The season is still over 3 weeks away, but most drafts
and auction dates are closing in. So what do we know as
last minute list tweaks, and draft prep hits the point
of no return? A lot, you just have to know where to look.
Sure, the questions surrounding the QB battle in Cleveland
and the RB situation in New England still need to be sorted
out, but what about some other battles. How about out in
San Francisco between Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow?
Or across the bay with the multitude of WRs in Raider camp?
In 49er camp, the hope had been that Kevan Barlow would
rise up and be “the Man” to carry the load
for the 49er running game. Unfortunately, Barlow has been
slow in picking up the nuances of the blitz and the complexities
of Head Coach Dennis Erickson’s passing game. Because
of these reasons Hearst has maintained his role as the
starting RB. Now this isn’t to say that Barlow won’t
have a productive year, in fact he very well may end up
starting by week 5 and out produce Hearst 2 to 1, but right
now, Hearst remains the starting RB.
Although troublesome to many fantasy owners who view the
49er offense as a possible gold mine in terms of fantasy
points, the RB situation should very closely resemble that
of a year ago. Fairly evenly split, with Hearst in on a
majority of passing downs. Barlow has 3 weeks to show he
has the physical and mental makeup to be a true #1 back,
but by that time, most people will have already selected
him or passed on him in their draft.
MY ADVICE – In 10-12 teams leagues Barlow is projected
as a strong 3rd RB or a below average 2nd if the fantasy
team has already loaded up on WRs and a QB. I would be
thrilled to see Barlow available as a #3 fantasy back,
because he isn’t a backup in the sense that he only
sees the field when the starter is hurt, he splits time.
And with the encouragement of Dennis Erickson for him to
become the feature back, Barlow may turn into the perfect
2nd half of the season performer. I’d take a gamble
on him before Hearst.
Over in Raider camp is it possible to have to many weapons?
Maybe it is. Which way do you look, do you look at the
aging Jerry Rice who has remained productive for nearly
2 decades or do you look to the young Jerry Porter who
led the team in TD receptions last year, but is having
a hard time breaking into the starting lineup? What about
Mr. Raider, Tim Brown, where does he fit into the passing
game? What about that #3 or #4 WR spot, if Rice, Porter
and Brown are rotating in and out as the starters, and
all of them demand the ball, where does that leave players
like Charlie Garner, Doug Jolly, and rookie Teyo Johnson?
Without the ball is the answer.
So which one will rise to the top? So far in camp it is
still up in the air as to which WR will be #1, but it is
becoming clear as to which WR has lost a little something.
Tim Brown, although not officially, has been moving down
the depth chart. Both Jerry Rice and Jerry Porter have
been shining stars in camp, producing, beating DBs, and
showcasing their tremendous ability. Brown however has
taken a smaller role, playing the slot receiver, working
as a third option. So it is clear that Brown is at the
bottom of the big 3 WR list in Raider camp.
As for Garner, Jolly and Johnson, they will get their
touches, but only in certain situation. Garner will be
the release valve that QB Rich Gannon relies on for the
short pick up. Jolly will strictly be used as a changeup
down the middle of the field to keep the linebackers and
safeties honest in their pass coverage. And Johnson will
be used in the Red Zone. The former Stanford basketball
player has the athletic ability to go up in a crowd and
pull down the tough catch. Being 6’5” helps
MY ADVICE – Move Brown down, Porter up, Johnson
up in TD only leagues and Jolly nearly off the board. The
Raiders are in a transition time and the only sure thing
is that the young buck, Jerry Porter, is going to see a
lot of balls thrown his way because he is the future of
the Raiders passing game. Because Rice has to retire sometime,
Sometimes an NFL coach translator is needed during training
camp. For instance, in the situation of the Cleveland Browns
QB situation, when Coach Butch Davis says, “We have
2 good QBs”, what he is really saying is, “We
don’t have one REALLY good QB.” And that can
often times spell doom, unless the coach digs in his heels,
make a choice and sticks by them. For the Browns it is
tough, one is a 1st round QB being paid big bucks who has
fought with the team through the expansion years, and the
other is the QB who helped you late last season and took
you to a playoff victory. Tough choice.
MY ADVICE – By Coach Davis opening up the QB competition,
I really believe he is letting the play on the field dictate
which QB becomes the starter, and as of right now, my gut
tells me he is leaning towards Kelly Holcomb. Why? Well,
Tim Couch has had the label “potential” on
him since he came out of Kentucky as the #1 draft choice
in the NFL. Holcomb, well he didn’t come in with
the fanfare, but he sure has the fans in his corner, and
why, because he was the QB that led them to playoff glory,
if only for a moment. Cleveland isn’t flashy (as
demonstrated by their uniforms and helmet), what they are,
are die hard football fans who care more about winning
then anything else. Holcomb was the winner at the end of
last year, and will most likely be the winner at the beginning
of this year.
And although these are just 3 of the many battles being
fought in training camps all across the land, these are
3 of the more interesting. Not to mention, ones that matter
to the fantasy football owner. As always, I will keep my
eyes open and my ear to the ground, and provide you with
the latest in fantasy football information.