Mon Jul 29 10:49am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Newton is a question mark
This is the seventh preview in a series of training camp previews. We will continue to release the previews throughout the week. The previews give you a quick look at each team, going over position battles and injuries to watch in camp. The season is right around the corner.
The Falcons didn’t have the season as expected last year, failing to finish above .500. The big issue was the defense, allowing more than 400 points last year. The offense was very good with the passing game excelling. So much of this camp will be focused on getting the defense right. If that happens, the Falcons can make a playoff push.
Position battle: Receiver Calvin Ridley had a solid rookie season but was a little up and down. Mohamed Sanu is the starter opposite Julio Jones right now but could lose that starting spot to Ridley. Sanu has been a productive NFL player but isn’t off the charts by any means. Ridley is the more talented player of the two with more upside for the big things. He should push Sanu for playing time and likely take over as the starter at some point.
Injury watch: Running back Devonta Freeman played just two games last year, needing surgery to fix a groin injury. He is back to full strength and will be back to his lead duties for the Falcons. Atlanta needs him healthy with Tevin Coleman gone. Freeman will be counted on to carry the load a little more, so being healthy is pertinent for the Falcons and Freeman’s fantasy owners.
The Saints don’t have a lot to be decided this training camp. Much of camp could be getting this team primed for a Super Bowl run. There are high expectations for the team after a good showing last year. Drew Brees doesn’t have a whole lot of time left to make another Super Bowl, so this season could be a big one for his legacy.
Position battle: The Saints like to rotate receivers, giving plenty of guys chances during the season. But the starter opposite Michael Thomas still has a little more value than the other guys. Right now, Ted Ginn is the favorite to start but Tre’Quan Smith and a healthy Cameron Meredith could push Ginn for the starting spot. This will be a battle to watch because it has fantasy implications. Smith is an intriguing player that showed his rookie year he is capable of the huge game.
Injury watch: Receiver Ted Ginn played just five games last year because of a knee injury. If he hopes to have a big role this year and keep his starting job, he will need to be healthy and stay healthy. Ginn seems back to his old self during offseason workouts but his age and last year is a concern going forward for him.
The big thing to watch in Panthers camp this year is Cam Newton. How is he going to recover from another surgery to his throwing arm? Newton really is the key to the season for the Panthers. The team needs him healthy and playing at a high level if they hope to have any success this year. The offense really goes through Newton.
Position battle: D.J. Moore is going to start at one of the receiver spots and Curtis Samuel will work out of the slot, but the No. 2 receiver is up in the air. Devin Funchess is gone, leaving a hole at the position. The candidates to start are Jarius Wright, Torrey Smith and Chris Hogan. It really is a wide open battle without a favorite. We’ll know more as camp and the preseason progresses.
Injury watch: Quarterback Cam Newton had major shoulder surgery this offseason. He is throwing but will be on a pitch count in camp. The Panthers will take it slow with their star quarterback. Newton has progressed well from the surgery but seeing how he is throwing the ball will be something fantasy teams should monitor closely. Newton is a real wild card this year after having shoulder surgery once again.
The Bucs made changes to the coaching staff once again, hiring Bruce Arians. He should be a big plus for the offense, including starting quarterback Jameis Winston. So the big focus of camp is likely being the Bucs getting up to speed both offensively and defensively with their new schemes. Hopefully, the offense picks things up quick because it could be pretty potent from a fantasy perspective.
Position battle: The Bucs should have a real battle on their hands for the starting running back spot. Peyton Barber was the starter last year and has a leg up for the job, but second-year back Ronald Jones is looking to rebound from a poor rookie year. A new coaching staff should be a plus for Jones, who had a strong offseason of work. Jones should be given a fair shot to unseat Barber.
Injury watch: Tight end O.J. Howard had a breakout season last year but missed six gams because of an ankle injury. He is yet to play a full season since entering the NFL. He has a chance for another big year but needs to be on the field for that to happen. Howard has not shown he can on the field to date but hopes to change that perception this season. He could be a star.
Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at email@example.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota looked sharp in limited action against the New England Patriots on Saturday, completing 6-of-9 passes for 63 yards and a touchdown strike to tight end Delanie Walker. Mariota capped off a solid week of camp with a convincing performance, leaving no room for speculation about a quarterback competition in Tennessee. Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky went as far as to say "There is no circumstance under which a healthy Marcus Mariota is not the Week One starter in Cleveland. Period." While Mariota's job is not in question, his ability to be a consistent fantasy option at a position filled with options is. Mariota is nothing more than a low-end QB2 option going into his fifth season.
New England Patriots wide receiver Dontrelle Inman caught only one pass but it was a crucial 17-yard reception in the fourth quarter of the Patriots 22-17 comeback preseason win. The veteran had seen only one target before he made the catch but Inman came through in the clutch. Inman has bounced around the league the past few seasons and certainly will be a 'bubble' player as he fights for a spot in the final two preseason games.
New England Patriots running back Brandon Bolden scored a 1-yard touchdown in the Patriots preseason victory over the Titans. Bolden registered only two yards on four carries but was able to convert in the red zone. Bolden is far down the running back depth chart on the Patriots but every year, it seems, he plays snaps during the regular season. Bolden will be not be fantasy viable unless multiple injuries hit the New England backfield.
New England Patriots running back Damien Harris carried the ball 14 times for 80 yards and added 23 receiving yards in the Patriots 22-17 preseason win over the Titans. Harris has been a non-factor in the early portions of training camp but has been dealing with a wrist injury. Harris made some solid, tough runs and looked like the talented prospect the Patriots selected out of Alabama. Harris has pass-catching ability and could find himself in the mix of the running back carousel in New England if he can maintain consistency moving forward.
New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers caught six passes for 82 yards in the Patriots 22-17 preseason win over the Titans. Meyers provided the only consistent offense in the passing game, joining teammate Damien Harris as the only players to post multiple receptions. Meyers made two key 10-yard receptions in the fourth quarter during a game-winning drive. The return of Josh Gordon makes things more complicated for players like Meyers but the 22-year-old is showing what he can do on the field.
New England Patriots tight end Lance Kendricks caught his first pass as a Patriot, a 28-yard reception in the team's preseason win over the Titans. One catch normally is not significant but Kendricks is expected to play a role early on this season with starter Benjamin Watson suspended the first four games. The Patriots have enjoyed production from the tight end position for almost a decade now and Kendricks could benefit playing in New England's offensive system. This is a very small step, but a step nonetheless for Kendricks.
New England Patriots quarterback Jarrett Stidham completed 14-of-19 passes for 193 yards, including a game-winning touchdown, in the Patriots 22-17 preseason win over the Titans. Stidham hit wide receiver Damoun Patterson down the left sideline for 23 yards to put the Patriots ahead for the first time in the game. It was an efficient performance for the fourth-round rookie, who is looking at starting the season as the third-string quarterback. It is impossible to say whether Stidham is the "future" at quarterback for the Patriots but should see plenty of snaps in the final two preseason games.
New England Patriots running back Nick Brossette totaled only 37 yards from scrimmage but scored a touchdown in his second straight preseason game against the Titans. Brossette's numbers have not been impressive but has executed in the red zone thus far in the preseason. Brossette will have to show more productivity than stuffing in one-yard touchdowns to be considered a serious factor when the regular season rolls around.
Cleveland Browns tight end Demetrius Harris was unable to corral either of his two targets in a 21-18 preseason win over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday. Harris, who came over to Cleveland as a free-agent after spending five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, is expected to serve as the team's second tight end after David Njoku. Of course, Njoku is dealing with a knee injury, which will give Harris more run with the first team during preseason practices. The Browns should run more 12 personnel this season, which would get Harris on the field alongside Njoku in certain situations. Harris doesn't need to be drafted but he is worth monitoring just in case the Browns show that he is a significant part of their plans, especially in the red zone.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins turned in a solid game in a 21-18 preseason win over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday. Higgins caught all four of his targets for 34 yards in the win. The veteran receiver has been productive during the preseason as he further cements himself as the team's No. 3 wide receiver. While he won't see a high volume of targets behind Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, Higgins is likely to have a few big games this season on what should be an exciting Browns offense. Keep him in mind as a potential flex option in deeper fantasy leagues this season.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt saw two touches in a 21-18 preseason win over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday. Hunt carried the ball twice for six yards and was unable to haul in his lone target in the win. The game action marked Hunt's preseason debut after he was not involved in the preseason opener last week. Hunt will begin serving an eight-game suspension once the regular season begins but he has some value as a flex option in PPR leagues when he does come back. Of course, using a draft pick on him will require a fantasy owner to keep him on the roster for over half of the fantasy regular season. That only seems like a viable plan in leagues with large roster settings.
