I'm not going to waste too much time on an intro today. There's just too much important stuff to get to right now. I told you, once training camp started, we'd be up to our eyeballs in news, and that's where we're at with just two teams officially opening camp and starting practices so far.
In today's newsletter, I'll go over some of the biggest news items from around the NFL from this weekend, and just know, there will be even more this week as players report across the league. It's going to be a lot to keep up with, but it's my job to keep up with it all. That's why subscribing to this newsletter was such a smart idea. Way to go.
After those news items, I'm kicking off part one of my training camp preview by looking at the biggest question for every AFC team heading into camp. I'll cover the biggest questions for the NFC Tuesday, with the biggest position battled to keep track of coming on Wednesday. Also later this week, you'll be getting updated rankings from Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, Heath Cummings and myself so you can see where things stand at the start of training camp.
And now, here's what you need to know about from this weekend.
Injuries, news, and notes
DeShaun Watson reported to Texans camp
This is very much a "I'm just here so I don't get fined" situation, because Watson still reportedly plans to refuse to play for the Texans as he continues to seek a trade. There has been some smoke around the possibility of a Watson-to-Philadelphia deal, but it's hard to see anything coming from that until we know whether Watson will face punishment from the NFL (or from legal authorities) for the 22 accusations of sexual misconduct against him. My assumption for the last few months has been that Watson is unlikely to play for anyone, at least to start the season, though obviously we won't know that until the NFL makes a decision one way or another. Until that happens, it's all just idle speculation. Operate under the assumption Watson won't play a full season at this point.
Michael Thomas' injury has a 12-16 week timeline
That's from the June surgery date. Thomas tried to rehabilitate the injury that derailed his 2020 season, but the Saints ultimately wanted him to undergo the procedure, putting his availability for the start of the season in doubt. On the short end of the timetable, he could conceivably be ready for Week 1, but the much more likely scenario is he's aiming for a return in September -- with a worst-case scenario probably looking more like the Saints Week 7 game against the Seahawks after the bye week. As I wrote last week, I moved Thomas down to WR38, right between Tyler Boyd and Jarvis Landry in my rankings. He could still be a top-12 WR on a per-game basis, but it's harder to assume that kind of bounceback after this.
Anthony Miller was traded to the Texans
Miller, a second-round pick in the 2018 draft, never provided the complement to Allen Robinson the Bears hoped he would be. He had seven touchdowns in 2018 but never had more than two in either of the next two seasons while topping out at 52 catches for 656 yards. Miller has a chance to play a significant role for the Texans, but given the concerns about the QB situation, it's hard to get too excited about the opportunity anyway. He'll be 27 in October, and there are probably 100 wide receivers you should consider ahead of Miller in drafts.
On the Bears side of things, this does clear the picture for Darnell Mooney's potential breakout campaign. Miller wasn't much of an obstacle for Mooney so this doesn't really change things all that much. Mooney will have the opportunity to break out, but the question is whether the fifth-rounder who averaged just 6.4 yards per attempt as a rookie is good enough to be a starting caliber Fantasy option with that expanded role. If I can get Mooney around the 50th wide receiver off the board or later, I'm down with taking the chance. Anything more than that, I'll pass.
And about that Aaron Rodgers "rumor"
So, last week, SI.com's Bill Huber reported that various Las Vegas sportsbooks had removed their Packers-related odds, including the full NFC North win totals, playoff odds, and other related picks. That obviously caused a lot of chatter in the Fantasy world, with the assumption that the oddsmakers might have their fingers on the pulse about Rodgers' future plans. He has requested a trade from the Packers and turned down a significant extension recently, and it's still not at all clear whether he is likely to report to camp this week.
I'm not so convinced there is much value to be taken from this situation. It's not like every book removed their Packers odds, and it's not like that would necessarily mean they have inside information if they did. The book makers may have simply decided it was in their best interest to remove the odds because the vacuum of information simply made them too volatile to justify taking bets on.
