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Fantasy football report: 2015 NFL Scouting Combine


The NFL Scouting Combine signals the beginning of the new football calendar, but it also signals the arrival of smokescreen season, where teams and coaches lob misinformation-filled grenades into the media to shroud their actual thinking in a verbose haze. This year's combine press conferences were no different, with plenty of fantasy football nuggets emerging through the clouds.

Below are the top fantasy storylines I gleaned from a week in Indianapolis, as well as a few nuggets from the rookie class partaking in the combine. Not too much was leveled with the utmost certainty, but there's plenty to learn and take note on as the long haul to the next fantasy season begins.

The futures of Peyton Manning, Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas


» The top three fantasy options in Denver all have question marks surrounding them heading into the offseason, but thankfully the combine has offered a little clarity on each. General manager John Elway will not be meeting with tight end Julius Thomas' agents, which all but guarantees he will hit the open market. Meanwhile, it sounds like fellow pass-catcher Demaryius Thomas will get the franchise tag if the team cannot reach a long-term deal with the talented wideout. That makes perfect sense given the uncertainty around Peyton Manning and the quickly closing championship window Denver is staring through. There are smokescreens all around Manning's football future, so for now we'll just have to wait and see. If I had to make an educated guess, I'd say the Sheriff will be suiting up for one last shot at a title.

Randall Cobb's future in Green Bay; Rodgers, Janis set to breakout?


» The question every fantasy fan wants to know about the Green Bay Packers is whether or not Randall Cobb will be wearing the Green and Gold again in 2015. General manager Ted Thompson admitted Cobb was a "top priority," but that he had no news on where the two sides were at. McCarthy openly admitted he wants Cobb back, and reading between the lines it seems like he wants him back badly. Cobb helped McCarthy's offense soar last season, and posted the highest QB rating when he was targeted (134.3, per Pro Football Focus), with teammate Jordy Nelson right behind him in second place (128.2). Cobb's fantasy value will be tied to his quarterback, whether it be Aaron Rodgers or someone else. For now, let's keep our fingers crossed that he stays a Cheesehead.

» McCarthy and Thompson also used their time to talk up two second-year players in wide receiver Jeff Janis and tight end Richard Rodgers. McCarthy said he expects Janis, a seventh-round pick in 2014, to take "a big step" this year. Janis is a size-speed freak who was only active for three games last year, registering just two catches for 16 yards. In the event that Cobb leaves via free agency, Janis would have deep sleeper appeal as the potential No. 3 option behind Nelson and Davante Adams. For now, Janis remains a dynasty league stash with loads of upside. With McCarthy touting Janis, Thompson took the time to praise Rodgers during his presser. Rodgers played on only about half of the Packers' offensive snaps last season, but managed to finish 40th in scoring at his position. He had five catches and a touchdown in the playoffs as well, so there's reason to believe his rapport with Aaron Rodgers grew as the season went along. Keep an eye on Rodgers, as he could be a sleeper to target at the paper thin tight end position come fantasy draft time.

49ers looking to keep Frank Gore and Michael Crabtree in San Francisco


» The inconvenient truth (aka Frank Gore) will never go away. Gore has been a tremendous rusher in the NFL (and fantasy football) for what seems like decades, and pundits have foretold of his decline year after year. Many made that prophecy again in 2014, only to see Gore somehow scrape together 1,217 total yards and five total touchdowns. Head coach Jim Tomsula said that he's a big Gore fan and the team is trying to work out a new deal to keep him in the Bay Area. This is curious, because as great as Gore has been he'll be 32 years old when the season rolls around with over 11,000 career rushing yards already under his belt. The biggest fantasy implication of Gore staying in San Fran would be delaying the breakout of Carlos Hyde for another year, frustrating fantasy owners everywhere. The team is also looking to retain wide receiver Michael Crabtree, which would be great for Colin Kaepernick considering the depth chart if Crabtree left would be Anquan Boldin, Steve Johnson, Brandon Lloyd, Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington. Yikes.

Pagano expects "big" year from Moncrief; Wayne, Richardson out in Indy?


» Colts head coach Chuck Pagano expects a "big" second year out of wide receiver Donte Moncrief. Moncrief burst onto the scene with two monster games last season. However, those two games accounted for over 30 percent of his reception, 55 percent of his yardage and 100 percent of his touchdown totals. Moncrief has immense physical gifts, so once he's able to learn the minutia of playing the position (and the team moves on from the Hakeem Nicks experiment) he could be set to explode in fantasy. Praise from his head coach at the combine is a great start. Keep an eye on Moncrief this offseason, as he could be a late-round steal akin to DeAndre Hopkins this past year.

» Surprising no one, the futures of Reggie Wayne and Trent Richardson are up in the air with the Colts. Wayne makes sense as he's 36 years old and is in the twilight of his career. Richardson also makes sense, because pretty much any street free agent the team signed looked like a world-class athlete when compared to T-Rich on the gridiron. Not that anyone was going to draft Richardson in fantasy this year anyway, but if you've for some reason stashed him in a dynasty league his time on your bench may officially be coming to a close.

Falcons' brass praise Devonta Freeman, but want Justin Forsett?

» It looks like I was a year early on the Devonta Freeman hype train. Steven Jackson could be a salary cap casualty for the Falcons this offseason, paving the way for Freeman to assume the starting role (assuming the team doesn't add another rusher in free agency or the draft -- more on that later). Freeman has scored the triple crown of offseason praise, receiving high marks from offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff. Freeman's hype train is only going to build steam as the season approaches, likely pushing his draft value higher and higher. It'll be a storyline to watch this offseason and preseason to determine if he'll be worth the price tag. And of course, a day after Freeman was awash in praise, a report surfaces that the team has "serious interest" in Justin Forsett, who is a free agent after a career-year in Baltimore. Welcome to the offseason, where the smoke is strong in Atlanta. Sigh.

