Around the league — Fantasy Fallout, Sept. 1

September 1, 2020

Leonard Fournette waived, Alvin Kamara holdout?

An unconventional offseason is finally winding down as training camp comes to a close. Teams will continue to practice but behind closed doors as the 53-man roster deadline approaches on Sept. 5. The focus will soon shift entirely on Week 1 and it should be the same for fantasy owners. Time to wrap up the final headlines of training camp.

Jaguars waive RB Leonard Fournette.

A long and ugly relationship finally reached its end after the team released Fournette. After the team pulled his guaranteed money following a Week 13 fight with Buffalo’s Shaq Lawson, the relationship hit its lowest point. It did not help that Fournette has failed to live up to the billing expected of being the No. 4 pick in 2017, taken four spots ahead of Christian McCaffrey.

The team has been trying to trade the LSU product since the draft to no avail, but the most important thing to break down is the fantasy outcome. Fournette will hit waivers tomorrow as a hot commodity. Feel free to speculate on his landing spots.

But as it stands, Ryquell Armstead will inherit the lead back role for the Jaguars. He should see enough volume and has some upside. The 2019 fifth-round pick has had a productive training camp according to sleeperwire.com. Chris Thompson should also see a sizable role in the passing game.

However, this is still a bad team. A really bad team that will likely be picking close to No. 1 in the 2021 NFL Draft. Armstead could see enough work to provide flex value but strictly for certain matchups. Touchdowns will still be hard to come by and Armstead has not practiced much due to an illness (not COVID-19 anymore) this summer. Devine Ozigbo could also play a serious role on the ground. Ultimately, it’s a backfield I’m avoiding.

Thompson could be a sneaky play in full PPR formats. His familiarity with offensive coordinator Jay Gruden could go a long way in securing a role for himself, but his injury risk and limitations in the rushing game caps his upside. This team will likely find itself on the losing end more often than not though, creating positive game scripts for Thompson.

For what it’s worth, beat writer John Shiply called Thompson “one of the stars” of the red zone drills on Friday. Make of that what you will.

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said he wants to expand WR Andy Isabella’s role.

The 2019 second-round pick barely saw the field as a rookie, logging just nine receptions. However, those nine catches went for 189 yards. Yes, it’s a tiny sample size but this was exactly what he was drafted to be — a big-play threat who can rip off huge gains.

He will still be a better real life player than he will be for fantasy but you can bet your bottom dollar that he will be a DFS week-winner at times. The Cardinals led the league in four WR sets, and Isabella seems set to be that fourth option. Expanding his role from nine receptions makes sense — just don’t expect a huge uptick.

Saints RB Alvin Kamara has missed the last three practices in what is believed to be a contract-related decision.

Oof. This is a situation that could seriously impact fantasy rosters given the first-round pick needed to acquire Kamara. The 2017 third-round pick enters his contract year with relatively minimal career earnings and is searching for his pay day. This makes Latavius Murray a must-draft for people willing to gamble on Kamara as the clear handcuff to mitigate the risk of Kamara’s price tag.

I believe his usage in the passing game and uncanny ability to make defenders miss will lead him to a new contract for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Drew Brees is likely playing his last season and it would be a back-breaker to lose their star running/receiving back. But there are plenty of examples of teams caving and paying (Ezekiel Elliot, Derrick Henry) and examples of teams holding firm (Melvin Gordon, Dalvin Cook). This could go either way and when investing a first-round pick in fantasy, it might just be wise to avoid the risk and take the next best option. The same carries over for Cook.

Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones said on 105.3 The Fan that TE Blake Jarwin has “had an amazing camp.”

Jarwin has the opportunity to be the rare big-play tight end in a productive offense that goes extremely late in most drafts. Jason Witten caught 63 balls last season despite him running as slow as a snail. With Witten now in Las Vegas, Jarwin enters this season with a new opportunity and a fresh four-year $22 million contract.

I remain skeptical that the passing volume will remain as high as it was and that Jarwin can be efficient enough on limited volume. He can score plenty of touchdowns but that might be the only way he cracks TE1. Feel free to take a late shot on him, his athletic profile suggests he can succeed. But with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb and Ezekiel Elliot all likely ahead of Jarwin in the pecking order, consistency will likely be hard to find.

The case can certainly be made for Jarwin, though. Feel free to hear the other side. 

