(CNN)Several NFL players took a knee, raised fists or did not take to the field while the National Anthem was played Thursday night before preseason games.
Wide receiver may be the deepest position in all of fantasy football. Though there are many many quality options you’ll still want to know who is set up to surprise and who is set up to stun. The four players below are all currently outside the top 30 wide receivers according to average draft position. These four are also talented players who happen to be in situations where their production can take a giant step forward.
Hitting on a rookie wide receiver is extremely difficult. Davis likely found himself on sleeper lists this time last year, but injuries cost him valuable game time, and he never eclipsed 100 yards receiving nor did he find the end zone in 2017.
So what has changed? For starters, the Titans brought in Matt LaFleur to overhaul the offense. If he brings some of that magic that helped the Los Angeles Rams this entire offense could take a giant leap forward. LaFleur has coached under both Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay. Two current head coaches known for innovation and getting the most out of their quarterbacks. Tennessee also did next to nothing to beef up their receiving corps. Rishard Matthews is a fantasy asset, but Davis is the better talent and should be the Titan’s premiere weapon through the air. Taywan Taylor is an interesting late-round pick, but a risky play. With a fully healthy offseason and an improved situation, look for Davis to breakout and possibly finish in the top 30 at his position.
John Ross is more of a deep sleeper (currently going undrafted). Ross was one of the most hyped rookies last year, but injuries limited him to two games with no receptions. The 2018 season figures to be a much more productive year for the speedster and perhaps one where he becomes a weekly fantasy play.
The Bengals’ passing attack is still pretty much just A.J. Green. Brandon LaFell is a 31 year-old wide-out with talent, but there’s nothing special about his game. Tyler Boyd is entering his third year, scattering 73 receptions and three touchdowns across 28 games. Cincinnati needs a legit threat at receiver opposite of Green. Ross does have elite speed, but his route tree is diverse and he can be used more as an offensive weapon (a la Tyreek Hill). Should Ross take advantage of his opportunities you could have a WR3 with phenomenal upside for the price of the final pick in the draft.
One of the best ways to find a sleeper in fantasy football is to investigate the best offenses (or who we think are the best offenses) and look at changing roles or suddenly available targets. Hunter Henry’s injury not only opens the door for an Antonio Gates revival, but also a Mike Williams breakout.
Williams’ rookie season was easy to miss. Injuries kept him off the field and when he was healthy enough to play he wasn’t effective. The former 1st round pick now has an opportunity to go through a full training camp and his main competition is Tyrell Williams, a solid if unspectacular talent who has struggled with consistency. Mike Williams’ currently going as WR50, but he has the tools and situation to finish in the top 30 at his position if he can put it together on the field this season.
It’s easy to fall in love with speed, but versatility is what keeps you on the field. Goodwin’s speed has never been an issue. Like many speed merchants he is often written off as a one-trick pony, but Goodwin showed some depth in his game last season.
The arrival of Jimmy Garoppolo should raise all boats in the Bay. Pierre Garçon is still around, but he missed Garoppolo’s run due to injury — a time where Goodwin built valuable chemistry with the new starting quarterback, topping 90 receiving yards three times in the final five weeks. Kyle Shanahan now has a QB that can execute his offense and he obviously likes Goodwin’s talent. Goodwin just needs to stay healthy to take advantage of an improved offense.
Even though DeSean Jackson signed a new deal with the Washington Redskins last night,Richard Sherman is not ready to move on and forget the fact that the Philadelphia Eagles released him late last week because of his alleged “gang ties.” Early this morning, Sherman published a new column for The MMQB that offers his take on the Eagles parting ways with D-Jax. And because the Seattle Seahawks cornerback actually grew up with the speedy wide receiver and understands what it’s like to grow up in a rough neighborhood, he was able to offer a pretty unique perspective on why the Eagles shouldn’t have cut Jackson.
“I look at those words—gang ties—and I think about all the players I’ve met in the NFL and all of us who come from inner-city neighborhoods like mine in Los Angeles, and I wonder how many of us could honestly say we’re not friends with guys doing the wrong things,” he writes. “I can’t.”
Sherman also says that if Jackson had been playing for, say, the Seahawks instead of the Eagles, he wouldn’t have been released last week because of his “gang ties.”
“Sorry, but I was born in this dirt,” he writes. “NFL teams understand that. The Seattle Seahawks get it. The Philadelphia Eagles apparently do not.”
