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Washington Commanders offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy was quick to praise quarterback Sam Howell after organized team activities on Thursday. "His demeanor does not change and I will say this: he autocorrects himself as well," Bieniemy said. While Howell will compete with Jacoby Brissett in training camp this summer, the 22-year-old Howell is expected to have the leg up for the starting gig to open the 2023 regular season in D.C. The fifth-round pick last year impressed the coaching staff in last year's season finale against Dallas, and he has an intriguing skill set as a dual threat at the QB position. He certainly has the weapons around him to succeed and be a worthwhile QB2 in superflex leagues if he earns the starting job.
It's unknown whether the Cleveland Browns will make an attempt to sign free-agent wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and reunite him with quarterback Deshaun Watson, but Watson has shopped the Browns to Hopkins as a potential landing spot. Watson said, "of course we would love to have him," but that those decisions are made "out of my range." The addition of Hopkins in Cleveland would definitely make Watson a more intriguing low-end QB1 in fantasy, but it would also be bad news for wideouts Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Elijah Moore. ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported on Thursday that Hopkins is open-minded about teams league-wide, and he's prepared to be patient. Minicamp could be considered a soft deadline for the 30-year-old to pick a new team, while training camp would be more of a hard deadline.
Despite Chicago Bears running back Khalil Herbert averaging 5.7 yards per carry as the No. 2 behind David Montgomery last year, the Bears signed veterans D'Onta Foreman and Travis Homer and drafted Roschon Johnson. "You know how things go in the NFL now. They're doing things running back by committee," Herbert said. "You need one, two, three really good guys that really carry the rock and there be no drop-off." Herbert said he added five pounds to his core this offseason, but he plans to stay between 215 and 220 pounds for the season. The 25-year-old will mainly battle for early-down carries with Foreman, but Johnson's presence also lowers Herbert's fantasy ceiling. And when you add the rushing prowess of quarterback Justin Fields, Herbert suddenly becomes more of a dicey RB3/flex in fantasy.
Chicago Bears rookie second-round cornerback Tyrique Stevenson should be in line to start at outside cornerback across from Jaylon Johnson in his first year in the NFL with second-year corner Kyler Gordon moving to the slot full time in 2023. "He uses his length well," cornerbacks coach and pass-game coordinator Jon Hoke said. "He's really, really instinctive. He has a way of getting his hands on a lot of footballs. He does know the game of football. It comes relatively not easy, but he does understand concepts easier than some guys do, so it's been a real plus." Rookie fifth-round corner Terell Smith has also impressed Hoke during organized team activities this week.
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said "no one has worked harder than Justin Fields in this offseason," dating back to February. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams is already seeing improvement in Fields' leadership, decision-making and accuracy during organized team activities. The Athletic's Kevin Fishbain said Fields' work leading the offense in a two-minute drill that ended in a touchdown was notable despite it being voluntary OTAs. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said in early May that Fields was "light years ahead of where he was" last offseason. The 24-year-old must get better as a passer to take the next step, but he led all QBs in 2022 with 1,143 rushing yards and also scored eight TDs on the ground. If Fields can avoid sacks and become more efficient with his arm, he'll soon be in the elite tier of QB1s in fantasy.
Houston Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, the second overall pick in this year's NFL draft, has really impressed the coaching staff at organized team activities this week. Head coach DeMeco Ryans said Stroud has been "eye-opening" and has "seized" first-team snaps on offense over Davis Mills. Stroud is also already looking more comfortable running the offense than he did earlier in the offseason. The Texans are in no rush to name a starting QB for the 2023 season, but at this point, it would probably be a surprise if Stroud didn't open his first NFL season as the starter under center over Mills. The 21-year-old has tons of long-term potential, but with limited proven offensive weapons around him this year, he's unlikely to make much noise in single-year fantasy leagues.
