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Are You Ready for Football? Training Camp Storylines to Watch

Every year NFL training camp brings us plenty of stories to look at. There are position battles galore. Players threatening to hold out. And in some cases, straight up bad player takes to dig into. While the third of these can be the most comedic, Lizard people, dinosaurs not being real and the sun setting in the East, they are not fantasy relevant. As such they stop here.

As for the first two of these topics, those are the ones we as fantasy owners need to worry about. Will Melvin Gordon and Ezekiel Elliott actually hold out? We want to say no but the same was said about Le’Veon Bell last season. And what of those camp battles?

Together we will look a little bit at the headlines which surround NFL news as training camps get started this week. Oh, and there might even be an injury question about a top player thrown in.

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Melvin Gordon and Ezekiel Elliott Hold Outs

It is easy to say both of these players are just posturing and nothing will really come of these situations.

In the case of Ezekiel Elliott, this might be the case. He has two years left on his rookie contract, his $9 million salary in 2020 is a top-five running back salary in the NFL and his issues continue to pile up. But in a career span of bad decisions, why not add another one to his mix? This one is likely to get resolved quickly. Jerry Jones will pay his star player.

He is the main focus of the offense and is a top RB in the NFL. Both of these factors will lead to Jerry opening the bank for him. Warning signs be damned. He will also sign Amari Cooper and Dak Prescott while ultimately having to dismantle the rest of his defense and again return to the 8-8 seasons we Eagles fans love to see so much from Dallas. The Cowboys are and will continue to be a mess as long as it's Jerry's team. This will just be another signing which makes sure they stay that way.

When it comes to Melvin Gordon, he will still be making $5.6 million this season. But he wants long-term guarantees. He probably won’t get them from the Chargers and honestly, he shouldn’t. He wants to be paid like David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell and Todd Gurley but he isn’t them. He is a second-tier running back in an offense who can function just fine without him.

The Chargers do it every year when he comes up lame around playoff time. Justin Jackson and Austin Ekeler are capable replacements for Gordon and he should realize this before he winds up on the outside looking in, as his backups prove his holdout was a mistake. He likely will not be traded, as there is really no market for an oft-injured running back wanting a huge payday in today’s NFL. He will also be entering his age-26 season - a factor which will see his value diminish even more. The Chargers will want more in a trade then most teams would be willing to give up and for this reason, the only choice for Gordon ultimately is to show up, have a great season and hope the Chargers sign him after the season instead of franchising him.

Both of these players are pulling their stunts at the wrong time. Both the wrong time of year and in the atmosphere surrounding the position in the league as a whole. Emmitt Smith was able to do it because the league was not so pass-heavy and there was also no salary cap. Elliott and Gordon, on the other hand, are lucky to have a playoff-caliber team who is willing to put up with them missing some training camp before they inevitably show up and play.

For fantasy drafts, they still need to be drafted in the first round. Much like Bell last season, it is a risk. But it's a risk you have to be willing to take in hopes of winning. The chance of either of them pulling a full season sit-out is not likely. Both are under contract. In the case of Elliott, if he doesn’t show before August 6, the team has his rights for even another season. Wherever you have these two players ranked is where you should keep them ranked. As long as they both show up, they are both first-round values in fantasy. If the season is a week away and one or both are still not there? Worry. Until then? Draft without hesitation.

 

Receiver Battle in Green Bay

Marquez Valdes- Scantling or Geronimo Allison? This is the question at hand in Wisconsin. MVS had some big games last season. But so did Geronimo Allison before he went out with injury.

While Allison had the trust of Aaron Rodgers while in the lineup, it seemed MVS never carried much favor with the quarterback. He was targeted three or fewer times in eight games last year. That may have changed over the offseason with Rodgers talking up the second-year player to the media, something he did with Allison before last year.

