Falcons TE Jacob Tamme, who spent his first seven NFL seasons primarily catching passes from Peyton Manning in Indianapolis and Denver, made an immediate impression with his pass-catching ability this offseason. He looks poised to come in and become a real threat in Kyle Shanahan's offense. It's hard to compare him to a guy such as future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez, but Tamme can be the type of reliable pass-catcher the Falcons haven't had at the position since Gonzalez's retirement. The 6-foot-3-inch, 230-pound Tamme isn't going to overwhelm you with his size, but he finds a way to get open and is fluid with his routes.
Tamme is 30 years old and isn’t likely to be a fantasy factor in single-TE leagues, but he’s on the radar in two-TE or TE-premium (1.5 PPR) formats.
Although Bears WR Kevin White garners most of the attention because of his draft status, don't be surprised if Eddie Royal turns out to be the more impactful of the two offseason receiver acquisitions. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase can deploy Royal from a variety of alignments in order to maximize matchups. Royal, 29, can play outside and in the slot. Think of how Gase used Wes Welker with the Broncos the last two seasons — he was a quick, reliable outlet for quarterback Peyton Manning — but also factor in Royal's superior speed and ability to gain yards after the catch.
Royal has been a fantasy headache for years, and now he takes his act to Chicago. White needs to have a good camp to earn a starting job. Royal is likely to serve as the team's slot receiver, where he could siphon targets from the rookie.
It's a very similar deal to what Dez Bryant got in Dallas, and it shouldn't be too shocking the announcements came just a short time apart. Bryant's signing bonus is a bit higher, however. There were some rumors the Broncos and Thomas weren't close to a deal leading up to today, and we even had a news item earlier this week the Broncos weren't in a hurry to sign Thomas to a long-term deal with a chance QB Peyton Manning retires after this season. Also yesterday, it was reported there was a real chance Thomas would not report to camp and could also miss games. Thomas is ranked third on our WR list, but is often getting drafted outside the first round and after Dez Bryant. However we project him as one of three WRs to go over 100 receptions this season. Like Bryant owners and potential owners, those protecting or eyeing Thomas in fantasy drafts can relax a bit.
There are plenty of ways to break down just how bad the Jaguars' offense has been the past several seasons, but the best way to illustrate the ineptness is by looking at how the unit has performed in the red zone.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Jaguars scored an NFL-low 13 touchdowns and completed an NFL-worst 39.1 percent of passes on an NFL-low 85 snaps in 32 red zone possessions in 2014. They were still last in TDs and completion percentage if you include the 2013 season, too.
The blame is spread between the quarterbacks, offensive line, backs and receivers, and play calling. Not much the Jaguars have tried the past two seasons has worked consistently and as a result the team has averaged just 15.5 points per game the past two seasons.
Things could be significantly better in 2015, though, thanks to the addition of tight end Julius Thomas. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder was not only one of the league's better tight ends the past two seasons – catching 108 passes, including 24 for touchdowns – he was one of the NFL's most effective players in the red zone.
Thomas had 13 catches in the red zone in 2014, including nine for touchdowns. Only Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb had more (10) and Thomas had the same number as New England's Rob Gronkowski, Miami's Mike Wallace, New Orleans' Jimmy Graham, and San Diego's Antonio Gates, the story said. Obviously potential owners of Thomas need to keep in mind the situation is now a little bit different. The Jags don't have the same weapons Denver had a year ago that also needed to be accounted for in the red zone, and don't forget about Peyton Manning as the QB. Still, Thomas will be looked at as a big red zone option, and if the Jag WRs can step up as threats, that should also help Thomas' chances to continue his success. Thomas is ranked eighth among our TEs and is available in the middle of drafts.
Time is running out for the Denver Broncos and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to work out a long-term contract extension. Progress has been hard to come by, which means Thomas' absence could stretch all the way into September.
