Recent NFL Player News
Pittsburgh's JuJu Smith-Schuster reportedly seeing 'limited to no outside work' during training camp
According to Mark Kaboly, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has seen 'limited to no outside work.'
After logging 84.7% of his snaps in the slot last season, Smith-Schuster's role appears unlikely to change despite recent hopes for outside repetitions. Expect most of the 24-year old's fantasy value to emerge in point per reception formats with his ability to rack up receptions on short to intermediate routes. According to Fantasy Football Calculator in PPR formats, the 24-year old's average draft position currently stands in the seventh round.
For the upcoming season, numberFire's models currently project Smith-Schuster to haul in 87.9 receptions for 841.9 yards and 6.6 touchdowns on 129.0 targets.
Colts' Carson Wentz out indefinitely with foot injury
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz is out indefinitely with a foot injury, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Wentz injured his foot at the end of Thursday's practice and is undergoing extensive testing to determine the severity of the issue. Second-year quarterback Jacob Eason took the starter reps at Friday's practice and sixth-round rookie Sam Ehlinger played backup. Wentz was limited to 12 games last season and he missed five games in 2018.
Among the 44 quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs last season, Wentz added the third-fewest Passing Net Expected Points per drop back. He averaged 17.8 FanDuel points per game, finishing 21st among quarterbacks. Wentz also earned a career-low 65.0 grade from Pro Football Focus that ranked 31st at his position.
Belichick: New England's Damien Harris 'can compete for the top role now'
According to head coach Bill Belichick, New England Patriots running back Damien Harris "was a player who improved a lot from year 1 to year 2."
After an impressive second year, Harris is expected to play a similar role as New England's lead running back despite the presence of Sony Michel. "Now he has an opportunity to really compete for the lead spot," said Belichick when asked about Harris. "I've been impressed with the commitment that he's shown."
Expect Harris to handle most of New England's early-down touches after the 24-year old averaged 13.7 rushing attempts in ten games last season. For the upcoming season, numberFire's models currently project Harris to produce 965.8 yards and 7.2 touchdowns on 225.2 attempts and 12.4 receptions for 90.3 yards.
Cowboys' Dak Prescott (shoulder) diagnosed with muscle strain, exits practice early on Wednesday
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (shoulder) left practice early on Wednesday.
Prescott underwent an MRI on Wednesday after leaving practice early with soreness in his right arm. The test reveled a muscle strain in his right shoulder. Speaking to the media after, Prescott said "I felt some soreness when making certain throws today, and I really just decided not to push things too far. Better to be cautious and smart about it. I don’t see this as any kind of serious setback. We’ll treat it on a daily basis, and I’ll be fine."
numberFire's models project Prescott for 5,160 passing yards, 29.72 touchdowns, and 6.27 interceptions this season. He is the QB5 in our preseason fantasy projections.
Raiders' Kenyan Drake placed on non-football injury list
Las Vegas Raiders running back Kenyan Drake has been placed on the non-football injury list.
Drake was seen at practice on Wednesday, working with a trainer on the side. Running backs Jalen Richard and Theo Riddick were absent from practice after being placed on the COVID-19 list, leaving Las Vegas thin at the position as they open camp. Keep an eye on Drake's status as the first week of camp progresses.
numberFire's models project Drake for 134 carries for 593.1 rushing yards and 4.40 rushing touchdowns with 27.8 receptions for 200.5 receiving yards and 1.20 receiving touchdowns this season. He is the RB37 in our preseason rankings.
Jets' Chris Herndon working with second string
New York Jets tight end Chris Herndon is working with the second-team to start training camp.
Tyler Kroft started camp as the Jets' starting tight end. Herndon played 16 games last season but caught just 31 passes on 45 targets for 287 yards and 3 touchdowns. Kroft could wind up being a reliable source of targets on a Jets' offense that lacks proven pass-catching talent behind Jamison Crowder.
Herndon averaged the fourth-fewest yards per route last season out of the 43 tight ends with at least 30 targets. He is currently the TE29 in numberFire's preseason fantasy rankings.
Michael Carter opens camp with Jets' first team
New York Jets rookie running back Michael Carter started training camp with the first-team offense.
The Jets are expected to use a committee approach in the backfield with Carter, Tevin Coleman, and Ty Johnson, but it's encouraging to see the fourth-rounder working with the starters early on. Carter's pass-catching ability allows him to contribute on all three downs and he is the favorite to lead the Jets' backfield in touches this season.
numberFire's models currently project Carter to lead the Jets' backfield across the board as a rookie, with 138.3 carries, 594.7 rush yards, 35.2 catches (47.2 targets), 243.4 receiving yards, and 5.11 touchdowns. Coleman is projected for 114.7 carries and 12.6 catches, with Johnson pegged for 83.2 rush attempts and 10.3 receptions. Carter is the RB36 in our preseason fantasy rankings, followed by Coleman (RB48) and then Johnson (RB58).
