Thu Jun 1 5:43pm ET
Field Level Media
Minnesota Vikings tight end Ben Ellefson, citing injuries, retired from football on Thursday after three NFL seasons.
Ellefson, 26, appeared in four games with one start for the Vikings last season, when he had three receptions on three targets for 26 yards. Primarily a blocking tight end and special teams player, he was placed on injured reserve in October and was unable to return to action.
"Injuries are part of the game and although they are a big reason for me moving on, I am fortunate to be in a spot where I can still walk away from the game as a player, ready to tackle whatever is next in my life," Ellefson wrote on his Instagram account.
For his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2020) and Minnesota (2021-22), Ellefson totaled 16 games (five starts) with four receptions on eight targets for 36 yards. Each season ended on the injured reserve list.
Ellefson, a native of Hawley, Minn., played at North Dakota State and signed with Jacksonville as an undrafted free agent in 2020. He signed with the Vikings after the Jaguars released him in September 2021.
"Thank you football for the people you've brought into my life and the opportunities you've given me to pursue my dreams to the fullest," Ellefson wrote. "I've been blessed on my path to have people who believed in me, which has drowned out those who doubted. So, thank you believers, for the chances you've taken on me, helping and supporting me in my drive to give this game all I could and to reach my fullest potential. The list is long and I am fortunate.
"Everybody's story is different, and I'm proud to say I've given the game of football everything I have."
Dynasty | Offensive coordinator said of Sam Howell: "His demeanor does not change … and I will say this: he autocorrects himself as well." Dynasty Analysis: Bienemy was effusive in his praise for Howell as the second-year quarterback takes the reins of the offense. The 2022 fifth-round selection will get a year to show he can be the team's new face of the franchise after the Carson Wentz experiment failed. Despite the chatter about Howell's leadership qualities and growth process, NFL veteran Jacoby Brissett is also fighting for the starting role, a situation he's all too familiar with and one he's been successful with in the past. Listed as DLF's QB33, there's little confidence from the expert dynasty community that Howell is the long-term answer for the Commanders.
Dynasty | Kevin O'Connell believes Alexander Mattison is a three-down back Dynasty Analysis: It's one of the hottest stories in 2023 related to the running back position and Mattison's prospects hinge on the team's decision related to release, or trade, Dalvin Cook. It's widely believed the Vikings will move on from Cook and now beyond June 1, we may not be waiting long for the answer. Whether the team releases the veteran or is able to work out a trade remains to be seen, but should Cook remain in Minnesota, Mattison's 2023 prospects would suffer. Cook has been linked to both Miami and Buffalo as possible trade destinations. As for Mattison, DLF's RB39, who turns 25 this month, he could see a significant boost to his dynasty ranking if/when news of Cook's departure is official. Until then, he's a risk-on acquisition on the potential Cook, somehow, remains in Minnesota. Patient dynasty managers may want to seek acquisition now ahead of the expected Cook move.
Dynasty | Dalvin Cook remains with the Vikings, but for how long? Dynasty Analysis: Now beyond June 1, the team could release Cook with a friendlier cap hit. The Vikings' preferred move would be to trade the aging back, who turns 28 in August, but there's been no indications that the team is close to a deal. Cook has signaled his desire to play with his brother in Buffalo, or return home to Miami, and both teams have a need. Knowing that a release would likely result if no trade is agreed to, team's simply may wait to force Minnesota's hand. In either case, now in June, we won't be waiting long to hear the ultimate fate of Dalvin Cook, DLF's RB21.
