Speaking Tuesday, coach Mike Tomlin said he “hadn’t thought about” whether holdout Le’Veon Bell will report to the team in time for the beginning of the practice week on Wednesday. That’s absolutely not true, but Tomlin isn’t going to outwardly display any worry. Tomlin added he had yet to be in contact with Bell this week, and the longer Bell is away from the team, the more it’s becoming a concern regarding his availability for Week 1 against the Browns. Bell didn’t report until just ahead of Week 1 last year and managed just 47 yards on 14 touches in Cleveland. The Steelers again open on the road against the Browns, and it’s fair to wonder if Bell will report too late to handle his normal workhorse load. James Conner was a popular pickup across fantasy leagues Tuesday and needs to be added everywhere he’s available. However, it’s entirely possible Conner is again irrelevant by the end of the day Wednesday should Bell end his holdout. It’s the biggest story heading into the day.
Elsewhere in Steelers country, Antonio Brown is expected to be full go against the Browns after pulling his quad this summer and missing the entire preseason. We’re not concerned, and it’s not as if Brown needed the exhibition reps. He’s the top receiver on the board this weekend. Vance McDonald (foot) is also expected to practice this week after missing most of training camp and the preseason. McDonald may be limited most of the week. If he’s cleared, he’ll be a quality Week 1 streamer.
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Drake and Gore Listed as Co-Starters
The Dolphins released their initial depth chart Tuesday, and at running back, coach Adam Gase went with “Kenyan Drake or Frank Gore” as the starter. Gore has long been posing a threat to Drake’s workload, but we simply cannot see the Dolphins being this dumb to seriously take Drake’s reps and give them to Gore, who has shown very little with the Colts the last couple years. It’s possible Gore gets “starts” in Miami, but Drake should remain the focal point of the offense. Just last week, Gase said he hoped Drake would handle 15-20 carries and 6-8 targets per game. Gore is a threat to Drake’s goal-line work, but I’m still very comfortable with Drake as an upside RB2.
Cole and Moncrief Atop Jaguars’ WR Depth Chart
The Jaguars also sent out their initial depth chart Tuesday evening. Marqise Lee was lost to a season-ending knee injury in the preseason, putting the receiver spot in a state of flux for Jacksonville. On Tuesday, the Jaguars listed Keelan Cole and Donte Moncrief with the first team, followed by Dede Westbrook on the second team. Cole will open the year as the lone Jaguars receiver to own in normal depth leagues after showing a good rapport with Blake Bortles at the end of last season. Moncrief made little noise over the summer but was guaranteed $9.6 million. He’s going to play. Westbrook and rookie D.J. Chark will mix in as deep threats. Cole will do battle with Janoris Jenkins in Week 1, making him a mere WR4/5. It’s a situation to watch closely this weekend.
Earl Thomas Remains Away from Seahawks
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday that holdout FS Earl Thomas is “not expected to show up and play for the Seahawks” in the absence of a contract extension. Teams have called Seattle expressing interest in a trade for Thomas, but the Seahawks are reportedly asking for a second-rounder plus more in return for the former All Pro. The Cowboys are said to be offering a third-rounder. It sure sounds like Thomas isn’t going to be there for Week 1 in Denver, and there’s no end in sight to his holdout. Seattle has lost an incredible amount of talent from last year’s defense.
Geoff Swaim is listed as the Cowboys’ No. 1 tight end, followed by Blake Jarwin, Rico Gathers, and rookie Dalton Schultz, respectively. None are fantasy options at the moment. … Rex Burkhead (knee) remains a participant in Patriots practice and looks ready to roll for Week 1. … Free agent QBs Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook visited the Bills. … Disappointing summer rookie Ronald Jones was listed as the Bucs’ No. 3 back behind Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers. … Mike Gillislee is listed ahead of rookie Boston Scott as the Saints’ No. 2 back. … The 49ers are expected to use a “hot hand” approach in the backfield. Matt Breida is listed as the starter, but Alfred Morris figures to have a significant role on early downs. … Chad Williams is listed as the Cardinals’ No. 2 receiver opposite Larry Fitzgerald, with rookie Christian Kirk as the top punt returner. … Chris Carson predictably is listed as the Seahawks’ starting running back, with rookie Rashaad Penny as his direct backup. … Curtis Samuel is recovering from an operation to address an irregular heartbeat and will not play Week 1. … DeVante Parker’s (finger) status for Weeks 1 and 2 remains up in the air. … Chris Godwin and DeSean Jackson are listed as co-starters for the Bucs opposite Mike Evans. Only Evans is in play for Week 1 against New Orleans with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. … Jay Ajayi (foot) is practicing in full this week ahead of Thursday night’s opener. … Lions signed RB Donnel Pumphrey to their practice squad after he flamed out with the Eagles. … Coach Doug Pederson continues to say Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) is week to week. Mack Hollins (groin) also will not play this week against the Falcons. … Newly-signed Antonio Gates will practice Wednesday.
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