John Daigle

Training Camp Lowdown

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32 Deep Sleepers

Saturday, July 28, 2018


Positional training camp battles and preseason usage have become an integral study for fantasy football. While much was learned in free agency, the draft, and voluntary workouts, those fantasy players engulfed in the sport are rewarded with answers as camps open and roll on. Having said that, the following are 32 players I believe could carve out a role on their respective teams and potentially return value in the later rounds of season-long fantasy drafts, Best Ball leagues, or preseason DFS.


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Arizona Cardinals - Brice Butler, WR

Prior to being released mid-season, new Cards OC Mike McCoy engineered a Broncos offense that ranked first-overall in 11 personnel usage (three wide receivers) and fifth-overall in pass attempts (315) from said personnel during his coordinating stint. Ricky Seals-Jones remains a player to watch once the season begins, but McCoy's offense will need serviceable wide receivers to function efficiently. Keep an eye on Butler, who posted a receiving line of 15-317 for the Cowboys on merely 260 snaps last season.


Atlanta Falcons - Austin Hooper, TE

Atlanta’s honed target tree admittedly leaves little room for any player outside of the usual suspects to compete for volume (newcomer Calvin Ridley included). Having said that, Hooper’s usage — 76.7% snap rate, 390 routes run — remained a constant for the Falcons in his sophomore year. Best-case scenario is that Hooper benefits from Matt Ryan’s inevitable regression in touchdown rate (4.6% career average despite posting a 3.8% mark in 2017). As Evan Silva noted in his Falcons Team Preview, Hooper finished No. 2 among tight ends in Next Gen Stats' average yards of separation at target (3.7).


Baltimore Ravens - John Brown, WR

Brown’s pending performance is tied entirely to his health. Unfortunately, he hasn’t truly been healthy since 2015 when he posted career-highs in snap rate (82.2%), catches (65), and receiving yards (1,003). Although Baltimore’s passing volume would likely decrease in the event Lamar Jackson (a prolific mobile quarterback) replaces Joe Flacco under center, it would be good news for Brown as the latter’s abysmal 53 passer rating on deep throws places him amongst the league’s worst. The Ravens have the most available air yards (2,829) and targets (332) to replace from last season.


Buffalo Bills - Zay Jones, WR

Among the 87 players who saw at least 70 targets last season, none averaged a lower catch rate than Jones (36.5%). Oddly enough, catching was his strong-suit at East Carolina where he broke the FBS single-season receptions record (158) as a senior, dropping just 6-of-164 catchable targets. Jones also mirrored Keenan Allen, Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks, and Adam Thielen (among others) in Next Gen Stats' average yards of separation at target (2.7). Gaining the confidence of Buffalo’s play-caller will be of utmost importance for Jones this preseason.


Editor's Note: Get updated rankings, projections, player profiles, and plenty more with the Rotoworld Draft Guide, stay up to date on all the breaking news at the Rotoworld News Page, and join the conversation on Twitter by following @Rotoworld_FB and @notJDaigle.


Carolina Panthers - Curtis Samuel, WR

The addition of D.J. Moore should have little effect on Samuel, who was always slated to play a utility slot WR/RB role for the Panthers. An 88th-percentile SPARQ athlete who ran a jaw-dropping 4.31 40-yard dash at the combine last season, Samuel averaged a 65.1% snap rate, six targets, and a 4-34 receiving line in the two games he played following Kelvin Benjamin’s departure.


Chicago Bears - Anthony Miller, WR

Under John Fox last season, Chicago finished 30th-overall in pass play rate in neutral game situations (when within one score) and 23rd-overall in the red zone. Meanwhile new Bears head coach Matt Nagy coordinated the Chiefs’ offense to top-five pass play rates in both the red zone and neutral game situations. With Allen Robinson and speedster Taylor Gabriel expected to start on the outside, Miller, who drew a handful of Antonio Brown comps pre-draft, should be considered a shoe-in for the Bears’ slot role. Mitchell Trubisky averaged a 106 passer rating (No. 7 among 32 qualifiers) to the middle of the field, where Miller’s routes should oft develop, in his rookie year.


Cincinnati Bengals - John Ross, WR

Ross’ rookie campaign (17 snaps, 0 catches) was undoubtedly an injury-riddled bust. Lest we forget he was the Bengals’ coveted No. 9 overall pick last season and still has very little competition in his path to becoming the team’s No. 2 wideout. An over-the-top threat who posted a 4.22 40-time at the combine, a healthy Ross would ideally be Cincinnati’s answer for a more dispersed air yards tree. A.J. Green, for example, amassed a whopping 44.5% of the Bengals’ air yards in 2017.


