RB Maurice Jones Drew DOWN
Maurice Jones-Drew has yet to report and says he’d “welcome a trade,” though he also said he’d prefer to stay in Jacksonville. The Jaguars have announced that Rashad Jennings will start week 1 regardless as MJD will take some time to get back into top football shape and because he missed an entire offseason of offensive install with a new coaching staff coming in.
This is a smart move by the Jaguars because this situation is eerily similar to Chris Johnson’s situation last year and Johnson averaged 3.0 yards per carry for the first half of the season before looking like his old self and averaging 4.8 per in the 2nd half of the season. Don’t expect MJD’s production to resemble his normal levels of production until around midseason and he’s also an obvious injury risk if he’s out of shape. Remember, he’s had a lot of usage over the past 3 years (1084 touches). Those types of guys are injury risks to begin with.
RB Rashad Jennings UP
Jennings obviously gets a stock up with Maurice Jones Drew going down. He’ll get the week 1 start either way and could see a lot of action early in the season. Still, I wouldn’t draft him at his current ADP in the 8th round unless I had Maurice Jones-Drew on my roster (and likewise, I wouldn’t draft MJD without targeting Jennings in the mid rounds). There are too many unknowns here to just own one. Jennings could get two starts and then be a pure backup for the rest of the season. It’s definitely possible.
WR Mike Wallace UP
Mike Wallace is expected to report sometime this week, possibly even tomorrow. He’s still a strong candidate for a down year after an extended holdout because he could be out of top football shape and because he missed a whole offseason of offensive install with a new coaching staff coming in. The Steelers have another receiver, Antonio Brown, who is just as talented, if not more so, who has been there all offseason. He’ll be the Steelers’ primary target at least for the first half of the season, benefiting from Wallace drawing the attention away from him. He could be their primary target all season. Plus, remember, Brown had 677 yards to Wallace’s 393.
WR Antonio Brown UP
Brown also gets a stock up with Wallace coming back. The Steelers will probably use Wallace primarily as a deep decoy for the first 4-8 games of the season until he gets the playbook mastered, which sets up a perfect situation for Brown, who has been there all offseason and was the team’s leading receiver, by far, in the 2nd half of the season. Wallace had about 1200 yards last year and Brown had about 1100. Expect Brown to be closer to 1300 and Wallace to be closer to 1000 this year.
WR Emmanuel Sanders DOWN
With Wallace coming back, Sanders loses all fantasy value. Originally, he was a late round sleeper and handcuff for Sanders because of the Steelers’ strong passing game, but now, he’s worthless in fantasy circles unless an injury strikes.
RB Darren McFadden UP
I’m still down on McFadden, but I’m moving him up because he’s looked really good this preseason. He’s not worth a 1st round pick though. He’s way too injury prone. He’s never played more than 13 games in a season or had more than 227 carries and has only once gone over 113 carries in 4 seasons. He’s their everything back, but he’s almost a sure bet to miss 3-4+ games, at least.
RB Mike Goodson DOWN
Goodson lost the backup job to Taiwan Jones. If McFadden gets hurt, Jones will be the lead back and Goodson will only serve as a between the tackles runner and might not even serve in that role because he’s not an ideal power back. They might sign a veteran back in that scenario. Don’t bother drafting him.
RB Taiwan Jones UP
Jones won the backup job after a strong preseason. McFadden is almost certain to miss 3-4+ games and Jones will probably get 15+ touches in those games. He’s incredibly fast and talented. If you do draft McFadden, make sure you take this talented handcuff late.
QB Matt Ryan UP
I was worried about how Matt Ryan would do in the Falcons’ new offense because it didn’t seem to fit his skill set. I don’t like to overreact to the preseason, but Ryan has completed 45 of 60 (75.0%) for 549 yards (9.2 YPA), 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Only Russell Wilson has a higher QB rating than him. He’s got plenty of upside in the Falcons’ new explosive offense and plenty of weapons around him. He looks ready for a career year.
QB Matt Flynn DOWN
Matt Flynn has lost his starting job to Russell Wilson. Take him off your board.
QB Russell Wilson UP
Wilson has some intrigue as QB2 with upside because of his rushing ability. However, considering the history of non-1st round pick rookie quarterbacks and rookie quarterbacks in general, I don’t really like his upside. Wilson will become just the 5th non-1st round pick quarterback to get his team’s week 1 start since 1994. Other than Andy Dalton last year, they’ve all thrown for more interceptions than touchdowns.
