Players are reporting to training camp across the league and for many it’s Christmas in July! And all of us here at Rotoworld are slowly starting to unwrap our presents hoping for some camp battles and roster moves that will help us cement or change our opinions on some of our fantasy thoughts going into this, the 94th year of the NFL.
The Buffalo Bills were the first team to strap on pads and get on the practice field this year and that meant it was time for first round pick Sammy Watkins to put on a show. Through Monday and Tuesday he caught everything within reach and scored 175 touchdowns. Well, the touchdown part is false, but the catching everything part is true. Everyone was impressed with his ability to make receptions all over the field and amidst coverage. Does this mean he’s a top fantasy receiver? No, but if he walks away from camp as the no-doubt #1 receiver in more than name, he will get his chance to shine.
The Bills also have to take a hard look at running back Bryce Brown this camp. We know the upside of C.J. Spiller, but we also know the downside of Spiller, which is coming off the field every 3rd play. Fred Jackson is still doing his thing, but with an old body. Brown has shown his immense ability, but also an incredible lack of ball control as shown by his amazing fumbling skills. So far the reports out of camp have been good for Brown. ESPN’s Mike Rodak notes he has plenty of burst getting to the second level and has looked good doing so. He’s a player to keep tabs on in camp to see if he’s turned things around.
Bernard Pierce has been cleared after offseason rotator cuff surgery and is down to 223 pounds. We have him listed as 230, so that’s not an insignificant weight loss for a running back. As he prepares to lead the way while Ray Rice is suspended the weight loss could be a good sign. Last season his runs did not pop off the screen and I’d rather him come to camp leaner than chunkier. After taking a step backward last year he'll need to take a big step forward this season.
Second year quarterback E.J. Manuel struggled with his accuracy during 3rd downs according to Rodak. This was their first day in pads, so there's time, but like Jerry said, the NFL stands for "Not For Long" if you aren't getting the job done. The Bills will rely heavily on the run game and that is another reason to keep tabs on Brown this preseason.
The Giants running backs will be a group to watch this preseason. Rookie back Andre Williams lined up as the goal line back during their first practice, which is interesting, but he also lined up there during OTAs, which makes us close to some triangulation. It’s of course too early to call him the main goal line back, but it is something to keep a close eye on.
David Wilson was cleared for practice and he then went out and practiced! He had no restrictions and looked as quick as usual according to reports. This is all starting to look not so great for the 29-year-old Rashad Jennings. He should be the lead back and he is versatile, but if he loses goal line looks to Williams and some passing downs and change of pace to Wilson, his upside gets cut right off.
Ace Sanders, the Jaguars receiver, has been suspended for the first four games and tells reporters he will be seeking “help.” This isn’t huge news for fantasy, but it does help solidify Marqise Lee’s position as a starter. We’ll be watching his progress throughout camp.
Danny Woodhead received a 2-year deal in time for training camp. There was little doubt that he would remain the receiving back in the Chargers’ backfield, but this makes it official. Thankfully for Ryan Mathews supporters we’ve seen what he can do with Woodhead running the ball 100+ times and catching it 75+.
Julio Jones will be limited to start training camp, but is not being put on the PUP list. I’d say that’s some good news smushed together with some bad, but there doesn’t seem like much reason for concern. His immense value was shown in how poorly the Falcons’ offense executed without him last year and they aren’t going to risk him getting injured in practice or preseason games. He could easily get the LaDainian Tomlinson treatment this summer.
Aaron Dobson has been placed on the active/PUP list for his foot injury. He is going into camp as the frontrunner for wide receiver #1 duties and this designation shouldn’t stop that from happening as he can be taken off of the list at any time and does seem like he is close to being ready. But of course the Patriots aren’t going to be too loosey goosey with information, so we will have to take a wait and see approach for now.
Speaking of the tight-lipped Patriots, Rob Gronkowski news will be hard to come by this summer, but the non-act of not placing him on the active/PUP list is a great start to him playing all 16 games like he says he plans on doing. He now can't be added to the regular season PUP list, so no matter what, they feel confident in his recovery. Watch as his ADP rockets.
Kansas City had last year's number one draft pick Eric Fisher show up early for camp to get started on his transition back to left tackle and to test out his surgically repaired shoulder. Last year he missed games from a concussion and an injured left shoulder and just didn’t look like a first round pick lined up on the right side. But he’s now back on the practice field and moving to his natural side. Any Jamaal Charles stockholders should hope he’s back on track.
As for Charles himself, he is reportedly contemplating maybe, possibly holding out. He is severely underpaid considering how he took the offense on his back all of last season, running backs have a short shelf life, and by the time he does get paid, he'll get less because his near future will be past his prime. Of course this most likely will be much ado about sound and fury signifying nothing, but we will keep you posted.