Unfortunately the Patriots are forced to begin their season without the services of Rob Gronkowski. Gronk has been dealing with a hamstring injury for most of training camp, but Belichick has played coy regarding the true nature of the injury, having it listed as “undisclosed” for some time. Reports were out earlier today about Gronk missing the team’s flight and he was declared to be “out” shortly thereafter. Those who drafted Gronk as their second round pick will have to sweat it out another week as there are no guarantees that he will be ready for Week 2. As for this Sunday, expect fellow tight end Martellus Bennett to be quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s safety valve throughout the matchup with the Cardinals. Bump Bennett up to a top six option at tight end in DFS, especially because of his low price across all sites.
- With Steelers’ wideout Markus Wheaton (shoulder) unable to practice all week, expect a bigger role for second year player, Sammie Coates. Coates was essentially red-shirted as a rookie, dressing for six games but receiving just two targets in the regular season. Coates had a decent showing in the preseason outside of two fumbles in a game, but lost out on the slot receiver role to rookie Eli Rogers. Fantasy players had high hopes for Coates earlier this summer with expectations of him serving as the team’s vertical threat in the absence of Martavis Bryant. Coates fell hard down ADP lists over the last few weeks. But with the potential for an expanded role, those who drafted him will have to hope he makes a splash on Monday night to earn more snaps going forward.
- Dolphins’ backup running back Jay Ajayi will be inactive for their Week 1 tilt against the Seahawks for no reason other than “coach’s decision”. The reasoning behind it isn’t quite clear, but it may have something to do with Ajayi’s negative reaction to veteran Arian Foster being named the starter. Ajayi did not travel with the team and will hang back in Miami. Those who drafted him shouldn’t be too worried given Foster’s lack of durability. It would be shocking to see Foster hold up for the entire season and for Ajayi not to provide some fantasy value this season. Until we hear more about it, we’ll have to assume this is a one week thing and that Ajayi will suit up in Week 2.
- Sticking with the Dolphins, second-year receiver DeVante Parker ran a few routes during the open portion of Friday’s practice but is listed as questionable for the game. Parker does not appear to be “game-ready” and will likely sit the season opener out. Parker flashed some big play ability over the team’s final six games last season, but has been dealing with a nagging hamstring all summer. New head coach Adam Gase has been hard on Parker, likening the situation to the one in Denver with Demaryius Thomas saying that “felt like he was always hurt. One thing after another”. Parker’s stock has rightfully dropped in recent weeks. Here’s hoping he steps up his conditioning and rewards those who believe in him with a nice season.
- Seahawks’ coach Pete Carroll says he expects Jimmy Graham (knee) to play in Sunday’s game against the Dolphins. Graham has been coming along slowly in training camp but progressing until hurting his ankle and leaving practice on Wednesday. If Graham is a go, he will likely be limited, most likely playing on passing downs near the end zone.
- Vikings’ players were informed on Friday that veteran QB Shaun Hill will be the starter this week over newly-acquired Sam Bradford. Bradford has only been with the team for four practices and hasn’t had enough time to get accustomed with the playbook. The official announcement won’t come until Sunday. Their Week 1 battle with the Titans is expected to be a low-scoring affair. The 40.5 implied total is the lowest one on the board this weekend.
- Rookie wideout Will Fuller (hamstring) was a full participant in practice on Friday and is expected to make his NFL debut against the Bears on Sunday. Fuller will start opposite target monster DeAndre Hopkins with rookie Braxton Miller primarily lining up in the slot. Fuller ran a 4.32 forty at the combine and should serve as Brock Osweiler’s primary deep threat against a banged-up Bears’ secondary. He’s a cheap DFS option who could be worth a flier and is a flex option in season-long leagues.
- Finally, a twist in the mild saga of the biggest draft board riser over the last two weeks, Spencer Ware. Ware had been running with the first team most of camp and was expected to be the team’s primary starter with Jamaal Charles still working his way back. But today, reports came out about a potential time share for Ware with Charcandrick West. It’s unclear who will start on Sunday, but both backs will get their share of snaps. Ware was the more effective of the two down the stretch last season (5.6 YPC) combining his punishing running style with an ability to easily break tackles and goal line skills to pay the bills. Those who have already planned on locking Ware in for their DFS cash game lineups may reconsider and pivot to Seattle’s Christine Michael, who is expected to start on Sunday and is dirt cheap on all platforms as well.