Ultimately, I don't think anyone outside of Rodgers' inner circle knows what he's going to do. It would be sincerely shocking if he actually did opt to retire rather than report for camp, but maybe he really did enjoy his time on Jeopardy that much. I'm still expecting Rodgers to show up to camp and be the starting quarterback of the Packers, but we have to consider the possibility that he won't. We'll know a bit more in the next few days, though we may not have full clarity on this for a while if Rodgers is willing to swallow the $50,000 fine for failing to report.
More notes ...
- Joe Burrow has been fully cleared for training camp … This is pretty much what we've expected since minicamps. Burrow has progressed well from his torn ACL, and looks all but guaranteed to be ready for Week 1. Expectations are awfully high for the second-year QB coming back from a serious knee injury, so we'd love to see him get out there in the preseason and show no signs of rust before buying in.
- Dak Prescott (ankle) will play in the preseason -- That's a good sign for another QB coming back from a serious injury. Prescott is a full participant in camp already, and he may even get out on the field during the Hall of Fame game against the Steelers Aug. 5.
- Odell Beckham (knee) hopes to be cleared for the start of camp -- Beckham is working his way back from his own torn ACL, and was noncommittal when asked about when he expected to be cleared over the weekend. That being said, it doesn't sound like there's any plans for him to open the season on the PUP list, and he was already doing some individual drills at minicamp, so the expectation should be that he's ready sooner rather than later. The question, as we'll discuss later, is whether he can rediscover his former elite level for a team with real Super Bowl aspirations.
- A.J. Brown (knees) will be a full participant for the start of camp -- Brown underwent surgery on both knees this offseason and had missed all of the team's offseason practices, but he'll be there for training camp without obvious limitations. "Surgery on both of his knees" isn't necessarily what you want to hear about a second- or third-round pick, but Brown played through these issues last season and still dominated, so hopes are obviously still very, very high.
- O.J. Howard (Achilles) has not been cleared for the start of camp -- Howard is recovering from a torn Achilles, one of the toughest injuries for a high-level athlete to come back from, as we discussed with Cam Akers' injury last week. It doesn't sound like Howard has suffered a setback, and he wasn't placed on the PUP list, so we're probably talking about just a few days before he'll be ready to go. He's an intriguing deep sleeper at tight end, though he's a long shot to make an impact and you'll need to see him do it before you buy in.
- Tarik Cohen (knee) was placed on the PUP list -- This doesn't mean Cohen won't be there for the start of the season … yet. He's been dealing with stiffness in his surgically repaired knee, however, and needs to make a lot more progress before he's considered a real threat to David Montgomery's role. The fact that Cohen is in doubt should make you feel a bit better about Montgomery's chances of being a high-end starter, though -- Montgomery has averaged four catches per game in 12 games without Cohen in his career, compared to 1.63 with Cohen.
Biggest Training Camp Questions: AFC
Bengals -- What does the WR hierarchy look like?
With Burrow fully cleared and Joe Mixon seemingly cemented in a three-down role, the most intriguing storyline out of Bengals camp will revolve around the wide receivers. Ja'Marr Chase is the new guy and has stud potential, but Tee Higgins sure looked like he could be an alpha WR as a rookie, too. Tyler Boyd's role as the possession guy working out of the slot seems secure, so it's mostly a question of whether Chase or Higgins can be the No. 1 on the outside. The thing that might make this one hard to handicap in camp is, it's not like they are competing for playing time. All three will be on the field constantly. Which may also be why it might not matter who the No. 1 is. -- Bengals Team Preview
Bills -- Who wins the RB battle?
It's Zack Moss vs. Devin Singletary, and Moss probably has to be considered the favorite after he emerged as the lead back before an ankle injury ended his season in the playoffs. But the problem is, the Bills have created fewer points for running backs in Fantasy than any other offense during the Josh Allen era, and even when Moss was the lead back down the stretch, that amounted for a three-game stretch with 38 carries, one catch, and a thoroughly underwhelming 25.1 PPR points. I'm expecting this to be a committee again, with Singletary actually having an edge in Fantasy value due his pass-catching abilities, but neither is more than a bench RB for me. -- Bills Team Preview
Broncos -- Who is the starting QB?
