Garoppolo's most extensive NFL action came against the Buffalo Bills in the regular-season finale last December, a meaningless affair for the Patriots in which the rookie entered for Brady in the second half. He completed 10-of-17 passes for 90 yards and was sacked three times.
Drawing conclusions from the 32 snaps that Garoppolo played that afternoon can be dangerous, because the Patriots sat out two key receivers that Garoppolo will have at his disposal this season (Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman) and held out his two best offensive linemen (tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer).
Yet the Bills, even having been eliminated from the playoffs, treated the game as if it had meaning -- they scratched only injured defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and cornerback Stephon Gilmore -- so the contest serves as a fair indication of how opposing defenses might attack Garoppolo in September.
Garoppolo is roughly the same size as Brady but is more mobile, however the story said the Pats can expect defenses to blitz Garoppolo often. The story also said don't rule out the Pats trying to find more ways to take advantage of Graoppolo's mobility instead of simplifying the playbook. Graoppolo will face two pretty tough defenses in Pittsburgh and Buffalo to start the season before seeing Jacksonville in Week 3 and Dallas in Week 4. Matt Flynn will be the backup.
"I'll definitely be ready to practice," said Watkins, who was speaking during his football camp at Erie Community College. "I'll be full go. I'll be prepared to go out there and make plays."
Watkins underwent hip surgery early in the offseason and was held out of live action until minicamp in June.
He didn’t set the lofty standard for himself that came with being a top-five draft pick. The Bills did that after making a stunning trade with the Cleveland Browns to vault from No. 9 to No. 4 overall to select Watkins. By paying the exorbitant price of first- and fourth-round choices in 2015 to make the climb, they instantly identified him as the primary solution to making EJ Manuel look much more like the first-round quarterback he didn’t look like as a rookie in 2013.
Fair or not, Watkins had to live with that label and the expectations that came with it. Ultimately, his 65 catches (tying him with Robert Woods for second on the team behind the 66 of running back Fred Jackson) for 982 yards and six touchdowns didn’t come remotely close to fulfilling them. Manuel was benched after four games, and the Bills proceeded to miss the playoffs for a 15th consecutive year.
Worse for Watkins was the fact that, in a draft packed with superb receiving talent, he took a seat many rows behind Odell Beckham Jr., who caught 91 passes for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns for the New York Giants, the story said. Carolina’s Kelvin Benjamin and Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans were also having more productive seasons and all those guys were taken after Watkins in the 2014 NFL Draft. Watkins is also behind the above WRs in our rankings for this season, coming in 30th. We project a much better season for Watkins (75-1,027-5.9), who has a QB situation more in question than the above players. He's shaping up to be a mid-range WR3 for fantasy teams and could benefit more with some QB stability.
Sunday, July 26, 2015, 4:54pm
Bills WR Percy Harvin was widely seen as a valuable offseason addition. Though it has been a couple of years since he produced at an elite level, his talent to produce that way again is unquestioned. How he exactly fits in Greg Roman’s offense will be refined by Buffalo’s offensive staff through training camp and the preseason. What is a bit clearer is how he will provide a shot in the arm to a Bills offense looking to take a big step forward.
Big play threat
He has three kick returns for touchdowns in his career that have gone for over 100 yards. There’s no debating Percy Harvin’s game breaking ability as a return man. His longest play as a receiver in his career however, is just barely more than half the distance of those return touchdowns (53 yards).
Percy Harvin’s mere presence on the field is enough to draw attention. Provided Harvin’s receiving game continues to develop, it will give opponents a troubling dilemma. Where do they focus their attention when it comes to play calling?
Do they respect Harvin’s deep speed and roll coverage over the top so their cornerback doesn’t get burned? Do they simultaneously roll a safety to Sammy Watkins’ side of the field and play cover two and leave just seven men in the box for LeSean McCoy and the run game? Or do they roll the dice, try to blitz and only play single safety high and hope that deep safety correctly guesses where to provide help?
As determined as the offensive staff is to get Harvin’s game singularly focused on being a receiver, it doesn’t mean that Greg Roman’s creativity won’t enter the picture in a given week from time to time. It might only be a play here or there in a game. We may only see him line up somewhere new once or twice a month this season, but the threat is there and Harvin’s versatility can lead to unwanted surprises for Buffalo’s opponents.
This story comes from the Bills web site, so you may find it a bit ambitious for Harvin, who we rank 56th among our WRs. He's going in a lot of drafts as a mid-to-late round pick so owners are hoping to hit on him as depth guy who can at least turn into a consideration as a starter. The problem with Harvin will at least partly be the QB situation as well as a run-first offensive attack, but it sounds like the Bills want to try and be creative in terms of finding ways to get him the ball. He did have 51 receptions and 33 rushes in 13 games, missing two contests and getting two bye weeks after being traded from Seattle to the Jets.
Sunday, July 26, 2015, 10:28am
It's easy to forget that Thompson spent the final three weeks of last season on the 53-man roster, so it's not out of the question that he earns a roster spot again this season. His best opportunity would be as the No. 6 receiver on the depth chart (if that spot even exists), where he can try to make his mark on special teams.
