We can’t just sit around and evaluate training camp practice film. It’s more important to us as fantasy football managers to see how that practice translates onto the field and into the game. Finally, preseason Week 1 is here and each team will have at least one game to show off weeks of hard work in front of football hungry fans. While we may not see every player we want, especially those with massive fantasy football value, there is plenty to watch and evaluate this weekend. Before you put your feet up and flood your brain full of hours of NFL football, tap in to this week’s NFC training camp news and guarantee you’re all caught up before the games kick off.
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NFC Training Camps Prep For Preseason Game 1
Veteran wide receiver, and offseason signee, AJ Green comes and goes from the practice field. He is listed as the team’s No. 2 wide receiver opposite of DeAndre Hopkins on the depth chart. His injury history, and minor issues already in camp, make him a late-round consideration in fantasy football drafts. I would prefer a healthier option.
Green is just one of many weapons quarterback Kyler Murray has in his arsenal. Reports from training camp claim Murray is already in “mid-season form” with his mobility and throws.
Rookie wide receiver, Rondale Moore, is back on the practice field and continues to impress. Andy Isabella is back on the Covid-19 list and missing valuable practice time. While Christian Kirk is still in the mix, it would appear Moore will have a role in 2021. I’d throw a dart at Moore in deeper leagues as a contender to command the second-most targets in this busy offense.
The Cardinals face the Dallas Cowboys tonight in their first preseason game. It’s still unclear who will take the field, but keep an eye on the pass-catchers, as well as the running back rotation.
D’Onta Foreman is the newest member of the Atlanta Falcons. The signing of Foreman is more good news for Mike Davis to be the lead back this season. Following a torn Achilles in 2017, Foreman has just 32 touches since. He is not a legitimate threat to take over in Atlanta and is, at this point, a training camp ball carrier.
Meanwhile, Qadree Ollison, the seemingly number two back, sat out of practice over the weekend. Davis got plenty of work and should see similar work in this offense as he did in Carolina last season.
If you decide to load up on pass catchers early in your fantasy football draft, Davis is looking more and more enticing as a safe option to select as your RB1. While he is more of an RB2 with upside, he would produce numbers to feel good about each week at running back with stud wide receivers doing most of the scoring for your team.
Christian McCaffrey continues to impress and is undoubtedly the first overall pick in almost every fantasy football draft. The injuries that held him out most of last season were nothing to be concerned about ahead of this year’s training camp. Don’t overthink it if you’re lucky to get the top pick.
Rookie wide receiver, Terrace Marshall, looks like he will get most of his work in the slot this season. DJ Moore and Robby Anderson are still the pass catchers you want in this offense. Both are fantasy starters with WR21 and WR35 ADPs, respectively.
The Panthers round out the first week of preseason games Sunday afternoon versus the Indianapolis Colts. We should have a better idea of the role and involvement Marshall will have in this offense during this game.
Sam Darnold is going undrafted in most, if not all, fantasy football formats. However, with all of the above weapons, he should be more of a consideration, especially in two-quarterback leagues.
Don’t go reaching for Darnold to lead the way to a fantasy championship just yet. It’s just not that crazy to think he has a Comeback Player of the Year season ahead of him on a new team, with an improved offensive coordinator, surrounded by the most talent he’s ever had in his short career.
Darnell Mooney is one of the biggest talking points of Bears training camp thus far. The second-year receiver is reportedly ‘on fire’ with his route running and clearly the number two pass catcher in the Chicago offense.
The Bears are spending the week participating in joint practices with the Miami Dolphins. On Saturday, the two will face off in their first preseason game. It will be our first look at Bears rookie quarterback, Justin Fields, in an NFL game.
Andy Dalton is still the presumed starter, but Fields is really beginning to make things difficult. He is receiving rave reviews for having a ‘breakout practice’ on Thursday, looking considerably better than Dalton.
Fields isn’t getting his work with the first-team offense just yet. However, he is putting his ability to roll out of the pocket and throw on the run on display. Most of the time, he is throwing to bottom-of-the-depth chart receivers, who are making plays thanks to his skill set.