New coach or not, this is still Aaron Rodgers' team. Just like other stars on other teams, the Packers' identity will revolve around its star player. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and others were the de facto general managers of their teams. The same can be said in this situation. Sure, he does not sign the checks. But you can be sure he signs off on the acquisitions the team is making.

If Geronimo Allison cannot come back fully healthy, this is a moot argument. But if he is healthy, we will need to see what happens in training camp to figure out what to do in drafts. The fantasy world is split on who will win out and who will be knocked down a peg to the WR three. Allison is going about a round higher in most early drafts but my feeling is MVS will win out in the end. The important thing is that neither of these players are going very high so taking a shot on both of them is even a viable option if you wanted to go that way. You could draft both, see which one wins the job then drop the other to waivers for a flier before the season starts.

 

Todd Gurley Knee Concerns

You knew we couldn't avoid the Gurley issue, despite the fact we've been talking about it ever since the 2018 season wrapped up. Todd Gurley missed a lot of the playoffs and the Rams still made the Super Bowl. This obviously means he is no good, right?

Well, no. He was the RB1 for fantasy despite missing the last few weeks due to his knee arthritis. His 17 touchdown rushes led the league and, despite missing two games, he still finished eight points ahead of Saquon Barkley due to his incredible points per game average of 27. If he is fully healthy, he is the best in the NFL right now. But we know for a fact he is not fully healthy.

With the huge contract given to him and the disaster it would cause in trying to replace him if injured, his bell-cow days are likely done. This was further confirmed with the trade up to draft Darrell Henderson as well as the re-signing of restricted free agent Malcolm Brown. We think Darrell Henderson will be the back up to Gurley, leading to his draft price rising to the sixth-round.

Much like John Kelly in 2018, Henderson is 100% the backup. Wait, that didn't happen... Do we know for sure who will backup Gurley or will it be a committee? If he is out, both Brown and Henderson will split time. This makes the entire group in Los Angeles a mess to decipher. Henderson should not be drafted in the sixth round. But you can also not draft Gurley in the first as you would if he was still the man. His price drop to the third round, in the range of Leonard Fournette, is a bit much but taking players like Joe Mixon, Nick Chubb or James Conner over him in the second round is not a bad idea.

And if he does hit? Well imagine a team with a starting backfield of Gurley and David Johnson or Saquon Barkley. Now stop drooling and wipe your mouth.

 

Can Lamar Jackson Actually Throw the Ball?

The easy answer is no. But the jury is still out.

The Ravens seem to think he can learn and he's only been in the league one year. Hence why they traded Joe Flacco to Denver. But if they were so confident, they wouldn’t have to bring in so-called “quarterback gurus” to work with him to learn to throw? Lamar Jackson came out and stated he did not even know the playbook last season. As a quarterback and a first-round draft pick, this is not something I would want to hear as a Ravens fan. He is supposed to be the leader of the team. If he is not even willing or able to learn the playbook, why do we think he can lead a team to glory in reality or fantasy?

His passing improved each season at Louisville. He was able to get by on athletic ability in tough spots though. That's an edge he does not have in the pros, which makes him a risky draft pick.

Sure, the run potential is there. But this is going to decrease as the team forces him to adapt his game. The attempts will be cut in half and if his per rush average says around the area of 5.0, this will deeply hamper his fantasy production. While comparisons to Michael Vick are thrown around freely, there are differences. The main one being that, although not super accurate, Vick had a monster arm defenses had to worry about. The Falcons also had weapons surrounding Vick. Jackson, on the other hand, has Miles Boykin, Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and Mark Andrews. Not quite the same cast.

Can Jackson succeed in 2019? Sure. But it is not as much of a certainty as people are making it seem. We will have to see if his offseason of work has improved his game. If it has, he could be a top-12 quarterback taken in the 20s at the position. If not? Well you might not even get good return on that draft price.

Find out the answers to these questions and more over the next month and a half of the blistering summer as RotoBaller keeps you up-to-date on all the latest NFL news. But really, lizard people? I don't' think so.

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