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Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said that wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (knee) looked “great” on Wednesday at mandatory minicamp. Beckham suffered a torn ACL in Week 7 last year and missed the rest of the 2020 season. “It looks really great,” Mayfield said. “After seeing him run and really just talking to him, as well. He feels comfortable. He’s still getting used to some of these cuts and certain motions. You’re talking about seven months since the (knee) surgery, so it’s pretty impressive how quickly he’s come back.” OBJ has become an injury risk in a run-first offense, so fantasy managers should no longer treat him as a top-15 wideout. But he’s currently healthy and his price will be much lower this year, making him a fine high-end WR3 target.
Cleveland Browns defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (knee) took part in nearly every drill in minicamp on Tuesday and plans to be full go for the rest of minicamp. The three-time Pro Bowler said he “felt great” after surgery on his left meniscus ended his season early in 2020. “I felt great coming in, and I feel great now. I hope I continue on that phase into the next six-week phase and just keep getting stronger and faster for training camp,” Clowney said. The 28-year-old pass-rusher played in just eight games for the Tennessee Titans and failed to record a sack. In 13 games for the Seattle Seahawks the year prior, Clowney managed just three sacks. The former No. 1 overall pick has played in just one full season in his seven years in the NFL, but he can be a game-wrecking force when healthy. If he can stay on the field in 2021, Cleveland’s defense could be nasty.
Jacksonville Jaguars passing-game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said the team hasn’t settled on a starting quarterback despite taking Clemson star Trevor Lawrence No. 1 overall in this year’s draft. Schottenheimer cautioned against assuming that Gardner Minshew II was entrenched as Lawrence’s backup. The Jags also have C.J. Beathard and Jake Luton in the QB room. “We’re letting them all roll. Everybody’s getting reps. We want this thing to be really competitive. Ultimately, when we name a starter, we’ll name a starter,” Schottenheimer said. Lawrence, who was drafted to be the franchise QB, will most likely be the Week 1 starter, but he must first earn it this summer. While it’s not technically official yet, the best bet is for Minshew to back up Lawrence from the get-go. With all the makings of a stud NFL QB, Lawrence will have some high-end QB2 upside in his rookie season.
Retired quarterback and future Hall of Famer Drew Brees took in the Los Angeles Chargers minicamp practice on Wednesday and was very impressed with second-year signal-caller Justin Herbert. “I think his physical tools are as good as anybody I’ve ever seen,” Brees said. “By all accounts, he’s a great worker. He’s got great leadership qualities, he’s got a lot of intangibles. So I think the sky’s the limit for a guy like him.” Herbert threw 31 touchdown passes, completed 396 passes and had eight 300-yard games last year, all rookie records. He also ran for 234 yards and five touchdowns while winning Offensive Rookie of the Year. The 23-year-old former sixth overall pick is learning a new offense under a new head coach and new offensive coordinator, but Brees is right, the sky is the limit for this kid. Herbert isn’t quite an elite QB1, but he’s a solid target as a midrange QB1 with upside for more in just his second season.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II said he doesn’t have any contract-extension updates and sounded resigned to possibly playing the 2021 season on his one-year franchise tag. The deadline to sign franchise-tagged players to long-term deals is on July 15. Robinson will make $17.98 million if he plays on the franchise tag after leading the team with 102 catches for 1,250 yards last year. The 27-year-old skipped voluntary workouts but reported to the mandatory minicamp this week. He plans on reporting to training camp next month on time. Robinson has finished as a top-12 receiver in the last two years despite shoddy quarterback play. Veteran Andy Dalton might be an upgrade for A-Rob, giving him some more upside as a very safe low-end WR1.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is learning new offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s scheme in his 18th NFL season. Canada intends to build off the strengths of Roethlisberger while also placing a renewed emphasis on a running game that is expected to feature rookie first-round running back Najee Harris after the team finished last in rushing in 2020. “We are going to do what Ben wants to do and how Ben wants to do it. Our job is putting every player in a position to make plays,” Canada said. Pittsburgh is expected to continue running an up-tempo offense with Big Ben at the helm. If the ground game improves, Roethlisberger could continue to produce for fantasy managers after he threw for 3,803 yards with 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 15 games last year. But at 39 years old in what is likely his last season, fantasy managers will probably prefer a younger signal-caller with more upside as their QB2.
Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said that defensive end Danielle Hunter (neck) “looks fantastic” after having surgery on a herniated disc in his neck last October and missing all of the 2020 season. The Vikings are hoping that Hunter can return to his Pro Bowl form and stay healthy after a disappointing year on defense last season. The 26-year-old had 14.5 sacks apiece in both 2018 and 2019. Hunter isn’t taking part in mandatory minicamp, but the Vikings are just happy that he’s healthy and back in the building as training camp approaches next month. If he can stay healthy all season and return to his pre-injury form, Hunter will be an excellent value pick in IDP leagues in 2021.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Robby Anderson, who spent two seasons with quarterback Sam Darnold with the New York Jets, said that Darnold has a different “aura” about him with his new squad. “I saw like a new energy out of him, a glowing charisma that I didn’t really see in New York,” said Anderson. Darnold is trying to resurrect his career in Carolina after they traded three draft picks for the former No. 3 overall pick in 2018. Carolina also exercised the 24-year-old signal-caller’s fifth-year option, signaling that they are fully committed to him. Head coach Matt Rhule’s system could unlock Darnold’s talent, and having a familiar face in Anderson won’t hurt. However, fantasy managers want to see it to believe it, and Darnold will be more of a low-end QB2 until he proves otherwise.
Baltimore Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell, who will turn 35 on Sept. 1, is contemplating retirement after the 2021 season, which will be his 14th NFL season. The six-time Pro Bowler is taking things year-to-year at this juncture. Campbell was traded to the Ravens from the Jacksonville Jaguars last year, and he managed 28 tackles (five for loss), 10 QB hits, six passes defensed and four sacks in 12 games in his first year in Baltimore. He missed two games with a calf injury and also missed time due to COVID-19. Along with names like Brandon Williams, Derek Wolfe and Justin Madubuike, the Ravens defense could once again be formidable, but Campbell shouldn’t be high on your IDP radar at his age.
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb, who is heading into the final season of his rookie contract, said that he wants to remain in Cleveland long-term. “Cleveland drafted me and trusted me and put their faith in me to help build this culture and this team I’m a part of. Cleveland is where I want to be. Hopefully everything can work out in that direction,” Chubb said. The Pro Bowler said his agent and the team have already discussed a potential extension this offseason. The 25-year-old has averaged 5.25 yards per carry the last two seasons and finished 47 yards behind rushing leader Derrick Henry in 2019. He finished seventh in the league with 1,070 rushing yards in 2020 despite missing four games with a knee injury. Kareem Hunt’s presence limits Chubb’s overall ceiling, but behind this offensive line, Chubb should still be a strong midrange RB1 for fantasy managers.
Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who was once again the subject of trade rumors this offseason, reasserted his desire to remain with the team on Tuesday. “I’d probably quit football if I had to play for somebody else,” Carr said. He was briefly the highest-paid player in the history of football when he signed a five-year, $125 million extension with the Raiders in 2017. The 30-year-old posted career-highs in passing yards (4,103) and passer rating (101.4) last year, and the Raiders remain committed to him as their starter. Carr also has franchise records for passing yards (26,896) and touchdown passes (170) and could be in line for a new extension. Despite looking better last year and having the full support of the coaching staff and front office, Carr just doesn’t have much fantasy upside and is a middle-of-the-pack, uninspiring QB2.
The Minnesota Vikings signed third-round quarterback Kellen Mond to his four-year rookie deal on Tuesday. The four-year deal is worth $5.2 million. Mond was taken with the 66th overall pick of this year’s draft and is expected to back up starter Kirk Cousins in 2021. The dual-threat signal-caller will strictly be a dynasty/keeper league asset in his rookie season, as the Vikings plan is to have him sit and learn behind Cousins for a year or two. Mond will only see action in his rookie season if Cousins is forced to miss time due to injury, and even then, he would be more of a low-end QB2. The 21-year-old from Texas A&M has good arm strength, mobility and accuracy and will put pressure on the incumbent in the near future if he develops quickly.
Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle Duane Brown was present for the start of the team’s mandatory minicamp this week, but he wants a new deal as he enters the final year of his contract in 2021. Brown is set to make $10 million this year, and his contract situation is one to monitor this summer. The 35-year-old former first-rounder in 2008 by the Houston Texans missed four games due to injury in 2019, but he continues to play at a high level when he’s on the field. The problem is that All-Pro safety Jamal Adams, who would also like a new deal, is likely ahead of Brown in terms of team priorities. It remains to be seen if the veteran Brown can continue to play at a high level near the end of his career, but the four-time Pro Bowler has gotten it done in recent seasons.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw five interceptions at the first day of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, albeit in monsoon-like weather, according to some beat reporters. Tagovailoa said the interceptions stemmed from an emphasis on being aggressive with his throws downfield. Some may raise their eyebrows, especially after his disappointing rookie season, but fantasy managers should take this performance with a grain of salt in June. Head coach Brian Flores said a few weeks ago that Tagovailoa has a better grasp of the offense entering Year 2, and he certainly has the weapons to make a big leap in 2021. With a full offseason and a year removed from hip surgery, the 23-year-old will be a fine QB2 target with upside.
New York Jets left tackle Mekhi Becton (foot) will not take part in minicamp this week, but head coach Robert Saleh said that the team is “very confident he’ll be ready to go (by training camp). He’s just got a little nagging foot injury. It’s not worth it to put him out there and make something so small a lot worse.” Becton is dealing with plantar fasciitis, but he won’t need surgery and should be ready at the end of July. However, this can be a pretty painful and debilitating injury, especially for a player that stands at 6-foot-7, 369 pounds, so it’s an injury to watch. The 22-year-old was one of the top tackles from the 2020 draft class, but rookie quarterback Zach Wilson could be in a world of hurt if Becton is forced to miss any time this year with the foot ailment.
Baltimore Ravens defensive end Derek Wolfe won’t practice this week after recently dealing with a bout of pneumonia, according to head coach John Harbaugh. Wolfe also skipped voluntary workouts recently after signing a three-year, $12 million contract extension in March. In his first season with Baltimore after eight seasons with the Denver Broncos to begin his career, Wolfe recorded 51 tackles (six for loss), four QB hits, one fumble recovery and a career-low one sack in 14 games (eight starts) in 2020. The 31-year-old should be fine for training camp last week and will be looking to bounce back in the trenches in his second year with the Ravens. Wolfe should start alongside Calais Campbell on the interior, but he’s not a realistic IDP target as more of a run-stopper than pass-rusher.
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy said that there is no possible scenario where rookie quarterback Justin Fields is the starting quarterback in Week 1 on the road against the Los Angeles Rams. “Andy Dalton is our starter. Justin is our No. 2 and we are going to stick with this plan. You just got to trust the plan,” Nagy said. Chicago traded up in the first round to take Fields as their future franchise signal-caller, but the plan all along has been to ease him into NFL action behind the veteran Dalton. Plus, it wouldn’t be wise to throw Fields to the wolves against a very tough Rams defense right out of the gates. Fields will see the field sooner than later and he has enticing upside with a strong arm and plenty of speed, but he’ll be a better dynasty/keeper selection than a redraft one in 2021. If Fields is starting by the second half of the season, he could have some plug-and-play potential in single-year leagues due to his dual-threat ability.
The Minnesota Vikings agreed to an undisclosed deal with free-agent defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on Tuesday. Richardson returns to Minnesota after playing for them in 2018, recording 49 tackles (six for loss) and 4.5 sacks in 16 games. The 30-year-old played the last two seasons with the Cleveland Browns but was released to clear salary cap space. Originally a first-round pick (13th overall) by the New York Jets in 2013 out of Missouri, Richardson spent the first four seasons of his NFL career with Gang Green before landing with the Seattle Seahawks in 2017. Richardson had a combined 7.5 sacks in the last two seasons with Cleveland and should serve in a rotational role on Minnesota’s defensive line as they look to improve up front after a miserable season in 2020.
