All NFL training camps are now open and fantasy football owners are currently formulating their drat strategy for the upcoming season. In the fifth of an eight-part series, I am breaking down the NFL by division and looking at possible sleeper candidates from each team as owners prepare their draft boards for the upcoming season. The San Francisco 49ers are looking to see if they have added the necessary pieces to get to the next level. The Arizona Cardinals are still looking for a starting quarterback. The St. Louis Rams hit the field with a new coaching staff in 2012 while the Seattle Seahawks look for a quarterback starter and try to return to the playoffs in 2012.
The biggest question for the Cardinals will be to determine whether Kevin Kolb or John Skelton will be the starter next season. Early reports out of Cardinals camp is that the coaching staff is very high on second-year tight end Rob Housler. The Florida Atlantic product only recorded 12 catches last season, but he could burst onto the scene for the Cardinals this season. Housler possess more speed than 12-year veteran Todd Heap and a 50 catch season should be expected.
St. Louis Rams-
The Rams embark on the 2012 campaign with veteran head coach Jeff Fisher. Steven Jackson is getting up in age, and his carries should be limited headed into this season. Jackson had 70 fewer carries in 2011 than he did in 2010. Enter rookie RB Isaiah Pead. Pead should play a significant role in the Rams offense this season. The 2011 Big East Offensive Player of the Year rushed for over 1,200 yards last season for the University of Cincinnati.
San Francisco 49ers-
The 2011 version of the 49ers lacked a strong receiver corps. Through the draft and free agency, the Niners rectified that problem. Mario Manningham and Randy Moss were brought in via free agency and the team reached out in the draft to select Illinois WR A.J. Jenkins in the first round of the draft. The team returns WR Michael Crabtree for his fourth season, but can he finally be counted on to deliver on his potential we have all been waiting for in the last few years? Can he stay healthy? I actually like Moss this season as a fantasy play. I realize he can go south at any moment, but for the entire offseason and during the early stages of training camp, he has had some glowing endorsements by media types as well as his fellow coaches. If Moss falters and Crabtree gets injured, watch Jenkins.
Fantasy owners are going to have to monitor the legal situation regarding RB Marshawn Lynch. Lynch recently entered a plea of not guilty to his recent arrest and his trial could be delayed until after the conclusion of the 2012 regular season. That might not preclude the NFL from waiting to suspend Lynch prior to the regular season given his checkered past. Keep an eye on RB Robert Turbin and the legal status of Lynch.