By Chet Gresham - @ChetGresham
Updated July 26, 2016.
There truly is no offseason in the NFL, and that applies to fantasy as well. Below, I gather some of the more interesting tidbits from the news and look at them with a fantasy perspective.
July 26 Updates
Josh Gordon has returned! Maybe. Well, let's just cross our fingers that he can pass the multitude of drug tests he'll take between now and when he's officially reinstated for Week 5. But if you drafted Gordon late in an MFL10 or have him on your dynasty team, then you probably did a little jig after hearing the news, and rightfully so.
Gordon is a special player, and if he can get his pot habit under control for a few years, he's going to do big things. At just 25 years old, he's averaged 4.6 receptions for 78.7 yards per game. And if you take a look just at his 2013 season, well, the numbers skyrocket. He's also fourth all-time in receiving yards in his first two seasons.
The question is, what can he do for us in fantasy this season? And unfortunately, the answer has a wide array of possibilities. The Browns have a new head coach, a new quarterback and new wide receivers. Hue Jackson is a very good coach, but will most likely limit the opportunities Robert Griffin III has to turnover the ball, so we will see plenty of rushing and shorter passes to Duke Johnson and Gary Barnidge. But Gordon will be used plenty as long as he keeps straight and gets on the right page with Jackson. The good news is that Gordon is allowed to participate in training camp, which is not always the case with a suspended player. Those are going to be much-needed reps for Gordon as he gets into shape and learns Jackson's playbook. And with this being Jackson's first year in Cleveland, most players are going to be learning the playbook, like Gordon will have to. The others did get an early jump on Gordon with OTAs and minicamp, but all in all, I believe the timeline will work out for him.
There really isn't much reason to worry about players who go on the PUP list at this point. Teams want to keep their options open at the start of training camp, and giving a few veterans some time to heal while evaluating younger players is fine by them. Of course, if a player stays on the PUP list deep into training camp then it is time to worry, but for now I'm not overly concerned with Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis, Jordy Nelson and Jared Cook, who were put on the PUP list today. Lewis is somewhat concerning because he's had trouble healing in the past, but I'm not sending out any SOS flares until we get a week or two into training camp.
The good news is that LeGarrette Blount did not land on the PUP list, which was a real possibility after his hip surgery and missed offseason work. This boosts Blount up for me, as he's almost assured that early down/goal-line role now, and without Tom Brady to start the season, New England could go more run heavy as well.
Sam Bradford is still locked into the starting role according to coach Doug Pederson, but Pederson also believes Carson Wentz will be ready to go by Week 1 if Bradford were to get injured. We'll see how Bradford fares in this offense, but it will need to be his best season ever to hold off Wentz for 16 games.
Will Tye is poised to be the Giants' starting tight end over Larry Donnell. This wouldn't be news, but Donnell had that three-touchdown game once and people remember that kind of thing. Tye is the more dynamic offensive player of the two and fits the Giants' west-coast-style offense better.
Le'Veon Bell says he will appeal and he's "gonna win the appeal." This was stated on an Instagram post, so wasn't an officially sanctioned statement from the Steelers, but he sure seemed confident. I wouldn't put much credence in these statements at the moment, but it does give a little more drama to his appeal than before.
July 12 Updates
The Buffalo Bills have a lot of questions coming into this season. Who will their long-term quarterback be? Can Sammy Watkins get healthy and stay healthy? Can LeSean McCoy stay on the field for 16 games, and if not, will Karlos Williams or Jonathan Williams or both be his backup? And those are just the obvious fantasy-football questions.
As far as talent is concerned, Taylor, McCoy, Watkins and the Williams, are a nice grouping to have on your offense, but injuries and pregnancy weight have been a concern. Unfortunately and fortunately, there is fantasy value to be had with this group, but where?
First is Tyrod Taylor, who was one of the best per-play fantasy quarterbacks in the league last season and finished in the Top-10 for fantasy points per game. Injuries were his biggest downfall, as he missed two games, but wasn't 100 percent healthy for a handful more. But that will be a problem for Taylor, as he is a running quarterback, and doesn't have the build of Cam Newton. Taylor did play in 14 games last season despite his injuries, and a second year could give him the wisdom and ability to avoid those injuries a little better. The good news is that Taylor put up nice numbers through the air as well as on the ground. He didn't always get many opportunities, but he completed close to 64 percent of his passes, for eight yards per attempt, while compiling 24 touchdowns - 20 passing, four rushing - and only turning the ball over seven times. Those are numbers any team would create some kind of "-gate" to have. The Bills, having had so much success at the quarterback position, have decided to not extend Taylor's contract, so this is a contract year for him, which, if he can have a good season, means he's going to get paid a whole bunch of money next offseason.
An integral part of Taylor having a productive year is Sammy Watkins' health. Last season, Watkins put together huge numbers once healthy after the bye, but he's once again hurting after surgery to repair a fractured bone in his foot. He should be ready for Week 1, but he has battled multiple injuries through his two seasons in the NFL, which does make him risky, but thankfully this foot injury is bringing his average draft position down into an area that I'm willing to take a risk on him. Injuries are too hard to predict, and when a player comes at a discount because of them, I'm usually on the side of getting the elite player for however many games he's able to play.
The running backs in Buffalo are good at running the football, but one is a rookie, one is fat and one is oldish. First, let's look at the oldish guy. He's not really oldish since that's not a word, but he did just turn 28 and has back-to-back 300-plus carry seasons under his belt. His name is LeSean McCoy, and I'd kill to be his brand of old, but coming off of two heavy-usage seasons in Philadelphia, McCoy was traded to the Bills and missed four games with various ailments and never seemed to be fully healthy for a whole game. During that time, Karlos Williams played a lot and scored nine all-purpose touchdowns. On paper, that looks bad for McCoy, but even though he dealt with nagging injuries, he still looked like the same old Shady when he had the ball. For 10 straight games, he scored a touchdown and/or totaled 100 yards from scrimmage. And now, Karlos Williams comes to OTAs 20 to 25 pounds overweight. Williams said it was just sympathy eating for his pregnant wife, but Rex Ryan isn't going to hear all that when gastric bypass is available! I think Karlos will get in shape and be the backup, but I also don't see him pressing McCoy for the starting spot.
Jonathan Williams has the ability to play in the NFL and could press for some playing time if there are injuries, but unless Karlos Williams continues his Eddie Lacy Diet, it will be tough for Jonathan Williams to have much value this year.
So, the Bills' fantasy outlook for their key offensive players is good, but scary at the same time. Injuries are, of course, going to pop up everywhere in the NFL, but these guys are riskier than average. In the end, I still like each star player here, as their ADPs are taking into account injury risk, but the upside is much higher for each.
