NFL Training Camp is a busy time of year. This is when the coaches implement their system, playbooks are drawn up and every position on every team is up for grabs. Injuries are as common as practice cones and tackling dummies. If you blink, you could just miss the preamble to a breakout season. Fortunately, I’ll be keeping up with all of it in order to ensure Fantasy Alarm Nation stays in the know all summer long.
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BIG TREE, FALL HARD
Lions third year TE Eric Ebron was carted off of the field this morning after suffering a significant injury to his lower left leg. All reports are that Ebron’s injury is to his lower leg and most likely to his Achilles tendon. The injury occurred in a practice game in which Ebron was run blocking inside the 20-yard line late in the ballgame.
Ebron has been a popular sleeper TE selection by many fantasy football analysts this season. The Lions have a high volume in terms of passing attempts and also like to throw the ball frequently inside the red zone where Ebron was able to haul in all four of his TD receptions last season. His current ADP is 123.23 according to the National Fantasy Football Championship (NFFC).
Brandon Pettigrew would be the biggest beneficiary of any extended loss of Eric Ebron but realistically this is a spot that has very little fantasy appeal to me. The team does have a bunch of undrafted free agent TE’s that they brought into camp this summer including Adam Fuehne (Southern Illinois), Ben McCord (Central Michigan) and Cole Wick (Incarnate Word). Fuehne is the most interesting of the three though he is more of an all around player than a move TE type. The Lions also have Matthew Mulligan a journeyman veteran and Orso Charles who starred at the University of Georgia back in the start of the decade.
I wasn’t very high on Ebron before this injury because despite a lot of pass attempts, the Lions have brought in both Marvin Jones and Anquan Boldin to join Golden Tate to compete for these targets. The ironic thing here is that Ebron was injured on a running play, something he was rarely on the field for each of the past two seasons. I will not be interested in Pettigrew or most likely anyone else who the Lions bring in as a pass catching option at tight end.
SPEAKING OF TIGHT ENDS
The Steelers have been without prized free agent and heir apparent to Heath Miller, Ladarius Green for the entire camp so far. Green of course had a metal plate surgically inserted into his foot this offseason to repair an ankle injury but his recovery has been less than ideal.
With Green on the sidelines it has been former USC standout Xavier Grimble who has impressed teammates and coaches with his freakish athleticism and desire to get better at the game. Grimble has twice caught passes in traffic to extend drives and yesterday did so by running over two Steelers LB’s in order to get past the marker. At 6’5” and 250 lbs he is an albatross out there in the open field.
Grimble is one of those players who are better athletes than football players which has caused him to bounce around from team to team ever since being undrafted back in 2014. He has spent time with the Giants, 49ers and Patriots before the Steelers signed him to a futures contract this winter. He lacks experience as a football player and also doesn’t show good technique in the blocking game. But he’s a project and one that this coaching staff seems very dedicated to helping get better. He’s a name to know because if he sticks on the Steelers 53 man roster it will be a clear indication that they are confident enough in him to use him in the passing game. Considering LaDarius Green has always been a health risk, there could be some fantasy upside here for Grimble in 2016.
THE BOOK ON MITCHELL
You may remember Malcolm Mitchell’s name from the pre-draft attention he got for joining a book club comprised of 60-70-year-old women and for writing his own children’s book called “The Magician’s Hat.” Well, he was drafted in the fourth round by the New England Patriots and has been a standout thus far in training camp. In Friday night’s scrimmage, Mitchell caught four passes from Tom Brady and had another called back due to penalty. He and Brady have developed a quick chemistry as the team tries to find replacements for Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Nate Washington who have all missed time due to injuries this summer.
Mitchell is still undersized at 5’11” and ideally would fit into the role of the slot receiver that Tom Brady loves to target. But that is Edelman’s job with Amendola filling in as well. So, it is going to be interesting to see whether Mitchell can get open and make plays while on the outside the same as he has in the slot. His presence and rapid development does make both Amendola and Nate Washington executable and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the team cut one or both of the veteran WR’s befor the season begins.
FUN FOR ME
If you’ve read any of my NFL Draft articles or listened to my SiriusXM radio show you would have likely heard me talking up Redskins seventh round pick Keith Marshall, a running back out of Georgia. This kid was decimated by injuries while at school or he very likely would have been every bit as touted as Todd Gurley, who actually was Marshall’s replacement at Georgia.
While my prediction that Marshall would challenge incumbent RB Matt Jones for the starting job this summer has not come true, he has flashed plenty of potential nonetheless. This morning Marshall ran completely over CB Quinton Dunbar during a scrimmage game drawing hollers from players, coaches and fans alike. Keith Marshall is blazing fast and generates great power when he gets to top speed. He’s the handcuff to Jones at this point and I strongly believe that he’ll make a fantasy impact at some point this season.
Nick Foles, QB – Signed by the Kansas City Chiefs
Lance Moore, WR – Signed by the Atlanta Falcons
Darrel Young, FB – Signed by the Chicago Bears
Stephen Houston, RB – Signed by the Baltimore Ravens