WR Brian Quick DOWN
Brian Quick has been having a less than stellar Training Camp and worked with the 2nd team exclusively in their 1st preseason game. As a rookie, he would have had to earn his way into the starting lineup, which he’s really struggling to do, even in a weak receiving corps. It’s still unclear which, if any, of St. Louis’ wideouts will have fantasy value. Quick is a late round flier, at best.
WR Steve Smith UP
If any of St. Louis’ wideouts are going to be fantasy relevant this season, it’s probably going to be Smith. Smith seems to be healthy off of essentially 2 lost years with injuries. He’s working with the 1st team, having a strong camp, and was Bradford’s favorite weapon in their 1st preseason game. He probably will never be his 100 catch self again, like he was in 2009 before injury, but he’s got the most value of any of St. Louis’ receivers. He’s worth a late round pick.
RB Ryan Mathews DOWN
Mathews has broken his collarbone and will miss 4-6 weeks, which puts his week 1 and week 2 status in doubt, dampening the outlook for a player who looked poised to have a breakout year. He still remains a 1st round pick in fantasy circles, though, and he may be undervalued, going now in the late 2nd on average. Before the injury, he was going off the board 7th overall.
Yes, he will miss a game or two, but you had to figure he would when making projections for him. When in the lineup, he could easily lead all backs in fantasy points per game as the Chargers’ “everything” back. If he can play 14 or 15 games and not sustain another injury, he could still finish the year as a top-5 back. There’s no guarantees he won’t get hurt again, especially with his history, but collarbone injuries are not lingering injuries. Unfortunately, there’s not a good handcuff for him as Ronnie Brown, Curtis Brinkley, and LeRon McClain, 3 mediocre backs, will split carries if he misses any time, making all 3 fantasy irrelevant.
RB David Wilson DOWN
David Wilson is getting mixed reviews in camp. On one hand, he looks incredibly explosive as a runner, but he’s also struggling with his blitz pickup and the Giants, known for easing in rookies, won’t trust him in obvious pass downs. He’ll still get a good portion of the early down work behind Ahmad Bradshaw and he remains just an injury to one of the league’s most injury prone backs away from being a legitimate RB2, but I’m moving him down slightly.
WR Santana Moss DOWN
All of the Santana Moss hype may have been a little much. Not only does he not appear to be in the running to be the Redskins’ #1 receiver, he didn’t even start for the Redskins in their 1st preseason game. That honor went to Leonard Hankerson, while Moss operated exclusively out of the slot. You can do better things with a late round pick than taking a 33 year old slot receiver.
WR Leonard Hankerson UP
Hankerson looks like the favorite to start opposite Pierre Garcon in Washington, with Moss working out of the slot. The 2011 3rd round pick was a favorite of mine in the 2011 NFL Draft season and he showed his abilities by catching 8 passes for 106 yards in his only start last year, before getting hurt and missing the rest of the season. There’s always a chance that Pierre Garcon struggles to transition to a new team, as so many receivers do, so Hankerson has plenty of upside late.
RB Cedric Benson UP
The Packers have signed Cedric Benson. He’ll get the opportunity to run behind a great offensive line and he’ll have plenty of room to run with the Packers’ passing game spreading things out. Heading into his age 30 season, he’s got little to no explosion, but he can run through holes and he should get the bulk of the Packers’ early down work as he was signed in response to James Starks’ disappointing Training Camp, preseason, and his recent turf toe injury.
He’s also shown surprisingly durability with 956 touches over the past 3 seasons, 5th in the league over that time period behind only Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson, and Steven Jackson. On top of all that, he’ll get the goal line work on one of the league’s most explosive offenses. He’s the Packers’ running back to own.
RB James Starks DOWN
Once seen as a potential breakout candidate going into his 3rd year in the league and his 1st as a lead back, Starks had a miserable Training Camp and first Preseason game and, after sustaining a turf toe injury, the Packers signed Cedric Benson, a similar style back to him. Turf toe injuries tend to linger and this is a guy who has injury issues dating back to his time at the University of Buffalo, which is why he fell to the 6th round in 2010. Even at his age, Benson has more fantasy value this year than Starks.
