The Titans are declining the 5th-year option on the rookie contract of former 1st-round LB Rashaan Evans. That makes 2021 the final campaign on his deal. Assuming Evans doesn't explode and earn a new contract, his expected departure could benefit Jayon Brown and/or David Long.
The Cowboys have declined the 5th-year option on LB Leighton Vander Esch, leaving 2021 as the final year on his rookie contract. It's not a surprising move given LVE's injury issues the past 2 years (13 games missed). The decision adds upside to 1st-round pick Micah Parsons, who should find a full-time role by 2022 (if not sooner).
The Lions are waiving RB Kerryon Johnson, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. This move doesn't come as a surprise after Detroit signed Jamaal Williams in free agency. We'd bet on Johnson finding a new team before long, with Atlanta the most obvious candidate. Johnson averaged 4.3 yards per carry and 8.3 yards per catch over 3 seasons in Detroit but averaged just 10.1 touches per game. He lost 14 games to injuries over his first 2 seasons before playing in every 2020 game -- and seeing his rushing workload crater (3.3 rushes per contest). We'll see where Johnson lands for 2021.
"There are people in league circles who believe [Texans QB] Deshaun Watson will not play this season," ESPN's Adam Schefter reports. Watson, of course, faces 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault. Houston police and the NFL are both looking into the matter. The Texans spent their 1st pick of the draft (67th overall) on Stanford QB Davis Mills, another sign that Watson's future with the team is up in the air. We'll continue to stay on top of this situation, but Watson is a high-risk pick in early fantasy drafts. His FFPC ADP has sunk to Round 11.
Back before his team elected not to draft any RBs, new Falcons HC Arthur Smith said he plans a committee approach in the backfield. “We’re not going to have Derrick Henry here,” Smith told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in April. “So, it’s not like I think we’re going to have Derrick Henry. The reality is that we’ll get multiple backs in here, and we’ll have the way we trust our schemes and the way we teach the details of it, and we’ll commit to it." Mike Davis stands as the clear leader in a group who's next most accomplished rusher is Cordarrelle Patterson. But Patterson will factor in. Atlanta signed Javian Hawkins after the draft. We'll see about Qadree Ollison. And the Falcons could still add pieces. Davis makes for a solid target in current best-ball drafting. Just beware of projecting him too many touches simply because we can't see exactly where else they would go yet.
Broncos HC Vic Fangio plans to split reps evenly between QBs Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock this offseason. "It will be something that at the end of the day, maybe not at the end of every day but over the course of OTAs and training camp, it’ll be 50-50," Fangio said. That suggests that this is a wide-open competition. Lock and Bridgewater could hardly be more different: Lock an aggressive gunslinger, Bridgewater and more conservative but accurate passer. We'll see how this shakes out, but neither guy can be considered more than a QB3 in best-ball drafts right now. Of course, whoever wins the job will have some fantasy upside thanks to Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and Noah Fant.
ESPN's Michael DiRocco reports that the Jaguars plan to use RB Travis Etienne "similar to the way [Urban] Myer used Percy Harvin" at Florida. In 3 years under Meyer, Harvin carried 194 times and caught 133 passes. The splits went 41 rushes, 34 catches as a freshman; 83/59 as a sophomore; 70/40 as a junior. "He's much more than a running back," Meyer said of Etienne. "He's a slash. He's got excellent hands and he'll be dual trained. [Dual-threat players] are hard to find, too, but if you can find one we know how to use him. With him I expect him [to make] an instant impact." Etienne will make for a tricky fantasy projection. His expected role, though, makes it more realistic to find worthwhile touches for both him and James Robinson. We'll certainly continue tracking this situation throughout the summer.
Bengals OC Brian Callahan was asked about his plans for a 3rd-down back this season and had this to say: "I don't want Joe (Mixon) to leave the field, and I think he's up for that challenge." Nice. Mixon has been an excellent pass-catching back dating back to his college days. But that part of his game has never been fully unleashed in Cincinnati. He topped out at 43 catches back in 2018 -- although he was on pace for 56 through 6 games last season. The Bengals cut RB Gio Bernard this offseason and only added 6th-round rookie Chris Evans and undrafted rookie Pooka Williams to the backfield so far. A healthy Mixon is a good bet for a new career high in receptions this year. His ADP at the Round 2-3 turn in FFPC best-ball drafts right now (RB15) makes him a good target.
