The coaches lauded the work of Terrance Williams in Bryant's absence during the offseason program. Williams became the de facto leader of the wide receiver room. He and QB Tony Romo were much more in-tune with each other.
"He's not only taken a tremendous leadership role in the group, really setting the example of how you do things, he's expanded his route inventory," wide receivers coach Derek Dooley said at the conclusion of last month's minicamp. "He's played X. He's played Z. He's played in the slot and every day he went out there and was the same player. Every route, every opportunity he had he took advantage of it. So he's made a big jump this offseason."
Devin Street worked with the starters with Bryant absent. He had just two catches as a rookie in 2014 but the coaches liked his development through the year. Getting the extra work with Romo in the spring will help his development this year. Coaches say players make the biggest jumps between their rookie and second seasons. While any work would have been good work for Street, having that work come with Romo is an added bonus.
While there's still time before the July 15 deadline, it doesn't hurt fantasy owners to at least think about life without Bryant on the fantasy radar and what it could mean for other players' value. The story went on to say WR Cole Beasley would continue to serve as the No. 3 receiver in the slot, so his role would essentially be the same, but it could change how much the Cowboys use three wide receiver formations. The article added that tight end Gavin Escobar could be used more in a receiver role, which would likely eat more into Street's snaps than Beasley's.
Just like in the game of cards, jokers are amazing weapons in football because they don’t fit into the book easily when it comes to figuring out ways to defend them.
It is often used to describe the difficult to handle tight ends, but I think we can also list the running backs who aren’t actually running backs. Darren Sproles, Reggie Bush, maybe even Randall Cobb, and yes, the Cowboys hope, Lance Dunbar is at least a “poor man’s” version of that. He is listed as a running back, but if we judge him as running backs are judged, we will quickly be underwhelmed with his running the ball (especially inside) and his pass protection. Both are just not up to the NFL grade.
This is a very detailed story breaking down Dunbar's strengths and weaknesses. The article goes on to say the Cowboys remain convinced that his role must be expanded as a weapon used in ways that are simply difficult to account for by a defense. The author added Dunbar as a runner has a 2-year track record of A) not getting the ball as a RB and B) not being productive enough to compel the staff to give him the ball more. But, he pointed out a Dunbar-led attack helped to knock off Seattle on the road last year, however he wasn't used much after that. The story also says his pass protection is suspect and the team doesn't appear to want to simply hand him the ball as a RB. He's capable of big plays, but probably not consistent fantasy points. Joseph Randle is ranked 24th on our RB list and is expected to at least split carries with Darren McFadden.
Steelers RBs Josh Harris and Dri Archer are both going into their second NFL seasons. But since Archer arrived as a third-round pick and Harris as an in-camp free agent signing, the expectation level is dramatically different as are the roles each player will try to fill. For Harris, it’s to show himself capable of being a traditional No. 2 running back during the length of LeVeon Bell’s suspension. Carry the football, catch the occasional pass, step up and deliver in pass protection. Because the Steelers figure to utilize more than one running back in every regular season game, Harris will have to convince the coaches he can be trusted to play on Sept. 10 in New England. Archer’s chore is similar, but he’ll be competing for a less traditional role. It makes little sense to expect someone who’s 5-foot-8 and 173 pounds to run the ball between the tackles and take on blitzing linebackers, and so the Steelers are expected to look for ways to maximize his difference-making speed.
There's no doubt Bell will carry the load once he's fully back from his suspension, which currently stands at three games. DeAngelo Williams figures to be the RB1 while Bell sits, and should have RB2 value in that time. The team seems concerned with Williams' injury history, so if Harris can step up, he figures to get some work in an attempt to try and keep Williams healthy. Williams can be had in the late rounds while Bell is still an attractive, early-first-round option because of his running and pass-catching abilities. Anyone who drafts Bell may want to consider reaching a little earlier for Williams. His current ADP is the 12th round in 12-team leagues.
It is not just the Cardinals and their fans who are expecting WR John Brown to be a difference maker in the Cardinals offense. NFL.com writer Chris Wesseling ranked Brown sixth in his list of players he believes will "make the leap" this season and start to become a household name around the NFL.
