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Early NFC depth charts provide fantasy insight


We're inching ever closer to football. Many teams across the NFL have released "unofficial" depth charts. Remember that word: "unofficial." These are way too early to take as the infallible word of the team, however, there are often interesting tidbits of fantasy information to gleen from these charts. So let's sift through the runoff and see if we can't find some golden fantasy nuggets as we prepare for fantasy drafts this fall.


Arizona Cardinals

The only real surprise here is that John Carlson is listed as the starting tight end, while Rob Housler and rookie Troy Niklas are listed as the No. 2s. Bruce Arians hasn't really featured a tight end in his offense in recent years. From 2011 to 2013, tight ends in Arians-led offenses averaged 71 receptions for 776 yards ... collectively. Those touches were split between either three or four targets each year. This will be a tight end committee worth avoiding on draft day regardless of who is No. 1.

San Francisco 49ers

The team hasn't released an unofficial depth chart at this time. It's assumed to have been lost in Jim Harbaugh's pikes of khakis.

Seattle Seahawks

The information war continues between the Seahawks and 49ers. No depth chart has been released in Seattle either.

St. Louis Rams

The Kenny Britt rebuilding project has completed Phase 1, as Britt is listed as the team's No. 1 wide receiver, with Tavon Austin listed as No. 2. Hmmm. I'm waiting to see this play out on the field before I buy into any hype. Britt and Austin are both intriguing luxury picks as a fourth or fifth wide receiver. Before succumbing to his season ending injury, Sam Bradford had thrown for three touchdown passes in three of his seven games. This is a make or break year for him (and the Rams), which means they could be opening things up for Bradford and the offense.


Atlanta Falcons

Second-year man Levine Toilolo sits as the No. 1 tight end for the Falcons, replacing the great Tony Gonzalez. Toilolo is an unproven talent, but at 6-foot-8, 265 pounds he has the build to be a matchup nightmare. He should have every chance to take cotnrol of this role, with veterans Bear Pascoe and Mickey Shuler stepping in during two-tight end sets. Neither provides a real threat to Toilolo, because, well, they're Bear Pascoe and Mickey Shuler. Toilolo is a deeper sleeper at tight end, but has the opportunity for a breakout campaign.

Carolina Panthers

Jason Avant and Kelvin Benjamin are currently listed as the No. 1 wideouts for Cam Newton. This is encouraging to see Benjamin as a No. 1, despite his minor bone-bruise injury and the fact that he's a rookie. Cotchery went on a touchdown tear at the end of last season, but don't read too much into that. This entire pass-catching posse is a mixed bag right now -- one that isn't worth targeting early in fantasy this fall.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints crowded backfield revealed an interesting pecking order in the team's first unofficial depth chart, as Mark Ingram was listed as No. 1, Khiry Robinson No. 2 and Pierre Thomas as No. 3. I put as much stake in this depth chart as I do anything Glenn Beck says. When I mentioned this order, Adam Rank said, "So you're saying Robinson is listed at No. 1?" I guess we can count Adam among those who don't believe in Ingram for 2014. As we know from recent seasons, the Saints will spread the wealth in the backfield. We'll just have to wait and see these guys take the field before taking any of them early in fantasy football drafts.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The murky running back situation in Tampa Bay became a bit clearer with the release of their unofficial depth chart. Doug Martin was first in line, with Bobby Rainey, Charles Sims and Mike James rounding out the list in that order. It's interesting to see James at the end, which could be a bigger indication that he's still recovering from his season-ending broken ankle last year. James looked great filling in for Martin in 2013 before going down, and I figured he'd be in line for a big role in offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford's committee. As usual, this is an early look at the depth chart. A lot could change as James continues to heal and these guys see game action, so stay tuned.


Chicago Bears

Marquess Wilson had been a training camp star, and could have had some sleeper potential as a fourth or fifth wide receiver. He was initially listed as third on the Bears wide receiver depth chart, but that's likely to change now that he's fractured his clavicle. With him out of the picture for several weeks, the only players worth drafting on the Bears are the superstars you already know about.

Detroit Lions

After an uneven offseason, Eric Ebron is listed below 2013 touchdown and dancing machine Joseph Fauria as the No. 3 tight end on the depth chart. The team believes there will be enough balls for all of the tight ends to contribute, but that doesn't bode well from a fantasy perspective. Neither does the fact that rookie tight ends almost never tally great fantasy totals. Ebron is a great dynasty target, but in redraft leagues he's better left in the waiver-wire pile until he proves he's able to produce in the big leagues.

Green Bay Packers

The tight end position remains the only real question mark on the Green Bay offense, as their starters everywhere else are proven fantasy producers. Currently, the depth chart order goes Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, Ryan Taylor and then rookie Richard Rodgers. Any target of Aaron Rodgers is worth considering in fantasy football, but this will be a battle to wait on and watch, with the winner netting backup tight end consideration unless he sets the preseason on fire.

Minnesota Vikings

Matt Cassel is currently slotted as the starting quarterback, but if the hype coming out of Mankato is to be believed, this job will likely belong to rookie Teddy Bridgewater when the season begins. Bridgewater still has areas for improvement, but that's what the preseason is for, after all. Whoever starts under center for the Vikings will be a No. 2 quarterback at best.


Dallas Cowboys

Terrance Williams has the No. 2 receiver role opposite Dez Bryant to himself, and has the potential to put together a breakout season. Williams' 16.7 yards per reception was tied for sixth in the NFL last season, and with another full offseason under his belt he could be in line for a second-year boom in fantasy points.

New York Giants

Derek Wilson was No. 2 on the team's depth chart behind Rashad Jennings, but as of this morning he has accepted that football is no longer in his future and retired from the NFL. Rookie Andre Williams, who made a splash in the Hall of Fame game, sits at fourth behind Peyton Hillis, but that shouldn't be the case for long. He could be an excellent handcuff for Jennings, or a deep sleeper to stash on your bench in the event that Jennings gets injured or the team drifts to a more serious committee.

Philadelphia Eagles

In a classic Chip Kelly move, the team hasn't released their depth chart yet. However, rumor has it that his remote control car depth chart has been leaked. Stay tuned.

Washington Redskins

No surprises here. We know who all of the chief contributors on offense will be, and if new head coach Jay Gruden catches a case of "Shanahanigans," Darrel Young and Roy Helu Jr. are ready and waiting to vulture touchdowns from poor Alfred Morris. Let's hope that's not the case.

-- Alex Gelhar is a fantasy football writer and editor for Follow him on Twitter @AlexGelhar. He is currently not ranked on any NFL depth charts, but like Tim Tebow, he's keeping the dream alive.