Training camp is officially underway and fantasy football players have a lot to think about after one week. Fantasy owners need to keep an eye on key position battles, injuries, and how playing time will be split during camp to help make important decisions on draft day.
I will be taking a close look every week during the preseason at what has changed in training camp and how it impacts fantasy football. You can look for updates on the NFC every Tuesday while taking a look at the AFC training camps on Fridays. So without further ado, let’s dive into what happened during the first week of AFC training camp.
Take a break from your own training camp and head on over to Fantrax to start or join a league today! Fantrax can work with virtually any league setup you can dream up.
AFC EAST Training Camp Report
A.J. McCarron looks like he finally took the reigns as the Bills QB1 on Thursday. McCarron started for the second day in a row with the first-team offense, the first time in training camp the Bills have not alternated the position by day.
Nathan Peterman worked with the second team for a second straight day, while Josh Allen worked mostly with the third team. This news should not come as a surprise to fantasy owners, but until we hear some LeSean McCoy news, all should be quiet in Buffalo on the fantasy front.
Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill tallied another two interceptions, bringing his training camp total to four. It is worth noting that Tannehill and Devante Parker do not seem to be on the same page and clearly need to work on their chemistry. Miami cornerback Xavien Howard has made Parker look completely outclassed the first week of camp, this is not encouraging for those hoping for a late breakout.
Xavier Howard has been a part of DeVante Parker’s uniform this camp. Just shut him down on one-on-ones.
— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) July 30, 2018
The market share for targets may be the most important thing to watch in Dolphins camp between Parker, Stills, Amendola, and Wilson.
New England Patriots
It looks like the Patriots are expected to sign free agent WR Eric Decker to a one-year deal. The club brought in Decker yesterday for a workout after placing Jordan Matthews on season-ending IR. Decker struggled last season with the Titans and has been in decline since 2015. However, he can be a dangerous red-zone weapon in New England and could be a fantasy zombie in the high-scoring Patriots offense. Decker should get the chance to start in the slot right away with Julian Edelman out on his four-game suspension. He is definitely worth a late-round flier in case this turns into something.
The Patriots are reportedly signing free agent WR Eric Decker to a one-year deal. What impact will the 31-year-old have on the team? @ItsRachelHolt and @ZackCoxNESN discuss. pic.twitter.com/qcWiAsDgk4
— NESN (@NESN) August 2, 2018
Rookie running back Sony Michel appeared to suffer an injury during Wednesday’s practice, Zack Cox of NESN.com reports.
Michel walked off the practice field under his own power, accompanied by members of the Patriots’ training staff to the locker room. He also missed practice on Thursday, but he seems to have escaped any kind of serious injury. Michel had shown no issues with the knee that raised concerns leading up to the NFL draft and had been a full participant in camp until now. It will be tough for Michel to carve out a role worthy of his current ADP with a loaded backfield already filled with Rex Burkhead and James White. That being said, the Patriots do not draft running backs this early very often, so the situation bears monitoring. Rex Burkhead is still the safest option (at current ADP) on draft day for fantasy owners.
New York Jets
After missing all of 2017 with a neck injury, Jets wideout Quincy Enunwa finds himself on the shelf once again. As a result, Enunwa did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday. Jets coach Todd Bowles said that Enunwa’s injury is not related to his neck, but wouldn’t give specifics, which is annoying. “He got injured yesterday so he’s inside getting treatment,” Bowles said after practice. “It’s training camp. I’m not going to get into (details) until I have to… It’s a training camp injury. He’ll be fine. He’ll get back when he gets back.”
Update: The New York Daily News reports Quincy Enunwa will be sidelined 1-2 weeks with a thumb injury. Enunwa was seen with a wrap on his right hand.
#Jets WR Quincy Enunwa, who appeared have a wrap on his hand, is not practicing for a second consecutive day. #JetsCamp
— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) August 2, 2018
Enunwa is an integral piece of the Jets passing attack and comes into 2018 as a fantasy sleeper. Bowles did not say whether the injury could linger until the regular season, so this is a situation fantasy owners will need to monitor as training camp progresses.
Possibly the most important news out of Jets camp is that Elijah McGuire (foot surgery) will be sidelined indefinitely. This is huge news for Isaiah Crowell, who will now assume a huge role in the Jets offense. Fantasy owners need to take note, as Crowell just became one of the most underrated value picks in fantasy drafts.
