One of the keys to fantasy success is knowledge. Analysts and managers scour the internet for any information they can use. As G.I. Joe told us many years ago … knowing is half the battle.
The other half is a combination of drafting, lineup setting and roster management.
After quenching our thirst with drips and drops of news, the training camp firehose is on. Now we're overloaded with reports and videos and tweets (xeets?) about all 32 teams. Which players look good? Who needs more work? And who's listed where on the depth chart? Sometimes it's more than the mind can handle.
Most of it is tantalizing. Not all is relevant. I'll be going through some training camp headlines to let you know which ones are worth paying attention to and which ones shouldn't get you too riled up.
And I'll try to get to the bottom of how G.I. Joe and Cobra kept missing each other with all those lasers. But it's doubtful I'll find the answer.
When the Colts spent the No. 4 overall pick on Anthony Richardson, it seemed reasonable to assume he was going to be Indy's starting quarterback this year. Team owner Jim Irsay seeded some doubt about that being a foregone conclusion.
Earlier this summer, Irsay told The Pat McAfee Show that "for Anthony Richardson, it's going to be tough. We know that. But he has to play to get better. I mean, there's no question. Gardner (Minshew) could come out and play better early on, him just being a veteran, but we have to get Anthony on the field. And that's (head coach) Shane (Steichen's) call when he decides to do it."
Steichen has at least decided to do it for Indy's first preseason game against Buffalo. That makes this news reassuring. Having a string of good drives in practice won't cement the rookie's QB1 status. But it does make us feel better about his outlook, especially those of us who've considered Richardson a value pick.
Irony is a team that is named "The Falcons" also being a ground-based outfit. Atlanta was one of the NFL's run-heaviest teams last season. Poor quarterback play surely had something to do with it. Marcus Mariota lasted 13 games before getting benched, and he was cut by Atlanta this offseason.
That has cleared the way for 2022 third-round pick Desmond Ridder to take over the starting job. The four games he played last season weren't likely to wow you, but they gave the team an evaluation period for this year.
Ridder won't offer much in fantasy himself. He does offer hope for Kyle Pitts and Drake London, who have been long on potential but short on production. Those two talents seeing more efficient quarterbacking is enough to keep us intrigued.
"We've seen some huge plays from him. Vintage Hopkins that you've seen across his career of tight, contested catches when he's able to elevate or make the extended catch," Tannehill told Inside Training Camp Live on Tuesday.
Last year, Hopkins missed the first six games due to a suspension. When he returned, he was still one of fantasy football's top producing receivers. In nine contests, the veteran averaged 16.9 PPR points per game -- ninth among wideouts. Tennessee hasn't had a high-volume passing game in recent years. But A.J. Brown proved it can support a high-level receiver. A playmaker like Hopkins should make beautiful fantasy music in Nashville.
It's not all Bijan Robinson all the time when it comes to rookie running backs in fantasy. Jahmyr Gibbs has elicited plenty of excitement among fake football enthusiasts. So, it's validating when a Hall of Famer co-signs that endorsement. Lions' great Barry Sanders waxed positive about Gibbs on Inside Training Camp Live.
"I believe they couldn't be more geeked about Jahmyr Gibbs and being able to get him early in the first round, and what they've seen so far and his attitude and his approach to practice," said Sanders. "When you get a young running back in camp and you see him in real live action with other players to see whether that speed transfers, whether he still has that speed, whether he still has that zip that he had in college. I think, so far, we see that he's going to be a guy that makes plays."
Temper some of that excitement. Gibbs will share the backfield with David Montgomery. The veteran has never been flashy, but he's had 1,000 scrimmage yards and at least six touchdowns in each of his four pro seasons. The sky will be the limit for Gibbs ... eventually. For now, it's best not to expect too much from the rookie.
One of fantasy football's biggest mysteries this season is the state of the Broncos' offense. Last year was not great, to say the least. This year, Denver enlisted the help of Sean Payton to turn things around. There is optimism a week into training camp.