Cleveland Browns - Jeff Janis, WR

Jarvis Landry and Corey Coleman have secured roles both on the outside and in the slot. Josh Gordon’s pending involvement, however, leaves a potential opening for any of Rashard Higgins (27-312-2 last season), Ricardo Louis (27-357), rookie Antonio Calloway, or Janis. Playoffs included, Janis has averaged a 4.4-2.7-43.1 receiving line and 15.8 yards per catch in the seven games he’s logged at least 44% of offensive snaps since 2015.


Dallas Cowboys - Rico Gathers, TE

Rumor has it Dallas’ front office was down on Gathers last season despite his phenomenal showing in the preseason (7-106-2 on 89 snaps). There’s no guarantee he’d flourish with regular reps, but he arguably remains the Cowboys’ lone superior athlete (6”6 Baylor hoops star who ran a 4.79 40-time at his pro day) at tight end. It’s worth noting Gathers ballooned up to 282 pounds in the offseason as he believes focusing on his blocking will allow him to stay on the field more.


Denver Broncos - Jake Butt, TE

Butt was initially projected to go as high as the second-round before tearing his ACL in the Orange Bowl. Having spent his entire rookie season on the shelf, he’s now reportedly healthy and likely to receive the first crack at becoming Denver’s starting tight end. The Vikings quietly averaged the league’s highest Success Rate (86%) when targeting tight ends in the red zone during Case Keenum’s 14 starts.


Detroit Lions - Luke Willson, TE

Ebron was one of only 13 tight ends to run at least 400 routes last season, leaving ample opportunity for whomever takes his place. He also finished second on the team in red zone targets (12). If Matthew Stafford carries over his above-average target rate to tight ends in the red zone (28%), Willson, a 6’5” 93rd-percentile SPARQ athlete, could flourish in the role Ebron was never able to capitalize in.


Green Bay Packers - Geronimo Allison, WR

Including the six full starts he made last season, Aaron Rodgers has supported two top-11 receivers in three of the past four seasons. Randall Cobb, who’s historically averaged 6.6 targets and 13.2 fantasy points playing with Rodgers, is arguably the most likely (and least surprising) late-round receiver to bounce back in all of football. Allison has flashed as recently as Week 3 in 2017, though, when he finished with 6-122 on eight targets. He need only compete with third-year pro Trevor Davis and rookies J’Mon Moore and Equanimeous St. Brown to secure the No. 3 role.


Houston Texans - Ryan Griffin, TE

Griffin played in five of the six full games Deshaun Watson was healthy for, averaging an 88.6% snap rate in those contests. Watson targeted his tight ends at a mere 20% clip — for reference, the 2017 league average was 21% — but Griffin still showed the explosiveness to contribute as a late-round Best Ball candidate. With Watson under center, Griffin quietly tied Rob Gronkowski and Zach Ertz for the league-lead (6) in targets that traveled 20-plus yards downfield.


Indianapolis Colts - Erik Swoope, TE

Swoope’s 2017 campaign was derailed during the preseason due to a nagging knee injury that never progressed. A former University of Miami basketball player, Swoope was healthy for the entirety of 2016 and finished top-five among all tight ends in PFF’s predictive Yards Per Route Run (3.13), average depth of target (11.9), yards per catch (19.8), and fantasy points per opportunity (0.65). He’ll undoubtedly begin camp as the team’s No. 3 tight end behind Jack Doyle and new signee Eric Ebron, but Swoope has proven to be more productive than Ebron (albeit in a small-sample size) more recently. Note that new head coach Frank Reich called the most red zone plays from 12 personnel (two tight end sets) with the Philadelphia Eagles last season, giving value to whomever wins the No. 2 job outright.


Jacksonville Jaguars - Corey Grant, RB

Grant burst onto the scene last August when he led the preseason with an average 8.7 YPA (among 51 qualifiers who received 20-plus carries). He played a paltry 4.7% of the Jags’ offensive snaps during the regular season, but buoyed his 33 touches into 289 total yards (8.7 yards per touch). It’s worth noting Blake Bortles averaged a 26% running back target rate last season, five percentage points higher than the league average (21%).


Kansas City Chiefs - Demarcus Robinson, WR

Patrick Mahomes averaged a 40% target rate to slot receivers in his lone start last season. Sammy Watkins is expected to play both in the slot and on the outside, but Robinson still has a leg up on starting in three-receiver sets. How he’s used in the preseason will be worth monitoring.



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