Browns writer Nathan Zegura said that WR Taylor Gabriel "has been the star of the offseason." Zegura went on to say, "He is going to push to be a starter in two-wide receiver sets. He has been that good, consistently generating separation and getting down the field against all comers."
We reached out to Zegura on Twitter and asked him to rank Dwayne Bowe, Brian Hartline, Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel in expected 2015 receiving yardage and he replied: "So tough. Depends on if Gabriel can win #2 job. Right now, I'd go Bowe, Hawk, Gabriel, Hartline. Gabriel could lead if he becomes an every down WR." This is a camp battle to monitor. For now, consider adding Gabriel in the waning rounds. His big-play ability makes him an ideal candidate for best ball formats.
Ryan Mink of the Ravens' official website believes that TE Crockett Gillmore has a good chance to break out: Gillmore showed strong hands last year and they have only gotten better. He struggled with drops last training camp. So far this summer, he’s hardly let a ball touch the ground. He’s had another year in the offensive system, so he won’t be thinking as much on the field. Plus, Gillmore is massive. He was a big guy last year, but added 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason. He’s still got the ability to stretch the field, which he showed by catching numerous jump balls in Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp. Flacco seemed to develop a real comfort with Gillmore during the practices.
Gillmore is more of a blocker than a receiver but as the article notes, Gillmore has improved in that facet of the game. There is opportunity at the position with Dennis Pitta still sidelined and Owen Daniels in Denver, but the team drafted Maxx Williams as the long-term answer, so it's not clear how big of a receiving role Gillmore will have in 2015. Martellus Bennett shined under then-HC Marc Trestman in Chicago, so there is some upside for whoever wins the starting job in Baltimore. Fantasy-wise, rookie tight ends are notoriously disappointing, so this may be a muddled situation this season.
WR Reggie Wayne made it clear he has no intention of retiring following a decorated 14-year career with the Indianapolis Colts. He’s the NFL’s active leader with 1,070 receptions and 14,345 yards – each is No. 2 in club history behind Marvin Harrison – but is coming off an injury-plagued 2014 that limited him to 64 catches and 779 yards.
And let’s not forget, Wayne turns 37 in November.
An ideal scenario, he said, is to play one more season then retire. Wayne said teams – he wouldn’t elaborate – have expressed an interest.
Wayne finished as a fantasy WR5 as he battled numerous injuries during the 2014 campaign. If he lands in a possession role in a good passing offense he could be a factor in PPR leagues this season.
Ravens WR Steve L Smith will presumably lock down one of the starting spots. Despite the possibility of a lightened snap count for the veteran, Smith Sr. will play a huge role in the passing game. He’s the unquestioned leader of the group.
Smith was the #20 WR in standard formats and #18 in PPR, but he did most of his damage in the first six weeks of the season when he was #3 and #4, respectively. He was a fantasy WR4 the rest of the way, though he did have his moments. The Ravens can’t afford to put Smith out to pasture because they let Torrey Smith walk in free agency and the team’s receiver corps is severely lacking experience. Smith has some upside given his ADP (8th/9th round) and the arrival of pass-happy OC Marc Trestman, who should be able to figure out how to best utilize Smith’s skill set on a more consistent basis.
Eagles beat writer Sheil Kapadia was asked which rookies would contribute in 2015:
Agholor joins a receiving corps that has lost its best receiver (DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin) in each of the past two offseasons. He’s expected to win a starting job, likely outside opposite Riley Cooper with Jordan Matthews in the slot. If that’s the case, he’ll be a fantasy factor as a rookie. Matthews finished #25 in PPR formats as a rookie last season. That sort of production is certainly feasible for Agholor if he plays starter's snaps and the team gets good play out of the quarterback position.
Johnson-Patterson is the most intriguing position battle, for the split end spot. Johnson showed enough to keep the job through offseason work, but a 29th-overall pick in Patterson will get plenty of chances to earn his job back. There's no question about Patterson's ability. With the ball, he's a threat to score anywhere on the field. In order to get the ball in less predictable spots, he needs to be in sync with Teddy Bridgewater. Inconsistency in his routes didn't allow chemistry to build as he's still learning the nuances of the position. Patterson had four playbooks in his last four years of football, and some consistency on that end could help him take the next step.
We favor Johnson in this "battle," due to his production down the stretch last season. 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.
As it was last year, Cardinals QB Carson Palmer has brought wide receiver John Brown to southern California to live with him and work out. And as it was last year, Palmer feels he is throwing well, sharpening his mental game – and feeling no problems with his knee.
