Tyreek Hill, Miles Sanders on the injury report, Patriot’s QB carousel
Training camp is well underway, players are in pads and beat reporters are taking notes. With no preseason to glean information from, fantasy owners need to be aware of the headlines and talk out of camp. Here are some important reports to be aware of.
Patriots second-year RB Damien Harris has been getting a “heavy workload” early in camp, according to NFL Network’s Michael Giardi.
It’s been fun to watch the fantasy community react to the Patriots backfield this offseason. The team restructured Rex Burkhead’s deal in July rather than outright cutting him, showing that they do still want him around. Starter Sony Michel was touted for a heavy workload that intrigued owners with Brady gone, but he wasn’t healthy for camp and could miss Week 1. Harris began to see some love, but then the team signed Lamar Miller, leading people to leave the 2019 third-round pick for dead. Miller was soon put on the PUP, however, and now Harris is back on top of the depth chart.
All things considered, Harris does have the opportunity to lead this team in carries, but ironically, the only running back I didn’t mention is the only one worth owning — James White, who should see plenty of passing volume from Jarrett Stidham or Cam Newton as a reliable dump down target. Harris is worth a pickup in a deeper league simply due to the opportunity, but Burkhead will likely still be involved and the aforementioned White has the third-down role locked up. Miller will be healthy eventually and so will Michel. Draft White as an RB3 with upside should he find the end zone like he did in 2018 when he finished as the RB8. If you want to plant a flag on Harris or Burkhead, feel free to spend your final pick on them; otherwise, it should be an unpredictable mess as it has been in years past for New England.
The Athletic’s Josh Tolentino believes “it’s clear” Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the Dolphins’ Week 1 starter at quarterback.
Fitzmagic is here to stay, baby!
In all seriousness, this has been the expectation all offseason. First-round pick Tua Tagovailoa appears to have made a full recovery from the devastating hip injury he suffered while at Alabama, with the Miami Herald reporting that the rookie is showing “good mobility and escapability in the pocket” in practice. To be clear, this is practice where the quarterback isn’t being hit.
But with a shortened offseason and a capable veteran in Fitzpatrick it makes sense for Miami to ease Tagovailoa in. Fitzpatrick isn’t on the fantasy radar purely due to his opening schedule — he travels to New England for Week 1 and then back to Miami to play another stout defense, this time the Bills. He could be a cheap streaming option in Week 3 at Jacksonville, but he shouldn’t be drafted outside of two-QB/superflex formats. Fitzpatrick under center does give a bit of a boost for DeVante Parker, who became the quarterback’s safety blanket throughout the season. Parker received just over 25% of Fitzpatrick’s attempts, a solid figure. The entire receiving corps will likely take a dip when the team hands the reigns to Tagovailoa, but until then, Fitzmagic is set to start once more.
DetroitLions.com’s Tim Twentyman has been impressed with D’Andre Swift’s work in the passing game in training camp.
A few days ago, offensive coordinator Darryl Bevell said it “remains to be seen” how Swift fits in the offense but this seems like a no-brainer. The second-round pick thrived as a pass-catcher in college, a big reason why so many draft pundits had the Georgia product as the No. 1 running back in the class. We have seen Matthew Stafford target the running back for years, ranking fourth among active quarterbacks in targeting the running back entering last season.
Twentyman also said that “it’s expected” that Swift and incumbent Kerryon Johnson “will share the backfield in a running-back-by-committee approach.” Clearly, Johnson will still be involved on the ground and at times through the air, limiting the fantasy relevance of both. It might take a year for Swift to take the workhorse role many touted for him before he was drafted, but he’s just one Johnson injury away from mid-RB2 production.
NBC Sports Bay Area reports 49ers WR Dante Pettis is “rising to the challenge” so far in camp.
Nope, not buying it.
Pettis had every chance to emerge last season but couldn’t put it together. With Kendrick Bourne and Brandon Aiyuk virtual locks on top of the depth chart with Trent Taylor likely manning the slot, there is no room for Pettis in the fantasy football world. The team signed wide receivers Jaron Brown, Tavon Austin and J.J. Nelson within the last week, although Pettis’ history in the system likely gives him a leg up. With Deebo Samuel (foot) and Richie James Jr. (wrist) likely to miss Week 1 and Jalen Hurd out for the season (ACL), Pettis will likely make the roster as a return specialist and depth receiver but that is where his fantasy relevance stops. He is still a fringe hold in dynasty leagues, but well off of the redraft radar.
