Giants beat writer Dan Graziano: They really like Larry Donnell and believe he's in the midst of developing into a very good player. They like his athleticism and his size, and most of all they really believe in his offseason dedication and determination to work on and learn the things he still needs to learn. Donnell made a huge leap from 2013 to 2014, and the Giants believe that his offseason work ethic will lead to another big leap in 2015. They believe they have not only a starter, but a future star in Donnell.
Donnell finished the season as the #11 TE in both standard and PPR formats, but did not crack 60 yards or find the endzone in the final six games. He had the 17th-most targets (5.2 T/G) over that span, after seeing the 7th-most (6.1 T/G) in the first 11 weeks. He'll continue to be a red zone threat, but with Odell Beckham and a presumably healthy Victor Cruz gobbling up targets, Donnell is unlikely to see more than six looks per game in 2015.
The team will not exercise its option on running back Chris Johnson and he can become an unrestricted free agent on March 10.
Johnson's release is not a surprise, though there are now approximately 179 touches up for grabs in New York. The team has been linked to free agent C.J. Spiller, who had his best season (250 touches, 1703 total yards, eight touchdowns) under new Jets OC Chan Gailey back in 2012. If the Jets sign Spiller, he would form a one-two punch with Chris Ivory, who rushed for 821 yards (on 4.1 YPC) last season.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Friday's edition of NFL Total Access that Lynch's back issues are chronic and will be a major factor in his decision-making this offseason, according to people close to the star running back. Lynch has compressed cartilage in his back, a condition that will not heal and can get worse as a result of Lynch's punishing running style.
It seems quite possible that Lynch hangs 'em up this offseason, but we may not know for sure until we get deeper into the summer. The Seahawks have Robert Turbin and Christine Michael under contract in 2015. Michael (career 4.9 YPC) has been considered the heir apparent, but he's been consistently running behind Turbin (4.0 YPC), who's physical style more closely resembles Lynch. The team may be active at the position in free agency and/or the draft, and their actions will give us a better indication of how they feel about Lynch's availability heading into the 2015 season.
If the Broncos continue emphasizing three-WR sets, and Wes Welker does not return, there's a role for WR Cody Latimer, perhaps lining up outside with Emmanuel Sanders moving into the slot in that package, or even in the slot, on routes like the one he ran in Dallas in the preseason finale last summer.
One aspect of Latimer's skill set that must be noted is his blocking ability, considered by some to be the best among last year's wide receiver class. If he can take his outside blocking skills and transfer them to the inside -- not as a tight end, but standing up in a tight slot alignment -- then the Broncos could have the blocking effectiveness of a two-tight end set with a three-wide receiver formation.
Latimer is unproven, but presents possibilities that the new coaching staff will likely explore.
Latimer is a player to monitor this offseason, especially if Welker retires and Sanders moves inside. Latimer had a disappointing rookie season and wasn't even able to beat out Andre Caldwell. However, it takes time to earn Peyton Manning's trust and the franchise didn't draft him in the second round to ride the proverbial pine.
It's possible that the Colts still may want to bring the highly-effective yet injury-prone Bradshaw back in 2015. Through the first nine weeks, Bradshaw was the #6 RB in standard formats (#5 in PPR). He averaged 79 total yards and 0.88 TD per game (including six receiving scores).
Peyton Manning reassured Denver Broncos officials, including general manager John Elway, that he is physically and mentally prepared to play at a significant level in 2015, league and team sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen.
The two sides met Thursday in Denver and while retirement technically remains an option for Manning, it is not one he expressed to Elway and CEO Joe Ellis, sources said.
Manning took it upon himself to get a comprehensive evaluation from a renown performance manager and trainer, Mackie Shilstone, during the past 2½ weeks in New Orleans. Shilstone, who was worked with several elite athletes in the latter stages of their careers, has given the quarterback a strong assessment based on numerous workouts and tests, a source said.
The quad injury that plagued Manning at the end of the 2014 season is fully healed.
Manning first popped up on the injury report with a thigh injury after Week 15 (vs. San Diego). When looking only at his first 13 games, Manning averaged 301 yards, 2.8 TD and 0.8 INT, or 21.4 fantasy points per game. That would have been good enough for the third-highest average if he were able to keep that pace. In the final three weeks, including the game in which he injured the thigh, Manning averaged 272 yards and just 1.0 TD versus 1.3 INT. Even with the reduced production, Manning finished as the #4 quarterback in 2014. If he's fully healthy and ready to go, we'd expect him to be selected in the top 5 in 2015 fantasy drafts, though the Broncos' activity in free agency (namely re-signing Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas) will impact his value.
Steelers star running back LeVeon Bell is expected to be suspended for the first two games of next season as a result of his August arrest on marijuana charges, sources told ESPN NFL Insider John Clayton.
Bell was shaping up as the top overall pick in 2015 fantasy drafts, but a potential two-game suspension will cause his draft stock to take a hit. It's difficult to draft a player who is going to miss at least two games in the first round.
Steven Jackson, who turns 32 in July, is likely to be released with one year left on his contract. The move would save the Falcons $3.75 million against the salary cap. And the Falcons no doubt want younger, fresher legs in Kyle Shanahan's offense.
