Here's a look at some of the top rumors for Thursday, August 27:
Perhaps the only thing we thought we knew about the Buffalo Bills' quarterback battle -- that EJ Manuel was clearly in third place -- was turned on its head Thursday when head coach Rex Ryan tabbed Manuel to start Saturday's game against the Steelers. Numerous reports have made it clear that Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor are the leading candidates for the job, so perhaps this is a ploy by Ryan to misinform the Indianapolis Colts, whom the Bills play in Week 1. Conversely, Cassel and Taylor have each started a preseason game with the first team, and it's possible Ryan wants to give Manuel a fair shake with the starters. Either way, we'd be surprised if Manuel did anything noteworthy to boost his status in the competition. As Tyler Dunne of the Buffalo News notes, Manuel "can't be trusted" because of his knack for following one great throw with several head-scratchers. It's still very possible that Taylor locked up the job with his solid performance against the Cleveland Browns last week and that Ryan is just trying to keep the news quiet. In Greg Roman's offense, Taylor offers the highest upside on a team that has plenty of talent elsewhere.
In the same story, Dunne also notes that wide receiver Sammy Watkins has been the August MVP of the Bills, showing plenty of explosiveness and often beating top corner Stephon Gilmore in practice. Minor injuries have slowed Watkins at times, but the man who may be the most talented wide receiver in a loaded 2014 class deserves more attention. If Watkins can get even stable quarterback play this season, a monster season could be in order.
Another talented wide receiver from the '14 class got bad news Thursday: ESPN's Adam Schefter reports Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant has been suspended four games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. While Bryant may not have been a starter anyway, many expected the explosive receiver to have a breakout fantasy performance in the Steelers' vaunted passing attack. Bryant is appealing the suspension, but it appears Markus Wheaton -- a more reliable route runner but less talented athlete -- could be in for a serious production boost. If Wheaton can establish himself during Bryant's absence, his role could remain larger than anticipated when Bryant returns.
As expected, the likely replacement for Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor -- in the event Chancellor's holdout continues into the regular season -- will be Dion Bailey, according to Bob Condotta the Seattle Times. An undrafted free agent in 2014, Bailey may end up starting opposite Earl Thomas (who is recovering from shoulder surgery) in Week 1, a possibility Condotta says the Seahawks "have to start treating as reality." Richard Sherman called the secondary's injuries and Chancellor's absence "a blessing in disguise" on Thursday, noting that more opportunities have gone to youngsters like Bailey. It would be fascinating to see how Bailey would hold up in Chancellor's stead if we reach that point. If Thomas is healthy, Bailey may have less rigid assignments and be given the freedom to freelance more often.
Miami Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker appears to be approaching a return from his foot injury. The Miami Herald's Armando Salguero hears that Parker will practice "at least on a limited basis" for the first time next week, barring setbacks. Salguero added that it's still unclear if Parker will be ready for Week 1 when Miami plays Washington. The Dolphins' receiving corps is deep and diverse, but Parker's skill set -- he's a big target with sure hands and surprisingly smooth movement skills -- would be a welcome sight for Ryan Tannehill. However, any time a rookie misses most of his first preseason, a slow learning curve can be expected.
The Green Bay Packers are interested in locking up contract-year DL Mike Daniels long-term, but a deal appears unlikely at the moment, according to Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel. McGinn reports that negotiations "broke off recently with the two sides far apart in their positions," as Daniels is looking for a deal in the $10 million per year range and the Packers are offering "several million" below that. A $10 million per year average would put Daniels on par with 3-4 DEs Corey Liuget and Cameron Heyward, who both signed new deals this offseason. Pro Football Focus ranked Daniels as its eighth-best 3-4 end in 2014, just behind Heyward (sixth) and well ahead of Liuget (25th), so his asking price seems reasonable considering the salary cap continues to rise. However, the Packers have a track record of re-signing their own well below sticker price, and Ted Thompson surely won't grow impatient. There's a good chance the 2012 fourth-round pick lowers his demands somewhat prior to free agency in March.
Houston Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel is impressed with linebacker Brian Cushing this preseason. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle relays that Crennel sees better mobility this year from Cushing, who tore his ACL in October of 2012 and broke his fibula and tore his fibular collateral ligament in October of 2013. Now seemingly back to full health, Cushing has looked the part in HBO's Hard Knocks and is just another scary piece on what was quietly an excellent Houston defense a year ago. If Jadeveon Clowney can contribute as well, look out for the Texans' D this season.
If Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly plans to give Ryan Mathews a large share of carries this season, DeMarco Murray doesn't seem to know anything about it. Via Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com, Murray doesn't "know how the rotation will be yet" but he doesn't expect to "alternate series" with Mathews. We expect this to be a fluid situation from week to week, especially with the possibility that either back could get injured, but fantasy owners should keep an eye on how the carries play out early in the season. If healthy, Mathews has the talent to earn his fair share of reps.
In another fantasy-related Eagles update, Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer expects rookie wideout Nelson Agholor to be the "second-most productive receiver on the team when the season ends." Jordan Matthews seems like the obvious top target of Sam Bradford, but Agholor has already shown his explosiveness in the preseason, and Kelly's offense has a knack for getting receivers wide open downfield. He should easily surpass Riley Cooper, Miles Austin and Josh Huff for the No. 2 role.