Bills WR Cole Beasley has observed Josh Allen is “starting to throw guys open a little bit” this summer. Additionally, according to Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic, sophomore tight end Dawson Knox has “clearly improved” as a blocker and “perhaps the impact Zack Moss can have this season has been undersold,”
The jokes have already been made, but let’s just take a moment to understand that it has taken Allen this long to simply “throw guys open a little bit.”
Allen has yet to cross the 60% completion mark as a starter, in both college and the NFL. His performance as a passer has been subpar, to say the least. Pro Football Focus ranked Allen 32nd in deep accuracy, completing just over 24% of his passes that went at least 20 yards downfield. A big arm doesn’t matter when you can’t complete a pass.
With the addition of Stefon Diggs, expecting a leap forward is fair, but temper expectations. Allen has yet to show any true signs of progressing as a passer. His fantasy value comes courtesy of his legs, piling up over 500 yards rushing in each of his last two seasons along with 17 rushing touchdowns. The addition of Zack Moss in the third round could hurt Allen’s rushing touchdowns but an uptick in passing efficiency with Diggs in town could offset that.
He is an appealing late-round target due to his upside and rushing floor, particularly in four-point passing touchdown formats.
Knox, on the other hand, is a promising tight end who is likely a year away. He flashed as a rookie last season while starter Tyler Kroft dealt with injury, putting up almost 14 yards-per-reception.
“Dawson has done a really good job,” offensive coordinator Brian Daboll told Maddy Glab of the Bills’ official site last week. “So Rob [Boras] (Buffalo’s tight end coach) does a good job meeting extra with them. He’s a young player still, really young. Hopefully, we get more out of him this year. I know he’s working hard to do that.”
He still has a way to go before he becomes relevant in fantasy, but he is an intriguing dynasty asset who is worth buying this year before the Bills likely move on from Kroft next offseason.
Finally, Moss has been rising in my ranks as camp progresses. He brings the power that Devin Singletary lacks. The team wanted Frank Gore to be a big piece of their offense but the veteran running back just had nothing left in the tank. Moss could see well over 150 carries (Gore had 166) and shouldn’t be discounted out of the passing game either. He showed that he was a capable receiver in college and Glab wrote that Moss has “shown his ability as a pass-catching running back.” He could very well be the most productive rusher in this backfield and he’s currently being drafted as the RB41. Take a shot.
The Herald Bulletin reports Parris Campbell is “starting to resemble the star the Indianapolis Colts believed they drafted in the second-round in 2019.”
Count me in.
Our very own Brendan Samson recently wrote about five undervalued wide receivers heading into the 2020 season, and Campbell found himself on that list for good reason. The fantasy community has written off the 2019 second-round pick for no good reason after a broken hand derailed his rookie season. His burst and ability to make plays after the catch is exactly what the Colts need with Phillip Rivers now under center.
“He looks strong, fast, explosive, good hands, understands the offense, consistent,” were the words of coach Frank Reich. “I mean, it’s early, but that’s what we are looking for from him. Now we just need that to continue to build.”
Campbell is expected to start in the slot, where Rivers frequently targeted Keenan Allen over the years. While no one should confuse Campbell for the three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, the targets could be there in an offense with no clear No. 2 target after T.Y. Hilton. Is it second-round rookie Michael Pittman Jr.? Is it tight end Jack Doyle? Hell, is it running back Nyheim Hines? Campbell’s ability to take a short pass all the way to the house should intrigue fantasy owners enough to spend their last pick on him, or at least watch the waiver wire should he show something in Week 1.
The Athletic’s Arif Hasan reports the Vikings have been “experimenting with lining Irv Smith up outside a little more often.”
It’s an interesting approach. Smith, a second-round pick out of Alabama in 2019, dominated in college as a pass-catcher and made some strides as a playmaker down the stretch for Minnesota. While firmly behind starter Kyle Rudolph, the Vikings are short on receiving weapons, which likely led to them experimenting with Smith outside.
