Monday, July 27, 2015, 9:35am
Based on recent conversations with those inside the Bengals organization, one fact rings true: The Bengals really like WR A.J. Green. They want him to stay in stripes for a very long time, and they believe he will ultimately do that.
None of that should come as a surprise. After all, Green has been to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons. In those same seasons, he has been one of two NFL receivers to end each year with 1,000 yards receiving and five touchdowns, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The other is Calvin Johnson, the league's highest-paid wide out.
What we do know, the story went on to say, is that Green isn't too concerned about the immediacy of his new deal. Earlier this month, during his football camp for kids around Cincinnati, he said he had no problem waiting until after this season to talk to the team about locking him up long term. Those comments came about a week before Bryant and Thomas got their deals that helped set the market for top-end receiver value. This past weekend, Green echoed his previous sentiments to one of his home state television stations, but he added that he knows his "time is coming." At least the way things stand now, it looks like this won't be too messy of a situation when the time comes to get a deal done and Green will remain a Bengal.
Sunday, July 26, 2015, 11:13am
The Lions return all five of their receivers from the end of last season — Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Jeremy Ross, Corey Fuller and Ryan Broyles — plus add TJ Jones (back from IR) and Lance Moore (free agent) to the mix. This competition will be fierce, and someone notable is guaranteed not to have a job at the end of camp.
The numbers are there, and so is the production from the two-headed monster of Johnson and Tate. But Detroit got little out of its third receivers last season (primarily Ross) and is looking for someone to step up as a complement this season.
Moore would seem to be the favorite, as the most experienced of all the candidates for the job, both in years in the league and years in this offense. He grabbed 346 passes for 4,281 yards in eights seasons with the Saints, seven of which occurred with current Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi on staff.
The Lions third WR could have some fantasy value in their passing offense. Detroit touted that experience when signing Moore, and quarterback Matthew Stafford has gone on and on about how Moore sees things in this offense that other receivers don't. Competency in the offense, and reliable route-running, were issues last year, the story said. The piece also added the staff still likes Fuller a lot, because his size and top-end speed allow him to stretch a defense the way Detroit's other No. 3 possibilities cannot. Broyles and Jones are both smaller receivers who do their best work underneath, and it's hard to see a situation where both make the team.
Lions beat writer Michael Rothstein (of ESPN) projects Joique Bell to start over Ameer Abdullah, adding, "The Lions ranked 28th in rushing last season, but Bell had a career year putting up 860 yards with seven touchdowns."
Bell was the #14 RB in standard formats (#13 in PPR), while racking up 257 touches in 15 games. That works out to a 17.1-touch average. While he certainly benefited from Reggie Bush's injury-plagued season, Bell dominated the touches even when Bush was active and playing. He should continue to see RB1-type touches in 2015 with Bush out of the way, though the arrival of Abdullah is a concern.
The Lions were about a 58-42 pass to run team last season. HC Jim aldwell wants that number closer to 50-50.
Caldwell wants to run the ball more consistently and that couldn’t be more evident than with the selection of guard Laken Tomlinson in the first round and running back Ameer Abdullah in the second round.
Abdullah is going to play a similar role as Reggie Bush did in this offense and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets somewhere in the range of 15 touches per game as a runner and pass catcher.
Joique Bell was the team's leading rusher last year and averaged about 15 carries per game. If Abdullah is as good as the Lions think he’ll be, I’m guessing he gets around 15 touches per game early in the season and potentially builds on that as the year goes on.
We currently project Abdullah for 11.3 touches per game (3.6 catches), so Twentyman's projection is aggressive. The Lions are going to have to get closer to that aforementioned 50/50 split if they're going to support both Abdullah and Bell as viable fantasy starters. If he meets these expectations, Abdullah is shaping up as a nice value in the late 4th or 5th round.
Lions RB Joique Bell missed most of last spring’s workouts recovering from an injury and had the best statistical season of his career, but there seems to be more concern this time around with Bell. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said during OTAs that while the team expects Bell to fully recover from his knee and Achilles injuries from last season, there is concern until they see him back on the field.
Bell recently predicted a 1,200-yard season, so he doesn't seem to be too worried about his health. Bell was the #14 RB in standard formats (#13 in PPR), while racking up 257 touches in 15 games. That works out to a 17.1-touch average. While he certainly benefited from Reggie Bush's injury-plagued season, Bell dominated the touches even when Bush was active and playing. If healthy, he should continue to see RB1-type touches in 2015 with Bush out of the way, though the arrival of Ameer Abdullah is a concern.
