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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.