Make no mistake; these are valuable reps. Lining Smith outside will lead him to run far more routes than he would as a traditional in-line tight end. There are no fantasy points for blocking. Expect this to continue into the season with the Vikings moving Smith around to force mismatches against cornerbacks who could struggle to cover the 6-foot-2-inch, 242-pound tight end. He remains a solid dynasty asset, but for redraft purposes, his success will mean far more to Kirk Cousins as a mid-QB2 than it will for Smith. However, it is worth remembering that 94 targets walked out the door when Stefon Diggs was traded and the defense got worse over the offseason, perhaps creating a favorable game script.
Speaking Tuesday to ESPN, Bears coach Matt Nagy declined to say if Mitchell Trubisky “became a better player” during the offseason.
This came shortly after wide receiver/running back Cordarrelle Patterson described the quarterback as “a whole new player.” Someone should check if Patterson accidentally saw Nick Foles.
“We don’t have enough right now,” Nagy claimed on a Zoom call. “I wish I could tell you we had enough. But there’s just not enough with where we’re at. We need to see more. I can’t give you a fair statement or opinion with that.”
Yeah, Trubisky is not the answer under center and Nagy knows it. If there was anything positive to say about the quarterback Nagy would’ve said it. The team still desperately wants him to be the guy after infamously trading up to the No. 2 pick and passing on both Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Foles is the better player, but time will tell if he gets a fair shot at the starting job. Starting Foles would offer some cause for excitement for Anthony Miller, while Allen Robinson should retain his fantasy value no matter who is under center. Neither Bears quarterback should be on the 1QB format fantasy radar.
ESPN’s Michael Rothstein believes Marvin Jones “looks ready to go.”
Back from his ankle injury, Jones is ready to be a value in everyone’s fantasy drafts once more. He has Stafford’s trust and perennially scores a boatload of touchdowns, winning people their weeks. Jones definitely has boom-bust written over him, but by playing the matchups, you can have a week-winning type of player who has been drafted as the WR37 over the past month.
He was the WR11 over the first eight weeks. Draft away.
Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson both received first-team reps during the Chargers’ in-house scrimmage.
Ekeler should be drafted as a RB1 in any PPR format and this news should not change that. What this does offer is some clarity on the backfield behind him. Jackson has played well with the limited work he’s received, averaging 5.1 yards-per-carry on his 79 attempts. More importantly, he knows the system, a big advantage over fourth-round rookie Joshua Kelley. While Kelley’s larger build could earn himself some goal-line work as the season progresses (213 pounds compared to Ekeler’s 200 or Jackson’s 198), it appears that Jackson has the leg up on him. It’s worth noting, however, that Kelley had a much better practice on Thursday and spent some time with the first-team offense. There is no handcuff; both Jackson and Kelley will share backup duties behind Ekeler.
ESPN’s Patriots beat writer Mike Reiss speculated that the team could deploy a quarterback rotation early in the season.
If any team would, it would be the Patriots.
But all things considered, the only way I see this happening is if Cam Newton hasn’t taken to the complex Patriots playbook yet. Jarrett Stidham has had an up-and-down camp so far, making some solid throws before a three-interception practice on Tuesday. In comparison, Newton completed all but three of his attempts. Two of his incompletions were drops and the third was an overthrow of speedster Damiere Byrd, not the worst mistake for a quarterback who dealt with shoulder concerns.
The former MVP is clearly the best option out of camp, and he should be the Week 1 starter. I’d expect that to become clearer as camp continues, but if rumors circulate that Newton is still learning the playbook in a week or two this report will earn more credibility in my eyes.
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reports Vikings RB Dalvin Cook “broke off” contract talks with the team and will focus on preparing for Week 1.
Barring a sudden change of heart neither side is expecting to reach an agreement prior to Week 1, multiple league sources told ESPN.
With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement players are no longer allowed to holdout without facing massive fines, upwards of $50 thousand every day. That’s why Cook was saying all the right things while actually practicing. It doesn’t hurt the Vikings to have a promising, young and cheap backup in Alexander Mattison, although they know he can’t do what Cook can. The Vikings have the option to franchise tag the 2017 second-round pick after the season.