July 6 Updates
The Cleveland Browns won't be very good this year, but there have been plenty of fantasy standouts on bad teams, so you always need to do your due diligence in assessing talent and opportunity no matter the quality of a team.
The strength of most Hue Jackson-led teams is the running game, and that won't be any different in Cleveland, where Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson anchor the backfield. The true questions about this offense come from the passing game, where Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown battle it out to start at quarterback and the wide receiver depth chart isn't all that deep.
Today, Browns beat writer Tony Grossi tweeted that after their first-round pick, Corey Coleman, Andrew Hawkins and Rashard Higgins are currently in the No. 2 and No. 3 positions on the depth chart, which would leave Terrelle Pryor, Taylor Gabriel and rookie Jordan Payton to follow.
We know Coleman will start as long as he's healthy, but it really is a crapshoot after that. I'm not a big fan of Grossi's ability, so I'm taking his current depth chart with a grain of salt, and I think most people will. It does seem that Hawkins has a leg up on the competition due to his knowledge of Hue Jackson's offense, but when it really comes down to it, there just might not be enough targets to give anyone other than Coleman, Gary Barnidge and Duke Johnson enough to be useful in fantasy.
In situations like this, I usually tend to look at the cheapest player with the most upside, and for me, that is Terrelle Pryor. Pryor has the athletic ability of a top NFL player, but was miscast as a quarterback coming into the league. If, and this is a big if, he can get the fundamentals down as a receiver, he has tremendous upside, and with little competition in Cleveland, he could win a starting spot.
Mark Ingram wants to once again be the main receiving option out of the backfield in New Orleans this year. Last season, he put up good numbers, with 53 receptions through 12 games. That wasn't the dynamic most felt Ingram would have as C.J. Spiller was the receiving back who appeared to have the most upside, but an injury derailed Spiller and Ingram played well. The questions now are if Spiller can get onto the field this season and if he will take away Ingram's receptions.
Of course, there is no way to know if Spiller was just hurt most of last season or if he couldn't get the playbook down or if he's just lost a step or two, but I think you have to look at Ingram as a possible every-down back once again this year because it has now been over two seasons since Spiller had any production to speak of. I like Spiller and think the 2012 version of him would be unstoppable in the Saints' offense, but things change quickly in this league, and until Spiller can show he's a force once again, I'll be on the Ingram bandwagon.
Washington beat writers Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir both predicted around a "half dozen" touchdowns for Josh Doctson in Year 1. That seems a little ambitious when you look at the current depth chart though. DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder are ahead of him, which currently would only get him on the field in a few scattered sets. But, I can also see a scenario in which Doctson beats out Pierre Garcon, who has looked below average over the last two seasons. Doctson is a better talent than Garcon at this point, but it might take him a while to break into the top-3 early in his rookie year. Unless there are some real changes in the depth chart before the season starts, I'll only be targeting Doctson in dynasty leagues.
Baltimore's offensive coordinator Marc Trestman says he wants to run the ball more this year. I guess Trestman considers passes to running backs "running the ball" because he is not known for a ground-and-pound offense. Last season, the Ravens finished 20th with 351 total rushing attempts and finished fourth in running back targets. Those targets are why so many were high on Justin Forsett going into the season, but he got off to a slow start and then was injured in the 10th game of the season. But the targets were there for the running backs as a whole, and those numbers have been there for every Trestman-run offense. They aren't going to become handoffs instead, which is also good for running backs in fantasy, so we need to figure out how this backfield is going to break down so we can get some fantasy pieces from it.
The depth chart in Baltimore looks something like this, Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Lorenzo Taliaferro and Terrance West. It isn't exactly an inspiring set of names, but there are possibilities there. Forsett is, of course, the head of this monster, but he is coming off a season-ending broken arm and will be 31 in October. Buck Allen was Forsett's main replacement after Forsett went down last season, catching 45 passes for 353 yards and two touchdowns, but Allen averaged just 3.8 yards per carry on 137 rushing attempts and scored just one touchdown. Then, comes in rookie Kenneth Dixon. Dixon has the ability to be an every-down back, having skill at pass protection, receiving ability and making people miss in space. His ability to run between the tackles is there, but wasn't tested that much in college.
So, we have three running backs near the top of the depth chart, one who is smaller and oldish in Forsett. One who didn't show much rushing ability, but did show receiving ability in Allen, and then the unknown rookie Dixon, who on the surface looks to be a good fit for this offense. I don't trust Dixon to win the job outright, so grabbing him early in drafts is a no-no, but I also don't see Forsett holding him off or staying healthy all season, and I don't believe in Allen's overall ability. That leaves Dixon as a nice lottery ticket, as the odds are much more in his favor than other rookies or backups.
July 1 Updates
There's a chance you have kept Johnny Manziel on your dynasty team because, well, you haven't checked it for some time. I think you are safe to drop him after his four-game suspension - like he'd have a team to play for - handed down by the Goodell Gang for, well, you can name a drug and he's probably ingested it at this point. If he does happen to play again, the soonest will be in 2017, and if you take a gander at his Instagram feed, you probably don't see much hope in that either.
So let's move on to actual NFL players, or in Melvin Gordon's case, a hopeful NFL player, as he barely looked like one last season. The good news is that his microfracture knee surgery appears to be healed because he's looked fine in practice according to coach Mike McCoy. I actually like Gordon, as I watched a bunch of Chargers games last season to write recaps and when he was able to get out of the starting block, he showed some nice lateral ability and burst. Unfortunately, he either missed initial holes or was hit before any hole developed due to multiple offensive line injuries and poor vision. Of course, Danny Woodhead isn't going away, but San Diego very much needs someone who can run between the tackles, and Woodhead is not that guy. I also like the return of offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, which should be a boost for the run game, as he's helped this ground attack in the past. I'll continue to grab Gordon when he falls in drafts.
The Colts were high on running back Josh Ferguson coming into the 2016 NFL Draft, but didn't end up picking him, but they quickly grabbed him up as an undrafted free agent and now he's looking like Frank Gore's backup. Owner Jim Irsay is high - no, not that -, he's high on Ferguson, saying "he has a chance to be special." At just 5-10, 198 pounds, Ferguson most likely wouldn't be a chain mover in the traditional sense, but the Colts will throw the ball a lot this season and Ferguson could be a nice PPR threat if Gore's 33-year-old knees can't hold up to the rigors of being smashed into the turf repeatedly.
