We all have a lot on our minds right now and the lull in the offseason news cycle after the draft encouraged a lot of us to tune out for the last few months, even as camps opened. Even though the pads aren’t on yet, there has been a flurry of meaningful news since camps opened that we need to incorporate into our projection of the 2020 season. If you are just starting to think about preparing for fantasy drafts (or whether to even play fantasy football this year), this is the article you need to get up to speed.
Antonio Brown was given an eight-game suspension for violating the league’s conduct policy. If he is signed in Seattle or Baltimore, he won’t affect team projections until at least Week 10... the league allowed teams to call up a practice squad player up to 90 minutes before kickoff if a player tests positive for coronavirus or has to be quarantined after the Saturday 4 pm deadline for practice squad call-ups, another sign that they expect more game-day roster shuffling than usual in 2020… With college football in question for 2020, there has been talk that the NFL will move a few games to Saturdays to fill the sports hole on television, which would change DFS and lineup setting considerations
Right tackle Marcus Gilbert opted out of the 2020 season. He didn’t play for the team last year but was supposed to be in the mix to start along with Justin Murray and rookie Josh Jones. It’s not a huge blow for the Cardinals offensive line it does give them a smaller margin of error at the position… Tight end Dan Arnold had a strong finish to 2019 after being claimed from the Saints and he has generated some buzz as a possible breakout candidate in 2020. The Cardinals' red zone woes could be helped by Arnold’s huge frame. Keep him on your watch list in deep leagues and tight end premium leagues.
The Falcons signed Darqueze Dennard, who should challenge to start or at least play a large role in a very inexperienced secondary. Let this be a reminder that the Falcons secondary should allow the Seahawks and Cowboys passing games to get off to a hot start in Weeks 1 and 2.
Center Matt Skura was placed on the PUP list to open training camp, but he is on schedule to return soon and possibly play in the season opener, which would be a good break for an offensive line that lost potential Hall of Fame guard Marshal Yanda to retirement this summer… early buzz around the crowded backfield indicates that the team will let it sort itself out in camp and that they could use all four running backs in a “good problem to have” situation.
Starting right guard Jon Feliciano suffered a torn pec that will cost him about half of the season. This coincided with the Jets' release of Brian Winters, so the Bills brought Winters in on a one year, three million dollar contract to replace Feliciano. The Bills adjusted to a slew of new starters on the offensive line last year and should be able to incorporate Winters with minimal turbulence.
The Panthers released Graham Gano to resolve their kicker competition before it even started. The move will save them about 2.8 million dollars in cap space. Joey Slye was very good last year, putting the Carolina kicker situation in good feet… Russell Okung missed more than half of last season because of a blood clot in his lungs, which makes coronavirus more dangerous for him. He considered opting out and could retire if the number of positives around the NFL or on the Panthers goes up in an alarming way. Okung is by far the best pass blocker on the line and his presence is one of the keys to making the Teddy Bridgewater pass offense go.
Defensive tackle Eddie Goldman opted out of the 2020 season. The team has the players on the interior offensive line to keep the level of play acceptable, but the loss of Goldman is at least a blow to the run defense, which the Lions will certainly test early and often in Week 1.
A.J. Green looked like his old self at the open of training camp and he said his offseason training included measures to help prevent the ankle/foot injuries that have derailed three of the last four seasons… New starting cornerback Trae Waynes suffered a torn pectoral muscle and could miss time into October, upgrading early matchups for the Chargers and Browns wide receivers.
Jarvis Landry started camp on the PUP list but was quickly activated. He had offseason hip surgery that was delayed because he had hoped to avoid it, but early indications are that he’ll be ready for a Week 1 matchup against a Bengals secondary that will be missing Trae Waynes.
Any suspense in the kicker competition between Greg Zuerlein and Kai Forbath ended with the release of Forbath, who didn’t miss a field goal or extra point attempt for the Cowboys last year and should be one of the first kickers called when a team realizes they need to address the position later this summer.
Right tackle Ju’Wuan James opted out of the 2020 season, leaving Elijah Wilkinson as the best option on the roster, but the team had a visit with former Buccaneers starter Demar Dotson and might have signed him by the time you read this.
Geronimo Allison opted out of the 2020 season, and the team released Travis Fulgham (who was claimed by division rival Green Bay) and Chris Lacy, two players who have been hanging around the roster in search of future opportunity at outside receiver. Fifth-round pick Quintez Cephus has a clear path to making the roster and even getting a few snaps and targets this year. He would be in line to start if Marvin Jones Jr misses time or the team trades him before the deadline a la Golden Tate in 2018.
