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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
Todd Gurley Aug 13 7:30pm ET

Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley II may not see a heavy set of reps during training camp and he was seen with a limp, per ESPN. The 26-year-old has been nursing a knee injury dating back to his tenure with the Rams in 2018. Gurley was once an elite fantasy commodity, but has now been set back by injuries. Last season, the back had 857 rush yards, 12 rush touchdowns, 31 receptions, 207 receiving yards, and two receiving touchdowns in 15 games. The Falcons are set to have a high-powered offense this season and Gurley will be the RB1, but the possibility of an injury or missed time will continue to loom over his fantasy value. Because of this, the Georgia product's fantasy value takes a hit and downgrades him to an RB2 for 2020.

From RotoBaller

Chris Godwin Aug 13 7:10pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin has been putting in the work to build rapport with new QB Tom Brady as training camps are continuing to progress. The 24-year-old was seen catching a pass from Brady on Tuesday as the two look to form a solid QB-WR duo. The now fourth-year player is coming off an incredible 2019 season in which he stockpiled 86 receptions, 1,333 yards, and nine touchdowns in 14 games. Despite having competition for targets on the team, Godwin enters 2020 as arguably a top-five fantasy receiver based on his performance from last season. The slow formation of chemistry with a legendary QB only helps his chances of accumulating similar stats from last season.

From RotoBaller

Travis Kelce Aug 13 4:10pm ET

The Kansas City Chiefs and tight end Travis Kelce agreed to a four-year, $57.25 million extension on Thursday, including $28 million in guarantees according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. The All-Pro tight end had two years and $46 million remaining on his original deal, which was signed back in January of 2016. The Chiefs have spent big to keep their explosive core together this offseason as they doled out a 10-year extension to quarterback Patrick Mahomes that could be worth around $500 million. Kelce led all tight ends in 2019 with 97 catches and 1,229 receiving yards. He should be the second tight end off the board in fantasy drafts after San Francisco's George Kittle.

From RotoBaller

Justin Jefferson Aug 13 3:10pm ET

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson is already expected to play a pivotal role in the offense in 2020. The first-round draft pick may not have the blow-away speed of departed receiver Stefon Diggs, but is a versatile route-runner who can play outside or in the slot. The Vikings have been decimated on the defensive side of the football this past offseason, putting more of an onus on the offense to step up. The absence of preseason games creates a challenge for fantasy owners to properly scout rookies before drafts. But Jefferson figures to have a role early on, making him an intriguing late-round fantasy option.

From RotoBaller

Anthony Miller Aug 13 3:00pm ET

Chicago Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller enters training camp trying to put 2019 behind him after disappointing last season. The third-year receiver caught seven touchdowns during his rookie season in 2018 and Miller's future looked very bright. But Miller endured a sloppy training camp and struggled to see the field the first month of the season. He did rebound and finished the season with 52 receptions for 656 yards but caught only two touchdowns. Bears receivers coach Mike Furrey has made a litany of comments in the offseason about Miller's preparation but has praised, thus far, what he has seen. He's trying to learn. He's dropped the ego of this whole Memphis thing. Now he's coming here and learning from Allen Robinson, asking Allen Robinson, watching Allen Robinson," Furrey told reporters. "If you're starting to do that stuff, you're definitely heading in the right direction and starting to grow individually.'' Miller will be the definition of boom-or-bust heading into fantasy drafts.

From RotoBaller

Mitch Trubisky Aug 13 2:50pm ET

Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky threw to receivers on Wednesday but the real competition for the starting job begins on Friday when full-padded practices begin. Head coach Matt Nagy has intimated that the decision could come sooner than later with the condensed training camp schedule hindering the team's ability to get a full picture. To this point, Trubisky has said all the right things and has been praised for his preparation in zoom meetings. Even if he wins the job out of camp, Trubisky's leash will be extremely short with backup Nick Foles breathing down his neck heading into the team's Week 1 battle against the Lions.

From RotoBaller

Nick Foles Aug 13 2:40pm ET

Chicago Bears quarterback Nick Foles has already been praised by head coach Matt Nagy for "improving the quarterback room" as the team prepares for full-padded practice starting next week. Foles was acquired from the Jaguars in the offseason to not only compete with incumbent starter Mitch Trubisky, but perhaps snatch the starter's job from him. Foles had a disastrous season in 2019, breaking his collarbone in Week 1 and then underperformed when he returned to action in Week 11. The veteran has a history of poor quarterback play when given the keys to an offense right out of the gate but also has shown to be one of the greatest off-the-bench passer's in recent history. If Foles wins the starting job in Chicago, he still lacks any kind of fantasy appeal outside of two quarterback leagues.