Rodak thinks, however, the Bills will keep an extra TE or fullback rather than a WR, which puts Thompson on the roster bubble. Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin and Robert Woods are the undisputed top three receivers on the depth chart, with Chris Hogan a firm bet to make the roster and Marcus Easley almost certain to stick as the team's best special teams player.
“This offense right here is tight end heaven,” Bills TE MarQueisGray said, via the Buffalo News. “We move around so much that we really play receiver, slot, we play everything but running back. You could line up at any of those spots — that’s the best part about this offense.”
Tyler Dunne of the Buffalo News points out that this would represent a change in roles for Bills tight ends from the recent past and the $24.5 million that Clay will make over the next two years suggests that the team is set on making him a key part of their offense.
Vernon Davis had a poor 2014 season, but he was used heavily while lining up in a variety of spots during Roman’s time with the 49ers, the story said. Gray added the Bills are making similar plans for Clay and the other players at the position heading into the 2015 season. Clay isn't getting a lot of draft attention right now, and he's down our list at 31st. It's a situation to monitor heading into camps as we're not quite as optimistic right now.
Saturday, July 11, 2015, 9:52am
Bills beat writer Mike Rodak talked about TE Clay Burton, an undrafted rookie.
Rodak: Clay Burton caught my eye this spring during OTAs and minicamp when he saw some first-team action, which was unique among undrafted rookies. The Bills' open competition at tight end behind Charles Clay gives Burton a chance to sneak onto the roster, even if he isn't the No. 2 or No. 3 option at the position.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman could go four-deep at the spot and Burton has the size (6-foot-4, 259 pounds) and physical build of an NFL tight end. Unlike sixth-round draft pick Nick O'Leary, Burton's college production won't win any awards, but he has some traits that could result in the Bills keeping him on their roster.
The story went on to say the path for any undrafted rookie to make the 53-man roster is steep. The Bills didn't have any undrafted rookies make their team out of training camp last season and with a deep roster at most positions, the odds are against it happening this year. It seems as if Burton will have to turn into a preseason star, but even then he could end up on the practice squad. It will be tough to pass Clay as the team's TE1.
While most NFL players are vacationing this month, Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry and his buddy and former LSU teammate, Odell Beckham Jr. (the NFL offensive Rookie of the Year) are pushing themselves through grueling morning workout at well-regarded trainer Pete Bommarito’s Performance Systems facility in Davie.
Landry is determined to improve his speed to prove he’s more than a slot receiver.
Is his speed better? “Absolutely,” Landry said this week. “I can’t wait to show it.”
Landry flashed that explosiveness when he caught a deep ball from Ryan Tannehill during the Dolphins’ minicamp last month.
“You can see the difference with Jarvis,” Bommarito said. “There’s a difference between straight line speed and football speed. He’s excelled at both.”
Landry was the #42 WR in standard formats and #30 in PPR, so as a high-volume slot receiver, he's going to have more value in PPR formats. The Dolphins lost four of their top six most-targeted players: Mike Wallace, Charles Clay, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson. They have been replaced by Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings, DeVante Parker and Jordan Cameron, but Landry's role should expand as well. He only played 62% of the snaps on the season, and didn't start playing consistent starter's snaps until Week 9. Over the final nine weeks, Landry was the #15 WR in PPR formats (and #23 in standard). He is currently the 24th WR off the board in early PPR drafts.
Tuesday, July 7, 2015, 10:30am
Ronde Barber knows a thing or two about quarterbacks after spending his entire 16-year NFL career trying to intercept them. So what does he think about the Bucs’ new signal-caller, Jameis Winston? Last week, the Buccaneer great sat down with CBS to discuss.
“He gives you the spectacular, but he also gives you the rookie," Barber said, via JoeBucsFan. “But what I will say about (Jameis) is he plays with zero fear. He’ll let go of any ball. He has that confidence. I’ve played against guys that have supreme confidence in themselves and their ability to make plays. You can already see it. He has no fear letting the ball go."
It’s easy to draw the comparison between Winston and Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel. Winston succeeded Manuel as Florida State’s starter and both were first-round picks in the NFL Draft. But according to Barber, they’re nothing alike.
“The guy that preceded him at Florida State, E.J. Manuel, I did a couple of games of Buffalo over these two years that I’ve been working at FOX, and he is the other way,” Barber said. “He’s timid. He holds the ball. He’s scared to deliver it when he needs to. This guy (Winston) is the complete opposite, maybe to a detriment at times; he throws a lot of interceptions."
Winston will likely see many highs and lows this season, as any rookie does. But the good news is he's got two, star WRs to throw to in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. The bad news is the offensive line is a question. It may be a tough go at first, but things should start to click with game experience. We rank Winston 24th, which puts him outside QB2 range in ten team leagues, but he could end up being a waiver wire pickup at some point this season with QB2 value and a chance to be a streaming starter.
Sunday, July 5, 2015, 8:56pm
If anyone wants assurances the Minnesota Vikings are heading in the right direction with Teddy Bridgewater as their quarterback, Norv Turner says to watch video of the last six games from Bridgewater's rookie season in 2014.
