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NFC Training Camp Update: 20 Carries a Game for Montgomery?

NFL training camp is finally here!  There are finally need-to-know, daily reports covering our favorite fantasy football players.  Let me be the first to remind you that one amazing play at practice, or even a sore quad muscle, doesn’t define a player’s season.  Don’t overreact to good or bad news just yet!  Stay up to date on the latest information at the end of each week and prepare as best as possible for your fantasy football draft.  Now, let’s check in with what went on at the first week of NFC training camps.

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Catching Up With Training Camps in the NFC

Arizona Cardinals

Running back, Chase Edmonds, entered training camp touting that he slimmed down. He claims to have added muscle ahead of the 2021 season, as well.  Edmonds only carried the ball 97 times in 2020, which was less than quarterback, Kyler Murray. However, he did add 53 receptions on 67 targets, but only touched the ball 26 times in the red zone all last season.

With Kenyan Drake gone, and the addition of the often banged up, James Conner, any expansion of Edmonds’ role in this offense will be worth monitoring.  So far, head coach, Kliff Kingsbury, has hinted that it could be a “hot-hand” approach during the season.  The two will split the primary reps in practice at the start of training camp.

In lesser news, Kingsbury advised of a possibility that veteran wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald could return to the field in 2021.  The Cardinals have left the decision up to Fitz.  For fantasy purposes, he would not be worth spending a draft pick on, even in deeper leagues.  He’s just one more reliable weapon to boost Kyler Murray’s value toward overall QB1 status.

Atlanta Falcons

The biggest story out of Atlanta’s training camp is that wide receiver, Calvin Ridley, is practicing in full.  He is back on the field after minor foot surgery that took place in June.  Ridley enters the 2021 fantasy football season as a top-5 player at his position with no health concerns.

After the Falcons traded veteran, star receiver, Julio Jones, to the Titans, Ridley’s value has never been higher.  From just one practice, he already looks healthy.  It’s a good bet that Ridley leads this team in target share percentage in the passing game.

Carolina Panthers

Sam Darnold will be the key to the Panthers’, as well as any Panthers’ offensive fantasy football, success in 2021.  He is just 24-years-old, getting a fresh start, after his trade from the Jets, and has plenty of weapons around him to succeed.  His biggest asset, running back Christian McCaffrey, is healthy, without any limitations thus far in training camp.

As for the receivers, Darnold’s former New York teammate, receiver Robby Anderson, has yet to take the field due to an illness.  Most of the talk at the tail end of this week was good news surrounding rookie pass-catcher, Terrace Marshall.  He is reportedly competing for playing time as the Panthers’ slot receiver.  With his large frame, and collegiate history at LSU under, now, Panther’s O.C., Joe Brady, Marshall is a name to watch.

Unfortunately for Marshall, he is likely the fourth passing option behind receivers DJ Moore, Anderson, and even McCaffrey.  Any interest in adding him to your roster should be as a dynasty stash on your bench with the hope he plays sooner than later.

Chicago Bears

Head coach, Matt Nagy, has been reportedly impressed with rookie quarterback, Justin Fields.  That’s refreshing to hear considering how committed he has been to starting Andy Dalton in Week 1.  From just one practice, Dalton supposedly “turned heads” with a few deep balls to wide receiver, Darnell Mooney.

Fields could push Dalton for the job throughout camp, which would be a boost for all Bears fantasy football players.  For now, though, consider Fields a late-round, upside pick at quarterback expecting to start, hopefully, by October.  This is one of the biggest positional battles across the league in training camp.

Running back, David Montgomery currently has a back-end of the top-20 ADP.  Nagy has made multiple remarks throughout the first week of training camp that Montgomery could average 20 carries per game.  If that were to even come close to happening, Montgomery would easily surpass 300 carries on the season.  That is undoubtedly RB1 volume and a hot commodity in fantasy football.

The biggest perceived threat to Montgomery’s touches is the return of pass-catching back, Tarik Cohen.  Following a Week 3 torn ACL last season, Cohen starts off 2021 training camp on the active/Physically Unable to Perform list.  He can return at any time during camp if able to do so.  Early reports indicate, though, that it could be a while for him.

Lastly, just before training camp, the Bears cut ties with fourth-year receiver, Anthony Miller.  He, along with a 2022 7th-round pick, was traded to the Houston Texans for a 2022 5th-rounder.  This move opens the door for the aforementioned Mooney to work as the clear-cut WR2 opposite of Allen Robinson.  Mooney’s value is sure to increase, especially when Fields is the one throwing the ball.

Dallas Cowboys

Unfortunately on Thursday, quarterback, Dak Prescott did not finish practice.  He was diagnosed with a shoulder strain.  Unless the shoulder worsens during training camp, he’s still a top-5 option at quarterback in fantasy football.

Running back, Ezekiel Elliot, entered training camp looking noticeably slimmer.  More importantly for Zeke’s fantasy football value is that the offensive line is back to full strength.  All-Pros, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and ascending star, La’el Collins, are back up front.  Zeke will look to bounce back to elite RB status behind these guys after averaging a career-low 4.0 yards per carry in 2020 with a makeshift line most of the season.

