Steelers RB DeAngelo Williams is considered a bridge back until LeVeon Bell returns from suspension, but he shouldn't be alone on that bridge. The Steelers will need just as much from Dri Archer as from Williams, who signed a two-year, $4 million deal worth $1.13 million in signing bonus money but no incentives in 2015.
Williams is exactly what the money suggests he is -- a veteran who can get you 10-12 carries at a respectable clip and nothing more.
There's not much to love about the idea of starting Williams against the Patriots, 49ers and Rams during Bell's three-game suspension, but we believe that the team will try to get him closer to 15 carries per game. He should be healthy to start the season, and there are reasons why he only averaged 12.2 carries per game in his career -- he was splitting time with Jonathan Stewart and QB Cam Newton carried much of the rushing load for the Panthers. The biggest concern is Williams' 3.5 YPC last season, but he battled injuries the whole way. We think he'll provide low-end RB2 numbers while Bell is sidelined, provided he's healthy.
NESN's Doug Kyed on the team's passing-down running back competition:
Kyed also mentions Cadet, whom the Patriots went out and signed to a three-year deal. We would have thought White had the inside track as well, but that doesn't explain why the team signed Cadet. Whoever wins the job will become instantly relevant in PPR formats.
Shane Vereen caught 124 balls in 29 games over the past two years. His presence will undoubtedly be missed.
No single player on the Pats roster will fill his void. So here's what may happen: The Patriots have more talent at the No. 2 tight end spot than they did a year ago, so that position figures to command more targets while the running backs figure to command less.
Of that group, Cadet, a free agent signee from New Orleans, is the most intriguing. He has great receiving skills, as you'll see here, and seems comfortable splitting out wide and running routes, a rare trait for a running back.
If any single back wins the Patriots' pass-catching role outright, he'll suddenly be a factor in PPR formats. Vereen averaged 4.3 catches per game over the past two years (including the postseason). That projects to 68.8 receptions over a full 16-game season.
Scott Chandler isn't a "move" tight end, though. At 6-foot-7, 260 pounds, he's similar to Gronk. He's a massive in-line tight end and a matchup problem for all safeties.
The addition of Chandler could mean more snaps at wide receiver for Gronk. The Pats offense was particularly effective a year ago when both Gronk and Julian Edelman were split together on one side.
Keep an eye on Fred Davis here, too. In the midst of the Deflategate madness, the Pats signed the troubled tight end to a one-year deal. It's a flier, for sure, but Davis is a "move" tight end with plenty of talent and plenty of past off-the-field issues.
Chandler is no slouch. He produced in spots for the Bills and while he doesn't fit the profile of a typical "move" TE, the Pats could elect to use Gronk in that role while leaving Chandler inside.
The NFL took deflate-gate very seriously, hammering the New England Patriots with unheard of punishment in the matter of deflated footballs.
The league announced Monday that quarterback Tom Brady was suspended four games, the team was fined $1 million and will lose its 2016 first-round draft pick and a fourth-round pick in 2017.
If Brady doesn't win his (probable) appeal, his fantasy value will take a huge hit. The Patriots have a Week 4 bye, so he wouldn't be available to owners until Week 6. Jimmy Garoppolo will likely get the start in his place. One potential strategy would be to stream the position until his return, but it depends on how far his ADP falls. With a four game suspension, he won't be ranked in the top 25 in our initial projections. This will be a case of where his season-long ranking won't jibe with what he'll produce on a per game basis upon his return. The loss of Brady for four games will negatively impact the entire New England offense, though they have survived before without him (in 2008 with Matt Cassel). Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell all take a small hit.
Davis was suspended in 2014 following multiple off-the-field incidents. The Patriots have been aggressive at the tight end position this offseason by signing Scott Chandler and now Davis. It appears the team would like to get back to more of those two-TE sets they ran with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The 29-year-old Davis has receiving chops -- he caught 59 passes for 796 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games in 2011, and had a 48-509-6 season in 2009.
Adam Schefter guesses that Patriots QB Tom Brady will face 'some sort of suspension' for DeflateGateThursday, May 7, 2015, 1:15pm
So what comes next for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots?
That's up for the NFL to determine. The Wells Report didn't find absolute evidence that the Patriots tampered with footballs. It found reason to believe they did.
ESPN's Adam Schefter appeared on WEEI Thursday morning to offer his take.
"If I had to guess, and I want to emphasize this is a guess, my guess is that Tom Brady is going to get some sort of suspension, a short suspension," Schefter said, via WEEI.com. "He's going to appeal it. He's going to have grounds to appeal it. He may even waive the appeal and this whole thing about air pressure in footballs continues to go on and detract from a sport and a defending world champion in a completely unnecessary way."
A breakthrough season would be improving on the 84 receptions for 758 yards and 5 TDs he had last year as a rookie. There’s a good chance that happens now that TE Charles Clay and WRs Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson are gone. Tannehill is familiar with Landry, and Landry showed he’s got good NFL skills. He’s got good hands and can get YAC (Yards After Catch).
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 and Jordan Cameron, but Landry's role should expand as well. He only played 62 percent 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.
Roy Helu, 26, looks like a perfect fit for Oakland’s new up-tempo offense that will often feature a no-huddle approach. ESPN scout Matt Williamson thinks Helu can be one of the Raiders’ most productive offensive weapons even though it will be in a limited role.
“While he isn’t great in protection, I think he will be a very valuable piece and a quick safe option for Derek Carr in this up-tempo passing game and offense overall,” Williamson said. “Helu has been extremely productive on a per-snap basis.”
Helu has averaged 2.69 catches per game in his four-year career, and is expected to serve as the team's primary passing down back while Latavius Murray and Trent Richardson compete for early-down duties. The Raiders are planning to move to a more up-tempo offense under OC Bill Musgrave, who spent last season working for Chip Kelly in Philadelphia. Helu is likely to be fantasy relevant in PPR formats, though the explosive Murray should hold the most fantasy value in 2015.
