Sun Aug 7 6:24pm ET
By DAN SCIFO
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris stretches during the NFL football team's training camp in Latrobe, Pa., Wednesday, July 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris, left, and defensive lineman Cam Heyward, right, are greeted by fans as they make their way to the practice fields at their NFL football training camp facility in Latrobe, Pa., Monday, Aug. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Devin Bush, right, and running back Najee Harris battle in one-on-one competition drills during practice at their NFL football training camp facility in Latrobe, Pa., Monday, Aug. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris catches a tennis ball in a drill during practice at their NFL football training camp facility in Latrobe, Pa., Saturday, July 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
PITTSBURGH (AP) Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris enjoyed a breakout rookie season last year.
Harris has been slowed by a foot injury during his second training camp with the Steelers. But the brief summer setback has allowed Harris an opportunity to pause from the daily on-field training camp practice grind and expand his leadership role.
''It has been a blessing in disguise in a way ... not to get hurt, but to see the other younger guys get more reps,'' Harris said. ''It has been pretty frustrating, but it's good though. There have been a lot of other guys who come in here and we get to see their skillsets.''
Last season, Harris led the NFL with 381 touches and finished second in yards after contact behind only Indianapolis' Jonathan Taylor.
Harris, the No. 24 overall pick in 2021, certainly welcomes a heavier workload, but he's also expressed his desire to see the Steelers find a complementary back.
Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland are the leading candidates to fill in behind Harris.
Snell, a 2019 fourth-round pick, is entering his fourth season with the Steelers. The 5-foot-10, 224-pound Snell has played in 46 games with five starts in three seasons. He has rushed for 892 yards and six touchdowns on 255 carries.
McFarland, a 2020 fourth-round selection, is entering his third year with the Steelers. The 5-foot-8, 193-pound change-of-pace back has appeared in 13 games.
''Anthony is really controlling the role he has and he's really been making explosive runs,'' Harris said. ''Benny, being the veteran, he's a reliable guy and that's the kind of stuff you expect from Benny. Anthony and Benny have been looking great all camp. I think everybody in the running back room has looked great all camp.''
Harris hurt his foot during the Steelers first padded practice and he's missed the team's last four workouts since. Harris shrugged of the severity of his injury on Saturday and noted that he's been rehabbing his foot and swimming in the pool while sidelined.
''I wouldn't be walking if it was serious,'' Harris said. ''(But), I injured it and that's why I'm not practicing.''
Harris enjoyed a Pro Bowl season as a rookie. He had 307 carries and 1,200 rushing yards in addition to 74 catches and 467 receiving yards, all tops among rookie running backs in franchise history. Harris led all NFL running backs in receptions and finished third among running backs in receiving yards.
In his second season, Harris hopes to fill an offensive leadership void left after two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger retired during the offseason.
''I just want to be better than last year,'' Harris said. ''Not stat-wise, but just as a person. I want to be someone the team can rely on. On-field wise, I think the expectation and the standard has already been set for what I need to achieve. We'll wait until (the first game against) the Bengals for that to happen.''
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin also wants to see Harris take on a greater leadership role this season. But he doesn't feel that will be an issue for the second-year running back.
''It is naturally in his wheelhouse,'' Tomlin said. ''It is something that just oozes off of him. It's just him. It's in his personality. I imagine he's been that on every team he's ever been on in his lifetime, so it's a natural act for him.''
NOTES: Friday night's special practice at a local high school football stadium was canceled because of inclement weather and flooded field conditions forced the team to move Saturday's workout from St. Vincent College back to Pittsburgh. The Steelers didn't practice on Sunday. The Steelers have four practices before their first preseason game on Saturday at home against Seattle.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. could very well move up the depth chart quickly during training camp. The rookie wideout has reportedly hit the ground running in Chicago. The Bears took Jones in the third round, so clearly they believe in his ability on the field. It's also worth noting that Byron Pringle (quad) and N'Keal Harry (ankle) are sidelined right now. The Bears have little reliable depth, so they might be forced to use Jones to begin the season. He'll be a possible late-round target on draft day.
