Wed Jul 27 10:52am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Thomas continues to battle injury
This is the seventh in a series of training camp previews. 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 will be without longtime quarterback Matt Ryan for the first time in a long time. So the big storyline of this camp will be the quarterback spot. Marcus Mariota is expected to take over but rookie Desmond Ridder could also be in the mix. Either way, a new player will be at the helm at the most important position on the team. There will be plenty of pressure on this new player. Atlanta holds their training camp at the Atlanta Falcons Training Facility in Flowery Branch, Ga.
Position battle: The Falcons have a lot of openings at receiver this year. Calvin Ridley is suspended for the entire season, leaving a huge hole at the position. The team drafted Drake London to serve a big role, but after him, it is Bryan Edwards, Olamide Zaccheaus, Auden Tate and Damiere Byrd are the top candidates to start opposite London. This is a wide open battle with a lot of similar options looking to start.
Injury watch: Calvin Ridley has been indefinitely suspended through the conclusion of the 2022 season for gambling. He can appeal the suspension, though, so that is something to watch going forward. There is a slight chance he could get the suspension reduced because his gambling offense seems pretty minor. We might get more clarity on it all before camp is out. This is a situation to watch.
New Orleans is another team that will be without a franchise staple at quarterback for the first time in several season. Drew Brees hung it up, leaving Jameis Winston as the new quarterback for the team. Winston will have a lot of pressure on him, taking over for one of the best quarterbacks of all time. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in New Orleans. Winston and his teammates train at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center in Metairie, La.
Position battle: The Saints gave Adam Trautman a shot to start much of last year but he wasn’t great in that role. He should get first shot again this year, but won’t be handed anything. He will need to earn that job. Juwan Johnson and Taysom Hill should be the top competition for Trautman. We should get a better idea of this position battle as camp practices get underway and preseason games get started.
Injury watch: Michael Thomas didn’t play at all last year as he continued to be slowed by an ankle injury. He played just seven games the previous year. He is going to open camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list to start, which is not a great start for Thomas. The Saints don’t expect him to be on that list long, though. He should be practicing before long. Either way, his health is one to watch. If healthy and playing like his old self, Thomas can be an elite fantasy player.
The Panthers had a disappointing season last year, mainly because of inconsistent quarterback play and injury. Those should be the big issues to watch in camp for the Panthers. The Panthers will have a two quarterbacks batting it out to start. And Christian McCaffrey is healthy for now, but his injury issues the last few seasons really slowed the entire offense. It is essential for McCaffrey to be healthy if the Panthers hope to have a successful season. The Panthers hold their training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C.
Position battle: As mentioned, the Panthers will have quarterback battle on their hands this camp. Baker Mayfield is a heavy favorite to win, but the Panthers want him to earn the job. He will need to hold off Sam Darnold, who disappointed with his chances last year. Darnold will need to take a big step forward this year if he hopes to beat out Mayfield.
Injury watch: Christian McCaffrey might be the most important player on the Panthers. Unfortunately, he has played just 10 games the past two seasons. He has battled various injuries, which is a big concern for potential fantasy owners. McCaffrey has the potential to be the top fantasy player in the game if he is able to play a full season. That is a big “if” after his last two years, though.
The Bucs likely get one more year out of Tom Brady, hoping to make another run at the Super Bowl. Tampa certainly has the pieces on both sides of the ball to win it all. Much of season might depend on Brady. If he can still keep performing at his usual level, this team will be tough to beat once again. Does Brady still have it in him at age 45, though? That is the question. Brady and company will start their quest for another Super Bowl at the AdventHealth Training Center in Tampa, Fla.
Position battle: Rob Gronkowski decided to retire once again, giving the Bucs an opening at their staring tight end spot. There are three candidates to start, including Kyle Rudolph, Cameron Brate and Cade Otton. Rudolph seems the most likely candidate to start, but his lack of production the last few years is a bit of a concern. He will need to show well in camp and preseason action to hold off the other two candidates.
Injury watch: Chris Godwin suffered a torn ACL late last season, putting the start of his season this year in jeopardy. Godwin is making great progress from his injury, though, and is not even being placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list as camp opens. This is a great sign for Godwin. The Bucs still might be cautious with their star receiver, though, bringing him along slowly early in the year. It is no sure thing he is in the lineup Week 1.