As a rookie in 2022 after being the team's top draft pick, Chicago Bears cornerback Kyler Gordon was asked to play both outside and inside cornerback. This year, the plan is for Gordon to be their slot corner. "He's a good blitzer because he's physical, understands the timing, understands how to beat a block," cornerbacks coach and pass-game coordinator Jon Hoke said. "In zone coverage, he understands how to route-match based on what he's got. He understands the concepts that he's being attacked with." The move inside should allow the 23-year-old at more chances for tackles, meaning he could become valuable in fantasy IDP formats after he had 71 tackles (55 solo), three interceptions, six passes defensed, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble in 14 starts last year.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Rashaad Penny (leg) was seen taking part in organized team activities on Thursday for his new team. The oft-injured Penny played in just five games in his final year with the Seattle Seahawks in 2022 due to a broken fibula. Unless he suffers a setback, Penny should be full-go for training camp this summer and the start of the regular season, but how long that lasts is anyone's guess. Miles Sanders is no longer in Philly, but Penny will battle for touches alongside trade acquisition D'Andre Swift, Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott. When healthy, Penny might have the most fantasy upside of the group, but his extensive injury history makes him extremely volatile to fantasy managers. Still, he won't cost a ton, making him a very intriguing RB3/flex flier for his home run-hitting ability.
Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard (ankle) said he's ahead of schedule in his rehab, and his plan is to be ready for the start of training camp at the end of July. Pollard suffered a high-ankle sprain and broken fibula in his left leg in the postseason earlier this year, but he was limited in organized team activities last week and is making great progress in his recovery this offseason. It remains to be seen if he'll be back to full speed for Week 1 of the regular season, but with Ezekiel Elliott out of the picture in Dallas, Pollard will enter the 2023 campaign as the unquestioned lead back for the Cowboys. The 26-year-old isn't in the elite tier of high-end RB1s in fantasy, but he's just below them and should be considered a top-10 RB despite coming off a serious injury.
Dynasty | ESPN lists the Lions as a possible landing spot for free agent quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Dynasty Analysis: Teddy Two Gloves has simply never been the same following a devastating knee injury he suffered while with the Vikings back in 2016. Still, he's proven to be a capable backup who can keep things afloat for a while if a team's starter goes down. After stops with the Vikings, Saints, Panthers, Broncos, and Dolphins, Bridgewater is currently looking for a new home. The Lions make some sense considering Hendon Hooker is likely to redshirt behind Jared Goff for at least one year. Bridgewater is off the dynasty radar at this point.
Dynasty | ESPN lists the Bucs as a possible landing spot for free agent running back Ezekiel Elliott. Dynasty Analysis: It seems odd on paper with Tampa Bay in rebuilding mode but it also seems there really aren't any natural landing spots left for Elliott. The seven year veteran's production has fallen off a cliff in recent years, so it really isn't shocking. Touchdown production has kept him relevant of late but with Tony Pollard taking over as the lead back in Dallas, Elliott's future is in real question. Tampa Bay has Rachaad White as their starter but he remains unproven. Wherever Elliott ends up, his dynasty value is going to be limited. He currently comes in as our RB52 and that seems to be falling by the week.
Dynasty | Second-year receiver Justyn Ross is trusted by Patrick Mahomes Dynasty Analysis: Ross missed all of 2022 due to a foot injury and subsequent surgery but he's been full-go in OTAs and has performed well enough to be a trusted receiver for Patrick Mahomes. Ross went undrafted during the 2022 NFL Draft due to injury concern but his red-shirt 2022 rookie season allowed him to rest, recover and be 100% for 2023. At 6'4/210 lbs., he could be the big receiver the offense needs to replace departed Juju Smith-Schuster (NE) if he can find a way to garner material snaps during the regular season. It's a long offseason and Ross needs to show he can remain healthy to be in the mix come September. If he continues to trend during training camp, he's a deep sleeper with a high ceiling dynasty coaches will want to consider. Very sparsely ranked as DLF's WR121, Justyn Ross can be added now in deep-roster leagues for coach's with available space.
Dynasty | Second-year receiver Jalen Tolbert was mentioned by head coach Mike McCarthy as an "excellent example" of a player making a jump Dynasty Analysis: Tolbert was trending in 2022's dynasty rookie drafts as an upside second-round selection with talk of a possible starting situation. Instead, the rookie wasn't able to crack the starting lineup and was inactive on most game days, causing him to slide back down rankings. Fast forward to 2023 and it appears Tolbert is finally gaining notice and, though he won't factor as a starter given the presence of CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks and Michael Gallup, things can change quickly in the NFL and the sophomore's 6'3" size could be difficult to keep off the field. Found as DLF's WR91, patient and enterprising dynasty coaches looking for a low-valued upside prospect may want to consider addition of Jalen Tolbert.
