Buccaneers RB Doug Martin had his best offseason in three years, and the upswing in his play could not have come at a better time. Charles Sims is good enough to start and he’ll push Martin hard for the bell-cow role. But the Bucs are probably better with Martin in the lead, Sims filling a third-down pass catcher’s role and Bobby Rainey backing up both.
The coaching staff reportedly loves Charles Sims, but OC Dirk Koetter fought to keep Martin with the team during the offseason, and he still sits atop the team's depth chart after a strong offseason. He's going in the 8th or 9th round, so he's a good target for those owners who are looking for potential starters in the later rounds.
Rashad Jennings ran primarily with the first-team offense. Free-agent acquisition Shane Vereen was mixed in constantly, especially on passing downs. Where does that leave Williams, the second-year back out of Boston College, after a strong rookie season? Williams might have trouble finding a role if the other two stay healthy. Jennings may even be a better, more effective short-yardage and/or goal-line back.
Williams averaged 3.3 YPC as a rookie (Jennings averaged 3.8 YPC), so the team probably isn't making it a priority to get the second-year back on the field. It appears that Williams will serve as Jennings' backup, so as long as Jennings stays healthy, he should see the bulk of the carries on 1st and 2nd down.
Royal got off to a fast start in his first year, catching 91 passes for 980 yards and five touchdowns while Jay Cutler was throwing for a career-high 4,526 yards en route to the only Pro Bowl appearance of his career.
It was the only year that the two men worked together, but both remember it fondly and Royal says they’re putting in the same work now that they did then to build the same chemistry.
Cowboys beat writer Todd Archer projects that Ryan Williams won't make the 53-man roster.
Archer: How in the world could I keep Ryan Williams off the roster? It was a tough decision, but the fact that he was limited in the spring because of a swollen knee didn’t help his cause. He can work his way into the mix this summer and with his work in the preseason games. Even if I can envision the Cowboys keeping four tailbacks, I have a hard time seeing them taking all four to the game, which makes that spot tenuous at best on the 53-man roster, as teams generally use back-of-the-roster spots on players they might want to groom.
Williams was recently a dark horse in the running back competition, but he's still experiencing swelling in his knee. It's good news for Joseph Randle who is currently in line for a big jump in touches after a productive (if limited) role last season.
"He has great hands, man," Sproles said last week, via CSN Philly. "His hands and his route running are just great, really. He's about to be a superstar."
Ertz has earned praise from coaches and teammates for his impressive showing in OTAs and minicamp.
Ertz was the #13 TE in both standard and PPR formats despite only playing half of the Eagles’ snaps in his second year. Ertz played mostly (73%) on passing downs, so if his playing time is going to increase, a majority of the additional snaps are likely to come in run formations. Still, there’s upside with Ertz if he begins to see starter’s snaps. The Eagles lost their leading receiver -- first DeSean Jackson and then Jeremy Maclin -- in back-to-back seasons, so there will be opportunity from a targets standpoint.
Monday, June 22, 2015, 3:38pm
Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon made a great impression during his debut season in 2014 before his season ended due to injury. Now that McKinnon’s a year into his career and knows the offense better, OC Norv Turner says McKinnon looks even faster than a year ago.
“Jerick, really looks faster than a year ago, because he’s real confident in what he’s doing,” Turner said. “He’s 100 percent healthy and he’s flying around. He really gives you a nice dimension, a changeup.”
In watching Vikings practices this offseason and then listening to coaches and player speak, there’s a sense a healthy TE Kyle Rudolph is a big deal for the offense. In one of Bridgewater’s first press conferences of the offseason program, he was asked about the addition of Wallace. Bridgewater explained that addition was great, but he made a point to talk up how much a healthy Rudolph means to him and the rest of the offense. And this is what Turner, who has had several big-time TEs featured in his offenses, said about Rudolph:
“When he’s healthy and running like he’s been the last three weeks, it’s exciting to have him. We’ll get some coverage on the outside with the speed that we have, he can open it up a lot. He’ll get match-ups, if they’re going to play eight-man fronts, the tight end gets great match-ups through the passing game. It’s nice having him.”
