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Training Camp Round-up: 15 vital fantasy tidbits

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With NFL Training Camps underway, fantasy news and tidbits are swirling around like a tornado of information and misinformation. Each week we'll keep you informed with a weekly roundup of the most fantasy-relevant news to emerge from the 32 NFL training camps underway. We'll do our best to sift through the smoke and see what insight can be lifted as you prepare for your fantasy drafts this fall.

Separation already in Cowboys RB battle?

 


» Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said, "We have a player (in Joseph Randle) that has the potential ... to be the kind of back that would step in there and be your No. 1 back."
» Darren McFadden, meanwhile, will open up camp on the physically unable to perform, or PUP list after injuring his other hamstring (not the one that cost him time in OTAs).

Our analysis: This is one of our top training camp battles to watch, and it appears Randle will have the chance to establish a sizeable lead early-on. He was the favorite to begin with, and if McFadden's unfortunate injury history is following him to Dallas, that won't be good for his fantasy (or real life) value. This competition will still need monitoring, but if you're drafting soon start pushing Randle a bit up your board, while knocking McFadden down a peg. At least we won't have to worry about Ryan Williams swooping in to steal carries after he was placed on injured reserve earlier this week.

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Bears to run more balanced attack


» Matt Forte says he has no plans to catch 100 passes this year in offensive coordinator Adam Gase's system.

Our analysis: First of all, if you're playing the Training Camp Drinking Game, you should have imbibed upon reading the words "balanced attack". Beyond that, it was apparent to everyone that Forte's role in the passing game was going to shrink once Marc Trestman left town. While it will have a small impact on his value in PPR leagues Forte remains one of the few true workhorse backs in the NFL and will still come off the board in the first round in all formats.

Frank Gore set up for success with Colts

 


» Chuck Pagano, Colts head coach: "If you want to try and stop (Frank Gore) and slow him down, I'd recommend you being in an eight-man spacing."

Our analysis: Around the NFL's Chris Wesseling wrote a dynamite piece detailing why Gore will be able to thrive in Indy this season. Chief among the reasons is the presence of Andrew Luck and an all-star passing attack, which will prevent defenses from lining up in the eight-man fronts Pagano referred to in the quote above. Gore, while lacking the explosion of his youth, will be playing in the best offense of his career and should be able to post RB2 numbers easily. So draft him accordingly.

49ers could use RB committee approach


» Carlos Hyde is expected to be the team's lead back, but some combination of Reggie Bush, Kendall Hunter and Mike Davis could compete for snaps behind him.

Our analysis: As the Niners prepare for life without Frank Gore, there are questions about exactly how things will break down in the San Francisco backfield. Hyde showed some nice flashes near the end of last season and while he's the heir apparent to Gore, he doesn't have three-down potential at the moment. Currently, Bush looks like the man who will earn most of the work on third downs and in passing situations but the rookie Davis will certainly compete to get on the field.

Adrian Peterson's workload

 


» Mike Zimmer, Vikings head coach: "[Adrian Peterson will get] as much [work] as he can take, and as much as he can handle in all the things that we're doing."

Our analysis: While we aren't quite buying Peterson eclipsing his goal of 2,500 rushing yards this season, everything seems to be aligning for Peterson's return to the top of the running back mountain. He's fresh, in great shape and will be the workhorse back in the best offense he's lined up in since 2009 -- when Brett Favre was his quarterback. The presence of Teddy Bridgewater and Mike Wallace could open up plenty of lanes for Peterson to run through. He shouldn't last beyond than the first few picks in any fantasy footbal draft this fall.

McKinnon could earn third-down role


» Zimmer wants to see how Jerick McKinnon handles pass protection, which could lead to a role as a third-down back.

Our analysis: AD's return might not be the fantasy death sentence that we all believed earlier this summer. Or this could be a training camp smokescreen. Considering the talk about how strong Peterson looks and the fact that his backups generally haven't seen a lot of work when he's healthy, it still seems unlikely that McKinnon is going to see a lot of opportunities to produce. Still, if there's a player that you're looking for to be Peterson's handcuff this season, it looks like McKinnon has a solid edge over Matt Asiata or any other rusher on the Minnesota roster.

Lamar Miller set for bigger workload in Miami?

 


» Joe Philbin, Dolphins head coach: "I've never been in a meeting where I've said to [offensive coordinator] Bill [Lazor] or [running backs coach] Jeff Nixon or the offensive line coaches have said 'Lamar can't carry the ball 20 times a game.' ... If he's cranking and he got it 24 times a game and he's healthy and he's fast and he's explosive, it doesn't bother me one bit."

Our analysis: Miller was a sneakily good fantasy option in 2014, finishing ninth in scoring among RBs despite never having more than 19 carries in a game (and nine games with 14 or fewer carries). Miller is in a contract year and knows that rookie Jay Ajayi will be right at his heels for touches, so he'll likely be motivated to put up a career-year to net a big paycheck. Miller bulked up in the offseason, and could easily see more work in Lazor's up-tempo offense. This news further secures Miller's status as an RB2 for 2015.

Tre Mason to see "lion's share" of carries early


» Todd Gurley defied expectations and avoided beginning training camp on the PUP list, but that doesn't mean he's in line for a heavy workload right away. Look for Tre Mason to still take the bulk of the carries early in the season.

