Training camps are underway, and here is a weekly dose of the top storylines around the NFL, sorted by how much they can impact your fantasy league and draft approach.
Todd Gurley “Ready To Go” According to HC Sean McVay
Sean McVay told late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel that Gurley is “feeling great” despite a lack of any detail.
Fantasy Fallout: We still haven’t gotten an actually reassuring update on Gurley’s progress, and so drafting him comes with more risk than perhaps any other player. Darrell Henderson is a crucial handcuff, and drafting him solo in the fifth or sixth round isn’t an unpopular move at this point. This scenario is the precise reason that drafts should occur in late August or early September. Drafting Gurley right now is nearly a toss-up.
Buffalo Bills Running Back Situation Still Uncertain
LeSean McCoy should be “done” in Buffalo, says CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson, as he believes “there’s no reason to keep Shady around.” Backup RB Frank Gore was placed on the non-football injury list, per reports from the Associated Press.
Fantasy Fallout: Buffalo is a team that is full of fantasy red flags heading into the season. Josh Allen may be the only worthwhile pick, as the offensive line struggled continually last season, there aren’t any trustworthy receivers on a weekly basis, and the already-muddy running back situation got even worse this week. McCoy had an unimpressive year last season and there is a ton of speculation that he could be traded or cut. Gore, at 36, doesn’t offer much promise and the injury only makes that worse. The only interesting scenario is if, at the start of the season, both McCoy and Gore are out of the equation, leaving a void for rookie RB Devin Singletary. All in all, steer clear of the Bills.
KEEP AN EYE ON
RB Phillip Lindsay Showcasing Strong Return from Wrist Injury
Lindsay reportedly showed off his burst and cutting ability on numerous plays, according to Broncos reporter Andrew Mason.
Fantasy Fallout: Lindsay was perhaps the biggest surprise in fantasy this past season, finishing as the No. 12 RB in standard scoring (via Fantasy Pros). A broken wrist forced him to miss the final game of last season, but the first day of camp provided an encouraging sight for a Broncos coaching staff that looked to ease him in and get him back up to speed. A defensively-oriented team like Denver is a situation that Lindsay can thrive in, but the Broncos haven’t made it clear that he’s the starter over Royce Freeman yet. If they do, draft Lindsay confidently as a reliable RB2.
Melvin Gordon Follows Through on Threat to Hold Out, Chargers Stand Strong
Yahoo’s Charles Robinson reported that the Chargers aren’t budging on Gordon’s holdout, and Gordon has discussed requesting a trade.
Fantasy Fallout: The Chargers present a great offensive line and overall game flow for running backs, so should Gordon continue to hold out and perhaps even move teams, both Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson would become fantasy-relevant running backs. Ekeler figures to be the main back, as he clearly claimed the most touches in the two games last season where Jackson and Ekeler replaced an injured Gordon. Ekeler’s value is boosted in PPR leagues as well. Jackson should see low double-digit carries if him and Ekeler split the show, but could ultimately be touchdown-dependent. Most importantly, Gordon is an extremely risky pick until this is figured out because, although it would work against him, he could miss some games (think back to Le’Veon Bell last season.)
Sony Michel, Demaryius Thomas Among Patriots on PUP List
ESPN’s Field Yates reported that both RB Sony Michel and WR Demaryius Thomas will begin training camp on the PUP list.
Fantasy Fallout: Sony Michel is obviously the more important name here in terms of fantasy relevance. The second-year running back enjoyed a terrific rookie season, capturing the lead role early on in the ever-changing New England backfield. While he didn’t meet his goal to start training camp, he had been showing encouraging progress beforehand, running at full speed in late June (per Michael Giardi). The Pats have a crowded backfield, however, and they may not rush Michel back if he’s not ready. It’s a toss-up as to who would receive the most work in his absence, but James White is the safest option due to his receiving ability, followed by Damien Harris and Rex Burkhead. Demaryius Thomas should not be drafted regardless of his health.
Cooper Kupp Fully Cleared to Start Training Camp
NFL Network’s Steve Wyche reports that Kupp (ACL) will avoid the PUP list to open camp, but that “his work load will be measured.”
Fantasy Fallout: This is encouraging news considering the severity of Kupp’s injury, and he should continue to find ways to receive a good target share despite the crowded LA offense. Kupp was on pace for nine or ten touchdowns last season, and a 1,000 yard, 10-TD season isn’t out of the picture for any of him, Brandin Cooks, or Robert Woods. However, if he’s eased back into the offense, his reps may be down early in the season. Still, you can draft Kupp as a high-end flex or low-end WR2 option with confidence.
Duke Johnson to Report to Browns Camp
Despite trade requests, Duke Johnson is still expected to show up to training camp, according to Ian Rapoport.
Fantasy Fallout: It makes sense for Johnson to want out in Cleveland despite the powerful offense. His role will almost certainly diminish with the additions of Odell Beckham Jr. and (eventually) Kareem Hunt. He’s a versatile player that could benefit several teams as a change-of-pace running back with elite receiving skills. Keep an eye on where he might end up, as this will dictate his usage and overall value. If he does stay with Cleveland, he still figures to stay involved throughout the first half of the season before Hunt’s return.
Expert Weighs in on San Francisco RB Situation
Matt Barrows of The Athletic says that Coleman should assume the bulk of the running back responsibilities despite the presence of Matt Breida and Jerick McKinnon.
Fantasy Fallout: There is no official report to back up this thought, but a lead role in San Francisco for such a dual-threat back would be intriguing for fantasy. Both Breida and McKinnon were good running backs and make the 49ers’ backfield as crowded as any. It’s hard to trust anyone in San Fran until the situation becomes clearer, but it wouldn’t come as a surprise if all three guys saw decent shares of action throughout the year, making it tough to invest in just one of them.