I don't care too much for Brock Osweiler as a quarterback, but it is interesting to see what the "Houston QBs" did last season as a group. Together, the unholy amalgamation of Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Brandon Weeden and T.J. Yates completed 358-of-617 passes for 4,079 yards, 29 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. That's pretty much with one star wide receiver and some other guys to throw the ball to. Those numbers put them 10th in attempts, 19th in yards, 15th in touchdowns and 12th in interceptions. Of course, those aren't great numbers, but they're better than what you would guess could come out of that crap show. If you put those numbers up against individual quarterbacks instead of team totals, they get even better. So, I think we can actually look at this Houston offense as one that can be decent for a quarterback, and even though I'm not a big Osweiler fan, I do think he's an upgrade on whatever that was last year and the young receivers the Texans picked up in the draft can only help.
The Lions' backfield is a bit crowded and also somewhat injured. Steven Ridley missed most of the offseason practices, but no reason was given. He missed all of last season with an ACL tear, and it is worrisome if he's still hurting, but we just don't know the reason at the moment. Ameer Abdullah had shoulder surgery in January and is still recovering, but all signs point to him being ready for training camp and the go-to guy for the season. Zach Zenner does appear to be completely recovered from his broken ribs and collapsed lung, and Theo Riddick is also healthy.
Right now, Zenner seems to be in the lead for goal-line work, but we don't really know how effective he'll be at that. Riddick will continue to play a big role in the receiving game, but he's just not a good enough inside runner to do much on the ground. Ridley has exceled in the past at the goal line, so if he could get healthy, there's a chance he could compete for those carries, but in the end, Abdullah is by far the best pure running back on the team.
Abdullah's fumbling kept him off the field for much of last season, but his numbers did get a boost once Jim Bob Cooter took over as the offensive coordinator. Over the last six games, Abdullah averaged five yards per carry, while in the previous 10 games, he averaged just 3.5 yards per carry. If Abdullah can come on this year, there's even a chance he could get those goal-line touches due to his competition not being great. He's very much worth drafting, especially if your league-mates are stuck on his rookie season.
June 28 Updates
The news on Robert Griffin III out of OTAs and minicamp has been uneven. Beat writers looking on were not impressed, which is troubling due to the non-contact drills, which should be fairly easy to shine in for a starting-caliber quarterback. Of course, this still is early in Hue Jackson's tutelage of Griffin, and I have more faith in Jackson than in most coaches. Plus, Jackson is a wizard at getting the run game working and the Browns have some nice pieces in that department. I'll be more than willing to invest in Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell in fantasy this season based solely on Jackson's coaching ability.
Amari Cooper got his offseason praise from beat writer Scott Bair, saying that Cooper and Derek Carr looked as if they were "working in precision" and that Cooper looked more comfortable now in his second season. That praise, of course, is mostly meaningless, but the truth is that Cooper was a rookie last season and despite playing all 16 games, was not healthy all 16 games. He fought through a foot injury and the rookie wall toward the end of the season, which severely limited his fantasy numbers. Now healthy again and with a NFL year under his belt, Cooper can only get better. I expect he will cut down on his drops by at least half, and with Carr now in his third season, there's a real chance they do some special things on offense this year.
Washington's running back situation is pretty much Matt Jones and Chris Thompson at the moment. I also like Keith Marshall, but Mike Jones of the Washington Post left him off his 53-man roster predictions. Marshall has a ton of ability, but also had an ACL injury in college, which shot his draft prospects down all the way to the seventh round, and then he had some hamstring issues during OTAs. So I can understand why Marshall would be off the roster predictions now, but if he is healthy for training camp, I don't see how he doesn't make the team and even push for playing time this year.
The Patriots wide receivers are usually not great and unpredictable, but we keep looking for that next Randy Moss in the X position and well, nobody is Randy Moss. Nate Washington looked like he could be a steady veteran presence in Foxborough, but according to the Patriots' own site, Washington has not been on the same page with Tom Brady this offseason. Right now, it looks like Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and rookie Malcolm Mitchell are secure, but then Keshawn Martin, Aaron Dobson and Washington will battle it out. I'm on the Chris Hogan bandwagon because I liked what I saw from him in Buffalo, which is also a place where wide receivers often go to die. But anyway you look at it, the chances for a non-Edelman Patriots receiver putting up big fantasy numbers consistently are long. Add in the possibility they could run two offensive-minded tight ends out there at the same time in Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett, and you have an even thinner shot at getting that productive wide receiver.
Sammy Watkins was sure he would be ready for training camp after suffering stress fractures in his foot, but now he doesn't seem as sure, saying, "Hopefully I'll be back, if not, then cool. Get ready for the first game." If you look through the press on him over the last few weeks, it does appear that he might have had a setback, but it isn't completely clear. I have been high on Watkins this spring, but I'm going to step back a bit now. If I can get him at a nice discount, I'll still draft him, but I'd like to see him fully healthy before paying any premiums.
Julius Thomas is getting a ton of praise this offseason, which as usual needs to be taken with a dump truck load of salt, but Thomas was hurting to begin the season and we didn't get to see him fully until the second half. And in that second half, he did show his ability as he scored four touchdowns in the last seven games of the season, ranking as the fifth best tight end during that stretch. A full healthy season could easily be a Top-5 finish for Thomas.
Tom Brady's appeal should have some results sometime this week. The Patriots do seem resigned to Jimmy Garoppolo being their starter for the first four weeks because they've been giving him the starter reps in OTAs, but you never know what might happen in this crazy case. If Brady can get a few, or all, of his games back for this season, he will be a top re-draft option once again.
June 27 Updates
Now that OTAs and minicamps are over, the NFL machine isn't spitting out as much news, but thankfully the NFL offseason is more popular than most sports in their playoffs, so we'll never truly run out of information to mull over, even if it's fluffy in nature. So, let us partake in some footbally-news nuggets before we hit the beach or in my case, the couch.
Eric Decker and friends really want their team to get Ryan Fitzpatrick signed before training camp, which is understandable, especially for Decker, who benefited from a healthy dose of targets from The Bearded One. Of course, many, including myself, would return to Week 17 of last year when Fitzpatrick took a schmitz down his leg and lost to the 7-8 Buffalo Bills instead of beating them to get into the playoffs. Of course, the other options are Geno Smith and Christian "Hackashaq," so I can understand Fitzpatrick using that as leverage, but there's no doubt that management has the bitter taste of him completing just 16-of-37 (43.2 percent!) passes for 181 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in a game that would have gotten them into the playoffs. In the end, I do think they'll come to some kind of a deal, which is good news for Decker and Brandon Marshal in fantasy, but will still leave them short in reality.