Wide receiver, Amari Cooper, was placed on the active/PUP list to start camp while he recovers from off-season ankle surgery.  He is unlikely to practice until mid-August which could affect his draft value in fantasy football.  In addition to Cooper’s issues, receiver, Michael Gallup, tweaked his ankle but is not expected to miss much time.

Most of the Cowboys’ early training camp highlights have been videos of second-year receiver, Ceedee Lamb, making ridiculous catches.  He is likely going to be the top Cowboys pass catcher selected in fantasy football drafts and will continue to get a heavy volume of passes at practice.

Lastly, tight end, Blake Jarwin returned to the field following a season-ending torn ACL injury in 2020.  Dalton Shultz, who assumed the starting tight end role in his place, is coming off a career-best season, as a result.  The tight end battle is something to watch in training camp.  Whoever wins the job could have sneaky, late-round value in fantasy football.

Detroit Lions

There is not much to report about the Detroit Lions in fantasy football this season, especially at wide receiver.  In just two training camp practices, Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams were lined up outside with the starters in two-wide sets.  When the team adjusted to three-wide sets, rookie, Amon-Ra St. Brown, took the reps at the slot position with the starters.

As of now, I would peg tight end, T.J. Hockenson, to be the leader in targets and receptions in 2021.  While this group of pass catchers is nothing to write home about, there could be one or two players that emerge as weekly flex options in fantasy football any given week.

Green Bay Packers

Not much to report out of Green Bay…

…other than, the player surrounded by the most drama of the offseason, Aaron Rodgers, showing up to training camp Tuesday.  The 2020 MVP is set to play in 2021 after threatening retirement due to displeasure with the organization.  With Rodgers back under center, any downgrading that may have been done to Packers positional players in fantasy football can be positively adjusted.

Davante Adams is still one of, if not the, top targets at the wide receiver position and has even discussed reopening contract talks with the Packers, which is notable for dynasty managers.  Adams is a first-round fantasy football draft pick in most formats and now likely the first receiver off of the board.

One condition of Rodgers’ return was for the team to trade for Texans’ receiver, Randall Cobb, which they did.  He returns to the team he spent the first eight years of his career with and reunites with Rodgers.  Cobb will likely be the second pass-catching option on the Packers and a flex player in fantasy football with WR3 upside out of the slot.

Los Angeles Rams

One of the more devastating early training camp news pieces is the report that Rams running back, Cam Akers, suffered a season-ending Achilles injury last week in a workout.  After a strong finish to his rookie campaign last season, Akers was set to be a top option at running back for the 2021 fantasy football season.

In his place, Rams running back, Darrell Henderson, is projected to be the starter.  Head coach, Sean McVay is prioritizing Henderson’s health throughout training camp.  He will likely not play in any preseason games.  Furthermore, the team is not expected to add an additional running back to the roster anytime soon.

If the Rams don’t acquire a notable running back in the next few weeks, consider Henderson a top-20 running back in this high-powered offense.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings have a pair of elite fantasy football wide receivers in Adam Thielen and rookie breakout, Justin Jefferson.  Behind the two may be recent signee, Dede Westbrook, who is looking to revitalize his career just 10 months removed from a torn ACL.  The speedster could be a viable option if he makes it through camp and either Thielen or Jefferson were to miss time.

Rookie quarterback, Kellen Mond, has apparently stood out in the first few days of training camp.  It is unlikely he is a threat to take Kirk Cousins’ job this season.  Still, any good news surrounding Mond is encouraging for the team’s future, especially Jefferson, moving forward.

New Orleans Saints

Michael Thomas, who missed most of last season with an ankle injury, is still struggling to get fully healthy.  News broke last week that Thomas had ankle surgery in June and the injury simply did not heal correctly.  He opens training camp on the PUP/Reserve list and will miss at least the first six weeks of the season.  Luckily, the Saints have a bye in Week 6.

Given the frustrations with Thomas and his injury in 2020, fantasy football managers should proceed with caution again in 2021 as his timeline to return could extend further.  It’s worth mentioning that head coach, Sean Payton, even gave his input frustratingly stating he thinks Thomas should have had surgery earlier.

In his absence, the Saints brought in and signed veteran wide receiver, Chris Hogan.  Thomas’ time off the field will open up targets for others, but it is doubtful that Hogan, at 32-years-old, is that effective.

Consider all of this good news for running back, Alvin Kamara, and, potential breakout tight end, Adam Trautman, in the passing game and for fantasy football.

The biggest story in New Orleans is who is going to replace quarterback, Drew Brees.  So far, it is Taysom Hill who is lining up with the first-team offense in training camp.  This is the only quarterback battle, between Hill and Jameis Winston, that is between two veterans.  However, the result will shape the future for the Saints and key fantasy football players.

New York Giants

Running back, Saquon Barkley starts off training camp on the active/PUP list as Giants fans, and fantasy football managers, anxiously await to see him return from his 2020 season-ending knee injury.  It’s no secret he was going to be eased back into things, so I understand the concerns about spending a first-round pick on him.  That said, for this team to reach its full potential, he has to play, and I anticipate him on the field in Week 1.

