This article is part of our Training Camp Notes series.
We're not even into the last week of July, and fantasy managers are scrambling to adjust their draft boards. Earlier in the week, it was the Cam Akers injury, and in today's news, we'll start with the breaking news about Michael Thomas.
After participating in June minicamp, Thomas underwent ankle surgery and is now expected to miss at least the first month of the season, and he may not be at full strength until November or December. With such a wide range of potential return-to-health possibilities, fantasy managers will need to lean on their level of risk aversion when deciding if and when to select him in fantasy drafts. When healthy, Thomas can be one of the most productive receivers in the league, and he performed well in 2020 when Taysom Hill was under center, but there's no precedent for Thomas if Jameis Winston is the QB. With Thomas being one of the best players in the league on slant patterns, those routes were ones that Winston tended to be erratic on, so that could become an issue, but that's far from a certainty.
In terms of who stands to benefit as Thomas misses time, Marquez Callaway showed in limited action last year, the ability to make contested catches and function well in traffic, making him a player who potentially sees some of the types of routes that Thomas typically runs. Of course, there's no certainty with that, but moving Callaway into the top 150 players on draft boards could merit consideration. It would seem likely that Tre'Quan Smith, who was already penciled in as a starter, could see a similar workload to what fantasy managers had expected before the news about Thomas broke. It's also possible that with an excellent offensive line, that Latavius Murray sees an increase in usage if the Saints want to lean on their defense and rushing attack to win games. Obviously, Alvin Kamara will see quite a bit of work, but Murray could see a few more carries while the Saints are short handed. As training camp new unfolds, hopefully, more clarity emerges for the New Orleans RBs and WRs.
Moving on to better news, both Dak Prescott and coach Mike McCarthy expect Prescott to play this preseason. For those who were concerned about whether the QB would be a full go when the season begins, those concerns can likely be put to rest. Fantasy managers are sure to remember his last three full games of 2020, when the QB accounted for 11 TDs while passing for at least 450 yards in each game. However, those games all featured the Cowboys playing from big deficits against bottom-seven pass defenses. However, in Week 1 against the Rams and in the 44 snaps he played in Week 5 against the Giants (before leaving with the injury), he threw for just one TD. Sure, there's massive upside with Prescott, but it may not be wise to solely focus on those three huge games when ranking him on draft boards this preseason.
Continuing on a positive note, Patrick Mahomes doesn't anticipate having any restrictions during training camp, as his foot is fully recovered from February surgery. Obviously, fantasy GMs weren't concerned, as Mahomes was going off the board as the first QB in most drafts, but nonetheless, this news should cement that status. In addition, the Chiefs made significant upgrades to their offensive line this offseason, which should provide him plenty of time to throw, which could help him improve upon the 38 TDs he threw last year.
And for those who were concerned when hearing that A.J. Brown didn't participate in June minicamp after having surgery on both knees, Paul Kuharsky of PaulKuharsky.com is reporting that Brown will be a "full go" for the start of training camp next week. With a big dropoff at WR for the Titans after Brown and Julio Jones, the passing targets may become very condensed, which potentially could see Brown improve upon the 106 targets he saw last year. A healthy Brown, with an increased target share, could quickly become one of the top fantasy producers at his position, as defenses have found him difficult to stop during his first two seasons.