With camps winding up and something resembling real football happening on our screens, we can get a good idea of what to adjust from expectations going into training camp and what to continue to track to fill in variables in draft value equations the best we can. It’s time to take a breath before the second and third preseason games give us even more to (over) react to.
John Brown has emerged as the #1 receiver, and Robert Foster has fallen off of the radar… Devin Singletary has been getting a ton of first-team work so the team can rest LeSean McCoy (who said he was told he would be “the guy”) and Frank Gore going into the season, and hasn’t given them any reason to think he wasn’t worth a third-round pick… T.J. Yeldon has failed to stand out and could be on the outside looking in at final cuts… the rebuilt offensive line has had a rash of injuries including a troubling concussion for free agent signing and possible new cornerstone Mitch Morse. It could be tough for this offense to overachieve in any way if the line doesn’t gel during the season, but if it goes that way, Josh Allen scrambling rushing stats will remain attractive for fantasy… None of the tight ends have been able to stay healthy, but there are signs that free-agent pickup Tyler Kroft will be back soon… #9 overall pick Ed Oliver is ascending quickly and could be an instant impact player for an underrated defense.
Ryan Fitzpatrick opened camp well ahead of Josh Rosen in the starting quarterback battle, but Rosen rallied late in camp. Whoever wins will probably be running for their lives regularly behind the worst offensive line in the AFC, one that got a new offensive line coach during camp (Dave DeGuglielmo, who oversaw the Colts offensive line rebuild last year, but Quenton Nelson ain’t walking through that door)… Rosen showed a willingness to throw the ball up for UDFA Preston Williams, who has been the story of training camp. If DeVante Parker (who created his annual camp buzz) falters yet again, Williams could be starting this year… Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant aren’t quite healthy yet, and they will be counted on greatly to offset a line that won’t create a lot of time for downfield passing. Kenny Stills is the only reliable receiver for this team, but he won’t be a consistent fantasy play unless Wilson and Grant’s slow healing allows him to play more in the slot… Mike Gesicki has had ups and downs in camp by most accounts and will probably open the season running behind Nick O’Leary at tight end… Kalen Ballage was given a full opportunity to challenge Kenyan Drake for the starting job but looked ineffective in the preseason opener. The team will employ some version of a Patriots-style committee, but Drake is firmly atop the pecking order, assuming the injury that put him in a walking boot isn't severe.
Sony Michel had a short stay on the PUP list and has had a quiet camp in a good way. He is getting worked into the passing game more after being one-dimensional last year when he missed most of camp… Damien Harris has shown three-down prowess, but he is likely just a role player with Michel looking healthy… Josh Gordon applied for reinstatement and from all public indications, the Patriots are still holding a place for him on the team… First-round pick N'Keal Harry was uneven in his first camp, but made a few big-boy plays in the first preseason game before getting dinged… Harry’s rookie thunder has been stolen by UDFA Jakobi Meyers, who quickly got into Tom Brady’s inner circle at practices and then carried over his play to the preseason opener. He has secured at least a roster spot, if not a role in the offense… Maurice Harris had a very strong open to training camp and probably won a roster spot to muddy the waters at wide receiver further… Ben Watson has had a good camp and will likely be the clear #1 tight end when he returns from a four-game suspension… Tom Brady got a new extension that actually was more money for this year and potential freedom next year… There has been nary a peep about Demaryius Thomas’s return, but the team did sign Cameron Meredith and immediately stashed him on the PUP list… The team has little to no depth at offensive tackle and was mentioned briefly as a possible trade partner with Washington for Trent Williams.
New York Jets
The team coaxed Ryan Kalil out of retirement to shore up the weakest spot on the offensive line, although starting guards Brian Winters (shoulder) and Kelechi Osemele (pec) have sustained injuries… Ty Montgomery has emerged as the backup to Le’Veon Bell and possibly more due to his RB/WR versatility, but also got dinged in practice… Free-agent pickup Jamison Crowder shrugged off an injury scare and has established enough chemistry with Sam Darnold to possibly be the most frequent target in the pass offense this year… Quincy Enunwa had an injury scare of his own, but otherwise has had a solid camp… #1 corner Trumaine Johnson is week-to-week with a hamstring injury that could sweeten John Brown’s Week 1 matchup when the Bills visit New Jersey.
