News & Analysis

Fantasy football fallout post-NFL roster cuts: Adrian Peterson, Antonio Gibson, Cam Akers and more

There was plenty of player movement this weekend as NFL teams cut their rosters down to 53-man squads. The fallout huge fantasy football implications, as certain players’ fantasy football outlooks have been upended with moves to new environments or additional volume coming available. 

Recall last season, when LeSean McCoy‘s release during final roster cuts opened the door for Devin Singletary. In Week 1, he led the Buffalo Bills in snaps, ranked fifth in the league in routes run among running backs and finished as RB15.

The following is a rundown of all the players impacted by final roster cuts, with updated evaluations to consider for draft strategy and lineup construction for Week 1. 

Running Backs

Aug 18, 2020; Thousand Oaks California, USA; Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers (23) is defended by linebacker Leonard Floyd (54) during training camp at Cal Lutheran University. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s become pretty cliché at this point — veteran player “X” leaves an offense and it’s rookie player “X” szn. But in the case of Antonio Gibson, the hype is warranted. 

Adrian Peterson was surprisingly released by the Washington Football Team at least in part because Gibson has been showing out in training camp. The former MVP had nothing but high praise for the rookie running back as both a receiver and someone who can handle work in between the tackles.

Gibson saw a large chunk of snaps at wide receiver and saw little overall volume in college, so there’s a negative perception that he can’t be an every-down back. But he weighs 228 pounds, which is more than enough. If anything, his NFL frame and lack of tread on the tires should help him sustain durability.

Gibson is now a firm RB2 in my seasonal rankings and worth a selection in the first 50 picks. Defenses might struggle with tackling (lack of padded practices) and Gibson forced a missed tackle on essentially half of his touches in 2019. And let’s not forget the last time a rookie running back forced a team to part ways with Peterson — *whispers* Alvin Kamara.

It didn’t take long for Peterson to find a new home; he signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions Sunday morning, further muddling a backfield already home to both Kerryon Johnson and rookie D’Andre Swift. This can’t be a good sign for Swift, who has missed significant time in training camp due to a lower leg injury.

Johnson still figures to be the starting back come Week 1, but his draft capital takes a massive hit with the Peterson news, and he's not a running back you will be looking to start come Week 1 against the Chicago Bears.

The Bears will have a healthy Akiem Hicks on the defensive line, which is not good news for the Lions’ ground game. With Hicks playing last season, the Bears’ PFF run-defense grade (82.8) ranked fifth in the NFL.

Swift’s RB23 ADP is a way too high. I have both Johnson and Swift ranked outside of the top-95 players, and I would still only feel comfortable drafting them if I could get them from Round 10 on. 

And say what you want about Peterson’s age, but the man is durable — his 499 touches over the past two seasons ranks 10th at the position. If injuries plague Johnson once again, Peterson will be the locked-and-loaded early-down back — more than worth a selection in the 16th round. 

None of the recently released Philadelphia Eagles running backs were likely to be fantasy forces in 2020 (Elijah Holyfield, Adrian Killins Jr., Michael Warren), but their departure is a clear indicator that the team is not concerned about Miles Sanders injury. 

He should be good to go Week 1 against the Washington Football Team and should smash in the plus matchup. Love him in DFS for Week 1.

The signing of Leonard Fournette was a tell-tale sign that somebody was going to get the boot in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers backfield. Pass-catching specialist Dare Ogunbowale got the short end of the stick, confirming LeSean McCoy’s role on the offense as a change-of-pace and third-down running back.

Ogunbowale’s departure does vacate seven carries inside the 5-yard line from last season, which could further bolster Ronald Jones opportunities near the goal-line. Based on his solid performance last season as a runner inside the 10-yard line, it is RoJo’s job to lose as the goal-line back in the offense.

The Los Angeles Rams released fourth-string and 2018 sixth-round running back John Kelly in favor of keeping 2020 undrafted rookie Xavier Jones out of SMU. Kelly was thought to be in the running back mix after receiving praise from head coach Sean McVay earlier this summer, but not even the coach’s words could save his job.

Jones is a change-of-pace back, so even if he is active on game days in place of the currently injured Darrell Henderson, his role will be limited. For Week 1, we are going to see a two-man backfield of Cam Akers and Malcolm Brown. Reports have surfaced suggesting that Brown will be the starter.

Last season, Brown started the Rams’ Week 6 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers and finished the day with 11 carries for 40 yards on 67% of the offensive snaps. In that same game, Henderson had 11 carries as a backup and rushed for 49 yards with two catches for 20 yards, despite seeing just 33% of the offensive snaps.

