Fantasy Football 2013: Which Preseason Studs Will Be Fantasy Duds?

Alessandro MiglioFeatured ColumnistAugust 26, 2013

Fantasy Football 2013: Which Preseason Studs Will Be Fantasy Duds?

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    Beware the preseason hype. It's coming for you and your fantasy football teams.

    Every year we see a handful of fantasy football players rise up in the preseason with fantastic performances. Travaris Cadet led the league in receiving yards out of the backfield last preseason. He made nary a peep during the regular season.

    This season, there are plenty of players making noise, creating hype for themselves in the fantasy realm. Click through to find out who you should avoid, or at least avoid overpaying for.

Terrelle Pryor, QB, Oakland Raiders

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    Quarterback Matt Flynn is faltering. The sun rises in the east. Taxes are due in April. The bell tolls for all.

    Terrelle Pryor's ascent to the starting job seems planned out at this point. The third-year quarterback had an outside shot at the job heading into this season given the makeup of the Raiders offense, but conventional wisdom said Flynn was acquired as a stopgap.

    Flynn has been anything but good this preseason, while Pryor has shone at times. Pryor's moments have come against second- and third-string defenders, so his success must be taken with a grain of salt. But at this point, what do the Raiders have to lose?

    If he does wind up being named starter, he will experience a big spike in fantasy football value. After all, Pryor makes plays with his legs—just like Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, right?

    Hold your horses.

    This is the Oakland Raiders we're talking about. Pryor hasn't been able to move up the depth chart because he hasn't been good enough. Running quarterbacks have taken fantasy football by storm, but they're not all equal.

     

     

Brandon Weeden, QB, Cleveland Browns

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    It has been a rather nice preseason for quarterback Brandon Weeden. 

    The second-year pro simply lit up his first two opponents (the Rams and Lions) for 229 yards and three touchdowns while he was in the games. He was efficient and sharp in those games, giving pause to would-be fantasy owners. Was he worth a shot as a backup?

    Weeden's third game (against the Colts) wasn't nearly as good, though, and he won't be facing vanilla defenses all season long. Don't waste a draft pick on him.

Roy Helu, RB, Washington Redskins

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    The din is growing louder behind running back Roy Helu, who is finally healthy and having a great preseason.

    He has the third-down back role on lockdown, and he has looked excellent when used as a workhorse when Alfred Morris is out of the game. Helu is fourth in NFL preseason rushing with 157 yards while averaging 5.8 yards per carry in three games.

    Pump the brakes on the hype train, though. This is fool's burgundy and gold.

    For starters, Mike Shanahan isn't known for running a committee in his backfield. Whoever the starting running back is will get a veritable lion's share of work. That man is Alfred Morris, and there is no reason to believe this has changed.

    Then there is Helu's injury history. He was put on ice at the end of his rookie season, then he hit injured reserve in Week 5 of 2012 with a toe injury.

    Those issues might be behind him, or they might flare up again early this year. At any rate, there are too many obstacles to make Helu fantasy relevant unless Morris is injured.

Kenny Stills, WR, New Orleans Saints

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    The hype around a No. 3 receiver in New Orleans is almost an annual event.

    Devery Henderson made a living taunting fantasy owners with his potential in the offense. Henderson is long gone, but rookie Kenny Stills occupies that spot this year.

    Stills has had a smoldering preseason, averaging 20 yards per catch and grabbing two touchdowns on seven catches. Quarterback Drew Brees has looked to Stills deep several times, helping to explain why his average is so high.

    It's easy to get excited about his preseason performances, but four receivers are likely ahead of him for targets: Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Darren Sproles and Lance Moore. Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram are in that mix as well.

    Stills has upside, but he is very much a boom-or-bust proposition in fantasy football, with a much higher bust potential on a week-to-week basis.

Brice Butler, WR, Oakland Raiders

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    Al Davis might not be with us anymore, but his legacy haunts the Raiders.

    Brice Butler is fast. No wonder Oakland loves him. While the 6'3" receiver probably won't be a burner in Bo Jackson's mold, he did run a 4.37-second 40-yard dash at the combine.

    The Raiders liked the San Diego State product enough to take him in the seventh round, and he has done well enough that he is reportedly in the mix for the No. 1 job at receiver. Butler is averaging 21.6 yards per catch this preseason, but it's on just five catches.

    Butler still has Denarius Moore, Juron Criner and Jacoby Ford to deal with, and his offense isn't exactly a juggernaut. Don't bother with Butler unless you're in a huge or dynasty league.

Christine Michael, RB, Seattle Seahawks

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    There has been plenty of buzz surrounding running back Christine Michael, who has had himself a dandy preseason. Last week's performance against the Packers only reinforced the perception he could be a big contributor on offense this season.

    Don't buy the hype.

    Michael is a talented individual, to be sure, but let's look at the facts. For starters, Marshawn Lynch will still garner the majority of the playing time in the backfield. Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Lynch played 785 snaps to Robert Turbin's 275 last season, and there is no reason to believe Lynch has lost a significant share of that playing time.

    For argument's sake, if we assume a 60-40 split between Lynch and his backups—a rather generous number for the backups given recent history—that means Turbin and Michael might combine for 400 snaps.

    How many of those would Michael get?

    Based on last week's playing time, Turbin is the clear backup. He ran seven times for 37 yards in the first half, while Michael got just two for eight yards. Michael's explosive touchdown run came in the second half against Green Bay's backups.

    While Michael certainly looks like the heir apparent in terms of talent, the Seahawks simply have too many options to consider Michael viable in traditional redraft formats unless you play in a deep league where you carry 10-plus bench players. 

Zach Sudfeld, TE, New England Patriots

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    What a preseason tight end Zach Sudfeld has had.

    The undrafted rookie went from flier to savior as the Patriots scrambled to account for the loss of Aaron Hernandez and an injured Rob Gronkowski.

    Sudfeld has elicited rave reviews at training camp, and he is the de facto starter as long as Gronkowski is out. Quarterback Tom Brady has shown trust in the rookie, tossing him passes in tight windows and over the middle.

    But last week, Sudfeld fumbled away a scoring opportunity for the Patriots, a momentum-halting moment that began a torrent of turnovers en route to a significant loss.

    The fumble got him benched for the rest of the game despite the fact that he is a rookie who is still learning. Combined with the fact Gronkowski is slated to come back at some point—hopefully in the first few weeks of the season—Sudfeld's value suddenly doesn't look so hot.

    Granted, any receivers playing significant time with Brady will have big fantasy potential, but it's getting too expensive to draft Sudfeld these days.

Reggie Bush, RB, Detroit Lions

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    Reggie Bush is the new Marshall Faulk if his preseason performance is to be believed.

    Quarterback Matthew Stafford relied heavily on his new starting running back. Bush is leading the team in receiving this preseason, including a five-catch, 103-yard performance against the Patriots last week.

    In fairness, Bush isn't going to be a full dud this season. He will have a nice year provided he can stay healthy. But what have you seen throughout his career that tells you he will finally live up to his potential?

    Lest we forget, Bush was unproductive in a high-octane offense with the Saints before getting traded to the Dolphins. Darren Sproles had no problem producing as a pass-catching running back after Bush's departure.

    Bush did a better job in Miami, but he wasn't exactly a fantasy juggernaut. He is back in a high-powered offense, but does that make him a top-flight option?

    Furthermore, Bush blamed the turf in New Orleans for his injury woes there. Now he's back on a similar surface in Detroit. How long before he is knocked out for a few games or worse?