Thu Aug 18 12:12pm ET
By ROB MAADDI and TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) warms up before an NFL preseason football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson waves to fans during an NFL football practice in Berea, Ohio, Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson looks to throw during NFL football practice in Berea, Ohio, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson throws during an NFL football practice in Berea, Ohio, Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
Deshaun Watson has reached a settlement with the NFL and will serve an 11-game suspension and pay a $5 million fine rather than risk missing his first season as quarterback of the Cleveland Browns, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.
Watson was accused of sexual misconduct by two dozen women while he played for the Houston Texans. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Thursday in disclosing the settlement between Watson and the league, which had sought to ban him for at least one year for violating its personal conduct policy.
The settlement ends months of posturing between Watson's legal team, the NFL and NFL Players Association.
As part of the settlement, Watson may return for the Browns' game on Dec. 4 in Houston.
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said that the starters, including quarterback Patrick Mahomes, would play as much as the first half in Saturday's second preseason game against the Washington Commanders. Backup Chad Henne will get the game off, so it will be Mahomes and Shane Buechele under center this weekend. Fantasy managers will be crossing their fingers that nothing happens to Mahomes against Washington. With receiver Tyreek Hill now in Miami, Mahomes is expected to spread the ball around through the air more, and tight end Travis Kelce could be his go-to guy when needed. The 26-year-old former MVP and Super Bowl champion finished as the QB4 in fantasy last year and should be one of the top three signal-callers off the board in fantasy drafts.
Buffalo Bills rookie wide receiver Khalil Shakir has had an outstanding training camp this summer, to the point where the team is likely trying to find ways to get him involved on game days. He was initially projected as a slot-only receiver, but he has also received a lot of work on the boundary. Shakir could be the top reserve if anything happens to Stefon Diggs or Gabe Davis. The 22-year-old is also a candidate to be the primary punt returner, which could enhance his game-day role. Shakir shouldn't be on the redraft radar heading into his rookie season, but he should certainly be on the radar of those drafting in dynasty/keeper formats in 2022. In the preseason opener, he caught all five of his targets for 92 yards.
Buffalo Bills tight end O.J. Howard has been a slight disappointment this summer in training camp. He's a solid blocker who can help in two-tight end formations, but he doesn't look to be an immediate threat to Dawson Knox for playing time. Howard is a big body, but he's looked slow and has been predictable on his routes. It was slightly alarming that he was playing deep into the fourth quarter in the team's first preseason game last weekend. Meanwhile, Tommy Sweeney is on the roster bubble but has stepped up the last two weeks. He's not much of a special teams asset but is a glue guy in the locker room, and the Bills would love to keep him around. Knox should be considered a low-end TE1, while Howard should be ignored in fantasy football drafts.
The Athletic's Joe Buscaglia writes that there isn't much standing in the way of Buffalo Bills wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis being on the field for 90-plus percent of the offensive snaps this year. Diggs continues to look explosive, and the team will give him more chances for yards after the catch. Davis has the makings of the most talented No. 2 wideout that quarterback Josh Allen has had in Buffalo. He looks primed to play a huge role in 2022 and is also the top run-blocking receiver, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see him lead the receivers in snaps this year. Diggs is a lock as a top-five fantasy receiver target in your upcoming drafts, while Davis should continue to rise up draft boards as a WR3 with considerable upside.
The Athletic's Joe Buscaglia writes that the Buffalo Bills running back situation could devolve into a muddy three-person committee this year between Devin Singletary, Zack Moss and rookie James Cook. Singletary is the most experienced in the system, and how he finished last year as the sole trusted back shouldn't be ignored. But the Bills have sought a more versatile skill set the last few offseasons, and he's underwhelming in short-yardage situations and as a pass-catcher. The Bills continue to believe in Moss. He's completely healthy now and has looked more explosive. Cook is buzzworthy as a second-round pick, but if Singletary and Moss continue to get looks with quarterback Josh Allen, Cook's offensive role could be smaller than some expect. The Bills have taken it slow with most of their rookies under head coach Sean McDermott, and Cook's pass protection hasn't been the best.