The New York Post’s Brian Costello reports RB Le’Veon Bell “hasn’t had an impressive training camp” and doesn’t look like the “centerpiece of the offense.” Consequently, The Athletic’s Connor Hughes writes RB Frank Gore has been “the most productive back” at Jets training camp.

Bell won’t see the volume he needs to see to be productive in a putrid Jets offense.

That is the truth. It hurts to admit after a promising series of reports early in training camp but Bell won’t succeed partially due to head coach Adam Gase’s insistence on running his scheme. Gore’s connection to Gase from his tenure in Miami in 2018 is exactly what I would expect in New York in 2020. Enough carries to siphon fantasy value away without providing enough himself. Gase tried to add Kalen Ballage (more below), signed Gore, drafted La’Mical Perine in the fourth-round and were rumored to sign Devonta Freeman and Carlos Hyde. Those are not the actions of a team confident in their starter. Bell’s carries will be slashed in comparison to last season and will be heavily reliant on passing volume to sustain his ADP since touchdowns won’t come in this offense. 

It’s also important to remember the initial worry with Bell when he signed with the Jets entering the 2019 season — the offensive line relative to his play style. Hughes’ article noted how Bell continues to dance behind the offensive line waiting for a hole to open. While the offensive line may be improved from the dumpster fire it was last season, it remains nowhere near the unit Bell thrived behind in Pittsburgh. His style has not and will not work, and it seems like he refuses to adjust. Between his incredibly shaky relationship with Gase and situation he has gone from an attractive, volume-based RB2 to someone I am actively avoiding.

Bucs QB Tom Brady said WR Scotty Miller has earned a role in the offense.

The underlying camp battle to watch in Tampa Bay ended up not being the running back room but actually was the WR3 role. Justin Watson and Miller have been dueling it out since day one, earning praise from coaches and players alike for their efforts. Watson dropped weight and came in more fit and Miller continued to produce at a solid level after a respectable rookie campaign. Initially, fifth-round rookie Tyler Johnson was set to compete as well but he failed to make an impact, dealing with injuries and falling behind the more experienced options. 

But Miller appears victorious in a role that saw Breshad Perriman step up when injury befell the starters. Brady loves his shifty slot receivers and Miller fits that bill. By no means does this say that Miller will have fantasy value, but the backing by Brady in addition to a strong training camp could make him a valuable option in Tampa Bay if opportunity starts falling his way.

The Detroit Free Press reports RB Kerryon Johnson will likely open the season in a starting role given that RB D’Andre Swift’s leg injury “could cost him snaps” to start the season.

It sounds like Swift’s injury could be a bit more serious than Detroit initially let on and reinforces the late-round value Johnson provides for teams keen to try a zero-RB approach. I still believe Johnson is a talented player who has been incredibly limited by injuries throughout his career. He is currently practicing in a knee brace despite being 100% healthy, a mental strengthener if you will. Whether it’s good that he is more comfortable or bad that he needs a brace to feel healthy, choose your own narrative. But the facts remain that Johnson will be a starting running back for several weeks before he even begins to split work with Swift, making him a low-risk pick at RB40. Fifth-round rookie Jason Huntley should also see some work with Swift out.

Swift, on the other hand, is a much scarier asset. He may be the best talent in this backfield but the long-running history of Detroit’s running game, or lack thereof, is hard to ignore. Given that you have to pay a RB3 price for a player who likely won’t see enough work to return value in non PPR formats, I haven’t left a draft with Swift to date. He’s a good reminder to take the mid-round wide receiver value and look for the running back value late in the draft. Phillip Lindsay or Marlon Mack agree.

Quick Hitters

RB Kalen Ballage failed his physical with the Jets, voiding the trade and reverted back to the Dolphins.

He is expected to be released where the Jets can properly sign him when he is healthy without burning a draft pick. 

Bears head coach Matt Nagy said the team would not name its starting quarterback ahead of their Week 1 game against Detroit. 

It’s a testament to the poor play of both Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles throughout camp. However, it’s also another showing of Nagy trying to outwit his opponents when he will likely end up outwitting himself.

Raiders WR Bryan Edwards has been the starting X receiver at camp.

Nothing to see here. Just the Raiders No. 1 wide receiver.