"Do not rule out the possibility that Demaryius Thomas misses games," NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport said on Tuesday's NFL Total Access on NFL Network. "This is very much in the realm of possibility."
The Broncos have until 4 pm ET Wednesday to sign Thomas, the team's franchise player, to a long-term extension. If that doesn't happen, Thomas must either play for his $12.8 million franchise tender or continue to stay away from the team.
Rapoport went on to say in the story it's clear Thomas will miss the start of training camp if he's unsigned, and there's a "very good chance" he'd miss all of camp. Skipping the $750,000 paychecks that come with each regular season game is a different matter. No franchise tagged player has missed games since Walter Jones sat out two weeks in 2002. We had a story earlier in the week that indicated the Broncos aren't necessarily in a hurry to sign Thomas to a long-term deal, especially with the possibility QB Peyton Manning isn't around after this season.
Detroit has thrown the ball more than it has rushed it every season since 2001 according to ESPN Stats & Information. The closest the Detroit Lions have come to "balance" was in 2004, when Detroit ran the ball 407 times and attempted 505 passes.
In Detroit's more successful seasons, the Lions have trended much heavier toward the pass. In 2011, one of the two seasons Detroit made the playoffs this century, the Lions rushed the ball 356 times and had 666 passing attempts, completing 423 of them.
Last season, Detroit ran the ball 396 times and threw it 604 times, completing 365 passes. So while the Lions appeared to focus their draft on improving a run game that had its worst yards per carry since 2003, don't expect to see a massive play-call shift.
"It's all quarterbacking," former NFL QB Elvis Grbac said. "I got in a league where Drew Bledsoe was starting to come in and just in the last 10 years, retired since 2001, so it's been some time. But just the league in general, it's quarterback-driven. If you don't have a quarterback, you're screwed."
The story went on to say: A 50-50 split hasn't been typical for Jim Caldwell historically. In his three seasons as head coach in Indianapolis, the Colts never rushed more than 393 times in a season. They never threw less than 534 times in a year, and that was in 2011 when Peyton Manning was injured. The only sample size in which a team coordinated or led by Caldwell has had more runs than passes came during the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl run in 2012, when Caldwell took over leading into Week 15. Through the final three weeks of the regular season and the playoffs, the Ravens ran the ball 249 times and passed it 235 times. The following season was more in line with what happened in Indianapolis, where Baltimore had 423 rushes to 619 passes.
Much of the same is expected this year, and the story mentioned how Grbac thinks QB Matthew Stafford has progressed nicely in the offense. The team lost pass-catching RB Reggie Bush, but seems to have a more than capable replacement in Ameer Abdullah, who looks like he's going to hurt the value of Theo Riddick. Both Joique Bell and Abdullah crack our top-31 backs, with Abdullah having top-25 potential in PPR leagues. Stafford is just 13th on our QB list, but if WR Calvin Johnson can stay healthy Stafford could crack the top-10 and be a nice value at QB with an ADP of the ninth round.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, it’s currently “not likely” that the Broncos and WR Demaryius Thomas will work out a new contract before the close of business on Wednesday. It means that Thomas and the Broncos thereafter would be able to do only a one-year contract. The terms could be changed; the Broncos could, in theory, offer more than the $12.8 million tender to get him to show up for training camp, or they could promise not to use the franchise tag on him in 2016. If he plays for $12.8 million in 2015, the Broncos would have to give him a 20-percent raise in order to tag him again next year. That’s more than $15.3 million for a receiver they may not be able to fully utilize if quarterback Peyton Manning retires after the coming season.
The story makes the point that given Manning’s uncertain status beyond 2015, a multi-year investment in Thomas may not make much sense for the Broncos. The story goes on to say the Broncos may be smarting from a late deal with T Ryan Clady back in 2013. Clady suffered a season-ending injury in Week 2 of the 2013 season and is already done for 2015 with a torn ACL.
Broncos wide receiver Cody Latimer, a second-round pick who flashed plenty of potential in training camp, struggled at times with the learning curve and the team’s scheme, finishing with just 37 snaps in 2014.