Chicago Bears wide receiver N'Keal Harry (ankle) was forced to exit Saturday's practice due to an ankle injury. It has now been revealed that Harry suffered a high-ankle sprain, which is not good news. The former first round pick was already having to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster. There is a good chance he misses a few weeks from this injury. The loss of Harry should mean more snaps for players such as Velus Jones Jr. and Dazz Newsome. This is a tough blow to a player who has struggled to make a name for himself in the league. Hopefully, Harry won't miss too much time, but it'll likely mean more looks for some younger players.
Dynasty | With no bell-cow running backs on the roster, there's fierce competition between all of them for the Dolphins starting role. Dynasty Analysis: The Dolphins currently roster Myles Gaskin, Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert, Sony Michel and Salvon Ahmed so there's no shortage of noteworthy backs competing for the top spot. Gaskin and Ahmed have history with the team and are likely on the outside looking in due to prior experience. Newcomer Chase Edmonds is/was the favorite to receive the bulk of the regular-season work but fellow new back Raheem Mostert is said to be looking explosive in camp. It's anyone's guess who will emerge on top early in September but our money remains on a combination of Edmonds and Mostert leading the way in a rotation. Edmonds is found as DLF's RB35 while Mostert comes in at RB65.
Dynasty | Bears receiver N'Keal Harry suffered what appeared to be a significant ankle injury during practice Dynasty Analysis: After washing out in New England, Harry caught in with the receiver-needy Bears in an attempt to get a fresh start. No word yet on the severity as the team is awaiting further evaluation and results but best case scenario would seem to suggest at least a multiple week injury. We'll hope for the best for Harry and his loss would be another blow to an already suspect receiving corps. in the Windy City. Harry has fallen from the dynasty radar and remains unranked on DLF's receiver rankings.
Dynasty | No signing is imminent for free agent receiver Odell Beckham Dynasty Analysis: Expected to miss at least the first half of the 2022 regular season, Beckham will continue to rehab while waiting for his next best opportunity to present itself. Now in his age-30 season, OBJ would seem to be a fit for the Rams once again though the Packers are also said to be interested. As DLF's WR64, he's a dynasty "hold" while we wait and see where the mercurial receiver ultimately ends up. In any case, he's best rostered by competitive dynasty teams looking for late-season magic due to bye weeks or injury.
Dynasty | Las Vegas running back Josh Jacobs won't be traded Dynasty Analysis: Twitter was all ablaze after Jacobs garnered seven touches in the team's pre-season game believing the veteran was on the trade block or behind in the running back competition. In the end, it was just new head coach Josh McDaniels trying to get his backs 'live' hits that can't be reproduced in training camp. The team also declined Jacobs' fifth-year option, adding further fuel to the fire that he could be moved. Jacobs' dynasty value continues to fall, now found as DLF's RB23, but he's still expected to carry a majority of the load for the Raiders in 2022 before becoming a free agent in 2023. As a back end RB2, there's value present for enterprising dynasty coaches with the intestinal fortitude of risk-on assets.
Houston Texans rookie running back Dameon Pierce has a shot to be the team's lead back in his rookie season. Fantasy managers probably aren't looking closely into Houston's backfield, especially since it could be more of a committee approach in 2022. Veteran Marlon Mack (Achilles) appears healthy and is the favorite to open the year as Houston's primary running back, but Pierce will have his opportunities alongside Rex Burkhead. The 22-year-old has impressed the coaching staff in training camp, but he'll need to improve as a blocker in order to see more time on the field. On upside alone, Pierce is probably the most attractive fantasy back in Houston, although he'll likely be passed up in standard 12-team leagues to begin the season.
Cleveland Browns rookie third-round wide receiver David Bell (foot), who returned from the Physically Unable to Perform list on Saturday, won't be ruled out from playing in the team's preseason opener next Friday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. "He's really intelligent," head coach Kevin Stefanski said of Bell. "He had a nice spring for us, moved him around in our formation and he picked it up pretty quickly. So we're excited about getting him back out here. Like anything, I want him to catch up real fast, and I know he does too. So he's excited to be back out here." Amari Cooper is Cleveland's clear No. 1 receiver, but Bell has an opportunity for a big role in his first NFL season. The 21-year-old will be catching passes from quarterback Jacoby Brissett for at least the first six games of the year, though, putting him off the fantasy radar in most standard-sized leagues to begin 2022.