Cosell: Raiders QB Derek Carr has 'best combination of arm strength, pocket play and movement' of rookie QB classThursday, February 12, 2015, 1:34pm
I think Carr has the best combination of arm strength, pocket play and movement. He has a really good arm. There are times he snaps it off like Aaron Rodgers in the pocket.
Carr’s tendency to get rid of the ball short isn’t a bad thing. The Raiders’ sack numbers were way down. He didn’t stand there and hold the ball with a deer-in-the-headlights look. That tells me his processing was functioning. He didn’t always throw to the right guy, but he didn’t get stuck in the pocket. He struggled at times with lower body mechanics, but he had the instincts and feel of a pocket quarterback. And he showed progress with his lower body mechanics as the season went on.
Carr played well as a rookie, and as long as he progresses as he should in seeing things at the intermediate level, there’s a lot to like with him going forward.
Carr finished the season as the #20 QB in fantasy and averaged 12.5 FP per game. He'll be in the mix for QBBC and streaming strategies heading into the 2015 season.
Greg Cosell on Jagaurs QB Blake Bortles:
This offseason, Bortles has to go back to basics. He lost his technique.
There are all kinds of valid reason for that – the Jaguars offensive line was below average, the offense was inconsistent, there was an inability to stay on schedule during games because of that inconsistency and the Jaguars trailing most of the time – but the bottom line is he lost his technique and needs to go back to school and start from scratch. I don’t mean that in a negative way. But before the Jaguars get to “What are the best route concepts against ‘Cover 4’ zone?” they need to work with him so he has repetitive proper fundamentals. Otherwise he won’t throw it accurately enough on a consistent basis.
One thing I noticed is Bortles started to have a tendency to drop the ball too low in his release. That throws off the timing, if the release and stride isn’t working together. Then you lose velocity and accuracy. Bortles has a good arm (though not a great one) but his arm strength suffers when the mechanics suffer. There are too many moving parts.
Bortles averaged 12.0 fantasy points per game, which led to a #24 finish at his position. He's a passer who could make a leap in his second season if the Jaguars can give him time to throw and he can clean up his fundamentals. The receiving corps is young but talented, with Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns and potentially Justin Blackmon all capable of producing when given the opportunity. Bortles averaged nearly 30 yards rushing, so he offers some baseline production as a runner.
Gordon is serving his third NFL-imposed ban for violating the league's substance-abuse policy -- this time for a minimum of one year. He played just five games in 2014 after missing the first 10 games for failing a drug test last spring. The club also suspended him for the season finale for missing a walk-through.
Haslam was asked directly if the team planned to cut Gordon. The owner said the length of the suspension gives them time to decide his fate with the franchise.
"That's a decision that we will need to look at make a certain point," Haslam said. "He's out for a year so there's no huge hurry. We'll address that at the proper time."
Gordon is a tremendous talent, but has been unable to follow the league's strict substance abuse rules. He's out for the year, so he's not on the redraft radar unless something drastic happens.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said Wednesday that he still firmly believes Johnny Manziel can be a successful NFL starter if he gets his act together off the field.
"Absolutely,'' said Haslam in a 50-minute meeting with Browns beatwriters. "I ask that question a lot to our football people -- as recently as today. 'Do we still think he can be a starter in the NFL?' And the answer is consistently yes. I don't have the ability to judge that. I don't have that kind of technical expertise. Now, he's got to get himself straightened out and you've got to do that on the field, but yes.''
We'll see if the Browns do anything in the offseason via the draft or free agency to upgrade the position. Actions speak louder than words, especially during the spring and summer.
It appears that the Bucs are planning to draft a quarterback with the top overall pick.
Looking at the running back position, Shanahan presided over three stellar fantasy seasons in his seven years as an offensive coordinator. In 2008, while Shanny was the OC of the Texans, Steve Slaton turned 327 touches (50 receptions) into 1,659 yards and 10 touchdowns. (Slaton averaged 77.6 total yards on 15.9 touches in 2009.) In 2012, rookie Alfred Morris racked up 1,690 total yards and 13 touchdowns. He followed it up with 1,353 total yards and seven scores in 2013. Shanahan even coaxed 86.7 total yards (on 18.2 touches) from Ryan Torain in 2010 and 67.9 yards on 13.3 touches from Roy Helu in 2011. Freeman wasn't terribly impressive in his rookie season (248 yards rushing, 3.8 YPC), but he was active and effective in the passing game (30 catches for 225 yards), so a Slaton-esque season isn't out of the realm of possibility. If the Falcons stand pat at running back, he'll have some middle round appeal, assuming his role looks to be bigger than Steven Jackson's.
Broncos RB C.J. Anderson did enough behind an offensive line that struggled mightily at times in an offense that couldn't find its rhythm over the season's final month to open the offseason as the starter. What happens next, however, will be a test of his football maturity as well as his preparation given success can often be more difficult for some to handle than adversity. Montee Ball, too, has promised to return "ready to win the job." Ronnie Hillman has plenty of untapped potential as well, even as the Broncos keep waiting for the career light to go on with their former third-round pick. They thought it had when Hillman had two 100-yard games in a three-week span in October only to have his season derailed by a foot injury.
Anderson probably holds the most risk of the top 12 running backs heading into the offseason. He was tremendous down the stretch, but there's a new regime in town (though he's considered to be a good fit for new HC Gary Kubiak's zone-blocking attack). Remember, he didn't keep himself in top physical condition last offseason, so that's something to monitor this spring and summer.