The Seahawks signed Florida State WR Tamorrion Terry as an undrafted free agent. Terry might have been a mid-round pick had he been in last year’s draft. At that point, he was coming off an impressive 1,188-yard, 9-TD redshirt sophomore season. His 2020 didn’t go nearly as well. Terry got off to a slow start under a new coaching staff, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in mid-October and then left the team in November after having multiple issues with that new staff. Terry isn’t very agile and has trouble creating separation on short and intermediate routes. But he’s intriguing if only because he’s 6’3, 207 pounds with 4.4 speed and strong contested-catch skills. Terry was a big-play machine at Florida State, averaging 18.8 yards per catch over his 3-year career.
The Lions signed undrafted free agent WR Jonathan Adams out of Arkansas State. Adams puts a big check mark in the measurables box, going 6’2 and 210 pounds with a huge 39-inch vertical. He puts that to good use, flashing plus ball skills and contested-catch ability on tape. He’s coming off a big 1,111-yard, 12-TD senior season, accounting for 28% of his team’s receiving yards and 31% of the TDs. Adams obviously faced weaker competition in the Sun Belt conference but did post a 8-98-3 line on Kansas State this past year. We wouldn't be surprised if he made Detroit's roster -- although he obviously has a long ways to go to be a fantasy factor.
The Jets signed undrafted free agent TE Kenny Yeboah. A WR-turned-TE, Yeboah spent 4 years at Temple before transferring to Ole Miss for the 2020 season. The move paid off, as the 22-year-old tallied 27-524-6 across 8 games. He ranked 2nd on the team in yards, tied for 2nd in catches and 3rd in receiving TDs. Yeboah added highly efficient marks in yards per catch (19.4) and yards per route run (2.25). However, drops were an issue here, while Yeboah’s blocking remains a major work in progress. We’ll see how he develops in New York, where there is opportunity on the TE depth chart.
Undrafted free agent RB Jaret Patterson signed with Washington. The University of Buffalo product tallied a freshman record 1,013 yards and 14 TDs in 2018. He posted 1,799 yards and 19 TDs on 312 carries as a sophomore before tallying 141-1,072-19 in 2020. Fueled by quick feet and sharp cuts, Patterson ranked 7th in the nation in missed tackles forced last year, per Pro Football Focus. The 5’7, 195-pounder absorbed contact well in the MAC, but he’s clearly undersized for an early-down role. Plus, as a pass catcher, Patterson went all of last season without a target. He recorded 20 total catches from 2018-2019. He’ll battle for a roster spot in Washington.
The Lions signed Wake Forest WR Sage Surratt as an undrafted free agent. Surratt posted a solid 41-581-4 line as a redshirt freshman in 2018 and was 1 of the most productive receivers in the country in 2019, averaging 7.3 catches, 111 yards and 1.2 TDs across 9 games. A shoulder injury cost him the final 4 games, though, and he opted out of the 2020 campaign. Surratt’s tape gave us all sorts of J.J. Arcega-Whiteside vibes. He’s 6’3, 209 pounds and plays even bigger, consistently making grabs in traffic and in contested situations. But Surratt is painfully slow -- confirmed by his 4.7-second 40 time -- and rarely created separation against college DBs. He looked like an NFL longshot to begin with, and going undrafted doesn’t help his chances. But he at least lands on a weak depth chart in Detroit.
The Seahawks signed South Dakota State WR Cade Johnson as an undrafted free agent. Johnson was a 0-star recruit out of high school, walked on at South Dakota State and was redshirted in 2016. He made an impact as a kick returner the following year -- and then exploded as a receiver. Johnson racked up 67 catches for 1,332 yards and a school-record 17 TDs in 2018 and followed that up with a 72-1,222-8 line in 2019. He opted out of the 2020 campaign but put together what Pro Football Focus called an “elite performance” at the Senior Bowl. Johnson goes just 5’11 and 184 pounds but plays well through contact and has plenty of juice to his routes. We’ve seen him compared to new teammate Tyler Lockett. But Johnson is obviously a long shot for fantasy value.
Washington selected BYU WR Dax Milne in the 7th round of the 2021 NFL Draft. After totaling just 31 catches over his first 2 years on campus, Milne emerged as Zach Wilson’s top target last season. He tallied 70 catches for 1,188 yards and 8 scores -- although the 30% yardage share and 24% TD share were less impressive. Milne didn’t do himself any favors at his Pro Day, running a 4.57-second 40 with a 31-inch vertical at 6’1 and 193 pounds. That matches the tape. Milne has reliable hands and nice ball skills. But he doesn’t have the speed or burst to create big separation. We're not optimistic about his NFL upside.
