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NFC Training Camp Report: 8/28/18

NFC training camp is coming to a close soon. This past week has given fantasy owners a bit of clarity on both injury updates and position battles. The Eagles are hinting that Carson Wentz way not be ready, while the Redskins offer positive reports on Jordan Reed. The Cardinals seem to have settled on a WR2, while a rookie wideout continues to make noise in New Orleans. As training camp drama continues right to the bitter end, I have all of the need-to-know info for your upcoming drafts.

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I have been taking a close look at training camp every week for the latest news and how it impacts fantasy football. You can look for my final training camp updates on the NFC next Tuesday while taking my final look at  AFC training camps on Friday. So without further ado, let’s dive into what happened recently in NFC training camp.

NFC EAST Training Camp Report

Dallas Cowboys

Dak Prescott likely will not be seeing any more game action this preseason, according to Jerry Jones. It makes sense for the Cowboys to be conservative with their quarterback. The Dallas offense is starved for talent and they could not survive an injury to Prescott during training camp. If he does stay on the bench going forward, Dak will have finished the preseason 10-for-15 on passes for 86 yards and a touchdown.

Fantasy owners are hoping for a bounce-back season from the Dallas QB, but with a depleted receiving corps, that may be asking a lot. Expect Dallas to lean hard on stud running back Ezekiel Elliott. However, Prescott makes for an intriguing buy-low candidate coming into his third season. If rookie Michael Gallup and newcomer Allen Hurns can put together solid seasons, Prescott may very well be a steal near the end of drafts.

Philadelphia Eagles

Jay Ajayi has not seen action in over a week at training camp due to an undisclosed lower-body injury. The Eagles have not confirmed the injury, but fantasy owners should be concerned given Ajayi’s obvious need for his lower body. We can only hope that this is just a precautionary move by Philadelphia toward the end of training camp. Fantasy owners may want to look into handcuffing Corey Clement if it is possible.

In other injury news, quarterback Carson Wentz has not been cleared for contact yet. At this late date, one would assume this all but rules him out for next Thursday’s opener. Fantasy owners should have a backup plan for at least Week 1 as Nick Foles is likely to lead the Eagles out of the tunnel.

New York Giants

Saquon Barkley (hamstring) was seen torching linebacker Rya-Ray Armstrong in 7-on-7 drills Monday. This is obviously great news, as the rookie running back is looking healthy and on schedule for a Week 1 start. He is the clear preseason favorite for Offensive Rookie Of The Year, and a sure-fire first-round pick in all remaining drafts.

Tight end Evan Engram did not practice Monday as he continues through concussion protocol. The second-year pass catcher was seen wearing a helmet and running light drills. Nothing is certain, but all signs point to Engram being ready for the season opener. Make sure to keep an eye on his progress though. Fantasy owners are counting on Engram for a huge sophomore season and he is currently being drafted at his peak performance ADP.

Washington Redskins

Washington coach Jay Gruden stated that Jordan Reed is looking good for Week 1. Reed has yet to take a single snap in the preseason as the Redskins treat him with kid gloves. Still, if healthy, there is no doubting the offensive ability of Reed. He is and always will be an injury risk, but he can be a top-10, if not top-5 TE1 when he is on the field. Just make sure you own Vernon Davis too. Just saying.

Adrian Peterson certainly seems to be the starting early-down back after dominating first-team reps in the last preseason game. Fantasy owners should expect Chris Thompson to still control most third-down and pass catching duties in the Washington backfield. For now, Rob Kelley is a worthwhile stash near the end of your draft if you need to speculate, but Samjae Perine is currently undraftable. Peterson is going in the Chris Carson range of fantasy drafts at the moment.

NFC NORTH Training Camp Report

Chicago Bears

New Bears coach Matt Nagy hinted that  Jordan Howard will be getting more third-down snaps in the regular season. So, this news leads to a couple of thoughts. First of all, great news for Jordan Howard. The more snaps the better. I am not sure just how much he will truly be involved on third down with teammate Tarik Cohen lurking, but still good news. Secondly, how does this impact the value of Tarik Cohen himself?

There were rumors that Chicago plans to line Cohen up in the slot from time to time. This makes it hard to predict just how they plan on deploying their versatile back in the regular season. All in all, this news is unlikely to change much in terms of preseason value and expectations. Fantasy owners will need to watch this play out to see anything definitive. Consider Howard a safe RB1 while Cohen remains a nice PPR flex weapon.

Detroit Lions

Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson rushed four times for 25 yards in last Friday’s preseason game versus Tampa Bay. It is difficult to gauge how the Lions plan to split time among their running backs at this point. Johnson worked behind both LaGarrette Blount and Ameer Abdullah in getting first-team reps during the contest. Abdullah more likely than not was being displayed for a possible trade and is not going to be a real factor in the Detroit running game. Blount, on the other hand, will be a real problem for Johnson on the goal line and short-yardage plays. It’s also likely that Theo Riddick will continue to occupy most pass-catching downs for the Lions.

