Tue Aug 2nd 2022
Week One Training Camp Report
We're a week into training camps, and the beat reports are coming fast and furious. Dynasty Freeks listen to read the reports from NFL beat writers and NBC Sports Edge but are careful to take everything with a grain of salt given that it is the puff-piece time of year. Even so, Dynasty Freeks should pay attention to camp buzz and decide what reports can move the needle on the dynasty value of players.
I did my best to decipher the buzz from training camp week one, and here I write about ten players receiving buzz and whether I'm buying the hype or not.
- Stevenson slimmed down to a lean 225 pounds, is reportedly getting reps with the first team, and is very active in the passing game in the Patriots' camp. Some reporters believe Stevenson will surpass Damien Harris in carries and touches this season. Harris had a fantastic year last year with 15 touchdowns, but he was not involved in the passing game. He had 18 catches combined, barely over one per game. The Patriots missed their top pass-catching running back, James White, last season after he was injured, and he has yet to return to the practice field. If Stevenson can prove reliable as a pass catcher, he very well could pass Harris in the lineup, and the Patriots could release White before the season starts. I'm not 100% convinced that Stevenson will surpass Harris, but I believe they will share the load far more than fantasy managers wish next season. I traded one of my shares f Harris earlier this offseason. I also plan to look for a buyer in another league, even if I could sell him to the Stevenson manager to lock up the Patriots' crowded backfield. The real question from a dynasty perspective is which back will be the RB-1 in 2023 because this is the last year of Harris's contract, and the Patriots drafted two late-round running backs with a lot of potential, Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris.
- It's more offseason news than training camp news, but the Raiders' hiring a new coaching staff and GM does not bode well for the dynasty value of Josh Jacobs, who they did not draft. New coach, Josh McDaniels, is known to rotate running backs like he often did in New England, and Kenyan Drake has been more effective in the passing game than Jacobs. Jacobs was an excellent passing-down back in college, but for some reason, he's not been featured in that role in the NFL. The new coaching staff and GM drafted Zamir White in the fourth round of the NFL draft. White missed the first few days of camps but returned to practice at the end of the week. While White had limited college production due to injuries and Georgia's running back by committee approach, he was a five-star recruit and could live up to his potential in the NFL. Jacob's dynasty value has declined since hiring the new coaching staff and drafting Zamir White, whose dynasty value could rise significantly if he gets positive reports from camp and plays well in the preseason. I have White on one roster already and will be more eager to draft him in my August and September rookie drafts than I was in May.
- With fellow rookie Christian Watson and long-time vet Sammy Watkins sidelined with injuries, Doubs has capitalized on his practice time, and reporters have given him glowing praise day after day in camp. I believe the hype on Doubs. I had him ranked higher than most dynasty analysts and managers (26th overall), but I've been unable to draft him in any of my leagues. If camp reports keep trending positive on Doubs and Watson remains sidelined, the gap in my rookie rankings between Watson and Doub may decrease significantly as Doubs moves up and Watson moves down. Watson's draft capital will make it hard for Doubs to move ahead of Watson in my rookie rankings. Watkins was drafted at 2.2, whereas Doubs was drafted at 4.27. That said, Doubs was a far more accomplished receiver in college, with 225 receptions for 3322 yards and 25 touchdowns. Compare that with Watson's 105 receptions, 2139 yards, and 14 touchdowns, and one can see why Doubs is earning the praise of reporters and targets from Aaron Rodgers. I need to move Doubs up my rookie rankings into the second round.
- Parker has received praise from Patriots' beat reporters as the primary red-zone target of Mac Jones. Almost every day, I receive a tweet notification from NFL Beat Writers saying Parker caught another touchdown pass. I'm confident that Parker will become not only Jones' top red-zone target but his most targeted player on the team this season. It was long ago, but Parker was my second-ranked rookie in the 2015 class, just behind Amari Cooper. He's not lived up to NFL or dynasty draft capital, but I believe he'll have the best year of his career this season, even though he's 29. Given his age, I won't pay the farm to get him, but I'm going to make some trade offers this week for Parker. I only have him rostered on two of my teams, and I want more shares of Parker than that.