"It's rare to come across an offseason hype bunny who meets expectations as a rookie. It's even more rare to find an NFL draft sleeper in the height of the Twitter era. A hidden gem from small-school Pittsburg State, the third-round pick immediately impressed the Cardinals with his high-end speed, uncanny instincts and unexpected understanding of route concepts.
The article went on to say Wesseling thinks Brown needs to work on his strength, but he believes it's not out of the question Brown could pass teammate Michael Floyd this year. Right now we have Brown ranked 45th on our WR list with an ADP of the 9th round. Interestingly, we have the Cardinal WRs all going around the same time in 12-team formats: Brown 9.07, Floyd 8.04 and Larry Fitzgerald 8.11. However it's Fitzgerald who we have rated the highest at 24th (Floyd's ranked 39th on our list). Fitz could end up being the best value among the three as other WRs ranked around Fitzgerald are all going as many as three rounds earlier. A healthy QB Carson Palmer is the key to how successful the Arizona passing game is this season, and of course all three of these guys will help boost Palmer's value.
Monday, July 13, 2015, 5:06pm
According to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com, there have been no talks about an extension between Jones and the team.
The good news here is Jones already promised he wasn’t going to be “selifsh” and hold out, unlike another situation, the story points out. Jones is a late-first, early-second round selection in fantasy drafts this year.
And after five 1,000-yard rushing seasons in the last six years, with one year lost to a torn anterior cruciate ligament, no one would blame Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles if his body felt far older than his 28 years.
Yet he is heading into his eighth NFL season saying he feels young.
"I feel like I am 20, 21," Charles said this spring. "I feel good. I feel healthy. I eat right. I take vitamins. I do yoga. I'm doing everything I am supposed to do to keep my body up at my age."
Andy Reid likes to ride his RB1 even when he has a capable backup, which he certainly has in Knile Davis. Davis did see a bump in touches last year, however, going from 5.1 to 9.4. We predict Charles for just under 1,200 yards this season and he should be among the RB leaders in receptions as he's proven to be a big part of the team's passing game. That should mean close to 300 touches for Charles. We rank Charles fourth on our RB list, but in a lot of drafts he's going as high as second behind Adrian Peterson. Backing yourself with Davis is a good idea if you can afford the roster spot.
Monday, July 13, 2015, 2:23pm
For the third straight year, the Packers enter the season knowing who their top two running backs are. Training camp and the preseason will be used to figure out a new third option.
Eddie Lacy and James Starks combined for 1,472 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in 2014. That’s a slight drop from their collective production the prior year (1,671 yards and 14 TDs) when they were relied on more during quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ injury absence.
The story pointed out Neal was making a bid for a roster spot last summer, only to be sidelined the rest of camp with a knee injury. He was placed on injured reserve at the first roster reduction and was eventually brought back to the practice squad right after last season’s bye week. Spending the rest of his rookie season in Green Bay appeared to pay dividends for Neal this past spring, as he got a lot of work during OTAs and showed trustworthy hands catching passes out of the backfield, the story added.
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.
The Cowboys and wide receiver Dez Bryant face a July 15 deadline to work out a multi-year contract extension and Bryant is reportedly doing what he can to turn up the heat on the team with Wednesday fast approaching. Ed Werder of ESPN reports that Bryant called Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones with an ultimatum about contract talks. Per Werder, Bryant told Jones that he will skip training camp if he isn’t signed to a deal other than the franchise tag by the deadline. Bryant also reportedly said that his absence from the team will extend to “real games” when the season gets underway in September.
Depending on where you get your information, some say the sides are close, while others say they are still far apart. As the story said, it’s not the first time that the prospect of Bryant missing games has come up this offseason, but no one from the Cowboys seemed to take the threats all that seriously. Perhaps this will change things as we head into Wednesday's deadline. Bryant took it a step further Monday tweeting out: "As much as I love football...on my beautiful babies.. I apologize #cowboynation but I will not be there if no deal #fact."
The contest between RBs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman should extend far beyond camp. Each has stated he plans on being the starter, and while they can share the load, something will eventually have to give.
Both appear to be schematic fits, and both have the potential to be effective in the NFL. Freeman displayed flashes of brilliance last year, his first in Atlanta; Coleman rushed for more than 2,000 as a senior at Indiana University.
