Shark Bites

Giants insider Jordan Raanan came away from spring practices believing that RB Shane Vereen is "not just going to be a third-down back."  We've heard similar sentiments from other members of the New York media.  Vereen is getting lots of work in passing situations, as expected, but has also been busy as a ball-carrier and in the red zone.  He never topped 96 carries in New England but could set a new career-high in 2015.  RB Rashad Jennings turned 30 in March, has never played a full 16-game season and averaged just 3.8 yards per carry last year.  RB Andre Williams mustered just 3.3 yards per carry as a rookie and offers nothing as a receiver.  "Get ready for a lot of Shane Vereen," Raanan adds.

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Vikings OC Norv Turner called Charles Johnson "far and away" the team's best WR earlier this offseason.  (Although that was before Minnesota traded for Mike Wallace.)  Turner piled on some more love after the team wrapped up minicamp:  "He's got great work ethic, and he's a big, strong guy. He's a 218-pound receiver that can run. He's got everything you need to be a productive player in this league."  Johnson certainly has the size and athleticism to flourish as a pro.  He closed last season with 25 catches, 415 yards and 2 TDs over the final 7 games and appears locked into a starting spot this year.  There's WR2 upside here, making Johnson a nice grab at his 7th-round ADP.

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Browns HC Mike Pettine called Rob Housler the "ideal 'F'" TE.  Here's how Pettine described that position: "The F is more of a move type, off the ball, more of a wing. You can flex him out some."  That's the kind of role we want our fantasy TE playing.  Housler was signed by the Browns to be a pass-catcher.  Although he disappointed in Arizona, there's still upside here.  Housler goes 6'5, 250 pounds with a SPARQ (athleticism) score in the 92nd percentile among TEs.  He's a nice late-round flier in fantasy drafts.

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Seahawks HC Pete Carroll singled out 2 spring standouts after the conclusion of last week's minicamp.  The 1st was Jimmy Graham -- no surprise there.  But the 2nd was rookie WR Tyler Lockett.  “It’s been really fun to learn about Tyler," Carroll said. “He’s got a lot of responsibilities. He’s going after this return job, he’s inside playing in the slot in the receiver position, and he’s been outside.  We’ve just thrown everything at him because he seems to be able to handle it. He studies really hard. You don’t really know until you get these guys how dedicated they will be, but he’s been an exciting addition to the team.”  Lockett is expected to serve as Seattle's primary return man this season after scoring 6 special teams TDs in 4 college seasons.  But he's also capable of pushing for a significant role on offense.  Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse head to training camp as the team's top 2 WRs, but neither guy is the type of talent that will prevent Lockett from winning playing time.  The rookie is just a late-round flier for now but could climb our WR rankings in August.

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WR Stevie Johnson developed a "good rapport" with QB Philip Rivers this spring, according to ESPN's Eric Williams.  Williams calls Johnson the "x-factor" in a San Diego WR corps led by a still-developing Keenan Allen and 33-year-old Malcom Floyd.  Johnson should at least step into the slot role that produced 91 targets for Eddie Royal last year.  And Johnson is a more accomplished outside receiver, so his volume could grow beyond that.  He's a screaming value at his current 15th-round ADP.

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The Houston Chronicle reports that Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney has progressed so well from his microfracture knee surgery that "the goal is to have him on the practice field when camp begins." The 2nd-year man figures to work back in slowly after seeing time in only 4 games and landing on IR with a serious knee injury. We'll be quite curious to see how he performs on that repaired joint this summer and whether Clowney can prove ready to start by the regular season.

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Chiefs insider Adam Teicher noticed "budding chemistry" between QB Alex Smith and WR Jeremy Maclin this spring.  Smith raved about the connection at the conclusion of minicamp.  “I feel really good about where things are right now, where they’re going, how they have progressed,” Smith said. “I really feel like we’ve gotten great work as a whole, but he and I especially have gotten a lot of reps together, a lot of good looks. I really feel like we have a good foundation before we put the pads on and head into camp.”  Malin has the advantage of familiarity with HC Andy Reid's offense from their time together in Kansas City.  Smith's conservative style caps Maclin's 2015 fantasy upside, but he's fairly price at his 6th-round ADP.

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Jets insider Rich Cimini wasn't impressed by TE Jace Amaro this spring.  "I wouldn't write him down as a 60-catch tight end," Cimini wrote.  "Watching him in practice and games, I haven't seen any special qualities that make you say, 'Wow, he's gonna be a great one.' Amaro can start by cutting down on the drops and playing with more urgency."  Amaro struggled with drops last year -- committing 6, according to Pro Football Focus -- and finished with just 38 catches, 345 yards and 2 TDs.  It's rare to read negative press about a guy this time of year, so it's worrisome for Amaro's chances of a 2nd-year breakout.  We like his fit in new OC Chan Gailey's offense, but Amaro will be no better than 3rd in line for targets behind Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.  Consider him just a matchup option for your 2015 fantasy squad.

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Rookie TE Clive Walford has “demonstrated the ability to get up the seam and use his big body to shield defenders,” per Jerry Knaak of Raiders.com. Walford ran a 4.79 forty-yard dash at the Combine, but he plays faster on the field. With pro-ready blocking ability, the Miami product has a real chance to out-snap 3rd-year TE Mychal Rivera this season. Still, we consider Walford more of a potential in-season pickup than a late-round flier.