Drew Lock vs. Teddy Bridgewater is a real contrast in styles, with Bridgewater the steady veteran who won't make many mistakes, while Lock is the aggressive young guy who still needs to figure out how to make better decisions and take care of the ball. One way or the other, the Broncos' passing game should be better -- either because Lock plays well enough to hold Bridgewater off or Bridgewater comes in and provides that steady hand. Can either get the most out of Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and Noah Fant? -- Broncos Team Preview
Browns -- How does Odell Beckham look?
This isn't an offense with a ton of question marks. There might not be a single position battle of note, actually. But, Beckham's return from a torn ACL is a legitimate question. First, he has to show he's fully healthy, and then he has to show that there is more left in the tank than he's shown so far in his Browns career -- he's averaging 58.9 yards per game over the last two seasons, compared to 92.8 with the Giants. If he can rediscover some of that last form, he'll be a steal at WR30. -- Browns Team Preview
Chargers -- How does the new offense look?
Justin Herbert looked amazing as a rookie, so it's a little awkward that he's now learning a whole new offense in his second season. It's an offense that has produced a lot of fireworks -- Joe Lombardi was the QB coach for the Saints from 2016 through 2020 and is installing a lot of that offense here. Herbert isn't Drew Brees, obviously, but it'll be interesting to keep an eye on how he looks early on. Also worth noting: How much bigger of a role does Mike Williams have in this offense? Lombardi predicted a "big role" for Williams as the 'X' receiver in the offense, noting "the ball has always kind of found the 'X' receiver in this offense." That 'X' receiver used to be Michael Thomas. -- Chargers Team Preview
Chiefs -- Is Clyde Edwards-Helaire the unquestioned No. 1 RB?
That's the assumption we're all going with, despite the fact that Edwards-Helaire was ceding time during the playoffs to Darrel Williams regularly. I'll chalk that up to Edwards-Helaire not being 100% healthy following a late ankle and hip injury, but I'll still be keeping an eye on any reports that he's coming off the field in certain situations in camp. -- Chiefs Team Preview
Colts -- How comfortable does Carson Wentz look?
This is one of those ones we won't have a good answer to until we can actually see him in game action with our own eyes. Wentz has been an elite quarterback in the past, but in 2020 he was awful with the Eagles. Blame it on a lack of weapons, blame it on a poor offensive line, blame it on whatever … Wentz needs to be better. He looked spooked by the pass rush, and while that should be less of an issue behind the Colts very good line, if he can't undo some of that regression, it won't matter all that much. -- Colts Team Preview
Dolphins -- Is Myles Gaskin the unquestioned No. 1 RB?
Gaskin seemed to be one of the biggest winners of the offseason, as the Dolphins did very little to upgrade the RB group beyond signing Malcolm Brown. Brown is a solid vet, but he's never been a guy a team wants to lean on as a No. 1 RB. The Dolphins did use Gaskin that way when he was healthy last season, and their offseason seems to indicate they still think he can be that guy. As long as he's not giving up too many first-team reps to Brown or Salvon Ahmed, Gaskin has a lot of appeal as a No. 2 RB. -- Dolphins Team Preview
Jaguars -- Who is the No. 1 WR?
D.J. Chark is being treated like the No. 1, but as I explained in my bust picks last week, there's a risk Chark ends up really getting lost in the shuffle here. With a developing Laviska Shenault and veteran Marvin Jones around, Chark could very well be the No. 3 WR in this offense -- an offense that might not throw the ball all that much anyway. Let's hope Chark has answered some of the criticisms Urban Meyer had for him when he joined the team. -- Jaguars Team Preview
Jets -- How do the rookies look?
