Around the League – Fantasy Fallout, Aug. 17

August 18, 2020

Jets hype, 49ers RB rotation revealed, training camp injury report

Every year the fantasy community receives reports out of training camp. Hype builds, doubt creeps in, ADP fluctuates. In years past that always stabilized a bit more when people got to watch the preseason games. We saw how Washington’s Terry McLaurin didn’t play much in the preseason games, showing that the team valued him as a starter after glowing camp reports. News and press conferences will be more valuable than ever without preseason games to add the necessary film, so here are some headlines to be aware of.

Bucs TE Cameron Brate said Tom Brady “can still sling it.” Meanwhile, NBC Sports’ Peter King “guesses” that Rob Gronkowski finishes third in snaps among O.J. Howard and Brate.

One thing at a time. The biggest worry for fantasy owners in regard to Brady was his arm. His weapons might be the best he has ever had, but if Brady can’t get the ball to Mike Evans downfield, it might not matter. Reports from teammates should be taken with a grain of salt. Brady’s arm strength remains a mystery, but it does seem like Brady is taking to Arians’ system rather than Arians is to Brady’s.

“Bruce wants to keep the offense the same. We did some good things last year,“ Clyde Christensen, Tampa Bay’s quarterbacks coach, said to The Athletic’s Bob Kravitz in a May interview. “Tom has been terrific as far as saying, ‘Just tell me what you want to do.’ And honestly, there’s a lot of carryover from all these offenses; it’s just what you call certain things. We’re looking forward to seeing how he can influence the offense. He’ll make it better. That’s what the great ones do. He’ll have some great ideas so we’re anxious to get his take on things.”

Ultimately, Brady will be the one on the field, making decisions but Arians is putting the pieces out. It leads perfectly into King’s prediction that Gronk finishes third in snaps among Tampa Bay’s tight ends. Arians’ simply does not use the tight end. I’ve detailed my doubt for Gronk’s fantasy production before and it reflects in my ranks. Brady will target who he wants on the field and the veteran tight end should be used in the red zone, but he will be entirely touchdown dependent. At the end of the day, Arians, Gronk and Brady are all fierce competitors who want to win. A reduced role to keep Gronk fresh should be expected, which could lead to an unpredictable fantasy year for the future Hall of Fame tight end. Draft Brady as a backend QB1 with the upside he makes a leap in a well-coached offense, though a 43-year-old quarterback carries the risk of hitting the age-wall like Peyton Manning did in Denver in 2015. Draft Gronk at your own risk; I still can’t pay the backend TE1 price he goes for.

A whole bunch of Jets news…

After Darnold’s 2019 campaign was derailed by illness and poor offensive line play, the Jets must improve upon their 31st ranked offense.

There was a lot of news and hype out of Jets beat reporters as Sam Darnold reportedly “looked like a franchise quarterback,” as McDonald put it. Granted, this is against a defense that is without Jamaal Adams or C.J. Mosley, and is currently also missing Avery Williamson (PUP), Pierre Desir (hamstring) and Brian Poole (dehydration, out of precaution). Simply put, I would really hope that Darnold was lighting up this unit. Darnold remains limited by his weapons once more but possesses the talent to be a franchise quarterback in this league. It might be a year away, though, given the lack of weapons around him barring a huge step-up by someone.

But never fear, slot receiver Jamison Crowder is here. According to McDonald, Crowder “is very clearly the best wide receiver.” This is more of a testament to the wide receivers around Crowder than it is that the 27-year-old slot receiver is about to take a sixth year-leap. While free-agent signing Breshad Perriman made a few splashy plays in practice, Crowder is indeed the one to target for fantasy. The only starting receiver who has actually played with Darnold before, Crowder is set to be a PPR machine for a team that will likely be playing from behind quite often.

Last but certainly not least, Adam Gase was singing tight end Chris Herndon’s praises yet again. After clearly stating “He’s our starting tight end” Gase went on to describe how dynamic the dual-threat tight end could be.

“Chris gives us a lot of flexibility,” Gase said. “It’s rare to have a guy with the ability to be as effective as a pass catcher and a guy that’s explosive when he gets the ball in his hands, and still be an on-the-line tight end that can block in the run game and also pass protect.”

