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Some of you ask me directly. Others beat around the bush with specific questions about my rankings that can't be interpreted any other way: I know you have ________ ranked here, but how much do you trust him to make good on that prognostication?
You want to know whom I believe in. You want a high confidence factor. I get it, rankings often have players who are placed in that spot because the analysis leads us to a logical conclusion but when it comes to pulling the trigger, we hesitate or later regret that we didn't.
Despite how my buddy Sigmund Bloom feels, there's nothing wrong with playing fantasy football like you're making transactions on a financial market. It may disagree with my aesthetic sensibilities about competing in a game in similar was as I know it does for Bloom, but that's your right. If you don't believe intuition exists or you do believe in it, but fear yours is too elusive or fallible to mine, then the more logic and data you can mine, the better.
Even heavy film guys are about logic and data. I am. The difference is that my objective information is what I see on the field and how I track it.
This week's article is touchy-feely. With all apologies to David Dodds and Sigmund Bloom and their From the Gut posts, which recommend reading, I'm the O.G.C. in this fantasy space--The Original Gut Check. It's time to share what's making my fantasy spidey senses tingle regardless of round, role, and scheme.
Let's begin the 20-round tour.
Adrian Peterson (ADP 6) and Marshawn Lynch (ADP 10): All-Day missed all last year and I don't care. He could get his leg chopped off and I'd believe you that he grew one back like a lizard AND it's in even better condition than the one he lost. I don't like how he disciplined his kid. I dislike the game he played with the Vikings.
Want to see the Petersons of the world get punished more severely or put through more stringent rehabilitation? I do. If you do, get more involved as a citizen. If you boycott Peterson for your team because of his behavior, that's your choice and I respect it. I disagree with it, but I respect it.
As a fantasy owner, I don't care. There's nothing not having Peterson on my team will do other than create some sense of emotional satisfaction. If that's all that matters to you, I admire you for it. But it won't create change our society where it matters.
In the meantime, I can compartmentalize that Peterson is still the most physically impressive running back currently playing on the planet and the only other ball carrier who matches his will and stamina is Marshawn Lynch. I don't believe the missed season will result in rust or a loss of athleticism. I believe it only made Peterson hungrier to prove he's the same wild horse he's always been.
Lynch and Peterson entered this draft together and if there's poetic justice in store for them, they'll enter the Hall of Fame together within the next decade. While Peterson has breakaway speed, Lynch's big-play game is based on incredible stamina and balance to maintain the same pace and intensity of his run through multiple layers of contact. The addition of Jimmy Graham only increases the bind Seattle will place on opposing defenders.
These Hall of Famers may be getting older, but the surrounding talent and they're incredible displays since 2007 keep me a believer. I like high-upside picks with safety in the early rounds. These two epitomize that description.
C.J. Anderson (ADP 14): October 26, 2013. That's the date I posted about Cal's C.J. Anderson as a name to remember. I was conservative with Anderson's upside when I studied him in 2012, knowing that he had a lot of ground to cover as a likely UDFA. But when I saw Anderson in the 2013 preseason, it was clear he could hang. I believe Anderson, the Kubiak offense, and that Manning kid at quarterback will make magic on the ground for the Broncos and I want a front row seat for the act.
Andrew Luck (ADP 16): I rarely take quarterbacks early, but I'm not adverse to doing so, especially when thrust into shark-infested waters of Footballguys Staff Leagues where everyone is trying to be slick and it's best to be flexible. Smart, athletic, tough, and adaptable, Luck was awesome last year with T.Y. Hilton, a rookie, and the Golden Girls (Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks) as his receiving corps. What do you think is possible with Andre Johnson? Some of you believe he's another silver fox in need of his morning Geritol before games, but I'm a believer this receiving corps is an upgrade over 2013 and Luck is poised for a huge season. If you're going to go early on quarterback, I believe in Luck.
Justin Forsett (ADP 26): I believe in Marc Trestman's system and the Ravens offensive line. Their RBs were 7th overall in fantasy points last year. The Bears were 10th in 2013 before the bottom fell out in 2014. It makes me a believer in the combination and it means I believe in Forsett, who is experiencing that perfect combination of football maturity and fresh legs.
