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2024 Minicamp Roundup: AFC Edition

With Mini-Camp's wrapping up across the league @ReflipeWThenuz breaks down some of the headlines from across the AFC.

Well, it’s that time of year again. The draft is in the books and teams are starting to get together to begin install work ahead of the season. With these team activities getting underway, you will see the obligatory minicamp blurbs. This player looks like a whole new man. That rookie looks like he will change the franchise. Oftentimes, this information is simply team beat writers looking for something to cover, so they dive in with the friendliest of assessments of both players and teams in general.

For this article, I would like to examine some of the leading storylines that have emerged from Minicamp and give you my take as to if the headline has any merit for us in the dynasty community or if it is simply a superfluous fluff peace intended as red meat for the teams’ fanbase. We will break this up into two separate articles focusing on the NFC and AFC individually. Without further ado let us take a stroll around the AFC. 

AFC East

The AFC East has been a hotbed of early camp news. Each team within the division has enjoyed some pretty significant action on X as reporters have hit on some early storylines.

Is Chase Claypool a Find in Buffalo?

One of the early stories that caught my attention personally as a Chicago Bears fan was the headline that Claypool was turning some heads in the Bills minicamp. The former Notre Dame star had fallen on really hard times following his abrupt flameout in Chicago and his invisible man act in Miami. However, if there was any team in the league set up to support a re-emergence of Claypool it is Buffalo.

The Bills have a ton of vacated targets. He is every bit as talented as any of the players on the roster. They also put him much closer to his home country of Canada, where Claypool has remained a popular player. The physical talent has never been an issue for Claypool. I am buying this training camp headline to the point that you can scoop him up for nearly free in your leagues and let him sit on your bench. If he hits, he could be a league winner.

Where is the Complicated Fella?

Analysts across the NFL spectrum went bonkers when they learned that Aaron Rodgers was skipping mandatory minicamp. Many former players, including Emanuel Acho above, have leveled some serious criticism against the four-time MVP. Some of the criticism is absolutely fair. Rodgers is missing some valuable time getting to work with his new teammates. In particular, he is missing time getting the offensive line accustomed to his cadence.

However, this is really a nothing burger for dynasty fantasy football. Rodgers will eventually show up for camp and barring another catastrophic injury, lead his team back to contention in the AFC. While it may have some NFL relevance, this is nothing for us.

Polk & Maye like PB&J?

Patriots fans everywhere have been waiting a long time for the team to find its offensive identity following Tom Brady’s departure. Aside from one brief season with Mac Jones, the team has been searching for a quarterback/wide receiver connection to bring back memories of Brady and Edelman, Welker, or Moss.

Well, if X is to be believed, then they may just have hit paydirt. There has been building noise out of Boston that QB Drake Maye and WR Ja’Lynn Polk are forming a very nice connection. There has been some lesser noise about Javon Baker being that third wheel as well.

Unlike the Rodgers story, this is one for us in the Dynasty community to pounce on, in my opinion. Both Polk and Baker are going way too late in rookie drafts. I have seen Polk go as late as the third round of rookie drafts with Baker going much later. There is absolutely the potential for this connection with Maye and Polk to blossom into something like CJ Stoud and Tank Dell. Players drafted in the same class often form bonds. Especially when those players are a QB and his WR. Take note and grab Polk while the price is still low. 

All the Wright Stuff?

The Miami Dolphins turned some heads when they took one of the better RBs in the class by selecting Jaylen Wright in the fourth round. The former Tennessee star was seen as one of the better pure runners in the draft. He was a multi-time 1,000-yard rusher in the SEC and one of the fastest RBs at the combine.

Well, fast forward to team activities, and Wright is turning some heads. For my money, this is a story to tuck away for later in the season. Provided Raheem Mostert can stay healthy again, Wright is likely destined for a reserve role on the bench. Both Mostert and last year’s darling De’Von Achane will play ahead of Wright. However, Mostert is likely in his last season with the team, and Wright has the look of a 1-for-1 replacement heading into 2025. If the reports remain good, wait until the season gets rolling and Wright is languishing on someone’s bench. Make an offer for him and look towards the future where Wright and Achane will be a dynamic 1-2 in South Beach.

AFC North

The King and His New Court?

Derrick Henry has been the talk of the Charm City since signing a two-year deal to come over from Tennessee. Living in the greater Baltimore region myself, you can’t escape stories out of the Ravens team facility about just how good Henry looks in the Ravens offense. This one is a story I would buy into. King Henry is quite possibly the best buy for win-now squads looking for an RB1 at discount prices. If you are looking to compete in 2024, I buy these rumors, as the national and local media are in lockstep as to just how good this offense could be.

