Lions reporter Kyle Meinke believes TE Eric Ebron is a “good bet” to be one of Detroit’s “breakout” players. Ebron’s reportedly in excellent shape, while there’s a belief that OC Jim Bob Cooter’s offense will feature lots of short and intermediate passing — particularly over the middle. Overall, Ebron should benefit from an offense that proved more efficient under JBC late last season. Entering year 3 with Matt Stafford, the young TE carries top-10 fantasy upside.
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott has been accused of domestic violence by his girlfriend, according to police reports obtained by TMZ. Elliott has not been charged or arrested and has denied any wrongdoing. The police spoke to 4 witnesses about the alleged incident, and none of them said they saw an assault. We'll keep an eye on this story, but Elliott's 2016 fantasy outlook is unchanged for now.
Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell is facing a 4-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, according to ESPN's Dan Graziano. Bell reportedly missed, rather than failed, a test. He's in the drug program after getting caught with marijuana back in 2014. Bell has appealed the suspension, and a final decision is expected before the start of the regular season. For now, fantasy owners need to assume he'll miss the first 4 games. It's a big blow to a guy who already came with significant injury risk. Bell will still carry as much upside as any RB in fantasy football over the final 12 games, though, and might present value if he drops too far in drafts. The big winner here is obviously RB DeAngelo Williams, who will operate as Pittsburgh's feature back while Bell is out. In his 9 full games without Bell last year, Williams averaged 19.2 carries, 88.1 rushing yards, 3.7 catches, 34.1 receiving yards and 1.2 TDs. That’s a 16-game pace of 1,955 total yards and 19 TDs that would have made him the #1 RB in fantasy.
Jaguars insider Ryan O'Halloran writes that TE Julius Thomas had a "dominant" spring and "couldn't be covered." TEs coach Ron Middleton agrees: “Outstanding spring. He looked like he did last year before he got hurt.” Thomas was off to a strong start with the Jags last offseason before breaking his hand in the preseason opener. He missed the first 4 games of the regular season and was mostly quiet in his first 5 outings. But from Week 11 on, Thomas ranked 4th among TEs in both PPR and non-PPR points. It sounds like he's picking up right where he left off. And he should be comfier this year with QB Blake Bortles and in OC Greg Olson's offense. Thomas is a recommended target at his current 9th-round ADP.
Texans DE J.J. Watt had back surgery recently and will start training camp on the PUP list, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. McClain reports that Watt "should be ready" for the regular season. It'd be nice to hear something more certain, but we'll see how this thing progresses. Watt played through a number of injuries last season, with his productivity dropping only when he played with a cast on his broken thumb. It's worrisome that he had the surgery so late in the offseason, and we've knocked Watt's projected numbers down a bit. But he started from such a dominant place vs. the rest of his position that he'll remain the clear #1 fantasy D-lineman at least until the situation actually threatens games. The surgery does, however, threaten Watt's status as the top overall IDP off the board. Losing him for any time would also obviously deal a huge blow to Houston's team D.
Browns WR Josh Gordon met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. That doesn't necessarily tell us anything other than Gordon is interested in getting back into football. But that's still something. Rapoport adds: "Sense I get is nothing is imminent on Josh Gordon’s return." He's eligible to officially apply for reinstatement on August 1. After failing yet another drug test this offseason, he's almost certainly looking at some type of suspension -- if he's reinstated at all.
Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press says it’s “fair to expect” WR Marvin Jones to top 80 catches and 1,000 yards. The catch total is lofty, but there’s certainly opportunity available after Calvin Johnson took 149 targets from 2015 into retirement. Detroit’s WR depth also looks shaky behind Jones and Golden Tate. The former Bengal profiles as a WR3, but there’s clear upside beyond that.
The Chicago Tribune’s Dan Wiederer expects Bears QB Jay Cutler “to be the manager of a run-first, ball-control attack.” That sounds like Chicago’s approach from 2015, when the team finished 6th in rush attempts. An efficient Cutler still proved useful in spots for fantasy owners. And fortunately, he won’t be learning a completely different offense even after losing former OC Adam Gase. "The majority of the offensive backbone of what we do [under new OC Dowell Loggains] is staying the same," Cutler said. Loggains was the QB coach last year, so there should be a smooth transition. With enticing weapons around him, Cutler retains spot-start appeal in 2016.
Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune believes the Vikings will “unleash” RB Jerick McKinnon as a receiver if he excels in pass protection. McKinnon shined in OTAs, but we’ll see how he performs when the pads come on. The 24-year-old might reach low-end PPR flex value even with a healthy Adrian Peterson. But this serves as a reminder that, despite offseason chatter of increased usage, Peterson’s reception upside looks capped. He’s topped 40 grabs just twice for his career.
Ravens WR Kamar Aiken has been catching passes from Joe Flacco the past couple of weeks and says his QB "looks the exact same." Flacco is return from last November's torn ACL. “He looks 100 percent to me,” Aiken added. “He definitely recovered mighty fast for anybody coming off an ACL, as far as not having any limp or lags. He did surprise me that he looked like his regular self. I didn’t expect it, but I wouldn’t put it past him at the same time.” Never one to rely on mobility, Flacco shouldn't be impacted by last year's knee injury. He was sitting 16th in fantasy points among QBs when he went down and should offer spot-start value in 2016.