Wed Jul 24 9:29pm ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Henry returns from torn ACL
This is the fourth preview in a series of training camp previews. We will continue to release the previews throughout the week. The previews give you a quick look at each team, going over position battles and injuries to watch in camp. The season is right around the corner.
The Raiders made a big splash this offseason, acquiring receiver Antonio Brown. He gives the team a whole new dimension at receiver and should be a big lift to the entire offense. It will be intriguing to watch how Brown influences the entire team because of his experience and success. Oakland hopes that Brown rubs off on some of his teammates, helping this team start a turnaround. We should get a better idea if that happens, watching camp and preseason action.
Position battle: The Raiders lost tight end Jared Cook this offseason, leaving a big hole at the tight end spot. Darren Waller is the odds on favorite to start but Derek Carrier and Luke Willson also will push Waller for the chance to start. None of these players have much starting experience, so the door is open for any of them to start. This will all be sorted out in camp and preseason action.
Injury watch: Oakland doesn't really have any injury situations of note, which is a good thing. One guy we might keep an eye on is Antonio Brown. He is not hurt but is 31 years old and has a ton of work under his belt. You have to wonder if he will slow down or have the injury bug hit him at this time of his career. We would keep an eye on him in camp to see how he is performing and if he is showing any signs of slowing down.
The big thing to watch in Broncos camp is the quarterback spot. Denver continues to try to find their franchise player. Joe Flacco was brought in to stabilize the position but rookie Drew Lock is the future at the position. Is either one of these guys the answer? The Broncos sure hope so. We’ll have a better understanding of the position, seeing how both these guys perform in camp and preseason games.
Position battle: Quarterback Joe Flacco is the starter in Denver but the team drafted Drew Lock to be the eventual starter in Denver. Flacco has not played at a high level in recent years, so if he shows any signs of struggle, don't be surprised if Lock pushes him for a chance to start. Lock has a swagger about him and all the tools to be a successful pro quarterback. You’ll want to watch Lock’s progress during camp and preseason action.
Injury watch: Tight end Jake Butt has not been able to stay healthy since entering the NFL. He has played just three games. He suffered a torn ACL last year and has now torn an ACL three different times. He has a long road back once again. Butt has some talent, though, and could push for playing time if he is able to come back healthy.
The big issue to watch this training camp is the holdout of star running back Melvin Gordon. He is seeking a new contract and says he will holdout until he gets a new deal or is traded. This is obviously a huge situation to monitor, especially after the Le’Veon Bell fiasco of last year. The longer Gordon holds out, the scarier this gets for fantasy teams.
Position battle: Running back Austin Ekeler should be the top backup to Gordon this year, but Justin Jackson will compete for that job. Jackson did pretty well with his chances last year and will try to unseat Ekeler for the top backup job. Ekeler has a clear advantage for the job but if Jackson keeps progressing, he can continue to get chances and move up the depth chart.
Injury watch: Tight end Hunter Henry missed all of last year because of a torn ACL suffered during the spring. Henry has been pretty close to full strength the last few months, though, and should be just fine for the start of the season. But even with that said, you’ll want to keep an eye on him in camp to make sure he doesn’t suffer any setbacks. This is a major injury to return. Anything can happen. But if healthy, Henry has the potential to be an elite fantasy tight end.
The Chiefs were really close last year to making the Super Bowl but came up just short. Can the team get over the hump this year? That is the big question. The other big question is Tyreek Hill. Will his presence impact the team negatively after his off the field issues? Hill avoided suspension but you can expect the Chiefs to field many questions on the matter in camp. Will this distraction impact the team? We should know soon enough.
Position battle: Damien Williams is the starter for the Chiefs but the backup job is up for grabs. Carlos Hyde was signed to fill that role but isn’t going to be handed the job. He will be pushed by rookie Darwin Thompson, who might bring more to the table than Hyde at this point. Thompson is a good runner and receiver, and seems like he could be a good fit for the offense. Hyde has the experience, though, and will get first shot at the job. He will need to show he has picked up the offense.
Injury watch: Tight end Travis Kelce had offseason ankle surgery. He is expected to be 100 percent for the start of training camp. He has not had setbacks in his recovery. Kelce is the clear No. 1 fantasy tight end, so making sure he is back to full strength is a good idea for fantasy teams. He should be fine but keep an eye on practice reports to be sure.
Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at email@example.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
Five Waiver Wire Adds: Week 3
Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller, who had 12 catches on a whopping 16 targets for 103 yards and a touchdown in the Monday night win over the Saints, had at least one reception from all four skill-position alignments. The breakdown was as follows: Fourteen routes at tight end (six catches, 44 yards and a TD), 12 routes from the slot (four catches, 37 yards), two routes as a wideout (one catch, 13 yards) and one route out of the backfield (one catch, nine yards). More than 52 percent of his 1,145 receiving yards in 2019 came after the catch, too. Only George Kittle had more yards after the catch. Waller has 586 receiving yards since Week 13 of last year. He's the real deal and is a must-start, high-end TE1 in fantasy. "It's been a long time since we've seen a guy like this," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. "He's definitely more than a receiver playing tight end." The Pats will look to contain Waller in Week 3.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said he's "not really" surprised that tight end Rob Gronkowski has just four targets in the first two games of the season. His lone target in the Week 2 win over the Panthers was intercepted. "We're not throwing the ball 50 times to the tight ends. That's what we have receivers for, that's the way our offense is built. Gronk's playing great run blocking in the fourth quarter, so I'm not concerned with his pass catches or his targets," Arians said. The 31-year-old is competing with a lot of aerial playmakers in Tampa, so he won't see close to the target share he saw in his prime with Tom Brady in New England. And as long as Gronk continues to block well, he may only get a handful of looks per game. He's become a low-end TE2 that's droppable in shallow leagues.
New York Giants running back Devonta Freeman, who signed a one-year deal worth up to $3 million on Tuesday, will officially sign his contract Wednesday morning and then practice with the team, and he could play as soon as this Sunday against the 49ers. Freeman reportedly turned down more money elsewhere because he like the opportunity with the Giants the most. He'll try to help replace Saquon Barkley (knee), who was lost for the year in Week 2. The 28-year-old should be a high waiver priority this week for those that lost Barkley or another running back last week, but he may be slow to get going as he learns this offense. The matchup against the Niners isn't the greatest, either. Expect to see more of Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman this week.
Free-agent DBs Blake Countess (Jets), Mark McLaurin (Giants), Obi Melifonwu (Patriots), Tyvis Powell (Broncos) and Abraham Wallace (Bills) tried out for the Indianapolis Colts Tuesday, Sept. 22.
Updating a previous story, free-agent RB Devonta Freeman (Falcons) officially agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $3 million with the New York Giants Tuesday, Sept. 22.
Fantasy Spin: It may take Freeman a couple weeks to get fully up to speed but he should eventually control the bulk of the touches out of the Giants' backfield. His dual-threat abilities should allow him to be a FLEX option most weeks.
Tennessee Titans LB Daren Bates, WR Cameron Batson, PK Tucker McCann and QB Trevor Siemian were designated as protected practice squad players Tuesday, Sept. 22.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR Deon Cain, LB Jayrone Elliott, DE Henry Mondeaux and RB Wendell Smallwood were named as the team's protected practice squad players for Week 3 Tuesday, Sept. 22.
Kansas City Chiefs DB Chris Lammons and RB DeAndre Washington were named as protected practice squad players Tuesday, Sept. 22.
Cleveland Browns QB Garrett Gilbert, RB Dontrell Hilliard, PK Matthew McCrane and OT Greg Senat were placed on the team's Week 3 protection list Tuesday, Sept. 22.
Dallas Cowboys DB Deante Burton, DE Ron'Dell Carter, DB Rashard Robinson and OT Eric Smith were named to the Week 3 protection list Tuesday, Sept. 22.
Houston Texans C Greg Mancz, DB Jonathan Owens, RB C.J. Prosise and WR Devin Smith were named to the Week 3 protection list Tuesday, Sept. 22.
Atlanta Falcons QB Kurt Benkert, P Cameron Nizialek, LB Edmond Robinson and WR Chris Rowland were named the team's protected practice squad players Tuesday, Sept. 22.
Cincinnati Bengals DE Freedom Akinmoladun, QB Brandon Allen, WR Stanley Morgan and G Keaton Sutherland were named as the team's protected practice squad players Tuesday, Sept. 22.
Pittsburgh Steelers NT Daniel McCullers terminated his practice squad contract Tuesday, Sept. 22.
Free-agent DE Muhammad Wilkerson (Packers) had his suspension lifted by commissioner Roger Goodell Tuesday, Sept. 22.
Free-agent RBs Paul Perkins (Ravens), Karan Higdon (Texans) and Austin Walter (Giants) are among the running backs trying out for the San Francisco 49ers.
Arizona Cardinals DE Jonathan Bullard, DE Michael Dogbe, RB Jonathan Ward and DB Jace Whittaker were protected from selection off the practice squad Tuesday, Sept. 22.
New Orleans Saints WR Bennie Fowler and DT Margus Hunt were bumped from the active list to the inactive list Tuesday, Sept. 22.
Baltimore Ravens TE Xavier Grimble (undisclosed) was added to the practice squad's injured list Tuesday, Sept. 22.