Ravens WR Mike Wallace has always been a player I’ve targeted as a WR3/4. Last year I was burned as Wallace only caught 39 balls for 473 yards with 2 TD for the Vikings. Stefon Diggs surpassed Wallace in the pecking order while Teddy 2 Gloves inconsistent QB play didn’t help matters. For fantasy football purposes, I blame the QB play of Bridgewater more so than Wallace’s diminishing skills. Bridgewater’s play isn’t capable of sustaining multiple receivers that are useful in fantasy football.
The move to Baltimore should make Wallace more of a fantasy asset in 2016. The Ravens have Steve Smith coming back from an Achilles injury and Breshad Perriman with a bulky knee. 37 year-old receivers struggle to get separation and father time will catch up with Smith soon enough. I would be surprised if Smith led the team in receiving this season. Smith may have some flashback games, but more than likely will play a complimentary role in the passing game this season. Perriman is a talented prospect but hasn’t been healthy enough to show what he can do. There’s also a learning curve Perriman could go thru since his rookie season was essentially a red-shirt year.
Kamar Aiken was a surprise last season with 75 catches for 944 yards and 5 TD. In my opinion, the health and development of Perriman will dictate Aiken and Wallace’s role in the Ravens offense. Wallace will turn 30 in training camp and still looks to have the game changing speed. QB Joe Flacco is one of the best deep throwers in the game today and Wallace should be able to benefit. Ravens OC Marc Trestman is an awful NFL head coach, but a solid NFL offensive coordinator. Remember the other offenses he’s coordinated around the NFL put up some points.
Flacco is a much better QB than what Wallace has played with in Miami or Minnesota the last 3 seasons. Wallace has never had more than 73 catches in a season, but has had 8 or more TD in 4 of his 7 seasons. Expectations for Wallace could be very low in upcoming drafts. Don’t be afraid to spend a late round flier on Wallace this season. Playing for Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh could be the cure to get Wallace’s career back on track.
Arian Foster’s release from the Texans was expected with a salary of $6.5 million due for next season. Doug Martin, Matt Forte, Lamar Miller, and Chris Ivory being on the market could close doors for Foster. Coming off a season-ending Achilles injury the soon-to-be 30 year-old will have to prove he’s healthy before getting a deal. Running backs in this draft class also could potentially close doors on Foster. NFL teams often take the Hugh Hefner approach to running backs looking for newer, younger models. Potential suitors will be eliminated by drafting Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry. Foster has missed 23 games in 3 seasons and has no leverage in contract negotiations. If Foster wants to continue to play a short-term incentive laden deal is the most realistic option.
The resume is impressive with 4 Pro Bowl selections and 4 seasons over 1,200 yards. The yards per carry stat is one I look at in evaluating running backs. Foster at his peak in 2010 was at 4.9 yards per carry followed by 4.4 in 2011, 4.1 in 2012, 4.5 in 2013, 4.8 in 2014, and 2.6 thru 4 games in 2015. The YPC has gone down as the Texans offense has regressed. Foster came into the offense with Pro Bowl QB Matt Schaub at the helm. The Texans offensive ineptitude made life more difficult for Foster facing more guys in the box. With over 1,4oo NFL carries on his body, Foster is closer to the downside of his career instead of his peak.
The Broncos, Patriots, Seahawks, Cowboys, Dolphins, Bucs, and Titans all are projected to be in the market for running backs. Linking Foster to the Broncos makes sense with his former coach running the system that helped make him a star. The Patriots are often willing to give veteran players another chance. The Seahawks may want to add a veteran to help out their young RB’s. The Cowboys could look to add a compliment to Darren McFadden. The Dolphins and Bucs have free agents and young running backs ready to step up in place. The Titans have a backfield of quantity instead of quality. When will Foster be healthy enough to work out for teams? The timelines may not match up.
Foster depending on the situation could be valuable for fantasy owners. Expectations should be tempered as Foster isn’t the same player he was in 2010. Best case scenario Foster could be a committee back that sees the goal-line work providing some late round value for fantasy owners. Fantasy owners should track Foster’s progress and evaluate the situation he lands in this season. The team that signs Foster should dictate his value for fantasy owners.
I’m the type of fantasy owner that holds off as long as I can before drafting linebackers. I stay away from gambling on repeat production at an unstable position. The safer route is to stack your offense and build quality depth. Because linebacker is such a physically demanding position, I tend to target youth. I take the Hugh Hefner approach to drafting linebackers, I’m always looking for newer-younger models. Khalil Mack will be on the minds of most IDP players so I didn’t put him in this list. I’m looking for young 3-down linebackers with the opportunity to make an impact.
The Steelers are known for having a rich tradition of linebackers. Spending a first-round pick on Ryan Shazier caught my attention. Some analysts believe Shazier lacks leg drive and will struggle with the physicality of playing in the NFL. The Steelers track record paired with Shazier’s athleticism makes me a believer. Dick Lebeau is still a tremendous football mind and will find ways to fit Shazier in his defense. Lawrence Timmons is still a solid player, but Shazier’s physical gifts should help elevate the Steelers front-7.
Cardinals MLB Kevin Minter is a 2nd year player that has the opportunity to take a job and run with it. Darryl Washington is gone for the season with a drug suspension and Karlos Dansby has joined the Browns. There’s an opportunity for MInter to step into a 3-down role in the middle of the Cardinals defense. A lack of surrounding playmakers gives Minter the opportunity to rack up a high number of tackles.
Zach Brown should be a monster in the Titans revamped defense led by Coordinator Ray Horton. Brown is a 3rd year player that is best known for having 2 pick-six in the season finale in 2012. The previous regime didn’t view Brown in high regard. I expect Horton to make Brown the centerpiece of his defense. Horton is a tremendous defensive mind that will get the most out of Brown.
