Fantasy News & Analysis

Biggest fantasy football takeaways for every team from 2021 NFL training camp

Sep 27, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Bryan Edwards (89) stiff arms New England Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty (30) during the third quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

NFL training camp is well underway, and the start of fantasy football draft season is just around the corner. There is a constant flow of information trickling out of NFL camps as beat writers and reporters take detailed notes and videos of everything happening at practice.

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A lot of this information is critical for fantasy football purposes — we need to know which players are dominating and those who might be struggling. Additionally, key information on player roles and usage information also filters out.

These are the major fantasy football takeaways for all 32 NFL teams from the first week of NFL training camp.

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ARIZONA CARDINALS

Rondale Moore is pushing for an early role as a rookie. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury said, “Since day one, he’s acted like he belongs here.”

Plays like the one below demonstrate why the Cardinals are excited about Moore’s potential:

ATLANTA FALCONS

Kyle Pitts looks as advertised and is already making circus catches like this:

He is a mismatch nightmare who is set for a huge role, opening up the field for Calvin Ridley and company.

Mike Davis still appears to be the starting running back and is an interesting upside draft pick in the proverbial running back dead-zone of the middle rounds. We could be looking at the cheapest bell cow in fantasy football with real receiving chops:

BALTIMORE RAVENS

The media cannot stop gushing about Rashod Bateman. The first-round draft pick “looked like the best offensive player Wednesday in camp,” per PFF’s Doug Kyed. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman plans to use him all over the field, saying “I see some real potential in terms of how we can deploy him … he’s learning all three different positions right now.”

Bateman cooked Marlon Humphrey on this rep in camp:

If anyone is going to be this year’s Justin Jefferson, it's Bateman.

BUFFALO BILLS

The Bills are making it crystal clear that their starting wide receiver trio will be Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders. This is bad news for Gabriel Davis, who is going to be locked into the fourth receiver role and won't consistently see the field this season unless there's an injury ahead of him. The promising second-year wide receiver remains a strong speculative fantasy draft pick, but his stock is declining.

Accordingly, Sanders is shaping up to be quite a value pick. All three of Josh Allen’s starting wide receivers carry weekly spike upside.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

It’s been a rocky training camp for Sam Darnold in the early stages. However, the embattled quarterback had his best day of camp on Thursday, per The Athletic‘s Joseph Person, tossing a number of dimes to D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson and company. There is no doubt that Carolina features the offensive playmakers for Darnold to succeed. But whether he does will be up to him.

Terrace Marshall Jr. is flashing and will push for a role in three-wide receiver sets. The rookie is definitely intriguing in fantasy this year.

CHICAGO BEARS

Darnell Mooney breakout season is officially upon us. The rising second-year stud wide receiver is a favorite sleeper of PFF's Nathan Jahnke.

He is tearing up the practice field and looks like one of the next elite NFL deep threats. The Justin Fields to Mooney connection will be special — let’s hope it happens sooner rather than later.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Joe Burrow‘s struggles are the early talk of training camp. Cincinnati’s offensive line is also having major issues blocking the defensive front, per The Athletic‘s Paul Dehner Jr., which is re-igniting the Ja’Marr Chase versus  Penei Sewell debate.

Don't freak out, though. It's still early, and Burrow may simply be adjusting to practice at full speed in pads after a long injury layoff. Hold the line and buy the dip on all the Bengals' studs. Volume over efficiency was always going to be the path to fantasy success for this offense.

Tee Higgins is the one player turning heads in training camp thus far. Per Albert Breer of the MMQB, Higgins is significantly stronger and in better shape, and he has been “on fire” in training camp.

Also, the Chase and Burrow connection is going to be special.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Donovan Peoples-Jones has been the story of Browns training camp. Per The Athletic‘s Zac Jackson, “Peoples-Jones has star potential.” DPJ scored a ridiculous 60-yard touchdown on a beautiful pass from Baker Mayfield on Wednesday that turned the crowd into a frenzy.

Cleveland boasts a crowded wide receiving corps, but talent always rises to the top, and Peoples-Jones should be viewed as the favorite for the No. 3 receiving job. There is enormous fantasy football potential here for a player who is practically free in fantasy football drafts right now.

Peoples-Jones is my most rostered wide receiver on Underdog Fantasy best ball drafts.

DALLAS COWBOYS

CeeDee Lamb is destroying training camp, and his fantasy stock is on a one-way rocket ship to the moon. The future superstar has transformed into a walking human highlight reel:

Lamb's rise corresponds with concern about the health of Amari Cooper, who is still recovering from offseason ankle surgery. Cooper recently said, “I wouldn’t say I’m quite 100 percent yet, to be completely candid, but I’m real close. … I’m trying to be better than I’ve ever been.”

PFF injury expert Mario Pilato has zero concern about Cooper’s status for Week 1, though, so draft him with confidence.

