Answers for 32 of NFL offseason's biggest fantasy questions

Which running back in New England and Cleveland will get the most touches in 2018? Is Stefon Diggs due for a huge season in Minnesota? How will Dallas fill the void at tight end left by Jason Witten's retirement?

It's never too early for a deep dive into answering the biggest fantasy questions for every team heading into the season. NFL Nation reporters supply the answers, with questions provided by ESPN fantasy football analyst Mike Clay.


Dallas Cowboys

Which tight end will emerge as the top pass-catcher at the position?

The days of a Cowboys tight end catching at least 60 passes in a season, which is what Jason Witten did for 14 consecutive seasons, appear to be over. As at wide receiver, the Cowboys will go with a committee approach at tight end with Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz and potentially Rico Gathers. They want to see how each player works in the offseason and training camp before potentially looking for outside help. Swaim has nine catches in his career and is the only tight end with a catch in a regular-season game. While Gathers' basketball background makes him an intriguing candidate, Jarwin has a lot of fans in the building, from management to the coaching staff. The Cowboys promoted him from the practice squad a year ago when a team tried to poach him to its active roster. Swaim's experience might land him more catches, but Jarwin's versatility should land him more yards if he continues to earn the trust of the coaches and quarterback Dak Prescott. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants

Will Saquon Barkley be limited in any capacity, or should we expect full-on workhorse duties?

Full-on workhorse duties. He was the No. 2 overall pick for a reason, and coach Pat Shurmur has a history of throwing young running backs directly into the fire. Dalvin Cook, a second-round pick, was playing 75 percent of the offensive snaps and handling almost all red zone duties in Minnesota last season before injuring his knee. Expect the same workload for Barkley this season. -- Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia Eagles

Will Jay Ajayi average more or less than the 15.7 touches per game he handled from Week 14 onward last season?More. Ajayi begins the season as the Eagles' clear No. 1 back. He'll be sharing the load with Corey Clement and Darren Sproles, but with LeGarrette Blount out of the picture and a half-season in Doug Pederson's system under his belt, Ajayi is in line for a bigger role. -- Tim McManus
Washington Redskins

Do you expect rookie Derrius Guice and Chris Thompson to share backfield duties?Yes, but in defined roles: Guice as the full-time guy, and Thompson as the third-down back. Coach Jay Gruden wanted a first- and second-down thumper, so that's the role Guice will occupy. His ability to help in the passing game -- both in protection and running routes -- will help diversify the offense, but Thompson will still be the guy in nickel packages. He was too vital for Washington last season, with 804 yards and six touchdowns from scrimmage. Earlier this offseason, Gruden said, "Chris will be in there a lot, so I think the rotation that we will come up with will be quite beneficial to all the backs. Keep them fresh, keep them healthy and then use their skill set accordingly." -- John Keim


Chicago Bears

Do you expect rookie Anthony Miller to immediately operate as the team's No. 2 wide receiver?Not initially. Miller is slated to play in the slot, but veteran Taylor Gabriel is the likeliest candidate to open the preseason as Chicago's No. 2 receiver opposite Allen Robinson. And don't forget, tight end Trey Burton is a de facto wide receiver who will be targeted often in the passing game. The plan is for Miller to be involved early, but quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will try to spread the football around -- at least, that's the hope. -- Jeff Dickerson
Detroit Lions

Could Kerryon Johnson be handed workhorse duties, or should we anticipate a three-plus-back committee?This is unlikely to truly shake out until training camp, but at least three backs will have roles -- Johnson, LeGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick/Ameer Abdullah. While the offense is different than in New England, the fear for fantasy owners should be that the way the Patriots use backs might end up translating to Detroit. Johnson will be the best play for dynasty owners and will be given the chance to become the primary back if his play dictates it -- but even then, Blount could end up being a short-yardage touchdown-swiper. Considering this was the worst rushing offense in the league last season and the coordinator, Jim Bob Cooter, remains, it's going to be a wait-and-see scenario for anyone in the Lions backfield. -- Michael Rothstein
Green Bay Packers

