Fantasy Football Takeaways Through NFL Preseason Week 2
Normally, the third week of the preseason features the games which really count, as the starters for teams tend to play the longest.
This year, though, it seems as though we are seeing a lot of starters go deep in the early games as well.
So we've had a longer-than-normal look at a lot of the guys we used to have to wait until the third game to see. That means we have more intelligence on players at an earlier point than we've had in a long time.
So, with two weeks in the books, what have we learned?
You Can Really Wait on a Quarterback
I was recently part of a fantasy draft for a league I've been with for 10 years. We had a quarterback run in the fifth round, with four being taken. I held off, grabbing talent for other positions despite some quarterbacks I really liked going during that run and over the next few rounds.
I ended up grabbing Andy Dalton late in Round 10 and Carson Palmer in Round 14.
While I'd love to have a stud quarterback—or even one with higher upside—I am more than content with a combination of Dalton and Palmer.
Why? Because as we saw again this week, there are plenty of productive quarterbacks to choose from. The talent pool is deep.
We've seen good (if at times inconsistent) play from Dalton, Ryan Tannehill, Tony Romo, Matt Schaub, Jay Cutler and Mike Vick among others. All can be had long after the top five to 10 quarterbacks are gone.
So unless you have your heart set on one of the top three or five quarterbacks, wait. See what talent drops to you at other positions and grab a good quarterback later.
Cross BenJarvus Green-Ellis off Your Fantasy Cheat Sheet
We talked about this Sunday night, but it bears repeating: Giovani Bernard is taking that starting job from BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Maybe it won't happen by Week 1, but it's happening.
It's not so much the statistics—17 carries for 65 yards and a pair of touchdowns isn't exactly reminiscent of Barry Sanders or Emmitt Smith. It's the way he runs the ball, the threat he is to take a short run and turn it into a back-breaking long play.
For all that he does well—and Green-Ellis is a solid back—he doesn't scare anyone the way Bernard does.
That dynamic ability has been evident on many of Bernard's carries.
"Law Firm" doesn't have much of a shelf life left, and there are backs with a lot more consistency, safety or upside who you can grab instead.
The Denver Broncos Running Backs Are Scary, and Maybe Not in a Good Way
Again, something else we touched on Saturday night, but the Broncos backfield may be sliding the wrong way on draft boards.
With pass protection being key for an offensive line, Montee Ball has to improve if he wants significant snaps. No way will head coach John Fox risk Peyton Manning behind a shaky offensive line with a running back who can't pass protect.
On the other hand, you will also lose reps if you cough the ball up—something Ronnie Hillman will need to correct. You can't turn the ball over in the end zone, even if most of the time it doesn't result in a field-long touchdown by the defense.
Which leaves Knowshon Moreno, who nobody trusts as far as they can throw him.
It's not a backfield you have to avoid, but one you need to be careful with. You'll have to pick your poison and make sure you don't go early on them.
More than likely, Ball will get the red-zone looks, while Hillman should get a lot of reps, especially on third down.
Go in assuming no more than that, unless we see some improvement very soon.
Rookie Wide Receivers Are Going to Be Dangerous in More Than One Way This Year
It is very hard to remember that the majority of rookie wide receivers struggle.
This group looks different, but is it?
Cordarrelle Patterson and DeAndre Hopkins (currently out with a concussion) are having superb preseasons. Elsewhere, Tavon Austin finally got started against the Green Bay Packers, and that included an overthrown potential touchdown from quarterback Sam Bradford.
They all have talent. They all look good.
They are all less safe than they appear.
Just keep in mind when you draft them to not oversell yourself on them. Realize that they will struggle and have issues and bad games. Their quarterback may avoid them, they may have issues on the routes—lots of things can go wrong.
Their upside is huge, sure. But their floor might be lower than you think.
There Are Very Few San Diego Chargers to Draft
It's not been looking too good for the San Diego Chargers offense. Sure, quarterback Philip Rivers should see an uptick in his statistics since he has a much better head coach than he's had in a while. But the team didn't do enough to surround him with the talent he needs, especially on the offensive line.
Meanwhile, Ryan Mathews has been injured and mediocre almost since his rookie season. He will lose some snaps to Danny Woodhead, who—while fun to watch—has rarely been relevant in fantasy football.
There's a lot of uncertainty here, a lot which you'd probably be better off avoiding.
The Chicago Bears Offense Will Scare Owners Off, but It Shouldn't
It's true that, so far, the Chicago Bears' starting offense has been less than spectacular.
It's also true that we've seen some of the players involved in that offense slide in recent fantasy drafts (subscriber link).
That's fine—it just means you can get Brandon Marshall or Martellus Bennett at a better value right now.
This offense will click. It may not happen in the preseason, but it will happen.
Right now, everyone seems worried about Jay Cutler and Marshall not producing like they did last year, or that the offense won't move the chains, thereby hurting Matt Forte.
Let them. In fact, complain loudly at your draft about it.
