Guest of the League
Aurelio Sanchez Memorial League Est. 2007
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
Josh Malone Aug 23 6:30am ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Josh Malone pulled in two receptions for 11 yards and a touchdown during Thursday's loss to the Giants, connecting on a 2-yard pass from quarterback Jacob Dolegala with over two minutes left in the fourth. While Malone continues to fight for a meaningful spot, his 11 targets during the preseason would suggest that there is a place for him in the lineup, especially early on with the injuries to A.J. Green (foot), John Ross (hamstring), and Trayveon Williams (foot), with their return dates being unknown at the moment.

From RotoBaller

Mason Crosby Aug 23 6:10am ET

Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby hit both of his extra-point attempts in the preseason matchup against the Oakland Raiders. Crosby has been leading the kicking matchup with Sam Ficken throughout camp. Ficken converted his single point after attempt too. At this point, the veteran has certainly edged ahead and is likely to take the spot on the roster.

From RotoBaller

Ryan Finley Aug 23 6:10am ET

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Ryan Finley went 14-for-20 for 155 yards during Thursday's loss to the New York Giants. While the rookie didn't find the end zone in this one, he has been solid the entire preseason, compiling 414 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception on 47-for-64 passing. Though he is likely locked into the team's backup spot behind veteran quarterback Andy Dalton to start the season, he could move into a starting role at some point if Dalton is unable to adjust to coach Zac Taylor's offensive playbook. Keep an eye on this situation, especially in 14-team leagues and up.

From RotoBaller

Andy Dalton Aug 23 6:00am ET

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton went 7-for-10 for 104 yards and a touchdown during Thursday's preseason loss to the Giants. While the first two drives for Dalton resulted in punts, the 31-year-old connected on a 26-yard pass to tight end C.J. Uzomah late in the first quarter before calling it a night. As Dalton continues to become familiar with the offensive schemes of new head coach Zac Taylor, backup Ryan Finley has been solid throughout the preseason while also outplaying the veteran, compiling 414 yards and three touchdowns on 47-for-64 passing. Though Dalton is slated to start the season as the team's main signal-caller, Finley could have his number called at some point if the team begins to struggle.

From RotoBaller

Rashan Gary Aug 23 6:00am ET

On a strange matchup against the Oakland Raiders, rookie Rashan Gary left the field with an injury. The rookie is thought to not miss too much time, but it would be a concern for the team. The Packers DST was nowhere near full strength against the Raiders, with a number of starters missing the game due to issues with the field. The Packers finished the game with a single sack and no tackles for loss or interceptions. The Packers addressed their need for pass rush this offseason and could be a good streaming option for fantasy owners this season.

From RotoBaller

J'Mon Moore Aug 23 5:50am ET

Green Bay Packers wide receiver J'mon Moore continued his recent struggles against the Oakland Raiders. Moore finished the game having caught his single target for five yards, and faces a struggle to make the roster. Moore has struggled throughout the preseason process and other players have impressed- pushing him further down the depth chart. Fantasy owners should look elsewhere for a dynasty stash.

From RotoBaller

Jimmy Graham Aug 23 5:50am ET

Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham missed the preseason encounter against the Oakland Raiders, due to issues with the field. Graham was one of a number of starters who sat on the sidelines. Graham may have been limited, regardless of the field, due to a finger injury that he picked up in training. However, the veteran tight end has impressed in training camp and could be a great late-round pickup for fantasy owners.

From RotoBaller

Jace Sternberger Aug 23 5:50am ET

Green Bay Packers tight end Jace Sternberger missed the preseason encounter against the Oakland Raiders, due to issues with the field. Sternberger was one of a number of starters who sat on the sidelines. Sternberger may have been limited, regardless of the field, due to his limited involvement in practice through injury. The rookie tight end has impressed in training camp and could be a good dynasty stash, or a waiver wire pickup if Jimmy Graham misses time.

From RotoBaller

Equanimeous St. Brown Aug 23 5:40am ET

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown suffered an apparent serious injury during the matchup against the Raiders. St. Brown caught one of his four targets for seven yards. However, St. Brown was limited after he suffered an injury to his leg and ankle area. With the other players ahead of him, it's more likely that St. Brown is a cut candidate than someone with fantasy value this season.

From RotoBaller

Jake Kumerow Aug 23 5:40am ET

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jake Kumerow scored a touchdown in the preseason encounter against the Oakland Raiders. Kumerow finished the game catching two of his four targets for 20 yards and a single touchdown. Kumerow has had a string of impressive performances in training camp and preseason and looks to have won the battle to be the next man up. Kumerow is unlikely to be drafted by fantasy owners but could be a great waiver wire add during the season.

