Mon Jul 29 10:49am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Newton is a question mark
This is the seventh 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 Falcons didn’t have the season as expected last year, failing to finish above .500. The big issue was the defense, allowing more than 400 points last year. The offense was very good with the passing game excelling. So much of this camp will be focused on getting the defense right. If that happens, the Falcons can make a playoff push.
Position battle: Receiver Calvin Ridley had a solid rookie season but was a little up and down. Mohamed Sanu is the starter opposite Julio Jones right now but could lose that starting spot to Ridley. Sanu has been a productive NFL player but isn’t off the charts by any means. Ridley is the more talented player of the two with more upside for the big things. He should push Sanu for playing time and likely take over as the starter at some point.
Injury watch: Running back Devonta Freeman played just two games last year, needing surgery to fix a groin injury. He is back to full strength and will be back to his lead duties for the Falcons. Atlanta needs him healthy with Tevin Coleman gone. Freeman will be counted on to carry the load a little more, so being healthy is pertinent for the Falcons and Freeman’s fantasy owners.
The Saints don’t have a lot to be decided this training camp. Much of camp could be getting this team primed for a Super Bowl run. There are high expectations for the team after a good showing last year. Drew Brees doesn’t have a whole lot of time left to make another Super Bowl, so this season could be a big one for his legacy.
Position battle: The Saints like to rotate receivers, giving plenty of guys chances during the season. But the starter opposite Michael Thomas still has a little more value than the other guys. Right now, Ted Ginn is the favorite to start but Tre’Quan Smith and a healthy Cameron Meredith could push Ginn for the starting spot. This will be a battle to watch because it has fantasy implications. Smith is an intriguing player that showed his rookie year he is capable of the huge game.
Injury watch: Receiver Ted Ginn played just five games last year because of a knee injury. If he hopes to have a big role this year and keep his starting job, he will need to be healthy and stay healthy. Ginn seems back to his old self during offseason workouts but his age and last year is a concern going forward for him.
The big thing to watch in Panthers camp this year is Cam Newton. How is he going to recover from another surgery to his throwing arm? Newton really is the key to the season for the Panthers. The team needs him healthy and playing at a high level if they hope to have any success this year. The offense really goes through Newton.
Position battle: D.J. Moore is going to start at one of the receiver spots and Curtis Samuel will work out of the slot, but the No. 2 receiver is up in the air. Devin Funchess is gone, leaving a hole at the position. The candidates to start are Jarius Wright, Torrey Smith and Chris Hogan. It really is a wide open battle without a favorite. We’ll know more as camp and the preseason progresses.
Injury watch: Quarterback Cam Newton had major shoulder surgery this offseason. He is throwing but will be on a pitch count in camp. The Panthers will take it slow with their star quarterback. Newton has progressed well from the surgery but seeing how he is throwing the ball will be something fantasy teams should monitor closely. Newton is a real wild card this year after having shoulder surgery once again.
The Bucs made changes to the coaching staff once again, hiring Bruce Arians. He should be a big plus for the offense, including starting quarterback Jameis Winston. So the big focus of camp is likely being the Bucs getting up to speed both offensively and defensively with their new schemes. Hopefully, the offense picks things up quick because it could be pretty potent from a fantasy perspective.
Position battle: The Bucs should have a real battle on their hands for the starting running back spot. Peyton Barber was the starter last year and has a leg up for the job, but second-year back Ronald Jones is looking to rebound from a poor rookie year. A new coaching staff should be a plus for Jones, who had a strong offseason of work. Jones should be given a fair shot to unseat Barber.
Injury watch: Tight end O.J. Howard had a breakout season last year but missed six gams because of an ankle injury. He is yet to play a full season since entering the NFL. He has a chance for another big year but needs to be on the field for that to happen. Howard has not shown he can on the field to date but hopes to change that perception this season. He could be a star.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
Five Fantasy Takeaways from Week 3
The Houston Texans have brought in All-Pro safety Earl Thomas for a workout, and a source said that the team is more likely to sign him this week than not. The Ravens released the seven-time Pro Bowler in August after Thomas had an on-field altercation with teammate Chuck Clark. Houston placed safety A.J. Moore (hamstring) on Injured Reserve on Monday, but he's expected to return this year. Thomas will replace Eric Murray in the starting lineup if he signs this week after his COVID-19 testing. Murray played 91 percent of the defensive snaps in the Week 3 loss to the Steelers and struggled in coverage. The Texans Defense is one of three teams without an interception through three weeks, so they'll be hoping that Thomas can help them in the takeaway department. His 30 interceptions since he entered the NFL in 2010 rank third in the league. Houston's defense has allowed at least 28 points in all three games in 2020.
