I have 15 fantasy notes from Week 1 of training camp here.
1. Montgomery Injures Groin
David Montgomery awkwardly fell after a handoff, and the Bears have since called his injury a groin strain. It’s a broad diagnosis, one that leaves him with a 2-5 week timeline. Doctors on Twitter (lol) believe he’ll return in September but warn that he could miss games. I’m expecting him to miss 1-3 games and also worry about re-injury risk, particularly so because of the corona-reduced offseason. I moved Montgomery outside of my top-24 RBs and barely moved Tarik Cohen up. I likely won’t be drafting either of them, especially with the potential of a last-minute veteran signing. This injury, however, solidifies my stance as pro-Allen Robinson and pro-Anthony Miller at their respective average draft positions.
2. Big Ben “Feels Good”
The Steelers’ average draft positions have come at a discount compared to their 2019 pre-season rankings because of the uncertainty surrounding Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow. He straight-up had Tommy John surgery and is 38 years old, so I think it’s justified to price them lower than they were a season ago. With that said, most reporting suggests Big Ben has looked fine at training camp, and thus, I’ve had to move up Big Ben, James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Diontae Johnson in my personal rankings. Of all my offseason stances, me being too low on Pittsburgh is keeping me up at night the most right now. I still don’t want to pay pre-Big Ben prices on anyone, however, just because the Steelers will assuredly pass the ball fewer times in 2020 than they did in 2018 with Antonio Brown and a fully healthy Big Ben.
3. Rams Reporters Make RB Predictions
Todd Gurley’s departure opens up 49 targets and 223 carries, 29 of which came from inside-the-10. 2019 third-rounder Darrell Henderson is sidelined with a hamstring injury, but the coaching staff expects him to be ready for Week 1. If that’s the case, The Athletic’s Joudan Rodrigue expects Henderson and second-round rookie Cam Akers to form a committee early in the season with Malcolm Brown as a distant third option with short-yardage oomf (Is that a word?). I still like Akers to be the 1A in this committee, but he’ll have to earn more touches with his play as the season progresses. Rodrigue ultimately expects Akers to finish with more touches in 2020 with the expectation being that his role increases in the second half of the year. Remember that Akers has a huge advantage over Henderson for the third-round role because of his pass-protection experience.
4. Singletary and Moss Competition Heats Up
The Bills have invested third-round picks into running backs in back-to-back seasons. Devin Singletary looked like a quality between-the-20s runner as a rookie last year (5.1 YPC), but he doesn’t profile as a three-down workhorse because of his size (5’7/203) and his inexperience as a pass-catcher (4.7 YPT on 41 targets). That leaves rookie Zack Moss with some role immediately. Moss is someone I dinged during the draft process because of knee injuries, but he’s drawn positive reviews in Bills camp, particularly as a receiver. Moss may be the third-down back of choice and offers more size (5’9/223) than Singletary, giving him a chance to be the goal-line back as well. I’m fading Singletary as a fifth-round pick in drafts. Moss is somewhat interesting in the 11th round or later in home leagues.
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5. Mixon Misses Practices with Migraines
Joe Mixon hasn’t practiced much this week due to headaches. As someone who occasionally gets migraines, I can confirm they suck. Some have speculated that Mixon’s “migraines” stem from the lack of a long-term contract. That’s somewhat fair, given that he’s hinted at wanting security but I think there would be more concrete reporting from big media members if a hold out was brewing. I’d understand moving Mixon down a spot or two in overall rankings, but I wouldn’t overreact quite yet. He’s in a spot to have a career season with upgraded quarterback play and better coaching.
6. Le’Veon Beefs with Gase (Again)
It’s well known that coach Adam Gase didn’t want the front office to sign Le’Veon Bell to his big contract, and the Frank Gore signing adds to the tension. Bell has been limited by Gase in training camp -- he says to save him for the season -- but it’s frustrated Bell who says his hamstrings aren’t actually a problem. Beat reporters seem pleased with Gore’s production in Jets camp, which makes Bell’s third- or fourth-round average draft position risky, especially with the receivers who are available at that ADP. I warm up to Bell in the fifth-round if he gets there.
7. Dobbins “Solidified” Early-Season Role
It’s no surprise to see second-round rookie J.K. Dobbins showing out in Ravens camp. He was a very strong draft prospect analytically (and if you have eyeballs). Mark Ingram figures to still open the season as the starter, but Dobbins can return RB3 value early in the season if he has already earned the 12.9 touches that Gus Edwards and Justice Hill combined for last season. Ultimately, Dobbins will likely be better later in the year, but it’s good to see him impressing in camp for those investing a sixth- to eighth-round pick on the rookie. I think Ingram will be a flex play for a large chunk of the season. It helps that the Ravens have the easiest rushing schedule in the NFL. Who let that happen?
