Preseason games are officially underway and fantasy owners can start to see how key players perform. Training Camp allows fantasy football players to keep an eye on key position battles, injuries, and the way depth charts shake out so they can make the best decision possible on draft day.
I’ll be taking a close look every week during the preseason at the latest news 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 recently in AFC training camp.
AFC EAST Training Camp Report
First-round pick Josh Allen completed 9-of-19 passes for 116 yards and one touchdown in Thursday’s preseason game versus the Panthers. He certainly showcased why many were high on the quarterback going into the draft, while also displaying some wildness. The Bills have little to gain by tossing Allen into the fire to begin their season and will likely have him grab a clipboard. Still, A.J. McCarron does not pose much of a threat to his long-term potential and fantasy owners should expect him to be starting at some point in 2018.
The Dolphins appear to be preparing wideout Albert Wilson for hybrid, or as I would like to call it, a “circus” role. Miami plans to use him everywhere, including running back. Several trick plays have been seen at Dolphins camp involving Wilson. They have also been reported as being very successful. While this may be fun to watch, it is certainly not likely to translate into solid fantasy production.
New England Patriots
Tom Brady has negotiated his contract to include performance incentives. I’m not sure how big of news this really is, but if you are a Brady believer then at least he has more incentive to pad his stats now.
New York Jets
Quarterback Josh McCown has reportedly been the best quarterback in Jets camp. Take this for what it is worth, as it was already expected for McCown to start the season under center in New York. Sam Darnold, reportedly, still has a fair shot to earn the starting role. This wouldn’t be surprising considering the Jets invested such a high draft pick in him, but chances are he will grab a clipboard and watch McCown for at least a handful of games.
AFC North Training Camp Report
Running Back Kenneth Dixon was expected to compete for a job backing up Alex Collins, but there are now rumors that he may be in danger of not making the Ravens at all. Dixon missed quite a few practices with a hamstring injury. This would be interesting news considering the Ravens do not have many options besides Buck Allen as an alternate to Collins. I am not sure how Baltimore could afford to do this, but it would certainly boost Alex Collins fantasy value if his main competition for goal-line vultures is gone.
Wideout John Ross caught one pass for 20 yards in the Bengals’ preseason opener. The likely favorite to open the season as a starter opposite A.J. Green (following the release of Brandon LaFell), Ross had a tough first game. The Cincinnati wide receiver allowed a Kyle Fuller pick six after Ross slipped early in the game. He also failed to catch four of the five targets thrown his way, including a missed opportunity in the end zone. However, it’s still early and preseason games do not carry a lot of weight. Ross is still the man to own if you are chasing targets in fantasy drafts.
Sophomore tight end David Njoku caught two passes for 46 yards with two touchdowns in Thursday’s preseason game versus the Giants. He makes for an excellent upside pick in fantasy drafts in a promising Browns’ offense. He caught a touchdown pass from both Tyros Taylor and Baker Mayfield, all while showing off his athleticism and speed. Aside from Jarvis Landry, Njoku may very well end up being the next best fantasy asset on the Browns.
The Browns “quarterback of the future,” Baker Mayfield looked like he was ready for the NFL in Thursday’s preseason opener. The rookie completed 11-of-20 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns, allowing Cleveland fans to get a glimpse of a possibly bright future. Mayfield drove his team 72 yards on their second possession of the game for a score. The first-year QB even rushed for a couple of first downs. It is hard to see Mayfield making a play for the starting job, especially with Tyrod Taylor going 5-for-5 for 99 yards and TD, but it’s obvious that the kid belongs in the NFL and he is legit.
Rookie running back Nick Chubb rushed 15 times for only 11 yards while hauling in one pass for 12 yards in Thursday’s preseason opener versus the Giants. This poor performance was mainly due to Cleveland’s offensive line getting outclassed. They were the backup squad, but it’s still hard to shine when you are trapped in the backfield. However, it seems obvious that Chubb is buried behind Carlos Hyde for the starting role. The rookie will need to do better if he hopes to grab some regular season playing time.