The Ravens and reporters are touting this as Flacco’s best training camp ever. Is it due to being healed from the back injury that hampered him last season? Or is the motivation brought on by increased competition (Griffing and Jackson) giving Flacco more of a reason to “prove himself?”Either way, it looks like anyone hoping for Lamar Jackson to steal the starting job away from Flacco will be sorely disappointed in 2018. Flacco may very well have another good season left in the tank.
Jackson is very talented but still has some work to do as far as learning a new system, but he will certainly be used as a tempo changer this season. Jackson’s deep ball is impressive and he could be a matchup nightmare as a hybrid quarterback. Dynasty owners should be excited to add the young star, but he may not be worth much in redraft leagues.
Jackson played the entire second half of Thursday night’s Hall Of Fame game vs. the Bears. The Baltimore rookie completed 4-of-10 passes for 33 yards, one touchdown, and an interception while adding eight rushes for 25 additional yards. Maybe not the debut he was hoping for, but it was just the first outing.
OH MY GAWHDDDD ???
LAMAR JACKSON GOING DEEP ON THE FIRST DAY OF TRAINING CAMP ?
— LiveFeedLouisville™ (@LiveFeedLville) July 24, 2018
According to Bookmaker.eu the Ravens are still listed as the favorites to sign free agent Dez Bryant at plus-350. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Baltimore offered Bryant a three-year deal for roughly $21 million in late April. Bryant supposedly turned it down because he wanted a one-year prove-it deal. Now, this is hardly news, but the odds were very recently updated (after the Browns/Patriots rumors) and bookmakers tend to know what they are talking about. Take this for what it’s worth. The way Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson have looked? Baltimore may be a fine spot for Bryant to land for fantasy owners.
Tyler Boyd has been having a strong training camp, and may be the biggest beneficiary after Branden LaFell was released on Wednesday. Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton said, “I think this is the best he’s looked since he’s been here. I’m excited about that.”
Yeah, I know, what else is he supposed to say? Still, this is good news to hear about a player due to pick up a significant amount of targets following the market share hole left by LaFell’s departure (88 targets). Dalton will need to throw somewhere when A.J. Green is being double teamed, and we all know Tyler Eifert injured himself reading this. Boyd finished the 2017 season by scoring an exciting game-winning TD and 91-yards in the Bengals’ Week 17 win over the Ravens.
Boyd’s primary competition for the WR2 spot is speedy 2017 first-rounder John Ross and the underrated sophomore Josh Malone.
The big news out of Cleveland’s training camp is obviously the fact that Josh Gordon is not there. We do not know exactly why, and it seems silly to speculate. However, it is hard for fantasy owners not to be concerned considering the wideout’s past. It is also difficult to draw a sensible conclusion from the situation. Is he a sell-high? Is he is a buy-low? It is a complete guess folks. We just have to wait and see.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor is running the offense efficiently and could be in for a big season. He makes for a fantastic sleeper in fantasy drafts. He and wide receiver Jarvis Landry seem to have a great rapport and could make for a dynamic duo in 2018. However, Baker Mayfield looks as advertised and is certainly going to take over as the Browns QB of the future at some point. It is just a matter of how well Taylor can lead the team.
“Tyrod Taylor is our starting quarterback.”
? » https://t.co/74ToT4UaJO pic.twitter.com/5celhLVXIx
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) July 25, 2018
Antonio Brown is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury and has been sent back to Pittsburgh for evaluation. This is obviously not what fantasy owners (or Steelers fans) want to hear early in training camp, or ever. Coach Mike Tomlin would not specify what the injury was, but did imply that it was minor. The rumor at the time this article was written is that the injury is a quad strain. Let’s hope so.
REPORT: Antonio Brown injury expected to be fine in a few days https://t.co/bMbyjKo0MT
— Steelers Wire (@TheSteelersWire) August 2, 2018
James Conner has been impressive this offseason. Conner has shown up leaner and is taking full advantage of his opportunity to be “the guy” backing up Le’Veon Bell. A rookie campaign that ended in a season-ending injury lowered expectations coming into 2018, but he has seemingly risen to the challenge. The writing is on the wall that Bell could be on his way out at any time, and Conner is ready to fight for the starting role when it’s time. Conner dropped close to 10 pounds and looks sharper and quicker in camp. He is the backup to own in Pittsburgh, not Jaylen Samuel (yeah, I know…gasp.)
