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
Irv Smith Jr. Aug 18 11:40pm ET

Minnesota Vikings rookie tight end Irv Smith Jr. had an impressive night on Sunday, at least as far as preseason games go. Smith Jr. caught all five of his targets for 28 yards and a touchdown, and he looks firmly entrenched as the Vikings top backup option at the tight end spot. It's never a good idea to look too deep into how teams are scheming during the preseason, but it does seem fair to assume that Smith Jr. will be getting some opportunities in the passing game this season. He's more of a dynasty stash this year with Kyle Rudolph still in front of him, but he's probably worth keeping an eye on for ultra-deep leagues. Smith Jr. is currently going undrafted at 301 overall (TE32).

From RotoBaller

Dalvin Cook Aug 18 11:40pm ET

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook was listed as active but didn't see the field on Sunday night against the Seattle Seahawks. Cook was held out of last week's contest as well - the Vikings are being extra cautious with their third-year back during the preseason as he has struggled to stay healthy early in his career. He's an exceptionally talented player and has sneaky top-5 running back potential this season, but he's definitely not for the faint of heart. Cook's being drafted at 17 overall (RB10), which feels about right. Keep an eye on his status for the third preseason game, but don't expect him to play much, if at all.

From RotoBaller

Adam Thielen Aug 18 11:40pm ET

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen was his usual dependable self on Sunday, snagging all three of his targets for 45 yards in limited action with the first-team offense. Thielen made a nice over-the-shoulder grab for 34 yards in the first quarter and drew a pass interference penalty on a deep ball the very next play. Thielen is simply one of the top receivers in the league, breaking out for 1,373 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in 2018. He also tied the record for consecutive games with 100+ yards receiving with eight, joining Calvin Johnson. Thielen is being drafted at 28 overall (WR11) in points-per-reception formats and is worth a look as a rock-solid WR1 in 2019.

From RotoBaller

Kirk Cousins Aug 18 11:20pm ET

Minnesota Vikings starting quarterback Kirk Cousins was efficient in limited action on Sunday night, going 6-for-8 for 68 yards passing and leading the Vikings to a Dan Bailey 24-yard field goal in the first quarter. Cousins showed nice poise in the pocket and delivered a few beautiful deep balls to Adam Thielen before being pulled after just two drives. The veteran quarterback is entering a crucial second year with the Vikes, and he has the talent and offensive weapons to remain a high-end QB2 and even threaten to crack the QB1 tier in the right matchups. He's currently being drafted as QB16, but that may be underselling his value based on his 2018 production and this year's projections. Look for Cousins and the first-team offense to play much more in the next preseason game on Saturday against the Cardinals.

From RotoBaller

Emanuel Hall Aug 18 10:10pm ET

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers claimed wide receiver Emanuel Hall off of waivers earlier this week. Hall had been with the Bears earlier but could not make it through camp. The Buccaneers present a solid opportunity given their lack of depth beyond starters Mike Evans and Chris Godwin along with Hall's fit in their new offense. Although Hall is unlikely to make much of an impact in 2019, he could be a solid project for head coach Bruce Arians to groom.

From RotoBaller

Antonio Brown Aug 18 7:30pm ET

It appears Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown has not gotten over his ongoing helmet issue as hes left the teams training camp once again. General manager Mike Mayock showed his frustration Sunday by saying it's time for him to be all-in or all-out." Brown submitted his old helmet in for testing, which it failed, and hes now left the team with no information on when, or if, hell return. The Raiders believe his frostbitten feet issues are behind him and hes healthy enough to practice, but they can only hope the seven-time Pro Bowler suits up for Week 1. Browns red flags make him a player to fade in the second round despite his immense talent.

From RotoBaller

Antonio Brown Aug 18 6:13pm ET

Oakland Raiders WR Antonio Brown wasn't at practice Sunday, Aug. 18, because he's upset about his ongoing helmet issue with the NFL. General manager Mike Mayock said the team has 'exhausted all avenues' and it's time for Brown to be 'all in or all out.'

Fantasy Spin: And we're right back to square one with AB. While he's indisputably one of the best receivers in fantasy football, there's once again a legitimate chance he sits out the entire season, or more. He's far too risky to draft in the first round.