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.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance may have a more streamlined throwing motion this year, but it didn't exactly translate into pretty stats during spring workouts. He went 11-for-19 (57.9%) in 11-on-11 sessions that were open to reporters this week. Lance completed 54.7% of his passes last summer, and the Niners would love to see that jump into the 60% range this year. Sam Darnold went 9-for-17 on his passes (52.9%) in 11-on-11 drills. None of the signal-callers really stood out, which is typical for this time of year in a small sample size. The biggest takeaway for the 23-year-old Lance is that he's fully healthy finally and has impressed the team with how he's looked overall. The 49ers still have confidence in the former first-rounder, but he's expected to start the year on the bench behind Brock Purdy (elbow).
New York Jets tight end C.J. Uzomah (leg) hurt his right leg in individual drills at practice on Friday and left with a trainer. It's unclear right now how serious Uzomah's injury is, but we should have more information on him at some point this weekend. Hopefully, it's nothing major and he'll be ready to go for the start of training camp at the end of July. The 30-year-old was mostly a backup at the tight end position in his first year in New York in 2022, as he caught 21 passes on 27 targets for 232 yards and two touchdowns in 15 games (13 starts). He should continue to split playing time with Tyler Conklin in 2023, but he'll mostly be off the fantasy radar, even with quarterback Aaron Rodgers now running Gang Green's offense.
Las Vegas Raiders defensive tackle Bilal Nichols has been separating himself from the rest of the pack during offseason workouts, as he's rarely left the starting lineup in practices open to the media. Nichols signed a two-year, $11 million contract last year and was expected to be a difference-maker, but he finished with only 44 tackles (11th on the team), four tackles for loss (tied for third) and 1.5 sacks (fourth). He was solid against the run but only had 30 QB pressures (tied for 100th in the NFL). The Raiders need the 26-year-old to be a more disruptive force in the backfield in 2023. If the Raiders are going to improve on defense this year, they are going to need Nichols and a few other defensive lineman to step up.
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Hunter Renfrow left practice on Wednesday with an undisclosed injury, but he returned to the field on Thursday and took part in the final mandatory minicamp session. He's also recovered from the concussion and oblique injuries that caused him to miss seven games in 2022. Renfrow's name has come up in trade rumors this offseason after the team took Tre Tucker in the third round, but nothing is imminent. He has about a $13.1 million salary cap hit this year and more than a $13.7 million hit in 2024, which will make it difficult to trade him. The 27-year-old slot man will now have to share targets with new receiver Jakobi Meyers, but tight end Darren Waller is also gone. Renfrow's fantasy value will depend largely on the health of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (foot).
New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers (calf) worked in red-zone and two-minute portions in 11-on-11 drills on Friday for the first time in an open practice since injuring his calf at the start of organized team activities. It's a very minor injury for Rodgers, but the Jets aren't taking any chances with the future Hall of Famer at this point in the offseason. There's no reason the 39-year-old shouldn't be full-go for the start of training camp at the end of July. One of the worst seasons in his career in his final year in Green Bay led to a QB13 finish in fantasy, and we have to wonder how much he has left at this point in his career. Rodgers has some decent weapons in New York, but expecting him to become an elite QB1 again at this point would be foolish.
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Mike Jackson had a very strong minicamp for the team. The deck was stacked against the defense in practices this week, but Jackson found a way to make an impact every other practice. The 26-year-old's playing time is likely to be affected after the Seahawks drafted rookie Devon Witherspoon with the fifth overall pick in this year's draft in 2023. However, Witherspoon's elite athleticism allows him to move inside and outside, which potentially allows Seattle to put Jackson, Witherspoon and Tariq Wooley on the field at the same time. Jackson had a career-high 75 tackles (63 solo), an interception, 12 passes defensed and two fumble recoveries in 17 games last year, but it will be tough matching those numbers in 2023 with Witherspoon now in the fold.
With running back Dalvin Cook now out of the picture, Minnesota Vikings second-year running back Ty Chandler is going to have a bigger role in the backfield in 2023. "I think he's going to have to be," offensive coordinator Wes Phillips said on whether Chandler is ready for an increased role. Chandler likely has the advantage rookie DeWayne McBride and Kene Nwangwu in the competition for the No. 2 job behind presumptive starter Alexander Mattison. The 25-year-old former fifth-round pick only had six carries for 20 yards in three games for the Vikings as a rookie in 2022. Mattison's fantasy stock has obviously skyrocketed with Cook gone, but Chandler, McBride and Nwangwu aren't anything more handcuff options for fantasy managers in very deep leagues.