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8. Michel Returns to Practice
Sony Michel has been an easy player to fade in drafts because he’s a one-dimensional player with a steep medical history, but his average draft position plummeted in recent weeks after it was deemed that he wasn’t practicing (foot). Well, Michel is back on the practice field already. In the Patriots’ in-house scrimmage, Michel and James White worked with the first-team offense while training camp standout Damien Harris and Rex Burkhead split time with the twos. It’s still impossible to trust Michel -- he deserves to go well into the double-digit rounds of drafts -- but it appears that he’ll have some role in Week 1 at this point.
9. Shepard “Torching” CBs at Giants Camp
There’s debate in the fantasy industry surrounding the three G-Men receivers -- Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, and Darius Slayton. I think all of them have defined roles with Shepard as the alpha, Tate as the slot/underneath receiver, and Slayton as the lid lifter. Of the three, I’m buying Shepard, who has reportedly established himself as the clear No. 1 receiver in camp. This was true in the second half of last season, as well. Shepard is being drafted two rounds too late, and Slayton is someone math pegs as a negative regression candidate.
10. Lazard “Solidifies” Himself as Packers WR2
The Packers blew it by not drafting a receiver in the first round this year -- Jordan Love is having “accuracy issues” in camp -- but that was good news for Allen Lazard, who faces weak competition for snaps behind Davante Adams. Lazard was an efficient target (9.2 YPT) for Aaron Rodgers last season and will likely be a full-time player with Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, and other no-namers as his backups. Lazard can only be projected for 75-100 targets still, making him just a WR5 bench stash in redraft leagues for when bye weeks roll around.
11. Tyrell Suffers Torn Labrum
The Raiders arguably had the worst receivers in the NFL last year, especially with Tyrell Williams hopping around on one foot. He’s facing a new injury now, too. Williams will attempt to play through a serious shoulder injury, but that doesn’t seem like a good plan long-term. Henry Ruggs was already a buy before this injury and further opens up target share. The biggest beneficiary here is third-round hype machine Bryan Edwards, who has played well in camp at X receiver where Williams was slated to play. Expect Ruggs to be a full-time player with Williams, Renfrow, and Edwards rotating around depending on health and offensive personnel.
12. A Leader Emerges in the Chiefs RB2 Competition
Clyde Edwards-Helaire is set up for a workhorse role but likely loses 30-40% of the running back snaps to a backup or two. Darrell Williams appears to be the favorite for the No. 2 job because he "has been exceptional at every task in the offense" while splitting first-team reps. Williams is a grinder type who could be in the mix for short-yardage duties as a 5’11, 224-pound bowling ball. He’s the preferred late-round dart throw at this point because he’s cheaper, although DeAndre Washington offers more three-down potential in the event of an injury to CEH. Not a bad idea to have one of these backs parked at the end of your fantasy bench.
13. A Leader Emerges in the Steelers RB2 Competition
Benny Snell came into camp 12 pounds lighter and has been reportedly faster this time around. It was obvious that he was too fat to be an NFL runner last year, so I’m somewhat buying this report. James Conner’s injury history is long, making Snell a worthwhile re-draft investment deep into the double-digit rounds. Snell would be the goal-line back in the Steelers’ likely committee if Conner were to miss time for whatever reason. The other backups are rookie Anthony McFarland (small, big-play runner) and Jaylen Samuels (gadget pass catcher).
14. Jets Rookie WR Mims Still Missing Time
The reports out of Jets camp have been poor, excluding the legit Chris Herndon hype. Slot man Jamison Crowder has been “by far” the best receiver with Breshad Perriman and Chris Hogan rounding out the starting three-receiver set, at least until Denzel Mims proves he’s healthy and good enough to operate as the team’s second outside receiver. Mims is an easy fade in standard-sized leagues.
15. Eagles Lose Another Starting OL to Injury
Stud guard Brandon Brooks already was placed on injured reserve with a torn Achilles’, and now LT Andre Dillard is out months with a torn biceps that he suffered in practice. Dillard wasn’t expected to be a world beater in his second season, but the injury forces Philly to switch around the offensive line two weeks before the season. 38-year-old Jason Peters will head back to left tackle after expecting to play inside, and he’ll be particularly tested in pass protection against speed rushers off the edge. The Eagles projected to have a top-five unit, but at this point I think this will be an average to below-average line for 2020.