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Depth Chart Watch: Lions No. 2 WR Could Feast

Howard Bender

Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For more from him, you can find his personal musings on his blog or follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy. For questions, thoughts or comments you can email him at

Bills QB - It's been obvious all along the Bills wanted EJ Manuel to be their starting quarterback entering Week 1, but after what has been described as a "minor procedure" on his left knee Sunday, there is concern now that he may not be ready. Kevin Kolb is ready to step in, but the team won't make a final determination until they see how Manuel responds in his recovery. He remains the team's long-term choice, so even if he isn't ready for the first regular-season game, Buffalo's sights are set on him taking over the job as soon as he is able.

Patriots TE -
While the winner of the starting job is expected to step aside as soon as Rob Gronkowski is ready to return, there's a battle developing between Jake Ballard and rookie Zach Sudfeld. Quarterback Tom Brady made it a point to single out Sudfeld as someone who has vastly improved throughout the preseason, and there is now a chance that he could supplant Ballard as the starter when the season opens. Given the Patriots use of two-TE formations, it is possible that whoever wins this job could still retain value even after Gronk returns.

Patriots WR -
The battle between rookies Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins continues, but Thompkins still has the edge. He was also singled out by Brady for stepping up his game recently and appears to be the one who will line up opposite Danny Amendola in two-receiver formations. Should he officially win the job, Thompkins should be considered a solid late mid- to late-round draft option.

Jets QB -
Geno Smith missed the Jets' second preseason game with an ankle injury, but Mark Sanchez did nothing to separate himself from his competition while playing most of the game. He had a few nice moments, but his red-zone interception and the sack he took that knocked the Jets out of field-goal range stood out more than any good he accomplished. Smith is expected to play in the team's next game, but coach Rex Ryan still seems far off from making the final decision.

Jets RB -
The expectation remains that Chris Ivory will be the team's lead back, with either Mike Goodson or Bilal Powell handling third-down reps. But Goodson still hasn't reported and continues to deal with problems stemming from his drug and weapons charges, so while the Jets seem to still be holding out hope, it's becoming more evident that Powell will be the primary backup.

Jets WR -
Based on his workout program, Santonio Holmes just might be ready for the Jets' Week 1 matchup against Tampa Bay. Plenty of skepticism comes with that possibility, but if he is ready, the Jets appear committed to keeping him in as their No. 1 receiver. Jeremy Kerley is likely to start opposite him with Stephen Hill and Braylon Edwards still competing for reps in three-receiver formations. Should Holmes not be ready, then Kerley and Hill are expected to be the top two.

Ravens WR -
The battle for the third receiver spot has yet to be decided, but the fact that Deonte Thompson still hasn't recovered from the sprained foot he suffered during the first preseason game is giving the edge to Tandon Doss. David Reed could still factor in this one, but the team likes Thompson enough to remain patient with him.

Ravens TE -
Ed Dickson reportedly isn't likely to be ready for the team's season opener, so the battle between Visanthe Shiancoe and Dallas Clark remains a priority for the coaching staff. Neither is favored, but Shiancoe has had more experience working with the first-team offense. Both will receive extensive looks in the third preseason game, and a decision is expected shortly thereafter.

Bengals TE -
There is growing speculation that Tyler Eifert was ready to surpass Jermaine Gresham on the depth chart, but both are seeing roughly equal time during practice, and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden continues to stand behind Gresham. Eifert could see a fair amount of work in a two-tight end formation, but Gresham is considered the more balanced player.

Browns RB -
Dion Lewis was expected to emerge with the primary backup job to Trent Richardson, but a fractured left fibula has him on the shelf for what could be the entire season following surgery. Now with Montario Hardesty expected to miss at least the first two to three weeks of the regular season with thumb and knee issues, he's not only fallen down the depth chart, but is now in danger of being cut from the team. Brandon Jackson and Chris Ogbonnaya are competing for the No. 2 job with offensive coordinator Norv Turner citing Jackson as the possible No. 2 and Ogbonnaya as a possible third-down back. How they are used in the team's third preseason game should help determine the direction the team is headed.

