Fantasy Football: Takeaways from training camp, preseason Week 1

Bryan Edwards is going to be a thing

I am the fantasy industry’s original and long-time chairman of the John Brown appreciation club.

With that said, I’m changing my tune on the veteran receiver’s prospects in Las Vegas. Every indication out of Raiders’ camp is that second-year receiver Bryan Edwards will start at the X-receiver position. That would leave Henry Ruggs as the starting flanker and Hunter Renfrow as the primary slot.

Better yet, Edwards has been thriving with this opportunity, a regular standout in practice.

Whether he’s a good enough player to turn this opportunity into fantasy production remains to be seen. Just how much this shot is worth is also another question. Las Vegas isn’t projected to house one of the most voluminous passing offenses in the league. What is clear is that Edwards is going to get the first crack at this thing, whatever it turns out to be.

I recently bumped Bryan Edwards all the way from the total basement to WR63 in my rankings, putting him squarely on the late-round radar. My initial read on the situation — John Brown just assuming the role Nelson Agholor left behind — does not appear to be in the likely range of outcomes.

Bears offensive line remake not going to plan

The most exciting move the Bears made in this year’s draft was to grab Justin Fields via a Round 1 trade-up. Their move to land Tevin Jenkins via another trade-up carried many 2021 ramifications in its own right.

With that in mind, the Bears have to be disappointed the rookie has to undergo back surgery and are now just hoping he’ll return this year. Jenkins’ loss isn’t just bad because he’s a promising player at a key position but Chicago jettisoned starting left tackle Charles Leno after the draft. The team signed veteran Jason Peters as a stopgap over the weekend.

The offensive line makeover just isn’t going to plan right now.

The unit was a roadblock to their offensive success last year, especially when Nick Foles was under center. It’s looking like it’ll hold the team back once again this season.

One has to wonder if a leaky offensive line will only accelerate Justin Fields’ timeline. Andy Dalton is much closer to the Foles area on the pocket-statue spectrum at this point in his career. Even Mitchell Trubisky’s mobility gave the team a shot in the arm late last year and masked some pass protection deficiencies. Fields’ showed in his preseason debut he’s an excellent improvisation man.

At the same time, it’s less than ideal to drop a rookie into an ecosystem that has this big of an issue right away. The Bears didn’t want to have to put themselves in this situation.

It’s hard to say that this situation will be dreadful enough to cause us to change the valuation of early-round picks like Allen Robinson or David Montgomery but it’s certainly not a good development.

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1)
Will the Bears' offensive line woes force them to play Justin Fields before they want to? (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Myles Gaskin needs an ADP correction

Frankly, I don’t know what fantasy drafters have been doing with this one.

It appears that after the Dolphins weren’t able to sign Aaron Jones in free agency and were leapfrogged for Javonte Williams by the Broncos in Round 2 of the draft that Myles Gaskin was just tagged as “the guy” in this backfield by the fantasy consensus. But ... we know the Dolphins wanted to make those moves. Shouldn’t it stand to reason they still aren't happy with Gaskin as the workhorse back?

Gaskin was given an extra bump because things didn’t happen, which is tough to sell because the intent of the team still showed their feelings on the player.

Also, the team did make an addition here with Malcolm Brown in free agency. I know the fantasy community views Brown as nothing but a nuisance and an annual blockade to some young back they like better, but he’s verifiable coach’s catnip. He’s reliable, doesn’t fumble, and is a solid blocker. Coaches can’t help but play that guy. Miami’s brass won’t be able to resist, especially since they went out and specifically targeted him.

I’ve had Gaskin ranked below consensus all offseason and Malcolm Brown as a top-50 back to reflect this danger. None of the reports or actions out of Miami pointing to a shared backfield over the past week should be surprising.

Zero reasons to worry about Darrell Henderson Jr.

If you were wringing your hands over something (or someone) derailing Darrell Henderson’s path to assuming the bulk of Cam Akers’ workload, please stop.

Nothing out of Rams’ camp has indicated anything but Henderson being the clear leader in this backfield. They’ve rested him like a starter, treated him a starter with camp reps, and reportedly view him as a starter. I’m not sure there was a vagabond veteran back available on the market who would have derailed my optimism for Henderson anyway but we’ve gotten zero indications one is about to arrive.

I typically want to draft wide receivers in Rounds 3 to 4 but when Henderson is on the board in the fourth or even late-third, I can’t help myself. He can make that draft position look like a steal in less than a month of regular-season action.

Texans running backs will rotate

Preseason usage and David Johnson’s own quotes lead us to the conclusion that a reduced role is coming for the one-time fantasy hero. Phillip Lindsay ran as the lead back with the starters in Houston’s preseason opener with Johnson subbing on third downs.

It’s fair to project Lindsay — who is a talented runner and deserved a promotion after his work in Denver — as the early-down banger with Johnson as the primary pass-catching back.

That said, I wasn’t proactively drafting anyone from this backfield as it is and this news won’t change that course of action. I bumped Lindsay up in my rankings to the low 40’s at the running back position. Basically, that puts him in the late-round flier range and nothing more.

Do you even really want the early-down back for this version of the Houston Texans offense?

Johnson has dropped a tier. He could still have a pass-catching floor but this entire situation remains one to mostly avoid.

Trey Sermon asserting himself

All caveats about Raheem Mostert not playing the preseason opener required, but it sure looked like rookie Trey Sermon was distancing himself in his first NFL action.

Sermon played well ahead of veteran Wayne Gallman, with the latter only taking away two snaps from the former. He also ran a good amount of routes when he played. That was a welcome development. Obviously, things might change when Mostert is in the mix but it’s not as if he has a long resume as a pass-catcher.

If Sermon is indeed the 1a of this committee and has a passing-down role, he’s going to smash ADP.

The Bengals offense sputters a bit

Reports about Joe Burrow’s play and Ja’Marr Chase’s separation issues lit Fantasy Twitter ablaze for weeks there.

I’ll admit, I’m not sure how much to weigh these practice reports. For Chase specifically, I don't question his route-running abilities and we should always be skeptical about casual practice observations regarding “separation.”

There’s at least a chance that Burrow starts the year off rusty behind a still middling (at best) offensive line. That would naturally bring down the ceiling of this entire offense. Burrow was already just about the stone-worst deep-passer statistically last year and he’ll need to improve to juice up his own individual fantasy output if he’s going to be more hesitant to run. He’s alluded to that being the case a handful of times.

All of this might be nothing. I’m absolutely open to that being the case. At the same time, these reports should at least get us to imagine a reality where this promising but young-and-full-of-questions offense sputters out the gate. Based on ADP and the way they’ve been discussed all offseason, the fantasy hive-mind has left zero room for such a world.

Josh Palmer’s Year 1 role

One of the more interesting rookie performances from Week 1 of the preseason came from Charger Josh Palmer out in Los Angeles. He snagged six passes in his debut.

He was playing with backup quarterback Chase Daniel and isn’t slated to be a starter or anything. That said, he could begin to eat into the rotation of a Justin Herbert-led offense we are all excited about in 2021. As a third-round pick, Palmer could start to edge out guys like Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson for playing time. Don’t forget those two players popped for big moments last year as vertical threats. Palmer can play that role and it’s an appealing one with Herbert at the helm.

While I 100 percent want to draft the undervalued Mike Williams where he's going in drafts right now, it’s worth noting his injury history. If Williams misses time, Palmer could slide in as the outside, contested catch-maven in his stead.

Palmer isn’t on the draftable radar right now but he’s making a case to be on waiver-wire speed dial during the regular season.

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