With Steven Jackson out of the way, Freeman was expected to be the starter in 2015, but the drafting of Coleman appears to have changed that. Freeman was perhaps more successful in the passing game so he could have some PPR value, but it looks like there will at least be some kind of a timeshare. We rank Freeman 33rd and Coleman 38th on our RB list, but Coleman is actually going a round or two earlier in drafts as owners are buying into him as the eventual lead back.
“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.
The Atlanta Falcons have some intriguing options at wide receiver heading into 2015. This includes the obvious options of Julio Jones and Roddy White, but also Leonard Hankerson, Devin Hester and none other than rookie Justin Hardy. Hardy, for one, is a player who has massive upside and potential. Brian Jones of 247Sports is obviously a big believer in this, as he called Hardy the "secret weapon" for the Falcons.
"The answer is simple. It’s always good to have a plethora of weapons on offense, but Hardy is a weapon that no one will be talking about until the 2015 season gets rolling and makes plays. And the reason that Hardy will be a secret weapon is also simple. Hardy played at a smaller school (East Carolina), and he’s not the biggest receiver as he stands a shade over six-feet tall." Jones explained.
He continued by breaking down exactly what Hardy did during his career with the Pirates.
"But being overlooked is nothing new to Hardy. In fact, East Carolina did not offer him a scholarship his freshman year. He made his way on the team as a walk-on, but earned a scholarship the following season. From there, he became the NCAA’s career all-time reception leader, and was awarded the Burlsworth Trophy which is given to the most outstanding player who started his career as a walk-on." said Jones.
It's hard to argue with his point. Hardy has serious potential and the fact that he fell to the fourth-round in the 2015 NFL draft was a bit of a surprise to everyone. The Falcons nabbed the talented receiver and have to be happy about where they got him.
Hardy likely won't get drafted in typical leagues and he's way down our WR list. Jones and White are obviously the studs, but it's not out of the question Hardy could earn some playing by passing Hankerson and Hester on the depth chart. Right now he's just a name to keep in the back of your mind.
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.
Saturday, July 11, 2015, 5:48pm
"We can't run from it because they're going to say it," Jackson told ESPN.com's Coley Harvey. "Now you've got to go live up to it. There should be no pressure in that. All it is to go out and work. To me, if a guy wants to be great, he's got to relish that. He's got to want that and then go exceed it.
"That would be my challenge to (Hill). I expect him to exceed whatever the expectation is about him."
Hill's play down the stretch was phenomenal. He led the NFL in rushing yards and yards per carry in the second half of the 2014 season.
Around The NFL's Chris Wesseling is one of many who singled out Hill for a big 2015 campaign, going so far as to say the young back, "has a chance to rival Corey Dillon and James Brooks as the best backs in franchise history if he can avoid serious injury."
To Hill's credit, he says he's not trying to get caught up in the hype. The backfield of Hill and Giovani Bernard gives the Bengals a dangerous one-two punch, but it's Hill who has now emerged as the fantasy back to own. We rank Hill 11th among our RBs. He should get the early down work while Bernard is a pass-catching, change of pace back. Hill is available in the middle of the second in fantasy drafts and would make a pretty good RB2 if you decided to go RB-RB with your top-two picks. But having a back like Hill around early second also means you can address WR or even TE first.
Saturday, July 11, 2015, 11:44am
Texans QB Brian Hoyer offers HC Bill O'Brien the more known quantity after starting 14 games for the Cleveland Browns last season, but he finished the year with a 1-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his last four games.
Ryan Mallett offers more upside, but he remains a relative unknown with just 79 career passing attempts. Even if Hoyer begins the season as starter, he could at some point give way to Mallett, much like he did late last season with Johnny Manziel.
Tom Savage remains a developmental project who can bide his time behind the other two.
Hoyer showed flashes, especially two years ago with the Browns before getting hurt, but last year struggled. If Hoyer wins the job he'll have a better running game to work with compared to Cleveland as Arian Foster is one of the top backs in the league. DeAndre Hopkins will be the featured target of the aerial attack. Cecil Shorts was limited by injuries and reduced opportunities in the Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive youth movement, but he arrives as a versatile starting option. Third-round pick Jaelen Strong could carve out an early role as a possession receiver. Right now, the Texans QB starter only has streaming potential until we see more stability.