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21 essential fantasy football tidbits from training camp

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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 round-up 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.

Arian Foster suffered a serious groin injury


» NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday, per a source informed of the situation, that Foster suffered a major groin injury that will likely necessitate surgery.

Our analysis: The Foster news hit the fantasy world hard on Tuesday, removing one of the few trusted elite backs from an already thin pool. As I wrote about more extensively here, fantasy owners would be wise to not rush out and pick up Alfred Blue, Chris Polk, or Jonathan Grimes just yet. Pierre Thomas visited the team, but couldn't come to terms. On Wednesday, Bill O'Brien indicated that the team will likely use a committee approach: "Each (RB) will have a role. We want a guy who can do a bit of everything. I don't think you can ever replace experience," he told reporters after practice. This backfield went from being one of the NFL's best, to one of the most confusing committees in fantasy land in a span of a few days. We'll need to wait for the the preseason to play out to see who rises to the top before making any sort of fantasy investment here. Stay tuned.

Cowboys' starting RB job is Joseph Randle's to lose


» NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported from Cowboys' training camp that from everything he's heard, Joseph Randle will be the starting running back unless he face plants in the preseason.

Our analysis: With each passing week, it seems like Randle is gaining more and more separation from Darren McFadden in this backfield competition. Of course, that could all change once they play in actual game action, but McFadden will (sigh) have to get healthy before he can do that as well (although he's "feeling good" right now). Keep pushing Randle up your draft board until further notice. His Round 8 ADP on NFL.com is likely to rise significantly.

Latavius Murray "can do it all"


» GM Reggie McKenzie, on if Murray could be a 1,000-yard rusher: "No question. He can do it all."
Offensive line coach Mike Tice: "For a big guy, Latavius has extremely good quickness. And when he gets behind his pads, he is hard to tackle."

Our analysis: Murray has been one of the trendiest sleepers this season after the fantasy world witnessed his impressive (but brief) outburst in 2014. It's encouraging to hear the offensive staff and Raiders brass rallying behind their young player. We want to see Murray perform more consistently in the preseason, though, as his limited game action (82 carreer carries) has been a mixed bag of boom (like this 90-yard touchdown scamper) and bust plays. Keep an eye on him in the middle rounds until we see how he looks as the featured back during preseason games.

Broncos want to use a bell-cow back


» Gary Kubiak: "I believe in the (bell cow) ... I think if a guy goes out there and he shows he can play three downs, can protect the quarterback, and can handle it, then he should stay out there."

Our analysis: C.J. Anderson fans rejoice! Kubiak's track record proves that he stands with his bell-cow back if one emerges, and right now that figures to be Anderson. He was not only the most impressive Denver rusher on the field in 2014, but was also capable in pass protection. He graded out as the best at that trait among the Denver backs, per Pro Football Focus. This should help assuage the worries of fantasy enthusiasts targeting Anderson in the late-first or early-second round territory. He's for sure on the fringe of the RB1 discussion in 2015.

Washington to run the ball A LOT


» NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported via NFL Network's "Total Access" on Sunday that Washington is going to commit to the run game early and often in 2015. "... my understanding is the Redskins are going to want to pound it and run the ball a lot more than they ever did, especially since they drafted physical running back Matt Jones ... No, he's not the bell cow yet -- it's still going to be Alfred Morris."

Our analysis: Fantasy owners can breathe a sigh of relief at that last note. Morris has seen his carries dip in each of the last three seasons, but head coach Jay Gruden must believe that a healthy running game will be the best way to improve the erratic play of Robert Griffin III. This news further cements Morris as an RB2 in both standard and PPR formats, although it also hints that his goal-line disappearing act could continue in 2015, thanks to Jones. The rookie makes for an intriguing late-round flier in best ball formats, or a handcuff to Morris in redraft.

Ravens will emphasize running game


» Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman: "Ravens football starts with the running game, and that doesn't mean you're not going to throw the ball. But the emphasis here is we want to be a great running football team and we have the players to do that. So that's where we start."

