As you get ready for your drafts this weekend, I put together a handy positional rankings cheat sheet that you're more than welcome to steal.
A couple of notable moves from my last rankings.
I'm less concerned about Tom Brady's production now that I've seen him in the preseason. I think he'll be fine, and based off of what I've seen have moved him back ahead of Cam Newton in my ranks. QBs pretty much stayed the same - the big mover was EJ Manuel, who, as long as he's healthy will be serviceable, but not great.
At RB, I dropped Arian Foster just a little bit because of the health concerns, but ultimately think he'll be fine. Everything the Texans have been doing with him seems to be preventative rather than concerned. After seeing what we think the Lions' offense will look like, I moved Reggie Bush up to a low-end RB2. I don't think he's a great pure runner, and I'm willing to bet he splits some time with Leshoure, but he's going to get an absurd number of targets in the passing game. My biggest RB movers - Gio Bernard, who I think will see a larger share of carries in Cincinnati than I initially thought...DeAngelo Williams and Isaac Redman with the injuries to Stewart and Bell. My biggest dropper has been Chris Ivory, who I wasn't terribly high on anyway, but after watching him run and seeing the Jets' O-line, I just don't think Ivory is going to be very good this year.
Lots of movement at WR. My Top 10 stays pretty much the same. Injury concerns to Wes Welker, Victor Cruz, and Jordy Nelson cause me to drop this just a little bit, and I reserve the right to move them up or down as we get more information. Chris Givens' stellar preseason gives me a reason to believe he could be a nice value as a 4th wide receiver, so I've moved him up to the low end of that range. The Patriots rookies (Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins) are both in the update ranks, and I've added Austin Collie as well, who I think has a chance to be a surprising late round draft pick. My biggest dropper is Cordarrelle Patterson. I maintain that talent-wise he's the best receiver on the Vikings, and he's a good fit for that offense. But he's run some bad routes in the preseason and doesn't really seem to be on the same page with Christian Ponder. I think Patterson is probably a year or two away from being fantasy relevant.
So week 2 of the preseason? Only slightly more informative than Week 1. We got to see a few guys that we hadn't seen yet, and we got a little better idea of who are the "#1s" on each team, but all-in-all we're still pretty limited as to what we can take away from each of these games. We'll go into depth on a couple of stories on our next podcast tomorrow, but here's a couple of quick hits from each of the games over the past weekend:
Ravens 27, Falcons 23: Steven Jackson looked much better here than he did in Week 1. 9 touches, 55 yards against a pretty good defense is nothing to laugh at. I continue to like Jackson as a late 2nd/early 3rd round pick and a RB2. Tyler likes him significantly more but I'm not anointing him as a fantasy RB1 just yet. Torrey Smith made a big play...that's kind of what he does. Other than that, nothing really stood out.
Panther 14, Eagles 9: We now know that Michael Vick is the starter, so there's not much more you can take away from this. I maintain that LeSean McCoy (8/47 + 3 catches) will have a huge year in Chip Kelly's offense, and I still think Damaris Johnson is an interesting deep sleeper at wideout with the Maclin injury.
Browns 24, Lions 6 : I said this on the iHeartRadio channel Friday - it was really encouraging to see Reggie Bush get 7 targets in the passing game. I won't be surprised if he catches 60-70 passes this season, and there's value in that as a low-end RB2. For the Browns, the big story is obviously Jordan Cameron and his 2 TDs. He should definitely be drafted, and of the guys that are kind of end-of-the-draft tight ends (Cameron, Cook, Bennett, Brandon Myers)...I like Cameron significantly more for the upside
Bears 33, Chargers 28: Jay Cutler threw 5 passes. Brandon Marshall had 5 targets. That's really all you need to know here. Marshall and Matt Forte are still the only Bears players I want on my team. I do think Ryan Mathews ran pretty well, and I think he might be being undervalued just a little bit at RB #25 in ESPN ranks.