Let the players fall, grab them and laugh all the way to the league championship.
Andrew Luck Is Looking Awfully Good for 2013
Allowing for the fact that the New York Giants have issues in the secondary, Andrew Luck had a very impressive outing against them.
After a quiet first week, Luck threw for 107 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He's reading the field well, hitting his best receivers (Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton were the recipients of touchdown passes) and generally looking like he won't break stride as we head into the 2013 NFL season.
Luck has the ability to be a top-10 fantasy quarterback. He is one of those guys for whom it's worth passing on the early quarterbacks.
Tom Brady Is Not Only Fine, He's Awesome
Tom Brady gave everyone a scare, but it turns out his knee injury wasn't bad. He's still one of the most ridiculous quarterbacks ever.
Not only was he obviously healthy, but he looked as sharp as he ever has (11-of-12, 107 yards, one touchdown) and already seems to have great chemistry with Danny Amendola and tight end Zach Sudfeld (more on him shortly).
A lot of people were slowly moving Brady down their draft boards, but they shouldn't. While I still firmly believe you should wait on a quarterback (see slide No. 1), Brady is a value pick right now.
Who ever expected Brady to be a value? Going in the fourth, fifth or even sixth round (subscriber link) is certainly that, and it's not anything I ever thought I would see.
It really doesn't seem to matter who he has to throw to. He just elevates whomever it is and scores fantasy points.
Zach Sudfeld Is No Longer a Sleeper
Last time I brought him up, someone was bummed because he really was hoping Zach Sudfeld would remain a sleeper.
This time I can mention him and not upset anyone, because he definitely isn't one anymore.
A pair of catches for 32 yards and a touchdown won't get him into the Hall of Fame, but it was enough to get his name on everyone's radar.
Sudfeld has the look of a guy who is going to break out. Some of that could depend on Rob Gronkowski's health, but at this point, Sudfeld is earning a lot of Brady's trust.
That sounds like something that will pay off for fantasy owners later this season.
New York Jets Backfield Is an Absolute Mess
Chris Ivory finally played a down for the New York Jets, but it wasn't what the team had hoped for. Ivory looked rusty and had his carries limited because the team is worried about him after his hamstring injury, reports Michael J. Fensom of The Star-Ledger.
Meanwhile, third-year running back Bilal Powell had a great night, carrying the ball seven times for 68 yards and looking pretty strong when he had to fight for a tough yard.
Who is going to get the carries here? Does it matter?
Probably not, though you should reach for Powell to cover Ivory if you draft him. We can be pretty sure Ivory won't make it through the whole season (he never has before), so the Jets will turn to his backup, who as of right now is Powell.
However, neither of these guys is likely to net you many points, especially in an offense which seems prime for some huge issues.
Save yourself a headache and avoid it altogether.
The Pittsburgh Steelers' Backfield Isn't What We Thought It Was
The Pittsburgh Steelers had some success moving the ball on the ground against the Washington Redskins, but not the way we expected them to.
Rookie Le'Veon Bell had a few good carries but was largely ineffective, while the production came from veteran Jonathan Dwyer.
Dwyer totaled 68 yards on 14 carries for a 4.85 yards-per-carry average. Impressive for a guy who was only marginally successful in 2012.
That said, it's not a safe bet that Dwyer will become the main man in Pittsburgh as Bell is very talented and should supplant him.
On top of that, the offensive line still has issues and will hamper the Steelers running attack.
Bell is still the back I'd want here, but his current ADP (subscriber link) has him listed as the 42nd player on the board and I don't feel comfortable with him there. A round later (5th or so) feels much safer to me.
Leonard Hankerson May Be the Real Deal
I'm not a charter member of the "Leonard Hankerson Fan Club for Fantasy Nerds" and have been critical of him since I saw him down in Mobile at the Senior Bowl.
He might finally be proving myself and many others wrong. Hankerson has talent but so far hadn't found a way to show it on the field.
In two games, Hankerson has caught six balls for 64 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Monday night's touchdown came from Rex Grossman of all people—so it's not even a case of "well he and Kirk Cousins just happen to click."
This is a team which has to find an option across from Pierre Garcon.
Hankerson might finally be emerging as that guy.
Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Markus Wheaton Will Get the Job Done
The bad news is Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a rough outing Monday night, including a pick-six.
We've seen Brown and Sanders before, but Monday night was the first time we got an extended look at Wheaton and it was pretty impressive.
All three of these receivers are fantasy-viable. Brown is coming off the board as the 24th wide receiver**, usually about the fifth or sixth round. Depending on the draft, it's not insane to think that he could get selected earlier.
Sanders is going a lot later, as the 42nd receiver off the board**, somewhere in the 11th round.
Wheaton is going undrafted** for the most part, but is worth a slot on your bench in case he really takes off.
While Mike Wallace is looking like a good fit in Miami, Pittsburgh won't miss a beat with the guys left behind.
And neither should fantasy owners.
**All ADP information via Footballguys.com - subscription based link.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at Footballguys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.
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