Dynasty | Second-year running back Kyren Williams is sharing snaps with starter Cam Akers during OTAs Dynasty Analysis: The 2022 fifth-round selection missed the start of the season due to a foot injury during training camp, followed by an ankle injury to begin the regular season. While many believed the rookie could garner starter's snaps, it never transpired, and Williams finished with 35 carries for 139 yards. In a Sean McVay backfield, anything is possible as the mercurial coach often demonstrates flights of fancy in his play calling and backfield committee. While Williams receiving snaps with the first-team isn't immaterial, there's little way anything can be drawn from the report other than he is healthy and should be seen as Akers' backup. Kyren Williams is found as DLF's RB81.
Dynasty | Rookie receiver Puka Nacua is playing all three receiver positions and is making an impression Dynasty Analysis: He's also said to have a firm grasp of the playbook. The fifth-round rookie out of BYU has good size (6'2/205) and had material production in his final (and only) two years with the Cougars. The Rams clearly need additional dynamic in the receiver room and Nacua gaining notice while star Cooper Kupp is away from camp is a positive sign. Kupp and Van Jefferson figure to be the team's top-two receivers to begin the season with veteran Ben Skowronek lining up in three-wide formations. With little behind the veterans, Nacua may be able to compete for regular season snaps with a good training camp. He's listed as DLF's WR103.
Los Angeles Chargers left tackle Rashawn Slater (biceps) tore his bicep muscle in Week 3 last year and didn't play again the rest of the season. However, he said his bicep has been "100 percent" healthy for at least the last couple of months. He has been training with personal offensive-line trainer Duke Manyweather alongside teammates Trey Pipkins III and Foster Sarell. With a starting O-line of Slater, Zion Johnson, Corey Linsley, Jamaree Salyer and Pipkins, the Chargers will enter the 2023 season with one of the most solid offensive lines they've had in recent memory. "I just feel like the potential is insane with us," Slater said of the young group. "It's a really cool thing to be a part of." If they can stay healthy all year, they'll be a huge boost for quarterback Justin Herbert and running back Austin Ekeler.
Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell said that running back David Montgomery (undisclosed) won't take part in organized team activities on Thursday due to an undisclosed injury that he suffered at practice last week, but his injury isn't considered serious. After four seasons with the Chicago Bears, where he put up 800-plus rushing yards in every season, Montgomery comes to Detroit as the expected primary option on early downs in 2023. The 25-year-old had a total of 155 receptions in his tenure in Chicago as well, but the presence of first-round rookie Jahmyr Gibbs will certainly lower Montgomery's overall fantasy ceiling, especially in PPR leagues. Treat Montgomery as a low-end RB2/high-end RB3 in his first year with the Lions.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jakeem Grant Sr. (Achilles) was a limited participant in organized team activities on Wednesday after spending the first week of OTAs exclusively with trainers. Grant worked on a side field mostly catching kicks on Wednesday, and his path to returning from a torn Achilles and trying to make the final roster will be via the return game on special teams. The 30-year-old didn't play at all in 2022 because of his injury. He's never really been a threat as a pass-catcher in seven NFL seasons, with his career year coming in 2020 with the Miami Dolphins, when he caught 36 passes for 373 yards and one touchdown in 14 games (four starts). Grant will be well off the fantasy radar come draft season this fall.
Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said wide receiver Jalen Tolbert is an excellent example of a player making a second-year jump so far this offseason. Tolbert has flashed during some 7-on-7 work during organized team activities. It's nice to hear, but it's still early in the offseason, and players aren't in pads or making contact yet. The 24-year-old former third-rounder had a disappointing rookie campaign, catching just two of three targets for 12 yards in eight games played (one start) for Dallas in 2022. It'll be hard for him not to be better in 2023, but he'll still be opening the year behind CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks and Michael Gallup in the receiving pecking order. Tolbert should only be rostered in dynasty/keeper leagues.
Free-agent wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who was released by the Arizona Cardinals at the end of last week, said he'd be interested in a reunion with the Houston Texans, the team he began his career with after they took him in the first round in 2013. It's been widely believed that Hopkins is looking to play for a contender -- the Bills and Chiefs are the two teams most mentioned -- so a return to the rebuilding Texans would be a pretty big surprise. The 30-year-old made four Pro Bowls in Houston, and he'd undoubtedly become their top pass-catching target with rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud eventually expected to start in 2023. While Nuk is no longer at his peak physically, he still produced when on the field last year and should be in the mix as at least a WR2 in fantasy this year.
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