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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.

Pre-Preseason Projections and Rankings Update, Team Notes

It’s a new month – August! NFL preseason is about to get going and this is the biggest month of the fantasy football calendar all year when the majority of fantasy drafts take place. Our projections and cheatsheet rankings are in need of an update. Check them out, and here are the team news and notes from the last week to accompany those changes.

For Draft Buddy users, I will update a copy of Projection Pal and make it available to download, so you can import our updated projections.

Arizona Cardinals

  • RB Stepfan Taylor worked ahead of Jonathan Dwyer with the first team offense while starter Andre Ellington sat out with a sore neck. Noting this here to keep tabs on next man up should anything happen to Ellington.

  • Glowing reports continue for WR John Brown. Could be something to see here.

Atlanta Falcons

  • RB Steven Jackson is dealing with a hamstring injury and missing practice time. The veteran doesn’t really need much training camp time anyway, but if he’s struggling to stay healthy this early that is a concern to fantasy players.

Carolina Panthers

  • WR Kelvin Benjamin is missing time with what coach Ron Rivera described as a bone bruise on his knee. They don’t seem that concerned but generally when a rookie misses time, it is at least some concern. He is expected back relatively soon.

Cleveland Browns

  • WR Josh Gordon‘s suspension hearing was scheduled for August 1st, although last note I read was not to expect to hear the outcome of that meeting just yet. More waiting, but there should be a decision soon.

Dallas Cowboys

  • WR Cole Beasley is drawing good reviews from training camp. He’s down the pecking order, for sure, but a name to keep in mind in the event of injury and because the offense is anticipated to be very pass heavy.

Detroit Lions

  • WR Golden Tate was removed from the PUP list to take part in regular training camp practice. He was on there with shoulder soreness.

Indianapolis Colts

  • RB Vick Ballard is out for the season after tearing his Achilles’. Unfortunate. We felt Ballard could press for touches against Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw becomes a more attractive commodity at this point.

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • The more I think about it the more I think Chad Henne starts and plays all season barring injury, while Blake Bortles sits, watches and learns. We had their projections relatively close to a split, but changing that up so majority is Henne.

  • Conflicting reports from Jacksonville that the team wants RB Toby Gerhart to have 20+ carries per game, but then they want to be careful he doesn’t surpass 300 carries. Regardless of the exact usage, Gerhart is in line to be a work horse back, a more rare commodity in this age of the NFL and for fantasy football. We just aren’t optimistic on Gerhart’s ability to be overly productive with those carries.
  • Marqise Lee is getting lots of reps in practice with Cecil Shorts sidelined (hamstring) and Ace Sanders out (personal). Fellow rookie Allen Robinson is also out a couple weeks with a hamstring injury.

Miami Dolphins

  • RB Knowshon Moreno is still recovering from issues with his knee, and says he may not play in the preseason at all. His value drops further. Unless he’s an absolute bargain on draft day I would have a tough time pulling the trigger and using a roster spot on him.

  • WR Mike Wallace is missing practice with hamstring tightness. Hamstrings are the injury du jour for wide receivers this summer.

Minnesota Vikings

  • Matt Cassel is in the lead as the projected starting quarterback, but Teddy Bridgewater is apparently closing the gap. An early week report indicates Bridgewater will get some time with the starters during preseason games.

  • Reviewing our projections and rankings, Bridgewater we have projected as the starter but ranked slightly lower. That’s a mistake. Don’t draft Cassel. Draft Bridgewater in dynasty, deep keepers and late in 2-QB redraft leagues.

New England Patriots

  • Initial timetable on WR Aaron Dobson recovering from foot surgery in March was two to three months, but it seems that was optimistic. He isn’t showing any change of direction work while rehabbing and on the PUP list currently. He might not be ready for the start of the season, so I’m pulling him out of the rankings and distributing about half his earlier projections across other receivers.

New York Giants

  • News on the comeback of RB David Wilson from neck surgery took a bad turn this week. An upcoming surgeon’s evaluation has called into question, and reports definitely leaned more pessimistic, on whether Wilson can continue his football career. More news is needed but this drops major red flags on Wilson right now.