The Jets probably won't be a particularly good offense, but it's hard to see them being worse than they were a year ago, when they finished dead last in scoring, averaging nearly 10 points per game fewer than the average team. Zach Wilson and Elijah Moore look like the future of the passing game here, while Michael Carter looks like he could be the lead back from day one. What we'll want to watch for is how Carter stacks up with Tevin Coleman and whether Moore is making Jamison Crowder irrelevant. Both could play a big role very early on and could emerge as reliable starting Fantasy options. -- Jets Team Preview
Patriots -- Can Mac Jones beat out Cam Newton?
For my part, I'm hoping he doesn't. For one, I just think Newton's a better Fantasy player thanks to his rushing abilities, and he's one of my favorite late-round sleeper targets at the position. But more importantly, I just don't think there's enough talent on this offense for them to consistently put points on the board with Jones at QB. He would probably be better for the Fantasy value of Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, at least. -- Patriots Team Preview
Raiders -- What does Kenyan Drake's role look like?
Josh Jacobs regressed in his second season, though it's fair to wonder how much of that was about him and how much was about the line falling apart around him. The Raiders line, once a real strength of the team, looks like it could be a weak spot again, so it will probably be tough for Jacobs to get back to the days of 4.8 yards per carry as a rookie. So, if Drake is dominating the passing work out of the backfield, that could leave Jacobs in a bad spot for Fantasy, heavily dependent on running behind a pretty poor offensive line for the bulk of his production. -- Raiders Team Preview
Ravens -- Who is the No. 1 WR?
Maybe you think this one doesn't matter all that much. Maybe you're more interested in whether the coaching staff's talk about featuring J.K. Dobbins in the passing game more is legit. I'm pretty skeptical of that, not because I don't think the coaching staff wants to do it, but because Lamar Jackson's style of play is going to naturally lead to relatively few targets for running backs. So, I'll focus on the wide receiver group, which got an injection of talent in the form of first-round pick Rashod Bateman and Sammy Watkins. Marquise Brown got going late last season, racking up 534 yards and six touchdowns over his last eight games, including the playoffs, but will he get a chance to build on that? Will all three of them factor in, giving Jackson a chance to make a leap as a passer? If Brown is still the top option after these additions that could say a lot about how the team views him. -- Ravens Team Preview
Steelers -- What does the new offense look like?
Listen to Ben Roethlisberger talk about it, this Steelers offense is largely brand new. Let Mike Tomlin tell it, it's going to look very similar to how it has in the past. Matt Canada is certainly introducing some new concepts, and that's needed after this offense looked downright bad for long stretches of the second half last season. The Steelers need to find the right balance between getting the ball out quickly while also giving their playmakers an opportunity to get down the field more consistently. If Chase Claypool is earning a bigger role in camp, that could be a sign that they're comfortable letting Roethlisberger push it more often. -- Steelers Team Preview
Texans -- Who is the quarterback?
I've already noted I don't think it will be Watson, and if it isn't, it seems likely it will be Tyrod Taylor at least to start the season. Taylor is a solid enough stopgap -- and would be an interesting Fantasy streamer if he does get the nod -- but he's not a long-term option. Nor would he do much to make the skill players here look more interesting. Of course, it's not like Jeff Driskel or Davis Mills would likely do much for them either -- though Driskel has been a sneaky-good Fantasy option at times given his rushing abilities. I would guess we will see Milles eventually, so they can see what they have in the No. 67 overall pick in this year's draft. However, beyond Brandin Cooks (who is a high-upside WR3 right now), it's unlikely anyone in this passing game will have more than fringe value no matter who it is. -- Texans Team Preview
Titans -- Will anyone besides Julio Jones and A.J. Brown step up?
I'm just not sure there's much room for it. Brown and Corey Davis were both productive last season, and with the loss of Jonnu Smith in free agency, this is probably just a two-man passing attack for the most part. That's fine with us, because Jones and Brown are two of the best wide receivers in the NFL and can both be top-12 Fantasy WR even in a low-volume passing game. Though, maybe the fact that they traded for Jones means they won't be quite as low-volume as you think. That's why Ryan Tannehill is going to be a top-12 QB in nearly all drafts. -- Titans Team Preview
So which sleepers, breakouts and busts should you target and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five performance? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen's huge season, and find out.