The Carolina Panthers agreed to terms with first-round cornerback Jaycee Horn on a four-year contract on Tuesday. The deal is fully guaranteed for $21.1 million. Horn came off the board at No. 8 overall as the first defensive player picked in this year’s draft out of South Carolina. The 21-year-old should start immediately for the Panthers rebuilt secondary that includes Donte Jackson and A.J. Bouye. Hopefully, Horn will be able to fill the void left by James Bradberry when he departed in free agency last offseason. Although he didn’t face elite wide receiver talent in college, Horn is sticky in man coverage but will need to improve his technique if he wants to stay with smaller and quicker pass-catchers at the next level.
The Minnesota Vikings and defensive end Danielle Hunter agreed to a restructured deal on Tuesday, according to sources informed of the situation. He will receive $5.6 million of the money due to him this year as a signing bonus, giving him a significant portion of the money due to him much sooner. A new $18 million roster bonus will also trigger on the fifth day of the league year in 2022. What was once a five-year extension now becomes a four-year pact, with the Vikings able to move on from Hunter and save significant money next year. The 26-year-old is in his prime, but he also missed all of last year due to a neck injury that required surgery. Minnesota’s defense should improve drastically with Hunter back in the fold. He had 14.5 sacks in each of his last two seasons while being named to the Pro Bowl both times.
Miami Dolphins star cornerback Xavien Howard isn’t on the field for the first practice of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday and is officially holding out, according to a source. The Dolphins gave Howard a new deal prior to the 2020 season, but he’s reportedly already upset with his contract and wants to renegotiate. He has three years left on the five-year deal he signed but is now out of guaranteed money and has little leverage. The 27-year-old former second-round pick in 2016 was an All-Pro for Miami last year, tallying 51 tackles (40 solo), a career-high 10 interceptions, 20 passes defensed and one forced fumble in 16 games. Howard has made the Pro Bowl twice and has 22 career interceptions in 56 games (55 starts).
The Seattle Seahawks have excused safety Jamal Adams from this week’s mandatory minicamp for personal reasons, according to a source. The 25-year-old All-Pro is seeking a new contract, but his absence isn’t related to any kind of holdout. Seattle traded multiple high-end draft picks to acquire Adams’ services from the New York Jets last offseason, and he finished with 83 tackles (11 for loss), 14 QB hits, three passes defensed, one forced fumble and a career-high 9.5 sacks in just 12 games. The three-time Pro Bowler isn’t your typical strong safety, as he often comes up into the box to defend against the run and pressure the opposing quarterback. He’s one of the best at what he does and should be the first defensive back off the board in IDP drafts.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said that quarterback Cam Newton is “way ahead of where he was last year at this time. There’s no question about that.” Newton recently suffered a bruised hand, but he’s expected to receive a full complement of repetitions at minicamp this week. The injury was minor to begin with, so fantasy managers won’t need to worry about it. Even though New England drafted rookie signal-caller Mac Jones in the first round this year, Newton is fully expected to begin the year as the starter under center. The 32-year-old was highly inconsistent in his first year with the Pats, and a bout with COVID-19 didn’t help him, but it sounds like he’s more comfortable with the offense in 2021. Newton will need to be much better as a passer this year, but his ability to use his legs and score touchdowns on the ground will at least make him a passable streaming QB in the right matchups.
The New York Jets and wide receiver Jamison Crowder have renegotiated his contract for the 2021 season, keeping him on the team for another year at least. Crowder was a rumored cut candidate throughout the offseason thanks to a $10 million cap hit in non-guaranteed money. Now Crowder will be a veteran presence to mentor a young wide receiver corps and serve as a safety blanket for rookie quarterback Zach Wilson in New York. Despite the reworked deal, Crowder can still become an unrestricted free agent after the 2021 season. He is coming off a 59-catch, 699-yard, six-touchdown season over 12 games in 2020 and should serve as a low-end WR3 in PPR leagues this year. Fantasy gamers hoping to count on rookie slot receiver Elijah Moore will probably have to wait until the 2022 season.
