Eight things every fantasy player should watch for in training camp

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What’s the status of Ezekiel Elliott?

Coming off a rookie season in which he totaled 1,994 yards with 16 touchdowns over 15 games, Elliott would be an obvious top-three pick (and arguably No. 1 overall in non-PPR) if not for his off-field issues. Any guess as to the punishment he receives is pure speculation right now, but the safest seems to be him receiving a one or two game suspension to open the year. If he gets a couple of games and it’s a PPR format, it should be enough to drop him down to No. 6 (with the big-three WRs moving ahead). It’s one of the most important situations to follow heading into camp.

How healthy is Sammy Watkins?

A former top-five pick, Watkins just recently turned 24 years old and is one season removed from finishing with the most yards-per-target (10.9) and the second-most fantasy points-per-target (2.28) in the NFL. He’s quite clearly a star when healthy, but therein lies the rub. He’s undergone multiple foot surgeries, including a second during the most recent offseason to deal with the original fracture of his fifth metatarsal that typically takes more than 12 months to recover from. He’s obviously risky, but a healthy Watkins has the upside to win your league for you, so his health watch is paramount during August.

Will Joe Mixon emerge as Cincinnati’s workhorse?

The Bengals enter the season with a questionable offensive line, but I project them to win their division (they finished +10 in point differential last year and now play a third place schedule). Giovanni Bernard is coming off a torn ACL, while Jeremy Hill has averaged 3.7 YPC over the past two seasons, so it’s clear the Bengals didn’t draft Mixon (someone with off-field issues) in the middle of the second round not to use him in a prominent role immediately. Cincy is perennially among the league-leaders in red-zone carries, and Mixon has the upside to easily be a top-10 fantasy back with the risk of also being a complete bust. He’s someone to watch closely during the preseason.

How soon will DeShone Kizer and/or Deshaun Watson start?

This answer is fluid and really only matters in keeper and/or two-QB leagues, but it’s a battle at the league’s most important position in which everyone will be watching. Cody Kessler is a better player than Tom Savage, but the Browns have an Over/Under of 4.5 compared to 8.5 for the Texans. In other words, Cleveland is playing for the future, giving them far more incentive to play the rookie than Houston, who won its division last year (despite a -49 point differential). The best guess here is Watson emerges as the most valuable fantasy rookie QB in 2017, but he’s not a top-20 option.

What’s up with the possible holdouts?

Le’Veon Bell is looking to get paid, and he has zero incentive to show up anytime soon. Bell was on pace for 448 touches during his 12 starts last year. He’s the most fun back to watch since Barry Sanders and capable of putting up historical numbers, but the injury history (and the fact players who report late often have a better chance of getting hurt) has to be factored in…Greg Olsen is the other big named possible holdout, but I wouldn’t worry much about him not being signed, and he’s played a remarkable 16 games in nine straight seasons since his rookie year.

Who will win the Broncos QB battle?

Both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders remained fantasy relevant last year despite the Denver QB situation, so this isn’t of the utmost importance for those not in 2QB or superflex leagues. But it would be nice if one emerges as a competent passer, especially given the team’s goal to go far in the playoffs given their dominant defense. Paxton’s pedigree gives him the edge.

How is Andrew Luck’s recovery from shoulder surgery going?

Luck’s health status has been clouded in mystery, and there haven’t even been reports he’s resumed throwing yet. I’m a Luck fan, but there are now durability concerns to go along with a career YPA of 7.2. I still think he has an MVP season in him, but this recent injury shouldn’t be totally overlooked, and it’s a little odd he’s being drafted so much higher than Cam Newton right now. The latter is much further ahead of his recovery from surgery and was the unanimous No. 1 ranked QB last year. They are the same age, but Luck is going well ahead of Newton in fantasy drafts (ADP is QB3 vs. QB10).

How high should Eddie Lacy be drafted?

Over his first two years in the league, Lacy totaled 3,001 yards and 24 touchdowns. Over the two years since, he’s totaled 1,334 with five touchdowns. Of course, the latter had to do with missed games, but his weight could certainly be pointed to being a contributor. Lacy moves from a good offense to another one, although Seattle’s O-line projects as bad. Surprisingly, he ranked No. 1 among all backs in Juke Rate last year, but it’d be nice if this quagmire were given some clarification in August. As of now, I remain a believer in Thomas Rawls, and C.J. Prosise will dominate passing downs (and maybe more if he can stay healthy), so this is a full-blown committee.

Follow Dalton Del Don on Twitter.

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