It has been a frustrating two years for Rudolph and his owners, as he’s missed 15 of a possible 32 games in that span. But he saw 17 targets in three games last season before going down with a sports hernia. Over the past three seasons, Rudolph has averaged 5.2 targets per game, which is about what Owen Daniels averaged in 2014. There’s some upside in OC Norv Turner’s TE-friendly offense if he can stay healthy.
Eagles writer Dave Spadaro: If I had to say one player who stood out, it would be running back DeMarco Murray. He is much more fluid as a pass catcher than I thought, and he's in tremendous shape and just looks like he "fits" into this offensive structure perfectly. The backfield is a must-see group with all of that talent.
Murray had a career year in his fourth season, racking up 2,261 total yards and 13 touchdowns on 449 touches. He should get plenty of work in Philadelphia, though the signing of Ryan Mathews and the presence of Darren Sproles make it very unlikely that he’ll approach 450 touches in 2015. LeSean McCoy averaged 353 touches over the past two seasons, so that’s probably Murray’s ceiling if everyone stays healthy. He’ll hold low-end RB1 value, though the presence of Mathews and Sproles may make even that a stretch. Chip Kelly did not utilize McCoy much as a receiver last season.
Bengals TE Tyler Eifert was being brought along a little slower mainly because coaches and trainers simply didn't want to run the risk of getting him hurt. He's fully recovered from late-season shoulder surgery, and his dislocated elbow has healed. Still, they wanted to err on the side of caution when it came to putting Eifert in situations where he could fall to the ground stretching for passes. After all, that's how he hurt the shoulder in the first place during the Bengals' very first practice last spring.
Otherwise, yes, Eifert looks healthy. He caught virtually everything thrown his way during open practices, and looked sharp in his routes.
With Jermaine Gresham out of the way, Eifert should be a nice late-round pick provided he can stay healthy. He has good size and speed, and showed pretty good hands as a rookie. He only played about 60 percent of the snaps in 2013, and averaged 0.14 FP (PPR) per snap. Extrapolate the same production to 90 percent of the snaps (which is typical for a starting tight end), and Eifert shouldn't have any problem posting top 15 numbers. With solid improvement, he could very well be this year's Jordan Cameron (2013) or Travis Kelce (2014).
Without a shadow of a doubt, Bengals coaches are as confident in Marvin Jones' health and style of play as you've undoubtedly read in recent days. Receivers coach James Urban is among the most impressed. He told me a couple days ago that this spring was "baptism by fire" as it pertained to Jones. It was all about getting the rust off the wide out by putting him through every scenario he should face this season. Urban was pleased with what he saw, as was Jones. He was quick and crisp in his routes and started sharpening his timing with quarterback Andy Dalton by the end of the minicamp that concluded Thursday.
Health-wise, Jones told me Thursday he has no lingering effects of the foot and ankle injuries that held him out all of last season. He feels perfectly fine and made it through the practices without any issues. I think it's safe to say Jones is back.
Jones was one of our favorite sleepers last summer, but his season was derailed by an ankle injury. His 51 catches for 712 yards and 10 touchdowns resulted in the 3rd-highest FP/T in 2013. He’s poised to surprise if he can prove he’s fully healthy and win the starting job opposite A.J. Green. Mohamed Sanu played pretty well last season but he struggled with drops, and Jones was ahead of Sanu when disaster struck. Both players are free agents after the season, so this is one of the more interesting camp battles to monitor this summer. One thing to note: Sanu only saw an average of 5.2 targets in the 12 games in which Green played, so Cincinnati’s WR2 it wasn’t a high-volume role in OC Hue Jackson’s run-oriented offense. That could change if Jones wins the job, but it’s something to keep in mind.
In the battle of third-down backs, James White looks like a carbon copy of Shane Vereen. He’s lined up in all the same places, and turned in some spectacular catches, particularly on wheel routes coming out of the backfield. He’s made a few drops, but all in all, looks great. It’s important to remember he also looked great last year at this time before falling off the map.
Free agent pickup Dion Lewis has earned praise on the field from Brady for his route-running. He’s also been a primary kick returner in drills. He has some giddy-up in his step.
Travaris Cadet, another free agent who was the third down back in New Orleans, has had some good moments.
