Tony Romo has been diagnosed with a broken bone in his back, with the latest reports suggesting his earliest return would be after Dallas’ Week 7 bye. It’s another tough blow for Romo, who simply can’t stay healthy and will be coming off another major back injury (he’s already had two surgeries) at age 36. He can be removed from draft boards in standard fantasy leagues. Enter Dak Prescott, who’s been the most eye-opening player in the NFL during preseason games, when he’s produced a 7:0 TD:INT ratio while getting 9.1 YPA. He’s an obvious upgrade over previous Dallas backup QBs (the team has won once over their last 14 games without Romo), but it’s one thing to perform in the preseason and another when it counts.
Prescott is an interesting flier now because he can also run, and his presence shouldn’t affect Ezekiel Elliott’s fantasy value all that much (but it certainly doesn’t help). Dez Bryant, meanwhile, needs to be lowered down wide receiver rankings. He was essentially worthless with Romo sidelined last season (albeit playing while injured himself), and while Prescott will keep Bryant’s value afloat, he’s coming off a recent concussion and is no longer in the WR1 discussion.
Matthew Stafford: Losing Calvin Johnson is obviously not ideal, but Stafford completed 70.0 percent of his passes and posted a 19:2 TD:INT ratio (with a rushing score) over the second half of last season. It seems counterintuitive given his strong arm, but Jim Bob Cooter’s system that concentrates on underneath routes has produced some of the best football of Stafford’s career. The Lions also plan to run a no-huddle offense much more frequently (they’ve ran it more than 60 percent of the time this preseason), which should also be beneficial to Stafford and his fantasy owners. There are still plenty of weapons in Detroit, and Stafford’s ADP remains extremely affordable (QB17).
Christine Michael: He’s turned 24 carries into 157 yards (6.5 YPC) over three games during the preseason. Michael has burned fantasy owners time and again, but all reports (be it by coaches or teammates) suggest the light bulb has finally turned on. Thomas Rawls enters 2016 as Seattle’s lead back, but Michael is suddenly one of the top “handcuffs” to own. In that system and with his talent, he has the upside be an easy RB1 should Rawls get injured again.
James White: A second knee surgery is going to sideline Dion Lewis for 8-10 weeks, moving White into the role as New England’s passing down back. He’s not as good as Lewis, but it moves White way up draft boards, especially in PPR formats. It’s too bad Lewis simply can’t stay on the field.
Jared Cook: It’s usually best not to overrate preseason games, but if there’s any time to pay attention, it’s during Week 3. During the 26 snaps in which Aaron Rodgers played Friday night, Cooks was on the field for 19 of them, while Richard Rodgers saw two. Cook is the superior talent, won’t cost a high draft pick and could easily be a TE1 with Rodgers now throwing to him.
Tajae Sharpe: The fifth round rookie entered the summer completely off most radars, but he’s now favored to start immediately in Tennessee. It’s a team that’s going to run a lot, but Marcus Mariota could make a leap in year two, and it’s not like Rishard Matthews is a true dominant No. 1 (and the Titans traded Dorial Green-Beckham). Sharpe is an interesting late round flier.
Dez Bryant: Bryant’s value takes a bigger hit than Ezekiel Elliott’s with the Tony Romo injury news, but the whole offense becomes a much bigger question mark with such a wild card taking over quarterback duties. I’ve moved Bryant down to my WR14, and even that might be too high.
John Brown: He returned to practice, so hopefully everything is fine, but it’s concerning Brown is still dealing with headaches so far removed from his latest concussion. He has a ton of upside, but the lingering effects of his brain injury makes him fairly risky.
DeVante Parker: It’s not time to panic and drop him down draft boards too much, but it’s a little worrisome to see Parker work behind Kenny Stills in two wide receiver sets during Miami’s third preseason game. It’s likely just noise, but Parker’s ADP all summer has treated him like a breakout is inevitable, and that’s not necessarily the case, at least not right away.
Mark Sanchez: It says a lot he lost a starting job with such talent around him to a seventh-round rookie. Fantasy owners hoping for a breakout by Virgil Green may have to temper expectations with the Broncos likely to employ an extreme run-heavy scheme.
Karlos Williams: He’s gone from arguably the top non-starting RB taken in fantasy football to undrafted in some dynasty leagues over the past six weeks. Williams is just 23 years old, but he went unclaimed on waivers after being released by the Bills. He better start taking his career more seriously or he’ll soon be out of the league altogether.