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14 fantasy nuggets from training camp, preseason

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With NFL training camps and the preseason 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 and recent preseason action. 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.

Rookie Updates


Ameer Abdullah, fantasy god


» Todd Bowles, Jets HC: "He's about as quick as Barry Sanders."
» Bowles said that after watching Abdullah embarrass his defense on Thursday. This happened mere days after this glowing report on Abdullah came out of Detroit.

Our analysis: We'd been high on Abdullah all offseason, but the hype train was approaching dangerous speeds. Now? This thing is about to go supersonic. Abdullah proved he belongs on an NFL field, and deserves a ton of touches in Thursday's preseason game against the Jets. The Lions might have no choice but to continue to feed Abdullah, even after Joique Bell returns. Those wanting to draft Abdullah will need to pay a steep price, however, as his ADP is almost certain to rise into  Round 4-5 territory.

Todd Gurley could miss start of regular season


» NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport: The team expects Todd Gurley to miss the "first couple games" of the regular season.

Our analysis: This news doesn't come as a huge surprise, but it is a bit of a wet blanket after Gurley avoided the PUP in training camp. Still, running backs don't need 16 games to be fantasy studs (see Anderson, C.J., Hill, Jeremy, etc), and this could end up being the best thing for Gurley and his owners. Even though he could wind up in a committee backfield, Gurley could still post top-20 numbers given his talent and how highly the team thinks of him. Tre Mason was the 25th highest-scoring RB a season ago in only 12 games of work. Gurley should still be targeted in the sixth-to-seventh round range until we get more specifics about his timetable.

Melvin Gordon struggles in preseason debut


» Melvin Gordon: "I definitely have a lot of work to do. It definitely wasn't what I expected at all."

Our analysis: Word out of camp was that Gordon had been struggling in pass protection thus far, so a hesitant, stutter-step-filled NFL debut isn't what the Chargers (or fantasy owners) wanted to see. Matt Harmon detailed why Gordon's value will be capped by the return of Danny Woodhead to dominate the passing-down work (he vultured a score from Gordon on Thursday, too). He has plenty of time to make a splash the rest of the exhibition season, but his current Round 5-6 ADP might be a bit rich if he's going to be a touchdown-dependent early-down back in a committee.

Kevin White might not play in the preseason


» Bears WR coach Mike Groh hopes Kevin White will play in the preseason, but isn't sure he'll be to.

Our analysis: Since injuring his shin, White has only done light running at practice and remains on the PUP list. His stock was too high to begin with given the presence of potential target-vortex Eddie Royal, but it should be taking a big hit right now. White is an uber-talented player, but he's raw and missing these vital training camp reps will not help his case in fantasy. He's nowhere near as polished of a route-runner as Odell Beckham Jr. was coming out of college, so don't even think about comparing the two and their rookie injury situations. White should be sliding WAY down draft boards until we see some tangible progress against NFL competition, while Royal merits late-round consideration.

John Brown mentoring J.J. Nelson


» Bruce Arians: "Whenever you see Smoke (John Brown), you see Fire (J.J. Nelson) ... He's always in Smoke's hip pocket, following him around, and that's a good thing."

Our analysis: Brown was a surprise fantasy contributor in his rookie season, posting a stat line of 48/696/5 despite only playing six games with Carson Palmer and hitting the rookie wall later in the season. This is an intereting fantasy pairing, because Nelson resembles Brown coming out of college -- an unheralded, raw, but talented speedster. Arians went on to say that he hopes Brown can help Nelson get up to speed even faster than he did his rookie year. With Michael Floyd sidelined recovering from three dislocated fingers, Nelson could offer some deep (and I mean DEEP) sleeper appeal. He's also worth taking a look at in dynasty formats if we see a splash in preseason.

Old faces, new places


Jeremy Maclin, Alex Smith building early rapport?


» NFL Media's Jeffri Chadiha: "Maclin and Smith displayed an obvious feel for each other during Friday's (8/7) morning practice, both on deep routes and intermediate pass plays."

Our analysis: As you all know, Alex Smith struggled to push the ball deep last season, and no Kansas City wide receiver caught a touchdown pass. The later isn't likely to happen again, but Smith's deep ball game could definitely improved with a true field-stretcher like Maclin. We want to see it on the field before we actually believe it, making this something to watch in the preseason. Maclin retaining some of the deep-ball appeal he had in Philadelphia would go a long way to helping fantasy owners be less squeamish about the fact that he's in Kansas City.

Torrey Smith, Colin Kaepernick still working to connect


» Torrey Smith: "It's not that I feel like I'm a speed demon or the fastest man in the world or anything. But sometimes I feel, 'Hey, I can run, bro. You can throw it out there and I'm going to go get it for you.'"

Our analysis: It's not uncommon for a wide receiver and quarterback to need time getting used to the nuances of each other's game. However, it is a bit disconcerting when a noted deep-threat wide receiver like Smith has to basically ask his quarterback to target him down the field. Smith was a fantasy ghost for the first half of 2014, before catching fire by reeling in seven touchdowns over the final eight games (and 60 percent of his yardage). Smith is a talented wideout, but carries serious risk in the San Francisco offense. He's best targeted as a WR3.

