Robinson missed the end of last season with a stress fracture in his foot, and then was limited early in the on-field portion of the offseason program. Once he returned to full speed around the third week of organized team activities early this month, he emerged quickly as one of the standout players of the offseason. He had the offseason look of a player on the rise, and if that look translates to the regular season, he could be a go-to player at a position where the Jaguars haven’t had one in a while.
Just because we’ve talked about Robinson a lot in the last few weeks doesn’t mean he’s the Jaguars’ only young, ascending receiver. Lee missed OTAs and minicamp with a knee injury, but he was close to being on the field during minicamp in June. He appears to have matured after struggling early in his rookie season and he has more explosiveness than any other Jaguars wide receiver. Hurns has been steady, consistent and reliable in a little more than a year since joining the Jaguars. He must reduce his drops, but he showed last season he can get open against NFL defenses.
Robinson averaged 5.2 catches for 61 yards and 0.22 TD from Week 2 to Week 10, which extrapolates to an 84-974-3.6 over the course of a full 16-game season. In other words, he posted fringe WR2-type numbers before suffering a stress fracture in his foot. He should be better this year, provided new TE Julius Thomas doesn't gobble up all the targets. Lee and Hurns are both late-round types as it's not completely clear who is next in the pecking order.
“He studies and he’s smart,” Wilson said, via ESPN. “When you give him something, you know that you’re on to the next thing. Usually with rookies it takes a little while to get it done. Now, he’s still working through some of the protection stuff. But for the most part, when we give him something, he’s pretty much got it. So that’s going to help him stay on the field.”
The Chargers traded up to get Gordon, so we’d expect they’ll use him early and often in 2015. In fact, GM Tom Telesco used the phrase "impact player" 11 times in Gordon's introductory press conference. He doesn’t have a lot of experience as a receiver, so we'd expect that Danny Woodhead still gets a lot of work on third down while Gordon establishes himself as a good weapon out of the backfield.
Thursday, June 25, 2015, 11:55pm
In the final four games (Arizona, Oakland, Pittsburgh and San Diego), Chiefs WR Albert Wilson had the most quarterback targets of any receiver on the team. His 209 yards receiving (52.3 yards per game) also led all wideouts, and his yards after catch per reception number of 9.6 yards led all Chiefs.
Wilson would be a sleeper if not for the arrival of Chris Conley, who has looked good in offseason activities.
Vikings OC Norv Turner had some nice things to say about WR Charles Johnson.
“CJ has picked up where he left off in December and he’s having a good spring,” Turner said.
Johnson won’t technically be labeled as the No. 1 receiver with the Vikings trading for Mike Wallace from the Dolphins, but he’s expected to have a big role in the offense. Johnson built a rapport with Teddy Bridgewater once he took over as the starting “X” receiver over Cordarrelle Paterson, and the chemistry continued throughout OTAs and minicamp this offseason.
Johnson started playing significant snaps in Week 11, and over the final seven games of the season, he averaged 3.6 catches for 59 yards and 0.29 touchdowns. He was the #31 fantasy receiver in that span. He should continue to have plenty of opportunity to grow in Norv Turner's offense despite the arrival of Mike Wallace.
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.
Carlos Hyde missed a lot of the offseason program with a relatively minor leg issue.
That left Reggie Bush to take the first running rep during drills and he reportedly looked strong. Hyde still projects as the early-down starter come Week 1, but his workload will be nibbled into by Bush, rookie Mike Davis and a healthy Kendall Hunter. And if the 49ers end up trailing a lot this season as they very well could, Bush will be logging the majority of snaps as the passing back.
Hyde is expected to take over as the team's primary ball-carrier, with Bush assuming the passing down role. Given Bush's presence and Hyde's 4.0 YPC during in his rookie season, Hyde's upside may be somewhat limited. Expect 240 or so carries and a limited role in the passing game. As for Bush, anytime he stays healthy, he's a factor in PPR formats. He has appeared in 14 or more games in five of his nine NFL seasons, and has finished in the top 14 in PPR leagues in four of those five seasons.
"That is definitely a goal that I'm shooting for," Gurley told NFL Media's Tiffany Blackmon from the NFL Rookie Symposium Wednesday night. "Just to be able to get out there and do at least some individual stuff. It's looking pretty realistic. This month I'll be in St. Louis rehabbing, so hopefully I can aim for (training camp)."
