By Chet Gresham - @ChetGresham
Updated Aug. 10, 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.
Aug. 10 Updates
Preseason games start Thursday night, so we'll have enough football to satiate us for about 10 minutes before we want regular season games, but at least we have news to chew on!
The Seattle backfield is starting to come into some clarity. C.J. Prosise has missed a "ton" of time with a hamstring injury according to Pete Carroll, and Thomas Rawls has been activated from the PUP list. Carroll says the Seahawks will take things slowly with Rawls, saying, "There's no need to rush him at all. A very violent football player. He needs time to get ready to play the way he does, so we're going to take however long that is. I don't really have a schedule at this point." The concern for Rawls seems indicative of a team who is counting on him. Carroll went on to say, "I don't think there's anybody in better shape than Thomas. He put himself in great, great conditioning. It'll be hard for us to help him maintain that level." That's a nice bit of information there, and one that should help make sure Rawls is ready to go without a ton of preseason action. He may lose time on passing downs to Prosise, but will see the bulk of the rushing attempts.
Chargers beat writer Michael Gehlken tweeted, "Melvin Gordon starting to find groove in camp, maybe had best day today. More decisive. All about consistency, but he's trending right way." As long as Gordon can stay on the field and get those consistent reps, I believe he turns things around this year. Danny Woodhead is a great receiving back, but the Chargers need someone to gain yards between the tackles and Woodhead is not that guy.
Kendall Wright has been out with a hamstring issue for a week. Dorial Green-Beckham continues to get called out by his coach. Rookie Tajae Sharpe is currently a starter. Andre Johnson is in the mix, and Rishard Matthews is probably the leader right now in the race for targets. And now with DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry and a mobile Marcus Mariota running the ball more and more, it's hard to know how many targets will be going around, especially in this group of wide receivers. In the end, Delanie Walker may be the only consistent pass catcher worth owning from the Titans for fantasy this season.
Julian Edelman gave us a scare in practice today, as he came up hurt and slammed his helmet down, but thankfully, it appears to have been a minor injury; due to it being in his repaired foot, he most likely feared the worst. It does remind fantasy drafters of Edelman's injury trouble though. I'm not as injury-averse as some, but I can see waiting a bit on him this year in fantasy drafts.
Jordan Reed will miss Thursday's preseason opener with a thumb injury. I'm not too worried about it, because if I had drafted Reed, I'd want him to not play in this game anyway. His upside is in the same realm of Rob Gronkowski, and if you are going for an "all-upside team," then Reed is high on my list of players.
The Bears' running back situation is fraught with pitfalls, and I will be skirting the whole area. We already know that Jordan Howard will cut into Jeremy Langford's touches, but now Chicago Sun-Times beat writer Adam Jahns believes Jacquizz Rodgers is easily the best third-down back on the team and should see work on passing downs. If you take away a chunk of receptions from Langford or Howard, well, you have three running backs not worth drafting in fantasy. Of course, one of Howard or Langford could really take over the job, but I don't like either's skill set enough to bet on any one player.
Victor Cruz has been sidelined due to groin tightness. Who had August 9th in the pool? Cruz's body isn't going to allow him to play many games at his top level, so embrace Sterling Shepard and Will Tye, and leave Cruz to the vultures.
Ty Montgomery and Jared Cook have come off the PUP list. Cook will be in a timeshare with Richard Rodgers, so Cook will probably need an injury to have any consistency. Montgomery has a decent opportunity to work toward the No. 3 receiver job, as no receiver has really stood out in training camp. I'd take a flier on him in really deep leagues, but just take a wait to see approach at this point.
Aug. 3 Updates
It seems the Giants have finally figured out that rotating between four running backs is not a recipe for a good ground game. Last season, Rashad Jennings was the "lead" back, but lost so much work to others that he couldn't accumulate many fantasy points; that is until the last four games of the season. In those four games, he was the main back and led the league in rushing. Of course, Jennings is up there in age, but we should be able to get a decent chunk of fantasy points from him in this offense and at a nice price.
After passing his conditioning test, it looks like Sammy Watkins will return to camp next Monday. He's by far the Bills' best wide receiver, and they are going to take it slow with him, but it looks like he'll be ready to go. He does have injury risk, but I rather go after a receiver who has had a few missed games versus a running back with the same. Receivers just don't get beat up as much as running backs, and Watkins has great upside, as we saw in the second half of last season.
Demaryius Thomas says he has renewed focus and has dropped around 10 pounds in an effort to become quicker and stave off injuries. He was pretty bad last year with too many drops, but I do like to see the weight loss and whatever lip service about focus, especially because Peyton Manning's arm last season was no help to Thomas. The quarterback situation might not be much better this year, but Manning was so washed up that anyone who can throw the ball 20 yards should be an upgrade.
