The collective attention of the NFL world is centered on Indianapolis this weekend as coaches and general managers from around the league have gathered to evaluate and interview members of the incoming rookie class of 2019. While fans and everyone in attendance at Lucas Oil Stadium are looking forward to fast 40s and eye-popping workouts, the decision makers for each team shared a vast amount of information that fantasy players should be paying close attention to as the off-season continues.
Nearly every team made their coaches and general managers available to the media earlier in the week and there were plenty of takeaways. Here’s a quick summary with some key information pertaining to each NFL team.’
Cardinals GM Steve Keim stole the show when he was asked if last year’s first-round pick QB Josh Rosen was the team’s starting quarterback. Keim responded with a not so subtle, “for sure, for now.” This statement only fuels the rumors of Arizona selecting Heisman winner (and favorite of HC Kliff Kingsbury) QB Kyler Murray with their top overall pick. If that’s the case, they’d be shipping Rosen off to another QB-needy team, perhaps the Giants.
Falcons HC Dan Quinn had positive things to say about RB Ito Smith, who saw 90 total carries as a rookie. With RB Devonta Freeman missing the majority of the season, Smith played more and earlier than anyone expected and fared reasonably well. Quinn suggests Smith will see a “significant increase” in his overall touches. That makes sense with free-agent RB Tevin Coleman expected to find a new team in the coming weeks.
While QB Lamar Jackson was a force on the ground, the Ravens have questions about their starting running back. Last season, Baltimore rotated RBs Alex Collins, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon and UDFA Gus Edwards. Somewhat surprisingly, it was Edwards who drew the vote of confidence from HC John Harbaugh, who called the power back “our number one” going into the offseason. The Ravens have also been linked to free agent RB Le’Veon Bell.
Considering there is very little offensive talent in Buffalo, it should be no surprise that there were few takeaways for the Bills. HC Sean McDermott did mention recently-signed WR Duke Williams as a player who could compete for a role next season. McDermott also focused on the blocking and protection aspects when discussing the tight end position. With veteran TE Charles Clay gone, this is likely a spot that won’t offer any fantasy upside.
Everything we heard from Panthers’ decision-makers a year ago was how many touches they wanted to give RB Christian McCaffrey. While most scoffed, they mostly lived up to their promises as CMC touched the ball over 340 times. Now, Panthers HC Ron Rivera says he wants to lighten the load for the star back.
Bears GM Ryan Pace revealed that WR Anthony Miller underwent shoulder surgery following the 2018 season and that he “could be limited” during offseason workouts. Miller suffered multiple shoulder injuries but played through the injury for much of the season. Also, the Bears are reportedly shopping starting RB Jordan Howard.
Pre-Combine reports suggested the Bengals goal of Combine week was to ship disappointing WR John Ross off to another team, but Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin called the rumors “fake news.” Tobin also praised WR Tyler Boyd and RB Joe Mixon, suggesting both are big parts of the team’s plans going forward, which is not a surprise to fantasy players.
This is uncommon but the Browns have been fairly quiet this week. GM John Dorsey did announce the team plans to tender restricted free agent WR Rashard Higgins and added that they would meet with the agent for WR Breshad Perriman, who joined the team in mid-season last year after flopping with division-rival.
Well, no one saw this coming. After retiring from the Cowboys a year ago and spending the 2018 season in the Monday Night Football booth, TE Jason Witten announced he would return to the league in 2019, signing a deal with Dallas. Witten is expected to play 25 snaps per game, similar to what we saw from veteran TE Antonio Gates last season.
In a bit of a surprise, the Denver Broncos announced they would pick up the option for veteran WR Emmanuel Sanders, who suffered a late-season Achilles injury and could miss a big chunk of the 2019 season. Sanders had recently announced he would not be willing to restructure his deal, making a split seemingly inevitable. Guess not.
While all fantasy players are ready for the takeover of RB Kerryon Johnson, Lions GM Bob Quinn isn’t quite on board yet. When asked about Johnson’s ability to be a “bell cow” back, Quinn explained that he didn’t like that term and the more backfield depth you can have, the better. With veteran RB LeGarrette Blount not expected back, the Lions will likely look at adding another runner to the depth chart.
Prepare yourself for even more frustration from the Packers backfield. New HC Matt LaFleur said a “committee approach” is the most effective option for fantasy favorite RB Aaron Jones and plodding RB Jamaal Williams. Williams has been a thorn in Jones’ side since the two were drafted in 2017 and it looks like that will continue into next season.
The Texans brass had some things to say about their backfield. While Houston has been a popular rumored landing spot for RB Le’Veon Bell, GM Brian Gaine said that he views RB Lamar Miller as the team’s 2019 starter. Miller has been just fine, but nothing more in his Houston tenure and now enters the final year of his contract. Also, HC Bill O’Brien reminded us that RB D’Onta Foreman is still in the team’s plans as well. Bell makes a lot of sense with this team.
In his meeting with the press, Colts GM Chris Ballard shared some injury updates, including more concerning news for TE Jack Doyle. After missing much of the 2018 season, Doyle required offseason hip surgery and will be out until training camp. TE Eric Ebron is looking like an even safer bet to repeat his TE1 performance of last season. Ballard also revealed that WR Deon Cain, who missed his entire rookie season, is expected to be ready for camp.
As is the case for most teams, the talk around the Jaguars is all about the quarterback position. After making it clear they are moving on from failed first-round pick Blake Bortles, the Jags are the front-runner to sign the top free agent QB Nick Foles, who was recently given his freedom from the Eagles. This pairing has been long-rumored and could be one of the first deals done when free agency opens.
As expected, the running back position was a key topic for Chiefs GM Brett Veach, who told the media the starting running back job is “Damien Williams’ to lose.” After the breakout performance in the back half of the season, this is no surprise. Williams fantasy value rests on how early of a pick the Chiefs use on a rookie back but he is looking relatively safe for now.