Bills 20, Vikings 16: EJ Manuel looked good, but still unspectacular - and unfortunately we won't get the chance to see him again until the regular season. I think Manuel is still a year or two away from being relevant in fantasy. I didn't really see anything in this game that made me change my perceptions about either of these teams or the players on them.
Saints 28, Raiders 20: I admittedly didn't watch this game, because I frankly don't care, but all reports out of Saints camp are that Kenny Stills is cementing the 3rd receiver role. We've talked about this before - whoever wins that job between Stills and Nick Toon has flyer value in that offense. Looks like that'll be Stills. I still hate Mark Ingram. And I still hate Darren McFadden.
Patriots 25, Buccaneers 21: I think I have the answer here to "Who is the other Patriots' receiver to own" question. And the answer is: nobody. I know it's nice to think that the Pats will have someone of fantasy relevance other than Danny Amendola. But think about it...when was the last time they REALLY had a 2nd relevant fantasy wideout? When Welker and Moss were together probably? I like Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins, and I think Thompkins might be a hare better, but frankly I don't think either will be consistent enough to matter in a standard league. I think there will be Thompkins games, I think there will be Dobson games. I think there will be Julian Edelman games....I just don't feel comfortable drafting any of them.
49ers 15, Chiefs 13: Well, neither team looked particularly good. We talked a little last week about Knile Davis as a Jamaal Charles handcuff, and I continue to think he's just not good enough to own, even if something happens to Charles.
Cardinals 12, Cowboys 7: I watched this whole game, and I have to say, I'm starting to like Rashard Mendenhall more. And it has nothing to do with how well Mendenhall is playing (he's not), but more to do with how poorly the other Arizona runningbacks are playing. I don't think Mendy has much competition for the job, and I think even a back as washed up as him can have success with as much work as he's about to get. For Dallas, I continue think a) that Dez Bryant might actually have it together now and b) Lance Dunbar is the DeMarco Murray backup.
Bengals 27, Titans 19: I'm starting to jump on the Gio Bernard bandwagon (you're welcome, Tyler). I don't think I'll end up owning him because he's going to get drafted way before I'm comfortable taking him, but I do think he's going to be a big part of what the Bengals do offensively, and he's got the home run capability to make that worth something. For Tennessee, I was encouraged to see Chris Johnson run well again (7/30 plus 2 catches). I think he's another guy that's being undervalued and I wouldn't be mad at using a early to mid-2nd round pick on him.
Jets 37, Jaguars 13: Well, we found at team that the Jets are better than. Bilal Powell had a nice game. Chris Ivory did not. I don't care because the only thing that's worse than the Jets offense is the Jaguars' Defense. Justin Blackmon remains an interesting late sleeper despite the suspension. He's got a ton of upside, especially if Blaine Gabbert channels a decent starting quarterback at some point this year.
Texans 24, Dolphins 17: I thought Lamar Miller looked awful here. The Texans D is good, but I also think that Miller is being waaaaaay overhyped. I think he's okay as a runningback, but I don't think he's got the guaranteed Top 20 upside that some guys think he has. I'm also starting to believe the Ryan Tannehill hype - not to the point that I think he's a fantasy stud, but to the point that I hate Mike Wallace less.
Packers 19, Rams 7: Kind of a whatever result here. I do think Eddie Lacy looked pretty good - he's got some injury issues to deal with, but I think he is very clearly the #1 runningback on a Green Bay team that desperately needs a running game. I'm also starting to buy into the Jermichael Finley reincarnation just a LITTLE bit. I was a huge Finley believer three years ago, and it paid off up until he hurt his leg that year. He hasn't done much since, but reports out of camp are that he's slimmer, working better with Aaron Rodgers, and might be due for a breakout. For St. Louis, it's a good thing that Daryl Richardson is the starter because Isaiah Pead is frickin terrible. I'm also not all the way sold on Tavon Austin yet. I like the talent and the 7 targets he got here. I don't love the fact that he only gained 28 yards on 4 catches and plays on the same team as Sam Bradford.