Is Two Better Than Three?

The top story out of Steelers camp is the potential battle for the starting QB spot between Russell Wilson and Justin Fields. I find that most within the dynasty community secretly hope that Fields is able to take the top spot and mark the end of a potential Hall of Fame career of Wilson.

However, it seems that the Steelers have legitimately committed to giving Wilson the first crack at the job. Special Team’s Coach Danny Smith even floated the idea of using Fields as a kick returner. While I do not believe they would risk their QB on such an unusual idea, I do believe that Wilson will legitimately begin the year as the starter. Fields could get a shot, but only if Wilson falters. 

The Emergence of Cedric Tillman

The Cleveland Browns are a team looking to make a philosophical shift in their offense. New OC Ken Dorsey seeks to turn the team from a run-heavy offense to a pass-first squad led by their franchise QB, Desean Watson. To that end, the team has brought in former Broncos pick Jerry Jeudy to help supplement Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore.

The team also boasts TE David Njoku, but it is second-year man Cedric Tillman who stole the show in minicamp. He has the talent and draft capital to make some noise, no matter how crowded this depth chart is. You could see a potential breakout down the line from this uber-talented player. He is an excellent stash on the end of your bench if you have the room.

A New #2 for Joe Cool?

Heading into the 2024 offseason, the Cincinnati Bengals looked to have a problem. The team has two high-end WRs looking to get paid. First up is Tee Higgins. The former Clemson star was a high second-round pick and has enjoyed a relatively successful career. Despite this, the team will all but certainly let him walk after this year and pay Ja’Marr Chase instead. That would leave a sizable hole in the offense.

With Higgins signing his tag just recently, he will likely be back for 2024. But this is a dynasty, and we can never be too early. Enter Jermaine Burton. He has shined in camp and looks poised to take over the WR3 role vacated by Tyler Boyd. The best part about getting in on Burton now is that he has the potential to ascend to the WR2 spot if Higgins is either moved or leaves following the season. Either way, the reports look good, and I am buying these early looks. 

AFC South

The AFC South has some hot storylines that have been making their way around the X circuit. Each of these teams boasts a young QB and some exciting news. 

Is This a Dameon Pierce Comeback Season?

In Houston, one of the biggest stories of the offseason was the acquisition of RB Joe Mixon. The former Bengals star has been one of the better RBs in the entire NFL over the course of his career. Despite his success in the Queen City, the Bengals were strapped for cash and made the financial decision to trade him to the Texans. The early reports on Joe have been good.

However, there have also been some interesting tales of how good former starter Pierce has looked. This has escalated to the point where Head Coach DeMeco Ryans has talked up a 1-2 punch instead of Mixon acting as a bellcow. For dynasty purposes Pierce could be an interesting stash if you can get him cheap. But don’t get your hopes up. This one has all the classic smell of coach fluff.

Anthony Richardson’s Shoulder Woes?

Last season, Richardson provided the ultimate mixed review. When he was on the field, he looked like an MVP-caliber player. The Colts looked dynamic and exciting with their new franchise QB at the helm. Therein lies the problem. Richardson managed to get nicked up in every single game he played and missed the bulk of the season with a shoulder injury.

Fast forward to now, and coaches are still talking about having to monitor his throwing reps. Is this a situation to stress about? Maybe, but I am still a believer. If you can use this information to talk your league mates into a favorable trade, by all means, use it. In my estimation, the team officials are simply babying their franchise QB in an effort to ease him back into action. 

Will Calvin Ridley Play the Ja’Marr Chase Role?

Ridley signed one of the biggest deals of the 2024 free-agent period. The former Alabama star chose to leave the Jacksonville Jaguars, who were attempting to resign him, for the friendly confines of Nashville, Tennessee. The Titans have been seeking to surround sophomore QB Will Levis with established weapons.

With that in mind, Ridley was the centerpiece of an offseason haul that also included Tyler Boyd and Tony Pollard. Reports have emerged that new Head Coach Brian Callahan will use Ridley the same way that he employed Chase in Cincinnati. I am buying these rumors. Ridley is now one of the top-paid WRs in the league and has the help of DeAndre Hopkins and Boyd to keep defenses honest. Ridley is one of the better win-now dynasty buys. 

Trevor Lawrence Gets a Bag!

News recently broke that Trevor Lawrence had signed a massive new deal to stay in Duval County. The former first-overall pick has had an up-and-down start to his career, to say the least. Last season felt like somewhat of a letdown after he led the team to a playoff victory in Head Coach Doug Pederson’s first year. Despite all of this his massive new deal assures that he will remain a franchise QB. This new deal makes me feel much better about Lawrence’s long-term outlook. We should continue to view Lawrence as a QB1 with top overall upside.