The Rams will bring the No. 10 overall pick along slowly. But if he's healthy come the start of September, Gurley could be a huge part of an offense that has deep question marks in the passing game. Teaming Gurley's power with the likes of Tre Mason in the Rams backfield could provide a potent combo for a run-heavy team that relies on its defense to win games.
Gurley is widely considered to be the best running back in the 2015 draft class, but he’s recovering from a November ACL tear. He’ll be nine months into his recovery in August, so his early season availability is unknown. Typically, an athlete can return to their sport six months after surgery, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be game-ready. Prospective owners should draft Tre Mason if possible as insurance. When Gurley returns, he should provide high end RB2 numbers if he begins to get starter’s touches.
Melvin Gordon gives the Chargers a home-run threat at running back. Gordon exceeded expectations during offseason work, which is impressive, considering goals were high for the Wisconsin product after he was selected in the first round of the draft as the replacement for the departed Ryan Mathews. However, Gordon has to take the next step in training camp, which means playing fast and physical, as well as keeping up with a fast-paced San Diego offense led by Philip Rivers.
The Chargers traded up to get Gordon, so we’d expect they’ll use him early and often in 2015. In fact, GM Tom Telesco used the phrase "impact player" 11 times in Gordon's introductory press conference. Ryan Mathews is gone, so it’s Gordon’s job to lose. He doesn’t have a lot of experience as a receiver, so we'd expect that Danny Woodhead still gets a lot of work on third down while Gordon establishes himself as a good weapon out of the backfield. This somewhat limits Gordon's upside since he doesn't project to be an every-down back as a rookie.
Inaccuracy has been Matthew Stafford's calling card his whole career, completing under 60 percent of his passes in four of his six seasons. Of the top 10 passing quarterbacks in 2014, Stafford had the lowest completion percentage (60.3) while attempting the fifth-most passes in the league (602).
However, news out of Lions minicamp is that Stafford has turned things around and is impressing coach Jim Caldwell. "He's improved," Caldwell told MLive.com on Tuesday. "He has a better feel for the system. You can see our timing's better, receivers have a better sense of the routes that they're running. All around I think we've made some improvement."
"I mean, it's obviously always a work in progress," Stafford offered. "But there's no question we've taken strides forward this spring." Caldwell went on to say that, concerning Stafford's completion percentage, he expects "an improvement from where he was last year."
Stafford finished as the #17 QB last season, but in the three previous seasons, he didn’t finish outside the top 10. Stafford tends to struggle when Calvin Johnson isn’t fully healthy, as was the case last year. He should improve his numbers in his second season in Joe Lombardi's offense, especially with a healthy Johnson back in the fold.
Though it’s unwise to make sweeping inferences from a few offseason workouts, there were signs, as the Redskins wrapped up last week’s minicamp, that Pierre Garcon will be featured more prominently in the 2015 game plan as Coach Jay Gruden attempts to rally from his 4-12 debut as a rookie NFL head coach.
Gruden said more than once last season that he wanted to get Garcon more involved in the passing game. But it never really happened, whether as a result of free agent DeSean Jackson’s addition to the receiving corps, the revolving door at quarterback or the failure of Robert Griffin III to make timely, decisive reads.
When the Redskins got back to work this offseason, Garcon frequently lined up split out wide to the right of Griffin rather than in his customary spot to the quarterback’s left. According to wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard, it represented an attempt to diversify the offense and get players comfortable with other roles.
And both Hilliard and Gruden gushed about the work Garcon was putting in. Heading into his eighth NFL season, Garcon, who’ll turn 29 in August, didn’t miss a session of optional workouts or the mandatory minicamp.
After a #11 finish in PPR formats in 2013, Garcon was the #47 receiver last season. His targets dropped from 182 to 105, thanks to the addition of DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts in free agency. The team is expected to run the ball a bit more this season, so we're not expecting much of a bounce-back season for Garcon.
Bernard’s name came up last week and Johnson appeared to welcome the comparison. Future NFL Hall of Fame running back LaDanian Tomlinson made that exact same comparison, too, during his pre-draft analysis on the NFL Network. And when you break down their measurables and numbers from the Combine, you start to understand why.
Bernard is 5-foot-9 and 208 pounds. Johnson is 5-foot-9 and 210 pounds. Bernard ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds. Johnson did his in 4.54. Both players are undersized but are tough enough to pick up yards between the tackles. And both can definitely make you pay as a receiver out of the backfield, as Bernard racked up 43 receptions for 349 yards in his second season with the Bengals while Johnson had 38 for 421 -- in three fewer games -- during his final season at Miami.
