Fantasy 5: Takeaways from Kevin White's first practice
Every weekday, the Fantasy 5 will take a look at the five most important NFL news stories for fantasy football players, giving you the advice you need to improve your team.
Now is the time of year when we get confirmation on some of the things we’ve thought all offseason, while other things get flipped completely on their head. It’s important to be flexible and adapt to the ebb and flow of the shifting NFL landscape. Those who don’t are often left holding the bag.
Case in point: Dorial Green-Beckham. When I wrote up my Titans depth chart review, a lot of folks on Twitter asked why Green-Beckham was not on the depth chart screen shot. He’s a popular breakout candidate, after all. But Green-Beckham isn’t entering camp as the starter, and may end up taking a back seat to rookie Tajae Sharpe. This situation is far from resolved, but fantasy drafters will want to pay close attention before selecting Green-Beckham in next month’s drafts.
The good news is we’ve keep a close eye on this and many other developments throughout the offseason. With camp officially open, here are five things to know:
1. Kevin White looking good in camp.
One of the many uncertainties entering the 2016 is how White will look when he takes the field. The former first-rounder is coming off a redshirt season due to a stress fracture in his shin, but his sub-4.4 speed screams upside. Though oozing with athleticism, White was a much rawer prospect entering the league than fellow 2015 draftee Amari Cooper. The good news is that White was able to spend an entire year learning the Bears offense. Reports out of Bears offseason practices were mixed with some saying he looked like a beast while others suggesting he still has a lot of work to do.
The PFF Training Camp Tour stopped by Bears camp on Thursday and our guys got a good look at White. Gordon McGuinness said that it was a limited practice, but White didn’t drop a single pass and he “looked powerful and fast when he got the ball in his hands.” McGuinness also noted that White lined up outside and in the slot, where he has the potential to take advantage of a lot of mismatches. White is still an unknown commodity, but his upside is very appealing for fantasy purposes. He’s currently going as the 36th wide receiver off the board, and certainly has the potential to outplay that ADP.
2. Don’t worry about David Johnson.
There have been rumblings about a potential committee situation in the Arizona backfield all offseason, and this narrative doesn’t seem to want to go away. Bruce Arians didn’t help the cause on Thursday when he said that Johnson’s workload will “go game to game.” The fantasy conspiracy theorists jumped all over the quote with claims that Chris Johnson will be splitting carries with David Johnson.
But there’s no grassy knoll here. No fake moon landing. No Illuminati. Johnson is the Cardinals guy and that hasn’t changed from the end of last season when he emerged as one of the most dominant backs in the league. Yes, Chris Johnson is in the mix, and he’ll certainly get some early-down work. Likewise, Andre Ellington will get his share of catches and a handful of carries. If either player is hot, Arians is going to leave him in. That’s what good coaches do. But David Johnson is the clear bell cow on the Cardinals roster, and he’s locked in as my No. 1 running back should Le’Veon Bell’s suspension stand.
3. Julian Edelman remains a WR2.
It’s never good when a player misses all of offseason activities and opens camp on the active/PUP, but Edelman appears to be trending in the right direction. He was spotted running routes off to the side of practice along with Danny Amedola. Edelman suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot and missed the final seven games of the regular season. He had an initial surgery and then went back under the knife in the offseason.
Previous to the injury, Edelman was seventh among receivers in standard scoring and sixth in PPR. Only eight receivers saw more than Edelman’s 85 targets up to that point. Tom Brady’s suspension puts a bit of a damper on the Patriot’s fantasy prospects in September, but the long-term effects are actually advantageous, as fantasy drafters will likely be able to get Edelman at a slight discount. With Edelman appearing to be on track for Week 1, he’s still locked in as a solid WR2 option.
4. No practice for Thomas Rawls. Fantasy questions still linger.
Though he vowed to be ready for the start of camp, Rawls will not be on the field for the Seahawks first practice Saturday. The Seahawks have remained vague about Rawls’ timetable all offseason following the nasty broken ankle he suffered in Week 14. However, Pete Carroll has said several times that he expects Rawls to be ready for Week 1.
But where there’s smoke, there’s fire. A number of red flags surround Rawls entering the 2016 season. His injury tops the list, and could be part of the reason why the Seahawks selected three running backs in April’s draft. Some may link this draft strategy to Marshawn Lynch’s retirement, which is a fair point. However, Rawls was an undrafted free agent who really only produced over the span of five games last season.
Fantasy owners will remember the four-game stretch in the middle of the season where Rawls was fantasy’s top back, but it’s important to note that this was an extremely small sample size. While he certainly looked good, Rawls had just 82 touches over this span. The small sample size plus his injury and the Seahawks’ draft makes it really tough to trust Rawls at his current ADP as the 14th running back being selected.
[Where can you get Rawls in drafts, and is he worth it at that price? Take a spin with PFF’s new Draft Master tool to figure out the best approach, plus get recommendations on the players you should target in every round of your draft.]
5. Praise for Sterling Shepard continues.
The other day, I discussed how fantasy drafters are currently overvaluing Giants WR Victor Cruz. One of the reasons why Cruz figures to see a low percentage of the Giants’ targets is the presence rookie Sterling Shepard. The New York Post called the second-rounder “an NFL-ready receiver” and said the Giants need him the be a reliable target sooner rather than later. Based on reports from the offseason, that seems a likely outcome.
Shepard finished as PFF College’s No. 1 receiver last season, catching 86 balls on 118 targets for 1,289 yards and 11 scores. Though he checks in at just 5’10, Shepard tested extremely well in the offseason, running 4.45 in the 40-yard dash and posting an impressive 41-inch vertical jump. He ran mainly out of the slot last season, but has the ability to get deep, catching 11 deep-ball targets for 397 yards and four scores.
The Giants have lacked a viable complement to Odell Beckham over the last two years, but Shepard fits the mold. In Ben McAdoo’s pass-friendly offense, Shepard is a candidate to see 100-plus targets. He’s currently going 38th among wide receivers, which is a good place to value him as a front-end WR4 with upside.