Raiders' Henry Ruggs focusing on playing stronger
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs said he gained 13 pounds this offseason in an effort to become stronger and more physical.
Ruggs said he is focusing on improving in both the passing and running game. The added muscle should translate to more production in the short passing game, which is where Derek Carr likes to throw the ball. Ruggs, last year's No. 12 pick in the draft, is entering this season as the Raiders' top wide receiver. The offseason departure of Nelson Agholor, who finished second on the Raiders with 82 targets last year, should result in more opportunities for Ruggs in his sophomore season.
Ruggs is the WR54 in numberFire's preseason fantasy rankings. Our models project him to lead the Raiders receivers with 89.4 targets, 55.8 receptions, 822.8 yards, and 3.89 touchdowns.
Justin Jackson placed on Chargers' COVID-19 list
Los Angeles Chargers running back Justin Jackson has been placed on the team's reserve/COVID-19 list.
It's unclear if Jackson tested positive or simply came into contact with someone who did, but either way, he'll be away from the team as training camp gets underway. It now seems as though Joshua Kelley will be the de facto backup to starting rusher Austin Ekeler, and Larry Rountree III could be in store for more work early on.
Our models currently project Jackson for 403.63 yards on 91.33 carries and 2.37 touchdowns. They also ballpark him for 13.73 catches on 18.63 targets for 99.12 yards and 0.83 scores.
49ers' Jeff Wilson (knee) placed on active/PUP list, out until at least Week 8
San Francisco 49ers running back Jeff Wilson has been placed on the active/Physically Unable to Perform list.
However, unlike many others put on the list to start training camp, Wilson is seen as a lock to begin the regular season on the shelf. Should he start the season on the list as expected, he would be forced to sit until at least Week 8. This comes after he tore his meniscus in May. Trey Sermon should be the biggest beneficiary of Wilson's missed time.
Our models currently project Wilson for 277.51 yards on 61.13 carries for 3.22 touchdowns. They also ballpark him for 5.54 catches on 8.06 targets for 43.76 yards and 0.26 scores.
Washington's Curtis Samuel (groin) placed on active/PUP list
Washington Football Team wide receiver Curtis Samuel has been placed on the active/Physically Unable to Perform list.
Samuel is dealing with a bit of a groin ailment, but he has plenty of time to be taken off the list before he'd be forced to miss any games. Keep an eye on his status as training camp progresses. Adam Humphries and Cam Sims could be in line for more work during the start of the preseason.
Our models currently project Samuel for 67.42 catches on 105.43 targets for 855.88 yards and 5.00 touchdowns.
Kadarius Toney activated off Giants' COVID-19 list
New York Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney has been activated off the team's reserve/COVID-19 list.
Toney was set to begin training camp on the shelf due to the novel coronavirus, but he's been cleared to return to the team just in time for the start of team activities. That's a good break for the rookie, who figures to have a decent role with the team immediately before hopefully growing into a larger workload. Toney could slot in fourth on the initial wide receiver depth chart, in front of veteran John Ross.
Our models currently project Toney for 21.47 catches on 34.58 targets for 257.02 yards and 1.10 touchdowns.
Steelers expecting Najee Harris to be 3-down back
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris is expected to be a 3-down option for the team.
"When we drafted him, we thought he'd be a three-down back because he was a three-down back at a high level at Alabama," General Manager Kevin Colbert said. "We'd be disappointed if he wasn't." This would lead one to believe that the team has big plans for the rookie from Alabama from the get-go. Benny Snell figures to be in the mix for workload at the position as well.
Our models currently project Harris for 1,341.65 yards on 287.40 carries with 10.93 touchdowns. They also ballpark him for 43.98 catches on 58.94 targets for 308.71 yards and 2.16 scores.
Pelissero: Packers working on acquiring Randall Cobb from Texans
Houston Texans wide receiver Randall Cobb could be dealt to the Green Bay Packers soon, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.
The Packers seem to have reconciled their differences with disgruntled MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and this would appear to be a move meant to placate him. Rodgers and Cobb spent many a season together in Green Bay back in the day, and it seems as though a reunion is in the cards. Keep an eye out for updates on this situation. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Amari Rodgers would likely see less work in the event of a Cobb trade, while Cobb's departure could open up possibilities for Anthony Miller and Keke Coutee.
