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.
Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith has been an integral part of the team's defense since he was drafted eighth overall in 2018. The Bears have traded away some big names from their once fierce defense, including Khalil Mack, and it appears Smith could be next. Smith released a statement officially requesting a trade, reporting the new management regime "won't negotiate in good faith" and "doesn't value me here." Smith is one of the few remaining superstars on this team, so losing him would big a big blow.
Dynasty | The Ravens activated running back J.K. Dobbins from the PUP list Dynasty Analysis: Dobbins was pushing to return and was granted the green light on Monday and it's said he's on track to be ready for week one. It's been a year since Dobbins tore his ACL and his timeline for return was expected to allow for full-health by week one. It's great news for Dobbins, the Ravens and his dynasty coaches who badly missed his presence in 2021. The bruising runner rushed for 805 yards and nine touchdowns in his rookie year on only 134 carries, good for an amazing 6.0 ypc. average. The question for Dobbins will surround his role within the teams committee rotation, including the impact of Lamar Jackson's rushing prowess. But as seen with his rookie year production, a healthy allotment of touches should provide for an even greater runway for increased 2022 production. Touchdown totals will be a concern inside the five yard line as fantasy coaches wait to see how the team will utilize Jackson's capable legs, perhaps at the expense of Dobbins. He's listed as DLF's RB14, showing that there's more than a little concern about Dobbins' injury when paired with Jackson under-center.
Dynasty | Titans rookie receiver Treylon Burks has been running with the second and third teams at camp Dynasty Analysis: Burks got off to a poor start in OTAs and was diagnosed with asthma earlier this off-season. As such, the rookie is still getting his legs under him and will have to work his way back with the starters. Rookies tend to hit the "rookie wall" near week 10 of the regular season and this could be an issue to watch with Burks here in his first season. The full expectation is that he'll eventually take the spot vacated by the traded A.J. Brown, but it won't be handed to him. Burks is listed as DLF's WR21 and possesses a fair amount of premium as a rookie.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said on Tuesday that the league is seeking a tougher penalty for Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson because his actions were "egregious" and "predatory behavior." The league formally appealed Watson's six-game suspension last week, which was given by disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson earlier this month. The NFL is seeking a suspension of at least a year for Watson. It's unknown when former New Jersey attorney general Peter C. Harvey will make a ruling on the appeal. Watson was accused of sexual assault and other inappropriate conduct during massage sessions in civil lawsuits filed by 25 women. There's a chance this ends up playing out in federal court, but Watson will miss at least the first six games of the 2022 season, making him an extremely risky fantasy QB this year.
Miami Dolphins TE Adam Shaheen was traded to the Houston Texans Tuesday, Aug. 9, in exchange for a 2023 sixth-round draft choice. The Texans will also receive a 2023 seventh-round draft choice in the trade.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (elbow) resumed throwing in individual drills at training camp practice on Tuesday. The Rams are managing Stafford's elbow pain this offseason in order to attempt to keep him healthy all years as the Rams try to defend their Super Bowl championship. The 34-year-old will likely continue to take it easy on his right arm throughout the rest of camp, and it's definitely something to watch as we get into the regular season. For now, fantasy managers should expect Stafford to be fine for Week 1. He has an amazing connection with All-Pro wideout Cooper Kupp and also has Allen Robinson II at his disposal, but Stafford should be targeted as a low-end QB1 in fantasy.
The Houston Texans acquired tight end Adam Shaheen and a seventh-round pick in 2023 from the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday in exchange for a sixth-round pick in next year's draft. The Dolphins already have Mike Gesicki locked in as their starting tight end, with Durham Smythe, Hunter Long and Cethan Carter providing depth behind him, so Shaheen was expendable after catching 12 of 16 targets for only 110 scoreless yards in 12 games (seven starts) in 2021. Shaheen will now join a tight end group in Houston that already has Pharaoh Brown and Brevin Jordan. Jordan is expected to be the primary pass-catching option at the position, so Shaheen should remain well off the fantasy radar entering the 2022 campaign.
Los Angeles Rams CB Jalen Ramsey (shoulder) participated in team drills during practice Tuesday, Aug. 9.