He probably won’t throw for a high YPA (even Dalton last year averaged just 6.6 YPA) and the Seahawks ran one of the most conservative offenses in the league last year, passing just 509 times.With a rookie quarterback under center, they’ll only get more conservative, especially since with a mobile, run happy quarterback like Wilson.
As a passer, I don’t like his chances to even exceed the 3091 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions that Tarvaris Jackson threw for last season. He might if he plays all 16 games, but Pete Carroll loves constant competition at positions and likely wouldn’t hesitate to pull Wilson for Flynn, now one of the league’s most expensive backups, if he struggles.
RB Marshawn Lynch UP
Wilson under center will be a good thing for Lynch. The Seahawks will become even more conservative and run more, while Wilson’s rushing ability will open things up on the ground for Lynch. I still don’t like Lynch to match his 2011 production because he’s an injury prone, one hit wonder, known for slacking off and probably will now that he’s gotten paid, but I’m moving him up.
RB Robert Turbin UP
Turbin has had a great preseason and while he’ll be Lynch’s primary backup, Lynch could easily miss a couple games with injury and/or struggle and cede a few more carries to Turbin than a true feature back would. On top of that, the Seahawks will run more with Russell Wilson under center and Wilson’s rushing ability will open things up for him on the ground.
WR Sidney Rice UP
Terrell Owens has been cut. Sidney Rice has been cleared for contact and will likely start week 1. Remember, he’s only exceeded 32 catches for 484 yards once in his 5 year career, but he’s incredibly talented when healthy and caught 82 passes for 1312 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2009. He’s definitely worth a late round flier.
WR Doug Baldwin DOWN
I’m moving Baldwin down slightly because Rice is healthy and because I don’t like the quarterback and because Baldwin is nursing his own injury right now, though he’s expected to play week 1. Baldwin led the team in receiving last year, but only out of necessity and was hardly a fantasy stud doing it. On what figures to be a mediocre passing offense, Rice is really the only receiver worth owning and only for his upside as a late round flier.
QB Sam Bradford UP
I was a little bit lower on Bradford than I should have been. He’s only a QB2, but I’m moving him up slightly.
TE Jacob Tamme DOWN
Peyton Manning has been targeting Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen equally in the preseason. The Broncos will use a lot of 2-tight end sets this year and their two talented tight ends might just cancel each other out. Tamme caught 67 passes for 631 yards and 4 touchdowns in 10 games in 2010 with Peyton Manning, good for 107 catches for 1010 yards and 6 touchdowns over 16 games, but all that proves is Manning loves throwing to his tight ends. He always has (see Clark, Dallas). However, he’ll split his tight end targets between Tamme and Dreessen this year. Tamme will probably see more targets, but Dreessen will be the preferred goal line target and probably have more touchdowns.
TE Joel Dreessen UP
WR Andre Caldwell DOWN
I don’t know why Caldwell was still ranked. He’s worthless.
WR Demaryius Thomas UP
Like with the Caldwell entry, I don’t know why Thomas’ numbers were so low. I’m down on him, as compared to Eric Decker, but not too down.
QB Jake Locker UP
For an in depth look at Tennessee’s offense, click here. For the short version, I feel the same away about the Titans and Jake Locker that I felt about Matt Stafford and the Lions last year. You have to be conservative, but even if you are, Locker makes a lot of sense as a low end QB1. That team has drafted so well in the past 4-5 years and looks ready to pop.
WR Kenny Britt UP
WR Nate Washington UP
TE Jared Cook UP
WR Randall Cobb DOWN
Randall Cobb appears to have lost the #3 receiver job to James Jones and will be the 4th receiver at best. He’s a nice late round stash in dynasty league because of his talent and the offense he plays on, but for this season, he doesn’t have any value in normal leagues.
RB Cedric Benson UP
Cedric Benson is reportedly really impressing the Packers, to the point where James Starks might not even make the roster, in favor of a less injury prone, albeit less talented option like Brandon Saine. Benson will be the clear lead back on an explosive offense, albeit one that doesn’t run much, while Alex Green will serve solely as a change of pace back.
RB James Starks DOWN
James Starks could get cut. Take him off your board either way. Benson has stolen his job completely.
RB Alfred Morris UP
Mike Shanahan hates fantasy football. Alfred Morris could get the week 1 start. Don’t draft any Washington running back until late. He changes his mind with running backs on a weekly basis with no prior notice. I’m willing to bet that one running back not currently on the Redskins roster will get at least one start for them this season.
