Tue Jun 28 2:21am ET
By ROB MAADDI
AP Pro Football Writer
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson speaks during a news conference after an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, in Carson, Calif. The Houston Texans had been told that their former quarterback Deshaun Watson was sexually assaulting and harassing women during massage sessions, but instead of trying to stop him, the team provided him with resources to enable his actions and turned a blind eye to his behavior, according to a lawsuit filed Monday, June 27, 2022. Watson, who was later traded to the Cleveland Browns, has denied any wrongdoing and vowed to clear his name. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
Deshaun Watson's legal team takes on the NFL on Tuesday in front of a retired judge to determine his immediate future with the Cleveland Browns.
Former U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson, who was jointly appointed by the league and the NFL Players' Association, will hold a hearing to determine whether Watson violated the NFL's personal conduct policy and whether to impose discipline.
The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback agreed to settle 20 of 24 civil lawsuits for sexual misconduct, but he's still facing a significant penalty. A person familiar with the NFL's position told The Associated Press last week the league is seeking a lengthy suspension for Watson based on the number of sexual assault allegations and conversations with the 11 women who were made available for interviews. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the hearing have not been disclosed publicly.
Watson's side, led by renowned attorney Jeffrey Kessler, will try to argue there's no basis for a long suspension. Two separate Texas grand juries declined to indict Watson on criminal complaints stemming from the allegations. Watson has denied any wrongdoing and vowed to clear his name.
The NFL has punished several players for violating the league's personal conduct policy without criminal charges. In 2010, Ben Roethlisberger received a six-game suspension after being accused of sexual assault by two women. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell later reduced the suspension to four games. Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott got six games in 2017 for domestic violence incidents.
On Monday, a woman who previously sued Watson filed a lawsuit against the Houston Texans, alleging his former team provided him with resources to enable his actions and ''turned a blind eye'' to his behavior.
This will be the first hearing for Robinson, who was the first woman Chief Judge for the District of Delaware. Previously, Goodell had the authority to impose discipline for violations of the personal conduct policy. Still, Goodell holds considerable power. If either the union or league appeals Robinson's decision, Goodell or his designee ''will issue a written decision that will constitute full, final and complete disposition of the dispute,'' per terms of Article 46 in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
That means Goodell could ultimately overrule Robinson's decision and give Watson one year or even an indefinite suspension due to the potential for more cases.
In April, Major League Baseball suspended pitcher Trevor Bauer two full seasons following the league's investigation of domestic violence and sexual assault allegations made against him. That suspension didn't include the 99 regular-season games the Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander missed after being placed on administrative leave on July 2, 2021.
Asked whether MLB's handling of Bauer's case has been discussed, a league official told the AP it's difficult to compare the two but stressed the accusations against Watson are serious enough to warrant an ''unprecedented punishment.'' The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Robinson hasn't heard the case.
It's unknown how long it will take Robinson to make a decision, but the Browns should know Watson's availability before training camp. NFL discipline typically begins the week leading into the first regular-season game, so Watson would be eligible for camp unless a potential punishment stipulates otherwise.
The Browns traded a slew of draft picks to acquire Watson and gave him a five-year, $230 million guaranteed contract in March.
New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (knee) is scheduled to have an MRI on Saturday. The 23-year-old suffered a non-contact injury during Friday's preseason clash with the Philadelphia Eagles. While the team is certainly hoping for good news, there is fear that Wilson tore his ACL, likely ending his season. Nonetheless, head coach Robert Saleh may hand the keys over to Joe Flaccowith Wilson out of the equation, despite the veteran's decline in production over the years. Flacco's presence shouldn't favor Elijah Moore, Corey Davis, and rookie Garrett Wilson on the fantasy end. However, it could mean more touches for Breece Hall.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Drake London (knee) is anticipated to undergo further testing after injuring his right knee during Friday's preseason matchup against the Lions. Although an update should come on Saturday, ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter provided some encouraging news, with a source indicating that "it is not a serious injury." The 2022 No. 8 overall pick is expected to have a prominent role in the offense. However, if London misses time during the regular season, it won't be good news for Marcus Mariota, who will be down one of his primary receiving options.
