Thursday, April 2, 2015, 6:54pm
The Broncos don’t figure to use as many three-wide receiver sets as they have over the past two seasons, but they'll still be part of Peyton Manning's playbook. Either way, the Broncos hope Cody Latimer shows that he’s ready to be among the top three pass-catchers.
Latimer had a disappointing rookie season and wasn't even able to beat out Andre Caldwell. However, it takes time to earn Manning's trust, and the franchise didn't draft him in the second round to ride the proverbial pine. His upside will be limited if the Broncos utilize fewer three-WR sets since new HC Gary Kubiak likes to utilize two tight ends.
Thursday, April 2, 2015, 6:48pm
Josh Freeman, the quarterback who rapidly went from one of the most promising young players in the NFL to a major disappointment, is getting another shot.
The Dolphins have agreed to a one-year contract with Freeman, according to Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report.
His two touchdowns were a low for his career. His 63 receptions and 784 yards were the fewest since 2004. But there are reasons to think Fitzgerald can post better statistics in 2015, provided he and quarterback Carson Palmer stay healthy.
In Palmer's last five starts before a season-ending knee injury, Fitzgerald caught 31 passes for 461 yards. It was clear that he and Palmer were starting to click.
"Both guys were very comfortable in the offense," coach Bruce Arians said at the NFL owners meetings last week.
"He has progressed so much, I don't think there is any doubt they can go down on an option route, and Carson will know where he is going and the ball is on time. Larry is going to make the big, physical catches inside. He's a true mismatch inside."
$11 million per season (Fitzgerald’s re-worked deal) is a high price to pay for a soon-to-be 32-year-old who is coming off of his worst fantasy season of his career. However, there is a reason for optimism: Fitzgerald averaged 5.3 catches for 81 yards and 0.33 TD in six games with a healthy Carson Palmer. Extrapolate that pace over a full season, and it's about what Mike Evans (PPR) and Golden Tate (standard) scored as last season's #13 WR. The Cardinals obviously believe that he’s worth keeping around.
He didn’t break enough tackles, so he put on seven pounds of muscle in the University of Miami weight room to get up to 225 pounds.
And he didn’t catch enough passes (38 in 2014, with six drops).
And he runs routes for Ryan Tannehill with the team’s other young skill-position players.
Miller carried the ball 219 times for 1,099 yards and eight touchdowns while adding 38-275-1 on 52 targets in the passing game. This resulted in a #9 finish in both standard and PPR formats. Despite this, the team doesn't seem completely sold on Miller as a feature back and is looking to shore up the position in the offseason. It's good to hear that he's putting on some muscle and is working on his flaws to hopefully take his game to the next level.
"I think that's going to be a big key to our growth is to get more production from Eric, and I think he's ready to do that," Lombardi said Tuesday, per the Detroit Free Press. "I know he's been making some trips to Atlanta to work with Matt already this offseason, so he's -- the thing you like about Eric is he's a bright kid and he works hard and he wants to be good. So we expect very big things from him moving forward."
"There's a big learning curve, obviously, for any rookie, and the tight end position is one that requires a lot," Lombardi said. "As you look back, if you're self-critical, you might say maybe we asked a little bit too much of him, from that perspective. So I think there's just a volume that he struggled with early, but he was productive and, again, for anybody, the second year's always where you see the biggest jump."
Ebron turned 3.8 targets into 1.9 catches for 19 yards and 0.08 TD as a rookie. He played half the snaps, so his lack of production is somewhat alarming. Tight end is a tough position to learn as a rookie, so there is some reason for optimism given Ebron's skill set.
Wednesday, April 1, 2015, 4:13pm
WR Nate Washington signed a one-year deal for $1 million, including $30,000 guaranteed.
"Our biggest thing is, in order to win football games, you've got to first not lose them, and I thought that he played smart football, and sometimes to a fault," Lombardi said Tuesday, per Ashley Dunkak of CBS Detroit. "We'll look for him to maybe take a few more chances this year with the football. He's got the arm to do it. He's got the receivers to throw it to."
After three straight top 10 finishes, Stafford was the #17 QB in 2014, though he was only a couple of touchdowns out of the #13 spot. As the 10th QB off the board in early drafts, it's possible that Stafford is being overdrafted, though if he's being encouraged to take more chances, it could boost his fantasy numbers.
"You don't see a huge drop-off numbers-wise," coach Chuck Pagano said, via ESPN.com's Mike Wells. "Maybe in touchdowns. But you still see a guy who is more than capable of stretching the defense. Certainly somebody who an opponent can't just line up and say, 'Don't worry about Andre Johnson.'"
If defenses still opt to send extra coverage toward T.Y. Hilton, Pagano expects Johnson to take advantage as a "big, possession type guy" on the underneath routes that an injury-ravaged Reggie Wayne couldn't convert in the second half of last season.
"He's a big body guy that can still separate, create separation," Pagano continued. "He's got a big catch radius. But again, the contested catches that you see on tape. It's very difficult to match up."