Our analysis: Justin Forsett, one of 2014's most surprising fantasy stars, will enter 2015 as a relatively safe RB2, despite the fact that he is turning 30 this season. The other name to watch in this backfield is Javorius Allen, whom NFL Media's Albert Breer said has been "turning heads" already in camp. Forsett figures to be the bell cow, but don't be surprised if Allen gets worked into the mix. He could be worth a late-round flier, especially in PPR formats.

Tyler Eifert standing out in Bengals camp


» Per Paul Dehner Jr., Tyler Eifert has had several great practices, catching a ton of passes and looking smooth in the process.

Our analysis: Eifert showed promise in his rookie season, but lost nearly all of his sophomore campaign to an elbow injury suffered in the first quarter of the first game of the 2014 season. He did record three catches for 39 yards on only eight snaps, though. With several stars healthy again, the Bengals offense could be surprisingly good this season, especially from a fantasy perspective. Of course, all of that promise and hope relies on the inconsistent right arm of Andy Dalton. Given Eifert's injury history and quarterback situation, he definitely carries some risk in 2014. Then again, what tight end doesn't? Still, as Matt Franciscovich pointed out earlier in the offseason, Eifert presents tremendous value at his current ADP.

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Sam Bradford takes all first-team reps for Eagles


» Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Sam Bradford took all of the first-team reps for the Eagles on Sunday's practice, and head coach Chip Kelly told reporters "We don't have any restrictions on (Bradford)."

Our analysis: This is great news for the fantasy fortunes of the Eagles, and for Bradford himself. The former No. 1 overall pick could thrive in a Chip Kelly offense that turned Nick Foles into a 27-2 TD-INT passer for a season, and made Mark Sanchez fantasy viable for a few weeks in 2014. Bradford's play will need to be watched during the preseason to see how he gels with his talented young pass catchers. Reports are that he and sophomore receiver Jordan Matthews have been in sync early and often. Still, if you wait on the quarterback position or play in a deeper league, Bradford is a nice QB2 target in the later rounds. He plays the Atlanta Falcons defense indoors in Week 1 in what could be an early-season shootout.

Richard Rodgers a sleeper at the tight end position?


» Jerry Fontenot, tight ends coach: (Richard Rodgers) is capable of being a top-level talent at the tight end position in the league."

Our analysis: While NFL Fantasy LIVE host James Koh has Rodgers pegged as the late-round tight end on his all-Cal team, most fantasy enthusiasts won't have the second-year tight end on their radar, and for good reason. The Packers haven't had a fantasy relevant tight end since Jermichael Finley finished 17th in 2012. Furthermore, with the emergence of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb as one of the league's most dangerous wide receiever combos, there aren't a ton of targets to go around. However, Rodgers found his groove with Aaron Rodgers late in 2014, hauling in 13 of his 20 passes over the final half of the season, tacking on five more for 48 yards and a touchdown during the playoffs. The Green Bay offense will put up oodles of fantasy points, but most will funnel through the established stars. However, when it comes to late-round flier tight ends, Rodgers has some upside.

Woodhead, Johnson impress at Chargers camp


» D.J. Fluker, Chargers offensive lineman: "Having Danny Woodhead back on the field makes a difference." Woodhead has been deployed heavily in various formations and appears to be at full health, while Steve Johnson has done well with the No. 1 offense, according to reports.

Our analysis: Many want to forget about Woodhead, even though he was a frequent top-25 fantasy back in standard leagues over the last few years. Woodhead was the quiet motor that made the San Deigo offense hum, catching 76 passes for 605 yards in 2013. Now fully recovered from a broken ankle that stole his 2014 season, Woodhead figures to see plenty of work and will be on the RB3-4 radar, with an even higher stock in PPR formats. His resurgence and role out of the shotgun and on third down also puts a cap on Melvin Gordon's fantasy potential. He's more in line as an RB2-3 considering he should lose out on plenty of snaps to Woodhead. Meanwhile, Steve Johnson hasn't quite caught on as a household fantasy name yet, but he should. With Antonio Gates sidelined on a four-game suspension, Malcom Floyd aging and Keenan Allen filing an underneath role, Johnson could be the surprise fantasy player from this offense. He can be had as a WR5 in most drafts, but could easily return WR3 value.

Markus Wheaton to breakout among PIT WRs?