Which wide receiver is the best bet to emerge as No. 3 in line behind Davante Adams and Randall Cobb?At this point, Geronimo Allison looks like the No. 3 receiver by default. He has the most history with Aaron Rodgers, who demands precision and trust from his receivers. But perhaps the best candidate to move into that role is fourth-round pick J'Mon Moore, who might be the most polished of the three drafted receivers. However, Marquez Valdes-Scantling (fifth round) or Equanimeous St. Brown (sixth round) certainly will get the chance to prove themselves. And remember, the No. 3 receiver might end up being the tight end, and the Packers have a potentially great one in new signing Jimmy Graham. -- Rob Demovsky
Minnesota Vikings

Will Adam Thielen or Stefon Diggs have a bigger season with Kirk Cousins now under center?I have little doubt that both Diggs and Thielen will be top-20 fantasy receivers this season, but I'm going to have to go with Diggs for a number of reasons. If the Vikings don't lock up Diggs to a long-term deal this offseason, 2018 becomes a contract year. He's on the cusp of earning a deal similar to those of Davante Adams and Jarvis Landry, so I expect Diggs to play all 16 games and follow up big performances with even bigger ones. Diggs has a way of elevating the play around him. We saw it last season when quarterbacks throwing his direction posted a 139.7 passer rating. He is a strong deep-ball threat, and five of his touchdowns last season came on passes that traveled 20 or more air yards. I see that number only increasing as Cousins looks for the Vikings receiver on deep post or go routes. Last, Diggs' playmaking ability in the red zone shouldn't be overlooked when it comes to his fantasy stock. He posted a league-high 132.2 receiver rating inside the 20-yard line since 2016, according to Pro Football Focus. It's not crazy to think that Cousins, who has had turnover issues inside the red zone, will be looking to Diggs as his security blanket near the goal line. -- Courtney Cronin


Atlanta Falcons

Could Calvin Ridley emerge into anything more than the Falcons' No. 3 wide receiver?The rookie first-round pick certainly has the ability to become the No. 2 option behind Julio Jones and ahead of Mohamed Sanu. Ridley's speed and dynamic route-running ability make him an instant threat. And the added defensive attention Jones gets creates more opportunities for others, period. Back in 2016, when the Falcons' offense was peaking, Jones had 83 catches, Sanu 59 and running back Devonta Freeman 54. Ridley might well be in that 50-catch range or higher if his transition to the pros goes smoothly. -- Vaughn McClure
Carolina Panthers

Will Christian McCaffrey handle a larger share of the team's carries?I expect him to have way more than the 117 carries he had as a rookie sharing the backfield with Jonathan Stewart, who was released during the offseason. Free-agent acquisition C.J. Anderson will be a nice change-of-pace option, but the offense will be geared to make McCaffrey the featured back. He has been compared to LaDainian Tomlinson, whom new offensive coordinator Norv Turner featured at San Diego. Turner likes his top back to be a weapon as a runner and receiver, and McCaffrey will be that. Whether he leads the team in receiving as he did last season (80 catches for 651 yards) remains to be seen. With offseason upgrades at receiver, that might change. But I'd look for McCaffrey to get at least 200 carries. -- David Newton
New Orleans Saints

How big of a role will Cameron Meredith play, if healthy?I think the fantasy community would rightfully be going nuts over the idea of Meredith in New Orleans if there were no injury concern. But unfortunately that's a huge "if" right now after the Bears decided it was too risky to pay even $2.9 million for him -- even though he had emerged as their No. 1 receiver before his major knee injury last August. The good news is that Meredith has already been practicing on a limited basis in OTAs, and Saints coach Sean Payton called him "way ahead of schedule." He's a big target (6-foot-3, 207 pounds) who spent half of his time in Chicago in the slot -- where the Saints have their biggest void after letting Willie Snead go. The Saints don't have any target monsters outside of receivers Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr. and running back Alvin Kamara. So Meredith can emerge as a No. 2 or 3 option in one of the NFL's top passing offenses if his knee holds up. (Also: I expect more than 23 passing touchdowns from Drew Brees this season, even though New Orleans' offense has become more balanced.) -- Mike Triplett
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Will Ronald Jones II be the team's clear lead back, or should we expect a committee?Expect Jones to become the Bucs' primary ball carrier. Coach Dirk Koetter said recently: "You can see the guy has got juice. ... When he touches the ball, he's got a gear that we don't have on our team right now." It is still very early, and Jones is learning the offense, but running backs coach Tim Spencer emphasized that the rookie is a fast learner and has good hands. The big issue will be how Jones handles pass protection, which is a task he did a fair amount of while at USC. I don't expect the Bucs to rely solely on one back the way they did giving Doug Martin 30 touches a game while under Greg Schiano. Peyton Barber will still get some reps, and Jacquizz Rodgers can play the third-down back role, something Charles Sims is capable of as well. -- Jenna Laine


