Shark Bites

ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that a league source told him Rams DE Aaron Donald's contract holdout could last into the regular season. Donald is in the final year of his rookie contract but seeking new money after making the Pro Bowl in each of his 1st 3 campaigns. We'll see where this goes. The closer we get to the regular season without Donald getting back on the field, the further we have to drop him on IDP draft boards, though. Donald's absence from real games would chip away significantly at the upside of the Rams' team D as well.

Rams insider Joe Curley expects TE Tyler Higbee to be 2nd in line for targets this season, behind only the newly acquired Sammy Watkins. Higbee caught just 11 balls as a rookie last year but was an intriguing prospect coming out of Western Kentucky. The converted WR goes 6'6, 249 pounds and averaged 15.5 yards per catch in 4 college seasons. Higbee has been buzzing early in training camp and has some upside in new Rams HC Sean McVay's TE-friendly offense. Curley, by the way, has rookie WR Cooper Kupp 3rd on the target totem pole and WR Robert Woods 4th.

The Rams finally have themselves a true #1 WR. They traded CB E.J. Gaines and a 2018 2nd-round pick to Buffalo in exchange for WR Sammy Watkins. It's an aggressive move by a team that has poured resources into its offense this offseason. Watkins joins a WR group that includes free-agent signee (and former teammate) Robert Woods, rookies Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds and holdover Tavon Austin. A heathy Watkins is clearly the top dog here, though. Of course, he'll also be dealing with a QB downgrade from Tyrod Taylor to Jared Goff. Watkins' fantasy stock takes a bit of a hit with this move.

Rams WR Tavon Austin has missed the past 5 training-camp practices with a hamstring injury, according to ESPN's Alden Gonzalez. Austin also missed spring workouts after undergoing wrist surgery. HC Sean McVay labeled him "day-to-day," but the missed time is not ideal for a guy trying to learn a brand new offense with a young QB. WR Pharoh Cooper has been getting 1st-team reps in Austin's absence -- alongside Robert Woods and rookie Cooper Kupp.

Rams HC Sean McVay raved about RB Todd Gurley after a strong performance in a joint practice against the Chargers on Saturday. "He did a great job of getting it out into the open field," McVay said. "And there was a couple where he's reading it one gap at a time on some of the schemes we have, and you can feel his speed once he gets to the corner. He's a guy that has been motivated and has been a standout throughout the offseason program, and it's been the same throughout camp. We're expecting big things from Todd." Gurley was 1 of the bigger disappointments in fantasy football last year. That's sunk his draft range into the late 2nd or early 3rd round this summer. There's certainly bounce-back potential here for a former 1st-round pick who's still only 23 years old.

Rams RB Lance Dunbar is "out indefinitely" with a knee injury, according to ESPN's Alden Gonzalez. We don't have any other details at this point. Dunbar has a history of knee trouble, tearing his left ACL and patellar tendon back in 2015 and missing 3 games with a knee injury last year. Los Angeles was looking for Dunbar to contribute to the passing game this season. An extended absence would boost RB Todd Gurley's target projection.

The Rams opened their 1st full week of training camp Monday without DE Aaron Donald. The 4th-year player is holding out in search of a new contract. DT Michael Brockers told the Los Angeles Daily News that teammates are behind him and that Donald promised that he's continuing to workout and will be in shape whenever he reports. IDP owners are already waiting to see how a slight position change might affect Donald's production/value. The potential for a prolonged holdout is more concerning, though. If Donald gets contract resolution soon, he'll return to play under longtime (but new to the Rams) DC Wade Phillips in a scheme that promises continued 1-on-1 matchups. The only ding to Donald's fantasy football value will likely be in leagues that split DEs and DTs. Of course, missing its best player will also be a knock against a Rams D that should present some fantasy upside in 2017.

Rams WR Tavon Austin has been a full participant in training camp, according to insider Alden Gonzalez. Austin missed OTAs after undergoing wrist surgery, but it should be a non-issue going forward. We'll see how Los Angeles' new coaching staff plans on deploying Austin this season. He's basically free in drafts, with a recent MFL10 ADP in the 15th round.

Bills WR Sammy Watkins (foot) has avoided the PUP list and will participate in the team's 1st training camp practice on Thursday night. It's been a smooth rehab from January foot surgery. Buffalo figures to monitor Watkins' reps throughout August, but his fantasy arrow is pointing up right now.

