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Chicago Bears release Jerrell Freeman after two seasons



The Chicago Bears have released linebacker Jerrell Freeman, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Freeman, 31, was suspended 10 games last season for a second violation of the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

The Bears placed Freeman on injured reserve in Week 2 after the veteran tore a pectoral muscle in the season opener versus Atlanta. Freeman suggested that the concussion he suffered in the Falcons game contributed to the latest suspension.

Freeman — voted a team captain before Week 1 — missed four games in 2016 for his first violation of the PED policy but still finished with a team-high 110 tackles.

He played four seasons in Indianapolis, registering at least 100 tackles three times, before he signed a three-year deal with Chicago in 2016.

Freeman was scheduled to earn $3.5 million in 2018, but none of it was guaranteed.

ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson contributed to this report.

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Rob Gronkowski’s ultimate Florida road trip



We know Florida Man as a popular meme that mocks the bizarre, at times inconceivable behavior that seems to epitomize the state. But human beings are so much more complex than that. So what, exactly, is a Florida Man? We think a Florida Man is adventurous. Zany. Unencumbered.

We think a Florida Man is a 6-foot-6, 268-pound force of nature who vibes so hard.

We think a Florida Man is Rob Gronkowski — which is perfect, because Rob Gronkowski is now, well, a Florida man. The New York product, Arizona alum and former New England Patriots star has joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, giving the All-Pro tight end some new terrain to explore.

Sometimes it takes a while to find one’s ideal path, and Gronk — with two catches and one recovered onside kick through the Bucs’ first two games — has seemingly discovered his perfect state at the age of 31. To prove it, we hand-selected 10 Gronk-tastic things for him to do in Florida and asked the authority figures for each of these places to submit their pitches.

This — the continuation of a very serious public health crisis that requires considerable precaution — is not the time, of course. But eventually — one would think — civilization will return to normal, at which point Gronk can take a real tour through an eclectic state befitting his larger-than-life personality. His road map awaits.

Gronk And The Sea Cows

Location: Snorkeling with Manatees (Citrus County)
Distance from Raymond James Stadium: 70 miles N

The average manatee weighs up to 1,200 pounds. That’s 4 1/2 Gronks. Captain Parker has spent nearly two decades leading expeditions out to Crystal River and Homosassa Springs, one of few places where up-close interactions with these gigantic mammals are possible. Immediately people are blown away by their sheer size. Then they get into the water and are usually struck by fear. But then they notice that the manatees are gentle, playful, sometimes even a little shy. It’s an experience that has inspired many of today’s marine biologists and can at times feel life-changing.

“It’s the magic of interacting with a wild animal, and when that wild animal chooses to interact with you,” said Captain Parker, whose website notes that manatees are “the most enduring animal in the state of Florida.” Gronk, a 10th-year tight end returning from retirement, can relate.

The pitch for Gronk: “I’ve had people come out here that have gone through all walks of life. You’re a tough guy, you play a tough sport, and you’re up against some pretty big ol’ boys here, but wait ’til this ol’ animal comes up to you. I’ve had guys that have been in Desert Storm, that actually are dodging bullets, that when they get in the water and the manatee comes up and nudges them on the bum, all of a sudden they’re crawling back on the boat. And I’ve seen this. You spend a lot of time tackling these guys in the front line and running from the big guys, but wait ’til this manatee chases you down. This manatee will chase you at times back to the boat because it doesn’t want you to leave. Your other opponents want you to leave. Manatees don’t.” — Captain Parker, owner, Snorkeling with Manatees, LLC

Gronk Does Spring Break

Location: Beach Bash Music Fest (Panama City Beach)
Distance from Ray Jay: 350 miles NW

Shirtless Gronk on a parade float catching Bud Lights and trying to keep up with Ludacris lyrics is a sight to behold. And the fine people of Tampa shouldn’t require a Buccaneers championship in order to experience it. Introducing the Beach Bash Music Fest, which began 20-plus years ago with a lonesome DJ in the sand and has since morphed into an epic spring break party drawing some of music’s most popular acts and 15,000-plus college kids without a care in the world. MTV has staged spring break here. Steve Aoki, Kaskade, Pit Bull, Lil Wayne and Pauly D have all come through here. This is Gronk’s scene. And it takes place in March, giving him plenty of time to get over a massive hangover.

