this is just part of the healing process. He has been doing some work on the sideline and is attending team meetings. He remains a starting fantasy receiver.
- David Reed is ahead of schedule in his return from an ACL injury, but as the Ravens’ kick returner who has been struggling in that role has no fantasy value and will fight for a roster spot.
- While Kenny Britt (torn ACL and MCL) continues in his recovery, the Titans are playing Kendall Wright at his position — the “X” spot better, known as the split end — Wright’s natural fit. It’s great insurance in case Britt has any setbacks.
B-team quick hits
- 49ers undrafted rookie Chris Owusu would’ve been drafted if not for multiple concussions, but he has looked better than A.J. Jenkins in certain drills. He has ties to head coach Jim Harbaugh via Stanford, but training camp will show us his true value.
- Dezmon Briscoe did not take part in OTAs and could be a roster casualty, while Arrelious Benn, a former second-round pick, is now running with the third team. Neither player has any fantasy value right now.
- The Browns admit and state this is a make-or-break season for Mohamed Massaquoi. Massaquoi enters the season with minimal fantasy value, but as a starter, he could have value inseason if he shows anything as a No. 2.
- With the Cardinals drafting Michael Floyd, look for Andre Roberts to see more time in the slot and he becomes a late-round flier. His value will depend on if he can hold Floyd off during training camp.
- The Bears are supposedly installing a series of plays specifically designed for Devin Hester. Regardless, he has failed as a starting receiver and will not see enough targets to have fantasy value outside return leagues.
- The Ravens scooped up Jacoby Jones and are using him with the first team in three-receiver sets in OTAs. However the slot receiver for the Ravens has minimal fantasy value, but let’s see how he does in camp to determine his full value.
- The Bucs re-signed Preston Parker and have him locked down through 2013. He will see time in the slot and the schemes the Bucs will run will offer the potential for a few solid fantasy outings, making him an inseason matchup play.
- The Chiefs are experimenting with RB Dexter McCluster at the slot position. With his natural receiving skills and size (5-8, 170 pounds), he is a natural fit. With Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin ahead of him, McCluster would only be depth.
- Reports state Clyde Gates is not a lock to make the Dolphins. That’s important because the West Coast schemes they will run give fantasy value to multiple receivers. Until training camp shows us more, Gates has no fantasy value.
- Despite early interest from the Eagles, Plaxico Burress remains a free agent. The Giants have stated they have no interest in him. His career could be over barring an injury in training camp on a team he already knows the offense.
- The Patriots signed Anthony Gonzalez in mid-March and, after not attending OTAs last week, he was released. This begins the clearing out of a position that’s 11 deep right now. Gonzalez’ injury-ravaged career could be over.
- Some things never change, as the Indoor Football League's Allen Wranglers have released Terrell Owens for not wanting to play in two games with playoff ramifications and failing to show up at a team appearance. His ownership in the team has also been revoked.