DENVER BRONCOS

Jerry Jeudy is tearing up Broncos training camp and is poised to be the breakout wide receiver among the second-year players. Von Miller called him “a monster” because of his route running:

Head Coach Vic Fangio caused a panic among fantasy managers last week when he said Courtland Sutton looked hesitant and not fully healthy. However, Sutton’s performance at camp Wednesday should put us back at ease after he dominated practice:

Sutton can be a fantasy monster in 2021.

DETROIT LIONS

Head Coach Dan Campbell said Amon-Ra St. Brown is headed for a big role and will “see a bunch of targets underneath this season.” St. Brown is a very polished route-runner and can be a short-area safety blanket for Jared Goff. The former Rams quarterback tallied a lowly 6.7-yard average depth of target last season (third-lowest).

St. Brown possesses real sleeper potential at the end of fantasy drafts.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Of course, the key storyline in Green Bay is Aaron Rodgers‘ return. The reigning MVP and Davante Adams have picked up right where they left off last year — the NFL’s best QB/WR duo is unstoppable.

Keep an eye on how the Packers feature Randall Cobb in their offense. Amari Rodgers was expected to be the starting slot receiver, but that role now belongs to Cobb. Still, Rodgers is a dynamic playmaker who can be used all over the field, even if Cobb hogs most of the slot snaps.

HOUSTON TEXANS

Nico Collins is the talk of Texans training camp. Brandin Cooks said it best: “The way that he works … catches the ball and how strong he is — it doesn’t feel like a rookie.”

Expect Collins to be a starting perimeter wide receiver in Houston. He is the cheapest way to get 100-plus targets in fantasy football.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

The injury bug has sunk its teeth into the Colts, with foot injuries sidelining quarterback Carson Wentz and guard Quenton Nelson. Yet, the season forges ahead, and Indianapolis boasts two very talented wide receivers in Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell. They should be the focal points of the passing offense and carry major fantasy potential.

This grab from Pittman Jr. is ridiculous:

Draft both Campbell and Pittman Jr., regardless of the Colts' quarterback situation.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

The hate has gone too far on James Robinson. He dropped all the way to RB32 in PFF’s consensus fantasy ranks. All the reports out of Jacksonville are saying Robinson is balling out and breaking off numerous big runs in camp. He will be competing with Travis Etienne and Carlos Hyde for touches, but there is too much overconfidence in what head coach Urban Meyer might do with his running back room.

Etienne has reportedly been uncoverable in camp — albeit against linebackers. So, what if the first-round draft pick is featured more as a wide receiver while Robinson handles most of the rushing workload? That potential split would make the former undrafted free agent a massive steal in fantasy drafts.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

There is a steady drumbeat that Mecole Hardman is flashing in training camp and ready to ascend into the No. 2 receiving role. These do not seem like catches that Hardman would have routinely made in the past:

The Chiefs' offense is extremely condensed around Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, but there is room for Hardman to become a viable weekly WR3. And if the injury bug were to sideline those two superstars, then Hardman could become a league-winner.

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

The Bryan Edwards hype train has picked up where it left off last preseason. Head coach Jon Gruden compared Edwards to Terrell Owens because he keeps making catches like this:

There is ample opportunity in this offense for another pass catcher to emerge alongside Darren Waller. Edwards carries real sleeper potential.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Rookie third-round draft pick Josh Palmer is putting on a show in training camp thus far. Per The Athletic‘s Daniel Popper, the former Tennessee playmaker ripped it up over the weekend with a series of spectacular catches. The No. 3 wide receiver spot is wide open, and Palmer could emerge into a real fantasy contributor if he grabs that coveted role. Mike Williams said of Palmer: “He be balling. … Josh is smooth.”

Do not sleep on Palmer — draft him in the late rounds. He is already showing a rapport with Justin Herbert:

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Matthew Stafford appears to have avoided serious injury after a scare to his thumb, and he was back at practice this week tossing bombs to his trio of wide receivers. DeSean Jackson is standing out in particular, as he looks rejuvenated in Los Angeles and will be a deep threat the Rams have not boasted since Brandin Cooks. This deep ball is simply beautiful:

Xavier Jones is staking his claim for the No. 2 running back role behind Darrell Henderson. Head coach Sean McVay hyped up the second-year running back, who is earning fill-in reps with the first-team when Henderson sits down. Per The Athletic‘s Jourdan Rodrigue, Jones pulled off a juke Tuesday that elicited an electric “OOOHH” from the crowd.

Jones is one of my favorite late-round running back darts.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

Tua Tagovailoa appears to have found his deep ball. This throw is an absolute missile:

Every day there are more reports of Tua aggressively bombing it downfield, even though his top three wide receivers are dealing with varying levels of injuries. Just wait until Will Fuller V gets back on the football field — the dynamic playmaker has the potential to unlock Tua’s ceiling.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Justin Jefferson’s rookie season was no fluke. He is unsurprisingly the best wide receiver in camp, consistently making defenders look silly:

Irv Smith Jr. is shaping up as a potential breakout candidate, with ESPN’s Courtney Cronin reporting that he is dominating red-zone drills. He is a major sleeper tight end who could approach double-digit touchdowns.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

PFF’s Andrew Erickson attended Patriots camp all of last week, and Jakobi Meyers caught his attention with plays like this:

Meyers is a very interesting late-round fantasy draft pick who could surprise in a starting role.

