NFL Preseason Headlines: Fantasy Football Reaction

The month of July is here. Most NFL free agents have signed contracts, the draft has come and gone, and OTAs are underway.

As always, waves upon waves of NFL news will surface as teams continue to practice. Sometimes, digging into these storylines can uncover valuable knowledge that leads to fantasy football glory. On the other hand, some headlines and pieces of coachspeak can be utterly misleading.

Let’s dive into the latest news stories that have led to mass overreaction and must be ignored.

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Coach Reich Tips Off Managers About Nyheim Hines

Whenever an NFL coach mentions fantasy football, it’s always worth exploring further. On May 26, Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich told Pro Football Talk, “If I was a fantasy owner, if I was going to be in a fantasy league, I think I’d pick Nyheim [Hines] this year.” Specifically, Reich alluded to the fact that he wanted to get Jonathan Taylor’s backup more involved in the passing game.

From 2020 to 2021, Hines’s receptions dropped from 63 to 40 while his scrimmage yards decreased from 862 to 586. His step backward in production stemmed from the breakout campaign that allowed Taylor to finish as the No. 1 running back in the NFL. Reich, although impressed by Taylor’s big season, thought that the Colts were too run-heavy and reliant on the Wisconsin product in 2021. “It’s incumbent upon us to spread the ball around, number one,” Reich said. “But also, hey, would we like to have Nyheim be up there as far as at the end of the season when you tally up who has the catches, do we want Nyheim to kind of be one of those top three guys? Probably yeah.”

We have established that the Colts want to lean a little less on Taylor and a little more on Hines, specifically in the passing game, but are Reich’s comments enough to justify viewing Hines any differently? The answer is no. Yet, Hines’s ADP went from 140 on May 23 to 127 on May 30. That difference of 13 slots in the draft represents more than an entire round in most leagues. There’s nothing wrong with being high on Hines, but letting this small piece of coachspeak change his draft stock from him is overzealous behavior. Hines should be drafted in mid-to-late rounds because he’s a solid handcuff with receiving upside, not because his coach praised him for 30 seconds during a podcast interview in May. Let this be a lesson: you’re going to hear a whole lot of coachspeak in the coming months. Don’t let it dictate your draft.

Fantasy Stars Express Contract Frustration

This offseason (like many others) has seen a handful of NFL players show frustration with the state of their contract negotiations. In some cases, these sagas should be paid a significant deal of attention. A few years ago, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell conducted a holdout that ultimately sparked the steep downward trajectory of his career. Meanwhile, just this year, wide receivers Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill forced their way out of expiring contracts by helping to formulate trades that saw them switch teams and land big paydays. Players have plenty of leverage, and they can change the shape of the league with one holdout or demand.

However, not every contract dispute leads to the dismantlement of the NFL as we know it. This offseason, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf, and San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel have all made it clear that they are unhappy with their current situation. These situations aren’t resolved, but the latest updates indicate that all four players will suit up in 2022. Which contract will they be playing under? That’s unclear, but all four should be wearing the same jerseys that they have sported in seasons past. Don’t expect fantasy football to be impacted by any holdouts in 2022.

Twitter went wild when Najee Harris announced that he opened OTAs at 244 pounds. Considering he was listed at 232 pounds as a rookie last year, fantasy managers were buzzing about the idea that the Alabama product added an additional 12 pounds to a body that was already on the larger side for running backs. As a result, in the last month, his ADP from him has dropped two spots from 1.04 to 1.06. That would be an unnoticeable change in the later rounds, but in the first round, that’s very significant.

However, bulking up isn’t necessarily bad for the running back’s outlook. Teammate Zach Gentry proclaimed Bell looks like an action figure and is much more explosive this summer. Do what you please with information, but that certainly sounds more positive than negative. The most important part of this storyline is actually what Harris said in response to the outcry on social media. Pittsburgh’s bell-cow explained that last season’s measurement of 232 pounds was inaccurate; he actually weighed 240. Assuming this is true, it further smolders the fire of perplexion that ignited earlier this month.

To recap, not only did Harris not gain as much weight as people feared but even if he had, what matters are the results he posts on the field. Based on what we’ve heard out of Pittsburgh, Harris is still the top-tier running back that he was last season, if not better. Although it’s no secret that the Steelers are going to look to ease his workload back slightly this coming season, he is still Pittsburgh’s clear-cut No. 1 running back, offers value as a dual-threat weapon in an offense that will focus on more running plays and shorter passes, and provides rookie Kenny Pickett with a spectacular safety valve in the backfield. You should still feel comfortable drafting him at his old ADP of 1.04, and if you’re looking to go younger, he is even in play at No. 3 overall. The Najee Harris show is just beginning.

People fell in love with Javonte Williams last season for good reason. He finished the year with 1,219 scrimmage yards and seven touchdowns despite backing up Melvin Gordon for the entire season. Sure, the rookie wasn’t your traditional backup running back, but he still started just one game. Furthermore, Williams’s snap count was relatively low for someone of his caliber. On the field for just 51 percent of offensive snaps, Williams ranked behind players like Mike Davis, Miles Sanders, and Chase Edmonds in snap share. He also finished just one percent higher than Devontae Booker, Myles Gaskin, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Translation: for the amount of time that Williams was on the field, he was dominant. Gordon missed just one game last season, so Williams’s success alongside the veteran proves that he can still thrive in a shared backfield.

Heading into 2022, the state of the Broncos’ offense is trending upward. Denver’s 26:41 time of possession over the final three weeks of last season ranked as the sixth-worst in football, but that number should increase significantly with Russell Wilson taking the reins of the offense. Not only will Wilson keep the team on the field and help Williams get more production, but the North Carolina product will help his own case as well. He has a valuable year of NFL experience under his belt and has earned much more playing time.

Between his success and Gordon’s increasing age, Williams should be the Broncos’ lead back in 2022. The bottom line is that Williams, who posted RB7 numbers from Week 12 to Week 18, has proven that he can succeed in a shared backfield and deserves more touches. The Broncos are going to let him show off this coming season, and there’s no reason to believe that the re-signing of Gordon drops Williams out of top-12 running back territory.

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