Cam Newton confident, to work out with Benjamin and Olsen


» Cam Newton's 2014 season was marred with injuries, including a scary car crash near the end of the season. Despite everything stacked against him, he still posted top-20 fantasy numbers. Cam is looking to heal up this offseason, while also improving for next season. Head coach Ron Rivera said Cam is feeling confident and plans to workout with wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and probably Greg Olsen too. This is good news, as Benjamin showed flashes during his rookie season. If these two can improve their rapport and timing, it bodes well for their fantasy futures. Let's just hope they give Cam another weapon in free agency or the draft to really kick it into high gear.

Latavius Murray the real deal or just a mirage?


» Chris Hansen of Bleacher Report and was dropping some knowledge on running back Latavius Murray yesterday on Twitter. Here's a sample:

I've been eager to dive into Murray's tape from last year because there certainly were flashes of greatness. However, as Hansen points out, given Murray's small sample size it's difficult to tell if those were indicative of a bright future, or simply J.J. Abrams-esque lens flares distracting us from the reality that he's a boom-or-bust back. Murray has plenty of upside depending on where you can get him in fantasy drafts, but we'll have to wait and see how the offseason shakes out in order to truly assess his potential in 2015.

A.P. "uneasy" about returning; Charles Johnson best WR in Minnesota

» After missing most of last season on the NFL exempt/Commissioner's permission list, many are wondering where Adrian Peterson will play in 2015. After seeing Peterson say he feels "uneasy" about a return to Minnesota, it doesn't sound like he's a man dying to don the purple again. Peterson's in an interesting situation, as the team owes him $12.75 million in salary next year (with a hefty $15.4 million cap hit) and if they cut him it'd only result in a cap hit of $2.4 million. It'd be hard for the team to cut ties with the face of their franchise, but it's not that crazy of a notion. As Michael Fabiano pointed out, this is one of the top offseason storylines to follow. Right now, it's starting to look like Peterson might be suiting up in a new set of colors once the 2015 season rolls around. Nothing can happen with Peterson until he is reinstated, however, which is currently set to happen on April 15, 2015.

» This isn't a surprise to anyone who watched much Vikings tape, but offensive coordinator Norv Turner came out and said that Charles Johnson was "far and away" the best wide receiver on the team. Johnson was a seventh-round pick by the Packers a few years ago, and bounced from their practice squad to the Browns' before getting scooped up by the Vikings. This news could signal the end of Greg Jennings' time in Minnesota, and serves as yet another wake-up call to Cordarrelle Patterson, who struggled mightily in his second year. Johnson will be the name to call earliest on draft day from the Vikings' pass attack. How high owners will have to reach to get him remains to be seen. Meanwhile, it looks like Patterson is facing an uphill battle once again.


Bill O'Brien and Rick Smith praise Ryan Mallett, want him back

» The Texans quarterback situation last season was a quagmire of inconsistency, even when opening day starter Ryan Fitzpatrick was under center. Ryan Mallett took over for Fitzpatrick for two games midseason before tearing his pectoral muscle and landing on IR. Mallett's first game showed potential, but his stats from his second outing are less inspiring since he played through the torn muscle. Mallett has a cannon arm and studied under Tom Brady for his first few years in the league, which constantly led to his name appearing in offseason trade rumors. A trade finally happened last season with the Texans inheriting Mallett for one season, and it appears they want another go with the strong-armed Arkansas product. More consistency under center for the Texans would be fantastic from a fantasy standpoint, as Andre Johnson still has a little more to offer and emerging superstar DeAndre Hopkins is just scratching the surface of his talent and potential. This will be a situation to monitor all offseason that could bear good fantasy fruit come August.

Marshawn Lynch's future in Seattle remains cloudy

» Since the final whistle blew at Super Bowl XLIX the speculation around Marshawn Lynch's future has swollen into a raging storm. Lynch's contract ends after 2015, and he's set to make $7 million this year. However, lingering back issues have led many (including Seahawks GM John Schneider) to believe that Lynch could retire rather than subject his body to one more season of punishment. While at the combine, head coach Pete Carroll admitted that the team has had "big offers" out to Lynch, but that he hasn't committed to one yet. While Lynch is concerned about his body, often times in the NFL money is the ultimate deciding factor. Lynch's presence is imperative to the success of the Seattle offense, so fantasy enthusiasts will want to watch this story closely all offseason as it develops. (Ed. note: After the publishing of this piece, reports surfaced that Lynch and the Seahawks agreed to a contract extension. However, Lynch's agent denied those reports keeping Beast Mode's future still shrouded. Stay tuned.)

Quick hits on the 2015 rookie class


I haven't dove into the tape for all of these guys yet (that will come soon), but here are some quick thoughts on some potential fantasy rookies coming out of the combine:

» Kevin White can move. His 4.35 second 40-yard dash and strong hands will likely make him the top wide receiver drafted.

» Running backs to remember (outside Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley): Ameer Abdullah, Jay Ajayi and Duke Johnson

» Wide receiver Chris Conley was the combine superstar of the day, as you can see below:

We'll do a more in-depth look back at the fantasy prospects from the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine once all of the numbers are finalized and official. For now, take a breath. The fantasy football season is still a long ways away.

-- Alex is a fantasy writer and editor for Follow him on Twitter @AlexGelhar