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.

Rankings Second Opinion, AFC South: Trent Richardson Rebounds, Hopkins and Wright Shine

Indianapolis Colts running back Trent Richardson (34) in action during the AFC Wild Card football game between the Indianapolis Colts vs Kansas City Chiefs at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. January 4, 2014; Photographer: MSA/Icon Sportswire

Are fantasy experts too pessimistic about Trent Richardson after a dismal performance last season following an in-season trade that sent him to the Indianapolis Colts? Tony expects a big rebound will land him inside the Top 15 at RB. Photo: Icon Sportswire

There is only one division to go in the fantasy football team reports, showcasing team-by-team player projections and rankings from Dave Stringer and Mike MacGregor, plus player commentary by Dave. Accompanying those reports, this is the sixth in a series of “Second Opinion” articles where I review the forecasts and identify one player from each team the guys are too high or too low on. The last article covered the NFC South, and here is my review for the AFC South.

Between the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans, there isn’t a strong Super Bowl contender amongst them. The Colts are favored to repeat as Division Champs but they could have their work cut out for them. The Texans stumbled through 2013 but are just a year removed from being considered one of the best teams in the AFC. The Titans and Jaguars are young and have the potential to surprise.

Houston Texans
Team Report – July 14

Last year, former Texans quarterback Matt Schaub threw an interception returned for a touchdown in four consecutive games and then was rightfully benched for Case Keenum, who did okay for a backup quarterback. The reigns have now been handed over to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Arian Foster was sensational 2010-2012, however nagging injuries held Foster to only 8 games. He is expected to have a bounce back year in 2014, and I am on board with that idea. Andre Johnson continued his trend of consistently posting solid receiving stats as he has throughout his career, but threatens a possible holdout.

The above named Texans players are all forecast about where I would expect, but one player who is projected and ranked somewhat higher on my cheatsheets is sophomore wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

In 2013 Hopkins posted a decent stat line considering it was his rookie season and the turmoil at quarterback. His two touchdowns should definitely increase this year, along with his receptions and receiving yards. Fitzpatrick exceeded expectations last year quarterbacking the Titans. Whether Hopkins is the number one wide receiver due to a Johnson holdout, or the number two wide receiver opposite AJ, I expect Hopkins to top 1,000 yards and post a better touchdown number than last year.

Currently, Hopkins is ranked 37th at wide receiver behind T.Y. Hilton (regresses due to more weapons on the Colts), Sammy Watkins (rookie plus still raw E.J. Manuel at quarterback), Kenny Stills and Marques Colston (more spreading the ball around in New Orleans). I expect Hopkins to finish the year better than all of these receivers.

Indianapolis Colts
Team Report – July 15

Last year the Indianapolis Colts made huge waves through the NFL and fantasy football community with an in-season trade acquiring Trent Richardson from the Cleveland Browns. The move to the Colts was supposed to be a dream come true for Richardson, playing with a quarterback that teams can’t stack the box against. The dream quickly turned to a nightmare for T-Rich and his fantasy owners. Richardson failed to get acclimated with the offense all season, and he ended up behind Donald Brown on the depth chart.

With 2013 in the rearview mirror, Richardson is determined to get back to being a top running back in the league. After an entire offseason to study the playbook and develop some chemistry with his teammates, Richardson should be much more in sync with the offense.

In addition to better chemistry, Richardson should benefit from the return of Reggie Wayne and addition of former New York Giants WR Hakeem Nicks. Between the trio of Wayne, Nicks and T.Y. Hilton plus QB Andrew Luck, defenses need to make stopping the passing game their number one priority.

Most fantasy experts are extremely pessimistic ranking Richardson after last season, including this website which ranks him 27th at RB. I consider last season a blip for the talented runner, and expect him to finish in the Top 15 in 2014.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Team Report – July 16

Jacksonville Jaguars are struggling to compete, but are undergoing a major rebuilding to turn their fortunes around. Blake Bortles was the 3rd overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Chad Henne is their starter while Bortles watches and learns, but it would be surprising if Bortles doesn’t get some game experience under center this season. Recently signed free agent Toby Gerhart has the opportunity to show his skills, and could provide a spark this offense needs. With Justin Blackmon suspended indefinitely, the receiving corps is relying on Cecil Shorts and rookie wide receivers Marquise Lee and Allen Robinson. All the youth is there, except at tight end.