“I felt like I kept myself ready to contribute last year, but this year I feel like I’m much more prepared," Latimer said. “... I think the study part of it, you learn what it takes. I think I can contribute, and I just want to do what I can to be ready when they want me to play."
“Cody has everything he needs to be one of those guys to make an impact in this league," WR Emmanuel Sanders said. “We expect big things … you could see it in practice last year; he’s ready to do some things."
With Demaryius Thomas having skipped the Broncos’ offseason workout after they put the franchise player tag on him, Latimer spent the offseason largely working as the team’s No. 2 wide receiver (he did miss some of the work with a sore hamstring). The Broncos see Latimer as the No. 3 behind Thomas and Sanders, the story said. Latimer comes in 67th on our WR list with an ADP of the 14th round so some are taking a late-round flier on him. The Broncos are expected to run a bit more to try and save QB Peyton Manning, so the Broncos WR3 spot may not hold the fantasy value it once did.
Via Blair Sheade of the Chicago Sun-Times, Jay Cutler gathered several teammates at his alma mater of Vanderbilt this week for extra pre-training camp workouts.
Bennett’s presence is significant because he stayed away from all non-mandatory offseason activities in search of a new contract. Most significant is the fact that Cutler managed to get his teammates to join him in Tennessee for non-mandatory workouts that fall beyond the boundaries of the offseason program.
It's a good sign that Cutler is working with his receivers, especially White, who missed some time during OTAs with an undisclosed injury. Cutler’s #15 finish was his highest in the last four seasons. Marc Trestman is gone, and now new OC Adam Gase is running the offense. He had success in Denver in the past two seasons, but Cutler is no Peyton Manning. As long as the season is going relatively well, Cutler should post solid numbers, but if the wheels start to come off, watch out.
Daniels and Green appear locked in on the top two spots, and depending on the frequency at which the Broncos use certain personnel groups, could both end up with play counts that reflect being starters.
Julius Thomas, who scored 24 touchdowns the last two years, left for Jacksonville. We rank Daniels 16th on our TE list, but project him for only about 5 TDs this season. While Daniels has the experience in Gary Kubiak's offense, and Green the experience with QB Peyton Manning the last four years, the story points out the job description for the tight ends is a bit different than it was the last three seasons - there'll be a bit more blocking involved. Daniels ADP is the 12th round, however. Compared to those around him, that's about three rounds earlier than Kyle Rudolph and Tyler Eifert who are ranked ahead of Daniels on our list.
Mason: First of all, Gary Kubiak never said that. There is a perception that he did. But when he was asked March 24 about whether Peyton Manning's schedule and repetitions would be modified because of his age -- be it in practice or games -- this was his reply:
"It's interesting. He and I talked about that and I know his mindset is totally the other way but I have to get a feel for that. I think that as a coach you have to make those suggestions to players. You have to say, 'Hey, maybe you take a Wednesday [off] here or there.' I don't know what that’s going to be until I get involved with him on a day-to-day basis.
"The great ones -- the reason they're great is you have to battle them on things like that because they are used to being a part of every day. They are used to having that under-control every day situation. So we'll see how it works out. We want to do what's best for him. I went through the same process with John [Elway] late in his career. It was a battle for me and [former Head Coach] Mike [Shanahan] to do some things with him. I can remember some of the adjustments we made with John -- from a meeting standpoints, from a practice standpoint, from training camp, things like that. But he battled us too and that's why they are who they are."
Apparently some took Kubiak's comments back in March as he may give Manning games off this season, perhaps similar to what John Elway went through back in 1998. But the writer also pointed out the Broncos didn't plan to give Elway games off, however injuries forced Bubby Brister to play in four games. The story also said there have already been modifications in Manning's practice schedule, with regular days off during OTAs and minicamp, but that doesn't necessarily mean time off in games. Manning is fourth on our QB list, but obviously scheduled games off would not be what fantasy owners would want. We'll continue to monitor this but it doesn't look like the team has any desire, or plans, to sit Manning in games.