“I’m focused no matter who is here, who isn’t here” — James Conner (@JamesConner_ ) ready to prove he belongs in the @NFL as he enters year 2 with the @steelers pic.twitter.com/YyVXrvfXdb
— Chase Williams WPXI (@chasepwilliams) July 26, 2018
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has no restrictions and looks like he hasn’t missed a beat since suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament that ended his rookie campaign. Watson’s timing and rapport with his wide receivers have been outstanding thanks to an entire offseason for the Texans coaching staff to tailor their offense around Watson impeccable.
Sean Ryan, the Texans quarterbacks coach, had this to say about how Watson has looked so far in camp, “I think he’s looked very good. To me, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of apprehension on his part. He’s out there, he’s doing what he does, moving around very well. So, I think to this point, I think all signs are positive.”
Andrew Luck is back, but the Colts are being very careful with their All-Pro captain. They have installed a consistent three days on, one day off schedule for Luck. This means that Thursday at practice (the day off), Luck did not throw a single pass and instead merely went through the motion of throwing. This makes sense as it gives Luck the opportunity to participate from day one at Training Camp while getting into a safe routine that will get him ready for the season.
When he has been in and participating, Luck has looked like his old self, rifling passes and looking sharp. Fantasy owners understand the risk they may be taking when drafting the Colts quarterback, especially with all the setbacks we are used to seeing from him at this point. However, he makes for a fantastic risk to take. All systems are go and he looks great. The Colts are armed with the best offensive line since Jeff Saturday was holding it down for Peyton Manning.
ANDREW LUCK throwing at #Colts training camp right now!
#13 T.Y. Hilton
#80 Chester Rogers pic.twitter.com/dY0Z8He9ez
— PirateLife Football (@PirateLifeFF) July 26, 2018
Colts head coach Frank Reich is not doing us any favors as far as tipping their hand in the running back competition. The six-man running back committee consisting of Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, Robert Turbin, and Christine Michael has been rotating. Every day. While many expect this to be a toe man race between Mack and Hines, Reich has decided to stick with his approach in Philadelphia when he would work out every player and change the game plan for that week. Let’s hope not.
This situation could become a headache for fantasy owners looking for clarity. The smart money is still on Mack starting the season as the main back with Hines taking on a third-down change of pace role. Hopefully, this will start to take on a more predictable pattern as training camp continues on.
Veteran wide receivers Marqise Lee and Donte Moncrief went down with injuries this week, though both are believed to be nothing serious. Both were working the most with the first team at the start of Jaguars camp. This should not come as a surprise after the year Lee had and the money they paid Moncrief to come to Jacksonville. Quarterback Blake Bortles has stated that he is impressed with how talented Moncrief is. This should not be dismissed, as the Jags were in need of a deep threat and the speedy Moncrief has the talent of a WR1 if he can stay healthy. Lee, while being the team’s most reliable wideout, is more of a short yardage pass-catcher.
While Moncrief and Lee are sidelined, Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook have stepped into the first team reps. The sophomore Cole has taken a noticeable step forward this year, who says he feels stronger than he did in his rookie season. The injuries are not what you want to see, but they do give an opportunity for Cole and rookie DJ Chark to shine.
Asked #Jaguars WR Keelan Cole about his development heading into year two pic.twitter.com/Uy1QmQp9Wf
— Zach Goodall (@zach_goodall) July 27, 2018
The most fantasy relevant matchup to watch is at running back between Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis. They seem to enjoy working together, not that friendship helps fantasy owners any. Derrick Henry has been meeting with coach Vrabel to work on his blocking, while also coming to practice earlier to work on his mechanics.
Henry believer or not, you have to respect the effort he is putting out. The Titans need Henry to improve his pass-blocking abilities due to the loss of DeMarco Murray, who thrived in that area. This will go a long way to ensuring maximum snap counts for Henry in the Titans offense. FYI Derrick Henry is a giant compared to Dion Lewis.
Derrick Henry: “Go get me some water”
Dion Lewis: “….what?”
Derrick Henry: “Don’t make me say it again, Dion” @LacesOutShow pic.twitter.com/ZcCtVNSAPv
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) July 31, 2018
Marcus Mariota, despite throwing a few interceptions, has looked fairly good. He is working his way back while fine-tuning his reads and accuracy. The main thing for Maritoa is to stay healthy. Everything else will fall into place. The only thing that should be of concern to Maritoa owners is that fact that wide receiver Rishard Matthews was placed on the PUP list after missing most of training camp with an undisclosed injury. Corey Davis may be a popular breakout candidate, but it will be hard to succeed with Matthews on the shelf.