If Fields does in fact win the starting quarterback job, he is going to be a top-12 option at the position in fantasy football. There is even an argument he could be taken higher due to his ability to rack up points running.
Quarterback, Dak Prescott, is scheduled to undergo another MRI on Monday. The team continues to stress that it is precautionary and that he could play this weekend if it were a regular-season game. Furthermore, the Cowboys believe Dak will get some reps in the team’s third preseason game next week.
If you have a fantasy football draft approaching, I would still consider Dak a top-five quarterback. There isn’t a need to downgrade his receivers, or Ezekiel Elliot, yet, either based on this news.
The shoulder injury can be used as a tie-breaker if you find yourself between selecting a Dallas player and a player from another team with a similar ranking. For instance, if you were deciding between Ceedee Lamb and Mike Evans at wide receiver, it would be understandable to lean on the safer side with Evans if you have a draft this weekend.
We should have a better idea of how to handle this situation by early next week. Until then, quarterbacks Garrett Gilbert and Ben Dinucci will continue to get the bulk of the training camp reps throwing the ball.
In other news, wide receiver, Amari Cooper, is off of the Physical Unable to Perform list having passed a physical earlier this week. Cooper’s ankle injury, and Lamb’s stunning training camp performances, have resulted in a small dip in Cooper’s draft value. With his return to the field, it will be important to see how involved Cooper and efficient is in the next week or so.
The big story out of Detroit is that second-year running back, D’Andre Swift, is currently out of training camp with a groin injury. His fantasy football value is a roller coaster ride, to say the least.
With the offseason signing of running back, Jamaal Williams, it has been a question whether or not Swift can produce RB1 numbers in this backfield. His 57 targets last year are encouraging, but Williams’ role in Green Bay, for the last four seasons, has been mostly as a pass-catcher.
Groin injuries can be tricky to shake and Swift’s injury will be hard to overlook as fantasy drafts approach. I would still consider Swift in the RB15 to RB20 range. However, it may be wiser to wait and snag Williams in the 10th round for cheaper, with upside, and let someone else bet on Swift.
TJ Hockenson continues to be the top pass catcher in Detroit. During a walk-through this week, the expected starting wide receivers, Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman, were not present. In their place, rookie, Amon-Ra St. Brown is getting a lot of attention as a target monster. It helps too when you make plays and create highlights jumping over your teammates in training camp.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers won’t play in the Packers’ first preseason game this weekend. He has, as expected, looked sharp during training camp so far. Rodgers’ main targets during scenario-based drills have been Davante Adams, to no surprise, and Randall Cobb.
Cobb, who notably joined the team following a trade with the Houston Texans, could be a serviceable PPR option in 2021. The Packers’ biggest downfall in recent seasons has been their lack of trustworthy wide receivers. Albeit four years ago, Cobb did finish as the PPR WR35 in 14 games during the 2017 season. He will likely return flex value in 2021 periodically throughout the season.
Lead running back, Aaron Jones, is sidelined from training camp with a hamstring injury. It does not appear to be serious, but don’t expect Jones to play in this weekend’s preseason game.
With that in mind, Jones’ backup, AJ Dillon, is going to be one of the top running back handcuffs for the 2021 fantasy football season. He is a must-own back that has potential for weekly flex value, even if Jones is healthy.
His ADP is creeping up into the ninth round of drafts. Even if you do not have Jones on your roster, Dillon is worth adding for running back depth.
Los Angeles Rams
As the days go by, and the Rams do not sign a running back, Darrell Henderson’s value gets better. Head coach, Sean McVay, is making it clear with his words and the team’s actions that they are comfortable with who they have on the roster.
So far in training camp, Henderson is getting most of the first-team reps. Behind him, Xavier Jones is emerging as the backup. I would keep Jones’ name in mind in the event of a Henderson injury, but he isn’t a mandatory draft pick to have as a handcuff at this time.
Even if the Rams do add a running back, it is likely for depth. Behind Henderson and Jones is rookie, Jake Funk. With Matthew Stafford living up to expectations at quarterback, Henderson is looking like a steal as RB25 on an offense that could score a ton of points.
