June 2016 4for4 Player News Articles
The Colts announced Wednesday that Luck has signed an extension through the 2021 season that will make him the highest-paid player in the NFL, based on guaranteed salary.
Go get that money, Andrew.
Panthers RB Cameron Artis-Payne said he gained a lot of confidence as the tailback of choice during Jonathan Stewart’s absence, and after a strong offseason, he would likely be the first choice to spell Stewart again.
With Jonathan Stewart sidelined for a three-game stretch late in the season, Artis-Payne turned 38 total touches into 210 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 4.60 YPC during that span and would most likely step into a lead back role if Stewart were to miss time again in 2016.
David Helman of DallasCowboys.com:
I don’t think it’s even a question that Ezekiel Elliott will be first string, and I’d say that even if Darren McFadden was 100 percent healthy. To your second point, I don’t think “concerned” is the word I’d use, but it’s definitely something I’d be mindful of. DeMarco Murray got 83 percent of the carries for this team in 2014, and he finished with more than 400 total touches. That’s a tad much for anyone, let alone a rookie. Fortunately, the Cowboys have vastly superior depth at the position this year. I think Zeke will finish with roughly 280-300 carries, which would put him right around 18-20 per game. That should leave plenty of carries for Alfred Morris and McFadden to get involved.
It's doubtful that the Cowboys drafted Elliott #4 overall to let him sit behind McFadden and/or Morris as a rookie. As long as he doesn't fall on his face, he should be the workhorse, with McFadden and Morris sprinkling in as change-of-pace backs. McFadden’s offseason injury only serves to help Elliott’s chances of RB1 touches.
The comparisons between Sterling Shepard and Odell Beckham aren’t just in the unrelated complements from evaluators. Giants’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo flat-out mistook Sterling Shepard for Odell Beckham Jr. :
"I'll tell you, I was looking at tape the other day and we had a receiver doing some things against us and I told the staff we have to do a better job there against Odell (Beckham, Jr.). And then I looked again and it was not Odell - it was actually Shepard."
It's a good sign for Shepard if his own defensive coordinator can't tell him apart from one of the best receivers in the league. It appears that Shepard is going to play starter's snaps regardless of the status of Victor Cruz. Rueben Randle was the #32 WR in PPR formats serving as the Giants' WR2 last year.
Seahawks' WR Doug Baldwin's new four-year extension with Seattle is worth north of $11 million per year, per source.
Baldwin was ridiculous after Seattle’s Week 9 bye, posting an average of 5.9 catches for 90.5 yards and 1.5 TD per game in the second half of the season. This represents a 147% increase from his production in the first half of the season. The outburst corresponded with the emergence of Russell Wilson as an elite fantasy quarterback, and Pete Carroll has indicated that the team’s offense will more closely resemble the one we saw down the stretch in 2015. We’re not expecting WR1 fantasy numbers from Baldwin, but he’s certainly in the WR2 conversation given Seattle’s newfound willingness to throw the ball.
"He’s a legit player for us, and he’s right in the middle of all our planning and all of our preparation," Carroll said. "You have to deal with him in our offense. He’s going to be moved around to a lot. He'll be in a lot of different spots. He can do everything. We’re really pumped about him coming back. He looks so confident, which he always has. We had to make him prove it a little bit. But once we got a hold of the kind of dynamic player that he is, we used the heck out of him, and he’s going to get a lot of play time, a lot of stuff happening his way. Really helps Doug [Baldwin], really helps [Jermaine] Kearse. Those guys are great complements."
One of the things Lockett has focused on this offseason is beating press coverage. Some pegged Lockett, at 5-foot-10 and 182 pounds, exclusively as a slot receiver coming out of college. But according to ESPN Stats & Information, he lined up outside on 65.6 percent of his routes last season. And 63 percent of Lockett's receiving yards came when he set up out wide.
"The biggest thing is I’ve been going against Richard about 95 percent of the camp, and he’s just made me a better player," Lockett said. "Going against Richard (Sherman), I’ve got to be able to move him and get him off at the line, and I can’t use the same stuff every time because he’s a smart defender, so I’ve got to switch some things up.
"And if things don’t work, at least it doesn’t work in practice against him. If it does work, he’ll let me know and be like, ‘Hey, that was a good release. That really does work.’ And it just makes it easier for me to go against anybody else, especially on other teams, after I go up against the best DB in the league."
As a rookie, Lockett owned the #5 fantasy points per target (FP/T) in standard formats (#3 in PPR), and he plays in a historically efficient passing offense. The only issue is volume. Lockett saw just 69 targets in 2015, but averaged 5.4 T/G (and 57.1 yards) over the final nine games of the season, including the playoffs. That’s an 86-target (and a 913-yard) pace, so if he’s able to maintain his 1.48 FP/T, it would yield 128 fantasy points, which is about what Rueben Randle scored as the #28 WR last year. If Lockett is going to crack the top 20, he’ll need to see 6.0+ T/G. The good news is that Russell Wilson has increased his pass attempts in each of the last three seasons, and with Marshawn Lynch retired, it sounds as if there will be more opportunity in the passing game for Lockett.
It was deserved. The second-year receiver was excellent in practices open to the press, working in precision with quarterback Derek Carr.
There’s clearly growth between passer and receiver, but Cooper himself has a spring in his step. He’s confident, comfortable with the Raiders and his place in the NFL.
Cooper suffered a foot injury in practice after Week 13. Prior to the injury, he was playing at an 83-1243-5.3 pace, and was the #18 receiver in standard and #17 in PPR. Over the final four games, he only managed 10 catches for 150 total yards and two touchdowns. Now that he’s back to full health, we’re expecting the early-season version of Cooper, and he may make further strides in his second season.
Via Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union, Jaguars tight end Julius Thomas and quarterback Blake Bortles looked “nearly unstoppable” during Organized Team Activities and minicamp. While shorts and T-shirts football remains a far cry from real football, it won’t be a surprise if Thomas and Bortles are indeed unstoppable this year.
Last season, Thomas broke his hand during the preseason. This season, assuming that he stays healthy, Thomas will have plenty of opportunities in a passing game fueled by receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.
Thomas missed the first month of the season with a hand injury, but returned in Week 5 to post #11 TE numbers (PPR) the rest of the way. He has missed seven games over the past two seasons due to injury. He has reportedly had a great offseason and has spent extra time in the film room with QB Blake Bortles in the hopes of building better chemistry.
“If not, then cool,” Watkins said. “Get ready for the first game.”
That takes his timetable for a projected return from early August to any time from August to early September. Watkins last week told TSN.ca that he’d “definitely be available” and might only miss two or three days of camp, which begins in late July.
The Bills won’t rush Watkins back from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot, and Watkins sounded like he’s fine waiting if that’s what it takes, too. He said he hasn’t run in the last three or four weeks.
Watkins had offseason foot surgery, which has put his preseason (and Week 1) availability into question. However, with the way he finished the season -- 5.4-100-0.78 over the final nine games -- he has WR1 potential in 2016 provided he can stay healthy.
Patriots WR Julian Edelman missed minicamp and every OTA open to the media. He was in a bulky walking boot for Tom Brady's annual Best Buddies flag football game on June 3. He did not play in the game.
According to one photo from Patriots.com, though, it appears Edelman did not wear the boot to the MGH event Wednesday.
This would be a sign of progress for Edelman, who, according to a May 12 report from ESPN's Mike Reiss and Adam Schefter, was "on track" to return for training camp.
The Jones fracture suffered by Edelman can be a tricky injury. Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, who also underwent a second surgery following his Jones fracture, needed five months to gain clearance for running and cutting. As CSNNE's Tom Curran pointed out, Edelman wouldn't be back until November if he followed the same timeline.
In 28 games over the past two seasons (including the playoffs), Edelman has averaged 7.0 catches for 75 yards and 0.43 TD on 10.3 targets per game. That works out to low-end WR1 numbers in PPR formats, so as long as he's healthy, he should provide good value in the 3rd round of fantasy drafts.
Lions.com writer Tim Twentyman on RB Ameer Abdullah:
Abdullah went through his fair share of ups and downs as a rookie and finished with 597 rushing yards (4.2 average) and two touchdowns.
I thought he showed a high level of maturity and dedication in an interview with Sirius NFL Radio this offseason.
“I feel like I showed some flashes last year, but in this league you can’t show flashes,” he said. “You have to be consistent. That definitely had a lot to do with growing pains.
“It also had a lot to do with me being immature as a player coming straight from college and not understanding what kind of preparation and mental focus it took for such a long amount of time.
“I know I have a lot to give to this team and a lot to give to this league. I know I can be a good back, but it starts with those little things I mentioned earlier.”
I’d be pretty surprised if we don't see a much-improved Abdullah in year two.