The Dallas Cowboys and their franchised-tagged star wideout Dez Bryant have hammered out a long-term contract ahead of Wednesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline. Bryant agreed in principle to a five-year, $70 million deal with $45 million guaranteed, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported. While nowhere close to the $16 million per year earned by Detroit's Calvin Johnson, Bryant's $14 million average per season exceeds the $12.82 million he would have made in 2015 by signing his franchise tag. The new pact puts to bed a summer-long drama that saw negotiations flatline between Dallas and Bryant.
Bryant is coming off a monster campaign that saw him set a career mark with 16 touchdowns, and he rolls into September as the heart and soul of a Cowboys offense, especially now with RB DeMarco Murray leaving for the Eagles. Bryant has emerged over five seasons as a top-five NFL wideout, both in real life and the fantasy world. We rank Bryant fourth on our WR list, but he's getting drafted as a top-three fantasy WR, and in the first round. Owners and potential owners can now rest easy because Bryant had threatened to miss camp and games if no long-term deal was reached. He should be poised for another big season as the center point of the Dallas offense, especially with the questions surrounding the running game.
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.
Ameer Abdullah has been as impressive as a back can be without pads over the offseason training program and minicamp. He’s proven to be a better receiver than the Lions initially thought and his quick twitch and speed were highlighted in offseason practices. He’ll be a big part of the Lions’ offense in 2015 and will also try and win the punt and kickoff return duties.
Most scouts seem to agree that Abdullah doesn’t project to be an every-down back, so Joique Bell’s between-the-tackles role should be safe, at least for this season. On the other hand, Theo Riddick’s role as the Lions’ third-down back is in serious jeopardy. If things break his way and he sees significant time on passing downs, Abdullah could ultimately post top 25 numbers in PPR formats.
Tuesday, July 7, 2015, 6:51pm
The Broncos placed their $12.82 million franchise tag on Demaryius Thomas in March and have until 2 p.m. on July 15 to secure a long-term deal. If not, Thomas can sign the one-year contract and play on the guaranteed tag this season. Elway sits two-for-two in these situations, having worked out deals with kicker Matt Prater and left tackle Ryan Clady. Going three-for-three represents a challenge even for a former top Major League Baseball prospect like Elway. The sides began discussing an extension a year ago but have been unable to bridge the gap. Thomas ranks among the game's elite. The Broncos have said they want to sign him long term. However, they would like it at a fair cost that represents a compromise by both sides.
The author says: the Broncos are attempting, it appears, to find a balance between respect and restraint. They know Thomas is a playmaker. The also know Thomas is better than Mike Wallace, the game's second-highest paid receiver with $30 million guaranteed on his contract. They also realize that the entire industry views the contract of top-paid wideout Calvin Johnson, whom Thomas has said he believes he's better than, as an outlier. It has tangled the web with Dez Bryant's talks with the Cowboys; he's in the same franchise-tag situation as Thomas. Thomas is third on our WR list but his ADP shows he's been the fourth WR off the board at the position. We project him for 106 catches and over 1,500 yards.
Monday, July 6, 2015, 8:17am
A former second-round draft pick, Broyles is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract with the Lions. The former all-time receiving leader in NCAA history, he was buried deep on the depth chart last season, getting on the field for just 34 snaps after battling back from a serious leg injury for the third consecutive year.
It's a make-or-break camp for Broyles. Last year, the Lions only viewed him as insurance for the durable Tate, but with opportunities in the slot and fielding punts, Broyles could finally emerge as the weapon the Lions envisioned when they drafted him in 2012.
Prior to a disappointing single-season stint in Pittsburgh, Moore had several productive years with the New Orleans Saints, playing in a similar offense to the one coordinator Joe Lombardi has installed in Detroit. The story went on to say Jeremy Ross served as the team's primary slot receiver last year, but despite playing more than 700 offensive snaps, he recorded just 24 grabs for 314 yards and one score. Ross is so far the early favorite taking a majority of the snaps, but the team is hoping Broyles or Moore make a push. In an offense like the Lions, a productive slot receiver could end up on the fantasy radar in deeper leagues at least.
