Tuesday, May 30, 2023
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Insights from NFL team reporters: Believe the rumors about Saquon Barkley, Brandon Aiyuk, George Pickens?

9:00AM EST

  • Mike Triplett ESPN Staff Writer


    • Eight Years of Saints in the New Orleans Times-Picayune
    • Previously reported on LSU football, San Francisco 49ers
    • Iowa native, University of Iowa grad
  • NO ONE HAS MORE THAN ESPN An extensive lineup of fantasy football analysts and NFL team reporters. For fantasy football managers, this rare “committee backcourt” is actually a good thing. The week’s most important stories to help you prepare your draft. This week’s roundup focuses on breakthrough candidates such as Brandon Aiyuk, George Pickens, Romeo Doubs and Dameon Pierce. But we also assessed the confidence levels of stars returning from injuries, such as Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley.

    Atlanta Falcons

    Is Kyle Pitts worthy of the 33rd pick (where did he go in ESPN’s latest mock draft)? Or should we worry about the lack of talent on the floor around him?

    Pitts should definitely take that range into account. Marcus Mariota will be the starting quarterback, at least in the short term. But whether it’s Mariota or Desmond Reed, the possibility of a quarterback is there, which could theoretically help Pitts if he draws defenders on the short or mid lane. I wouldn’t worry too much about the level of talent in other skilled positions. Rookie receiver Drake London will be on the radar, as will running back Cordarrelle Patterson, who can line up anywhere in the lineup. Also, don’t forget that there are many places where coach/player Arthur Smith can use Pitts. There will be enough questions and conspiracies with other players to avoid a trio situation. If it does, it could mean Pitts is in the midst of a special season.

    –Michael Rothstein

    Carolina Panthers

    How confident should fantasy managers be that Christian McCaffrey is back in shape this season and maintaining a heavy workload? Enough to make him the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the draft?

    This could be a big year if McCaffrey cashes in on what he got from Marshall Fawkes The training advice he received from Klein — his sixth and seventh seasons were his most productive. Remember, McCaffrey’s injuries over the past two seasons have been soft-tissue injuries, so there’s no long-term impact. The Panthers also plan how to rest McCaffrey this week and use him smarter in games. If he plays 14-17 games, he should once again be one of the most efficient guards in the league. Just in case, though, put D’Onta Foreman on your insurance list.

    –David Newton

    Denver Broncos

    You wrote last week that Courtland Sutton is emerging as Russell Wilson’s preferred target in stressful situations. Should Sutton definitely prioritize fantasy over Jerry Judy? (They were selected as WR18 and WR19 in the latest simulation)

    With Tim Patrick’s season-ending knee injury, the role of Sutton and Judy will only become more prominent, especially in the red zone. Wilson has shown in training camp that he will move the ball around to find matchups he likes. But he’s also shown in practice and joint practice with the Dallas Cowboys that he’ll look for Sutton when he really needs to get the job done or get swept away by the pass. There is always the question of whether these trends will persist in games. Jeudy is a good route runner — Wilson spends a lot of time working with him — and that’s not a factor (Jeudy is a regular in quarterback meetings). Think of it as Peyton Manning vs. the Broncos in early 2012, when Demaryius Thomas was the obvious first choice for Manning, but Eric Decker led the team in touchdowns. Or in 2014, when Thomas was the first choice again and Julius Thomas led the team for touchdowns. If both men stay healthy throughout the season, they could both have their best year yet.

    — Jeff Legwold

    Green Bay Packers

    This summer, Romeo Dubs, like any rookie in the NFL, produced Just as much fantasy buzz. How big of a role do you think he can play and where does he fit in with the likes of Alan Lazard and the now healthy Christian Watson?

    Doubs seems to have had some chemistry with Aaron Rodgers, who Do not hesitate to give up your own way in practice. At this point, it’s hard to imagine him falling below No. 4 on the depth chart. Depending on the package, he could be a WR2 or a WR3. Lazard was in the WR1 position most of the time, and Sammy Watkins also got plenty of reps in the starter. Randall Cobb, as usual, is almost entirely in the slot with a three-receiver group. The Doubs are well ahead of Watson on this point, but Watson has plenty of time to make up for it. Gone are the days when the Packers had a No. 1 star, but they may have more options than ever.

    –Rob Dmowski

    Houston Texans

    You wrote that rookie Damon Pierce looks like the Texans’ best running back, even after he was impressive before his preseason debut. How big do you think his role will be this season – how soon will he be an RB1?

    By the first month of the season, Pierce can take over as the starter. Former Colt Marlon Mack was the most productive of the group, along with Rex Burkhead, but Pierce was the most explosive, and it was only a matter of time before Texans offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton put Pierce back in the lead. — DJ Bien-Aime

    Indianapolis Colts

    You wrote last week why the Colts (gasp) prioritized their Super Bowl hopes by planning to reduce Jonathan Taylor’s workload not fantasy football. Do you still think he should be the No. 1 pick in most fantasy drafts? Should Neheim Hines be on more fantasy radars?

    There are still good reasons to choose Tyler not. 1 Overall because he likes big dramas. Even with fewer touches — and I do wish he had fewer — it’s possible for Taylor to make the most of those opportunities. He recorded explosive plays (10+ yards) on 15.1 percent of his runs last season. Among 1,000-yard rushers, only Nick Chubb had a higher rate (18 percent). And, don’t forget, Taylor ranks 12th among running backs in 9 yards per catch, so he can also do damage in the passing game.

    –Stephen Holder

    New York Giants

    Saquin Barkley gets some impressive early in training camp , but some fantasy managers are understandably hesitant to accept it. How confident should they be that he can get back to form?