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Percy Harvin is working to become a more well-rounded WR with the Bills.  "Aside from the first two years I got in the league I’ve been just a gadget guy,” he said. “I’ve been dying to just sit down with that one coach who will tell me what I’m doing wrong and what I need to do. Every day [WRs coach Sanjay Lal] is coming to me with different techniques I can use. I think this year a lot of people are going to see the end result of it.”  Harvin worked with Lal with the Jets last year, tallying a 29-350-1 line in 8 games.  The continuity is good, but Buffalo's QB issues and run-heavy offense will cap Harvin's fantasy upside this year.  That being said, he's a fine pick at his current 12th-round ADP.

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Rams RB Todd Gurley is hoping to be able to get on the field for the start of training camp next month. "That is definitely a goal that I'm shooting for," he said. "Just to be able to get out there and do at least some individual stuff. It's looking pretty realistic. This month I'll be in St. Louis rehabbing, so hopefully I can aim for (training camp)."  Gurley didn't do much besides rehab work this spring, and the team has yet to commit to the rookie being ready for the start of camp.  His availability for Week 1 remains uncertain.  Gurley has been going in the back half of Round 4 in June MFL10 drafts.

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The Browns have remained in contact with WR Josh Gordon this offseason, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.  Gordon is suspended for all of 2015 after another violation of the league's substance abuse policy, but Cleveland isn't ready to give up on him yet.  Gordon is eligible to apply for reinstatement in February and is still under contract with the Browns for 1 more season.  The 24-year-old is worth stashing in dynasty leagues

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Jaguars insider Ryan O'Halloran has Allen Hurns as the team's #2 WR heading to training camp.  That's ahead of WR Marqise Lee, who missed most of the spring with a bum knee.  Lee dealt with hamstring issues last year and also struggled staying healthy in college.  He's capable of overtaking Hurns for a starting spot in training camp -- if he can stay on the field.  But don't sleep on Hurns.  He averaged 13.3 yards per catch and led the team with 6 receiving TDs last season.  Ultimately, the winner of this training camp battle will only be a spot-start option in fantasy football.  Allen Robinson and Julius Thomas figure to dominate targets in Jacksonville.

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Lions HC Jim Caldwell has noticed that QB Matt Stafford has a "better feel" for the offensive scheme now than he did at this time last year.  That's not a surprise considering it's Year 2 under OC Joe Lombardi.  "You can see our timing's better, receivers have a better sense of the routes that they're running," Caldwell added.  "All around I think we've made some improvement."  Stafford completed 60.3% of his passes last year -- his 2nd-best mark as a pro -- but averaged just 7.1 yards per attempt with 22 TDs.  He finished 15th among QBs in fantasy points despite ranking 5th in attempts.  We're expecting Stafford's volume to dip in 2015 with the Lions looking to run more.  So even if he's more efficient, he might struggle to crack QB1 territory.

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The Vikings still believe RB Jerick McKinnon has "3-down potential," according to insider Andrew Krammer.  "Jerick is working on those things. Trying to be three phases: a runner, protecter and pass catcher and he knows it's a process," RBs coach Kirby Wilson said. "Something you have to put in the time and work ethic to get there and to his credit, he's doing that and I'm looking forward to training camp to see where he'll be when we make it real."  McKinnon flashed exciting ability as a rookie last year, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.  He'll be in a change-of-pace role behind Adrian Peterson this season, but AP turned 30 in March.  McKinnon has a good shot to be Minnesota's RB of the future and has loads of long-term upside.  He's a nice "buy low" in keeper and dynasty leagues right now.

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Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio considers it "unlikely that the Commissioner will fully exonerate [Patriots QB Tom] Brady."  In other words, the 4-game suspension won't be completely revoked.  There's still a chance the ban is shortened, though.  Unfortunately, we have no idea when a final decision will be made.  And even then, Brady will have the right to take the ruling to court.  This figures to stretch at least well into July.  Still, Brady represents a nice value at his current 10th-round ADP -- even if the suspension stays at 4 games.

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Titans HC Ken Whisenhunt said the team won't be overprotective of QB Marcus Mariota and will let him use his athleticism.  "There will be (designed run) opportunities, but there will also be a lot of opportunities, just like with Russell Wilson, when the play breaks down and he runs with the ball and extends the play," Whiz said.  This is exactly what we want to hear because it's Mariota's rushing ability that gives him big fantasy upside.  Wilson ran for 489 yards and 4 TDs on his way to a top-12 fantasy finish as a rookie.  Based on college production and measurables, Mariota is a more gifted runner.  If Tennessee allows him to fully utilize that ability, he's capable of pushing for QB1 numbers this season.

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Bucs WR Mike Evans recently revealed that he trained with 7-time Pro Bowler Randy Moss this offseason.  “It was just me and him,” Evans said. “I was up for there in North Carolina for about a week at the end of March. There’s a lot of knowledge there, man.”  Evans isn't quite the athletic freak that Moss was, but he's an inch taller and has a similar vertical-style game.  “Working with him, I think it will take my game to the next level," Evans added.  After a 13th-place fantasy finish as a rookie, Evans has clear WR1 upside this season.

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The Colts are asking WR Phillip Dorsett to learn all the WR positions.  "I feel really great about the playbook. I learned most of it," Dorsett said. "Everything that they installed at OTAs and minicamp I've learned. All the positions: X, F, Y, Z. I learned them all. I love football and studying football, so it hasn't been really that hard for me."  The 1st-round rookie is part of a crowded WR corps that features T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson and Donte Moncrief.  The fact that Dorsett is learning all the WR positions could be an indication that the Colts see him as a backup to those other 3 guys this season.  Or perhaps he'll push Moncrief for a spot in 3-WR sets.  We'll see exactly how the roles shake out in this high-octane passing attack in training camp.  For now, Dorsett looks like just a late-round flier in redraft fantasy leagues.

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