There's a large contingent of football fans that staunchly believe preseason games are completely inconsequential. To these naysayers, they're nothing more than an evaluation phase for head coaches looking to comprise the best 53-man roster possible. However, most fanatics would vehemently disagree. Exhibition action gives owners the opportunity to gain invaluable insight into potential sleepers and busts. In an attempt to decipher the meaningful from the meaningless, here are the top-five Flames from Preseason Week 2.
Chris Ivory, NYJ, RB – It’s entirely likely the fantasy community has greatly undervalued Ivory. Toting the load for the Jets first team in Atlanta, the brutalizing back smashed and dashed his way to 36 yards and a touchdown, a 33-yard scamper off right tackle (WATCH IT HERE), on five carries. Shockingly, he also caught three passes for 20 yards, a box score contribution that shifted tectonic plates. As always, the former Saint ran aggressively between the tackles and gained ample yards after contact (85.2 YAC% this preseason). His hard-nosed approach, improved hands and minimal competition support the rumors he’ll be a three-down workhorse in Chan Gailey’s spread offense. Bilal Powell will supplant him at times on pass/third downs, but it’s entirely conceivable he totals 250-270 touches, especially if Ryan Fitzpatrick occasionally uses him as a safety valve. Stevan Ridley, coming off knee surgery, and Zac Stacy, coming off a gnarly case of suckitis, are weak competition. And, as a whole, the Jets O is far from a punchline. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker aren't slouches folks. At his 62.3 ADP (RB29), it’s realistic to think he’ll turn a handsome profit. In other words, he's the ideal ZeroRB target. Roughly 1,100 combined yards with 6-8 TDs are within reach this fall.
Matt Jones, Was, RB – Look out Alf. Those footsteps you hear are drawing near. The rookie from Florida impressed for the second-straight game. Last week against leftover Browns he compiled 49 yards on six touches. Mixing in with the ‘A’ team in the encore versus Detroit, he bulled his way to 44 yards on eight carries with a touchdown. In both games, he displayed quick feet, assertive push and shifty hips (SEE HIGHLIGHTS HERE). At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, Jones is terrific blend of power and versatility. He’s a north-south bulldozer who gets downhill quickly while maintaining excellent pad level. Also effective as a pass blocker and receiver, he owns a three-down makeup. Morris, for now, is slated for first and second-down duties, but Jones’ all-around skillset poses a threat. Ascending rapidly in the eyes of Jay Gruden and fantasy zealots alike, he could wrest away some 10-12 touches per game once the regular season gets underway. Though the coaching staff clearly cares less about RGIII’s well-being, leaning on the ground game would certainly help alleviate pocket pressure and keep the embattled QB alive. At Jones' current 153.2 ADP (RB58), he’s an upside bench back worthy of a roster spot in 12-team and deeper leagues.
Jimmy Garoppolo, NE, QB – Not exactly Tom Brady courtroom-sketch ugly, Garoppolo threw one pretty pass after another in New Orleans. Composed, accurate and highly efficient with ones and twos, he completed 28 of 33 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS HERE). Through two preseason games, the Eastern Illinois product has made significant strides across the board. Blessed with a quick release and considerable pocket poise, he's completed 76.2 percent of his attempts, though his deep ball is still a work in progress. With or without Brady for the regular season’s first four games, the Patriots should be in good hands. Assuming Mr. Bundchen serves his full suspension, it’s not loony to project fringe QB1 numbers early on for Garoppolo. A difficult road matchup at Buffalo the exception, New England is blessed with a favorable out-of-the-gate slate, including delectable matchups against Pittsburgh and Jacksonville. Only a complete nincompoop would post porous numbers against soft opponents with Rob Gronkowski, Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman on roster. Facing the Steelers opening night sans LeGarrette Blount, he’s a strong candidate to log 250 yards and two scores. Suffice it to say, I will own a boatload of Jimmy G shares in Daily. Brady investors and QB streamers take notice.
Nelson Agholor, Phi, WR – Chatted up repeatedly in this space over the past several weeks, the rookie from USC is coming into his own. He was a standout for the second straight week exhibiting crisp routes, separation/ball-tracking skills and off-the-line quicks. His four catches for 45 yards didn't light up the scoreboard, but he's undoubtedly the most talented option outside Jordan Matthews on the Eagles roster. Josh Huff and Riley Cooper simply can't compete. Among projected starters, only Brandin Cooks has tallied a higher preseason WR rating according to Pro Football Focus. Chip Kelly professed his love for the kid in May. Soon, his fantasy investors will express a similar adoration. Keep in mind, the Eagles attempted the fifth-most pass attempts last year. The ground game and Matthews will be Philly's flavor most times inside the red-zone, but a long TD reception or five are plausible for the rookie. Recall Jeremy Maclin was targeted 144 times last year. J-Matt will see an uptick from his 103 looks last year, but Agholor may entice roughly 7-9 targets per game from the get go. At his current 67.2 ADP (WR29), he's WR3 gold. A 65-1000-6 line is completely achievable.
