The conditions are simple: I'm listing two players from every team with no more than three years of experience in the NFL that I have mixed feelings about their future. I'm beginning in reverse alphabetical order of organization.
WR Jamison Crowder: I don't believe the rookie has the skills to elevate his game beyond that of a good slot receiver. Put him on an offense with two excellent wideouts and a great quarterback and Crowder could do great work. Put Crowder in New England as that high-volume slot receiver who occasionally gets prime shots to catch a defense napping and work behind them, and I'm all-in on that action. But if Steve Smith owns the club where small receivers play like giants, Antonio Brown is a VIP, T.Y. Hilton is usually allowed past the velvet rope (when Andrew Luck decides to dress up his game), and Doug Baldwin occasionally sneaks past the bouncers. Crowder does enough good things that he'll fit in while in line to be let into the club, but there's just not enough that stands out with his game to ever be let in. He'll have to display that he can play that big-by ball at his size and elevating for a pass between defenders in tight zone just isn't good enough. When he can make the tough adjustment against man at the sideline, I'll reconsider. Until then, Crowder--a good NFL player in the making--doesn't fit as a prospect that I want on most of my fantasy rosters.
OLB Preston Smith: I'm a fan of edge defender from Mississippi State. He's a favorite of Justis Mosqueda, who likened Smith's potential developmental track to Justin Tuck. If you're not familiar with Mosqueda's concept of Force Players, I recommend you check it out. The 6'5", 271-pound Smith qualifies. If you're in a IDP league with sack-heavy scoring, Smith is worth a practice squad spot or a spot at the end of the active roster in a big league. But the fact that he's in a 3-4 as a OLB limits his fantasy potential unless he develops into an option like Justin Houston. If Washington converts to a 4-3, jump on Smith. Otherwise, the potential outweighs the situation on rosters of less than 30 players.
RB David Cobb: I'm wondering about the fit for Cobb in Tennessee. First, I have to say my peace about Marcus Mariota. I know many think I dislike him, but that's a perception based on interviews where I'm repeatedly asked to compare him to Jameis Winston. They might be surprised to find out that Mariota's evaluation in the Rookie Scouting Portfolio was a strong one and that eval has a good chance to be better than any of the quarterbacks coming out in the 2016 NFL Draft (it's like me being cast as a guy who didn't think Dan Marino was good despite having a good eval on him because I liked John Elway more). Mariota's thinking is task-oriented, which sounds negative until you consider that Tom Brady is a top-functioning, task-oriented quarterback. I just didn't get caught up in the first-game overreaction and my analysis only bolstered the perception that I don't like him.
Mariota is the future of the Titans and the future is bright if you consider him and Dorial Green-Beckham (think Andre Johnson in his prime mixed with Big Mike Williams) as the centerpieces of this offense. I just wonder if the Titans' passing game is a natural fit with a power back like Cobb, who would be far better suited for a single back or I-formation. Put Cobb in the flavor of spread rushing that Cam Newon and Jonathan Stewart run and I think he'd be a better match. If Bishop Sankey had pro-caliber conceptual skills, he'd be a better phsyical match for the current system. Hold onto Cobb, but keep the expectations low and be willing to deal the runner if he earns the same analyst-tabbed sleeper appeal that drove Sankey Fever.
WR Kendall Wright: I'd be surprised if the Titans sign Wright to a new deal. Two years ago, he was a 95-catch, 1000-yard receiver. Now he's inching towards 500 yards--if he can stay healthy and the Titans don't go full Dorial Green-Beckham. Wright is a competent player capable of thriving with a veteran quarterback with more skill maneuvering the pocket than Mariota. Think of Wright as a lesser Antonio Brown-Markus Wheaton type in a Steelers offense or catching balls from Russell Wilson and there's optimism. It's a wait-and-see situation for Wright's future after the season. Right now, I'm not trading for him or building around him.
