IDP Rookie Round-Up: Training Camp Edition

Jason King

In a normal year at this time ,we would have two preseason games’ worth of action and data on rookie IDPs. There’s nothing normal about 2020, of course, so we are left to scour beat writers’ training camp reports for nuggets.

Here’s a check-in on 28 rookies generating positive buzz or negative vibes during camp.

DEFENSIVE LINEMAN

Ross Blacklock, DT HOU

The Texans are asking Blacklock to take advantage of his pass-rush ability, and he’s flashed so far, says Aaron Reiss of The Athletic. He should see the majority of his playing time during passing downs in 2020 – just don’t count on him (yet) in defensive tackle-premium formats.

AJ Epenesa, DE BUF

Epenesa was touted as a prospect for his power rush, and it has been effective at Bills camp. He’s told media that he’s learning four positions along the defensive line; that versatility could lead to a higher percentage of snaps. This is fun to watch:

 

AJ Epenesa just bulldozered Brian Winters on this OLvDL rep today. Highlight of a nice day for the rookie. #Bills pic.twitter.com/4uojGLbRmr

— Thad Brown (@thadbrown7) August 20, 2020

Javon Kinlaw, DT SF

Don’t count on a fantasy contribution from Kinlaw, at least early in the season. Matt Barrows of The Athletic writes that the 14th overall pick has work to do with his pass rush and conditioning, but even still at times his strength and effort shine through.

Justin Madubuike, DT BAL

The first of Baltimore’s four third-round picks, Madubuike has impressed at Ravens camp, and is being mentored by Ravens veterans and defensive line coach Joe Cullen, according to The Athletic’s Joe Zrebiec. Madubuike may be counted on for a healthy percentage of snaps as a rookie.

Larrell Murchison, DE TEN

I watched Murchison for two years at NC State, and always thought he could contribute as a rotational piece at the NFL level. He’s versatile, relentless as a pass rusher, and a sure tackler. The Athletic’s Joe Rexrode reports that Murchison has been winning against second-string offensive lineman, so that’s a positive, but I don’t think he has a high enough ceiling to justify a fantasy roster spot if you’re carrying him in a deep league.

Julian Okwara, DE DET

Okwara has flashed with his speed off the edge and impressed Trey Flowers with his work ethic. Even Coach Matt Patricia had nice things to say: “I think there’s a lot more there than maybe initially what you saw, as far as besides the pass rush. He’s a pretty heavy-handed kid.”

Curtis Weaver, DE CLE

Weaver is already on his second NFL team. The Dolphins waived their fifth-round draft pick out of Boise State on August 24 after he injured his foot. The Browns were quick to snap him up off waivers, but the foot injury may keep him sidelined this season.

Chase Young, DE WAS

There’s not much to report with Young, as the NFL Draft’s second overall pick has been slowed by a hip flexor injury. The Washington Football Team has smartly been playing it safe with his return.

LINEBACKERS

Zack Baun, LB NO

Baun has reportedly looked good working as the starting strong side linebacker. This was a crowded linebacker room even before Nigel Bradham’s release, and I’ll be interested to see what his snaps look like to start the season.

Jordyn Brooks, LB SEA

Seattle has apparently been fairly restrictive with what comes out of camp, but it sounds as if KJ Wright is sticking at the weak side linebacker spot for now. Sans an injury to Bobby Wagner or Wright, Brooks won’t help your fantasy squad much this year. He remains an excellent stash though.

 

Seattle #Seahawks First String Defense in August 24th Practice:

DE Benson Mayowa
DT Jarran Reed
DT Bryan Mone?
DE ?

SAM Bruce Irvin
MIKE Bobby Wagner
WILL K.J. Wright

RCB Tre Flowers
FS Quandre Diggs
SS Jamal Adams
LCB Shaquill Griffin

NICKEL Marquise Blair was first up

— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) August 26, 2020

Jonathan Greenard, LB HOU

It doesn’t sound like there’s much to get excited about Greenard from a fantasy perspective. He’s working behind strong side outside linebacker Brennan Scarlett this season, and, according to defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver, Greenard profiles like Scarlett: a physical edge-setter against the run, but not much pass-rush ability.

Willie Gay, LB KC

The Chiefs are reportedly throwing a lot at Gay, playing him at strong side linebacker when in a base front and sliding him to one of the inside spots in sub-packages. Reading into comments by special teams coordinator Dave Toub, you may want to take a wait-and-see approach before putting Gay into fantasy lineups. His speed has been evident so far though, and he’s been dubbed “Turbo” by teammates.

Malik Harrison and Patrick Queen, LB BAL

It’s all systems go for your rookie Ravens linebackers. As expected, Queen is expected to play a three-down role, Todd Karpovich of SI Raven Country confirmed. Fellow draftee Malik Harrison has also drawn the praise of Coach John Harbaugh, and the pair should start together in week one.

