NFL Hot Takes: August 9th
Dan Malin breaks down all of whats hot in the news and gives us his sizzling takes on each and every situation around the NFL
Hello FANation, and welcome to the first week of preseason football! So with preseason there are a wide array of Hot Takes from beat writers that you may scoff at, roll your eyes, or just flat out laugh at. This version of the Hot Takes will dive in to what we should and shouldn’t take seriously with our fantasy football drafts fast approaching!
Holdouts: Ezekiel Elliott vs. Melvin Gordon
So we’ll start with Zeke because between the two it seems like he’s the one that’s likely to report first. On Monday, Yahoo reported that Jerry Jones was open to re-signing Dak Prescott , Amari Cooper , and Ezekiel Elliott . He gave a very open-ended response regarding extensions for all three, but he did acknowledge “It’ll happen… There is literally no concern on my part at all about a time frame… The results are too good for them and too good for the Cowboys…” So it sounds like Zeke and Co. will get extensions according to Jerry. In addition to that, Elliott still has two years remaining on his contract and if he doesn’t report by a certain date (or at all), his contract just rolls over until next year and he still has two years remaining on his rookie contract. He hasn’t even reached his fifth-year option that the Cowboys have already exercised, and unlike Le’Veon Bell, he hasn’t been franchise tagged. So Elliott has little leverage and should report at some point. His only other option is to truly hold out and blindly hope the Cowboys extend him even though they know his contract rolls over if he sits out an entire year. You should feel much better about drafting Elliott than Gordon.
Gordon, unlike Elliott, has four years of experience under his belt so he’s currently sitting out on his fifth-year option. But similar to Elliott if he sits out this year then his contract just rolls over to next year. While Elliott is much more likely to report than Gordon, Gordon has a little more leverage in that he isn’t handcuffed to a longer contract. Neither player is currently being franchise tagged or has been previously so this is entirely different than Lev Bell. Bell wasn’t in a situation where if he didn’t show up, then his contract would roll over. Bell was heading into the second consecutive year under the franchise tag before finally holding out for the entire season. He never signed the franchise tag and became a free agent. It was a big gamble and he missed out on a $21 million salary in 2018, but hey he got $27 million in guaranteed money from the Jets. So he got his money despite the absurd taxes in New York and New Jersey. Elliott and Gordon are more likely to report if they don’t want to end up in the same situation next year.
Kansas City Chiefs Backfield: Reid Impatient with Williams?
So Damien Williams missed the first ten practices of training camp with a hamstring injury he suffered early on. The Chiefs and Andy Reid have commented that Williams would likely slide right back in to the starting role once ready, but Reid has seemed a bit annoyed by the fact that Williams needed more than a week to return from a hamstring injury, but it provided opportunities for Carlos Hyde and Darwin Thompson. Alas, Williams has returned to practice. All the talk regarding how Reid was frustrated can merely be looked at as “coach speak” to maybe put a little fear in Williams. But don’t sleep on Hyde or Thompson. Sure, it might be a bit crowded in that backfield, but Hyde recorded back-to-back seasons of 1,100+ all-purpose yards with 17 total touchdowns in 2016 and 2017. He bounced around between the Browns and Jaguars last year, but he’s still able to make some noise. Hard to believe that it’ll only be his sixth year in the NFL and he’s already 29 years old. Don’t discount Darwin Thompson. If he can find his way to get some reps and touches then he’s worth keeping an eye on in deeper drafts.
Update: So the paragraph above was written on Thursday afternoon, but on Friday afternoon, an article from CBS Sports reported that Andy Reid admitted that the Chiefs will go with a running-back-by-committee. This is bad news for Williams, but this does upgrade Hyde and Thompson in the short-term. If Williams can bring a little thunder and lightning to training camp, he might be able to reclaim his role as the primary back in the Chiefs offense. For now, the news of a RBBC is not a great outlook for Williams.
Who Will Tom Brady Throw The Ball To?
The short answer is Julian Edelman , James White , and maybe Phillip Dorsett . But Rob Gronkowski is leaving behind a bunch of targets. Josh Gordon is still suspended. Chris Hogan isn’t around anymore either. Ben Watson is suspended for the first four games. New England will put some extra emphasis on running the ball, but Tom Brady is going to have to work his magic and get the ball to some young receivers. N’Keal Harry is an obvious candidate. He was New England’s first-round draft pick out of Arizona State and he had a bit of a slow start to camp, but he really came on strong the past few days and made a couple nice grabs in New England’s first preseason game Thursday night against the Lions. Harry finished with two catches for 36 yards before leaving with an injury he initially had on Tuesday, but it doesn’t sound as if it’s going to be serious. Maurice Harris made a nice touchdown grab from Brian Hoyer on a play in which he was held by the defense. And don’t sleep on Jakobi Meyers who caught a couple touchdown passes in Thursday’s game. We also shouldn’t overlook the possibility of Josh Gordon returning at some point this season. He officially filed for reinstatement earlier in the week and if it’s approved he’ll still be subject to a suspension. For the time being, there are reasons for optimism with New England’s young pass catchers.