    Barkley looks the best he’s had in years. Quarterback Daniel Jones and coach Brian Dabore both used the word “explosive” to describe what they saw. It matches the situation on the field every day. Also, the strength of the Giants offensive line seems to be the run and Barkley should be more involved in the passing game this season, with not much depth behind him. So he’s going to have a lot of work…as long as he’s healthy. Here’s the question: Can you trust him to stay healthy?

    –Jordan Lannan

    New York Jets

    Breece Hall and Elijah Moore both drew a lot of attention early in training camp. How big of a role do you want everyone to play this season? And will Zach Wilson’s injury affect either player’s worth?

    Hall and Moore have the ability to be RB1 and WR1, respectively, at the end of the season. Moore showed signs of that being the case from Weeks 8 to 12 last season. During that time, he ranks eighth in the NFL in receptions (28), sixth in receiving yards (382) and tied for fourth in TD receptions (four). Then he got injured and missed the rest of the season. Most of that came from other QBs, not Wilson. Here’s the question: Will Wilson’s problem with putting the ball in the end zone hurt Moore’s fantasy value? This is a possibility. Hall is parting ways with Michael Carter, and that number continues. But Hall’s perimeter speed has intrigued coaches, and he may play a bigger role as the season progresses.

    — Fuccimini

    Pittsburgh Steelers

    George Pickens continues his impressive summer with a weekend harvest. How relevant was his rookie season to fantasy, either early on or as a potential hidden option?

    No matter who wins the starting quarterback, one thing is for sure Kens will be a big factor in the offense. It was a crowded reception room with Deontay Johnson and Chase Claypool, but Pickens created a role with his impressive footwork and controversial catch. In practice, he’s been a favorite target of Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph, at least making him a draft candidate. But his fantasy ceiling is high, and the Steelers may be pushing the ball off the floor more often than in recent years. He could have had a Claypool-like rookie season (9 TD catches)…or better.

    –Brook Pryor

San Francisco 49ers

This summer, Brandon Iyuk may have caused as much cause as any player at NFL training camp More buzz — and quarterback Trey Lance had as much buzz as any player this past weekend. How high should the expectations be for both?

Aiyuk’s buzz keeps building, and for good reason of. He’s been the team’s most consistent offensive performer in training camp, and the rapport he’s built with Lance’s offseason in Southern California is no small feat. It’s worth noting that Aiyuk had a similar start to last year’s training camp before tapering off when he injured his hamstring late in the preseason. It took a while to get back on track. But without another injury, it’s not outrageous to think he can lead the team on the catch and the catch. Alas, it’s still worth at least a little bit of caution, as this team still pays WR Deebo Samuel and TE George Kittle handsomely.

As for Lance, Niners have made it clear that they will not ask him to deliver goods for this team. They have a strong defense and the aforementioned talents to go with a great game. Lance’s camp has experienced ups and downs that may be noticeable this season, especially early on. The benefits are hard to deny, especially since he brings an element of running that can offset any accuracy issues he faces. Overall, expectations for Lance should be kept in check. But he’s been fine late in the season as the team expects him to get better with each start.

–Nick Wagner

    Seattle Seahawks

    You write that rookie Ken Walker III will play a big role in Seattle’s backcourt. When Rashaad Penny is healthy, how much do you expect him to be used? Can Penny develop into an all-around defender if he misses time?

    Walker is going to be a bigger part of Seattle’s backcourt than people think. I can see the Seahawks burden him as much as Penny, even though both are healthy. Remember, Penny has dribbled more than 20 times in a game only twice in his career. That’s partly because he’s missed a lot of games due to injury, but also because he’s not built to handle a Derrick Henry/Marshawn Lynch-style workload. The Seahawks will have the ball a lot, and they won’t just rely on Penny to do that.

    Pete Carroll made a persuasive comment on how Walker was getting out of his well-documented college pass-protection struggle last week when he shouted at Walker “turn a page”. Walker’s catch in the backcourt is also much better than you might think, given that he only had 19 catches in three college seasons.

    I feel comfortable,” Carroll said. — Brady Hender Sen

    Tennessee Titans team

    After rookie receiver Treylon Burks’ quiet preseason debut, his fantasy hype has been a bit violent. Should veteran Robert Woods be a priority in the draft?

    Woods should be a priority because he’ll get a lot of goals. Injured last season Previously, Woods averaged 132 goals per season. The Titans may not pass as much as the Rams, but Woods has a 1.3 percent pass rate over the past five years (in WRs with at least 200 goals). (tie for sixth-lowest in mid-range) and precise route runs will make him one of Ryan Tannehill’s favorite passers. Woods has participated in team practice drills and is expected to face the Giants in the season opener. Meanwhile, Burr Kers is also starting to earn Tannehill’s trust for his ability to win on contested catches. The Titans will give Burks a lot of opportunities to gain yards after a quick pass in the game, especially when opposing defenses When players stack on the penalty area.–Tron Davenport

    Commander Washington

    How safe is Antonio Gibson’s role after four pass errors and just 2 yards in the preseason opener? Should rookie backup Brian Robinson be higher on the fantasy radar?

    The difference for Gibson this season is that Washington has options if he keeps fumbling . They could use more four receivers with Curtis Samuel healthy and rookie Jahan Dotson joining in. In this case, JD McKissic could be the running back. They also drafted Robinson, who showed some promise.

    They like Gibson very much, he can provide a great play. But they wanted his running style to be more consistent — more “one size fits all”. Coaches say when Gibson is indecisive about when and where to chip the ball, he gets into trouble — which can cause the ball to swing off his body, leading to turnovers. So running style is more of a problem. Bottom line: It’s been a big year for Ron Rivera and his project, and they do have options. They can’t wait for someone to fix the problem. So Robinson could be a good option late in the fantasy draft because he has the potential to do more work in the red zone. He runs with more power, he protects the ball.

    –John Keim



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