Seahwaks 40, Broncos 10: So Russell Wilson is pretty good - with or without Percy Harvin. I think after Sidney Rice, Golden Tate might be worth a late round flyer, as he's got the talent to take it to the next level in his contract year. Julius Thomas, the big tight end for Denver, had a second straight decent game...he's still allegedly behind Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreesen on the depth chart, but file that away. Thomas is an athletic freak who's battled injuries for the first couple years of his career. I like his talent, just not the situation. Let's see if that changes.
Colts 20, Giants 12: Andre Brown and David Wilson each had 8 carries at about 4.5 yards per carry here. I think both have value, but I think if I had my druthers, I'd rather Andre Brown, who I think is the better value in the 10th round than Wilson in the 2nd. Darrius Heyward-Bey led the Colts in targets, and as of right now is listed as the #2 receiver. In the 15th round, he's a guy that I like because if he ends up being passed up by T.Y Hilton (which he might), it doesn't hurt your feeling to drop him. Donald Brown is still stupidly bad.
Redskins 24, Steelers 13: You know, even if this Le'Veon Bell foot injury isn't serious, this is now his 2nd injury in the preseason of his rookie year. I'm getting a little bit worried, and I think I would move him down in the low 20s among RBs if I were re-doing my rankings right now. He's got capable backups and I'm not entirely sure that Bell plays every game this year. Also, as much as some experts like Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, I'm not quite as sold. I think Markus Wheaton and Jerricho Cotchery will stil be involved, and Heath Miller will lead the team in red zone targets. I'm just kind of blah on all the Steelers receivers. For Washington, kind of ho hum here.
Tomorrow on the podcast - wide receivers! Plus a couple of targets for your drafts coming up this weekend and a few players to avoid as well. Talk to you then!
EVERYBODY FREAK OUT!!! FOOTBALL IS BACK AND THERE'S ALL THESE SURPRISES!
Look, it's preseason. And even more important, it's the FIRST WEEK of the preseason. Remember, the goal of these games for coaching staffs are to keep their stars healthy and to see what the rest of their roster is going to look like. So, please, don't draft Christine Michael or Lester Jean based on their big games. Jeff Tuel will not be the starter in Buffalo, and Cam Newton is not going to be a fantasy bust.
That being said, there's some things you can look for in preseason games to make some viable fantasy deductions from. Is there a player that no one is talking about that might play his way into a starting lineup? You need to know enough about the team to make reasonable guesses here, but based off last week it's not crazy to think that Robert Woods, Kendrell Thompkins, DeAndre Hopkins, and Cordarrelle Patterson could make the 2-deep at receiver for their respective teams.
Is there a player that could play a prominent backup role behind an aging or oft-injured starter that might be worth drafting as a handcuff or late-round flyer? Cause that's why I think Lance Dunbar and Stepfan Taylor are worth a looksie.
Who's playing with the first team? Who's a "favorite target"? These are things you look for. So don't be fooled by Preston Parker's 2 touchdown catches...he's not going to be a big part of the Saints' offense. And as much as Jordan Todman's 7.5 yards per carry might look sexy, he's still the 3rd string runningback in Jacksonville.
Stop freaking out.
That being said, here's some quick hits from each of the past week's preseason games (and I use the term games very loosely).
Bills 44, Colts 20: CJ Spiller is a beast. That's very apparent, so nothing to see here. I DO think I move him into my Top 5 for one reason. The Bills offense is going to be exceptionally vanilla. Captain Slip in the Tub Kevin Kolb will not be Doug Marrone's starter...the Bills' QB of the future is E.J. Manuel, and he's going to start game 1. And he's got the potential to be pretty good, but he's not yet. Marrone showed with Manuel on the field that he's going to simplify the offense - lots of short passes, uncomplicated reads, etc. to limit Manuel's rookie mistakes. Manuel completed 16 of 21 passes, but there were some ugly passes, and nothing that inspired a ton of confidence. His yards per attempt? 5.1. Who does that benefit? CJ Spiller, who can do more in the receiving game than any other runningback in football. Also, I think Manuel will be an accidentally decent fantasy option because he will get some rushing yards, and I could see him scampering for positive yards any time he feels a little nervous - which could happen a lot.
