Why It Matters: The option would be for roughly 13 million dollars, so the hesitation is understandable considering Watkins’ lengthy injury history. Capaccio still believes the Bills will do it, and so do we, but those investing a lot of resources in dynasty leagues should have a similar hesitation to the Bills. The team has nothing proven after Watkins at wide receiver, and may take Clemson’s Mike Williams at #10, which could affect the calculus of the decision due by May 2.
Cleveland - Browns EVP Sashi Brown said the team looks forward to QB Brock Oswelier “trying to establish himself” and having “a chance to compete to be the starting quarterback” in 2017.
Why It Matters: It sounds like the Browns have given up on trading Osweiler. We shouldn’t count him out if the best competition is Cody Kessler, but if Cleveland drafts a quarterback early next week, that player should be the favorite to start Week 1, even if that seems unwise at the time of the draft. Osweiler would hurt the chances of Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman to approach their fantasy ceilings in 2017, although expectations should be low regardless of who is throwing them the ball this year.
Why It Matters: New (old) offensive coordinator Mike McCoy should have the wherewithal to lay down the foundation as long as whoever wins the quarterback job can follow through on the field. Either way, both Sanders and Demaryius Thomas are great bounceback candidates this year.
Why It Matters: Luck’s development stalled out in 2015 and didn’t seem to move forward very much in 2016. This could explain a lot, although early fantasy drafters are already pricing in a bounceback, with Luck going off of the board as one of the top two quarterbacks, along with Aaron Rodgers.
Why It Matters: 2016 second-round pick Myles Jack should assume the middle could be a massive hit in IDP leagues in his second year. Posluszny’s IDP value is diminishing quickly, as he should be relegated to a smaller role.
Kansas City - Head coach Andy Reid said TE Travis Kelce might do “light stuff” in the offseason, but probably won’t be ready to retake the field after offseason shoulder surgery until training camp.
Why It Matters: We’re not worried about Kelce’s status for the upcoming season, but he is a bit overrated as the early TE2 after a torrid late-season stretch. Tyreek Hill’s role should grow and Jeremy Maclin should be healthier this year, so Kelce’s 2016 numbers should be considered his 2017 ceiling.
New England - Former Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez was found dead, hanging from a bedsheet in his jail cell.
Why It Matters: With a week until the NFL Draft, this gruesome reminder of the risks of players with character questions having to do with gangs, drugs, and guns will weigh heavily on teams when they are on the clock. This story has been tragic on many levels and could give some decision-makers pause if they have doubts about a player they are considering who shares any of the warning signs or character traits that Hernandez exhibited during his evaluation period leading up to the 2010 NFL Draft.
Why It Matters: New England has no picks in the first two rounds after they dealt #32 to the Saints for WR Brandin Cooks, so they should be eager to recoup that pick if they can get it for Butler, who is now eligible to be dealt after signing his RFA tender. The draft is very strong at corner and the Patriots can also sign recently released CB Jason McCourty to reunite him with his brother Devin, who is a standout safety in New England.
New England - The Patriots signed RB James White to a three-year extension.
Why It Matters: With the week’s other Patriots running back news, they will run a true four-headed committee, so White will be hard to trust week-to-week, but it’s fair to wonder if he has permanently leapfrogged 2015 stud Dion Lewis after Lewis’s fumbles and White’s Super Bowl heroics. Any of the four Patriots backs could be good what the heck flexes depending on the matchup, and injuries could clarify this situation as the season goes on, but for now, the backfield that could be the most productive in the league has the least clarity.
Why It Matters: The Bills are unlikely to match the deal according to multiple sources. The backup to LeSean McCoy is a potentially valuable fantasy role, and right now it will be 2016 fifth-rounder Jonathan Williams, who has a three-down skillset, but hasn’t distinguished himself early in his career. The Bills kept him despite a post-draft arrest, so they must like what they have. The team should also take a back from the talented 2017 class, and they’ll have an extra fifth-round pick from the Patriots if they don’t match their offer. Gillislee was highly efficient and actually scored seven times last year. He would take over LeGarrette Blount’s role as the power back and have flex/DFS value when the Patriots are favored to win, which will be most weeks.
