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Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said on Tuesday that second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder will begin the 2023 season as the team's starter under center. "The plan is to start Desmond," Smith said. "That's our plan going forward right now." The Falcons drafted Ridder in the third round last year, and he spent the first 13 games backing up veteran Marcus Mariota. The 23-year-old then started the final four games of the season and completed 73 of his 115 passes for 708 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. The team was encouraged by Ridder's progress, and he'll begin 2023 as the starter, even though Atlanta signed Taylor Heinicke in free agency. Ridder will need to keep improving to hold off Heinicke this season, and he should be considered a QB2 with upside in his first full season as the starter.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said that offensive tackle Abraham Lucas (shoulder) had shoulder surgery this offseason, which is why he's been limited at organized team activities. However, Carroll said Lucas should be ready for the start of the regular season. Lucas was the 72nd overall pick in last year's draft and managed to start 16 games for Seattle in 2022 as their right tackle. As long as the 24-year-old offensive tackle is able to take part in training camp, he should be ready for Week 1 as the team's starting right tackle for his sophomore season in the NFL.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said again on Thursday that there remains no firm timetable on the returns of safety Jamal Adams (quadriceps) and linebacker Jordyn Brooks (knee), and that they won't have a timetable for six to eight weeks or so. Still, both players are doing well in their rehab and have their sights set on being ready for the regular season. Adams set an NFL record for defensive backs with 9.5 sacks in 2020, but he's played in just 25 games combined in the last three seasons due to injury. But if he's healthy in 2023, he'll be a force in IDP fantasy leagues. Brooks, the former 27th overall pick in 2020, has totaled 345 tackles in 33 games in his first two NFL seasons, but he tore his ACL in Week 17 of 2022. His fantasy value will depend on whether he has a realistic chance to be ready for Week 1.
Dallas Cowboys rookie tight end Luke Schoonmaker (foot) was wearing a protective boot on his right foot at organized team activities on Thursday and is dealing with a case of plantar fasciitis that has limited his activity. Schoonmaker is missing out on valuable repetitions heading into his first NFL season, but hopefully he'll be able to work out in full once training camp commences at the end of July. If healthy, the 24-year-old second-rounder should compete for playing time immediately in his first NFL season with fellow tight ends Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot. Schoonmaker has plenty of long-term upside at the position as a pass-catcher, but it's tough to see him making a huge splash in fantasy in his first year in Dallas.
Washington Commanders offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy was quick to praise quarterback Sam Howell after organized team activities on Thursday. "His demeanor does not change and I will say this: he autocorrects himself as well," Bieniemy said. While Howell will compete with Jacoby Brissett in training camp this summer, the 22-year-old Howell is expected to have the leg up for the starting gig to open the 2023 regular season in D.C. The fifth-round pick last year impressed the coaching staff in last year's season finale against Dallas, and he has an intriguing skill set as a dual threat at the QB position. He certainly has the weapons around him to succeed and be a worthwhile QB2 in superflex leagues if he earns the starting job.
It's unknown whether the Cleveland Browns will make an attempt to sign free-agent wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and reunite him with quarterback Deshaun Watson, but Watson has shopped the Browns to Hopkins as a potential landing spot. Watson said, "of course we would love to have him," but that those decisions are made "out of my range." The addition of Hopkins in Cleveland would definitely make Watson a more intriguing low-end QB1 in fantasy, but it would also be bad news for wideouts Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Elijah Moore. ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported on Thursday that Hopkins is open-minded about teams league-wide, and he's prepared to be patient. Minicamp could be considered a soft deadline for the 30-year-old to pick a new team, while training camp would be more of a hard deadline.
Chicago Bears rookie second-round cornerback Tyrique Stevenson should be in line to start at outside cornerback across from Jaylon Johnson in his first year in the NFL with second-year corner Kyler Gordon moving to the slot full time in 2023. "He uses his length well," cornerbacks coach and pass-game coordinator Jon Hoke said. "He's really, really instinctive. He has a way of getting his hands on a lot of footballs. He does know the game of football. It comes relatively not easy, but he does understand concepts easier than some guys do, so it's been a real plus." Rookie fifth-round corner Terell Smith has also impressed Hoke during organized team activities this week.
Despite Chicago Bears running back Khalil Herbert averaging 5.7 yards per carry as the No. 2 behind David Montgomery last year, the Bears signed veterans D'Onta Foreman and Travis Homer and drafted Roschon Johnson. "You know how things go in the NFL now. They're doing things running back by committee," Herbert said. "You need one, two, three really good guys that really carry the rock and there be no drop-off." Herbert said he added five pounds to his core this offseason, but he plans to stay between 215 and 220 pounds for the season. The 25-year-old will mainly battle for early-down carries with Foreman, but Johnson's presence also lowers Herbert's fantasy ceiling. And when you add the rushing prowess of quarterback Justin Fields, Herbert suddenly becomes more of a dicey RB3/flex in fantasy.
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said "no one has worked harder than Justin Fields in this offseason," dating back to February. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams is already seeing improvement in Fields' leadership, decision-making and accuracy during organized team activities. The Athletic's Kevin Fishbain said Fields' work leading the offense in a two-minute drill that ended in a touchdown was notable despite it being voluntary OTAs. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said in early May that Fields was "light years ahead of where he was" last offseason. The 24-year-old must get better as a passer to take the next step, but he led all QBs in 2022 with 1,143 rushing yards and also scored eight TDs on the ground. If Fields can avoid sacks and become more efficient with his arm, he'll soon be in the elite tier of QB1s in fantasy.
As a rookie in 2022 after being the team's top draft pick, Chicago Bears cornerback Kyler Gordon was asked to play both outside and inside cornerback. This year, the plan is for Gordon to be their slot corner. "He's a good blitzer because he's physical, understands the timing, understands how to beat a block," cornerbacks coach and pass-game coordinator Jon Hoke said. "In zone coverage, he understands how to route-match based on what he's got. He understands the concepts that he's being attacked with." The move inside should allow the 23-year-old at more chances for tackles, meaning he could become valuable in fantasy IDP formats after he had 71 tackles (55 solo), three interceptions, six passes defensed, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble in 14 starts last year.
Houston Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, the second overall pick in this year's NFL draft, has really impressed the coaching staff at organized team activities this week. Head coach DeMeco Ryans said Stroud has been "eye-opening" and has "seized" first-team snaps on offense over Davis Mills. Stroud is also already looking more comfortable running the offense than he did earlier in the offseason. The Texans are in no rush to name a starting QB for the 2023 season, but at this point, it would probably be a surprise if Stroud didn't open his first NFL season as the starter under center over Mills. The 21-year-old has tons of long-term potential, but with limited proven offensive weapons around him this year, he's unlikely to make much noise in single-year fantasy leagues.
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