For redraft purposes this shouldn’t move the needle much. Cook is still the focal point of this offense, dominating as a rusher and a receiver. His home-run skill set paired well with Kirk Cousins’ ability to punish defenders over the top with the deep pass. Without Stefon Diggs in town the team needs Cook now more than ever. However, Cook is not without his risk. He missed 17 games over his first two seasons before finally playing 14 straight in 2019, only to succumb to injury yet again towards the end of the year. He still finished as the RB5 despite missing two games and should be drafted in the first-round — but be sure to draft Mattison later as an insurance policy. The contract situation is another red flag, albeit far smaller, that could lead me to avoid taking that risk with my first pick. Holdouts into the season haven’t worked well in recent years, with Le’Veon Bell and Melvin Gordon headlining why, so people should still expect Cook to start the season. The question remains — can he finish it?
NBC Sports’ JP Finlay believes Bryce Love being Washington’s No. 2 running back “seems quite real.”
Flashback to 2017. Love is among the most dominant rushers in college football, racking up over 1,000 rushing yards in just five games and finishing the year with over 2,100 rushing yards. He finished second in Heisman voting and was a locked-in first-round pick.
But Love decided to return to Stanford for the 2018 season to continue his education and support his teammates and had an underwhelming year capped off by tearing his ACL on the last play of his last college game, crippling his draft stock further. He was eventually selected by Washington in the fourth-round of the 2019 NFL Draft, leading to a redshirt season.
This is usually where preseason games would lend credibility or invalidate coach speak, but camp is all there is to go on. Today, Love is healthy. It’s hard to remember the Stanford glory days but this was once a player touted as a generational type of player. He’s received glowing camp reports and as a dual threat running back who can receive as well as he can rush, he could be a diamond in the rough for Washington. Adrian Peterson doesn’t have much left, and while he may get the veteran nod 2020 second-round pick Antonio Gibson and Love are the future. The team knew that Love would likely miss the 2019 season and still spent a fourth-round pick on him, not too common for a running back prospect.
This is a murky backfield for a low-scoring team, so this might not yield any fantasy value. But Gibson and Love are two impressive talents who could become a dynamic duo, both of which are worth a dart-throw late in drafts. Keep an eye on this backfield — talent tends to find a way to emerge.
Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury “feels like Chase Edmonds is a starting running back in this league.”
There’s a lot of talented running backs in the league and Edmonds is certainly one of them. But so is Kenyan Drake who has been drafted as the RB10 over the past month. I fully expect Arizona to become an elite offense in 2020 and there’s fantasy value in the backfield. Edmonds received just two touches after Drake came to town but was also nursing his own injuries. Drake is still a valuable asset to own as a back end RB1, high-end RB2 but this is coach speak I tend to buy. Edmonds has shown his ability to make plays based on his raw speed. He had 20 rushes that exceeded 15 mph on just 59 carries, which was the highest amount of explosive plays in the league last year (minimum 50 carries). Before Edmonds got hurt, he was already stealing touches away from David Johnson and doing well with it.
Both Drake and Edmonds will see the field — Kingsbury loves to utilize every weapon at his disposal. It could result in some “hot hand” games that lowers the floor of both, possibly making Edmonds himself an intriguing late-round flier. Drake is still the guy to own of course — the team traded for him and is not paying him over $8 million to not lead the backfield. I would be fine with him as my RB1 due to the week-winning upside he provides — he finished as the overall RB2 in Week 9, RB1 in Week 15 and RB2 in Week 16. However, this is a red flag that could make him a bit more boom-bust than some may expect.
Deshaun Watson told ESPN that he believes WR Will Fuller is “going to ball out” in 2020.
Players hyping up other players happens all the time. Don’t read into this much.