“I’m not even thinking about my knee,” Palmer said. “I’m still rehabbing just to be on the safe side of things but I don’t need to be at rehab. I’m full go in the weight room, full go on the field, and until it’s brought up, I haven’t thought about what I’m not
doing because I’m doing everything I was doing.”
As he outlined in his Cardinals-qb-carson-palmer">Sleeper Alert, Palmer is Sr. Editor John Paulsen's favorite sleeper at the quarterback position. In the 15 games since his team’s 2013 bye, Palmer is averaging 277 yards 1.8 touchdowns and 0.8 interceptions. Those are fringe QB1 numbers, and he has a nice receiving corps (including Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown) to throw to. As long as the knee is good to go, Palmer is an ideal candidate for a "wait on QB" strategy.
In May the Seahawks sent four picks to Washington to move from the bottom of the third round to the top, so they could draft Tyler Lockett from Kansas State. Coach Pete Carroll has already proclaimed Lockett the Seahawks’ punt and kickoff returner; at least its his job to lose in training camp, after Seattle suffered with poor returns and lesser starting field positions all last season. Yet Lockett has also impressed his new team with his polished and subtly skilled route running. Expect him to get many chances during exhibition games to catch passes from the slot and outside.
At 5-10, 182 pounds Lockett isn’t the big, physical receiver the Seahawks appear to need as a true wide receiver. Chris Matthews is. He’s 6-5 and 218, coming off his NFL breakout game in Super Bowl 49 with his first catches, first 100-yard game and first touchdown of his career.
Carroll says training camp and the upcoming preseason are the former Canadian Football League man’s chances to prove he is the big, physical wide receiver everyone thought Seattle had to draft in May.
It's a very similar deal to what Dez Bryant got in Dallas, and it shouldn't be too shocking the announcements came just a short time apart. Bryant's signing bonus is a bit higher, however. There were some rumors the Broncos and Thomas weren't close to a deal leading up to today, and we even had a news item earlier this week the Broncos weren't in a hurry to sign Thomas to a long-term deal with a chance QB Peyton Manning retires after this season. Also yesterday, it was reported there was a real chance Thomas would not report to camp and could also miss games. Thomas is ranked third on our WR list, but is often getting drafted outside the first round and after Dez Bryant. However we project him as one of three WRs to go over 100 receptions this season. Like Bryant owners and potential owners, those protecting or eyeing Thomas in fantasy drafts can relax a bit.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015, 3:44pm
The sides had faced a 4 p.m. ET deadline to reach a multiyear contract after the Patriots had designated Gostkowski as its franchise player in early March.
Gostkowski, who has played his entire career with the Patriots after being selected in the fourth round of the 2006 draft as the replacement for Adam Vinatieri, was the NFL's leading scorer in 2014 with 156 points. A Pro Bowler in each of the last two seasons, he has one of the strongest legs in the NFL, which the Patriots, as a team based in the Northeast often playing in adverse conditions, have valued. Gostkowski's strong leg was reflected in his 53 touchbacks during the 2014 regular season, which tied for fifth most in the league. The 31-year-old Gostkowski was 35-of-37 on field goals in 2014, hitting all 51 extra points that he attempted. He became New England's all-time leading scorer in 2014, passing Vinatieri, the story added.
There are plenty of ways to break down just how bad the Jaguars' offense has been the past several seasons, but the best way to illustrate the ineptness is by looking at how the unit has performed in the red zone.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Jaguars scored an NFL-low 13 touchdowns and completed an NFL-worst 39.1 percent of passes on an NFL-low 85 snaps in 32 red zone possessions in 2014. They were still last in TDs and completion percentage if you include the 2013 season, too.
The blame is spread between the quarterbacks, offensive line, backs and receivers, and play calling. Not much the Jaguars have tried the past two seasons has worked consistently and as a result the team has averaged just 15.5 points per game the past two seasons.
Things could be significantly better in 2015, though, thanks to the addition of tight end Julius Thomas. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder was not only one of the league's better tight ends the past two seasons – catching 108 passes, including 24 for touchdowns – he was one of the NFL's most effective players in the red zone.
Thomas had 13 catches in the red zone in 2014, including nine for touchdowns. Only Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb had more (10) and Thomas had the same number as New England's Rob Gronkowski, Miami's Mike Wallace, New Orleans' Jimmy Graham, and San Diego's Antonio Gates, the story said. Obviously potential owners of Thomas need to keep in mind the situation is now a little bit different. The Jags don't have the same weapons Denver had a year ago that also needed to be accounted for in the red zone, and don't forget about Peyton Manning as the QB. Still, Thomas will be looked at as a big red zone option, and if the Jag WRs can step up as threats, that should also help Thomas' chances to continue his success. Thomas is ranked eighth among our TEs and is available in the middle of drafts.
