I just laugh to myself as Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase takes a moment to consider a question he probably wasn't expecting.
This was last week and I was in Hall K at the Indianapolis Convention Center, home of the 2018 NFL combine. Like many other coaches and general managers during a multi-day period, Gase is addressing the media for a quick 15-minute news conference.
I don't even have to look to know that my friend Byron Lambert of RosterWatch.com was the one asking the question. I met Byron three years ago at the combine, and I marveled at how he would fire question after question at coaches and GMs, clearly about fantasy football but disguised as actual football inquiries. I was so impressed with him after that combine that I chased him down and a year later convinced him to let RosterWatch join RotoPass.com, a site I have an ownership stake in.
This year, they often had two or three news conferences going at a time, so I would cover some, I knew my buddy Byron had others, and my friends and colleagues Stephania Bell, Field Yates and Mike Clay were there as well. Between all of them (and many unnamed contacts), we saw and heard it all at the combine. That is why I go.
Although it happens less frequently each year, a common question I hear is, "What's the fantasy guy doing here?" The answer is: information. The combine is one of my favorite football weeks of the year. It is the only time on the NFL calendar that so many people from so many teams are all in one spot. Make no mistake, they are working hard, but while they are interviewing and evaluating, there is more of a relaxed atmosphere, as there is still some time before free agency and the draft begin and meaningful games are played.
While three-cone drills and 40 times are important, I go there for networking. Kissing babies, shaking hands and listening. Lots and lots of listening. Some of it happens at formal events like the news conference, other parts occur in hallways, restaurants and bars at night. Some of it is on the record, some of it off, but either way, there are a lot of fantasy-relevant nuggets that come out of the combine that have nothing to do with Saquon Barkley or which of the QBs will go the highest. So, here, in no particular order, are 15 impressions I got after going to the combine and talking to folks. And, for what it's worth, reading between the lines of how he answered, I didn't get a great feeling that Gase was super-fired up about Grant or Carroo after last season. Even if Jarvis Landry leaves the Dolphins, it sounds like there are better sleepers.
1. "So where's Kirk going?" It's late at night and I am talking to an NFL head coach who plays in the division of a team that is one of the rumored suitors for Kirk Cousins. And as the coach says hi to me, he asks me where Kirk is going. (He knows I am a big Cousins fan and follow him closely.) I say to him what I have been saying publicly since the Super Bowl.
"Minnesota. I think he winds up in Minnesota."
The coach nods. "That's what we are hearing, too."
The consensus of folks I talk to is that unless new Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo completely bombs his eventual meeting with Cousins, he's gonna be a Viking.
2. Speaking of the Vikings, coach Mike Zimmer was pretty clear that while he was appreciative of what Latavius Murray did last season, his expectation is that Dalvin Cook, once healthy, will get the majority of work.
3. I spoke with a few coaches and executives of Cousins' former team, my beloved Washington Redskins. They all recognize the need for a speed wide receiver to line up opposite of Josh Doctson, with Jamison Crowder in the slot. I expect the team to address this need in free agency as opposed to the draft. You never know how everything will shake out, but it would not surprise me to see Paul Richardson as a Redskin in 2018.
4. As long as we're on Doctson, one coach had an interesting take on him. He felt the Redskins' offense (and specifically Cousins) didn't target him enough last season. "He's 6-3 with a 43-inch vertical. He's not a guy that will always be open, but even when he's not open, he's open, you know? Throw a jump ball and let him make a play." (From the 2016 combine, he's actually 6-2 with a 41-inch vertical, but whatever. The point is well taken. Doctson can get up high.) Call me a homer all you want, but just warning you now. I'll be on Doctson as a post-hype sleeper this year.
5. Last thing on the Redskins: While praise was universal for Chris Thompson (and I heard they are really high on Byron Marshall as well), the tone was less enthusiastic when discussing Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine. My expectation is that the first- and second-down running back for the Redskins is not currently on the roster. They'll address the position in either the draft or free agency (or both), and I would be surprised if both Kelley and Perine were both on the Skins' roster when the season starts. For what it's worth, Isaiah Crowell was a name mentioned to me as someone who has fans in D.C.
6. Reports have been all over the place, but after talking to a bunch of different folks around the Rams, I would be shocked if Sammy Watkins is not back with L.A. in 2018. If for some reason Watkins isn't back, they don't expect to try to replace him. Josh Reynolds and Mike Thomas would compete for the No. 3 WR role next to Robert Woods and my little Cooper Kupp (his official name). They really like both Reynolds and Thomas (who didn't get on the field much last season), but the sense I got was that they view Reynolds as more of a four than a three in an ideal world.