New Broncos’ quarterback Case Keenum has not thrown an interception in 11-on-11 play this spring. This should not be a surprise after his 2017 campaign in Minnesota where he was one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL. “What he demonstrates and has demonstrated his entire career is anticipation and ball placement,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said of Keenum.
A big part of Keenum’s early success has been the consistent play of rookie wide receiver Courtland Sutton. I would expect to see a lot of three wide receiver sets that include Sutton to go along with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Keenum could be a dangerous late round steal with this lethal group of wideouts at his disposal.
Case Keenum had 7 interceptions and 1 fumble last year.
Kirk Cousins by year:
2017: 13 interceptions, 13 fumbles
2016: 12 interceptions, 9 fumbles
2015: 11 interceptions, 9 fumbles
Don’t assume the Vikings got better by replacing Keenum with Cousins.
— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) August 1, 2018
Kansas City Chiefs
The big news in Chiefs camp is without a doubt the poor play of quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Kansas City traded away their pro bowl captain Alex Smith and handed the job to Mahomes, who has one career start. He has thrown seven interceptions in six practices so far this year. Yes, it’s training camp. No, it doesn’t matter. However, it certainly does not make anyone feel easier going into the season with Mahomes as their starting QB in fantasy football.
It’s important to remember that Alex Smith completed less than 50 percent of his passes in one August practice. He went on to have the third-highest completion percentage in the NFL (67.5%). The Chiefs fans wanted to run him out of town too. Still, it would be nice if Mahomes would calm down a bit, for all of our sakes.
Jordy Nelson is 33 years old and coming off perhaps the worst season of his career, leading many to believe that without Aaron Rodgers his career as a fantasy asset may be at an end. Don’t tell Nelson that. The new Raiders wide receiver is off to a great start in training camp and has been “running like a 28-year-old.”
Derek Carr does not understand why the Packers would release such a talented wide receiver, saying “The thing that you hear about that he can’t run anymore, that’s false. I can tell you, he’s one of the fastest skill guys that we have still. He can run. You see that by his route running. If he can win on underneath routes, which means DBs are scared about what he can do over the top, he’s still Jordy Nelson. That’s for sure.” Packers fans seem to agree, and would have rather seen Randall Cobb released than fan favorite Nelson during the offseason.
It reads like training-camp puff. But Jordy Nelson been exactly what Raiders, WRs coach Edgar Bennett believed they were getting. Moves like he’s 28. Polished routes. Timing developing with Derek Carr. And off-field leader. What they needed.
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) August 2, 2018
Fantasy owners should keep an eye on the rhythm that Carr and Nelson develop during the preseason as both could become sleeper candidates if Nelson has a resurgent 2018 campaign.
Los Angeles Chargers
The only fantasy relevant news coming out of Chargers camp is the battle for the starting tight end position. Hunter Henry, out for the season, has been watching practices with his surgically repaired knee in a brace. Virgil Green is most likely to get the most snaps due to his run blocking ability, although that may be boring for fantasy purposes. However, former Jets tight end Braedon Bowman has impressed in camp as a pass-catching option.
The bottom line here is that San Diego is unlikely to have a fantasy relevant player at the tight end position. Unless they sign free-agent Antonio Gates, which is not out of the question.
.@Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn talks about the state of his team’s tight end position, the possible return of Antonio Gates & dealing w/ high expectations entering 2018……#LAChargers pic.twitter.com/46xGhgTSnG
— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) July 31, 2018
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Excellent breakdown of AFC. I agree on flacco. jackson wasn’t top 10 (32) for a reason even though he can be dynamic. I think tannehill will surprise.
Jackson has the talent to be a great QB, just not right now. He just needs to grab a clipboard and learn a bit. Reports are that having to learn and call plays have been flooding his mind, as he was not used to doing this in college. The same thing happened to Marcus Mariota when he was drafted. Let’s hope he gets the hang of it because he is very exciting.
Agree to a point of Tannehill. However, it would be hard for Tannehill to not surprise considering how low expectations are for him. He will need Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola, and Albert Wilson to step up in a big way if Devante Parker continues to bust.