The pitch for Gronk: “You know what, man, he went down to Florida, and Florida is where spring break originated. A little fun fact — back in 1938 was the first spring break [he’s actually right about this]. This is American spring break. Warmer weather, which he’ll see now that he’s in Florida, feet in the sand, co-eds from across the country, good-looking people left and right, all ethnicities. Just a big party. Everybody’s having a good time. Nobody’s there to violate or anything. It’s a must-see experience. If you Google ‘spring break,’ that’s it — Beach Bash Music Fest [we got a 1983 movie starring two men named David Knell and Perry Lang].” — Arnie Jimenez, co-founder, StudentEscape (the exclusive tour operating partner for the festival)

‘Not All Treasure Is Silver And Gold, Mate’

Location: Gasparilla Pirate Festival (Tampa)
Distance from Ray Jay: 5 miles S

Almost every year since 1904, upward of 500,000 people from all over the world have descended upon Tampa to take part in this festival, which has grown to include more than 100 floats in celebration of a mythical pirate named Jose Gaspar. The event begins with a pirate “invasion.” Hundreds of dressed-up pirates aboard the Jose Gasparilla, considered the only fully rigged pirate ship in the world, capture the mayor and take the key to the city, igniting a massive party in the streets that might only be rivaled by Mardi Gras.

The Buccaneers have a float in the parade, but active players don’t usually take part. Gronk can change that. This year’s event — if it’s safe enough to be held — is scheduled for Jan. 30, the weekend of the Pro Bowl. This is so much better than the Pro Bowl.

The pitch for Gronk: “What do we call our team here? We call ’em the Buccaneers for crying out loud. So clearly, if you wanna be a real guy from Tampa, you gotta put on that pirate outfit. The sun is out, the shirts are small, and everyone’s screaming and yelling for beads, and everyone’s got a cocktail. That’s a hard party to pass up.” — Peter Blackman, captain, Gasparilla Pirate Festival

Big Guy In A Little Bar

Location: Smallest Bar (Key West)
Distance from Ray Jay: 430 miles S

The Smallest Bar in Key West — probably not the most creative name but certainly a descriptive one — is a 72-square-foot dive bar connected to a quaint hotel and residing right in the thick of a bustling Duval Street. Gronk’s energy can fill a room. Here, his energy will quickly overflow it. Smallest Bar is laid back and great for people watching, the type of place where one can wear a flowered shirt and sip blended drinks from a coconut with no judgement — a Floridian’s dream, really.

We suggest Gronk make the trip out here in December for SantaCon, a jolly bar-hopping event throughout Key West. The patrons usually end up here and try to pack the place with as many people as possible, just for the visual. The record, by the way, is 43 1/2. They counted a small child as half a person. Maybe Gronk can count as two.

The pitch for Gronk: “Everybody says it’s on their little list when they come to Key West. You gotta go to the Smallest Bar and have a drink, try the key-lime pie shot that we’re famous for, and you just never know who you’re gonna meet in there. I mean we used to have Dale Earnhardt come in a lot because he liked the place, he thought it was fun. Good guy. They sit around sometimes, they buy people drinks, they have a good time. You just never know who you’re gonna meet. It’s just lighthearted in there.” — Josh Dix, owner, Smallest Bar in Key West

Catching Pelotas With A Cesta

Location: Casino Miami Jai-Alai (Miami)
Distance from Ray Jay: 280 miles SE

These days, Casino Miami stages Jai-Alai only to maintain its casino license. Its 4,000-seat arena doesn’t draw more than 100 people for most matches. But back in the ’70s and ’80s, Jai-Alai — basically a racquetball game with woven cestas instead of rackets and firmer balls that travel as fast as 186 mph — was it in Miami.

Casino Miami, which opened in 1926, had the high-end restaurants and the fancy bars and was the place to be. Its Jai-Alai matches took on the ambiance of a major heavyweight fight. Those days might be gone, but the game is still fun and exceedingly challenging. Gronk would get a kick out of it.

The pitch for Gronk: “It’s the fastest sport in the world. The ball, the pelotas they play with, move faster than anything else in sports. It’s hard. It’s not an easy game to play. I think it’d be a great challenge for him to strap on a cesta and give it a roll.” — Steve Rinaldi, marketing director, Casino Miami

Mer-Man Gronk

Location: Weeki Wachee Springs mermaid show (Spring Hill)
Distance from Ray Jay: 50 miles N

Before theme parks became so prominent throughout Florida, roadside attractions like the mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park were the place to be. I mean, Elvis came here for goodness sake. In a normal year, the show still draws somewhere in the neighborhood of 400,000 people to its underwater, 400-seat auditorium. There, visitors watch half a dozen mermaids perform 30-minute shows in a first-magnitude spring with a 5 mph current in the middle of an open waterway, which means fish, turtles and manatees can always appear in one of their “Little Mermaid” renditions.