“If they don’t look good in shorts and t-shirts, we got a problem,” running backs coach Ivan Fears reminded us last week. “Let’s wait ’til the bullets start flying.”
There was a similar report last week that Cadet had the lead in the competition, so this job is still very much up in the air. If one player takes over Vereen's role, then he'll be immediately relevant in PPR formats.
Redskins beat writer John Keim on the team's backfield split:
Last season Alfred Morris took 66 percent of the Redskins' 401 carries. And in his first three seasons with Washington, Morris took 64 percent. That's a good number for him, and if he's running well then I'd expect that to continue. I think the other part is that we don't know how well Matt Jones will run the ball in the NFL. If he's running well, then I could see him getting a handful of carries per game. Regardless, he'll have a role as a third-down back. Also, if the Redskins are as committed to the run as they say, then they should have at least 50 more carries than last season's total of 401. That won't change the percentage, but it would mean more chances for both. Another factor is how often they use the zone-read option. If it's less of a factor, then that's more carries for Morris/Jones to split.
Morris should continue to be a fringe RB1 in standard formats and a solid RB2 in PPR leagues. It sounds like Jones will take over the role vacated by Roy Helu.
Saints beat writer Mike Triplett on the fantasy value of the team's running backs:
It's pretty close between C.J. Spiller and Mark Ingram. I'm really excited to see what Spiller will do in this offense as both a runner and receiver - mostly because you can tell that Sean Payton is really excited about the possibilities when he talks about Spiller. I think Spiller and Ingram will be very close in total yards from scrimmage - right around 1,000 yards each, with Ingram gaining almost all of those yards as a rusher and Spiller having a pretty even split between rushing and receiving yards. Spiller will get a boost in point-per-reception leagues. Ingram will probably score more TDs, though.
Senior Editor laid out The Case for C.J. Spiller earlier in the offseason. It's not inconceivable that Spiller posts top 5 PPR numbers a la Darren Sproles in 2011. Ingram should get his share of touches, though a healthy Khriy Robinson is a concern. Spiller would be our choice for PPR formats, with Ingram coming in higher in standard leagues.
Saints beat writer Mike Triplett on the Saints' TE situation:
I've written a lot about Josh Hill this summer, as well. I think he'll pop up on the fantasy radar since he'll get an opportunity at more touches with Graham gone. But I'm not expecting a major breakthrough. I think Hill's 5 TDs last year were a bit misleading since he was usually benefitting from being the "open man" on those plays instead of a red-zone monster. He had only 14 catches overall. I actually think tight end Ben Watson could be a sleeper late-round pickup in deeper leagues and during bye weeks, etc. Watson might have led the Saints in catches during the OTA and minicamp practices that were open to the media. He won't have a breakout year at age 34, but he'll be regularly involved.
Jimmy Graham, Hill and Watson combined for 1,634 snaps last year, with Watson playing 50 percent of the team's snaps. Sean Payton said that Watson's role won't change in 2015, but didn't say if that meant he would play about the same number of snaps. Hill's snaps should at least double (to 50 percent) and he even has upside from there since Jimmy Graham played on 68 percent of the snaps. It was worrisome that Payton mentioned "two-TE sets" when discussing Hill's potential playing time, since it indicates that he's not going to start. At the end of the day, the Saints are looking for playmakers in the passing game, so while we're not as bullish as we were a month ago on Hill's upside, he's still looking like a nice pick in the later rounds of fantasy drafts. If he's producing, he'll play.
"He's doing a great job for us,'' Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said of TE Zach Ertz. "He's got an unbelievable work ethic, has really had no offseason in terms of what he did this past; from when our season ended against the Giants to when we started the offseason program in terms of what he did to work on his craft and make himself better not only as a receiver but as a blocker."
Ertz was the #13 TE in both standard and PPR formats despite only playing half of the Eagles’ snaps in his second year. Ertz played mostly (73%) on passing downs, so if his playing time is going to increase, a majority of the additional snaps are likely to come in run formations. Still, there’s upside with Ertz if he begins to see starter’s snaps. The Eagles lost their leading receiver -- first DeSean Jackson and then Jeremy Maclin -- in back-to-back seasons, so there will be opportunity from a targets standpoint. It's good to hear that Kelly is happy with his blocking -- that's the key to more playing time.