Colts WR -
The battle for the No. 2 receiver job remains a competition between T.Y. Hilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey. Hilton is the incumbent and showed off his talents and rapport with Andrew Luck on an 18-yard toe-tapper in the back corner of the endzone Sunday night. However, DHB, saw a team-high seven targets, and made four strong catches. We expect to see plenty of three-receiver sets this season for the Colts, so it might not make much of a difference who wins this job, but it appears as if DHB is starting to push Hilton to the side a little.

Jaguars QB -
Although Blaine Gabbert is dealing with a thumb fracture on his throwing hand, Jags coach Gus Bradley still tabbed him as the team's Week 1 starter. Chad Henne will start in a reserve role once again, but given the injury to Gabbert, could become the starter sooner than later.

Broncos RB -
The way things have looked the last week or so, it appears as if Ronnie Hillman continues to have the edge over rookie Montee Ball for the starting running back job. Hillman is not only the better receiver, but he is also a superior pass blocker, and in a Peyton Manning-led offense, that seems to be the key factor in the decision. Ball likely will be tabbed as the goal-line back and should be used in short-yardage situations. Considering Hillman's injury history, it might not be long before Ball is the primary back.

Chiefs WR -
With the recent trade of Jon Baldwin for A.J. Jenkins, the Chiefs' secondary receivers might be in line for a shuffle if Jenkins can prove that his problems with drops, fumbles and poor route-running were left behind in San Francisco. Dexter McCluster and Donnie Avery have the inside track on the second and third receiver spots, but Jenkins' work in practice with former Niners QB Alex Smith should be interesting to watch.

Cowboys RB -
With primary backup Lance Dunbar sidelined at least three to four weeks with a sprained foot, rookie Joseph Randle is ready to step in as the No. 2 behind DeMarco Murray. He also becomes a very deep sleeper based on Murray's injury history, so keep him in mind late in drafts when handcuffing your running backs.

Giants RB -
It doesn't appear to be a competition anymore, as much as it appears to be a straight-up committee approach in New York this season. David Wilson and Andre Brown shared carries evenly during Sunday night's preseason game against the Colts, and it looks as if that's the way it will go in the regular season. Wilson seems to be the more dynamic back of the two and should handle the early down work and pass-catching situations while Brown is expected to be the goal-line back, Tom Coughlin's choice in short-yardage situations and the go-to guy for pass blocking. Wilson probably can step things up and carve out for himself a bigger role, but you have to figure they'll be pretty even early in the season.

Lions WR -
According to the depth charts, Nate Burleson is listed ahead of Ryan Broyles for the No. 2 receiver spot in Detroit. However, that could just be because Broyles is still recovering from the ACL surgery he underwent more than eight months ago. He appears to be ahead of schedule, and while Burleson may open the season as the No. 2, it should not be long before he is supplanted by Broyles and relegated to a lesser role.

Packers RB -
There really hasn't been much change in the competition for the starting running back job in Green Bay. Expected starter Eddie Lacy made his professional debut in the team's second preseason game and rushed eight times for 40 yards alongside the first-string offense. DuJuan Harris, James Starks and Johnathan Franklin seem to be competing for the backup job, and the speculation is Franklin's best chances of earning a spot are as a third-down back and possible return man. Lacy is certainly the guy to own and should be considered a decent second running back with solid upside.

49ers WR -
The situation remains as complicated as ever even with the trade of A.J. Jenkins to the Chiefs for Jon Baldwin. The latest reports have it set as the following: The 49ers will carry six wide receivers on the 53-man roster. Anquan Boldin and Kyle Williams are locked in for two of those spots with Quinton Patton all but guaranteed a third. With Mario Manningham opening the season on the PUP list, that leaves Baldwin, Marlon Moore, Austin Collie, Chad Hall, Lavelle Hawkins, Ricardo Lockette, Kassim Osgood and Chuck Jacobs to fight over the final three spots. Jim Harbaugh already endorsed Moore, and Baldwin is likely to come away with a spot as well. Hall is the dark horse for the final spot, though if Collie stays healthy, he could be a factor as well.