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins: Pairing Winston with a tight end is as natural as pairing Reisling with shellfish. I like Seferian-Jenkins' size, his fluid movement, and his hands. I hate that he takes a lot of big shots and that he can't stay healthy. I can't tell you that he's a bad player, but I can tell you that I'd rather miss the boat on him than be stuck with waiting for Jene Bramel's latest medical analysis about the guy.
RB Charles Sims: Think of Sims as a less powerful DeMarco Murray (or a slower Reggie Bush with more pop between the tackles) on a team that's a good match for him. I hope Tampa Bay keeps Doug Martin, because he's shiftier and more powerful between the tackles, but Smith's receiving skills and speed are so good that I think the Bucs can fashion a ground game around Sims' strengths despite losing some of its short-yardage prowess that Martin offers. He probably has no more than a two-year window to pin your hopes on him becoming a starter. If he doesn't by that point, you can think of him as a faster Pierre Thomas of the Florida gulf. That's not bad, but it depends on Tampa's approach to Martin. Do they re-sign him for 2016 at age 27? It's possible. If they do, Sims' has a much likelier chance of having a career as a backup.
RB Thomas Rawls: I like Rawls, but I expect Seattle to draft more backs in 2016 and give the rookie more competition if Marshawn Lynch doesn't return. I don't expect Lynch to leave the game on this note unless he returns or a Super Bowl appearance in February and helps them win two in three years. It means, Rawls is potential fantasy hero this year, but not necessarily a long-term guy. Worth owning, but don't fall for the idea that he's a player to build around.
WR Paul Richardson Jr: Tyler Lockett hasn't set the world on fire as a receiver, but he has performed well enough to hold out hope that those Antonio Brown comparisons might come to fruition in another year two. While I see the basis for the comparison I think it's moderately too optimistic. Lockett doesn't win the ball in tight coverage nearly as well as Brown always has. Paul Richardson Jr is a different story. He's considered a situational deep threat by the news commentators the fantasy world who spend the day writing two sentence quips as training for their next gig as fortune cookie writers. Richardson is a better pass catcher than Lockett and not far from the rookie as a ball carrier.
The problem is the second ACL tear in three years. The one play where Richardson returned to the field for a 40-yard reception was a nice flash of what we should see when the knee is fully healthy in 2016 and a smaller chance of compensatory issues. Even if the knee doesn't give you pause, the fact that Doug Baldwin is on fire and with the team until 2017 should. Another one of these mighty mite receivers that vex analysts, Baldwin and Russell Wilson have a good rapport and the receiver is only 27 years-old.
Richardson might have to be that much better than Lockett and/or Baldwin this summer to earn a starting gig in Seattle. I think he's skilled enough to develop into that guy, but the injuries decrease the opportunity and Seattle is quick about moving on when things don't initially work out.
QB Colin Kaepernick: Mike Vick was more of a sight thrower (see-it-throw-it rather than anticipating breaks on routes) and he had good fantasy production with multiple teams. The problem with this example is that Vick has not sustained the caliber of quarterback play that matches the excitement generated from his athletic ability. If Kaepernick heads to a new team, he'll need a year to learn a new system and it's an adjustment than can't be underestimated. Even if he stays with the 49ers, it's possible there's a new system there, too. I love what he can do matched in the right system, but he's a niche quarterback right now and that's not promising for his fantasy owners.
WR Torrey Smith: He's still good, but 3-5 targets per game is not enough for fantasy owners to get the most from Smith's talents. He's stuck in this dysfunctional organizational fiasco that's the 49ers. I hope he enjoys the restaurants and the weather, because I'm told by someone with connections to to people in the know with this team that there are way too many voices trying to have a say with the direction of this team.
TE Ladarius Green: If he was as good as advertised he'd have overtaken Antonio Gates by now. Harsh? Not at all. Gates is still a good starter, but he's a fraction of what he was during his 20s. If Green was the weapon people think, San Diego would be killing themselves to get him on the field with all of these injuries to its receiving corps. Green was a huge fantasy hope this time two years ago. Now he's nothing more than a prayer. Unless the Chargers coaches have completely mismanaged the scheme and personnel--a possibility based on how the staff has lost the support of the players--Green is not in my future.
