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Post-NFL Preseason Week 3 Projections and Rankings Update, Team Notes

Doug Martin (22) of the Buccaneers runs the ball during the NFL regular season game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. October 13, 2013; Photographer: Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire

Rookie Charles Sims looked good through training camp, threatening our relatively high ranking on Doug Martin. Now Sims is out injured and Martin has a more solid hold on a heavy workload out of the Bucs backfield. Photo: Icon Sportswire

The late nights are catching up with me, but before we know it, football will officially be here! Many fantasy football drafts are done, and still many more to go. There was a lot of news and value changes – some big, some small – as a result of Week 3 NFL preseason games, including another concussion for Wes Welker and another ACL tear for Sam Bradford. Without further adieu, here are the notes to accompany our newly updated player projections and cheatsheet rankings.

A new copy of Projection Pal with the updated projections will be available shortly for Draft Buddy users.

Buffalo Bills

WR Sammy Watkins was inactive for the Bills less than stellar preseason performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has sore ribs. The wilder E.J. Manuel looks, and now this, the more difficult it is to get excited about Watkins to start the season.

Baltimore Ravens

All this while it was looking promising Bernard Pierce would open the season as the starter while Ray Rice sat out, suspended. If Pierce impresses during his short stint, then who knows what could happen. However, Pierce suffered a head injury in preseason action against the Washington Redskins. They are not calling it a concussion, which is positive, but there is some added risk here.

Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton has a hairline fracture to one of his ribs. Sounds painful! But, I expect Cam will tough it out and start Week 1. We aren’t adjusting our already low ranking, but fantasy owners will surely be wincing every time he takes off to run for the next little while. This puts a small damper on the Kelvin Benjamin hype building from the Panthers last preseason game.

Cleveland Browns

After a lackluster Week 2 preseason game by both quarterbacks, the Browns named Brian Hoyer their regular season starter, and Johnny Manziel will sit, learn and bide his time. For the significance of the news, there won’t be much of a rankings change. Hoyer jumps from Tier 8 to the bottom of Tier 7, while Manziel holds steady.

Denver Broncos

WR Wes Welker suffered a concussion in the Broncos Week 3 preseason game on a hit by safety D.J. Swearinger of the Houston Texans, and on a poor decision by Peyton Manning to throw it to him in heavy traffic. Welker’s value now plummets. The team line is they hope he is cleared to play Week 1, but on his third concussion in recent memory, don’t count on it.

K Matt Prater is suspended for the first four games of the season. Great offense, but still, just a kicker. The Broncos have a bye in Week 4, so he can return prior to Week 6. Maybe pick him up off waivers before Week 5 if your kicker isn’t cutting the mustard.

Green Bay Packers

TE Brandon Bostick has a slight fracture of his fibula and will be on the shelf at least a few weeks into the regular season. Some more clarity of the tight end situation in Green Bay through attrition. It won’t be Bostick and it won’t be Colt Lyerla, out for the season. Richard Rodgers appears to be the guy if you have to have a piece of this action. Andrew Quarless, who is not good (for fantasy), but a veteran, is still kicking around.

Miami Dolphins

UDFA RB Damien Williams is ahead of Daniel Thomas and Mike Gillislee on the depth chart. Considering what little we’ve seen from Knowshon Moreno so far, and it is late in the preseason, this is somewhat significant. A name to keep in mind.

Update – I started to write this prior to the Dolphins-Dallas Cowboys game – Moreno ran 10 times for 64 yards. Nice stat line.

TE Charles Clay is expected to play in the Dolphins third preseason game. Keep on eye on it. We’ve got him down the rankings from a bunch of places since he’s been sitting out with a knee injury. Update – he did play, so that is good news.

Minnesota Vikings

New report the Vikings just officially named Matt Cassel their starting QB. Don’t draft Cassel. Drafting Teddy Bridgewater is highly speculative in redraft leagues unless it is of the 2QB variety or with exceptionally deep rosters.

New England Patriots

RB Shane Vereen is rising up boards with his continued strong preseason play. He looks good. I was ready to take him in the early 4th round in a draft on Saturday night (some keepers in play, but not a lot) when he was snapped up a pick before me.

New York Giants

WR Odell Beckham Jr. missed the Giants third preseason game with a hamstring injury. This is the same hamstring he’s dealt with most of preseason. He’s behind the curve now and probably shouldn’t be drafted in most redraft leagues unless they use fairly deep rosters.

