Recent NFL Player News

Carson Wentz showing improved mechanics in Eagles' OTAs

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz looks stronger and is showing better mechanics during OTAs, the Philadelphia Daily News' Jeff McLane reports.

What It Means:

McLane specifically said Wentz's "spirals are tighter" and none of his "20 or so throws" sailed, which was a problem last season. Normally this could be dismissed as offseason fluff, but Wentz did work with 3DQB gurus Adam Dedeaux and Tom House over the offseason. "It's really just cleaning up some things from an efficiency standpoint," Wentz said of the work. "No mass overhaul, nothing really major...a lot of it having to do with footwork." With better weapons and an intact offensive line, Wentz should take a step forward as a sophomore.

Wentz threw 14 interceptions over the final 13 weeks of the season. Among the 39 quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs, he ranked 25th in Passing Net Expected Points per drop back.

Rob Gronkowski was a full participant at Patriots' OTAs

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (back) was a "full-go" during OTAs according to The Boston Herald's Karen Guregian.

What It Means:

Guregian also noted that Gronkowski was allowed to participate in everything despite the rain at OTAs and along with his WrestleMania appearance, he seems fully recovered from the back injury that kept him out of the Super Bowl. Even though the star tight end has dealt with several injuries over the last few years, he will likely enter the 2017 season as the top fantasy tight end on draft boards, even with the Pats' acquisition of Dwayne Allen.

Gronkowski's 1.32 Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) per target last season were most among the 39 tight ends to see at least 35 targets on the year. That was significantly more than Dwayne Allen, who finished second with 0.95 Reception NEP per target.

Giants lining Evan Engram up everywhere in OTA's

New York Giants rookie tight end Evan Engram has been lining up "everywhere" at OTAs.

What It Means:

According to beat writer Dan Duggan, Engram played traditional in-line tight end, in the slot, out wide, and even some H-back. Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan has said Engram will be taught to play as an in-line tight end, but the best way to maximize Engram's athletic skill set is to use him to create mismatches against smaller cornerbacks and slower linebackers.

The Giants' tight ends in 2016, led by Will Tye, were third-worst in Reception Net Expected Points per target among league-wide tight end groups.

Leonard Fournette impressing Jaguars with receiving ability

The Jacksonville Jaguars have been pleased with rookie running back Leonard Fournette's pass-catching at OTAs, head coach Doug Marrone said.

What It Means:

Fournette wasn't asked to catch many passes at LSU but he seemed comfortable as a receiver at the Combine and his Pro Day and has kept up the good work at OTAs. Beat reporter Ryan O'Halloran of the Florida Times-Union only saw Fournette drop one pass during Friday's practice.

Fournette saw just 41 catches for 526 yards in three seasons at LSU. If he develops pass-catching ability, that will all but decimate T.J. Yeldon's third-down value; Yeldon was already just third-lowest in Reception Net Expected Points per target among the 21 running backs to be targeted at least 50 times last year.

Cowboys expect Ryan Switzer to have meaningful role

Dallas Cowboys fourth-round wide receiver Ryan Switzer to have a "significant" role in the team's offense, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan expects.

What It Means:

"His role is significant," said Linehan. "He complements [Cole] Beasley and also gives us some big-time needed depth." Linehan called Switzer a "classic slot receiver." Switzer has practiced with the first team at OTAs with Beasley nursing a hamstring injury. Despite Linehan's comments, Switzer will have a tough time earning snaps as long as Beasley is healthy.

Beasley turned in the 10th-most Reception Net Expected Points per target among the 92 receivers to see at least 50 targets last year.

Teddy Bridgewater (knee) rapidly improving in Vikings' rehab

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (knee) is "progressing as well as anybody could expect," head coach Mike Zimmer said.

What It Means:

"He’s throwing the ball well. He’s got good velocity, accurate," Zimmer said. "He’s working his rear end off. It just makes you proud for him." Despite the progress, Zimmer conceded Bridgewater still has a "long ways to go." Regardless of Bridgewater's availability, Sam Bradford is locked in as the Vikings' Week 1 starter.

Bridgewater finished 31st in Passing Net Expected Points per drop back among the 39 quarterbacks in 2015 with at least 150 drop backs.

