Welcome to our NFL fantasy insider notebook, which we'll update periodically through the NFL season based on my conversations with coaches and executives.
September 7, 2020 Entries
Buffalo Bills: One of the improvements 3rd-year QB Josh Allen made in training camp was with his deep ball accuracy. Allen and WR Stefon Diggs hooked up on many deep balls in practices.
Whether that will carry over to the season remains to be seen, but it's encouraging that Allen made some improvement in an area where he typically has struggled.
My sense on the RB situation: The team is really high on rookie Zack Moss, but Devin Singletary is still the starter. The feeling here is that there's going to be a rotation that makes it somewhat of a timeshare. Also, Look for Moss to be their main "closer" when they get a lead in the second half. And that should happen as they're one of the AFC's best teams.
My breakdown of the touch total looks like: Singletary (55%), Moss (45%). Not that Moss will see much time on 3rd down, but he has caught the ball very well when asked to in camp.
Chicago Bears: Early word on starting RB David Montgomery (groin) is that the team is optimistic that he'll be able to play this week against the Lions.
And rookie WR Darnell Mooney, who put together a great training camp, is pushing journeyman WR Ted Ginn for the starting "Z" position. Mooney is worth a pick very late in your draft (when you're looking at a kicker or team D) for upside.
Rookie TE Cole Kmet will be mainly used as their "Y" TE with veteran Jimmy Graham in the slot, but Kmet was outstanding in camp. Kmet's role should grow in his 2nd season in their passing game.
Cleveland Browns: 4th-round pick TE Harrison Bryant was one of the top performers in training camp. For those in dynasty leagues, you might want to target him late. He won't be able to start until his 3rd year based on the structure of Austin Hooper's contract, but he's worth stashing for the future.
Las Vegas Raiders: The Raiders will start two rookies at WR: Bryan Edwards (X), Henry Ruggs (Z).
It's worth noting that Edwards was pushing veteran WR Tyrell Williams for his starting job before Williams suffered his season-ending injury. And the 3rd-round pick really surprised their coaching staff because he was rehabbing his broken foot until around mid-July. He continued to win against the DBs in camp due to his hands and body control. He also plays with very good leverage.
WR Zay Jones, who put together the best training camp of his career, will back up both outside WR positions.
New York Jets: The team believes WR Breshad Perriman (knee) will be able to play this week against the Bills, but he may be limited in practice. Not that you should be picking him up for fantasy purposes, but veteran WR Chris Hogan was very impressive in camp after signing on 8/19.
Philadelphia Eagles: The team is very optimistic that rookie WR Jalen Reagor (small labrum tear) will be back either in Week 2 against the Rams or Week 3 against the Bengals. Veteran WR Alshon Jeffery (foot) has made very good progress and there's some optimism that he'll start practicing over the next few weeks. Reagor should be their starting "X" WR once he gets cleared to play with DeSean Jackson as the starting "Z." Second-year WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside figures to see a lot of time at the "X" position until Reagor returns.
Seattle Seahawks: The team had hoped that 2nd-year WR John Ursua would take over the slot role, but he spent time on the COVID-19 reserve in training camp and never was able to secure that role. And because of that, it's likely that the team will use Tyler Lockett quite a bit inside again this season.
Las Vegas Raiders
Published September 3
The team placed Tyrell Williams (torn labrum) on IR and the veteran WR might have played his last game for the team.
As outlined in myAFC Contracts piece, Williams has no guaranteed money left in his contract past this season. His base salary is a hefty $11.5m for 2021.
The team drafted Bryan Edwards in the 3rd round, but the rookie was selected in this draft to eventually take over at the "X" position.
Edwards opened up training camp as the backup for Williams, but as one team source said to me recently, the first-year player was already starting to cut into Williams’s role.
Edwards, a third-round pick, would have been selected as high as the first round had he not had a significant injury history.
It’s worth noting that despite rehabbing his surgically repaired foot since he had surgery in February, he was cleared to practice a few weeks before training camp and I’m told he has “wowed” Raider coaches and execs in camp practices.
Here’s the book on Edwards from WR coaches around the NFL: has really good size (6-2 3/4, 212 at the combine), is advanced as a route runner, runs with good body control, and is a prototypical “X” receiver. I can also add that before this year’s draft I can’t recall so many WR coaches around the NFL so excited about a player at the position that they coached.
As for fellow rookie WR Henry Ruggs, he’ll line up at the “Z” position and is also very advanced as a route runner due to the offense that he played in at Alabama. The Raiders wanted true speed out of this draft and got it with Ruggs. He’ll be moved around the formation to create favorable matchups. Like Edwards, he had a great training camp.