Atlanta Falcons rookie running back Tyler Allgeier rushed three times for 25 yards during Friday's preseason opener against the Detroit Lions. The BYU product has generated plenty of attention ahead of the fantasy football season since he has a shot at earning the starting job in Atlanta's backfield. Although he didn't run with the starters on Friday, at this point, he remains the favorite for the top job. It will be imperative that interested fantasy managers monitor his usage and performances over the next couple of weeks.
Atlanta Falcons running back Caleb Huntley rushed eight times for 18 yards during Friday's preseason opener against the Detroit Lions. Signed to a reserve/futures contract this past offseason, the 23-year-old missed his entire rookie season in 2021 due to injury and roster decisions. Although he saw plenty of volume on Friday, he did not run with the starters and is viewed as a longshot to make the roster. To do so, he would likely have to beat out both Damien Williams and Qadree Ollison, and even then, he'd be the No. 3 behind Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson.
Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku caught his lone target for a seven-yard gain in a 24-13 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Friday's preseason game. Njoku got the start and was on the field with quarterback Deshaun Watson, but the Cleveland offense struggled to move the ball. The 26-year-old Njoku signed a big contract with Cleveland in the offseason and should operate as the clear-cut No. 1 tight end with Austin Hooper now in Tennessee. Njoku is a popular pick as a breakout tight end in 2022.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Frank Darby led the team with three targets and two catches during Friday's preseason opener against the Detroit Lions. He totaled 14 yards in the contest. The 24-year-old caught just one of four targets as a rookie in 2021 but should see an increase in opportunities this coming season now that Russell Gage has departed and Calvin Ridley is suspended. Assuming he makes the roster, he could realistically open as high as No. 4 on the depth chart.
Cleveland Browns kicker Cade York made his lone field goal, a 31-yard attempt, in a 24-13 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Friday's preseason game. York also added three extra points in the win. The Browns used a fourth-round draft pick on York in the 2022 NFL draft in an attempt to solve their issues at the kicker position over the past few seasons. York is the favorite to open the season as Cleveland's kicker and should see a decent amount of field goal tries in what will be an above-average offense.
Atlanta Falcons running back Qadree Ollison rushed five times for 33 yards during Friday's preseason opener against the Detroit Lions. His most impressive play came when he broke off an 18-yard run on the opening drive. Ollison primarily played with Marcus Mariota and the starters, though he did garner one hand-off from Desmond Ridder. The 25-year-old has spent the last three seasons as a depth piece on Atlanta's roster, and he picked up a career-high 117 scrimmage yards and one touchdown last season. The Falcons' backfield has plenty of question marks once again, but it looks like Ollison is likely competing with Damien Williams for the third-string role behind rookie Tyler Allgeier and veteran gadget player Cordarrelle Patterson.
Cleveland Browns running back Jerome Ford carried the ball 10 times for 57 yards and a touchdown in a 24-13 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Friday's preseason game. Ford also caught four of his five targets for 45 yards and a touchdown in the win. The fifth-round rookie out of Cincinnati was Cleveland's offensive star on Friday, scoring both of the team's offensive touchdowns. Ford is slated to play behind Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, and D'Ernest Johnson but he could make an impact in 2022 if there is an injury in front of him or if Cleveland grants Hunt a trade out of town. For now, Ford is just a dynasty stash in deep leagues.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota played the first drive of Friday's preseason game against the Detroit Lions. He used his legs to make plays happen, going 2-for-2 with 36 passing yards while also rushing three times for 23 yards and a touchdown on the ground. After a successful opening scoring drive, Mariota was replaced by rookie Desmond Ridder. The starting quarterback job is Mariota's to lose. He will get the nod Week 1 and continue to see the entirety of reps as long as he plays well. The former first-round pick looked solid in recent years with the Raiders and has low-end QB2 potential thanks to his veteran presence and impressive mobility.
Cleveland Browns running back D'Ernest Johnson struggled in a 24-13 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Friday's preseason game. Johnson gained zero yards on three carries and lost a fumble in the contest. The veteran running back got the start and was in on the three series in which Deshaun Watson played, but the offense struggled to move the ball. Johnson didn't help matters much with a lost fumble on Cleveland's second drive of the evening. Johnson will operate as Cleveland's No. 3 running back in 2022 and will need an injury in front of him to be fantasy viable.
