AFC Training Camp: First Week Fallout
NFL training camp is officially underway for all teams from both the AFC and NFC. Injuries and touch distributions in early practices have already impacted the fantasy relevance of several players. This weekly two-part recap series will cover all of the pertinent goings-on for the 32 teams in the NFL. The AFC recaps will be out each Tuesday. Look for the NFC fallout article tomorrow and each Wednesday throughout the preseason.
We will sort it by division finishes from last season, breaking down one noteworthy topic and providing data from FFStatistics tools to show you what it may mean for each team. Let us get started.
New England Patriots
For the 10th year in a row and an amazing 16th time in 18 years, the New England Patriots took home the AFC East title. Probably the biggest news coming out of Foxborough in the past week was the tidbit that Matt LaCosse is the favorite to replace the recently retired Rob Gronkowski. Look for the tight end position to look like it did pre-Gronk with this coaching history chart of the TE1 under Bill Belichick.
As with most camp news, it is hard to put stock into news that player x is seeing reps over player y. However, the Kallen Ballage news in Miami has to be concerning for Drake owners. This tweet from Dolphins beat writer Omar Kelly is certainly eye-opening:
Kenyan Drake is Miami’s third down back UNLESS he proves he deserves to do, and be more. Maybe they have him do kickoffs too. Coaches seem pretty pleased with Kalen Ballage https://t.co/7kjvSLRQGv
— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) July 29, 2019
To be honest, neither Kenyan Drake or Kalen Ballage have made the most of their opportunities in their short careers, so it is not surprising that it is an open competition.
Devin Singletary dominating first-team reps has been the story early on in Buffalo. LeSean McCoy is a candidate to be cut and Frank Gore is 36 years old. To no one’s surprise, the fantasy rank for the duo of over 30 running backs has declined steadily the past few seasons. An opportunity in a run-heavy offense could lead to Singletary being a diamond in the rough this year at an ADP of 142.2 and RB51 (ADP data courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator).
New York Jets
There has been a lot of upheaval in the Big Apple since the end of the 2018 season. The additions of Adam Gase as head coach and Le’Veon Bell as the prized free-agent signing raise a lot of questions for 2019. The New York Jets have had a relatively quiet training camp. Jamison Crowder left practice with a foot injury on Monday and is scheduled for an MRI. Chris Herndon is going to miss time with an early-season suspension. That brings us to Robby Anderson.
Sam Darnold had a good, not great passer rating when targeting Anderson 81 times last season. If Crowder’s injury is significant, look for Robby Anderson and Quincy Enumwa to dominate the targets that are not dumped offs to Bell.
The hype out of Ravens camp is that Mark Andrews is looking more comfortable. This is outstanding news considering the rookie put up one of the better lines for a first-year tight end. The Oklahoma grad put up a line of 34-552-3 on just 50 targets last year. The point per opportunity ratio was off the charts, checking in better than that of George Kittle and Zach Ertz.
Donte Moncrief left practice on Monday with an injured finger. The severity is not yet known. Could this open up an early opportunity for James Washington or Diontae Johnson to shine? The WR2 has been able to produce over the league average consistently with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. If one of the two speedsters can step up in Moncrief’s absence, there could be a ton of late-round value here.
Rashard Higgins is having a nice start to camp and is playing in three-wide sets ahead of Antonio Callaway. There also seems to be a chemistry between Baker Mayfield and the young receiver developing. This is evidenced by the passer rating for Mayfield last year while throwing to the former Colorado State standout. In a potentially high potent offense, there is some late-round appeal here.
Probably the biggest news out of AFC training camp has been the injury to A.J. Green. The star wide receiver went down with torn ligaments in his ankle and is currently seeking a second opinion. It has been beaten to death that Tyler Boyd was actually better with Green on the field so we can skip that narrative and focus on Andy Dalton. Dalton is a top-10 fantasy quarterback with Green on the field throughout his carer. The injury to Green certainly hurts Dalton’s appeal in SuperFlex leagues.
The running back battle between Lamar Miller and D’onta Foreman is one to watch this offseason. Foreman reportedly has regained his pre-Achilles injury form, but no matter how much people hate it, it will be hard to unseat the consistent Miller. Miller has been an RB1 or RB2 each of the last five seasons. While he may not be superstar, his consistency has been on point since 2014, hanging in with the likes of Devonta Freeman and James White.
Parris Campbell was said to have stolen the show a couple of times during Sunday’s practice before leaving with a hamstring injury. Campbell is an interesting prospect to watch in dynasty formats. His reception per game market share is something to take note of. If the hamstring is not serious and he can push Devin Funchess for snaps, a productive rookie season is not out of the question.
The AFC training camp injury ward moves to Nashville, with the news coming out that Derrick Henry is in a walking boot after being injured in practice on Friday. Henry is supposed to be alright but may miss a few weeks, giving rookie Alex Barnes a chance to stake a claim to a timeshare. Henry is a hot topic for debate on Twitter and rightfully so. The Alabama grad was only above the league average in fantasy points three times in sixteen games last season. The upside is outstanding, but if consistency is what you seek, stay away.
There is talk out of Jaguars camp that Josh Oliver could be a factor this season. He has taken his blocking seriously and Jacksonville is obviously in need of a playmaker at the position. Nick Foles arrival in Jacksonville also bolds well for the rookie tight end. Foles has a tendency to target his tight ends heavily. This was especially true in 2018.
Kansas City Chiefs
Damien Williams left practice Sunday with a hamstring injury and did not practice on Monday. There have not been any signs that it is serious, but soft tissue injuries are never good for skill position players as they have a tendency to linger. Will Carlos Hyde seize the opportunity and take a chunk of Williams work? Not likely. Hyde has been mediocre at best the past two seasons. You can see by his opportunity ratio, he was nearly last in the league.
Los Angeles Chargers
The biggest non-injury news out of AFC training camp is the holdout of Melvin Gordon. Another hot topic on Twitter is the issue of whether or not Austin Ekeler is any good. Or will it be Justin Jackson taking the role of Gordon if he misses extended time? The splits tell us that Ekeler is good enough to be an RB2 even when Gordon is on the field.
The battle everyone is keeping an eye on here is in the backfield of the Denver Broncos. Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman appear to be headed towards a timeshare. Lindsay has missed time early on with various ailments, leaving the door cracked for Freeman to burst through. It may be difficult to supplant the consistent Lindsey, who finished as an RB2 or better in about 75% of his games played last year.
The Oakland Raiders have had a quiet camp to date. The biggest news of the offseason was, of course, the addition of Antonio Brown. Derek Carr may actually return to fantasy relevance with the arrival of Brown. Going back to the splits tool from FFS, we see that Carr is actually a mid-level QB1 when he has a healthy WR1 such as Amari Cooper to target. Carr may be a sneaky option as a second quarterback in SuperFlex leagues and certainly worth monitoring on the waiver wire in redraft leagues.
These are just a few of the things to watch early on in training camp. Each week there will be an update from both conferences that will bring you up to speed on the latest issues relating to fantasy. Be sure to keep a lookout for the AFC each Tuesday and the NFC every Wednesday. As we gear up for peak draft season, these are the issues we need to be playing the closest attention to.