  • Reuben Randle had some hamstring issues earlier in the week but appears okay. Rookie Odell Beckham Jr. on the other hand, he’s out at least a week with a bothersome hamstring. He also missed time during OTAs for the same reason, drawing the ire of head coach Tom Coughlin.

New York Jets

  • Large majority of first-team reps are going to Geno Smith, and little to none to Michael Vick. This is the quarterback training camp battle that never was. It is Geno Smith time until he gets hurt or the coaches – rightfully so – feel forced to switch in an effort to keep themselves employed.

San Francisco 49ers

  • RB Kendall Hunter tore his ACL and is lost for the year, while LaMichael James dislocated his elbow. Even though James is expected back Week 1, he wasn’t going to be a big factor backing up Frank Gore. We dropped Marcus Lattimore last week in our rankings on the heels of not very encouraging rehab reports. Given that, it looks like Carlos Hyde is the clear cut handcuff for Gore, and could earn a good number of touches with suddenly little competition behind him. Hyde moves up.

Seattle Seahawks

  • RB Marshawn Lynch ended his holdout. No one holds out like they used to. Remember Joey Galloway? We hadn’t changed Lynch’s projections or ranking anyway, so no need to change it back now.

Washington Redskins

  • WR Pierre Garcon is sitting out with … you guessed it … a strained hamstring.

Projections vs. Rankings Discussion, Plus an Update and Supporting Team Notes

In anticipation of this week’s projections and rankings update, Thursday I asked Dave for some bullet points suggesting necessary changes to ensure I didn’t miss anything. I was thinking recent news items when I asked him, while Dave took more of an overview approach.

A few of Dave’s points were, for example, “Tom Brady projected too low for his ranking,” or, “gap between Cordarrelle Patterson’s projection and his ranking is too much.” You see, we do have some differences between rankings and projections, and the reason for that is because, while the projections are a best approximation of what stats we think a player will produce, a ranking can sometimes better reflect risk and upside not easily captured in projections.

Take Bernard Pierce for example, prior to the Ray Rice news he is only suspended two games (we were expecting perhaps six to eight). While we had Pierce projected about 40th amongst RB with a 150-600, 3 TD rushing plus 25-190 receiving line, he was ranked a little higher – 32nd – to reflect the upside of him possibly stepping into the starter’s job for an extended time, and maybe even holding that role when Rice comes back. This will now change with recent news, but it provides a possible scenario where projections and rankings are justifiably not exactly in sync.

So, Dave’s comments got me to thinking about which players have the biggest difference between our cheatsheet rankings, and rankings based purely on the player projections. Perhaps each of these players requires a bit more investigation. Well, I plunked both our draftbuddy.com projections and rankings into Draft Buddy and figured out who these guys are at each position.

QB

We are bullish on Griffin to rebound from his injury slowed 2013 season and thanks to the addition of Jay Gruden, but he is ranked lower than the projections because of risk since he can take a beating with his rushing, and due to learning a new offense.

As noted above, Dave mentioned Brady is projected too low and that looks like an accurate statement to the point an adjustment is necessary.

Need to review Tannehill’s projections, but if they seem reasonable and we can draft him outside the top 24 QB, then that is a value pick.

RB

Similar to Griffin, Foster is a risk due to a lot of wear and tear, although he has a great opportunity to return to his former self if he can stay healthy. Hence the high projections, slightly more conservative ranking.

Ben Tate is slightly up from his projections given his upside in a new offense that appears committed to running the ball.

We are not true believers in Rashad Jennings as the Giants starter, so while he is projected high based on positive recent reports he’ll receive a high number of touches, we offer a more skeptical ranking of his prospects.

Stevan Ridley probably shouldn’t be this different, other than it is tough predicting what the Patriots will do with their running backs from week to week.

Joique Bell is not a player we are very interested in adding to our fantasy squads this year, although many other experts are keen on his prospects.

WR

The lack of depth amongst Falcons receivers kind of forced our hand to put more targets, catches and yards on a now healthy Roddy White, but in terms of ranking we’re not ready to put him into the Top 20.

Similarly with Torrey Smith, he is the top receiver on the Ravens, but seems to get over-drafted each year. We’d rather avoid drafting Smith altogether, so we pushed him down the rankings.