New York Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney (knee) was held out of 11-on-11 work in training camp practice on Sunday for the third time in nine practices while coming off an offseason knee procedure. Toney probably has the highest fantasy ceiling of all of New York's receivers in just his second NFL season, but he was limited to just 10 games in his rookie season in 2021 due to knee issues, finishing with 39 receptions on 57 targets for 420 yards and no touchdowns. The 23-year-old's knee injury is something to keep a close eye on, but if he's healthy, he could make some real noise in new head coach Brian Daboll's offense. For now, fantasy managers should consider Toney a WR4/5 with upside in 2022.
The Washington Commanders signed free-agent linebacker Nate Gerry to an undisclosed deal on Sunday, according to a source. The former Philadelphia Eagles starter spent time last year with the San Francisco 49ers but didn't play in a regular season game. Gerry was originally a fifth-round selection by the Eagles in 2017 out of the University of Nebraska. The 27-year-old has recorded 163 tackles (101 solo), eight tackles for loss, seven QB hits, 3.5 sacks, three interceptions (one for a touchdown), 10 passes defensed and a fumble recovery in his four NFL seasons with Philadelphia. Gerry will merely be trying to latch on with Washington this year as depth at the linebacker position.
The Buffalo Bills signed free-agent fullback Reggie Gilliam to a two-year contract extension worth up to $5.2 million on Sunday. The former undrafted free agent was set to be a restricted free agent in 2023. Gilliam isn't worth looking into in fantasy, but he's been a nice real-life player for Buffalo in the last two seasons. The 24-year-old has seen 230 snaps on offense and 499 snaps on special teams in his two NFL seasons, producing just three carries for three yards while catching five of his seven targets for 39 yards and one touchdown in 30 games (five starts).
New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll said, "I anticipate all of our guys playing Thursday" in the team's preseason opener against the New England Patriots next week. Hopefully for the Giants sake, none of their starters suffer significant injuries after their wide receiver corps was decimated by injuries in 2021. Quarterback Daniel Jones also played in only 11 games in his third NFL season due to a pretty serious neck injury. Running back Saquon Barkley hasn't played a full season since his rookie year in 2018, but he has so far looked outstanding in training camp this summer. If New York's offense can stay relatively healthy in 2022, most of their offensive weapons could have resurgent seasons for fantasy managers.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt, who is seeking a new contract as he heads into the final year of his current two-year, $13.25 million deal, has requested a trade. However, the Browns have already told him they won't trade him. Hunt hasn't taken part in team drills at training camp in the last two days as he "holds in" for a new deal. The 27-year-old only played in eight games last year due to an injury, but he rushed for 841 yards and six touchdowns on 198 carries and caught 38 passes for 304 yards and five more scores in 2020. Hunt doesn't have much leverage as he asks for a new deal while also taking part in individual drills this summer. If he stays in Cleveland for the 2022 season, he'll be an RB3/flex option with more upside in PPR leagues while working behind Nick Chubb.
Dynasty | Bills rookie Khalil Shakir continues to shine in practice. Dynasty Analysis: The Bills have gone as far as having Shakir work with the first team offense at times during camp. The fifth round rookie has been a steady presence in the third round of rookie drafts, but his stock is clearly on the rise after being praised by multiple teammates, including the one who counts - Josh Allen. Shakir is a name to monitor in the coming weeks and is shaping up to be a very solid rookie pick.
Dynasty | Bears sophomore running back Khalil Herbert should factor more in the run-game alongside David Montgomery Dynasty Analysis: It stands to reason as Herbert is the clear-cut RB2 and profiles well as a between-the-tackles option. Montgomery is a do-it-all option at the position but will need a complement to remain effective and healthy in 2022. The bigger question surrounds the Bears' offense and whether sophomore quarterback Justin Fields can keep safeties out of the box via an effective pass-game. Herbert compiled a 103/433/2 stat-line in 2021 is a fair bet to increase upon those numbers in 2022. As DLF's RB48, Herbert is a valuable Montgomery handcuff or acquisition target for rebuilding teams.