Johnson will likely start opposite T.Y. Hilton. It’s a big upgrade from a quality-of-quarterback standpoint, as he has never played with one as good as Andrew Luck. His targets are likely to take a hit, however. He averaged 9.7 T/G in 2014, while Hilton and Reggie Wayne led the Colts with 8.7 and 7.7 T/G, respectively. So this looks like a case of the targets dropping but the quality of those targets increasing. After finishing in the top 10 (in PPR) in five of his previous six seasons, Johnson finished #28 in 2014. He’s turning 34 this offseason, so it may be foolhardy to expect a huge bounceback season, but low-end WR2 numbers in PPR formats seem reasonable.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015, 5:26pm
Tuesday, March 31, 2015, 3:59pm
Tuesday, March 31, 2015, 2:29pm
Schaub will serve as a backup to Joe Flacco.
"We try and give (the ball) to the guys who are going to do something with it, and I think he's going to be one of those guys who's going to force us to give him the ball more," Caldwell said last week at the NFL owners meetings. "I think you're really going to see him come along."
Caldwell expects Riddick's role to grow next season, though that could depend on what kind of tailback the team adds in April's draft. Riddick is a plus-plus pass catcher out of the backfield, but hasn't shown any kind of chops yet on the ground -- yet.
"He has all the qualities. Here's the thing -- if you're smart, if you're tough, if you're disciplined, if you have a great work ethic, there's improvement ahead. And he has all those things. So I think he's going to improve, and I think he's going to force us to get him the ball a little bit more in some situations."
Reggie Bush’s departure should give Riddick the opportunity to shine as the team's primary passing down back. He averaged 5.0 catches for 53 yards for 13.2 fantasy points in PPR formats in the five games that Bush missed last season. That's about what Fred Jackson averaged as the #17 running back in 2014. If the Lions don't add a running back early in the draft, then Riddick should be a sleeper in PPR formats.
Redskins HC Jay Gruden discussed the drop in receptions for WR Pierre Garcon...
"I think we can get his numbers back up a little bit," Gruden said. "We missed him. With three quarterbacks playing, there was never any ideal situation, and that hurt all the receivers. Moving forward we get some stability at the quarterback position, you’ll see all the numbers go up for all the receivers hopefully. A lot of people would rather just hand it off, but I think, we need to spread it out and be diverse in what we do and get these guys these touches. These guys work extremely hard. For us not to give them opportunities to make plays down the field is silly."
Ideally, Garcon will be in the 70-80 catch range. If the Redskins are successful this season, it will be their run game that powers them. They are not a team that should drop back more than 30 times a game. However, they do have two good starting receivers and a third who is capable of 40 receptions, plus Reed who deserves his share of targets, too.
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 a bounce-back season for Garcon.
Austin finished with 47 catches for 568 yards and two touchdowns, but missed four games due to a kidney injury. Over a full season his stats extrapolate to 63-757-2.7, which equate to fringe WR4-type numbers in PPR formats. This is certainly a system upgrade in Philadelphia. It's not clear what Austin's role will be, but he has plenty of experience playing in the slot from his days in Dallas, so the Eagles could elect to move Jordan Matthews outside. Austin figures to be fantasy relevant, though his days as a starter are probably over.
Broncos RB C.J. Anderson earned his place on the first team with a performance in the second half of the season that was more productive than all but one other running back in that span.When offseason workouts start, he will remain atop the depth chart at running back -- but only if he can maintain his performance and diligence.
"He made a big jump as a player, and I think he's earned the right to walk in to the offseason program -- the OTAs -- and line up as our starter," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "But he's got to continue to earn it on a daily basis... I think he's shown he has all the ability to be an excellent starter in this league, so we're really looking forward to working with him."
But he will return to find his predecessors at running back at full strength. Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman have recovered from groin and foot injuries, respectively, and will factor into the scramble for carries.
"All those guys are young. I think all three of those guys ... have all kind of had their little spurts of success with the club when they've had their opportunity," Kubiak said. "But they're all young. Who's going to be the bell cow, who's going to play every down, who's going to be the three-down player, they've got to sort that out. C.J. has shown the flashes of doing that... We'll give them all a chance and see how it pans out, but C.J. obviously has a good head start on things," Kubiak said.
The competition could be fierce, but Anderson's success last year and his ability to translate that to a zone-blocking scheme gives him the early lead.
"All good players fit your system, and he's a good player," Kubiak said. "So we've got some good young backs, and it's going to be very competitive from that standpoint, but, yeah, he's proven that running zone schemes and doing those types of things seem to fit him very well."
Anderson began to see starter-type touches in Week 10 with 17 touches for 163 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders. Over the final eight weeks, he averaged 24.0 touches for 132 yards and 1.3 TD, and was the #1 RB in that span. If the Broncos commit to Anderson (and why wouldn’t they?), he should thrive under Kubiak, who just coaxed a career year out of journeyman Justin Forsett.