Philadelphia Eagles

RB LeSean McCoy sprained his thumb during the team’s Week 3 preseason game. Doesn’t look serious but wanted to mention it.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount are in trouble with police – charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana, and Bell is also being charged with driving under the influence, since it was his car and he was behind the wheel. Nice job, L.B. and L.B. No news on punishment from the team or league right now. Should be minimal, and potentially take a while, so no change in rankings really but understand there is an element of risk hanging over Bell in particular.

St. Louis Rams

Much to the chagrin of our own Dave Stringer, die hard Rams fan, QB Sam Bradford was diagnosed with a torn ACL and is out for the season. Backup Shaun Hill takes over. NFL AM on NFL Network can’t help themselves bringing up the flimsy parallel between this and the Trent Green-Kurt Warner circumstances from 1999. Stealing a line from another oft-annoying network, “C’mon Man!”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Since our last update, rookie Charles Sims hurt his ankle in practice and will miss significant time. Although the Bucs still have decent depth behind Doug Martin in Mike James and Bobby Rainey, they will lean more on Martin. Fantasy owners were down on Martin all preseason for different reasons, including more even splitting the workload in Tampa than we would hope for from an RB1. Now that is off the table, he should move up in drafts. We consistently had him higher than most, currently RB8, so no move necessary in our rankings.

Pre-NFL Preseason Week 2 Projections and Rankings Update, Team Notes

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) on the field following the end of the fourth quarter at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. December 1, 2013; Photographer: Andrew Richardson/Icon Sportswire

More questions than answers about Rob Gronkowski’s health and status to start the regular season, yet fantasy players are loving the chance to add him in the late 2nd to early 3rd round in redraft leagues. I’m preaching more caution than that. Photo: Andrew Richardson

Another week closer to the start of the season as Week 2 of preseason is underway. Lets get this week’s projections and rankings update done prior to the weekend, for those drafting in the next few days.

I’ve got an auction draft over at Reality Sports Online on Friday night. Here are the team news and notes to compliment the changes you’ll find in our projections and rankings since last time.

Have you got Draft Buddy yet? It help create custom cheatsheets and track your draft. Please forgive this unabashed plug, but check it out and sign up here! I’ll update Projection Pal for our projections so you can easily import them into Buddy.

Arizona Cardinals

The Andre Ellington bandwagon is picking up steam on reports the Cardinals hope to get him 20 touches per game, and they aren’t going to play him much in the preseason. (Yes, I understand there is some hypocrisy where if some players don’t play = bad; others don’t play = good. It’s a tricky balancing act, just roll with it.) At any rate, we’ve got a butt cheek on the wagon and at this point I believe I would take him above Arian Foster, while rankings partner-in-crime Dave would not.

Ron Jaworski is excited about Cards rookie QB Logan Thomas. We love Jaws, but he does get overly excited at times. Nothing to see here for redraft, folks.

Atlanta Falcons

RB Steven Jackson continues to miss practice with a hamstring injury. He’s an okay bet as a third running back on your fantasy team. Similarly, rookie Devonta Freeman is an okay bet as a rookie and handcuff who may be thrust into more opportunity than planned when the Falcons drafted him.

Baltimore Ravens

WR Steve Smith is getting good reviews out of Ravens camp. Guy is a baller. I remember the last time he was considered done and a complete after thought in fantasy drafts prior to the 2011 season. 2011 stats: 79 for 1,394 and 7 TD. Going to be tougher to do it now, but if he’s sitting there near the end of an auction going for just a few bucks, I’ll buy.

Chicago Bears

TE Martellus Bennett is back after his suspension… in fact, he was welcomed back about 5 minutes after our last update in which I downgraded him. However, it isn’t like I didn’t expect him back at some point. The downgrade was more because of the limited upside he offers relative to some guys who were just below him. I’m not moving him back up.

Cincinnati Bengals

WR Marvin Jones has a broken foot and will miss at least a few weeks and quite possibly a lot more. This opens up things for Mohamed Sanu who should start in Jones’ place. I wouldn’t consider Jones a great stash for later pick.

Cleveland Browns

Since every update needs a comment about the Browns QB situation, here goes… they signed Rex Grossman and waived Tyler Thigpen. Kidding! Well, that is true, but not what you were after I assume. The Browns are indicating they want to decide who the regular season starter is after their Week 3 preseason game.

Latest on Josh Gordon is a decision expected next week as to whether his year long suspension gets reduced or not.

Detroit Lions

WR Calvin Johnson is wearing a protective split on his finger that required offseason surgery. The finger didn’t bother him, or his fantasy owners, last year, so lets chalk this up as a report I felt should be mentioned to keep you in the know, but a non-issue otherwise.

