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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Shawn Childs

Training Camp Updates on Waller, Pierce, Edwards and More

Over the past week, some player news has been worth noting for fantasy teams. The goal is to sift through the buzz information and listen to the tidbits that possibly lead to some late draft fliers. After this week in the preseason, any relevant player expected to start in Week 1 shouldn’t be on the field in their last game in August.

TE Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders

After missing time in early August with an unknown injury, Waller returned to practice last week. Unfortunately, he missed more time over the previous few days, inviting concern that Waller may not be ready for Week 1. In the early draft season in the high-stakes market, he ranks fifth at tight end with a fifth-round average draft position.

Fantasy take
: His resume over his last 43 games is pretty impressive (252 catches for 3,006 yards and 14 touchdowns on 356 targets), but Waller does have risk after missing six games and 2021 and sitting much of the preseason this summer. The Raiders have two viable options at wideout already poised to steal some of his chances. In the next update in the projections, Hunter Renfrow will get a bump at the expense of Waller. I would only draft him at a discount unless there is a clean report about his health.

RB Ameer Abdullah, Las Vegas Raiders

A new coaching staff in Las Vegas led to Kenyan Drake getting cut this week. His opening on the roster points to Abdullah assuming the third-down pass-catching role in their offense, something James White excelled at in his time in New England under Josh McDaniels. Even with that premise, Abdullah has struggled to find a viable role in the NFL over the past four seasons (787 combined yards with four touchdowns and 64 catches on 147 touches).

Fantasy take: I’ve seen NFFC Hall of Famers Mike Santos and Kurt Kuekes add Abdullah in multiple drafts as their RB4 over the previous week. They are looking for a cheat RB2 after building a solid foundation at wide receiver. Josh Jacobs remains the lead runner for Las Vegas, and he will catch some passes and be a factor at the goal line. The wild card runner in this offense is Zamir White. He doesn’t have a pass-catching profile on his college resume (17/132 over 37 games), meaning he projects better as a handcuff to Jacobs while offering change-of-pace value on early downs.

Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

WR Joshua Palmer, Los Angeles Chargers

Last week in the preseason, Palmer drove home an 18-yard screen pass for a touchdown to shine a spotlight on his name in cheat sheets. He flashed a couple of times in his rookie season (33/353/4) despite offering minimal college stats (90/1,447/8) over his final 33 games in college. His size (6’1” and 210 lbs.) creates an edge with some work still needed in his release and route running.

Fantasy take: Palmer could work as a wide receiver handcuff for anyone selecting Keenan Allen or Mike Williams. The Chargers don’t have a great tight end option, meaning their WR3 may very well have more chances than expected in 2022. The direction of Palmer looks exciting, but I can’t price him over a WR5 in the early draft season in 12-team formats.

WR Romeo Doubs, Green Bay Packers

In Bill Huber’s above news update out of Packers’ camp at FanNation, he made this statement about the fast-rising Doubs:

Through the course of 17 practices and two games, Doubs has dropped more passes than anyone on the roster. He’s also made more big plays because he creates more separation than any of the receivers. Yes, he’s missed some opportunities, but he’s got more juice than the veteran receivers who Rodgers might rather lean on.

Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers desperately need a young wideout to step up in 2022, and Doubs is the player drawing the most attention for this role/opportunity in the preseason.

Fantasy take: I’m in the camp where Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins will play their way out of starting snaps as the season progresses. Doubs will get looks at the goal line, and his scouting report gives him a chance to excel as a deep outside receiver. The question is whether he can hold off Christian Watson in that role for the Packers. His draft momentum is hot, so fantasy drafters need to be careful and not select him higher than a player with a proven track record.

RB Dameon Pierce, Houston Texans

After some success in the preseason (5/49), some fantasy drafters have recently fought for Pierce in drafts. However, he comes to the NFL with a big back profile and questionable speed over the long field. His short-area quickness should lead to some early wins at the line of scrimmage while also having the power to break some tackles. Over his final two seasons with the Gators, he gained 1,449 combined yards with 21 touchdowns and 36 catches over 25 matchups.

Fantasy take: In the projections at Sports Illustrated, I gave Marlon Mack the lead running back role based on his experience. Both options have limited upside in the passing game, inviting a third player to compete for snaps on pass-downs. In the end, Houston should give Pierce plenty of touches as the ceiling of Mack is that high. Even so, timing this backfield could be challenging early in the year.

Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports

RB Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens

On Wednesday, the Ravens placed Edwards on the reserve PUP list, meaning that he'll miss the first four games of the year. His slow start, paired with J.K. Dobbins having a decent window to prove his worth as Baltimore’s lead runner, may lead to Edwards barely offering any fantasy value over the season's first half.

Fantasy take: I have to put Edwards in the avoid column in the season-long games. If his September reports are positive and he is in the free agent pool, I could take a flier on him if I need another out at running back. Mike Davis should be his cover, but I only view him as a grinder with short-term value at best. Baltimore would be better served with more speed off the bench at running back (Justice Hill or Tyler Badie) over Davis.

RB Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots

With James White announcing his retirement two weeks ago, Stevenson has steadily crept up draft boards. He’s worked hard in the offseason to improve his pass protection skills, and his pass-catching profile rates much higher than Damien Harris.

Fantasy take: For anyone cheating the RB2 position, Stevenson should be a top target. He should receive a minimum of 40% of the running back carries for the Patriots, and I expect him to finish with over 50% of the team’s completions to their backs. Ty Montgomery should be his top competition for catches.

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