"He was much more decisive," said Turner, entering his second season as offensive coordinator. "We were very specific in terms of what we were doing. I think we had a good feel for what we did best as a unit. We had so many changes early: a culmination of obviously playing three quarterbacks over a period of time, the offensive line shuffling in and out, the backfield situation. I don't care if you had a veteran quarterback — it was going to be a challenge."
Matt Cassel began last season as the starter but a broken foot in Week 3 landed him on injured reserve. The story said the Vikings were in no rush to put Bridgewater on the field, but the first-round draft pick acquitted himself fairly well under the circumstances — particularly in the last six games, in which he completed more than 70% of his passes four times, throwing for 10 touchdowns with six interceptions as the Vikings averaged 24 points a game. We have Bridgwater rankd 17th on our QB list so he's going to have QB2 value and certainly seems on the rise.
The Bills brought in two new quarterbacks this offseason, trading for Matt Cassel and signing Tyrod Taylor. Most people figured Cassel was in line to start and Taylor was brought in to be a backup. But that may not be the case.
The Buffalo News reports that Bills coach Rex Ryan has shown greater enthusiasm for Taylor than for Cassel, that Ryan has wanted to coach Taylor for a long time and previously wanted the Jets to acquire him, and that Ryan says Taylor is the fastest quarterback in the NFL and can change games with his speed.
It's going to be a run-heavy offense, but if Taylor wins the job, he could become fantasy relevant thanks to his ability to run the ball. The Bills aren't lacking for receiving weapons, either.
Monday, June 29, 2015, 9:52am
Bucs WR Mike Evans helped make the 2014 rookie receiver class one of the best in NFL history.
When asked by USA Today's Tom Pelissero recently if there is a competition within the group to be the best, Evans wouldn't constrain it to merely his own draft class.
"I'm just trying to be the best, period," he said.
While Beckham bathed in the spotlight in 2014, especially after his ridiculous one-handed catch on Sunday Night Football, Evans put up his 12-touchdown, 1,051-yard season relatively quietly on a two-win Buccaneers team. You can argue Evans' QB situation was among the worst of that group. But with Jameis Winston under the helm and Evans taking over the "X" receiver role in the Bucs' new offense under coordinator Dirk Koetter, the second-year pass catcher is confident he can push his name further into the national consciousness. We think so too as Evans is ranked eighth among our WRs this season heading into camps. He has an ADP of the third round and we project him for over 10 TDs and 1,200 yards.
Saturday, June 27, 2015, 1:51pm
Bills beat writer Vic Carucci answered a question about keeping struggling QB Matt Cassel because he's a veteran.
Carucci: [$4.75 million] is a whole lot of cap space to devote to a backup. I believe the Bills acquired Cassel in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings last March with the intention of making him their starter. Furthermore, I would fully expect the Bills to extend Cassel’s contract to provide cap relief if they are convinced he will have the job.
The fact that hasn’t happened and that there is no indication of it happening any time soon after his struggles through the offseason raise some legitimate questions about whether he will be on the roster if he isn’t starting.
Carucci said he thinks Cassel is wired to accept a backup role as a mentor to EJ Manuel or Tyrod Taylor or any younger starter, but doubts the Bills would devote that much to their cap. With a run-first plan of attack likely still in place, whoever the Bills starter is won't have a ton of week-to-week fantasy value.
Head coach Rex Ryan is on board with WR coach Sanjay Lal’s plan to develop Percy Harvin as a bona fide receiver on the outside. Harvin never had enough time to invest in being an outside threat because he was spending too much practice time elsewhere on the field, be it in the slot or the offensive backfield or on kick return with his previous clubs.
“He’s a playmaker and I think Percy now he’s just scratching the surface of what kind of outside receiver he can be,” said Ryan. “I’m excited to see how he can elevate his game at that position. He’s extremely talented.”
“Sometimes Percy Harvin may get 10 balls thrown to him. Maybe the next week he gets three, but that’s okay because we just want to win,” said Ryan. “It could mean your number is dialed up a lot more this week than it was the last week. That’s just part of it. We know we have a lot of playmakers and we plan to get the ball in all of their hands.”
This is all well and good, but the Bills still have serious quarterback issues and an offensive coordinator (Greg Roman) who never had an offense finish better than 23rd in total passing yards in four seasons in San Francisco.
Dolphins players have been effusive about how Ryan Tannehill has looked all offseason. Even the deep throws are improved. “Ryan is way better than last year and more of a leader,” tight end Dion Sims said.
In his first three seasons, Tannehill finished #24, #16 and finally #9 in quarterback scoring. That’s a nice trend. The Dolphins spent the offseason trying to upgrade his weapons, and ended up with Jordan Cameron at tight end to go along with Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker and Greg Jennings at receiver. Sure, they traded away Mike Wallace and let Charles Clay walk, but that trio (and the emerging Jarvis Landry) should be able to more than offset those losses. Tannehill has a good coordinator in Bill Lazor and host of weapons to utilize. He looks like a very safe pick in the 9th round.
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