Green Bay Packers

UDFA TE Colt Lyerla tore his ACL and is done for the season. Dynasty players and draftniks may be more familiar with the name. We wiped all Packers out of our TE rankings week ago given the uncertainty with their depth chart.

Houston Texans

The Texans released RB Andre Brown. This is somewhat surprising as Brown played well for the New York Giants and was the clear favorite to backup Arian Foster. Dennis Johnson also got the axe. Jonathan Grimes is the name to put on your radar, along with rookie Alfred Blue.

Indianapolis Colts

RB Ahmad Bradshaw says he expects to play Week 1 of the regular season. He is the primary backup behind Trent Richardson. You could do a lot worse late in your draft adding Bradshaw as a speculative upside pick.

Miami Dolphins

RB Knowshon Moreno will miss the Dolphins second preseason game but is slated to be back in action for their third game.

TE Charles Clay is still missing practice with a knee injury. Clay was a surprise and big boost to his fantasy owners last season, most of whom grabbed him off the waiver wire. Given this injury however, look to upside picks at TE like Zach Ertz or Jordan Reed, or even more reliable options like Delanie Walker, before Clay until he’s healthy.

New England Patriots

Rookie RB James White is making a good impression, earning first-team reps in practice while Stevan Ridley works with the second-team. The way the Pats use their running backs is potentially maddening for fantasy owners, but White is going so late in drafts he’s worth a shot. Ridley would appear to be a pass, let someone else take him, at this point.

Rob Gronkowski is apparently 50-50 for the opener. I guess that is as good a guess as any. We can be certain the Patriots won’t spill the beans either way. Picture Bill Belichick doing an impression of Ivan Drago: “If he plays, he plays.”

Listen, I understand if/when Gronk returns to action he is a huge boost to your fantasy lineup on a PPG basis, BUT, he isn’t even guaranteed to start the season. Yet I see tweets to the effect of: “Got Gronk 2.12.” “Seriously? Steal!” “Yeah, take that every time.” Say what? Its not like the second or early third round are throw caution to the wind picks. Gronk is not a must-have to win your league. At that price let someone else take the risk.

BTW, Friday news update: Gronk apparently favoring his knee and limping at practice. The saga continues…

New Orleans Saints

QB Drew Brees remains out with an oblique injury. This one has me slightly worried, knowing how bad oblique injuries can be for baseball players. They are less common in football. Brees will sit this week’s preseason game and hopefully he’ll return to action next week.

A recent Saints depth chart indicates Pierre Thomas is third in the pecking order at running back behind Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson. The Saints love the RBBC, and Thomas is their best pass catcher (although Ingram is no slouch), but this would seem to indicate Ingram and Robinson are performing well. We’re going to squeeze these guys closer together in the rankings.

New York Giants

Rookie WR Odell Beckham Jr. is at practice, working his way back into the swing of things after a hamstring injury sidelined him. He’s behind the curve right now, but this is the first positive news is some time. Jerrel Jernigan is working with the starters and playing the slot. The Giants passing game looks… uninspiring.

New York Jets

RB Chris Ivory is still limited due to a rib injury, but still not moving Chris Johnson up.

WR Eric Decker is not practicing due to a quadriceps injury. Will revisit if we are concerned or not closer to the start of the season.

Oakland Raiders

TE Nick Kasa tore his ACL. Who? He got a very minimal mention in our last update, so this became newsworthy.

Philadelphia Eagles

WR Riley Cooper is still out with a foot injury but hopes to play in the team’s third preseason game. Check our recent Players To Avoid article for my comments on Jeremy Maclin. Same applies to Cooper, except less talent and less injury prone. I don’t see a lot of reason to draft this guy even in the bottom half of the draft.

Post-NFL Preseason Week 1 Projections and Rankings Update, Team Notes

Cleveland Browns QB Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel; Photos: Icon Sportswire

Rankings and projections updated, including a note on the Cleveland quarterback competition between Brian Hoyer (left) and this other guy (right). Photo: Icon Sportswire

NFL.com, NFL Network and everything officially associated with the shield can’t mention Johnny Manziel‘s name enough right now. I hate when they do that, when they pick a player and focus 200% attention on said hyped up player of the moment, virtually ignoring the rest of what is going on.

Week 1 of preseason games are in the books, and our fantasy football rankings and projections are due for an update. We’ll mention the Cleveland Browns starting QB competition, plus everything else that impacts our forecasts to get your ready for your upcoming fantasy drafts.

If you are looking for a custom cheatsheet and draft tracking tool, look no further than the tool that gave this website its name, Draft Buddy. For current Draft Buddy users, I will update a copy of Projection Pal with our projections to import into Buddy.

