As Labor Day weekend welcomes the end of summer, the fantasy world is now just days away from the start of the 2015 NFL season. The holiday weekend was certainly not a restful period for NFL front offices, as league transactions poured in with all 32 teams announcing roster cuts and making last minute additions to their depth charts. Hopefully you were following along here at Rotoworld, as the industry’s top fantasy staff analyzed every transaction on the player news page, which is an invaluable resource for fantasy owners (I will now pause as you bookmark that link). If your league is drafting in the few remaining days before real football finally graces the screens of American televisions, be sure to check out Evan Silva’s Final Top 200 Rankings, Pat Daugherty’s ADP Notes, and the Fantasy Roundtable where the Rotoworld staff discusses critical fantasy topics.
Now, buckle up and refill that coffee mug as we run through the most fantasy-relevant news from an action-packed weekend in the NFL.
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The backfield of the Seattle Seahawks took a different shape over the weekend as Pete Carroll’s squad dumped a pair of running backs and added another. First, the defending NFC champions signed veteran running back Fred Jackson to a one-year contract to back up Marshawn Lynch. With the added depth behind Lynch, Seattle then cut the injured Robert Turbin and traded Christine Michael to the Dallas Cowboys for a conditional draft pick. With the dust now settled, Seattle is looking at Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson, and rookie Thomas Rawls as the meat on their running back depth chart. Seattle ran the ball 525 times last season (good for second most in the NFL), so both Jackson and Rawls could carve out fantasy-worthy roles if Beast Mode misses time. Michael will likely be a depth back in Dallas, but is worth a late-round flier as the fantasy community waits to see how the Cowboys backfield shakes out.
Colts running back Dan Herron left Indianapolis’ final preseason game with a shoulder injury and was then cut by the team on Sunday. This leaves rookie Josh Robinson to backup Frank Gore in Indy, as long as Robinson is healthy after suffering a concussion in the Colts’ third preseason game. Frank Gore is now 32-years-old and although he has not missed a game since 2010, Josh Robinson is now a handcuff of interest in a high-voltage offense.
Much speculation has been made as to who will soak up the leftover targets from Aaron Rodgers with Jordy Nelson on the shelf for the season, and Green Bay added another piece to the puzzle over the weekend. Wide receiver James Jones was released by the New York Giants and signed by the Packers to provide Aaron Rodgers with a familiar face next to Randall Cobb. Jones spent his entire career in Green Bay before playing the 2014 season in Oakland, and will likely have a shot at playing time as he battles fellow receivers Jeff Janis and Ty Montgomery on the Green Bay depth chart. For those interested in speculating on the third target of Aaron Rodgers, Jones is worth a look.
Two muddy backfields were in the news on Sunday as the Cleveland Browns unloaded running back Terrance West to the Tennessee Titans for a conditional draft pick. This news came on the heels of the Titans placing rookie David Cobb on the injured reserve, so the deal makes sense for both sides despite the fact that West has been less than impressive in his short career. Terrance West was in the midst of a playing time battle with Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson in Cleveland, and now finds himself in a similar situation next to Bishop Sankey in Ken Whisenhunt’s backfield. Both Tennessee running backs are as unattractive as fantasy backs get, but Sankey is most likely the best bet for production if you feel like taking a stab at this situation.
Brandon LaFell (foot) was placed on the reserve/PUP list by New England over the weekend, ending a mysterious offseason of sparse updates on the health status of the Patriots wide receiver. LaFell will be eligible to return to the field in Week 8, but a timetable is tough to forecast with such limited information available on the severity of his injury. Tom Brady will now focus in on Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman more than ever in the New England passing game, and Danny Amendola or Aaron Dobson could scratch out additional production as well.
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Other Notable Cuts…
Reggie Wayne gave up his shot at replacing Brandon LaFell in New England after he requested his release from the team that recently signed him to a one-year deal. Wayne is now contemplating retirement but could surface with another team down the road.