The Lions drafted RB Jermar Jefferson in Round 7. Jefferson broke out as a true freshman with 239 carries for 1,380 yards (5.8 YPC) and 12 TDs. He added 25 catches that year, although he totaled only 18 receptions over his final 2 seasons. Jefferson’s rushing production dropped in 2019, partly because of foot and ankle injuries. Last year he rebounded on the ground to post 133-858-7 (6.5 YPC) in 6 games. The tape shows a runner with plus vision, but there is some concern over his athletic profile. Jefferson posted a 7.38-second 3-cone (8th percentile), a 4.38-second short shuttle (28th percentile), a 31-inch vertical (10th percentile) and a 115-inch broad jump (25th percentile). In Detroit, he could be battling Kerryon Johnson for a 2021 roster spot. With D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams -- at least -- ahead of him, we wouldn't bother with Jefferson in dynasty rookie drafts.
The Packers picked RB Kylin Hill in Round 7 of the 2021 NFL Draft. Hill broke out in 2019 with 242-1,350-10. But playing under new HC Mike Leach in 2020, the 22-year-old’s progress came to a halt. While he opened eyes with 23 catches (15 at Kentucky; 8 at LSU), Hill made only 3 appearances and totaled just 15 carries. He received a 1-game suspension before getting deactivated for 2 because of “personal issue,” per Leach. He promptly skipped the remainder of the season to prep for the draft. When right, Hill uses his 5’10, 214-pound frame effectively as an inside/outside runner. His 4.51-second 40 time shows good enough speed, while his 36-inch vertical (68th percentile) and 122-inch broad jump (72nd percentile) show the burst. Those traits -- plus clear pass-catching ability -- made Hill 1 of our favorite RB sleepers. Landing in Green Bay offers clear pass-catching upside in the wake of Jamaal Williams' departure. We'll see how he fares this summer. For now, Hill makes for a solid upside shot to take late in dynasty rookie drafts.
Despite going undrafted, Louisville RB Javian Hawkins might have landed in the best possible spot. Hawkins delivered impressive production over 2 years with the Cardinals. (He redshirted after 2 games as a 2018 freshman.) Hawkins racked up 1,525 rushing yards in his full debut and averaged 5.9 yards per rush across the past 2 seasons. The obvious limitation is his size. Hawkins checked in at just 5’9, 183 pounds at his pro day. There’s not much recent history of NFL production at RB from players in that size range. It doesn’t help Hawkins’ outlook that he caught only 20 passes over his 2 starting seasons. He’ll need to average much more than 1 reception per game if he’s to present any fantasy value in the pros. Mark us down as skeptical that Hawkins will emerge as a fantasy factor. But Atlanta's backfield is probably his best shot at early relevance. The Falcons drafted no RBs and thus finished the draft with only Mike Davis, Cordarrelle Patterson, Qadree Ollison and Tony Brooks-James on the roster at the position. We'll see how Hawkins' summer goes, but the landing spot makes him more interesting near the end of dynasty rookie drafts.
The Broncos nabbed WR Seth Williams in Round 6 of the 2021 NFL Draft. Williams goes 6’3, 211 pounds with 4.5 speed and a 37-inch vertical. He struck us as 1 of the more impressive size-athleticism prospects in this year’s WR class. And while his raw numbers weren’t big at Auburn, he topped a 30% share of receiving yards and TDs as a sophomore and junior the past 2 years. The tape is frustratingly inconsistent, though. Williams will make a highlight-reel grab 1 play, then run a lazy route or drop a pass the next. He’s the definition of a boom/bust prospect. But he’s 1 of just a handful of WRs in this class with alpha potential. The low draft capital spent certainly doesn't help his outlook. And he joins a crowded Denver WR corps, led by Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler. We'll see how things go from here.
Chicago selected UNC WR Dazz Newsome in Round 6 of the 2021 NFL Draft. Newsome broke out for a 72-1,018-10 line back in 2019, beating Dyami Brown in catches and finishing just behind him in yards and TDs. He took a step back this past year, though, tallying 54 catches for 684 yards and 6 scores. And then he bombed his Pro Day, running a 4.59-second 40-yard dash with bottom-barrel agility scores at 5’10 and 190 pounds. We thought Newsome looked more athletic on tape, especially after the catch. But he’ll likely be pigeonholed as a slot receiver in the NFL. If that holds in Chicago, he could potentially step in early if the Bears trade away Anthony Miller (which has been rumored).
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