DECIPHERING TRAINING CAMP NEWS
Players attending training camps is one of the first indications we’re almost at the starting line for actual football, but with it comes a ton of news. Every day there are multiple beat writers and reporters covering teams who are responsible for releasing the information as they receive it. Not all of it will be relevant or helpful when making decisions heading into your drafts, but there will be nuggets of gold placed within the hundreds of tweets about amazing plays that “player X” made in practice against the 2nd team defense with the 3rd string quarterback. To help shed some light on the plethora of news that will be coming out from now until the start of the season, here are my tips and tricks for how to sift through all that information in order to just get those most useful bits and pieces.
The main thing to look for when scrolling through team reports and media releases is the negative information. For the most part, teams want to make their players seem like they’re playing exceptionally well, performing “ahead of schedule” or doing even better than expected, so the times they release information that says otherwise is quite telling. When players struggle early on, especially rookies, they can be in for a rough season when it comes to consistency. The player that doesn’t perform well in training camp practices is going to have a harder time earning the trust of the coaching staff early in the year. It isn’t always about whether a player is playing poorly either; look for reports of players running with the 2nd team. Now, we often see these reports more with rookies, which isn’t always a big red flag since they are trying to adjust to the speed and pace of NFL practices. It becomes an issue when it’s a reoccurring event heading into Week 2 and 3 of training camp; that’s when it starts to be of some concern. Likewise, if the rookie 2nd round pick can't beat out the veteran, teams will go with the guy that has the best chance to help the team win, regardless of the investment they made during the draft. This doesn’t mean the rookie won't be an impactful player throughout the season; it just hampers the ability for them to produce early on.
The second thing to look for is the players who deal with injuries early on in training camp. Most of the time these injuries are minor and teams limit the players more as a precautionary measure. However, the closer to the start of the season, the more important these small “nicks and bruises” become to any investment in their fantasy stock. As I wrote last week, the last thing I want to do is draft a player that is starting the season with injury concerns, even if it may be for “minor” injuries. All it takes is a little setback to turn a 1-2 week hamstring injury into a 4-6 week conundrum. While these types of injuries are not enough to drop players multiple rounds, they are enough to drop players down a tier if they’re top end talent. For example, if the news coming out of the New York Giants camp is that Saquon Barkley might not be ready for the regular season Week 1 matchup, he should not be a 1st rounder for fantasy. I'm not willing to invest a high-end pick on a player that is beginning the season already hampered by injuries. The important part of reading these injury reports is to look for concrete information. Just because the team releases the news that a player didn’t practice for the day, doesn’t always indicate a true injury. This is why you have to look for what not only the teams say, but also what’s written by the beat reporters. Beat reporters are the eyes and ears for the common NFL fan, and they are key pieces to putting together all the information.
The final piece of advice I have regarding training camp news is to not buy into all the hype. Every year there are reports that some 7th round rookie is looking like the best player on the field and may compete for a roster spot. Now, they may actually make the roster and that’s an awesome story, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be on the field at any point in the season. Players can look good in camp and not play at all or end up being at the back-end of the roster. The important thing to look for, when it comes to these players, is what the coaches have to say about them. If you hear a coach constantly praise the abilities of this player, then they may be worth getting as a flyer at the end of drafts. The reality is that most beat writers want to be optimistic because they must see the players and interact with them. This doesn’t mean that they are doing this intentionally to try and curry favor with the players, but it’s definitely better to be positive than absolutely crush a player for an off day especially when you’re with them in such close proximity for that long.
The next month of training camp will lead to a multitude of hype pieces and “players to watch out for,” so be prepared to sift through them. Most importantly, pay attention to what coaches say while also realizing you can't trust 100 percent of what they say. It’s a delicate balance that is extremely tough to navigate, but your main focus should be what’s discussed in the injury reports. They have more vital information than the fluff piece praising a rookie for standing out in practice or the inquiries over whether someone will be the 4th or 5th string wide receiver. Use your best judgment and stay tuned to the podcast for the opinions of the DayDreamers. Thanks for reading and as always, stay dreamin’!