With the lack of receiving weapons in New York Herndon has a real opportunity to be a star fantasy tight end. It’s easy to forget that he put up over 500 receiving yards as a rookie, no easy feat. His sophomore campaign was derailed by injury and suspension, leading him to this crucial third year. Herndon can be the focal point of this offense, something most late-round tight ends can’t say. While a Week 1 date with Buffalo is far from ideal, feel free to take him to see if Herndon can be this year’s George Kittle or Mark Andrews. The opportunity is certainly there.

That’s more than enough news about the Jets. Let’s move on.

Broncos.com’s Aric DiLalla thinks K.J. Hamler can make a “big impact” early in the season.

The Broncos invested again in their receiving corps this offseason, adding Jerry Jeudy and Hamler in the first and second rounds, respectively, while adding running back Melvin Gordon in free agency, a talented receiver. On top of incumbent starter Courtland Sutton and 2019 first-round pick Noah Fant, there’s a lot of mouths to feed in Denver.

It’s hard to see a world where Hamler has enough targets to be fantasy relevant. He might use his speed to break away for a touchdown, but consistency won’t be there. He could earn himself DFS consideration in certain matchups, and if he can dominate slot snaps, he could have some value. But all in all, his value is far greater to the Broncos than it will be for your fantasy lineups.

Lions OC Darryl Bevell said it “remains to be seen” how D’Andre Swift fits in the offense.

Swift is looking to be the Lions’ first 1,000 yard rusher since Reggie Bush in 2013.

One would’ve hoped that Detroit had a plan for Swift when they drafted him in the second-round, but this is the Lions we are talking about. It’s a reminder that Swift isn’t guaranteed anything out of the gate. 2018 second-round pick Kerryon Johnson has looked serviceable when he plays, but simply hasn’t stayed healthy, missing 14 games over the past two seasons.

Swift should at least see passing work with J.D. McKissic now in Washington, a major strength of his at Georgia. His time will come but it might not be as glorious as Swift owners want given the years of ineffectiveness in the run game. It sounds like this is still Johnson’s job to lose, and while Swift will likely take over in time (whether Johnson falters or gets hurt again), this is a backfield to just avoid. It has served fantasy owners well to steer clear of Detroit’s rushing attack in recent years and frankly there’s no reason to be attached to it now.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said first-round rookie WR Brandon Aiyuk is “further ahead than a lot of rookies.”

On the rushing side, The Mercury News’ Cam Inman noted that the order of the 49ers RB rotation at the first practice was Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon, Jeff Wilson and Jamycal Hasty.

It’s hard to not be excited about Aiyuk. The 49ers wide receiving corps is a mess right now. Incumbent No. 1 wide receiver Deebo Samuel is nursing a Jones fracture that will likely cost him the first few weeks of the season as they ease him back, 2019 third-round pick Jalen Hurd tore his ACL on Sunday, sadly and the team added gadget player Tavon Austin and speedster J.J. Nelson to the roster. Ultimately if there’s someone to take a shot on here, it’s Aiyuk. His ability to make yards-after-the-catch is exactly why the 49ers drafted him in the first-round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Kyle Shanahan’s system revolves around putting players in positions to succeed and letting them do the damage from there.

While ultimately it may prove wise to simply stay away from this situation given the rushing volume and passing game unknowns outside of star tight end George Kittle, Aiyuk is worth a late-round shot given his upside in this offense. For an ADP of WR59 (since Samuel suffered his injury), that’s well worth the upside.

As for the rushing attack, this report offers some clarity to a question the fantasy community has been dying to have answered, but don’t let this fool you into a false sense of security.

Kyle Shanahan’s running backs have always produced for fantasy and the volume will certainly be there after they were No. 2 in rushing attempts, only behind the Ravens that factored in quarterback Lamar Jackson’s 176 rushing attempts. With the passing game influx, Shanahan will need to perform his magic yet again and has a plethora of weapons to work with.

Mostert is the starter but is also the most expensive. He fits perfectly with the zone-blocking scheme the 49ers run, which forces the running back to get upfield quickly with the offensive linemen. Mostert has the speed to do just that, and thrived during the second half of the season in 2019. Once he saw more than 50% of snaps in Week 13, he was the RB9 from that point forward. The issue with Mostert is that he hasn’t done it before. 2019 was his first season with more than 34 rushes. He has been drafted as the RB23 since August 1, a bit risky given the committee outlook but the ceiling is high.