Tom Brady Signs Contract Extension… Abruptly Puts House On The Market
This dichotomy of news perked up the ears of Patriots fans and Patriots haters. So everybody gets to chime in, huzzah! Tom Brady signed a two-year contract extension that’ll somehow pay him more money than last year while also opening up cap space for New England. Makes sense, right? That’s the NFL salary cap for you. But the deal actually only keeps Brady in New England for this season. After this year, the two years on his contract somehow become void and the Patriots aren’t on the hook for remaining money, and Brady can retire or test free agency (imagine that). It’s hard to envision a scenario where Brady would play anywhere, but New England. But maybe the Jaguars will pony up some money for the GOAT next year. Brady also put his house on the market. Nay, Brady put his CASTLE on the market, which was featured on Zillow before being removed. Brady’s been restructuring his contract almost every year at this time. It wouldn’t surprise me if he works out another deal with New England in the offseason for another short-term deal. This doesn’t mean he’s not selling his house, it just means he’s not selling to plebeians like you and me.
Walkin’ on Sunshine: Antonio Brown ’s Feet
So many possibilities for this headline; Might As Well Be Walkin’ on The Sun, I Would Walk 500 Miles…, Somebody’s Got Cold Feet, etc. But we’ll keep it simple because as funny as the topic is, it’s less funny when you actually look at AB’s feet. It’s disgusting. If you enjoy vomiting go take a look at his feet. No amount of pedicures could ever cure those bad boys. He’s still a physical specimen from head-to-ankles. And while Hard Knocks played up the story regarding his feet he seemed to be running quite well and there is still time for him to get better and heal up. Personally his late-round two/early-round three ADP is a bit too high. I was hoping to let other folks take him that early, but his new foot issue might just drop his ADP to where I’d be okay drafting him. And that sucks. He’s a great player and definitely adds some intrigue to the Raiders offense, but he’ll drastically fail to meet the projections a lot of fantasy sites are bestowing on him. After all, Derek Carr is his quarterback now.
Update: Again, that last paragraph was written on Thursday night and there were some big developments Friday afternoon. So this Antonio Brown situation in Oakland is getting ugly. All seemed well in Tuesday’s episode of Hard Knocks, but Chase Williams of WPXI in Pittsburgh tweeted earlier today that Antonio Brown has basically ghosted the Raiders and the organization has no information or update on his feet and they don’t know where Brown is. In addition to that Antonio Brown has filed a grievance against the NFL regarding his helmet. He doesn’t like the new model that he’s being forced to wear and wants to wear his old one. It sounds like this could be a big deal because Adam Schefter tweeted that unless Brown can wear his old helmet, he says he won’t play football again. So next week’s Hard Knocks will be quite interesting…
First Look at the Cardinals Offense
There has been a lot of talk regarding the Cardinals offense heading into 2019 and it may be the most polarizing offense in terms of how people are formulating their opinions heading into the season. Some people are excited about the prospect of the Cardinals chasing points late in game and that presents upside for Arizona. Others are worried about the Cardinals offensive line holding up, and how in the world is Larry Fitzgerald still playing? He’ll be 36 at the end of the month! Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury will find some success and the former will contribute to a fantasy team. However, there are some mild concerns about David Johnson . Johnson’s being drafted in the first-round of most fantasy football drafts and he says this is an offense he’s familiar with and can excel in. Some people might still be disappointed in his 2018 numbers even after he posted nearly 1,400 all-purpose yards and ten touchdowns. He still has to run behind one of the worst offensive lines in football, but if Murray can check down to his running back then there’s plenty of upside for Johnson. However, Murray has the ability to scramble and make plays on his legs so the check downs to DJ may not be as popular.
There are some skeptics that question the usage of running backs in Kingsbury’s offense, but don’t forget that he runs an up tempo offense. At Texas Tech his offenses averaged over 80 plays per game and Johnson told reporters in May the Cardinals wanted to run 90-to-95 plays and while that number is absurdly high, any improvement on their 56.4 plays per game last season (second-worst in the league) would be welcomed with open arms by the fantasy community. And to be fair, Murray looked great in his lone drive on Thursday night. He showcased his speed and scrambling abilities as well as his accurate arm. David Johnson only touched the ball three times, but he did have a nice 14-yard catch on his lone target.