At 30 years of age and coming off a career low season in receptions and yards, excluding his rookie year, it is time for the Jaguars to replace TE Marcedes Lewis. Admittedly, health was an issue for Lewis in 2013 as he missed six games, but it is optimistic to forecast Lewis with 50 receptions, 550 yards, and 5 touchdowns at this stage of his career. I do not think Lewis will contribute that much. Gerhart and the young receivers are the future and will be doing all the work for this offense. Lewis has no fantasy appeal to me.

Tennessee Titans
Team Report – July 17

Tennessee Titans haven’t given us much to talk about from a fantasy perspective outside of Chris Johnson and his six consecutive seasons of 1,000 yards rushing. Ask any former CJ?K owner and they will tell you even those recent seasons were more disappointing than the stats indicate on the surface. Now that the Chris Johnson era is behind the Titans, a new era is in order. This season could hail the beginning of the Kendall Wright era.

After watching Kendall Wright last season, he looks very similar to a young Wes Welker and Danny Amendola, who were considered PPR gold in their prime. If the Titans can avoid a quarterback carousel and get a full season out of Jake Locker, the chemistry that can and will develop between the two will put Wright among the short list of elite PPR wide receivers. Wright finished 20th in 1-PPR leagues last season on just two touchdowns, recording perhaps one of the quietest 1,000 yard seasons in recent memory.

Last year we saw Ken Whisenhunt ignite a fire under Phillip Rivers, who had a very nice season through the air. The Titans are hoping he can do the same with Locker, which translates into more success for Wright. If all goes according to plan, Wright can finish amongst the Top 15 wide receivers after the season is complete.

Pre-Training Camp Projections and Rankings Update, Supporting Team Notes

NFL training camps are set to get going this week. The first preseason game is not far off now, New York Giants versus Buffalo Bills, on Sunday August 3rd. Things are definitely ramping up on the fantasy football landscape!

I emailed our Draft Buddy customers last Thursday promising a projection update out soon. It didn’t happen Friday, as hoped, but lets start this week off on the right foot. Just published, updated rankings and updated projections based on news, notes, rumours and simply more contemplation of talent, situations and opportunity since our previous update, July 11.

Included below are notes by team that lead to many of the projections and rankings changes. You can see exactly who changed on the web pages, marked by a small up or down arrow. I will make a copy of Projection Pal with our projections included available to Draft Buddy customers, so they can easily import them into their copy of Buddy.

Arizona Cardinals

  • John Brown has upper hand on WR4 spot on the depth chart behind Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Ted Ginn Jr.. Brown continues to be a player to monitor but it will be tough for him to make an immediate fantasy impact from WR4 spot.

  • In early June Robert Housler was having, “a fantastic offseason”, but as of late mid-July he is not projected as a top two TE on the Cardinals. Apparently he doesn’t fit what head coach Bruce Arians wants to do. A talented, athletic TE, but we’re reducing his projections and adjusting John Carlson and Jake Ballard.

Baltimore Ravens

  • Ravens are expected to use WR Marlon Brown in the red zone. He scored 7 TD in 14 games last season as an undrafted rookie. His projections are worth another look.

Carolina Panthers

  • Due to recovery from his ankle surgery, Cam Newton didn’t get much time to work with his new wide receivers in minicamp, but they will reportedly get together prior to training camp to practice. The more time the better.

  • Jason Avant is expected to be the number three WR for the Panthers. We’re projecting Jerricho Cotchery and Kelvin Benjamin to start, Avant three, and not much left over for the likes of Tiquan Underwood or Marvin McNutt.

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

  • BenJarvus Green-Ellis will compete for a roster spot with Rex Burkhead. Given LawFirm’s contract, he could be in tough to hold the spot. Cedric Peerman appears to be set thanks to his special teams play. One Bengals reporter is anticipating 200 carries for rookie Jeremy Hill. We have him less than half that currently. Adjusting Hill up, LawFirm down, and will adjust further if necessary once we see how splits and LawFirm’s status shake out.