McKinnon is looking to fill the Matt Breida hole, though he hasn’t played a game since 2017.

Meanwhile, Coleman seems like a value, being drafted as the RB38 during the same span. He could provide flex value in a pinch given his history in this offense, but his lack of burst puts him at a disadvantage. For that draft price he is worth the shot. But perhaps the most intriguing is Jerrick McKinnon who has been the center of the 49ers’ training camp hype. Originally signed to a massive four-year, $30 million contract in 2018, McKinnon has yet to suit up for the 49ers since inking that deal. After renegotiating his deal to remain on the team, McKinnon looks healthy and dynamic on the practice field. There have been a myriad of positive quotes about him from the coaching staff and his teammates alike, impressing with both his ability on the field and mentality off of it. If McKinnon can stay healthy, he can become a real part of this backfield that circulated three running backs in 2019. After all, this is still the same regime who signed him to that deal.

Packers GM Brian Gutekunst compared second-round rookie RB AJ Dillon to Eddie Lacy.

Let’s hope Gutekunst means the earlier half of Lacy’s career rather than the latter. This is simply old news that is hitting the mainstream with actual pads crushing in front of reporters. Draft pundits knew Dillon’s size and speed were standout traits that allowed him to punish defenses in college; the worry remains about how he can do that when the defenders are just as big. He should be a threat to Aaron Jones on the goal line and to Jamaal Williams’ role as the No. 2 running back, but his fantasy relevance likely ends there. It’s worth noting that Jones’ contract ends after this season, potentially leaving the starting job for Dillon to grab should he flash during the season, making him an intriguing dynasty/keeper stash.

It never hurts to have a viral picture of some tree trunk legs, too.

Ravens rookie J.K. Dobbins plans to push for a starting role.

I’m sure he does.

Dobbins is a great player but there isn’t an every-down running back for the Baltimore Ravens. Mark Ingram’s role is secure after averaging over five yards-per-carry while rushing for over 1,000 rushing yards with 10 touchdowns. He did that while exceeding 60% of snaps just once all season. Dobbins can certainly earn himself a valuable role of a high-powered offense — perhaps in the receiving game — but any myth or rumor that says Dobbins can become a three-down back in 2020 is just false. He still needs to earn time among backups Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, the former of which has performed pretty well for Baltimore. Like Dillon, Dobbins is much more interesting in 2021 rather than 2020, though he can carve himself out a fantasy-relevant role in the No. 1 rushing offense that invested a second-round pick in the former Buckeye.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports Bryce Love is “looking really good” at training camp and could be a factor in the Washington backfield. Meanwhile, ESPN’s John Keim believes Antonio Gibson “could fill the role” Washington had planned for Derrius Guice.

Peterson and Peyton Barber are the only running backs on the roster with over 100 carries, making this a truly unpredictable backfield for fantasy value.

Everyone seems destined to set aside a corner of the Washington backfield for themselves. Some call Love a wildcard ready to emerge, some say Gibson is the next Christian McCaffrey and others say that Adrian Peterson is the true value among all of them.

Take a step back and realize that this is still Washington. They may have changed their name, but their offense remains among the worst in football, and while it should improve it likely won’t be in leaps and bounds. Love, Gibson and Peterson can all play a role in this backfield, eating into each other until there’s no fantasy value to be had. Gibson is still the one I like to target, but his draft price has soared since Guice was released. Ultimately, it would be wise to completely avoid this backfield unless Gibson can be had near the double-digit rounds where the upside is worth taking a shot on due to his pass catching ability and draft investment. Even then temper your expectations and potentially sell high — Gibson had 33 collegiate carries and while he has the stature, he may not be ready for the workload required to retain fantasy relevance.

Eagles HC Doug Pederson said RB Miles Sanders would be “the guy” in the Philadelphia backfield this season.

I’ve been calling for Pederson all offseason to commit to Miles Sanders, and he clearly listened to me. You’re welcome, fantasy world.