The league has suspended Rams WR Mike Thomas for the 1st 4 games of 2017 for violating the PED policy. Thomas caught just 3 passes among 9 targets as a rookie. He hadn't garnered much attention in early fantasy football drafts this year and has yet to generate much buzz since entering the league. But the Rams' wide-open WR corps presents opportunity to just about all of their wideouts. He'll have to hope the group falters over the season's 1st month.

Rams OLB Robert Quinn sat out team drills at minicamp this week with a cast on his right hand following minor surgery, according to multiple reports. HC Sean McVay said Quinn will be ready for training camp, and this injury could certainly prove to be no big deal. But he has lost time to knee, hip, back and shoulder injuries over the past 2 years. Quinn needs to get and stay healthy and then prove he remains 1 of the league's top pass rushers. If he does so this summer, he'll hold plenty of upside in sack-friendly IDP leagues -- despite a move from DE to OLB. If he doesn't, a potentially solid Rams D might suffer.

Bills WR Sammy Watkins (foot) made his offseason practice debut on Thursday, taking part in individual drills. (Here's a video clip of him in action.) "It's one day at a time at this point," HC Sean McDermott said of Watkins' status. He underwent a 2nd foot surgery in January after reportedly playing through a broken foot last season. It at least looks like he's on track to be ready for the start of training camp. Watkins' health will be worth monitoring closely this summer.

43 catches for 327 yards helped salvage Rams RB Todd Gurley's 2016 season. Only 14 RBs caught more passes. But ESPN's Alden Gonzalez expects Gurley's pass-catching production to dip under new HC Sean McVay. Gonzalez believes McVay will use free-agent acquisition Lance Dunbar similarly to how he used Chris Thompson in Washington. Thompson caught 84 passes over the past 2 years, while Robert Kelley, Matt Jones and Alfred Morris combined for just 49. Gurley, of course, is a much better receiver than that trio. His 6.13 yards per target ranks 24th among 50 RBs who saw 50+ looks over the past 2 seasons. If Gurley's passing-game volume declines in 2017, we wouldn't expect it to decline by much. He remains the best offensive weapon on the Rams roster.

Bills QB Tyrod Taylor told the team website that he has noticed the "maturation process" speeding up for WR Sammy Watkins this offseason. "His attention to detail each day has definitely been different than the years past that I’ve been around him," Taylor said. "He’s always been a hard worker, but you can definitely tell that he’s out there with the right mindset and with the positive attitude, trying to help the guys that are around him.” The QB specifically mentioned aspects such as eating right, which is often a lesson young players need to learn -- in various sports. Watkins' big problem has obviously been staying on the field, and eating a salad or some salmon isn't going to keep his foot from breaking. But preparing his body better could certainly affect Watkins' health and durability. In any event, increased focus -- and the motivation of a contract year -- can't hurt a player who has always flashed the talent.

New Rams HC Sean McVay wants to add the deep ball to WR Tavon Austin's repertoire this season. "He’s shown he can track the ball down the field," McVay told ESPN's Alden Gonzalez. "Really, as far as establishing him as a deep threat, I think we’re just looking for all our receivers to be complete. You want to be able to have a short, intermediate and deep route tree." Austin has made just 15 career catches on balls thrown at least 15 yards downfield, according to ESPN. There are 125 players with more over the same span. Whether that's more an issue with Austin or his offensive coaches to date remains to be seen. McVay did just spent three years in Washington with 5'10 DeSean Jackson, and OC Matt LaFleur was in Atlanta with 5'8 Taylor Gabriel last season. Gabriel scored 5 times on receptions of 25+ yards. Austin will likely be out until at least training camp after arthroscopic wrist surgery, so we'll have to wait to see the plan in action. Anything that improves on his 9.1 career yards per catch is welcome, though.

Rams WR Tavon Austin recently underwent surgery on his left wrist and will miss OTAs, according to ESPN's Alden Gonzalez. We don't have any details on the injury, but Gonzalez does add that Austin is expected to be ready for training camp. As long as that's the case, the wrist issue won't be a major concern -- although missing any practice time in new HC Sean McVay's offense isn't ideal.

