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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
Jarvis Landry Aug 8 5:10pm ET

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry (hip) was activated from the active/PUP list on Saturday. Landry opened the preseason on the PUP list after having hip surgery back on February 4. The veteran wide receiver is trending up as the team gets ready to start practicing in the next week. Landry caught 83 passes for 1, 174 yards and six touchdowns last season. Look for him to return low-end WR2 value in PPR leagues in 2020.

From RotoBaller

Kenjon Barner Aug 8 9:53am ET

Free-agent RB Kenjon Barner (Falcons) is visiting the Baltimore Ravens and beginning the testing process Saturday, Aug. 8.

From TheHuddle

Jakeem Grant Aug 8 9:23am ET

Miami Dolphins WR Jakeem Grant has an opportunity for playing time with WRs Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns opting out.

Fantasy Spin: The absences vault Preston Williams and Grant into the starting lineup, potentially, and Grant could be in the slot. Williams has more upside of the two, but he's coming off an ACL tear. Grant is a WR5 candidate that will need a good camp to hold a final roster spot in fantasy.

From TheHuddle

Derrius Guice Aug 7 11:30pm ET

The Washington Football Team has released running back Derrius Guice following a domestic abuse arrest. The oft-injured Guice was expected to be the lead back for Washington's running back committee this year, but the release obviously changes everything in Washington. Veteran running back Adrian Peterson should now see the bulk of the carries, while rookie Antonio Gibson gets chances on passing downs. Gibson gets a boost in dynasty leagues after Guice's release, while Peterson is now a viable top-100 pick in virtually all re-draft leagues. As for Guice, his arrest could be the end of his disappointing NFL career. He's off the radar in redraft and becomes borderline rosterable in dynasty.

From RotoBaller

Mike Williams Aug 7 11:13pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers WR Mike Williams' ability to catch contested passes has QB Tyrod Taylor excited, and Taylor said that 50-50 balls are 'more like 70-30 or 80-20' balls when throwing to Williams.

Fantasy Spin: Although he scored just twice, Williams is coming off a 2019 season when he set career highs in catches and yards and led the NFL with 20.4 yards per reception. Losing Philip Rivers at quarterback isn't ideal, but Williams' big-play ability allows him to turn a couple of catches into a big performance. He is still worth grabbing as a WR3.

From TheHuddle

Jerick McKinnon Aug 7 10:30pm ET

San Francisco 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon has been one of the more impressive players at training camp, according to Cam Inman of The Mercury News. In particular, McKinnon's route running out of the backfield has looked crisp. It is welcomed news for the 28-year-old, as he has missed the entirety of the past two seasons with injuries. McKinnon may be able to carve out a role for himself as a pass-catching, third-down back, but he has to battle Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman for touches. If McKinnon continues his strong play, the 49ers backfield may become even more of a headache for fantasy owners.

From RotoBaller

Brandin Cooks Aug 7 9:43pm ET

Houston Texans WR Brandin Cooks said he has 'zero' concerns about his concussion history. 'For me, I'm not worried at all,' said Cooks. 'If there is any hesitation or worry, I wouldn't be here right now.'

Fantasy Spin: While Cooks may not be concerned, fantasy owners have to be a little worried if Cooks will be available for a full season. He has delivered WR2 production for a majority of his career, but between the concussion issues and changing teams over the offseason, he is a more palatable option as a WR3.

From TheHuddle

Jerick McKinnon Aug 7 9:33pm ET

San Francisco 49ers RB Jerick McKinnon (knee) has looked sharp catching passes out of the backfield during training camp, according to QB Jimmy Garoppolo. 'Even just throwing routes on air this offseason, he runs them differently than most running backs and he has a feel that's like a receiver, but he feels space like a quarterback,' Garoppolo said.

Fantasy Spin: McKinnon has missed consecutive seasons while recovery from a knee injury, but he will rejoin the backfield in 2020. It sounds like he could carve out a role on passing downs, but for now, he is a late-round flier in PPR formats, at best.

From TheHuddle

Logan Ryan Aug 7 8:13pm ET

Free-agent CB Logan Ryan (Titans) could receive interest from the New York Giants, in the opinion of ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan.

From TheHuddle

Dontari Poe Aug 7 8:03pm ET

Dallas Cowboys DE Tyrone Crawford (hip) and DT Dontari Poe (quadriceps) do not have timetables for when they will be able to be activated from the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list, according to head coach Mike McCarthy.

From TheHuddle

Derrius Guice Aug 7 7:23pm ET

Washington Football Team RB Derrius Guice was released Friday, Aug. 7.

Fantasy Spin: Guice likely will not receive much interest from other teams because of the arrest, but fantasy players can keep an eye on the situation. Adrian Peterson likely will handle most of the carries for Washington this season and can be at least a No. 3 running back in standard fantasy leagues.

From TheHuddle

Calvin Ridley Aug 7 7:00pm ET

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley is looking "bigger and stronger" according to head coach Dan Quinn. Quinn said that Ridley had a good offseason and is coming into training camp hungry. The Alabama product is a popular pick for a third-year breakout after he was well on his way towards his first 1000-yard season before getting hurt. The 25-year-old has had no trouble finding the end zone in his first two years, compiling 17 touchdowns, though he'll need to slightly raise his yards per game and catch percentage numbers to reach his goal. Playing in an offense that has ranked in the top-five in pass attempts in each of the last two years should give Ridley a great chance at becoming elite in 2020.

From RotoBaller

Joe Mixon Aug 7 6:23pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals RB Joe Mixon may receive a bigger role in the passing game this season, according to offensive coordinator Brian Callahan.

Fantasy Spin: Mixon will see plenty of carries in the running game but may be a popular target for Joe Burrow out of the backfield. Mixon should already be considered a starting running back in all fantasy leagues but more catches would increase his value.

From TheHuddle

Willie Snead Aug 7 6:13pm ET

Baltimore Ravens WR James Proche is considered the leading candidate for the punt returner job this season. WR Willie Snead and Marquise Brown are also options for the job.

From TheHuddle

Nigel Bradham Aug 7 5:43pm ET

Free-agent LB Nigel Bradham (Eagles) officially signed with the New Orleans Saints Friday, Aug. 7. Official terms of the contract were not disclosed.

From TheHuddle

Aug 7 5:23pm ET

Free-agent TE Jordan Leggett (Buccaneers) and DT Darius Kilgo (Lions) recently met with the New England Patriots.

From TheHuddle

Kenny Stills Aug 7 5:13pm ET

Houston Texans WR Kenny Stills (illness) was placed on the Active/Non-Football Illness list Friday, Aug. 7.

Fantasy Spin: It is not known how long Stills will be sidelined, but he does not appear to be in danger of missing the start of the season. His role may be smaller this season since the team added Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb during the offseason. Fantasy players in most leagues probably can avoid Stills in drafts.

From TheHuddle

Vic Beasley Aug 7 4:43pm ET

Tennessee Titans LB Vic Beasley was activated from the Reserve/Did Not Report list Friday, Aug. 7.

From TheHuddle

Jack Crawford Aug 7 4:43pm ET

Tennessee Titans DT Jack Crawford was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Friday, Aug. 7.

From TheHuddle

Marcell Dareus Aug 7 4:13pm ET

Free-agent DT Marcell Dareus (Jaguars) could be an option for the Seattle Seahawks since they are looking to add depth at the defensive tackle position, in the opinion of Sirius XM NFL Radio's Adam Caplan.

From TheHuddle