Every year, Weeki Wachee Springs hosts around 60 prospective mermaids for a three-part tryout. It begins with an endurance test that requires a timed, 400-yard swim. Two-thirds of them will usually drop out after that, which is why the current mermaids want nothing more than to challenge Gronk to an athletic competition. They just need to find a tail big enough.

The pitch for Gronk: “We’ve always had so many different people — celebrities, newscasters — try to see what it’s like to be a Weeki Wachee mermaid, and I think people would find that it’s a lot more difficult than they’re made to believe. So to Rob — come see what it’s like to be a Weeki Wachee mermaid and see if you’ve got what it takes to become one of us. And plus, to see a part of old Florida, especially now that you’re a Floridian — people wanna go see Disney, they wanna go see Universal. Those are great places to go and visit, don’t get me wrong, but you can’t visit Florida, even be a resident, and not come see a place like Weeki Wachee springs. It holds so much tradition, so much nostalgia. It’s definitely a place he has to visit.” — John Athanason, developmental rep, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

The New Gator Boy

Location: Everglades Holiday Park (Fort Lauderdale)
Distance from Ray Jay: 250 miles SE

You can’t live in Florida and not make a trip out to the Everglades to see some gators. For Gronk, we thought the best place might be the one that employs the Gator Boys, who teamed up for a hit reality show on Animal Planet and are, as you might expect, pretty wild. He can start with an hour-long airboat ride — they’re open to letting Gronk drive the airboat — then take in a 20-minute alligator show and move on to a 45-minute animal encounter to get familiar with snakes, skunks, raccoons, possums, tortoises and all the other creatures that help make up the ecosystem of Gronk’s new home. We recommend lots of bug repellant.

The pitch for Gronk: “There really is nothing more Floridian than getting up close to the gators and venturing out deep into the everglades.” — Ashley Correa, director of sales and marketing, Everglades Holiday Park

Gronk Cruise Practice

Location: Shuffleboard Club (St. Petersburg)
Distance from Ray Jay: 20 miles SW

[Extreme Stephen A. Smith voice] Rob! You playin’ shuffleboard again?! Shuffleboard has deep roots in Florida, and the tired joke is that of course it does because Florida is America’s retirement community and the game is for old people. Well, it isn’t. At least not at St. Pete’s Shuffleboard Club, which was founded in 1924 (OK, ignore that part) and revived itself from near-extinction around 2005 by opening its doors to non-members on Friday nights and making the atmosphere more festive, with music, lights and BYOB. It helped start a national craze.

The Shuffleboard Club, which got air conditioning in its clubhouse two years ago, bills itself as the oldest and largest in the world and maintains most of its old look. But on the right day — with no pandemic, of course — it can be a happening place. Gronk needs to play here. You know, to get ready for the Gronk Cruise.

The pitch for Gronk: “He should come out on a Friday night. There’ll be 250 people playing shuffleboard — the music, the twinkly lights, and really, I can’t stress this enough, it is pure magic. Because of our history in St. Pete, and shuffleboard in general, playing shuffleboard at the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club is the quintessential St. Petersburg, Florida, thing to do. I understand he’s a big guy. We’d have to work with him to not fling the disc down at full strength, but I also know he can be a very elegant player — that’s what a friend told me — and so he’d really appreciate the little nuances of the sport.” — Christine Page, executive director, St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club

Goofy With Your Omelette

Location: Disney character breakfast (Orlando)
Distance from Ray Jay: 75 miles NE

Where did Gronk spend Valentine’s Day? At Disney World, of course. He rode all the rides — surely that included “It’s A Small World” — but did he eat waffles with Mickey Mouse? Gronk needs a character dining experience. There are usually several of them sprinkled throughout Disney World, but the only one functioning at the moment is Topolino’s Terrace at Disney’s Riviera Resort. They’re staging “Breakfast a la Art,” which features Mickey as a painter, Minnie Mouse as a poet, Donald Duck as a sculptor and Daisy Duck as a dancer, which means Gronk can also take in some culture. Kids love this stuff, as you might expect. But the adults have been found to be just as passionate about dressing up and engaging with the characters.