Saturday, July 4, 2015, 10:20am
Second-year tight end Eric Ebron has expressed interest in joining QB Matthew Stafford in Atlanta at some point over the next month, and it wouldn’t be surprising if other guys find their way down there too.
"This team is a hard-working team and when we go away, we come back in great shape," Stafford said. "But 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."
Stafford will hook up with WR Calvin Johnson but hopes others, like Ebron, make it a point to be there, too. The offense is expected to run much smoother in year two of Joe Lombardi’s system. Stafford has already talked about being much more comfortable with it. The story went on to say Ebron is expected to play a big role this season, and continuing to work with some of the other guys – like a Jeremy Ross or veteran Lance Moore – over the next month will only help Stafford and this offense be able to hit the ground running for the start of training camp.
Dorial Green-Beckham spent weeks sidelined by a hamstring injury. That aside, his former college coach believes the Titans have landed the equivalent of a "nightmare matchup for any cornerback at any level."
"I was with the Colts with Jim Mora when he had Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, I was with the Raiders when they had Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Jerry Porter and some other guys on the Super Bowl team," University of Texas receivers coach Jay Norvell told the Tennessean.
Norvell spent last season coaching the red-shirted Green-Beckham in practice at Oklahoma, saying: "When you go through the history of the draft and look at the guys with size and speed and all that, he is just unique. Calvin Johnson is probably one of the closest comparisons physically because of his size."
"He's not a finished product, but most players aren't," Norvell said. "So he's going to have to learn the pro game and that's a completely different game from college. But he's got some natural gifts that will help him in that game, and in some ways, the NFL is probably a better game for him than college football, just because of the bump rules and (less) contact and all of that. So there are some advantages he has. ... That's why they picked him."
If Green-Beckham picks up things quickly and proves he’s not as raw as his detractors say — one offensive coordinator said he was “completely lost” at the whiteboard in a pre-draft interview — he could certainly start early in the season opposite Kendall Wright, since it seems that Justin Hunter is on the outs with the current coaching staff. If he sees starter’s snaps, he should be fantasy relevant as a rookie, though he'll have to prove he's ready for the mental side of the game. Long-term, he has a chance to flourish if both he and Marcus Mariota are the real deal.
Lions RB Joique Bell isn't worried about the knee injury that has sidelined him for the entirety of this offseason. He isn't worried about the Achilles either.
He really, really isn't.
Bell is so confident about this season, in fact, that he's predicting he'll become the second Detroit Lions running back to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards since 2004 -- and then some.
"I'm going to rush for over 1,200 yards," Bell told MLive.com. "That's the minimum. If I do less than that, I'll be surprised. I'll be disappointed.
"Anything more than that, I wouldn't be surprised at all."
Bell was the #14 RB in standard formats (#13 in PPR), while racking up 257 touches in 15 games. That works out to a 17.1-touch average. While he certainly benefited from Reggie Bush's injury-plagued season, Bell dominated the touches even when Bush was active and playing. He should continue to see RB1-type touches in 2015 with Bush out of the way, though the arrival of Ameer Abdullah is a concern. Abdullah has shined with Bell sitting out of offseason activities, but Bell should still see 14-15 touches per game.
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.
Sunday, June 28, 2015, 4:39pm
Giants QB Eli Manning, 34, signed a six-year, $97 million deal with the Giants in 2009. It's been re-worked frequently to create salary-cap room but Manning's still on the same deal. It expires after the 2015 season.
Despite his age and despite his propensity for throwing picks (he's led the league three times, including 2013), Manning has two Super Bowl MVP awards and certainly qualifies as a top-end quarterback.
From a fantasy perspective, Manning had one of the best statistical seasons of his career in 2014, throwing for 4,410 yards with 30 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions. That he did it in a new offensive scheme is only more impressive. It was a rough start for the Giants but the emergence of Odell Beckham Jr at WR certainly helped turn around the offense. WR Victor Cruz should be back healthy and the team signed Shane Vereen as a pass-catching running back. The point of the story is more times than not, QBs tend to get deals done with their current team, so there's a good chance Manning stays in New York - and he has the potential for a nice 2015. He's ranked ninth on our QB list heading into camps. With an ADP of the 12th round, he's a potential sneaky pick because guys behind him in our rankings - Tony Romo, Ryan Tannehill, Philip Rivers and Matthew Stafford - all project to come off the board before Manning.
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