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Insight from NFL team reporters: Believe the buzz on Saquon Barkley, Brandon Aiyuk, George Pickens?

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  • Mike TriplettESPN Staff Writer


    • Covered Saints for eight years at New Orleans Times-Picayune
    • Previously covered LSU football, SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA 49ers
    • Iowa native and University of Iowa graduate

Nobody includes a more stacked lineup of fantasy football analysts and NFL team reporters than ESPN. It is the rare “backfield by committee” that’s actually a very important thing for fantasy football managers.

Every Tuesday this preseason, Mike Triplett will ask our NFL Nation reporters a number of questions concerning the week’s biggest stories to greatly help together with your draft prep. This week’s roundup focuses heavily on breakout candidates such as for example Brandon Aiyuk, George Pickens, Romeo Doubs and Dameon Pierce. But we also measure the confidence level in stars returning from injuries, like Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley.

Atlanta Falcons

Will Kyle Pitts be worth the 33rd overall pick (where he went in ESPN’s latest mock draft)? Or should we worry about his floor with having less talent around him?

Pitts should absolutely maintain consideration for that range. Marcus Mariota will likely be the starting quarterback, at the very least for a while. But be it Mariota or Desmond Ridder, the chance for quarterback runs will there be, which theoretically may help Pitts if it sucks in a defender while he’s on a brief or intermediate route. And I wouldn’t worry an excessive amount of concerning the talent level at another skill positions. Rookie receiver Drake London will command attention during games, as will running back Cordarrelle Patterson, who is able to line up any place in the formation. Also, remember that coach/playcaller Arthur Smith may use Pitts in a variety of places. There’s likely to be adequate questions and intrigue with other players in order to avoid a triple-team situation. And when it ever did reach that, it probably means Pitts is amid a particular season. — Michael Rothstein

Carolina Panthers

How confident should fantasy managers be that Christian McCaffrey will go back to form and keep maintaining much workload this year? Enough to create him the initial or second overall pick in drafts?

This may be a large year if McCaffrey delivers on working out advice he got from Marshall Faulk — whose sixth and seventh seasons were a few of his most productive. Remember, McCaffrey’s injuries days gone by two seasons have all been of the soft-tissue variety, so nothing with a long-term impact. The Panthers also intend to be smarter on what they rest McCaffrey through the week and use him in games. If he is able to play 14-17 games, he should again be probably the most productive backs in the league. In the event, though, put D’Onta Foreman on your own roster for insurance. — David Newton

Denver Broncos

You wrote the other day that Courtland Sutton is emerging as a go-to target for Russell Wilson in pressure situations. Should Sutton definitely be considered a higher fantasy priority than Jerry Jeudy? (These were drafted as WR18 and WR19 in the most recent mock)

With Tim Patrick’s season-ending knee injury, Sutton’s and Jeudy’s roles is only going to become more prominent, especially in debt zone. Wilson shows in training camp he’ll move the ball around to get the matchups he likes. But he’s also shown in practices and the joint workouts with the Dallas Cowboys that whenever he really requires a completion or has been moved off his spot by the pass rush, he’ll search for Sutton. There’s always the question of whether those tendencies will endure in games. Jeudy is too good a route-runner — and Wilson has spent the required time dealing with him — never to be considered a factor (Jeudy often attends the quarterback meetings). Think about it as early Peyton Manning with the Broncos in 2012 when Demaryius Thomas was clearly Manning’s go-to guy, but Eric Decker led the team in touchdowns. Or in 2014 when Thomas was again the go-to option and Julius Thomas led the team in touchdowns. If both are healthy completely the growing season, they’re both likely to likely have their finest years. — Jeff Legwold

Green Bay Packers

Romeo Doubs has been generating just as much fantasy buzz as any rookie in the NFL come early july. What size of a job do you consider he could play, and where does he easily fit into alongside Allen Lazard and the now-healthy Christian Watson, amongst others?