To read what else Sherman had to say, go here. Now that Jackson is with a new team, the whole “Is DeSean Jackson really in a gang?!” story is likely going to fade. But it’s important to hear what a guy like Sherman has to say about it. Because it won’t be the last time that a pro athlete is accused of having ties to a gang.
Well it looks as though the last shoe has dropped in the Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin locker room saga. A few weeks ago, text messages were released that detailed the strange relationship between Incognito and Martin. From mutual name calling, to talks of prostitutes and drugs, it would seem that Martin and his teammate were just friends going at each other. But apparently those texts were only the tip of the iceberg and a small part of a bigger issue.
Martin repeatedly complained to his parents about the harassment he was receiving from not only Incognito, but also from his other offensive linemen teammates, Mike Pouncey and John Jerry, both of whom are black. The taunting involved everything from homophobic slurs, to being called the “n” word as well as other racial epithets. After the NFL report was released, Incognito couldn’t take the pressure of being taunted via Twitter, basically getting a taste of his own medicine, and deleted his account.
Related: 2013 Fantasy Football: Flint Michigan Megabowl’s Thurman Murmans Week Seven Results The quarterback carousel will apparently continue for the Minnesota Vikings, as Josh Freeman is reportedly dealing with a concussion after his dismal debut against the New York Giants on Monday night. Christian Ponder is now expected to start in Week 8 against the Green Bay Packers after starting the first three games of the season, suffering a rib injury and losing his job to Matt Cassel and then Freeman. Fantasy football owners that even had him on a roster surely dropped Ponder like a bad habit after his injury, but is he a viable option for Week 8? Ponder missed Minnesota’s playoff loss to the Packers last January with an arm injury, but he performed well against them at home in the regular season finale, going 16-for-28 for 234 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. It’s worth mentioning he had one of his worst games of 2012 at Lambeau Field against Green Bay (12-for-25 for 119 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions), but Sunday night’s game is a home. The Packers enter Week 8 allowing the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks (17.8 per game, ESPN scoring) and that would be worse if not for facing Brandon Weeden of the Cleveland Browns in Week 7 and allowing just 149 passing yards and one touchdown. Ponder may not be a significantly better player than Weeden, but he at least has some positive history against Green Bay at home. With six teams on a bye this week, some fantasy owners may find themselves thin at quarterback with Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers and Joe Flacco idle. Ponder should not be considered as a strict bye week fill-in for Luck or Rivers, but those that are searching for a QB2 in deep two-quarterback leagues could consider him as a plug-and-play for Week 8.
Everyone was crying. RG3 himself got it started, lying there in his hospital bed, totally immobile. Then his fiancée, Rebecca, and his mom welled up. Jackie never wanted her only son to play football in the first place, not really—what mother wants her son to play football?—but she relented when the 11-year-old pinkie-promised her he wouldn’t get hurt. And now this. Finally, even the quarterback’s military father, Robert Griffin Jr., the retired sergeant, the Iraq vet, “the guy who never cries,” according to his son—not even RG2 could choke back the tears. It was January 9, 2013, three days after Griffin’s historic rookie season ended with a nasty twist of his right knee in a playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, and minutes after Griffin had woken up from surgery in Florida, opening his eyes to a real-life nightmare. His blown-out right knee was bandaged, but so was his healthy left one. That meant Dr. Andrews—James Andrews, one of the most celebrated orthopedic surgeons in America, the same guy who rebuilt Adrian Peterson’s miracle knee a year earlier—had needed to take a tendon graft from the left knee in order to repair the right. Two shredded ligaments, the LCL and ACL. Major reconstructive surgery. Seven to nine months of rehab. Minimum. A jumble of thoughts swirled and drifted into his foggy consciousness—flashbacks to the play that knocked him out, fears about whether he’d be ready for next season—and for once in his short and blessed life, Robert Griffin III just couldn’t deal. He didn’t feel like talking to the nurse, who hadn’t noticed that he’d come to. “So instead of trying to cope with that at the moment,” he recalls now, “I just went back to sleep.” When he woke a short while later, he felt ready. Or at least readier. As his parents stood over his bed, Griffin apologized. “After I tore my ACL in college, I told them I would never do that to them again,” he says, referring to the 2009 ACL surgery—same knee—that cost him most of his sophomore season at Baylor. “So when I woke up this time, I said, ‘I’m sorry.’ I knew the kind of pain it was going to put them through, especially my mom. I’m the baby. I’m the only son. She doesn’t want to see her baby boy get hurt.”