The Bills have declined the 5th-year option on WR Sammy Watkins' contract. That year -- along with the $13 or so million it would have paid him -- is guaranteed for injury only prior to the start of the 2018 league year. So Buffalo is (perhaps rightfully) worried that Watkins will suffer another serious injury. He's now set to become a free agent next offseason. Getting out of run-heavy Buffalo might help Watkins' fantasy stock. Rookie Zay Jones, meanwhile, could find himself as the Bills' #1 WR as soon as next year.

The 49ers have signed undrafted free agent WR KD Cannon. The Baylor product was 1 of the more surprising skill-position guys to go undrafted. He went for 1,030 yards and 8 scores as a true freshman in 2014 and posted a career-best 87-1,215-13 line this past year. Cannon checked into the Combine at a smallish 5'11, 182 pounds but smoked a 4.41-second 40 with a 37-inch vertical. Baylor WRs have struggled adjusting to the NFL game recently, and Cannon certainly needs to expand his route tree. But there are tools to work with here. And there's plenty of opportunity in San Francisco.

Update: Cannon was cut just a week after signing with the 'Niners.

The Rams selected Texas A&M WR Josh Reynolds in the 4th round of the 2017 NFL Draft. After spending 2013 at Tyler Junior College, Reynolds arrived at A&M and immediately set the school’s single-season TD record with 13 TDs. He posted a 51-907-5 line in 2015 and a career-best 61-1,039-12 this past year. Reynolds left school with a 17.0 yards-per-catch average and projects as a downfield weapon at the next level. He’s a 6’3, 194-pounder with 4.5 speed and a 37-inch vertical. Reynolds joins 3rd-rounder Cooper Kupp in Los Angeles’ unsettled WR corps.

The Rams added Eastern Washington WR Cooper Kupp in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft. Kupp sure would have been a nice player to own in college fantasy leagues. He posted a huge 93-1,691-21 line as a freshman and didn’t slow down from there. Kupp hauled in 104+ balls in each of the next 3 years, averaging 1,591 yards and 17.3 TDs per. The majority of that production came against Big Sky Conference foes like Cal Poly, Southern Utah and Idaho State. But he did compile 40 catches, 716 yards and 11 scores in 4 career games against Pac-12 schools. Kupp looks plenty athletic on film, especially after the catch. But he tested as a 39th percentile athlete for his position. He’s also an older prospect, turning 24 in June. (He’s a year older than Amari Cooper!) Throw in the fact that he’s making a huge jump up in competition, and there’s clear bust potential here. Landing with the Rams certainly doesn’t make him a safer dynasty bet. There’s a chance for immediate playing time in a weak WR corps, but the Rams literally haven’t hit at WR in the draft since Torry Holt in 1999.

 
 
 

Recent Analysis

Read All Analysis
Premium Content 5th-Round Decisions

Is this the range to finally target a QB? Can we trust Larry Fitzgerald to produce at age 34? Get the lowdown on those questions and more with a closer look at Round 5.

39 minutes ago Read More
Mid-August ADP Risers and Fallers

A look at 28 of the biggest ADP movers over the first 2 weeks of August, including Christian McCaffrey, Sammy Watkins and Kelvin Benjamin.

18 hours ago Read More
Mock Draft: A WR Start

These might not be perfect drafts, but doesn't practice make perfect?

19 hours ago Read More
Premium Content 4th-Round Decisions

Round 4 carries a lot of risk in fantasy football drafts. Here's where you can plant your flag ...

6:08am EDT 8/17/17 Read More
Premium Content 3rd-Round Decisions

We're breaking down our thought process while deciding between 4 intriguing Round 3 RBs. Plus, should you target Brandin Cooks or Demaryius Thomas?

8:08am EDT 8/16/17 Read More
Fantasy Football Podcast: Big Deals and Preseason Recap 8-15-17

Zeke's gone for a while (or is he); Sammy Watkins is gone from Buffalo; and we have a whole weekend of preseason action to break down. Lots to get to as fantasy football drafts approach ...

3:08pm EDT 8/15/17 Read More
Premium Content 2nd-Round Decisions

Should you go RB or WR in the early 2nd round? When's the time to target Rob Gronkowski? And is Ezekiel Elliott worth a look in the late 2nd?

8:08am EDT 8/15/17 Read More

Turn your phone into a draft weapon with our FREE APP

Download on the App Store Download on Google Play