» Ben Roethlisberger: "I think Markus Wheaton is our breakout player of the year. I want that. I want him to have that pressure."

Our analysis: Roethlisberger made that comment over the weekend on SiriusXM NFL Radio, and it would seem to be hitting the brakes on the speeding Martavis Bryant hypetrain, which already lost a little steam when Bryant underwent minor elbow surgery this week. We're not putting too much stock into Roethlisberger's comment though. While reports of Wheaton's progress out of camp have been good, this seems more like a quarterback trying to inspire and motivate his player to break out, as opposed to a player truly being on the verge of a breakout season. Both Wheaton and Bryant could definitely explode this season in one of the NFL's most electric offenses, but we're more confident in Bryant taking the next step rather than Wheaton.

Jordan Cameron: I can be a Pro Bowler again


» Jordan Cameron: "In my mind, I know I can play. I know I can be a Pro Bowl player ... Right now I'm getting better at my craft and that's the only thing I'm focusing on."

Our analysis: Working in Cameron's favor in 2015 is consistency under center. As Cameron quipped, "I played with like 15 quarterbacks in four years," and he's not wrong. Ryan Tannehill will not only be (hopefully) the only signal caller he plays with this year, he'll also be the best QB Cameron has played with to date in his career. Bill Lazor's offense and Cameron are a match made in fantasy heaven, but the one detriment to Cameron's ceiling are the reports that he and Dion Sims are splitting a lot of time together. Sims is the superior blocker, and shouldn't cut into Cameron's numbers too much, but his presence needs to be noted. Cameron remains on the fringe of the TE1 discussion, though, and offers great value late in drafts.

Travaris Cadet emerging as Patriots pass-catching back?


» ESPN.com's Mike Reiss reported that former Saint Travaris Cadet has been catching the ball well in camp and is building momentum to potentially fill (or help fill) the role of the departed Shane Vereen.

Our analysis: Put this nugget in your deep sleeper folder, as we're a long way from knowing who will fill Vereen's shoes, but Cadet seems to be the leader in the clubhouse. He caught 38 passes last year for the Saints, splitting time in the change-of-pace role with Pierre Thomas, so we know he's a natural in that respect. Whether or not he can step up and get close to Vereen's average of 9.9 touches per game over the last two years remains to be seen. He's worth a late-round flier in PPR formats for now until we see more in the preseason.

Andre Johnson, Andrew Luck building early rapport


» Zak Keefer, IndyStar reporter: "No receiver has caught more passes from Andrew Luck over the first two days of camp than Andre Johnson ... So much of the Colts' aerial attack centers on the home run. That allows Johnson ample space to get open underneath, and that's all he's done in the first two practices."

Our analysis: Despite the fact that Johnson is 34-years-old, he has been turning heads and looks to be in line for another great fantasy season. Last year, with subpar quarterback play, he still managed 85 catches, 936 yards and three touchdowns. He's also taken a massive jump in the quarterback department in Indy. Johnson seems like a safe bet to net another 80-90 catches as the Colts possession receiver, living in the intermediate range while T.Y. Hilton and company take the top off the defense. Johnson's current ADP is in the sixth round, which feels like an absolute steal for someone whose floor is a WR2 if he stays healthy. Don't sleep on this veteran simply because of his age.

Titans expected to deploy dreaded RBBC


» ESPN AFC South reporter Paul Kuharsky: "I know people want a RB1 out of the Titans, but likely, it's running back by committee (RBBC)."

Our analysis: It's sad to say, but this isn't unexpected news. Bishop Sankey was a second-round pick a year ago, and the team isn't likely to put him out to pasture for David Cobb, a fifth-round rookie. However, we still like Cobb to emerge as the more productive back from this committee, making him the better late-round flier to target. Cobb has had some rookie issues in camp, but seems to be improving as he practices more, according to reports. I'm higher on him than the rest of the fantasy crew, but I just have a hard time believing the team will continue to feed Sankey once Cobb gets on the field and starts producing. Cobb's vision, quick feet and power are all better than Sankey's and I believe that will be proven.

Thomas Rawls pushing for playing time in Seattle?