For the time being, our models project Cobb for 35.18 catches on 52.55 targets for 463.02 yards and 2.53 touchdowns.
Drew Lock to take first reps for Broncos
Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock will receive the first reps in the Broncos' quarterback competition, head coach Vic Fangio announced.
Fangio reiterated that the Broncos will have a 50-50 competition under center between Lock and Teddy Bridgewater, but the incumbent will take the first reps in training camp. Lock completed just 57.3 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions last season in 13 games. Bridgewater was far more accurate, with a 69.1 completion percentage, to go with 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Lock averaged -0.04 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per dropback last season, which ranked 29th among 32 quarterbacks with at least 300 drop backs and was well below league average (0.13). Bridgewater finished 19th in terms of Passing NEP per drop back with 0.12, putting him right around the league average.
Odell Beckham (ACL) reportedly cleared for Browns camp
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham (ACL) passed his physical and will not be placed on the PUP list to start training camp, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
Beckham underwent surgery on November 10 to repair a torn ACL he suffered in Week 7 last season. Prior to that, Beckham led the Browns in targets (43) and was tied with Jarvis Landry for the team-lead in receiving yards (319). He also ranked 15th among wide receivers in air yards during that span. The Browns' run-heavy offense may prevent Beckham from producing the numbers he had with the New York Giants, but his current ADP (WR26) could prove to be a solid value this season.
Beckham is currently the WR17 in numberFire's preseason fantasy rankings. Our models expect him to lead the Browns with 132.8 targets, 82.6 receptions, 1,119.0 yards, and 8.08 touchdowns in 2021. Among the 128 receivers with at least 25 targets last season, Beckham ranked 84th in Reception Net Expected Points per target.
Saquon Barkley (knee) has chance to be ready for Giants' opener
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (knee) has a chance to be ready for Week 1 against the Denver Broncos, per Jordan Raanan of ESPN.
Giants head coach Joe Judge told Raanan that the team plans to take a "long-term" approach with Barkley in his return from an ACL injury. The uncertainty surrounding Barkley's status has caused his ADP to slowly trickle down from 1.04 to 1.06 over the past couple months. Devontae Booker and Corey Clement would presumably share backfield work if Barkley is unavailable for the start of the season.
Barkley is currently the RB8 in numberFire's preseason fantasy rankings. Our models expect him to average 102.3 yards from scrimmage per game while totaling 13.29 touchdowns this season.
Zach Wilson the only no-show for start of Jets camp
New York Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson is the only player on the team absent for the start of training camp.
Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick from April's draft, has yet to sign his rookie contract due to issues with offset language. The two sides will likely find a resolution soon and Wilson is fully expected to start Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers. Early reports on Wilson from OTAs and minicamp were promising.
Wilson's Total QBR was fourth best in the country during his final college season and his 10.8 adjusted yards per attempt against top-50 defenses ranked second in this year's draft class. He also averaged 7.1 rushing attempts per game over three seasons at BYU. Wilson is currently the QB19 in numberFire's preseason fantasy rankings, and our models project him to average 257.5 passing yards with 14.3 rushing yards per game while totaling 25.90 passing touchdowns and 2.37 rushing touchdowns this season.
Aaron Rodgers officially arrives at Packers camp
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers arrived for the start of training camp on Tuesday.
The drama appears to be over after months of speculation that a disgruntled Rodgers had played his final snap for the Packers. He is now expected to stick around for one more season, but is reportedly setting up his "departure from Green Bay after the season." Rodgers, 37, led the league and set career-highs last season in touchdown passes (48) and passing touchdown percentage (9.1). He also paced the NFL with a 70.7 completion percentage, which is Rodgers' second-best clip of his career.
Rodgers added the second-most Passing Net Expected Points per dropback of his career last season while recording his personal-best clip since 2011. He is currently the QB8 in numberFire's preseason fantasy rankings and our models project him to average 268.9 passing yards per game while throwing 35.04 touchdowns over 17 games.
Texans reportedly fielding Deshaun Watson trade offers
The Houston Texans are open to trade offers for quarterback Deshaun Watson, reports Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
Pelissero says the expected price tag is "at least three first-round picks and more" and NFL reporter Chris Mortensen said the Texans want "some combination of five high draft picks and starting caliber players." Watson could still be facing a lengthy suspension for multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, but the Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, and Philadelphia Eagles are reportedly interested in acquiring his services.