OLB Melvin Ingram III: Another 4-3 defensive end reduced in potential because he was squeezed into a 3-4 OLB role. I have a working theory that there are at least five 3-4 OLBs who could be significantly better 4-3 DEs and be a part of elevating defenses. Ingram, Preston Smith, Brandon Graham, Derrick Morgan, and Corey Lemonier are good candidates. I could list more.
WR Tavon Austin: Figuring out a consistent way to maximize Austin's production must be harder than getting into the medical school at the University of Washington at St. Louis. Many are pointing the finger at Jeff Fisher, who has gone through multiple coordinators but his teams' offenses still look the same: bad.
This goes back to Fisher's career in Tennessee. Granted, a healthy quarterback and consistent primary receiver would do wonders for Austin. None of that's close to happening now. As I mentioned earlier this year, Austin's production has been tied closely to Todd Gurley. Right now, opposing defenses are daring the Rams to throw the ball.
I'm still holding out hope that Austin's good games are a sign that his career may turn a corner yet. It doesn't mean I'm actively buying him.
HC Jeff Fisher: I don't have another player worth noting who has no more than three years on the Rams. It leaves Fisher, who is in year No.3 with St. Louis. I've seen him do "more with less" for years in Tennessee, but few teams are patient enough to let coaches set up a process, measure the process, evaluate the results, and tweak the process. We'll see if going through two coordinators in one season is a Fisher-driven decision or pressure from ownership that, in the NFL, is typically over reactive. Fisher might be the common link with his teams' offensive struggles, but he has also been known for fielding offenses with great power running games. I think Todd Gurley fixes that angle, but can the Rams achieve balance with the rest of its talent or will this be a Gruley-and-nobody fantasy situation?
WR Sammie Coates Jr: Markus Wheaton gets a bad rap. The guy had one of the lowest drop rates among eligible receivers last year. He's also earning a better caliber of targets this year. Wheaton will be a Steeler through 2017 and I don't think Martavis Bryant and Antonio Brown are going anywhere anytime soon. Coates left Auburn as a slightly higher functioning talent than Darrius Heyward-Bey. I suppose that statement reflects some progress with the way teams draft early first-round talents. Coates can block, make acrobatic catches facing the quarterback, and run after the catch. I wonder if Coates was the pick in reaction to Martavis Bryant's marijuana history. I can envision a scenario where Coates becomes a factor in 2-3 seasons, but I'm a storyteller by trade--I don't want to count on it. At the same time, it worries me that Bryant is so deep into the NFL's drug program and that his mom is living with him. One of my dynasty league compatriots is giving serious consideration to selling Bryant high this year. I'm hanging onto Bryant, but you can see why Coates' future is a mixed bag.
OLB Bud Dupree: One of these impressive physical specimens that I mentioned as potentially excellent 4-3 DEs is the Steelers' rookie. But in Dupree's case, I think he can become that next Justin Houston-like option capable of double-digit sacks. Dupree has to learn a few notable techniques to help him win the edge. He has no second move whatsover as a pass rusher. If he can get these skills down, his athletic skill will present a terrifying prospect to opponents. I'm leaning towards optimism on Dupree, but I'm not sold he's a IDP player to build around.
RB DeMarco Murray: Murray is a fifth-year player, but I'm making an exception. This has been a poor match between player and scheme and sadly, it appears that Murray chose the money over the team and fit. It's hard to criticize Murray for the call, but it would have been better for him if he had enough self-awareness about his style and the Eagles' plans. When the cameras pan to Murray on the sideline he often appears incredulous or angry about what's happening. Unless he gets traded--and it's possible with the likes of Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles in the fold, or the Eagles opting for a draft pick--Murray could be stuck in a situation that wastes his talents during what should be the prime of his career. I find it hard to believe it will play out this way, but the life forever surprises us.
