Mon Jul 29 10:49am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Newton is a question mark
This is the seventh preview in a series of training camp previews. We will continue to release the previews throughout the week. The previews give you a quick look at each team, going over position battles and injuries to watch in camp. The season is right around the corner.
The Falcons didn’t have the season as expected last year, failing to finish above .500. The big issue was the defense, allowing more than 400 points last year. The offense was very good with the passing game excelling. So much of this camp will be focused on getting the defense right. If that happens, the Falcons can make a playoff push.
Position battle: Receiver Calvin Ridley had a solid rookie season but was a little up and down. Mohamed Sanu is the starter opposite Julio Jones right now but could lose that starting spot to Ridley. Sanu has been a productive NFL player but isn’t off the charts by any means. Ridley is the more talented player of the two with more upside for the big things. He should push Sanu for playing time and likely take over as the starter at some point.
Injury watch: Running back Devonta Freeman played just two games last year, needing surgery to fix a groin injury. He is back to full strength and will be back to his lead duties for the Falcons. Atlanta needs him healthy with Tevin Coleman gone. Freeman will be counted on to carry the load a little more, so being healthy is pertinent for the Falcons and Freeman’s fantasy owners.
The Saints don’t have a lot to be decided this training camp. Much of camp could be getting this team primed for a Super Bowl run. There are high expectations for the team after a good showing last year. Drew Brees doesn’t have a whole lot of time left to make another Super Bowl, so this season could be a big one for his legacy.
Position battle: The Saints like to rotate receivers, giving plenty of guys chances during the season. But the starter opposite Michael Thomas still has a little more value than the other guys. Right now, Ted Ginn is the favorite to start but Tre’Quan Smith and a healthy Cameron Meredith could push Ginn for the starting spot. This will be a battle to watch because it has fantasy implications. Smith is an intriguing player that showed his rookie year he is capable of the huge game.
Injury watch: Receiver Ted Ginn played just five games last year because of a knee injury. If he hopes to have a big role this year and keep his starting job, he will need to be healthy and stay healthy. Ginn seems back to his old self during offseason workouts but his age and last year is a concern going forward for him.
The big thing to watch in Panthers camp this year is Cam Newton. How is he going to recover from another surgery to his throwing arm? Newton really is the key to the season for the Panthers. The team needs him healthy and playing at a high level if they hope to have any success this year. The offense really goes through Newton.
Position battle: D.J. Moore is going to start at one of the receiver spots and Curtis Samuel will work out of the slot, but the No. 2 receiver is up in the air. Devin Funchess is gone, leaving a hole at the position. The candidates to start are Jarius Wright, Torrey Smith and Chris Hogan. It really is a wide open battle without a favorite. We’ll know more as camp and the preseason progresses.
Injury watch: Quarterback Cam Newton had major shoulder surgery this offseason. He is throwing but will be on a pitch count in camp. The Panthers will take it slow with their star quarterback. Newton has progressed well from the surgery but seeing how he is throwing the ball will be something fantasy teams should monitor closely. Newton is a real wild card this year after having shoulder surgery once again.
The Bucs made changes to the coaching staff once again, hiring Bruce Arians. He should be a big plus for the offense, including starting quarterback Jameis Winston. So the big focus of camp is likely being the Bucs getting up to speed both offensively and defensively with their new schemes. Hopefully, the offense picks things up quick because it could be pretty potent from a fantasy perspective.
Position battle: The Bucs should have a real battle on their hands for the starting running back spot. Peyton Barber was the starter last year and has a leg up for the job, but second-year back Ronald Jones is looking to rebound from a poor rookie year. A new coaching staff should be a plus for Jones, who had a strong offseason of work. Jones should be given a fair shot to unseat Barber.
Injury watch: Tight end O.J. Howard had a breakout season last year but missed six gams because of an ankle injury. He is yet to play a full season since entering the NFL. He has a chance for another big year but needs to be on the field for that to happen. Howard has not shown he can on the field to date but hopes to change that perception this season. He could be a star.
Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at email@example.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
The Detroit Lions released running back C.J. Anderson on Tuesday and claimed running back Paul Perkins off waivers from the Giants in a corresponding move. If anything, this is good news for Kerryon Johnson, who lost five carries to Anderson, five to rookie Ty Johnson and two to J.D. McKissic in the Week 2 win over the Chargers. It doesn't mean that Detroit won't still include Ty Johnson and McKissic moving forward, though, and Kerryon Johnson will be more of a low-end RB2 on Sunday against a tough Eagles defensive front. Ty Johnson's outlook in dynasty and deep leagues just got a lot better as the No. 2.