Atlanta Falcons rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder saw the bulk of the snaps during Friday's preseason opener against the Detroit Lions. He completed 10 of 22 passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns while also adding a team-most 59 rushing yards. Ridder is expected to open the season as Marcus Mariota's backup, so it makes sense that he took over for Mariota following the opening drive on Friday. Ridder has some fantasy appeal in dynasty leagues but should remain untouched in redraft formats.
Dynasty | Eagles running back Miles Sanders could be primed for a "monster year" if he can remain healthy Dynasty Analysis: That statement could define Sanders' career thus far. Instead, the running back continues to slide down dynasty rankings due to his inability to remain on the field. But, once again, it's Sanders who has been standing out at camp and, as of this writing, he remains healthy. The team also will rely on Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell behind Sanders, either of which could play a prominent role if Sanders finds his way to the trainer's table as has become the expectation. Undrafted rookie Kennedy Brooks has also been mentioned and has upside as a potential three-down capable back should lightning strike. For Sanders, DLF's RB28, has the ability to well outplay his ranking but dynasty coaches are clearly in "prove it" mode.
Dynasty | Steelers rookie receiver George Pickens has been a star in training camp Dynasty Analysis: Pressed into more first-team work due to the recent hold-in of Diontae Johnson and a minor inury to Chase Claypool, Pickens has soaked up the snaps and responded well. The author went as far to say: "Honestly, I've never seen a rookie this good this early. We all know he has to transfer that to preseason games, but I would be shocked if he didn't." It wasn't long ago that the team was saying Pickens wasn't expected to be leaned on in his rookie season but it seems his athletic profile and play have just been too good to keep off the field. Expectations must be kept in check for the rookie and DLF's WR43, but his fast start and impact thus far in training camp are positive signs not only for his rookie year impact, but his long term dynasty potential.
Jacksonville Jaguars TE Evan Engram caught a nine-yard touchdown in a 24-13 preseason loss to the Cleveland Browns Friday, Aug. 12.
Fantasy Spin: Trevor Lawrence hooked up with Engram for the score, and while it is only a preseason game, it is encouraging to see Lawrence look Engram's way in the red zone. Given his athletic tools, it isn't out of the question that Engram becomes a go-to option for Lawrence and returns to TE1 form.
Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo went 2-for-2 on field goals and 3-for-3 on extra points during Friday's preseason opener against the Detroit Lions. He has established himself as one of the NFL's best kickers and faces no competition heading into 2022. Fantasy managers looking for consistent production at the kicker position should turn to someone like Koo.
Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson completed one of his five passes for seven yards in a 24-13 preseason win over the Jacksonville Jaguars Friday, Aug. 12.
Fantasy Spin: Watson's first action for the Browns was forgettable, but there aren't really questions about how he will perform on the field. The same cannot be said for his availability, and it remains to be seen if Watson will suit up at all this season.
Detroit Lions running back Craig Reynolds rushed three times for 13 yards against the Atlanta Falcons during Friday's preseason opener. He also turned two targets into two catches for an additional five receiving yards. Reynolds impressed in his third pro season last year, totaling 230 rushing yards and 52 receiving yards. Heading into 2022, the 26-year-old will compete with Godwin Igwebuike and Jermar Jefferson for the third-string job behind incumbent starter D'Andre Swift and veteran backup Jamaal Williams. Barring injury to those two, Reynolds won't have fantasy relevance this coming season
Detroit Lions kicker Riley Patterson went 2-for-2 on field goals and also converted his lone extra-point attempt during Friday's preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons. Patterson was the Lions' kicker for the final seven weeks of his rookie season last year, going an impressive 16-for-16 on extra points and 13-for-14 on field goals. Given his youth and last season's success, he has the leg up on Austin Seibert for the kicking job in 2022. Nevertheless, Detroit will do its due diligence and give both legs a fair shot this preseason.
Detroit Lions kicker Austin Seibert connected on his lone field goal and lone extra point attempt during Friday's preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons. He is competing with second-year kicker Riley Patterson for the lead job heading into 2022. Seibert was the Lions' kicker for the first six games in 2021, connecting on all five extra points and 10 of 12 field goals. However, he missed the rest of the season with a hip injury and Patterson filled in admirably. Head coach Dan Campbell recently said that Seibert leads the competition by a "tick," but it's undoubtedly a neck-and-neck race going forward.