TE Zach Ertz: He had a great catch against the Patriots. I think it will be the best catch he ever makes. He has what I might label "selectively NFL athletic." He can do a couple of things that lead people to think he's a better player than he really is. For Ertz, it's leaping for the ball and setting up a break with a stem on intermediate routes. That's not enough. It's why the No.26 TE in fantasy football is the fool's good fantasy owners thought was worth waiting for.
None: This might be the most bizarre thing I have encountered this year. I cannot name a young player on the Raiders offense with a pivotal role who I'm not sold on. Derek Carr comes closest, but he's proven to me that the pocket issues at Fresno State that I considered borderline dealbreakers haven't plagued him in Oakland. Latavius Murray isn't the next coming of greatness, but his style works. And Clive Walford's only question mark is his professionalism and preparation, which is common with most young players. I've always believed that the league is better off when the Raiders are good. Here's to a promising future.
New York Jets
Reserve Quarterbacks: Both Geno Smith and Bryce Petty are prospects with a series of minor flaws that add up. Petty has a little more youth on his side to take a big step in the next year or two. Smith had the superior skills to Petty when he arrived, but he has already been exposed to some of the worst parts of the NFL meat grinder and he hasn't fared well enough. I can imagine a good outcome for either player and there's enough surrounding talent to support it. I'm not buying into it.
TE Jace Amaro: Big, fluid, and capable of difficult adjustments on the ball, Amaro's issues with dropping the ball turned into a larger problem when the added pressure of football as a profession made the hands a little sweatier. The reports on Amaro this summer were about him being on the hot seat, but this was before the season-ending shoulder surgery. That leaves us with two questions: Will the Jets give Amaro a mulligan? And will Amaro take advantage of it? He'll get another opportunity in the NFL, but he'll have to be great to earn the same caliber of a shot to start that he got with his initial contract.
New York Giants
WR Rueben Randle: He can't get open and he makes a lot of little mistakes. He's a great example of a player who coasted on his athletic ability and hasn't figured out how hard to work at the game. In contrast, Odell Beckham is a great athlete who has also worked at becoming a great technician. Maybe Randle will wake up and realize what he's capable of becoming. I don't know enough about him to say that he wants it bad enough to do so. If you listen to his play, the statement is an emphatic, "no."
TE Will Tye: I like his hands and his strength, but I'm not sold that the Giants will be invested in him as a starter because he lacks that top-shelf athletic ability. Hopefully they look at Gary Barnidge, Heath Miller, and a few other standout tight ends in this league and then look at Rueben Randle and decide they can afford to work with Tye a little longer while they shore up its complementary receiver.
WR Brandon Coleman: He has moments where his athletic skill and increased understanding of the game and gameplan come together and the results are brief flashes of excitement. But he still looks raw with routes and positioning for the ball. I'll hang onto him one more year in deep dynasty leagues, but he has to do more than win unofficial, "feel-good" training camp platitudes that generate media buzz. With the end nearing for Drew Brees sooner than later, it's difficult to get too invested in any Saints receiver based on the rest of the quarterback depth chart.
WR Willie Snead IV: He can run rotues and he can catch the ball. He's a worker and a favorite of Brees. I just wonder how many teams would have the quarterback and scheme to help him thrive like he has.
Did you hear something? No, me neither.
The Remnants of the 2013 WR Draft Cattle Call: T.J. Moe is known more recently as a guest on CNN talking about the protests on Missouri's campus. Kenbrell Thompkins has bounced to the west coast and back, but remains in the NFL. The only reason Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce are the last men standing in New England from this cattle call for receivers is that the Patriots haven't had a chance to see enough of them on the field during the regular season. The IR Twins were the earliest draft picks of the bunch. Dobson is capable of spectacular catches when focused, but he's not a technician. Boyce's strength is speed and skill after the catch. Precision was not a part of either players' game. It's odd to me that the Patriots aren't targeting players who naturally complement the highest functioning task-oriented quarterback in the league. Emmanuel Sanders was that guy, but they let him get away.