Saquon’s backup, Devontae Booker, is getting the starting running back workload in his place.  If Barkley were to miss any time this season, Booker appears to be the clear-cut backup the Giants plan to use at this time.  The team does plan to sign veteran back, Alfred Morris, soon, presumably to take training camp reps.

This is a make-or-break year for quarterback, Daniel Jones.  The Giants signed free agent receiver, Kenny Golladay, as well as drafted Kadarius Toney, to make sure Jones has as many pass-catching weapons as possible.

Toney, unfortunately, has just been removed from the COVID-19/Reserve list.  That being said, he has been slowly worked into training camp as to not risk any additional health issues.  Meanwhile, Golladay has been getting a ton of targets early in practice, especially off to the side with Jones while other units are on the field.

Philadelphia Eagles

Last year’s first-round pick, wide receiver, Jalen Reagor, failed his conditioning test and has been limited thus far with a lower-body injury.  This paves the way for rookie receiver, DeVonta Smith, to build more of a rapport with quarterback, Jalen Hurts.  Smith is a highlight hog thus far and I expect him to cement himself as the team’s WR1 as camp continues.

Zach Ertz, who most believed could be traded this offseason, showed up to Eagles training camp.  This, in addition to the fact that tight end, Dallas Goedert also failed his conditioning test, complicates things at this position.

Goedert will be fine and is the top pass-catching option at tight end in Philadelphia.  However, as long as Ertz is on the team, his value will naturally be limited with fewer snaps than he would have if Ertz were elsewhere.

The good news for this team is that the offensive line is at full strength which is better than it was for almost all of the 2020 season.  Their health is of utmost importance for this offense as a whole, but especially for Hurts, as well as running back, Miles Sanders’, fantasy football value.

San Francisco 49ers

Head coach, Kyle Shanahan, confirmed that Jimmy Garrapolo is the team’s starter at quarterback.  Having traded up for the third overall pick in the 2021 draft for Trey Lance, it is more likely than not he sees the field by October, if not sooner.  This is another positional battle fantasy football managers should be monitoring over the next few weeks.

Lance is worth a late-round flier to stash on fantasy football benches behind a safer option as you wait and see when he gets on the field.  As soon as he does, with his ability to run, and the weapons on that offense, he could produce eye-popping value as a rookie in fantasy football.

Running back, Jeff Wilson, Jr., who was a frustrating plug-and-play option in fantasy football last season, starts training camp on the active/PUP list.  He suffered a torn meniscus in his knee back in May.  With the crowded backfield as is, specifically adding rookie, Trey Sermon, fading Wilson Jr. is more than likely the move in fantasy football for the 2021 season.

Seattle Seahawks

One of the more important signings for the Seahawks, in regards to fantasy football, is bringing in Shane Waldron to be the team’s offensive coordinator.

So far, Chris Carson has been a big promoter of Waldron’s offensive schemes claiming the Seahawks are going to be more up-tempo and confuse opposing defenses.  Having just signed a two-year extension with Seattle, expect Carson to get as much work as he can handle.

Carson, unfortunately, has yet to play a full season.  So, who earns his backup spot is worth noting.  With the departure of Carlos Hyde, Seattle is set to have Rashaad Penny and DeeJay Dallas compete for those touches.  Penny, the former first-round pick, is the best bet to do so.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady played with a torn MCL in his knee last season.  He won the Super Bowl with a torn MCL in his knee last season!  Brady is showing no signs of slowing down.  He’s even having a bit of fun on social media along the way to get ready for the 2021 season.

So far, out of the backfield, Ronald Jones seems like the guy to have on your fantasy football roster.  Early reports are that he is getting most of the work with starters and has looked poised for the role.  In addition, free-agent signee, Giovanni Bernard, is getting a lot of reps out of the backfield as a pass-catcher.  It will be interesting to see where Leonard “Playoff Lenny” Fournette fits in along the way.

The wide receiver group is loaded with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown all back on the field.  The Buccaneers do like to utilize 12-personnel formations and work in dual tight ends.  Rob Gronkowski is no spring chicken and notable pass-catching options at the position, Cameron Brate, and OJ Howard are both in the process of returning from injuries.

Washington Football Team

The WFT signed 30-year-old tight end, Logan Thomas, to a three-year contract extension just before the start of training camp.  That sort of commitment is relevant for fantasy football managers as he’s sure to be a major piece in this offense.  After a breakout 2020 season, consider Thomas as a top-10 option, once again, in 2021.

One of the more notable free-agent signings, receiver, Curtis Samuel, starts off training camp on the active/PUP list with a groin injury.  Samuel has been dealing with the issue since June.  The good news is, he can return to practice as soon as he’s cleared to do so.

This sort of injury can be tricky to manage so his status will be monitored frequently.  He needs to get back on the field sooner than later if fantasy football managers are to trust spending a mid-round draft pick on him.

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

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