Vikings fans and fantasy football managers alike, held their breath earlier this week when wide receiver Justin Jefferson left training camp with an injury. After catching a pass, he landed on his shoulder and is working through an AC joint sprain.
This could have been a lot worse. The Vikings claim Jefferson will be back soon. He’s been seen doing light work in drills as the week progresses, but nothing with contact. Jefferson is still a top-10 wide receiver for fantasy football. This was just a humbling moment that every player is vulnerable to injury. There’s just no way to predict them.
The Vikings are one of those teams with little to no question as to who is worth a roster spot in fantasy football. The players, like Jefferson, running back, Dalvin Cook, and wide receiver, Adam Thielen, will likely sit out most of the preseason games.
New Orleans Saints
Michael Thomas continues to be the most talked-about player on the Saints this week and he isn’t even practicing at training camp. Thomas is reportedly upset with the Saints and their feelings toward his delay in undergoing ankle surgery this offseason. He is making his feelings known through social media.
If last year’s constant questioning of Thomas’ status each week wasn’t enough to fade him in 2021, this situation is, for me. There is no denying Thomas’ talent and value at wide receiver, especially in fantasy football. However, with an ADP of WR25, I cannot justify using that high of a pick on him and wait around for him to take the field.
There is a chance that Thomas prolongs his recovery and misses more time than we’d all like him to. Financially, it would be difficult for the Saints to trade him as they would acquire a large cap hit to do so. This will only get worse before it gets better and I want no part of it.
Meanwhile, receiver Tre’Quan Smith is sidelined with a leg injury. The pass-catcher gaining the most attention is Marquez Callaway. He is the unanimous top wide receiver in New Orleans’ training camp.
As the quarterback battle continues between Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston, I am only targeting running back, Alvin Kamara, in upcoming drafts. If Smith, Callaway, or tight end, Adam Trautman, present themselves as options in later rounds, I may consider taking a chance on one of them because somebody has to catch the ball in New Orleans.
New York Giants
Saquon Barkley is off of the PUP list and back on the practice field. Just prior to this move, reports out of Giants training camp were that Barkley may not play until Week 3 of the regular season. Head coach, Joe Judge is stringing us all along claiming that Barkley could even play in the preseason.
At this point, Barkley’s talent is not much of a question to fantasy football managers. It’s his level of efficiency in his return from the 2020 season-ending knee injury.
If you decide to select Saquon in the first round, it may be wise to use your second-round pick on a high-floor running back or wide receiver to hedge any risk you feel he carries. Just remember, Saquon is a three-down running back you can build your team around. He is a player with league-winning potential and that is the type of player you should spend a first-round pick on.
Behind Barkley, the backup running back battle is seemingly between Devontae Booker and Corey Clement. Booker is clearly the player fantasy football managers consider the handcuff based on ADP, but his training camp performance has been reportedly uninspiring.
Wide receiver, Kenny Golladay, is still out with a hamstring injury. He has, however, been working on the field in a helmet, which is a good sign. He, nor quarterback, Daniel Jones, will play in the team’s first preseason game this weekend. It will be hard to put a finger on this offense’s value if we don’t get to see any action before any upcoming fantasy football drafts.
The Eagles took the field last night for their first preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Miles Sanders is the only healthy starter, relevant to fantasy football, that did not take the field. Head coach, Nick Sirianni, is adamant that Sanders is not hurt and that the team knows what kind of player he is, so he sat.
There are many reports out of Eagles training camp highlighting Sirianni’s interest in involving running backs in the passing game. In Sirianni’s offense last season with the Colts, running backs, Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines recorded over 100 total receptions. This is great news for Miles Sanders, who was way less involved in the passing game last season as he was as a rookie in 2019.
With wide receiver DeVonta Smith on the sideline with a knee injury, Quez Watkins is the next man up. He is the star of the first preseason game, having turned on the jets for a 79-yard touchdown on a screen pass. Watkins is the most impressive wide receiver out of training camp so far, but not a consideration for fantasy football just yet.
While Jalen Hurts didn’t have the best night in the box score, his pass-catchers didn’t do him any favors with a few dropped passes. His best throw of the night was a 34-yard pass to tight end, Dallas Goedert. I would get used to that as reports from training camp emphasize his utilization of the tight ends in the passing game. Goedert is ranked as TE7 and usually gone by the seventh round of fantasy football drafts.