After the team's Week 9 bye, and with new-OC Jim Bob Cooter calling the plays, Abdullah averaged 11.5 touches for 55.3 yards and 0.12 TD per game. He averaged 4.65 YPC in that span, and the running game as a whole improved considerably under Cooter (+6.75 carries, +27.5 yards and +0.37 TD per game). Joique Bell saw 9.4 touches per game during that stretch, and that work is up for grabs now that Bell is gone. If healthy, Abdullah will probably lead the Lions in carries and yards, and may be a post-hype sleeper if his touches increase significantly. But Theo Riddick will serve as the primary pass-catcher out of the backfield, and Stevan Ridley and Zach Zenner could eat into Abdullah's early-down and short-yardage touches, so Abdullah's upside is somewhat capped.
Mark Cook of the Pewter Report was asked about the Buccaneers' running game.
Question 1. Chris will Doug Martin rush for over 1,400 yards again this season?
Answer: Well he certainly is capable, but so many factors play into it actually happening. First and foremost, does he stay healthy? Secondly, will head coach Dirk Koetter rely more on the arm of Winston now that he is in his second season of the offense? There is no question Koetter understands the importance of balance, but how much did Lovie Smith’s influence have an affect on the play calling in 2015? And then there is the Charles Sims effect. I really believe we will see Sims get more carries in 2016 and that could cut into Martin’s total yardage. Of course you don’t give Martin the contract you gave him to take too many touches away from him, if any at all. It will be interesting to see how things play out, but one thing is certain, and that is, if Martin is healthy, he will be a focal point of this offense, as he should be.
Last year, there were 479 touches split between Martin and Sims, with Martin seeing 67% of the work to Sims' 33%. We currently project a similar split, which makes Sims our #30 RB in PPR formats, three spots higher than his current ADP. He would have upside from there if the Bucs decide to give him some of Martin's carries.
Following a disappointing season with the Philadelphia Eagles in a system that didn’t seem to fit DeMarco Murray’s skills, the running back was asked on The Jim Rome Show if he believes Mike Mularkey’s offense in Tennessee is a better fit for him. He answered, “I do. It’s strictly downhill and that’s what I’ve been accustomed to my entire life. Nothing against last year or what happened, it just didn’t work out, but I’m very excited about this upcoming season and looking forward to it.”
The biggest surprise of spring football was, by far, Vi...
The biggest surprise of spring football was, by far, Victor Cruz getting some reps during team drills at minicamp. Leading up to the three-day camp it seemed the team wasn’t going to have him participate in team drills until training camp. Instead, he would continue to do individual work on the side, most notably conditioning drills with the training staff.
That plan changed as Cruz ran routes and caught passes against air as well as defenders during jog-through. This was yet another physical step in the right direction as he works his way back from knee and calf injuries but, most important, it was a positive from a mental standpoint in terms of building confidence in what he’ll be able to accomplish during training camp.
Owner Jim Irsay had been openly pining for an elusive Darren Sproles-style satellite back. That's the role offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski dangled in front of Ferguson in a post-draft recruiting pitch.
With the underwhelming quartet of Robert Turbin, Jordan Todman, Trey Williams and Tyler Varga behind 33-year-old starter Frank Gore, Ferguson used offseason practices to climb the depth chart and make a lasting impression on the coaching staff.
"It's just in shorts, but he looks really good," coach Chuck Pagano said last week as the Colts wrapped up minicamp. "He's smart. He picks things up in a hurry. He's very, very athletic. He's a great receiver out of the back field. We can split him wide, we can displace him formationally. He's a mismatch out in space. He's got juice. He can go. He's got great vision."
We like Frank Gore as a value pick this year, but Ferguson could surprise in PPR formats even if Gore stays healthy.
Carlos Hyde’s got the top spot in the 49ers backfield as long as he can stay healthy. Shaun Draughn’s ability to catch passes brings some versatility to the offense and should garner him plenty of playing time.
Chip Kelly discussed Hyde's ability to be an every-down back, so these third-down snaps are where he can gain a lot of value, especially in PPR formats. This is a situation to monitor this summer.
Ravens TE Dennis Pitta was one of the more active and productive offensive players for the past couple of weeks. Pitta is moving well and caught just about everything thrown in his direction. He’s always going to be at risk of reinjuring his hip, but for now, Pitta feels good and looks like he can be a significant contributor.
Watkins, who is recovering from surgery to repair stress fractures in his left foot, admits he will have to be cautious in his return to the field.
“For training camp, I think I’ll definitely be available,” Watkins told TSN.ca. “I might sit out two or three days. It’s all about how I feel within those days. The goal is to come back and be prepared for training camp.”
Watkins underwent surgery on his foot in April and graduated from crutches to a walking boot before arriving without any visible sign of an injury in Toronto late last week.
The assumption is that he'll be ready for Week 1, but time will tell if he's fully healthy by then. With the way he finished the season -- 5.4-100-0.78 over the final nine games -- he has WR1 potential in 2016 provided he can stay healthy.
Geramy Davis, last year’s sixth-round pick out of UConn...
Geramy Davis, last year’s sixth-round pick out of UConn, played in 10 games as a rookie but recorded just two receptions for 21 yards. So he entered spring as somewhat of a question mark, but he made the most of his reps during OTAs and minicamp. Davis saw a lot of time with Eli Manning and racked up the receptions with the first-team offense. That included a tough touchdown catch this week going against veteran cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
“Geremy is a bright guy,” Manning said. “He knows the offense very well. He studies hard. He’s really in tune with what his assignments are. He’s got great size. He’s one of our bigger receivers. You can move him around and put him in different spots. He’s going to be really keyed into what his assignment is, so that’s always helpful. Hopefully he can step up and get on a roll and make some plays for us come game time.”
The second-half outburst came after the Seahawks shifted their offense during their bye week, deciding to emphasize quicker passes, timing routes and spread formations. They were especially successful with empty sets (no running backs in the backfield).
Throwing passes more quickly also helped mitigate some of the offensive-line struggles. Russell Wilson was sacked just 15 times in the last nine games after the Seahawks allowed 31 in the first seven.
Carroll said to expect more of the same in 2016, the first season since 2010 without running back Marshawn Lynch as the focal point of the offense.
“Our rhythm throughout camp, we stayed connected to what we did in the second half of the year,’’ Carroll said. “We went in determined to do that, and right from the get-go when we got back here on the field we were at it with tempo and timing and all that and stood strong throughout the whole camp.”
Of the early-round quarterback picks, Wilson is the player we’d be most inclined to draft since he’s sometimes still on the board in the 6th/7th round. After his Week 9 bye, Wilson averaged 279 passing yards and 3.1 touchdowns over the final eight games. That’s a 4,400-plus/50-TD pace, which is why he’s ranked with the likes of Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers atop our projections.
Jeff Janis is coming.
If talent wins, Janis will earn that role. When it comes to raw size and speed, there really isn't much comparison between Janis and other young receivers on the roster. The Packers continually threw deep to Janis in team drills, and he continually beat the likes of cornerbacks Sam Shields and Damarious Randall, and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
The only thing that can get in his way — and it has been a big hurdle — is lack of chemistry and trust with Rodgers. Janis has to be reliable. He has to prove he'll be in the right place on the field when he's supposed to be there. If he cuts out the mistakes, he has a real chance to carve a role for himself in the Packers' passing game.
Coaches have to be intrigued with the possibility of Nelson and Janis stretching the field deep on the perimeter with Cobb working underneath.
Janis had seven catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns in a playoff game against the Cardinals, but only registered a catch in one other game last year (2-79 vs. the Chargers) despite a host of injuries to the Green Bay wide receivers. For whatever reason, the team wasn't comfortable giving Janis consistent snaps despite his ability to stretch the field with his 4.42 speed and elite athleticism, something that is lacking elsewhere in the receiving corps. His main competition for snaps is the disappointing Davante Adams.
Tight end Jacob Tamme had a strong offseason catching the ball and working on his blocking. His 59 catches last season were the second-highest total of his career.
“I really feel like my best years are still in front of me,” Tamme said. “Which is a good feeling to have at this point in my career. That’s an exciting thing for me.”
He believes the offense made some major strides.
“I feel like I’m well ahead of where I was at this point last year,” Tamme said. “That’s something that I’m pretty jacked up about.”
A lot of attention at receiver focused on rookie Josh Doctson and veteran DeSean Jackson. But Jamison Crowder is the target who left folks at Redskins Park excited. Late last year, the Redskins felt Crowder wore down (he admitted as much) and it impacted his ability to get free. Crowder has looked decisive and explosive in his routes this offseason. And don’t think that just because Doctson is here that Crowder will somehow get bumped in some three-receiver sets. The Redskins will be reluctant to sit Crowder based on how they felt he looked this spring, building on his 59-catch rookie season. He still must show he can shake defensive backs when they play press coverage.
