The first few days of training camp tend to be a lot less exciting than we might want. For the most part, guys are reporting, doing their physicals, and just generally getting settled before practices begin next week. News will trickle out, but we haven't heard much of note so far.
That doesn't mean there hasn't been anything noteworthy to come out of camp. One potentially very interesting news item came out Monday as we learned that James Robinson won't be on the Physically Unable to Perform list for the Jaguars. Considering Robinson ruptured his Achilles in January of this year, that's remarkable, although it's also worth noting that he is already around a month further removed from his surgery than Cam Akers was when he made his return last season.
The fact that Robinson apparently won't be limited to open camp could change how we view that Jaguars backfield. I was assuming Travis Etienne was going to have a chance to show what he can do as the lead back, but Robinson is going to give him some competition at the very least. Expectations for Robinson should be fairly muted coming back from this injury, but he also clearly looks like a huge value as RB46 in current ADP in NFC drafts.
Robinson waswhen I updated that list last week, and I feel even better about that call now. Tomorrow, I'll have more on the key injuries we're watching as training camps get going, but for now, here are the biggest questions facing every NFC team this season, along with my preview for each team. In case you missed it, I went over the biggest questions for every AFC team in Monday's newsletter, -- and if you have any questions of your own, send them my way at Chris.Towers@ViacomCBS.com to get answers in an upcoming edition of the newsletter.
NFC Biggest Questions
Cardinals: Can Kyler Murray sustain a full season of elite play?
It wouldn't be fair to say Murray has stagnated, but we've seen him seemingly take a leap in the early going each of the past two seasons before hitting a wall. His passing numbers were better in 2021, but Murray ran less than we've ever seen from him, which put more pressure on his passing production. He'll face a new test with DeAndre Hopkins suspended for the first six games of the 2022 season, so we'll see if reuniting with college teammate Marquise Brown can help Murray take that next step. He still has No. 1 overall QB upside.
Falcons: Is Kyle Pitts ready to take over the TE position in Fantasy?
Pitts was mostly as good as expected as a rookie, catching 68 passes for 1,026 yards, though you may not have noticed his impact for Fantasy because he found the end zone just once. You're paying a premium in drafts for the right to find out if Pitts can make the leap into the Travis Kelce/Mark Andrews tier, but it's a bet worth making even if Mariota is a downgrade from Ryan. Pitts is one of the few players with the potential to be a legitimate difference maker at tight end, and this might be your last chance to draft him outside of the first round for the next half-decade.
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Panthers: What does Christian McCaffrey's role look like?
At his best, there's no player in Fantasy who can do what McCaffrey does. However, after playing just 10 games over the past two seasons, it's fair to wonder if he'll still have the opportunity to be the best player in Fantasy. The Panthers are heavily invested in McCaffrey, so they might decide it's in their best interests to limit his work -- another 400-touch season a la 2019 seems pretty unlikely. If D'Onta Foreman cuts into his carries, McCaffrey could still be the No. 1 RB with his passing game role, but the injury history will be enough to scare off most with the No. 1 pick.
Bears: Is Justin Fields ready to make the leap?
The Bears were frustratingly unwilling to take advantage of Fields' greatest gift, his athleticism, early on last season, and the offense floundered as a result. They ran just 67 read-option runs last season and just 64 RPO plays as well, inexcusably low numbers given Fields' skills. Of course, Fields had just seven passing touchdowns to 10 interceptions, so his middling passing production was an issue in and of itself. Even if Fields is used more consistently as a runner as he should be, a receiving corps led by Darnell Mooney, Cole Kmet, and Velus Jones doesn't do much to inspire confidence. There's tons of upside with Fields but also a pretty low floor still.
Cowboys: Can Ezekiel Elliott hold off Tony Pollard?
Elliott finished as RB7 last season, but if you asked the average Fantasy player, they'd probably say the Cowboys should just give Pollard the lead role. Pollard was a lot more effective with his touches than Elliott last season and could be a potential Fantasy superstar if something were to happen to Elliott. But if you approach this backfield with the expectation of that happening, you're likely to be disappointed. Despite Elliott's struggles, Pollard had double-digit carries in just three of his final 10 games, so I'm still expecting Elliott to be the clear No. 1 here.
Lions: Can D'Andre Swift stay healthy and take a step forward?
Prior to getting hurt in Week 12, Swift was on a 90-catch pace with 1,600-plus total yards, but he's now missed time in both seasons in the NFL due to injuries. Neither has been a serious, long-term type injury, but both have derailed what looked like true breakouts. And it raises the question of whether the undersized back can handle the workload he needs to live up to expectations. There's a very Fantasy-friendly skill set here, a la Austin Ekeler, but Swift is still a risk until he proves he can do it.
Packers: Do any of the wide receivers step up?
Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins and rookie Christian Watson figure to be the starters for the Packers at wide receiver, which is a pretty uninspiring group. Lazard has shown some flashes but ultimately didn't do much as the No. 1 option behind Adams the past few seasons. Watkins' entire career has seemingly been defined by underwhelming production in seemingly good situations. Watson is massive and has draft capital on his side, but earning Rodgers' trust is never easy for young wide receivers. There's an opportunity here, but it's entirely possible Rodgers just spreads the ball around and nobody is worth using for Fantasy consistently. That's what I'd bet on, in fact.