The pitch for Gronk: “There’s nothing like our character dining restaurants. They’re fun, they’re vibrant, they’re colorful. They’re alive with energy. Just walking by one, you feel that energy coming from these restaurants, and it’s mostly coming from our characters. They’re a great source of creativity and energy and just being alive and having fun.” — Robert Gilbert, culinary director, Magic Kingdom

Chillax, Bro

Location: Ichetucknee Springs lazy river (Fort White)
Distance from Ray Jay: 165 miles N

Back in the glory days at the University of Arizona, Gronk and his buddies installed a Slip ‘N Slide at his college residence that became a staple of his epic parties. Now Gronk is a little older, maybe a little wiser, so perhaps he might want to slow it down a notch and float around the lazy river at Ichetucknee Springs — a pristine waterway that stretches more than three miles and attracts people from the Northeast, Europe, the Carolinas, Georgia and, most noticeably, nearby college campuses of the University of Florida and Florida State University.

The park manager, Bob Soderholm, stresses that this is a quiet, family environment, and not a place for alcohol or loud music. But he has had a hard time corralling the party scene. Gronk would up the ante tremendously.

The pitch for Gronk: “This park is 50 years old, under the management of the division of recreational parks. It’s been around a lot longer than that. We have a local resident around here that’s also a member of our citizen support organization. His dad brought him down to the spring to take him swimming when he was just a little tyke. He’s in his 80s now, and he still comes down and swims. People have been doing this, swimming in the river — we know this for a fact — for over 80 years.” — Bob Soderholm, park manager, Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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Week 3 NFL Power Rankings



Just like fantasy owners around the country, the NFL Power Rankings crew is concerned about the rash of injuries to skill players around the league. So while we did our usual job of ranking every team, we went a step further and asked the NFL Nation writers to pick out an under-the-radar fantasy player on the teams they cover for fans and owners to pay attention to.

These players run the gamut. Some are highly drafted athletes who are even more important now to feature in a lineup. Others are current fantasy bench players who could be starters, and still others are guys who you should try to pick up on the waiver wire. How we rank in our Power Rankings: Our power panel — a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities — evaluates how teams stack up throughout the season.

Previous rankings: 2 | Preseason


Jump to:
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF

Week 2 ranking: 1

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: TE Travis Kelce

The Chiefs don’t have anyone appropriate for this category, given they have a well-known QB, an experienced group of receivers and a rookie running back who has received a lot of hype. But Kelce, with two touchdowns in two games, is on pace to exceed his career best in scoring. His highest tally is 10 TDs in 2018. — Adam Teicher

Week 2 ranking: 2

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: RB Gus Edwards

All of the fantasy focus on the Ravens’ backfield has centered on Mark Ingram II and J.K. Dobbins. But Edwards has outgained them in the first two games, producing 90 yards rushing and averaging 6.4 yards per carry. What limits Edwards as a consistent fantasy option is his lack of touches in the red zone. — Jamison Hensley

Week 2 ranking: 4

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: RB Chris Carson

The surprise isn’t that Carson has put up strong fantasy numbers. It’s that he has done so more as a receiver than a runner. Over the previous two seasons, he ranked 36th among NFL running backs with 69 targets, an average of 2.4 per game. He has nine targets through two games (tied for eighth) as the Seahawks have started showing more of a willingness to throw to their running backs. Carson has made his chances count, catching all nine of those throws for 81 yards and three touchdowns. He has yet to score a rushing TD, but his PPR value has grown. — Brady Henderson

Week 2 ranking: 5

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: RB Jamaal Williams

In Week 1, Davante Adams went off against the Vikings, so the Lions tried to shut him down in Week 2. That’s when Aaron Jones ran wild. So if teams somehow try to slow down both Adams and Jones, then it could be Williams’ turn. He had sneaky production over the first two weeks, averaging 5.6 yards per carry on 18 attempts. We heard Aaron Rodgers rave about Williams during training camp; and at some point, the Packers are going to start calling No. 30 more often, especially if they need someone to get tough yards near the goal line. — Rob Demovsky

Week 2 ranking: 3

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: WR Tre’Quan Smith

The third-year pro has been inconsistent so far — but part of that was because of a Week 2 ankle injury last year that nagged him for the rest of the season. He has flashed potential with two 100-yard games and two five-TD campaigns. And he showed Monday night that he’ll get more opportunities while Michael Thomas is sidelined. — Mike Triplett

