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Shark Bites - Up-to-the-minute Fantasy Football News

Fantasy Football News 2021

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Patriots QB Cam Newton is expected to handle a "full complement of reps" at minicamp this week, according the The Boston Globe's Jim McBride. Newton suffered a bone bruise to the right hand at OTAs a couple of weeks ago, but it's obviously not a concern. Early reports out of New England have Newton a strong favorite to open the season as the starter, ahead of 1st-round rookie QB Mac Jones.

Jets HC Robert Saleh believes WR Elijah Moore is capable of playing all 3 receiver spots in the offense. “He’s a dynamic young man,” Saleh said. “One of the things that’s really been great for him, not that it’s been a surprise, but to see it actually happen, what makes those guys difficult to defend is he can line up as the Z, F or X (receiver). He can line up wherever you want, and he’s going to execute it at a very high level.” It's an important note because it means that Moore doesn't need the Jets to get rid of slot receiver Jamison Crowder in order to land an every-down role. Of course, if Moore keeps playing like he did in OTAs and minicamp, the Jets won't be able to keep him off the field.

Jaguars coaches are "buzzing" about WR Laviska Shenault, according to insider Hays Carlyon. Shenault has garnered heaps of praise from beat writers for his work in OTAs and minicamp -- and it sounds like Jacksonville's coaching staff has seen the same thing. Shenault turned in a promising rookie season and is getting a big QB upgrade in Trevor Lawrence this year. He's a 2021 breakout candidate.

Texans OC (and play-caller) Tim Kelly talked up a higher volume run game at OTAs. “I’ve got to do a good job calling more runs and letting our backs and line get into a rhythm as far as how that game’s being played out up front,” he said via the Houston Chronicle. “Each year you go into the offseason looking at different schematic ways and personnel ways you can improve, and we feel like we’ve done that.” RB coach Danny Barrett called the backfield a “healthy competition,” with presumed starter David Johnson, Mark Ingram, Phillip Lindsay and Rex Burkhead in the mix for touches. Houston clearly has room to run more after ranking 29th in run rate last season. Still, it’s tough to get behind any piece of this backfield — especially if Deshaun Watson isn’t under center.

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson talked about running a more up-tempo offense under new OC Shane Waldron, formerly of the Rams. "We have some nuances across the board that really challenge the defense, using the whole field and really expanding the offense," Wilson said via USA Today. "Just using everybody as much as possible, in all different formations and different looks and different tempos.” With Waldron on the Rams staff in 2020, Jared Goff ranked 3rd league-wide in no-huddle dropbacks, per Sports Info Solutions. So there’s some weight behind the sentiment. Entering the summer, Wilson checks in as a top-8 fantasy QB.

Cordarrelle Patterson is expected to provide "depth at RB" for the Falcons, according to insider Orlando Ledbetter. Patterson played 70% of his offensive snaps for the Bears last year at RB, finishing with 64 carries and 21 catches. Atlanta is weak at both RB and WR, so Patterson might end up contributing a bit at both spots this season. He's an intriguing late-round pick in best-ball drafts.

After watching spring practices, The Boston Globe's Ben Volin believes Patriots QB Mac Jones still has "a long way to go" to beat out QB Cam Newton for the starting job. Even with Newton sidelined the past week with his hand injury, Jones worked behind QBs Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer. “There’s a lot going on in my brain,” Jones admitted. “You’re trying to see everything; sometimes you see too much or whatever, and then you see nothing. I have to figure out in this offense how I can break down the plays, what’s my job, what I have to do on this specific play and slot the plays individually. I did that obviously good in college or whatever, but this is the pros and I have to figure out how to do it here. So that’s what I’m going to do.” We'll see how much ground Jones can make up in training camp and preseason action, but bet on Newton being under center for New England come Week 1.

Saints HC Sean Payton admitted that the team is still monitoring the ankle injury that cost WR Michael Thomas 9 games last year. “We still monitor it, pay attention to it, scan it, and all those things," Payton said. "He’s getting treatment and doing the things necessary. So, so far, so good.” It's slightly concerning that the issue isn't completely behind Thomas. But he's participating in minicamp, so the Saints obviously aren't too worried. Thomas remains a nice value pick in the 3rd round of fantasy drafts.

Packers TE Jace Sternberger received a 2-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. He released a statement admitting to falling asleep behind the wheel after mixing alcohol and anti-depressants back in February of 2020. It's the latest letdown in what's been a disappointing start to the 2019 3rd-rounder's NFL career. With Robert Tonyan locked in as Green Bay's lead TE, Sternberger is well off the redraft radar.

The Athletic's Ben Standig has come away from spring practices believing RB Antonio Gibson is set to "become a bigger factor as a receiver" this season. Gibson was out-targeted 110 to 44 by RB J.D. McKissic last year. But Gibson beat McKissic in yards per target and just trailed him in yards per route run and Pro Football Focus receiving grade -- all as a rookie. Considering Gibson played some WR during his time at Memphis, it makes sense that he'd be capable of taking on a bigger role in the passing game this season. Locked in as Washington's lead ball-carrier, there's RB1 upside here depending on how many targets Gibson garners.

