The Week in NFL News - 6/18

A look at the most important stories around the NFL in the last week and why they matter for fantasy football

NFL

Commissioner Roger Goodell welcomes and encourages Colin Kaepernick returning to the NFL

Why It Matters: Lots of teams have shaky backup quarterback situations. Kaepernick would be a material upgrade for at least 10 teams, most prominently the Rams, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Seattle, Tennessee, and Denver, and at least a few teams will have long-term quarterback openings too. Kaepernick is 32 and by most accounts in good shape, so we should expect him to be on a roster this fall unless he no longer wants to play. He should be picked up in superflex and very deep dynasty leagues.

The NFLPA said they expect a loss of three billion dollars if the 2020 season is played in front of empty stadiums

Why It Matters: The league can spread out the lost revenue’s impact on the salary cap over multiple years, but it would still hurt teams like the Saints and Steelers that have been pushing payments forward to extend Super Bowl windows. Forecasting the future of Juju Smith-Schuster could be dependent on the 2021 cap number, which certainly won’t go up 15-40 million, as it was projected before coronavirus.

According to Mike Garofolo of NFL Network, the NFL is considering expanding practice squads to as many 16 instead of the planned expansion to 12 for greater roster flexibility in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Why It Matters: Just like the league, we should be preparing for a season with a higher number of players missing time for positive coronavirus tests. The teams will be very likely to use at least one practice squad spot on a quarterback or otherwise use spots as emergency depth instead of player development (or ideally as both at the same time). We’ll analyze practice squad names in more detail this year.

Josh Gordon applied for reinstatement

Why It Matters: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before - Gordon should catch on somewhere if he is reinstated. He turned 29 this April and still showed he can hang during his last stint with Seattle, which is where he has been training. The league’s new rules on marijuana could hopefully keep Gordon from being suspended again this time around. He’s only worth carrying in very deep dynasty leagues until we hear more.

AFC

Buffalo

The Bills ranked #1 in percentage of starter snaps returning in 2020, according to ESPN

Why It Matters: The lack of an offseason and coronavirus measures during camp may reduce the effectiveness of preparation this year, so we should project teams with continuity on the coaching staffs and starting lineups to have better starts to the season than teams that are going through a lot of transition this year. Buffalo, Kansas City, Indianapolis, San Francisco, and Pittsburgh have the most number of starter snaps returning, Cleveland, New England, Dallas, the Giants, and Carolina the least. Four of the bottom five teams (everyone except New England) also have new coaching staffs this year.

Cleveland

Mary Kay Cabot reports that sources tell Cleveland.com that the team hasn’t given up on signing Jadeveon Clowney

Why It Matters: Clowney is the best name left in free agency by far. He could be waiting for a team to have a larger need at edge, either because of injury or seeing what they have up close at the open of camp. He will probably have to settle for a short-term deal and could be more motivated by the organizational philosophy and Super Bowl window than money. The Browns, Titans, and maybe a return to the Seahawks seem like the strongest possibilities.

Wide receiver coach Chad O’Shea raised the possibility that Kareem Hunt could be the #3 receiver and confirmed that he has been in some passing game meetings

Why It Matters: Hunt is one of the most talented players in the Browns offense, so any path to additional snaps opening should boost his value. He could get more snaps in the slot this year, which in turn would keep Nick Chubb on the field more often, enhancing his weekly floor and ceiling. It’s possible that both Chubb and Hunt outperform ADP in an offense designed to amplify the value of talent and ability at running back.

Denver

Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said Bradley Chubb is “full speed and ready to go”.

Why It Matters: Vic Fangio’s defense wasn’t fully realized last year after Chubb tore his ACL in Week 4. A return to full health will give the Broncos the completed set of edge rush pincers with Von Miller and hopefully ease some of the pain of the loss of Chris Harris Jr in free agency.

Safety Kareem Jackson tested positive for coronavirus and is experiencing cold-like symptoms, but expected to make a full recovery.

Why It Matters: Jackson joins Ezekiel Elliott, Rams offensive lineman Brian Allen, and his teammate Von Miller on the list of players with confirmed coronavirus infections, but we know “several” others, including members of the Houston Texans have tested positive. Unless we hear that a player is hospitalized, the chances of them having long-lasting effects on their stamina and athleticism are low, and there’s a chance that this could give the players immunity through the season and prevent them from missing time, but none of this is certain.

Los Angeles Chargers

Daniel Popper of The Athletic said Justin Jackson has a “golden opportunity but his leash won’t be long”.