Yes, Henry Ruggs is still the Raider I want. But Edwards is someone I will gladly snag at the end of my drafts given the talent he possesses, the role he can have as the possession wide receiver with Tyrell Williams limited and with a quarterback who is seemingly infatuated with him.

SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano reports the Giants think TE Evan Engram can “top 1,000 yards easily.”

If he plays 16 games, maybe. Talent has never been the issue. But given that Engram has missed 13 games over the past two seasons, it’s fair to be skeptical of the 2017 first-round pick.

Engram will still be Daniel Jones’ first read when he’s out there — their chemistry has been apparent whenever they have played.

The Athletic’s Nate Taylor reports Chiefs RB Darrel Williams will be Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s direct backup to start the season. 

A committee should be expected if Edwards-Helaire missed time, but it seems like Williams beat out newcomer DeAndre Washington and 2019 sixth-round pick Darwin Thompson for the backup honors. Edwards-Helaire will remain the unquestioned leader of this backfield.

Speaking in a Thursday radio interview, Saints QB Drew Brees predicted a breakout season for third-year WR Tre’Quan Smith.

Smith will still be behind Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Jared Cook and Alvin Kamara for targets on a team that rarely threw the ball deep. It’s a nice thought.

NBC Sports’ Peter King cites a Titans source stating third-round rookie RB Darrynton Evans “has a chance to be a poor man’s Alvin Kamara.”

Evans was one of my favorite running back prospects in the draft but is firmly behind Derrick Henry on the depth chart. He could work himself into passing down situations but his upside is limited. Henry is the locomotive to this Titans train and Evans can be the grease to get the gears moving when drives stall out on first and second-down.

The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly considers RB Benny Snell to be a “much different and better player” than he was last season. 

The biggest storyline out of Pittsburgh hasn’t been the return of Roethlisberger or even the promising showing of second-round rookie Chase Claypool. Reporters have been raving about Snell’s physique and performance for weeks. View him as a potential league-winner if James Conner gets hurt again — the signs are all there.

Washington’s QB Alex Smith has been cleared for 11-on-11 drills.

Smith’s comeback story has been one of the few highlights of 2020. Dr. Robin West, who worked on Smith during his surgery, put it this way to Smith’s wife Elizabeth who wrote the story herself on ESPN.

“Our first priority is we’re going to save his life. And then we’re going to do our best to save his leg. And anything beyond that is a miracle.”

A miracle indeed. Give Smith Comeback Player of the Year and let his story serve as an inspiration to everyone.

Injury Report

Eagles WR Jalen Reagor (shoulder) is expected to miss four weeks. QB Carson Wentz is day-to-day with a minor soft tissue injury. WR Alshon Jeffrey could avoid the PUP.

Just another day in Philadelphia.

Hours after The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that it would be “a shock” if Reagor didn’t have a significant role in the offense the rookie suffered a partially torn labrum in practice. The injury luckily won’t require surgery, hence the four week timeline, but this is a brutal hit for a rookie wide receiver with an incredible opportunity. 

Quarterback Carson Wentz loses yet another weapon while he deals with his own injury. It should not affect his Week 1 status, but missing Jeffrey (foot) and Reagor (shoulder) while Miles Sanders (lower body) and Dallas Goedert (finger) work their way back from injury is far from ideal.

Jeffrey seemed to be set to start the year on the PUP, forcing him to miss six games but reports are now promising enough that the veteran could return by the end of September. The team certainly needs him to, as Wentz is a lot more effective when Jeffrey is on the field, particularly in the red zone. He remains off the redraft radar but is certainly a name to monitor as he returns to health with a thin depth chart ahead of him.

Rams WR Cooper Kupp is dealing with ankle “soreness.”

Initial reports were worrisome that Kupp was dealing with a potentially nagging ankle injury, but McVay put those rumors to rest by saying that he fully expects the big-bodied slot receiver to be ready for practices ahead of Week 1. Draft him with confidence as a WR2 with WR1 upside.

49ers WR Deebo Samuel was seen “sprinting hard” on a side field.

Recent reports have been positive regarding the sophomore wide receiver in his return from a Jones fracture. The Athletic’s Mark Barrow called Samuel’s workout “the most intense workout thus far with change-of-direction.” It’s good to see Samuel progressing and taking steps forward each day as he tries to get ready ahead of the team’s Week 1 tilt against Arizona. He may still miss Week 1 or even Week 2 as the team eases him back given the risk of reinjury with this particular injury, but Samuel is a dynamic talent who could easily reward owners who take the shot on him later in drafts.