- I had Isaiah McKenzie on the back end of many of my rosters last season after he had a few explosive games, but when the Bills signed Jamison Crowder this offseason, I dropped McKenzie from most of my rosters, even though the Bills extended his contract this offseason and did not re-sign Cole Beasley. Then the Bill drafted Khalil Shakir in the fifth round, making McKenzie's dynasty value even more suspect. If training camp reports mean anything, McKenzie has set Crowder and Shakir aside and taken the valuable slot receiver position in Buffalo for himself. Cole Beasley was a very startable wide receiver in PPR leagues the last three years in Buffalo with Josh Allen. McKenzie could be the same, if not better, given his superior speed. I still want to see if Crowder, who is sidelined with an injury, could come back and push for playing time ahead of McKenzie, but with each new day and new glowing camp report, I believe Crowder may not even make the final roster cut. I happily picked up McKenzie off the waiver wire in two leagues last week and hope that come roster cut time, a less knowledgeable manager will cut him so I can pick him up off waivers after week one.
- The only player that's been getting more training camp buzz than McKenzie is Robinson. He's reportedly the unanimous standout in camp and is used in the running and passing games. Like the Raiders, the Giants have a new GM and coaching staff, so they're not wedded to Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay, who the Giants drafted and signed (respectively) in free agency last year. Robinson was their pick in the second round last season, and if training camp reports are accurate, they plan to get him the ball. I had Robinson ranked 19th in this rookie class last May when most of my drafts took place, but I need to consider moving him up after these glowing camp reports. He's got the two-way ability to carve out a Deebo Samuel kind of role with Giants, even though he's 30 pounds lighter. He had 141 rushes in college to go with his 195 receptions, so he's taken on a dual-threat role before. Daboll did not use a player like this when he was the OC in Buffalo, so that makes me a little less confident that he will do so in New York, but he also did not have a player this versatile in Buffalo. Questions aside, I'm starting to buy the hype a will believe in Robinson more after the first week of training camp reports.
- Last week I wrote about the training camp battles I was most interested in following and ended the article by mentioning the entire Kansas City team, minus Travis Kelce. It's early in camp, but Juju is getting the most buzz so far. He's the most accomplished of the Chiefs' new Tyreek Hill-less receiving corps, so it's not surprising that he's leading the way early in camp. Juju has the chance to become the second-most targeted receiver of Patrick Mahomes, which would cause his dynasty stock to roar back close to its peak after this second year in Pittsburgh. I traded him away in most of the leagues I had him, but I inherited him in a recent orphan team and am excited to see if he can regain his dynasty value on that team. I wish he demonstrated a little more commitment to playing football aside from all his stuff on social media, but I'm willing to give him a second chance in Kansas City if the good reports keep coming in during camp.
- It's not a huge surprise, but Pickens is not only running with the first team in three-receiver sets, but he's also making great play after great play in camp. Pickens was already my ninth rookie in May, ahead of Skyy Moore and Christian Watson, who many analysts and dynasty managers ranked ahead of Pickens. Only once did Pickens get drafted ahead of Moore and Watson in my previous rookie drafts, which now seems very hard to believe. In my opinion, Pickens is the future WR-1 in Pittsburg, so his dynasty stock could not be much higher. These glowing camp reports come as no surprise to me. He'll do well this year and even better after the Steelers let Diontae Johnson go in free agency and give Kenny Pickett time to develop as a starting quarterback in the NFL. The only reason I've yet to draft Pickens is that I still have Chris Olave and Jahan Dotson ranked ahead of him. In my upcoming rookie drafts, however, I will move Pickens ahead of Jameson Williams, who I had ranked just ahead of Pickens during rookie drafts in May.
Jahan Dotson and Chris Olave
- It's no surprise that Dotson and Olave are reportedly tearing up camp. They lack the prototypical size of an NFL starting wide receiver, but they win with their superior route running hand hands. They remind me most of a guy I just wrote about, Diontae Johnson, who had a stellar start to his career in Pittsburg by winning the same way Dotson and Olave win, by route running. Only Olave and Dotson will not struggle with dropped passes. I've already written about Olave and Dotson enough (see my most-rostered players article from two weeks ago), so I will spare you some time. For now, I'll take an early victory lap and say, "I told you so."
- Hurst never lived up to his first-round NFL draft capital after being drafted by the Ravens, but he finds himself on his third team in Cincinnati with a wide-open chance to have a breakout year. He's the unquestioned starter for the Bengals with a high-octane offense led by Joe Burrow. C.J. Uzomah had a couple of incredible fantasy games last season, but he was completely unreliable as a fantasy starter week to week. He just had a couple of massive blow-up games. Even though the hype is building a bit around Hurst during training camp, I'm still concerned that his target share in this offense will minimize his impact and make him unreliable as a starter in fantasy. He's available on waivers in a few of my dynasty leagues, but I've not added him even though the camps reports on him have all been positive. I'm sure he'll help the Bengals team, but I don't believe he'll help dynasty teams just because there are too many other great players around him on his new team.
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