NFL training camps are open for business. Take a deep breath and let that soothing thought ease your anxiety and stress. Whether you’re facing deadlines at work, have in-laws in town, or your kids won’t stop yelling “Minions,” just relax and let visions of the approaching NFL season clear your mind.
Thank you for joining us for the first Training Camp Daily Dose of the young 2015 NFL preseason. My name is Jeff Brubach (you can find me here at this incredibly creative Twitter handle) and I’ll be with you throughout the year, but today we will be recapping the most pertinent fantasy football information spewing from the college campuses and practice facilities hosting the NFL’s annual boot camps. While NFL training camp start dates vary from team to team, we have plenty of news to cover from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings as both teams are already in camp. Let’s dig right in and check out the most notable news swirling around the fantasy landscape.
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Pittsburgh’s Martavis Bryant has been an offseason obsession of many as the young wide receiver looks to build on an explosive rookie season that saw him haul in eight touchdowns on just 26 catches. After offseason compliments from his quarterback and sterling OTA performances, Bryant tossed more gasoline on his blazing hot fantasy draft stock by beefing up to 225 pounds, which is 14 pounds heavier than his 2014 combine weight. Although fantasy leagues aren’t dishing out points per pound, the added weight on Bryant’s frame will ideally make him more of a load for opposing defenses to handle in the middle of the field and in the red zone. With wheels to spare (4.42 forty at the 2014 combine), a bigger Martavis Bryant could be on his way to stardom, a sentiment that Yahoo’s Charles Robinson shared today after watching Bryant live in action.
Continuing with the Weight Watchers theme, Pittsburgh running back DeAngelo Williams shed weight this offseason to dip below 220 pounds. The Steelers are hoping they can squeeze some explosiveness out of Williams’ 32-year-old legs while star running back Le’Veon Bell is suspended to start the season.
Speaking of Bell, the Pittsburgh lead back was a full participant at camp on Monday, as last postseason’s knee troubles appear to be behind the fantasy workhorse. A looming 3-game suspension is now the only hurdle preventing Bell from building on his monstrous 2014 season in which he racked up 2,215 total yards.
Minnesota State University was hopping on Monday as the Vikings held practice at the home of Mavericks in Mankato, Minnesota. Coach Mike Zimmer gave the fantasy world some reassurance as camp got underway, by declaring that running back Adrian Peterson will get “As much as he can take, and as much as he can handle in all the things that we’re doing.” Peterson’s one-year layoff may frighten fantasy owners looking to invest a first round pick in the Minnesota star running back, but a massive workload appears to be on the way. The receiving game will be a large part of Peterson’s expected workload, as our good pal Norval Eugene Turner (Minnesota’s OC) enjoys feeding his running backs in the passing game. Over the last four years, Norv Turner offenses have seen running backs Mike Tolbert (‘11), Ronnie Brown (‘12), Chris Ogbonnaya (‘13), and Matt Asiata (‘14) all collect 44 or more receptions in a season. It’s fair to say that Peterson is a tad better than the names on that list and he should be a powerhouse once again this season.
After spending the summer of 2014 as a fantasy breakout candidate, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson migrated to fantasy bust and then to fantasy voodoo doll status all before Thanksgiving. The 2015 preseason didn’t kick off any better for Patterson, as coach Mike Zimmer questioned the young receiver’s consistency in practice on Monday. After the Vikings brought in Mike Wallace over the offseason, Patterson is now staring at a pile of receivers ahead of him on the Minnesota depth chart and is a long shot for any type of fantasy production in the near future.
In other news, Houston’s Jadeveon Clowney was placed on the active/PUP list on Monday. This designation is not a death sentence for Clowney’s IDP status for the 2015 season, as he could still very well be ready for Week 1 action. Stay tuned to Rotoworld for more developments in Houston surrounding 2014’s top draft pick.
New England wide receiver Brandon LaFell is also sitting with the cool kids at the active/PUP list table, as he has been dealing with a foot injury over the offseason. Again, this is likely a precaution taken by the Patriots but it will require monitoring as preseason games inch closer.
Cleveland coach Mike Pettine called a misdirection play on Monday, stating that he won’t guarantee Josh McCown will start in Week 1, shortly after calling Johnny Manziel the “clearcut No. 2 quarterback” behind McCown. McCown will likely get the first crack at the starting gig, but expect Cleveland to pound the ball on the ground once again this season to limit the damage from their signal callers. Cleveland was sixth in the NFL is rushing attempts in 2014 and although the Browns swapped offensive coordinators over the offseason, Pettine will likely keep this offense on the path to minimal fantasy relevance outside of the running game.
More quarterback news surfaced on Monday as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports said he expects New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith to get a “solid half season” to prove that he can or can’t handle the starting job. Geno now gets a more pass-friendly OC in Chan Gailey and the additions of Brandon Marshall and rookie Devin Smith alongside the returning Eric Decker will give Smith his best set of weapons since he entered the league in 2013. Ryan Fitzpatrick and his beard are waiting in the wings in the event that Smith falters.
Rand Getlin of the NFL Network announced on Monday that free agent running back Chris Johnson’s agent has been in contact with the Dallas Cowboys. Johnson failed to make much of an impact last season with the Jets, but the Dallas offensive line could spring new life into the former 2,000 yard back. Even if Johnson signs on with Dallas, he will be shoved into the mess of other running backs vying to replace the departed DeMarco Murray which would make the Dallas backfield equal parts tricky and interesting as the season begins.
As training camps and preseason games approach, New York Giants GM Jerry Reese nominated wide receiver Corey Washington as a player to watch during camp. Washington was lightly used in 2014 and faces a crowded depth chart, but go ahead and scribble his name on your preseason watch list.
St. Louis Rams rookie running back Todd Gurley’s recovery from 2014 ACL surgery is still shrouded in a bit of mystery as August rolls into town, but ESPN’s Nick Wagoner thinks Gurley could be back before the Rams enjoy their Week 6 bye. Gurley is a major talent but his knee recovery is the primary concern when creating a reasonable ADP for the Rams running back this fantasy season. This will be a situation worth monitoring closely as St. Louis attempts to ease their prized rookie into game action. If Gurley appears to be moving closer to a September return, his draft stock will approach early rounds with ease.