Tuesday, April 21, 2015, 11:33am
It certainly looks like TE Dennis Pitta wants to at least keep the door open for a possible return. In a video posted to the Ravens' website from Monday’s kickoff to the offseason workout program, Pitta is seen working out alongside his teammates in the weight room.
Pitta’s presence may keep the door ajar, but it probably doesn’t change the Ravens’ feelings about needing to add a tight end in the draft. With Owen Daniels gone, the team’s thin on players they know will be there in September.
Monday, April 20, 2015, 5:30pm
Brown has three years remaining on his current contract which will pay him an average of $7.65 million per season. Holdouts are never good, so this is a situation to monitor this offseason. Brown was the #1 receiver in PPR formats in 2014 after finishing #3 the year before.
Eagles TE Zach Ertz did his homework and was told that retired offensive line coach Hudson Houck still trained players. So he called Houck, who mentored Hall of Famers Anthony Munoz and Bruce Matthews at Southern Cal and coached the great Cowboys lines of the 1990s, out of the blue. Soon after, they spent two weeks together in San Diego working on blocking.
Ertz' time with Houck was just one part of his offseason plan. He spent a month focusing on strength training, another on circuit training and additional time on mixed martial arts training. He also sought out former tight end great Tony Gonzalez, who instructed Ertz on the importance of preparation and tenacity.
The 24-year-old Ertz's goals are high. He said he wants to be mentioned someday alongside Gonzalez and others in the NFL pantheon of tight ends. But he knows he can't get there if he's playing only 50 percent of offensive snaps, as he did last season.
There's ample reason, though, to believe that Ertz will finally become a focal point of Chip Kelly's offense. He caught a franchise-record 15 passes against the Redskins in the penultimate game of last season. And when asked to explain last month how he'll compensate for the loss of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, Kelly prominently mentioned Ertz.
"I think he's still growing, and I think Zach will be the first one to tell you that," Kelly said at the NFL meeting. "I think he's working extremely hard in the offseason at continuing to get better."
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 -- DeSean Jackson and then Jeremy Maclin -- in back-to-back seasons, so there will be opportunity from a targets standpoint. If Chip Kelly moves Jordan Matthews outside, then Ertz is a candidate to fill Matthews role in the slot, assuming Kelly is willing to play more two-TE sets to get Ertz on the field. Ertz is currently going in the 8th round of early PPR drafts.
Sunday, April 19, 2015, 8:39pm
Tebow is scheduled to arrive in Philadelphia -- and get a deal done -- in time to be in attendance for the start of the Eagles off-season program Monday.
Broncos HC Gary Kubiak's relationship with WR Cody Latimer dates back 13 months. Latimer visited the Baltimore Ravens leading up to the 2014 draft, meeting with Kubiak, then the Ravens' offensive coordinator. He told Latimer their paths would cross again. Their intersection in Denver — sooner than either expected — brings lofty expectations.
"He showed a lot of flashes from me watching (film of) him in practice," Kubiak said. "A lot of times being a rookie can be over- whelming. I think it's time for him to make a big jump, not just a little jump. Obviously his playing time is fixing to pick up, and it needs to pick up. We need him."
Kubiak has a reputation for preferring two-TE sets over three-WR sets, which may limit Latimer's upside. The Ravens' WR3, Marlon Brown, played 40 percent of the snaps last season, so it remains to be seen if Latimer gets enough run to be fantasy relevant. He's at best the Broncos' WR3 behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Kubiak's tendencies mean that Latimer will have to carve out snaps -- they won't be handed to him.
“I feel really, really good,” Chargers RB Danny Woodhead said, flashing his trademark grin. “I really do. As far as the injury goes, that is something I’m not even thinking about. I’m thinking about trying to get better. I’m focusing on working on what I can do to be better than I was last year. Obviously I wasn’t able to play a lot of games, so I should say I want to be better than I was that first season here.”
“It’s been a long process,” he said of his recovery from a broken fibula. “But definitely it makes you hungrier when the game is taken away. It makes you realize how blessed you are to play it. Not that I didn’t understand that before, but when it is taken away for such a long amount of time, it makes you even hungrier. You miss being out there with your brothers. I’m excited for this season. I’m always excited, but my mentality might even be younger and hungrier than ever before.”
Woodhead is signed through the 2016 season, so assuming he's fully healed, he should resume his role as the Chargers' passing down specialist. In 21 games with the Chargers (including the playoffs), Woodhead has averaged 11.0 touches (4.1 catches) for 58 yards and 0.43 touchdowns, which equate to #13 RB numbers in PPR formats (#21 in standard). The team is expected to draft a running back this month, but it's unlikely that they'll trust a rookie on third downs when they have Woodhead at their disposal. He should continue to be a terrific value in the later rounds, especially in PPR formats.
Just as he got comfortable last year, Jaguars RB Denard Robinson was injured. Add to that a new offensive system he will begin to learn this week. The foot is fine — Robinson said he was cleared to do everything in February. The role is to be defined — so he has spent the offseason working on catching passes and pass protection techniques.
“I just line up as a receiver and run routes and then run flares out of the backfield,” he said. “I feel a lot better than I did before.”