Dynasty | Speaking on running back Ty Chandler, Vikings offensive coordinator Wes Phillips said: "I think he's going to have to be." Dynasty Analysis: All Minnesota backs have moved up following Dalvin Cook's release and Alexander Mattison is the clear RB1. Following Mattison, it's presumed Chandler factors as the RB2 though is largely unproven as a 2022 fifth-round selection. 2023 draftee Dewayne McBride was selected in the seventh round and profiles well as an early-down chains mover but only produced five receptions in his time at UAB. As for Chandler, his shifty profile could provide third-down opportunities and have upside should Mattison fall to injury. Already 25, Chandler is behind the age curve for dynasty production and is listed as DLF's RB76.
Dynasty | Rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba has been as advertised in practice Dynasty Analysis: JSN has drawn rave reviews from coaches and players all offseason and continues to show expectations for his rookie season should be very high. He'll have significant competition for targets playing between DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett but, starting out of the slot and given a free release into his routes, he could be a material producer from day one. Pete Carroll has been effusive in his praise of the rookie saying: "He's really a natural athlete. Gifted in his timing in and out of breaks, and his feel. He also has -- which we saw in the workout at school -- great change of direction in him. He's got marvelous ability to get in and out of his turns. And his hands are just as natural as can be. He's really a bright football player, too. It makes sense to him." JSN, DLF's WR17, will be one to watch when pads go on in training camp.
Seattle Seahawks rookie wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba had a long touchdown connection with quarterback Geno Smith at practice this week, and it's becoming clear the more he plays with Smith and the first-team offense how much of a weapon he can be in this offense while playing beside DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and tight end Noah Fant. "He's come in and treated it like he's a vet already," Metcalf said of Smith-Njigba. "He knows how to run routes. He knows his body, he knows how to catch. So, it's really just teaching him the playbook." The 21-year-old first-rounder is an elite talent and should have a big role in his rookie year in the slot in Seattle, but consistent targets will probably be a problem as long as Metcalf and Lockett remain healthy. Still, the upside makes him worth a WR4/5 flier later in single-year fantasy drafts.
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones had a career year in 2022 en route to a playoff victory and a new contract.Jones set career highs in passing yards, completions, completion percentage, fewest interceptions throw, and, crucially for fantasy football, in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Jones took 120 carries for 708 yards and seven touchdowns. On top of his success throwing the football, that helped him to 294 fantasy points, his all-time high, and a QB7 finish.But can Jones repeat it? What is his fantasy outlook for 2023 if he runs less often? Will Daniels Jones Run Less in 2023?Daniel Jones's 2022 season was an outlier in comparison to his first three seasons. His production on the ground was an extreme outlier. While Jones had shown gradual progress as a passer, he hadn't done anything like this on the ground. He has had big games from week to week but not like this for a full season.Let's put things in perspective: Jones's 120 carries were twice as many as his previous career high, 65 carries in 2020. His yards per carry figure in 2022, 5.9, was on par with his career average, 5.8. But his total yardage with that many carries was about 400 yards higher than in 2019 and 2021 and 300 higher than in 2020. He scored five more touchdowns on the ground than he had done in his previous best season.You know how important rushing production can be for a quarterback's fantasy scoring. The yards score one for every 10 yards, and the touchdowns are six points each, two more points than in many leagues.So what if this reflects a new normal for Jones? Brian Daboll, the former Bills offensive coordinator who made Josh Allen a fantasy football cheat code, came in before the 2022 season.There might be something to that. Jones did take the ball on more designed rush attempts in 2022. But the effect of possible changes to Jones' game is exaggerated in his baseline numbers. He also scrambled the ball more often because he was under pressure a lot more often than he had been in 2021. Daniels Jones Fantasy Football OutlookDaniel Jones did have 33 more designed runs than he had the previous year, and his yardage gained on designed runs was also a career-high. But about two-thirds of the rushing yards he gained