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Jimmy Graham fitting right in for Seahawks


» Darrell Bevell, offensive coordinator: "I think the cool part about Jimmy is we can just plug him in. We really don't have to do anything special."

Our analysis: Graham is still the unquestioned No. 2 fantasy tight end behind Rob Gronkowski, but the move to Seattle has trimmed some of his potential. It's encouraging to hear the team featuring him so heavliy in the red zone, as Graham will need touchdowns to make owners feel comfortable with his ADP. Seattle has been one of the most run-heavy teams in the league over the last three years, which will cut into Graham's total targets. Still, double-digit touchdowns might not be out of the question if he stays healthy and Russell Wilson looks his way frequently.

Sam Bradford, Zach Ertz missing preseason time


» Sam Bradford (knee) will sit out the team's first game, while Zach Ertz (core) will miss the entire preseason.

Our analysis: The Bradford news is disheartening, especially when reading Jimmy Kempski's deeper analysis of Bradford in the Philly Voice. From the sound of it, Bradford isn't hurt, but is FAR from 100 percent and it shows in his mobility. Bradford could thrive under Chip Kelly, but he needs to be at full strength to do so and that might be a ways off. Kelly said Bradford will play next week, though, so there's no reason to panic just yet. Ertz's core injury required surgery, and puts a major dent in his fantasy value. He already was having to fend off Brent Celek for snaps and playing time, and missing the entire exhibition period will put him behind the 8-ball when it comes to his timing and rapport with the quarterback. Ertz was a trendy late-round TE pick, but I'd leave him on waivers in redrafts after this injury, and target the likes of Tyler Eifert or Vernon Davis instead.

Redemption Stories


Sky's the limit for Doug Martin


» Doug Martin believes the "sky is the limit" for him this year in the Buccaneers offense. And he made a believer out of NFL Media's Jeff Darlington when he visited Bucs camp last week.

Our analysis: I pegged Martin as a bounce-back candidate earlier this week, and the more I hear from Bucs camp, the more of a believer I am. However, I still want to see it on the field first. Martin's current ADP in the double digit rounds is insane, especially for someone who will be a starting running back on a (hopefully) competent offense. If Martin looks as trim and quick in the preseason as the reports out of camp indicate, he's definitely worth a middle-round investment.

Eric Ebron building a connection with Stafford


» Eric Ebron on his relationship with Matthew Stafford: "Talking, just communicating, just understanding what's going on in his mind. We both understand now the same thing and we both speak the same language. That's how it works for us."

Our analysis: Ebron had a rough rookie season characterized by concentration drops and labored play on the field as he spent too much time in his head. This increased rapport and connection would go along way toward Ebron delivering on his first-round draft pick status. For now, he's only on the TE2 radar until we see more of this connection on the actual field. Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and Ameer Abdullah are going to eat up a ton of targets, which could make it hard for Ebron to be consistent for fantasy owners.

Andre Ellington almost back to full health


» Bruce Arians on Andre Ellington's health: "(He) is real close to being full speed."

Our analysis: This news would be more encouraging, if Chris Johnson wasn't visiting the team for a physical this weekend. Ellington has had no shortage of injury issues in his brief career, and rookie David Johnson is still nursing a hamstring injury. I for one am avoiding this backfield at all costs, especially given Ellington's extremely high ADP (Round 5-6). Draft within this backfield at your own peril.

Other random camp notes


Matt Forte excited for Bears' smash-mouth offense


» Matt Forte on new coaches John Fox and Adam Gase: " They like smash-mouth football ... Anybody who has watched film from last year or anybody who is a smart coach knows that we can't, especially being in Chicago, just throw the ball every down. We have to be balanced."

Our analysis: Forte's complaint sounds like a rich man's problem, as he was still the fourth highest-scoring rusher last season, with over 1,000 rushing yards. He reached those fantasy scoring heights on the back of an NFL-record (for a running back) 102 receptions and over 800 receiving yards, though. If the offense balances out more, allowing Forte to get a rhythm on the ground and find the end zone a few more times, he could remain a top-five fantasy option in 2015. The only concerns are if his volume of opportunities (including in the passing game) decrease significantly with Jacquiz Rodgers and Jeremy Langford in town, or if his body finally wears down after a tremendous career. We're not betting on the latter, but it's worth noting as Forte hit the dreaded 30-year-old mark this winter. He's still one of the few RBs you can trust drafting in the first round, though.

Jordan Reed's stock on the rise


» Shortly after being named the starting tight end for Washignton, Niles Paul suffered a season-ending ankle injury, leaving Jordan Reed to pick up the pieces.

Our analysis: Paul had been gaining steam as a deep sleeper, until a terrible injury stripped him of a potentially breakout season. Now, the oft-injured Reed once again becomes the tight end to watch in this offense. Reed's ADP is extremely low right now given his injury history (and the uncertainty with his QB), so he's a name to watch late in drafts. Of course, before pulling the trigger and investing a pick in Reed, keep an eye on how RGIII progresses in the preseason, as his first performance was uneven at best.

-- Alex Gelhar is a fantasy football writer/editor for NFL.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexGelhar.

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