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
B-team quick hits
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