The NFL and Players Association reached an agreement in Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson's case on Thursday, and he will be suspended for 11 games and fined $5 million. Watson will also undergo a treatment program and will be eligible to return against the Houston Texans, his former team. There had been talks between the league and Players Association this week on a settlement with designee Peter C. Harvey expected to hand down an even harsher penalty for Watson if the two sides didn't agree on a settlement. While Watson will be allowed to play in 2022, the longer suspension makes him even less attractive as a QB2 stash in fantasy leagues. Jacoby Brissett will be the team's starter under center until Watson returns, lowering the value of the rest of the team's offensive skill players.
The Athletic's Bob Sturm expects the 2022 season to be running back Ezekiel Elliott's last with the Dallas Cowboys. Elliott has lacked explosiveness in recent seasons and his rushing yards per game have fallen every year of his career. His yards per game receiving have also dropped every year since 2018, and he's unlikely to suddenly improve in those areas in 2022. His salary cap number next year isn't guaranteed and will be about $17 million. The Cowboys said they are fully committed to the 27-year-old this year, but fantasy managers probably aren't expecting much despite the fact that he rushed for 1,000 yards in 2021 for the fourth time in six seasons. Tony Pollard, who looked much more explosive last year, should continue to steal valuable touches away from Zeke, making Elliott a clear RB2 instead of an RB1 at this point.
Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson was suspended for 11 games and fined $5 million by the NFL, according to a source Thursday, Aug. 18. His first game back will be Week 13 against the Houston Texans.
Fantasy Spin: Even though Watson avoided the full-year suspension, fantasy managers should avoid using a draft pick on him given the length of the suspension. He has QB1 upside when he does return, but it's a risky bet burning a bench spot for that long.
The NFL and NFLPA have reached an agreement on an 11-game suspension for Browns QB Deshaun Watson. The settlement also includes a fine of $5 million.
Tennessee Titans tight end Austin Hooper was busy in the team's joint practice with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesday. He caught three straight passes during the two-minute period and had seven receptions on the day. Hooper was a disappointment in his time with the Cleveland Browns after making two straight Pro Bowl appearances in his final two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons in 2018 and 2019. However, he's developed some nice chemistry with new quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and the two could hook up quite often this year, making Hooper a TE2 sleeper worth taking a chance on in deeper fantasy football leagues.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. was very impressive in the joint practice with the Detroit Lions on Wednesday. The Athletic's Colton Pouncy wrote that Pittman carved up the Lions secondary all day and suggested that fantasy managers take a long look at Pittman in 2022. The third-year wideout looked like quarterback Matt Ryan's top target all afternoon. The 24-year-old had his first 1,000-yard season and six touchdowns in 17 games in his second NFL season with Carson Wentz under center. With the upgrade to Ryan in 2022, Pittman is looking even more attractive in fantasy football drafts as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman's (groin) injury that he suffered in training camp practice on Wednesday isn't considered serious, according to a source. Hardman landed awkwardly while making a catch, limped off the field under his own power and was then carted off. It remains to be seen if the 24-year-old will be good to go for the Week 1 regular season opener, but it appears he's avoided a long-term injury to begin the 2022 season. With Tyreek Hill now in Miami, Hardman will have a bigger role in the offense this year alongside JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. He was working as the Chiefs No. 3 receiver in the preseason opener last week. Hardman's injury will give rookie Skyy Moore increased repetitions in camp for the time being.
Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell said on Thursday that tight end Irv Smith Jr. (thumb), who had thumb surgery earlier this summer, is on track to play in Week 1 against the division-rival Green Bay Packers. Smith missed all of last season after having surgery to fix the meniscus in his right knee, but he's expected to be ready to go for the start of the regular season. How effective he'll be and how much he'll be on the field is a different story. The fact that he's missed most of training camp to this point isn't a great sign either. In his two seasons played in the NFL, the 24-year-old has 66 catches (90 targets) for 676 yards and seven touchdowns, but he could break out in 2022 if he stays healthy as the team's top pass-catching tight end. Consider Smith a TE2 in fantasy with upside.