Bengals beat writer Coley Harvey said that he does NOT expect Tyler Eifert to play in Week 1.
Eifert will reportedly miss three months after ankle surgery in late May, which will impact his availability for training camp and potentially Week 1. He was a touchdown machine in 2015, finding the end zone 13 times in 13 games. His 5th-round ADP has dropped into the 7th round. If he’s healthy for Week 1, he could be a nice value there, but his early-season availability is in doubt.
Bears beat writer Adam L. Jahns was asked how WR Kevin White looked at OTAs.
Like a work in progress. His physical gifts are apparent. He’s fast and imposing. But his drops stood out, especially when Jeffery was out of town. White is under pressure to be a difference-maker and is clearly learning the finer points of being an NFL receiver. But I’ll say this: when Jeffery did return for minicamp, White’s play seemingly improved.
White, who spent the entire year on the shelf with a severe case of shin splints and/or some sort of leg injury, should have a big role in 2016. He was starting to practice before the end of the season but landed on injured reserve since he wasn’t in game shape and there was no really point in rushing him back in what became a lost season for the Bears. He was the #7 overall pick in the 2015 Draft and the Bears need him, so he should have a sizable role in the offense.
“We watched a lot of film on him last year, just because we played the AFC South,” Brees told reporters. “It felt like every time we turned on the film to watch an opponent that we were about to play, I’m watching Colts film or Fleener film. It was like, ‘Man, this guy has an uncanny ability to separate.’ He is always open. There’s always a place to throw the ball where he can get it. It gets you excited about a guy who has that type of range and that type of feel. Time on task with a guy like that, the more time we have in this offense where he can understand the nuances and understand what I am thinking, and where I want him to be, and when I want him to be there, and when and where the ball is going to be thrown — that’s when you really start cooking. That’s when you feel like a guy is uncoverable. I don’t care who is on him. He’s 6-5 or 6-6, there is a place where I can throw the ball where he can get it or nobody can.”
In the 22 games that Fleener has played over the last three seasons with Dwayne Allen sidelined, he has averaged 4.1 catches for 54 yards and 0.45 TD. Those averages would have been good enough to finish 7th in standard scoring and 6th in PPR in 2015. When only looking at seven such games in the last two seasons, Fleener has averaged 5.4 catches for 82 yards and 0.86 TD. He landed in a great spot (New Orleans), where he’ll be asked to replace Ben Watson, who was 7th in tight end targets last year. It doesn't hurt that Fleener hasn't missed a game in the last three years, either.
The Seattle Seahawks expect tight end Jimmy Graham and running back Thomas Rawls to be ready for the start of the season, although they may not be able to go at the start of training camp in late July.
Coach Pete Carroll said Thursday as the team wrapped up its three-day mandatory minicamp that both are on track to be ready when the Seahawks open on Sept. 11 against Miami. Graham tore a patellar tendon last November, while Rawls broke an ankle in December.
Rawls' ADP has dropped about a round, likely due to fear that he won't be ready for Week 1. In the six games in which Rawls played and Marshawn Lynch did not, the rookie averaged 20.5 touches for 120 yards and 0.84 touchdowns (on a stellar 5.6 YPC). That doesn't even include Week 3, when he turned 16 carries into 104 yards while Lynch was limited to five carries. If Rawls is good to go Week 1, he's shaping up to be a nice value in the 4th.
Receiver Jaelen Strong may be the most improved player on the team. Strong had an impressive offseason program. He got most of his assignments correct, ran the right routes and made a lot of spectacular catches. He showed consistent improvement. His teammates and coaches are excited about him. Getting arrested for marijuana possession in February seemed to help his maturity on and off the field.
The emergence of 5th-round rookie WR Tajae Sharpe begs the question: What does it mean for veterans like Dorial Green-Beckham and Justin Hunter? Those players have been watching as Sharpe has lined up with the starters. Rishard Matthews has been the other outside receiver while Kendall Wright has been busy - and looked good - in the slot.
“I am hoping they are taking it personal, and they are going to come back in here in better shape, and better prepared and healthy and ready to go out of the gate,’’ Mularkey said when asked about Green-Beckman and Hunter. “(We want to see that) from the first practice on.”
This could just be a motivational ploy, but it's not like Green-Beckham has the sort of resume that buys hm a lot of leash when it comes to being in "better shape" or being "better prepared." DGB could be starting in Week 1, but the odds are less favorable than they were a month or two ago. Sharpe doesn't have a great athletic profile, but he has quickly ascended the Titans' depth chart. Owners looking for value may want to avoid DGB for the time being and target Rishard Matthews and/or Kendall Wright, who seem locked in as starters.
Spiller may be more involved this year, but it doesn't look like he's going to take a Darren Sproles-type role in the offense. We would use Hightower as the handcuff to Ingram given the way the veteran finished the season. Hightower averaged 24.0 touches for 114 yards and 1.0 TD over the final four games last year.
Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan fully anticipates taking more deep shots this coming season, particularly with a dynamic deep threat such as Julio Jones to target. Last season, Jones averaged 10.33 air yards per target, which ranked 47th in the league. Of course, he made the most of those targets with a league-leading 1,871 receiving yards, including 642 yards after the catch. But a few more deep balls might have put Jones over the 2,000-yard mark.
"Usually, explosive plays have never been an issue. I know we didn't get as many last year as we wanted to. ... We actually had a good amount of explosive plays. We didn't have a good amount of explosive touchdowns. Our guy who can do it the most, Julio, he got a bunch at the beginning of the year, but it's a little harder to get explosive plays when there's always a second guy over the top of you. That's why we had to move him and recreate some. I'm hoping other guys can do it, too."
Jones finished #2 in both formats last year and is a rock-solid 1st round pick in 2016. Not much has changed in Atlanta, so Jones should continue to see a boatload of targets as Matt Ryan’s primary option. A few more touchdowns would certainly help his outlook. Any concern about Jones’ foot seems to be gone now that he’s played in 31 of his last 32 games.
HC Mike McCoy on RB Melvin Gordon, who is recovering from microfracture surgery.
“Melvin has worked extremely hard this offseason,” he said “If you had seen him last Thursday do the conditioning part of the program in the offseason, you would have never known he was injured last year. He has worked extremely hard with (Head Trainer) James (Collins’) staff, (and we’re) very pleased with where he is at. He is getting more and more comfortable every day. (He’s) cutting certain ways, doing certain things and each day he has gotten better. I’m really looking forward to him having an outstanding year this year.”
Gordon missed the final two games, but through the first 15 weeks, he was the #44 RB in PPR formats. When Ken Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator in 2013, Ryan Mathews was the #17 RB (PPR), so there is definitely potential in this offense if Gordon remains healthy and the team can sort out its offensive line. We believe that Danny Woodhead will finish as the top Charger running back in both formats, but Gordon is the wild card in San Diego.
"A thousand receptions, to be honest," Smith said after the Ravens finished their second day of a three-day minicamp in Owings Mills. "You've got to have something to strive for."
"I may catch that, in my uniform, get in my car and go home," Smith said with a smile. "Straight from there. Drive all the way from M&T Bank [Stadium] straight to Charlotte [N.C.] in one shot."
While Ravens coach John Harbaugh has always encouraged players returning from an injury the previous season to try to get live competition in the preseason, it's likely the coach will let Smith decide if he'd rather play or rest.
For now, it appears Smith would vote against coming back before the Sept. 11 opener against the Buffalo Bills.
"I've been very comfortable throughout my career not playing in the preseason," Smith said. "I don't have any problem with that. Just four games that don't count and the liability of injury at the senior citizen age that I am, I think probably staying out will be good."
Through eight weeks, Smith was the #10 WR in PPR formats before tearing his Achilles. He’s 37, and doesn’t plan to play in the preseason, though he expects to be ready for Week 1. He’s still the best receiver on the team when healthy, but that’s a big caveat at this point in his career.
Related players: Richard Rodgers
The Packers typically give their top tight around 90 targets per season. Cook has a career Catch Rate of 57.7% and 12.8 Y/R, so assuming he continues at that rate -- which may be low-balling his numbers since the quality of his targets should increase significantly -- he would catch 52 passes for 666 yards. Jermichael Finley averaged 0.34 TD per game in his final three seasons and Richard Rodgers averaged 0.50 TD last year. So if we assume 0.40 TD per game for Cook, that yields 6.4 TD for the season. In PPR formats, that’s about what Richard Rodgers scored last year as the #11 TE. Cook has upside from there if his Catch Rate and Y/R increase with Rodgers throwing him the ball, though the foot injury is keeping Cook and his quarterback from developing the chemistry necessary for consistent in-season production. If Cook stays healthy and does play starter’s snaps, then he has a great shot at TE1 numbers.