Atlanta Falcons

  • Rookie RB Devonta Freeman is getting plenty of reps with the first-team while Steven Jackson sits with a hamstring injury. If Freeman is a quick study on his pass protection, he’ll contribute even with a healthy SJax to try to keep the veteran healthy for the season.

Baltimore Ravens

  • Early reports indicate RB Bernard Pierce is doing well in Gary Kubiak’s zone blocking running scheme. Could he unseat Ray Rice if he performs well in a two-game audition while Rice is out with suspension? I’m going to leave that question hanging for now as food for thought.

Buffalo Bills

  • RB Bryce Brown received rave reviews from the head coach after a nice preseason game performance. He was just picked in an ongoing draft of mine in the 13th round, which seemed early since regardless of the reviews, Brown continues to be third in the pecking order behind C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. I drafted Spiller so I took notice. Then I realized I inadvertently already took two handcuffs of the guy who drafted Brown, so maybe the pick was intentionally early.
  • Is it WR Robert Woods or Mike Williams to play second fiddle to Sammy Watkins? Well, we thought it was Woods in a landslide back in June but now it appears a lot closer contest. Woods moves down our rankings and my suggestion is leave both for someone else to draft.

Carolina Panthers

  • QB Cam Newton missed the Panthers preseason opener to prevent risking damage to his surgically repaired ankle. His ankle injury doesn’t seem to be factoring into his current ADP. We obviously have Newton ranked considerably lower than that as a clear avoid pick in fantasy drafts.
  • RB Jonathan Stewart is missing preseason and doesn’t appear close to returning to game action. It seems no matter where we rank this guy it is too high. Now he’s in our “not ranked – on the radar” section. Just, avoid.

Chicago Bears

  • TE Martellus Bennett is away from the team currently after being indefinitely suspended and fined by the Bears. He body slammed rookie CB Kyle Fuller. Anger issues Martellus? I’m not dismissing the seriousness of the crime, but the length of suspension is catching my attention. It happened August 4th. Today is the 10th. Small red flag here. The only reason Bennett is (was) inside our Top 12 TE is because of the lack of receiving options on the Bears (especially with third WR Marquess Wilson out for a while), but he sure doesn’t excite me adding him to my fantasy team. Moving him down.

Cleveland Browns

  • I said at the top I would mention the QB battle between Brian Hoyer and that other guy. Truth be told, there isn’t much to tell that changes anything. Both performed decently in the preseason opener with no clear winner or loser. Hoyer is still the favorite to start the season on our board, but as I mentioned on ESPN 1450 in State College, PA radio last week (plug, plug), if and when Manziel starts, his value shoots up inside – perhaps well inside – the Top 20 at QB based on his ability to accumulate fantasy points with his legs. It would be a rollercoaster ride each week, but he could be worth a speculative add now as a third QB, even if just for his trade value in-season.

Dallas Cowboys

  • I mentioned Cole Beasley as a late round flier option in our last update. Dave tells me the Cowboys are committed to giving Gavin Escobar more time in 11 formations which will limit playing time for Beasley.

Denver Broncos

  • RB Montee Ball had his appendectomy surgery and no one seems too concerned he is going to miss starting Week 1 of the season. It isn’t the worst thing in the world for a running back to miss preseason games. We didn’t change his projections or ranking when this news first broke.
  • RB C.J. Anderson suffered a concussion in the Broncos preseason opener, helping Ronnie Hillman secure his grip as the primary backup. Hillman’s biggest problem is securing his grip on the football, and we’ll need to see more game action to believe he can do it.

Green Bay Packers

  • Packers running backs coach Sam Gash compared Eddie Lacy to Jamal Lewis and Curtis Martin, two former fantasy stud backs that Gash blocked for in his career. Lacy doesn’t have Gash blocking for him, but the more I read about Lacy and consider his situation and performance as a rookie, the closer I have him to Tier 1 than Tier 2 at RB. In fact, I’m making that change. I would take Lacy 5th overall in non-PPR and PPR leagues.
  • Rookie WR Jared Abbrederis tore his ACL and is out for the season. While he was down the depth chart, it is worth noting that fellow rookie Davante Adams has less competition for the fourth WR spot, from which one injury above him can pave the way to fantasy relevance on this team. See: Boykin, Jarrett (2013).

Houston Texans

  • Case Keenum has a small edge over Tom Savage for the backup QB job. Uh… this was a small news item prior to their preseason opener in which they lost 32-0 to the Arizona Cardinals. We don’t want to read too much into preseason, and neither Arian Foster or Andre Johnson played, but all three quarterbacks looked bad. I’m downgrading Foster and AJ in the rankings. They are already dinged and the early signs for this offense are not good.

