Normally for a Friday training camp blog, I’d wait to get some news from the preseason games, but today was far from an average news day across the NFL, so let’s get right to it!
• After dragging their heels for what seemed like forever, the NFL dropped the hammer on Ezekiel Elliott by suspending him for six games, and although he’ll appeal the decision, this’ll have a major impact for fantasy. The Cowboys have a Week 6 bye, so fantasy managers who draft him will potentially be without him for half of the fantasy season. Those who draft Elliott, then put together a playoff team without him for seven weeks, would have a huge advantage in the playoffs, but many who draft him may miss out of the postseason because they can’t overcome his absence. In addition, if drafting Elliott, don’t count on automatically assuming you’ll easily get Darren McFadden because he’ll be a hot commodity as a potential six-game starter behind a great OL. Don’t be shocked to see McFadden drafted in some leagues within the first 84 picks. As for Elliott, aggressive fantasy owners will likely need to grab him in the second round, as he’ll likely be gone by the end of the third.
• It’s rare to have one big story on any given day during the preseason, but in addition to the Elliott suspension, Sammy Watkins was dealt to the Rams. First of all, his fantasy value has to be diminished as he goes from playing with a strong deep-ball thrower in Tyrod Taylor to second-year enigma Jared Goff. After seeing Goff struggle in his rookie season, it’s difficult to think that he’ll have consistent success throwing the ball deep to Watkins, as he’ll see more than his share of double teams. However, this has to provide at least a small bump in Todd Gurley’s value, as defenses may be a bit more concerned in their decision to load the box as often as they might have. On a side note, Robert Woods will no longer be the team’s top receiver, and his slight fantasy value definitely takes a hit, making him nearly undraftable. Also, Tavon Austin may struggle to find consistent targets with Watkins in the fold.
• Once Watkins was traded, other fantasy-related dominoes quickly fell:
• The Bills’ depth chart will likely find rookie Zay Jones becomng the top option in the passing game, and the potential increase in targets will likely cause his ADP rise drastically from 141. Don’t be surprised if fantasy managers are now willing to take him off the board roughly 100 picks into a draft. Buffalo also acquired Jordan Matthews from the Eagles, and although he’s an excellent slot receiver, it’s unlikely that he has the ability to overtake recently-acquired Anquan Boldin for that role. Therefore, if Matthews moves to the outside, he’ll likely compete with Andre Holmes for the No. 2 role. Aside from Jones, the remaining WRs become little more than endgame picks in drafts.
• With the trade of Matthews, Nelson Agholor gets a chance to parlay his great offseason into production, as he’s in line to be the starting slot WR for the Eagles. Obviously, he’s been going undrafted in most leagues, but should he have an impressive preseason, he could be worth a gamble after roughly 130 players are taken off the board.
• Aside from the biggest news of the day, we’ll move onto some injury updates:
• Joe Flacco is expected to practice at some point during the preseason, but won’t play in any of the practice games. This could potentially make it very difficult for Jeremy Maclin to have enough chemistry with the veteran QB to justify his ADP, which is currently at 93. In addition, it’s not like Breshad Perriman has great rapport with his signal-caller, but with an ADP of 157, he’s far less risky.
• Staying at QB, Cam Newton is throwing to teammates in positional drills after not having thrown for 12 days. His practice participation is critical as the Panthers are looking to integrate more short passing into their offense, and all of the skill position players could use as many reps with Newton as possible, so that the offense can gel quickly.
• The Lions welcomed Eric Ebron back to practice after being out since July 30 with a hamstring injury. Before the injury, he was being talked up as an excellent breakout candidate, and for those, like myself, targeting him in drafts, the injury has helped to keep his ADP from moving up beyond the 111 it’s currently at.