Nelson Agholor working to keep up with Eagles' competition

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor has seen improvement this offseason, according to head coach Doug Pederson.

What It Means:

"As I've said all along, competition, man, sharpens you," said Pederson. "And that's what I've seen from Nelson. He's done a great job already this spring." Agholor has been a bust since arriving as a first-round pick in 2015, and any improvements may be too little too late as Agholor will take a backseat to newcomers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith.

Agholor's 0.46 Reception Net Expected Points per target were the sixth-fewest among the 92 wide receivers with at least 50 targets last year.

Coby Fleener needed a year to learn Saints' offense

New Orleans Saints tight end Coby Fleener expects to be "more effective" now that he's had a year to learn the offense.

What It Means:

Fleener still managed 50 catches last season in his first taste of the New Orleans offense, but he didn't live up to the expectations of a five-year, $36 million contract. The 28-year-old faced a steep learning curve in his first year with the Saints. "I think anytime you’re trying to learn a new offense, trying to learn a language... going through it for a year really helps," he said.

Fleener came in 13th in Reception Net Expected Points per target among the 32 tight ends to see at least 50 targets in 2016.

Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill and Julius Thomas taking time to connect

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s timing with tight end Julius Thomas "remains a work in progress," the Miami Herald reports.

What It Means:

It’s a non-concern this early in the offseason. Thomas is healthy after dealing with injuries the last two years and projects for a high volume red-zone role. Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen thinks Thomas can push for 10-plus touchdowns.

Thomas averaged 0.42 Net Expected Points per target last season, finishing 29th out of the 32 tight ends with at least 50 targets.

Browns attempting to fast-track DeShone Kizer

Cleveland Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer is "on the fast-track" to winning the starting job, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

What It Means:

Head coach Hue Jackson said Kizer has been a "quick study." Kizer is being pushed to get up to speed as quickly as possible. Cody Kessler has been getting the majority of first-team reps, but it's starting to look like the Browns have no plans to slow play Kizer.

Among the 39 quarterbacks to pick up at least 100 drop backs in 2016, Kessler was 17th in Passing Net Expected Points per drop back.

Danny Woodhead (ACL) practicing at full strength for Ravens

Baltimore Ravens running back Danny Woodhead (ACL) said he is practicing with "no restrictions."

What It Means:

"I’m just playing football now," he added. "I haven’t been thinking about needing to do stuff to rehab it because I’m healthy now." It's been eight months since Woodhead tore his ACL on September 18 last season. While Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon (four-game suspension) figure to see the majority of the early-down work for Baltimore, Woodhead should dominate on passing downs. Per usual, he projects to be a fantastic value in both PPR and standard formats this season.

Woodhead saw just 19 rushes and 8 targets before succumbing to the injury in 2016, but he generated 0.18 Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per attempt and 0.35 Reception NEP per target on them -- more than West and Dixon in both categories.

Source: Rotoworld

Jerick McKinnon seeing first-team work in Vikings' backfield

Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon opened OTAs handling "most of the first-team reps" out of the backfield.

What It Means:

With Latavius Murray nursing an ankle injury and Dalvin Cook fresh out of Florida State, it's no surprise that McKinnon is handling first-string work, but it likely doesn't mean much. A perennial darling of the analytics and fantasy communities, McKinnon averaged just 3.4 yards per carry in Minnesota last season and failed to establish himself as a lead back. Plenty of that can be blamed on a porous offensive line, but with Cook and Murray now in tow, McKinnon may very well fall to third on the depth chart this offseason.

McKinnon's -0.13 Rushing Net Expected Points per carry last season were lowest among the 27 running backs to see 150-plus carries. In related news, the Vikings were worst in the NFL in 2016 in Adjusted Offensive Rushing Net Expected Points per play.

Source: Rotoworld

Bears' Kevin White (leg) 'working to align his stride'

Chicago Bears third-year wide receiver Kevin White has spent the last several months "working to align his stride" when running, the Chicago Tribune reports.

