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Word around camp: Trendy tight ends to target

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With NFL Training Camps underway, lots of interesting nuggets are coming out regarding a number of fantasy football players. From first-round picks to deep sleepers, "Word around camp" will track the best quotes from players and coaches throughout each day. We'll do our best to sift through the smoke and see what insight can be lifted as you prepare for your fantasy draft.

On Julius Thomas


» Julius Thomas: "Going into the offseason, looking at some of the things I was able to do statistically and then thinking about so many areas that I have to improve on, it's encouraging. Just seeing my progress throughout the year, I can't wait to show how much I've grown, continue to learn more and keep getting better."

Our analysis: Thomas is one of the few tight ends that can be relied upon to be a regular scorer in fantasy this season. The fact that he put up such a tremendous season and finished as the No. 3 tight end in fantasy a year ago while basically learning the position is a testament to his rare ability.

On Chiefs tight ends


» Doug Pederson (offensive coordinator): "I'll tell you, it's exciting. It's an athletic group. We've got guys now, with Travis (Kelce) being back and the emergence of Demetrius Harris and Richard Gordon is in the mix. These guys are athletic and they compete, and they give us that explosiveness at the tight end position. They allow us to do more two and three tight end sets on the field, so we're excited and we're just looking forward to this camp and to see what comes out."

Our analysis: The one to watch here is Kelce, as our Around the League colleagues have already been talking up his potential. If Kelce progresses to the No. 1 option and flashes in the preseason, he's a fantastic deep sleeper who could be had at the end of fantasy drafts.

On Kenbrell Thompkins


» Bill Belichick: "(He is) one of our hardest workers. Really tries hard to do everything right. Very attentive, very coachable."

Our analysis: It appears as if the Thompkins hype-train is really moving along now. This battle in a crowded wide receiver corps needs more time to play out, but Thompkins is worth keeping an eye on as a late-round draft steal.

On Marshawn Lynch


» Richard Sherman: "I don't think he's missing very much. It's not like in the preseason and camp he gets a lot of reps, so I'm sure he's staying in shape wherever he's at and get it worked out."
» Pete Carroll: "We're really focused, as we would, on the guys that are here, and the guys had a great offseason, minicamp and are ready to roll."

Our analysis: We're glad Sherman doesn't think Lynch is missing much. But that won't change how this holdout impacts his fantasy status. Holdouts don't typically end well for running backs. Add in the fact that Lynch has endured a tremendous workload over the last three years and the talented Christine Michael is waiting in the wings and that is not a tasty recipe for a first-round fantasy pick. If this holdout lasts much longer, Lynch shouldn't be drafted in the first round, or maybe even the first two.

On Dwayne Allen


» Chuck Pagano: "Finding that 'Y' tight end, that stud tight end that can be your in-line blocker and also be a mismatch down the field in the pass game, it's hard to find that guy ... The Jimmy Graham's of the world, the (Antonio) Gates', those type of guys. We feel like we've got guys like that obviously, and Dwayne is one of those guys."

Our analysis: I was quite high on Allen last year, as he finished less than two points outside the top 20 scoring tight ends in his rookie season. Unfortunately a hip injury cost Allen his sophomore campaign. Now, he will return to the lineup and immediately offer Luck a reliable, dynamic tight end in the passing attack. Target Allen in the later rounds if you wait on drafting at the position. He has top-10 potential and is playing with an awesome quarterback. The writing is on the wall for a breakout season.

On Rob Gronkowski


» Rob Gronkowski: "Yeah, obviously you've seen me out at practice just doing individual drills, routes and everything, getting my conditioning up, keeping the legs strengthening, keeping the body in shape - all that good stuff. [I'm] just taking it easy, slow pace and gradually increasing every single day and improving every single day."

Our analysis: Gronk's recovery is a hot topic in fantasy circles. When he's healthy, he's one of the most prolific scorers in the history of the NFL. He's scored 43 touchdowns in 50 career games. Slow and steady is just fine for Gronk as long as he's at full strength to spike the heck out of the ball come Sept. 7. Watch his recovery and usage throughout the preseason and move him up your draft boards accordingly.

-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

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