The Thursday Line: Who Emerges From These Camp Battles?

It is almost June, which means it is almost yet another month on the NFL calendar where rampant speculation and wild predictions reign supreme. Let's not be left out of all that--after all, we can make predictions based on little more than clips of guys lifting weights as well as anyone out there.

We'll shift away from the Over/Under format today and present you with a few positions where we expect to see stiff competition this offseason. Feel free to select players not mentioned or defended by me in the comments below. In most cases, your guesses are as good or better than mine.

#2 Wide Receiver -- Devin Thomas or Malcolm Kelly
Be prepared to beat this dead horse to a pulp over the next few months. I have said it before but it bears repeating...whenever I have asked a current player about these two, the answer is almost ALWAYS the same: Malcolm Kelly causes players to stop and watch him with his ability to bring down balls out of the air (reminds me of Kevin that way.) He has a real "wow" factor in his style. Yet, for my money, I continue to see Devin Thomas as the frontrunner for this spot. Ideally, both of these players will be on the field together with Santana Moss this season. To me, Thomas is a better yards-after-the-catch guy. He is bigger and stronger than pretty much anyone playing defense outside the box, and he seemed to be figuring that out by the end of last season (as evidenced by his performance against the New Orleans Saints.) I'm going with Devin here, because I think Donovan McNabb's skills play to Thomas' strengths (I'll explain in the comments section below if anyone desires to debate that very arguable statement.)

Right Tackle -- Stephon Heyer or Artis Hicks

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Heyer has worn out a lot of Redskins fans with his inconsistent showing in certain games over the last couple seasons. I think it is fair to call him the longshot here, as Hicks is a pro's pro, holds the confidence of his coaches and has experience playing at a high level in this league. I hate when somebody just takes the easy ones all the way down, so I will make the case for Heyer today. At 6'6", 320 lbs, he has a slight size advantage over Hicks. Heyer started all 16 games for the Redskins last season (can that be right? check here if you need the proof) and was put into a very tough spot when he had to sub in for Chris Samuels at Left Tackle. The dude is extremely strong and powerful, but has been abused in the past by some of the league's elite pass rushers. I have never had the chance to interview Artis Hicks, so this might be slightly unfair, but whenever I have had the occasion to talk to Heyer, I have never felt like I was talking to a guy who felt he didn't belong or couldn't cut it. Trust me, there are some real knuckleheads out there that you walk away from thinking, "Wow...no way that guy stays in the league." My feeling is that Heyer is the kind of player that can and will improve. I don't believe he has played his best football yet, and I am optimistic that a right side of Mike Williams and Stephon Heyer could become a formidable side to run behind.

Nickel Back -- No, not Kevin's favorite band
DeAngelo Hall and Carlos Rogers should lock down the top two corner spots, leaving what could be an intense battle for the third spot to unfold in July and August. Justin Tryon, Phillip Buchanon and Kevin Barnes are the guys I am focusing on today, but I am open to any suggestions you have. For starters, I need Kevin Barnes to grow up fast. He was a 3rd round pick and I just don't think I can take another wasted draft pick out of the top 3 rounds. Third-rounders should be starters. He was considered by many to be a reach when we drafted him (at least he wasn't a punter) but he has the tools necessary to get on the field on Sundays. Tryon has improved as time has gone on, but he lacks the size Barnes has and the experience Buchanon brings. Between Tryon and Barnes, I am stepping out on yet another limb and taking Barnes. I think horse racing has officially warped my risk appetite. In Haseltt's new scheme, I wonder which of these guys will be best suited to step in and contribute. Buchanon, as athletic and polished as he might be, is still the re-tread veteran that coaches brought in to push the likes of Barnes and Tryon. I don't think Buchanon has to make this team as the 3rd corner though, thanks to his potential to contribute as a returner. Barnes and Tryon might have to take the next step in their games to crack the 53-man roster, and I say that based on almost zero first-hand knowledge. So you have to feel good about that.

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