We scour the news around the NFL to bring you what matters most to you and your dynasty team: the most current news on players, both superstars and the relative unknowns, and analysis to decipher the respective situations. These are many of the major stories and not meant to be an exhaustive look at all the recent happenings around the league.
It is never a good sign for an offensive coordinator to call out a first-round draft pick to the media. It is even worse if the player is a quarterback. But, this happened in Baltimore this past week. When asked about Lamar Jackson scrambling and taking hits outside of the pocket, Marty Mornhinweg replied, “Yeah, that's not good … It's just that simple.” To make matter worse for the rookie is the fact that he had not slid to avoid a defender in the first two preseason game. He is taking big hits. While we are confident in Jackson’s long-term prospects, he needs to improve inside the pocket and out. As Jackson has struggled, Joe Flacco has not. The veteran seems motivated by the selection of Jackson in the NFL Draft. Given Flacco’s contract, strong play by Jackson could push Flacco off the 2019 Ravens roster.
It was rough seeing the budding play-maker Derrius Guice go down with an ACL injury in a preseason game. He has already had the surgery to fix the torn ACL and should be back by Week 1 2019. But, Guice’s absence creates a void in the Washington offense. The team signed an aging Adrian Peterson, but hopes should be tempered. Chris Thompson is the only back to own in the backfield this season. But, the injury opens a buy-low opportunity for dynasty owners. Guice is still just 21 years of age and looked great in training camp.
Jenna Laine covers the Buccaneers for ESPN. She had a tweet last week that sent tongues wagging. No, rookie tailback Ronald Jones II has not played well in training camp or preseason. But, her tweet sent shockwaves through dynasty leagues. Laine wrote, “Most telling thing for me in my chat with Bucs RBs coach Tim Spencer is when he said, ‘In college, there’s probably a reason they only threw to [Ronald Jones] 17 times.’ They’re working at it though.” We have seen this before. Coach uses the media to motivate a young player. If you liked Jones as a collegiate, now is a great time to buy him in dynasty leagues.
Some beat writers offer great fantasy perspective. One such writer is Jeff Legwold who covers the Broncos. Legwold wrote last week that rookie Royce Freeman will be the primary ball carrier sooner than later. He wrote, "Now, that might not mean 250 carries … but he's going to get work and already blocks well enough to play on third down and in some of the open formations. And he'll get red zone chances, too." With just Devontae Booker competing for early-down work, Freeman should be locked in for 200-plus carries.
Piggybacking on the Jones blurb above, Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter told the media that Peyton Barber is the team’s starting running back. Koetter said, "He's doing everything he should be doing right now and I think if we went out there and gave it to Peyton 20 times, we'd like what he does … I think I can see us as that one-two punch, just how the Saints do it with Alvin (Kamara) and Mark (Ingram)." The comment this late in training camp should be heeded. Barber is still trading at a discount. Koetter went on to say, "We're definitely going to use Ronald Jones and take advantage of what he's going to do …Again, we've got more preseason games. Let's just let it sort out a little more." With a suspended quarterback and difficult opening schedule, the Buccaneers likely will have a lacking running game for the first part of the 2018 season.
Just when fantasy hopes were cresting, Jeff Howe reported last week that Patriots all-purpose back Rex Burkhead is dealing with a "slight tear" in his knee. While most see the injury as minor, it could linger throughout the season and hinder the late-season upside of Burkhead. The injury makes James White a sneaky stash in dynasty leagues.
After the release of Terrance West, it is now Jonathan Williams who has emerged as the favorite for early-down work while Mark Ingram II serves his suspension. He has played well in training camp. Rookie Boston Scott is the only other competitor. In the end, Williams should see some work, but it will be Alvin Kamara who sees the uptick in touches, much to the delight of fantasy owners.
The news outlets and Twitter were abuzz after the arrest of rookie Antonio Callaway for marijuana possession. For a player who battled off-field issues throughout his college career, this was far from unexpected. The fourth-round pick has asserted that the marijuana is not his but was stashed in his car by another person before the vehicle was shipped from Florida to Cleveland. Surprisingly, the team has backed the player but told him he is on a “short leash.” We fully expect the NFL offices to issue a short suspension in the matter. The incident has overshadowed a strong training camp. In fact, Calloway has played so well that Cleveland shipped Corey Coleman off for a future seventh-round pick … so, almost nothing. We are cheering for Calloway to get things turned around. He has so much talent.
Rookie Deon Cain was starting to assert himself in the Colts lineup before tearing his ACL. This is a tough break for a talented pass catcher. If his owner drops him, pick him up. Cain has big-time upside. Early reports had Cain as the star of training camp. Indianapolis now has little threat opposite T.Y. Hilton. Rookie Daurice Fountain has been slow to emerge. Ryan Grant and Chester Rogers are playing but not producing. The beneficiaries are Jack Doyle and Hilton, Andrew Luck’s trusted receivers.
Beat writer Michael DiRocco wrote last week that rookie D.J. Chark Jr has been the "most impressive receiver" at training camp. The second-round selection is already playing on the second team. He languished in an inert LSU offense in college so many may not be familiar with Chark’s large frame and unique athleticism. Jacksonville has depth at the receiver position and does not throw the ball often. This is a combination for a year-two breakout as the rookie gets up to speed.
After George Kittle separated his shoulder, many wondered about his availability for the season opener. But, San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan has told the media that he expects Kittle to be ready for Week 1. Kittle offers upside and the injury creates a buying opportunity if his owner is impatient.
An aging player who could surprise this season is the Saints' Ben Watson. He is still in great shape at 37-years young. Mark Ingram II jokingly said that Watson's impressive physique makes him look like an "Under Armor mannequin." While he may not have many years left in his career, Watson has been effective the last two, especially in 2016 with New Orleans.
Beat writer Manish Mehta recently wrote that the Jets "absolutely love" rookie tight end, Chris Herndon. The fourth-round from Miami is athletic and has little competition. After the departure of Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, the New York tight end job is wide open.
A name to remember in dynasty leagues is Ian Thomas, the Panthers rookie tight end. The fourth-round pick is showing off his skills throughout training camp and preseason. The Charlotte Observer's Joseph Person calls Thomas the "biggest surprise" of Panthers camp. The beat reporter went on to say that Thomas has been "consistently finding open lanes in the secondary and pulling down intermediate-length passes." Considering the age and injury history of Greg Olsen, Thomas makes a great dynasty bottom-of-the-roster stash.