Jimmy Graham (ADP 27): There's too much concern that New Orleans didn't think Graham was tough enough so they dealt him. I don't believe that mess. I also don't believe that Wilson is a limited quarterback who will get exposed when Marshawn Lynch retires. This is the party line of analysts who missed on him in the first place and have trouble discarding their denial that Wilson is capable of becoming the next Drew Brees.
Get this straight: Russell Wilson has not had a special receiver as an NFL quarterback. Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Andrew Luck all had a least one wide-out or tight end who could be the primary option for for any team in the league. Graham gives Wilson that kind of player. I believe Graham rebounds from last year.
Travis Kelce (ADP 43): He's calling for the ball. That's the sign of a dominant talent realizing his potential. Alex Smith will comply. Kelce may not join Gronkowski and Graham this year because he lacks the talent at quarterback, but I'm counting on top-5 production at his position as a floor. When you watch Kelce in the open field you'll understand.
Golden Tate (ADP 46): I've always believed in Calvin Johnson making life easier for teammates. Johnson has never had teammates capable of making plays like Tate. We saw it on display last year. More of the same in 2015.
Russell Wilson (ADP 48): Listen, while the big network football film analysts with the Sir Mix-a-Lot leanings for quarterbacks find ways to dismiss Wilson's mobility, accuracy, skill at reading the field, and mental toughness to lead the Seahawks to consecutive Super Bowls, consider this: If Marshawn Lynch is covering for Wilson then how come Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, and Jamaal Charles haven't covered for their starting quarterbacks in offenses with even better primary receivers than Wilson's group. I'm sure the same was said of Drew Brees when he was playing with LaDainian Tomlinson. Adding Jimmy Graham only enhances my belief in Wilson.
Andre Johnson (ADP 49): Johnson didn't tail off last year due to age, his quarterbacks stunk and the team wanted to make DeAndre Hopkins the centerpiece of the passing game. Johnson already tried to get dealt out of Houston before the season so why would they continue to make him the primary guy when Hopkins' future is now? Johnson and Luck will be a fine pair this year and I have a feeling there will be a lot of "McFly" moments by midseason when Johnson is producing like the WR1 he has been for most of his career.
Amari Cooper (ADP 51): Jerry Rice says Oakland got their Tim Brown. David Carr (yes, Derek's older brother attending practices) says Cooper's routes are fantastic already. If you read the RSP, you know Cooper was the best route runner of the class. If Mike Evans can get it done with Josh McCown, I think Derek Carr is enough to give Cooper a fighting chance to finish as a WR2. If I need a WR3 and Cooper is available at the right spot, I'll take the risk on the rookie.
Martavis Bryant (ADP 60): Bloom remarks it's funny that I'm the one ahead of the curve on Le'Veon Bell and Bryant when I'm an old AFC Central Browns fan. I see the irony, I also recognized the likely maturation a year earlier than most who were still behaving cautiously. Bryant earned the respect of the Clemson coaching staff two years ago after returning to the team after a suspension from the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and showing renewed commitment to his craft. Bryan credits his grandmother and being a parent as the motivating factors and he hasn't looked back. Bryant is what many people thought Stephen Hill would become. The difference is that Bryan showed better route development and hands during his final season at Clemson than Hill did at Georgia Tech. I believe Bryant's floor is solid WR2 production and if Ben Roethlisberger is the value I believe him to be, Bryant could earn top-15 production.
Ben Roethlisberger (ADP 64): Le'Veon Bell's suspension--even a reduced version--and the combination of talents at receiver lead me to believe Roethlisberger is in store for a more consistent season than 2014 where half of his games yielded no more than a touchdown, including two contests without a score. There's continuity along the offensive line, the offensive coordinator, and the receiving corps. These are all important factors and I anticipate we could Roethlisberger knock on the door of the top-3 fantasy passers this year. He's still falling to the eighth round in many drafts, too.