Jeff Janis has been a darling of metrics crowd, and he did put on a show in the playoffs last season, but he can't get on the same page as Aaron Rodgers and is currently buried with the third team. And after a horrible start to training camp, Devante Adams has shown improvement and still tenuously holds onto the third-receiver job. I really don't want a piece of any of Green Bay's possible No. 3 receivers this year.
One of the most important depth-chart battles this preseason will be between Markus Wheaton and Sammie Coates. It's still too early to try to call a winner, but Coates has shown well so far and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has Coates in the lead. If he can win the job, his skill set is better than Wheaton's and Coates would have a higher upside. I've been drafting Coates often and am hoping the lottery ticket pays off.
Matt Forte returned to practice after four days off with a tight hamstring. He'll probably be babied a bit due to his age, and today beat reporter Darryl Slater said Forte and Bilal Powell will see an even split in touches. Actually, predicting the splits between two running backs is an impossible task, but there's not much doubt that Forte isn't going to see 20 touches a game. He's a very risky fantasy pick at his current ADP.
The Bills and Rex Ryan aren't giving up on the suspended Karlos Williams, which means there's a good chance he'll be backing up McCoy come Week 5. If you grab McCoy, then try to get Williams, even with the suspension.
Coach Mularkey said today that Marcus Mariota would run more this year and that injuries held him back last year. Mariota is a gifted runner, and if he were to really up his attempts, his fantasy value would take a big leap, but the Titans won't want to risk him too much in the open field.
Aug. 1 Updates
You know training camp is in full force when twitter is full of play-by-play tweeting from beat reporters. It can be quite the roller coaster sometimes, but it can also be kind of fun. The problem is to keep yourself from letting one drop or one great catch from skewing your view on that player for fantasy. Depth-chart news and injuries are probably the most important element of training camp, but catching Vines of great plays is still fun. So, let's take a look at what's been going on since the last time we talked.
Arian Foster has already been taken off the PUP list and will practice as soon as possible. This situation is tough for fantasy players like us because Ajayi is the younger back and even though Ajayi's had injury trouble himself, Foster has had more injuries and is in his - gasp! - 30s! Foster, if healthy, should land the starting job, but Miami will want to limit his touches to keep him healthy. But the odds of him staying healthy are slim, even if the Dolphins limit his workload. That leaves Ajayi in a decent spot to take over at some point, and now with Foster there, Ajayi's ADP has dropped and continues to drop the more we hear good news, like Foster already being taken off the PUP list. The more Foster hype, the further Ajayi will drop.
DeAndre Hopkins is holding out because he has outplayed his contract and would like to renegotiate. I agree with him, but the Texans could play hardball. Besides the $40k he loses a day, if he doesn't show up by August 4th, he won't receive his $445k bonus. I think there's a chance the Texans work with him, but if not, I also think Hopkins just has too much to lose for an extended holdout.
UPDATE: Hopkins has already ended his holdout. So that's that.
By the time the season rolls around, Sterling Shepard may be going too high in drafts even for me. Coach Ben McAdoo says he trusts Shepard and that they won't be "afraid to use young players." Shepard is practicing ahead of Victor Cruz and continues to look like he's in line for the No. 2 job next to Odell Beckham Jr. That job last year was held by perennial under-achiever Rueben Randle, who saw 90 targets last season despite not being very good. Shepard should easily get those targets plus some more for good behavior.
Good news in Buffalo as Sammy Watkins passed his conditioning test. I assume this means he'll come off the PUP list shortly, and that's a great sign for the Bills, who have had all kinds of offseason problems. This will probably push Watkins' ADP back up, but hopefully injury concerns continue to depress it a little. His upside is great, and I'm willing to take a risk on him at the right price.
Markus Wheaton isn't sure what his role will be this season, which plays into the Sammie Coates hype many, including myself, have been building up. It's anybody's guess as to how this will shake out, but I like Coates' athletic ability more than Wheaton's, and it appears Coates' poor season last year had a lot to do with him not being totally committed to everything that is needed to be a starting NFL player, whereas now many sources are saying he has found that commitment and is on a great track this season. I'll be drafting Coates instead of Wheaton this season based on upside and where the former can be drafted.
Many, including myself, felt that Nate Washington could do something in the Patriots' offense. He's shown ability everywhere he's gone and has the veteran prowess that Bill Belichick often looks for, but so far he's looked underwhelming in offseason work and now he has an undisclosed injury. Beat writer Jeff Howe believes Washington would need to have a huge training camp to make the team.
