A few things have changed since our pre-training-camp Barometer, so it's time to review what's new as the preseason looms.
Carlos Hyde, RB, SF
Kendall Hunter's ACL tear is a bitterly disappointing turn of events for the 49ers and leaves them with no experience to speak of behind aging starter Frank Gore. But Hunter's absence should at least speed up the development of Hyde, who should emerge as the 49ers' clear backup behind Gore. The second-round pick out of Ohio State will need to show quick progress in blitz pickup in order to consistently eat into Gore's workload, but Hyde has excellent athleticism for a 230-pound back and has clear, looming upside in the San Francisco offense.
Jeremy Hill, RB, CIN
Even the most poorly managed teams don't draft second-round running backs just to leave them behind the likes of BenJarvus Green-Ellis on the depth chart, so everyone should have foreseen Hill jumping ahead of Green-Ellis almost immediately. And yet, the early offseason fantasy buzz for Hill was surprisingly quiet, with some suspecting Green-Ellis might put up a fight for the power back role behind lead runner Giovani Bernard. Expect the buzz to get consistently louder for Hill leading up to the season, however, because he's been running ahead of BJGE as Bernard's top backup in training camp. There's a real chance Hill will establish himself as Cincinnati's goal-line and short-yardage runner before Week 1, making him a candidate to lead the team in rushing touchdowns this year. In Hue Jackson's offense, there will be room for Hill to make a fantasy impact even as an off-the-bench player behind Bernard.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, NE
Gronkowski has had more than his fair share of severe injuries in his young career, even going back to his college days at Arizona, yet he continues to show a rare ability to regain his pre-injury form each time. For the majority of players, a Dec. 8 ACL/MCL tear would probably mean the PUP list, yet Gronkowski is reportedly accelerating, planting and cutting as if fully recovered. It appears Week 1 is safely within reach for Gronkowski. Considering the injury histories of Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron, it's not hard to justify ranking Gronkowski second at tight end behind Jimmy Graham.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, TB
Although he's more of a dynasty-league target than a re-draft consideration in most cases, Seferian-Jenkins could establish himself as Tampa Bay's top tight end sooner than most expected. ASJ is impressing in training camp so far, with his standout athleticism and boxing-out skills making it easy to envision a red-zone impact as soon as Week 1. ASJ could probably learn a thing or two about professionalism and consistency from Brandon Myers, but Myers doesn't have the talent necessary to hold off Seferian-Jenkins for long.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, MIN
Even though he arrives from a low level of competition after playing at Georgia Southern, McKinnon is poised to make an immediate impact as Adrian Peterson's top backup this year. He's earned praise for his playmaking skills early in training camp, and it shouldn't be long before everyone forgets about Matt Asiata. It's no understatement to say McKinnon is one of the league's absolute best athletes – with 4.41 speed and spectacular marks in the broad jump (132 inches) and vertical (40.5 inches), McKinnon should display as much burst as almost any runner in the league, and Peterson's tendency to miss one or two games most years means McKinnon could be a valuable waiver wire pickup at some point in 2014.
Brandon Bostick, TE, GB
Rookie third-round pick Richard Rodgers received all the praise during the summer while Bostick sat with a broken foot, but Bostick was the one who ran most with the starters when the Packers opened camp. With wide receiver-like speed and good vertical/broad jump numbers, Bostick has the size/athleticism dimensions to project significant fantasy upside if he can distinguish himself as Aaron Rodgers' top tight end.
David Wilson, RB, NYG
Wilson received contact clearance for his surgically-repaired neck Tuesday, yet suffered a 'neck burner' in that very same practice, once again putting his career in question. It's an extremely disappointing turn of events for the former first-round pick, but the Giants would be wise to plan as if they won't have Wilson's services moving forward.
Johnny Manziel, QB, CLE
Manziel has a major talent advantage over incumbent starter Brian Hoyer, yet the Browns organization is evidently displeased with his off-the-field behavior and seems willing to hold it against him while the competition between Manziel and Hoyer plays itself out. Manziel, meanwhile, has had trouble completing passes with the Browns' backups. He appears unlikely to start Week 1.
Vick Ballard, RB, IND
The Colts were counting on Ballard to provide competition and insurance for Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradhsaw at running back as he returned from a torn right ACL this year, but that plan went out the window when Ballard suffered a torn Achilles' tendon in his left leg Friday. The Colts are left with Dan Herron and Zurlon Tipton as their RB3 candidates.
Jace Amaro, TE, NYJ
After playing in a hurry-up Texas Tech spread offense featuring simple routes and minimal blocking assignments, Amaro evidently arrived to Jets training camp unprepared for the responsibilities that awaited. It sounds as if he's not particularly close to earning playing time.