WR Charles Johnson: He went from being the immediate future to the immediate past by the end of Week 2. He has 115 snaps during those first two games and 114 since. He missed two weeks, but the he hasn't even seen a target since Week 10. I believe he gets another chance somewhere, but as we've discovered over the years, it's difficult for a player on the cusp of proving he belongs not to reach that point and have the resilience to do it elsewhere.
QB Teddy Bridgewater: I believe in his accuracy, maneuverability, and toughness. But there's only so much a man can take. The comments from Bruce Irvin about Bridgewater after Seattle's shellacking of the Vikings makes it difficult not to think that if the Vikings can't shore up this offensive line in 2016, the constant pressure will permanently alter the way Bridgewater plays the game.
RB Jay Ajayi: Lamar Miller's contract ends this year so there's a chance Ajayi earns an opportunity to start if the Dolphins don't renegotiate. From what we've seen of Ajayi, there's reason for Miami to take a tougher stance with Miller. The rookie has the goods to become a feature back. The question is the knee.
Do the Dolphins believe it will hold out long enough for Ajayi to give them 2-3 years? Will anyone truly know? With Miller only 25 years-old and entering his prime, should Miami let him go for a back of near-equal, if not greater talents but such a tenuous shelf life?
Common sense says Miami keeps Miller and hopes Ajayi can give them short-term insurance as an injury substitute while offering big talent as a change of pace. If it goes down this way, the prospect of the balky knee that could go at anytime--even if he feels great now--makes it unlikely that any team will want to make Ajayi its feature back when it's time for a second NFL contract.
Ajayi is the type of player that could win a lot of leagues, but the strategy and timing behind acquiring his services and getting the most from them seems dicey, at best.
WR Kenny Stills: The talented receiver has been an afterthought in Miami after the Saints unloaded him. New Orleans' move and the resulting outcome may have some correlation to the fact that the Saints liked his talent, but didn't like his approach to the game enough to hold onto the receiver at all costs. I'm beginning to realize that a lot of the players that don't work out that I liked in their college days have clear talent that flashes early, but the mindset isn't strong. Either they grow up and the light comes on early enough for them to take advantage of their fleeting opportunity or they figure out that they let their opportunity pass them by while their watching the games on TV. Jarvis Landry's pre-draft spinal stenosis issue might pose a long-term issue that keeps Stills in a job, but for now most people aren't even aware Landry had a lingering health concern.
Kansas City Chiefs
WR Chris Conley: I have Conley in a few dynasty leagues and he has made some plays this year. The physical talent and intelligence are there. I think the margin between Conley and a talent like Martavis Bryant as smaller than people realize. But is the quarterback and the offense to support his development in Kansas City? The Chiefs seem to be content with a small-ball offense where Conley doesn't figure as strongly as he would if Alex Smith let it rip far more often. If Spencer Ware can remain on the forefront of this offense and continue pounding the ball with authority up the middle, Smith will have downfield opportunities even he can't ignore. Its this dynamic in Kansas City that leaves me enthusiastic about Conley's potential, but wary of his opportunities.
RB Spencer Ware: I'm a believer. You know I am. The rest of this entry is my attempt to look at the opposite side of the situation. Jamaal Charles will be back next year and smaller speed backs tend to recover better from ACL tears than bigger backs who make hard cuts. If the Chiefs have any concerns about Charles it will be due to his age. It would lead me to think that the Chiefs consider drafting a back next year who they're confident can be the feature guy if Charles gets hurt.
I'm hoping Ware continues to earn enough opportunities this year that the team realizes if they stay patient with the big fella, good things will come--including how they use him next year. Having faith it will happen is too much to ask for.
RB Denard Robinson: T.J. Yeldon is the present and the future of this franchise. Watch what he did against Tennessee on that long pass reception and you'll see the combo of skills that make him more than a between the tackles plodder. Robinson did enough last year that I like his future as a contributor, but only as an injury substitute to Yeldon. Otherwise, he's not the game-changer utlity player that scouts envisioned when they moved him from quarterback.