Bears MLB Jon Bostic is another player to keep track of this summer. D.J. Williams has played well in spurts throughout his career, the problem has been injuries. Betting on Williams being able to stay healthy isn’t a wise choice. Bostic looked lost at times during his rookie season, but with a year under his belt could possibly take over the middle in the Windy City.
Rookie 5th rd pick Lamin Barrow out of LSU is another IDP player to track this summer. Will Barrow get reps in training camp with the opportunity to take over the MLB spot in Denver? Nate Irving is in a contract year and doesn’t play all 3 downs as Von Miller and Danny Trevathan stay on the field in sub packages. Irving is listed as the starter right now, but Barrow may have the skill set to force the issue for more playing time.
These are young linebackers that IDP owners should keep track of this summer. FIguring out players you can take later allows you to load up offensive depth. Knowing who’s next is a better strategy than settling for old name brand.
Packers TE Jermichael Finley will be out indefinitely with a spinal cord contusion. Fantasy owners looking to replace Finley’s production in the Packers high powered passing attack raced to the waiver wire to pick up Andrew Quarless. In the 2 TE sets Quarless was used as the in-line Tight End while, Finley played as the move Tight End. My belief is that Brandon Bostick has the skill set to fit Finley’s role in the offense better than Quarless.
Bostick played both football and basketball at Newberry College in South Carolina. Newberry is a D2 school that plays in the South Atlantic Conference. Bostick was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent in the spring of 2012. The Packers perceived depth at Tight End led to some trade calls from other teams in camp. Multiple media outlets reported teams contacted the Packers to inquire about Bostick’s availability. Bostick would probably have been a hot commodity if he was released in camp. D.J. Williams was cut instead and joined the Jaguars.
Blocking will probably curb Bostick’s snaps this season. This Packers coaching staff has a proven track record of coaching up their young players and getting them ready to play. I expect the Packers to find away to implement Bostick’s athleticism into their offensive needs down the seam and in the red zone. The Packers remaining schedule is a gold mine for fantasy owners. The Vikings (29th) twice, Bears twice (27th), Eagles (31st), Giants (20th), Lions (28th), Falcons (23rd), and Cowboys (30th) all struggle in pass defense.
Owners in deep keeper leagues should take a flier on Bostick. Racing out grab Bostick in a shallow league may not be necessary just yet. I went with gut instinct and own Bostick in a pair of 12-team leagues.
Prognosticators believe Chip Kelly’s spread offense from Oregon won’t work in the NFL. The spread offense will be mixed in with the west coast scheme in Philadelphia. Pat Shurmur was added as offensive coordinator to assist Kelly in his transition to the NFL. Kelly will certainly run the ball more than Andy Reid. One of the major criticisms of Reid was that he didn’t run the ball enough.
The offensive line play was the major downfall of the 2012 Eagles. The rushing attack suffered as a result. The Eagles were 13th in the NFL in rushing with 1,874 yards and 10 TD along with 37 fumbles. LeSean McCoy missed 4 games last season and only rushed for 2 TD. Shady ran for 17 scores in 2011. Bryce Brown burst onto the scene with a 178 yard 2 TD performance vs. the Panthers and a 169 yard 2 TD performance against the Cowboys. Brown also struggled to hold onto the ball fumbling 4 times.
Vick also suffered from insufficient offensive line play. Even legendary O-line coach Howard Mudd couldn’t coach up the cast of characters the Eagles had along the line last season. The Eagles finished the season with 4 offensive linemen on IR. Many others missed time along the way last season. Vick took a beating in part to the make-shift lines. Theoretically if Kelly, Shumur, and O-line coach Jeff Stoutland can fix the offensive line, veteran skill position players should be able to return to glory.
Kelly wants his QB to get rid of the ball fast which isn’t Michael Vick’s strong suit. Accuracy and decision making are also very important in Kelly’s offense. Unfortunately those are aspects of the game Vick has struggled with during his NFL career. What Vick brings to the table is escapability and arm strength. Vick is better off being able to use his physical skills to make plays. Vick is a double edge sword because for as many plays as he makes with his athleticism, it also leads to turnovers. Vick has fumbled 10 or more times in each of the last 3 seasons. His inconsistency puts a lot of pressure on the defense to keep the team in games.
Nick Foles decision making was questionable at times last season, but he did complete 60.8 % of his passes. Foles threw 6 TD and 5 INT in 7 games. Foles had a pair of 300 yard games vs. the Bucs (381 yards) and Redskins (345 yards). Don’t put too much stock into those performances as the Bucs ranked 32nd and the Redskins 30th in pass defense last season. Foles has more physical talents than Matt Barkley. I’m surprised the Chiefs didn’t acquire Foles instead of Alex Smith.
Matt Barkley would have been a high 1st round pick if he came out of college as a junior. Returning to USC cost Barkley a lot of money on his rookie contract. Barkley makes good decisions with the football and is accurate on shorter routes. Time will tell if his perceived lack of athleticism and arm strength will limit his NFL ceiling. The Eagles traded up in the 4th rd to get Barkley so they must have seen enough that they liked. Barkley’s decision making may be the best out of the trio. This could be a red-shirt year for Barkley to get accustomed to the speed of the NFL.
How Kelly adapts his system to the NFL will be one of the more intriguing stories this season. I believe Michael Vick will be the starter this season because he gives the Eagles the best chance to win games. Kelly and Shurmur are going to have to figure out a way to maximize Vick’s talents and limit or live with the potential damage. My belief is Vick will have to fall on his face to lose the job in training camp. Fantasy owners should look to take Vick as a QB2 with upside. Dynasty league owners should pay attention to the camp battle to figure out which young QB to take a flier on this season.