Week 2 ranking: 7

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: WR Cole Beasley

He is a known commodity in the NFL, but Beasley was somewhat of an afterthought entering the season. However, he has seen at least six targets in each of his first two games, turning them into 128 yards on nine catches. Beasley’s involvement in the passing game shouldn’t be a surprise, considering he is picking up where he left off in 2019 — when he saw at least six targets in 11 of the 15 games he played. He might not have many explosive outings, but he is clearly a factor in a surprisingly fertile Buffalo passing attack (league-leading 359.5 yards per game) and worth rostering in PPR leagues. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Week 2 ranking: 10

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: TE Tyler Higbee

Higbee finished 2019 on a hot streak, accumulating 522 receiving yards over the final five games, though he wasn’t necessarily a go-to, end-zone target for Jared Goff, catching only two touchdown passes in that span. But after the Rams dominated the Eagles thanks to three touchdown receptions by Higbee — equaling his total touchdowns from the entire 2019 season — look for Goff to find the 6-foot-6, 255-pound tight end near the goal line more often. — Lindsey Thiry

Week 2 ranking: 8

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: TE Jonnu Smith

Smith is correctly not considered to be one of the top fantasy tight ends, but he has racked up three touchdowns in two games, as half of Ryan Tannehill‘s scoring passes have gone to Smith. Tannehill seems to look for Smith a lot in the red zone, which is where all three TD connections happened. It’s clear that their offseason throwing sessions are paying off. So far Smith has been targeted 12 times by Tannehill and has eight receptions. Those catches plus his three touchdowns represent impressive production from 12 targets. — Turron Davenport

Week 2 ranking: 6

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: RB Jerick McKinnon

McKinnon was a deep sleeper before the season, as he was returning following two years away because of a knee injury. Now? He could be in line for a whole lot more work. With fellow backs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman battling knee injuries, McKinnon is the healthiest back on the team, which could result in the big numbers the Niners expected when they signed McKinnon in 2018. That doesn’t mean McKinnon will carry the freight, but he has the big-play potential and pass-catching acumen to be a key part of the offense for at least the next few weeks. — Nick Wagoner



Stephen A. Smith argues that Cam Newton’s performance stood out more than Russell Wilson’s despite the Patriots’ loss.

Week 2 ranking: 9

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: QB Cam Newton

ESPN’s fantasy football experts had Newton as QB13 entering the season, which explains why he would fall on this type of list. Newton has been the best thing the Patriots’ offense has going — both throwing (45-of-63 for 552 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) and rushing (26 carries, 122 yards, 4 TDs). There were questions entering the season about Newton’s health and how quickly he could acclimate to the Patriots’ system, yet those have been answered with authority through two games. — Mike Reiss

Week 2 ranking: 11

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: WR Diontae Johnson

It’s hard to call Johnson under the radar when he was a trendy sleeper pick before the season. He is inconsistent and has started games slowly; but he has eight receptions on 13 targets, and he led the Steelers with 92 receiving yards against the Broncos. If Johnson becomes a bona fide WR1 in fantasy, keep an eye on Chase Claypool to develop into the next under-the-radar asset. Claypool has been targeted five times and has five catches — including the 84-yard touchdown against the Broncos. — Brooke Pryor

Week 2 ranking: 15

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: WR Andy Isabella

The second-year wideout won’t get a ton of looks this season because of the cache of talent ahead of him on the depth chart. But when he makes a play in 2020, it’ll probably be a big-splash one — like the 54-yard catch he had Sunday against Washington. Isabella averaged 21 yards per catch as a rookie in 2019, but of his 11 career catches, three have gone for 50 yards or longer. — Josh Weinfuss

Week 2 ranking: 17

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: RB Jalen Richard

Under the radar, for a guy whose primary role is to catch passes out of the backfield and who had 60 receptions in 2018? Well, yeah. You see, with running back Josh Jacobs adding the pass-catching game to his repertoire, teams might forget about Richard — and that’s where he could be awakened by Jon Gruden and Derek Carr. Especially if and when teams start putting spies on Jacobs in the flat. Reintroducing Richard, then. — Paul Gutierrez