By the way, I think it's important to realize that great athletes at quarterback are generally average or slightly above average athletes when they are moved to receiver or running back--and this is after the initial transition that slows down the learning process and forces these players to think more and react less. Anquan Boldin, Julian Edelman and James Starks were more exceptional cases of former starting QBs in college doing consistently productive work with the ball in the NFL, and I'm not sure Starks even qualifies in the same category os Boldin and Edelman.
(For those who will want to write me about this: Michael Robinson, Lane Johnson, and Jordan Reed are successful converts. I'm waiting for Reed to be healthy for more than 11 games in a season before he earns any credit. Hines Ward was a RB at UGA before they used him as a QB out of desperation. Antwaan Randle El is a popular name and he was a nice slot player, but not the every-year producer you'd target in fantasy leagues.).
I don't think it means Robinson should have remained a QB in the NFL, but there are a lot of prospects who could have been better quarterbacks than what they're being asked to do in the league if they earned a longer developmental track.
WR Rashad Greene Sr: I've long liked his talent, but Greene strikes me as a player the Jaguars are using as a player to motivate Marqise Lee into becoming the player he's capable of becoming. I know that's not the real motive in Jacksonville. It would be silly, but I can see how it would unintentionally play out that way. Greene doesn't fit into this scheme as a productive slot receiver for fantasy purposes unless the Jaguars get rid of Julius Thomas, which is not happening. The only chance Greene gets as a fantasy producer will come if he's placed on the perimeter as a substitute for Allen Robinson or Allen Hurns. I think his career is about to have a very similar track as Harry Douglas.
WR Phillip Dorsett: When the Colts drafted Dorsett, the team hadn't re-signed T.Y. Hilton and Pep Hamilton was still the offensive coordinator. What now? Will the Colts look to Dorsett as that third option in a new scheme? Will Dorsett do enough to earn this prominent of a role? Can Andrew Luck stay in the pocket an deliver to Dorsett? Do the Colts have the firepower up front to give Luck that kind of time if Dorsett isn't a first option in any play? There's a lot to answer here beyond the questions of talent and transition to the speed of the game.
RB Josh Robinson: Currently on the practice squad, Robinson ran hard but fumbled too often. He's not a high-end physical talent so he'll need to be super prepared and consistent the next time he earns a shot to make the active roster. He'll also be running for a team that needs a huge influx of talent up front.
WR Jaelen Strong: He's buried on Houston's depth chart behind Nate Washington, Cecil Shorts and Keith Mumphery. Keith Mumphery. This isn't as disconcerting as the fact that the Texans will likely be looking for a new quarterback and starting runner--no matter how well Brian Hoyer plays down the stretch.
LB Jadeveon Clowney: The flashes are exciting. The lack of consistency and polish that comes from missing practice time and injury after injury is maddening.
RB Eddie Lacy: Injuries, conditioning, and a curfew violation have all factored into a disappointing year for Lacy. There was talk during his rookie year that Lacy lacked a love for the game and it could hurt his long-term approach to the profession. There are many players who don't love the game, but few discuss it. After all, it's not good public relations and the league is often more concerned about these little things than they are the bigger issues that continually make them look backwards. I have no questions about Lacy's skills, but I do wonder about his desire.
WR Davante Adams: He's built like a primary receiver. He runs like a primary receiver. Sometimes he even catches the ball like a primary receiver. But he can't get open like one. He doesn't make the adjustments like one. And next year, you'll be watching Jordy Nelson play like one and realize that Adams is a talented tease unless he gets serious about his craft.
TE Eric Ebron: Statistically, Ebron has been incrementally better than his rookie campaign, but 31-357-4 isn't saying much--especially when his target allotment during the past three weeks isn't as much as his Week 10 total. He was earning at least five targets in six of his first seven games, but his recent output suggests that Jim Bob Cooter and the Lions are more focused on getting Calvin Johnson better opportunities. Ebron is like a lot of NFL prospects, a talent who hasn't proven that he's a worker. He still has another year for the light to come on and become the seam weapon that can elevate an offense with the Lions' skill talents. I'm not optimistic, because he has never been a smart player in the context of the game happening around him.
