Christine Michael was used sparingly in 2013, but he's a huge breakout candidate in 2014. Credit: Getty Images
According to reports out of organized team activities, every NFL player is in the best shape of his life and ready for a breakout year. Don’t fall for that trap.
The real nuggets worth mining for during the offseason program relate to usage and scheme. Changes in how a player is positioned can lead to massive swings in statistical output.
60 minutes revival
Under fired offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, Mike Wallace exclusively lined up wide on the right side of the formation and mostly ran vertical clear-out routes. It resulted in a meager 73 catches, 930 yards and five touchdowns for the $60 million man. New OC Bill Lazor is immediately changing things up, using Wallace at all three receiver spots and even giving him some snaps out of the backfield. Last year, Lazor was an assistant for an Eagles offense that did similar things with speedster DeSean Jackson and produced career-best results. Wallace will have plenty of rebound value in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts.
Casual fantasy footballers might not be aware of Christine Michael because he played a grand total of 26 snaps as a rookie last season. But he’s certainly on the radar of the Seahawks and the NFL. Seattle’s coaches won’t stop raving about Michael this offeason, and analysts like former personnel man Louis Riddick are calling him the most gifted running back drafted in the last five years. With Marshawn Lynch racking up 901 carries over the last three seasons, Michael is getting a long look at OTAs and impressing. At the very least, he’ll siphon off enough touches to make Lynch more of a Round 2 than Round 1 fantasy pick.
The Saints have moved on from both Darren Sproles and Lance Moore, who combined for 108 catches last year. The two players charged with picking up the slack are Pierre Thomas and Brandin Cooks. During OTAs, Thomas has been getting snaps in the packages Sproles used to get, making another 75-plus receptions a realistic expectation. Cooks, meanwhile, will be the speedy inside receiver used as a chess piece all over the formation by offensive master Sean Payton. The first-round rookie can expect 70-plus catches as well.
MLB pickups ...
1. Gregory Polanco, OF, Pirates – Triple-A’s best player finally got called up to the bigs on Tuesday.
2. Josh Willingham, OF, Twins – He’s absolutely raking since coming back from wrist injury. He clubbed 35 HRs in 2012.
3. Gavin Floyd, SP, Braves – He hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of his seven starts off Tommy John surgery.
MLB park factors ...
Everyone knows to avoid Coors Field when streaming pitchers. Other bad spots for borderline starters:
1. Rogers Centre, Toronto – Formerly known as the Skydome, this has been among the three best parks to hit homers in two straight years.
2. Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati – Situated on the Ohio River, the short gaps here make this a power hitter’s haven.
3. Yankee Stadium, New York – It’s not the house that Ruth built anymore, but the short lines give pitchers fits.
Follow Metro fantasy sports writer Adam Levitan on Twitter@adamlevitan.