Ameer Abdullah (ADP 70): Abdullah has been my favorite player in this draft since I profiled him at Football Outsiders to begin the 2014 college season. He's not the most talented option in this draft, but he's a lot closer to that label among the running backs that I think many believe. The metrics are excellent for Abdullah's athleticism and it adds to the value of what's the foundation of what makes the rookie a fine prospect: He's a smart, versatile football player who exhibits excellent judgment between the tackles. He's physical, stronger than he appears, and his burst and decision-making are excellent. The only thing holding him back is pass protection. If he doesn't improve fast in this area, it will be the biggest reason he doesn't earn the feature role this year.
Michael Floyd (ADP 82): SI.com writer Andy Benoit noted that Mike Evans and Michael Floyd's athleticism is limited. He describe them as tall, long-limb players without much quick-twitch, short-area game. O.K. I don't know the context of the Tweet. If Benoit is saying they aren't the same type of receiver as Anotnio Brown and couldn't perform in that kind of role, I get it. Larry Fitzgerald wasn't a quick-twitch, short-area player, either. Fitzgerald's skills in those areas were function--like Evans and Floyd--and it served him well enough for several years. If Benoit is saying Floyd and Evans won't be good NFL starters for years to come because of their brand of athleticism, which I doubt he is, then he'd be dead wrong. The Cardinal I believe will see his production drop is Fitzgerald. Floyd and Brown are the bets and there is room for two when an offense is clicking. As I've mentioned before, Floyd's yards-per-catch average and overall production wasn't so bad when considering the absence of Carson Palmer and an offensive line that should be much improved this year.
Isaiah Crowell (ADP 85): Besides the fact that Earnest Byner is one of my all-time favorite players, Byner has coached or been cited as an integral factor in the development of Priest Holmes, Jamal Lewis, Clinton Portis, Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew. I stood next to Byner at the Senior Bowl while watching DeMarco Murray scrimmage and he thought the Oklahoma runner was a thoroughbred when several analysts I know and respected didn't think Murray hurt his standing that week. I liked him through and through and getting to talk with the Browns back and watch him assess Murray was valuable. Byner watched the 2014 tape of the Browns and believes Crowell's future is "as bright as any young back in the league."
Duke Johnson Jr will earn playing time and possibly challenge for the role if Crowell is not on his A-game, but Crowell was the most talented back in the 2013 class and a runner that would have been among my top 4-5 prospects at the position if he was a part of the 2015 class. I may not believe completely in how the coaches will handle the depth chart, but I believe if Crowell has put in the work and is the starter at this point in training camp, he'll need to screw up on a significant scale not to start the season as the lead runner. I also believe Crowell is grateful for his second chance.
Interesting point, and I can't mention any names, but Crowell was characterized by a prominent alum of the Georgia program with a national platform as being the dumbest guy this alum has ever met. He didn't say this about Crowell publicly, but he wasn't particularly careful about it, either. It certainly takes a deep-rooted brand of immaturity to screw up your opportunity to give Georgia a Ronnie Brown-Cadillac Williams-Brandon Jacobs type of combo with a Crowell-Todd Gurley-Nick Chubb.
That said, I know a former NFL player whose frame of reference I trust a lot. He spent time with the Georgia alum critical of Crowell and he said this alum with the big platform is a gigantic phony. Crowell still has a lot to prove in his second year and with even greater competition than Terrance West facing him with Johnson, but when Coach Mike Pettine says the back practiced well as a rookie and enters this camp as the starter, it's a great sign for a player whose work ethic had legitimate questions.
There are questions about ball security and exchanges and Crowell even had a few bad exchanges to open training camp. Having a new quarterback might be part of it. I'm not concerned. I hope it drops his ADP; I always like a good deal.
I believe Crowell will do no worse than earn RB3 production, but he has RB1 upside. Drafting Duke Johnson Jr wasn't a statement against Crowell's talent, it was an endorsement of Johnson's skills, diversifying the ground game,
Doug Martin (ADP 92): I believe Martin got caught in the wash of a great rookie year and an unsuccessful coaching regime that led to player rebellion of the culture and the young man didn't know how to handle it. The result was weight gain and a deterioration of performance that accompanied poor play from the offensive line. If Martin wanted a surefire way to get an organization's attention that they needed to look for another running back, don't report for the season prior in optimal shape.