7. As for Woods, speaking with two people very high up in the organization, both had the same general take on Woods: not a fluke. Both felt that he was a very polished route runner who was underutilized in Buffalo, where the Bills were more run-oriented and the offense often broke down into more of an improvisational, "playground" style of football with Tyrod Taylor under center. They felt Woods would thrive with more of a rhythm passer who could execute timing patterns. And forget draft pedigree, make no mistake, they view Woods, not Watkins, as their No. 1 receiver.
8. Despite the retirement of Matt Forte, don't expect Bilal Powell to get all the Jets' running back work. Whether it's Elijah McGuire or they bring someone in, the Jets believe in multiple backs and, for our purposes, a "running back by committee."
9. Did someone say RBBC? That's what it looks like we are headed for in Green Bay, where coach Mike McCarthy mentioned they'll "need all three guys." He did specifically say that Ty Montgomery is a running back, but praised his versatility and, reading between the lines, I expect to see Montgomery lined up all over the place. Speaking with a source close to the team, however, I'll have Aaron Jones ranked highest among the Packers' runners. All three are talented, but my sense is he has the best chance to take the job and -- wait for it -- run with it. Thank you. Thanks. I'll be here all week.
10. New Bears head coach Matt Nagy was asked to compare Tyreek Hill (whom he coached in Kansas City) and Bears running back Tarik Cohen, and Nagy compared Cohen very favorably to Hill. He said they would probably use Cohen more in the backfield than they did Hill. But certainly Nagy loves Cohen's speed and versatility and is excited to use him in a variety of ways, moving Cohen around and using that shiftiness out of the backfield in the passing game. I get the sense that you'll see a more consistent role for Cohen this season, whose skill set seems to fit Nagy's style more than it did the previous offense.
11. I asked new Colts head coach Frank Reich about Marlon Mack, and while he was very positive about his skill set, he also said, "We'll have to evaluate as we go." I asked him point-blank whether he saw Mack as an every-down back and he was once again a bit elusive on that point. I couldn't tell if it was a lack of familiarity with Mack's tape (he did just get hired) or a lack of belief in him. But after speaking with a few others around the team, if I had to place a bet now, it's that the Colts will have someone else as their starting running back this season and Mack will continue to be a big-play guy, third-down back, two-minute-drill type. But I also wouldn't be surprised if, after looking around, Mack winds up being their best option. Personally, I love Mack and think if he was given a chance he'd have a real shot to win the job. But I get the sense that, if nothing else, Reich wants to use multiple backs. Also, Reich mentioned 06010 podcast fave Jack Doyle as someone he could see in a "Zach Ertz-type role" for the Colts. That would work.
12. As long as we are on the Colts, we have to talk about Andrew Luck. Stephania will have much more on Luck on the podcast -- we are doing a combine recap with notes from Stephania, Field and some nuggets I didn't have room for here -- but I'd say it's looking more positive than not for him suiting up for the opening game.
13. Final Colts nugget: When asked about Indy's receiving corps, Colts general manager Chris Ballard made a point of bringing up third-year wide receiver Chester Rogers as someone who "has a chance to really ascend." With Donte Moncrief likely not coming back with the Colts, the opportunity will certainly be there this year for Rogers.
14. I got different answers when asking if the Jaguars would franchise tag Allen Robinson. But if A-Rob becomes a free agent, I know one of the many teams that would be interested in talking to him would be the Oakland Raiders. Jon Gruden made headlines when he said Amari Cooper would be "the focal point of our offense." What this told me is that there is a chance Michael Crabtree is not back with the Raiders, despite reports that he will be. It also tells me that Oakland wants to improve its receiving corps, including the depth, and that there's a chance they'll have Cooper, Crabtree and another star, whether it's Robinson or someone else. The Raiders are gonna throw it this year.
15. When Eagles coach Doug Pederson was asked about Corey Clement, the first thing out of the coach's mouth was how good he was on special teams and that his special-teams role could expand. He also mentioned that when Clement got on the field, he made plays in the offense, which was great. The overall vibe was very positive, but when asked, the first thing that popped into Coach Pederson's mind is that they need him more on special teams. That's important for real football, but not helpful for fantasy. They like him a lot, but I'd lean more toward an expanded Jay Ajayi role than a Clement breakout this season, assuming health all around.
That's all I have room for, but there were plenty of other great nuggets that I learned at the combine. So be sure to check out the Fantasy Focus 06010 podcast, available on iTunes or in the ESPN App on the listen tab.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- wants no part of Laquon Treadwell this year. He is the creator of RotoPass.com and one of the owners of the Fantasy Life app.