<
>

Fantasy fallout: Are Adrian Peterson, Alfred Morris really back?

play
Peterson has fantasy value in Washington as lead back (1:28)

Matthew Berry breaks down the fantasy prospects of Adrian Peterson with the Redskins. (1:28)

Two weeks ago, Adrian Peterson and Alfred Morris didn't have jobs. This past weekend, they combined for 28 carries and 140 yards.

Welcome back to the NFL, fellas.

But should one still have a place on your fantasy roster?

Peterson clearly looks like the safer bet to play a significant role. Obviously, you could be skeptical about the 33-year-old, who has now been with three teams in less than a year. But as ESPN Washington Redskins reporter John Keim said after Peterson showed up last week and instantly gained 56 yards on 11 carries: "He looked better than the other Redskins' [first- and second-down] backs, and that's all that matters right now."

"After watching Peterson in his preseason debut, it's hard to imagine the Redskins starting anyone else," said Keim, who projects that could mean about 15 carries a game or more. "The question will be how long he holds up under that sort of usage, but in the short term, he could be OK."

Peterson was on injured reserve with a minor neck injury last December. But for the most part, he has been a physical marvel throughout his 11-year career, so workload shouldn't be a big concern. Remember, he had four games with 20-plus carries after he was traded from the New Orleans Saints to the Arizona Cardinals last season (including 26 carries for 134 yards in his debut and a whopping 37 carries for 159 yards three weeks later).

The bigger concern with Peterson is that he has averaged just 3.1 yards per carry over the past two years -- the third-lowest total among backs with at least 150 rushes. But Peterson pointed out that the Redskins' offensive line will be better than the ones he played with in Arizona and with the 2016 Minnesota Vikings.

Morris, meanwhile, won't be a leading man in San Francisco, where the 49ers spent big money on runner/receiver Jerick McKinnon in free agency. But the question is whether Morris can supplant promising second-year pro Matt Breida and get some base-down/goal-line work as the No. 2.

Morris ran the ball 17 times for 84 yards Saturday while McKinnon, Breida and backup Joe Williams were all sidelined by injuries. Plus, he had a 17-yard run that was called back because of an illegal formation penalty.

"Honestly, it's too early to say whether Morris will play much of a role. He's done enough to win a roster spot, and they like the idea of having him as insurance early in the season when Breida and McKinnon are coming back from injury," ESPN 49ers reporter Nick Wagoner said. "But I don't think there's any evidence to indicate he's going to take reps from McKinnon or Breida yet, assuming they're healthy for Week 1."

Cook, Luck pass final tests

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook passed the final milestone he was looking forward to in his recovery from a torn ACL on Friday -- getting tackled.

"It felt good, too," Cook said. "My adrenaline was rushing. I was ready."

ESPN Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin said coaches haven't really shed light on how much they'll divide the workload between Cook and veteran backup Latavius Murray. But it's possible Cook's touches could gradually increase as the season starts, according to Cronin. So the first few weeks might not be the best indicator of his long-term impact.

Cronin also said it's possible Murray could be used a lot inside the 5-yard line -- which is a strength of his -- to help alleviate some of the stress on Cook. But on a positive note for Cook's workload, she expects to see both Cook and Murray used as receivers in new coordinator John DeFilippo's creative offense -- sometimes both on the field at the same time, with one in the backfield and one in the slot.

Meanwhile, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck took another positive step in his recovery from the shoulder injury that wiped out his 2017 season, throwing his first preseason touchdown pass on Saturday.

Luck refused to give himself a letter grade for his preseason performance. But more importantly, he said with a laugh that if he was grading "pass or fail," he passed.

Luck suffered a "minor" foot injury in practice, but he's expected to be fine for Week 1.

Breakout Bucs?

Chris Godwin's impressive summer continued when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver leaped up high for a 10-yard touchdown catch against Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay on Friday. ESPN Bucs reporter Jenna Laine said the second-year pro "looks poised for a big year." And she wrote that the coaching staff views him as a starter during a breakdown of the Bucs' WR depth chart.

Laine also wrote about how the Buccaneers are hoping to see some more "jaw-dropping plays" from second-year tight end O.J. Howard on a consistent basis. Although it might be hard for Howard to become a reliable fantasy factor because of the presence of veteran Cameron Brate, Laine wrote that Howard and Tampa Bay's coaching staff feel he is ready to meet or exceed the lofty expectations that surrounded him as a 2017 first-round draft choice.