Drew Brees talked up Coby Fleener during OTAs, saying that he "has an uncanny ability to separate," adding, "he's always open." Of course, sometimes Fleener is open, but can't catch the ball. He's also not good when he has to fight for a reception. Some would call him soft, but I'll just call him "Fleenery." But the good news is that this Saints offense is oh so good to tight ends that it will be tough for Fleener not to have at the very least a Top-10 tight end finish with upside for more. It seems like I am taking a pro and con position simultaneously, but in this case, I think the pros outweigh the cons enough to target Fleener as your No. 1 tight end - but don't overpay.
The tight end situation in Baltimore is getting interesting as often-busted-hip Dennis Pitta is healthy and appears to be on track to do his thing this year, barring yet another hip injury. But of course, the Ravens signed Ben Watson of "any tight end can have a big year in New Orleans" fame this offseason. Pitta, if truly back to his original form, is a better tight end than Watson, but Watson, despite getting some inflated numbers due to Drew Brees and the Saints' offense, is actually a competent player as well. Right now, I'm avoiding both, because it is hard to trust Pitta's health, but if he plays at all, he will cut into Watson's fantasy numbers.
The Seahawks re-signed wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, but coach Pete Carroll says that Tyler Lockett will start. That's good news because he's better than Kearse and proved his worth in the second half of last season, when he caught six touchdown passes in the last eight games and averaged over 14 yards a reception. So that puts Doug Baldwin and Lockett as the top-two starters and Russell Wilson, who had his best passing season to date last year, in the driver's seat for another big year. The question is, will Carroll continue to let Wilson throw more than he has in the past? That has been the pattern so far, as Wilson has increased his passing attempts each year, with 393, 407, 452 and 483 for his first four seasons. And last year saw him hit his highest completion percentage, yards, yards per completion, touchdowns ... well, you probably get the picture. Of course, the Seahawks could go back to the running game as their base, like Baldwin said this offseason, but it really doesn't make much sense. Wilson is quickly becoming a quarterback who can carry a team on his back, and with Marshawn Lynch gone, the Seahawks are his team. Thomas Rawls is a good running back and should put up good numbers, but Wilson, Baldwin and Lockett are poised to put up good numbers, and I'll be targeting all three this year in fantasy.
The Dolphins' receiving group is bursting with talent this year. Jarvis Landry is a steady contributor, with 110 receptions last season. DeVante Parker came on strong after returning from an injury in Week 12, averaging 74.2 yards and .5 touchdowns over the last six games and has the ability to be a true No. 1 receiver. Then, add in rookie Leonte Carroo, who is already turning heads, and you have a formidable attack. But, and there's always a big old but in the way, Ryan Tannehill just isn't that good. Going into last season, it did appear that Tannehill was slowly getting better, but then he went into a nose dive, finishing 17th in QB fantasy points. Thankfully, there is some hope, and it comes in the form of new coach Adam Gase. In 2012, Gase became the quarterbacks coach slash offensive coordinator of the Broncoes and then their full-time offensive coordinator in 2013 and '14. He then moved to Chicago to be its offensive coordinator last season, and now is in Miami as the Dolphins' head coach. Those three years in Denver were also Peyton Manning's glorious late-career surge in which he broke multiple passing records at the age of dirt. You can say that, well, he's Peyton Manning, how can Gase get any credit for those numbers? That is true, but Manning put up numbers that were outliers for even him and in his 15th, 16th and 17th seasons following multiple neck surgeries! Gase gets some credit for that, even if it's just a little. He then went to Chicago and helped Jay Cutler to one of his most efficient seasons despite Alshon Jeffery being hurt off and on all season, Kevin White missing the season, Eddie Royal getting hurt and Marquess Wilson, also, you know, hurt. Now, Tannehill is next on the list for Gase, and even if Tannehill doesn't turn him into a top fantasy quarterback, I do believe he'll help him get better and in turn, give these receivers a good shot at putting up fantasy numbers.
April 22 Updates
The Eagles traded with the Browns to secure the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, and Sam Bradford is not too happy about the whole situation. The Eagles will draft Carson Wentz and most likely will need Bradford to start in 2016, as Wentz will probably need some seasoning before letting the NFL take a big chunk out of him. This is probably a non-story as Bradford is getting paid well and his price in a trade would be high. Bradford's best course of action would be to have a positive 2016 with the Eagles, which in this league means he'll be coveted for years to come. And the best course of action for Philadelphia's fantasy players would be for him to start in 2016 as well. Wentz may be the second coming of Montana and Marino, but he would most likely hurt the fantasy outlooks of those around him.
The Carolina Panthers don't believe cornerback Josh Norman is worth what he wanted, so they rescinded his franchise tag, making him a restricted free agent. GM Dave Gettleman didn't want to tie up $14 million in Norman and must believe the Panthers' defensive schemes are part of Norman's success. But it really is a money decision as Norman is an elite player without question.
Right now it looks like Washington or the 49ers will pony up the cash for him. Washington needs to defend against Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr. four times a season, so I see Washington grabbing him, which would make things a bit tougher in the NFC East for top receivers. This should make it easier for No. 1 receivers to take on the Panthers and put up better numbers than they have. Julio Jones for one can't be too sad about Norman leaving the Panthers.
Ronnie Hillman re-signed with the Broncos on a 1-year deal, and despite more yards and carries than C.J. Anderson last season, he is set to take a backup role this year. Hillman showed toward the end of the season and in the playoffs that he just isn't a lead back, while Anderson proved that he is. Unless Anderson is hurt like he was at the beginning of last season, Hillman will be used more as a change-of-pace back, which better suits his ability.
Breshad Perriman participated in running drills during the Ravens OTAs, and video shows that he was running fully, but without cuts. The Ravens need him this season, so as long as he's healthy, he'll have a good chance of starting. I'll take this bit of news as a good sign and hope that he's on his way.
Another injured wide receiver, Jordy Nelson, has returned to the field and is running during OTAs. He will likely be coddled until the third preseason game, but all signs point to him going through all the training to be a full-go come Week 1. He'll be 31 in May, which is still in that window for someone as good as he is, so I expect he will help the Packers' offense get back to it's usual efficient self.
John Elway says trade talks for Colin Kaepernick are "dormant." Which means they aren't dead. I'd say there is still a real chance this deal gets done as the 2016 NFL Draft closes in, but it's going to be tough. If the Broncos can't get a deal done, they will most likely grab someone like Brian Hoyer, who had a visit with Denver and has another one planned. The Broncos also would draft a quarterback fairly early and go with a three-headed quarterback amalgamation until someone wins the job.
Robert Griffin III has shared No. 1 snaps with Josh McCown in OTAs, and if the season were to start tomorrow, I'd assume McCown would have the edge. A lot will depend on how quickly Griffin can learn the offense and make an impression. The good news for Griffin is that Hue Jackson will bring in his own offense, which will even the playing field a bit. I'd expect Griffin to win the job as long as his mobility is still a real threat.
