No one has more rosters of fantasy football analysts and NFL team reporters than ESPN. He is rarely “behind the board” which is a good thing for fantasy managers.
Every Tuesday this preseason, Mike Triplett asked our NFL Nation reporters a few questions about the week’s biggest stories to help you prepare for your draft. This week’s review begins with a couple of receivers who may be hard to believe because of problems, team pressure or summer performances.
Michael Gallup and Jalen Tolbert are listed repeatedly in ESPN’s summer draft as late fliers who could pay off at the end of the year. With last week’s news that Gallup might be ready to play in the first month of the season, do you think this is a better bet?
Of the two, go with Gallup this season because when he gets to the transition, he’ll see more shots and thus pass. It is a question of when he will get into the swing of things. The hope is that he can play in September, but it is not guaranteed. Tolbert has a good relationship with Dak Prescott, but he showed some things in the preseason (drops, double catches, lateral awareness) that didn’t show up in practice. Let me explain it this way: In 2018, Gallup was a third-round pick, like Tolbert, and he caught 33 passes for 507 yards and two touchdowns. If Tolbert can match that, it could be a great season for the rookie. — Todd Archer
Do you think the other Colts pass rushers besides Michael Pittman Jr. can he have a fantasy based on this season? How big a role could rookie Alec Pierce play, in particular?
I think Pierce deserves to be counted. First, they will get some good matchups because Pittman is expected to draw attention from the defense. Beyond that, Pierce showed real chops in the red zone during training camp. One of his best plays was an acrobatic tackle on a fade route in the back of the end zone during his time with the Detroit Lions. Finally, Pierce’s size and speed make him a big threat, as he is comfortable at the same time on the rim. — Stephen Holder
Kansas City Chiefs
Did we get a clear understanding before the season started of the new WR team in Kansas City? Will JuJu Smith-Schuster have high fantasy value? And how long will it take for rookie Skyy Moore to appear in the big league?
We didn’t learn a ton, partly because Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Mecole Hardman missed time with injuries. But Patrick Mahomes had a lot going for Smith-Schuster in training camp before the injury. Mahomes completed 18 passes in the preseason to 10 different receivers and said he thinks that’s how the offense will work this season. He also threw three touchdown passes, all to tight ends (but no Travis Kelce). As for Moore, he’ll get more playing time as the fourth receiver, so there’s a chance he’ll contribute right away. – Adam Teicher
Los Angeles Chargers
Second-year wide receiver Joshua Palmer made a splash this summer. Is there a chance he starts alongside Keenan Allen and Mike Williams?
Yes. Quarterback Justin Herbert has several pass-rushing targets, including Allen, Williams and running back Austin Ekeler. However, if training camp was any indication, a spot will be made for Palmer. The third overall pick in 2021, Palmer caught a few snaps in camp and seemed to connect well with his quarterback. Allen said Palmer is “very polished” heading into his second season. “His timing is improving, his patience, and his reading comprehension,” Allen said. “When they’re not a first-time reader, they can spend a lot of time doing modern things. You can sell them a little.” In a preseason game, Palmer caught a 41-yard pass over his shoulder, then took a short pass and went 18 yards for a touchdown. — Lindsey Thiry
New England Patriots
Currently, the Patriots are the last team to have a WR selected in most ESPN drafts, with Jakobi Meyers at No. 50. Do you think Meyers or DeVante Parker would be productive enough to exceed those expectations?
I don’t. The way the Patriots’ offense is structured, the ball has to be spread out and have the numbers of receivers fluctuate from week to week depending on the opponent’s setup. Meyers is still slated to lead the team in receptions — no one got Mac Jones back in training camp — but it would be surprising if he had a big impact. Multiple injuries can always change that, but as of right now, it’s hard to set the table for either receiver as a viable option. — Mike Reiss
New Orleans Saints
Michael Thomas was making as much noise as any NFL player in his first few weeks after suffering an ankle injury in 2020, but now he has missed more than a week with a hamstring strain. Is he safe enough to draft among the top 25-30 receivers?
