The very first day of training camp for 18 teams did not disappoint. Melvin Gordon's holdout is official, Julio Jones' foot will keep him sidelined for up to two weeks and Derrick Henry's best offensive lineman is suspended for the first four games of the season.
KC Kansas City • #25
Age: 29 • Experience: 8 yrs.
Gordon followed through on his decision to hold out of training camp, telling the Chargers he wasn't going to show up until they gave him a new deal. Yahoo sports says an extension "isn't coming soon," and NFL Network has the Chargers talking up Justin Jackson as a back they'd like to get more reps.
Is this the Le'Veon Bell saga all over again? Not quite. Gordon is still under contract with the Chargers and must show up for at least six games in order to be eligible for free agency in 2020. He'd be unbelievably foolish to give that up. But until we know when he'll show up, he's a risk on Draft Day. Running backs who miss all of training camp and the preseason tend to struggle with small injuries. Players who show up midseason are usually even worse.
Unless Gordon changes his stance, don't expect him to help you win your Fantasy league. I can't even fathom a scenario where I take him with a pick in the first three rounds.
Austin Ekeler is the next man up for the Chargers. Coach Anthony Lynn expressed a little caution about Ekeler's usage last year when Gordon missed time, but he had 17-plus touches in the three games he played without Gordon. His ADP is going to fly until Gordon shows up. If you're drafting today, don't be shocked to see him get snagged by Round 6 in PPR leagues.
I also noticed that the Chargers seemed to always have a second back average around 8-9 touches per game last year. When Gordon was active, Ekeler averaged 8.5 touches. When Gordon was out and Ekeler started, Jackson averaged 9.0 touches. And in the one game Gordon and Ekeler were hurt and Jackson started, Detrez Newsome had eight touches. It is not wrong to think Jackson will get that kind of work rate if Gordon stays missing. Round 10 is when he'll get taken these days.
Finally, don't expect the Chargers to change course and give Gordon a lucrative deal. This is the same franchise that replaced Ryan Mathews with Gordon, and also replaced LaDainian Tomlinson with Mathews. Evaluating running backs is something they seem to do well there.
Julio Jones WR
TB Tampa Bay • #6
Age: 34 • Experience: 13 yrs.
I don't know why it took Falcons coach Dan Quinn three days to announce that Julio Jones was 10-14 days away from being cleared to practice, but he did. Jones is rehabbing from foot surgery.
This shouldn't be cause for concern for Fantasy managers just yet. Jones broke his foot in 2013 and has had constant foot and ankle issues since, usually playing through them. Letting him rest through the first week of August isn't a big deal. But having him sidelined through most of the preseason would be -- that kind of absence impacted his numbers in 2017 when he averaged only 15.3 Fantasy points per game in PPR (9.8 in non-PPR). If you're in Round 1 and are spooked by the injury, pivoting to a different receiver is an easy move.
TEN Tennessee • #22
Age: 29 • Experience: 8 yrs.
Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan announced he's being suspended four games for violating the league's PED policy. Not only does this remove Derrick Henry's most impactful blocker for one-fourth of the season, it makes already-tricky matchups against the Browns, Colts, Jaguars and Falcons (three of them on the road) even more difficult. At the very least, the Titans have a capable swing tackle in Dennis Kelly to replace Lewan for the start of the season.
Henry's a polarizing Fantasy running back. Hardly anyone sees him keeping up the ridiculous pace from last year, but there's no denying his role as a regular 15-touch back with goal-line opportunities. His upside from week to week is pretty obvious. If you think of him as a good-enough No. 2 running back, you'll probably avoid being hurt by any sour play. Round 4 isn't too risky.
Cam Newton QB
CAR Carolina • #1
Age: 33 • Experience: 12 yrs.
Are we allowed to post good news? Because the Panthers gave us some at the start of their training camp -- Cam Newton will avoid the Physically Unable to Perform list and begin practicing with the active roster. Coach Ron Rivera said Newton will be on a "pitch count," but that's not really a worry, especially compared to what could have been.
Newton continues to look like one of Draft Day's biggest bargains.
WAS Washington • #29
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.
More good news: Redskins coach Jay Gruden said second-year running back Derrius Guice won't be limited in camp. That suggests the hamstring injury reported about a month ago isn't affecting him, nor is he still recovering from the torn ACL suffered last August.
It's the first of several hurdles Guice must jump before entering early round Fantasy discussion. He rejoins a Redskins run game that includes Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson, both of whom will have roles in the offense. He also will play behind an O-line that will begin camp without disgruntled veteran Trent Williams -- the Pro Bowl left tackle is holding out. On top of that, the offense will be piloted by either rookie Dwayne Haskins or veteran Case Keenum, neither of whom will scare defenses from crowding up to stop the run.
It's great that Guice is back, but don't spend much capital on Draft Day for him until these issues clear up. Round 7 or 8 is the spot to target.