Coach Chip Kelly says he'll split first-team reps right down the middle between Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert is in the lead after Kaepernick missed offseason work while recovering from surgeries. Kaepernick was unbelievably awful last season before losing his job to Gabbert, but Kaepernick is the better quarterback when he's on, so the 49ers must be hoping to bring the old Kaep back.
July 29 Updates
Training camp is here!! We've suffered through plenty of non-contact offseason NFL hype, but now players will be going all out and working to move up depth charts. Of course there will be plenty of injuries and even more injury scares, but that's what makes it dramatic! Anyway, I'll be keeping you updated on the training-camp goings-on here in my fantasy notes. Let the games begin!
Yesterday brought big news for the Jets, who finally signed McBeardy, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick isn't a great quarterback by any means, but he did play well enough to give Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall top fantasy numbers in 2015. I expect that will be true again this season. Thankfully, Decker and Marshall give Fitzpatrick a boost and make him a reliable second quarterback for your team, but I would not want him to be my starter. He played his best football ever last year and still barely finished 12th in fantasy points for quarterbacks. His upside was last year; so don't pay for it this year.
Washington coach Jay Gruden said they might look to bring in a veteran running back, but it's hard to imagine any running back on the street being able to unseat Matt Jones, and that's not saying a whole lot. Chris Thompson will still be involved as a passing back, and Keith Marshall has the physical attributes to do damage in the NFL, but we'll have to see Marshall take a step on the depth chart before pushing Jones to the back of the line. Right now, I feel safe in grabbing Jones as an RB3/Flex.
The hype-show for Sterling Shepard is in full force, with beat reporter Paul Schwartz getting in on the action, saying Shepard is an "NFL-ready receiver" and that the Giants expect him to be an "instant impact player" and their No. 2 target. Right now, the oft-inured Victor Cruz is his main competition, and remarkably Cruz will not go on the PUP list, but Shepard, at this point in both their careers, is easily the player to bet on. Ben McAdoo's offense is built around quick-hitting passes and Shepard is a top-notch route runner. I think Shepard's ceiling in PPR leagues is quite high.
The Falcons continue to talk up Tevin Coleman and how they want to get him more work this season. He's been getting more work in the receiving game in practice as they want to limit Devonta Freeman's overall workload. It makes sense if you have two strong running backs. If Atlanta can keep them fresh throughout games and the season, the team gets an upper hand, but of course, it doesn't help us in fantasy because it cuts off the upside of both players. I still feel like Freeman is just too good in the receiving game to lose a lot of targets to Coleman, but as long as Coleman can stay healthy, he will cut into Freeman's total touches.
C.J. Anderson has slimmed down a bit to 217 pounds. His listed weight was 224, and even though that's not a huge drop, it does show you Anderson's commitment to this season. Also, if you are looking at weight loss versus weight gain for a running back, always go with the player who lost weight unless you know he is a crack head. Getting faster and more agile is a much better course than bulking up and trying to John Kuhn your way into the history books. It also appears Anderson's offseason training is showing on the field, as Broncos insider Cecil Lammey said, "Anderson looks faster than I've ever seen him, very swift as a runner or receiver out of the backfield." There has been some talk of Devontae Booker getting third-down snaps, but the team has trusted Anderson as a receiver more than Ronnie Hillman, and I think Anderson gets all the work he can handle this season. He continues to inch up my draft board.
The Seahawks have yet to decide if Thomas Rawls will go on the active/PUP list. It's hard to know if they are just being overly cautious or if Rawls, who said he'd be ready for camp, is still not 100 percent. But, I do think the fact that they are thinking of not putting him on the list is a good sign and that he'll most likely practice sooner than later and be ready for Week 1. The Seahawks have some nice pieces at running back, but Rawls is the workhorse and should be able to eat up yardage even with a poor offensive line due to Russell Wilson's ability to keep defenses on their heels with his own ability to run.
The Steelers haven't given out much information on Ladarius Green other than his ankle surgery in January and that he's now on the active/PUP list. With the lack of information, I do find it a little harder to select Green unless he falls in your draft. His upside is pretty high in the Steelers' offense, but he could also end up as the fourth target on the team. Let's learn more about this injury before leaning too hard on Green.
Julian Edelman is on the active/PUP list, but has already been running routes on the side of practice. That's a good sign and no matter how secretive the Patriots are about his status, at least we have this bit of information, which I think is good enough for me to continue drafting him as a top fantasy receiver.
LeVeon Bell's appeal will be heard in mid-August, but most believe his chances of reducing his 4-week suspension are very slim. I believe we can count on him missing time, which will give DeAngelo Williams a boost to start the season.
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