Get ready for your season with theScore’s 2017 Fantasy Football Draft Kit
Football is back.
While we’re still 10 days away from preseason action, NFL players have returned to the practice field as several teams have begun training camps, with the rest kicking things off this week.
This is the time when fantasy players are desperate for clues that will help them get an edge on their competitors.
Let’s take a look at five AFC storylines you should pay close attention to during training camp.
Does Marshawn Lynch still have his mojo?
Beast Mode seems to have a good time no matter where he is, but returning to the field as a 31-year-old after a full year away from the game might put his fun-loving personality to the test.
The good news for Lynch is that he’s picked one of the league’s best offensive lines to run behind, and the Raiders should find themselves in plenty of positive game scripts, meaning goal-line opportunities and clock-killing carries. If Latavius Murray can finish as the RB13 in this offense while playing in just 14 games, Lynch should be able to post similar stats.
Expect a deluge of videos to come out of Raiders camp featuring Lynch looking like his old self, but the real test will be whether he can stay healthy through August and into the regular season. Lynch is worth drafting if he falls into the third round and the first dozen running backs are off the board.
Is DeVante Parker poised for a breakout?
All the offseason talk from the Dolphins organization revolved around Parker impressing the coaching staff, finally appearing ready to deliver value on the first-rounder Miami spent on him in 2015.
The narrative centers on Parker being an immature player early in his career, then dedicating himself to his craft this offseason. Sometimes coaching staffs speak like this in an effort to build up a player’s confidence, which could be the case here.
Worth noting: There’s a growing belief that the Dolphins will move on from Jarvis Landry after the season. If that is their plan, it would make sense to increase Parker’s role in the offense this year. For now, we’ll keep a close eye on Dolphins training camp to see if Parker is indeed standing out as a dominant force downfield.
Can Spencer Ware hold off rookie Kareem Hunt?
Fantasy owners’ last impression of Ware was a pedestrian back who averaged 3.7 yards per carry in the second half of the season. What they forget is that before his concussion, Ware was a different player, gaining 5.2 yards per carry over his first six games of the year. So the assumption that Hunt will immediately supplant him might be a little overblown.
The Chiefs liked Hunt enough to invest a third-round pick in him, and reports suggest the coaches are immersing him in the entire offense with the hope that he’ll become a three-down back at some point. Whether that happens in 2017 depends on how both he and Ware perform in camp.
If you’re planning to draft Ware, make sure to wait until the fifth or sixth round, and even then, be cautious unless you’re going to snag Hunt in the eighth as well.
How will Jeremy Maclin and Eric Decker fit in with their new teams?
We’re mostly working off of beat-writer speculation at this point, but it seems like Maclin and Decker both face some serious competition for targets in their new cities.
Maclin could emerge as Joe Flacco’s top option in the passing game, but he’ll have to overcome fellow veteran Mike Wallace and former first-rounder and breakout candidate Breshad Perriman. The injuries at tight end should free up some targets, but we’ve yet to see how Danny Woodhead will work into the offense, and those Dennis Pitta touches could easily be turned into short passes to Woodhead.
Meanwhile, Decker is coming back from hip and shoulder injuries and has to battle incumbent Rishard Matthews as well as this year’s fifth overall pick, Corey Davis. And unlike the situation Maclin faces in Baltimore, the Titans have a quality tight end in Delanie Walker. Some reports suggest Matthews remains the best bet to lead the Titans’ receiving corps this season, but the next few weeks of camp should help shed light on everyone’s usage.
Maclin and Decker are both intriguing picks in the seventh or eighth rounds, but don’t get caught overpaying with so much uncertainty still surrounding their roles.
Will Joe Mixon completely take over the Bengals’ backfield?
Yes. Period. There’s really nothing to discuss here.
Frustrated with the lack of top-end production from Jeremy Hill or Gio Bernard, the Bengals jumped at the chance to draft Mixon in the second round. The only reason he was available there was due to his off-field issues, but this is the Bengals, who rarely shy away from character concerns.
Since then, they’ve gone out of their way to praise the rookie back, and they aren’t wrong – Mixon has a much higher ceiling than any of the backs Cincinnati has rostered in recent years.
Unfortunately, his ADP is likely to rise as more hype builds around him in training camp and the preseason. If you’re interested in drafting Mixon, be prepared to pay a high price.
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