There was only one team that officially opened training camp last week, but the training camp news cycle was in full force. We had talk about workload distribution, contract holdouts, surprising injury recoveries, and impending breakouts.
We're officially entering the most exciting (and terrifying) time of year for Fantasy players. The news is going to come almost non-stop for the next six weeks. Some of it will prove invaluable, some of it will be retweeted with LOLs in two months. We've got to decide which is which before we cast our lots for the 2019 season. That's exactly what we'll do each Monday in Believe It or Not.
The Broncos are going to use running back by committee.
It was definitely good news for Phillip Lindsay that he was and received the first carry with the first team. At the very least it seems we can put concerns about his wrist behind him. The same can't be said for concerns about his workload.
Almost all of the reporting out of Denver has indicated the Broncos want to use a committee approach with Lindsay and Royce Freeman in 2019. That might seem strange with how much better Lindsay was in 2018, but Freeman was the higher draft pick and is built more like and every down back than Lindsay. While Lindsay's health is a positive, it doesn't look like he'll have a feature role this year.
Verdict: Believe it.
This shouldn't be that big of a surprise. Lindsay is a smaller back who only had 15 carries four times in 2018. Freeman is a big back who was a third-round pick just a year ago. Both of these backs will be involved. Just how involved they are, and whether Lindsay can maintain his efficiency edge, will determine their Fantasy value.
I currently have Lindsay and Freeman projected for a 50-50 split in carries, with Lindsay getting more work in the passing game and again being more efficient. That makes Lindsay a borderline No. 2 running back while Freeman is more of an upside No. 4. Their ADPs reflect more confidence in Lindsay, which makes Freeman the better Draft Day value.
Emmanuel Sanders is back as the Broncos No. 1 wide receiver.
Like I said, the Broncos were the only team officially at camp this week, so they get a pair of stories. I'm not sure anything was more surprising than Sanders not going on the PUP list to start camp. He tore his Achilles less than nine months ago and is talking like he plans on playing Week 1. This is terrible news for anyone hoping for a breakout year from Courtland Sutton or DaeSean Hamilton, but it does mean Sanders currently looks like one of the best values by ADP.
Verdict: Believe it. For now.
The second part of this story is that Sanders still isn't a "full-go" for camp. He expects that will happen in two or three weeks. While I'm still very skeptical he'll be his old self by Week 1, I'm impressed enough that he avoided the PUP that I'm willing to see if he can meet his next goal.
The biggest takeaway from this isn't that we need to elevate Sanders to 120 targets and start drafting him in Round 6 or anything. The biggest takeaway is that for the next three weeks (at least) we need to cool our jets on projecting Sutton as the team's No. 1 receiver. If Sanders is indeed starting Week 1 for the Broncos, it's going to be hard to trust anyone in this passing game.
Melvin Gordon's holdout is actually something for Fantasy drafters to worry about.
I may be jumping the gun on this one a little bit, but it sure looks like Gordon will not be at training camp anytime soon for the Chargers. He wants a new contract or to be traded. We've received no reports that the two parties are anywhere close to a resolution. After what we went through with Le'Veon Bell last year, this needs to be on everyone's radar. There's no way you can take Gordon in the first round now.
Verdict: Believe it.
There are still a lot of possible outcomes here, and I don't want to indicate I think Gordon sitting out the entire year is the most likely of them. It's not. But most of the possible outcomes are troublesome for Gordon's Fantasy value.
If he sits out all of camp and shows up for Week 1, I would be worried about his conditioning, his injury risk, and his usage early in the year.
If he gets traded, his value is almost certainly going to get worse than what it's been with the Chargers. Maybe not significantly, but probably enough to drive him out of the first round.
If he misses Week 1, all bets are off and it wouldn't be that surprising to see him miss a month or more at that point.
Of course, they could resolve this before it becomes a significant issue. If I'm drafting today, I'm taking Gordon in the second round. If this is unresolved by the time Week 3 of the preseason rolls around, I'll drop him to at least Round 3. For now about all we have is hope.
Austin Hooper is primed to take things to a new level.
In his third year in the league, Hooper set career highs in receptions (71), yards (660) and touchdowns (4). Apparently, coach Dan Quinn doesn't believe he's done improving yet. Quinn said Hooper is "ready to go to another level" in 2019. In Fantasy that could provide depth to a position that is desperate for it.
Verdict: Don't believe it.
It's just really hard to see how Hooper gets any better, without a significant injury to someone else on the offense. He led all tight ends in 2018 with an 81% catch rate, so it's going to be difficult to be more efficient. And with Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu and Devonta Freeman all there, it's really hard to see how Hooper gets more volume. If anything, I would expect the Falcons defense to be improved, which could mean less overall pass volume. Hooper is a fine tight end to settle for at the end of the draft, but I wouldn't expect him to be better than he was in 2018. He'll likely be worse.
Jalen Richard's role will be diminished.
You may not think this matters much for Fantasy, but it could be huge. Vic Tafur speculated in the Athletic that Josh Jacobs would take a lot of Richard's work in the passing game. If Jacobs proves he can play in the NFL on all three downs and gets a true feature role he could approach top-12 in running back value. Derek Carr is very fond of dropping the ball off to his running backs and tight ends.
Verdict: Don't believe it.
This may come to pass, but I have a hard time believing a rookie with such a limited track record in college is going to be handed 300-plus touches in his first year, especially when you consider how good Richard was in this role in 2018. There were 21 backs who earned at least 50 targets last season, Richard's 7.49 yards per target were the third best behind only Tarik Cohen and Austin Ekeler.
Jacobs is a very talented back with a very high ceiling, but it's hard to believe he'll be better than Richard in the passing game as a rookie.