Giants 18, Steelers 13: Not really much to see here, especially since Le'Veon Bell didn't play for Pittsburgh. I think Andre Brown could end up being one of the steals of the draft though. I think the Wilson/Brown timeshare is a lot more balanced than you think...and Brown looked good in this game. Plus he'll get the goal line work. I think Wilson is the "workhorse", but I wouldn't be surprised if Brown, who's going 6 rounds lower, ends up with more fantasy points
Ravens 44, Bucanneerse 16: The Ravens offense will be unstoppable! Kidding. I really didn't take much from this game. I do think the Ravens offense will be better than we give them credit for under Jim Caldwell, and I think that Luke Stocker could be an interesting sleeper at tight end. But that's not necessarily based off of this game, and it's really all I've got.
Bengals 34, Falcons 10: Steven Jackson is terrible! 5 carries for 8 yards? Kidding. Was glad to see him touch the ball 6 times in 10 plays. But whatever. Jackson is a solid RB2 and that's not changing. Not a lot here. I thought Giovani Bernard looked good, but I still only draft him as a late flyer. Someone has to step up as the #2 receiving option behind AJ Green, and althought Mohammed Sanu is there on the depth chart, I'm not confident that he stays there. Andrew Hawkins is still there, and Brandon Tate as well. I don't know that any of the 3 are draftable in a standard league, but if you're in a deeper pool or a PPR, it's worth watching who emerges in Games 2 and 3.
Browns 27, Rams 19: This is the story of two quarterbacks looking competent. Brandon Weeden and Sam Bradford looked far better than their terrible alter egos that we've gotten used to. If that continues, I think that both Josh Gordon and Chris Givens are good WR3 options with some upside. We've seen flashes from both, and if the quarterback play is even remotely professional, they could have big years. Not really anything new in the RB situation for St. Louis, and I was disappointed to not see Tavon Austin or Jared Cook doing anything in this one. Good to see Jordan Cameron make a nice play for Cleveland, though.
Redskins 22, Titans 21: Remember when Fred Davis was a fantasy starter? Thanks to injury, he was forgotten about last year, but I think he's got some upside and you can literally draft him in the last round. And while I'm not all aboard the Chris Johnson bandwagon, I do think he's being undervalued a little bit in the 3rd round. Outside of Kenny Britt, I want no part of the Titans receiving corps, as none of Kendall Wright, Damian Williams, or Nate Washington has done much to separate themselves. And FYI, I know that people like to hate on Leonard Hankerson, but I'm not convinced that he doesn't have a serviceable year in Washington this year, especially with Santana Moss's age and Pierre Garcon's injury problems.
Broncos 10, 49ers 6: What an absolutely horrific game to watch. Seriously, I watched it. Yuck. It's tough to judge the Broncos runningback situation from this game - after all, we know how got the San Francisco run defense is. I don't think Ball or Hillman either one ran particularly well, but I'll reserve judgement for a week or two. I think Austin Collie makes the team. I think he starts. And I think he has value as a 4th or 5th receiver.
Seahawks 31, Chargerse 10: I stand by my statement to not draft any Chargers players. I don't think they're going to be good at all, and injuries to Danario Alexander and Malcolm Floyd don't help. For the Chargers, nothing here makes me change that opinion. For the Seahawks, Christine Michael is NOT Marshawn Lynch's backup. But he could become that. He's very good. And Robert Turbin is decent, but doesn't have as much raw talent. If something were to happen to Lynch, I could see a timeshare between Michael and Turbin, and I think that the rookie could do something with that. Not worth looking at in any kind of standard format, but if you're in a dynasty league, he might be worth a late-round pickup.