AFC West

The AFC West has been a hotbed of activity this offseason. We have new coaches and new QBs to cover. Let’s see some of the big stories from the AFC West camps. 

A Young Ladd Shall Lead Them

No offense in the entire league has seen a more radical transformation than the Los Angeles Chargers. New Head Coach Jim Harbaugh came in and immediately saw the remaking of the offense. The Chargers let go of their top two WRs as well as their starting RB and TE. To say that Justin Herbert is getting to know some new faces is an understatement.

In an effort to help restock the pantry, the Chargers traded up to the top of the second round of the NFL draft to select former Georgia WR Ladd McConkey. Early reports out of camp have been very good. He has begun to form a nice connection with one of the better young QBs in the league. Count me as a believer that he can be a long-term replacement for departed WR1 Keenan Allen. McConkey is one of the top rookie WRs in the class and should be a dynasty asset for many years to come. 

Bo Knows Denver?

Many in the dynasty fantasy football community snickered with Denver, making Bo Nix the twelfth overall pick in the draft. The former Oregon and Auburn signal-caller has started more games in college football than any QB ever. Some saw him as simply a system QB who lived close to the line of scrimmage within Oregon’s quick-hitting scheme.

However, early reports out of camp have been that Nix has looked good, and he has drawn the praise of his head coach. Add in the fact that the team also acquired his WR1 target from Oregon with Troy Franklin, and you have a recipe for success. I for one am acquiring shares of Nix where I can on the chance that Payton has found his franchise QB and will develop him the way he did with Drew Brees.

Is Xavier Worthy of his Draft Stock?

No player saw his draft stock rise as a result of the combine more than Worthy. The speedster showed up in Indianapolis with the intention of putting up a fast time. Well, he managed that in spades, blistering a 4.21 40, breaking the all-time record. The Chiefs then added to the hype by selecting the speedster to pair with All-Pro QB Patrick Mahomes.

Reports out of camp are that Worthy has had trouble staying on the field as he has struggled with soft tissue injuries. This is absolutely a situation to monitor. I believe that Rashee Rice will remain the top target as his legal issues will drag on into the league year. This means that any disciplinary action he faces will not be until next year. Worthy has always operated as a lid-lifting deep threat as opposed to a true X receiver. If anyone in your league is valuing Worthy as a WR1, I would capitalize on that now. 

All Hail Mighty Zeus

The Las Vegas Raiders surprised some in the dynasty community by not bringing back former first-round pick Josh Jacobs. The former Alabama star had been the engine behind the Raiders’ offense for the past five years. Despite this, the team decided to move on. More shocking to others yet was the fact that the team didn’t bring in a high-profile replacement.

To be fair they did sign Alexander Maddison and draft Dylan Laube in the 6th round. However, all signs point to former Georgia RB Zamir White being a high-volume starting RB going into 2024. Zeus, as he is known, put on a show at the end of 2023. He looked great in the starting role while Jacobs dealt with injury. I am buying this news as White appears set to run the rock for a team determined to protect their lower-end QBs. The Raiders will also likely feature a base 12-personnel package after drafting Brock Bowers to team up with last year’s high selection, Michael Mayer. Look for the Raiders to be on the most physical offenses in the league, with White spearheading that effort.

Final Thoughts

It is often hard to read between the lines during camp season in the NFL. Professional football players are dynamic athletes who regularly look excellent when the pads aren’t on. That’s why the combine has been jokingly called the underwear Olympics. However, if you can read between the lines there can be some valuable information that comes out. For example, if you had your ear to the ground early last year, you may have heard about the emergence of Puka Nacua in the Rams offense. 

Roster flexibility is key to taking advantage of these early camp stories. Do yourself a favor and keep a spot or two open on your bench so that you can scoop up players when they begin to make a name early on in camp. These are just a couple of the bigger storylines I have noticed in the league this summer. Perhaps you have seen others that grabbed your attention. Dynasty is a 12-month game. Be sure to keep engaged and pay attention. This time of year can give you insights that your less informed league mates miss out on. 

Thank you for reading this article! Please be sure to join the #Nerdherd so you don’t miss out on any of the amazing things we have to offer Use my promo code DynastyHolliday for a 15% off discount. You will get rankings, extra podcasts, and access to our rookie film room. For just a couple of bucks more you can get access to our revolutionary DynastyGM tool. So much for so little, why miss out on all the fun? Also, you absolutely must check out our new mock draft tool. Find it in your Apple & Android app stores. Follow me @ReflipeWThenuz for more dynasty content and other musings.

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