It is difficult to get a read on the split of targets amongst Colts receivers right now, so Hilton is projected 26th, but risky to draft there.

Dave and I disagreed on where to rank Patterson (and Wes Welker, for that matter) from Day 1 creating our projections and rankings. Patterson represents one of the biggest boom-bust picks on the board this season. He probably should be moved down a tad given uncertainty about his targets and potential rushing stats.

Austin is another big question mark about how much the Rams will use him. The talent is there to support the projections and quite possibly exceed them. The high expectations, low production last year still stings, resulting in the low ranking.

TE

Cook is someone we expect to churn out okay stats over the course of a season based on volume, but not one to help win us many weeks.

For Chandler, see Cook, the only difference being Chandler is so off the radar I’m inclined to add him extremely late in best-ball format leagues.

That gives some more insight into our combined projections and rankings process, and highlights some players for us to review prior to the update. And now, the team notes to accompany the changes:

Arizona Cardinals

  • Andre Ellington‘s receptions appear low at 40 since he had 39 as a rookie and backup.

Baltimore Ravens

  • Very surprised Ray Rice only received a 2-game suspension, but that is what happened, earning him a bump in his projections and rankings, while anticipated replacement starter Bernard Pierce gets knocked down.

  • Hmm… it seems we were pretty low on the combined Ravens running game in the projections to begin with. Change is Rice up, and Pierce down but not by much.

Carolina Panthers

  • Are Cam Newton‘s receivers as bad as everyone is making them out to be, ourselves included, or are they really pretty similar to last season? We’ll keep Cam where he is ranked (as in, do not draft territory), but if we start to get wowed by rookie Kelvin Benjamin things could change.

  • Not at all surprised Jonathan Stewart is injured. He pulled him hamstring. They are saying he’s out 1-2 weeks, for now.

Cincinnati Bengals

  • One of Dave’s notes to me says he’s worried we haven’t reeled in Andy Dalton‘s numbers enough from last season based on the team’s increased emphasis on the running game.

  • Jermaine Gresham opens training camp on the PUP list, opening the door for Tyler Eifert to have a bigger impact.

Cleveland Browns

  • Update: Josh Gordon is planning to appeal his one-year suspension on August 1.

Dallas Cowboys

  • Reviewing Tony Romo‘s projections he might be a little low since we haven’t heard a negative report on his back in some time.

Denver Broncos

  • I mentioned above Dave and I disagree on Wes Welker. He thinks we have him too high; I think Welker is a relatively safe, high floor pick, as long as concussion issues to rear their ugly head again (admittedly, a sizeable concern). I passed on Welker at pick 4.09 as my WR2 in an ongoing best ball redraft in favor of Vincent Jackson, and would have loved Welker to come back to me as my WR3. Instead he got nabbed at 5.03 one pick before my next selection.

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Ace Sanders faces a four-game suspension to start the season, and is missing training camp due to personal issues. It seems he is dealing with substance-abuse problems. More opportunity for the rookie receivers. Sanders is off the projections board with more going to Marqise Lee and Mike Brown.

New England Patriots

  • Rob Gronkowski not placed on PUP list to open training camp, which is great news. Although he is still limited in practice and this is no guarantee he is ready for Week 1, continued positive reports will motivate us to move him up into the top tier at TE from his current spot at start of Tier 2.

  • Aaron Dobson was placed on the PUP list, and I’m mentioning that here because he is a player I’m intrigued by given the sketchy receiving options on the Patriots and his extremely low draft cost right now. Would like to see him healthy and fully participating.

New York Giants

  • David Wilson is cleared to practice, which could put more pressure on Rashad Jennings as the projected starter.

  • Odell Beckham Jr. is dealing with a pulled hamstring, so he’s not off to a good start, and this opens the door for Jerrell Jernigan.

New York Jets

  • Taking a cue from Jonathan Stewart, Chris Ivory injured his hamstring and is limited.

Oakland Raiders

Seattle Seahawks

  • Marshawn Lynch is holding out of training camp desiring a pay increase. We aren’t suggesting a change to his projections and rankings right now, but definitely worth keeping an eye on. Good discussion about this during The Audible podcast last night.

  • Sidney Rice retires, not that we had much in the way of projections for him, anyway.