INDIANAPOLIS --- Organized Team Activities are nearing their end around the NFL. The last team to finish will be the Rams on June 19th, but with the Colts having already completed OTAs here in Indianapolis on Thursday, it's a good time to look around the league to see what players have increased their fantasy stock heading into training camps.
Let's start in Indianapolis:
RB Frank Gore - The biggest question with Frank Gore for fantasy football managers is whether he'll return to PPR prominence in 2015. I believe he will. He's seen plenty of action catching balls out of the backfield during the offseason program, even lining up out wide during the Colts' open practice at Lucas Oil Stadium Wednesday. This was a huge part of the offense with Ahmad Bradshaw last year, especially in the red zone, and it looks like we may see the Frank Gore of old that averaged more than 50 receptions per season from 2006-2010. That would be a huge increase to his value in PPR leagues but shouldn't be overlooked in standard leagues either. Yards are yards.
WR Phillip Dorsett - Don't go crazy with this one, fantasy football fans. This is a crazy deep offense, but Dorsett has at least shown he's a quick study and capable of lining up wherever Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton asks him to. That's a big hurdle for a rookie that Dorsett has already cleared. General Manager Ryan Grigson had glowing praise of Dorsett Thursday as well. I'm mentioning Dorsett here not to endorse him as a fantasy factor yet but just to say #15 certainly deserves to be observed for fantasy purposes in training camp and the preseason. If he continues to impress in August and early September, Dorsett will warrant late-round flier situation, as a player to stash away with big upside.
Let's go around the league now.
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson - He rejoined the team for offseason workouts. That's all you need to know. The fantasy stud is back.
Lions RB Ameer Abdullah - Word out of Detroit is the rookie out of Nebraska is a better pass catcher than most anticipated, after never having more than 26 receptions in a season in college. That's obviously important in this offense. Abdullah could play a big role in replacing the production of Reggie Bush, who is now a 49er. Meanwhile, there is a growing concern Joique Bell may not be ready for the start of training camp, after minor surgeries this offseason. It's early, but it's a situation that bears monitoring in fantasy football. The top RB in Detroit has high RB2 upside.
Saints RB C.J. Spiller - Just when you thought Mark Ingram was going to take on a larger role in the offense for 2015, here comes the RB from Buffalo that has tantalized so many of us for years. Finally though, the price for Spiller should be discounted in drafts, and his role in a good offense is developing. Head Coach Sean Payton told the Saints website about Spiller this week: "He's versatile. He has exceptional speed so he's a threat on the perimeter. The trick each time you're obviously getting ready to play each game is trying to find ways to get him the football in those space situations. He can run." My eyes are lighting up with visions of Darren Sproles in 2011, who had 86 receptions, 1313 total yards, and 9 total touchdowns during his first season in New Orleans. Do not lose track of Spiller this preseason.
Broncos RB C.J Anderson - Here's what Peyton Manning said about C.J. Anderson Thursday: "C.J. of course, if you talk to him you think he's about a 12-year veteran starter, and he's only started six games. I'm getting a ton of reps with him, and the sky is the limit for him, I will say that." It's a new coaching staff, but I think Anderson is solidifying his role as the feature back in Denver, especially with Manning's glowing praise. Anderson could be drafted as high as late first-round in fantasy drafts this year. I'd prefer a stud WR at that point and would be more comfortable taking Anderson in the early 2nd round, but he will not last that long in some of your leagues. There's a good reason for that. Anderson finished as the #11 RB in standard scoring last year, despite not becoming the starter until week 10. Over the last 8 games of the season, Anderson averaged 19.75 fantasy points per week. That was more than Le'Veon Bell, people. He also added value in PPR leagues, with 3.75 receptions per week over that span.
Raiders RB Latavius Murray - New head coach Jack Del Rio said this week that Murray has been running with the first team during OTAs but has to keep earning the role in camp and the preseason. So far so good though, and his only competition is Trent Richardson and Roy Helu Jr. I like Murray's chances. Murray averaged 5.2 yards per carry last year. It's shaping up to finally be the year he's turned loose.
Eagles RB Ryan Mathews - The forgotten RB in Philadelphia, as DeMarco Murray gets all the attention, but Chip Kelly has always utilized multiple RBs in his offense, going back to LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner at Oregon. Mathews also has the added fantasy value of being first in line behind Murray, if Murray's moster workload from 2014 catches up to him this year. He might definitely be worth a 9th or 10th round flier in fantasy. ESPN's Louis Riddick was at Eagles OTAs and tweeted this about Mathews:
Lions WR Calvin Johnson - Johnson told the Lions website this week Turning 30 can be a boundary, it can be a hindrance, if you let it be, if you let age beat you. I just keep working and keep the same mindset that I've kept my whole career. It's grown and gotten better and I just keep on trying to advance." The most important thing the article notes is Johnson has had a healthy offseason. That's welcome news after he missed three games last year and two games in 2013. For a player of his magnitude, Megatron staying healthy is all that matters.
Panthers WR Devin Funchess - The Panthers website reported this week the rookie already knows all three receiver positions. We noted this with Dorsett above, as a big asset for rookie WR trying to make an immediate impact. Keep an eye on Funchess, as the Panthers don't have a WR2 solidified behind Kelvin Benjamin.
Packers WR Davante Adams - Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had this to say about Adams after an open practice this week: "In my mind, he has humongous upside – and he's starting to reach that upside. I think the opportunities are going to come for him. He's got two great guys to play with. His attention to detail is very impressive and his approach." The Packers already have Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, but this offense has shown it has room for a 3rd viable fantasy receiving option in the past. Last year as a rookie, Adams was more relevant in PPR leagues than standard, but was mostly boom-or-bust. His best games were week 6 at Miami (6 rec, 77 yards), week 8 at New Orleans (7 rec, 75 yards), week 13 vs. New England (6 rec, 121 yards, TD), and in the playoffs against the Cowboys (7 rec, 117 yards, TD). Traditionally, year two is when receivers make a jump. We'll see.
Cardinals WR John Brown - Does Bruce Arians have his new T.Y. Hilton? NFL.com's Alex Flanagan found some big praise from Brown's quarterback Carson Palmer: "I expect huge things from (Brown)this year. There is something different about him." There's certainly room for fantasy production with an aging Larry Fitzgerald and a disappointing 2014 from Michael Floyd. The key is Carson Palmer playing 16 games.
49ers TE Vernon Davis - I know. I know. Davis crushed anybody that owned him last year, but with a new coaching staff comes renewed optimism in his fantasy stock. Besides, the fantasy TE is basically a lottery behind Gronkowski and Graham anyway this year. Why not take a shot at somebody who has produced in the past, especially if Davis is going way down in the 15th round right now. Head Coach Jim Tomsula has said he looks "extremely fast" this offseason, and Colin Kaepernick said about the new offense, "We've cleaned a lot of things up and made it more comfortable and friendly for players to be able to go out and make plays." At least keep an eye on Davis this preseason.