The quarterback competition that Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden discussed after the season apparently has ended. Gruden told reporters at the NFL scouting combine Wednesday that Robert Griffin III will enter next season as the starter.
"We'll go into the season with Robert as our No. 1 guy," Gruden said. "It's up to Robert to continue to grow and mature as a quarterback and as a person. Moving forward we want to see improvement. It's up to us as a staff to get more out of him."
RG3 averaged 12.0 fantasy points in the six games that he started (and finished) in 2014. That's what Blake Bortles averaged as the league's #24 fantasy quarterback. We know Griffin is capable of more, but he hasn't been the same player since his rookie season. Specifically, he's not running the ball as often or as effectively.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015, 3:28pm
Browns writer Tony Grossi: Bumped into former Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner and one of the more depressing things he related was that Charles Johnson is “far and away our best receiver” on the Minnesota Vikings.
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. He should continue to have plenty of opportunity to grow in Norv Turner's offense.
As PFT reported earlier, the Cardinals have gained nearly $13 million in cap space thanks to a new deal with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, guaranteeing that one of the franchise’s icons will remain in the fold after months of uncertainty because of Fitzgerald’s salary and cap hit for the 2015 season.
PFT has learned a bit more about the deal via a league source. Fitzgerald’s old deal ran through the 2018 season and was set to pay him a non-guaranteed $16.5 million in 2015 while counting $23.6 million against the cap. He was also set to make a non-guaranteed $15 million salary.
That deal has been replaced by one that guarantees Fitzgerald $11 million per year over the next two seasons.
$11 million per season 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. Assuming Palmer is good to go, Fitzgerald could be a nice middle round value heading into 2015 fantasy drafts.
Steelers HC Mike Tomlin’s end-of-season assessment of WR Martavis Bryant, who was inactive for the first six games of his rookie year only to come on to catch 26 passes for 549 yards (21.1 average) and eight touchdowns was on point. “I saw growth in him. And that growth came with snaps,” said Tomlin. “I would imagine he is going to get more opportunities to grow with those snaps. The thing is, he has to continue to grow and have an open mind. He has to acknowledge that he doesn’t have all the answers. Sometimes that is seemingly more difficult than it appears. He probably has less anxiety now than he did nine or 10 months ago because there are less unknowns. Sometimes that’s a good thing for men, and sometimes that’s a bad thing for men. I am going to be watching him very closely as he proceeds.” If Bryant remains the coachable individual he was in 2014, he can develop into a dynamic NFL receiver.
Bryant averaged 2.8 catches for 56 yards and 0.82 TD in the final 11 games of the season (including a 5-61-1 outing against Baltimore in the playoffs). Thanks to the incredible touchdown rate, those are high-end WR2 numbers in standard formats and solid WR2 numbers in PPR. What's more, he didn't play 60 percent of the snaps until the postseason, so there's upside here from a playing time standpoint. If he earns a starting role this offseason -- and it looks like he will -- he’ll be a middle round pick in 2015 fantasy drafts.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015, 10:31am
The Falcons need to upgrade in the backfield and that's likely to start with the release of veteran Steven Jackson. New offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan brings with him an emphasis on the outside zone-blocking scheme and one-cut-and-go mentality for the running backs. The Falcons will benefit from having younger legs in such a scheme. Don't discount second-year player Devonta Freeman, who is eager to take the next step and could thrive in the system. But the Falcons need more bodies, and Jacquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith are headed to free agency. Keep an eye on Justin Forsett, who also is bound for free agency. Forsett thrived in the zone-blocking scheme the past season en route to a career-high 1,266 rushing yards. And Forsett is represented by the same agent who represents Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015, 10:29am
Only one of the Ravens' top three running backs from last year is guaranteed to return, and that's rookie fourth-round pick Lorenzo Taliaferro. The Ravens would like to re-sign leading rusher Justin Forsett, but he could receive a better offer elsewhere after becoming the NFL's fifth-leading rusher in 2014. The status for Bernard Pierce is just as uncertain after he recorded his second straight disappointing season. The Ravens will want to upgrade their depth if they're able to do so, and Pierce may not make the regular-season roster. This is a situation where the Ravens are going to be careful with how much they invest in this position because they're carrying $9.5 million in dead cap space after releasing Ray Rice last year. Their game plan could be to sign a moderately priced veteran in free agency and add another runner in the draft.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015, 10:28am
Change is coming for the Dolphins at the receiver position. Miami was ranked 17th in passing with 233.1 yards per game last season, and the immediate futures of several veterans are in question. Starting receiver Brian Hartline and slot Brandon Gibson could be salary-cap casualties due to their $5.95 million and $3.26 million salaries, respectively. The Dolphins must also decide what to do with No. 1 receiver Mike Wallace, who is due $9.9 million. Wallace was benched in the second half of Miami’s Week 17 loss to the New York Jets due to venting his frustration. It remains to be seen if both sides stay together or part ways. Either way, the Dolphins need to have a strong group of receivers around quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is entering his fourth season.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015, 4:13pm
Raiders RB Latavius Murray will be given every chance to show he can be a feature back, but HC Jack Del Rio said it's far from a done deal. He'll give Maurice Jones-Drew a chance to rejuvenate his legs, but he's a question mark based on last season's 2.2 yards per carry average. Darren McFadden is an unrestricted free agent.