Arizona Cardinals

Who will emerge as the team's No. 2 wide receiver?This is a tough question to answer, and training camp will give us a clearer picture. It'll likely come from the trio of Brice Butler, Christian Kirk and J.J. Nelson, though, and Butler seems to be the favorite to inherit that role because he's the most experienced of the rest of the receivers. He also played outside for the majority of last season with the Cowboys, which is the ideal complement to Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona's No. 1 receiver, who plays inside. -- Josh Weinfuss
Los Angeles Rams

Who will lead the Rams in targets?There are several possibilities, including Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Brandin Cooks and Todd Gurley. But Woods is the safest option. In his first season playing with Jared Goff, Woods was targeted 85 times and caught 56 passes for 781 yards and five touchdowns. Gurley (87) and Kupp (95) were targeted more, but only because Woods was sidelined for three weeks because of a shoulder injury. Expect Woods to once again be Goff's go-to receiver, and for Sean McVay to find even more ways to utilize him in his offense. -- Lindsey Thiry
San Francisco 49ers

Do you expect a breakout season from tight end George Kittle?What constitutes a breakout season is in the eye of the beholder, but it's fair to expect Kittle's role to continue to grow in his second season, with one important caveat: He has to stay healthy. Kittle's playing time and production fluctuated throughout his rookie season in part because he was treated at various times for hip, ankle, chest, elbow, back and leg injuries. Still, he managed to finish with 43 receptions for 515 yards and two touchdowns while missing just one game. With other weapons available, Kittle is unlikely to approach 1,000 receiving yards for a full-fledged breakout, but if he can stay healthy, he should be able to surpass 50 receptions while getting closer to 700 yards and, perhaps, score a few more touchdowns. -- Nick Wagoner
Seattle Seahawks

How long will it take until Rashaad Penny is working as the Seahawks' clear feature back?It'll happen at some point in 2018, even if Penny isn't the starter in Week 1. Chris Carson won't make it easy. By all indications, he's fully recovered from the ankle/leg injury that cut short his rookie season, and general manager John Schneider recently gave a glowing review when he said Carson at times looks like the best player on the field. But the Seahawks bypassed greater needs when they chose Penny 27th overall in the draft, which should tell you how highly they think of him. That suggests he should be the No. 1 option sooner rather than later. -- Brady Henderson


Buffalo Bills

Will soon-to-be 30-year-old LeSean McCoy see his workload scaled back? Yes, but McCoy is still a vitally important part of the Bills' offense. Since arriving in Buffalo in 2015, McCoy has seen his share of the team's carries and rushing yards increase each season to the point where he ran 287 times in 2017, the third-most carries of his nine-year career. The Bills lacked any sort of reliable option behind McCoy last season, something they hope they have rectified this offseason with the signing of Chris Ivory. My understanding is McCoy prefers to share work as he aims to prolong his career and eventually make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If the Bills start rookie quarterback Josh Allen this season, however, they might have to lean on their running game more than ever. -- Mike Rodak
Miami Dolphins

How much of a role will rookie Mike Gesicki play in the passing game? A significant one, as he has a chance to be the team's No. 1 tight end. That was a notable void on the Dolphins' roster entering the draft, as the team parted ways with veterans Julius Thomas and Anthony Fasano. By selecting Gesicki in the second round, then Durham Smythe in the fourth round, it was a decisive double dip at the position. When Dolphins coach Adam Gase has had capable tight ends, his attack has gotten production out of them, such as in 2015 in Chicago with Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller. -- Mike Reiss

