Training Camp Preview: AFC North

Thu Jul 16 2:23pm ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer

Steelers get back Big Ben


This is the second 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.

Steelers

The Steelers had an uneven season last year because of the injury to Ben Roethlisberger. This offense didn’t function will with Roethlisberger out. So the big key for this camp will be the health of Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh needs him healthy if the team hopes for a return to the playoffs. Big Ben and the rest of the team will train at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

Position battle: The Steelers have a lot to sort out at receiver this coming year. JuJu Smith-Schuster might be the only sure thing of the group. After that, Diontae Johnson, James Washington and rookie Chase Claypool are all vying for a big role in the offense. Johnson is the best bet to start opposite Smith-Schuster, but he won’t be handed anything. This depth chart will be one to watch because any player getting a lot of playing time in this pass-heavy offense can have success.

Injury watch: Ben Roethlisberger missed about the entire season last year because of an elbow injury, which required surgery. He is making good progress from the injury and should be ready for Week 1. The Steelers will take it easy with their veteran quarterback in camp, though, to make sure he doesn’t have any setbacks. You also will want to keep an eye on his arm strength during camp and preseason action to make sure he is still throwing with the same zip of past seasons. Age and injuries are a concern for Roethilsberger going forward.

Browns

Cleveland was the hot team last year, making a splash in the offseason, but disappointed once again. The Browns have a new coach, so much of camp will be monitoring if Kevin Stefanski can change the culture in Cleveland. Will this team find their winning ways once again? Much of this might depend on Baker Mayfield taking a step forward. The Browns training camp will take place this year at the Cleveland Browns Training Complex in Berea, Ohio.

Position battle: The Browns signed Austin Hooper to a big contract this offseason, but that doesn’t mean David Njoku will go away quietly. Njoku remains a very talented player with a high ceiling. If he has a strong camp and preseason, he could a bigger role in the offense than expected. The Browns aren’t just going to give Hooper all the playing time at tight end if he doesn’t earn it. 

Injury watch: Jarvis Landry needed hip surgery this offseason and is a little iffy to be ready for Week 1. He has really made great progress since the surgery, though, and things are looking good for him to be ready for the opener. He will be brought along slowly in camp to help ensure he can take the field Week 1. Hip surgery is a serious surgery for a football player, especially a receiver, so it will be interesting to see if Landry is running and cutting like before the injury.

Ravens

Baltimore was maybe the best team in football all of last year but didn’t advance in the playoffs. Much of this camp will focus on Baltimore taking a step forward from last year and getting over the playoff hump. Lamar Jackson was the most exciting player in football last year, so many onlookers will be interested to see if he made any more strides this offseason. Jackson and his teammates will start their quest for the Super Bowl at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills, Maryland.

Position battle: Marquise Brown is the No. 1 receiver for the Ravens, but after him, there is a lot to be sorted out at the receiver position. Miles Boykin, Willie Snead, Chris Moore and Devin Duvernay will all look to start opposite Brown. This competition is wide open. The Ravens do like to rotate receivers but the starters to hold more fantasy value, making this a position battle to keep an eye on.

Injury watch: Marquise Brown missed just two games his rookie year but was apparently less than 100 percent for some games because of a Lisfranc injury. He had surgery to remove the screw from his foot this offseason and has been rehabbing to get ready for the season. Brown should be ready for Week 1, but we will have a better idea of his status after seeing him in camp and preseason action. A healthy Brown could produce big in this Ravens’ offense.

Bengals

The Bengals had the first overall pick in the draft and took a franchise quarterback, selecting Joe Burrow. The team also has a new coach, Zac Taylor, so there is plenty of new with the Bengals franchise this season. Much of camp will be focused on Burrow as the starter and the new coaching staff implementing their style of play. Burrow and company train at the Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Position battle: The Bengals were thin at receiver last year but suddenly got a lot deeper this offseason. A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd should be near the top of the depth chart, but after those two, there is a big fight for playing time. Rookie Tee Higgins, John Ross, Auden Tate and Alex Erickson are vying for playing time after Green and Boyd. The one to watch is Higgins, who is a talented player with a high ceiling. If he starts, he could have some real fantasy value in year one.

Injury watch: Auden Tate injured his knee late in the season and missed the last three games. Tate was having a pretty solid season in an expanded role before the injury. Tate will need to prove he is healthy this camp and preseason if he hopes to earn a big role for this coming year. His knee injury should not be an issue going forward, but keep an eye on him during camp just to be safe. Any setback would really hurt his chances to carve out a role with the team.

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 jeff@rtsports.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.

Player Notes
Vic Beasley Aug 7 11:53am ET

Tennessee Titans LB Vic Beasley reported for COVID-19 testing Friday, Aug. 7.

From TheHuddle

James Washington Aug 7 11:13am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers WR James Washington was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Friday, Aug. 7.

Fantasy Spin: Washington could start opposite of Juju Smith-Schuster, but he'll need to step it up to stave off Chase Claypool. Washington figures to be a WR4 or WR5 in fantasy.