DRAFT AS USUAL
Julian Edelman Missing At Least Three Weeks (Thumb)
Tom Brady’s ol’ reliable will be kept out multiple weeks with thumb trauma, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. However, it doesn’t figure to impact his regular season prospects.
Fantasy Fallout: For the most part, Patriots players and fans can breathe a sigh of relief that this isn’t something serious. Edelman should be monitored, but can still be drafted as a WR2, especially in PPR formats. However, if the thumb does turn out to be a continual issue, Brady would lose his most-trusted weapon in the same season that Gronk retired, making his somewhat-dim fantasy prospects even bleaker. Should Edelman miss time, rookie N’Keal Harry stands next in line as the Patriots’ biggest receiving threat, and WR Philip Dorsett, RB James White and TEs Ben Watson/Lance Hendricks would all figure to see an uptick in targets. Of the three, White would probably be most worthy of a fantasy draft pick.
DeAndre Hopkins Begins Camp on PUP List
The NFL’s most-targeted receiver over the past three seasons will start training camp on the PUP list, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.
Fantasy Fallout: No worries, here. Hopkins nursed his shoulder last season among other injuries, and is dealing with an ankle issue now. He entered nearly every week with a “questionable” designation, and came out of nearly every game as a top fantasy performer. You can monitor his situation, but it shouldn’t affect his presence as one of the first three receivers taken off the board.
Zeke Holding Out, Leaving the Country?
Cowboys stud Ezekiel Elliott, in an attempt to gain leverage over contract disputes, could reportedly hold out as training camp begins, even potentially planning some international travel (per ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio).
Fantasy Fallout: It seems unlikely that the Cowboys will let Zeke slip from their grasp this season, as he means so much to their success every single down. It remains to be seen whether or not Zeke will show up on Saturday, July 27 when the rest of the Cowboys veterans return for camp. This is a situation to keep tabs of, but this situation seems less unstable than that occurring with the Chargers and Melvin Gordon. July 27 will be the first step in figuring out a solution to Zeke’s contract issues.
Star Wide Receiver Contract Scenarios Differ Across League
Michael Thomas, Amari Cooper, Tyreek Hill, and Julio Jones are all looking to negotiate new contracts within the next couple of years.
Fantasy Fallout: Unlike the running backs, none of the above receivers are threatening to hold out. Jones is likely to get the situation figured out without any issues (per Ian Rapoport). Both Michael Thomas and Amari Cooper are expected to wait for other WRs to set the market (per Charles Robinson). Tyreek Hill’s situation is up in the air- Yahoo’s Terez Paylor says that the newly-exonerated WR may talk about a contract extension in Kansas City, while ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio sees a trade next offseason as a possibility. For this season, though, Thomas and Jones remain top-five options, while Hill and Cooper are more volatile situations to draft as lower-end WR1s.
Geronimo Allison Poised for “Dangerous Season”
Davante Adams had high praise for Allison, saying that the slot receiver is “healthy” and that “it’s going to be dangerous,” (per Packers reporter Wes Hodkiewicz).
Fantasy Fallout: Allison dealt with a concussion, core surgery, and hamstring injuries last season, but feels confident in his return (per ESPN’s Rob Demovsky). Putting Allison in the slot alongside Adams, Jimmy Graham, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling gives Rodgers plenty of options and will make the Green Bay offense as threatening as ever. Allison could be a beneficiary of the slot position, serving a similar purpose to someone like Randall Cobb in year’s past despite his much larger frame. According to Fantasy Pros he is the consensus WR45, but a significant role in such a good offense screams sleeper potential.
Falcons Could Back Up Devonta Freeman with Committee Approach
Atlanta Head Coach Dan Quinn spoke to the Falcons’ “deeper” talent and “unique” roles of the backup running backs (per Falcons reporter Will McFadden).
Fantasy Fallout: Though Ito Smith was thought by many to be the definite back-up to Devonta Freeman, and even potentially an eventual starter given Freeman’s injury history, it doesn’t seem like he’ll be handed that role. He didn’t impress much last season, and now could be featured even less prominently. This means you can draft Freeman with more confidence as well, and also indicates that Smith’s stock is falling. Guys like Nyheim Heins, Carlos Hyde and Peyton Barber warrant a pick more than Smith.
David Montgomery Should Receive a High Volume of Work in the Preseason
Head Coach Matt Nagy expects Montgomery to be featured prominently this preseason, according to Bears writer Larry Mayer.
Fantasy Fallout: Should Tarik Cohen’s role remain similar to last year’s, which he expects according to NFL writer Kevin Patra, David Montgomery could step in and receive double-digit carries from the start. Cohen is a dynamic back and serves a dual-threat purpose, while Montgomery will more likely be a traditional running back for Chicago. The game flow in Chicago, dominated by defense, should prove to be a nice situation for Montgomery. He has a flex floor and low-end RB1 potential.
Peyton Barber Believed to be the Lead Running Back In Tampa Bay
Mark Cook of Pewter Report says it “would be a shock” if Barber didn’t start the preseason as the RB1 and that he should “get the bulk of the carries.”
Fantasy Fallout: While Tampa Bay is a high-powered offense, their running game isn’t the most appealing option for fantasy given the weak defense and the high-capacity passing offense they possess. That said, knowing that Barber will lead the way and not have to compete with Ronald Jones makes his case a more encouraging one. If he finally breaks out, he could put up RB2 numbers.