RB Alex Green DOWN
Benson’s signing doesn’t hurt Green as much as it does Starks, as Green is a different kind of back, a speed, change of pace, passing catching back. However, a more crowded backfield is never a good thing for a back and it looks like Green’s role will be almost purely 3rd down and change of pace unless there are injuries.
WR Randall Cobb UP
Cobb is having a very strong Training Camp and led the team in receiving in their 1st preseason game, so he should win the starting slot receiver job. James Jones had 38 catches for 635 yards and 7 touchdowns last year, but also dropped 6 passes. Cobb could exceed those numbers and would be an injury away from being thrust into the starting lineup of the league’s most explosive offense. He’s definitely worth a late round flier.
WR Julio Jones UP
I don’t like to overreact to preseason games, but Julio Jones is insane. He caught 6 passes for 109 yards and a score in his 1st preseason game in only one quarter of play. I had him “conservatively” ranked as my #5 wide receiver, but it appears that was even too low for him. Calvin Johnson’s 2nd year stats, 78 catches for 1331 yards and 12 touchdowns, are not out of reach for him.
WR Roddy White DOWN
Any positive for Jones has to be a negative for White, who is heading into his age 31 season and will be a smaller part of the offense last year. Leading the league in targets last year, White is almost purely a volume receiver at this point in his career and he should see a much smaller volume of targets go his way as long as Julio is playing like this.
RB Trent Richardson DOWN
Poor Browns. They just can’t catch a break. Trent Richardson will have to undergo surgery on his left knee. That surgery is just a scope so it’s as minor as it comes, but this is the 2nd time that knee has been operated on this year, so it’s not what you want to see from the player you just spent the 3rd overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft on.
The Browns expect Richardson to be back for the opener, but that’s not certain and it’s definitely possible he’ll miss a couple games at some point this season with lingering knee pain. The Browns could also scale back his workload early in September. As talented as Richardson is, rookie running backs have had trouble adjusting to a 16-game NFL season in recent years as 1st round pick running backs have averaged just have just averaged 165 carries as rookies since 2007. It’s important to keep fantasy projections for him conservative as a rookie.
RB Montario Hardesty UP
Largely a bust as a 2010 2nd round pick for the first 2 years of his career, Montario Hardesty is reportedly finally healthy and looked it in their first preseason game, starting in the absence of Richardson. Because we need to keep projections for Richardson conservative as a rookie, Hardesty makes for an interesting handcuff and potential late round sleeper.
RB Marshawn Lynch UP
It sounds like Lynch won’t be suspended, at least in 2012, as Roger Goodell wants to wait until the result of his DUI case before assigning any penalty. That likely means that any suspension would take place in 2013, if ever. I still don’t like him this year, as a one year wonder, behind a poor offensive line, after getting a new contract, but I’m bumping him back up to my original projection for him.
RB Robert Turbin DOWN
Moving Turbin back down as his value is tied to Marshawn Lynch’s. He’s still a name to know because Lynch will probably underachieve and/or get hurt, but he’s not really draftable.
WR Hakeem Nicks DOWN
I had Eli Manning’s projected numbers back more in line with his career averages, rather than his crazy numbers from last year, as the Giants seem committed to going back running the more ball more this season. However, my projections for Nicks and Cruz were both too high. In 2009 and 2010, the Giants’ top-2 receivers combined for about 2000 yards and 16 touchdowns per year.
Nicks and Cruz should exceed that slightly, but not by much. Nicks is the safer fantasy option and, like I projected earlier, should lead the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns, just like he did in the playoffs last season. Cruz is still a one year wonder whose 18.9 yards per catch will be impossible to sustain.
WR Victor Cruz DOWN
Copy and paste what’s above.