The Panthers made some changes to their running back room this offseason by adding Miles Sanders and letting D'Onta Foreman walk in free agency. Chuba Hubbard, though, remains in the mix as the RB2 in Carolina.Hubbard, a former fourth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, is entering his third year in the NFL. He was a backup to Christian McCaffrey for one and a half seasons in Carolina in his first two years, and he will likely back up Sanders in 2023.But will he have a bigger role in the offense this season? Is he going to be the Panthers' short-yardage back? Let's take a look. Chuba Hubbard 2022 SeasonFollowing the McCaffrey trade that sent the All-Pro running back to the San Francisco 49ers, Hubbard saw an uptick in playing time alongside Foreman. The two running backs co-existed as the RB1 in Carolina and split playing time.Hubbard ran for 432 yards on 89 carries (4.85 yards per carry) with two touchdowns and added 13 catches for 170 yards in nine games after McCaffrey's departure, while Foreman had 191 carries for 877 yards (4.59 yards per carry) and five touchdowns in 11 games during that same stretch.Hubbard only had 29 total yards in the first six weeks of the season as the backup to McCaffrey, but the 23-year-old back was a vital part of Carolina's rushing attack after he left, delivering 12-plus touches in four of the final six games of the season. In Week 16, he also ran for a career-high 125 yards against the Lions. Is Chuba Hubbard the Panthers' short-yardage back?It would be hard to imagine Hubbard as the lead short-yardage back in the Panthers' offense with Sanders there. The former Philadelphia Eagles running back figures to carry a large workload in Carolina and have an impact in the backfield in all aspects.Last season, Sanders had 13 carries inside the five-yard line, seven of which turned into touchdowns. Hubbard, on the other hand, had just one rush inside the five all year. His teammates Foreman (10) and Raheem Blackshear (2) had more carries in such situations.How the backfield completely shakes out depends on the team's willingness to get Sanders more work in the passing game. If he sees an uptick in receiving and opportunities on third down, Hubbard could function more as the short-yardage back this season.But with Sanders' efficiency last year in those close-yard situations, it might be difficult to bank on Hubbard as that type of back in 2023. As the RB2 in Carolina, he likely won't be fantasy relevant this season and should go undrafted in most leagues.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said that offensive tackle Abraham Lucas (shoulder) had shoulder surgery this offseason, which is why he's been limited at organized team activities. However, Carroll said Lucas should be ready for the start of the regular season. Lucas was the 72nd overall pick in last year's draft and managed to start 16 games for Seattle in 2022 as their right tackle. As long as the 24-year-old offensive tackle is able to take part in training camp, he should be ready for Week 1 as the team's starting right tackle for his sophomore season in the NFL.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said again on Thursday that there remains no firm timetable on the returns of safety Jamal Adams (quadriceps) and linebacker Jordyn Brooks (knee), and that they won't have a timetable for six to eight weeks or so. Still, both players are doing well in their rehab and have their sights set on being ready for the regular season. Adams set an NFL record for defensive backs with 9.5 sacks in 2020, but he's played in just 25 games combined in the last three seasons due to injury. But if he's healthy in 2023, he'll be a force in IDP fantasy leagues. Brooks, the former 27th overall pick in 2020, has totaled 345 tackles in 33 games in his first two NFL seasons, but he tore his ACL in Week 17 of 2022. His fantasy value will depend on whether he has a realistic chance to be ready for Week 1.
Dallas Cowboys rookie tight end Luke Schoonmaker (foot) was wearing a protective boot on his right foot at organized team activities on Thursday and is dealing with a case of plantar fasciitis that has limited his activity. Schoonmaker is missing out on valuable repetitions heading into his first NFL season, but hopefully he'll be able to work out in full once training camp commences at the end of July. If healthy, the 24-year-old second-rounder should compete for playing time immediately in his first NFL season with fellow tight ends Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot. Schoonmaker has plenty of long-term upside at the position as a pass-catcher, but it's tough to see him making a huge splash in fantasy in his first year in Dallas.
Washington Commanders offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy was quick to praise quarterback Sam Howell after organized team activities on Thursday. "His demeanor does not change and I will say this: he autocorrects himself as well," Bieniemy said. While Howell will compete with Jacoby Brissett in training camp this summer, the 22-year-old Howell is expected to have the leg up for the starting gig to open the 2023 regular season in D.C. The fifth-round pick last year impressed the coaching staff in last year's season finale against Dallas, and he has an intriguing skill set as a dual threat at the QB position. He certainly has the weapons around him to succeed and be a worthwhile QB2 in superflex leagues if he earns the starting job.