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (hamstring) returned to a full practice on Tuesday after being limited on Monday. Jacksonville's best pass rusher should be able to return on Thursday against the Titans after being inactive in the Week 2 loss to the Texans. The Jaguars Defense/special teams is a low-end starting option for this week against a Tennessee unit that mostly runs the ball and rarely puts up a ton of points on the board. It could also be the Jags last game with shutdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey on the roster.
Jacksonville Jaguars LB D.J. Alexander (hamstring), TE Josh Oliver (hamstring) and CB Josh Robinson (foot) did not practice Tuesday, Sept. 17. WR Chris Conley (hip) and CB A.J. Bouye (hip) participated on a limited basis. WR Marqise Lee (knee), WR D.J. Chark (ankle), S Ronnie Harrison (ankle), DE Yannick Ngakoue (hamstring), OL Cam Robinson (knee) and OL Cedric Ogbuehi (hamstring) were full participants in practice.
The New England Patriots are placing left tackle Isaiah Wynn (toe) on Injured Reserve on Tuesday, according to a source. He'll miss at least eight weeks after getting injured in Week 2. Marshall Newhouse should take over on the left side. Wynn also missed all of his rookie season with an injury, so he just hasn't been able to stay on the field so far in his career. Right tackle Marcus Cannon is also injured, so New England's offensive line is a cause for concern just two weeks into the season. The Jets don't really have the personnel to exploit it in Week 3, but it's something to watch for quarterback Tom Brady moving forward.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee (knee) was a full participant in practice on Tuesday after being limited on Monday. Lee sat out of the Week 2 loss against the Texans, but it looks like he's on track to return on Thursday in a matchup with the Titans. Behind Dede Westbrook, D.J. Chark and Chris Conley with backup rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew at the helm, Lee can be left to the waiver wire in most leagues.
Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson (groin) is not expected to play in Week 3 versus the Detroit Lions and he may be hard-pressed to go in Week 4 against the Green Bay Packers due to a short turnaround, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.
Fantasy Spin: With Alshon Jeffery also not looking like he'll play in Week 3, fantasy owners get to look forward to another week (or two) of Nelson Agholor as the Eagles' top receiver. Agholor paid dividends with a 100-yard game in Week 2, and he would be a good bet for 10 or more targets against this week if Pelissero's information is correct. Owners should not hesitate using him as a WR3 this week.
Tennessee Titans RB David Fluellen (hamstring), CB Christopher Milton (shoulder), OL Kevin Pamphile (knee) and LB Wesley Woodyard (quad) did not practice Tuesday, Sept. 17. LB Daren Bates (groin), CB Malcolm Butler (hip), QB Marcus Mariota (quad), WR A.J. Brown (knee), DB Dane Cruikshank (ankle), OL Jamil Douglas (knee) and LB Reggie Gilbert (knee) fully participated in practice.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson (groin) isn't expected to play in Week 3 against the Lions, and a quick turnaround on Thursday night against the Packers in Week 4 could make it tough as well. Jackson was injured early in Week 2 on Sunday night and never returned. You should prepare to be without him for the next two games. Alshon Jeffery is also expected to miss Week 3 and possibly longer, so Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins and rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside would be in on three-receiver sets. Agholor was second on the team behind Zach Ertz with 11 targets on Sunday, catching eight passes for 107 yards and a score. He played 96% of the snaps compared to Arcega-Whiteside's 93% and Hollins' 85%. Agholor has flex upside as the expected top wideout against the Lions this weekend, while Ertz should be fed heavily as well. Arcega-Whiteside is a waiver wire target in deeper leagues. Losing his top two receivers will hurt quarterback Carson Wentz's upside for however long Jeffery and Jackson are out.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians didn't seem too worried about tight end O.J. Howard after he didn't see any targets in the passing game last Thursday. "The balls will come. We don't dictate who gets the ball, the defense does, so sometimes it will spread around for different people every week," Arians said. The good news is that Howard played the third highest snap percentage (92%) behind Jameis Winston and Chris Godwin in Week 2. The concerning part for fantasy owners is that Howard has just five targets in two games, which is the same amount as backup Cameron Brate, and Brate has one more catch. The Giants are allowing the sixth most fantasy points to tight ends (10.0) per game this year, making Howard a bounce-back candidate as a TE1 this weekend. If he doesn't get going this Sunday, it's time to panic.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (thumb) has decided to undergo surgery in Los Angeles on Wednesday after having his injured hand examined by two specialists. A timetable for his return won't be known until after the surgery is done, according to a source. Brees will be out at least six weeks, so you'll need to keep him stashed on your bench until he can return later this year. With the future Hall of Famer on the shelf, all of the Saints passing weapons need to be downgraded. Teddy Bridgewater will take over and will be in play in two-QB leagues, although he'll be a low-end QB2 in Week 3 on the road against the Seahawks.