New England was busy in the running back department as well, cutting second-year back Jonas Gray. Bill Belichick’s backfield was becoming a crowded space, and the team decided that Gray was of little use with LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden already in the fold and Dion Lewis turning in a solid preseason. Whether Gray latches on with another NFL team or not, we will always share the memories of his 2014 Week 11 game in which he dropped 201 yards and a four-pack of touchdowns on the Indianapolis Colts.
With the Tyrod Taylor train picking up steam, the Buffalo Bills finally cut Matt Cassel. The veteran quarterback will likely pop up in a backup role with another franchise soon, but this move should mean Taylor gets a bit more leash as Buffalo’s starter.
Hakeem Nicks was released by the Tennessee Titans, leaving just Kendall Wright, Harry Douglas, Dorial Green-Beckham, and Justin Hunter as the receiving options for rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota. Nicks was a long shot for fantasy production in Tennessee anyhow, but this further cements Kendall Wright’s underrated fantasy status as he now has even less competition for targets. The release of Nicks may also provide Green-Beckham with a clearer route to playing time and an opportunity to unleash his meteoric upside.
The Denver Broncos narrowed their backup running back competition down to Ronnie Hillman and Juwan Thompson after Montee Ball was waived over the weekend. The career of Montee Ball has been in steady decline since he immediately proved to be a monstrous 2014 fantasy draft bust and Ball will now look for employment outside of Denver. Anderson is safe in the Broncos backfield, but Hillman looks to be the man for those speculating on handcuff scenarios.
All dreams of Chip Kelly designing an unstoppable two-point conversion monster with quarterback Tim Tebow came crashing down on Saturday as Tebow was released by Philadelphia. Mark Sanchez is now left to backup Sam Bradford while Tebow will be on the hunt for another shot from an NFL team.
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Multiple NFL teams were making moves at the kicker position over NFL roster cut weekend, which requires fantasy drafters to make a few last minute changes to their cheat sheets. Take note of the following kicker cuts before you make your last-round picks this week.
Todd Gurley (knee) has been cleared for contact in St. Louis practices, but the timetable for his return is still as murky as ever. Gurley’s fantasy owners will need to have other plans for at least the first month of the season. … Tre Mason (hamstring) is reportedly “doing good” as he recovers from a pulled hammy. Mason needs to return to the field quickly to make the most of his last shot at starting for the Rams before Todd Gurley officially claims the Rams backfield for himself. … Ahmad Bradshaw’s injured leg is now “completely healed,” which will hopefully get the veteran running back another shot at contributing in the NFL. … Jay Ajayi (ribs) was placed on the injured reserve and will not be able to return to the field until Week 10. Damien Williams will handle the backup duties behind Lamar Miller. … Stevan Ridley (knee) was sent to the reserve/PUP list and will now wait until midseason to compete with Bilal Powell and Zac Stacy behind Chris Ivory. … Breshad Perriman (knee) could be out until October as he deals with a sprained PCL. This leaves Joe Flacco’s receiving group incredibly thin after Steve Smith Sr. and will give Marlon Brown and Kamar Aiken a chance to step up. … Victor Cruz (calf) is not practicing and coach Tom Coughlin does not have a timetable for his return. Shane Vereen and Rueben Randle will likely see more looks if Cruz misses game action.
Stepfan Taylor is expected to be the Arizona short-yardage back after the release of Robert Hughes. … Aaron Dobson made the New England 53-man roster and with Reggie Wayne released and Brandon LaFell injured, Dobson may get a shot to rekindle the potential he displayed at times in 2013. … Terrelle Pryor made the Cleveland roster and will continue his quest to transition to wide receiver. … Bryce Brown has been the subject of trade talks in Buffalo as Rex Ryan’s backfield has become crowded behind LeSean McCoy. … Dion Lewis will reportedly have a “decent role” in the New England backfield and is now on the PPR radar in fantasy leagues. … Despite an underwhelming preseason, Austin Seferian-Jenkins reportedly looked “impressive” in training camp this summer. ASJ is a nice late-round upside tight end selection. … Cleveland cut their fourth-round pick Vince Mayle after a disastrous preseason, and the young receiver went unclaimed through waivers.