Rams: Is Cam Akers worth the risk?
There aren't many success stories for running backs coming back from a ruptured Achilles, so Akers making it back at all last season counts. It looked like the hype from his return might carry him to a top-20 ADP at first; however, facing a murderer's row of tough rush defenses, he averaged just 2.6 yards per carry in the playoffs and had just eight catches in four games. He's a controversial player in Fantasy, a potential every-down back married to a high-level offense, but there are very fair questions about whether he's good enough to be worth that role. There's plenty of upside with Akers, but there's also considerable risk.
Vikings: Can Justin Jefferson be the No. 1 WR in Fantasy?
Well, he was No. 4 last season, though he finished more than 100 points shy of Cooper Kupp overall, so he has some ground to make up. Jefferson is already among the league leaders in target share, but after having double-digit targets just three times in his first eight games, he topped that mark in all but two of the final nine, putting up a 117-catch, 1,859-yard, 11-TD pace from Week 10 on. The targets, catches, and yards should be there, so his chances of being WR1 will come down to whether he can usurp Adam Thielen as the go-to red-zone option for good. I'm not betting against him.
Saints: What can you expect from Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas?
Thomas missed all of last season due to ankle injuries after being limited to just five games in 2020, and it's not even clear if he'll be 100% by the start of training camp. He still has theoretical upside, but between lingering injury concerns and the presence of rookie Chris Olave, he may be less of a focal point than he once was. The bigger concern might be Kamara's status. He is facing felony charges as a result of an altercation during the offseason, and with an initial hearing set for Aug. 1, it's not clear how that will affect his availability. He's a top-five RB in PPR when available, but the uncertainty may push him out of the first round for good.
Giants: Can Daniel Jones be even competent?
Yeah, we're setting the bar pretty low here. The Giants actually have some intriguing skill position talent, but as we saw last year, that really didn't matter much given the QB play. Daboll has a well-earned reputation thanks to his work with Josh Allen, but Jones is three years into a career averaging 6.6 yards per attempt with a 3.5% touchdown rate, so Daboll has his work cut out for him. Snagging a few Giants at discounted prices in the event a breakout happens isn't a bad idea, though.
Eagles: Do they look to pass the ball more?
The Eagles attempted the fewest passes in the league last season at 494, and even that overstates how likely they were to throw the ball. After starting the season 2-5 and attempting 35 passes per game, Hurts averaged just 24 attempts per game over his final eight games while the Eagles went 6-2. Would they go away from a strategy that worked? The addition of A.J. Brown alongside Devonta Smith suggests they'll be more pass-happy, but if not, it's going to be hard for Brown and Smith to thrive for Fantasy. I'm betting they'll pass less than just about any other team, but more than they did a year ago.
49ers: What does Trey Lance mean for the offense?
The 49ers have no shortage of star power on offense, but there are some awkward fits. Lance figures to have some growing pains as a passer, and his rushing ability is likely to make the 49ers even more run-heavy -- and they already had the fourth-fewest pass attempts in the league last season. Is there going to be enough to go around for Samuel, Kittle, and Aiyuk to be viable starters? Maybe if Samuel is used as a running back again, though he doesn't seem on-board with that idea -- and it raises questions about Elijah Mitchell's upside if he is. It's a tough spot.
Seahawks: Is this the worst offense in football?
Seattle ranked 16th in scoring last season while getting 14 games from Russell Wilson, and while he has his own limitations, he's been one of the most efficient passers in NFL history. Drew Lock ... has not. I'm legitimately worried that Lock could drag Metcalf and Lockett down to the point where they are barely start-able. In fact, there may not be a must-start Fantasy option on this team, especially with their conservative coaching philosophy.
Buccaneers: What can we expect from Chris Godwin?
When healthy, Godwin is a top-12 WR, but we just don't know if or when he's going to be healthy this season. Godwin tore his ACL on Dec. 19, 2021, and while it's possible he'll be ready for Week 1, that would be well ahead of the average return-to-play time for a WR coming off an ACL tear, which is 10-11 months. That timetable could lead to a lengthy absence in the regular season, plus whatever time it might take to get up to speed. Godwin is one of the players who could make or break countless Fantasy seasons.
Commanders: Is there still a leap left for Antonio Gibson to make?
Gibson was less efficient as a runner than in his rookie season and he didn't improve as a pass-catching option, leading to a somewhat disappointing second season despite finishing as RB8 -- he was RB17 in points per game. Gibson still has the skill set that made him so intriguing the past two seasons, but with J.D. McKissic ultimately returning after a free agency flirtation with Buffalo, it's probably best to view him as an RB2 for Fantasy at this point. That being said, Gibson did see his targets per game jump from 3.0 to 4.6 when McKissic was out last season, so it's not like they're totally unwilling to use him that way. Now that everyone has soured on him, buying Gibson's upside isn't a bad idea.