Where does this leave Kerryon Johnson? The Lions traded up to draft him last spring, so they have a desire for him to be the guy. However, he will need to contend with proven veterans for playing time all season. Johnson makes for an interesting bench option in fantasy, but it is very risky to depend on him as your starter to begin the season.

Green Bay Packers

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy confirmed that Ty Montgomery’s foot injury is not serious. The Green Bay backfield is going to be a bit of a cluster early in the season. Montgomery is still the likely backup to Jamaal Williams in the Packers backfield. Fantasy owners can expect Ty to hold a third-down role as a change-of-pace back.

The real fun will come when Aaron Jones returns from his two-game suspension. Williams is the superior blocker, while Jones is by far the more talented runner. You can place your flag in support of any of the three, but in the end, this situation is likely to be a headache. Choose wisely fantasy owners. I would take a flier on Aaron Jones. When in doubt, draft talent.

Minnesota Vikings

Stefon Diggs seems to have formed a connection with quarterback Kirk Cousins during training camp. Diggs recently caught 4-of-8 passes for 51 yards in the Vikings’ third preseason game, leading the team in targets. Cousins has yet to form a strong rapport with ether Adm Theilen or Kyle Rudolph, but it will likely fall into place once the season starts. However, it’s good to see if you have shares in Stefon Diggs, who before an early-season injury, was one of the best wideouts in the NFL last season. Diggs has now caught seven passes for 86 yards and a touchdown in preseason action. He is a very legitimate WR1 in 2018.

NFC SOUTH Training Camp Report

Atlanta Falcons

Nothing much happening in Falcons camp. Calvin Ridley continues to hide behind Mohamed Sanu on the depth chart, while Austin Hopper has yet to look like a real part of the Atlanta offense. Even with a quiet preseason, fantasy owners should expect a bounce-back season from Matt Ryan with Ridley in the mix. The Falcons are full of fantasy potential across the board.

Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton is looking good after coming out of the Panthers third preseason game with an injury scare. Newton landed awkwardly on his neck and was immediately checked for a concussion. Luckily, he returned to the game quickly and scored on the same drive. The Carolina captain completed 11-of-17 passes for 142 yards and rushed two times for 13 yards in the contest. Fantasy owners have high expectations for Newton in 2018. The addition of rookie receiver D.J. Moore and the return of a healthy Greg Olsen should go a long way in making those plans a reality. All aboard the Cam Newton train.

New Orleans Saints

Saints rookie wideout Tre’Quan Smith has hauled in 11 catches for 147 yards and a touchdown this preseason. The first-year receiver is having himself a heck of a training camp and is pushing veteran Cameron Meredith for playing time. Don’t believe me? How many catches has Meredith made this preseason? Zero, that how many (on 48 snaps). Smith, the third-round draft pick, is doing all he can to make his mark on the 2018 Saints. Fantasy owners would be wise to take a flier on the young guy and see how this shakes out. If Drew Brees takes advantage of his newest weapon, we could be looking at a first-year breakout. It is at least worth the last round pick to find out.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mike Evans returned to practice Monday after taking a vicious hit in the previous preseason game. Evans took a big hit to the lower back from Quandre Diggs that forced him out of the game. Fantasy owners seem to be split on the value of Evans in 2018 with half believing and half staying away. The Bucs wideout had four consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons to start his career before last year’s clunker. It would be wise to bet on a bounceback with the talent Evans possesses. However, Tampa Bay has plenty of mouths to feed on offense and it may not be in the cards for Evans to get the targets needed to justify his ADP. Only time will tell.

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NFC WEST Training Camp Report

Arizona Cardinals

Nothing to see here. David Johnson is healthy. Sam Bradford is the QB1 and Josh Rosen will grab a clipboard. Christian Kirk is the WR2 opposite Larry Fitzgerald. Got it? Awesome, moving on.

Los Angeles Rams

Rams rookie running back John Kelly rushed 15 times for 64 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday’s preseason game. He is talented enough to be the starting running back on many teams, but as his teammate is Todd Gurley that just won’t happen. Kelly is not worth a roster spot in many leagues other than as a handcuff, but if an injury were to strike he would be a must-add in all formats.

San Francisco 49ers

Veteran Alfred Morris rushed 17 times for 84 yards in the 49ers’ third preseason game against Indianapolis. Morris made the start with both Jerick McKinnon (knew) and Matt Breida (shoulder) still nursing injuries. The impressive showing likely locked in a roster spot for Morris, but with McKinnon and Breida both expected to be ready Week 1, his fantasy value is nearly zero. However, he is a name to remember since we are dealing with both injuries and injury prone players in San Francisco.

Seattle Seahawks

Former all-pro wideout Brandon Marshall looks like he is on his way to making the Seahawks. After catching all three targets tossed his way in the last preseason game, Marshall solidified his spot in the receiver corps with Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett. It’s hard to imagine Marshall being a factor in fantasy this season, but you have to keep an eye on him given his past production.

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