What this does offer is a reminder that Fuller has an uncanny connection with Watson. Whenever they are on the field together, Fuller seems to find his way into the end zone or open down the field. The problem with Fuller is his health. He’s missed 22 games over the past four seasons and has yet to play more than 11 games since his rookie year in 2016. With Hopkins and his 150 targets now in Arizona, this is a huge year for Fuller who is also on a contract season. If Fuller can stay on the field, he will be a huge asset for Watson while earning himself a payday on the open market given the Texans lack of cap space. If he can’t, then it’s a one-year prove-it deal at best. For the price of WR33, it’s worth the shot, especially in standard leagues.
Denver head coach Vic Fangio anticipates both Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay “playing enough where we really don’t have to designate a starter.”
This echoes what offensive coordinator Pat Shurmer said in June. Both are talented in their own way, so it makes sense for Denver to utilize both. The question is how each will be used.
Gordon is being drafted as high as he is because of hair receiving ability, which has been a shortcoming of Lindsay’s over the past couple seasons. The former Charger is also much bigger than Lindsay (215 pounds to Lindsay’s 190), leading some to believe that Gordon will have the goal-line work. It’s worth noting that Lindsay reportedly added 10 pounds of muscle, according to Troy Renck of Denver 7 News, which could leave the goal-line role a bit unpredictable.
Lindsay is the better rusher all around, however. Gordon has just one season where he rushed for over four yards-per-carry in his five years in the league. He’s crossed the 1,000 rushing yard mark just once in that span. Lindsay, on the other hand, is a career 4.9 yards-per-carry rusher over his two seasons.
Perhaps more importantly, however, Gordon is the one who got the contract. The team had Lindsay and Royce Freeman working in tandem last year and decided an upgrade was needed. Gordon got a two-year $16 million deal, and that’s not to just catch passes. He will lead this team in touches, but Lindsay is a talented player who earns his minutes. Given the drastic difference in draft price, Lindsay is a very appealing option as the RB39.
Often, I choose to follow the money and I always favor the receiving option out of the backfield. However, RB15 is too steep of a price for me. I am fine taking Gordon around the RB18-20 range.
Texans TE Jordan Akins has made “one big play after another” during training camp, becoming a consistent red zone target for Deshaun Watson, according to the Texans official website. In other offensive news, Texans running back coach Danny Barrett as well as head coach Bill O’Brien talked about running more 21 personnel (two running backs, one tight end).
It’s only worth mentioning because of the whopping 150 targets DeAndre Hopkins took with him out of town. Someone needs to catch passes from an extremely talented quarterback in DeShaun Watson besides Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks. Darren Fells will still play his role as a blocker with some red zone ability, but Akins is entering his third season as a far more athletic option. Just keep an eye on your waiver wire should Akins command more snaps and targets than people expect — the team needs someone to step up.
If it’s not Akins at tight end then it will likely be a combination of the two running backs, David Johnson and Duke Johnson. Both are talented receivers and with the team lacking weapons it makes sense to use both backs as much as possible. Should the Texans follow through, Duke Johnson could have standalone value regardless of whether he sees carries or not. I worry about David Johnson, still. He seemed to lack the burst that made him great in years past and while a fresh start was much needed, I’m not sure if he is much of an improvement on the ground to what Carlos Hyde did last year. David Johnson hasn’t eclipsed the four yards-per-carry mark since 2016, and if he splits the receiving work with Duke Johnson (as he should) then he will be a bust for fantasy. His ADP is all over the place, currently listed as the RB22 but he’s gone much earlier in some drafts and even later in others. Feel free to check our ranks to see where the FFSQ crew ranks him.
Browns RB coach Stump Mitchell said Nick Chubb (concussion) is in meetings and “not complaining of headaches.”
Mitchell also added that “it’s just a matter of time,” before Chubb is back. Good stuff.
Chubb did indeed go into the concussion protocol following a high hit to the neck/head area in practice, but it appears like he’s progressing well and should be back on the practice field in short order. It’s good to see him remain an active part of the team even if he’s not in pads just yet. As with all injuries, continue to watch over the situation but Chubb should be treated like the RB1 that he is.
Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill jogged off the practice field Thursday after sustaining a hamstring injury during a one-on-one drill. He did not return.
Silver lining — Hill was able to leave under his own power, jogging even. That’s always a good sign.
