By Charles Street
It's that time of year: The draft is done, minicamps are in full swing and fantasy football fans are starting to crunch all the happenings in the NFL since the end of the Super Bowl. There are several rookies creating a buzz among fantasy footballers and veterans who now play for new teams. Here are a few players to watch when training camps open in July:
The former Alabama Crimson Tide power back rushed for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns, helping his team win yet another national championship. The 5'11, 230-pound bruiser will have every chance to become the Packers every-down back, and will have huge running lanes with defenses gearing up to stop Aaron Rodgers. Dujuan Harris is Lacy's only real competition for early-down work, so all the potential is there for a stellar rookie campaign. His current Average Draft Position is number 74, but the price you'll pay for him is likely to rise when training camp starts.
The Rams took a chance on the explosive 5'8, 174-pound receiver out of West Virginia, using the number eight overall pick in the draft to get him. He will immediately take the place of Danny Amendola, who was PPR-gold for those who stayed patient through his injuries. Austin will not only be heavily targeted, but can turn a five-yard hitch into an 80-yard touchdown at any time. He averaged nearly 200 yards per game in college and has a chance to be this year's fantasy wide receiver rookie sensation. He's currently going around pick number 84 in mock drafts.
The former Oakland Raider and Cincinnati Bengal heads to the desert as part of the Cardinals massive overhaul. Arizona changed coaches, brought in Rashard Mendenhall to shore up their backfield and added Palmer, who brings—if nothing else—credibility to the quarterback position there. Even with a below-average receiving core and injury-plagued running back core, Palmer still wracked up more than 4,000 yards passing in Oakland last year and had the third-lowest touchdown to interception ratio of his career.
He will now have a Hall-of-Fame caliber receiver in Larry Fitzgerald to throw to, along with Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd, two young guys who showed flashes even with Ryan Lindley and John Skelton as the triggermen. Palmer is being seriously overlooked by fantasy players, currently going at pick number 183 in mock drafts (after Geno Smith, as far as quarterbacks). Palmer has QB1 potential and can be had for next to nothing.
Luck was part of one of the most incredible rookie classes of quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen, amassing 4,300 yards passing, 23 touchdowns and even showed off his rushing abilities with five touchdowns on the ground. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton has a year of experience under his belt, and the Colts added former Raider Darrius Heyward-Bey, who can finally be the deep threat he is meant to be in the NFL. Both tight ends, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, are also a year older, and Reggie Wayne will continue to be the glue of the offense. Luck has top-5 QB upside with the talent surrounding him, and is currently the fifth quarterback being taken in mock drafts.
The Dolphins, outside of Reggie Bush, have been a fantasy wasteland for the better part of three years. But management is going all-in with second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, surrounding him with enough talent to improve mightily from last season. Mike Wallace, signed as a free agent from the Steelers, has already raved about Tannehill's arm strength, going as far to say he has the potential to be the next Ben Roethlisberger. Miami also added Brandon Gibson from the Rams and Dustin Keller from the Jets. Brian Hartline rounds out one of the better receiving cores in the league, meaning Tannehill has no excuse to not succeed. The upside of Tannehill makes his current ADP of 142 a bargain.
The NFL Network is currently broadcasting daily updates on camps, potential signings and cuts, so don't be afraid to do your own research. You can learn more about cable packages that include the NFL Network at www.Direct2TV.com.
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