"He's going to be a phenomenal player," Beckham said Tuesday after the Giants opened their three-day mandatory minicamp. "I just feel like I really know what he's capable of, and I'd rather let him just shock the world than spill his secrets."
"He can run routes, he can catch, he can pretty much do it all. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing him develop," Beckham said, adding that Shepard has adjusted well to the Giants' offense after a few understandable early rough patches while learning the system."
Bears WR Marquess Wilson broke his foot, needs surgery ...
Bears WR Marquess Wilson broke his foot, needs surgery and could miss the start of the season.
Bears beat writer Brad Biggs:
Right now, I think most consider Jeremy Langford the odds-on favorite to be named the starter after he got 148 carries during his rookie season. But what you have to keep in mind is the Bears are more likely to go with a shared backfield than any time over the last eight seasons when Matt Forte got the bulk of the work (and nearly all of it in some seasons).
Coach John Fox has consistently used a backfield by committee in the past in time with the Broncos and Panthers and it’s a situation where the coaches look for the hot hand and ride it. This regime did not draft KaDeem Carey so right now I’d probably expect to see Jordan Howard emerge ahead of him. But Howard will have to earn that opportunity and he’s going to have to prove he’s adept at pass protection.
The Bears saw enough from Langford to convince the team to let Matt Forte walk. Langford averaged 21.3 touches for 122 yards and 1.3 TD in the three games that Forte missed. He finished as the #23 RB in standard formats with a significant role even when Forte was healthy enough to play. He only averaged 3.6 YPC and caught just 22 of the 42 targets that came his way. His NFL talent is a topic of hot debate this offseason, but no one can question the opportunity he has in Chicago.
That’s what Bridgewater’s teammates are calling their week together in April, when he brought in his top pass-catchers for workouts in Florida. In attendance were Vikings receivers Stefon Diggs, Jarius Wright, Charles Johnson, Cordarrelle Patterson and Adam Thielen, and tight ends Kyle Rudolph and MyCole Pruitt.
Coach Mike Zimmer said Bridgewater has shown plenty of improvement this spring, especially throwing the deep ball.
Zimmer says Bridgewater is winging it.
“I think we’re just focused on it a little more,” Zimmer said. “There was a play last week that kind of showed me the progression. … (Bridgewater) saw the safety bite a little bit and just hung it right down the middle of the field about 55 yards and a perfect strike. So those are the kind of things I see (that) two years ago or even early last year, I don’t think he would have done. … He just looks more comfortable and confident.”
Bridgewater played 16 games and finished #23 in QB scoring in his second season. If he has truly added a consistent deep ball to his arsenal, it will drastically improve his fantasy outlook.
Will this be the year that 2013 second-round pick Aaron Dobson breaks through? He had a solid series of spring practices, but it's understandable why many are waiting to see more based on his struggles to stay healthy the past two seasons and the fact the pads have yet to come on. Dobson, rookie Malcolm Mitchell and first-year player Chris Harper are the top "X" options. If the season started today, Dobson would probably get the nod, but there's a long way to go.
Related players: Chris Hogan
It's interesting that Reiss didn't mention Chris Hogan, who at 6'1" has the size to play outside. We reached out to Reiss and asked about Hogan in the X, and he replied: "Has inside-outside flexibility but wouldn't view him as pure X."
Titans beat writer Paul Kuharsky:
New receivers coach Bob Bratkowski said the time off for Green-Beckham is still a factor in his game.
“It’s still there, it’s going to be there,” Bratkowski said. “You can’t ever replace the experienced missed. Is it going to get better? Yes. But that gap, that missing time of the experience missed, is always going to be a part of it.
“Maybe three years from now, it’ll be a moot point. I still think right now in just playing the game, there are things that he missed. If you take Jerry Rice or any top receiver or actually any player, and they had that kind of a gap, it has an effect on them. It takes time.”
DGB has a solid FP/T (1.18, #35) and is slated for a larger target share in his sophomore season. He averaged 5.9 T/G over his final nine games and played at a 44-791-3.5 pace in that span. Negative news at this point in the offseason usually isn't a good sign for the fall, but Green-Beckham still has time to earn a starting job.
This is a good sign since we're still around six weeks from the start of training camp and there's two and a half months until Week 1. With the way he finished the season -- 5.4-100-0.78 over the final nine games -- he has WR1 potential in 2016 provided he's fully healthy, but that's far from certain. Our injury expert, Russell Manalastas recommends caution, saying "I still think it's going to be an uphill battle for him to be effective early on in the regular season...and he needs at least five to six months with no setbacks to feel confident that he's fully healthy." If he had the surgery in mid-April, then five to six months puts a full recovery in mid-September to mid-October.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett told reporters on Tuesday that Darren McFadden recently had surgery on a broken elbow he suffered in an accident at his home. McFadden is out for a couple months, and may or may not be ready for Dallas' season opener against the New York Giants in September.
If there was ever much doubt, this should cement Ezekiel Elliott's status as the RB1. Alfred Morris will likely serve as Elliott's backup as long as McFadden is sidelined. Rookie running backs who are drafted in the early rounds of fantasy drafts tend to outperform their veteran counterparts, but no rookies in recent memory have been drafted as early as Elliott is being drafted this year (in the 1st round).
Ravens' WR Breshad Perriman does not have a torn ACL and "will be fine for the season," per source. Received stem-cell injection today.
We'll see what being "fine for the season" really means. He's likely to miss a number of practices and may have to earn his playing time as the season begins if he's not able to participate in camp. More concrete timelines should come out in the next week or so.
Titans HC Mike Mularkey has spoken highly of Dexter McCluster on numerous occasions this offseason.
“I think I’ve said it before: He clearly has a role here,’’ Mularkey said of McCluster. “The offense is multi-faceted, and he will be parts of many different packages to try and attack defenses.”
If McCluster has a sizable role in the passing game, it will put a dent in the upside of DeMarco Murray, who is a solid receiver out of the backfield.
There has been nothing but raves for Sterling Shepard, the second-round receiver out of Oklahoma, who has drawn comparisons to both a healthy Victor Cruz and to Odell Beckham. He has flashed terrific speed and great hands throughout the Giants' spring drills and appears to be a lock to land in the starting lineup.
The mini-camp drills will be more of the same — no contact, no game-planning — but it'll be more of an opportunity to watch him one-on-one against the Giants' best cornerbacks. So far he's been up to the challenge and the excitement over the 22-year-old sure has seemed justified.
Shepard's fantasy value will depend somewhat on the status of Victor Cruz, but it appears that the rookie may start even if Cruz is 100 percent.
With Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin still not all the way back from his ACL surgery, second-year wideout Devin Funchess has been the star of OTAs. Funchess, a second-round pick last year, has shown terrific hands going across the middle, albeit in non-contact drills.
That’s a good sign for a player who struggled hanging on to the ball early in his rookie year before finishing strong. Funchess, 6-4 and 225 pounds, also has looked more fluid in his routes this spring.
An improved Funchess and a healthy Benjamin would be huge to a receiving group that had wideouts playing out of position for much of last season.
Funchess finished with 31 catches for 473 yards and 5 touchdowns on 63 targets, which was a little disappointing considering the opportunity he had with Benjamin out for the year. Instead it was Ted Ginn who provided the most consistent fantasy value. With Benjamin back and Ginn still around, it's hard to see how Funchess's role increases. The Panthers did give Jerricho Cotchery 54 targets last year, so that's a start.
No player on the Colts’ 90-man roster flashed more in recent weeks than Hilton. And no player has to be more excited about the return of No. 12 than No. 13, whose skill set was hampered last season after Luck went down and the downfield threat disappeared. This spring, with Luck back under center, Hilton has starred.
“T.Y.’s had as good an offseason as anybody,” Pagano gushed a few weeks back. “I’ve never seen this guy practice as fast as he is right now and compete at the level he is.”
Hilton admitted he was ticked off about last season, about watching the playoffs from home for the first time in his four-year career. When he returned to the field, he dueled Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis for much of the spring. Hilton won more than his fair share.
Also of note: Hilton is no longer just the No. 1 target. He’s the elder statesman in the receivers room for the first time in his career — Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne owned that distinction in years past. Hilton must deliver this season, and he knows it. Watch out. No. 13 could be in line for a career year.
In 22 games over the past two seasons with a healthy Andrew Luck, Hilton has averaged 5.1 catches for 86 yards and 0.45 TD. Those are fringe WR1 numbers in PPR formats and solid WR1 numbers in standard leagues. With Luck back under center, Hilton should have a bounce back season after finishing #22 in both formats.
