Around the League: Fantasy Fallout

August 2, 2020

McCoy to Tampa, Hill to Vegas

A myriad of signings, opt-outs and PUP assignments have flooded NFL headlines as of late, so much so that you may have missed some important information as a fantasy football enthusiast. Every detail matters, from the stars to the last man on the roster and everything in between. With COVID-19 likely to cause some teams to feature depth pieces more than usual, it’s important to stay up to date.

Remember that the Reserve/COVID-19 list does not mean that the player has the virus, but that he came in contact with someone who does. They could be activated in under a week or in over three weeks should they test positive. Meanwhile, the active/PUP list simply means that the player is unable to practice due to a physical injury, but players can be activated from the list at any point.

Buccaneers sign running back LeSean McCoy.

It looks like Shady will be taking his talents to Tampa Bay after signing a one-year, $1.05 million contract not long after the team designated 2020 third-round pick Ke’Shawn Vaughn to the Reserve/COVID-19 list. It doesn’t mean Vaughn has the virus, but it does mean he came into contact with someone who does. Either way, how should fantasy owners evaluate McCoy? Take a look at the 2019 backfield. Ronald Jones should see first and second down snaps after improving his play last year, but the real question mark is at third-down. Head coach Bruce Arians values pass-protection over most things. If his running back whiffs on a block, it doesn’t matter who he is — he is out. Dare Ogunbowale often manned third downs with that in mind. Jones may have been the more explosive player but didn’t have the pass-protection skill set to stay on the field. As a result, Buccaneer fans saw way too much Ogunbowale.

McCoy hasn’t hit 1,000 rushing yards since 2017.

That’s why they drafted a running back who showed he could pass protect in college. That’s Vaughn.

But if COVID-19 keeps him off the field, McCoy is the likely heir to a valuable third down role. Tom Brady has supported pass-catching running back James White for years due to his quick-decision play style, and Arians has always featured a running back in his passing offenses. Ogunbowale had 35 receptions on 47 targets despite playing over 50% of snaps just once and doing little with the work he was given. McCoy will likely start the season as the third-down running back until Vaughn gets healthy and finds his stride. Keep an eye out for McCoy as a deep flex option early in the season but remember that after two years of subpar play his best certainly behind him. After all, he played just one snap in the Kansas City postseason run in which they won the Super Bowl without him.

Raiders sign running back Jeremy Hill.

Remember Hill? He hasn’t hit the 4.0 yards-per-carry mark since his rookie year in 2014 and sat out 2019 after playing just one game for the New England Patriots in 2018.

Don’t sweat this. With incumbent starter Josh Jacobs, pass-catching specialist Jalen Richard and rookie Lynn Bowden Jr. all locked for the roster, Hill is simply here to battle Devonte Booker (illness) and Rod Smith for the No. 4 spot on the depth chart.

Patriots Sony Michel, Mohammad Sanu open camp on the PUP, Matt LaCosse opts out.

It’s more of the same for the Patriots of late, losing players to injuries and opt-outs seemingly every hour. This time it’s starting running back Michel who is recovering from an offseason foot surgery and Sanu who is rehabbing from an ankle surgery that restricted him last season.

For Michel, this is nothing new. He has been battling foot and knee injuries since he came out of Georgia in 2018, and it’s another reminder of why he has disappointed fantasy owners so often. I already began to lower Michel in my rankings after starting left tackle Marcus Cannon opted out, and this never helps. Draft him as a risk/reward RB3 who could exceed his ADP with a rushing quarterback opening lanes but also as an often-injured running back who won’t catch many passes and has Damien Harris and Rex Burkhead ready to steal touches. He is currently RB34 in my rankings.

Sanu had his lowest yardage and touchdown totals since 2015.

It’s a bit more disappointing for Sanu who shed his walking boot in May after a March ankle surgery. He has been working with trainers all offseason trying to come back and fight for a starting role after burning a hole in the second-round for the Patriots. With any luck Sanu will rejoin the team in short order so he can try to establish some rapport with new Patriots quarterback Cam Newton and incumbent Jarrett Stidham. Sanu did appear in a signature Newton workout video in July, so maybe the former Falcon isn’t too far off.