Houston Texans running backs Marlon Mack and Rex Burkhead are listed as co-starters at running back on the team's first unofficial depth chart of training camp. They are followed by rookie Dameon Pierce, Royce Freeman, Dare Ogunbowale and Darius Anderson. Coming off a serious Achilles injury that limited him to seven games the last two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, the 26-year-old Mack figures to lead Houston's backfield to begin the 2022 season. However, this could be a frustrating backfield to predict early on, and Pierce has the goods to become the starter by season's end in an offense run by quarterback Davis Mills. If you're betting on anyone as a last-round RB for depth, Pierce is probably the best low-cost investment with the most upside.
The Kansas City Chiefs agreed to an undisclosed one-year deal with veteran free-agent defensive tackle Danny Shelton on Tuesday, according to his agents, Drew Rosenhaus and Ryan Matha. Shelton played in 13 games (zero starts) for the New York Giants last year, recording 31 tackles (12 solo) and half a sack. He was originally a first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2015 out of the University of Washington, and he spent his first three seasons in the NFL in Cleveland. The 28-year-old pass-rusher has also spent time with the New England Patriots and Detroit Lions. Shelton will be looking to compete for a starting spot on the interior of KC's defensive line. He has 278 tackles (138 solo), 17 tackles for loss, 19 QB hits, six sacks and a forced fumble in seven NFL seasons.
Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford (elbow) participated in team drills during practice Tuesday, Aug. 9.
Fantasy Spin: Stafford has been dealing with the elbow injury for a while and will continue to be a story moving forward. Fantasy players can monitor the situation because Stafford can be a low-end No. 1 fantasy quarterback if he is healthy.
New Orleans Saints DE Marcus Davenport (finger) passed his physical Tuesday, Aug. 9, and has been activated from the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor continues to stack good days at training camp in what has definitely been his most consistent camp as a professional. At the moment, he looks too good to consider releasing, in the opinion of The Athletic's Bo Wulf, although a trade remains on the table. The former first-round pick has been a disappointment through his two NFL seasons, compiling 64 catches (111 targets) for 695 yards and three touchdowns in 28 games (24 starts). The 23-year-old will probably only be fantasy relevant if he's traded to a team that gives him a realistic chance to start. As things stand now in Philly, he's behind the likes of A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins and Zach Pascal.
Cleveland Browns All-Pro returner and wide receiver Jakeem Grant Sr. (Achilles) is feared to have torn his Achilles in training camp practice on Tuesday. He will undergo tests to confirm after he was carted off the field on Tuesday. This will be a big blow to Cleveland's special teams unit this year as well as their receiver depth. The 29-year-old speedy wideout was looking for a role on both special teams and as a pass-catcher in his first year with the Browns after catching 11 of his 17 targets for 132 yards and two touchdowns in 2021 with the Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears. He was a Pro Bowler last year for his work as a returner, handling 23 kickoff returns for 539 yards and 26 punt returns for 309 yards and one touchdown.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Zach Pascal missed the first week-plus of training camp with food poisoning and has been slowly acclimating since, but Monday was his best day by a wide margin. He showcased nice route-running and dominated a portion of seven-on-seven drills with a one-handed catch. Pascal has yet to make much of an impact in team drills, though, and he's still trying to get on the same page as quarterback Jalen Hurts. Unfortunately for Pascal, he's currently fourth on the Eagles depth chart behind A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins, who had a productive day in team drills on Monday with a couple of nice catches. Pascal can be passed over on draft day in most leagues to begin the 2022 season.
Free-agent RB Kalen Ballage (Steelers), RB Jaylen Samuels (Cardinals) and Stevie Scott (Broncos) recently worked out for the Green Bay Packers. The team also worked out undrafted free-agent RB Calvin Turner (Hawaii).
Dallas Cowboys TE Jeremy Sprinkle (Achilles) participated in practice Tuesday, Aug. 9.
Dynasty | Browns wide receiver and special teams ace Jakeem Grant was carted off with an apparent leg injury at practice. Dynasty Analysis: This has the looks of a potentially serious injury. Grant was making some headway on the depth chart and figured to be the Browns primary return man as well. If he's indeed lost for the season, it would open up more snaps and targets for the likes of Donovan Peoples-Jones and David Bell. As for Grant, he's already a fringe dynasty player and there would be little reason to keep him should this be a serious injury. Stay tuned.
Free-agent DL Danny Shelton (Giants) signed an undisclosed contract with the Kansas City Chiefs on Tuesday, Aug. 9.
Updating a previous report, Cleveland Browns WR Jakeem Grant (Achilles) is believed to have suffered a torn Achilles tendon during practice Tuesday, Aug. 9, but is scheduled to undergo more test to confirm the diagnosis, according to sources.