New England Patriots

Will running back Sony Michel eclipse 250 touches as a rookie?No, but he won't be too far off. Michel is the "new Dion Lewis" in New England, and Lewis had 212 touches last season. Because Michel will be sharing the load with Rex Burkhead, James White and possibly one from the group of Jeremy Hill, Mike Gillislee and Ralph Webb, there's a committee-type element in play. The Patriots also will want to assess the first-round pick's reliability with ball security after he had 12 fumbles in college. -- Mike Reiss
New York Jets

Which player not named Robby Anderson will lead the Jets in targets?Quincy Enunwa or Jermaine Kearse, with a slight edge to Enunwa. With no proven pass-catching tight ends, the passing game will be geared around the wide receivers, mainly Anderson, Enunwa and Kearse. Enunwa, who missed last season due to a neck injury, is an ideal fit as a slot receiver in their West Coast scheme. He has size and yards-after-catch ability. His return will rob Kearse of targets, but it should be a fairly even split between the two of them. Enunwa should be around 105 targets, his 2016 total. -- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens

Which of the team's rookies will handle the most targets? First-round pick Hayden Hurst. The tight end out of South Carolina has been impressive in offseason practices. Hurst has shown great hands, smooth route running and a good burst after the catch. The Ravens will rely heavily on Hurst because all of the experienced tight ends on the roster (Nick Boyle, Maxx Williams and Vince Mayle) are better blockers than pass-catchers. Plus, few quarterbacks like throwing to tight ends more than Joe Flacco. Since entering the NFL in 2008, Flacco has targeted tight ends on 1,090 passes. Only Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady have targeted more throws to tight ends over that span. There is a reason why Baltimore made Hurst the first tight end drafted this year. -- Jamison Hensley
Cincinnati Bengals

How confident should we be that Tyler Eifert can stay healthy?Even Eifert can't predict if he's going to be healthy for an entire season after a string of bad luck derailed his past two seasons, which is why he signed a one-year deal this offseason that includes incentives based on his health. There's one positive note, however: This is the first offseason since 2015 in which Eifert has been able to participate in OTAs, and that year was the best of his career, producing 13 touchdowns. -- Katherine Terrell
Cleveland Browns

How do you expect backfield touches to be distributed among Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson Jr. and Nick Chubb?It's early, but I expect Chubb to be the starting back and get most of the early-down carries. The second-round pick is talented and has explosiveness and the ability to run between the tackles, which the Browns want. That being said, Hyde's experience and toughness could give him more red zone carries; he definitely will get short-yardage duties. Expect Johnson to be used in 2018 exactly the way he was in 2017, as a change of pace and as an effective receiver out of the backfield. -- Pat McManamon
Pittsburgh Steelers

Do you anticipate a big role for James Washington as a rookie?Eventually, yes. The Steelers will ease him into the lineup and let him earn trust, but they wouldn't draft a second-round receiver to sit him, and coach Mike Tomlin says he feels as strongly about Washington as he did JuJu Smith-Schuster in the 2017 draft. They need Washington to aid the vertical passing game. One thing that's obvious after watching Washington this offseason: He's not a refined receiver yet, but he has a knack for making plays in traffic. Ben Roethlisberger will throw it up to Washington and let him make one. -- Jeremy Fowler


Houston Texans

Do you expect Deshaun Watson to pick up where he left off last season, or is a return to earth on the horizon?I expect Watson to continue to throw a lot of touchdown passes -- he was tied for the NFL lead with 19 as a rookie before tearing his ACL in early November -- but his interceptions might also rise. Watson threw eight picks in seven games last season, but he also threw quite a few passes that were close to becoming turnovers. Still, if the weapons around him can stay healthy, Watson will certainly be worth drafting early. -- Sarah Barshop
Indianapolis Colts

Who will lead the backfield in touches?This is a question that might not have an answer until the start of the regular season. There's no clear-cut leader as in the previous three seasons, when veteran Frank Gore was on the roster. Marlon Mack would appear to be the early front-runner after backing up Gore as a rookie, but Mack has to prove he can pass protect and catch the ball in new coach Frank Reich's offense. Mack could end up leading the Colts in touches, but it wouldn't be surprising if they end up taking a running back-by-committee approach with Mack, rookies Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins and veteran Robert Turbin. -- Mike Wells
Jacksonville Jaguars