Devin Funchess opted out for the 2020 season, eliminating perhaps the top competition for Allen Lazard at #2 receiver. Lazard has also been the subject of a lot of positive offseason press. The #2 receiver job is his to lose in an offense that doesn’t have an established target after Davante Adams.
Kenny Stills was placed on the NFI list with an illness (which could be code for a failed conditioning test) while Will Fuller V showed up to camp ready to go after offseason groin surgery. There were rumors that Stills was considering an opt-out and until he is activated, we shouldn’t assume that it’s 100% certain he’ll be with the team, as they could be extending his timeline to unofficially opt-out. The Texans wide receiver group will also be incorporating offseason acquisitions Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks.
T.Y. Hilton started camp on the NFI list with a hamstring injury he suffered during offseason workouts. He was reassuring, saying he’ll be back in the next week, but if he’s not, we should be worried about an injury-riddled repeat of 2019… The early expectation is that Jonathan Taylor and Marlon Mack will split work to start the season, but according to Zac Keefer of the Athletic, Frank Reich likes riding the hot hand and if Taylor gets off to a good start, he could take over.
Yannick Ngakoue didn’t report to camp and ended up changing agents in a sign that he’s not happy with how his situation is proceeding. There’s a perception that the Jaguars are drawing the line with Ngakoue after how the Jalen Ramsey situation turned out last year, and they will not trade him despite his demands.
Damien Williams opted out of the 2020 season in the biggest opt-out development around fantasy football circles. Clyde Edwards-Helaire immediately jumped up to the first round of drafts, and DeAndre Washington is getting closer to the 10th-12th round range every day. The Chiefs also had the first opt-out of the season when starting guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif decided to work in health care in Canada instead of playing this year. The team did describe him missing a few games last year, and they signed Kelechi Osemele to bolster the depth and breadth of options to replace the good doctor.
Third-round pick Bryan Edwards dropped in the draft because of offseason foot surgery, but he showed up to camp at 100% and immediately impressed onlookers. Henry Ruggs III also reportedly will get work in the slot, which adds up to a lot of uncertainty in the wide receiver group after Jon Gruden he’s not against playing rookies if they earn it.
The Chargers joined the Browns in locking up their top-end talent at defensive at current market rate despite the looming cap reductions for 2021 when they signed Joey Bosa to a five-year, 125 million dollar deal with 102 million guaranteed, the most for a defensive player in NFL history. That could mean that Melvin Ingram III will be allowed to leave in free agency next year, opening up a starting spot for 2018 second-round pick Uchenna Nwosu.
Offseason free-agent signing A'Shawn Robinson was placed on the NFI list with a heart condition and it sounds like he will miss regular-season time as the team takes it slow with his recovery. This should improve the outlook for opposing running games, including the Cowboys and Seahawks in the first two weeks of the season.
The Dolphins wide receiver group has a lot of question marks heading into the season as Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns both opted out of the 2020 season and Preston Williams is still recovering from a 2019 ACL tear. The team is cautiously optimistic that Williams will be ready for Week 1, but expect DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki to get off to hot starts while Williams gets back up to speed. Jakeem Grant, Isaiah Ford, and recent free-agent signing Chester Rogers will compete for playing time behind Parker and Williams.
After a summer of drama following a statement that Dalvin Cook wouldn’t show up to camp without an extension, Cook… showed up to camp without an extension. He and the team could still get something done before the season to torpedo Alexander Mattison’s dynasty value, but it’s clear that Cook will be the lead back for 2020 as long as he is healthy.
The Patriots had an epidemic of opt-outs that left them without key starters on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Cancer survivor Marcus Cannon opted out, leaving the team with Korey Cunningham as the next in line at right tackle. They could also move elite guard Joe Thuney to right tackle if Cunningham doesn’t work out. The last of the three 2019 starting linebackers, Dont'a Hightower, also opted out, which may put Ja'Whaun Bentley in an every-down role. Starting strong safety Patrick Chung opted up, which puts second-round pick Kyle Dugger on track to start if he’s ready with free agent pick Adrian Phillips situated as his main competition… Sony Michel started camp on the PUP list after offseason toe surgery, and the team signed Lamar Miller in a bad sign for their trust in him this year. He’s not a sure thing to play in Week 1… In better news, Mohamed Sanu was quickly activated from the PUP list after offseason ankle surgery, and Cam Newton avoided the PUP list to open training camp.
