By 7/29, all teams will be back in training camp as the NFL schedule inches closer to the preseason and eventually Opening Day. Camp season is one of the best times of the year for fantasy players. While we’re finally getting real news every day as the fantasy temperature gauge is turned up a few notches, we also have to break down the news into actionable info.
Let’s get to it.
Outside of perhaps the Chargers, the Ravens have been one of the unluckiest teams over the past two years when it comes to losing key players. The first game of the preseason is still weeks away and the Ravens have lost Kenneth Dixon (knee) for the 2017 season. It’s an unreal loss and a brutal start for Dixon’s young career. Dixon was expected to need only a "trim" on his ailing meniscus, but he now needs season-ending knee surgery. There is already speculation that Baltimore will add more competition for touches, but for now, Danny Woodhead and Terrance West are locked-and-loaded to lead the Ravens in running back touches this upcoming year.
With Kenneth Dixon’s loss, Baltimore, unfathomably, has 380 targets open from 2016. That means that 56% of Baltimore’s 2016 targets are off of their 2017 roster. Woodhead stands to benefit most from Kenneth Dixon’s loss for the season, but he was already a shoe-in fantasy value as the Ravens’ main pass catching back. In Joe Flacco’s last two healthy years, Baltimore has finished 9th (2016) and 14th (2014) in running back receptions. In 2015, Woodhead finished as the RB6 (15.3) and in 2013 he was the RB15 in PPR Points per Game in his voluminous passing role with the Chargers and Philip Rivers. Even with Woodhead’s rising cost, he’s still going outside of the top-25 backs in average draft position.
Baltimore may add a free agent rusher out of necessity, but Terrance West is still the best bet the Ravens have on their current roster to carry the early-down and some of the red-zone workload. Last season, West handled 65.1% of the Ravens’ red-zone carries, finishing eighth among all ball carriers. What’s more, Terrance West was one of 18 running backs to carry over half of their team’s attempts in 2016. That’s not a bad little role. West’s 11th round average draft position will surely shoot upwards soon.
In more Baltimore news, the Ravens announced that quarterback Joe Flacco has been dealing with back discomfort “for a little while” after he injured it lifting weights. Baltimore is rightfully being very cautious. Flacco’s MRI on Wednesday “looked clean” and right now there is no reason to believe Flacco’s Week 1 status is in jeopardy. Flacco is not a late-round redraft consideration, but Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin and Danny Woodhead’s fantasy stock would take a huge hit should Flacco miss regular season time.
Denver likely wanted to have a running back competition during training camp, but those hopes have been dashed. Second-year man Devontae Booker has a fracture in his wrist that could cost him 6-8 weeks of missed time. Yikes. C.J. Anderson, at the very least, is now extremely likely to be a fairly unencumbered starter by Week 1. Jamaal Charles was cleared for contact at training camp, but since October 2015, he has undergone three knee surgeries (ACL repair and two knee scopes). Charles turns 31 in December.
For what it’s worth, C.J. Anderson was the RB15 (points per game) in PPR leagues in seven contests last year. Anderson saw 15 or more opportunities (attempts plus targets) as he played on 66% of the Broncos’ team snaps when active in 2016. Even when Booker is eventually cleared, Anderson has plausible fantasy upside, despite battling through knee, ankle and toe injuries over the last two years. Anderson is the RB23 in redraft leagues while Jamaal Charles is the 43rd back off of the board.
Hopefully this is a whole lot of nothing, but the Redskins have cautiously placed Jordan Reed (toe) on the active/PUP list. Fantasy owners have to be holding their breath given Reed’s significant injury history, but we’ll know more later this week. For what it is worth, Reed is slightly cheaper this year (40 overall average draft position) compared to last (35) and has owned one of the most voluminous yardage-heavy roles amongst tight ends. Over the past 10 years, only 21 tight ends have averaged at least 7.25 targets/game in a single-season and Jordan Reed has done it in back-to-back years. Over the last two seasons combined, Jordan Reed has averaged 16.1 PPR points/game when healthy. That leads all tight ends.
John Ross (shoulder) remains sidelined as the Bengals open training camp and is still a "couple weeks away”... Kelvin Benjamin has looked "leaner" and "quick off the ball" early in Panthers camp… Bucs rookie RB Jeremy McNichols (shoulder) has been cleared for training camp… The Chargers acquired QB Cardale Jones from the Bills for a conditional seventh-round pick… The Broncos acquired OL Allen Barbre from the Eagles for a conditional 2019 seventh-round pick… The Jets claimed WR/KR Lucky Whitehead off waivers from the Cowboys… The Eagles waived DE Marcus Smith… Myles Garrett (foot) is "ready to go" for the start of training camp… According to Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Inquirer, "there is talk around the locker room" that Jordan Matthews' (knee) issue is more serious than tendinitis… Second-year UDFA Spencer Pulley is projected to be the Chargers' starting center… Finally, Sammie Coates underwent a knee scope last week and will open training camp on the active/PUP list.