We’re now entering the final week with no football prior to the NFL kicking off on Sept. 10. The 2020 offseason has been a whirlwind and truly unlike any we’ve seen before. The final few days of training camp will be no different, so it makes sense to take a look around the league at the most pertinent fantasy football news, transactions and injuries as the final week of preseason gets going.
Since we can't watch preseason games with fantasy angles in mind this year, we turn to the news, which is already stirring this week. Here are eight situations worth highlighting as we enter the final week without NFL football.
News and player updates are sourced from Rotoworld.com.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars release running back Leonard Fournette
In an absolute shocker of a move, the Jaguars released the former No. 4 overall pick after just three seasons. While Fournette never reached the expectations the Jaguars anticipated when they selected him in 2017, he did prove to be a decent fantasy football option. He totaled 261.4 total points (full-point PPR) last season and proved to be a valuable factor as a receiver with 76 catches on 95 targets.
Fournette’s release opens up a massive path to touches for the remaining running backs on the roster, which includes Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo and Chris Thompson. Armstead operated as the team's RB2 in 2019, totaling 51.2 points on the season. He had only 35 rushing attempts and 14 receptions on 21 targets. The next man up was Ozigbo, who registered only eight points on 12 touches.
Thompson is the intriguing addition here, as offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has shown an affinity for using him heavily in the pass game during their time in Washington. Dating back to 2015, Thompson ranks 11th in targets (259) and receptions (205) among all running backs. Expect to see a strong receiving workload for the former Washington running back.
2. Philadelphia Eagles injuries continue to pile up
In what has seemingly become a theme, the Eagles’ roster continues to suffer the injury woes that plagued them in 2019. The team already lost offensive linemen Brandon Brooks and Andre Dillard for the season, and now Carson Wentz is sidelined with what is being described as a “minor” injury.
The biggest news for this group is the recent shoulder injury suffered by rookie Jalen Reagor, which is expected to keep him out for the first four weeks of the season. This is an unfortunate situation, but it does heighten the intrigue for the remaining offensive weapons, including veteran DeSean Jackson, second-year player J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and the two tight ends, Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert.
Jackson scored 36.9 points across only two games last season, ranking fifth in points per snap and 10th in points per touch among all receivers.
3. The New York Jets’ backfield situation continues to confuse
The Jets’ backfield is a highly confusing situation. The Jets attempted to trade a late-round draft pick for former Miami Dolphins runner Kalen Ballage, but the trade was reversed after Ballage failed his physical. In addition to that almost successful transaction, rookie Lamical Perine was carted off the practice field on Sunday due to an ankle injury and is heading for an MRI.
With all of these situations unfolding, we’re now back to the original duo of Le’Veon Bell — the expected starter and workhorse — and veteran Frank Gore, the RB2 and short-yardage back. Head coach Adam Gase continues to send mixed signals, as he’s deployed a “60-40” split between them. The New York Post’s Brian Costello reports that Bell “hasn’t had an impressive training camp” and “has lacked explosiveness and looks slow to hit holes.”
Bell didn't have the comeback season many had hoped in 2019, totaling 2015 points, which ranked 16th among all running backs.
4. The Dallas Cowboys’ new offensive starters are impressing
Rookie CeeDee Lamb and tight end Blake Jarwin have joined the Cowboys’ starting lineup as the WR3 and TE1, replacing departed veterans Randall Cobb and Jason Witten. According to Jon Machota of The Athletic, Lamb “has looked comfortable in all formations.” The Cowboys’ Rob Phillips says there “seems to be a connection building” between Lamb and Dak Prescott. Cowboys’ EVP Stephen Jones said Jarwin “has had an amazing camp.”
None of these tidbits of info are surprising. Lamb was one of the most electric receivers coming out of college football this season and will undoubtedly take the Cowboys’ passing offense to the next level, mostly due to his elite yards after the catch (YAC) ability — Lamb ranked 13th in YAC and sixth in YAC per reception among all college football receivers with 40-plus targets in 2019. The rookie offers a ton of standalone value as a mid-round fantasy football draft pick in redraft leagues.
Jarwin should also bring speed and playmaking ability that Witten didn't have last season. Cobb’s departure freed 79 targets, while Witten’s freed 82. Both Lamb and Jarwin have clear paths to strong workloads and usage rates in 2020.
