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NFL PLAYER NEWS
Brandon Aiyuk 'the best player on the field' in 49ers OTAs
Matt Barrows of The Athletic believes wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk was "the best player on the field" in San Francisco 49ers OTAs.
Aiyuk was seemingly unstoppable in OTAs, though it should be noted that many of the team's defensive starters were not participating in the drills. Barrows pointed out that Aiyuk's participation in the voluntary practices illustrated how locked-in the receiver is this offseason, while teammate Deommodore Lenoir remarked "He’s going to be a top-five receiver in this league this year."
Aiyuk enjoyed his first 1,000-yard season in 2022, catching 78 passes for 1,015 yards and 8 scores during the regular season. The former first-round pick has been steadily growing as a receiver through his first three seasons and could enjoy a true breakout this season if he continues his upwards trend. The 49ers will be returning a star-stacked pass-catching group for the 2023 season, but Aiyuk has a chance to outshine his teammates.
Panthers' Bryce Young taking first-team reps in OTAs
The Athletic's Joseph Person wrote that Carolina Panthers quarterback Bryce Young has appeared to surpass Andy Dalton as the team's first-unit quarterback.
Person noted that Young, the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, had already been taking first-team reps earlier in OTAs, but that the team had been giving veteran Andy Dalton the first several throws before moving to Young. Head coach Frank Reich added that it was "just the next step" for Young, who showed "really good stuff" throughout the early parts of the preseason. It's no surprise, but Young should be expected to be the Panthers Week 1 quarterback.
The 2021 Heisman award-winner was well-deserving of becoming the first overall pick in this year's draft, throwing for 8,200 yards with 79 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions in his 2 seasons as the Crimson Tide's starter. The Panthers will be a bit of a work in progress during the 2023 season, but there's reason for optimism with Young at the helm in Carolina.
Rams' Cooper Kupp (ankle) 'feeling really good'
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (ankle) said he is "feeling really good" entering OTAs.
Kupp was able to participate in the Rams' practices earlier this week for the first time since suffering his season-ending ankle injury. The star receiver noted that he is still technically rehabbing the injury, but it looks like he'll be up to full speed well before the start of the regular season. With the departure of Allen Robinson earlier this offseason, Kupp will be in line to shoulder most of the receiving work again for the Rams this season.
Kupp was having yet another insanely productive season with Los Angeles in 2022. Prior to his Week 10 injury he had been averaging 9 receptions for 101.6 yards and 0.8 touchdowns per game, essentially picking right back up where he left off in his record-setting 2021 campaign. He should once again be one of the first wide receivers off the board in fantasy drafts this summer.
Vikings inform Dalvin Cook of upcoming release
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that the Minnesota Vikings have informed running back Dalvin Cook that he is being released.
The Vikings have been making noise about moving on from Cook for much of the offseason, and are now making the move official. Cook signed a 5-year, $63 million deal with the team before the 2020 season and will now enter free agency just 2 years later. We have already begun seeing reports of interest in Cook from teams like the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, and Denver Broncos, so it seems like Cook should find a new landing spot relatively quickly. The Vikings are now expected to enter the season with Alexander Mattison as their primary back.
Cook finished each of the past 4 seasons with at least 1,300 yards from scrimmage, but the 4-time Pro Bowler's efficiency has decreased in each of the past 2 seasons. According to Next Gen Stats, Cook ranked 7th-worst in the league in Rushing Yards Over Expectation last year, finishing with an estimated 41-fewer yards than an average back with his carries would be expected to produce. The 4 other backs who ranked worse than Cook in that metric last year (excluding those on rookie contracts) were each also cut from their teams this offseason, but teams do still seem interested in Cook's ability to create big explosive plays.
Payton: Broncos "have a vision" for Greg Dulcich's role
Denver Broncos tight end Greg Dulcich is in store for a larger role in his second season, according to head coach Sean Payton.
Getting used to the Denver lingo, Payton referred to Dulich as a "Joker," alluding to Nuggets' two-time MVP Nikola Jokic. The plan is to "work matchups" with the dynamic tight end, finding ways to exploit defenses using his talents. "He's got a unique skill set," Payton said. "He's got traits. In the passing game we use the term 'Joker' where you can get matchups." The Broncos' tight end room curently has Albert Okwuegbunam and Adam Trautman also competing for snaps, but if Dulcich can be unlocked, that will greatly help Russell Wilson bounce back from a dreadful first season with the team.
Our models currently project Dulcich for 45.28 catches on 69.15 targets for 483.42 yards and 3.91 touchdowns this season. He's currently the TE18.
Laquon Treadwell signs 1-year deal with Ravens
Free agent wide receiver Laquon Treadwell has signed a one-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
Treadwell was once a first-round pick way back in 2016 for the Minnesota Vikings. But in the first 7 years of his career, he has just 5 career touchdown catches. Whether or not Treadwell makes the 53-man roster is currently up in the air, as the current receiver rotation already includes Rashod Bateman, Odell Beckham Jr., Zay Flowers and Nelson Agholor as entrenched options. Treadwell will be battling the likes of Devin Duvernay and James Proche for the 5th receiver spot.
In 6 games last year, Treadwell had 6 catches on 10 targets for 42 yards.