Jokes aside, Sanders is built for and able to be an every-down back for the Eagles. While Boston Scott will still factor in to keep Sanders fresh like he did towards the end of last season when Jordan Howard got hurt, Sanders will see plenty of touches in both the rushing attack and receiving game. A requirement for most running backs (not named Nick Chubb or Derrick Henry) to crack the top 10 for fantasy is the pass-catching role, and Sanders certainly has that after catching 50 passes for over 500 yards as a rookie. The ceiling is high for the sophomore running back and he’s a worthy first-round pick in your fantasy drafts, but the price continues to rise to a point where even I begin to question it. He’s currently the RB8 off the board, so appreciate the hype but acknowledge the draft capital required to obtain his services.

ESPN’s Rich Cimini reports the Jets’ offensive “plan” is to lessen Le’Veon Bell’s workload by utilizing Frank Gore.

Gase actually had Gore lead Miami in carries (156 to Drake’s 120) in 2018, putting both firmly out of fantasy relevance.

Sorry, I lied. More Jets news, and this time it’s not promising.

Kenyan Drake sends his sympathies. This is what worries me about Bell. Head coach Adam Gase used Drake, a more talented running back, sparingly because he wanted to use a different back — Frank Gore. The 37-year-old running back doesn’t have much left in the tank, but the team also drafted La’Mical Perine in the fourth-round. With Gase admitting that he misused Bell I fully expect Gore and Perine to spell the starter far more than they have the right to do. Bell can still produce as a RB2 since his role as a pass-catcher should be secure, but with his workload likely to take a dip and the touchdowns remaining scarce in New York, fantasy owners should know what comes with drafting Bell. It’s not as safe a pick as one may hope.

Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims and Dontrelle Inman were the current starting trio in Washington’s practice on Tuesday, per Kyle Stackpole on Twitter.

This shouldn’t be much of a surprise, except maybe to Antonio Gandy-Golden truthers. McLaurin is the star of the bunch who exploded as a rookie last season, finishing with over 900 receiving yards and seven touchdowns despite mediocre quarterback play. Sims flashed out of the slot as an undrafted rookie with 23 receptions for 259 yards and four touchdowns over the last five weeks, getting more involved each week. It’s interesting to see Sims continuing his late-season momentum by starting ahead of slot specialist Trey Quinn who was hurt last season. With Kelvin Harmon tearing his ACL last month, the team brought in journeyman Inman, who should man the perimeter opposite of McLaurin until Gandy-Golden can hopefully challenge for that spot.

Outside of calling for a big sophomore season out of McLaurin, there likely isn’t any fantasy value to be had here. Sims is somewhat intriguing given his play last season but the team is still headed by quarterback Dwayne Haskins, and while I expect his play to improve it’s asking a lot for him to support two wide receivers in fantasy. Haskins also is learning a new scheme with head coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner in town. Sims could be worth a DFS dart throw, potentially, but don’t expect anything more out of Washington’s passing offense.

INJURY UPDATE:

Training camp always brings injuries and 2020 is no different.

Browns RB Nick Chubb is currently being evaluated for a concussion after a hard hit in practice.

You never like to see any injury, but concussions always feel the worst. The timeline is unreliable — it could be a week; it could be a month. Since Chubb doesn’t have an extensive history of concussions, this will likely be a small obstacle for the star running back. With Kareem Hunt in tow, however, Chubb is losing valuable, impressionable reps with a new head coach. Chubb should be back on the field well before Week 1, but this adds a variable that you never want to have with early-round players.

Bengals WR A.J. Green left practice with a hamstring injury.

I’ve been touting him as a value given his WR30 ADP, and he still might be. 16 games out of Green is a valuable thing in this pass-heavy system — hell, I’d take 10 or 12. But the seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver has played just nine games since 2017, and while the Bengals paid him to be their No. 1 once more I just can’t see Green staying healthy. If news of this injury pushes him even farther down towards WR4 territory, maybe I can be back on board. But hamstring injuries tend to linger, and after turning 32 in July, the odds he is quick to recover from a soft-tissue injury aren’t the best.

Green will be re-evaluated on Tuesday to determine the severity of the injury.

For what it’s worth head coach Zac Taylor called it a “precautionary” measure.