Yes. There are other reasons to be pessimistic about Thomas (the number of injuries that limited him all of last season; that we haven’t seen him play with new quarterback Jameis Winston; and the suddenly crowded WR room in New Orleans with Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry). So it makes sense if you don’t want to draft him among the top 20 receivers. But he’s fallen to WR33 in ESPN’s latest rankings, which is pretty high for a guy with his big upside. Thomas really showed his personality and football skills in practice for the Saints before the injury. And while the team hasn’t set a timeline for his return, coach Dennis Allen called it a “minor” hip injury, and Thomas has been seen at team-related events in recent days. — Mike Triplett
New York Giants
Do we have any sense of WR dominance with this team that has so many moving parts? Who can say things when things are planned?
It’s hard to make a plan to focus on the Giants’ wide receivers. Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard and Wan’Dale Robinson will all score goals. Toney, if he’s healthy, he’s always been a fan. He was eighth in the NFL last season in field goals per pass (29.8%). So he is pseudo No. 1, and everyone else in the same line behind him. — Jordan Raanan
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Before Saturday’s game, Jenna Laine of ESPN shared some good updates on receiver Chris Godwin recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee. However, Laine cautioned that the Buccaneers have not yet committed to Godwin playing in Week 1. While that remains a possibility, Laine said he will wait until he is ready.
What are your expectations for Treylon Burks in the short and long term this season after a first season full of highs and lows?
Burks may not start the season as a starter, but he will eventually become one. The Titans use him heavily on passing plays to take advantage of his yards after the catch. Burks may not get the attention of many parties, but he has the potential to average 16.4 yards-per-carry he put up at Arkansas. — Turron Davenport
RB insurance policies
Finally, we reached out to a few NFL Nation reporters this week for insurance advice (if you’re the type of fantasy manager who likes to keep backups like Nyheim Hines and Alexander Mattison while drafting Jonathan Taylor and Dalvin Cook. in round 1). Unfortunately, that RB2 doesn’t sound better in some rear areas than others.
Arizona Cardinals: The project was disrupted a bit during the preseason. Throughout camp, Eno Benjamin has hinted as a potential backup to James Conner, but Jonathan Ward played very well in the preseason until he injured his shoulder in Week 2. Depending on when and how Ward returns, it could be a combination. Benjamin and Darrel Williams who refer to Conner. — Josh Weinfuss
Carolina Panthers: I would say D’Onta Foreman. The Panthers signed him in the offseason as insurance in case Christian McCaffrey went down again — and as a replacement who could help on the long and short-term lines. — David Newton
Cincinnati Bengals: Historically, Samaje Perine has been Joe Mixon’s backup. Perine appears to have been re-elected for the role, with Chris Evans waiting as a possible option. — Ben the Son
Los Angeles Chargers: Joshua Kelley flashed, but didn’t establish himself as the undisputed second-round back in a group that also included fourth-round rookie Isaiah Spiller and second-year pro Larry Rountree III. Spiller, however, suffered an ankle injury late in the preseason, leaving the possibility that he won’t be ready to play Week 1, so Kelley is expected to be the backup to start the season. — Three
New York Giants: Veteran Matt Breida worked as an RB2, but Raanan wrote in his 53-man roster that the depth chart is a “big sign” behind Saquon Barkley: “Breida was hit during training camp, and Antonio Williams didn’t do much in his career, though after being a big fan of the new government.”
Pittsburgh Steelers: Looks like Jaylen Warren jumped Benny Snell Jr. on the depth chart to take over the backup job from the veteran. The rookie undrafted free agent has shown a good combination of speed, explosiveness and power during the preseason. But because Warren isn’t guaranteed long, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Steelers started taking the committee route if Najee Harris were to get hurt. — Brooke Pryor
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Rookie Rachaad White may be Leonard Fournette’s most productive partner, but Fournette’s role is different. If the Bucs had to replace him, they would have turned to a few people, including Ke’Shawn Vaughn. — Line
Tennessee Titans: Dontrell Hilliard is the clear No. 2 behind Derrick Henry. Hilliard averaged 6.3 yards per carry last season, including a 68-yard run against the Patriots. The Titans trust him in pass protection and running routes as a receiver. They should be their first third down back. — Davenport