Richard Rodgers, GB, TE – Catastrophe greeted Green Bay Sunday in Pittsburgh as Jordy Nelson succumbed to a torn ACL. Losing a second marquee wide receiver in less than a week was a major bummer, but the games must go on. Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery and Jeff Janis instantly received value upgrades. Though he hasn't received as much publicity, the sophomore tight end deserves one too. Evidenced in his 3-30-1 output against the Steelers, the depth-chart topper is on the cusp of a breakthrough campaign. Late last week, Mike McCarthy praised Rodgers for his playbook advancements work ethic and on-field execution. A season ago, the Cal product was a deer in headlights. His skinnier frame and dull routes greatly hindered his production, particularly after the catch (1.9 YAC in '14). Stronger and brimming with confidence, he looks like a totally different player. It's been four years since the Packers cranked out a top-10 fantasy TE (JerMichael Finley). Down Jordy and with Aaron Rodgers' faith in him growing by the second, Rodgers is a late-round wildcard worth stashing in challenging formats.
Tyrod Taylor is now firmly on the radar in two-QB formats. He showed playmaking ability via ground and air against the Browns (7/10, 65 yds, 4-41). Playing with a bunch of glorified CFLers he was efficient in zone-read, exhibited solid zip/accuracy on his passes and played with poise. One more strong effort and Matt Cassel/E.J. Manuel will be left in the dust. His rushing contributions definitely raise his profile ... B-Marsh hauled in four catches for 62 yards against Atlanta. He showcased vintage form winning battles at the line of scrimmage while running smooth routes. With a short-armed QB under center and in an air-friendly system, it’s no stretch to predict 75-plus catches for the former Pro Bowler … Are we underrating Jeremy Maclin? Everyone writes KC WRs off after last year’s TD drought, but the coveted free agent is the most talented target the Chiefs have had in eons. His ADP has crept up slightly in recent days, but at 65.6 (WR28) he could be a WR2 at a WR3 price. His three receptions for 22 yards and a TD on a couple series against Seattle may only be the beginning ... No one questioned Dorial Green-Beckham's physical prowess when the Titans took him with the 40th overall pick in May's Draft. At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, dude is a cell-phone tower. But his raw routes, suspect work ethic and previous off-the-field transgressions raised doubt. However, he's kept his head on straight and displayed substantial polish. If Marcus Mariota establishes some consistency, watch out. DGB is shaping up to be one nasty playmaker and red-zone threat, provided he has a 'fall guy' ...
The Twitter infatuation for Lions RB Zach Zenner is puzzling. Has he looked good? Yes. He's averaged 4.53 yards per carry in two games displaying excellent versatility and break-tackle ability. However, he racked those numbers largely against third-stringers. Behind Joique Bell, Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah and even George Winn in the pecking order, there's no guarantee he makes the team. Chill. Now if Jerry Jones goes after him ... Please continue to buy the hype on Charles Johnson. I'll gladly take the discount on Mike Wallace. No knock on Johnson, who caught four passes for 40 yards and a TD against the Raiders and reportedly is Teddy Bridgewater's most trusted receiver, but Wallace is the superior talent, when motivated. I'm confident the seasoned vet is the Vikings WR to own and a fantastic value at his 80.1 ADP (WR32) ... If you didn't know already, Brandin Cooks is good, really good. His slick sticks, reliable hands and explosion after the catch torched New England (4-117-1, HIGHLIGHTS). I still believe end-zone dances won't be a common occurrence in a socialist offense, but 95-100 catches for 1,200 yards are possible ...
Another sophomore receiver, Allen Robinson, is well on his way to a breakout campaign. The Jags' No. 1 hauled in three passes for 64 yards against the Giants. If Blake Bortles shows competency, the WR is a near lock for 70-1000-7 ... Indy's offensive line is as unsatisfactory as it was last year. Andrew Luck was placed under duress 33.3 percent of the time against a below-average Bears D-line. But don't be overly alarmed, Luck fans. Inept blocking tends to benefit opportunistic QB runners ... You're kidding yourself if you believe Ryan Mathews won't play a prominent role this year. Playing with Eagles' starters, he, DeMarco Murray and Darren Sproles formed a three-headed monster. It's safe to assume, he'll register 10-12 touches per game and occasionally poach at the goal-line. Bury the hatchet ... Andre Ellington haters are rejoicing after David Johnson laid the lumber on San Diego. The rookie ran tough between-the tackles and flashed dependable hands finishing with 81 total yards on 15 touches. Ellington is locked into the starting gig, but Johnson is one strong effort away from sewing up the No. 2 spot. Handcuff ...
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