“Just precautionary,” Taylor said. “I told him he’s done taking reps for the day and we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”

Keep following his ADP and injury reports as Week 1 approaches. Green will likely be off my draft boards unless he falls into backend WR3/4 territory. Meanwhile, rookie Tee Higgins has also missed some time with an unreported injury according to Ben Baby of ESPN, John Ross remains on the reserve/COVID list and running back Rodney Anderson failed his physical, leading him to be waived.

Oh, and $42 million cornerback Trae Waynes is out indefinitely with a pectoral injury which required surgery. It’s not a great time to be a Bengal.

Lions TE T.J. Hockenson said his ankle is “still not quite 100%” after rehabbing throughout the offseason.

Coming from the horses’ mouth, Hockenson, who finished the 2019 season on the I.R. due to an ankle injury, was a sleeper for a sophomore step-up but this news certainly doesn’t help. Players tend to be more optimistic in high regard to their own health, and whenever someone sounds negative it’s certainly note-worthy, especially when it’s not being used as an excuse. With Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. firmly ahead of the 2019 first-round pick in the pecking order of targets, a less-than-100% Hockenson is far from ideal. With the sheer amount of late-round, high upside tight ends (Jonnu Smith, Mike Gesicki, Chris Herndon IV, Ian Thomas etc), do not leave your draft with Hockenson.

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said he would be “surprised” if WR Jalen Hurd didn’t suffer an ACL tear at Monday’s practice.

The worst. The absolute worst.

Torn ACL’s are featured in every training camp and they are devastating to the football community, stealing a player’s chance before they even get their fair shot. Hurd, who was talked up by Shanahan frequently as a rookie last preseason, missed most of his rookie year with an injured back, was turning heads once more this training camp with a wide-open depth chart ahead of him. Assuming Hurd did tear his ACL, he should have ample time to be ready for the 2021 preseason. Hopefully the third year is the charm.

Jets rookie WR Denzel Mims suffered a hamstring injury while running a route.

The decision to barely address the wide receiver position could prove costly to Sam Darnold’s development. Second-round rookie Denzel Mims hurt his hamstring on Saturday getting out of a route and was spotted with a sleeve on his leg on Monday, still on the sideline. These are valuable snaps to be missing as a rookie looking to make an immediate impact, a shame for a prospect who this team desperately needs to show out. His absence led to Vyncint Smith starting in three-wide-receiver sets until he, too, got injured (core injury, seeing a specialist). Long story short, Jeff Thomas, an undrafted receiver in 2019 who is lacking his first career reception, is currently taking snaps as the No. 3 wide receiver. And people wonder why Darnold hasn’t made a step…

The team doesn’t believe it is a serious injury, fortunately, and reportedly hopes to have him back at practice soon.

Jaguars TE Josh Oliver broke his foot in practice Monday, according to head coach Doug Marrone.

Oliver was already working his way back from hamstring and back injuries that kept him out of 12 games as a rookie, and this is brutal news for the 2019 third-round pick. He will need surgery and is reportedly “devastated” by the injury. One hopes he can bounce back from this, and remains a dynasty hold if your league has an I.R. spot.

Meanwhile, this opens up free agent acquisition Tyler Eifert to more snaps. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has always utilized a tight end in his offenses, and the opportunity is there for a team lacking a reliable No. 2 target. It helps that Jacksonville will likely be playing from behind, forcing Minshew to air it out more. Eifert isn’t worth drafting, but he remains a name to watch should he carve out a role in this offense as a possible streaming candidate.

Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins hasn’t practiced due to a hamstring injury, according to head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

The injury was being kept under wraps to the point where reporters began to speculate that Hopkins was actually holding out in search of the raise he wanted the Texans to give him. The star wide receiver put that to rest himself on Twitter.

Kingsbury said Hopkins absence was a precautionary measure. The three-time All-Pro tweaked his hamstring and is expected back soon. Soft tissue injuries have become the norm in training camp, particularly this year with a truncated offseason. While never ideal as hamstrings have a bad tendency to flare up later in the year, there’s no reason to expect anything but a healthy recovery. Hopefully we can see him back on the field in short order to get some chemistry going with his new quarterback Kyler Murray.