Ravens' WR Breshad Perriman will undergo arthroscopic surgery Tuesday to determine if reconstruction surgery is necessary, per source.
Lewis tore his ACL in November, so he'll be 10 months removed from surgery in September. He's expected to play in Week 1 but may not be completely comfortable in his surgically repaired knee. In six healthy games, Lewis averaged 12.8 touches for 95 yards and 0.67 TD. On a per game basis, he was #10 in standard and #5 in PPR at the time of his injury. As for Gronkowski, the team is being very careful in the hopes that he'll stay healthy in 2016.
Bears WR Kevin White seemed to be in great shape during OTAs. However, the Chicago media is permitted to attend only three OTA workouts (one per week). Minicamp, on the other hand, is a chance to watch White perform on consecutive days. This still isn’t real football. Real football is played with pads. So we won’t know for sure how White is progressing until the Bears play in actual games. That being said, White has looked strong and fast in offseason workouts. He certainly looks the part. The thought of White and Jeffery paired together is exciting, and could cause major problems for opposing defenses -- think Jeffery and Brandon Marshall together in 2013, but with less drama.
White, who spent the entire year on the shelf with a severe case of shin splints and/or some sort of leg injury, should have a big role in 2016. He was starting to practice before the end of the season but landed on injured reserve since he wasn’t in game shape and there was no really point in rushing him back in what became a lost season for the Bears. He was the #7 overall pick in the 2015 Draft and the bottom line is that the Bears need him.
Lions TE Eric Ebron didn’t play much football the first two weeks of OTAs, sidelined with an injury. He returned this week and immediately slid into his position in Jim Bob Cooter's offense. It’s a role he believes will be “a lot more exciting” than it was his first two seasons under Joe Lombardi.
Ebron is going to have to take more responsibility, too. With Calvin Johnson's retirement, he becomes one of the team’s primary mismatches for opponents. When he was drafted, he was supposed to be another option for Matthew Stafford. Now, he’ll likely line up with Marvin Jones and Golden Tate as a primary one.
“I see him hopefully taking strides this year,” Cooter said. “And making those big strides.”
Ebron caught 47 passes for 537 yards and five touchdowns last season and finished as the #13 TE in PPR formats, though he was actually worse under then-interim and now-official offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. He averaged 13.0 FP (PPR) through the first seven weeks, and 7.3 FP once Cooter was promoted. With Calvin Johnson gone, there are a lot of moving parts in Detroit, so this doesn't mean that Ebron won't produce similar (or better) numbers in his third season.
It looks like we’re going to have another running-back-by-committee season in Philadelphia. While Ryan Mathews got the bulk of first-team reps this spring, he also shared them with Kenjon Barner and Darren Sproles. The team also has fifth-rounder Wendell Smallwood.
“Well, you go in thinking that one guy can handle the load,” HC Doug Pederson said. “If that's Ryan, he can handle all the stuff and the pounding. But with the guys we have, with the depth we have at that position, Darren is obviously a big part of that and now with Wendell [RB Wendell Smallwood] coming on, I think it could be a little bit of a running back by committee.”
This doesn't worry us, since Mathews appears to be one of the better values at the running back position even with a conservative projection of touches. He's ranked 17th in standard and 21st in PPR formats, and that's only with 240 touches, which is very reasonable as the lead back in a committee. Mathews' career production (4.5 YPC) and 2015 production (5.0 YPC) allow him to generate yards on fewer touches.
Smith, who is coming off a season-ending Achilles injury, showed an impressive burst and change of direction to avoid it.
Smith tore his Achilles tendon on Nov. 1 and hasn't participated in any offseason workouts. In March, Smith said he was confident he would be ready for the start of the regular season. On Sunday, he declined to give a timetable on his return.
"I don't know when I'm coming back," he said. "I just know I have to be able to do something in training camp to be able to play for the season. That's just the way I operate. I can't go from doing absolutely nothing [and] sitting on my butt for all of training camp and then go out there and play."
It's a bad idea to doubt Smith, who is one of the toughest and most resilient players in the league. But he's a 37-year-old coming off of an Achilles injury. When healthy, he'll be the WR1 for the Ravens, but one has to wonder just how many games he'll be able to play this season. Father Time is undefeated.
Update on newest knee injury for Ravens WR Breshad Perriman: He suffered a partially torn ACL in his left knee and will visit Dr. James Andrews on Monday to determine if he needs potential season-ending surgery, per source. He missed last season with a partially torn PCL in his right knee.
Corey Coleman quickly worked himself into NFL shape after a few whirlwind months on the draft circuit and impressed Jackson throughout OTAs and minicamp.
The first-round pick has received constant attention from Jackson and senior offensive assistant/wide receivers coach Al Saunders on the practice field, and that’s been reciprocated with continuous improvement.
“He’s a tremendous player,” Jackson said. “He’s going to be pretty good. I ride him pretty hard because he has so much ability and I want to get it out of him. He’s really shown why we drafted him in the first round. He is a tremendous talent. If he keeps working like he is and stays as humble and he has great desire to be a great football player, I think that’s going to happen for him.
“He’s still got to earn it. He’s got to work for it. He’s got to go fight for it to go get it. I think he will.”
Coleman is a good bet to lead the Browns in targets which is why he's the second rookie (after Ezekiel Elliott) off the board in early fantasy drafts. Rookie receivers drafted in the middle rounds tend to fare pretty well compared to their veteran counterparts. The only thing that could submarine his value is the surprising return of Josh Gordon to the fold.
Giants beat writer Ralph Vacchiano on the team's TE situation: I think a lot of my take is going to depend on how healthy Larry Donnell is come training camp. If he’s healthy, I think he’ll probably be the No. 1 guy given his experience, his receiving ability and his blocking skills. If he’s not healthy, it could be Will Tye. And I wouldn’t rule out some combination of the two of them.
Tye essentially took over as the Giants’ starter in Week 8, and was the #13 tight end in standard formats from that point on. From Week 9 to Week 17, he had the 10th-most targets at his position. If he wins the job this summer, he’ll be a good late-round target for owners looking for value at the position. The same can be said of Donnell. Over the past 24 games, he has averaged 3.8 catches for 35 yards and 0.33 TD. Those are fringe TE1 numbers.
The Chiefs’ three-day mandatory minicamp starts Tuesday, and it appears a few notable injured players — including star running back Jamaal Charles — might take part in on-field drills for the first time this offseason.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Charles, who is recovering from a torn ACL, and receiver Mike Williams, who is battling a strained hamstring, could make their first on-field appearance of organized team activities.
“What you might see if them doing drills,” Reid said.
Both players could spotted running and jumping around cones over a 25-yard period during Friday’s practice, which was another first of the offseason.
Charles was playing at an elite RB1 pace prior to tearing his ACL in Week 5. Our injury expert, Russell Manalastas, predicts that Charles will be limited in camp and good to go for Week 1, and that his recovery is an opportunity to get him at a discount. The Chiefs found solid contributors in Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware, so Andy Reid could elect to reduce his workload in an effort to keep him healthy.
The Eagles on Friday confirmed that Agholor was being investigated by police.
We're just passing this along. Agholor isn't high on our draft board this year, and this certainly doesn't help.
Broncos HC Gary Kubiak said C.J. Anderson is in best condition he's seen him in and has responded to competition: "He's ready to be an every down back."
Anderson wasn’t fully healthy heading into the season and struggled at the onset, averaging just 2.69 YPC on 11.4 rushing attempts through the first six weeks of the season. He turned it around in a big way after the Week 7 bye, however, racking up an average of 64.5 yards on 11.6 carries (5.57 YPC) and 0.58 TD over his final 12 games, including the playoffs. Those are mid-level RB1 numbers in standard formats and low-end RB1 numbers in PPR. Moreover, the Broncos committed to Anderson down the stretch, feeding him 15.6 carries over the final five games. In that span, he averaged 13.7 fantasy points in standard (and 15.9 FP in PPR). Those averages would have been good enough to finish #3 in both formats. Even though he finished strong, playoff numbers don’t count for fantasy, so the fact remains that Anderson burned his owners in 2015. As a result, his ADP is likely to remain a bit depressed heading into 2016 fantasy drafts.
After recording 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, Buccaneers WR Mike Evans looks primed to continue his success in 2016. Head coach Dirk Koetter has spoken about Evans’ intent to improve his chemistry with Jameis Winston and it appears to be going well. The two connected on several passes during team drills at practice, including a handful deep down the field. Evans was also able to successfully limit any drops during the three practices open to the media.
Last year, Evans was the #23 receiver in PPR formats, but he has been working on building better chemistry with his quarterback. He's currently the #8 receiver off the board in early drafts, so the fantasy community is expecting a big bounce back season from the third-year wideout. He was the #13 WR as a rookie and has missed one game in each of his two seasons.
