Guest of the League
ANEZ LEAGUE Est. 2017
NFL Playoffs League - FFL: Preseason | NFL: Week 1

NFL opens football academy in London

Sun Jul 14 3:03am ET

Players: JuJu Smith-Schuster

NFL player Mario Addison of the Carolina Panthers complains to the referee as he coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


Youngsters play on the pitch during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


Tahir Whitehead from Oakland Raiders coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


Player Giovani Bernard of the Cincinnati Bengals coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


Player Giovani Bernard of the Cincinnati Bengals coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player Cameron Brate of Tampa Bay Buccaneers leaves the pitch after coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player Mario Addison of the Carolina Panthers coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL Player Akiem Hicks of the Chicago Bears coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL Player Akiem Hicks of the Chicago Bears coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL Player Akiem Hicks of the Chicago Bears coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player Tahir Whitehead gestures as he coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player Tahir Whitehead reacts as he coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player Samson Ebukam of the Los Angeles Rams coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player Samson Ebukam of the Los Angeles Rams coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player DJ Chark speaks to young players during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player Mario Addison of the Carolina Panthers complains to the referee as he coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player DJ Chark speaks to young players during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player Samson Ebukam of the Los Angeles Rams coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL Player Giovani Bernard of the Cincinnati Bengals pauses before an interview during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player Jonathan Joseph of the Houston Texans gives interviews during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player Josh Lambo of the Jacksonville Jaguars addresses the media during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


General view at the NFL pitch during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


Player Giovani Bernard of the Cincinnati Bengals coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


LONDON (AP) For the past three years, the only way Sergei Starodoubtsev experienced the NFL was by watching highlights of JuJu Smith-Schuster and other players on Instagram.

That the 17-year-old found himself sharing a field with the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver - he was the one in workout clothes, not Smith-Schuster - was a little more than even he could comprehend.

''He's a different athlete and such an amazing player,'' Starodoubtsev said, awe-struck and struggling to find his words as Smith-Schuster addressed a group of fellow teenagers nearby. ''I'm trying to succeed in this career and be on the big TV and play in the NFL and be in the same situation as JuJu.''

At 6-foot-3 and 238 pounds with eye-catching quickness, Starodoubtsev is, in many ways, exactly what football coaches and recruiters across the United States desire. His only disadvantage? He lives in East London, where opportunities to play the American game are difficult to find.

That's why Starodoubtsev was at soccer power Tottenham Hotspur's new stadium earlier this month, one of 150 hopefuls trying to land one of 80 spots in the inaugural class of the NFL Academy this fall. The league, which has been playing regular-season games in London since 2007, wants to maintain a more lasting presence in the city beyond those few weekends a year. It believes it can do that - and grow the sport - by identifying and cultivating young British talent.

''In the last two or three years, this has been about, whilst being quintessentially American, could we be more British (and) locally relevant?'' said NFL UK managing director Alistair Kirkwood. ''(Can we) have grassroots and a commitment to having British players who look like you and talk like you, and then at the same time have younger kids playing the game right down to flag football?''

Players in the United States have a well-developed path to playing professional sports, progressing from youth leagues to high school and college. The setup in Europe differs significantly. It's far more common for prospects to join a sports club's academy at a young age and receive coaching in a structured environment all the way through to a senior-team debut.

Kirkwood wants to follow that model - with a twist. By partnering with Barnet & Southgate College in north London, those who have been selected to enroll in the NFL Academy will begin classes in September with up to 12 hours of football practice added on each week.

The initial enrollment will include boys ages 16-18. Kirkwood speculated about plans to target other age groups, and even girls, at other locations over time.

''I'd be taking over the world by now if I had this opportunity,'' said Carolina Panthers defensive end Efe Obada, who was raised in London, played in several local leagues and made his NFL debut last season. ''For it to now be real, and to be getting kids who are 15, 16, introduced to the sport and having them surrounded by some major role models and real NFL players ... it's crazy. It's amazing.''

More than 1,500 prospects applied for a spot in the academy, with 150 finalists drawn from that pool after two months of workouts and interviews. Those finalists, invited to join Obada, Smith-Schuster and other program ambassadors at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, were put through a final round of combine-style workouts, including the 40-yard dash, the broad jump, the vertical leap and the 20-yard shuttle run.

Nearly half the participants were from London, the rest from other parts of Britain - a few traveled from elsewhere in Europe, including Poland's Kacper Jaszewski, who completed the fastest shuttle run in 4.3 seconds.

Tony Allen, who will serve as the academy's head coach, believes applicants' backgrounds aren't important as long as they show some degree of athletic ability. Starodoubtsev, for example, plays rugby. David Ani, a 16-year-old from Manchester who is already 6-foot-2, has a basketball background. Some said they are sprinters, a few play handball and one even said he plays water polo.

''I just don't think it's fair to bring in a kid with a rugby, soccer or cricket background and run them through positional drills because they're going to look like Bambi the first time around and be falling over the bags,'' said Allen, who was formerly the NFL's director of international player development and a coach with the London Monarchs of NFL Europe.