RB Evan Royster DOWN
RB Tim Hightower DOWN
RB Jonathan Stewart DOWN
Jonathan Stewart sprained his ankle. It’s not a huge deal and he probably won’t miss more than a week or two, but he’s currently in a race to start week 1, so I’m move him down slightly.
RB DeAngelo Williams UP
With Stewart getting hurt, even a minor injury, Williams gets the opportunity to be a pure feature back on one of the best running games in the league for a week or two. I’m moving him up slightly.
TE Greg Olsen UP
The Panthers coaching staff talked up Greg Olsen. Jeremy Shockey is gone and Cam Newton loves throwing to his tight ends. He targeted Olsen and Shockey a combined 152 times last season and could target them even more this season with Steve Smith aging on the outside. Mike Tolbert and Gary Barnridge will take some of those targets, but Olsen could see up to 100 targets this year and have a very solid year. He’ll also be Newton’s primary target around the goal line as Olsen and Shockey combined for 9 touchdowns last year. Newton also figures to throw more around the goal line this year because his 14 rushing touchdowns is going to be unrepeatable.
WR Brandon LaFell UP
Brandon LaFell is the clear starter for the Panthers opposite Legedu Naanee gone and David Gettis still hurt. In 6 starts last year, LaFell caught 15 passes for 268 yards and a touchdown, good for 40 catches for 715 yards and 3 touchdowns over 3 games. On top of that, if he had the 76 targets Naanee had last year and maintained his rates, he would have caught 49 passes for 831 yards and 4 touchdowns. Now he’s the clear starter opposite an aging wide receiver. There is upside here.
RB Doug Martin UP
Doug Martin has not only won the 3rd down job, but he’ll probably get the bulk of the 1st and 2nd down work too. Blount is still a valuable handcuff because of the history of rookie running backs in the NFL (1st round backs have averaged 165 carries per year as rookies since 2007) and because the Buccaneers will run a lot, but Martin is moving up.
RB LeGarrette Blount DOWN
Blount will still get carries on a conservative offense, especially around the goal line, but he’s the clear backup to Doug Martin.
RB Isaac Redman DOWN
Not only is Rashard Mendenhall activated off the Pup, but Redman is also hurt. He won’t miss any games, but he said his groin and hip problems could bother him all year, never a good thing for someone trying to establish himself. On top of that, Jonathan Dwyer has looked good in the preseason and will cut into his carries even when Redman is the starter, which he should still be for 3-4 weeks.
RB Rashard Mendenhall UP
Mendenhall is less likely to split carries with Redman once he returns now that Redman is nursing a lingering injury.
RB Jonathan Dwyer UP
Mendenhall is coming off a torn ACL and will miss at least 3 games. Redman has lingering groin and hip problems. All of a sudden, Dwyer, who has looked good this preseason, makes for an interesting late sleeper in deeper leagues. In normal leagues, definitely monitor him.
RB Trent Richardson UP
Trent Richardson is expected to be back for week 1, so I’m moving him up slightly, but I’m still down on him because he’s a rookie on a poor offense and coming off an offseason in which he had 2 knee surgeries. He’ll be overdrafted.
RB Montario Hardesty DOWN
Hardesty is moving down, but is still an interesting handcuff for Richardson because of Richardson’s two knee surgeries.
WR Torrey Smith UP
Torrey Smith exploded for 8 catches for 103 yards in the Ravens’ 3rd preseason game in not even 3 full quarters worth of action. He might be even more likely to have a Mike Wallace type breakout year than I originally imagined.
QB Joe Flacco UP
I’m moving Flacco up a little bit too with Smith breaking out as the legitimate #1 receiver he’s never really had. Flacco has enjoyed a strong preseason overall, completing 71.7% of his passes for 7.2 YPA and 3 touchdowns to 1 interception. He could have a career high year, but remains just a QB2 with upside because of the Ravens’ still conservative offense.
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis UP
BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be the clear starter in Cincinnati, at least early in the season. He’s not very talented and could easy lose carries or his job to Bernard Scott sometime this season, but he moves up a little bit.
RB Bernard Scott DOWN
Bernard Scott will start the season as a pure backup, though he could end up stealing BJGE’s job by the end of the season. The problem is that Scott isn’t very talented either. I would stay away from Cincinnati’s backfield entirely.