San Francisco 49ers
As exciting as Trey Lance’s highlights may seem, fantasy football players on the 49ers would still be in good hands with Jimmy Garropolo under center. The two quarterbacks continue to go round-for-round at training camp. More importantly, they’re making plays with wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and tight end, George Kittle, all of whom are early-round targets in fantasy football.
Head coach, Kyle Shanahan, has indicated that Lance will see much more playing time than Jimmy G in the first preseason game. That makes this one of the biggest must-watch games of the weekend to get an idea of Lance’s in-game ability. If, in fact, Lance does not start Week 1 over Garropolo, I am comfortable with where all of the aforementioned players are going. I would continue to trust them as every week starters.
Raheem Mostert is listed as the starting running back of the team’s first unofficial depth chart. Behind Mostert are rookie, Trey Sermon, Wayne Gallman, and Elijah Mitchell. This running back room has a lot of mouths to feed, as it has in the past. As of now, Mostert seems like the best pick to start off the season as an RB2. However, it’s no secret that Sermon could lead the team in carriers down the stretch later in the season with less tread on his tires.
Add tight end Will Dissly to the list of Seahawks players who are excited about the team’s new offense this season. The talk of training camp continues to be the up-tempo speed that offensive coordinator, Shane Waldron, is bringing to Seattle ahead of the 2021 season.
This is significant because it likely means Waldron is implementing high usage of tight ends into the passing game. With reports to back that up, this means Gerald Everett could benefit the most and be one of the top sleepers at the position in 2021. At a position that’s hard to find production, he is a name worth circling to spend a late-round pick on or monitor early on in the season’s waive wire.
Rashaad Penny is shaping up to be another top running back handcuff to Chris Carson. Considering that Carson has averaged just over 13 games per season the last three years, Penny should be a late-round target as a potential starter at some point in this extended 17-game season. Seattle is known for running the football and Penny could have weekly top-20, or higher, upside if Carson ever misses time.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady claims he feels the best he has in years. He is no longer wearing a brace on his knee. This is stunning to hear from a 44-year-old quarterback and also great news for all of the pass catchers in this offense.
Tight end, Cameron Brate, is off of the PUP list at Buccaneers training camp. Meanwhile, OJ Howard is struggling to get back to full strength following his Achilles injury last season. Neither of these players should be considered in fantasy football, no matter how desperate at tight end you may be. Instead, continue to focus on the wide receivers, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown.
Furthermore, it appears Giovanni Bernard could assume the ‘James White role’ as a pass-catching running back that Brady had when he was in New England. Bernard has an average of just under 43 receptions per season. He could see a similar number in Tampa Bay in 2021.
I think Bernard’s presence is more of a downgrade to Leonard Fournette than Ronald Jones. Jones is never going to develop into a trustworthy pass catcher and should assume the early-down work running the ball. He is listed as the starting running back on the team’s first unofficial depth chart. If Gio works in on third-down, it could be difficult for Fournette to carve out a role in this offense unless RoJo starts to struggle.
Washington Football Team
Each week that goes by, Antonio Gibson’s health becomes less of a concern. The second-year running back is mixing into this offense all over the field. Reports from training camp detail his involvement in multiple situational drills as a runner and pass-catcher. He remains on the field in hurry-up offense scenarios consistently. He’s currently ranked as RB12 and that may prove to be too low.
Wide receiver, Curtis Samuel, is dealing with a groin injury. He has yet to work with the first-team offense due to injury and Covid-19 issues to start training camp. Samuel is currently going in fantasy football drafts as WR42. I would much rather select Jarvis Landry, Laviska Shenault, Jaylen Waddle, or others, all of which are similarly valued.
There is a real chance the Washington Football Team defense finishes as the best defense in fantasy football this year. It’s easy to get caught up in any and all Chase Young highlights. Let this be a reminder, however, to wait until one of the final two rounds to spend a pick on a defense.
For more Rankings and Analysis please check out our full 2021 Fantasy Football Draft Kit.
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