The third episode of Hard Knocks featuring the Oakland Raiders brought some very entertaining moments, with a Frank Caliendo appearance as Jon Gruden as the clear highlight. But there were also a number of insights that we can use for fantasy football purposes. So here’s this week’s Hard Knocks fantasy football intel.
Antonio Brown is back in camp
The star wideout made his return to Raiders camp after his initial absence, and we were privy to some more information on the situation. Brown’s preferred helmet doesn’t meet the NFL’s standards, but he was trying to work a loophole. The league stipulated that Brown’s helmet is 10 years old, so he found a newer version of the same make and model.
Brown’s agent Drew Rosenhaus seemed confident this approach would get Brown back on the field, but Brown didn’t win his grievance with the league. As we know, Brown left camp again. At the end of the episode we saw the interview with Mike Mayock where he said the team needed to know if Brown was “all in, or all out.” Brown was then shown at the end of the episode catching passes on the jugs machine.
Interestingly, Gruden let us know that he was aware of the helmet issue all the way back at OTAs. This is a great example of how teams know significantly more than what’s being publicly said. Unfortunately, there’s really no way around this for us as fantasy players, so the best we can do is use any opportunity we can to gain intel. Sometimes that can be through interviews from coaches and GMs, but these may not always be that forthcoming. We can also read between the lines with roster moves and draft picks. That isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but teams do tip their hands with these moves.
In addition to the much-discussed helmet issue, Brown has also been dealing with injured feet from frostbite. He talked with Richie Incognito at practice and said the feet are getting better and that they’ve been slicing the excess skin off. As gross as that sounds, it’s at least encouraging that he’s making progress. Brown was shown running and catching passes midway through the episode, and also warmed up before the Raiders’ preseason contest against the Cardinals. At this point, Brown’s injury doesn’t seem to be a big issue, but his helmet situation makes him an extremely risky pick in the third round of fantasy drafts.
Darren Waller is balling
A popular sleeper tight end pick, Waller got some screen time early in the episode. The EA Sports team from Madden was at practice asking players who the most underrated guy was on the team. A couple of Waller’s teammates mentioned him, and he was labeled as the guy no one wants to cover in practice.
As Hard Knocks does so well, the show then put a spotlight on Waller’s story. Now two years sober, Waller talked about how he nearly sabotaged his career with drugs while he was with the Ravens. It’s a sad story, but Waller has completely straightened his life out and is in position to break out in 2019. Waller isn’t a player to prioritize in drafts, but he’s worth a look in the late rounds if you miss at tight end or want to draft a backup.
Don’t just a Hunter Renfrow by its cover
In one of the funnier moments in the episode, Gruden points out how the team wants to get bigger, stronger, and faster. He then puts a photo of rookie wideout Hunter Renfrow in his underwear at the combine on the screen. Renfrow is built like your college roommate. He doesn’t look at all like an NFL player. Derek Carr gave the rookie a ribbing for those looks, asking Renfrow if he’s 37 years old.
Despite his looks, we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Renfrow was a baller at Clemson and was a key part of their national championship in 2017. A four-year player, Renfrow finished his college career with 186 catches. It isn’t surprising that he was one of just five wideouts to not top 10 reps on the bench at the combine, but he did manage the third-fastest time among wideouts in the 3-cone (6.80). That short-area quickness bodes well out of the slot. Renfrow has the chance to make an impact right away for the Raiders, but his fantasy value is better for dynasty than it is for redraft.