The Steelers will begin the 2015 season without their top running back. The NFL has suspended RB LeVeon Bell for three games without pay for violating its substance-abuse policy, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.
Bell has appealed the ruling, ESPN reported. The tailback has also been docked a fourth game check by the league, per Schefter.
If the suspension holds, Bell can take part in preseason games and training camp before serving his ban away from the club.
Bell’s suspension stems from a DUI charge last summer. He was sentenced to probation, and the charge, along with a marijuana possession count, can be removed from his record if he completes 15 months of service. His former Steelers teammate, LeGarrette Blount, has garnered a one-game suspension for the incident.
Obviously losing Bell for any stretch is a major blow to the Steelers offense. Bell emerged as one of the game’s star dual threats at the position in 2014, racking up more than 2,000 rushing-receiving yards. Ex-Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams figures to have a bigger role with Bell out of the Pittsburgh lineup to begin next season. This could drop Bell a few slots come draft time, but given his workload and last year's success, he should still be a very desirable draft-day selection.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015, 8:22pm
The emergence of Odell Beckham Jr. as a No. 1 wide receiver in his 2014 rookie season after Cruz went down is one of those reasons. The severity of the injury (torn patellar tendon) from which Cruz is recovering is another. And this recent study by NumberFire, which shows that Cruz's production was already in decline in the two years prior to 2014, offers yet another.
The story goes on to say a lot could still depend on what happens in 2015 - whether or when Cruz recovers, how productive he is in the second year of Ben McAdoo's offense, how he meshes with Beckham and Rueben Randle and Shane Vereen and Larry Donnell and Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams, all of the varied weapons available to the Giants on offense. This decision could be an easy one in either direction next February. But the potential is there for it to remain a tricky one, because of a lot of things that weren't yet factors when he signed that contract just two years ago. The Giants would save only $2.45 million against this year's cap if they cut Cruz now, and they have no reason to do so. But the cap savings jumps to $6.1 million if they cut him next offseason, the story adds.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that the Jets are signing running back Stevan Ridley to a one-year deal, according to a source close to the situation. Ridley joins the Jets after spending his first four seasons in New England.
Ridley joins a Jets backfield that includes Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. Ridley's final season with the Patriots ended in October after he tore his ACL and MCL. An opportunity to play in Chan Gailey's offense was a contributing reason to Ridley's decision to choose the Jets, the story said. As the story also points out, Ridley is an established power back who does his best work between the tackles. The same skill-set can be attributed to Ivory, who might find himself on shaky footing under a new regime in New York. The Jets could still use a home-run hitter type back -- if they grab one in the draft, Ivory might be the odd-man out. Of course, Ridley has had ball-security issues throughout his career but has proved to be an effective fantasy back, and certainly has some potential with the Jets, but will likely have his value capped by the other Jet backs.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015, 11:45am
Williams was partly victimized by an offensive line that lost way too many battles at the line of scrimmage, failing to open up holes long enough for Williams to exploit. Only one starting offensive lineman had a positive run blocking grade last season, per Pro Football Focus (left tackle Will Beatty at +6.1).
Williams also displayed poor vision in finding those holes and cutback lanes. At 5-11, 230 pounds, Williams is a bruising north-south runner with some giddy-up when he gets to the second level, but he had trouble grasping the patience aspect of being an every-down back. Instead of waiting a split-second after he was handed the ball for his blocks to materialize, Williams would often run straight ahead, knocking into the backside of his offensive linemen countless times.
That's not to say that Williams' rookie year was a complete lost cause, the story went on to say. He finally broke the 100-yard mark in Week 14 against the woeful Tennessee Titans, busting out for 131 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown. Two weeks later against a much better St. Louis Rams defense, Williams gashed them for 110 yards on 26 carries. Those performances give reason for optimism that Williams can develop into a nice complementary back in his sophomore season. But with Shane Vereen now in the fold as the likely third down running back behind Jennings, that leaves Williams' role this year up for question.
LeGarrette Blount will begin next season on the bench.
A league spokesperson informed NFL Media on Tuesday that the New England Patriots running back has been suspended without pay for the first game of the 2015 regular season for violating the NFL Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse.
The sixth-year back played a core role during New England's Super Bowl run after being released by the Pittsburgh Steelers in mid-November. After running for just 266 yards over 11 games with the Steelers, Blount hammered defenses for 281 yards over New England's final five games of the regular season. He blasted opponents for another 189 yards over three playoff tilts under coach Bill Belichick.
Blount is eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices. He'll be permitted to make his season debut Week 2, the story added. It's a brief suspension, but Blount's absence puts New England in a pinch out of the gate. Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are gone, leaving Jonas Gray, James White, Brandon Bolden and James Develin next up to get work.
Monday, April 6, 2015, 8:03pm
The Jets quarterback has spent time in California this offseason working out with former major-league pitcher-turned-quarterback tutor Tom House, who also has worked with Drew Brees, Alex Smith, Matt Cassel and former Jet Tim Tebow.
"It wasn't a thing where I needed to change things," said Smith, who is 11-18 in two seasons. "It was basically just going out there to work out and get better, and that's what we accomplished."
"As of right now, I'm just focusing on getting better every single day and relishing every single opportunity that I have," Smith said on a conference call Monday after the team's first day of voluntary workouts. "Today's only Day 1, Phase 1."
Smith said he is "very pleased" with the progress he's made, but it remains to be seen what his new coaching staff thinks of him compared with the other quarterbacks on the roster, the story added. The Jets traded for veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and the team has hinted they may want to add another quarterback.
- Page 1