As for starting QB Derek Carr, I’m told that he had the best camp of the three that he’s had with HC Jon Gruden. And with the depth they have with pass targets, he actually might have a decent season for fantasy purposes (especially if you’re in a 2-QB league).
Published September 3
With starting RB David Montgomery (groin) very questionable or Week 1 at the Lions, things may look a little different on offense until he returns.
Cordarrelle Patterson took in a lot of reps at running back in training camp, so unless they sign a veteran who can handle a lot of carries, the former first-round pick of the Vikings figures to see a role in the backfield this season.
If fourth-year RB Tarik Cohen winds up being the primary runner in Week 1, look for their offense to make on more of “11 personnel.” Because they are very deep at wide receiver this season, the coaches will have more versatility to the offense.
One of the biggest surprises for the team is 5th-round pick WR Darnell Mooney. The thought entering training camp was that he was a borderline player to make the 53-man roster.
Not only will he make the roster, but he moved up to be the backup “Z” receiver in back of journeyman Ted Ginn. The rookie is the most explosive WR on the roster and if he continues to progress, he may wind up being the starter at “Z” next year. No one with the team saw this coming, but Mooney (5-10 1/8, 176) started camp off well and never really let up. He’s looking like a great late round steal in dynasty leagues.
Don't Sleep on Swift
Published August 26
Many fantasy owners just assumed that third-year RB Kerryon Johnson will be the starter this season.
Now while there's some truth to it, rookie RB D'Andre Swift, I'm told, cut down Johnson's role in the passing game in recent practices before Swift suffered a leg injury during a practice last week.
It was believed that Johnson was going to be their primary 3rd down RB, but Swift is well ahead of schedule as a pass protector and has done so well catching the ball that he has already cut into Johnson's role on passing downs.
This looks to be a RBBC between the two of them with Swift having way more upside. Which makes sense when you look at Swift's latest ADP (mid to late 5th-round) and Johnson's is much later (rounds 8-9).
Another Lions Rookie Making an Impact
Published August 26
The team, I'm told, is also very excited about 5th-rounder Quintez Cephus, who is quickly developing to being their top backup outside receiver.
Cephus catches "everything" and is well advanced as a route runner.
Keep an eye on Cephus in dynasty leagues, as he may wind up replacing veteran WR Marvin Jones, who is in the last year of his contract.
One more note at wide receiver: KR/PR/CB Jamal Agnew has been moved to offense as a slot player and has opened some eyes in camp so far.
The thought here is to take advantage of his speed in space.
Hockenson All the Way Back
Published August 26
When the Lions lost TE T.J. Hockenson due to a broken ankle last season, he was facing a long recovery after surgery in December.
And because they could not have him in their facility for their off-season program (April-June), they weren't 100% sure where he was at physically coming back from the surgery.
What I'm told is he's having residual soreness which is typical of coming back from such an injury, but he has looked "very good" in training camp and is "well ahead" of where they thought he would be at this point.
New York Jets
Published August 21
If you've listened to our John Hansen and I on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio recently, you've probably heard us speaking well of Breshad Perriman.
Perriman, a former first-round pick in 2015, missed his entire rookie season due to a PCL injury and other games in 2017 before the Baltimore Ravens cut him before the start of the 2018 season.
I happened to be at Colts training camp with the Ravens visiting two years ago and I'll never forget the performance that Perriman put on.
Although he was going up against backups, he was so much bigger and faster than the defensive backs he faced in one of the two days of practice I watched.
He dominated that day and it had been in the back of my mind that the guy has a ton of talent and just needed a chance to show what he could do.
While he did well that day, I recall someone with the Ravens telling me he needed a change of scenery, which he would eventually get.
The 6-2, 215-pound receiver finally started to emerge as a deep threat (21.3 yards per catch) during his time with the Cleveland Browns in 2018.
Though he only had 16 receptions for the Browns that season, he did average over 21 yards per catch.
And last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Perriman really stepped up his game when pressed into service after their two outside receivers suffered injuries.
What caught my eye was his consistency from game to game during his extended playing time (Weeks 13-17).
Perriman's 25-catch, 506 yards (20.24 YPC) to go along with 5 TDs were impressive, but I'm told what really impressed teams for free agency was his improved route running.
With the Jets, I'm told he'll line up as their primary "X" receiver.
How has he looked so far in training camp and in pads this week?
"Looking really good. Bigger, stronger, faster and more consistent version of anyone we've had," a team source told me this week.
One example of his size and speed came in a recent practice.
"(His) speed is amazing. Took a slant and went 80 in a heartbeat."
The 6th-year pro is going off the boards in rounds 10-13, which makes him an outstanding value as your 3rd or 4th fantasy WR with a lot of upside.