Week 2 ranking: 12

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: TE Dalton Schultz

Schultz caught nine passes for 88 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons. He had 14 career receptions entering the game. Dak Prescott wasn’t afraid to look his way, even in key situations, including on his 10-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Schultz will benefit from the attention Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb and Ezekiel Elliott receive, but he should not be viewed as another Jason Witten. If Schultz can be steady — he had a fumble versus the Falcons after two drops against the Rams — he can be an asset, but more as an outlet option than main target. — Todd Archer

Week 2 ranking: 13

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: The Bucs’ defense

Through two weeks, Tampa Bay is tied for the eighth-most fantasy points on defense, which included a five-sack, four-takeaway performance against the Panthers in Week 2. The Bucs’ opponent this week, the Broncos, have allowed the eighth-most points to opposing defenses. Tampa Bay’s two following opponents are the Chargers, who have given up the 24th-most such points (so there might be better options elsewhere), and the Bears. who are tied for giving up the 11th most. — Jenna Laine

Week 2 ranking: 18

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: TE Mo Alie-Cox

Alie-Cox had a career game in catching five passes for 111 yards in Sunday’s game against Minnesota. The Colts will likely continue to lean on him while Jack Doyle (ankle/knee) and Trey Burton are out. What made Alie-Cox’s performance even more impressive was that the former college basketball player overcame a dropped pass that was intercepted in the red zone on the Colts’ opening drive. — Mike Wells

Week 2 ranking: 20

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: WR Darnell Mooney

In Week 2, Mooney finished with three receptions on three targets for 36 yards and a touchdown. He played 39 snaps against the Giants, more than veteran wideouts Javon Wims (29), Anthony Miller (26) and Ted Ginn Jr. (healthy inactive). The Bears are clearly high on Mooney, a rookie fifth-round pick out of Tulane who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds at the NFL combine. Don’t be surprised to see Mooney play a substantial role every week, especially since Miller, who is supposed to be Chicago’s No. 2 wideout after Allen Robinson II, is still struggling in the consistency department. — Jeff Dickerson



Rex Ryan and Dan Orlovsky clash over Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn’s decision to punt on fourth-and-1 from their own 34 in overtime against the Chiefs.

Week 2 ranking: 22

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: RB Austin Ekeler

Ekeler was targeted just once against Cincinnati a week ago. Coach Anthony Lynn realized Ekeler needed to be more involved against the Chiefs, and he was electric. Ekeler had four catches for 55 yards and ran the ball 16 times for 93 yards. He got the extra yard where none was expected. The undrafted and little known, 5-foot-10 back out of Western Colorado figures to be important down the road. He should, as he signed a four-year $24.5 million contract extension in March. — Shelley Smith

Week 2 ranking: 14

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: RB Alexander Mattison

The Vikings’ offense doesn’t look great right now, and poor time of possession has hindered the number of chances this unit has had. However, backup running back Mattison is going to be an important asset for Minnesota, particularly in the passing game, if and when the Vikings are able to turn things around. Mattison caught four passes in the season opener, and he is a nice outlet for Kirk Cousins in the short-to-intermediate game. If the Vikings can get Dalvin Cook going, that means more opportunities down the line for Mattison as an RB2. — Courtney Cronin

Week 2 ranking: 19

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: TE Jordan Akins

After catching a Week 1 touchdown at Kansas City, Akins led Houston pass-catchers with seven receptions against the Ravens and was second to only Brandin Cooks in targets. Tight end Darren Fells, who scored the Texans’ lone touchdown in Week 2, also will be involved in the offense, especially in the red zone. But Akins is showing the potential to emerge as Houston’s No. 1 tight end as the season goes on. — Sarah Barshop

Week 2 ranking: 16

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: TE Dallas Goedert

Raise your hand if you thought Goedert would be leading the Eagles in targets (17), catches (12) and receiving yards (131) through two weeks? Yeah, me neither. His talent has long been evident, but given that he shares the field with one of the best tight ends in the league in Zach Ertz, it seemed like Goedert had a pretty well-defined ceiling. Well, he looks to be breaking through it. — Tim McManus



Ryan Clark holds Falcons head coach Dan Quinn accountable for Atlanta blowing a 15-point lead against the Dallas Cowboys.

