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Mon Aug 9th 2021

Week One Training Camp Observations

The pads are on in training camp, and last week we watched "real" football during the Hall of Fame game. This year we have beat writers back at practice, reporting what they see and hear on the field. Plus, the NFL Network is taking us live into training camps where we can see practices and hear from players and coaches ourselves. Beat writer reports and what we get to see with our own eyes on the NFL Network create hype or concern for players on our dynasty rosters or those we wish we had on our teams. For Dynasty Freeks, training camp can be an emotional roller coaster. We get excited and hopeful when our players get training camp hype, and we get upset and have regrets when our players are not standing out or are in danger of being replaced. I've felt a range of emotions this week, and in this article, I'll share some of the hype and concern that has had me up and down during this week of training camp.

Bryan Edwards

  • Bryan Edwards is reportedly running with the first team offense ahead of John Brown, and he's made some tremendous catches during practice.
  • These reports are great news for Edwards' managers, who were disappointed with his rookie season. He's finally healthy after being in and out of the lineup last year due to injuries. He didn't get a fair chance to become a starter last year because of his injuries, but he has the opportunity this year, and he's making the most of it so far. During camp, coach Gruden compared Edwards to Terrell Owens, and Derek Carr compared him to Devante Adams. He's earning high praise from the two people whose opinion matters most. If he solidifies a starting role, I believe he could become the second-most targeted pass catcher for the Raiders. Darren Waller will continue to be the top target, but Edwards would get more targets than Henry Ruggs. Ruggs is a better deep threat, while Edwards is a better possession receiver. I only have one share of Edwards, but I'm tempted to do what one manager did in a four-copy 48-team league. He messaged the whole league saying, "Someone sell me a Bryan Edwards share. I'll pay up."

Marquez Callaway

  • Marquez Callaway is reportedly running with the first-team offense and has been the best wide receiver on the field, while Michael Thomas and Tre'Quan Smith miss time with their injuries.
  • I'm thankful that I picked up Callaway off the waiver wire in several leagues when waiver wires opened after rookie drafts. After the Michael Thomas injury was announced, managers scrambled to the waiver wire to look for Callaway, but I already have him. Callaway was a highly ranked recruit before signing with Tennessee, but the Volunteers were poorly coached and a dying program while he was there, so he didn't have the opportunity to thrive. He now has a wide-open opportunity in New Orleans and is making the most of it in camp. This year, the Saints will likely become one of the more run-heavy teams as they welcome a new quarterback for the first time in 15 years. Even so, someone has to become the WR-1 until Michael Thomas can return healthy midseason. Callaway looks to be that guy. Alvin Kamara should become their top-targeted player this season while Thomas is out, but Callaway could compete with Adam Troutman to be targeted the second most. It's even better to roster Callaway knowing that the relationship between the Saints and Thomas is souring. They may find a way to move on from Thomas after this season.

Denzel Mims

  • Mims is reportedly on the roster bubble after the Jet's new coaching staff has the players they drafted and added in free agency ahead of Mims.
  • Everything the Jets did during the offseason under their new coaching staff signaled that Mims had a lot to prove to become a starter in his second season. He did not do enough in his rookie season, so the Jets drafted Elijah Moore, picked up Corey Davis and Keelan Cole in free agency, and did not cut Jamison Crowder as many anticipated. These additions meant that Mims needed to have an excellent camp to become a starter, but he's not done so. Therefore, his dynasty value is plummeting. I don't have any shares of Mims because I had him ranked far lower than other analysts. Mims was my 19th ranked rookie last year, but he was routinely drafted at the round-one and two turn in rookie drafts. Even though Baylor's offensive scheme changed under Matt Rhule, I've continued to dock all receivers that come from Baylor, which has served me well. 

Donovan Peoples-Jones

  • Peoples-Jones is reportedly building chemistry with Baker Mayfield and solidifying his WR-3 role in the offense after making several big plays in camp.
  • DPJ was among the top-ranked wide receiver recruits in the nation when he signed with Michigan. Coach Harbaugh did not capitalize on his talent, which is why he fell to the 6th round of the NFL draft, where the Browns selected him. Even so, he saw playtime last season and even had a few great fantasy games. It's no surprise that DPJ has moved up the depth chart during training camp, given his talent and pedigree, but to make a fantasy impact, he really needs to move past Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Cleveland is one of the most run-heavy teams in the league and uses 12 personnel more than most teams. That means DPJ will only be on the field in obvious passing downs. He could become a valuable dynasty asset a few years from now, but until OBJ or Landry are off the team, DPJ's fantasy impact will be capped even if he earns the WR-3 role for the Browns.

Miles Sanders

  • Sanders has reportedly fumbled and dropped passes repeatedly in practice, and Boston Scott is reportedly nearly splitting reps 50-50 with Sanders in camp.
  • Sanders has to prove himself in camps to the coaching staff that did not draft him, but he's not fairing very well so far. He's by far the best running back on the team, but if he can't protect the ball or catch passes, he'll end up in the doghouse with coaches. Sanders' dynasty value was already moving down after the Eagles traded Carson Wentz and committed themselves to Jalen Hurts, a running quarterback. Quarterbacks like Hurts usually run before they check down to running backs. At the same time, the offense could not be worse than last year, and I was hopeful that Sanders would get more scoring opportunities with Hurts leading the team. My hope is fading since Boston Scott is taking carries away from Sanders in camp. Sanders is one of my most rostered players, so this comes as no-good news to me, but I have to accept reality. I still believe he's among the best pure runners in the NFL, but if he can't do the little things well, he can't be an every-down back.