We don't think that Murray will need extra chances to prove he's a feature back. He rushed 82 times for 424 yards (a 5.2 YPC) and two touchdowns, including an incredible four-carry, 112-yard, two-TD performance against the Chiefs in Week 12. He still averaged a solid (if unspectacular) 4.0 YPC when that game is excluded. With good size (6'2", 223 lbs) and great speed (4.38 40-yard dash), Murray has all the physical tools to succeed at the position. He even showed solid hands with 17 receptions on 23 targets.
At tight end, the Packers like what last year's third-round pick, Richard Rodgers, showed late in the season, when he became more involved in the offense, but it's still too early to say whether he'll be the playmaker that Jermichael Finley was before his neck injury. Behind Rodgers and Andrew Quarless, the Packers are thin. Once a promising prospect, Brandon Bostick was released on Monday, a month after he botched the onside kick recovery in the NFC Championship Game.
Neither Rodgers nor Quarless established themselves as a consistent threat as a fantasy tight end. The Packers may look to shore up the position this offseason.
Julius Thomas' representatives, with his back-to-back seasons of 12 touchdown receptions, are looking to move him into the upper reaches of the pay-grade at the position. With a long list of free agents that includes wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos are not expected to put a better offer in front of Thomas than he could get elsewhere.
Thomas finished with the 4th-highest PPG in standard formats in each of the last two seasons, but he missed two games in 2013 and three more (plus reduced snaps in three additional games) in 2014. His value is likely to take a hit if he signs elsewhere.
Friday, as a guest of Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 F for Newsmakers Week, GM Steve Keim had a similar tone.
"He's awesome," Keim said. "He came in, I believe it was yesterday and I talked to him at length, he's more energized than ever and he looked fantastic.
"It looks like he put on some lean muscle; he is working his tail off. And I know he's at a point in his rehabilitation process where he's doing some running and he's ahead of schedule. And again, he's more energized than ever."
Palmer averaged 271 yards, 1.8 touchdowns and 0.5 interceptions in six 2014 starts, or 17.2 fantasy points per game. Those are fringe QB1 numbers, so if Palmer is good to go for 2015, he'll be on the radar as a late-round value for those owners looking to stream or form a committee at the position. Keep an eye on the Larry Fitzgerald situation -- if he parts ways with the team, it's going to be a blow to Palmer's upside.
Welker, who ranks 20th all time among receivers with 890 career catches, said Monday he intends to play on.
"Just getting ready for 2015," Welker told The Denver Post via text.
FoxSports.com cited sources in its report on Feb. 10 that Welker was considering retirement.
"Never ever came out of my mouth," Welker said.
Where Welker plays is uncertain. He becomes an unrestricted free agent on March 10.
Welker's numbers were way down last year (49-464-2) compared to his first season in Denver (73-778-10) even though he played one additional game. The Broncos' pass attempts dropped by 10 percent, and Welker's targets took the biggest hit. We don't expect him to be back in Denver, especially if the team is serious about getting Cody Latimer more involved. Emmanuel Sanders can play the slot with (free agent) Demaryius Thomas and Latimer playing on the outside.
Jerick McKinnon entered December with not only a spot near the front of the NFL’s rookie rushing ranks, but also a painful lower back injury.
While many of his teammates headed home after the season or to exotic locales much warmer than Minnesota, the Georgia native has stayed in the Twin Cities so he can rehab his injury at Winter Park with the team’s athletic training staff. He has only a couple more weeks left before the process is completed.
“It’s been pretty good. It’s been a long process, but that’s just the way it goes after surgery. I’ve been here all offseason working really hard,” McKinnon said last week in a phone interview. “I’ve just been in the training room with [assistant athletic trainer] Tom Hunkele pushing myself to the limit and just trying to get back ready. It’s been a long grind but it’s definitely working.”
There have been no setbacks, and McKinnon says he will be ready to participate without any limitations in the offseason workout program, which can begin April 20.
McKinnon was the team’s primary runner from Week 4 to Week 12, averaging 81.5 yards on 16.4 touches per game. During that span, he was the #25 RB in standard formats and #20 in PPR. However, he failed to score a touchdown while Matt Asiata found the endzone 10 times. Asiata is a restricted free agent, so he should be back in 2015. Adrian Peterson is also under contract, but his future in Minnesota is cloudy. If Peterson leaves town and McKinnon enters the season as the team’s primary back, then low-end RB2 numbers are within reach.
Jaguars WR Allen Robinson’s late-July hamstring injury kept him out of every preseason game. But he had at least four catches in each of his last nine games and was targeted 10 or more times in four games. Robinson had eight “explosive” receptions and played 516 snaps.
Robinson underwent surgery in November for a stress fracture but is expected to be full-go when the offseason program starts in April.
“He’ll have an offseason, an OTA, a training camp and should be able to accelerate his game,” WR coach Jerry Sullivan said. “The thing about all these young guys, they come out of college, they train for the Combine and then they train for each team that wants to work them out. Now they can really compartmentalize what they need to do.”
Robinson averaged 5.2 catches for 61 yards and 0.22 TD from Week 2 to Week 10, which extrapolates to an 84-9774-3.6 over the course of a full 16-game season. Those are fringe WR2-type numbers. The Jacksonville receiving corps should feature Robinson, Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns and perhaps Justin Blackmon. If QB Blake Bortles can progress, this could be a dangerous passing game.