The NFL met with New England Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown's accuser on Monday for 10 hours in their investigation into sexual-assault allegations, according to a source. However, the matter looks to be a long way from being resolved, and two sources said the league hasn't scheduled a follow-up interview with Brown. It might take several weeks until the league has any updates on the investigation, which means Brown is unlikely to go on the commissioner's exempt list until then. As of now, the receiver is eligible to play in Week 3 against the Jets, where he'll be on the WR1/2 borderline. Brown's presence in the offense takes upside away from Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and James White in the passing game.
Free-agent WRs Anthony Ratliff-Williams, Quincy Adeboyejo and DaMarkus Lodge, LB Jawuan Johnson, DT Justin Hamilton, OT Paul Adams, DE Willie Henry, S Josh Jones and CB Deante Burton worked out with the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday, Sept. 17.
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash said that he expects cornerback Jalen Ramsey to play on Thursday night against the Titans. Ramsey's agent requested a trade on Monday night, and multiple teams are believed to have already made offers for the shutdown cornerback. Against a sluggish offense with a quarterback that very rarely beats defenses through the air, Jacksonville's defense/special teams is a low-end starting unit in Week 3. Ramsey is likely to cover Titans receiver Corey Davis throughout the game, making him a wideout to fade in DFS and season-long leagues.
New York Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian (ankle) will miss the rest of the season after an MRI exam on Tuesday on his left ankle revealed ligament damage that will require surgery, according to head coach Adam Gase. Siemian, starting in place of the sick Sam Darnold on Monday night against the Browns, was injured early in the second quarter when Myles Garrett fell on top of him with most of his weight. He was on crutches and in a walking boot after the game and will be placed on season-ending Injured Reserve. Third-stringer Luke Falk will start for however long Darnold is out. He'll be a bottom-barrel QB2 in Week 3 on the road against the Patriots.
New York Jets wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (hamstring, knee) is listed as week-to-week after suffering a new injury in his Jets debut on Monday night against the Browns. Thomas caught only one pass before his injury on Monday for negative yards. It sounds like he won't be active in Week 3 against the Patriots, and he's not an attractive fantasy option with third-string quarterback Luke Falk now under center for the foreseeable future. When healthy, Thomas is the third receiver, at best, behind Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder. No player other than running back Le'Veon Bell has much upside in this offense until Sam Darnold (illness) returns.
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said that quarterback Marcus Mariota (quadriceps) will practice in full on Tuesday. On a short week going up a very respectable defense, Mariota is a last-gasp QB2 in two-QB leagues on Thursday night. Tennessee's offense remains a slow-paced, run-first unit and Mariota just is way too inconsistent with the passing work that he does get. He's attempted less than 30 passes in each of the first two games of the season.
NBC Sports Bay Areas Brian Witt believes the San Francisco 49ers should do whatever it takes to pursue Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The Pro Bowl corner requested a trade on Monday and the Niners could be a great fit. With veteran cornerback Richard Sherman locking down one side, the addition of Ramsey would be a significant upgrade to the inconsistent Akhello Witherspoon or oft-injured Jason Verrett. The Jaguars are asking for at least a first-round pick and the Niners are already without their 2020 second-round selection, but Ramsey is just 24 and a proven NFL asset. With Ramsey and the emergence of rookie defensive end Nick Bosa, the 49ers would instantly vault into a fantasy-caliber defense. Even with defensive end Dee Ford (quad) banged up, the Niners may be a worthy streamer at home in Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, with or without Ramsey.
San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Joe Staley (leg) suffered a broken left fibula in Week 2. Hes expected to miss six to eight weeks. The 35-year-old Staley is a lynchpin for the Niners strong offensive line and his absence could impair the teams running game, which annihilated the Cincinnati Bengals for 259 rushing yards last Sunday. Sixth-round rookie Justin Skule is expected to receive the start at left tackle in Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. While Staleys injury impact may be far-reaching, running backs Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert still make for appealing RB2 and RB3/flex plays, respectively.
The New York Giants claimed rookie tight end Kaden Smith on Monday. Smith was waived by the San Francisco 49ers over the weekend to make room for running back Jeffery Wilson on the 53-man squad. The 2019 sixth-round pick was buried on the depth chart behind George Kittle, Ross Dwelley and Levine Toilolo in San Francisco and could immediately benefit on the talent-barren G-Men. The lost draft equity is costly for the Niners, but Smith was thoroughly outplayed during the preseason. Drafted out of Stanford, the catch-first tight end likely has significant strides to make before hes fantasy-relevant.