Titans head coach Mike Mularkey says that tight end Delanie Walker could be asked to block more this season. It sounds like Tennessee is committed to getting the running game going with DeMarco Murray, and when you add in new acquisition Rishard Matthews to Kendall Wright and an emerging Dorial Green-Beckham, there is some real concern that Walker's targets could shrink. The only problem I have there is that Walker was the most reliable receiver the Titans had last season and the best laid plans of mice and men usually get scrapped for whatever is working at the moment. This offense isn't going to be able to support a bunch of good fantasy players, so there is plenty of risk in drafting any of them, but I still like Walker because he's just plain good at footballing.
After the Rams traded up to get the No. 1 pick, the question for fantasy players is if Jared Goff can take any pressure off of Todd Gurley in his sophomore season. I think Gurley will be a great fantasy player this year no matter what, but it sure would be nice if teams had to worry about a passing game at least a little bit. One thing is for sure, if Goff starts, he won't be asked to do much, so Gurley will be the offense in 2016. My main worry is that Gurley will be overused and keyed on by defenses to such an extent that he will have trouble staying healthy. But that's a price you have to pay for having a running back who sets the pace for his team.
The Bills aren't willing to give Tyrod Taylor a long-term deal yet, so they will grab a quarterback in the 2016 NFL Draft at some point. I believe Taylor is good enough to prove himself this season and then in turn make much more money, but it is interesting to see the Bills not being sold on him. Of course, he'll need to keep proving himself, but as we've seen over and over again, there aren't enough quarterbacks to spread 32 of them across the league. I'm high on Taylor this season and believe he sticks around as a starter.
Everyone's favorite athlete Terrelle Pryor is practicing as wide receiver at the Browns' OTAs. The chances are slim that he will ever be able to make a big fantasy impact, but the Browns have no wide receivers to speak of, and he will get his shot at a starting role because everyone who wants one will get a shot for the Browns. He truly has amazing abilities, and it would be fun to see him put them together at receiver.
Mark Sanchez so far in OTAs, both as a quarterback and for his dedication, has impressed Emmanuel Sanders. This is, of course, pretty meaningless, but we do have to remember the arm talent the Broncos had last season. Sanchez has had stretches of good play in the past, and there is a decent chance he ends up starting some games for Denver.
April 14 Updates
Josh Gordon truthers like myself may need to put their tinfoil hats on for a couple weeks while the recent news fades back out into the stratosphere, because the news is not going to help with your anxiety. It's being reported that he tried to dilute his urine sample and failed a drug test a month ago. So, his request to be reinstated did get rejected - obviously. But there is some slim hope that if he were to stay clean until August 1, he would have a decent shot of being reinstated. Will he? I have no clue, but if you have him in dynasty just hold onto him for now.
Fat Eddie Lacy is no longer; long live svelte Eddie Lacy! A few pictures have leaked of a slimmed-down Lacy along with multiple people reporting on how much work he's put in, and Albert Breer said this isn't just someone getting thinner, but also bulking up in the right spots. Lacy's weight was obviously a problem last season as he often looked sluggish and went through some nagging injuries while James Starks took away snaps. The offseason reports of players being in the best shape of their lives are usually just bluster, but there's no doubt that Lacy needed to shape up, and at just 26 years old this season, he should be primed for a comeback in an offense that will be better with Jordy Nelson returning.
Ezekiel Elliot is going to be a fantasy star in his rookie season. Think Todd Gurley last year, but healthy to start the season. The question is, where will Elliot go? Jerry Jones is the kind of owner who would take him at fourth overall, but there are plenty of teams who would love to have him. The latest in the rumor mill are the Philadelphia Eagles, who have the eighth pick and according to CBS' Jason La Canfora would take him that early. My money is on the Cowboys at the moment, but whomever Elliot goes to, he will be the three-down back and get plenty of work. He's currently going in the third round of MFL10s, and I could see him going higher in fantasy drafts once he's been drafted in the real one.
Jameis Winston seems to be taking his offseason conditioning seriously and has dropped to 230 pounds after reportedly getting up to 250 last offseason. Unlike a running back, shedding the weight doesn't automatically upgrade his ability, but it is great to see him going all out to improve his lot. That would also be good news for Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
The New England Patriots re-signed LeGarrette Blount to a 1-year deal. On the surface, this looks like it would hurt Dion Lewis' outlook for 2016, but this was always the Patriots' plan - to have an inside bruiser like Blount and a shifty pass-catcher like Lewis. Lewis is still the superior fantasy player and doesn't drop in my eyes, but Blount will again be worth rostering due to his touchdown ability.
The saga of the future Denver Broncos quarterback continues, and now there is talk of them bringing in Josh McCown as the Browns will most likely draft a quarterback early and have signed Robert Griffin III. I would still expect the Broncos to draft a quarterback fairly early, but with Mark Sanchez, McCown and a rookie, I'm still of the opinion the Broncos could win. McCown would probably be the safest quarterback to lead a run-centric offense while the defense does its work. It's all very tenuous, of course, and there is no perfect option for Denver, but I don't see the Broncos falling off the face of the earth with that defense and running game.
Vikings receiver Charles Johnson suffered a broken rib in Week 3 of last season and said he didn't feel right until around Week 8. This might help shed some light on his horrible year, but I'm sure it was just one contributing factor. I want to like him for a flier with Mike Wallace gone, but this offense just isn't set up to make any receiver a consistent fantasy threat at the moment.
The Lions signed former Patriots and Jets running back Stevan Ridley. He spent all of last season rehabbing a 2014 ACL injury, so should finally be healthy, and the Lions are still looking for an early down/short-yardage back to step up. Zach Zenner was a possibility, but Ridley, if truly back and healthy, would most likely win that role in 2016. This, of course, also affects Ameer Abdullah's outlook, as he would see fewer early down carries if Ridley were to show up. Right now, I'm staying away from the situation, but my hope is that Abdullah comes on strong this season and wins over 50 percent of the snaps.
April 5 Updates
Martavis Bryant won't play in 2016 due to another drug-policy violation, so it puts a bit more pressure and possible fantasy value on Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coates and the newly acquired Ladarius Green. Wheaton showed up last season after many had written him off, but so did Coates, especially in the playoffs. There's a good chance Coates and Wheaton split time, but I have my money on Coates winning the job this year, which would set him up as the No. 2 receiver of a high-powered offense. I, of course, also like Green to contribute, but Coates would get more volume of targets if he were to win the job and could give you a ton of value in 2016.