It's unknown whether the Cleveland Browns will make an attempt to sign free-agent wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and reunite him with quarterback Deshaun Watson, but Watson has shopped the Browns to Hopkins as a potential landing spot. Watson said, "of course we would love to have him," but that those decisions are made "out of my range." The addition of Hopkins in Cleveland would definitely make Watson a more intriguing low-end QB1 in fantasy, but it would also be bad news for wideouts Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Elijah Moore. ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported on Thursday that Hopkins is open-minded about teams league-wide, and he's prepared to be patient. Minicamp could be considered a soft deadline for the 30-year-old to pick a new team, while training camp would be more of a hard deadline.
Despite Chicago Bears running back Khalil Herbert averaging 5.7 yards per carry as the No. 2 behind David Montgomery last year, the Bears signed veterans D'Onta Foreman and Travis Homer and drafted Roschon Johnson. "You know how things go in the NFL now. They're doing things running back by committee," Herbert said. "You need one, two, three really good guys that really carry the rock and there be no drop-off." Herbert said he added five pounds to his core this offseason, but he plans to stay between 215 and 220 pounds for the season. The 25-year-old will mainly battle for early-down carries with Foreman, but Johnson's presence also lowers Herbert's fantasy ceiling. And when you add the rushing prowess of quarterback Justin Fields, Herbert suddenly becomes more of a dicey RB3/flex in fantasy.
Chicago Bears rookie second-round cornerback Tyrique Stevenson should be in line to start at outside cornerback across from Jaylon Johnson in his first year in the NFL with second-year corner Kyler Gordon moving to the slot full time in 2023. "He uses his length well," cornerbacks coach and pass-game coordinator Jon Hoke said. "He's really, really instinctive. He has a way of getting his hands on a lot of footballs. He does know the game of football. It comes relatively not easy, but he does understand concepts easier than some guys do, so it's been a real plus." Rookie fifth-round corner Terell Smith has also impressed Hoke during organized team activities this week.
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said "no one has worked harder than Justin Fields in this offseason," dating back to February. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams is already seeing improvement in Fields' leadership, decision-making and accuracy during organized team activities. The Athletic's Kevin Fishbain said Fields' work leading the offense in a two-minute drill that ended in a touchdown was notable despite it being voluntary OTAs. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said in early May that Fields was "light years ahead of where he was" last offseason. The 24-year-old must get better as a passer to take the next step, but he led all QBs in 2022 with 1,143 rushing yards and also scored eight TDs on the ground. If Fields can avoid sacks and become more efficient with his arm, he'll soon be in the elite tier of QB1s in fantasy.
Houston Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, the second overall pick in this year's NFL draft, has really impressed the coaching staff at organized team activities this week. Head coach DeMeco Ryans said Stroud has been "eye-opening" and has "seized" first-team snaps on offense over Davis Mills. Stroud is also already looking more comfortable running the offense than he did earlier in the offseason. The Texans are in no rush to name a starting QB for the 2023 season, but at this point, it would probably be a surprise if Stroud didn't open his first NFL season as the starter under center over Mills. The 21-year-old has tons of long-term potential, but with limited proven offensive weapons around him this year, he's unlikely to make much noise in single-year fantasy leagues.
As a rookie in 2022 after being the team's top draft pick, Chicago Bears cornerback Kyler Gordon was asked to play both outside and inside cornerback. This year, the plan is for Gordon to be their slot corner. "He's a good blitzer because he's physical, understands the timing, understands how to beat a block," cornerbacks coach and pass-game coordinator Jon Hoke said. "In zone coverage, he understands how to route-match based on what he's got. He understands the concepts that he's being attacked with." The move inside should allow the 23-year-old at more chances for tackles, meaning he could become valuable in fantasy IDP formats after he had 71 tackles (55 solo), three interceptions, six passes defensed, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble in 14 starts last year.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Rashaad Penny (leg) was seen taking part in organized team activities on Thursday for his new team. The oft-injured Penny played in just five games in his final year with the Seattle Seahawks in 2022 due to a broken fibula. Unless he suffers a setback, Penny should be full-go for training camp this summer and the start of the regular season, but how long that lasts is anyone's guess. Miles Sanders is no longer in Philly, but Penny will battle for touches alongside trade acquisition D'Andre Swift, Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott. When healthy, Penny might have the most fantasy upside of the group, but his extensive injury history makes him extremely volatile to fantasy managers. Still, he won't cost a ton, making him a very intriguing RB3/flex flier for his home run-hitting ability.
Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard (ankle) said he's ahead of schedule in his rehab, and his plan is to be ready for the start of training camp at the end of July. Pollard suffered a high-ankle sprain and broken fibula in his left leg in the postseason earlier this year, but he was limited in organized team activities last week and is making great progress in his recovery this offseason. It remains to be seen if he'll be back to full speed for Week 1 of the regular season, but with Ezekiel Elliott out of the picture in Dallas, Pollard will enter the 2023 campaign as the unquestioned lead back for the Cowboys. The 26-year-old isn't in the elite tier of high-end RB1s in fantasy, but he's just below them and should be considered a top-10 RB despite coming off a serious injury.
Dynasty | ESPN lists the Lions as a possible landing spot for free agent quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Dynasty Analysis: Teddy Two Gloves has simply never been the same following a devastating knee injury he suffered while with the Vikings back in 2016. Still, he's proven to be a capable backup who can keep things afloat for a while if a team's starter goes down. After stops with the Vikings, Saints, Panthers, Broncos, and Dolphins, Bridgewater is currently looking for a new home. The Lions make some sense considering Hendon Hooker is likely to redshirt behind Jared Goff for at least one year. Bridgewater is off the dynasty radar at this point.
Dynasty | ESPN lists the Bucs as a possible landing spot for free agent running back Ezekiel Elliott. Dynasty Analysis: It seems odd on paper with Tampa Bay in rebuilding mode but it also seems there really aren't any natural landing spots left for Elliott. The seven year veteran's production has fallen off a cliff in recent years, so it really isn't shocking. Touchdown production has kept him relevant of late but with Tony Pollard taking over as the lead back in Dallas, Elliott's future is in real question. Tampa Bay has Rachaad White as their starter but he remains unproven. Wherever Elliott ends up, his dynasty value is going to be limited. He currently comes in as our RB52 and that seems to be falling by the week.
Dynasty | Second-year receiver Justyn Ross is trusted by Patrick Mahomes Dynasty Analysis: Ross missed all of 2022 due to a foot injury and subsequent surgery but he's been full-go in OTAs and has performed well enough to be a trusted receiver for Patrick Mahomes. Ross went undrafted during the 2022 NFL Draft due to injury concern but his red-shirt 2022 rookie season allowed him to rest, recover and be 100% for 2023. At 6'4/210 lbs., he could be the big receiver the offense needs to replace departed Juju Smith-Schuster (NE) if he can find a way to garner material snaps during the regular season. It's a long offseason and Ross needs to show he can remain healthy to be in the mix come September. If he continues to trend during training camp, he's a deep sleeper with a high ceiling dynasty coaches will want to consider. Very sparsely ranked as DLF's WR121, Justyn Ross can be added now in deep-roster leagues for coach's with available space.
Dynasty | Second-year receiver Jalen Tolbert was mentioned by head coach Mike McCarthy as an "excellent example" of a player making a jump Dynasty Analysis: Tolbert was trending in 2022's dynasty rookie drafts as an upside second-round selection with talk of a possible starting situation. Instead, the rookie wasn't able to crack the starting lineup and was inactive on most game days, causing him to slide back down rankings. Fast forward to 2023 and it appears Tolbert is finally gaining notice and, though he won't factor as a starter given the presence of CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks and Michael Gallup, things can change quickly in the NFL and the sophomore's 6'3" size could be difficult to keep off the field. Found as DLF's WR91, patient and enterprising dynasty coaches looking for a low-valued upside prospect may want to consider addition of Jalen Tolbert.