One week of training camp is in the books and the regular season is looming large on the horizon. With fantasy draft prep in full swing and so much going on around the league, let's get caught up on a hectic Thursday of news.
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A week after his holdout began, Marshawn Lynch has officially reported to Seahawks’ training camp. While first word out of Seattle suggested that the team didn’t budge, Profootballtalk reported on Thursday night that Lynch agreed to a $1.5 million raise. Lynch will rejoin the team and his status as a Top 10 fantasy running back remains safe.
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Harold Henderson, not to be confused with Harry and the Hendersons, will hear Josh Gordon’s appeal in New York on Friday. Gordon’s legal counsel will argue his positive test was the result of second-hand smoke. Citing a source, the Cleveland Plain Dealer said Henderson will “take a hard-line stance on second-hand smoke' argument” and believes it’s a longshot Gordon gets off the hook. There's still hope for Gordon to play in 2014, but his chances don't sound good with Henderson arbitrating.
Gordon isn’t the only Brown dominating the news, as we seemingly can’t go more than a few hours without another Johnny Manziel blurb. The most recent word in the JFF saga is that he’ll start getting some reps with the first-team offense.
So far, Brian Hoyer has gotten all the first-team work, but offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said neither Hoyer nor Manziel is “further in front of the other.” There’s certainly a lot of coach-speak in that statement, but with over a month until the regular season we can’t rule out Manziel as a Week 1 starter.
Like Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater is battling an ex-Tom Brady backup for a starting job. Bridgewater has already gotten reps with the first-team offense, and the sense is that he’s closed the gap on Matt Cassel. With Bridgewater gaining the confidence of the coaching staff, it’s certainly possible that he’s under center for the Vikings’ opener on September 7th.
While Bridgewater is ascending, Christian Ponder is sinking fast. Now running with the third-team, Ponder is essentially a spectator at Vikings camp. Unlike the others spectators, Ponder is making $1.76 million in guaranteed money this year.
Moving to Indianapolis, Reggie Wayne is drawing rave reviews from Colts head coach Chuck Pagano. Wayne is showing no ill effects from the torn ACL he suffered last October thanks in large part to a rigorous rehab in the offseason. Wayne is currently coming off the board at pick 8.01, which could prove to be a value, especially if offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton takes the shackles off Andrew Luck and unleashes the Colts pass game. Hamilton stubbornly stuck to a power-run game last season, but it would make sense for the Colts to play to their strengths.
Like Wayne, there have been several running backs receiving praise for their play in camp. Bill Belichick called rookie James White a three-down back and gave White some goal-line reps at Thursday’s practice. White projected to be more of a third-down back entering the draft, but it’s obvious that Belichick has different plans for him. Let the Belichickery at running back begin.
While the running back waters got a little muddier in New England, we have a fairly clear picture in Cincinnati. Giovani Bernard is locked in as the top option with rookie Jeremy Hill getting the edge on BenJarvus Green-Ellis as the Bengals power complement. Bengals offensive coordinator Hugh Jackson said on Thursday that Bernard is having an “outstanding camp,” calling him explosive and “a tough son of a gun.” Jackson’s words bode positively for Bernard’s 2014 outlook. He has a good shot at sniffing the 300-touch mark in Jackson’s run-first offense.
Khiry Robinson has shown impressive pass protection so far in Saints camp. With Darren Sproles now in Philly, Robinson has moved up in the New Orleans pecking order. Showing positively in blitz pickup will go a long way in earning Robinson more snaps. There’s certainly sleeper appeal here, though Pierre Thomas figures to lead the Saints’ backfield in touches and remains the best fantasy bet among the New Orleans backs.
Another sleeper in the NFL South, Falcons RB Devonta Freeman, has reportedly shown flashes of three-down ability already in camp. Freeman is one of my personal favorites out of this year’s draft class. With the aging and oft-injured Steven Jackson being the only thing between Freeman and a featured role, he’s well worth a shot at his current ADP of 10.03.