Indianapolis Colts

  • This is more a from the gut prediction than anything, but I feel like a healthy Hakeem Nicks becomes the Colts top receiver. He’s a value buy where he’s going in drafts, while T.Y. Hilton is a sell at his current price, IMHO.

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • RB Toby Gerhart is missing preseason action with a hip injury. While, “it isn’t the worst thing in the world for a running back to miss preseason games”, it isn’t ideal for a player on a new team in his first starting gig. Regardless, anyone working off of our rankings before this news isn’t drafting Gerhart anyway.
  • WR Marqise Lee received some harsh criticism from head coach Gus Bradley following their preseason opener. Serious red flag or light a fire under the kid? I think more the latter, or it wouldn’t be done is such a public manner.

Kansas City Chiefs

  • It was a coming out party for Travis Kelce in the Chiefs first preseason game. Talent wasn’t in question, but whether he can he stay healthy, is. Right now he is, so I moved him into the TE rankings as an upside backup selection.

Miami Dolphins

  • RB Knowshon Moreno is still out recovering from knee surgery. To be honest, we probably have him a little too low in the rankings now, but it would be nice to see him back in action before giving the green light to draft this guy.

New England Patriots

  • It is a new week, and a new Patriots receiver is getting some positive press. This time it is free agent acquisition Brandon LaFell. LaFell is a big target for Tom Brady, he’s got that going for him. I’ll move him into our On the Radar section, but it would need to be a 32-team league before I envision drafting LaFell until such time we see and hear more good news out of Pats camp.

New Orleans Saints

  • Rookie WR Brandin Cooks is looking good per early reports. If he falls to reasonable levels, he is worth the risk-reward, even in re-draft leagues. He is going pretty high right now on average, but that ADP is sure to vary quite a bit from league to league. If the decision comes down to Cooks vs. a sure but average starter in a blah passing offense, then put some trust in Saints head coach Sean Payton.
  • At the point where Cooks is getting drafted, you want to put more emphasis on upside picks at the position. To that end, I shuffled a bunch of picks in Tier 8, moving some young upside choices ahead of guys who made the most of their situation last year – Jarrett Boykin, Marvin Jones, Riley Cooper – who I feel will have a tough time repeating their production this year.

New York Jets

  • RB Chris Johnson looked sluggish in the Jets first preseason game. Surprised? Don’t be. If you are looking for a RB who runs with conviction then you’re looking at the wrong guy. No one is expecting upside for a Top 10 finish at this point. He’s ranked where he’s ranked based on projected volume of carries. I’ve seen him drafted fairly high but I moved him to the bottom of Tier 4. By the way, he was the only healthy back on the Jets the other night. Chris Ivory left with a rib injury. Bilal Powell was already out with a pulled hamstring.

Oakland Raiders

  • Trusted fantasy football adviser, Dave Stringer, has told me for a little while we should swap Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew in the rankings. I’ve resisted so far, but MJD started the first preseason game and if both start the season healthy, MJD is more likely to stay that way and earn consistent carries. I guess I’m still enamored with McFadden’s speed and big play ability, but I made the switch.
  • TE David Ausberry requires knee surgery. We had him the projected starter, but not ranked, just on the radar. Looks like we’ll flip-flop that back to Mychal Rivera, and Nick Kasa is another name floating around.

Philadelphia Eagles

  • WR Riley Cooper missed the Eagles preseason opener with a foot injury but is expected back soon. We already have Cooper ranked low relative to his ADP. Good offense and opportunity but marginal talent.

San Diego Chargers

  • Although he has the talent, and he’s in a contract year, Ryan Mathews worries me given his injury history even though he stayed healthy last season. The Chargers ratcheted up his carries late last season with good success, but should know that can’t be the norm for him. I adjusted his projections down slightly (no rankings change), and moved Danny Woodhead up.
  • UDFA RB Branden Oliver looked impressive in the Chargers preseason opener. Who? Sorry, patting myself on the back a bit as I drafted Oliver as a college player in one league last season which earned a big round of “Who?”‘s at the time. Nothing to see here yet except in deep, deep dynasty leagues.

San Francisco 49ers

  • The way San Francisco is losing running backs, and with him entering his third year as a starter, I have a little more confidence in Colin Kaepernick and moved him up the rankings.
  • Michael Crabtree is missing time with a hamstring injury. Something to note when obnoxious fellow owner yells that across the room after you draft Crabtree. Tell him to shut his pie hole, the injury doesn’t appear serious.