From TheHuddle

Corey Davis Aug 6 7:03pm ET

Updating a previous story, Tennessee Titans WR Corey Davis (toe) is on the Physically Unable to Perform list as a result of offseason toe surgery. He's not expected to miss any games.

Fantasy Spin: This would be a greater concern if Davis was actually missing meaningful practices while on the PUP list. There shouldn't be any major concern, and he'll still enter the season as the No. 2 option behind A.J. Brown.

From TheHuddle

M.J. Stewart Aug 6 5:43pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB M.J. Stewart was released Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Rod Smith Aug 6 5:33pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders RB Rod Smith was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Josh Doctson Aug 6 5:33pm ET

Updating a previous story, New York Jets WR Josh Doctson was placed on the Reserve/Opt-Out list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Rashaan Melvin Aug 6 5:23pm ET

Updating a previous story, Jacksonville Jaguars DB Rashaan Melvin was placed on the Reserve/Opt-Out list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Ricardo Louis Aug 6 5:13pm ET

Free-agent WRs Ricardo Louis (Dolphins) and Chester Rogers (Colts) have been contacted and put through physicals by the Miami Dolphins, according to a source Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

J.J. Wilcox Aug 6 5:13pm ET

Free-agent S J.J. Wilcox (Falcons) is expected to re-sign with the Atlanta Falcons pending COVID-19 testing and a physical, according to a source Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Shaq Lawson Aug 6 4:23pm ET

Miami Dolphins LB Raekwon Davis, DT Benito Jones, S Brandon Jones, OG Solomon Kindley, DE Shaq Lawson and WR Kirk Merritt were placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Zach Sieler Aug 6 4:23pm ET

Miami Dolphins RB Malcolm Perry and DT Zach Sieler were activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Robert Woods Aug 6 4:03pm ET

Los Angeles Rams WR Robert Woods said he has had preliminary contract extension talks with the Rams and wants to finish his career with Los Angeles.

Fantasy Spin: Woods has played very well since joining the Rams and has posted at least 1,100 yards in each of the last two seasons. He will be one of the main options in the passing game this season and should be a weekly starting option in all fantasy leagues.

From TheHuddle

Leighton Vander Esch Aug 6 1:53pm ET

Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch said he will be playing middle linebacker this season with LB Jaylon Smith moving to weakside linebacker.

From TheHuddle

Clay Matthews Aug 6 12:43pm ET

Free-agent LB Clay Matthews (Rams) and LB Everson Griffen (Vikings) have received interest from the Seattle Seahawks.

From TheHuddle

Tee Higgins Aug 5 8:20pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins was selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft and has a high ceiling without a doubt, especially since he will be catching passes from No. 1 overall selection Joe Burrow. Both rookies have built a rapport already as the duo conducted workouts together during the offseason. Higgins finished his final season at Clemson with 59 catches and 13 touchdowns off of 1,167 yards. While he is a risky selection in redraft leagues this season due to his potential limited playing time, he is surely worth a first-round pick in dynasty formats as he will likely rack up plenty of receptions from Burrow for years to come.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Boyd Aug 5 8:10pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd has begun catching passes from rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow as the team kicks off training camp. The 25-year-old has plenty of hype heading into the 2020 season after racking up over 1,000 yards in his previous two seasons. With A.J. Green seemingly healthy along with the addition of Clemson wideout Tee Higgins, Boyd could see things open up more on the offensive end, while also remaining the team's top pass-catcher.

From RotoBaller

A.J. Green Aug 5 8:00pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green went through his first walkthrough under second-year head coach Zac Taylor on Tuesday. The veteran, who recently signed a one-year tender a few weeks ago, missed all of 2019 after injuring his ankle during training camp. While consistent ailments have been the theme for the 32-year-old over the past seasons, there is no denying his ability when healthy. He is no longer considered an elite wideout, however, he is worth a mid-round pick for those looking for an option with an enormous upside.

From RotoBaller

Joe Mixon Aug 5 7:40pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon is still without a new deal as the team heads toward the 2020 season. However, according to director of player personnel, Duke Tobin, the organization views the 24-year-old as a "cornerstone piece of the franchise." Mixon is looking for a contract that would pay him north of $8 million per year, a significant increase from the $1.2 million that he is expected to earn in the final year of his rookie deal. The former Sooner is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons and is projected by many to be a fantasy breakout by year's end.

From RotoBaller

Ezekiel Elliott Aug 5 7:10pm ET

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was quick to respond to Ed Werder's Twitter post regarding a potentially reduced role for the former rushing champ, quipping "we all gonna eat." Though Elliott is a shoo-in, first-round pick in fantasy drafts for the 2020 campaign, many still wonder how he will co-exist on an offense that has plenty of mouths to feed, notably Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and 17th overall pick, CeeDee Lamb. Elliott finished 2019 as a top-five back in the majority of formats. Under new head coach Mike McCarthy, who has overseen some productive runners throughout his career, the 25-year-old could be in store for another productive year.

From RotoBaller