What It Means:

The Tribune also reported just a few days ago that the Bears simply "don't know" whether White will regain his explosiveness. A fractured left tibia cost him his entire rookie season, and then issues in the same leg limited him to all but four games in 2016. The opportunity will be there if his health allows it, but White is a late-round flier littered with question marks entering fantasy drafts this season.

Among the 32 wide receivers to see between 25 and 50 targets last season, White's 0.29 Reception Net Expected Points per target was ahead of only Braxton Miller (0.22) in that group.

Source: Rotoworld

Branden Oliver looks impressive at Chargers' OTAs

Los Angeles Chargers running back Branden Oliver (Achilles') has looked as good as new at Chargers OTAs, according to quarterback Philip Rivers.

What It Means:

"It’s been great (having him back)," Rivers. "Gosh, we had really such high expectations for him going into last year. ... He looks good. He looks explosive. I know it’s early, but I think he really is a great complement to Melvin (Gordon). Their styles are different, but similar. (We) have two backs who can run all the same plays." Oliver missed all of 2016 after tearing his Achilles' tendon in August, but he'll be one of the more valuable handcuffs for fantasy owners this upcoming season.

Oliver averaged -0.03 Rushing Net Expected Points per attempt on 31 carries during his last regular-season action back in 2015. That would have ranked in the bottom-half of the 23 backs to see between 25 and 50 carries last season.

Source: Rotoworld

Chiefs unlikely to remove Spencer Ware as starter

Kansas City Chiefs running back Spencer Ware will return as the team's starter, according to the expectations of The Kansas City Star.

What It Means:

This comes at odds with ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher, who previously projected third-round rookie Kareem Hunt as the favorite to lead in rushing attempts and catches out of the backfield. Head coach Andy Reid may wind up going with more of a split backfield after Ware's production trailed off a bit as the season progressed. After averaging 5.2 yards per carry (YPC) through the first six games of 2016, Ware saw that number fall to 3.6 over the final eight contests.

Out of 42 running backs to see 100-plus attempts last season, Ware's -0.07 Rushing Net Expected Points per attempt was 11th-least. Meanwhile, Pro Football Focus charted Hunt with the second-most missed tackles forced (98) in the nation in 2016, and he put the ball on the ground just once on 856 college touches.

Source: Rotoworld

Dolphins say Jay Ajayi could push for 350 carries

Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi could see as many as 350 carries this season, according to head coach Adam Gase.

What It Means:

Health and game-flow will also be a factor, but it's a clear indication of how much confidence the Dolphins have in Ajayi to successfully lead their offense. "I'm ready for it," Ajayi said when asked about his feature back usage. "I prepare myself every season to take a huge workload and be able to carry the team, and I think I'm ready for that." The 24-year-old (in June) running back is currently going in the second round of fantasy drafts, and he offers top-ten overall upside.

Ajayi was supremely efficient with his rushing touches in 2016, coming in sixth in Rushing Net Expected Points per attempt among the 42 running backs with at least 100 carries on the year.

Source: Rotoworld

Victor Cruz inks a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears have signed wide receiver Victor Cruz to a one-year contract.

What It Means:

The Bears wide receiver corps is very crowded right now, though they aren't exactly deep with talent at the position, with Cameron Meredith, Kevin White and Kendall Wright sitting atop the depth chart. Cruz is not a lock to make the 53-man roster.

Cruz averaged 0.66 Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) per target last season, ranking 53rd among the 93 wideouts to see at least 50 targets on the year. That was the lowest mark among New York Giants wideouts in the group.

Giants' Odell Beckham not at OTAs on Thursday

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham did not report for Thursday's OTA practice.

What It Means:

OTAs are entirely voluntary practices, and a veteran like Beckham being absent is a common occurrence. This doesn't raise any concerns about Beckham's prospects for the 2017-2018 season.

Among the 41 receivers to top 100 targets in 2016, Beckham's 0.66 Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) per target were 27th-most. The league-average Reception NEP per target rate was 0.66.

Brock Osweiler sees himself as Browns' starting quarterback

Cleveland Browns quarterback Brock Osweiler says he expects to be the team's starter.