Jay Ajayi continues to dodge bullets as the Dolphins try to sign other running backs. Pro Football Focus has positive ratings of Ajayi's performance last season, and interim coach Dan Campbell wanted Ajayi over Lamar Miller, so there are people who think Ajayi can handle the job, but new coach Adam Gase continues to search for someone that would likely play ahead of him.
Miami brought Arian Foster in, but he's not 100 percent yet, so he probably won't even sign with a team until closer to August. The Dolphins signed an offer sheet for C.J. Anderson, but the Broncos matched it. And Miami signed the slug Daniel Thomas and the bust Isaiah Pead, who will most likely be tossed back into the free agent pile when the organization pares down the roster in August. If the Dolphins draft a running back early in the 2016 NFL Draft, Ajayi will be in for a fight for touches, so we're in wait-to-see mode for now and I'm not going to target Ajayi in any trades or early drafts unless he comes at a nice bargain.
The much-touted and then much-maligned tight end Jared Cook has signed with the Packers. He has the physical attributes to warrant praise, but his football skills have not developed, as his blocking and hands remain subpar. Pairing with Aaron Rodgers can only help Cook though, so there will be some hype this season, but his odds are still long that he can do a complete turnaround.
The prevailing winds at the moment are pushing Colin Kaepernick to Denver, then away and then back, and then, well, you get the picture. It would be an odd turn of events; going from a benching to leading the Super Bowl champs, but it's probably the Broncos' best shot at getting a quarterback who has shown in the past that he could take a team on his back and win games.
Of course that hasn't been evident for a while, so there is a chance he'll never catch lightning in a bottle again. The Broncos, of course, will look to win with defense and the running game, but Kaepernick's running ability would help open up that offense compared to the statues they had at quarterback last season. And the Broncos do have some nice offensive skill players, which gives Kaepernick some fantasy juice going into this season if he does end up in Denver.
The Philadelphia District Attorney did not file charges against LeSean McCoy, and even though the NFL could still give him a suspension despite no charges, it sure appears that there's not enough evidence or hurt parties, for that to happen. I'd feel fine with drafting McCoy in MFL10s now.
Joe Flacco says he believes Mike Wallace will have a big role in the Ravens' offense this season, and that is a real possibility. After playing with Ryan Tannehill and Teddy Bridgewater, in offenses that specialized in short passing, Wallace will have a much better fit in Baltimore. That doesn't mean he'll be a fantasy star, but his role should increase enough to put him back on the radar.
Brandon LaFell signed with the Bengals on a 1-year contract, and he should be able to win plenty of playing time with Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu leaving town. The Bengals also are looking to use LaFell in the slot and move him around the field, which is always a good thing for creating matchups and getting targets. They will most likely draft a wide receiver early in the 2016 NFL Draft, but LaFell will be No. 2 behind A.J. Green on the depth chart unless something weird happens.
Lance Dunbar re-signed with the Cowboys, but is still recovering from his ACL injury in October. He has plenty of ability as a third-down back in PPR leagues, so I'm happy he landed back with the Cowboys, but right now, his injury and the chance that Dallas goes after a running back early in the 2016 NFL Draft will scare me away from him until news gets better.
Robert Griffin III signed with the Cleveland Browns, which doesn't sound all that promising, but Hue Jackson is a coach I want taking RGIII under his wing. Griffin has ability that has been curtailed due to injuries and possibly a fear of more injuries. Jackson will be good for him, and I still haven't lost hope for a turnaround.
March 10 Updates
Free agency is now in full swing and money is falling from the sky into the awaiting arms of those NFL players lucky enough to not have sucked too bad and who are also relatively healthy. I won't get into defensive players or offensive lineman here, but it can pay to be a large-bodied man who people can't push around. But the salary cap keeps on rising and these guys still aren't even coming close to what Major League Baseball players make, but I digress. Let's dig in to the fantasy news.
The Houston Texans have made the biggest splash so in free agency so far, and the biggest for fantasy goodness is the signing of Lamar Miller. Miller, just 24 years old, has 638 carries for 2,930 yards and 19 touchdowns, and 117 receptions for 887 yards and three touchdowns, in his four years with the Dolphins. He's played in every game over the last three seasons, but topped out at 216 rushing attempts in 2014. There is plenty of tread left on those tires - if he were a car or motorcycle or something. Head coach Bill O'Brien is all about defense and a strong running game. In his first two seasons as Houston's head coach, his team has been first and fourth in rushing attempts for running backs, and last season, the Texans' leading rushers were Alfred Blue, Chris Polk and Jonathan Grimes. Miller will move right into the every-down role and makes for a top running back in fantasy this season.
The Texans' other big move was to sign Brock Osweiler and steal him away from the Broncos. Osweiler got a king's ransom, but he's no king. Osweiler is still unproven and was one of the worst PFF-graded quarterbacks on passes over 20 yards last season. Brian Hoyer was not good, so this could be an upgrade, but it's not a big one. DeAndre Hopkins has put up great numbers with anyone who can throw the ball in the air toward his general direction, so I'm not going to knock his prospects down at all.
The Osweiler news does put the Broncos in a bit of a bind, but it's not like they gave up a quarterback who was going to tip the scales much. They won the Super Bowl with a hand-off machine and can find similar production still. The safe route would be to go after journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, who could replicate Denver's quarterback position from 2015. Reports are that the Broncos have tried to pry Colin Kaepernick away from San Francisco, but the 49ers really don't have anyone at quarterback either, so they're going to keep hold of Kaepernick. The other possibility is Robert Griffin III, who would be interesting for Denver, but a risky pick to hold down the job all season. But whomever the Broncos get will have some upside with a solid offense already in the works.
Matt Forte, who at 29 looked like he was still 25 last season, signed with the Jets. Now 30, he most likely won't see 250-plus carries, but should be the lead back and if Bilal Powell were to sign elsewhere, there's little doubt Forte would see plenty of work in this offense. Just last season, with the not-so-good receiver Chris Ivory as the lead back, the Jets threw to their running backs 125 times, ranking 10th in that category. I could see Forte close in on 275-300 overall touches with a big helping of receptions, which would put him in the Top-10 fantasy backs with his skill set. We'll need to keep an eye on Powell, but it does appear that Forte would be the designated every-down back going into 2016, even if Powell re-signs.
Chris Ivory moved on from the Jets to a more fitting spot for his ability in Jacksonville, but those with T.J. Yeldon on their dynasty team just took a big hit. Ivory has shown he can run the ball with success, but he does hit stretches where he's either nursing an injury or just isn't that effective. I feel his running style beats him down over the course of a season and it will be tough getting 16 strong games from him. So, there's a chance Yeldon still sees a decent amount of work, but this backfield is looking gross for fantasy purposes. I'll pick Ivory over Yeldon, but picking neither is probably my first choice.