While LeSean McCoy isn’t necessarily drawing praise at Eagles camp (at this point we just expect him to be great), he did lose some weight. McCoy cut back on the late-night Doritos and reported to camp about 5-7 pounds thinner in an effort to be more explosive in Chip Kelly’s offense. It’s tough not to like McCoy as this year’s No. 1 overall fantasy player.
C.J. Anderson did McCoy one better, dropping nearly 20 pounds since minicamp and reporting to Denver training camp at a trim 215 pounds. Ronnie Hillman has been running ahead of Anderson so far in camp, but he’s no lock to backup Montee Ball. Hillman “looks great in shorts,” but he’s a different player with the pads on. Anderson is still the better bet to open the season as Ball’s handcuff.
He hasn’t lost any weight, but Rob Gronkowski doesn’t look like a player coming off a torn ACL/MCL. Gronk is running and cutting at full blast. That sound you hear is Gronk’s ADP screaming upward.
While Julian Edelman has been Tom Brady’s go-to thus far in camp, Gronkowski’s presence will limit Edelman’s fantasy upside. So too will a healthy Shane Vereen and Danny Amendola. Don’t expect a repeat of triple-digit catches out of Edelman.
The news isn’t as positive for David Wilson. In fact, it’s downright sad. Sources with knowledge of the situation have said that Wilson “needs a miracle” to play again, and the Giants are not expecting him to do so. It looks like Wilson will go down in history with the likes of Jahvid Best in what could have been. That being said, there are more important things in life than football, so let’s hope Wilson is okay from a health standpoint.
The severity of injury is much less for Mike Wallace, as he’s dealing with a hamstring and his status for Miami’s preseason opener is in question. A hamstring injury is never something you want to hear, especially for a player like Wallace who relies heavily on his speed.
Aldon Smith is schedule to meet with Roger Goodell on Aug. 8 to discuss Smith’s offseason transgressions and looming suspension. The anticipation is that Smith gets 4-6 games. A suspension of this length with certainly hurt Smith’s IDP stock, but will also impact to the fantasy prospects of the 49ers team defense. I wouldn’t recommend spending a draft day pick on San Francisco. You can find a better fantasy option elsewhere.
There’s plenty going on with the Falcons’ linebacker corps this offseason. With Sean Weatherspoon out for the season, Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow are running as the starters in camp. While neither are strong options on the field, Worrilow could prove to be a robust IDP option. He flashed a high fantasy ceiling last year and projects to an every-down role for the Falcons. Worrilow is currently Rotoworld’s No. 10 linebacker.
Of course, the Falcons also recently signed former Colt Pat Angerer in an effort to bolster their linebacker situation. Angerer is reportedly going through league’s concussion protocol, which doesn’t bode positively for his chances of cracking the starting lineup. Atlanta is also still interested veteran free agent Nick Barnett, who saw action in 14 games last season for Washington. Barnett is unlikely to make a fantasy impact in 2014.
In other IDP news, Lovie Smith called Lavonte David a “great player.” Duh. David is a stud who could actually improve on his lofty 2013 numbers in Smith’s Tampa-2 defense. We currently have David just a hair above Luke Kuechly for the No. 1 spot at linebacker.
If you watched last year’s Hard Knocks, you likely know the name Margus Hunt. Those in IDP dynasty circles better get to know his name very well. Marvin Lewis said Thursday that Hunt has made a huge leap in his second training camp. With Michael Johnson now in Tampa Bay, the door is open for Hunt to see a significant increase in snaps after playing just 150 as a rookie. Hunt is a very smooth athlete for his size, and has the makings of a strong pass rusher if he can put it all together. Now is the time to trade for Hunt in dynasty leagues.
Finally, for those looking for IDP value, look no further than Brad Jones, who is currently running as the Packers lone every-down linebacker. Jones struggled with injury in a disappointing 2013, but don’t let that bad taste linger in your mouth. He’s a capable tackler with plenty of opportunity to make plays in the Green Bay defense. Jones is currently going undrafted in ADP, which means that over 50 linebackers are coming off the board before him. Jones could easily post Top 25 fantasy numbers, which makes him an absolute steal.