Our analysis: The news on Gurley is certainly encouraging, but be aware that the Rams aren't going to rush the player they believe can be the future of their running game. However with Gurley and Mason having similar draft values it will be hard for most fantasy managers to handcuff them. If you draft Mason, just be aware that his production could begin to decline as ths season progresses and Gurley gets more opportunities. The rookie is likely to take over this backfield sooner rather than later.


» READ: Fantasy injury tracker, training camp edition



Who will emerge as the Ravens No. 2 WR?

 


» After Kamar Aiken worked as the starter in OTAs, rookie Breshad Perriman opened up training camp with the first team.

Our analysis: Apparently, Perriman's first training camp practice featured more of what we saw from the talented wideout in college: a frustrating drop followed in short order by a fantastic catch. Perriman has the best opportunity of all of the rookie wide receivers, as the Ravens lost a staggering 171 targets with Owen Daniels and Torrey Smith departing in free agency. Some of those targets will likely slide to Justin Forsett and whomever emerges at tight end, but the fact remains there is a hefty workload available for Perriman -- if he can earn it. Perriman is currently being drafted in Round 11 on NFL.com, which could be considered a steal if he can clean up his drops and deliver on his first-round NFL draft potential. He apparently hurt his knee on Thursday, but it's very minor. He's a WR4 with tons of upside in fantasy this fall.

Josh Hill won't play "Jimmy Graham role" for Saints

 


» ESPN's Mike Triplett writes that while Josh Hill will have a larger role with the Saints than he did in 2014, it won't be the "Jimmy Graham role."

Our analysis: No matter how much Saints head coach Sean Payton pumps up Josh Hill, everybody knows he'll never be Jimmy Graham. That being said, Triplett's reservations about Hill's role and workload (especially with Benjamin Watson still hanging around) are warranted. Fantasy owners would be wise to keep Hill on their sleeper radar, but not invest too highly in him before seeing some returns in the preseason that Hill will be targeted early and often in the Saints' new offense. He's a TE2 until further notice.

James Jones signs one-year deal with the Giants

 


» Per NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport, free agent wide receiver James Jones is signing a one-year deal to join the New York Giants.

Our analysis: Jones finished among the top 50 fantasy wide receivers last year in Oakland, with 666 receiving yards (an omen?) and six touchdowns on 73 catches (112 targets). He'll likely just provide depth to a Giants receiving corps that features Victor Cruz coming back from a ghastly patellar tendon tear, and the frustratingly inconsistent Rueben Randle. Jones won't have any appeal in redraft leagues yet, unless he somehow usurps the WR3 gig from Randle. But even then he'd only merit a late-round flier.

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Josh McCown not guaranteed starting job in Cleveland

 


» Mike Pettine, Browns head coach: "I wouldn't say I'm guaranteeing that Josh is going to be the starter against the Jets [in Week 1]. I would say there is [separation]. Josh's skill set is very different than Johnny's [Manziel]. Having been with Flip [offensive coordinator John DeFilippo] before, he's that much further ahead."

Our analysis: No one should be targeting a Browns quarterback anyway, and this is the least news-worthy nugget in this column. However, if Manziel somehow closes this "separation" between him and McCown in the preseason, he'd have deep sleeper appeal as a QB2 based on his rushing ability. However, that distance might be growing after Manziel reportedly had a rough start in camp.

The curious case of the Cleveland backfield.

 


» In OTAs, Terrance West appeared to be losing reps to Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson. Now, West took the first starting reps as the Browns open up training camp.

Our analysis: Sigh. As Matt Franciscovich profiled in his excellent RB committee breakdown, this backfield will be causing fantasy headaches for weeks to come. Our early hopes that clarity was coming as West tumbled down the depth chart have been dashed by Browns head coach Mike Pettine telling reporters on Thursday that the team will use a "healthy rotation" in camp. There will be fantasy points to be had in the Cleveland backfield, especially if the group thins out from three down to two ( ... or even one! Hey, we can dream, can't we?). For now, fantasy enthusiasts will have to keep a close eye on this backfield in camp and the preseason before pulling the trigger on any of these rushers in a draft. We'll do our best to discern what to do as well. Stay tuned.

Teddy Bridgewater a "top flight quarterback"?

 


» Norv Turner, Vikings offensive coordinator: "Based on where we got last year and where we think we're going, I think we have a top flight quarterback."

Our analysis: Turner rose to Bridgewater's defense after the quarterback was ranked 23rd among all NFL starters in an ESPN.com poll (four spots behind Derek Carr). There's no shortage of love for Teddy over here at NFL Fantasy, as we have him ranked as our 16th-best fantasy QB in 2015. Based on the stats and tape Bridgewater put together in 2015, there's certainly a case for Turner's praise. Factor in that he'll be entering 2015 with Adrian Peterson, Mike Wallace and a healthy Kyle Rudolph at his disposal, and it's easy to see why we like him as a QB2 in fantasy this fall.

Deep sleeper alert: Chiefs WR Albert Wilson

 


» Chiefs second-year wideout Albert Wilson opened camp as the starter opposite Jeremy Maclin.

Our analysis: We've had our eye on Wilson since late last season, when he posted 209 yards, 12 catches and a 60 percent catch rate from Weeks 14 to 16. Matt Harmon wrote extensively about how Wilson can be a deep sleeper for your fantasy team in the right circumstance. Yes, we know Chiefs wide receivers scored zero touchdowns in 2014, but if Wilson can take the next step alongside the talented Maclin, that stat could change in a hurry. Keep an eye on him in the preseason and have him circled as a potential late-round gem.

-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

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