The Indianapolis Colts seem unlikely to sign a veteran wide receiver before the regular season, mainly based on the rate of growth from rookie receiver Alec Pierce. Pierce still has work to do, but his confidence is growing by the day. The 22-year-old is unlikely to be drafted in standard 12-team leagues, but he's one to keep an eye on. Pierce has been working with the first-team offense a lot in training camp practices, and he opened the team's preseason opener last week against the Buffalo Bills as a starter in three-receiver sets. The second-round pick should have his moments in his rookie year with quarterback Matt Ryan throwing him the ball, and he'll be a solid target in dynasty/keeper drafts in 2022.
Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott said that quarterback Josh Allen is going to play in Saturday's preseason game against the Denver Broncos and that most of the starters will play "a healthy amount." Fantasy managers that have already drafted Allen as the likely overall QB1 will be keeping their fingers crossed that he comes out of this one healthy. Although the Bills offense is mostly intact from last season, they'll have a new offensive coordinator in Ken Dorsey. It shouldn't change all that much for the 26-year-old Allen, who finished the 2021 campaign as the QB1 in fantasy with 4,407 passing yards, 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, adding 763 rushing yards and six more TDs.
Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson (Achilles) has been taking part in team drills at training camp recently and has been making open-field cuts/moves, although he won't play in the team's preseason game this Saturday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But head coach Doug Pederson said the hope and expectation is that Robinson will play in Week 1 against the Washington Commanders. Second-year back Travis Etienne Jr. is still garnering more attention in fantasy drafts, especially in PPR formats, but fantasy managers shouldn't completely ignore Robinson. Pairing both Etienne and Robinson in fantasy drafts would be ideal. Because the 24-year-old might not be full-go by the regular season opener, he'll probably be more of an RB3/flex standalone play, at best, in Week 1.
The Carolina Panthers are expected to name quarterback Baker Mayfield their starting QB for Week 1 of the regular season against his former team, the Cleveland Browns, according to sources. Mayfield has been competing with Sam Darnold during training camp. Head coach Matt Rhule said he could decide between Mayfield and Darnold by the preseason game against the New England Patriots. It's always been Mayfield's job to lose after Carolina acquired him from the Browns in the offseason. The 27-year-old struggled through injuries in 2021 in his final season in Cleveland, but he'll be hoping to bounce back this year with better health, beginning with a revenge tilt. Mayfield will be a low-end QB2 for fantasy managers.
Dynasty | Seahawks rookie running back Kenneth Walker will miss the remainder of the preseason after undergoing a "procedue" Dynasty Analysis: There was not explanation by Pete Carroll as to what the surgery was for and no guarantee that Walker would be back by week one of the regular season, though he said that was the goal. Rashaad Penny has returned from a minor injury and now looks to have the starting role all to himself though other depth chart names will still factor. The Seahawks are a leaking ship in multiple spots but there has been excitement surrounding the run-game following the team's selection of Walker. As long as the rookie returns quickly and without setback, he'll remain a highly selected rookie. He's listed as DLF's RB17.
Carolina Panthers QB Baker Mayfield is expected to be named starting quarterback for Week 1, according to sources.
Fantasy Spin: Mayfield is expected to beat out Sam Darnold for the spot, but that was pretty much expected. He remains a QB2 option in fantasy.
Dynasty | Travis Fulgham was claimed off waivers from the Broncos by the Green Bay Packers. Dynasty Analysis: Fulgham was a dynasty darling in 2021 when he posted a 67/539/4 line for the Eagles, but has bounced around the league in the last year or so. He's worth keeping on watch lists as he's now on a depth chart not exactly stocked with talent. Still, there's little chance of Fulgham re-emerging as a viable dynasty asset and he's best left kept on the waiver wire.