The Dallas Cowboys and their franchised-tagged star wideout Dez Bryant have hammered out a long-term contract ahead of Wednesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline. Bryant agreed in principle to a five-year, $70 million deal with $45 million guaranteed, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported. While nowhere close to the $16 million per year earned by Detroit's Calvin Johnson, Bryant's $14 million average per season exceeds the $12.82 million he would have made in 2015 by signing his franchise tag. The new pact puts to bed a summer-long drama that saw negotiations flatline between Dallas and Bryant.
Bryant is coming off a monster campaign that saw him set a career mark with 16 touchdowns, and he rolls into September as the heart and soul of a Cowboys offense, especially now with RB DeMarco Murray leaving for the Eagles. Bryant has emerged over five seasons as a top-five NFL wideout, both in real life and the fantasy world. We rank Bryant fourth on our WR list, but he's getting drafted as a top-three fantasy WR, and in the first round. Owners and potential owners can now rest easy because Bryant had threatened to miss camp and games if no long-term deal was reached. He should be poised for another big season as the center point of the Dallas offense, especially with the questions surrounding the running game.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015, 12:55pm
Kendall Hunter’s season was over before it started in 2014. The San Francisco 49ers running back tore his ACL on the first day of the training camp, halting the ball-carrier's growth as a fixture in the offense.
That excitement is beginning to crescendo again, however, with San Francisco's 2015 training camp just weeks away. Hunter had a fantastic offseason program, highlighted by the three-day veteran’s minicamp where he showcased his quick feet and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Each day Hunter made a play or two that had the sidelines buzzing.
“He’s coming along great,” Jim Tomsula said following the minicamp. “I think we all have strong feelings for Kendall… but we definitely have a rep count on him. You’ve got to keep him corralled, but he’s moving around really quick.”
Hunter said mental reps have helped him transition nicely into the 49ers new-look, up-tempo offense under Tomsula and offensive coordinator Geep Chryst, according to the story. Hunter will be a featured piece in that offensive scheme as one of the ball carriers in the team’s running back by committee. He’ll likely split carries primarily with second-year back Carlos Hyde and veteran free-agent Reggie Bush, the story said. But Hunter ranks just 83rd on our list of RBs, as we think Hyde gets a bulk of the work with Bush a big part of pass-catching. Hyde ranks 19th on our list and presents a much better value at this point.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015, 12:27pm
The Kansas City Chiefs have signed linebacker Justin Houston to a six-year, $101 million deal, including $52.5 million guaranteed, sources said Wednesday.
The deal is the richest in Chiefs history and the richest linebacker contract in NFL history.
Houston, 26, led the NFL in sacks last season with 22. He was a half-sack short of the single-season record set by Michael Strahan of the New York Giants in 2001.
The sides were nowhere close to agreement on a long-term contract in March, when the Chiefs designated Houston as their franchise player. In doing so, the Chiefs were obligated to offer Houston a one-year contract worth about $13.2 million.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015, 12:04pm
Returning from his third major surgery in his last five seasons of football, Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph has an important season upcoming for a player starting a five-year deal worth up to $40 million if he earns the incentives, including game day active roster and workout bonuses.
Rudolph hasn't played a full season since 2012, with just as many catches (54) in the past two years as that Pro Bowl-alternate season (53). Availability, not ability, is the chief concern with the Vikings' second-round pick from 2010, who has suffered a broken foot and needed surgery to repair a sports hernia in back-to-back seasons.
Rudolph showed a glimpse of what he might do under Norv Turner in last year's preseason, catching seven passes for a 21.3-yard average, including a 51-yard touchdown. He slimmed down in 2014 to adapt to Turner's vertical offense and is still listed 10 pounds lighter than he was in 2013. Rudolph turned his focus to flexibility in workout regimens this offseason, opting for hot yoga and beach exercises. The Vikings hope that will make a difference for a talented player marred by injuries and for an offense that wants to use Rudolph as a big weapon in the passing game.
The story went on to say the Vikings targeted tight ends on 85 passes last season. Nearly half the league (13) had a single player targeted more at the position. But, Rudolph's injury limited the Vikings down the middle of the field and the turnaround at tight end will help frame the Vikings' bid to build a passing game after ranking near the bottom of the league in passing yards, yards per attempt and touchdowns last season. We all know Rudolph is a reliable target, and the story said he's caught seven balls for every 10 passes thrown his way through four seasons. But, he just can't seem to stay on the field - as fantasy owners well know. Rudolph comes in 16th on our list. We don't always recommend drafting two TEs, but Rudolph in the late rounds as a flier may prove to pan out especially in deeper leagues.