Dynasty | Browns running back Kareem Hunt is not participating in team drills as he angles for a new contract Dynasty Analysis: The team will be fining him for lack of participation. Furthermore, Hunt has little to no leverage with his hold-in though may prefer a trade or his outright release. The nature of his contract, being very "incentive laden" may allow for greater trade potential to teams in need but the Browns have informed Hunt he will not be traded. With the regular season just over a month away, the timing of Hunts hold-in is not ideal for himself, or the team. Now 27, Hunt has only one (2020) 16-game season on his resume over his past four campaigns and only appeared in eight games in 2021, producing a 78/386/5 stat line as a runner combined with a 22/174/0 line as a receiver. He's a valuable complement but would have upside as a lead back in a new situation while also providing greater upside for Chubb at the same time. Hunt is listed as DLF's RB31 and could be an intriguing risk-on acquisition target for competitive dynasty teams.
Dynasty | Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins is pushing to return to the field and may be re-evaluated on Monday Dynasty Analysis: Nearly a year removed from the ACL injury which ended his 2021 season, all indications are that Dobbins is healthy and on-target for a return for the season opener. That said, the Ravens are taking a very cautious approach and haven't ruled out the back starting the season on the PUP list, missing the first four games in the process. In the end, expectation remains that Dobbins will be activated soon and with the Ravens recommitting to their run-first roots, his return, whenever that may be, will be a huge boost. He's listed as DLF's RB14.
Dynasty | 49ers receiver Brandon Aiyuk is running as the "top dog" at receiver while Deebo Samuel gets back up to speed. Dynasty Analysis: Citing a changed "mentality," head coach Kyle Shanahan also lauded Aiyuk's "feet and hips" as he seeks to separate from defenders instead of solely his speed. It's clear, Aiyuk has taken steps to improve his game with more focus on working his receiver craft, and the changes have drawn praise from his demanding coach. There's no question that Deebo Samuel will be the primary offensive weapon in 2022 but a healthy and focused Aiyuk could be also be an impact player for the team and his dynasty coaches. Listed as DLF's WR33, the 24-year-old Aiyuk isn't a free agent until 2024 and will seek to enter his 2023 contract-year with significant momentum gained in 2022. He represents an intriguing buy-low WR3/WR4 target for rebuilding teams.
Dynasty | Chargers backup running back Joshua Kelley has been turning heads in camp Dynasty Analysis: It's a three-way competition for the back-up role behind starter Austin Ekeler. Running backs coach Derrick Foster spoke highly of Kelley, Larry Rountree and rookie Isaiah Spiller, noting that Kelley is the one currently standing out due to increased effectiveness in pass protection. Once a glaring weakness, it was said it is now a strength. The bigger issue may be that Kelley, now in his third year, has yet to play a full season, notching only 10 games and a paltry 3.1 ypc. average in 2021. Reading between the lines from the interview, it seems Kelley is the favorite to win the job for 2022 but that Spiller, with his blend of speed and power, will be the back rising to the top in time. Joshua Kelley is unranked on DLF's running back rankings, making for potential deep-sleeper status should injury occur above him on the depth chart.
Dynasty | Lions 2022 receiver acquisition D.J. Chark is showing a strong connection with quarterback Jared Goff. Dynasty Analysis: Second-year player Amon-Ra St. Brown also stood out but it was Chark who was seemingly all over the place in the team's recent scrimmage, showing chemistry with Goff. Chark will turn 26 late in September and has had an injury marred four-year career. In 2021, his last year with Jacksonville, he would appear in only four games, though did score two touchdowns. Now fully healthy and with the Lions, Chark has been a popular sleeper target for dynasty coaches. Listed as DLF's WR59, there's plenty of runway available for the young receiver should he remain off the trainer's table and establish himself in the Motor City. While it's a big "if," there's no question Chark has WR1 potential in the rebuilding Detroit offense.