NFL training camps are officially underway, and the preseason will be here before we know it. At this time of year, fantasy enthusiasts will be making final preparations for impending drafts, and closely watching preseason action is a big part of that process.
Even though starters won't be playing a full 60 minutes at this time of year, we're still able to get a better grasp on how many players—both veterans and rookies—are adjusting to new coaching or schemes.
It also gives us a glimpse of how previously injured players—Reggie Wayne, Doug Martin and more—are looking after rehabbing for an extended period of time.
As we prepare to take in as much information as possible over the preseason, let's kick things off by listing updated flex rankings—players used in the flex position on fantasy rosters—and some sleepers to keep a keen eye on.
|1||Adrian Peterson||RB||Minnesota Vikings|
|2||LeSean McCoy||RB||Philadelphia Eagles|
|3||Jamaal Charles||RB||Kansas City Chiefs|
|4||Matt Forte||RB||Chicago Bears|
|5||Calvin Johnson||WR||Detroit Lions|
|6||Eddie Lacy||RB||Green Bay Packers|
|7||Demaryius Thomas||WR||Denver Broncos|
|8||Dez Bryant||WR||Dallas Cowboys|
|9||Jimmy Graham||TE||New Orleans Saints|
|10||Marshawn Lynch||RB||Seattle Seahawks|
|11||A.J. Green||WR||Cincinnati Bengals|
|12||Arian Foster||RB||Houston Texans|
|13||DeMarco Murray||RB||Dallas Cowboys|
|14||Montee Ball||RB||Denver Broncos|
|15||Brandon Marshall||WR||Chicago Bears|
|16||Julio Jones||WR||Atlanta Falcons|
|17||Giovani Bernard||RB||Cincinnati Bengals|
|18||Le'Veon Bell||RB||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|19||Doug Martin||RB||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|20||Antonio Brown||WR||Pittsburgh Steelers|
Sean O'Donnell's Rankings
Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles should be the de facto top-three selections in fantasy drafts this year. Each of these running backs put together stellar seasons in 2013 and should have no trouble reproducing those performances.
Matt Forte may be a slight surprise at No. 4 overall; however, he's absolutely flourished in Marc Trestman's system, putting up 1,933 yards from scrimmage and 12 total touchdowns last season. His value increases further in PPR leagues due to his career-high 74 receptions.
Forte is looking to continue his blistering pace this season despite his age (he's 28), according to a tweet from Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune:
Another surprise on the list could be Seattle's Marshawn Lynch at No. 10 overall.
Yes, he's one of the most feared runners in the NFL, but due to his current contract dispute, he's difficult to trust at this point of the year. John Clayton of ESPN reported Lynch's holdout may be a short one:
John Clayton on NFL LIVE says Marshawn Lynch's holdout will probably be 5 or 6 days at the most and he likely will not get any new money.— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) July 25, 2014
Although, it's difficult to trust a disgruntled player, and with such a deep backfield in Seattle, there are simply too many questions surrounding Lynch to warrant a higher ranking.
Don't sleep on Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard this year.
As a rookie, Bernard put up some solid numbers despite the bulk of the work going to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. In 2013, he carried 170 times for 695 yards and five touchdowns while adding 56 receptions for 514 yards and three scores.
With the run-oriented Hue Jackson now taking the reins as offensive coordinator, expect Bernard's workload to increase significantly.
|DeAndre Hopkins||WR||Houston Texans|
|Rueben Randle||WR||New York Giants|
|Christine Michael||RB||Seattle Seahawks|
|Marvin Jones||WR||Cincinnati Bengals|
|Kenny Stills||WR||New Orleans Saints|
|Ahmad Bradshaw||RB||Indianapolis Colts|
|Jarrett Boykin||WR||Green Bay Packers|
|Carlos Hyde||RB||San Francisco 49ers|
|Markus Wheaton||WR||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|Jordan Matthews||WR||Philadelphia Eagles|
Seahawks running back Christine Michael is one to keep an eye on throughout the preseason. A very talented runner, he's looking to work his way up the depth chart. During Lynch's holdout, he'll get a chance to shine, and he could benefit greatly from the opportunity.
Michael has a great chance to share some carries with Lynch this season, according to Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times:
We all know the story with Michael. Limited to just 79 yards on 18 carries, fourth on the team, while working behind Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin a year ago, but entering camp with a chance to earn a much larger role this season. His play in the spring did nothing to quell the idea he will get regular carries this season. The only question is how many.
Pete Carroll is already seeing improvement in the second-year back, via a tweet from the Seahawks' official Twitter account:
Well, that's a big mistake considering the unfortunate season-ending injury to Vick Ballard:
Colts RB Vick Ballard has torn his Achilles, source says. Brutal. Looking at another lost season— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 25, 2014
Now, Bradshaw finds himself in line to split carries with the underachieving Trent Richardson.
In 14 games with Indianapolis last season, Richardson carried 157 times for 458 yards—an average of 2.9 yards per carry—and three scores. While Bradshaw only played in three games, he rushed 41 times for 186 yards—an average of 4.5 yards per carry—and two scores.
If Bradshaw can remain healthy this season—something he's struggled with throughout his career—and Richardson continues to struggle through the preseason, he could be one of the biggest steals of the draft.