RB Ameer Abdullah: The rookie is performing better down the stretch, but the talent and skill has never concerned me. It's the offensive line, the coaching staff, and the future of the Lions' organization. Will there be a new coach? Will he bring a scheme that runs counter to the reasons the Lions picked Abdullah? Will Abdullah get relegated to a committee role when the Lions discussed him as a future lead back with a feature role? The tough times in Detroit bleed over to fantasy owners.
WR Cody Latimer: Cecil Lammey knows the team he covers. If he still believes in Latimer's future in Denver, then you should keep Latimer as a prospect on your rosters. Still, there are legitimate questions about his upside in an offense with a new quarterback, a scheme that is known for fielding two quality fantasy receivers (at best), and where Latimer fits in.
WR Terrance Williams: He's a solid complement to Dez Bryant when a quarterback like Tony Romo is under center. I think the same could be said about Brandon LaFell, Rueben Randle, and dozen other options working opposite a stud receiver and a good starting quarterback. When Williams is asked to carry the load, that's a different story. And there are No.2 receivers that can: Allen Hurns, Nate Washington, and Eric Decker come to mind. Williams lacks the complete game of a long-term starter, but he has enough game to remain a situational producer if he continues along the same path.
RB Isaiah Crowell: The problem with Crowell has always been the same. He's a fantastic talent who doesn't love the game enough to play it like he's sucking the marrow out of every opportunity to be on the field. It's a business he likes and he makes calculated business decisions. The Browns practically begged Crowell through the media this summer to work harder, show more urgency. Didn't happen. Is he worth a roster spot in dynasty leagues? Yes, the light could still come on or he could land in a situation that's too good to ignore him. But Crowell may be a lot like Christine Michael and Bryce Brown in their approaches to the game: They know they're talented, but they don't realize to the extent that they should that talent isn't everything when you enter a league where great talent is the norm, not the exception.
QB Johnny Manziel: Most people think he's done in Cleveland. The Dallas conspiracy theorists believe it's between Manziel and Matt Stafford as the player to get traded to succeed Tony Romo. I hope the Browns keep Manziel. It's asinine for the Browns, who ignored a pre-draft study that they paid six figures for, to draft a player with Manziel's well-known bouts of immaturity and put him on the two-year corporate QB plan that most young passers get. Manziel is a long-term project and half of it is dealing with and addressing his inevitable bouts of arrogance-fueled, childishness. I fear that just as the point Manziel is turning a corner (watch his play from the pocket against the Steelers) on the field, they're going to send him packing for his behavior off it. While Manziel was getting excoriated by social media and the press for lying about going to a party, the same people were sharing the CBS feature that collected stories from teammates and coaches about Brett Favre shutting bars down--it not outright tending them--and arriving to practice drunk. Different era perhaps, but not as long ago as you may think.
WR Marquess Wilson: I think he can be better than Terrance Williams, but his opportunity step up when Alshon Jeffery was hurting presented mixed results. His youth is still an asset for believing in him, but he had a real chance to become a fanatical worker at an early age in the NFL and there's not enogu evidence that it's happening.
RB Ka'Deem Carey: The guy can flat-out run the football. He's not a star, but he finds creases, hits them decisively, and he can keep the chains moving. But will be be stuck behind Jeremy Langford during the post-Matt Forte era? I think so. He'll contribute, but he'll need an injury to shine if he doesn't return next year far better after an off season of maniacal work (few do this).
S Shawn Williams: The former Georgia Bulldog always had the look of a competent defender. With George Iloka's contract ending this year, Willaims will be the frontrunner next year unless the Bengals resign the 25 year-old incumbent and keep Williams for depth.