Doubs already appears to have developed some chemistry with Aaron Rodgers, who hasn’t hesitated to throw his way used. At this time, it’s hard to assume him being any less than No. 4 on the depth chart. And according to the packages, he could possibly be WR2 or WR3. Lazard has been around the WR1 spot more often than not, while Sammy Watkins has gotten a good level of reps with the starters aswell. Randall Cobb lines up almost exclusively the slot, as always, in three-receiver sets. Doubs is well before Watson at this time, but there’s the required time for Watson to create up ground. Gone will be the days of the Packers having a star No. 1, however they may have more options than ever before. — Rob Demovsky

Houston Texans

You wrote that rookie Dameon Pierce appeared as if the Texans’ best running back, even before his impressive preseason debut. What size do you consider his role could possibly be this year — and how soon could he emerge as RB1?

By the initial month of the growing season, Pierce could dominate the starting job. Former Colt Marlon Mack gets the most production of the group, which also features Rex Burkhead, but Pierce gets the most explosiveness, and it’s really just a matter of time until Texans offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton makes Pierce the lead back. — DJ Bien-Aime

Indianapolis Colts

You wrote the other day about why the Colts are (gasp) prioritizing their Super Bowl hopes over fantasy football by likely to reduce Jonathan Taylor’s workload. Can you still think he ought to be the No. 1 overall pick generally in most fantasy drafts? And really should Nyheim Hines be on more fantasy radars?

There’s still justification to choose Taylor No. 1 overall due to his propensity for big plays. Despite having fewer touches — and I really do expect his touches to be lower — Taylor gets the potential to help make the the majority of those opportunities. He recorded explosive plays (10-plus yards) on 15.1% of his runs last season. Among 1,000-yard rushers, only Nick Chubb had an increased rate (18%). And, remember, Taylor was 12th among running backs with 9 yards per catch, so he is able to do damage in the passing game, too. — Stephen Holder


Saquon Barkley has drawn some impressive reviews early in camp, however, many fantasy managers will undoubtedly be understandably hesitant to get in. How confident as long as they be he can go back to form?

Barkley has looked the very best he’s got in years. Both quarterback Daniel Jones and coach Brian Daboll used the term “explosive” to spell it out what they’ve seen. Also it matches what’s on the market on the field each day. In addition, the effectiveness of the Giants’ offensive line is apparently its run-blocking, Barkley ought to be more mixed up in passing game this year, and there is not much depth behind him. So his workload will undoubtedly be huge … so long as he’s healthy. That is the question: Is it possible to trust him to remain healthy? — Jordan Raanan

NY Jets

Breece Hall and Elijah Moore have both drawn lots of buzz early in camp. What size of a job can you expect each to play this year? And does Zach Wilson’s injury affect either player’s value?

Hall and Moore be capable of be RB1 and WR1, respectively, by the finish of the growing season. Moore showed signs to become that last season from Weeks 8 to 12. For the reason that span, he ranked eighth in the NFL in receptions (28), sixth in receiving yards (382) and tied for fourth in TD catches (four). He then got hurt and missed the rest of the growing season. The majority of that was included with other QBs, not Wilson. That is the question: Will Wilson, who had problems putting the ball ultimately zone, hurt Moore’s fantasy value? It is a possibility. Hall is splitting carries with Michael Carter, and that figures to keep. But Hall’s outside speed intrigues the coaches and may create a bigger role because the season progresses. — Rich Cimini

Pittsburgh Steelers

George Pickens continued his impressive summer with the catch of the weekend. How fantasy-relevant could he maintain his rookie season, either in early stages or as a potential stash-for-later option?

Regardless of who wins the starting quarterback job, it’s safe to assume Pickens is a significant element in the offense. It is a crowded receiving room with Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, but Pickens has carved out a job along with his impressive footwork and contested-catch skills. He’s been a popular target of both Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph used, making him a draft-and-stash candidate at least. But his fantasy ceiling is high with the Steelers more likely to push the ball down the field more regularly than lately. He may have a Claypool-like rookie season (nine TD catches) … or better. — Brooke Pryor


Brandon Aiyuk has probably generated just as much buzz as any player in NFL camps come early july — and quarterback Trey Lance generated just as much buzz as any player this last weekend. How high should expectations be for both?