Week 2 ranking: 21

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: WR Russell Gage

Gage is certainly overlooked playing next to arguably the league’s best wide receiver in Julio Jones and touchdown-maker Calvin Ridley. But after two games, Gage has 15 catches for 160 yards and a touchdown on 21 targets, with 63 yards after the catch. Gage has a chemistry with quarterback Matt Ryan from spending extra time with him during the offseason. And Gage has a good understanding of coverages and where to sit down in the zone. Plus, he’ll benefit from the defensive coverage being drawn toward Jones and Ridley. — Vaughn McClure

Week 2 ranking: 26

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: RB Kareem Hunt

Despite backing up starter Nick Chubb, Hunt has been an integral part of the Browns’ offense. He is averaging 79 yards rushing per game at almost 7 yards per carry. Hunt also has been a threat as a receiver, including a TD grab on Thursday. That kind of steady production could be useful out of the flex. — Jake Trotter

Week 2 ranking: 23

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: TE Albert Okwuegbunam

Hey, you said under the radar, right? Broncos TE1 Noah Fant certainly isn’t under the radar — he is second on the team in targets — but the two-tight end look has been Denver’s best personnel grouping, and given the pass protection troubles, it’s going to have to use it more. Okwuegbunam hasn’t played yet because of a hip injury, but when he does, he figures to be a red zone factor, and he should enjoy the potential to have a very high percentage of his catches go for touchdowns. — Jeff Legwold

Week 2 ranking: 24

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: RB Antonio Gibson

Outside of Terry McLaurin, no one is really a strong fantasy play right now; but the one to watch remains Gibson. It’s about the future for the rookie, who has rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries in two games; as the season progresses, he’ll get more carries because this offense lacks playmakers. And Gibson has the potential to become one. He has shown flashes and has come close to breaking long runs; eventually, he will break one or two. The confusing part is that the former college wideout has only caught three passes. That should improve. — John Keim

Week 2 ranking: 27

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: WR Laviska Shenault Jr.

His touches went from five in the opener to eight on Sunday, and he will continue to rise as he gains more experience and coordinator Jay Gruden finds more ways to use him. So far, Shenault has lined up at wideout, running back and quarterback and has 119 yards and one TD of total offense. Shenault might not be someone you want in your lineup every week right now, but if he continues to progress, he certainly could be that guy by December. — Mike DiRocco

Week 2 ranking: 25

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: RB Adrian Peterson

It feels really strange putting a future first-ballot Hall of Famer in this category, but Peterson — acquired two weeks ago — leads the team in rushing yards and is averaging 6.4 yards per carry. He is going to get work every week — although it’ll often be in the form of a committee with Kerryon Johnson and D’Andre Swift — and still seems have the burst to break off the occasional big run, like he did Sunday with a 25-yard run to the outside. Is he an RB1? No. Is he intriguing as a flex play or an RB play in deeper leagues? Absolutely. — Michael Rothstein

Week 2 ranking: 28

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: RB Myles Gaskin

In two games this season for the Dolphins, the 2019 seventh-round pick out of the University of Washington has nearly half the number of carries (16) he had all of last season (36 in seven games played). There’s plenty of upside for Gaskin as his role continues to expand among the Dolphins’ backfield options with Matt Breida and Jordan Howard. For Thursday’s night game at Jacksonville, fantasy players in PPR leagues should keep an eye out for Gaskin as a pass-catcher because the 23-year-old has 11 targets and 10 catches through two weeks. — ESPN Staff



Chris Mortensen breaks down players the Giants can use to replace Saquon Barkley, who will be out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

Week 2 ranking: 29

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: RB Dion Lewis

Get on that waiver wire and grab Lewis. ASAP. Even if the Giants do sign Devonta Freeman, Lewis is going to play a substantial role. Imagine a plus version of James White in New England with a slightly bigger workload. The Giants trust Lewis in pass protection, and he catches the ball well out of the backfield. They aren’t afraid to run Lewis on some early downs, either. He is the best bet to be the Giants’ top running back with Saquon Barkley out for the season. — Jordan Raanan

Week 2 ranking: 30

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: WR Robby Anderson

No player has benefited more from Joe Brady’s fast-paced offense than Anderson, who leads the team in receptions with 15 and is second in targets with 18. He has topped 100 yards receiving in both games — 109 on nine targets in Sunday’s loss to Tampa Bay and 114 yards and a touchdown in the opening loss to the Raiders. He has developed a solid chemistry with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. With the Panthers seemingly destined to play from behind, Anderson will continue to flourish and become more consistent, something that has kept him from being a top receiver in the past. — David Newton