Jets RB La’Mical Perine was carted off with an ankle injury.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the injury and was quick to note that the belief is that the injury is only a sprain. Hopefully Perine will be back sooner than later with the Ballage trade falling through. His role in this offense will be minimal regardless, mixing in on passing downs.

Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones (foot) returned to practice in full pads.

It’s always nice to see a precautionary injury actually be precautionary. Jones should see enough work to provide low-end RB2 numbers with a high ceiling should this offense click like it is projected to.

Colts TE Jack Doyle (neck) returned to practice, TE Trey Burton (calf) expected to miss time.

It’s unknown if Doyle practiced in full, but returning to practice a week before the season should set him up to be the PPR value I project him to be. He may be an unexciting pick, but he could very well be Phillip Rivers’ No. 1 target in Indianapolis.

Burton, on the other hand, cannot catch a break. After an injury-marred run with the Bears he was reunited with head coach Frank Reich who was his offensive coordinator in Philadelphia. The “Philly Special” hero suffered calf injuries during his stint in Chicago and has seemingly re-injured that here. Given how often the Colts ran two tight end sets, Burton was a sleeper candidate but the injury firmly moves him off of all radars. Mo Alie-Cox should step in, though he was only removed from the PUP a week ago. He’s largely a blocker (emphasis on large) but the Colts are hoping he can refine his route running given the athletic talent he possessed as a basketball player in college. Regardless, Doyle’s job on top of the depth chart is secure.

Giants WR Golden Tate left practice with an apparent hamstring injury Monday.

Stay updated on this news as there is not much to go on, but an injury to Tate makes all options in New York more appealing. The biggest issue is the lack of volume relative to the weapons there, but there is fantasy value to be had as injuries pile up like we saw last season. The severity of the injury is unknown but a hamstring injury in an older receiver (32) is far from ideal. It’s worth noting he was able to walk off the field but did not finish the practice.

UPDATE: Head coach Joe Judge said on Tuesday that Tate will not practice today and that the slot receiver is day-to-day.

Jets Wr Denzel Mims (hamstring) will “hopefully” return to practice by the end of the week, according to head coach Adam Gase.

It hasn’t been the best start for Mims who has missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury. Given how raw he was as a prospect out of Baylor, expecting anything early on from Mims would be a risky gamble.

Meanwhile Breshad Perriman (knee) has missed several practices and has yet to return.

Patriots RB Lamar Miller was activated from the PUP.

Assuming he makes the roster, he will fight for touches behind Sony Michel, Damien Harris, Rex Burkhead and James White.

Bengals WR John Ross was held out of practice while wearing an arm brace.

Head coach Zak Taylor said his absence was strictly precautionary. It is a bit worrisome how little Ross was able to play this offseason with rookie Joe Burrow after spending weeks on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Ross will play this season trying to earn a second contract. 

Chargers RB Justin Jackson is dealing with a foot injury.

Jackson was set to be the handcuff behind Austin Ekeler but this setback could be enough for rookie Joshua Kelley to take the No. 2 job and run. Both have had solid camps and were neck-and-neck behind Ekeler, with Jackson ahead due to his experience in the system. Kelley is a name to watch in Week 1 should Jackson miss time if the team splits the running back reps like they did in years past with Ekeler and Melvin Gordon.

Jets TE Chris Herndon (chest) left practice, returned and then left again with trainers today.

Sigh. This could be precautionary or it could be a legitimate injury but at least Herndon is able to walk off the field. Stay tuned to what Gase says after practice. If Herndon misses time, Ryan Griffin becomes an interesting option if he himself is healthy. Meanwhile, Crowder will continue to see a million targets a game.

Dolphins WR DeVante Parker (undisclosed) has not practiced in about a week and rode a bike on Tuesday.

What? Since when?!?

It’s easy to forget Parker’s long history of injury prior to his breakout season in 2019. This is a major concern for a player I’ve been rising on. Nothing has been reported to suggest Parker is in danger of missing Week 1 but this is a situation to monitor. It may be wise to avoid Parker in the mid-rounds and simply target guys like Mike Gesicki and Preston Williams much later. Parker remains a risky WR2 for me.