What It Means:

"My expectation is always to start," Osweiler said. "But once again that's not my decision. I want to play and I want to help this team win, but I know there's a lot of work that needs to go into that." The much-maligned quarterback has rotated in with the starters at OTAs, but there figures to be a healthy competition in Cleveland this offseason under center. Osweiler, Cody Kessler, and second-round pick DeShone Kizer all seem to have a fair chance at the starting job.

Among the 39 quarterbacks to pick up at least 100 drop backs in 2016, Osweiler's was seventh-worst in Passing Net Expected Points per drop back. Kessler ranked 17th in the same analytic.

Source: Rotoworld

Bills concerned about the health of Charles Clay (knee)

Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott has said that they team is still worried about Charles Clay's knee injury.

What It Means:

Clay has been dealing with chronic knee troubles since joining the Bills in the 2015 offseason, and while he only missed one game last season, the Bills plan on exercising caution and managing Clay's reps this offseason.

Clay posted 0.55 reception Net Expected Points per target last season, which ranked 21st among the 32 tight ends to see 50-plus targets.

Patriots' Rob Gronkowski (back) cleared to return to practice

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (back) has been cleared to return to the practice field.

What It Means:

Gronk's recovery has been going smoothly, and he has said that he'll be "ready to roll" for offseason workouts. Barring any setbacks, expect him to be full-go by the time the season starts.

Gronkowski's 1.32 Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) per target last season were most among the 39 tight ends to see at least 35 targets on the year. That was significantly more than Dwayne Allen, who finished second with 0.95 Reception NEP per target.

Robert Woods the favorite to lead Rams' in targets

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods is "perhaps the best bet to lead the 2017 Rams in catches," believes ESPN Rams reporter Alden Gonzalez.

What It Means:

Woods projects to be Jared Goff's primary target after the Rams let Kenny Britt walk this offseason. He should exceed 100 targets in Los Angeles and makes for an appealing late-round flier in fantasy drafts.

Woods caught 51 passes for 613 yards and one touchdown in 13 games for the Buffalo Bills in 2016. He turned out a 0.68 Reception Net Expected Points per target on 76 targets, the 32nd-best rate among the 68 receivers with at least 75 targets in 2016.

Source: Rotoworld

Bears' Kevin White's (leg) progress considered a 'mystery'

Chicago Bears wide receiver Kevin White's progress in recovery from a leg injury is a "mystery," according to the Chicago Tribune.

What It Means:

Head coach John Fox said earlier this month that White "looks very healthy," and while other positive remarks have been made, no specifics have been given. The seventh pick from the 2015 draft has missed 28-of-32 games through the first two years of his NFL career, but the Bears are counting on him to be one of their top receivers in 2017.

Among the 32 wide receivers to see between 25 and 50 targets last season, White's 0.29 Reception Net Expected Points per target was ahead of only Braxton Miller (0.22) in that group.

Kareem Hunt continuing to receive hype out of Chiefs' camp

Kansas City Chiefs third-round rookie running back Kareem Hunt has "already impressed with his short-area burst and balance," observes Terez Paylor of The Kansas City Star.

What It Means:

This comes four days after ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher predicted Hunt would lead the Chiefs in rushing and pace the backfield in receptions. Spencer Ware figures to have something to say about that, but as the highest running back ever drafted by head coach Andy Reid in Kansas City, Hunt will likely have plenty of opportunity to perform as a rookie.

Hunt churned out a ridiculous 4,945 rushing yards on 782 carries (6.32 yards per carry), with 44 touchdowns and 73 receptions in his career. Pro Football Focus charted him with the second-most missed tackles forced (98) in the nation in 2016, and he put the ball on the ground just once on 856 college touches. Out of 42 running backs to see 100-plus attempts last season at the professional level, Ware's -0.07 Rushing Net Expected Points per attempt was 11th-least.

Jets planning to go with a committee approach in the backfield in 2017

The New York Jets plan on using a running back-by-committee approach in the 2017 season, per offensive coordinator John Morton.

What It Means:

This doesn't come as a big surprise, as Bilal Powell has looked good over the past few seasons, and the 31-year-old Matt Forte has shown signs of slowing down.

Among the 42 running backs with at least 100 rushing attempts last season, Powell finished third in Rushing Net Expected Points per attempt. Forte was 15th-lowest in that metric among the same group of players.

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