Lions 26, Jets 17: The Jets suck. If there is ANY player I want from New York, it's probably Jeremy Kerley, especially in a PPR, but I'm not ecstatic about that one either. I'm still a believer in Stephen Hill's talent, but I think that until New York gets competent quarterback play he's untouchable. For Detroit, there's two things that stand out. Joique Bell had 5 targets. Here's a guy that had 52 catches last year, and no one is talking about him. Look, LeShoure is the goal line back, but Bell is poor man's Reggie Bush. If Bush gets hurt (likely), Bell could take a really big role in that Lions offense, and I would definitely draft him if I draft Bush. Also, Matthew Stafford completed 3 passes....all to Calvin Johnson. I still believe in Pettigrew and Ryan Broyles as decent fantasy options, but this offense will be all Megatron.
Patriots 31, Eagles 22: Anyone who watched this game and still believes Nick Foles has a chance to be the Eagles' starter needs to be kicked in the mouth. Michael Vick will be the starter, and he will be better than he was last year. Stevan Ridley is a 1st round pick, and a good one. LeGarrette Blount's big game is interesting, but I think Shane Vereen is still the only other back I want. Kenbrell Thompkins has a legitimate chance of being the #2 receiver for New England. He looked better than Aaron Dobson. He played with the first team. He caught 4 of his 5 passes. I think I might draft Thompkins as a 5th or 6th wide receiver, even in a 10-team league. A lot of upside.
Dolphins 27, Jaguars 3: I really think Ryan Tannehill will surprise people. He looked good - granted, against a terrible Jaguars defense, but I think he's decent for a 2-QB league this season. Blaine Gabbert continues to be awful. That's really all I have here.
Texans 27, Vikings 13: I AM a believer in DeAndre Hopkins - he could finally be the 2nd receiver that people actually care about in Houston. Andre Johnson is still the guy, but Hopkins could be interesting in deeper leagues, and I might even take a flyer on him in standard leagues as one of the better upside late-round receivers. Same can be said for Cordarrelle Patterson, who I think is a better fit for the Vikings offense than Greg Jennings and might put up some serviceable fantasy numbers.
Saints 17, Chiefs 13: Good to see Jamaal Charles with a 1-yard touchdown run. Really like him this year. Other than that, I thought Alex Smith looked okay. I think it'll be interesting to see what happens with the Saints' 3rd receiver position. We know that Colston and Moore are #1 and #2, but I remain confident in my Nick Toon call. I don't think he's got a ton of value in standard leagues, but the Saints like his talent, he's looked really good in camp, and I think he's a little more polished than rookie Kenny Stills. Toon could have a nice fantasy game here and there this year, but he's probably more of a name to watch as a bye-week/matchup play.
Cardinals 17, Packers 0: The Cardinals defense is going to be good. I know, they played mostly against Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman, but this is an aggressive defense with a great secondary that has a legitimate chance of being a Top 10 unit this year. I still don't think I want a Cardinals runningback, but Stepfan Taylor made a case to be in the mix with a solid performance...I still think it's Williams, then Mendenhall, then Ellington, but it's a situation that warrants continued looks.
Panthers 24, Bears 17: Jay Cutler threw an interception on his first pass in Marc Tressman's offense. LOL. I still like Cutler this year, but that was just ironic. Other than that, nothing really to talk about here.
Raiders 19, Cowboys 17: Whatever. Darren McFadden looked terrible on his 3 runs, which is why I won't have him on any teams this year. Well, that and his being less healthy than most octogenerians. Dez Bryant is going to be the focal point of the Cowboys offense - if he keeps his head on straight and stays on the field, I think he could end up the #2 receiver in fantasy this year easily (above Marshall and Green). I also think, even though he only got 3 carries, that Lance Dunbar is the guy I want as a Murray handcuff.