Nelson Agholor will be the leading deep threat — check out this moon bomb:

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The major story of Saints training camp is the quarterback competition between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. Both players have had their ups and downs, and there is no clear leader between them. PFF’s Ian Hartitz explained why he is rooting for Hill to win the starting gig for fantasy football purposes.

NEW YORK GIANTS

Saquon Barkley’s health is the burning question of Giants training camp. His fantasy stock is sinking faster than a rock thrown into the ocean. I have seen the former No. 1 overall running back dip into the second round of best ball drafts. All we can do is wait and hope for more information over the coming weeks.

Kenny Golladay injured his hamstring this week and appears to have avoided a major injury. Still, soft-tissue injuries can linger — especially when they aren't given proper time to heal. The larger problem is that Golladay needs these training camp reps to get on the same page with quarterback Daniel Jones. I am bullish on the star receiver’s fantasy value, but this is definitely a frustrating setback.

Golladay is currently WR23 in consensus fantasy ranks, but that will probably drop moving forward.

NEW YORK JETS

Elijah Moore is coming. The rookie is undoubtedly the top bright spot of Jets training camp. The Athletic's Connor Hughes did well in summing up Moore's performance thus far:

The Zach Wilson to Elijah Moore connection is going to be a problem:

It took less than a week for Moore to force his way into consistent reps with the first team. The stud rookie is a fantasy superstar in waiting.

Michael Carter appears to have a leg up on the other running backs in training camp, so he should be looked at as the favorite to lead the unit.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

DeVonta Smith suffered a knee sprain that will sideline him for a few weeks. The star rookie should be back well before the start of the season and remains a phenomenal fantasy draft pick as the clear WR1 on this Eagles team. He is already developing quite the rapport with quarterback Jalen Hurts:

Unfortunately, it does not seem like Jalen Reagor is seizing the opportunity with Smith off the field. Head coach Nick Sirianni was reportedly ripping into Reagor at practice Wednesday for an undisclosed reason. The struggling wide receiver has been nearly invisible in training camp, per multiple beat writers (outside of the screaming incident). There is serious bust potential here.

If taking a shot on cheap Eagles wide receivers, consider Travis Fulgham, who looks more like the player that captured the attention of the nation in the middle of last season. 

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Najee Harris has bell cow written all over him. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said he expects Harris to be a true three-down running back in his rookie season. He is a smash pick in the second round of fantasy drafts.

The Steelers have virtually locked in their starting trio of wide receivers in Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Meanwhile, rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth is impressing early on. Per Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, Freiermuth is going to play a lot this season if he can block, as Pittsburgh’s linebackers and safeties have been unable to cover him in practice. Steelers linebacker Ulysees Gilbert compared Freiermuth to Travis Kelce — high praise.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Trey Lance needs to be the 49ers' starting quarterback right now. How can you keep this man on the bench?

49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel said Lance is “getting to the point where he can correct other players.” It has been less than a week and the rookie is already leading around his teammates. Start this man, for goodness sake.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Rashaad Penny is finally healthy from his serious knee injury and in great form after dropping down to a svelte 225 pounds. Head coach Pete Carroll said Penny is “the best we’ve seen him,” which is great news for a player who looked to be on the verge of breaking out in 2019.

There is real fantasy value here for Penny as a handcuff with flex appeal.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

The Bucs are thrilled that tight end O.J. Howard is healthy and thriving. Head coach Bruce Arians recently said, “What a huge addition to have him back. … The sky’s the limit for what he can do in this offense.” The mega-talented tight end is an enormous sleeper who carries TE1 potential — even with Rob Gronkowski in the mix. This is a contract year for Howard, and he has all the incentives in the world to finally put it together.

TENNESSEE TITANS

A.J. Brown has been the best player in Titans camp, per Joe Rexrode of The Athletic. This should surprise nobody because Brown belongs in the discussion for best wide receiver in the NFL.

Anthony Firkser carries legitimate TE1 upside within the Titans' offense. Offensive coordinator Todd Downing recently hyped up Firkser’s receiving ability and discussed expectations for the tight end to step up in 2021.

WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

There is so much to be excited about with the Football Team, and it starts with the passing attack. Terry McLaurin is going to make a monster leap into the elite tier in Year 3. Curtis Samuel adds a dynamic new element to the offense as a receiving and rushing threat. And this developing connection between gunslinger Ryan Fitzpatrick is salivating:

Antonio Gibson leads the running game, and we will be monitoring reports to see if there are whispers of an increased receiving role. Head coach Ron Rivera mentioned that Gibson’s improved route running will “open up the playbook,” which is exactly what we want to hear.

Dyami Brown has reportedly not flashed much in training camp, per Ben Standig of The Athletic. Most of his reps have come from the slot, where he will face competition for snaps with Adam Humphries. This is a troubling development for Brown’s 2021 fantasy value.

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