The Texans decided they had had enough of D'Onta Foreman, who was released during camp and claimed by Indianapolis… UDFAs Karan Higdon and Damarea Crockett might be battling for a spot on the final roster, but their momentum was slowed by the acquisition of Duke Johnson Jr for a fourth-round pick that will turn into a third if Johnson is active for ten games. Since the team currently doesn’t have a general manager, it was reported that head coach Bill O’Brien was a key to getting the trade done. Johnson is currently sitting with a hamstring injury… Jordan Thomas has had a good camp and quickly got over a hamstring injury, while third-round pick Kahale Warring suffered a hamstring injury, and then a concussion upon his return… Keke Coutee was garnering universal praise all offseason and camp and then promptly suffered an ankle injury that could threaten his early-season availability. DeAndre Carter returned to practice just in time to potentially make the team and play Coutee’s role while he is on the mend… Will Fuller V didn’t have to be placed on the PUP list and is working his way back to full speed for the season opener at New Orleans… Jadeveon Clowney is expected by some long-time Houston beats to be traded before the season, maybe for a left tackle. He was moved to defensive end in some fantasy league software systems, increasing his fantasy value.
Andrew Luck suffered a setback to a calf injury that was an issue in the offseason and missed all of training camp. His Week 1 availability is no sure thing… Jordan Wilkins has a foot issue that the team is still evaluating. Jonathan Williams is having a good summer and he or the newly claimed D’Onta Foreman could be the #3 if this is a long-term issue after the team put Spencer Ware on PUP/Reserve. Ware is seeking an injury settlement and release from the roster to preserve his chances of playing elsewhere this year… T.Y. Hilton is healthy having a tremendous camp despite not playing with Luck… Second-round pick Parris Campbell was wowing with much better than advertised route running early in camp, but has been missing time with a hamstring and apparently pushed his return too much and will stay sidelined for at least a few more practices, if not more… Deon Cain returned to camp fully healthy and he has turned heads with his performances. He won’t usurp the #2 job from Devin Funchess, but might project for that job long term or if Funchess goes down… 2018 fifth-round pick Reece Fountain has had a good enough camp to be considered for the last roster spot at wide receiver if he keeps it up… Basketball convert tight end Mo Alie-Cox is coming into his own on the football field and will have a role in the offense, but has reportedly struggled with drops at times in camp.
Dede Westbrook projects as the team’s #1 receiver, but is currently sitting with a groin injury… 2018 second-rounder D.J. Chark Jr and Nick Foles personal recruit Chris Conley project as the next wide receivers on the depth chart with Keelan Cole still struggling to find his 2017 form and Marqise Lee no sure thing to be ready for the season… Third-round pick Josh Oliver probably won’t be a rookie impact receiving tight end despite the need in the offense after he suffered a somewhat serious hamstring injury. Geoff Swaim is probably going to be the starter… Fifth-round pick Ryquell Armstead was on the PUP list to start camp because of a GPS error and he is vying with Alfred Blue to back up Leonard Fournette. Practices have stressed the receiving skills for running backs at times, which is an area that Armstead needs to show growth in… Yannick Ngakuoe ended his holdout during camp, but there are signs that both he and shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey may not stay with the team after their rookie contracts are up… Third-round pick Quincy Williams was considered a potential replacement for Telvin Smith Sr, who was put on the retired list but could return next year. Williams suffered a torn meniscus in camp and might not be ready for the start of the season… Left tackle Cam Robinson was in danger of not being ready to start the season according to the team and then abruptly activated from the PUP list.
Second-round pick AJ Brown suffered a hamstring injury at the open of camp and is still working his way back onto the field… Derrick Henry is still out with a calf injury suffered early in camp, but has been seen working on the side field… Starting left tackle Taylor Lewan will be suspended for the first four games of the season, but right tackle Jack Conklin has looked good in his return from injury… Ryan Succop has been on the PUP list but backup kicker Austin Bernard has done little to threaten his job. The team expects Succop to be ready for Week 1… Adam Humphries was targeted heavily in the first preseason game and appears to have good chemistry with Marcus Mariota, who is having a solid camp by most accounts.
The new dimensions to the Ravens offense have generated excitement. Most reports about Lamar Jackson’s passing have been positive, but not all… Jackson said he won’t run as often as last year, but John Harbaugh still indicated that his attempts would eclipse his 139 attempt total from last year… Mark Andrews has created buzz from multiple sources, although his snap share wasn’t different from his ultra-efficient but role-player rookie season… The team traded starting guard Alex Lewis to the Jets after he rehabbed shoulder surgery away from the team and will have a new starter at the position this year… First-round pick Marquise Brown was activated from the NFI but is still working his way back to full speed... Third-round Miles Boykin had a great camp and played a huge role in the first preseason game with mixed results… The Ravens traded backup kicker Kaare Vedvik to Minnesota for a fifth-round pick.