With Brown a non-factor in the passing game, don't let this report deter you from Akers in drafts or from Week 1 starting lineups.

The Chicago Bears released running back Artavis Pierce, meaning the team is going to proceed with David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, Ryan Nall and Cordarrelle Patterson at the RB position. Releasing Montgomery and opting to not bring in another veteran suggests the team must feel good about Montgomery’s status coming back from his groin injury.

Actions speak larger than words — the Las Vegas Raiders released Theo Riddick and traded Lynn Bowden Jr., meaning it’s wheels up for Josh Jacobs in the passing game. That's been the biggest knock on his fantasy value this summer. 

There's a chance the Raiders sign the recently released Dare Ogunbowale (he visited the team on Sunday), but who knows how long it would take him to get up to speed in the offense.

The Kansas City Chiefs elected to move on from free agent signing DeAndre Washington, who was a popular candidate to be the direct backup to Clyde Edwards-Helaire. This turned out not to be the case, as the team is moving forward with Darrell Williams as the No. 2 running back. Williams needs to be drafted and owned as a priority backup across all league formats.

After cutting their roster down to 53 players, the Tennessee Titans only have two running backs on the roster: Derrick Henry and Darrynton Evans. The rookie from Appalachian State has had some struggles during training camp, but entrusting him in the No. 2 role behind King Henry is enough to make him worth a roster spot.

After releasing Lamar Miller and J.J. Taylor, the New England Patriots will enter the 2020 season with the same core as last season: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead and Damien Harris. I still think the value is with Michel because he has a chance to reclaim the starting role with Harris currently sidelined. I think we might see a completely different Michel in 2020, running with the mobile Cam Newton.

Quarterbacks

Dec 29, 2019; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins released former first-round pick Josh Rosen, showing a vote of confidence in the health of rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the starter Week 1, but Tagovailoa will take over at some point this season.

It’s not a roster cut, but it’s worth noting here that the Chicago Bears named Mitchell Trubisky as their starting quarterback for Week 1 over Nick Foles. From all accounts, neither quarterback was overwhelming during training camp, so it appears Trubisky earned the job by default.

He won’t be a quarterback you start for Week 1 in any traditional league formats, but in two-quarterback leagues or DFS, he's going to be a viable option with a matchup against the Detroit Lions.

In Trubisky’s last three starts against his NFC North rival in the Matt Nagy offense, he has averaged three passing touchdowns, 9.5 yards per attempt, 289 passing yards and earned a 90.9 PFF passing grade. That translates to 32.5 fantasy points per game when you also include Trubisky’s rushing statistics.

Nobody on planet Earth is going to want to play Trubisky, so leveraging him in a GPP could be a great way to save salary and differentiate your lineup. Remember, even before Marcus Mariota was benched last season, he posted 250-plus yards and three touchdowns versus the Cleveland Browns in Week 1.

Wide Receivers

Dec 21, 2019; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry (15) runs against the Buffalo Bills during the first quarter at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots released Mohamed Sanu after trading a second-round pick for the veteran before the trade deadline in 2019. This slides Damiere Byrd in as the No. 3 wide receiver option behind N’Keal Harry and Julian Edelman. I'm more confident in taking Harry in the later rounds now — he remains one of my favorite second-year sleepers.

The Buffalo Bills released several veteran wide receivers — Robert Foster, Andre Roberts, Duke Williams — which to me says a lot about how they feel about rookie wide receiver Gabriel Davis from UCF. Davis has been a standout all summer and would be an immediate target off the waiver wire should anything happen to any of the main trio of Bills starting receivers: Stefon Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley.

The San Francisco 49ers waived both Jauan Jennings and Kevin White — great signs that Deebo Samuel (just taken off the NFI list) and Brandon Aiyuk will be available for Week 1. They are both super low on draft boards because of their injuries over the summer, so they are both values.

The Washington Football Team released slot wide receiver Trey Quinn, solidifying the top trio of receivers in the nation’s capital: Terry McLaurin, Dontrelle Inman and Steven Sims.

Green Bay waived several wide receivers including Jake Kumerow, Reggie Begelton and Malik Turner. This should allow Marquez Valdes-Scantling to potentially graze fantasy relevance in 2020 — he's the only true speed threat the team has at WR. If we start to see him receive consistent targets, he could easily emerge as a post-hype sleeper after failing to live up to expectations in 2019. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was reported to be “most impressed” with him during training camp.

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