From RotoBaller

Daniel Jones Aug 13 12:42pm ET

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones will look to take a step forward in his second NFL season, and will be doing so with a new offensive coordinator in former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. In his first public comments since being hired in January, Garrett raved about the sophomore-signal caller's work ethic and the work Jones put in to learn the offense without the two being able to meet face-to-face due to the coronavirus pandemic. Jones showed huge upside last season with five-300 yard passing games and three games with four-plus touchdowns. His main issue was turnovers as he threw 12 picks and fumbled a league-leading 18 times. Garrett had great success with Dak Prescott, so expect him to help Jones improve in year two making him a good QB to target if waiting on the position in drafts.

George Kittle Aug 13 11:33am ET

San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle agreed to a five-year, $75 million extension Thursday, Aug. 13, that includes an $18 million signing bonus. The contract language is still being worked out.

Fantasy Spin: Kittle is an elite tight end that should be among the top two or three taken universally in fantasy.

From TheHuddle

George Kittle Aug 13 11:30am ET

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle signed a five-year $75 million contract with $40 million guaranteed. The $15 million per season average makes Kittle the highest-paid tight end in the league by a wide margin over Hunter Henry's $10.6 million franchise-tag deal. Kittle caught 85-plus passes and gained 1,000-plus yards each of the past two seasons in becoming arguably the best tight end in football. The 26-year-old was named a First-Team All-Pro last season and now will be locked-into Kyle Shanahan's offense in San Francisco that was fourth in the NFL in total offense last year. Kittle should be one of the top-two tight ends drafted in fantasy within the top-25 picks.

From RotoBaller

P.J. Hall Aug 13 10:53am ET

Free-agent DT P.J. Hall (Raiders) signed an undisclosed deal with the Houston Texans Thursday, Aug. 13.

From TheHuddle

Everson Griffen Aug 13 9:43am ET

Updating a previous report, Dallas Cowboys DE Everson Griffen agreed to a one-year deal with a $3 million base salary and includes $3 million in potential roster bonuses.

From TheHuddle

Ezekiel Ansah Aug 12 11:23pm ET

Free-agent DL Ziggy Ansah (Seahawks) was offered a one-year, $910,000 minimum salary by the San Francisco 49ers, but it wasn't enough for Ansah to sign.

From TheHuddle

K.J. Wright Aug 12 11:03pm ET

Seattle Seahawks LB K.J. Wright (shoulder) had a 'marvelous' recovery from shoulder surgery and was able to practice Wednesday, Aug. 12, according to head coach Pete Carroll.

From TheHuddle

Everson Griffen Aug 12 9:33pm ET

Free-agent DE Everson Griffen (Vikings) agreed to terms with the Dallas Cowboys Wednesday, Aug. 12, according to a source.

From TheHuddle

Everson Griffen Aug 12 9:20pm ET

The Dallas Cowboys signed free-agent defensive end Everson Griffen to a contract on Wednesday evening. Griffen had spent over a decade with the Minnesota Vikings and had multiple suitors during free agency. The veteran lineman has recorded 74.5 sacks across his past 77 games and adds an extra pass-rushing element to the Cowboys' defense. The unit gave up the 11th-fewest points per game last season, but also lost Robert Quinn and Byron Jones over the summer. The Cowboys project to be a middle-of-the-pack DST unit in 2020.

From RotoBaller

Luke Stocker Aug 12 7:53pm ET

Updating a previous source, free-agent TE Luke Stocker (Falcons) is expected to re-sign with the Atlanta Falcons, according to a source Wednesday, Aug. 12.

From TheHuddle

James Conner Aug 12 7:03pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers RB James Conner said Wednesday, Aug. 12, he never considered opting out, despite the fact he's a high-risk player as a cancer survivor. 'Going on four years now removed from cancer,' Conner said. 'I didn't really have to talk to my family. It was never a concern for me. I've been healthy for years now. It was an easy decision for me. I never really gave much thought to it. I'm healthy and my immune system is back healthy. I'm not worried.'

Fantasy Spin: Conner stands to have a good bounce-back season with QB Ben Roethlisberger back under center for the Steelers. He totaled just 464 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 116 carries over 10 games in 2019. This is also a contract season for him, and he should be targeted as a low-tier RB2.

From TheHuddle

Chris Carson Aug 12 6:13pm ET

Seattle Seahawks RB Chris Carson (personal) is away from the team right now while dealing with family matters, according to head coach Pete Carroll Wednesday, Aug. 12.

From TheHuddle

James O'Shaughnessy Aug 12 6:03pm ET

Updating a previous story, Jacksonville Jaguars TE James O'Shaughnessy (undisclosed) passed his physical Wednesday, Aug. 12.

From TheHuddle