While the preseason is largely viewed as unimportant by football fans, there are always a few tidbits worth taking into the regular season. That naturally has a major impact on fantasy football leagues as every owner is looking to gain the slightest advantage over their competition.
Despite the notion that the preseason doesn't matter, fantasy player rankings tend to fluctuate fairly significantly from the beginning of the preseason to the end of it. Due to a mixture of on-field performance, injuries, roster cuts and depth chart shuffling, there are a number of players who seem to be much better fantasy picks now than they were a month ago.
It's important to do your homework before jumping at a fast-rising player since there is a fairly high bust probability, but here are three such players that you should target in your draft.
Running back Reggie Bush never quite reached his full potential with the New Orleans Saints as they didn't trust him to be an every-down back. Bush was still a valuable fantasy contributor when healthy, though, due to his pass-catching ability. Bush spent the last two seasons with the Miami Dolphins, and he developed into a reliable No. 2 back in fantasy terms. He eclipsed 200 carries in each of his two seasons with the Dolphins, rushed for over 2,000 yards cumulatively and averaged six rushing touchdowns per year.
Despite Bush's fine production, the Dolphins decided to move forward with Lamar Miller as their starter. This resulted in Bush signing with the Detroit Lions. The Lions aren't exactly known for running the ball as quarterback Matthew Stafford set an NFL record in pass attempts last season, but Bush finds himself in the ideal situation. Opposing defenses have to spend all of their time and energy stopping all-world receiver Calvin Johnson, which is something that appealed to Bush when he signed with Detroit, according to the Lions' official Twitter account.
Bush had 88 receptions in two years with the Dolphins, so he is still a reliable receiver out of the backfield, but Miami could have utilized him much better in that regard. There is little doubt that the Lions give Bush a chance to replicate the receiving numbers he put up while in New Orleans. Bush caught 88 passes as a rookie, and that number isn't out of reach. Bush caught 10 passes during the preseason, so he is a must-have guy in point-per-reception leagues especially. The former No. 2 overall pick may have second-round value at this point, and there is no way he should make it out of the third.
It isn't unheard of for undrafted wide receivers to make an impact at the NFL level, but it normally takes those receivers a few years to get accustomed to the league. With most of their top receivers from last year out of the picture, though, the New England Patriots expect Kenbrell Thompkins to contribute right away. It may seem crazy to invest in a guy who every NFL team ignored just a few months ago, but quarterback Tom Brady is famous for making relative unknowns into stars.
Based on the way things have gone in the preseason, Thompkins should be the next name on that list. With Wes Welker now in Denver, Rob Gronkowski injured and both Brandon Lloyd and Aaron Hernandez released, the Pats have somewhat of a patchwork receiving corps. Free-agent signee Danny Amendola should do well out of the slot, but there is a total lack of experienced outside receivers. That is where Thompkins comes in as ESPN fantasy expert Matthew Berry believes that he will settle in as New England's No. 2 wideout.
Kenbrell Thompkins over Dobson for Pats WR you want after Amendola. EJ Manuel will be Bills QB & offers too 15 upside due to rushing.— Matthew Berry (@MatthewBerryTMR) August 17, 2013
Thompkins' preseason numbers seem to back up that assertion as he caught 15 passes for 166 yards and started three of the four games. Thompkins was especially good in New England's dress rehearsal as he torched the Lions for eight grabs and 116 yards. According to ESPN.com, Thompkins is being selected 2.5 picks earlier on average over the past week, so fantasy owners are taking notice. Don't pay starter money in order to get him, but if you strike in the ninth or 10th round you should be very happy with the results.
Which fast-rising player will have the best fantasy season in 2013?
It's never good to see someone get injured, but fantasy owners who drafted New York Giants running back David Wilson had to be feeling pretty good about themselves when backup Andre Brown went down with a broken leg in the Giants' preseason game against the Patriots. According to Chris Wesseling of NFL.com, Brown will miss four to six weeks with the injury, so Wilson will have the backfield all to himself. That doesn't necessarily guarantee success, but Wilson will be given every opportunity to carry the load for the G-Men.
Wilson is viewed as an all-or-nothing player by some, but he was absolutely spectacular during the preseason as he rushed 24 times for 179 yards, which is a 7.5-yard average. That obviously isn't sustainable, but it shows how dynamic Wilson can be. The main concern surrounding Wilson was the possibility of Brown vulturing touchdowns since Brown excels in short-yardage situation, but that won't be an issue for the first several weeks of the season at the very least. According to Rotoworld, Wilson is expected to handle the goal-line carries for New York, and that pumps up his value even more.
David Wilson to handle Giants goal-line work http://t.co/GqngczaA5I— Rotoworld Football (@Rotoworld_FB) August 31, 2013
Wilson's average draft position in ESPN leagues is now 31.7, according to ESPN.com, so it will take an early third-round pick to get him. Wilson is currently being selected behind veterans like Steven Jackson and Frank Gore, but Wilson's ceiling is significantly higher. The Giants haven't run the ball particularly well over the past few years, but it hasn't been for a lack of trying. Now that they have an explosive back like Wilson in a starting role, look for New York's ground game to take on a much bigger role.
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