Alvin Kamara said he suffered a tear in his knee last year, which we can only deduce was to his MCL, and that he had a lot of rehab in the offseason. Since he wasn’t on the PUP list to start camp, we’ll assume that there is no reason to change Kamara’s outlook this year in light of this new and more specific information.
New York Giants
Tackle Nate Solder opted out of the 2020 season, leaving No. 4 overall pick Andrew Thomas as the most likely starter at left tackle and Cam Fleming and Nick Gates the top candidates at right tackle. Gates can also play center and was just given a two-year, 6.8 million dollar extension… DeAndre Baker was charged with four counts of armed robbery after an offseason incident and the team appears to moving forward as if they will not have him for the 2020 season after they tried to sign Ross Cockrell, who played with the other starter, big-ticket free agent signing James Bradberry in Carolina, but that fell through and they are back to the drawing board at CB2. The Giants face the Steelers dynamic wide receiver group to open the season… Aldrick Rosas was released after an offseason hit and run incident resulted in criminal charges. Chandler Catanzaro was signed to replace him, but the Giants could look to the free agent market if Catanzaro, who retired during 2019 camp, isn’t sharp.
New York Jets
Brian Winters was released at the open of camp in a move that will save the Jets over seven million dollars in cap space. Greg Van Roten is the top candidate to replace Winters, who promptly signed with the Bills for three million dollars… C.J. Mosley opted out for the 2020 season, which is a massive blow to the Jets defense… the Jets also traded Jamal Adams to the Seahawks for two first-round picks, a small pick bump, and Bradley McDougald. Put all of this together and the Jets join the Panthers and Jaguars among the favorites for the #1 pick in 2021.
Marquise Goodwin opted out for the 2020 season, which gives the Eagles one less speed option on the outside. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and first-round pick Jalen Reagor will likely battle for the X position while Alshon Jeffery is recovering from offseason foot surgery that could put him on the PUP list to open the season after he opened camp on the PUP list… Jatavis Brown retired unexpectedly, which hurts the depth of a linebacker unit that was already one of the most inexperienced in the league.
Diontae Johnson showed up to camp fully recovered from offseason groin surgery. He said he played part of his rookie season with the injury, which indicates that he could be even better in 2020, especially with the return of Ben Roethlisberger, who avoided the PUP list to open camp in a good sign for his ability to get back to his previous form after an elbow injury destroyed his (and the Steelers) 2019.
The 49ers signed Jordan Reed, who Kyle Shanahan knows from their time together in Washington in 2013. This probably reflects on the team’s issues at wide receiver as much as it is for tight end depth and shouldn’t be considered a reason to downgrade George Kittle… Jerick McKinnon looked good to open camp and should be considered the favorite to be the team’s passing-down back if he can make it through camp healthy.
The Seahawks defense improved more than any other over the last month when they added Jamal Adams from the Jets for two first-round picks and Bradley McDougald... The defense also got a big break from Quinton Dunbar was not charged in the armed robbery incident that might have ended DeAndre Baker’s career. Dunbar was removed from the commissioner’s exempt list and should be in line to start in the secondary… Chris Carson avoided the PUP list to start camp after his 2019 ended with a hip injury, putting him on track to be the Week 1 starter vs. Atlanta.
The Bucs signed LeSean McCoy in a move that is probably more about Dare Ogunbowale and third-round pick Ke'Shawn Vaughn than Ronald Jones II, who was endorsed as the lead back by head coach Bruce Arians. McCoy should be the passing down back for Tom Brady and could have value if Jones flops in his third year after being a second-round pick in 2018.
Corey Davis started camp on the PUP list while he is still recovering from offseason toe surgery. It could reframe his 2019 failing as having more to do with playing through the toe injury than Davis showing he is going to be a top-five pick bust, but he needs to get off of the PUP list soon to earn a spot on our late-round target lists.
Derrius Guice was arrested on domestic violence charges and promptly released with a culture reset happening under Ron Rivera. Adrian Peterson will be the early-down back with J.D. McKissic’s passing down role unchanged, but 2019 fourth-round pick Bryce Love passed his physical and should be ready to make a bid for part of the backfield, and Peyton Barber is there as a backup to Peterson. Despite all of this, third-round pick Antonio Gibson has rocketed up draft boards. Gibson has been cross-training at wide receiver and might not play a significant role in the backfield despite the release of the presumptive starter... Alex Smith has been cleared for football activities, but he is still a long way from being ready to be in the line of fire. If and when he is ready, Washington appears to be willing to give him a chance to compete for the starting job.
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