Martin got the memo last year and this year he looks like the future star of old. I liked Charles Sims enough at Houston and West Virginia to consider him a contributor who could develop into a starter. I liked Martin enough at Boise State to consider him a future fantasy RB1. Now that Martin is in shape, I believe it's no contest unless the Bucs manufacture one.
Duke Johnson Jr (ADP 98): How can I believe in both Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr? Have you seen Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard? Joique Bell and Reggie Bush? Pierre Thomas and whatever Saints back was healthy? Chocolate and peanut butter?
Johnson reminds me more of Clinton Portis or Reggie Bush--capable of strong, lead production, but his frame leads football coaches to think you've got to prove you can handle the pounding. Think Bruce Arians and Andre Ellington, but in Cleveland where there's a stronger line and quality competition.
Johnson is one of the smarter backs in this excellent rookie class. He's tougher than his size indicates his burst will make him a chain-mover capable of multiple 20-yard plays even if his long speed isn't as great as advertised. I think he's a better player than Terrance West now. Overtaking a conditioned, and prepared Crowell is not going to be easy.
Subbing for an injured Crowell and making it difficult for the second-year back to regain the starting role is more plausible. If Cleveland gets some semblance of a passing game--and perhaps the bonus of a focused and athletic Johnny Manziel (more later)--the Browns will be a load to hand on the ground.
Philip Rivers (ADP 105): Quarterbacks need to be aggressive. They have to read the defense before the snap, make a precise drop, feel the pocket, and not be afraid to attack as intended. My buddy Eric Stoner illustrates this well in his new series, Every Play Tells a Story on N.C. State QB Jacoby Brissett:
Rivers is a Wolfpack alum who has mastered the attacking mentality required of great quarterback play. He has seven QB1 fantasy years during the nine campaigns he's started and he's done it with offenses loaded with talent and when the cupboard was bare.
I can work with a quarterback on my roster where 21 of his past 32 games resulted in at least 250 yards or at least 3 touchdowns. Give me that guy as a safe QB1 still available at the end of the ninth round, if not later.
John Brown (ADP 118): Lawd yes, am I a believer in Brown's game and the comparisons to Marvin Harrison. The guy should be nicknamed "Hind Parts" due to his explosion and agility and that part of his anatomy is the only think defenders see of him. I love his ability to track the ball over his head and he's unfazed by early contact off the line. When the opportunity is right I have no problems taking Michael Floyd as a WR3 with high WR2 upside, but the best value at wide receiver for the Cardinals--and arguably the 2015 fantasy season will be Brown. I have a feeling that Hind Parts has WR1 upside.
Teddy Bridgewater (ADP 127): He was so good with reserves as his surrounding talent last year that I can't help but believe he'll be far better with a year under his belt and true starters--and arguably the best running in the league--helping him out. I feel golden when I finish drafts and Bridgewater is my second QB.
Kyle Rudolph (ADP 141): I believe his 2012 campaign of 53-493-9 is much closer as the baseline of his production potential. It made Rudolph the No.11 fantasy TE rather than TE 14 in 2015's preseason ADP, which is accounting for injury. At this late in the game, I'll ignore the injury potential and focus on the Adrian Peterson-Charles Johnson-Mike Wallace trio that will give Rudolph a lot of room to operate on the dance floor.
Carson Palmer (ADP 144): I've been seeing enough of the Palmer of old since he was in silver and black purgatory with young receivers, no offensive line, and a turnstile of coaches. He's probably 85 percent of what he was, but the Cardinals are the best collection of offensive talent he's had since the Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chris Henry and Rudi Johnson days. I'll gladly take Palmer as my QB2. If the line looks great this preseason I might build a few teams where I wait long enough on the position to take Palmer as my high-risk, high-reward QB1.