LaCosse isn’t a common name to fantasy owners but he did play 60% of snaps from Week 13 to Week 17 after an injured first half of the season. LaCosse and Ryan Izzo were the only hurdles in the way of third-round rookies Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene. With LaCosse out of the picture, either rookie can beat the unspectacular Izzo for starting time. Newton did utilize tight end Greg Olsen frequently in Carolina, although Asiasi and Keene are just rookies in a hard system to learn. But they’re both names to watch out for as the season progresses. Asiasi especially carries a valuable athletic skill set that could lend him pass-catching duties over Keene or Izzo. 

Lions Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay, T.J. Hockenson all added to the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Wide receiver Geronimo Allison also opts out.

Ugh. You never like to see it with any player, but fantasy owners certainly grimaced with a bit more pain as Detroit’s stars hit the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Fortunately, it’s early in camp and a three-week timetable sets them up nicely for the opener. Still, missing camp reps hurts everyone in Detroit. Stafford is instrumental towards their success, and rookies Quintez Cephus, DeAndre Swift and Jason Huntley, all capable pass-catchers, all will be unable to gain some rapport with Stafford for some time. Hockenson especially could have used camp time to continue his development as a 2019 first-round pick. He flashed at times as a rookie but ultimately disappointed many after his Week 1 explosion. He is also coming off of an ankle injury. Golladay is likely the least impacted by the list designation, although the virus is always a negative. Keep an eye out to see if/when they come off the list.

Stafford was the QB6 until he suffered a back injury in Week 10.

With those three out for the time being, the aforementioned Cephus should see starting time in camp simply due to the lack of options on the team after Allison’s opt out and Golladay’s designation. It’s always nice to see a rookie as much as possible, though working with backup Chase Daniels is far from ideal. Marvin Jones Jr. is year-in and year-out a value worth having, though without Stafford not so much. The biggest sleeper here is slot wide receiver Danny Amendola who the team re-signed to a one-year, $5 million deal. As a 34-year-old he certainly isn’t exploding for gains or shocking the world, but he could see enough volume underneath to provide sneaky flex value if other targets miss time. Golladay and Marvin Jones are both perimeter receivers and while Cephus can play the slot, he likely will stay behind the veteran.

Jaguars’ Gardner Minshew, running back Ryquell Armstead added to the Reserve/COVID-19 list

Similar to Detroit, don’t sweat this too much. Minshew will likely be healthy for the opener but an impressive camp by either Steelers 2017 fourth-round pick Joshua Dobbs or veteran Mike Glennon could cause some locker room turmoil down the stretch if Minshew fails to perform. It’s likely a lost season for the Jaguars already, but maybe the team wants to see what 25-year-old Dobbs has in the tank after trading a fifth-round pick for him last season. This is still absolutely Minshew’s team, but my expectations were already lowered for the sophomore this season. This news offers no relief. It definitely doesn’t help rookie wide receivers Laviska Shenault and Colin Johnson who were looking to try and crack the starting trio of D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley. He is currently my QB24 largely due to the rushing baseline he should have.

Armstead, a fifth-round pick in 2019, isn’t much more than a traditional power back, but he piqued the interest of the fantasy community when Fournette was rumored to be traded during the NFL Draft. Nobody wanted to buy the 25-year-old running back, unsurprisingly, and so he remains in Jacksonville. He has no guaranteed money left in his contract after the team took it away last season, and he was touted as a surprise camp-cut by some. With Armstead out of the way for now those rumors should go away. Fournette will see his usual volume with likely less receptions after the team signed pass-catching running back Chris Thompson in May. I currently have him as my RB17.

Browns Jarvis Landry and Eagles Alshon Jeffrey added to the PUP list.

Yeah, these two were grouped together for a reason — they’re both easy to navigate.

Alshon burned fantasy owners in 2019, missing six games and finishing as the WR59.

Landry is coming off of a hip surgery and will likely ease himself right back into the offense when he’s good to go. While never ideal to miss camp time with a new head coach, Landry is a proven veteran who will find his way back to the field soon.

On the other hand, Jeffrey’s PUP designation is a sign of things to come. I fully expect him to open the year on the PUP and miss at least six games as a result. This should open up time for second-year wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who couldn’t find his way on the field in 2019 despite the Eagles losing most of their receivers to injury. To be fair, Arcega-Whiteside was battling some injury concerns of his own and I believe he is a perfect Alshon clone. Given his experience in the system over rookies Jalen Reagor, John Hightower and Quez Watkins he should start Week 1 as the only big, physical wide receiver on the roster.