Sunday, July 5, 2015, 3:09pm
Broncos beat writer Troy Renck talked about C.J. Anderson and what could be expected of this season. Renck: I believe C.J. Anderson, a bowling ball with legs, can roll for 1,400 yards. He will be physically prepared for the grind. Just as Terrell Davis paved the way for the Broncos' first Super Bowl, Anderson holds the key to making life easier on QB Peyton Manning. It might not be circa 1997, but Anderson can be plenty good enough.
We rank Anderson 10th among our RBs, and he's been going in drafts around the middle of the second round. Over the final eight weeks, Anderson averaged 24.0 touches for 132 yards and 1.3 TD, and was the #1 RB in that span. If the Broncos commit to Anderson (and why wouldn’t they?), he should thrive under new HC Gary Kubiak, who just coaxed a career year out of journeyman Justin Forsett. We don't have Anderson going for 1,400 yards, but should crack the 1,000 yard mark as Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball could steal some work.
Monday, June 29, 2015, 8:25am
While league rules have carved into the amount of offseason practice time — which some have called unnecessary — others are looking for more.
According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford wants to bring receiver Calvin Johnson and the rest of his targets together for some pre-camp work of their own.
Such camps aren’t new, as Peyton Manning has been taking his receivers to Duke every spring, and others do the same. But Stafford said he thought it would help.
“I think it’s big,” Stafford said. “I’m obviously in Atlanta quite a bit, so Calvin’s right there, throw with him some. But try to find a way to get together with some of the other guys as well. . . ."
Stafford went on to say there's no substitute for running routes for a receiver and catching the ball from the guy you’re going to be catching the ball from during the season. The Lions got good numbers out of Johnson and Golden Tate last year, but the rest of the offense struggled at times. They were 22nd in the league in scoring offense, and no other non-Johnson or Tate receiver had more than 322 receiving yards, the story said.
"C.J. of course, if you talk to him you think he's about a 12-year veteran starter and he's only started six games. I'm getting a ton of reps with him, and the sky is the limit for him, I will say that."
Anderson began to see starter-type touches in Week 10 with 17 touches for 163 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders. Over the final eight weeks, he averaged 24.0 touches for 132 yards and 1.3 TD, and was the #1 RB in that span. If the Broncos commit to Anderson (and why wouldn’t they?), he should thrive under new HC Gary Kubiak, who just coaxed a career year out of journeyman Justin Forsett.
Newly-appointed Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison will look to have a more balanced attack in 2015. A trademark of Dennison’s traditional coaching style, the Broncos will now look to rely on both the rushing and passing offense as opposed to last year’s emphasis on the passing game.
“It’s definitely different,” said Sanders. “You talk about going from a no-huddle offense to an offense that’s huddling up, to an offense that is predicated off running a football and then throwing it. It’s different.”
“It’s a totally different set up, but I tell you what, the more and more I’m in it,” said Sanders. “Because we can get the run game going and just use my vertical speed on cross routes and all these different combinations of routes is based off the play action, then I think the offense will be successful with Peyton Manning at the helm.”
“Of course obviously it’s not going to be one of those offenses, well I’m praying that it is, but obviously it’s not going to be one of those offenses where you catch it and you’re going to have two receivers catching over 100 passes,” said Sanders. “Hopefully, my goal is really to try to get a 1,000 yards to just help this team win ball games.”
The Broncos were pretty balanced last season when compared to the rest of the league. They had the 16th-highest pass/run ratio (57.8%), while new HC Gary Kubiak was running the Baltimore offense with the 22nd-highest ratio (55.3%). With Wes Welker and Julius Thomas gone, we believe that Sanders and Demaryius Thomas are still rock-solid investments in the early rounds, even when we account for a drop in pass attempts.
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