Week 2 ranking: 31

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: TE Drew Sample

C.J. Uzomah was turning into a surprisingly viable fantasy target before he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. Look for Sample to take Uzomah’s spot and take advantage of a more varied passing attack with rookie quarterback Joe Burrow. Last year, the Bengals didn’t have a player rank in the top 25 in average points per week in standard or PPR leagues. Uzomah was in the top 15 and averaging 11.4 points in PPR scoring through the first two weeks. — Ben Baby

Week 2 ranking: 32

Under-the-radar fantasy standout: RB La’Mical Perine

This is way under the radar, but the rookie running back is expected by team insiders to grow into a prominent role. Don’t be surprised if it happens soon. With Le’Veon Bell (hamstring) on IR for two more games, it’s Frank Gore and Perine — and we all know Gore isn’t the future. Perine has the explosiveness the Jets desperately need, and he should start to get more carries. — Rich Cimini

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Drew Brees laughs off talk of decline, says out-of-sync Saints ‘not even close’ to full capability



Drew Brees chuckled when asked about the growing narrative that he might be showing signs of decline to start his 20th NFL season.

“Well, my job is to execute the offense. … My job’s not to have the most air yards or throw the ball down the field most or anything like that,” the New Orleans Saints quarterback said after his team flopped in several areas during a 34-24 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night.

“I think I’ve always evaluated myself on being a great decision-maker. And so at the end of the day, I’ll throw the ball to the open guy, move the ball down the field, score points, help us win football games. So that’s my job,” Brees said. “My job’s to help us win. My job’s to help put everyone around me in the best position to succeed.”

However, the numbers do show a noteworthy trend. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Brees’ average of 4.82 air yards on his passes this season are the lowest of any quarterback through two games since Brett Favre in 2009.

And as ESPN analysts Louis Riddick and Brian Griese pointed out after Monday’s loss, Brees has looked less comfortable in the pocket and hasn’t been as “surgical” as usual on those short and intermediate throws. Brees, 41, has completed just 44 of 68 passes this season (64.7%) after topping 74% in each of the past two seasons (the two most accurate seasons in NFL history).

He completed 26 of 38 for 312 yards, one touchdown and one interception Monday night. His first interception of the season was a costly one just before halftime — turning a potential scoring drive into a game-tying field goal for the Raiders.

“Are we totally in sync right now? No we’re not. We’re not even close to where we are capable of. Not even close,” said Brees — who was also missing his security blanket in receiver Michael Thomas, who missed his first game in four years because of an ankle injury. “We did some good things — early on — but it just wasn’t enough for the few opportunities that we had.”

The Saints (1-1) will have to try to get back in sync on a short week before hosting the Green Bay Packers (2-0) on Sunday Night Football.

To be fair, the deep ball has not been a big part of Brees’ arsenal in recent years — and he has still managed the two best passer ratings of his career over the past two seasons while the Saints have posted back-to-back 13-3 records.

And there are plenty of reasons why he and the Saints’ offense might be a little off to start this season — including the abbreviated offseason and the ankle injury that Thomas suffered in the final minutes of New Orleans’ Week 1 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Brees and new Saints receiver Emmanuel Sanders have yet to get in sync consistently, with Sanders catching just one pass for 18 yards on three targets Monday.

Brees and coach/play caller Sean Payton both described their performances as “awful” in Week 1 as well, despite the 34-23 victory over Tampa Bay.

“Again, I think we just need to be more efficient,” said Brees, who blamed himself for a bad decision on his interception — pointing out that he should have settled for the check-down on that throw instead of rushing it under pressure.

“We called a shot play or two today — and just got the wrong coverage on both of them. So what could’ve been big-play opportunities, what could’ve been throws down the field, unfortunately had to be checked down,” Brees said. “But I think both of those [resulted in completions for about 10 yards]. At the end of the day, our job is to move the ball and score points, however we have to do that.”

As Brees pointed out, the Saints had the ball for just 23 minutes, 42 seconds on a night when their defense also struggled to stop Raiders tight end Darren Waller. And for the second week in a row, New Orleans led the NFL in penalty yardage with 129 yards on 10 accepted flags.

“We didn’t possess the ball enough offensively, and defensively … we couldn’t get off the field,” Payton said.

“We gotta do a better job coaching. I don’t think it’s gonna be a real pleasant film to watch for some of our star players as well.

“We have to be precise with what we’re doing. The last two weeks, I think it’s been average at best offensively. We’re not functioning well enough.”

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