As for pass protection, new coordinator Greg Olson is expected to put a premium on it for running backs to play. Per Times-Union game charting, Robinson was on the hook for four sacks last year.
Robinson saw at least 10 touches in eight games last season and averaged 12.5 fantasy points in PPR formats, and that equates to #13 RB numbers when extrapolated over a full 16-game season. At this point, the Jaguars are expected to draft a running back, so Robinson's position atop the depth chart is tenuous at best. A healthy Toby Gerhart would also be in the mix.
Hyde is expected to take over as the team's primary ball-carrier, with Reggie Bush assuming the passing down role. Given Bush's presence and Hyde's 4.0 YPC during in his rookie season, Hyde is probably being overdrafted as he's been going in the middle of the 3rd round of early PPR drafts. Expect 250 or so carries and a limited role in the passing game.
Cardinals beat writer Bob McManaman on WR John Brown:
He's got the hunger to strive to be better and I know how he cherishes the opportunity he's getting with the Cardinals. HC Bruce Arians loves him and the respect is mutual. I expect big things from Smokey this season.
Brown finished as the #49 WR in standard formats and #53 in PPR. He saw a hefty 103 targets as a rookie, and with Larry Fitzgerald back and Michael Floyd still in the mix, it's doubtful that Brown's usage will increase too much. If Carson Palmer is healthy, however, the whole passing offense could take a step forward, and that would push Brown into fantasy-relevant territory.
The NFL's premier running back is officially back.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reports, via a source involved, that Peterson will face no further suspension upon reinstatement. U.S. District Judge David S. Doty will decide in October how many game checks the Vikings star will lose, per Rapoport. It could be as many as three or as few as zero.
Throwing out his one-game season in 2014, Peterson never finished outside of the top 6 on a per game basis in standard formats (or outside the top 11 in PPR) in his previous seven seasons. He's now on the wrong side of 30, but his legs should be fresh after taking a full season off to deal with his criminal case last season. He and the Vikings have had a tumultuous relationship over the past eight months, and Peterson has made inferences that he'd like to play somewhere else in 2015. For their part, the Vikings say they want him back, and his contract makes him a very difficult player to trade. If he's back in Minnesota, then his 2.02 ADP in early drafts sounds about right. He has top 5 potential, but there is a lot of water that has to flow under the bridge at this point in his career.
Thursday, April 16, 2015, 12:54pm
Second-year receiver Cody Latimer benefited from extra reps at workouts with Peyton Manning at Duke University. He received pointers that could accelerate his learning curve with the new offense. Manning had Latimer run routes that might be incorporated into the scheme of new Broncos coach Gary Kubiak.
"He texted me, and I asked if I could go down there," Latimer said of Manning. "It meant a lot."
Latimer spent his offseason training in Florida. "It really helped give me a headstart," he said.
Latimer is a player to monitor this offseason, especially with the news that Emmanuel Sanders is going to play the slot in three-receiver sets. 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.
On the cusp of his 13th season, Chargers TE Antonio Gates has only one year remaining on his contract and is acutely aware of his expiring clock. He no longer attends voluntary workouts, nor has he done any route running this offseason.
“With injuries and whatnot, I played a little bit more than they expected me to play last season,” he says. “I was playing the whole game. How I feel next year, it depends on how much volume they have me doing. I’d like to come in on third-and-7s, red zones, those situations. That’s what my contribution is at anyway.”
Ladarius Green will once again be an intriguing late round pick, but it's hard to see him posting TE1-type numbers with Gates still healthy and available. The future Hall of Famer finished #2 in standard formats and #3 in PPR, posting 69 catches for 821 yards and 12 touchdowns. It was his 4th-best fantasy season of his career, production-wise. We'll see if the team agrees with his "reduced role" perspective.
The Giants don't know whether and to what extent Victor Cruz will recover from his severe knee injury. He may not be ready to start training camp, and even if he is, he's likely to be on a somewhat limited program as the team works him back slowly from his torn patellar tendon. There's a chance he misses a game or two, and a strong chance he's not 100 percent even when he does return to game action.
Browns TE Rob Housler, 27, confirmed the Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals were interested in signing him, but he said he ultimately chose the Browns partly because of the opportunities he expects to receive in new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo’s scheme. Housler emphasized the coach affectionately known as “Flip” wants to move him around a lot in the offense and feature him as a vertical threat in the middle of the field.
“It was a big factor,” Housler said of weighing the pass-catching opportunities each of his suitors would likely grant him. “I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum where I’ve been a part of targets and a part of the flow and rhythm of the offense, and I’ve seen where it goes other ways. For me, I want to be a big part of the offense. So that was a big consideration. I’m confident in my ability, and I just want to be able to contribute.”
Housler should get plenty of chances as the Browns try to compensate for losing Cameron, whom they attempted to re-sign before he bolted to Miami.
Housler signed a one-year deal with aligns with his expectation that he'll be a big part of the offense. He has great athleticism for his position, but so far that athleticism hasn't translated to on-field production. Part of the problem is that he was an afterthought in the Arizona offense, but it sounds as if the Browns intend to utilize his speed down the seam.