Jameis and Callaway Blow Up, Injuries Haunt Initial MNF Of Season
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There was only one game on Monday Night, but it seemed to leave an outsized impact on the fantasy football community as both Saints tight end Adam Trautman and Jaguars running back Travis Etienne suffered injuries that could be onerous for their Week 1 status.
Trautman slated for MRI on Tuesday
Trautman’s injury looked more serious, as he was carted off with a left foot problem. Per Adam Schefter, he’s scheduled for an MRI today, but initial X-Rays were negative. The preseason tea leaves had already trended pretty seriously against Trautman, who has been playing as an in-line tight end while Juwan Johnson handled more of the slot snaps vacated by Jared Cook. But as Trautman has been drafted mainly as a late-round flier at this point in most leagues, this should probably be treated as a knockout blow for his current shallow league value barring a very optimistic post-MRI update.
The Saints passing game did not miss Trautman, and Jameis Winston teed off on the Jaguars to the tune of 123 yards on 9-of-10 passing, adding two touchdowns. Winston built almost the entire thing out of Marquez Callaway, who caught both touchdowns (both deep passes) and three other passes for a total of 104 yards. The New Orleans passing game has been perceived either as an area for conjecture or an outright fade between the quarterback battle and Michael Thomas’ shifting injury timetable, but Callaway has been one of the biggest winners of the Thomas target vacuum. It’s easy to see the names he’s up against in the WR4/5 pool and not be excited. Heck, it’s easy to not be excited about a single non-Alvin Kamara Saints fantasy player this year. But this is a Sean Payton offense, and Sean Payton offenses have been one of the most bankable things in fantasy football since the time of Gnarls Barkley.
Winston’s start and performance, even if the Saints declined to name him the starter after the game, is a great sign for Callaway. It also makes Juwan Johnson an interesting sleeper tight end to replace Trautman in deeper leagues. Don’t let it escape your mind that Tony Jones Jr. was playing an awful lot with the ones as well. It’s very easy to put Latavius Murray in that “dependable backup running back” box in your head, but Jones is making a real push and the broadcast mentioned that Payton was promoting him as the No. 2 running back. [[ad:athena]]
Etienne “out indefinitely” with mid-foot sprain
Wearing a walking boot after the game, Jaguars rookie running back Travis Etienne was forced from the game after just three snaps with the foot injury. Etienne’s injury will need further diagnosis but foot sprains don’t have a lot of simple outcomes and “indefinitely” is a fair approach to the situation with the limited information we’re working with on Tuesday morning. The main concern at this point is probably a Lisfranc injury. Several players have had seasons ended by that particular foot injury. It even made a mortal out of the otherwise-indestructible Julio Jones in 2013.
Even if it is just a milder sprain that puts Etienne behind schedule and perhaps puts only a few weeks of the early season in jeopardy, those are reps that he sorely could have used to establish himself deeper into Jacksonville’s plans. It’s hard to see this as anything but an unequivocal win for incumbent James Robinson, who now has one less back to steal carries from him and, most importantly, has lost the main passing-downs threat on the roster. Carlos Hyde has caught just 36 passes over the last three seasons. Robinson’s stock is going to be inching up closer to the top 20 running backs if not outright threatening to bust into top 15 consideration.
In the event that Etienne can stay on the shorter side of the “indefinitely” time table, he probably deserves a much less aggressive placement in redraft leagues. He’s been around the RB 25-30 ranks for a bit, and that price has some room to fall. He’s still worth rostering ala Rashod Bateman even if what comes out of the injury is the threat of missed September games. But establishing a true foothold in a backfield for a rookie requires some established trust and Etienne had played just 13 snaps in the preseason opener. Unless he miraculously comes out of the boot clean in two weeks, drafting Etienne is putting stock in October and November more than September.
Cam Newton’s COVID rules violation interlude
Monday morning’s biggest news came from New England, where the unvaccinated (via context clues) Cam Newton will have to miss a few days due to a misunderstanding about tests in non-NFL facilities. It’s a story that generated a lot of media interest because a) COVID doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon and b) unvaccinated players have been heavily incentivized to get vaccinated by NFL rules and regulations. Because of the natural draw of asking “What If?” about the starting quarterback position -- ask Kirk Cousins -- there was some enhanced focus on what this means for Newton’s job status and, well, what would happen if he got COVID.
Without diving too deep down that rabbit hole, because I can hear my editor telepathically willing me away from it for some mysterious reason, there’s not a lot that this news really changes about the fantasy situation in New England. Maybe Mac Jones looks good in some practices and scrimmages without Newton, and maybe he doesn’t. The plan in any event is probably going to be to let Newton have the first crack at things.
From a fantasy perspective, take this as a helpful reminder that Newton isn’t vaccinated and that adds some risk that wasn’t inherently going to be there to your roster. Bill Belichick stirred a little fantasy uncertainty in to the mix by noting that he’d “always do what is best for the team,” in response to a question about platooning quarterbacks, but that’s far from an admission that this is being considered. It should not surprise you if Jones gets on the field this year, but it probably won’t happen in Week 1.
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Other news and notes
David Culley mentioned at his Monday presser that the Texans would use designed run plays with Tyrod Taylor only as a “game plan deal.” The Texans have barely had their first team get any traction on the ground this preseason, and with Mark Ingram outracing Phillip Lindsay in snaps on Saturday, the situation already looked like a fantasy quagmire. Throw in no help from Taylor read-options and it might be a straight fade. ... Josh Rosen signed with the Falcons and is now hooked on to the Arthur Smith revitalization machine that saved Ryan Tannehill‘s career. This can only end well. OK, I don’t believe that either, but I wanted to type it to see if any of you did. You’re booing me, let’s move on. ... Darrell Henderson has a sprained thumb suffered in practice, he is day-to-day per Ian Rapoport. With no ligament damage found and roughly three weeks until the regular season starts, this was more scare than something to linger on. ... A.J. Brown is expected to be ready for the start of the season per Adam Schefter, but if you read about him playing through injuries to the point that he got surgery on both knees this offseason, you sort of expected that. ... The NFL’s next cutdown day -- from 85 players to 80 -- is tomorrow. Most of the players released at this time won’t be fantasy relevant, but maybe we’ll get a surprise here or there.