New York Jets head coach Adam Gase remains committed to struggling quarterback Sam Darnold after an 0-3 start. Darnold had three interceptions -- two which were returned for touchdowns -- in the Week 3 blowout loss to the Colts. Veteran backup Joe Flacco (neck) underwent surgery in April and has been out the first three games. Flacco didn't start practicing until last week and might be inactive again this Thursday against the Broncos. Mike White, who has no regular season experience, is currently the backup until Flacco gets healthy. It's not all Darnold's fault, as Gang Green's best offensive players -- Le'Veon Bell, Jamison Crowder and Breshad Perriman -- have all been sidelined by injuries in recent weeks. Until further notice, it's best to avoid this entire offense, even against a banged-up Broncos Defense in Week 4. Darnold has 32 interceptions in 29 career starts.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins (concussion, neck) is active for Monday night's meeting against the Baltimore Ravens. An inconsistent weapon for quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Watkins is best viewed as a risky DFS play this week for fantasy managers looking to differentiate their lineups from everyone else's, because you can't bet on Watkins having a solid night against a strong Ravens Defense. Still, the possibility that he finds the end zone will always exist in this high-powered Chiefs offense.
Baltimore Ravens running back Justice Hill is a healthy scratch on Monday night against the Chiefs, making it three weeks in a row that the second-year back hasn't played. Fantasy managers had high hopes for Hill last year, but it's become clear that he's not going to have a consistent role -- or even any role -- in Baltimore. Hill shouldn't be rostered in redraft leagues and is barely rosterable in shallow dynasty leagues.
San Francisco 49ers tight end Jordan Reed (knee) left Sunday's game against the New York Giants after injuring his knee on an end zone target. According to head coach Kyle Shanahan, Reed has a significant knee sprain that could keep him out between six and eight weeks. This is awful news for Reed, who has struggled with injuries throughout his career. He can be dropped in all fantasy leagues at this point. Hopefully he'll be able to progress through the injury and return later in the year.
New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton said he was unhappy with how he played in the Week 3 win over the Raiders when he went 17-for-28 for 162 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Newton also ran nine times for only 27 yards. "Me, personally? With lackluster ball security, just a slow start offensively, this is subpar performance. I know I can play better, I know I can do better and I know I will be better," Newton said. New England had plenty of success on the ground in this one, so they didn't really need to rely on the former MVP. Newton definitely won't have QB1 upside each and every week with his new team, but he'll have plenty of rebound potential in a Week 4 game that could be a shootout with the Chiefs.
Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo (groin) is expected to miss time with a groin strain and could be placed on the short-term Injured Reserve, which would cause him to miss at least three weeks. It's a blow for fantasy managers that have been enjoying Koo's contributions in the early part of the season. The 26-year-old has been a top-five fantasy kicker, with eight of nine field-goal attempts made in Atlanta's high-scoring offense. The Falcons will be in the market for another kicker this week with Koo expected to miss up to three weeks. You'll have to look elsewhere for a fantasy kicker in the meantime, with Koo being droppable in most formats.
Dallas Cowboys linebacker Aldon Smith is the NFL's leader in sacks through three weeks with four, ahead of T.J. Watt and Akiem Hicks, who both have 3.5. It's surprising, since Smith hadn't played a down of football since 2015 entering the 2020 season. Despite his three sacks of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in Week 3, the MVP front-runner managed to throw for 315 yards and five touchdowns. The 31-year-old Smith has been one of a few bright spots for a Cowboys Defense early this year, and he's become a must-add in all IDP formats. Smith has four of the team's six sacks on the year, and they're allowing the fifth-most passing yards per game (287.7).
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy confirmed that running back Tarik Cohen (knee) tore his ACL in the Week 3 win over the Falcons, and he'll be placed on Injured Reserve for the rest of the season. It's a tough loss for the Bears, as Cohen was a nice pass-catching option out of the backfield and was difficult to bring down in space. The 25-year-old finishes the 2020 season with 14 carries for 74 yards and six catches for 41 yards in three games. Ryan Nall will have a bigger role as the backup to David Montgomery, but wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson might see more touches out of the backfield in a hybrid role in Nagy's offense. Patterson probably won't be worth a waiver-wire addition in the majority of leagues, but he's worth watching.
Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams (groin) and rookie linebacker Jordyn Brooks (knee) were both injured in the team's Week 3 win over the Cowboys. Adams left the game with a groin strain and is day-to-day, while Brooks is dealing with an MCL sprain and will likely miss a couple of weeks. Adams, who is the top IDP safety each and every week, should have a shot to play in Week 4 against the Dolphins. Brooks' injury is concerning since Bruce Irvin is already out for the season with an injury. Seattle's defense has allowed a league-high 439.7 passing yards per game through three weeks, so even in a nice matchup with Miami, they're a bit of a reach right now as a streaming option for fantasy managers.
Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio said that running back Phillip Lindsay (toe) is "trending in the right direction" to play on Thursday night against the Jets. However, if Lindsay does play after missing the last two weeks, he'll be on a limited snap count. Even against a weak Jets Defense in Week 4, Lindsay would be a stretch as a flex option in standard 12-team fantasy leagues if he returns. It's good news for a Broncos team that has been decimated by injuries to key positions in 2020, but it'll be bad news for Melvin Gordon III, who was splitting touches with Lindsay almost evenly in the first half of Week 1 before Lindsay suffered his injury.
Indianapolis Colts rookie wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (calf) underwent surgery to fix compartment leg syndrome in his calf on Sunday night, according to a source. The surgery was a success, but Pittman won't return until after the team's Week 7 bye. This could've been a lot worse for the rookie from USC, but he'll thankfully be able to return in 2020. With Parris Campbell on Injured Reserve, Zach Pascal's role will continue to grow as the No. 2 wideout behind T.Y. Hilton, albeit in an offense that has become very run-heavy. Pittman had nine catches on 12 targets for 73 yards in his three games before the injury. He can probably be dropped in shallow leagues for now, while Pascal is worth a flier off the waiver wire in deeper leagues.
The Houston Texans are conducting a visit with free-agent safety Earl Thomas on Monday after he was released by the Ravens on Aug. 23. Thomas would need to pass COVID-19 testing in order to play with Houston, but he'd be a big-name addition to the Texans secondary as they look to get in the win column in Week 4 against the Vikings. There is mutual interest between Houston and Thomas, and he'd certainly be an upgrade over current safety duo of Eric Murray and Justin Reid. Even though the Texans Defense has allowed just 217.3 passing yards per game through three weeks, they've scored just 2.3 fantasy points per game and are one of just three teams without an interception yet.
New York Jets head coach Adam Gase said that the team received good news on rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton (shoulder), who was forced to miss the team's Week 3 loss to the Colts. "The MRI turned out better than really we were thinking last night. Well see how he gets through the week and possibly he can play in this game," Gase said. The Jets really needed some good injury news given all of their injured offensive skill players early this season. Becton has been a bright spot on the team's offensive line through two games, and they'll need him this Thursday as they attempt to win their first game of the season against the winless Broncos.
Baltimore Ravens CB Tavon Young (knee) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Monday, Sept. 28. S Jordan Richards was elevated from the practice squad to replace him on the roster.
Jacksonville Jaguars DT Timmy Jernigan was released Monday, Sept. 28.
Jacksonville Jaguars DL Daniel Ekuale was elevated from the practice squad Monday, Sept. 28. Jacksonville also waived PK Brandon Wright, place LB Leon Jacobs (knee) on the Reserve/Injured list and signed OL Jared Hilbers to the practice squad.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin (hamstring) is scheduled to undergo an MRI on the hamstring injury Monday, Sept. 28, he suffered in Week 3 against the Denver Broncos.
Fantasy Spin: While he's been very productive when he's been on the field, it's been a rough start physically this season for Godwin, who missed Week 2 with a concussion he suffered in the opener. If Godwin is forced to miss some more time, Scott Miller would likely jump right back into the discussion as a possible flex option in deeper leagues. Godwin's absence would also likely mean more production for Mike Evans, who posted a 7-104-1 line without his tag-team buddy around in Week 2.
Updating a previous report, Denver Broncos DT Jurrell Casey (biceps) was diagnosed with a biceps tear Monday, Sept. 28, and will miss the rest of the season, according to head coach Vic Fangio.