NFL Training Camp Notes: Williams’ Stock Down, Hyde’s Elevating

The benefit to holding fantasy drafts in late August or early September is that league members have an opportunity to gauge how position battles play out in camp, and avoid selecting a player who goes down with a devastating injury before the regular season even gets underway. One piece of news that came out of Kansas City on Saturday has potential to shift draft position for sixth-year back Damien Williams – who has never garnered more than 50 rush attempts in any season, but proved to be a X-factor late last year in averaging 100 offensive yards per game from Week 14 to the Chiefs’ loss in the AFC title game, while also racking up 10 total touchdowns during that span.

Adam Teicher of ESPN reported that coach Andy Reid sounded “frustrated” when mulling over Williams’ inability to join the team for on-field practice at training camp, and mentioned that he’s falling behind somewhat. Williams has been forced to sit out for nearly a week now with a nagging hamstring injury. “He’s missed quite a bit; he’s missed a lot of plays…. It’s been great for these other guys. (Carlos Hyde) has done a nice job.” At time of print, Damien Williams is going as RB11 in PPR leagues (per Fantasy Football Calculator), while Carlos Hyde is being drafted as RB49. Williams could absolutely provide top-12 running back value as a key component to this explosive KC offense, but Hyde is a safer play and perhaps a more economical acquisition in the 10th or 11th round.

In other AFC West news, apprehension grows in the Black Hole as Antonio Brown (foot) continues to miss training camp sessions. The star wideout missed his second straight day of Raiders’ training camp Friday, which prompted Jon Gruden to express his displeasure with the situation. “I think we’re all disappointed,” Gruden said after practice. “We’d like to get him out here. He’s a big part of the team.” Entering his second year of his second tour of duty as Oakland’s head coach, Gruden noted that he’s enjoyed seeing other receivers step up in AB’s absence, but stopped short of saying that Brown’s lack of participation was any sort of blessing in disguise. “I’m not going to get into that. I want the guy out here as soon as possible.” In what was initially a mysterious and unexplained absence, it was clarified by Vic Tafur of the Athletic that Brown is scheduled to see a foot specialist Saturday. He was reportedly dealing with severely-blistered feet earlier in the week, potentially explaining why he’s missed the past couple of practices.

Down in Hotlanta, a calamitous backup quarterback situation could be starting to unfold. Matt Schaub — a two-time Pro Bowler (2009, 2012) who is entering his third season as the Falcons’ second-string quarterback — had a nightmarish performance against Denver in the Hall of Fame Game, failing to yield a scoring drive on six attempts, completing just 28.5 percent of his passes and throwing an interception that led to a game-winning touchdown for the Broncos.  Kurt Benkert (toe) looked good in his first appearance of 2019 after a rocky preseason showing last year, leading both of the Falcons’ scoring drives and completing eight passes that went for 14-plus yards. Benkert suffered a toe injury in the fourth quarter of the preseason opener, an issue that has since been described by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport to be “a major one,” though no exact timeline has been provided as to how long he will be on the shelf. In response the Falcons signed Matt Simms, who spent time with the team’s practice squad in 2015 and 2016, and most recently had an unpromising audition for the Atlanta Legends of the AAF, completing 59.8 percent of his passes and posting a 2:7 TD:INT ratio.

From the Falcons, to the Falcons’ arch nemesis – Patriots suspended wideout Josh Gordon officially applied for reinstatement to the NFL on Saturday, per Kevin Duffy of the Boston Herald. He was a key contributor for New England last season before once again being sidelined for violating the NFL’s Substance Abuse Policy. The 28-year-old Gordon established a pace in 12 games (one for Cleveland, 11 for New England) that would have yielded him 982 yards, five touchdowns and 16 receptions of 20-plus yards if maintained over a 16-week slate. He was seen catching passes from Tom Brady earlier this offseason, drawing significant interest from Patriots fans who know what Gordon is capable of when on the field. Ultimately, though, it will be up to the Commissioner’s Office to determine if Gordon will be able to return any time this season, or potentially even be reinstated by Week 1, as New England hopes is the case.

As esteemed colleague Mario Puig wrote on the most-recent Friday edition of the Training Camp Blog, Colts running back Spencer Ware (ankle) was added to the reserve PUP list, and is expected to be  five to six weeks as he recuperates. In other Colts injury news, rookie wideout Parris Campbell (hamstring) sat out his third consecutive practice Saturday, as his status for Thursday’s preseason opener against the Bills remains undetermined. Andrew Luck, meanwhile, will not practice next week according to coach Frank Reich. The No. 5 quarterback in standard-scoring leagues last year, Luck missing any time with a sudden injury raises eyebrows for fantasy GMs, given the ambiguous nature of determining the severity of his shoulder injury in 2017 – an injury that at one point was expected to cost him one or two games, but ended up whipping out his season altogether.