Cody Latimer (ADP 146): Injuries to the receiving corps will be the difference between Latimer becoming a fantasy relevant starter and a quality bye-week flex in Gary Kubiak's run-heavy offense. I'll still make a concerted effort to take this big, fast, leaper with skill in tight coverage.
Dorial Green-Beckham (ADP 151): I mentioned in previous articles at Footballguys this summer that renowned wide receiver coach Jay Norvell has high praise for Green-Beckham. Here's what Norvell told The Tennessean on July 1:
On his potential:
I was with the Colts with Jim Mora when he had Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. I was with the Raiders when they had Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Jerry Porter and some other guys on the Super Bowl team. So I've been around some kids and guys on that level.
"But when you go through the history of the draft and look at the guys with size and speed and all that, (Green-Beckham) is just unique. Calvin Johnson is probably one of the closest comparisons physically because of his size. To be almost 6-6 and 237 pounds … that's just a nightmare matchup for any cornerback at any level.
"Now, he still has some things to learn like any young players do, but he's going to go about the business of doing that now."
On another Green-Beckham comparison:
"To me the most fascinating thing about pro football is the draft, comparing current talent to talent in the past. When you just put (Green-Beckham's) measureables up against some other guys … Terrell Owens was considered a big receiver and he's like 6-3, so you've got to put things in perspective with (Green-Beckham). He makes a lot of those big receivers look not so big."
On what lies ahead for Green-Beckham:
"He's not a finished product, but most players aren't. So he's going to have to learn the pro game and that's a completely different game from college. I think he's going about doing that. But he's got some natural gifts that will help him in that game, and in some ways, the NFL is probably a better game for him than college football, just because of the bump rules and (less) contact and all of that. So there are some advantages he has. That's why he's there. That's why they picked him. It will be interesting to see."
Think about Mike Evans last year. Green-Beckham has more upside. I'll take a Round 13 flier on some of that, wouldn't you?
Quick note: one of my favorite things from this John Glennon article above is the first sentence of the story's final paragraph. it's a telling point I try to make all the time that the NFL does not coach technique nearly as much as it coaches strategy: "Because if you think a guy can just show up at 8:30 in the morning and work until 5, and you just teach him the Xs and Os and think he's going to be successful in the pros, I just don't think that's realistic for some of these young kids, even though that's what they are paid to do."
Norvell is talking specifically about environment, leadership, and maturity, but he also broaches the point that Ryan Riddle has often made: Coaches teach strategy and execution, young players learn technique from peers, outside coaching, and veterans. Keep that in mind every time you hear "they'll get 'coached up' in the NFL."
Jameis Winston (ADP 152): Winston wil throw a lot of interceptions this year. He's also going to throw for a lot of yards and touchdowns. He has the Rivers-like aggression to his game and impressive surrounding talent to throw the ball. It's his unshakable confidence in his ability, his smarts for the mental part of the game, and the willingness to work outside the structure of the play that will If I'm going high-risk, high-reward on quarterbacks, I'll take Winston as my QB2 in a committee. There's some risk that Winston could be more Stafford-Cutler with his risks than Rivers with wheels, but the investment is low enough this year to get value from it.
Vernon Davis (ADP 158): The best athlete at tight end to ever play in the league. That's my belief. Investing in Davis between rounds 6-9 after what we've seen between him and Colin Kaepernick is foolhardy. Investing in the most athletic tight end in league history in sounds like a great selection on upside.
Marvin Jones Jr (ADP 163): My Bengals followers might be proven right that Cincinnati won't have a true WR2 in its offense. I don't believe them. Jones is a true WR2 talent and those naysayers have forgotten that Marvin Lewis has had true WR2s during his regime. Look at T.J. Houshmadnzadeh's proudction from 2004-2008 and tell me that no less than 73 receptions, 956 yards, and 3 out of those 5 years with at least 7 scores is not WR2 material. Jones is faster, an equally strong route runner, and he has a better receiver opposite him than "Championship."
