Six big stories as camp opens

Is Michael Thomas Back?

At long last, NFL training camps have opened for the 2022 season. For many season-long and DFS fantasy players, the long slumber is over and it’s time to start paying attention to the goings-on in 32 NFL camps. As is always the case at this time of year, the serious fantasy player has a lot of developments to track as fantasy drafts and the regular season approach. 

One word of caution: A lot of noise is going to come from training camps, and we’re going to have to do our best to sift through it. It’s sort of like trying to find quarters in a big jar full of coins. It’s not unlike a lot of the stuff that comes out in the lead-up to the NFL Draft, and just like in that example it’s often hard to separate the news from the noise and to discern if something actually matters. Last year, we kept hearing about how Ja’Marr Chase, who was the best WR prospect to come out of college in at least a decade, couldn’t catch the football. Those who faded that noise and drafted Chase a little before his sinking ADP (or really, at any time) got incredible draft value. It’s critical to gather information and pay attention to what’s going on, but it’s also important to have some healthy skepticism about certain things that get reported out of training camps. In the end, news reported out of training camps is just another factor that fantasy players have to evaluate, and weigh, when drafting. I’ll try to help make sense of that as we get closer to the season.

OK – with that out of the way, here are 6 of the stories I’m most interested in from a fantasy perspective, as camps open:

J.K. Dobbins Says He’s Ready to Roll

1. Will Alvin Kamara get suspended? We should have clarity on this one before most redraft leagues hold their drafts, but you never know. Right now, there isn’t much clarity to his situation and it’s a guessing game as to whether he’ll be disciplined at any point during the 2022 season, and if so, how many games he might get. Kamara was involved in a serious physical altercation in Las Vegas during Pro Bowl week and was arrested for battery. His case is making its way through the legal system, with a twice-postponed hearing rescheduled for August 1. The league is monitoring developments and hasn’t said much. Mark Ingram is currently the backup in New Orleans but if Kamara gets suspended look for the Saints to bring in another back. Kamara is a top 5 fantasy RB when healthy and available, and his pass-catching prowess makes his QB better, so this is a big one for the 2022 season. For what it’s worth, Kamara’s current ADP is in the RB12-14 range, which is about 6 or 7 spots lower than it would be if there was no uncertainty around his availability. Stay tuned.

2. Is Michael Thomas healthy, and can he return to elite status? Let’s stay down in the Big Easy for one more. The last time we saw Thomas on a football field was, well, a long time ago. Before this week, he hadn’t even practiced in 18 months. Thomas missed all of 2021 after an injury-compromised 2020 and I can’t recall an ankle injury causing this much lost time. Thomas did start camp on the PUP list but came off of it quickly and has begun practicing. He was a force during the first 4 years of his career, before the injury. He led the NFL in receptions in both 2018 and 2019 and his 149 grabs in 2019 set the NFL record. Yes, that was with Drew Brees, but Jameis Winston has a 5,000 yard season on his resume and can sling it. The fantasy values of not only Thomas but also Winston, Jarvis Landry, Chris Olave and to a lesser extent other members of the Saints offense will be impacted by Thomas’s injury status. Thomas is back on the field for now but I’m skeptical. I’m not alone – his current ADP is in the WR30 range, which is a huge drop from pre-injury Thomas. 

3. How many games will Deshaun Watson miss? This one should be known soon – in fact, a decision was expected before training camps opened. Estimates vary from a few games to the entire season, so it will likely fall somewhere in the middle. Watson didn’t play at all in 2021 because of his legal troubles, and then he was traded to the Browns who promptly gave him a humongous and almost fully guaranteed contract. It stands to reason that rust, high expectations, media scrutiny, and distractions could take a toll on his production. Regardless, he’s been a big-time fantasy producer (he finished as the QB5 in both 2019 and 2020) and even a less-than-peak Watson is a significant upgrade over backup Jacoby Brissett. His availability will impact the entire Cleveland offense and all of the team’s main fantasy assets. Watson’s current ADP is right around QB20, which reflects the expectation of a lengthy suspension.

Will Chris Godwin Be Ready for Week 1?

4. What’s the status of players coming off of major injuries? There are a lot of prominent players who are coming off of major injuries (or surgeries) that ended their 2021 season, from JK Dobbins (torn ACL) and Travis Etienne (ruptured achilles) who suffered season-ending injuries before the 2021 season even started, to OBJ who suffered the second ACL tear of his career in the Super Bowl less and isn’t even on an NFL roster right now. In between are additional prominent names who suffered serious injuries of varying severity at different points during the season, among them Chris Godwin, CMC, Jameis Winston, Robert Woods, Michael Gallup, Robert Tonyan, Derrick Henry (who returned for the team’s playoff loss), Gus Edwards, and Adam Thielen, plus Lions rookie WR Jameson Williams who tore his ACL in the CFB Playoffs. For some of these players (like Henry), there is no reason to think they aren’t fully ready to play right now, while others, like Godwin, are less certain for the start of the season although it’s a good sign that he isn’t starting camp on the PUP list (and no, the Bucs’ signing of Julio Jones doesn’t necessarily signal that the team doesn’t think Godwin will be ready for the start of the season). Players coming off of major injuries always carry some extra risk, and the availability of these players not only impacts their fantasy value, but the value of other players around them. Fantasy managers will want to keep an eye on the progress of all the fantasy-relevant players returning from injuries.

Anyone Need a QB?

5. What’s happening with Jimmy G? A lot of QB dominoes fell this offseason – Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Baker Mayfield, Mitch Trubisky, and Marcus Mariota are all on new teams and expected to be Week 1 starters. The one starting-caliber QB who appears to be out of a starting job is Jimmy G, who came within a couple of minutes of going to his second Super Bowl in 3 years. It may sound crazy that a QB who led 2 deep post-season runs in 3 years is out of work, but the 49ers spent a ton of draft capital to get Trey Lance and they’re pushing their chips in on him, starting with this season. If they don’t trade or cut Jimmy G before Week 1, his $24.2M base salary becomes fully guaranteed. But is there a team needs him and would be willing to pay him? The QB musical chairs game has already played out for ‘22 and Jimmy is the one left standing. The most obvious landing spot is Seattle, but they’re in the same division so that complicates things. Another potential destination could be Atlanta but I don’t know if they’re at all interested. The 49ers might have to sit and wait, hoping for a significant camp injury to a QB that would suddenly make Jimmy G a valuable commodity. In any case, it’s pretty clear that Lance will be the 49ers QB for this season, and Jimmy G probably won’t be looking over his shoulder. I see this development as a downgrade to the entire SF offense and wrote about the fantasy fallout in a recent piece: https://www.thepigskinpapers.com/posts-1/fantasy-football-22-players-that-are-hard-to-rank .   

6. How will the Deebo and DK Metcalf contract disputes be resolved? It wouldn’t be the start of training camp if we didn’t have a few contract disputes among some of the league’s top players. DK Metcalf*, Deebo Samuel and LAC safety Derwin James are all “holding in”, meaning they’ve reported to camp but are not participating. Another contract situation to watch is Lamar Jackson’s, although in his case it’s really just about getting a long-term extension done, and he isn’t a holdout. These situations usually resolve, so I’m not too worried about any of them – at least not right now. [*NOTE: Shortly after this article posted, Metcalf and the Seahawks agreed to a 3 year contract extension.]

These are some of the bigger stories I’m watching closely as training camps open, but there will be others. Stay tuned to this space as I’ll have more preseason fantasy content coming soon.

DH

This article originally appeared on thepigskinpapers.com

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