From TheHuddle

Paul Worrilow Aug 18 5:13pm ET

The Philadelphia Eagles released veteran LB Paul Worrilow Sunday, Aug. 18.

From TheHuddle

Josh Gordon Aug 18 5:13pm ET

New England Patriots WR Josh Gordon was placed on the Non-Football Injury list Sunday, Aug. 18, upon his conditional reinstatement.

Fantasy Spin: It's largely a procedural move for the Patriots while Gordon is brought up to speed. He remains one of the most tantalizing fantasy prospects at wide receiver, but his off-field issues continue to carry immense risk when drafting him.

From TheHuddle

Dontrelle Inman Aug 18 5:13pm ET

The New England Patriots granted WR Dontrelle Inman's request to be released Sunday, Aug. 18.

From TheHuddle

E.J. Gaines Aug 18 5:03pm ET

The Buffalo Bills released CB E.J. Gaines (groin) from injured reserve with an injury settlement Sunday, Aug. 18. Gaines will be free to sign with another team.

From TheHuddle

Sterling Shepard Aug 18 4:43pm ET

New York Giants WR Sterling Shepard (thumb) said Sunday, Aug. 18, his thumb has healed pretty fast and he is 'feeling good.'

Fantasy Spin: Shepard's injury was a near disaster for the Giants' offense with WR Golden Tate suspended to begin the season. Shepard is in line for a huge target share and has top-end WR3 upside with the Giants' poor passing attack holding him back.

From TheHuddle

Jimmy Graham Aug 18 4:23pm ET

Green Bay Packers TE Jimmy Graham (finger) ran off the field Sunday, Aug. 18, after appearing to dislocate his finger, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.

Fantasy Spin: The injury shouldn't affect Graham's draft stock, as he's unlikely to miss any regular-season action. He remains a fringe TE1 target, but he has upside based on his past resume.

From TheHuddle

Jonathan Williams Aug 18 4:03pm ET

Indianapolis Colts RB Jonathan Williams (chest) was diagnosed with a broken rib Sunday, Aug 18. The injury isn't believed to be a long-term issue.

Fantasy Spin: Williams is near the bottom of a depth chart led by RB Marlon Mack and also featuring Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins and D'Onta Foreman. The injury further hurts his chances of making the final roster.

From TheHuddle

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

Case Keenum Aug 18 3:43pm ET

Washington Redskins QB Case Keenum is on track to the be the Week 1 starter under center, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter Sunday, Aug. 18. Head coach Jay Gruden said Colt McCoy (leg) may not be ready to return from a broken leg until 'two or three weeks into the season.'

Fantasy Spin: Keenum has much more fantasy appeal than McCoy and boosts the potential of the rest of the Redskins' offense, as well. He'll be a low-end QB2, but he offers more hope for the likes of WRs Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Trey Quinn and Terry McLaurin as late-round fliers.

From TheHuddle

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

Tyler Kroft Aug 18 3:13pm ET

Buffalo Bills TE Tyler Kroft (foot) is 'moving in the right direction' in his recovery from foot surgery, according to head coach Sean McDermott Sunday, Aug. 18. McDermott didn't provide a timeline for Kroft's return to the field but added he has been working on his own behind the scenes.

Fantasy Spin: Kroft was a candidate to be a late-round fantasy pick for those punting the tight end position, buy fantasy roster managers will now likely be able to wait to see how he starts the season before picking him up off of the waiver wire.

From TheHuddle

Jason Witten Aug 18 2:53pm ET

Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten said he experienced some jitters Saturday, Aug. 17, as he made his return to live action for the first time since ending his one-year retirement. Witten caught one pass for 10 yards in the Cowboys' preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams. 'A year away from the game, all the work to get back here since March, getting in shape, getting your body ready, having an opportunity, I know I've got a lot to prove,' Witten said. 'It wasn't perfect. I thought we're on schedule with the things I want to work on. Able to get a third-down conversion. Dak showed he had the confidence on that. Some of the other things in the passing game, running game, I felt good with. It's always tricky when you're coming back out here ... so the jitters were real. A lot of work to get back to here, but it felt good.'

Fantasy Spin: Witten's return to the Cowboys will mean a lot more in reality than fantasy, where he isn't a consideration outside of super-deep and tight end-premium leagues.

From TheHuddle