The best part of August? Fantasy football drafts are just around the corner, and training camps are in full swing! For the many fantasy football enthusiasts out there preparing frantically for your upcoming drafts here are a couple of situations and players you should be paying close attention to during training camp.
Danny Amendola – WR New England Patriots
There are lots of new faces for the Patriots offense, but the face of the franchise has remained the same – the cool and collected Tom Brady. Who’s going to be the main beneficiary of all those balls Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, and Brandon Lloyd caught? That would be Danny Amendola, who is currently being selected as roughly the 19th receiver off the board. Early talk out of training camp so far is that Amendola is head and shoulders above everybody. Coach Bill Belichick is already praising his work ethic and calling him extremely dependable. No doubt lots have predicted a solid year for Amendola, but the biggest question mark that comes with the player is his injury risk. I’ll tell you this, though – this is a strong, hard working dude. His injuries have been seemingly largely just a result of bad luck, and are no real cause for concern as he hasn’t suffered any re-occurring injuries and he’s come back 100% from them all. I would keep tabs on his progress in camp, and he’s already rising up my board. If you continue to hear Brady and Amendola are making positive strides together then he’ll continue to climb up my list, and be totally worth the injury risk – his upside is just way too high. Amendola and Brady were already creating pre-snap signals with one another in Tuesday’s practice. Wes Welker’s best season prior to the Patriots was a 67 catch, 687 yard season for Miami… quite similar to Amendola’s best year in 2010 where he caught 85 balls for 689 yards on a poor Rams team. Welker’s first year with Brady? 112 receptions, 1,175 yards. I am confident the same stats can be gained by Danny Amendola.
Aaron Dobson – WR New England Patriots
Amendola can’t catch all the passes, and although Rob Gronkowski has had some positive signs in his recovery he still might miss a couple games so guys will have to step up. Again, this is Tom Brady, he makes household names into studs. The 6’3″, second round pick in the ’13 draft has been given a golden opportunity, and thus far in training camp he’s shown some serious big play ability. Still, he’s a rookie in a complex Patriots system and has some learning to do. Keep a close tab on his relationship with Brady. This is where chemistry is made – right now in camp – if you see Tom Brady gushing over this guy’s skill then move him up your draft boards.
Just check out the famous catch he made here. That with Brady? Damn! I think we may be looking at the potential rookie of the year… you might want to reach for him in drafts or he’ll be gone!
It should be noted, though, that while his draft pedigree and sticky hands give Dobson the inside edge to the nod as starting X receiver, fellow rookies Josh Boyce and the undrafted Kenbrell Thompkins are receiving rave camp reviews, too. Keep a special eye on the 25-year-old Thompkins as he’s continuing to progress with Brady.
Wes Welker – WR Denver Broncos
Wes Welker was the 6th best fantasy receiver overall during six seasons with the Patriots, not to mention the king of PPR leagues. His 672 receptions over the last six seasons are the most ever over any six-year stretch in NFL history. Should he be getting more respect than being the 17th receiver taken in NFL drafts? Were his numbers just a product of his situation? In Denver they have a three headed monster now, but I see Eric Decker as the one taking the biggest hit. Something you should be paying close attention to in camp is how Welker’s relationship is developing with Manning? Are they on the same page? Peyton Manning wasn’t throwing deep a ton last season, and I expect Welker to fit in quite well as Manning’s safety blanket and short yardage man, racking up a ton of catches once again. If I see some early pre-season chemistry going on between the two I can definitely see a top 12 finish on the horizon for the energizer bunny – and easily a top 12 finish in PPR leagues.
Golden Tate – WR Seattle Seahawks
After Percy Harvin’s injury, and with Sidney Rice searching the Alps for knee treatment, people are worried about who will catch the ball in Seattle – the answer to that question is Golden Tate. Knowing that, how high should be moving up your draft list now? I’m starting to think quite high! He’s currently going late – around the 47-50th WR off the board which tends to be around the 11th round. At that ADP he represents an absolute steal…but he won’t be that low for much longer. Tate has been the talk of camp recently, drawing much praise from coaches and Russell Wilson; he’s one year older now and one year wiser and I think he’s ready to make a big jump. He’s apparently being wowing onlookers at camp and is consistently beating tough corners Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman. He’s also an extremely versatile player and has been showing this off by lining up all over the field in camp. His 6.1 yard after the catch average last season ranked among the top 10 and you should expect the Seahawks to use Tate quite profusely. A top 20 finish isn’t out of the question for this budding star, especially in PPR leagues. Keep an eye in his progress through camp.
Fred Davis – TE Washington Redskins
Ah, Fred Davis. Remember two years ago? Davis was picked up all over fantasy leagues, putting up steady numbers from the Tight End position – that season he posted a 6.1 YAC average, which was good for the 6th best output among tight ends. His 59 catches, 796 yards and 3 touchdowns were enough to make him the 5th ranked fantasy TE in 2011. Now back from injury, Davis has been quietly generating a buzz in Redskins camp. The Washington Post noted recaptured speed and explosiveness; he apparently has been constantly beating coverage and getting open. With the Redskins hoping to keep Robert Griffin III in the pocket more to reduce his running, Fred Davis may be in for a pretty solid season. Outside of Pierre Garcon (who does tend to get hurt from time to time), there aren’t a whole lot of other reliable targets for the sophomore. Keep an eye on his progress in camp to see if RGIII can connect with him in pre-season games, if so then Davis should be on your radars and he won’t cost you a high pick either!
Ryan Broyles – WR Detroit Lions
Ryan Broyles is becoming a ‘sexy’ sleeper pick in upcoming drafts and I’m jumping on that train too. Broyles has been the talk of camp in Detroit impressing everybody since being cleared from his ACL injury. He has been getting open at will at Lions camp and winning all the battles, and he has Matthew Stafford gushing. With Megatron constantly facing double coverage, it gives a guy like Broyles a wonderful opportunity to get open and make defenses suffer. Keep an eye on his continued progression throughout camp – Broyles might be in for a special year and worth reaching for a round or two earlier than you planned.
Rueben Randle – WR New York Giants
Rueben Randle is another talk of town kind of guy in training camp. He is evidently just destroying the Giants secondary, quickly developing chemistry with Eli Manning, and lighting up Giants camp. Despite the latest news that Hakeem Nicks is feeling great, Coach Tom Coughlin said Randle will get his playing time. His potential breakout combined with the fact Nicks is certainly no lock to play all 16 games could mean that Randle may be one of the steals of your draft. He’s got great value being around the 60th WR taken in drafts, and should probably be moved into the top 50.
EJ Manuel – QB Buffalo Bills
Does Kevin Kolb want to start in the NFL? Slipping on a mat!? C’Mon man! EJ Manuel is taking advantage in the meantime while drawing praise from the whole organization. Peter King wrote about Manuel, referencing him as comfortable, confident, strong-armed and accurate. There’s a reason they reached out and got Manuel in the first round, and I think there’s a reasonable chance he’ll be starting week 1. New Coach Doug Marrone, formerly of Syracuse, plans to run a fast offense and Manuel is a good fit for that tempo. Keep an eye on his progress and their eventual naming of him as the starting QB. If he’s the starter he will definitely have some eye popping weeks and isn’t a bad option as a low end QB2, perhaps a great spot starter with favourable matchups. In King’s article it was reported that when the Bills went to Florida State to scout Manuel they ran into a security guard from FSU who told them E.J. has been the best thing he’s seen in 37 years – I think the kid’s got a bright future!