So, there's like 1500 words of analysis...on preseason games. I'm super worn out now, so I'm gonna take a nap, grab a cookie, and start looking forward to week 2. We'll learn more this week, as the 1st teams will play more, and we might see some guys that we didn't get a chance to look at last week.
Podcast coming later today - TTFN kids! (that's ta-ta for now, in case you're not up on your internet abbreviations).
I finally popped over to the ESPN Mock Draft lobby over the weekend to do my first of many mock drafts leading up to the season. I wanted to put some theories to the test and also see how things played out with various draft strategies.
I'll walk you through my thought process with each of these picks as well. Two things to note: This is a standard 10-team snake draft following traditional rotisserie scoring. I had the 7th pick in the draft. Here's how my finished product looks:
My first round pick was Calvin Johnson. Now, here's the thought behind this. Picking 7th in the draft, the top tier of running backs was all gone - so Peterson, Martin, Foster, Ray Rice, etc. were all off the board. I could have selected Trent Richardson or Stevan Ridley here, but thought there was a better than average chance that I could get one of them at 13, so I took Johnson who is, without an argument, the #1 wide receiver. I was right - I came back around and got Ridley, who I'm extremely high on, in the 2nd round. I wanted MJD as a #2 back because of the upside, so I got him at 27, then had a decision to make at 33. Randall Cobb, who I have as a Top 5 wide receiver, was still on the board - or I could go quarterback here. At this point Rodgers, Brees, Cam Newton, and Brady were all off the board. I went ahead and took Cobb because I felt like the value of him over the receiver I might get in the next round (probably a guy like Mike Wallace or Steve Smith) would be greater than the value of a QB over my next guy. Colin Kaepernick, who I like even without Crabtree, was still available in the 5th round, so that's my guy. My 6th and 7th round picks I wanted to take high upside flex plays that I knew would have opportunities to score, so Tavon Austin and Lamar Miller were guys I was definitely targeting. I actually wanted Eddie Lacy, but he went off the board just a couple of picks before. I was targeting Jason Witten in the 8th round, but he wasn't available. I wasn't a big fan of the runningbacks and wide receivers in that range - we're talking guys like Ahmad Bradshaw, Torrey Smith, Stevie Johnson, et al. so I got really aggressive and took the Seahawks defense, who I think if it's possible, will be even better this year than they were in 2012 after adding Cliff Avril to their D-line.
With all my starting slots except for tight end lined up, I wanted to start loading up on high-upside bench players. My philosophy was this - I'm really happy with my starters. I have Ridley and MJD as running backs - both who are "the guy" in their resepctive backfields and both who will have plenty of opportunities to score. I have the best #1 and #2 receivers in my league in Megatron and Cobb, and I'm happy at QB with Kaepernick. No reason to take safe players for my bench - I want guys that I think might pop, giving me another viable option OR trade bait. So my next four picks - Sidney Rice, Ryan Williams, Ryan Broyles, and Aaron Dobson - are all guys who I think could have breakout years if they stay healthy. Read my runningback and receiver rankings for explanation. I waited as long as I could on tight end and ended up with Jared Cook, who I think is just as good as anybody else in that range. He, Jermichael Finley, Martellus Bennett, and Brandon Myers are all kind of the same guy, but I think Cook has the most upside. Finished filling out my team with another high-upside guy, Ronnie Hillman, who I think will get the bulk of the carries for Denver - and a lot of yards - just not a lot of TDs. Wanted a backup I could trust if Kaepernick busted, and I actually like Jay Cutler in Marc Tressman's offense. I don't think he's great, but I think he'll throw touchdowns and score points, and in a backup that's all I can ask for.
Normally, I wouldn't draft a backup QB, but there are three guys in my Top 10 that I don't feel comfortable drafting without one - Kaepernick, Stafford, and RGIII, based on either inexperience (Kaepernick) or injury history.
My next mock will be a 12-team league and I'll let you know how my outlook changes. Remember, first podcast on Wednesday!