A.J. Green suffered the most important injury in training camp for fantasy. He had ankle surgery and will miss at least a few regular-season games. John Ross has been out with a hamstring injury, squandering a chance to make an impression on the new staff in Green’s absence… Sixth-round Rodney Anderson was activated from the PUP list and could create some trade availability for Giovani Bernard… Josh Malone is likely to get the first crack at outside receiver reps if Ross can’t go in Week 1… Tyler Eifert has stayed healthy thus far in camp, which is all he needs to have late-round target appeal with Green sitting to start the season
The Browns traded Duke Johnson Jr to the Texans for a fourth-round pick that will become a third if Johnson stays healthy, opening up the receiving down role for Dontrell Hilliard and potentially increasing the target share for Nick Chubb… Antonio Callaway showed up to camp out of shape relegating him to the second team, and was then suspended for four games for substance abuse and then suffered a high ankle sprain. Rashard Higgins will open the season as the #3 receiver and he continues to display impressive rapport with Baker Mayfield… Observers have been wowed by Myles Garrett with regularity and the 2017 #1 overall pick could be ready to reach a new level with better pass rushers around him and more variety in his pass rush moves after the team moved on from Gregg Williams and hired Steve Wilks to coordinate the defense.
Our condolences to the Steelers family after the team lost wide receivers coach Darryl Drake, who passed away at age 62...Some sources expect Jaylen Samuels to be a bigger part of the offense this year, although not necessarily at James Conner’s expense. Samuels has reportedly been used as a receiver outside of the backfield in addition to backing up Conner… the #2 wide receiver job has been presumed to belong to free-agent pickup Donte Moncrief, but third-round pick Diontae Johnson has had a good camp and 2018 second-rounder James Washington dominated in the first preseason game after at least one report had him falling behind Johnson (who missed the preseason opener with a groin issue)… First-round pick Devin Bush has been everything the Steelers expected and more and could be an instant IDP stud… There’s no clarity yet in the kicker battle between Chris Boswell and Matthew Wright.
A full-blown three-headed RBBC was averted when Theo Riddick suffered a fracture in his shoulder, but he should return within the first month of the season. Phillip Lindsay is fully recovered from his wrist injury and remains ahead of Royce Freeman, but only slightly and Freeman should get more work than he did last year… Emmanuel Sanders appears to be back from his Achilles tear way ahead of schedule and will contend with Courtland Sutton to be the #1 receiver… DaeSean Hamilton was out with a hamstring injury for a good part of camp and is well behind Sutton and Sanders in the pecking order… Noah Fant has been challenged by the coaching staff and doesn’t yet appear to be ready for a large role… Sixth-round pick Juwann Winfree was lavished with praise by all-world corner Chris Harris Jr and should easily make the team.
Mecole Hardman has expanded his route tree and his speed stood out in the first preseason game, adding a dimension that could make the pass offense nearly undefendable when Patrick Mahomes II has time to throw… Damien Williams missed significant time with a hamstring injury and while he was out Andy Reid indicated that the team will employ some sort of running back by committee. Williams was first up for first-team snaps in practice when he returned but quickly gave way to Carlos Hyde (who is having a good camp by most accounts) and Darrel Williams. Sixth-round pick Darwin Thompson is currently #4, but popped in the first preseason game with his burst and contact balance… Sammy Watkins has been healthy and regaining top form… Byron Pringle has had a good camp and appears to be poised to make the team after an injury ended a good summer last year.
Los Angeles Chargers
There’s no end in sight for Melvin Gordon III’s holdout, and Austin Ekeler’s performance in the preseason open won’t give the Chargers a sense of urgency to cave to his demands. Ekeler got the lion’s share of work over Justin Jackson and appears to be ahead of Jackson for work in Gordon’s place by a good margin, although he did fumble at the goal line. Gordon requested a trade but the Chargers are unlikely to find a partner who will pay his contract demands and give up premium draft capital for the right to do it… Left tackle Russell Okung has missed all of camp with a pulmonary embolism. The team has said he will be rechecked at the end of the month. His Week 1 availability is uncertain but the team hasn’t made any moves that suggest that they are worried. 2018 UDFA Trent Scott is set to start Week 1 vs. the Colts if Okung can’t go.
Antonio Brown is still away from the team as he fights to get to wear his old helmet and also has a case of frostbite from use of cryotherapy gone awry. He reportedly won’t play unless he gets to use his old helmet and the team hasn’t set a timeline for return from his foot issues. We may not see him practice until the regular season and playing in Week 1 is not assured… Josh Jacobs has moved up the depth chart quickly and head coach Jon Gruden wants to see how much work he can handle… Fifth-round pick Hunter Renfrow has quickly captured the slot receiver job and may be among rookie reception leaders… Converted wide receiver Darren Waller is unchallenged for the starting tight end job and has impressed in camp before suffering a minor shoulder injury... Starting guard Gabe Jackson has an MCL injury and will miss some regular-season games. Fellow starting guard Richie Incognito will serve a two-game suspension to begin the season, leaving the team without their starting line for matchups against Denver and Kansas City.