Donald Parham

  • Parham has reportedly running reps with the first team in practice after improving his route running this offseason and putting in extra time with his quarterback, Justin Herbert.
  • Parham was one of my most rostered players at the end of last season. He was a last-man-on-the-roster guy on many of my teams. He's a giant man who only needed to improve his route running and blocking to be the next superstar tight end. I was confident that the Chargers would not re-sign Hunter Henry in the offseason. When Henry signed with New England, I was proven right and was elated to have Parham on my rosters. Then the Chargers signed Jared Cook in free agency, and Parham became the first player I was willing to drop during the offseason. Sadly, I dropped him in every league because I thought the Chargers' acquiring Cook signaled that they didn't believe Parham could make the kind of progress he needed to make to become a starter in the NFL. Apparently, he has proven the Chargers and me wrong if these reports are accurate. It sounds like he's doing the work and making the kind of improvements to compete with Cook. I wish I could add Parham back to my rosters, but he's already been taken by other teams in my leagues. I'll keep him on all of my scout teams since I suspect he will get dropped at the roster-cut date. That is unless he makes some plays in preseason games. 

Damien Williams

  • Williams is reportedly solidifying his backup role and third-down role behind David Montgomery, while Tarik Cohen misses time recovering from his injury last year.
  • Chicago is talking up David Montgomery as a 20-carry back this season, but they're going to have to spell him often, and Williams is a far better option in the passing game. Tarik Cohen's setbacks in recovery are creating an opportunity for Williams to become the passing-downs back in Chicago. Williams is familiar with coach Nagy's system after playing in Kansas City, so he doesn't have a learning curve during camp. Williams took a year off on the COVID-exempt list, so he and Cohen are well-rested, but only one is healthy. Both players' dynasty value fell given Montgomery's breakout season last year, but they're among the handcuffs dynasty managers value because they could be an every-week starter if Montgomery is injured for a stretch of the season. It's a battle worth watching in training camp and preseason games. Williams has the early edge at this point.

Michael Carter

  • Carter is reportedly splitting first-team reps with Tevin Coleman and is playing far better than Coleman in practice. 
  • I was admittedly lower on Carter than most dynasty analysts. If these reports are accurate, I could be proven wrong. I did not see Carter as a viable every-down back in the NFL but as one who would have to split time or play on passing downs only. The Jets had opportunities to draft better prospects in the NFL draft but waited until the fourth round to draft Carter. He does not have to leap any superstars to solidify the starting role. Tevin Coleman is nearing the end of his career, and Lamical Perine is a fellow fourth-round draft pick. Even so, I believe this will be a committee backfield among those three. Carter may be the best running back among the three, but I don't think he'll become a reliable starter on dynasty rosters. The Jets will become the new 49ers, a team that mixes their running backs so often that you'll never know which one is worth starting in fantasy lineups.

Elijah Moore

  • Moore has reportedly moved into the starting lineup after impressing coaches every single day in practice.
  • The Elijah Moore hype is off the chains. Almost every day, beat writers report about a great play he has made. In interviews, he comes across as motivated and committed to becoming the best wide receiver in his rookie class. I am starting to believe he can do it, which is why I am so sad not to have had a share of Moore even though I had him ranked much higher than other analysts. I had him ranked 8th in my rookie rankings, but I traded away almost all of my first-round picks, so I missed out on Moore even though I liked him more than others. Unfortunately, these camp reports will make him even harder to acquire in a trade. I usually trust proven players over rookies that have yet to play in an NFL game, but I'm considering offering proven studs in trades to acquire Moore and buy back some years. I currently have more ranked 27th among my dynasty wide receivers rankings. That put him near proven veterans like Cooper Kupp (28th), Brandin Cook (29th), OBJ (30th), Robert Woods (31st), and Tyler Lockett (32nd).

Darnell Mooney

  • Mooney has reportedly improved his route running and is beating Chicago defensive backs every day in practice, solidifying his WR-2 role on the team.
  • Mooney was already moving up my dynasty rankings. I traded my second-round rookie draft pick for him in a dispersal draft a few months ago. After Chicago traded Anthony Miller, his dynasty value raised even more. He has the WR-2 role locked down and has a bright long-term future with rookie quarterback Justin Fields. Last season he won with speed, even though he was often missed by erratic quarterback play. If he has indeed improved on his route running, he'll be able to win all over the field and catch passes from a more accurate quarterback, whether it's Fields or Andy Dalton. I'm buying the hype on Mooney, and thus, may regret that I traded him straight up for Amon-Ra St. Brown in a rookie draft this offseason. St. Brown is getting training camp hype, too, at least. Maybe I will write more about him next week.

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