You never like to see a hamstring injury in camp especially for a player like Hill who relies so heavily on his burst and speed. The good news is that NFL Media’s Mike Garafalo reports that the strain is a minor one and that the team is likely just playing it safe with their star wide receiver.
Meanwhile Sammy Watkins hasn’t been practicing with a groin injury, leaving Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle as the likely starting trio. Hardman remains a high-upside late-round pick in an offense led by 2018 MVP Patrick Mahomes, but would shoot way up draft boards should Hill’s injury be more serious than initially thought.
Broncos coach Vic Fangio said rookie WR K.J. Hamler (hamstring) will be “out a couple of weeks.” RB Melvin Gordon also left practice with a rib injury.
Hamler was turning heads at training camp and was set to inherit the slot wide receiver role in this offense as another weapon for Drew Lock. Alas, the 2020 second-round pick is now in danger of missing Week 1.
Hamler himself isn’t fantasy relevant outside of dynasty/keeper leagues, but it removes one weapon from Lock’s retooled arsenal. Training camp is a valuable place for rookie wide receivers to establish chemistry with their quarterback, not the best thing for Hamler to miss when competing for targets with the likes of Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant and first-round pick Jerry Jeudy. Time will tell who steps up to fill the void. Tim Patrick has run with the first-team in practices while DaeSean Hamilton manned the slot last season.
Gordon is the more pressing injury. It’s likely a minor injury, keeping him out as a precaution but it’s noteworthy, nonetheless. Fangio said that “Melvin tweaked his ribs,” and followed that up by saying that he does not know the severity of the injury yet. Make sure to follow up on this story as updates are reported.
The Eagles have listed Miles Sanders as “week to week” with a “lower-body injury.”
The hype was just too much.
Barely after head coach Doug Pederson called Sanders “our guy” the sophomore running back was listed with a “lower-body injury.” More notably, he is week-to-week, raising alarm that he could miss Week 1. Fortunately, ESPN’s Tim McManus reported that Sanders “will be ready to play” Week 1, with early indications being that the injury is not serious and Sanders’ absence is more precautionary.
A July quote from assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley puts the hype best.
“I’m excited about Miles. I’m excited about him handling the full load. I don’t see Miles as a guy that you have to monitor his touches,” Staley said on July 31. “I think you put him in, and you let him go.”
But the injury definitely raises some concerns. How can the Eagles give Sanders “the full load,” a shift in offensive philosophy for Pederson, if he gets hurt in camp?
To be honest, they don’t have a choice. Sanders is by far the best running back on this team, and a talented receiver who was also rumored to play in the slot. He should see plenty of work, and while the injury is another red flag, he is still worthy of being your RB1. Hopefully the injury drives his ADP down — he was being drafted as the RB8 before the injury.
In other Eagles injury news, tight end Dallas Goedert (upper body) and running back Boston Scott (lower body) are both day-to-day. Their injuries are also reportedly precautionary.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said after Thursday’s practice that he was “hopeful” Deebo Samuel (foot) will be ready for Week 1.
The context is important here, as Shanahan had just ruled out center Weston Richburg, wide receiver Richie James Jr. and defensive lineman Jullian Taylor for Week 1. He could’ve thrown Samuel on that list but leaving the door open does give a sense of hope that the sophomore wide receiver isn’t too far out.
I still fully expect him to miss the first couple weeks of the season as the 49ers ease their No. 1 wide receiver back. But it’s a promising update among a sea of training camp injuries.
Jaguars activated RB Ryquell Armstead from the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Armstead will compete for the backup role behind Leonard Fournette and pass-catching specialist Chris Thompson with Devine Ozigbo and James Robinson. Armstead will likely win that job, though spending several weeks on the reserve/COVID-19 list is a significant handicap.
Jets RB Frank Gore (hamstring) returned to practice.
Just a precautionary holdout as initially thought. Reports are saying that Gore is firmly ahead of rookie La’Mical Perine on the depth chart and could steal carries from starter Le’Veon Bell.
Note: rookie Denzel Mims is still out with a hamstring injury.
Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring) returned to practice Wednesday.
Hopkins is good to go. He’s ready to be a WR1 for fantasy once more.
All context is relative to Half-PPR, 12-team formats. Check out our collective ranks here.