Antonio Gates signed with the Chargers on a 1-year deal, as most thought would happen, but the big news in San Diego is the signing of Travis Benjamin, who played extremely well in Cleveland last season with some not-so-good quarterbacks throwing him the ball. The Chargers will now get Keenan Allen back from injury and add Benjamin, who caught 68 passes for 966 yards and five touchdowns last season. This is a huge boon for Philip Rivers' 2016 outlook, and Benjamin should easily give his fantasy owners WR3 numbers, with some upside dolloped on top.
After retaining Gates, the Chargers let Ladarius Green go, and the Steelers scooped him up. For the Steelers, this is a big splash, as they hardly make first-day free agency moves, but after losing Heath Miller to oldness, they didn't want to rely on Jesse James, the notorious train robber, to be their No. 1 tight end. Green has spent most of his time backing up Gates, but he's also shown flashes when Gates was out. In Green's nine career games where he as played 70 percent or more of the snaps, he has caught six touchdowns. The Steelers are used to the hard-nosed Miller, but Green has the speed of a wide receiver and the height of an NBA player, so he will give Roethlisberger yet another great outlet. Of course, the trouble for his fantasy value is that he will be behind Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant for targets. Those targets should be productive though, as this offense, at full health, is possibly the best in the league. Green's not going to have the volume to be a Top-5 tight end, but could easily see 8-10 touchdowns, which puts him squarely in the Top-10.
Coby Fleener is a Saint! Well, he now plays for them at least. After the Colts stuck with Dwayne Allen, it was a foregone conclusion that Fleener was out, but he couldn't have found a better landing spot than New Orleans. We've seen what Jimmy Graham did there and then a 35-year-old Ben Watson, so really, I could score a few touchdowns at tight end for them. Fleener is not a great player. He has trouble with contested passes and can drop a beautiful pass with the best of them, but he's not completely inept and in this offense, he'll get plenty of opportunities. The Saints don't have a ton of offensive weapons, with Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead as the only solid receiving options, so Fleener should be right in the mix for targets and be in the running for a Top-10 finish.
Chase Daniel goes to the Eagles for a 3-year, $21 million deal, which is a pretty good chunk of change for a backup quarterback. Doug Pederson, now with the Eagles, had been with Daniel in Kansas City and saw enough to bring him to Philadelphia, and initial reports are that the quarterback job is up for grabs. Sam Bradford just signed a 2-year deal for $36 million, including $26 million guaranteed and an $11 million signing bonus. Plus, Bradford can scrape in another four million with bonuses. It would seem Bradford is just being pushed to not be complacent, but who knows. If Daniel were to severely outplay Bradford, I'd assume the Eagles would give him the job, but if it's close, I think the money pushes them to start Bradford. Neither is a recommended fantasy play yet, but in 2QB leagues, any warm body is worth drafting and the Eagles have some nice skill position players.
The NFL's second-leading rusher last year, Doug Martin, re-signed with Tampa Bay. After a couple of injury-plagued seasons, Martin seemed to re-dedicate himself for last year, which also happened to be his free agency year. I'm not that cynical, and a 4.9 yards per carry average is quite good, but will we see the same dedication now that he got paid? I really have no clue, but he looked a 1,000 times better last season than his previous two, so the ability is there, and if Jameis Winston and Mike Evans can take a step forward, it would open up some running lanes for Martin. I'm just not going to pay for his 2015 season in 2016.
Marvin Jones signed with the wide receiver-needy Detroit Lions and received a $17 million signing bonus. He has shown us enough to believe he can be a very good receiver in this league, but he missed all of 2014 due to injury and split work with Mohammed Sanu last season. Now, Jones will be filling Calvin Johnson's shoes, which he won't be able to do, but nobody was going to come close to doing so. Jones will be the Detroit's No. 1 receiver, as he has four inches on Golden Tate and makes for a much better red-zone target, but unlike Megatron, Jones won't command quite the same target share. Jones should beat Tate in touchdowns, but the targets could be relatively close between the two. Thankfully, Jim Bob Cooter's offense is pass-heavy, with the fourth-most pass attempts in the league last season. That leaves a lot of work for Tate and Jones.
March 9 Updates
The legal-tampering phase of free agency is in full swing, so news and rumors are coming in fast. I'll gather some of those here and look at their possible fantasy implications for the 2016 season. Happy free agency everyone!
The biggest news so far is DeMarco Murray being traded to the Tennessee Titans. This is most likely a good move for Murray or, at worst, a parallel one. The Titans are a power-running team, and Murray has done much better running between the tackles than not. Even last season in a poor year, his numbers when running between the tackles were on par with the best in the league. Of course the question is, will the Titans' offensive linemen be able to play to the level he'll need for 16 games? That's a question I'm not sure of and does decrease his upside, while having a running quarterback in Marcus Mariota does boost him up, as teams can't focus solely on Murray in the backfield. He does appear to have lost a step after his huge 2014 in Dallas, but he's going to be the clear lead back in a traditional running game that suits him, so don't give up on him just yet.
Calvin Johnson is officially retiring. I was going about my day as if he had already retired, but of course, there was a chance that the 30-year-old star would play again. For fantasy, this hurts Matthew Stafford, but should boost Golden Tate and Eric Ebron up a bit. The Lions will most likely go after a free agent wide receiver or two and in the 2016 NFL Draft as well. Whoever is set to lineup opposite Golden Tate should have some value based on what should be a secure starting job, but we'll have to wait to see whom that is.
Lamar Miller is a big-ticket item many running back-needy teams are interested in and for good reason. He's shown great numbers when given the chance to work and whatever team wins the bidding war for him will want to get its money's worth. Some of those interested teams are Dallas, Houston and Tampa Bay (if the Bucs don't re-sign Doug Martin). Dallas would be the premier landing spot for him, but as I'm typing this, the Texans seem closest to landing him. We'll see, but I like the Texans quite a bit for Miller as well. Bill O'Brien wants to the run the ball and even with little running game to speak of, they ranked fourth in the league in rushing attempts. Either would be great for Miller, who was underutilized in Miami.
Dwayne Allen was re-signed by the Colts on Monday after most reports were that he'd hit free agency, while Coby Fleener would be re-signed. But thankfully for the Colts, that's not what happened. Allen is the better all-around player between the two, but injuries and lack of usage had kept his stats down. Allen was reassured that he would be a bigger part of the offense before re-upping, which seems like a foregone conclusion at this point. With Andrew Luck back and Fleener most likely gone, Allen could easily be a Top-10 tight end this season.