''I don't know where we'll start from. It could be, `This is a center and this is a guard,' in all honesty, but we'll give them bespoke training, in class, film analysis, kind of fast-tracking them so that when they get on the field, they know what drills to do.''

The finalists will be put through another round of character assessments before the initial class is decided in late July. Although Kirkwood and Allen both said they'd be pleased for the program's graduates to obtain Division I scholarship offers, the goal, for now, is personal development.

Still, nearly all who tried out harbor that NFL dream. Starodoubtsev, who thinks he'll be a defensive end, was reassured he'll have a place in the initial class once a coach saw him run the 40-yard dash in 4.85 seconds. Ani, who plays in a league in Manchester as a tight end, wants to be back at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which begins hosting NFL games in October.

''Hopefully, when I'm older, I'll be here,'' Ani said, gesturing toward the field. ''I'll be here balling out for everybody.''

Player Notes
Noah Fant Aug 18 3:50pm ET

Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant looks to separate himself from his teammate tight ends on the roster for the Broncos, as the team drafted him with high expectations this spring. Offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello has spoken highly of Fant's preseason, as the rookie looks to follow-up a prolific career at the University of Iowa with similar results in the NFL. Fant's main competition is returning tight end Jeff Heuerman, who has been battling injury this preseason after a sub-par 2018 campaign.

From RotoBaller

Courtland Sutton Aug 18 3:40pm ET

Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton sees an opening for the number one receiver spot on the roster entering his sophomore season. The SMU product has a new-look offense, with quarterback Joe Flacco at the helm, and colleague Emmanuel Sanders aging and coming off an injury in 2018. Sutton looks to take the next step in his career, and he has looked the part with an impressive preseason.

From RotoBaller

Emmanuel Sanders Aug 18 3:30pm ET

Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders anticipates that he will be able to play week one, as the Broncos take on the Raiders in Oakland. Sanders season ended early last year due to an Achilles injury, but he has eased his way into practice this offseason and seems to be ready to go for 2019. The veteran receiver will have to be on his A-game to keep his role as the primary receiver in Denver, as the young guns alongside him fight for his job.

From RotoBaller

Marcell Ateman Aug 18 2:40pm ET

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Marcell Ateman is fighting for a roster spot in his second season in the NFL. He's currently listed behind Tyrell Williams on the WR2 depth chart, but he's been outplayed throughout most of the preseason by his teammates. With two catches for 33 yards in two preseason contests, Ateman hasn't seen as many looks or gotten as much praise as other receivers so far in camp. He appears to be on the outside looking in as of now, but there is still time for the roster to shake out. Even if Ateman does crack the roster, he won't hold any fantasy relevance in 2019.

From RotoBaller

Foster Moreau Aug 18 2:30pm ET

Oakland Raiders tight end Foster Moreau is having a strong preseason, but likely won't find much success in the passing game this year. Rookie tight ends are notorious for starting slow offensively, and Moreau will likely follow this trend. With standout Darren Waller thriving as a pass-catcher so far in camp, the Raiders can afford to ease their fourth-round selection into the passing offense. The good news is Moreau has already surpassed veterans Derek Carrier and Luke Willson on the depth chart, but he remains a stash in dynasty formats for now.

From RotoBaller

Ben Roethlisberger Aug 18 7:10am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn't appear in Saturday night's preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. This is of no surprise as the 37-year-old has nothing to prove to the team, so they decide to take it easy with him until the third week of the preseason. Roethlisberger led the NFL in attempts, completions, passing yards, and interceptions in 2018, while he also threw a career-high 34 touchdowns. Roethlisberger is a great target if you're waiting until the later rounds for a quarterback, as his ADP finds him routinely going early in the 11th round.

From RotoBaller

Zach Pascal Aug 18 2:00am ET

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal was dead silent in their Week 2 preseason matchup against the Cleveland Browns. He was targeted twice, and he registered no catches. With the injury to wideout Daurice Fountain, there is a role open for a number of wide receivers to capture. With the performance fellow wide receiver Deon Cain put up, this was not the type of performance that he needed.

From RotoBaller

Eric Ebron Aug 18 2:00am ET

Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron was a touchdown machine last season, and he maintained that performance during the team's Week 2 preseason matchup with the Cleveland Browns. He caught just two passes for 28 yards during his limited work, and one of those two catches was for a touchdown. Regardless of the presence of fellow tight end Jack Doyle, Ebron will continue to have a role especially down in the red zone.

From RotoBaller

Deon Cain Aug 18 1:50am ET

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Deon Cain has been showing out throughout training camp. That remained true during the team's Week 2 of the preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. He was their best offensive player with seven catches for 80 yards. Behind wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and Devin Funchess, there is a role available for someone to capture, and Cain is doing his best to make his case. If he's able to maintain similar levels of performance moving forward, he can become a great weapon for this offense.

From RotoBaller

Jordan Wilkins Aug 18 1:40am ET

Indianapolis Colts running back Jordan Wilkins (foot) was expected to miss the team's Week 2 preseason game against the Cleveland Browns, and that remained true. With a cluster of running backs fighting for roles behind the two lead backs of Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines, he needs to get himself back onto the field. As long as he's able to show the consistency we saw from him last year, he should be fine.