Eagles RBs coach Jamel Singleton hinted that his team plans on deploying a committee backfield in 2021. "There are very specific skill sets you need in your room," Singleton said. "You need a first- and second-down runner with that really elite ability. You need a guy that can pass protect on third down and be short yardage. You need a back that can run routes and you can put him out in empty. It’s really a combination of that. I think the days of, ‘he’s an every-down back,’ that’s a little skewed these days because of the speed, because of the contact.” There are very few every-down backs in today's NFL, so this certainly isn't a death knell to Miles Sanders. But we're curious to see exactly how much work he'll cede after the Eagles added rookie RB Kenneth Gainwell and RB Kerryon Johnson to a group that already included RBs Boston Scott and Jordan Howard.

Giants RB Saquon Barkley, speaking to the media for the 1st time this year, refused to give a timetable for his return from knee surgery. "You know me, I’ll take it one day at a time," Barkley said. "It’s going to be whenever my body tells me I’m ready." It's noteworthy because players tend to be over-optimistic about their recoveries. ESPN's Jordan Raanan suggested a couple of weeks ago that Barkley might be limited at the beginning of the season. His status will be 1 of the bigger fantasy storylines this summer.

Falcons WR Calvin Ridley recently underwent "minor" foot surgery, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. "A little cleanup," Rapoport adds. Ridley won't participate in minicamp but is expected to be ready for the start of training camp. We'll keep an eye on him.

Cowboys HC Mike McCarthy revealed that WR Amari Cooper underwent ankle surgery this offseason. We don't have any other details on the injury or procedure. Cooper is "still working through" the issue, per McCarthy, and hasn't participated in spring practices. McCarthy added that he's "hopeful" Cooper will be ready for the start of training camp. We'll keep a close eye on him throughout the summer.

Vikings HC Mike Zimmer suggested at TE Tyler Conklin might be a bigger beneficiary of TE Kyle Rudolph's departure than TE Irv Smith. “I think it’s a bigger role for Tyler Conklin,” Zimmer said. “He’s kind of emerged as a guy that’s moving upward and with those two guys, we have a lot of weapons there. Irv always has been able to do what he’s been able to do whether Kyle was here or not." Conklin actually out-targeted Smith 21 to 20 over the final 4 games of last season with Rudolph sidelined. Smith just edged Conklin 118 to 106 in pass routes during that stretch. Smith remains the better 2021 fantasy bet -- but his role sans Rudolph might not grow as much as many are expecting. Conklin, meanwhile, is an intriguing end-of-draft flier in deep best-ball leagues, especially in the FFPC.

Bucs QB Tom Brady is participating in this week's minicamp after undergoing knee surgery after the Super Bowl. He admitted last month that the knee bothered him most of last season -- which makes his 4,633-yard, 40-TD campaign even more impressive. We'll keep an eye on Brady when training camp opens, but the knee shouldn't be an issue in 2021.

The Athletic's Connor Hughes came away from Jets OTAs believing Keelan Cole -- not Denzel Mims -- is the favorite for the outside WR spot opposite Corey Davis. "The Jets want to run a carbon copy of Kyle Shanahan’s offense, which requires route-running specialists at receiver who can create yards after the catch," Hughes writes. "Mims isn’t really that kind of a player. He might never be a route technician. Scouts always viewed him as more of a vertical, linear player." Mims missed some time in OTAs with a hamstring injury, while Cole "looks really, really good so far," according to Hughes. This will be a situation to monitor in training camp and preseason action.

Rams HC Sean McVay believes RB Cam Akers is capable of taking on more in the passing game this season. “He’s obviously a great runner, but he’s got ability as a pass-catcher coming from the backfield, and we can displace him and put him in the slot or the outside receiver location,” McVay said. “There’s not any limitations, but we’ll see how it comes to life.” This jibes with beat writer Jourdan Rodrigue saying last month that Akers is in for a bigger pass-catching role this season. His ultimate upside is what RB Todd Gurley did in McVay's first 2 seasons with the Rams: average 18.4 carries and 5.8 targets per game. A workload in that vicinity would likely make Akers a top-5 fantasy back.

The Ravens and RB Gus Edwards have agreed to a 2-year, $10 million extension, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports. He's now signed through the 2023 season and is the league's 15th-highest-paid RB in terms of average annual salary. It's a well-deserved raise for a guy who's averaged 5.2 yards on 414 carries over his first 3 NFL seasons. Edwards has ranked 19th, 20th and 28th in Elusive Rating those 3 years. He'll continue to play a bigger role for the Ravens than J.K. Dobbins owners would like to see.

Jets WR Elijah Moore has been "undeniably the most impressive" player at OTAs, The Athletic's Connor Hughes writes. These, of course, are padless practices. And the Jets are missing a bunch of guys, including WRs Corey Davis, Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder. But that's allowed Moore to soak up 1st-team reps with fellow rookie Zach Wilson. And Moore is reportedly looking every bit like the explosive player he was at Ole Miss.

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