Cleveland Browns kicker Greg Joseph missed a 53-yard field goal in a 21-18 preseason win over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday. The 53-yarder was Joseph's only field goal attempt in the game although he added an extra point. Joseph has been in a preseason camp battle with rookie Austin Siebert for the right to be the team's kicker during the regular season. Both have been pretty even during their battle, with Siebert also missing his lone field goal attempt against the Colts. Whoever wins the starting kicker role will have plenty of fantasy value tied to what should be an explosive Cleveland offense.
Oakland Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson had an impressive season with the Silver and Black in 2018 and is primed to improve in this campaign. After getting waived by the Vikings following Week 2, Carlson finished the last 10 games of the season with the Raiders setting a new team record with a 94% field goal succession rate. With an improved offense likely providing more point-after attempts and better field goal positioning, the former fifth-round pick could put up a considerable point total this year if he can stay in the 90% conversion range.
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Keelan Doss has turned a few heads through the team's first two preseason games. The undrafted rookie caught a touchdown pass in Week 1 and followed that performance with a five-catch 38-yard game in Week 2, making a case for a place on the 53-man roster. Doss is competing for one of the final roster spots at WR, but faces an uphill battle with only one spot available and three players ahead of him on the depth chart for the job. Even if the 23-year-old cracks the squad, he won't receive enough playing time to become a fantasy contributor in 2019.
Oakland Raiders running back Doug Martin is slated for a backup role with the Silver and Black this season after leading the team in rushing in 2018. The "Muscle Hamster" racked up an underwhelming 723 yards and four touchdowns last season and will play second fiddle behind rookie Josh Jacobs in 2019. Martin didn't hold much fantasy value as a starter a year ago and is off the radar this campaign in a backup role. With Jalen Richard finding work in the passing game, it would take a significant injury from Jacobs to give Martin any sort of fantasy relevance. He's a late-round handcuff in best-ball leagues and can be avoided in season-long formats.
Oakland Raiders running back Jalen Richard is coming off a successful 2018 campaign which saw him accumulate 55 rushes and 68 catches for 866 all-purpose yards. With the team using a first-round pick on Josh Jacobs, Richard finds himself third on the depth chart this season with a question mark surrounding his usage for this year. Richard was a huge factor in the passing game last season finishing seventh among running backs in receptions. With the coaching staff hopeful of Jacobs becoming an every-down back, Richard will struggle to find playing time on this improving offense. Unless Jacobs gets injured or struggles mightily as a pass-catcher, Richard won't hold any fantasy appeal in 2019.
Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (ankle) worked out on the field before the preseason game Saturday, Aug. 17, and appeared to be moving around well.
Fantasy Spin: Luck is still uncertain for Week 1, so fantasy players will need to continue to keep an eye on his status. He is a No. 1 quarterback in fantasy leagues when he is healthy, but players may want to draft a strong No. 2 quarterback in case Luck misses a few games.
San Francisco 49ers DE Dee Ford (knee) is on track to play in Week 1, according to general manager John Lynch.
According to the Cleveland Browns pregame show, running back Nick Chubb is not expected to play on Saturday against the Indianapolis Colts in his team's second preseason game. Chubb saw minimal work last week in the preseason opener as he played on the first series with the team and took one carry. Cleveland has little reason to risk injury to their No. 1 running back in the preseason, so Chubb will be a spectator. Look for Chubb to play more extensively in the preseason dress rehearsal next week.
The Cleveland Browns will rest many of their starters in the team's second preseason game on Saturday against the Indianapolis Colts. Quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. are among the starters who will be watching from the sidelines in the contest. Mayfield played sparingly during the preseason opener last week while Beckham has yet to appear in a preseason game as he is dealing with a hip pointer. Garrett Gilbert will draw the start at quarterback against the Colts on Saturday. Look for Mayfield to play a good bit in preseason Week 3 next week. Beckham's status is unclear, although he is unlikely to play.