came on scrambles, and the increase in scrambles came from both increases in the number of times he was pressured and an increase in his propensity to scramble when pressured.The Giants will hope that Jones doesn't have to rely on scrambling so much in 2023. They drafted center John Michael Schmitz in the second round, and they are banking on a second-year leap from 2021 first-rounder Evan Neal. But they still don't have a great offensive line. Jacob Wayne at Lineups.com rates the Giants' front five as the 22nd-best in the NFL.Another important part of the equation is how often Jones takes off and runs when he is pressured. Did 2022 represent a shift in Jones' style of play? While Jones puts up good numbers scrambling, scrambling isn't always the preferable option. If the receivers are open downfield, a team can often do better if they throw the ball. But the Giants have not had good wide receivers during Jones' career.This offseason, their biggest move was trading for tight end Darren Waller. They didn't add any top-tier talent, but they did sign Parris Campbell to be a WR3, and they drafted blazing-fast deep threat WR Jalin Hyatt from Tennessee. Wan'Dale Robinson might break out in his second year.A lot of fantasy managers do not have confidence that 2022 represented a legitimate and sustained jump in Jones' game. He's only being drafted at QB13 in the National Fantasy Football Championship drafts, behind a lot of QBs he outscored last season and a couple (Tua Tagovailoa and Lamar Jackson) if they hadn't gotten injured.If Jones keeps up what he was doing, you can get him at a bargain.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb took his game to the next level in his third NFL season. Following the trade of Amari Cooper during the 2022 offseason, Lamb stepped up as the undisputed WR1 in Dallas' offense and put up big numbers.He totaled 107 catches for 1,359 yards and nine touchdowns last season, all career-highs. His WR5 PPR finish was also the best of his young career. He stayed healthy and played all 17 games in 2022, but could that be in jeopardy this upcoming season?Lamb left the Cowboys OTAs early on Wednesday with an apparent leg injury. Will he be ready for the Training Camp?https://twitter.com/toddarcher/status/1666535468278661122?s=42&t=nmclxZ4zP1Gqt9CUbbpkHw Is Ceedee Lamb Injured Or Healthy?Lamb left the Cowboys' minicamp practice early on Wednesday with a leg injury after making a spectacular one-handed catch. He was seen limping afterward but only took off a couple of plays before returning later.The Pro Bowl wideout, though, missed Dallas' final OTAs on Thursday because of the leg issue. However, the Cowboys don't view the injury as a real "concern," which is great news. The team likely wanted to give him the day off and let him rest before Training Camp starts in late July.https://twitter.com/jonmachota/status/1666840909479129094?s=42&t=nmclxZ4zP1Gqt9CUbbpkHwIt appears the Cowboys are taking a careful approach with their 24-year-old superstar wideout before Traning Camp begins later next month. There shouldn't be any worry that Lamb will miss the start of Training Camp. He should be good to go by then. Ceedee Lamb 2023 Fantasy Football OutlookLamb was a fantasy football superstar last season and should be again in 2023. In 2022, Lamb averaged 17.74 PPR points per game and had seven top-12 wide receiver finishes. He was a surefire WR1 and had 19.7 points (Week 15), 34 points (Week 16), and 21 points (Week 17) in PPR formats in the fantasy playoffs last season.Dallas added Brandin Cooks this offseason to join Lamb and Michael Gallup in the receiving game. But, the Cooks' move could actually help the young receiver more than it can hurt him. He will likely face fewer double teams in the offense with the veteran speedster now there.Assuming his injury is minor, Lamb should put up similar stats in 2023 and be a second-round pick in drafts. He finished as the WR5 in fantasy last season, and there's no reason to believe he can't finish better than that in year four in Dallas' electric offense.
Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff had one of the best seasons of his career in 2022 under offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, and he has complete command of the offense and the protections heading into his second season working with Johnson. DetroitLions.com's Tim Twentyman writes that "watching him operate at minicamp it's clear he's 100 percent dialed into Johnson's scheme." Not much was expected of Goff when he was traded from the Rams to the Lions, but he exceeded expectations last year by throwing for 4,438 yards, 29 TDs and seven interceptions in 17 starts to earn his third Pro Bowl bid. The 28-year-old finished as the QB10 in fantasy, but that's probably going to be his ceiling. Not having receiver Jameson Williams for a full season won't help. Target him as a strong QB2.
