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AFC Training Camp Week Report: Is Najee Harris The New Le’Veon Bell?

Welcome to week one of AFC training camp recaps. Every Friday I will be covering what went on for every AFC team at their camp. Everything from position battles, new signings, injury reports and coaching decisions.

Week one was a little light on news as most teams had their first practice on Wednesday, but some major headlines did hit during the week. Such as Lamar Jackson going on the COVID-19 list, Odell Beckham Jr is healthy, Henry Ruggs III gained 13 pounds and Najee Harris is showing his competitive nature.

Let’s get into it!

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AFC Training Camp Report

AFC South

Tennessee Titans

Both A.J. Brown and Julio Jones participated in the team’s first practice. Brown looked great coming off his offseason knee surgeries. He scored twice, once on a tight cut on Janoris Jenkins and later on a post route. The receiver looks to be a solid choice going in the second round as his surgeries have not slowed him down.

On the other hand, Jones was limited in practice, so we have yet to see the impact he will have with the Titans. Derrick Henry was also held out of team workouts and mainly worked on individual drills. This wouldn’t worry me too much in terms of fantasy as it is only the first practice.

Indianapolis Colts

Carson Wentz had a rusty start to his Colts debut, going 12-20. But, he did complete passes to eight different receivers.

This might be the biggest news of the day as rookie tight end Kylen Granson caught three of those passes, leading the team.

“He’s picked up the offense very well, you could see that he transitioned — even today, made some plays, you could see he could be involved in the offense. And he’s very mature. So we’re going to try to get him involved with the many weapons we have,” Offensive coordinator Marcus Brady said.

As tight ends drop off in fantasy after the third round, Granson could be a sleeper tight end going forward. He will be a player to keep an eye on going into the season.

In other news, both Marlon Mack and Parris Campbell looked fresh in the first practice after they both missed almost the entire season last year. Mack will be one to watch though I still see Jonathan Taylor as the primary back.

Houston Texans

The Texans have been in the news quite a bit lately with them trying to shop Deshaun Watson. Watson however, did show up to the first practice and passed a conditioning test. In terms of fantasy news, the Texans didn’t have much to report on.

Watson is still risky to draft as we don’t know his future with the team or NFL.

The Texans did trade Randall Cobb back to the Packers, which can boost Brandin Cook’s draft value. During the first practice, Cooks caught multiple passes in traffic. I can see Cooks being a high-end flex option for the season. Even if it’s Tyrod Taylor throwing to him.

Jacksonville Jaguars 

Trevor Lawrence was the one to watch during the Jaguars first practice and he did not disappoint. Lawrence and Gardner Minshew II split reps during the practice, but it was Lawrence who stood out.

During practice, Lawrence showed quick releases and hit some deep passes to wide receivers Phillip Dorsett II and Josh Imatorbhebhe. This is going to be a fun team to watch and Lawrence has high potential in fantasy this year.

The other rookie in Travis Etienne didn’t have an impressive day like his college teammate. Etienne fumbled on a carry, even though it was a non-contact day.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills had their first practice on July 28, and there were a few updates to look forward to going into training camp.

As for injuries, Zack Moss had the green light to practice in camp after suffering an ankle injury in last season’s wild card game. The ankle injury did require surgery, so this is a good sign for the second year running back. The Moss and Devin Singletary position battle will be one to look forward to, in seeing who will be the primary back during the season.

Another rookie who got to see reps in practice was wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury. Hodgins could be a deep sleeper to watch during camp. Though it may be unlikely with the addition of Emmanuel Sanders in the offseason.

Miami Dolphins

The major news from the Dolphins training camp is wide receiver DeVante Parker among three others, was placed on the physically unable to perform list. The good news in this, is now rookie wide receiver Jaylen Waddle could gain some more chemistry with former teammate Tua Tagovailoa. The Dolphins are also having Waddle get reps at punt returning.

Will Fuller did leave practice early with a trainer, though it was reported he was not limping or seemed hurt. This could be something to monitor. Fuller will also miss the first game of the season with the Dolphins to finish up his six-game suspension from last season. So, if Fuller misses some time, this could hurt his fantasy production in learning a new offense.

New England Patriots

The Patriots first week of practice was boring in terms of fantasy football. Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia spent most of the first practice working with the defense. However, with Patricia back to the Patriots, their defense could be a top-tier defense this year.

But, the two major things to keep an eye out for at the Patriots training camp are the Cam Newton vs Mac Jones battle and the new tight end duo in Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. The reps were split evenly between Jones and Newton. No quarterback seemed to stand out, as they both had trouble finding open targets.

However, as for the tight ends, both Smith and Henry were confident in their first practice. Henry said, “This offense is built for tight ends.” Henry went on to say, he and Smith haven’t spent much time together but chemistry is only going to build from here.

But, with only one practice we don’t know who will have the bigger role in the passing game. These two need to be watched closely as camps continue.

New York Jets

The second overall pick in the draft Zach Wilson held out of the first two practices with the team. But, after day two the rookie signed a four-year contract. Even though the rookie did not practice, head coach Robert Saleh said he is impressed with the run game. Tevin Coleman saw some action during the practice breaking some runs with the help of Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker.

