PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 08: Colt McCoy #12 of the Cleveland Browns rolls out of the pocket in the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 8, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
It was great to finally watch some real football last Sunday, even though the starters lasted all of one series or so it seemed. Did Kevin Kolb even last that long? The pre-season games are not just mind numbing games that don't mean a lot. If you watch the games or even just catch the highlights, you might see a future starter for your fantasy team. Remember Victor Cruz and his outstanding performance in the 2010 pre-season, he didn't do too much during that regular season but last year he put up amazing numbers. All it takes is an injury here or an opportunity there and a player that has flown under the radar is now breaking out. So, here are a few fantasy position battles to keep an eye on.
1. Atlanta Falcons fullback
Bradie Ewing vs. Mike Cox - Atlanta released their long time fullback Ovie Mughelli and have decided to roll with the winner of the training camp battle between Ewing and Cox. The Falcons selected Ewing out of the University of Wisconsin in the fifth round in April's draft. He was the lead blocker for Wisconsin's top rushing offense and played on special teams. Ewing is also a threat as a receiver out of the backfield. Mike Cox filled in for Mughelli after he went down for the season but did not show anything special. I like Ewing as a deep sleeper especially if an injury takes down Michael Turner or Jason Snelling. Ewing reminds me of Mike Alstott and could vulture some short yardage touches. Atlanta takes on Baltimore at home on Thursday night.
2. Baltimore Ravens kicker
Billy Cundiff vs. Justin Tucker- Cundiff has been the Ravens kicker for the last two seasons and has scored 239 points which is pretty good. The reason that competition has been brought in though was because of his miss in the AFC Championship which could have sent the game into OT. Justin Tucker is an undrafted rookie free agent out of Texas. He has impressed the team with a powerful and accurate leg. Ravens special teams coach Jerry Rosburg says: "You really find out about them in games. You find out how they handle the situations, you find out how they handle the weather conditions, you find out a lot about a guy's poise in games." Cundiff should be able to hold onto the job but if he struggles the rookie could snag it. The Ravens offense does not produce touchdowns like other high powered offenses and often settles for field goals, so their kicker is worth a look.
3. Buffalo Bills backup receivers
Donald Jones vs. Marcus Easley vs. Derek Hagan vs. T.J. Graham- Jones is entering the "magical" third year for WR. He doesn't have a lot of speed but has shown moments of brilliance. Easley has spent the last two seasons on IR and is looking to show the team that he can produce. Hagan is "pushing to be a big part of this offense" according to head coach Chan Gailey. Hagan is smart and runs sharp routes. Graham is a former track guy and has speed to burn. I like Graham as a sleeper pick. If he continues to work on his route running, he could turn into a very productive player. Buffalo plays Washington at home on Thursday night.
4. Cincinnati Bengals third wide receiver
Andrew Hawkins vs. Jordan Shipley vs. Mohamed Sanu- Hawkins stepped into the role last season when Shipley went down with a knee injury. He quietly posted 23 receptions and has been making plays in training camp. Shipley only started practicing last week but in 2010 he surprised us with a 52-600-3 line. Sanu should eventually become the starter opposite AJ Green but will probably be brought along slowly. I really like him and think the Bengals got one of the steals of the draft. I think Hawkins will start the season as their third WR but really like Sanu as a sleeper pick. I think he'll really shine in the second half of the season. Cincinnati faces NYJ at home on Friday night.
5. Cleveland Browns backup quarterback
Colt McCoy vs. Seneca Wallace- According to multiple reports, McCoy has looked sharp in training camp and has been impressing the coaches. If he keeps it up, he'll definitely lock down the backup spot and could challenge Weeden to start. The first six games for the Browns are a Murderers Row, which may shake the rookie and cause fans to call for the return of McCoy. If not Cleveland, than somewhere down the road, McCoy will get a second chance. Cleveland travels to play at Detroit on Friday night.