Robert Griffin III III (ADP 164): My colleagues wrote in the Footballguys' news wire on July 9, "We're open to a bounce back by Griffin, but we'll need to see it to believe it." At no higher than a 14th-round price, I believe it. I know ESPN's Mark Brunell doesn't believe it, but he's looking at the past tape and not accounting for growth. Lest you forget, I was down on Griffin for the past two seasons and often mentioned that his success was more scheme-driven than it might appear to some. I believe he can become a better quarterback from the pocket and always have.
Brunnell, Ron Jaworski, and Greg Cosell are the traditionalists of quarterback analysis and they rarely veer from that template of big body, big arm, and only use the legs to slide in the pocket. Griffin is big enough, has the gun, and he flashes skills to maneuver the pocket like a traditional passer. He may never become great at the last skill, but he can get good enough to make people regret that they left him for dead.
Heath Miller (ADP 169): With Martavis Bryant making big strides and Antonio Brown continuing his dominance of the receiving scene, Miller should earn some easy touchdowns in the red zone. Still a great check-down option, Miller should earn more open room to run. This could be his fantasy season swan song.
Denver Broncos Defense (ADP 172): This unit has a good mix of veterans and young talent that will benefit from another year of development. The real difference could be time of possession. The Broncos had an average of 25 minutes of possession in 2014, but 31 and 30 minutes respectively in 2013 and 2012 when they ran the ball more with the likes of Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee. Kubiak's offense should give the defense a lead and more rest, which benefits a more aggressive style against offenses operating from a painted corner.
Steve Johnson (ADP 183): He's a bad-ball, 50/50 specialist playing with one of the best at throwing the tight-coverage attempt. It's a match made in heaven and the Chargers will move him around the field. A must-have this late.
Cameron Artis-Payne (ADP 194): I believe if the only variable is past history, the odds are likely that Artis-Payne earns a significant role at some point this year. I don't believe past history is the only variable, but you don't leave home with Jonathan Stewart and not bring the backup along.
James Starks (ADP 214): If called upon, the 30-year-old Starks can give the Packers 4 yards per carry and effective work as a receiver. There's enough talent in the passing game to give Starts and the line a numbers advantage on the defense. He's as safe of a reserve as one can hope for at RB based on the scheme and Starks skills.
Kenny Britt (ADP 217): I feel like I've been writing about Britt weekly. He's only 27 years-old. If he can turn his career around, there's still enough 5-6 years of quality production to be had. After 200 other players leave the board, I'll give it a shot. Experience that translates to learned lessons matter. Antonio Bryant and Brandon Lloyd produced to their potential for a few seasons during their careers. Why not Britt?
Chris Conley (ADP 220): Jeremy Maclin has been dinged a couple of times during his career. Conley could find his way onto the field due to injury even if he can't beat Albert Wilson in training camp. I know enough about Conley's leadership and intelligence to know that he's the type of personality you believe in--the great athleticism only strengthens that belief.
Josh Robinson (ADP 237): I believe in guys who slept in their cars under their high school stadiums as teens and made it to college and thrived. I believe in running backs with stamina and will to make defenders pay for mistakes of effort:
What you should note is that Robinson is quicker than fast and runs with excellent balance, pad level, and leg drive. He's an effort guy. In the Colts offense, it will be enough for him to become a fantasy option if called upon.
Virgil Green (ADP 246): I believe Owen Daniels can't stay healthy and Green is one of the most physically talented options the average fan hasn't seen as a receiver. We could see a whole lot more of it this year, especially if Daniels gets hurt. Green can catch and he's a physical, quick-twitch runner for his size.
Minnesota Vikings DEF (ADP 250): Xavier Rhodes has the makings of a shut-down option. The front seven has the talent to make head coach Mike Zimmer proud. Minnesota's offense was 26th in time of possession last year. With Peterson, Wallace, Rudolph, a second-year Bridgewater, and a healthier offensive line, I think the defense will be on the field less often and it will make them more effective. Even in a division with Aaron Rodgers and Calvin Johnson, I'll take a shot on the Vikings if I wait too longer on the position.
Geno Smith (ADP 252): I believe in Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall, and Chan Gailey enough to consider Smith this late when his production could be worth a player selected between rounds 8-12. Smith has flashed it. I'll take him this late to see if he puts it all together.