Minnesota Vikings tight end Tyler Conklin finished the 2020 season on a high note, catching 15 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown over the final four games of the season. Conklin appears to be line for a larger role in 2021 with tight end Kyle Rudolph now a member of the New York Giants. In addition to Rudolph being gone, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer recently told reporters that incumbent tight end Irv Smith Jr. will not have an expanded role in the team’s offense. Zimmer went on to say that Conklin will have a larger role in 2021, making it apparent that the coaching staff likes what they saw from Conklin at the end of 2020. Look for Smith and Conklin to split looks at the tight end position in 2021, putting both on the radar as deep sleepers in fantasy drafts.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage knows that his role has increased after the trade that sent Pro Bowler Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans. Gage will go from being the No. 3 wideout to the No. 2 behind Calvin Ridley. The sixth-rounder has seen his opportunities and production rise in each season since his rookie year in 2018. The 25-year-old had a career-high 72 catches for 786 yards and four touchdowns in 16 games (eight starts) in 2020. In the seven games that Jones missed last year due to injury, Gage was targeted 45 times and caught 30 passes for 340 yards and two scores. Atlanta’s offense is expected to use Gage in multiple spots throughout the season. With more opportunities and more production coming his way with Jones no longer around, Gage will be a nice WR4 target with upside.
New York Jets running back Tevin Coleman is healthy and confident that he can bounce back in 2021 with his new team. “Oh, yeah, I feel like I’ve got a lot left a lot left in my tank,” Coleman said. A sprained knee and a shoulder injury limited the 28-year-old to just eight games with the 49ers last year. He finished with a career-low 53 yards on 28 carries and caught only four passes for 34 yards. Coleman says he’s 100 percent healthy, and he has a chance to be the lead back among a group that includes Ty Johnson, Josh Adams, rookie Michael Carter and La’Mical Perine. The Jets are expected to run an outside zone-rushing scheme, similar to what Coleman played in in San Francisco. When healthy, Coleman is an excellent dual-threat option with excellent open-field speed and elusiveness. There is opportunity here, even if this backfield is a committee, making Coleman worth a late-round flier, especially in PPR leagues.
Even though Washington Football Team quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will enter training camp with a firm grip on the starting job, head coach Ron Rivera wants to create an open quarterback competition. If Fitzpatrick were to struggle, Taylor Heinicke could emerge. Kyle Allen (ankle) has practiced this spring but admitted he’s not fully recovered from a broken ankle last season. Fitzpatrick worked exclusively with the starters this spring, while Heinicke was the primary backup. “It’s going to be a good competition,” Rivera said. “I look forward to it. It’s going to push our football team and make our football team better.” Players and coaches have raved about Fitzpatrick so far, and he’s made 146 career starts compared with Heinicke’s two and Allen’s 17. Heinicke won over some supporters with his performance last postseason and he added 15 pounds of bulk in the offseason, but this is Fitzpatrick’s job to lose. The grizzled veteran can get it done and will be a serviceable low-end QB1 streamer in the right matchups.
The Baltimore Ravens signed first-round linebacker Jayson Oweh to his four-year rookie deal on Friday. The Ravens added the Penn State product with the 31st overall pick in this year’s draft, the draft selection that they acquired when they shipped offensive tackle Orlando Brown to the Kansas City Chiefs. Oweh has excellent speed for his size and should be an immediate starter on the Ravens defensive line opposite Calais Campbell, but he’ll need to improve on his hand technique at the next level. But the 22-year-old has outstanding first-step explosiveness and should fit in nicely with a solid Baltimore defense. Oweh could be a dangerous pass-rusher off the edge if his game is refined a little bit.
The San Francisco 49ers are signing veteran free-agent offensive lineman Senio Kelemete to an undisclosed deal on Friday, according to a source. Kelemete appeared in 14 games (five starts) for the Houston Texans last year and will bring versatility to San Francisco’s offensive line, having played both guard and tackle in the past. The 31-year-old will help make up for the season-ending knee injury to backup offensive tackle Justin Skule. Kelemete has compiled 42 career starts in his nine-year career with the Arizona Cardinals, New Orleans Saints and Texans. He made five starts at left guard for the Texans last year. With the Niners, he’ll provide veteran depth and can fill in as a starter if needed.