Why It Matters: It sounds like Jackson will be ahead of fourth-round rookie Joshua Kelley as long as he stays healthy, but that Kelley could easily pass Jackson permanently if Jackson can’t stay healthy. Jackson has always been an impressive runner when he can stay on the field, but Kelley is better suited for goal line work. The touches and snaps behind Austin Ekeler will be split in some way, but if most or all of them end up going to one of Kelley or Jackson, they will be fantasy relevant.

Miami

Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post reports that CB Xavien Howard will not be suspended by the NFL in connection to a December domestic violence charge that was dropped in February.

Why It Matters: Since adding Byron Jones, the Dolphins now have the most imposing outside corner duo in the league. They open the season with the Patriots and Bills, who now can not get the possible benefit of dodging Howard in one of the two meeting with Miami this year.

New England

Sony Michel is recovering from offseason foot surgery for maintenance and pain relief .

Why It Matters: Michel hasn’t looked the same since entering the league, and this doesn’t raise hopes that he’ll have a resurgence in 2020. He could start camp on the PUP list and it’s entirely possible that 2019 third-round pick Damien Harris takes a significant part of his workload. Michel is just a late round pick now and may not be rosterable once the season opens in a Tom Brady-less Patriots offense.

New York Jets

Kyle Long said he was fired, not retired, and he would only return to Chicago if they got a new staff. The Jets are rumored to be talking to him, but Long refuted that earlier this month.

Why It Matters: Long said the Bears staff won’t have him back, but perhaps a team with a need at guard like the Jets or Eagles could. The Jets coaxed Ryan Kalil out of retirement last year, although the results weren’t great. Long has had multiple surgeries and his body might not be able to handle the wear and tear of an NFL season as a starter, but he could still be quality depth.

Rich Cimini reports that Jamal Adams requested that the Jets trade him on Thursday, June 18

Why It Matters: Maybe it really doesn't as this seems to have been the case with Adams and the Jets for a while now. A holdout would only delay his ability to part with the Jets under the new CBA. He has two years left on his rookie contract with the fifth-year option coming up next year. GM Joe Douglas has said he wants Adams to be a Jet for life, but the team doesn't appear to be willing to give him a new deal right now. He is a franchise cornerstone and just about any team would want to have him, but would they pay him his market value now instead of pocketing the rookie contract discount? Dallas is a team that immediately comes to mind when thinking of potential trade partners.

NFC

Chicago

Tarik Cohen admitted that he “slacked” on doing things to keep his body durable in 2019.

Why It Matters: If we’re looking for a reason Cohen’s explosive plays and touchdowns dropped off last year beyond Bears quarterback play, this is probably it. He could have a bounceback year if Nick Foles improves the passing efficiency of the offense (or if Mitchell Trubisky rallies and makes a leap in the effort to beat out Foles) and is very cheap in PPR leagues. Cohen is especially worth targeting in best ball leagues where he can provide a high floor depth option behind earlier high ceiling picks.

Dallas

Ezekiel Elliott and at least one other Cowboys player (and several Texans players) have tested positive for coronavirus.

Why It Matters: Elliott’s case is reportedly asymptomatic and we should expect him to be ready for training camp with no lasting effects from the positive test. It may actually be a boon for his fantasy outlook if the infection confers immunity that keeps him from being able to contract the virus again during the season. He was tested as a precaution after he and his family were exposed to someone that tested positive three days after their exposure.

Detroit

Darrell Bevell said TE T.J. Hockenson (ankle) is running and running routes, but might not be 100% yet, but the team is comfortable with his progress

Why It Matters: Hockenson’s season ended with a Thanksgiving ankle injury and he was still seen on a knee scooter at the end of the season. It is not known whether he had surgery, but this was obviously a severe injury. We’ll be watching his participation in camp closely and it’s possible that he begins it on the PUP list. This takes a little bit of sleeper shine off of his fantasy outlook.

Los Angeles Rams

Cameron DaSilva of Rams Wire believes RB Malcolm Brown could be a “surprise cut” and TE Gerald Everett is a potential trade candidate

Why It Matters: If Brown is released, Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson would both get a bump in drafts and have a higher weekly and season-long ceiling as Brown is projected to get the goal line work in the Rams backfield. There is only a small chance that Everett gets dealt, but DaSilva points out that the Rams drafted his replacement, Brycen Hopkins, in the fourth round this year and trading Everett would save the team 1.3 million dollars. They also like #3 tight end Johnny Mundt to keep their two tight end set frequency up in the event that Everett is dealt. Tyler Higbee would be a cinch as a top 5-6 tight end if Everett is traded.

