Last month John Ewing, our Manager of Research and Analytics, took a look at a few key position battles including NFL rookies, check them out here. John continues reviewing up coming position battles around the NFL, this time looking at three additional NFC battles. (2012 projections for rookies are based on this analysis which projects rookie seasons for all NFL prospects as if they were starters on average NFL teams.)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Starting RBs
Incumbent: LeGarrette Blount, 2011 stats – 18 rushes, 781 yards, 5 TDs
The Buccaneers regressed significantly in 2011 from their 10-6 campaign in 2010, going 4-12 the hard way (started 3-1 on the season). Blount is a power runner that needs touches to be effective. The Buccaneers found themselves behind in most games, having to pass the ball in an attempt to catch-up; they were not able to get Blount the touches he needed to be successful. Further complicating matters is that Blount is not a great pass catcher so he had to come out on third down plays in which Tampa often found itself.
Challenger: Mossis Madu, 2011 stats – 15 rushes, 55 yards, 0 TDs
Madu is a second year man out of Oklahoma, the undrafted free agent was used sparingly in 2011. Don’t expect Madu to seriously compete for the starting job but if injuries occur he will have to be ready to step up.
Challenger: Doug Martin, 2012 projections – 215 rushes, 705 yards, 11TDs
The Bucs traded back in the draft to select Martin, PredictionMachine.com’s eighth ranked running back (second RB taken in the draft), with the 31st pick. The former Boise State standout possess many of the skills that Blount does not including the ability to catch balls out of the back field. It would not surprise me if new head coach Greg Schiano uses a running back by committee approach.
New York Giants – Starting RBs
Incumbent: Ahmad Bradshaw, 2011 stats – 171 rushes, 659 yards, 9 TDs
With the departure of Brandon Jacobs to 49ers it appears that Bradshaw will finally be given the chance to shine after splitting reps with Jacobs since 2007. However, Bradshaw only played in 12 games last season averaging 3.9 yards per carry, a career low. Injury risk and the deterioration of his skill set might open the door for other backs.
Challenger: D.J. Ware, 2011 stats – 46 rushes, 163 yards, 0 TDs
Ware appeared in all sixteen of the Giant’s games last season receiving the most playing time of his career. Ware saw both his rushing and receiving attempts more than double from the previous season. Most of his production occurred during November when Bradshaw was out. Ware proved to be a successful receiver out of the backfield averaging 6.3 yards per reception.
Challenger: Da’Rel Scott, 2011 stats – 5 rushes, 16 yards, 0 TDs
A second year player out of Maryland, Scott, saw most of his playing time on special teams averaging 24.3 yards per return. Scott has the speed necessary to be successful in the NFL but he will have to put it all together in order to compete for playing time.
Challenger: David Wilson, 2012 projections – 222 rushes, 999 yards, 8 TDs
The Giant’s selected Wilson with the last pick in the first round of the draft, Wilson was the third overall running back selected. PredictionMachine.com ranked Wilson as the tenth best running back coming out of college. The Giants have had success at inserting late round picks in at running back (Bradshaw seventh round, Jacobs fourth round). It will be interesting to see if last year’s ACC conference player of the year can fill the shoes left behind by Jacobs.
Arizona Cardinals – Starting WRs
Incumbent: Larry Fitzgerald, 2011 stats – 80 receptions, 1,411 yards, and 8 TDs
There is not a competition for the number one starting WR position. Fitzgerald has had that on lock down since his first big season in 2005 when he caught 103 passes for 1,409 yards. However, after the departure of Anquan Boldin in 2010 the Cardinals have been looking for a true weapon to play opposite of Fitzgerald.
Challenger: Early Doucet, 2011 stats - 54 receptions, 689 yards, and 5 TDs
Doucet had the second most receiving yards on the team last season and accomplished this by playing in all sixteen games for the first time in his career. Doucet was in a battle with Andre Roberts for the second WR position last year but failed to separate himself. Doucet will have a chance to earn the starting job when camp begins.
Challenger: Andre Roberts, 2011 stats - 51 receptions, 586 yards, and 2 TDs
Roberts had just as many targets, 98, as Doucet and caught nearly as many passes. However Roberts’s averaged 1.3 yards less than Doucet. Just like Doucet, Roberts will have a chance to win the number two WR position when camp begins but both players may kick themselves for not putting a strangle hold on the position as Michael Floyd enters the fold.
Challenger: Michael Floyd, 2012 projections - 71 receptions, 899 yards, and 7 TDs
Floyd was PredictionMachine.com’s second ranked WR and was drafted by the Cardinals with the 13 overall pick. The 6’3’’ 220 pound WR out of Notre Dame enters a very favorable situation when camp opens July 23. He has a star WR to learn from in Fitzgerald and he has a legitimate chance of starti