In other tight end news, Ben Watson has agreed to terms with the Baltimore Ravens. It seemed an easy bet that Watson would stick with the team that revived his career at the ripe old age of 35, but for some reason, the Ravens wanted him more. They have second-year tight end Maxx Williams, but a suspended Nick Boyle and Crockett Gillmore, who is coming off back and shoulder surgery, so Watson makes some sense, but at 35 in the Ravens' offense, I don't see him repeating his 2015 season.
The Vikings cut Mike Wallace and saved themselves $12 million after just one season. Wallace has been a disappointment since leaving the Steelers, mostly because he needs a good deep ball, like Ben Roethlisberger's. At this point, Wallace has also lost a step, which is not good for his skill set. He'll find a home somewhere, but will need to prove himself to a new team before he becomes a top target, which probably won't happen.
Feb. 24 Updates
Dion Lewis' ACL recovery is at, or ahead of, schedule according to Dr. James Andrews. Knowing the Patriots, Lewis will be brought back extremely slowly, but all indications are that he should be more than ready when the games start. His running mate from last season, LeGarrette Blount, doesn't need surgery on his hip and should be good to go for most offseason activities. Blount is a free agent, but won't have a big market. He has had all of his success in New England, and he would probably come back for relatively cheap. The Patriots might grab a back in the 2016 NFL Draft, but not early, making the Blount/Lewis combo the likely pair for the coming season.
LeSean McCoy appears like he won't face any legal trouble after a group of his friends, including himself, got into an altercation with a group of off-duty police officers at a private night-club in Philadelphia. Reports are unclear on who started the fight, which makes it also appear this is in no way an open-and-shut case, which is probably good for McCoy in this instance. As far as his fantasy status, no suspension appears to be forthcoming.
The Jets appear more likely to bring back Bilal Powell than Chris Ivory this offseason. Powell fits the Jets' offense better than Ivory and would most likely be cheaper. This would be smart, as Powell should have some tread left on the tires. Despite turning 27 in October, his high for rushing attempts is 176 in 2013, and he appeared at his best last season, accumulating 701 yards in 11 games, with 4.27 receptions per game. Those numbers aren't going to win you a league, but if Ivory is gone and Powell is splitting time with an equally or lesser talented back, his numbers in PPR could easily be useful in fantasy next season.
Heath Miller has retired, which leaves a spot to fill in a strong offense. Miller's backup last season was the infamous Jesse James, who was called HEEEEEEEEAAATTTHHHHHH every time he caught the ball anyway. James did only catch it 12 times, but there didn't appear to be a big letdown with him versus Miller. There are plenty of tight ends available in free agency, but I could see the Steelers not wanting to spend if they think James can handle the job. He wouldn't be a top-10 player at the position, but would have the opportunity to be a decent player in two-tight end leagues.
After Greg Jennings declared Ryan Tannehill not elite (hot take, Greg going out on a limb there), the overarching sentiment has piled on in agreement. That is until KC Joyner, stathead for ESPN, charted the 2015 quarterbacks for number of "bad decisions" made. Now, how he does this exactly, I'm not sure, but I have always respected Joyner's work and it usually is couched in reality, so the fact that Tannehill ranked near the top in fewest bad decisions for quarterbacks, is a good sign.
Of course, that stat is not encompassing, but with Adam Gase coming to town, Tannehill should continue to develop rather than regress. Gase was the quarterback coach for Tim Tebow in 2011 for the Broncos, a team in which he helped Tebow keep from destroying with his lack of NFL ability, and then Gase helped an aging Peyton Manning throw for a record 55 touchdowns as offensive coordinator in 2013. Gase's next project was Jay Cutler last season, and even though the Bears were severely undermanned, with Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, Eddie Royal, Marquess Wilson and Martellus Bennett all injured for all or much of the season, Gase helped Cutler to the best quarterback rating of his career and his fewest interceptions per game. Gase, now the head coach of the Dolphins, plans on working directly with Tannehill alongside new offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen, who was with Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck in Indianapolis in varying degrees for 14 years.
Am I sold on Tannehill for fantasy this season? No, but he has continued to show flashes of ability and I believe Miami has finally brought in the right people to help him along. And that's not even accounting for what could be one of the better wide receiver duos in the game with Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker. So, I believe there is still room for Tannehill to improve, and he can be had much later in drafts this season than last, when the hype was still there.
Joique Bell was released by the Lions after not agreeing to a pay cut. This was not surprising, as Bell's skills have diminished after multiple lower body injuries. This leaves the Lions with Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner as the top components in the backfield.
Abdullah came into last season heavily hyped, gaining more praise after a few spectacular preseason runs. His ability as a runner is real, but he fumbled the ball four times, losing two, and was stuck in a heavy backfield rotation for much of the season. I don't think Bell's release does anything for Abdullah, as Bell was just not good enough anymore, but I do think some seasoning is the best thing for Abdullah, as work on blocking and ball security will allow him to take over more playing time, and he is easily the best runner on the team. Zach Zenner is the wildcard, because he could see an increased role as the short-yardage/between-the-tackles back, and Abdullah will also need to fight Riddick for work in the passing game. I do think with Calvin Johnson gone, we could easily see Riddick lining up in the slot and even out wide more this season, giving Abdullah more passing opportunities out of the backfield. So there is no easy answer here in Detroit, but I'm taking the talented Abdullah to up his game in Year 2.
Antonio Gates plans on playing another season, which will be his 14th. He turns 36 in June, but somehow keeps on keeping on. He is a free agent, but will sign with the Chargers for another year. He, of course, isn't near the player he once was, but if you extrapolate his 11 games last year into a full 16 games, he could have finished with 81 receptions for 916 yards and seven touchdowns, which would have ranked him as the seventh-best fantasy tight end last season.
Martellus Bryant most likely will not return to the Bears next season. He's had run-ins with teammates and the Bears organization a few times, and I doubt either want him back in Chicago. This would open the door for Zach Miller to be the No. 1 tight end in Chicago if he were to re-sign. As Bennett's backup last season, he put up decent numbers when Bennett was injured, finishing with more fantasy points than Bennett, catching five touchdowns through the last eight games. Miller is 31 and is also a free agent, but with Bennett all but gone, Miller would be amicable to a deal with the Bears to be their No. 1, which would put him in a good enough spot to be draftable this season.
Fred Jackson wants to play another season according to NFL Network's Ian Rappaport. If he does sign with a new team, his impact will most likely be negligible, as the 35-year-old back made little impact with Seattle last season, despite both Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls going down with injuries.
The Los Angeles Rams released tight end Jared Cook. Cook had all the measurables to give people good reason to hope for better things than he was able to contribute. He is 28 years old and will latch on to a new team, but he won't be the No. 1 tight end.
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