New Orleans

Running backs coach Joel Thomas said Alvin Kamara played through knee, ankle, and back injuries last year

Why It Matters: Kamara only missed two games, but he wasn’t himself until mid-December. His ADP is only down a spot or two from last year, but he could still be a value if he gets back to his touchdown and big play ways in 2020.

Larry Holder of The Athletic believes Ty Montgomery “seems like a clear alternative to Alvin Kamara”, Deonte Harris will see an increase in offensive snaps, the #5 and #6 wide receiver jobs will be “wide open”, and that the Saints believe third round pick Zack Baun can play middle linebacker.

Why It Matters: Montgomery would lower Latavius Murray’s injury upside if he makes the team. Like Alvin Kamara, he is a good route runner and pass catcher. Deonte Harris should get some the deep routes vacated by Ted Ginn Jr, who signed with Chicago. The #5/#6 wide receiver battles will include Austin Carr, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Emmanuel Butler, Maurice Harris, and Krishawn Hogan. Baun becomes more interesting in IDP rookie drafts with the knowledge that the Saints might groom him as a valuable middle linebacker.

New York Giants

Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com reports that Corey Coleman is the favorite to win the #4 wide receiver job, Nate Solder is not a lock to start, and Kaden Smith “could play a bigger role this season than many realize”

Why It Matters: Coleman’s ACL tear last year opened the door for Darius Slayton. He could be poised to have a role if one of the top three receivers miss time. Solder already looks like a free agency bust entering third year of a four-year, $62 million deal. Smith was a viable fantasy option when Evan Engram was hurt last year and between the team liking him and the possibility of Engram missing time again, he’s a name to remember.

Aldrick Rosas was arrested and jailed Tuesday in a hit and run incident.

Why It Matters: Rosas was already coming off of a bad season with only 12 field goals made in 17 attempts and he is due $3.259 million if the Giants keep him this year. Look for them to bring in competition for him in the wake of this news.

Philadelphia

Head coach Doug Pederson said there is no timetable for Alshon Jeffery’s return from a foot injury.

Why It Matters: At this point, the expectation is that Jeffery will start the season on the PUP list and he will only be worth rostering through that absence in leagues with IR slots or very deep rosters. He has still always been productive when he plays, and he can still contribute to the offense this year, so don’t forget about him in best ball leagues. JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Marquise Goodwin will be the most likely players to start outside in place of Jeffery as Pederson also said first-round pick Jalen Reagor will concentrate on learning DeSean Jackson’s “Z” position and back him up.

Eagles starting guard Brandon Brooks suffered a torn left achilles and will miss the 2020 season

Why It Matters: Brooks is quite possibly the best player on the Eagles line, and certainly one of the best guards in the league. The team can replace him with Matt Pryor, sign a veteran like Larry Warford, trade for a veteran, or even bring back Jason Peters to play left tackle and move 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard inside to guard. They might have more clarity once camp opens and they see how Pryor looks, but no matter how you cut it, this is a blow to their offense. Brooks tore his right achilles in the 2018 playoffs, so we shouldn’t doubt his ability to get back to full speed before camp in 2021.

San Francisco

Deebo Samuel suffered a Jones fracture in his foot on Tuesday in a throwing session with teammates. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that he should be able to "be on the field early in the season" and will have surgery today.

Why It Matters: Samuel was set to be the 49ers #1 receiver to open the season, but Rapoport's wording makes it sound like Week 1 is not a given and we should also expect the 49ers to ease Samuel back in once he is healthy enough to play. Jones fractures are tricky and coming back too early can cause setbacks or cascade injuries. It's early, but we should probably consider it a win if Samuel can avoid the PUP list to open the season. First-round pick Brandon Aiyuk, who is coming back from core muscle surgery, could be a starter to open the season and maps well to Samuel's role. Dante Pettis should get a bigger opportunity at redemption in camp and the preseason, and Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd could play expanded roles to open the season while Samuel is recovering. Kendrick Bourne even gains some best ball and very deep league appeal on this news.

Washington

Terry McLaurin believes that Steven Sims Jr. and Kelvin Harmon have both improved, and Sims has made “one of the biggest jumps” because of his footwork.

Why It Matters: McLaurin himself is a candidate to get to a new level after a very strong rookie year, but we shouldn’t overlook Sims, who was a near WR1 for fantasy in December as an undrafted rookie. Harmon has carved out a role as an outside receiver after his poor combine doomed him to becoming a sixth-round pick. Washington didn’t make any significant additions at wide receiver so the 2019 rookie class will have a chance to grow and become entrenched.


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