The Cleveland running game is murky at best. The team has two second-year players, Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West, who both had fantasy-relevant moments last season, but they added Johnson to the mix in the Draft. He’s the best receiver of the bunch, so he should have a role on third-down at the very least. But he’s capable of stealing carries as well. The Browns should have a good running game, but it’s going to be a headache trying to project these three on a week-to-week basis. We believe that Johnson is the best bet in PPR formats.
NFL.com writer Conor Orr:
Funchess, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound second-round pick, said as much last week during his NFL.com rookie confessional: "The goal that I've set for myself is to be Rookie of the Year."
Early reports out of camp suggest that the Michigan standout has already played at the X, Z and F slots and is learning all three at a brisk pace. He's giving himself more opportunities to stay on the field and make the plays Newton needs him to.
Funchess will be at best the third option in the passing game after Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen. The Panthers are run-oriented, so their WR2 isn’t typically much of a fantasy factor. If he plays starter’s snaps, he should be fantasy relevant, but we’re not expecting fantasy-starter numbers.
49ers writer Tyler Emerick said that RB Reggie Bush was the team's best free agent addition:
If you’ve followed our offseason coverage, you’ve heard Trent Baalke, Jim Tomsula, Tom Rathman, Geep Chryst and Kaepernick all express the same sentiment: Bush, at 30 years old, looks every bit as explosive as ever. The active leader in receptions by a running back with 466 career catches, Bush has urged the 49ers to get him the ball in space. This offseason, that translated not only into the 10th-year pro catching passes out of the backfield, but also getting carries on stretch plays and returning kicks and punts on special teams. Bush sounds like a man with something to prove, and if he can stay healthy, he’ll be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
Bush is expected to fill a third-down role since it looks like Carlos Hyde is ready to carry most of the rushing load, though Jim Tomsula's comments (about Bush being “a runner...not a gadget guy”) indicate that Bush's presence should be a concern for Hyde owners who were initially excited about the young back's opportunity with Frank Gore gone. The 49ers don't typically use their running backs in the passing game, though longtime OC Greg Roman is gone and new OC Geep Chryst may have a different plan in mind.
49ers.com writer Joe Fann calls Torrey Smith the team's best free agent addition:
The 49ers needed a compliment to Anquan Boldin, and they found the perfect man for the job. Smith is far more than a one-trick pony. Yes, he excels at stretching the field and getting behind defensive backs, but he’s already shown the ability to catch balls in traffic on short and intermediate routes as well. On two specific minicamp plays, Smith caught the ball on a stopping route, then spun away from his defender and accelerated away from everyone in pursuit. I’m not sure I saw him drop a ball this offseason.
Smith got off to a slow start in 2014, posting just six catches for 85 yards in the first three games. Over the final 13 games of the season, he averaged 3.3 receptions for 52 yards and 0.85 touchdowns, which equates to #20 WR-type numbers in PPR formats. As it stands, he finished as the #29 WR in PPR and #19 in standard formats (thanks to the high touchdown rate), which is the fourth time he has finished in the top 23 (in standard formats) in his four-year career. He joins a 49ers receiving corps that has lost Michael Crabtree and has a still-effective Anquan Boldin as a possession receiver. Smith will serve as a deep threat for QB Colin Kaepernick, though this move has to be considered a downgrade from an offensive/quarterback standpoint since the 49ers are typically run-heavy and Joe Flacco is pretty adept at putting touch on the deep ball. Throwing with touch has not been one of Kaepernick's strengths, though he has been working on his passing technique his offseason.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin said last week after the final practice of minicamp that it is “not the intent” to put WR Victor Cruz on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list at the start of training camp, which opens July 30.
“Obviously coming off an injury like the one I had, you want to be able to come back stronger and come back in tip-top shape,” Cruz said during an interview with Giants.com. “And I think I’m headed there. I think I’m about a little over 80 percent. These six weeks will be huge for me to continue to build on that and continue to be the force that I was before. So [I’m] just taking it one day at a time.”
Cruz tore his patellar tendon in mid-October, so it's no sure thing that he'll be back for the start of the season, though recent reports are positive. He's not going to get the same number of targets given Odell Beckham's emergence as a top-flight wideout. Cruz will likely play the Randall Cobb role in OC Ben McAdoo's offense, so there is some upside if he's fully healthy by Week 1.