We scour the news around the NFL to bring you what matters most to you and your dynasty team: the most current news on players, both superstars and the relative unknowns, and analysis to decipher the respective situations. These are many of the major stories and not meant to be an exhaustive look at all the recent happenings around the league. We thank you for reading this column every week. This is our last installment of the season.
If you are a regular reader to this column, you know that Panthers passer Cam Newton has battled shoulder issues for weeks. He was finally shut down after last week’s loss to the Saints. In that game, it was apparent that the star quarterback was playing hurt. It was clear after he was removed to throw Hail Mary passes in consecutive weeks. Newton is known for his arm strength so there was a glaring issue. Even without scoring a touchdown since the Week 13 game in Tampa Bay, Newton still accumulated 28 total touchdowns against 13 picks. Shoulder injuries can be career-threatening so this is a situation to monitor. There is a chance that the soon-to-be 30-year-old will need another shoulder surgery.
Those in deep Superflex leagues will be the few who notice, but the Buffalo Bills locked up Matt Barkley behind Josh Allen to a two-year contract extension through 2020. Barkley played the best football of his professional career in his Week 10 start against the Jets. Given the receiver weapons, the upside is limited, but Allen has missed action and his aggressive running style may lead to more injuries in the future.
Even though we believe that Le'Veon Bell should have played in 2018, whether in Pittsburgh or elsewhere, there will be no shortage of teams in line to sign the star back for big money. Last week, Ralph Vacchiano reported that Bell wants to sign with Indianapolis after the year. Vacchiano reported his source as saying, “He has his eyes on the Colts, no doubt about that … He sees Andrew Luck and that offense and all that cap room. He wants to go someplace he can win right away.” Yes, this is all true, but Chris Ballard has never shown that he is willing to spend on the running back position. In Kansas City, Ballard used second-day picks to land Kareem Hunt and Jamaal Charles. The Colts have Marlon Mack, who should step up as the lead back with Nyheim and Jordan Wilkins filling supporting roles. All three are under contract for cheap. Even if it is not Indianapolis, Bell should find a home for over $15 million per season. The teams most likely to make a run at Bell will include the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. The strong play of James Conner and now Jaylen Samuels show that some of Bell’s Steelers success is due to the scheme and talent of the offense.
With the Falcons long out of the playoff chase, it was an easy decision for the team brass to keep Devonta Freeman on injured reserve. There is no reason to rush him back with the team languishing at the bottom of the standings and Tevin Coleman expected to depart in free agency during the offseason. While still not 27 years of age, Freeman makes a solid ‘buy low” option for fantasy teams looking to address the position in a cost-effective manner. One thing this season has taught us is that Coleman profiles better as a complementary back than a lead runner.
Arguably, Kerryon Johnson was the most impressive running back in 2018. Yes, Saquon Barkley, Nick Chubb, and Phillip Lindsay showed much promise, but so did the Lions’ second-round selection. Johnson was placed on injured reserve this past week with a knee injury but should be good to go by OTAs. It took a few weeks for the rookie to shine in Detroit, but he was impressive for a stretch during the middle of the season. The entire Lions offense needs revamping, but Johnson and Kenny Golladay are the two building blocks for the future.
The running back who will be toward the top of our “buy” list this coming offseason is Aaron Jones. After missing the first two games of the season due to suspension, he easily asserted himself as the lead back in Green Bay. Jones was placed on injured reserve last week with a sprained MCL but will be fine in a few weeks. He averaged 5.5 yards-per-carry and 934 total yards. The fantasy community has discounted Jones due to the lacking Packers season, but the upside is apparent for the Green Bay starter.
According to Ian Rapoport, Demaryius Thomas is thought to have torn his Achilles' in the Week 16 matchup against the Eagles. We have seen this before. A player goes down without contact when attempting to alter direction. Sadly, he could not put any weight on the leg before getting help to the cart. The injury limits Thomas’ free agency appeal this coming offseason and hinders the Texans’ chances in the playoffs. He was starting to take the coverage away from Hopkins before the injury.
Last week, Josh Gordon announced on Twitter that he is "stepping away from the football field for a bit to focus on (my) mental health.” He wrote, "I take my mental health very seriously at this point to ensure I remain able to perform at the highest level … I have recently felt like I could have a better grasp on things mentally." All who read this knew there was more to the story. Then, the other shoe fell when Tom Pelissero reported that Gordon was facing another suspension. It took little time for the league to announce that Gordon was suspended indefinitely for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Still just 27 years of age, Gordon may have played his last football in the NFL. His addiction struggles are well-chronicled, so we do not want to re-hash. But we are rooting for him to find the peace and recovery needed for him to live a long, happy life. New England is left with Julian Edelman, Kevin Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Phillip Dorsett to lead the receiving with Rob Gronkowski a shadow of himself. The 32-year-old Edelman will likely lead the receivers in catches and yards. James White may see an uptick in his targets, too, during the playoffs.
The Miami Dolphins seem content allowing former first-round pick, DeVante Parker, to walk after the season. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains told reporters that Parker’s lack of playing time was due to a "combination of injuries, production, practice." The receiver should not lack for teams willing to give him a second chance. It leaves Miami with a below-average receiving corps with underperforming 2018 free agency signings Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola joining Kenny Stills. Thankfully, the 26-year-old Stills is under contract for two more seasons. It is likely that the Dolphins look to draft a wide receiver on the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft. With the phasing out of tailback Kenyan Drake and uncertain future of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, this should be an interesting offseason for fans of the team.
The 2018 season for Rishard Matthews is mercifully over. After pushing his way off the Tennessee Titans in September, Matthews signed with the Jets but rarely played. He caught a whopping two passes in five games. It is uncertain whether he will be back in New York. The once-productive receiver may be at the end of his career. We expect him to be in a different camp next year, fighting for a roster spot at the age of 30. Even the veteran’s minimum salary for a player of his experience might be too expensive unless Matthews shows more than he did in a Jets uniform.
The tight end position has been full of surprises this season. Charles Clay was thought to have a chance for fantasy TE1 status, but his season was derailed by injury and poor play. The soon-to-be 30-something was even a healthy scratch for the Patriots game on Sunday. While 2019 is his last year under contract, the team might see Clay’s $4.5 million salary as too much given his lack of production. The Bills have gone with youngsters, Jason Croom, and Logan Thomas, for the past few games. This is a young offense which will need offer upside for whichever tight end emerges in training camp.