But, the big news is Michael Carter is getting reps with the first team. Carter continues to show off his speed as seen in this video. This will be a battle to keep an eye on as Coleman could still split carries or red zone touches in the regular season. However, the run game should be solid with the offensive line the Jets have.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers

One of the more exciting rookie fantasy players this season is rookie running back Harris and he didn’t fall short in his first week of training camp. The team ran seven plays from the two-yard line where Harris scored on a pass from Ben Roethlisberger.

Harris caught the ball on a slant route contested by Devin Bush. Harris also won four out of his five reps on backs on backers. The rookie is showing he can be an all-around back and can take a hit. As preseason comes up, I can see Harris rising in the rankings for running backs.

From the looks of it, Harris could be the type of back that Le’Veon Bell was. If so this would make Harris a first-round draft pick. But, right now he is going mid-second round. Keep an eye on Harris.

For injuries, Eric Ebron left the practice with elbow discomfort.

Baltimore Ravens

The biggest news that hit the Ravens for week one is Jackson starting training camp on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Gus Edwards was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list as well.

With Edwards out, this will give more reps to J.K. Dobbins who looks to be the number one option in the backfield. The extra reps can secure his spot as being a three-down back for the team, but only time will tell as training camp continues.

Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley will continue to get reps at the quarterback position while Jackson is out. But, I only see this position battle valuable if Jackson misses some games. But, for now, Dobbins looks like he can be the real deal in Baltimore.

Cleveland Browns

Some good news that came right before training camp is that Beckham passed his physical after suffering an ACL injury last season. In passing his physical, he avoided being placed on the physically unable to perform list. We’ll keep an eye on Beckham, and maybe this could be his breakout season with the Browns.

Aside from Beckham, second-year receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones had a highlight catch for the first day of practice. Peoples-Jones was streaking his rookie year but has spectacular catch abilities.

Cincinnati Bengals

Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said he used the team’s first practice to ease into next week. But, that didn’t stop running back Joe Mixon from putting on a clinic after coming off a foot injury last season.

This is great news for fantasy owners looking to draft Mixon in the second round. With not much competition in the backfield, Mixon can be a low-end RB1 in the draft. But, you can snag him in the second round. Reports said the play of the day was “Any run by running back Joe Mixon, who looked terrific taking his first handoffs from Burrow since Oct. 18… Mixon looked smooth and decisive while making reads in a run game now officially coordinated by (Frank) Pollack.”

As for the passing game, Joe Burrow had a great practice. He went perfect on 7-on-7 drills and linked up with rookie Ja’Marr Chase throughout the day. Chase is one to look out for in this offense. Let’s see how the college duo now pro does during the preseason.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs

The 2020 AFC champions started camp just where they left off from last season. Patrick Mahomes linked up with Tyreek Hill on a sidearm pass, which has become Mahomes’ signature move.

The main thing to watch in the Chiefs training camp is who is going to take over the Sammy Watkins targets. Watkins left to join the Ravens, so Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson will be the receivers to watch in training camp.

During the season we all know Hill and Travis Kelce will be double-teamed, so either Hardman or Robinson will be a great late-round pick drafting in a deep league. Last season Watkins was targeted 55 times in 10 games. So those five and a half targets will need to go somewhere. Keep an eye on Hardman and Robinson going forward.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos will be an interesting team to watch in the preseason. With the addition of Teddy Bridgewater, Drew Lock now has some competition for his job. Bridgewater or Lock will probably be waiver wire quarterbacks during the season, but depending who gets the job can factor how well other fantasy stars show up. Such stars as Courtland Sutton, Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams and Jerry Jeudy.

In their first practice, Bridgewater looked more consistent, but Lock had the flashy plays including a touchdown pass to Jeudy.

For the receivers both Jeudy and K.J. Hamler impressed the team in their first practice. Jeudy showed off his route running and caught about every pass. Safety Justin Simmons told reporters after practice he thinks Jeudy could have an All-Pro/Pro Bowl type year this season for the Broncos.

Sutton did practice fully, but he will be wearing a knee brace throughout camp and possibly the season. If he isn’t back to 100% during the season, be on the lookout for Jeudy to have a huge year.

Hamler showed off his speed in practice. He could come in as a solid slot receiver especially in a PPR league.

Los Angeles Chargers

The 2020 offensive rookie of the year Justin Herbert stood out on his first day at practice. He linked up with Keenan Allen twice with safety Derwin James defending. Herbert looks to be a top 10 quarterback at the end of the year who is going around the eighth round.

No news on Austin Ekeler for camp, but running back Justin Jackson was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. Ekeler is the no-doubt number one back, but we’ll see how he progresses into next week.

Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders made a lot of changes on offense including the offensive line, receiving core, and in the backfield. The team lost Nelson Agholor but picked up John Brown and Willie Snead IV in the offseason. They also added running back Kenyan Drake who starts the camp on the Active/Non-Football Injury list. 

But, the biggest fantasy news to watch in the Raiders training camp is second-year receiver Ruggs. Ruggs bulked up in the offseason gaining 13 pounds and looks like he’s ready to be the team’s number one receiver.

Ruggs also spend some of the offseason going back home to train in Alabama and said he is ready to take on a larger role in the offense this season. The second-year receiver is going undrafted in most leagues, so let’s keep an eye on how head coach Jon Gruden uses him in the offense this year.

See you next week

This week was a little light on the news as most teams only had two practices. Check back next week for another breakdown on each AFC team and how the camps will help you when it comes to drafting this season.

For more great rankings and analysis, check out our full 2021 Fantasy Football Draft Kit.

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