Oakland - Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated reports that the Raiders were impressed with the shape that RB Marshawn Lynch was in at their meeting, but that they are willing to walk away from a potential deal.
Why It Matters: Lynch to Oakland and a role that should yield RB2 numbers if he is up to it still seems more likely than not, but if he is asking for big money in a very depressed environment for running back salaries, they are signaling that they will not give in. The Raiders could draft their long-term plan at running back on the second day or add a power back on the third day of the draft and still sign Lynch, although it might make negotiations more difficult. Stay tuned.
Carolina - The Panthers signed franchise-tagged DT Kawann Short to a five-year, 80 million dollar deal.
Why It Matters: Short is one of the richest non-quarterbacks in league history, as the NFL is looking down the barrel of a weak defensive tackle draft class. Inside pressure is very valuable, and Short can provide it with regularity. Look for Rams DT Aaron Donald to set the bar even higher than Short, Ndamukong Suh or Fletcher Cox.
Detroit - Lions WR Golden Tate touted 2016 practice squad receiver Jace Billingsley after early offseason workouts and QB Matthew Stafford said Billingsley is a “hard worker” and “does everything you want a pro to do”.
Why It Matters: The Lions slot receiver has a high bar to be relevant for fantasy leagues in 2017, but it is not impossible. They could still draft a slot receiver or second tight end, or re-sign Anquan Boldin to reprise the role that he turned into 67 catches and eight scores last year, but if they don’t make any major moves in the receiving corps, Billingsley has a chance to make his mark and should be picked up in deep PPR dynasty leagues.
New Orleans - Nick Underhill of the New Orleans Advocate reports that the Saints visit with RB Adrian Peterson “went well” and that “the door isn’t closed on something happening down the line”.
Why It Matters: If the Saints don’t take a running back early in next week’s draft, Peterson would make sense as a complement to Mark Ingram II, although Underhill thinks the team won’t want to go above or possibly even match Ingram’s 3.7 million dollar salary when determining Peterson’s possible compensation. Underhill thinks it is likely that Peterson would be Ingram’s backup, so don’t use this news to downgrade Ingram too much in your rankings.
New York Giants - 2016 fourth-round pick LB BJ Goodson thinks the team wants him to become an “every-down force” as he has a chance to compete for the open middle linebacker job.
Why It Matters: The Giants linebacking corps has been unstable and subpar in recent years, but Goodson can become the answer in the middle, at least on early downs. Keenan Robinson could also figure into subpackages and even lead the team in snaps if Goodson shows he isn’t ready for an increased role. IDP leaguers should follow this situation closely to determine the best sleeper in a muddled group.
Why It Matters: Tyler Lockett looked pegged for stardom after his rookie year, but he was slowed by a knee injury for much of the season and had his campaign ended with a gruesome leg fracture. Jermaine Kearse slowed down after signing a free agent deal, so it makes sense that Richardson could do more after an excellent end to the season. Still, outside of Doug Baldwin and TE Jimmy Graham, there might not be a consistent third option on a team that did run three or more wide receiver sets about 68 percent of the time according to Kapadia. All of this intersects at QB Russell Wilson, who could be a value if he can stay healthy after a leg injury lowered his production in the first half of the season.
Why It Matters: Clearly, the offer Washington has made Cousins have not made him feel wanted. He seemed intent on playing out this year under the franchise tag if Washington doesn’t up their reported five-year deal at around 20 million a season with “low” guarantees (according to ESPN’s John Keim). Right now, it appears that Cousins will be playing elsewhere in 2018, most likely a reunion with Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco unless the 49ers take a quarterback early in next week’s draft.