Dolphins HC Adam Gase says WR DeVante Parker's injury is not foot related.
Parker struggled with a foot injury last year, so this is good news. For the final six games of his rookie season, Parker played at a 59-1187-8 pace, which are solid WR2 numbers. He’ll likely play the “X” receiver in Adam Gase’s offense, a position which has yielded 6.0-90-0.44 from Alshon Jeffery and 6.9-101-0.69 from Demaryius Thomas over the past two seasons. The former 1st round pick has a big green arrow next to his name heading into the 2016 season.
Watching the Patriots offense during the first few open practices, Chris Hogan has been one of the central figures. He’s catching everything being delivered his way by either Tom Brady or Jimmy Garoppolo, and he’s constantly getting open.
That 7-Eleven nickname is on the money. He does always seem to be open.
What Bill Belichick got was a perfect fit for his offense. Hogan works very well in the Patriots horizontal style of play. At 27, he’s a few years younger than the 30-year-old Edelman and Amendola, and with the duo sitting out organized team activities and minicamp, Hogan has been running those similar routes, the quick hitters that are staples to Brady and the offense. There’s little doubt, at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, Hogan could move into Brandon LaFell’s old “X” receiver role as well.
Hogan has more size (6'1") than it seems, but his skill set isn't much different from that of Julian Edelman or Danny Amendola. It sounds as if he'll take over the outside role in the offense, which means he could potentially have a 2014 Brandon LaFell-type season. LaFell was the #22 receiver in standard formats two seasons ago. He'll need to see more snaps than Amendola if he's going to be fantasy relevant in 2016.
So, what’s Titans offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie’s theory on running backs, and division of carries?
“I believe in just doing whatever we have to do, whatever is necessary to win the game,’’ Robiskie said. “Obviously we’ll have it situated going into the game, and figuring, ‘Hey, we want to go this way or go that way.’ If we get to going in the game and some guy gets the hot hand and that’s what it takes to win the game then that is what we are going to do.
“We are not going to sit down before the game and say, ‘So and so has to have 20 carries, or he has to touch it 25 times,’’’ Robiskie said. “We are going to go into the game and we’ll run the offense and try and get it called and try and execute it and whatever we feel we need to get done to win the game, that’s what we’re going to get done. But we don’t sit down and structure, so and so has to have 25 carries, so and so has to get 30 carries.”
If a certain guy gets hot, with a smile, Robiskie said, “I wouldn’t be afraid to give him 70 (carries). If I hand it to him and he keeps running for touchdowns, I’ll keep handing it to him.”
This doesn't sound particularly good for Murray, who didn't run the ball very well while in Philadelphia. He'll have to fend off Henry, so this is shaping up to be an unpredictable running game.
The Seahawks view the third-down back as a very specific and important role, and all signs point to C.J. Prosise having that role. If Thomas Rawls and Alex Collins end up being 1-2 on the depth chart as the first- and second-down back, so to speak—though don’t count Christine Michael out in that battle—Prosise would still have a significant role in the offense in passing situations and in the hurry up offense, similar to how the Seahawks used Fred Jackson last season.
Jackson averaged 2.0 catches per game last season, so the Seahawks' third-down back isn't necessarily a role where fantasy owners can find a startable PPR back on the cheap.
Here are select quotes from Day 1 of 49ers minicamp.
Blaine Gabbert on Vance McDonald: “He’s such a great athlete. He’s smart. He does a great job in the run and pass game. He’s a guy that we have to utilize. He’s a mismatch nightmare on linebackers. And you really kind of saw that jump Week 8 on last year. He did a great job, stayed healthy and had some good plays.”
Tight ends coach Jeff Nixon on Vance McDonald: “The sky is the limit for Vance. He’s very talented. He has the size and the speed. I think most of his drops sometimes are a little bit of a lack of concentration, because he does have good hands. But I’m expecting a big year out of Vance. He finished up the year strong. I think the last three or four games he had at least five catches in each of those games. We’re looking for him to take off right from where he left off last year, being a big-play tight-end target for us in the pass game.”
Over his final six games, McDonald averaged 3.5 catches for 44 yards and 0.5 touchdowns, which made him the #8 TE in PPR formats in that span. It appears that he'll start for the 49ers, and if he's able to stay healthy, he should be streamable in 2016.
Stewart has been limited throughout much of organized team activities with discomfort in his left foot, Panthers coach Ron Rivera told the Observer after Tuesday’s practice.
“That foot just kind of lingered after he got bent over backwards in the Super Bowl,” Rivera said. “When he showed up it was still sore a little bit. When he started to run he said he could still feel it a little bit.”
“Lately he said he’s been feeling really good, so (Tuesday) he got a good dose of it,” Rivera said. “We’re really trying to be smart with that and I wouldn’t say it’s 100 percent, but it’s almost there.”
Despite missing three games, Stewart finished #16 in standard scoring and was #9 through Week 14. This news will only serve to depress his already depressed ADP. He's currently the #28 RB off the board in the 6th round. That's good value, though his long injury history is a concern.
Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen made this clear on Tuesday: This team is going to play fast. Sometimes, that will mean no-huddle. Other times, it will mean quick huddles at the line of scrimmage. Sometimes, when game situations call for it, play-caller/coach Adam Gase and Christensen will slow things down.
Regardless of the pace, this coaching staff wants the opponent on its toes. And Christensen said the Dolphins offense will play up-tempo the majority of the time.
“Even in the up tempo, there are still different levels of up-tempo,” Christensen said. “Some of them will be extremely fast paced. Some of them will be a huddle at the line of scrimmage where we've got plenty of time. One of the big things is, you do want to change pitches. You want to have your fastball and a change-up.
“Just keep pushing the pace and a lot of it is it gives our quarterback some time at the line of scrimmage so all of them don’t get snapped with 22 seconds left on the clock. That’s not necessarily the intention. You want them to have to defend right from the get-go. Now your quarterback might have a chance to get us in the right play. One of the reasons we’re at the line of scrimmage is the tempo, for the conditioning, and for the advantage based part of it where it looks like it’s going to be fast and then all of a sudden we can get into a play we want to get into.”
The Dolphins were 26th in total plays last year and quicker tempo will help the fantasy prospects of all of the team's skill players provided the team can move the ball. With Adam Gase calling the shots, we're generally optimistic. Gase's Bears were 18th in total plays last year, likely due to several offensive injuries, but while in Denver his offenses finished 1st and 7th in total plays.
“Our style and scheme adapts to whoever it is,” Kelly added, “but he certainly has the skillset to be an outstanding running back at this level, because he can do everything.”
“You’re looking for a guy that can be a three-down back, and that’s what Carlos is,” Kelly said.
Kelly’s high-tempo offense figures to lean heavily on Hyde, assuming he’s durable enough to lead an offense that’s still unsure whether Blaine Gabbert will outlast Colin Kaepernick for the starting quarterback role.
Hyde was the #14 RB (PPR) through the first six weeks before missing the rest of the season with a foot injury. Chip Kelly's teams in Philadelphia had an average ranking of 7.3 in total rush attempts, so Hyde should get plenty of work as the team's lead back, provided they can stay competitive on game day.
There comes a point with all first year players when you can see the light start to go on. Things aren’t just a blur on a daily basis. As such, it definitely seems there’s a flicker of a light going on with Will Fuller. At Notre Dame, he made a living on deep throws and short catch and run screens. But, he’s showing much more than just that each and every day. He made an excellent catch for a touchdown in the far corner and followed that up with a catch at the back of the end zone for another touchdown on consecutive plays. Progress...that’s all you want from a rookie and he’s making it.
Packers HC Mike McCarthy on WR Jeff Janis:
Jeff Janis is doing a lot of good things. He just needs to continue to progress through the fundamentals of the position. Special teams he had an excellent year last year, graded out as one of our top players. I’d like to see him take that same step as a wide receiver.
Jeff is a big target that can go deep. I think the play he made today was really good concentration on his part, competing through the interaction with the DB and tip of the ball and keep playing. He’s a very strong wide receiver. I think that surprises people. He uses his strength and his speed.
Janis finished the season with a seven-catch, 145-yard, two-touchdown day against the Cardinals in the playoffs. But the team was reluctant to play him all year despite major injury issues at the position. Now, with everybody healthy it seems unlikely that he beats out Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery and rookie Trevor Davis to be the team's third receiver.
Eagles beat writer Josh Paunil: I’d be shocked if a healthy Ryan Mathews is not the starting running back.
Kenjon Barner has made some noise at OTAs with Mathews sidelined with a hamstring injury. Rookie Wendell Smallwood also looks good, per reports. Mathews returned to workouts, however, and should start for the Eagles. He's coming off of a 5.0 YPC season and in 54 career games with at least 10 carries, Mathews has averaged 14.6 FP in PPR formats. Those are strong RB1 numbers. He's an injury risk, but at the cost of a 5th or 6th round pick, he's worth it.