RB Giovani Bernard: Do the Bengals know exactly who they are on offense and the switch to a higher workload for Jeremy Hill coincides with opponents being tired and beaten down at seasons end? Or, do the Bengals find themselves veering away from the talented Bernard less intentionally? He's well on his way to becomign one of the most talented and unpredictable fantasy options of this 3-5 year period.
WR Devin Funchess: His physical skills are the appeal of the mirage that he presents as a prospect. He can make pretty plays, but he's never been great at the ugly ones that quarterbacks rely on. He might work out as the No.2 to Kelvin Benjamin or in a timeshare with Ted Ginn Jr, otherwise known as The (Every Other) Play-Maker. I'd rather sell him to a Michigan fan or a fantasy owner who believes in the "he coached up" scenario as the norm and not the exception.
WR Robert Woods: I fear he's the type of player who the Bills will find too valuable to let go, but not have the system to get the most out of him. I'm half-hoping that Chris Hogan of Dezmin Lewis grow up fast enough to prevent Woods from sticking around.
WR Dezmin Lewis: Remember when Marcus Easley was a thing? Me, too. Now he's a great special teams thing. Lewis made my list as a potential luxury pick for fantasy practice squads at this stage of his career, but it better be a deep league because Buffalo's offense appears to be a one-wide receiver town for fantasy owners.
LB C.J. Mosley: Maybe he's playing hurt. If so, it would be a positive explanation or Moseley's production tailing off between Weeks 3-8. Another is that his play has suffered due to the loss of surrounding talent to injury. What I fear (as a fantasy owner, but love as a fan who'd like every echo of winning Cleveland football--yes, there was a such a thing and Ozzie Newsome is why it perpetuates--to leave the Ravens organization) is that winning Ravens football is soon to be a thing of the past and Mosely will be a useful sailor trapped on a rudderless ship.
RB Javorius Allen: I was ambivalent about Allen when he left USC. There are moments where he looks like more than just a guy. Those moments come in the flats on short routes. If I'm remember correctly, one such play occurred against Boston College that looked a lot like the run after the catch against Miami. Neither were amazing plays, but the burst and vision are good enough to hurt the opposition. Allen will be more consistent than Terrance West, but that's only good enough to start this year. What about next year?
WR Justin Hardy: The hands are good, he can get open against zone, and he works hard. But he's not even "just a guy" if he can't get open against single coverage. I haven't see him do it yet. It doesn't mean he can't but if he could, wouldn't you think he'd be playing outside and earning targets galore from Matt Ryan when Roddy White and Nick Williams are the only viable options the coaches are using? I think so. I'm still perplexed that Devin Hester, now healthy, isn't earning some looks. Not that he's a good NFL receiver, but he helped the offense last year and the passing game this year looks worse. It's not a good sign for Hardy unless the coaching staff has a thing about trusting rookie receivers.
RB Devonta Freeman: The Falcons need more help on the line and a second receiver capable of removing the focus on Julio Jones. Until then, teams will sell out against the run and it doesn't matter how good Freeman can be. It will also cause the Falcons to overthink the situation and try to force Tevin Coleman into the picture because of his long speed.
RB Kerwynn Williams: I brought the second-year runner from Utah State up on last Sunday's Audible podcast as the better backup to David Johnson than Stepfan Taylor and Williams made good on that thought: running for a 35-yard touchdown against the Rams. Carson Palmer talked more about Williams when asked about Taylor leading up to this game. The Cardinals defense has been talking up Williams as a guy who deserves a shot based on what they've seen from him on the scout team. He's a fine receiver and a smart, shifty runner with burst. But if Giovani Bernard has issues earning consistent looks, Williams is really in purgatory.
RB Andre Ellington: If fantasy football has labeled him an injury risk, imagine how the NFL thinks of him? Ellington will find a team in 2017, but the first time (post-Arizona) that he can't stay healthy is the last time a team likely thinks of him as a viable starter. I never got the impression Bruce Arians thought that highly of Ellington as an every-down back. Kudos to the coach for stocking up on viable starters this off season.