NFL Training Camp Notes: Cousins, Winston off to Impressive Starts

With so much preseason football having occurred over the latter half of this week, it’s hard to tell if we’re coming or going anymore. Who’s stepping up and making a name for themselves in the early going of the exhibition slate? Whose stock is dropping? And what injuries have transpired since Thursday night, with 13 games having been played in the past 48 hours? You’ve come to the right place, my friend, because we’ve got all the answers right here on this Saturday edition of the Rotowire Training Camp Blog.

Jameis Winston looked sharp in his only drive Friday night against the Steelers, completing five of six passes for 40 yards, and connecting with Chris Godwin on a screen for the first score of the night. This is an encouraging development for those who plan to wait on quarterback in their respective fantasy drafts, and pick up a guy like Winston at his current Rotowire ADP of QB10. Say what you will about Famous Jameis as an NFL quarterback, but his 2019 prospects as a fantasy option are extremely promising. He improved as the season went on in 2018, posting a 13:4 TD:INT ratio over his final seven appearances after committing 10 interceptions and tossing just six touchdowns through his first four. Winston threw for 294 yards per game across his nine starts, and the Buccaneers’ high-volume passing attack figures to carry into the new season with Tampa still trotting out one of the league’s weakest defensive rosters. An additional benefit is that all four NFC South teams finished bottom 10 in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks last season in standard-scoring formats. All this spells out that Winston figures to tear it up statistically, especially with QB guru Bruce Arians stepping in as the new head coach. The Arians-led Arizona passing attack ranked top 10 in yards during two of the coach’s final three years with the team, and Tampa Bay is a near lock to do the same in 2019.

On the other side of the ledger, the most notable performance may have been that of second-year wideout James Washington, who hauled in four of his five targets on the night for 84 yards and a touchdown. Donte Moncrief has been getting more and more recognition this summer as the likely-to-be No. 2 option at receiver for Pittsburgh, a position that projects to carry high value given the fact that the Steelers put up a league-high 689 pass attempts in 2018 (plus, there is a ton of volume to be redistributed with Antonio Brown, and his 168 targets, no longer on the squad). Moncrief has been a solid wideout across five professional seasons with the Colts and Jaguars, but it’s important to keep in mind that there may not be a franchise that’s identified, drafted and developed receiver talent better than Pittsburgh. Over his final three seasons at Oklahoma State, Washington put up 103 receiving yards per game, with 34 total touchdowns. Moncrief, meanwhile, put up the second-highest totals of his career in receptions (48) and receiving yards (668) last year, but has proven to be somewhat injury prone, missing 11 games over the past three years with shoulder, ankle and hamstring issues. Consider throwing a late-round flier at Washington because asides from his impressive talent, it’s likely that Pittsburgh will want to get his consistent snaps at some point, given that the team invested a No. 60 overall pick in him 16 months ago.

The only other preseason contest Friday night was a rematch of the 2009 NFC Championship, with the Vikings travelling to the Bayou to take on the Saints. Captain Kirk (Cousins) got the start for Minnesota, and led his team down the field on an eight-play, 76-yard touchdown drive that included a 34-yard completion to Adam Thielen ( a play that was initially ruled a touchdown, but reversed, with the ball being instead placed at the New Orleans one-yard line). The subsequent play Cousins hit rookie Alexander Mattison in the flat for the opening score of the ballgame. Cousins, like Winston, is a talented quarterback who can be acquired in the later stages of drafts, while prioritizing more scarce position groups like running back or tight end in the single-digit rounds. As a real life quarterback, Cousins seems to shrink time after time in the big moment, as evidenced by his 0-7 career Monday Night Football record, and more importantly, his team dropping three of its final five games last year to fall out of the playoff bracket. That reputation, of course, has zero impact on his fantasy value — this is still a guy who has thrown for at least 4,000 passing yards, 25-plus touchdowns and 13 or fewer picks for four straight seasons. Not a sexy pick, but an economical one that will help fantasy GMs stack depth at more top-loaded positions.

Outside of game action, there also are a number of key updates to hit on from training camps around the league. Starting in Jacksonville, it’s expected that Jaguars wideout Marqise Lee (knee) will not be ready to suit up by Week 1. Lee seemed to be coming along in his recovery from an ACL tear suffered last August, but head coach Doug Marrone tempered expectations by saying Saturday that the team has to “prepare as if (Lee) won’t be available” for the season opener against Kansas City. Lee has averaged 60 receptions and 776 receiving yards over his past two healthy campaigns, but he’s struggled to find the end zone in his career, establishing a TD rate of just 4.7 percent (eight touchdowns on 171 career catches). In what figures to be a relatively low-volume Jaguars passing attack, Lee becoming fantasy-relevant in 2019 is somewhat of a long shot.

Staying in the division, we’ve got a couple of updates on Colts tight ends. Eric Ebron (lower leg) — coming off a monster 13-touchdown season — sat out Indianapolis’s preseason opener with what coach Frank Reich characterized as an “ankle/foot” injury. At this point there’s no reason to suspect that the issue will keep Ebron on the shelf for an extended period of time, but it’s a situation that’s worth monitoring if considering investing in him as your starting fantasy tight end. Jack Doyle (oblique), meanwhile, was an active participant at practice Saturday, after joining Ebron on the inactive list for Indy’s exhibition against the Bills on Thursday. Indianapolis enters 2019 with a better shot at having two top-15 fantasy tight ends than any other team in the NFL, but the question is — can either of these guys finish top five, or will these two former Pro Bowl tight ends cancel each other out?

Following the tight end theme, we roll with coach Reich’s former team and take a trip down to Philadelphia, where Dallas Goedert (calf) is considered “week-to-week”. Zach Rosenblatt of the Newark Star-Ledger believes that the second-year man will sit out for the entirety of the preseason as a precautionary measure, but should be ready to suit up for the Eagles’ Week 1 game against Washington.

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