Robert Woods (ADP 256): Arguably the best route runner on the Bills. I worry Buffalo will become an offensive purgatory similar to the Jets, but I believe Woods could offer enough for bargain flex production.
Paul Richardson Jr (ADP 263): I haven't been towing the optimistic party line one might expect for a prospect I loved in last year's rookie draft. It seems that he's ahead of schedule and could be ready at some point during training camp. That's the report from mid July. If the knee looks good and the speed is still there, I'll buy this late. Richardson had an above average success rate versus man and zone coverage last year, according to Matt Harmon's analysis. With Jimmy Graham owning the middle, Richardson should earn enough single coverage to improve on his press skills in year-two.
No ADPS, but Worth late picks
Albert Wilson: The Chiefs receiver has flashes of Steve Smith to his game. He's skilled at winning the ball in the air and he carries the ball with a return specialist's skill. He was a fine returner at Georgia State. Wilson is the starter heading into camp and the fact that the Panthers fed Wilson a steady diet of back-shoulder fades in college, makes him accustomed to the close-fought quarters of the pro game.
Marlon Brown: Kamar Aiken begins camp ahead of Brown, but the former Georgia receiver is the superior athlete and the expectations from the coaching staff are higher for Brown than Aiken. I'll opt for the upside pick.
Rashad Greene Sr: He'll begin the year as the slot option. He could end the year as a starter, because he's a savvy player, a worker, and his quickness should translate.
Jacob Tamme: He'll have an ADP by mid-August if he solidifies his role as the primary receiving tight end in Atlanta. I'm confident he will. The Falcons are high on him. What Tamme does best is find open zones and adjust to the ball with defenders around him. He's a tough receiver who should mesh well with Matt Ryan.
Chris Matthews: The Seahawks receiver was a surprise contributor in the Super Bowl and he could be on the bubble this year. I happen to believe that it's worth taking Matthews when Richard Sherman told the media this spring that Matthews has the skills to become a productive contributor for the team on offense and that the former Kentucky receiver made the Seahawks secondary work hard to defend him.
MyCole Pruitt: Good after the catch and versatile enough to play tight end, slot receiver, and fullback, Pruitt got use all over the formation in OTAs. If Rudolph gets hurt, Pruitt could leapfrog the pack and earn unusual production for a rookie tight end.
Ray Rice: Crazy things happen in the NFL. Rice was nearly signed in July. If a team gets desperate enough, they'll deal with the fallout. I believe Rice's skills had not diminished nearly as much as the narrative passed around the league. Last summer against the 49ers, Rice looked like the vintage feature back we were used to seeing. Then the tape went public.
Michael Dyer: Latavius Murray, Trent Richardson and Roy Helu should be the backfield on paper. Really, on paper the depth chart should be Richardson, Dyer and Murray, but that's based on what we saw at their best in college. Professional life is a different world, just look at the folks who you thought would have bright futures in high school. Just got out of high school? Talk to me in 15-20 years. If Richardson disappoints again, Dyer could win a spot, sneak into this backfield as a contributor, and stay there as the starter if an injury strikes.
Trey Williams: See below.
Johnny Manziel: He needed the celebrity knocked out of him and I believe last year accomplished it. I don't think anything Manziel did this offseason was an act. I believe he learned that if he wants to be a good NFL player, that he almost blew it. His game is sill that of a swashbuckler and he'll have rough spots this year when he earns an opportunity--and the way that Josh McCown has played for most of his career, that time should come--but it's a a learning process. If Manziel displays the work ethic and progress needed to get Mike Pettine to warm up to him a bit more, Manziel will get a little more support. Then again, it just might be another Doug Flutie scenario where Manziel has to go above and beyond to even earn consideration. What I do know is that Manziel is an out-of-the-box player in a world with a lot of in-the-box people. It will take some convincing, but I believe Manziel's skills as a runner and thrower on the move--especially with set plays can do a lot for the Browns ground game.
Coming Soon: Players I don't believe in and Upside Down Drafting.