The Aiyuk buzz has been building, once and for all reason. He’s got been the team’s most consistent offensive performer in camp and the rapport he constructed with Lance via an offseason spent together in southern California is not any small thing. It’s worth noting that Aiyuk had an identical begin to camp this past year and tapered off when he previously a hamstring injury late in the preseason. It took some time to obtain back on the right track. But lacking another injury, it isn’t outrageous to believe he could lead the team in receptions and receiving yards. Alas, it’s still worth remaining at the very least just a little cautious because this can be a team that still pays WR Deebo Samuel and TE George Kittle handsomely.

For Lance, the Niners have managed to get clear they aren’t likely to ask him to transport the freight because of this team. They will have a solid defense and these talent to opt for an excellent running game. Lance’s camp has include the good and the bad that will oftimes be evident this year, especially in early stages. The upside is hard to deny, especially because he brings a running element that may offset whatever accuracy issues he’s got. Overall, expectations for Lance ought to be kept in balance. But he’s not just a bad stash for later in the growing season, as the team expects he’ll progress with every start he makes. — Nick Wagoner

Seattle Seahawks

You wrote that rookie Ken Walker III could have a large role in Seattle’s backfield. Just how much can you expect him to be utilized when Rashaad Penny is healthy? And may he become an every-down back if Penny misses time?

Walker will be a bigger section of Seattle’s backfield than people may realize. I possibly could start to see the Seahawks giving him about just as much of the strain as Penny, even though both are healthy. Remember, Penny has carried the ball 20-plus times in a casino game only twice in his career. That’s, partly, because he’s missed so many games because of injury, but additionally because he’s not created to handle a Derrick Henry/Marshawn Lynch-like workload. The Seahawks are likely to run the ball a whole lot and they’re not only going to depend on Penny to accomplish it.

Pete Carroll had a telling touch upon Walker the other day when he raved about how exactly Walker has “turned the page” from his well-documented struggles with pass protection in college. Walker in addition has shown far better receiving skills from the backfield than you may assume for a person who had just 19 catches in three college seasons.

“He could play all three downs and we’d feel safe with it,” Carroll said. — Brady Henderson

Tennessee Titans

The brakes got slammed a little on rookie receiver Treylon Burks’ fantasy hype after his quiet preseason debut. Should veteran Robert Woods function as higher priority in drafts?

Woods ought to be a higher priority because he’ll get a lot of targets. Before his injury last season, Woods averaged 132 targets per season. The Titans aren’t more likely to pass the ball nearly just as much as the Rams did, but Woods’ 1.3% drop rate during the last five years (tied for sixth lowest among WRs with at the very least 200 targets) and precise route-running can make him among Ryan Tannehill‘s favorite pass-catchers. Woods has had part in full-team practice drills and is on the right track to play in the season-opener contrary to the Giants. Burks, meanwhile, in addition has began to earn Tannehill’s trust due to his capability to win on contested catches. The Titans gives Burks a lot of opportunities to obtain yards following the catch on quick passes from play-action, particularly when opposing defenses stack the box. — Turron Davenport

Washington Commanders

How secure is Antonio Gibson’s role after he coughed up a fumble and gained just 2 yards on four carries in the preseason opener? And really should rookie backup Brian Robinson be higher on fantasy radars?

The difference for Gibson this year is that Washington has options if he does continue steadily to fumble. They are able to use more four-receiver sets with Curtis Samuel healthy and the addition of rookie Jahan Dotson. For the reason that situation, J.D. McKissic could possibly be the running back. In addition they drafted Robinson, who shows some promise.

They do like Gibson a whole lot, and he is able to provide big plays. However they want him to become more consistent in the manner he runs — more “one-cut and go.” The coaches say Gibson gets himself in big trouble when he becomes indecisive about when or where you can cut — and leading to the ball swinging from his body, that leads to fumbles. Therefore the running style is more the problem. Important thing: It is a big year for Ron Rivera and his program here, plus they do have choices. They can not wait for you to definitely workout issues. So Robinson is actually a solid pick late in fantasy drafts because it is possible he’ll more work in debt zone. He runs with an increase of power and he protects the ball. — John Keim

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