The offense being installed in Allen Park this offseason is very different than the one the Lions ran even the second half of last season.
“I think it's exactly what it is, we started from scratch,” receiver Golden Tate said after an open OTA practice last week.
“The calls are different. The signals are different. From top to bottom it’s all new and we’re just taking it day by day. I think our guys are doing a great job staying in their book and trying to learn it.”
There are obviously some elements that were put in place on the fly the second half of last year that have been adopted into the new package. But this has truly been a full reinstall, according to Tate. And like anything new, it takes time to perfect.
It would explain some of the sloppiness, penalties, missed assignments and balls hitting the ground on offense over the course of the two open OTA practices the last two weeks.
The offense was more productive once Jim Bob Cooter took over in Week 8, averaging 2.24 points per drive compared to just 1.54 points per drive in the first seven games. Total yardage and number of plays remained about the same, but there was a larger commitment to the run (+4.8 rushing attempts per game). Passing yardage declined (-26.5), but touchdowns were up (+0.36) and interceptions were way down (-0.99). Given Tate's comments about the new install, it sounds as if the offense is a work in progress, and the team will have to get new WR Marvin Jones up to speed.
Packers HC Mike McCarthy on TE Jared Cook injury: no lo...
Packers HC Mike McCarthy on TE Jared Cook injury: no long-term concern, can't give time table for return, doctor feels good about his return.
Cook has a chance to return to fantasy relevance now that he's playing with an elite quarterback for the first time in his career. Provided he can hold onto the ball, he should usurp Richard Rodgers as the team's primary tight end.
Dolphins HC Adam Gase said he wants his running backs to be able to play all three downs. He doesn't want to sub too much on offense.
These comments would seemingly boost the upside of Ajayi, who is penciled in as the Dolphins' starter. However, in Gase's offense last year (in Chicago), Jeremy Langford averaged 8.8 touches per game when Matt Forte was active. In Denver, Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson averaged 14.0 touches and 7.4 touches respectively in the six games they played together in 2014 (under Gase). So despite these comments, it appears that Gase uses a typical RB1/RB2 split on game day.
“I’m at 225; it’s a better 225,” Yeldon said. “I’m still going to try and lose five more pounds before camp. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot stronger to hold off the bigger guys [on defense].”
Prior to the Chris Ivory signing, Yeldon was an intriguing middle round pick thanks to a large projected workload, but the duo is expected to split carries with Ivory getting most of the goal line work. Yeldon figures to be the primary pass-catching back, so his value is a bit higher in PPR formats.
If they awarded an MVP trophy to the best player in shorts and helmets, Nelson Agholor would take home that prize this spring. Agholor's route-running has improved by leaps and bounds from his rookie campaign in 2015, he caught several contested balls throughout OTAs and seems to have a renewed commitment towards turning the page on his lackluster 23-reception rookie year. Agholor even purchased a JUGS machine for his house and invited several teammates over to get in extra work catching balls from it.
It's good to hear that Agholor is having a good offseason because his rookie year was a major disappointment. Doug Pederson's slower-paced offense may not be able to support three pass catchers (Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz and maybe Agholor), but his 12th-round ADP makes him a cheap investment.
Matt Rourke AP: "The tight end (Eagles TE Zach Ertz) is going to catch a bunch of passes this season. I'm not sure for how many yards or how many touchdowns, but he's going to lead the team in receptions."
Ertz was second to Jordan Matthews (85) on the team last year with 75 receptions, which was the 6th-most at his position. He finished as the #10 TE in standard scoring, but was #6 after his Week 8 bye, averaging 6.4 catches for 73 yards and 0.25 TD (on 8.8 targets per game) in his final eight games. Given his size and relative catch radius, his touchdown rate should increase eventually. Playing time was the issue in his first two NFL seasons, but he played 72% of the snaps in 2015 and 79% in his last five games. He’ll be playing in a new offense for a new head coach, Doug Pederson, but Travis Kelce was a key part of the Kansas City offense during Pederson’s tenure.
What kind of step could Willie Snead make from last year to this year?
Saints HC Sean Payton: “He received a lot of playing time a year ago. He’s someone that’s training real well. He’s smart. I think we can see a big step, just from his experience and his comfort level with what we’re doing. He’s very attentive. The attention to detail with him is very high. He has a real good knack for finding the right holes in zone (coverage). And (he understands) the leverage in man-to-man. So, I think we will see a good step (in the coming year).”
Snead finished #34 in PPR formats, and his playing time grew as the season wore on. There are targets opening up with the departure of Ben Watson and Marques Colston, but Coby Fleener and Michael Thomas are expected to gobble up most of those. Snead saw 101 targets last season and that's probably a good estimate for 2016.
“In our room I don’t really think we have like a solid starting running back, because with this type of offense, we do so many things as a running back,” Johnson told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Thursday. “(David Johnson) got his things that he’s good at and I got my things that I’m good at, and (Bruce Arians) knows how to get both of us the ball.”
Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin confirmed last week that the Cardinals are going to determine their starting running back on a week-by-week and game-by-game basis.
“Being with (Bruce Arians) since 2007, the hot hand always wins,” Goodwin said. “So, if David is killing, Chris falls back a little bit. If Chris is killing it, vice versa. Obviously there is going to be a lead dog starting every game, but to me if some guy is feeling it that day — if Michael Jordan is feeling it, you keep feeding him the ball. If David is feeling it, keep feeding him the ball. If Chris is feeling it, keep feeding him the ball. So, it’s a good problem to have."
David Johnson is being drafted like he's the clear workhorse for the Cardinals, but that doesn't sound like it's the case. Meanwhile, Chris Johnson is an afterthought in early fantasy drafts and could offer nice value in the final rounds. Remember, the veteran out-touched the rookie 18.4 to 4.9 in the 11 games in which they both played.
"His improvement over these six practices has been awesome," Brees said, via The Times-Picayune. "From Day 1 until now, the same mistakes are not being made. He's on to the next set of challenges, and he's continuing to progress well."
"I gave him a route that we have literally never repped before together," Brees said. "In fact, I don't think we'd ever even talked about it. But I was just in the moment, and he's my guy at that position, so I gave him the signal. He goes and makes the play and ran the route just like I imagined."
The 6-foot-3 receiver was drafted in part to help replace Marques Colston, especially in the red zone. It might not happen out of the gate, but having an early rapport with the starting quarterback is a solid first step towards a productive first campaign. Getting raved about is the cherry on top.
Thomas will likely take over Marques Colston's role which means he'll play about 60-70% of the snaps. Brandin Cooks is locked in as the WR1, while Willie Snead turned in a good first season as the team's WR2. With Coby Fleener bound to soak up targets at tight end, Thomas will have a tough time being fantasy relevant unless he's able to overtake Snead.
While Packers WR Jordy Nelson likely will hold off on 11-on-11 drills until training camp, the ninth-year receiver was back running the route tree, cutting sharply and catching passes with his favorite quarterback once again.
Nelson has caught passes from Rodgers this offseason, but Thursday marked the first time during OTAs that he’s run routes at a competitive speed with the quarterback delivering passes in his breaks.
Nelson again reiterated with reporters after practice that the cautious approach is strictly part of his rehab plan, adding: “If there’s a game Sunday. I’m playing.”
Nelson has had three healthy seasons in his last five, and in those years he finished #2, #11 and #2 in standard wide receiver scoring. He’s currently going in the 2nd round of early fantasy drafts. If he continues to have a healthy offseason then a return to the top 5 is a real possibility.
This was Doug Pederson in March when asked about using wide receiver Jordan Matthews less in the slot and more on the outside: "I think he can play outside. I'm going to look at him outside as we go through this spring. With his skill set, I think he can play both (inside and outside)."
This was Pederson Friday when asked the same question about Matthews: "Jordan, again, he's been good on the outside. (But) he's better inside, because he's got that big body and he knows how to sort of use it in space.
"One thing he can do, particularly in tight areas, is separate from man-to-man type coverages. That's one thing we've seen (from him) this spring from the slot position. But again, he's a position-versatile guy that you can move around."
Matthews: "Obviously, I've done slot two years in a row. Inside, I feel I'm at another level when it comes to playing inside. But I definitely want to be able to move around and do some other things for this offense. And I think coach is going to let me do that."
Matthews may play outside in two-WR sets, but it looks like he's mainly going to play in the slot. He finished 25th and 16th in PPR formats in his first two seasons, and may be hard-pressed to match those numbers since Pederson's offense is likely to operate at a much slower pace than Chip Kelly's. Pederson will have to feature Matthews like he did Jeremy Maclin last year for Matthews not to see a significant dip in targets.