Fresh off an arrest for marijuana possession, wideout Antonio Callaway had a fantastic preseason opener. He caught three passes for 87 yards and a touchdown on seven targets in Thursday’s preseason game against the Giants. Fantasy owners should be excited about Callaway’s talent, even more so with his obvious chemistry with Baker Mayfield. However, his off-field behavior has to put a red flag on his back.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin expects star wide receiver Antonio Brown to return to practice after the first preseason game. Great. The fantasy world would be a sad place without Antonio Brown. The undisputed WR1 has been hampered by a quad injury and it would be a shame if he were to miss significant time.
AFC South Training Camp Report
There is not a great deal of fantasy-worthy news coming out of Houston. However, it is important to mention that DeShaun Watson is healthy and looking fantastic. The sophomore quarterback is picking up where he left off last season before going down with a knee injury. He is in full rhythm with his wide receivers, and he has a couple of good ones in DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. A healthy Watson means big things for both the Texans and fantasy owners. Watson has elite talent that puts his ceiling as the overall number one quarterback in fantasy. Now don’t go crazy yelling at me, I did say “ceiling.”
Running back Marlon Mack exited the Colts’ preseason opener with a hamstring injury. The extent is currently unknown, but this is certainly a situation to monitor as is could have a significant fantasy impact on rookie Nyhiem Hines and Jordan Wilkins. Rookie wide receiver Deon Cain also left the game with a knee injury and did not return.
Andrew Luck completed 6-of-9 passes for 64 yards in Thursday’s preseason opener versus the Seahawks. I can hear his, and T.Y. Hilton’s ADP rising from here. It sounds like a rocket ship coming from training camp.
According to Colts coach Frank Reich, T.Y. Hilton and Ryan Grant “have really separated themselves” from the other wide receivers. This is an important claim that needs to be taken seriously, as the WR2 on an Andrew Luck squad will have significant value. That is if Luck stays healthy. There has been a lot of buzz around Deon Cain and Chester Rogers making a run at the WR2 job, but Grant is apparently blowing their doors off and taking this job for himself. Grant certainly has a chip on his shoulder after the Ravens withdrew their offer in free agency, forcing him to sign a 1-year “prove it” deal in Indy.
Ryan Grant makes for a fantastic late round pick right now and his ADP should only continue to rise.
Blake Bortles has said he is pain-free in for the first time since 2016. He is referring to wrist pain he’s been experiencing for two seasons that led to him needing surgery in January. We saw a glimpse of how effective Bortles can be in last year’s playoffs. It should be exciting to see what he can do pain-free and undistracted. The Jaguars have a dramatically upgraded offense for their 2018 campaign, making Bortles a sneaky value in fantasy drafts.
AFC West Training Camp Report
Devontae Booker is listed as the starting running back on the Broncos’ depth chart. This should throw a lot of cold water on those hoping for rookie Royce Freeman to “run away” with the job. Pun intended. However, depth charts in early training camp are about as worthless as they come. At a minimum, Fantasy owners should expect there to be a timeshare in Denver to start the season and draft accordingly.
Kansas City Chiefs
Sophomore quarterback Pat Mahomes completed 5-of-7 passes for 33 yards in the Chiefs’ preseason opener. It was not much, but at least he did not throw an interception. The young QB has struggled with interceptions during camp and it will be an issue worth monitoring going forward.
Concerning news for Martavis Bryant owners, as it has been reported that the wideout is struggling to learn Jon Gruden’s playbook. The words came directly from offensive coordinator Greg Olson, so you can take them to the bank. The fact that this news comes only days after new head coach Gruden called out Bryant for poor effort in training camp is a major red flag for fantasy owners. If Bryant does not learn the playbook, he will not play. It is as simple as that. He needs a major attitude adjustment in 2018 is to be a success.
Los Angeles Chargers
In predictable news, Mike Williams has been placed on the second-team offense on the Charger’s depth chart. Tyrell Williams will be getting the start opposite Keenan Allen. Being the “third” guy may seem like a value depressor, but fantasy owners should still have confidence in taking a flier on Williams. He could make for a sneaky end zone target (6-foot-4) now that teammate Hunter Henry is out for the season. Tyrell Williams should be a solid sleeper in 2018 after quietly averaging 16.9 yards per catch a season ago.
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