Terrell Lewis, LB LAR

Some players have a slow start. Lewis had “no start” after missing the first two weeks of camp recovering from COVID-19. Since his arrival though, the third-round pick from Alabama “is turning heads” with his size, effort and versatility, says Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic. Lewis could play all over the front in a rotational role as a rookie, even though he is classified as a linebacker. He’ll be more valuable in leagues with true position designations or that slant scoring in favor of 3-4 outside linebackers.

Kamal Martin, LB GB

If you’re looking for a sleeper in deep leagues, check out Martin, who has impressed in the battle for the second linebacker spot next to Christian Kirksey, per Matt Schneidman of The Athletic. He has great size at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds (and 34-inch arms!), but speed and quickness are not strengths. He’s probably just a two-down thumper in the best of scenarios. If you have room, roster him, and you may be able to flip him for something decent if he’s announced as a starter.

Kenneth Murray, LB LAC

As expected, Murray is manning the middle linebacker spot on the first-team defense, bumping Denzel Perryman to the second team. If you’ve never been burned by the Chargers’ linebacker situation you’ve never lived that IDP life, but Murray should be a week one starter for you and maintains a rosy dynasty outlook.

Isaiah Simmons, LB ARI

The Cardinals seem to be sticking with their plan to have Simmons focus on playing inside linebacker next to Jordan Hicks, and expanding his role at some point in the future. How Arizona mixes together Simmons, Hicks and De’Vondre Campbell bears watching in Arizona’s opener against the 49ers.

Josh Uche, LB NE

Jeff Howe of The Athletic described a mixed bag from Uche in a recent report, noting the rookie is “active.” He’s gotten to Cam Newton a few times for what would likely end up as sacks, and has been dominated by linemen at other times. In other words, he looks like a rookie. ESPN’s Mike Reiss also noted that Uche reminded him of Jamie Collins with a “burst up the middle so fast on a blitz for a sack.” It would not be a stretch to project Uche as the most productive of the Patriots linebackers this season.

Justin Strnad, LB DEN

Strnad was looking good to slide into a sub-package role as a rookie, but has already been ruled out for the season after having surgery on a broken wrist on August 23. It’s a shame – Strnad has good size and movement skills, and likes to hit hard. Plus, he came cheap in rookie drafts.

Davion Taylor, LB PHI

We all knew Taylor was going to be a bit of a project coming into the NFL, but the prevailing hope has been that his athleticism would help him get on the field early. It doesn’t sound like that’s in the cards. Bo Wulf of The Athletic notes the third-rounder has been unable to progress above the third-team defense, and speculates that Taylor will be a game day inactive. He’s still a high-upside stash obviously, just don’t count on him helping your linebacker corps in 2020.

Mykal Walker, LB ATL

Walker looks like a keeper so far. According to Tori McElhaney of The Athletic, the fourth-round pick from Fresno State has rotated with starters Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun in camp, making plays in pass coverage. That’s a good omen for his future value. Check to see if he’s a free agent in your league.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Julian Blackmon, S IND

Blackmon is rehabbing an ACL injury and is on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Jeremy Chinn, S CAR

I can’t wait to see the all-22 for the Panthers on NFL Game Pass. First-year coach Matt Rhule has talked up free-agent signee Juston Burris as the starter at strong safety (Burris is my top IDP deep sleeper pick). and Joseph Person of The Athletic reports that Chinn has shined as well. Rhule is quoted as saying Chinn “will play a lot for us, whether it’s at safety or the big nickel.” How will they fit with veteran Tre Boston?

Grant Delpit, S CLE

Delpit tore his Achilles tendon on August 24. It’s a tough blow for the Browns, who were counting on the LSU product to play center field.

Noah Igbinoghene, CB MIA

Even in a crowded cornerback room – Xavien Howard and Byron Jones are pricey starters – Igbinoghene has impressed as a playmaker during camp and could be in line for a “prominent role,” according to Josh Tolentino of The Athletic. It stands to reason that if he’s on the field with one-time Pro Bowlers Howard and/or Jones, opposing coordinators are going to want to test the first-round pick from Auburn. If you like to target rookies in cornerback-required leagues, Igbinoghene might be worth a shot.

Xavier McKinney, S NYG

Ugh. McKinney was expected to start immediately but broke a bone in his left foot and had surgery on August 26. It’s possible he still plays later this season, if the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise.

Antoine Winfield, S TB

The news is positive on Winfield, and it sounds like he’ll supplant Mike Edwards as a starter sooner rather than later, opines Greg Auman of The Athletic. Coach Bruce Arians praised Winfield for “making plays every single day.” Expect a full-time and productive role for the versatile second-generation pro.

jason king