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Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said that running back Christian McCaffrey will be held out of all preseason games again this year, and the team is looking into taking a different approach with him during practices. It's not surprising after CMC has become the most injury prone running back in the league the last two years. And when he's healthy, he's arguably the most valuable real-life and fantasy back in the NFL. The 25-year-old had over 1,000 yards rushing and receiving while adding 19 total touchdowns in 2019, but he's playing in just 10 games combined the last two years due to various injuries. The Panthers will do everything in their power to keep him on the field, which should make fantasy managers a bit more comfortable taking him as an elite RB1.
Contrary to a previous report from NFL Network's Ian Rapoport in an appearance on the Pat McAfee Show, CBS Sports' Josina Anderson is reporting that it's inaccurate that the Seattle Seahawks never had strong interest in trading for Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. She thinks the rumor surfaced in case the Seahawks don't get Mayfield and because if they don't trade for him, it helps manage the path ahead with Geno Smith and Drew Lock competing for the starting job. At this point, the Seahawks and Carolina Panthers are the most likely landing spots for Mayfield, who is ready to move on after the team traded for Deshaun Watson this offseason. If Mayfield lands in Seattle or Carolina, he'd be the favorite to start, although it wouldn't be a slam-dunk guarantee.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said on the Pat McAfee Show that the Seattle Seahawks "have never really been that interested" in trading for Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. Something could change in training camp, but as of now in early July, the Seahawks are comfortable having Geno Smith and Drew Lock battle for the starting gig under center entering the 2022 season. Mayfield is ready to move on from the Browns despite the fact that Deshaun Watson could be suspended for the entire season, but Cleveland will need to eat most of his guaranteed salary this year in order to entice a team to trade for him. The Carolina Panthers have been the most aggressive on the Mayfield front, but even if he is wearing a new uniform this fall, he won't be guaranteed a starting job at QB.
The Atlanta Falcons took running back Tyler Allgeier in the fifth round of this year's draft because they think he can eventually carry the bulk of the load in their backfield. He set a single-season record at BYU last year with 1,601 yards and was fourth in rushing attempts (276) in college football. Seventy percent of Allgeier's yards last season also came after contact. But if Cordarrelle Patterson is healthy, the Falcons are unlikely to rush him into the RB rotation in 2022. But if Patterson isn't healthy or if the team is trying to keep him on a pitch count, the 22-year-old could get a lot of early playing time in his rookie season. Patterson should open the season as Atlanta's starter and Damien Williams and Qadree Ollison are around, but Allgeier probably has the best chance of anyone on Atlanta's roster of making a run at the starting job in 2022.
Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson will be the team's starting running back this year after he led the team with 153 carries and 618 yards in 2021, but he had only 71 rushing yards in the last four games and averaged 2.3 yards per carry in that span. The Athletic's Josh Kendall writes that it's overly optimistic to expect Patterson to be fully available to carry a full load at RB this year. The 10-year veteran took all of the spring workouts off, and the Falcons will likely continue taking it slow with him in training camp and the preseason. He's 31 and coming off his most active NFL season -- he had 205 combined catches and carries in 2021, with his previous career-high at 85 in 2020. Don't pay for last year's production in fantasy. Patterson should be an RB3/flex target.
The Pittsburgh Steelers aren't expected to offer wide receiver Diontae Johnson anything near what Terry McLaurin got from the Washington Commanders or any other receiver that received more than $20 million per year. The Athletic's Mark Kaboly sees the Steelers offering him something, but it won't be what he thinks he can get on the market and he'll get paid somewhere else in 2023. Spotrac projects Johnson's market value at $22 million per season, but Kaboly writes the Steelers won't pay a wideout $22 million per year. The 26-year-old had his first 1,000-yard season and a career-high eight touchdowns on 107 receptions, but he could take a step back with Mitchell Trubisky under center this year. Still, Johnson should see plenty of volume as the team's No. 1 wideout, and he's a high-end WR2 in fantasy.
New Orleans Saints rookie first-round offensive tackle Trevor Penning will compete with veteran James Hurst for the starting left tackle job in training camp following the departure of Terron Armstead this offseason. Just because Penning was a first-round pick doesn't mean anything will be handed to him. If he wins the left tackle job, Hurst could compete for a spot elsewhere on the offensive line, such as right guard. Penning is massive at 6-foot-7 and 333 pounds, and although he is a bit raw, he has the physical tools to become a solid starting left tackle for the Saints for years to come, even if he doesn't win the starting job right away.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara has had a tumultuous offseason thanks to an offseason arrest following an altercation in Las Vegas back in February, and he could be looking at a suspension from the NFL. However, his court hearings have already been continued twice, each time relative to delivery of evidence to his team. His next hearing is currently scheduled for August, but if it's pushed back again or if the case moves along beyond the hearing, the process could extend into the regular season or even further. A six-game suspension is expected for Kamara, but the legal process will need to wrap up before the NFL hands down their suspension. A looming six-game suspension obviously hurts the 26-year-old's fantasy value, and he's extremely risky while on the RB1/2 borderline. If you draft Kamara, you better handcuff him with Mark Ingram II.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., who finished last year 18th in the NFL in receiving yards and 18th in catches, is a huge fan of new quarterback Matt Ryan. Pittman has been very impressed with the ball placement of Ryan, and the new signal-caller should help Pittman achieve his 2022 goal of proving that he's a true No. 1 receiver in the league. "Working on route discipline," Pittman said of his main area for improvement. "Sometimes you just go out there and start playing football. Yes, I can make plays like that but you want to stay on QB timing because it helps everybody else flow so I'm really working on that." The 24-year-old third-year wideout is being ranked as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 heading into fall fantasy drafts, and he should see an uptick in production if he continues to gain chemistry with Ryan in training camp.
Dallas Cowboys pass-rusher Micah Parsons had 13 sacks as a rookie and won Defensive Rookie of the Year, but he's setting his sights higher in his second NFL season. "Yeah, 15's like the minimum. 15's what I wanna hit. But definitely 23 is that goal, to break the record," Parsons said. The 23-year-old pass-rushing linebacker also added 84 tackles (64 solo), 20 tackles for loss, 30 QB hits, three passes defensed and three forced fumbles in 16 games in his first NFL season to finish as the No. 12 linebacker in fantasy points in IDP leagues. Parsons will surely be a menace for opposing QBs again in 2022, but he'll also generate plenty of attention from opposing offensive lines.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver James Proche II continually stood out during offseason practices. It's happened before with Proche and it hasn't translated to game days, partly because the Ravens haven't given him much of an opportunity. But The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec thinks he'll get a bigger opportunity this year and wouldn't be surprised if he emerges as a reliable target for quarterback Lamar Jackson. The 25-year-old has good hands and has a toughness and confidence about him that suggests he's ready to become a bigger contributor. Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay, Proche and Tylan Wallace are entrenched as the top-four receivers for Baltimore, but Proche has a chance to win the No. 2 job in training camp if he continues to impress.
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