Who will emerge as the team's No. 2 wide receiver behind Marqise Lee?The Jaguars signed Donte Moncrief to a one-year deal worth $9.5 million guaranteed, so they're expecting it to be him. He had consistency issues in Indianapolis, though, and that's something he'll have to avoid with the Jags. The coaching staff really likes Keelan Cole, who led Jacksonville in receiving yards last season (748) as an undrafted rookie out of Kentucky Wesleyan, and if he continues to develop at the pace he did last season he could very well end up being the No. 2 receiver by the second half of the season. -- Mike DiRocco
Tennessee Titans

How confident can we be that Corey Davis will emerge as a star in his second NFL season?I wouldn't expect a jump to a top-10 receiver, but I'd be confident that he emerges alongside Delanie Walker as the Titans' most dangerous and effective pass-catcher. Davis will benefit greatly from having a full healthy offseason to get better and develop much-needed chemistry with quarterback Marcus Mariota. For where Davis is being projected in fantasy football rankings, I think he's a strong bet to massively outperform expectations. I believe 65 catches for 900 yards and six touchdowns is a fair estimate. I recently asked him if he's ready to be the No. 1 receiver, and he gave me a wide smile, shook his head and said, "I think so." The Titans are counting on him to fill that role, and I believe he'll end the season as Tennessee's leader in catches, yards and touchdowns. -- Cameron Wolfe


Denver Broncos

Which running back will lead the backfield in touches?Ah, Mike, you have touched on a question that might have no answer anytime soon. When asked as OTAs opened if he preferred one of the team's backs to be the mainstay in the run game, coach Vance Joseph said: "Someone's got to be the starter, but I think to have a great running game, you have to have two or three guys. I think [it's] also [important] having a third-down back, a guy who can be great in protections, catch the ball out of the backfield and beat linebackers one-on-one. So I think it's a combination of both. You want a guy to say, 'Hey, it's my role,' but also in the same breath, you want a combination of guys that help you win." Devontae Booker, who has averaged only 3.6 yards per carry in his two-year career, will likely get the first look as the No. 1 back, but the Broncos fully expect rookie third-round pick Royce Freeman to push him hard. -- Jeff Legwold
Kansas City Chiefs

Can we expect high-end production from Sammy Watkins in an offense that hasn't been kind to secondary wide receivers?It's not wise to count on big numbers from Watkins. He has a history of underachieving, and quarterback Patrick Mahomes has plenty of other hungry players to feed. But it's not out of the question, because the Chiefs under coach Andy Reid haven't had a No. 2 wideout with Watkins' kind of ability. He'll far exceed the numbers posted in previous seasons by players such as Donnie Avery and Chris Conley. -- Adam Teicher
Los Angeles Chargers

Which tight end will have the most targets?
With Hunter Henry out after suffering a season-ending knee injury, the Chargers' top four tight ends from 2017 are not available for 2018, although there's a chance the Bolts could bring back Antonio Gates. As it stands, Virgil Green is the team's No. 1 tight end, so that would be the choice. However, Green's career high in catches for a single season is 22 in 2016. After that, the Chargers do not have a tight end with an NFL catch on their depth chart. So it appears general manager Tom Telesco needs to add an experienced tight end to the roster. Gates, anyone? -- Eric D. Williams
Oakland Raiders

Will Marshawn Lynch operate as the Raiders' clear feature back?On first glance, absolutely. No doubt. Of course. Lynch was the lead back in 2017 -- he had 227 touches -- and was the Raiders' best offensive player the second half of the season. And he has been lining up with the first-team offense in Oakland's offseason program. Except ... coach Jon Gruden has been singing Doug Martin's praises, and Martin has also been getting some first-team reps. Plus, in Gruden's offense, the running back has to be able to catch the ball and operate in space, something Martin might be better at than Lynch. Keep an eye on this situation as camp unfolds later this summer. -- Paul Gutierrez