Is Kalen Ballage For Real?
It’s hard not to be giddy with excitement with the workload Kalen Ballage might get. But is this really an overreaction when it’s been a discussed storyline the past week? The Dolphins have plans to get Ballage more touches and it showed on Thursday night, but that was mainly because they didn’t want to use Drake too much in the first game of the preseason. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Kenyan Drake is still going earliest between the two around the round five-and-six turn while Ballage is going roughly four rounds later. Both are worth drafting and possibly handcuffing, but that’ll be more difficult if Ballage’s stock keeps rising. For now, you should buy into Ballage over Drake.
Who Will Be the Second Receiver in Green Bay?
This has been a contested debate in fantasy circles for weeks as everyone is trying to gain an understanding of who will be the “number two” receiving option in Green Bay. This could change from week-to-week and the Packers could still mix them both in effectively. They’re both being drafted within a round of each other with Allison going in early round eight, and MVS going in the early portions of round nine. For now, roll with Allison but this is definitely worth keeping an eye on because you could strike gold if one of them takes the reigns and stays healthy.
The Buffalo Bills’ LeSean McCoy Dilemma
McCoy has been told he’s “the guy” by the Bills coaching staff despite his name appearing in trade rumors. Buffalo also added Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon in the offseason while drafting Devin Singletary in the third round. Yeldon may not even make the team and McCoy may not be on the roster either. Could the Bills cut McCoy, at 31 years old, and save $6.4 million in cap space? It’s still on the table and it makes sense. Buffalo likely won’t keep all four players, but the running game should be better no matter who is leading the touches. The Bills put a solid effort into re-tooling the offensive line and they brought in some interesting names like Mitch Morse (currently dealing with a concussion), Quinton Spain , and they drafted Cody Ford in the second round who should be a full-time starter this year. So the protection for Allen and run blocking overall should be better. And here’s the thing, the ADP’s for McCoy and Singletary aren’t terrible. McCoy is going in early round nine of 12-team drafts and Singletary is going three rounds later. Why not handcuff them? McCoy barely eclipsed 750 all-purpose yards last year, but he still believes he can rush for 1,000+ and Singletary is undersized, but he’s turning heads at training camp and he’s very elusive. The best situation would see McCoy traded and the Bills turn Singletary loose.
Can David Montgomery Really Assume Jordan Howard ’s Workload?
David Montgomery is generating a ton of buzz and while his numbers from the combine won’t blow you away, he’s incredibly tough to bring down. Jordan Howard is out of the picture so the Bears backfield will revolve around Cohen and Montgomery and currently the rookie is being drafted as the 21st running back off the board, while Cohen is going 27th. Cohen had 170 touches last year with 71 of those being receptions. He might see a slight increase in the carries, but keep in mind he had only 99 carries last year and as fast as he is, he’s still undersized and better suited for the passing game. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Montgomery led the team in carries and cut into the workload left behind by Jordan Howard . Howard had at least 250 carries in three straight years with the Bears. Does Montgomery get 250 carries? Doubtful, but it actually wouldn’t be a surprise with Matt Nagy. In PPR, Cohen is the better play with the later ADP, but it’s awfully hard to ignore what Montgomery could do in standard leagues behind the Bears top ten offensive line.
San Francisco 49ers Backfield
So there are three names in contention here and in order of their ADP they are: Tevin Coleman (28th running back off the board), Jerick McKinnon (46th), and Matt Breida (55th). McKinnon is coming off a torn ACL that he suffered just before the beginning of last season and the general argument is that the 49ers signed him to a sizeable deal so they have to play him. And that’s true, but he was guaranteed $18 million and he received $11.7 million of that as a signing bonus and his base salary this year is only $3.7 million. He’s in no danger of getting cut because the 49ers would carry too much dead cap space if they do. So he’ll make the roster and get touches, but the whole argument about his contract is a bit overplayed. Isn’t it possible they might use him a healthy amount because he’s a great fit for Kyle Shanahan’s offense? Tevin Coleman , on the other hand, got a much smaller contract than McKinnon even after scoring 28 touchdowns over the last three seasons. The 49ers could essentially overuse Coleman and run him into the ground and owe him very little. Coleman’s a guy who has never averaged more than 12-13 touches per game so he’s not a bell cow by any means, but they could up his touches to maybe 15 per game which would make him a solid RB2, and that would really cut into McKinnon and Breida’s workload. This will be one of the more frustrating backfields, but it does seem to be a true running-back-by-committee, as much as that sucks. Coleman’s ADP is roughly in the early sixth round, which is a gamble if you’re looking to use him as your RB2 or flex. The better depth stashes might be McKinnon and Breida 10th and 13th rounds respectively.