It’s August, and that means two things for fans of the NFL and fantasy football. It’s time for training camp, and fantasy draft season is rapidly ramping into high gear. And at least one respect, those two items intersect — nothing can derail a fantasy draft (and the season that follows) quicker than wasting valuable draft capital on a player whose circumstances have taken a sudden turn.
If you don’t believe me, ask fantasy owners of Houston Texans running back Arian Foster.
With that in mind, here’s a quick look around the NFL at some training camp news tidbits of particular interest to folks preparing to draft in IDP leagues.
Position Change for Khalil Mack?
Not a whole lot went right for the Oakland Raiders last year, but the play of rookie linebacker Khalil Mack was an exception. And in 2015, the new staff in Oakland appears determined to put Mack in a position to rush the passer more. It’s which position that’s of particular interest to IDP owners.
According to Scott Bair of CSN Bay Area, Mack has been seeing more than a little work with his hand in the dirt. “Mack’s been working a ton at defensive end during training camp,” Bair wrote, “in the base defense, sub packages and even during individual drills.”
General manager Reggie McKenzie told Bair it’s all about putting Mack, who racked up an eye-popping 52 pressures last year, in a position to make plays. “He’s pretty dog-gone good getting after the quarterback,” general manager Reggie McKenzie said before Monday’s practice. “He’s really good going forward, and it’s an opportunity to do a lot of different things with him. They’re going to use Khalil in all kinds of ways. That’s the way it should be.”
That’s all well and good, but playing defensive end for significant snaps isn’t going to help Mack’s tackle opportunities (or IDP value) any. It’s also possible that we could see a switch in positional designation at My Fantasy League, which could be good news for IDP owners who haven’t yet drafted (anything that deepens a shallow talent pool at the position) and bad news for those who were counting on Mack as a linebacker this year.
The Tennessee Shuffle
Last year, injuries at the inside linebacker position for the Tennessee Titans forced rookie Avery Williamson into a starting role much earlier than the team would have liked. However, Williamson responded relatively well, tallying 79 stops over 12 starts.
This year, Williamson enters training camp not only as a starter but also as a defensive leader and the play-caller on that side of the ball. Batterymate Zach Brown, whose torn pectoral muscle opened the door for Williamson to start last year, told Adam Sparks of The Tennessean that he’s confident Williamson is up to the task.
“I told him, ‘It’s your defense. Just run it. You’ve got the say-so. You’ve got the power. We listen to you. You don’t listen to us,’” Brown said. “All the DBs and D-line have all told (Williamson) that we’re behind him. He calls it, and we follow him. He has the power now.”
The part of all this that’s of particular interest in IDP leagues? The return of Brown means that Williamson will kick from WILB to SILB in 2015. It’s not a huge value hit for the second-year pro, who remains a viable IDP LB3. It does, however put Brown, who has a ridiculous Average Draft Position of LB74 at My Fantasy League, squarely on the late-draft lottery-ticket radar of savvy defensive drafters.
The Latest on Jason Pierre-Paul
There hasn’t been a stranger injury saga in recent memory than that surrounding New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who many IDP pundits considered this year’s top fantasy option at his position not named J.J. Watt. Of course, that was before Pierre-Paul’s fireworks mishap and the amputation of his right index finger.
Since that July 4th mishap, news on Pierre-Paul has been hard to come by. So hard in fact, that not even the Giants had talked to the 26-year-old. However, as Giants general manager Jerry Reese told the Associated Press, that finally changed a few days ago.
“It was a personal conversation,” Reese said in a radio interview, “and I want to keep it private between him and I. I wish Jason nothing but the best. It’s a traumatic situation. It was an accident. My heart goes out to him. For a young man to have a traumatic event like that, it’s life changing for him. And I hope and pray for the best for him.”
But wait, it gets better! According to the AP, “Reese said on WFAN in New York that he also has spoken to Pierre-Paul’s agent. Pierre-Paul has yet to sign his franchise tag tender, worth $14.8 million for 2015. Should he wind up on the non-football injury list once he signs it, the Giants would not be liable to pay him as long as he is on that list.”
In a nutshell — Pierre-Paul doesn’t want to sign the tender until he can pass a physical, but no one has any earthly idea when that might be or when Pierre-Paul can return to football-related activities. And talented though he may be, there are just too many questions surrounding the sixth-year veteran for this scribe to be comfortable burning a draft pick on him in redraft formats.
Ihenacho Looking Cheesy
As Mike Jones of The Washington Post reports, after barely seeing the playing field last year it appears that fourth-year pro Duke Ihenacho has an edge on the battle to start at strong safety for the Washington Redskins. “Duke Ihenacho appears to have the first crack at earning the starting strong safety job,” Jones said. “He and Jeron Johnson rotated at that spot during the offseason program. But today, Ihenacho took all of the snaps during walk-through and practice. As with the cornerback situation, Johnson will have a chance to overtake Ihenacho, however.”
Ihenacho has continued to run with the first team, but head coach Jay Gruden insisted that nothing has been decided yet. “We’re going to go out there and let them play, Gruden said. “Duke’s done a good job so far, and those guys are going to line up and see what happens.”
Savvy IDP owners are always on the lookout for late-draft defensive backs with the potential to emerge as viable weekly starters. At the back end of a bad defense D.C., the Redskins’ starter at strong safety could easily fit that bill — and that places Iheanacho squarely back on the fantasy radar.
Well, the fringes of it, anyway.
With IDP draft season in high gear, Fantasy Sharks has you covered. Whether it’s 2015 player rankings and projections, waiver wire targets, rookie analysis for dynasty leagues or strategy tips, IDP Staff Writer Walton Spurlin and IDP Senior Staff Writer Gary Davenport have all the information you need to dominate your IDP league in 2015.Also, for the latest IDP news and player updates follow IDP Sharks on Twitter.