Cleveland Browns

  • Brian Hoyer is fully cleared for training camp from his knee injury suffered last year. We still have Johnny Manziel projected at about half of the Browns’ pass attempts as it will be tough to keep him off the field unless the team wins consistently with Hoyer.

Detroit Lions

  • Second-year Theo Riddick is generating buzz through minicamp from various sources. He was a 6th round draft pick in 2013.

Green Bay Packers

  • RB Eddie Lacy is expected to be a three-down back for the Packers.

  • Jarrett Boykin seems to be locked into the WR3 spot for this year ahead of rookies Davante Adams and Jared Abbrederis. No surprise given how Boykin played last season and his experience in a complex offense. If you keep receiving trade offers with Boykin from owners in your dynasty leagues, it is because the rookies are seen as the future in the Green Bay while Boykin doesn’t have the pedigree to hold them off forever.
  • TE job is wide open, but rookie Richard Rodgers seems to have the most positive news out of minicamp relative to Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick and Colt Lyerla. We’re not going to change the current modest projections for veterans Quarless and Bostick, but adding Rodgers to our On The Radar section of the rankings.

Houston Texans

  • Reviewing our projections after publishing the Texans team report, Case Keenum seems high at 180 pass attempts. Adjusting him way down and giving majority to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Also thinking about how Kendall Wright benefited last year catching passes from Fitzpatrick, and if that might similarly impact Andre Johnson or DeAndre Hopkins this season.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

  • QB Tyler Bray expected to compete for backup job.

Minnesota Vikings

  • Some indications Norv Turner wants Adrian Peterson to catch more passes, getting him in space more. Peterson is no slouch as a receiver. We have him projected at a career high of 50. He’s previously hit 43 (2009) and 40 (2012) in a season.

  • Jarius Wright and Jerome Simpson will compete for the starting slot receiver job during training camp.

New Orleans Saints

  • Saints signed Jimmy Graham to a 4-year, $40-million contract, locking him up and avoiding him playing under the arbitrator ruled TE designation franchise tag this season.

New York Giants

  • All signs are RB David Wilson will be cleared for contact in time to start training camp. Great news for those still holding Wilson in dynasty leagues, eager to see what he can do. We won’t change his rankings or projections just yet.

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Team expects to use Martavis Bryant in the red zone, which could help Bryant get established quickly for fantasy purposes. Steelers threw a lot to their wide receivers in the red zone last year as departed Jerricho Cotchery caught 10 TD.

Philadelphia Eagles

  • Even with the addition of Darren Sproles – who the Eagles insist is a RB, not exclusively a WR – they expect LeSean McCoy‘s workload to be on par with last season.

San Diego Chargers

  • OC Frank Reich indicates Ryan Mathews is the main RB. We aren’t sure why this is even news. Fantasy pundits seem down on Mathews relative to us. We have him ranked 14th, while his ADP hovers around 20th. Talent is not the question here.

San Francisco 49ers

  • Report from Bill Williamson of ESPN that 49ers are expected to reduce Frank Gore‘s carries this year down to around 220. He had 276 carries last season. Looks like we already had Gore projected at 210 carries so we’re in line with this forecast.

  • Marcus Lattimore will be placed on NFL non-football injury list heading into training camp. We already dropped Lattimore out of our main rankings and into the “On The Radar” section. He’ll stay there, or drop out completely, until we see some positive reports on his recovery from his knee injury in college.

Seattle Seahawks

  • Earlier in the offseason a comment by OC Darrell Bevell about a potential RBBC sent fantasy owners into a tizzy downgrading Marshawn Lynch and pumping up Christine Michael. We preached patience, and noted it was so early this wasn’t something to get worked up about. A new report indicates the team plans to reduce Lynch’s average carries per game a little bit, but he is still their workhorse. This seems more realistic at this stage.

Tennesee Titans

  • Positive reports out of Tennessee that rookie RB Bishop Sankey is in great shape and committed to studying with RB coach Sylvester Croom to get up to speed quickly.