Dr. Andrews joined them and reported that the procedure had gone well. When the conversation turned to rehab—specifically, When can I start?—Griffin had an idea: “Hey, when’s our first game?”
This is an extended interview from the 2013 ESPN The Magazine Body Issue. Subscribe to The Mag today!
Why did you decide to pose for the Body Issue?
CK: I’m not your typical quarterback. I don’t like when people say, “Quarterbacks aren’t supposed to run” or “Quarterbacks aren’t supposed to work out a certain way.” Quarterbacks can still have good bodies. I’m always conscious of the stereotype. I want to change what people think. There’s a lot more to it than what you see on the field.
What did you set out to do with your training this offseason?
CK: To get faster and better at everything, from my drops to accuracy to the playbook. I took one week off after the Super Bowl, then went down to Atlanta. We train most of the day, from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Coach [Jim] Harbaugh was a little worried I was going to get too jacked — he talked to me about that — but I think the biggest thing for a quarterback is making sure that as you get bigger, you keep your flexibility. You have to train hard and be strong while staying flexible and limber, so I’m trying to find that balance. I’ve been trying to make my legs stronger and more explosive and build more fast-twitch muscles. I’ve been running with bands and chains, I’ve been pushing sleds, I swim tied to a bungee. Will I be faster this year? You’ll just have to wait and see.
What do you think is your best physical skill?
CK: It would have to be my arm. A strong arm along with knowing where I want to throw the football can be a deadly combo. Teammates tell me to bring it down a notch in practice or that their hands are hurting. Randy Moss told me I was the first person to ever dislocate one of his fingers. That happened during my first “Monday Night Football” game. That was crazy to hear because he’s played with Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Daunte Culpepper — quarterbacks with strong arms. He wasn’t upset, more impressed. I think being a baseball pitcher helped my arm health. Throwing year-round kept my arm strong; it kept it conditioned. I topped out at 94 mph [pitching] in high school, and at the combine I clocked 59 with a football.
If you could change something about your body, what would it be?
CK: I wish I could get my legs bigger, but I can’t put weight on them. My legs will get stronger but never grow. One of my good friends, Kyle Williams, has huge calves, so I mess with him and he messes with me because my legs are skinny. We have opposite problems.
What is your favorite thing to do to train?
CK: I look forward to sprint work for the simple fact that you get to compete and see who is faster. Every rep, you are out there trying to win, trying to beat your teammates. It’s bragging rights. Even between reps there’s a little back and forth, and that only intensifies the workout and makes sure everyone is going hard.
When I lift, I try to do as heavy as possible until I can’t do it anymore. That helps me endure a season, and that’s what separates me. If we’re doing sets of five, it’s not, “All right, that was good, I’m comfortable with that.” No, I’m going to do it until my arms are about to give out or my legs are about to go. I think that earns the respect of teammates. They see I’m not just going in there, keeping my shoulder healthy and leaving. I think they appreciate that I’m trying to get stronger the same way they are.
What’s the biggest challenge you face with your body?
CK: Making sure I’m feeding my body the right things. I was a candy junkie and ate a lot of fast food in college, and that’s something I’m trying to cut out. From time to time I’ll relapse, but I stay away from junk as much as possible. And I can eat quite a bit. I don’t think I’d have any problem eating a whole pizza by myself.
Why are your tattoos so important to you?
CK: It’s what I believe in. They’re part of me. They relate to my faith or things that shaped who I am. My favorite right now is “My gift is my curse,” written on the inside of my arm. That’s applicable right now. There are great things I can do in this position, great opportunities, but there are also things I have to sacrifice. For instance, time with my family. And privacy, being able to go to the grocery store or mall and just hang out — that’s not something I can do. It’s unbelievable how different it is right now compared to last year. A lot of camera phones, a lot of pictures, a lot of signatures.
I didn’t just walk into a tattoo shop and say, Hey, I want that thing on the wall. All my tattoos were planned more than a year before I got them. I think if people knew what tattoos mean to people, they wouldn’t feel the same way about them. Kissing my biceps started from the whole tattoo controversy. I’d kiss “Faith” on my right biceps. That was my way of showing that I love my tattoos, and regardless of what anyone else thinks, they mean something to me. They’re more than just ink on my body. CONTINUE READING
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