From RotoBaller

Rodney Anderson Aug 23 5:40am ET

Cincinnati Bengals running back Rodney Anderson only had seven yards on eight carries on Thursday against the Giants, but he looked splendid as a receiver, compiling four receptions (four targets) for 51 yards on the night. Fantasy managers will want to monitor Anderson's progress moving forward, especially during the team's final preseason matchup against the Colts, as he could a meaningful role early in the regular season with the absences of A.J. Green (Foot), Trayveon Williams (Foot), and John Ross (hamstring).

From RotoBaller

Trevor Davis Aug 23 5:30am ET

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Trevor Davis returned from injury and impressed in the matchup against the Oakland Raiders. Davis finished the game catching five of his six targets for 78 yards and a touchdown, and also added 18 yards on a rushing attempt. Davis has had impressive flashes in camp this season and has performed on special teams. However, Davis faces a struggle for regular-season game time with Jake Kumerow looking as though he would be the next man up.

From RotoBaller

Allen Lazard Aug 23 5:30am ET

Green Bay Packers wide receiver left the field with an injury during the matchup with the Oakland Raiders. Lazard ended his game, after catching two of four targets for 24 yards. Lazard looks to be on the roster bubble, with other players at the position having looked impressive. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has previously said that Lazard is talented enough to play in the NFL. However, it looks likely that won't be for the Green Bay Packers.

From RotoBaller

Giovani Bernard Aug 23 5:30am ET

Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard had four yards on three carries in addition to a reception during Thursday's preseason loss to the New York Giants. With Joe Mixon (rest) and Trayveon Williams (foot) out of the lineup, Bernard got in a little work on a night that saw Rodney Anderson, the team's potential third-string back, run for seven yards on eight carries. As the Bengals head into the final preseason matchup with the Colts, don't expect Bernard to be featured as he has a firm lock as the reserve to Mixon while also serving as a quasi-receiver out of the backfield.

From RotoBaller

Davante Adams Aug 23 5:20am ET

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams missed the preseason encounter against the Oakland Raiders, due to issues with the field. Adams was one of a number of starters who sat on the sidelines. Adams has had a limited opportunity in the new offense in the preseason, but given his talent fantasy owners shouldn't be too concerned. Adams is the clear number one option for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and has a great opportunity to finish as the number one fantasy receiver this season.

From RotoBaller

Marquez Valdes-Scantling Aug 23 5:20am ET

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling missed the preseason encounter against the Oakland Raiders, due to issues with the field. Valdes-Scantling was one of a number of starters who sat on the sidelines. Valdes-Scantling has had a limited opportunity in the new offense in the preseason, but given his talent fantasy owners shouldn't be too concerned. Valdes-Scantling has established himself as one of the starting trio of receivers for Packers this season. If the Packers offense takes a step forward from last season, then the receiver could be a great option in the middle rounds.

From RotoBaller

Tra Carson Aug 23 5:10am ET

Green Bay Packers running back Tra Carson managed to get into the end zone in the preseason matchup against the Oakland Raiders. The Packers opted to go with the duo of Carson and Dexter Williams in the encounter. Carson finished the game with 32 yards and a touchdown from nine carries and caught a pass for 11 yards. Carson has struggled on the field during preseason, and if he were to make the roster he would be buried behind Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and Dexter Williams

From RotoBaller

Aaron Jones Aug 23 5:10am ET

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones missed the preseason matchup against the Oakland Raiders, due to the issues with the field. Jones is yet to take any meaningful snaps in the new offense but is thought to be the starting running back. The Packers may opt to put him in the team's last matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. Jones has great fantasy value this season if he is able to remain healthy.

From RotoBaller

Jamaal Williams Aug 23 5:10am ET

Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams missed the preseason matchup against the Oakland Raiders, due to issues with the field. Williams recently returned to practice after suffering a hamstring issue and would have been itching to get on the field. Williams is the likely handcuff for starting running back Aaron Jones and could have fantasy value if the carries are split amongst the two. Given Williams ADP, he is a great late-round pickup for fantasy owners.

From RotoBaller

Dexter Williams Aug 23 5:00am ET

Green Bay Packers running back Dexter Williams struggled to make an impact in the team's third preseason matchup against the Oakland Raiders. Williams was given the ball 11 times, rushing for 27 yards and caught a single pass for five yards. Williams still looks to be the leading contender for the third roster spot, behind Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. Dexter Williams is only likely to have fantasy value this season if one of the two players ahead of him missed time.

From RotoBaller