» NFL Media's Steve Wyche: "Rawls is in no way going to unseat Marshawn Lynch, but he very well could put pressure on Christine Michael and Robert Turbin for backup reps ... [He] has the running style and body type Seahawks coaches love. It's all about whether he shows up in pads and during preseason games."

Our analysis: The role of Marshawn Lynch's handcuff is becoming more and more crucial with each passing year. I'm done doubting BeastMode because of age/workload, but at some point he might get nicked up. Early signs are that undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls might be the name to circle as Lynch's backup. As Wyche notes, we still need to see him produce in the preseason, but the combination of Michael/Turbin have been largely pedestrian filling in for Lynch. It wouldn't surprise me if the team opted for the younger, more exciting option in Rawls. He's also a great dynasty stash, if you play in that type of format.

Doug Martin handed the starting RB job in Tampa Bay


» Lovie Smith: "We talked about being able to establish the run. Doug will be the lead guy doing that, so it's very important that we open up some holes and let him do his thing." (via the Tampa Bay Times)

Our analysis: The Bucs backfield has been one of the most intriguing of the offseason, and I guess the writing has been on the wall for Doug Martin to be given the starting gig. Afterall, new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was the one who fought for Martin's roster spot. Early word out of camp is encouraging for Martin, who has not looked like a difference-making rusher since his impressive rookie campaign. He's reported to camp lighter and quicker, and could be in the midst of a mid-career renaissance, not unlike what Mark Ingram did last season. His current ADP of Round 15 on NFL.com is insane. He's worth a flier in the Round 9-10 range as an RB3-4 with upside.

Terrance West on thin ice with Browns


» Tony Grossi, ESPNCleveland: "West looks chunky in his second season and I keep hearing he is on thin ice because of maturity issues."

Our analysis: The muddled Browns backfield could be getting a little clearer as camp progresses. Grossi's report from Browns camp doesn't exactly bode well for Terrance West's future (or fantasy potential), but it's early and he could definitely get back into shape. However, he's also been sidelined with a calf injury early in camp, further diminishing his fantasy appeal. Again, this could all change once he, Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson start getting game reps, but for now push West down (or off) your draft boards.

Phillip Dorsett has superstar potential


» NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport: "They could not be higher on Phillip Dorsett. I think they think they added a superstar."

Our analysis: The Dorsett hype train has not lost any steam after going from 0 to 60 during OTAs, and in fact it could be picking up speed. NFL Media's Albert Breer visited Colts practice as well this week and said Dorsett looked "smooth as silk." This is great news for the Colts and dynasty players, but those who are in redraft leagues are left with the frustrating proposition of what to do with Dorsett. Given that Andrew Luck has an embarrassment of riches at his skill positions, it's hard to imagine the rookie being a week-to-week contributor out of the gate. More than likely, he'll have a few big games surrounded by games with only one or two catches. He's worth a late-round flier just based on his offense and upside, but he might be better left as a waiver add, or player to target in daily leagues.

Michael Floyd dislocates three fingers


» NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reports Floyd dislocated three fingers on his left hand during practice Wednesday, according to a source close to the situation.

Our analysis: Floyd was coming off a disappointing season where he proved to be an inconsistent contributor to the Cardinals passing game. This injury will only further serve to put Floyd behind the pecking order in the Arizona receiving corps. With John Brown quickly gaining steam, and given Larry Fitzgerald consistent production when Carson Palmer is healthy, Floyd could quickly become a forgotten man in the desert.

DeSean Jackson separates shoulder


» DeSean Jackson has suffered a Grade 2 separated shoulder and will miss a few weeks, per NFL Media's Rand Getlin. ESPN was the first to report.

Our analysis: Jackson's separated shoulder shouldn't be detrimental to his fantasy value, as these types of injuries just take time to heal. Once it does, he should still have his full range of motion to catch passes. The best news of this injury for Jackson's fantasy prospects is that it doesn't affect his most important skill -- his speed.

-- Alex Gelhar is a fantasy football writer/editor for NFL.com. He was lucky enough to see an early screening of the upcoming "Straight Outta Compton," and highly recommends you see it when it hits theaters on August 14. Follow him on Twitter for fantasy advice or movie recommendations at @AlexGelhar.

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