Deshaun Watson’s status for the 2022 season remains in the air as the NFL’s appeal of his six-game suspension for sexual assault allegations remains pending, but reports indicate there could be resolution forthcoming. Watson has been engaged in settlement negotiations with the league and the NFL Players Association, with ESPN.com reporting that a resolution could come in the next few days.
Watson was initially suspended for six games without a fine, but the league appealed that decision and has been reportedly pushing for either a longer suspension and/or a monetary fine. The NFL wants an indefinite suspension that would last at least a year based on the multiple allegations against Watson, as well as the fault disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson found during her initial ruling.
Watson’s status continues to hang over the Browns, as it has all offseason since they acquired him in March. A settlement would seemingly make it more likely Watson will be cleared to play at some point this season, although whether his suspension will be eight games or 12 or something longer remains to be determined.
Either way, it seems more likely at this point that the Browns will be starting Jacoby Brissett for a significant chunk of the season, which does make it tougher to trust Amari Cooper especially, though Donovan Peoples-Jones and David Njoku would also have less appeal as sleepers with Brissett at QB. If Watson were suspended for eight games (more than half the Fantasy regular season), I would rank Cooper inside of the top 30 at wide receiver, viewing him as a boom-or-bust WR3 with Brissett and potentially a top-12 option with Watson.
Though, it is worth noting that Watson didn’t play a snap last year while holding out for a trade from the Texans, so he’ll likely have gone nearly two full calendar years between real NFL action – and he looked pretty rusty in his preseason debut last weekend, completing 1 of 5 passes for 7 yards in his three series. We could be looking at a situation where, even in a best-case scenario, Watson plays for the first time in Week 10, with the only time we’ve seen him since 2020 being that one ugly preseason game.
Which is all to say, I don’t think Watson is worth the trouble in Fantasy even if he does end up settling for a surprisingly lenient punishment. The best-case-scenario still leaves you with a dead roster spot for most of the regular season.
Here’s the rest of the news you need to know from around the league Wednesday:
Mecole Hardman left practice Wednesday
Hardman exited Wednesday’s practice with a left leg injury, which is believed to be a groin issue. He was jumping to try to catch a ball when he landed awkwardly and limped to the sidelines, where he was carted back to the locker room. Early indications are that the injury is not considered serious, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on given the ambiguity of the Chiefs receiving corps. Tyreek Hill is gone, and the Chiefs brought in JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Skyy Moore to try to help replace him, and we enter the season without a clear sense of what the hierarchy is. It’s conceivable that those three plus Hardman will all split targets and snaps to the point where nobody beyond Travis Kelce is all that useful, so if one of them were to go down, it would help clarify the situation. Hopefully Hardman is fine, but we’ll watch this one moving forward.
It’s also worth noting, on that topic, that Smith-Schuster missed practice himself Tuesday and Wednesday with a knee issue. The extent of that is not yet known either, so there are some moving parts here.
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Burrow is back at practice after having appendix surgery, and he confirmed Tuesday the extent of the issue that caused him to go under the knife. Burrow told reporters his appendix burst, requiring an emergency appendectomy, and he has lost 20 pounds over the past few weeks since the procedure. He was back to participating in 11-on-11 drills Tuesday, but admitted he doesn’t have his normal “juice” on his throws yet after having core pain, but is working on regaining the lost weight and plans to be fully ready to go for the opener in Week 1 against the Steelers. That’s Sept. 11, so there’s plenty of time for that, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to think Burrow won’t be 100% for the start of the season. Burrow is a bust candidate because he’s being drafted as a top-four QB. Nobody really doubts the talent, and this surgery doesn’t seem likely to play a part one way or the other.
Drew Lock tests positive for C-19, to miss the next preseason game
Lock was in line to start the second preseason game against the Bears this weekend as part of his ongoing battle with Geno Smith for the starting spot, though I wouldn’t expect this to alter his chances to win the job too much. Smith entered camp as the incumbent, but there’s still a preseason game left for Lock to pull ahead if he can get back to 100% shortly. He probably has a bit more upside than Smith in a best-case scenario for both, but Lock has also has significant downside – he had a 22% bad throw rate over the past two seasons, a bottom-four rate among all quarterbacks. What you’d like to hear from Seahawks camp is that Lock has played so well that they have no choice but to start him, but that isn’t really the sense we’ve gotten even before this, so my expectations for this offense remain pretty low – it could be the worst in football.
Smith had thumb surgery a few weeks back but was always expected to be ready for Week 1, so this is a good sign to that end. He has breakout potential in an offense that is expected to throw the ball much more, so seeing him starting to ramp up his work in practice is a good sign. Smith remains in play as a late-round TE target, though his track record (66 catches, 676 yards and seven touchdowns in two seasons) suggests you’ll want to pair him with another tight end with a more secure role to open the season.