Last but not least, Tampa's third-year running back Peyton Barber tightened his already-strong grip on the starting job ahead of rookie Ronald Jones II this summer. Barber had five carries for 34 yards and a touchdown Friday, and Jones ran six times for 7 yards. However, Jones did make a splash with a 37-yard reception -- and the Buccaneers will no doubt try to work him into the mix as the season goes along. Laine said Barber has been the Bucs' "go-to guy in the red zone." But she stressed the coaching staff doesn't believe in using just one running back.

Replacing Lee in Jacksonville

The Jacksonville Jaguars' WR corps didn't get any more predictable in the wake of Marqise Lee's season-ending knee injury. But Donte Moncrief, Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook should all become more important now.

ESPN Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco wrote that even though the team has said the onus will be on the entire group of receivers to replace Lee, Moncrief is the one who really needs to deliver as the most experienced (and expensive) member of the group. Cole has been the most popular sleeper among fantasy analysts. But DiRocco said there's a chance Westbrook could be the one with the most upside, since he was already going to have a bigger role this season.

Quick hits

    • Seahawks: Rookie first-round draft pick Rashaad Penny is expected to return from his broken finger in time for Week 1. But ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter Brady Henderson wrote a great post explaining why Penny hasn't been able to wrestle the starting job away from Chris Carson. One source described Carson's response to the Seahawks drafting Penny as, "You think you're taking my f---ing job?" Henderson said it's hard to predict how the timeshare will go because of so many unknowns (new coordinator in Brian Schottenheimer, Penny being injured this summer and Carson's own injury history). But as long as Carson is playing at this level, he could see a 65-35 split in carries favoring Carson.

  • Packers: ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter Rob Demovsky wrote that fantasy fanatics who have been scared off by Green Bay's running back committee might have to reorder their draft boards after coach Mike McCarthy's strong endorsement of Jamaal Williams. "He's really poised to have a big year," McCarthy said. "Clearly, without playing a game yet, I think we'll be talking about him at the end of the season as a second-year player that's made the jump." Demovsky has maintained all summer that Aaron Jones has the potential to emerge as the most dynamic runner in the backfield later in the season -- if he proves he can stay healthy once he returns from a two-game suspension. But for now, anyway, Williams has taken the leading-man role and run with it.

  • Broncos: Rookie running back Royce Freeman continued his impressive summer with a 24-yard touchdown run Friday. ESPN Denver Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold gave Freeman a strong endorsement in this column two weeks ago, saying, "He's just too big, too fast not to play, and he runs with vision." Legwold wrote this week that to earn more playing time, though, Freeman needs to keep proving he knows what to do without the ball in his hands.

  • Saints: Sean Payton said the Saints' WR depth chart is still "written in chalk" behind Michael Thomas. As ESPN's Saints reporter, I broke down the prospects of newcomer Cameron Meredith (off to a slow start), rookie Tre'Quan Smith (off to an exciting start but still developing) and incumbents Ted Ginn Jr. and Austin Carr. It's possible none of them emerges as a true No. 2 receiver. Ginn is the steadiest choice late in fantasy drafts, but Meredith and Smith have more breakout potential.

  • Chiefs: Sammy Watkins had his most productive week of practice yet with the Kansas City Chiefs last week. Then he followed up with his first catch of the preseason for 15 yards on Saturday. But he remains a bit of a fantasy risk, according to ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher, who wrote the Chiefs are still waiting for Watkins to earn his keep. Of course the potential remains high, as always, with Watkins -- and Kansas City will remain patient after signing him to a three-year, $48 million contract.

  • Bengals: It's a similar story with second-year Cincinnati Bengals receiver John Ross, who flashed his "wow" potential with a 57-yard TD catch. Ross flashed both his speed and his elusive feet while making a pair of defenders miss at the end of the play. However, Ross has continued to show inconsistency, too -- including a drop on the next pass thrown his way. And ESPN Bengals reporter Katherine Terrell said he is still working to earn the team's trust. Terrell actually thinks slot receiver Tyler Boyd could wind up having more value in PPR leagues, since he'll be used more.

  • Raiders: ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez doesn't expect any mind-numbing stats from new receiver Jordy Nelson, since Oakland's passing offense will revolve so much around Amari Cooper. But Gutierrez thinks Nelson will help to fill the void left by Michael Crabtree as a "security blanket" for QB Derek Carr. And Nelson has already been making an impact as a veteran leader.

  • Colts: Indy's running back situation isn't as set as its QB situation. ESPN Colts reporter Mike Wells said he would be concerned about Marlon Mack's fantasy prospects, especially since Mack might not be ready to play in Week 1 because of a hamstring injury. That could leave rookie Jordan Wilkins as the Week 1 starter -- and make for an unpredictable pecking order as the season goes on.