Growing up, I never liked August. Summer was coming to a close and another year of school loomed on the horizon. Fast forward to today, and August is arguably my favorite month of the year. Sure, you don't get the best football in the preseason, but the excitement of August is palpable. Fantasy drafts will be coming hard and heavy over the next few weeks, so let's get you situated with what you need to know from a busy Thursday around the league.
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Reports out of Carolina say that Cam Newton and rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin have been practically inseparable and relentlessly pushing each other in training camp. This is good news for the Panthers, as a number of questions surrounded Benjamin after the Panthers selected him No. 28 overall in May’s draft. Benjamin enters the league as a relatively unproven receiver with really only one year of college production.
With Steve Smith now in Baltimore, and essentially no incumbent receivers left with the Panthers, the burden of Carolina’s receiving duties falls squarely on Benjamin’s shoulders. We’ll get our first look at how the Newton/Benjamin bromance translates to the field on Sunday, as Newton is slated to play at least one quarter.
The same can’t be said for Adrian Peterson, as the star running back will sit out Saturday’s preseason game against the Cardinals. Don’t overreact to this news. There’s really nothing to see here. It’s just the Vikings resting their veteran. Don’t expect to see much if any of Peterson in the preseason.
However, you should expect to see Julio Jones in the preseason. Jones is anticipated to suit up and see around a series of action on Saturday. Jones is returning from foot surgery on his twice-broken foot and will actually wear a custom shoe this season. While there’s certainly a lot of risk with Jones from a fantasy standpoint, there’s equally as much reward. Before being shelved last season, Jones was the league’s No. 1 fantasy wide out, racking up 41 catches for 580 yards and two scores in just five games played.
Speaking of the preseason, there was just one game on Thursday night, with the Bears edging the Jags 20-19. Of course, the score doesn’t matter, but there were a few interesting takeaways from the action. Jags rookie QB Blake Bortles continues to look good, completing 11-of-17 passes for 160 yards. Chad Henne wasn’t necessarily bad, but Bortles’ play suggests the Jags could renege on their plan to redshirt Bortles.
Like Bortles, Jay Cutler continued to shine for the Bears, going 7-of-9 for 75 yards and a score. Cutler hasn’t played a full season since 2009, but does make for an intriguing back-end QB1 despite the injury risk. If you’re one to wait at quarterback, Cutler is worth a long look.
We got our first glimpse of Toby Gerhart in a feature-back role on Thursday. Gerhart’s six carries for 19 yards don’t pop off the page, but he looked solid between the tackles. He’s shaping up to be a rare 300-touch running back, and makes for a strong scoop as your RB2.
Here at Rotoworld we’re always on top of the latest Johnny Manziel developments, so we were all devastated to find out that he was late to a team meeting earlier this week. I kid, of course, and it sounds like Manziel’s tardiness was a result of a schedule misread. The more important story out of Cleveland is that the Browns could name their starting quarterback as early as Tuesday. Naming a starter this early in camp doesn’t bode well for Manziel’s chances over Brian Hoyer, who will start in the Brown’s Monday night preseason game.
Another quarterback battle involving a rookie is playing out in Minnesota between Teddy Bridgewater and Matt Cassel. While early reports sounded positive for Bridgewater, it appears Cassel is in the driver’s seat for the Vikings starting job, especially after Bridgewater threw five interceptions in practice this week. Cassel also looked the superior player in Minnesota’s preseason opener.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Rob Gronkowski’s status for Week 1 is unclear. Watching Patriots practice, The MMQB's Greg Bedard observed Rob Gronkowski running with a "decent but not terrible limp." Adam Schefter tweeted Wednesday there was still optimism Gronk plays in Week 1. He’s obviously far from a lock, and this should be factored into his ADP. Still, when Gronk is on the field there are few, if any, more dominant players at their respective positions. Despite the cloud of uncertainty, Gronk is still a really intriguing fantasy option.
Unlike Gronkowski, Reggie Wayne isn’t showing any ill effects from the ACL tear that ended his 2013 season. Wayne has consistently looked good in Colts camp displaying speed and reliable hands. Before he went down last season, Wayne was posting solid WR2 numbers. With an ADP of 7.09, Wayne could prove to be a draft day value.
In other injury news, Charles Sims hurt his ankle in Tuesday’s practice. The Bucs rookie was spotted in a walking boot on Thursday and is considered week-to-week. Charles Clay remains sidelined for the Dolphins. Head coach Joe Philbin was vague when asked about Clay on Thursday, though it’s expected Clay will be ready for the season opener. Odell Beckham is back in practice for the Giants, but he’ll sit out this weekend’s preseason game.
Broncos RB C.J. Anderson was medically cleared from the concussion he sustained in Denver’s first preseason game. Packers TE Colt Lyerla isn’t as lucky, as the rookie UDFA tore his right MCL and PCL. He won’t play this season, and his future with the Packers is very much up in the air. Finally, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said Dwayne Bowe’s finger is “shot,” which would explain the preseason drops. It sounds like Bowe is going to play through the injury, but this news doesn’t instill confidence in Bowe’s fantasy stock.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin raised some eyebrows on Thursday after he said that Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount are “both going to get their share of carries.” Bell and Blount split first-team reps in last weekend’s preseason opener, so it’s looking less likely that Bell serves as the Steeler’s bell cow back. Specifically, it sounds like we might be looking at a dreaded touchdown vulture situation where Blount gets the work near the goal line. It’s a bit hard to believe, as Bell is the superior short-yardage back, but Tomlin’s words shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Last week, Trent Richardson looked his old self in the Colts’ preseason opener, stutter stepping and showing little burst. Yet, the Indianapolis Star said Thursday that Richardson was “off to a great start” in training camp. When asked for a comment, Scooby Doo had this to say. It’s really hard to take the Star’s report seriously given what we saw last week. But to be fair, we’re working with an extremely small sample size, so there’s still a chance Richardson could prove us wrong. He’s currently going in the fifth round and certainly has the potential to offer good value at that ADP.
Moving on to another uncertain situation of a very different nature, the Josh Gordon decision may not be handed down until the end of next week. Arbiter Harold Henderson is taking his time with the high volume of testimony on both sides. In a best-case scenario, Gordon gets eight games. However, if you draft him before a decision is reached, be fully prepared to get nothing out of Gordon in 2014.
The Buffalo News reported Thursday that two Los Angeles-based groups abandoned their interest in purchasing the Bills after they discovered relocating the team would receive sizable opposition. Kudos to Bills fans on this one, as this team has been a Buffalo institution since 1960.
For those in IDP circles, Eric Berry will sit out Sunday’s preseason game with heel tendonitis. This sort of injury can flare up, and has bothered Berry throughout camp. It’s not time to move Berry down your draft board, but this is something to monitor throughout the remainder of the preseason.
The Cardinals took a flier on former Packers LB Desmond Bishop Thursday after Ernie Sims failed to pan out at inside linebacker. Bishop shined early in his career, but a series of injuries have caused him to play just 17 games in the last three seasons. Still, Bishop is a capable player when healthy and should help out a fledgling linebacker corps that is without it’s two best players from last season – Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby.
It sounds like Arthur Brown isn’t just behind rookie C.J. Mosley on the Ravens depth chart. Brown’s slide down the depth chart now has him behind Josh Bynes and potentially even Albert McClellan. Brown was the IDP darling of 2013 dynasty rookie drafts, but his fantasy stock is fading fast.