From RotoBaller

Tony Pollard Aug 18 1:30am ET

Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Tony Pollard led the backfield in Saturday's preseason game, running the ball five times for 42 yards and a touchdown. He added a nine yard catch as well. Pollard got the most carries and yards and the only touchdown among Cowboys running backs. With Ezekiel Elliott possibly on the sidelines for Week 1 or more, Pollard could be in for a couple of RB1 weeks.

From RotoBaller

Dak Prescott Aug 18 1:30am ET

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott completed all five of his passes in Saturday's preseason game, gaining 64 yards. As expected, Prescott didn't play much but he should get a larger share of at least the first half in the Cowboys dress rehearsal next week. With Ezekiel Elliott far from a sure thing for Week 1, Prescott may have a bit more on his shoulders than expected to start the season.

From RotoBaller

Diontae Johnson Aug 18 1:10am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Diontae Johnson caught three of five targets for 46 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's preseason win over Kansas City. Johnson's touchdown didn't come until the fourth quarter when fellow rookie Devlin Hodges was throwing to him, but Johnson made a spectacular catch in the end zone. The third-round pick from Toledo has been opening eyes in training camp in both offensive drills, as well as in the return game. He doesn't hold any redraft value but his dynasty value has seen a nice tick upward over the preseason.

From RotoBaller

Alex Barnes Aug 18 1:00am ET

Tennessee Titans undrafted free agent running back Alex Barnes led all running backs in rushing with seven carries for 42 yards in the team's Week 2 preseason matchup with the New England Patriots. Barnes showed an excellent combination of power and patience in only his second NFL game, but he is still considered a long shot to make the roster. Barnes' impressive combine and preseason showing help his chances at landing on a practice squad if he is cut by the Titans, but he should be considered droppable even in deep dynasty formats.

From RotoBaller

Delanie Walker Aug 18 1:00am ET

Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker only played two drives in his first action since Week 1 of the 2018 season, but that was enough for him to catch two passes for 26 yards and a touchdown. It seems Walker and quarterback Marcus Mariota are picking up right where they left off prior to Walker's season-ending injury. Walker remains a solid late-round value pick at tight end, but expect his ADP to start to creep up as we get closer to fantasy draft season.

From RotoBaller

Donte Moncrief Aug 18 1:00am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Donte Moncrief caught one pass for three yards before fumbling in Saturday's preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. It was the first play of Pittsburgh third drive and Moncrief caught the short pass to the right and was stripped. He only played the first quarter before James Washington saw the majority of the work from there on out. Even after fumbling, the fact that Moncrief only played one quarter means that the team is comfortable with where the veteran is at in his first year with the team. He's batting with Washington to be the second starting wide receiver besides JuJu Smith-Schuster but Moncrief continues to be the favorite to win the job. If he can earn the starting role, his 11th round ADP could prove to be an absolute steal for fantasy owners.

From RotoBaller

Vance McDonald Aug 18 1:00am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald caught his sole target for five yards on Saturday against the Chiefs. The starting tight end job is all McDonald's now that Jesse James is gone. McDonald is set to improve upon his 2018 season of 60 receptions for 610 yards and four touchdowns. Naturally, he's been climbing up fantasy draft boards recently due to the increase in opportunity. The 29-year-old has jumped into the seventh round of mock drafts and presents great PPR value.

From RotoBaller

Eli Rogers Aug 18 12:50am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Eli Rogers caught two of his three targets for 31 yards in Saturday's preseason win over Kansas City. The 26-year-old is looking to earn a spot in the offense after missing the majority of 2018 with an injury. However, he earned a start in the final three games and caught 12 passes for 79 yards. Rogers is fighting with Ryan Switzer, Diontae Johnson, and Diontae Spencer for work in the slot this year. Even though Rogers has never truly broken out in his three years with the team, they seem to really see something in him and will likely continue to target him heavily this preseason. Either way, he doesn't hold any fantasy value but could develop into a streamable flex option down the road if he can gain enough chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger.

From RotoBaller

Ka'imi Fairbairn Aug 18 12:40am ET

Houston Texans kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn was 3-for-3 on field goal attempts and 3-for-3 on extra point attempts in Saturday's preseason win over the Detroit Lions. His longest field goal was a 50-yarder. Fairbairn's one of the most promising young kickers in the NFL and has a chance to break into the top tier of fantasy kickers this season based on his accuracy and the opportunities he'll have in Houston's offense. If you're someone who doesn't want to stream kickers, Fairbairn is worth a look.

From RotoBaller

Ryan Switzer Aug 18 12:40am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Ryan Switzer caught his only target for five yards in Saturday's preseason win over the Chiefs. Switzer didn't see any action in the first preseason game but his limited role on Saturday causes some questions about his role on the team. The 24-year-old made his money in the return game last season but with the team's addition of Diontae Johnson and Diontae Spencer, Switzer is going to have to work extra hard to carve out a role on the offense. He's battling both previously mentioned as well as Eli Rogers for the slot position. Regardless, he holds no fantasy value and even if he's on the field he'll likely be the fourth and sometimes fifth best option for Ben Roethlisberger.

From RotoBaller