According to Jets head coach Robert Saleh, the team may consider adding running back Dalvin Cook. Saleh did mention that New York would "turn stones over" while acknowledging he wasn't sure how things would pan out from a financial standpoint. Of course, the Jets have Breece Hall (knee) on the roster, although he's still working his way back from an ACL injury, leaving some to question his availability for Week 1. But even if New York adds Cook, he'll likely play second-fiddle to Hall, at least once the latter is healthy enough to return. However, considering many teams have successfully utilized multiple backfield options in the past, there's certainly room for both men to remain potent fantasy performers.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton is looking for ways to become a better wideout. More specifically, he's been studying film of Michael Thomas' historic 2019 campaign, where he finished with 1,725 receiving yards, nine touchdowns, and 149 catches, the most receptions in a single season in NFL history. After it was speculated that Sutton would be on the move this offseason, it appears the 27-year-old will remain in Denver and play under the guidance of Sean Payton, Thomas' former coach in New Orleans. Although Sutton has been inconsistent from a production standpoint since entering the league while also suffering a serious knee injury in 2020, he has an excellent chance of returning to the Pro Bowl conversation in 2023-24.
Chicago Bears wide receiver DJ Moore is developing a sound working relationship with his new quarterback, Justin Fields. Safety Jaquan Brisker said the duo "looked like they had been teammates for years" during OTAs before adding, "they got that chemistry going very fast." Moore spent his entire career in Carolina, totaling 364 catches for 5,201 yards and 21 touchdowns in 80 regular season appearances. He also had 616 targets and averaged 14.3 yards per catch, giving him appeal in all fantasy setups. That said, the 26-year-old, who was traded to Chicago this offseason, will have plenty of competition for looks from Fields during the 2023-24 campaign. But Moore is still the favorite to be the Bears' top offensive option on the receiving end.
Los Angeles Chargers cornerback J.C. Jackson (knee) was spotted doing individual drills at practice on Friday. The 27-year-old signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract in March of 2022 after spending his first four seasons in New England. Unfortunately, his first year in LA abruptly ended after he tore his patellar tendon in Week 7. Although Jackson has a way to go regarding his rehab efforts, the team remains optimistic he'll be ready to start the 2023-24 campaign. But even if he isn't, Friday's update is still positive news for IDP managers.
Dynasty | Chiefs undrafted free agent running back Deneric Prince continues to stand out at OTAs Dynasty Analysis: Prince continues to draw praise for his hands as a receiver and speed of play. The Chiefs are one of the league's better teams in identifying and drafting lower-rated running backs, last year hitting on rookie Isiah Pacheco, now the team's RB1. Prince possesses slightly better size (6'/216) while running a 4.41 40-yard, a score which places him at the top of the 2023's class of running backs related to size-speed metrics. Given his status as an undrafted free agent, Prince largely remains off the dynasty rookie radar. That may be a mistake given the recent rise of lower-round and undrafted running backs eventually making hay in the NFL. Considering the Chiefs' offense and somewhat lacking running back depth chart, Prince makes for an intriguing late-round selection in rookie drafts. Deneric Prince is unranked on DLF's top-250 rankings and is found as a sparsely ranked RB17 in our rookie rankings.
Dynasty | Brandon Aiyuk was the best player on the field during spring practices Dynasty Analysis: He continues to draw rave reviews from players and coaches with cornerback Deommodore Lenoir suggesting Aiyuk will be a top-five receiver in 2023. Entering his fourth year, the receiver has improved his statistical production each year previous, culminating into a 78/1,015/8 line in 2022, his first 1,000-yard campaign. Listed as DLF's WR29, Aiyuk's WR3 status provides value-on upside and he'll player the entirety of the 2023 season at just 25-years-old.
Dynasty | 49ers running back Jordan Mason looked natural as a pass catcher during spring practices Dynasty Analysis: Fellow back Elijah Mitchell was sidelined with a minor injury (again) which provided Mason with more reps behind starter Christian McCaffrey. While Mason isn't known as a receiver due to his 223 lbs. size, by all accounts he showed well. The second-year player is well liked and could have a meaningful if (when?) Mitchell were to fall to injury again during the regular season. Jordan Mason is listed as a sparsely ranked RB82 on DLF's running back rankings.