Watson added the fifth-most Passing Net Expected Points per dropback last season out of the 44 quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts. He averaged the eighth-most FanDuel points per game at his position (23.5).
Cowboys expect Amari Cooper (ankle) practicing by mid-August
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (ankle) is expected to begin practicing after the team's August 13 preseason game, per Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Cooper is recovering from an ankle procedure he had in early June. Jones also expects Cooper to be able to play some preseason snaps ahead of the Cowboys' Thursday night opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Cooper led the Cowboys with a 30.4 percent target share in four games with Dak Prescott under center last season, but his rehab and the development of CeeDee Lamb, may result in less volume in 2021.
Cooper is currently the WR11 in numberFire's preseason fantasy rankings. Our models expect him to barely out-target Lamb 143.0-135.9 while leading the Cowboys with 97.0 receptions for 1,350.8 yards and 7.35 touchdowns. Cooper led all Cowboys' skill-players with 0.73 Reception Net Expected Points per target last season.
Rapoport: Aaron Rodgers plans to play for Packers this season
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers plans to play for the Packers this season, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
Rapoport's sources say Rodgers has "indicated to people close to him" that he will spend at least one more season in Green Bay. General manager Brian Gutekunst also expressed some optimism about the situation, though he didn't say when Rodgers might join the team. The Packers report Tuesday for training camp and are scheduled to practice for the first time Wednesday.
Rodgers added the second-most Passing Net Expected Points per dropback of his career last season while recording his personal-best clip since 2011. He is currently the QB8 in numberFire's preseason fantasy rankings and our models project him to average 268.9 passing yards per game while throwing 35.04 touchdowns.
Michael Carter tabbed 'eventual 1A' for Jets backfield
New York Jets fourth-round rookie running back Michael Carter is expected to emerge as the "eventual 1A" in the Jets' backfield, writes Connor Hughes of The Athletic.
The Jets are expected to use a backfield rotation this season consisting of Carter, Tevin Coleman, and Ty Johnson. Carter was also limited to committee work in college, and at 5-foot-8 and 201 pounds, the fourth-round pick may not have the size to handle a workhorse role in the NFL. That being said, Hughes believes Carter's catching ability separates him from Coleman and Johnson, and will result in the rookie earning the most touches in the backfield.
numberFire's models currently project Carter to lead the Jets' backfield across the board as a rookie, with 138.3 carries, 594.6 rush yards, 35.2 catches (47.2 targets), 243.4 receiving yards, and 5.13 touchdowns. Coleman is projected for 114.7 carries and 12.6 catches, with Johnson pegged for 83.2 rush attempts and 10.3 receptions. Carter is the RB34 in our preseason fantasy rankings, followed by Coleman (RB48) and then Johnson (RB59).
Marlon Mack (Achilles) '100 percent' at Colts camp
Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack (Achilles) is "100 percent" to start training camp, per Zak Keefer of The Athletic.
Mack tore his Achilles in Week 1 last season and had been limited to individual work during team drills at previous offseason workouts. He may cut into Jonathan Taylor's workload a tad, but Mack is unlikely to see consistent touches unless Taylor suffers an injury. Nyheim Hines is expected to work as the Colts' passing-game specialist out of the backfield.
numberFire's models project Mack for 3.6 combined opportunities per game this season. He is averaging 0.06 Rushing Net Expected Points per carry for his career, while Taylor added 0.15 Rushing NEP per carry as a rookie. Mack could have a chance to take targets away from Hines, as he is only averaging 0.04 fewer career Reception NEP per target than his backfield mate.
Saints reporter: Michael Thomas (ankle) may be out until late October
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) will "need about 6-8 weeks for the repaired ligament to heal and then another 6-8 weeks to get it in shape to where he can run and cut effectively," reports Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football.
Underhill adds that there's a possibility Thomas beats that timeline, but it "seems unlikely" the receiver will be available for the Saints' season opener against the Green Bay Packers. The general consensus from Underhill and others seems to be that Thomas will be sidelined for September and then return at some point in October, perhaps after the Saints' Week 6 bye. Alvin Kamara proved to be the biggest beneficiary last season when Thomas missed time, and he should again see an uptick in volume with Thomas unavailable. There will also likely be more opportunities for Tre'Quan Smith and Marquez Callaway.
Kamara averaged 8.6 targets and 27.3 FanDuel points in eight games without Thomas last season. Among every Saints player with at least 20 targets in 2020, Smith added the most Reception Net Expected Points per target. numberFire's models expect Thomas to average 9.2 targets, 6.3 receptions, and 77.1 yards per game this season.
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