5. Los Angeles Rams rookies to feature in the offense?
Word out of Rams camp is that rookie second-round picks Cam Akers and Van Jefferson have impressed and could have the fast track to producing solid fantasy results. Running backs coach Thomas Brown recently said this: “I think every single situation’s going to be different. Obviously, I think you’d prefer to have a clear-cut guy to take the majority of reps and having certain guys that have a role in that offense, but I think it’s all about how those guys continue to develop and what they do well for us offensively and what can help us win football games.”
The injury to second-year runner Darrell Henderson has cleared the way for Akers to immediately grab the RB1 job, and Brown’s words should only further that narrative. Former starter Todd Gurley leaves behind a massive workload — 223 rushing attempts and 31 receptions on 45 targets.
Jefferson, on the other hand, is stuck behind a solid trio of receivers in Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds. If he's impressed in camp the way reports suggest, that could ultimately lead to an increased snap share at Reynolds' expense. The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue reported: “It’s pretty hard for Rams coaches and teammates to stay even-keeled about second-round WR Van Jefferson.”
Good Morning Football’s Peter Schrager highlighted Jefferson as a breakout player to watch in 2020. The trade of Brandin Cooks frees up 67 targets, which should mostly be soaked up by the duo of Reynolds and Jefferson.
Wait… A great route runner with advanced and varied release packages toasted a corner? Leggo. https://t.co/n8tEYnuAIb
— Sosa K (@QBsMVP) August 29, 2020
6. Las Vegas Raiders rookie Bryan Edwards starting at X receiver
Veteran Tyrell Williams (64 targets in 2019) hasn’t practiced during training camp and is beginning to fall behind in the pecking order at receiver. According to The Athletic’s Tashan Reed, Williams — who is nursing a shoulder injury — may be slotted into a committee role if he plays in Week 1. Earlier this month, Williams was reportedly diagnosed with a torn labrum but will attempt to play with it throughout the season, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
It appears the next man up is Edwards, who may start alongside fellow rookie Henry Ruggs III and slot receiver Hunter Renfrow. According to Josh Schrock of NBC Sports Bay Area, Edwards is already gaining the trust of Derek Carr, with the quarterback saying, “I've always been a guy — I love throwing the ball up and giving guys chances. That's kind of how Bryan is. He's the guy that wherever I put the ball, I have confidence that he can separate, make an extended catch. He's an exciting guy.”
Path is being laid for Bryan Edwardspic.twitter.com/D5UfTo0O05
— Derek Brown (@DBro_FFB) August 24, 2020
7. Old friend alert: Seattle Seahawks sign wide receiver Paul Richardson Jr.
Welcome back! The Seahawks bring Richardson back after a failed stint in Washington. While there isn’t a clear path to a ton of targets with the Seahawks already deploying D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, Richardson could carve out a role as the third receiver. His main roadblocks are likely Phillip Dorsett — who also operates a speed/vertical option — and David Moore.
Richardson has a history of decent success with the team, particularly in 2017 when he ranked 39th in receiver scoring (150.3 points) and fourth in points per touch (3.42) among all receivers. Richardson’s vertical ability — he ranked 13th in average depth of target that season (15.41) — pairs well with Russell Wilson, as the star QB ranked third in pass attempts (85), second in yards (1,179), second in touchdowns (11) and first in PFF passing grade (99.5) among all quarterbacks on passes 20-plus yards downfield.
8. Antonio Gibson to lead the Washington Football Team’s backfield in touches?
According to Kyle Stackpole of WashingtonFootball.com, “Adrian Peterson has been the starting running back for the duration of training camp, but third-round rookie Antonio Gibson has also received a fair amount of first-team reps.” It should come as no surprise that Gibson is going to be a factor with the release of Derrius Guice, but just how large of a workload should we anticipate for Gibson in his rookie season? According to JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington, “Rookie Antonio Gibson will be a major factor. In fact, it wouldn't be a shock if he ends up with the most touches of any back in the group. Not carries, but touches.”
Finlay's prediction is of massive importance — the workload Gibson receives could very well lead to a major draft steal at his current average draft position. Not only that, he’s also a wildly efficient and productive player who has otherworldly YAC ability and could receive a ton of high-value touches in the form of receptions.
In 2019, Gibson led the Memphis Tigers in missed tackles forced per rushing attempt, yards per carry, yards per carry per attempt, yards per reception and YAC per reception. He was second on the team in missed tackles forced on receptions. The guy is an absolute freak and could produce some seriously exciting fantasy point totals with a decent market share in an undecided backfield.