Per NFL Network's James Palmer, receiver Courtland Sutton could have a revival. Sutton has struggled to replicate his 2019 season, when he finished with 1,100 yards and was a top-20 fantasy receiver. Watching the film reminded Payton of Michael Thomas' record-setting 2019 campaign, when Payton was coaching the Saints.
The idea of Sutton catching 140 passes and going over 1,700 yards is dizzying to consider. And I don't think anyone is suggesting that it's likely. What is intriguing is this new offense adding juice to a player whose career hasn't gone as expected.
Smokescreen isn't a completely accurate label for my feelings on this story. It's the best of the two options. Calls for Joe Burrow, who sustained a calf injury in camp, to sit out are terrifying for fantasy managers drafting him as a top-five quarterback. Don't misunderstand me; I get why Ja’Marr Chase would implore his pal to get healthy. The Bengals are strong Super Bowl contenders. They will only continue to be if Burrow is available to lead them.
A couple of things about that: First, Chase suggests that "as long as you're there after Week 5 and on, we're good brother." Cincinnati opens the regular season against the Browns, Ravens, Rams, Titans and Cardinals. It's plausible that the Bengals could emerge from that slate with a winning record, but home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs is critical. Getting off to a quick start is imperative.
Second, Chase is neither a doctor nor a coach. If the medical staff gives Burrow the thumbs up, Zac Taylor will have him on the field. Until there's word from someone in a more official capacity, think of this as one player's musings and nothing more.
There are few offseason tropes like veterans raving about a rookie's potential. It's always eye-catching. If a teammate like Jaylen Waddle envisions great things for someone like De'Von Achane, why shouldn't we? In this case, there are a couple of reasons.
The first is the way the Dolphins offense operated last year. Miami's attack was one of the most pass-heavy in the league. In raw rushing numbers, only the Buccaneers had fewer total attempts. That doesn't suggest much opportunity for Achane.
Complicating the problem is the depth in Miami's backfield. After Jeff Wilson arrived via trade in South Florida in Week 9, he and Raheem Mostert played a similar number of snaps. With both backs returning, Achane will likely have a tough time carving out a big enough role to make a major impact. The rookie's future could indeed be bright, but he'll have difficulty making a difference in fantasy this year.
For the past two seasons, we've wondered if two running backs could prosper in the Packers' offense. And the answer has been ... kinda. Aaron Jones has been a top-12 fantasy rusher over the past four seasons. AJ Dillon? Not so much. "Quadzilla" took a step back last season after an eye-opening 2021 campaign. But Dillon has an idea of how he can rebound this year.
"I think I need to go out there and just play a little bit more reckless, so not trying to play perfect, not trying to play perfect football," he told The Associated Press. "Nobody does. Just kind of go out there and for a lack of words, kind of make defenses feel me."
That sounds good, but it doesn't make up for Dillon's fantasy deficiencies. He's never been a big contributor in the passing game. It's what has separated him from Jones in fantasy circles. With Jordan Love embarking on his first season as the Packers' starting quarterback, there might be more reliance on the ground game. Alas, a lack of targets will always cap Dillon's fantasy fortunes.
Jaguars rookie Tank Bigsby has hardcore fantasy drafters excited. The third-round pick has been a training-camp highlight reel. It's enough to have head coach Doug Pederson effusively praising his performance.
"Outside of the size, speed, athleticism, and all that this kid is a sponge. He's really a smart, young running back. He understands defense," Pederson said recently. That means he's primed to get a lot of work this year, right? Not so fast. Pederson says the team wants to "pump the brakes" before expanding his role.
The Jaguars still have Travis Etienne, fresh off a 1,100-yard rushing season. They also have depth among pass-catchers. Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk and tight end Evan Engram are a few of the weapons in the arsenal. There's no reason to rush Bigsby into significant action. For the dynasty fantasy football set, Bigsby should hold some appeal. For most leagues, he'll be better left undrafted.
Marcas Grant is a fantasy analyst for NFL.com and a man who should probably do a better job of booking his flights in the future. Send him travel tips or fantasy football questions @MarcasG or on TikTok at marcasgrant.
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