The latest no-name tight end to bubble to the surface with the Giants may already be making his move at organized team activities. Matt LaCosse has consistently been making plays this spring, and earned a large chunk of first-team snaps during Wednesday's OTA workout which was open to the media.
With a slightly more well rounded skill set, LaCosse – an undrafted rookie in his second season out of Illinois – is already pushing Donnell and Tye, the last two in a long line of unknown Giants tight ends to make a surprise impact working with quarterback Eli Manning.
The early reviews from OTAs show LaCosse making plays. He lined up wide right on Wednesday and made a leaping catch over safety Landon Collins deep down the right sideline. He reached back and plucked a ball off his back shoulder in the end zone on Thursday.
Every day, it seems he's catching passes in live drills. It's making it possible to envision LaCosse (despite a rare fumble on Wednesday) as this year's Donnell or Tye, even with Donnell and Tye still on the roster.
LaCosse may already be the best blocking tight end currently on the Giants roster, even if his competition in that regard isn't very strong.
Our money is on Will Tye to win the job, but it sounds as if LaCosse is making a push. If he's able to replicate Tye's receiving ability and add additional value as a blocker, he may win the job.
Green Bay Packers tight end Jared Cook, the team's biggest offseason acquisition this year, underwent foot surgery this week and will miss the rest of the offseason program, multiple sources told ESPN.
The Packers hope that Cook will be back for training camp next month. The surgery was described as "preventative" and something that both Cook and the team wanted to take care of now so that it didn't linger into the regular season.
Cook could surprise this year since it's the first season that he's playing with an elite passer, but offseason foot surgery won't help him build chemistry with Aaron Rodgers. If he's not ready by training camp, he'll be a dicey pick on draft day.
Two of Anderson's best runs Wednesday came late in practice. On the first one, Anderson read the blocking and exploded to daylight created by Max Garcia and Michael Schofield on the left side.
Seven snaps later, Anderson took a shotgun handoff from Siemian and saw a seam created by Garcia and James Ferentz. He burst through it for what would have been a substantial gain in game conditions.
Anderson wasn’t fully healthy heading into the season and struggled at the onset, averaging just 2.69 YPC on 11.4 rushing attempts through the first six weeks of the season. He turned it around in a big way after the Week 7 bye, however, racking up an average of 64.5 yards on 11.6 carries (5.57 YPC) and 0.58 TD over his final 12 games, including the playoffs. Those are mid-level RB1 numbers in standard formats and low-end RB1 numbers in PPR. Moreover, the Broncos committed to Anderson down the stretch, feeding him 15.6 carries over the final five games. In that span, he averaged 13.7 fantasy points in standard (and 15.9 FP in PPR). Those averages would have been good enough to finish #3 in both formats. Even though he finished strong, playoff numbers don’t count for fantasy, so the fact remains that Anderson burned his owners in 2015. As a result, his ADP is likely to remain depressed heading into 2016 fantasy drafts.
“He’s not missed a day and he’s running extra after practice,” Fisher said. “He looked pretty good running in a straight line a year ago at this time. He’s doing everything [now], to the point where you almost [say], ‘OK, let’s back down a little bit.’ He’s had an impressive offseason.”
“It was just my first real offseason,” Gurley said. “So being able to take some time off, and being able to rest, and then just getting back to work — and working hard to just try to make sure I have a great year this year. I’m eating right, and making sure I’m taking care of my body and doing all the right lifts.”
As for what Gurley’s looking to improve upon in Year 2, he mentioned becoming a better receiver.
“Definitely, routes and catching,” Gurley said. “I’ve got to get more catches this year, stay healthy and then run the ball. Get my line right and make sure we start off strong and finish strong. But most definitely I want to work on catching.”
Gurley averaged 91.6 rushing yards in his final 12 games, which is a 16-game pace of 1,465 yards. But he only caught 21 passes for 188 yards, which serves to limit his value in PPR formats. If his offseason work as a receiver pays off during the season, that would change.
Browns TE Gary Barnidge had sports hernia surgery this morning. Expected back for training camp.
Barnidge had the rare age-30 breakout season, posting 79 catches for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns on 125 targets. There are a lot of changes in Cleveland this year with a new head coach/offense and a new quarterback (Robert Griffin III), and given Barnidge's short fantasy resume, he's not a safe pick. But Tyler Eifert played well under Hue Jackson, so it's likely that Barnidge will be an integral part of the passing attack, especially considering the sorry state of the Cleveland receiving corps.
All we've heard to this point is that the Bills were of the belief that Watkins would be ready by the start of the regular season, without any mention of training camp or the preseason. While the wide receiver admitted that he's hopeful to get back by training camp -- and by saying that, he's admitting there's at least a chance of that happening -- he knows he's in for a summer where he can't push the issue.
"This is an injury where you have to be really careful," Watkins said Wednesday. "The only thing that I can do is listen to the staff and take it slow, and just, really protect myself, and they’re going to protect me also. We’re just going to take the course with the injury. Nobody knows what timetable, what or when I’ll be back."
Bills head coach Rex Ryan met with the media after Watkins updated his injury, and was asked about the possibility a return in the summer in the lead up to the regular season.
"I think all I know is that Sammy won’t miss time in the regular season," Ryan said in a familiar refrain. "But when he comes back during training camp? Nobody has given us a specific time, it’s just that we’re extremely confident that he’ll be ready to roll when the season starts."
The Bills keep saying that he'll be ready by Week 1, but there's enough smoke here to be worried. However, with the way he finished the season -- 5.4-100-0.78 over the final nine games -- he has WR1 potential in 2016 provided he can stay healthy.
Melvin Gordon took part in several individual and team drills. It was a busy day for the running back who had microfracture knee surgery January 5.
Gordon isn't scheduled to be at 100 percent at this stage of the offseason. And, he's not.
Gordon is coming off of a disappointing rookie season and microfracture surgery. We'd rather have Danny Woodhead in this backfield, though the team isn't going to give up on Gordon.
Keenan Allen got open fast and snatched passes, seven months after a lacerated kidney ended his season. If health allows, the 24-year-old looks on the verge of commanding a huge contract.
Allen racked up 67 catches for 725 yards and four touchdowns in eight games, so he was on pace for a 134-1550-8 season prior to lacerating his kidney. At the halfway mark, he was the #7 receiver in standard formats and #4 in PPR. He garnered 11.1 targets per game, but that number could decline a bit since Antonio Gates sat out four of those games. However, Allen saw 30 targets in three games with Gates, and in the third game (five targets), he only played 60% of the snaps due to the injured kidney. Given his usage, the fourth-year receiver a threat to finish as a WR1 in 2016.
A year ago, Texans wide receiver Jaelen Strong was a sluggish rookie. He was noticeably overweight, tipping the scales at nearly 230 pounds as if he was unintentionally bulking up for a move to tight end.
Strong chalked up the weight gain to the travel and lost workout time associated with the predraft circuit. He responded by changing his diet and increasing his cardio workouts to get down from 6-2, 230 pounds to a lean 197 pounds.
Strong has been one of the more impressive players at the Texans' organized team activities, catching a series of passes in traffic for first downs.
"I just said to him today how far he's come," O'Brien said Tuesday. "He's a guy that a year ago today, I was concerned about him from a conditioning standpoint. I just didn't know what type of condition he was in. It wasn't very good. He really at some point in time before training camp, he came back and passed the conditioning test and really took off after that.
"He contributed in some games last year. He had a really good offseason. He's in really good shape. He's playing well. Hopefully it continues. He's a guy that we're definitely counting on."
And Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has noticed a seriousness of purpose from Strong even during an offseason where he was arrested for possession of marijuana in February in Arizona.
When retweeting a link to this story, Texans beat writer Stephanie Stradley added, "No hype. Looks good." The Texans are looking for a starter opposite DeAndre Hopkins and Strong is competing with veteran Cecil Shorts and rookie Will Fuller for the job. He may face punishment from the NFL for his marijuana arrest, but the weight loss should help his speed and quickness.
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden says Josh Doctson "hurt his foot" Tuesday. X-rays came back negative. Doctson sits at least this week.
X-rays were negative, so this is probably nothing major.
It won’t be easy, but it will be on quarterback Joe Flacco and offensive coordinator Marc Trestman to get everyone involved. However they do it, Aiken deserves a prominent role.
It's difficult to project the Baltimore receiving corps. Steve L Smith seems to be the WR1 if healthy, but he's 37 years old and coming off of a season-ending injury. Breshad Perriman was a 1st round pick and the team signed Mike Wallace in the offseason. Aiken was the most productive receiver in 2015 and is certainly the best bet to replace Smith if he were to miss any time.