When asked "How meaningful is the preseason to you?" the majority of Roto Arcade readers, nearly 60-percent, chalked up exhibition play as nothing more than a string of worthless dress rehearsals. But here's two words for you: Alfred Morris. Last year, the Redskins rookie put the league on notice in Week 3 of the preseason by trampling the Colts, a performance that propelled him to fantasy greatness. Yes, much of the exhibition slate lacks substance, but real, tangible takeaways can be made, valuable insights that give owners a winning edge. This month, from Weeks 1-3, the Noise will attempt to decipher the meaningful from the meaningless.
• Well, well, well … guess what the Chipster dragged in? Vick the Disaster, the fractured-ribbed, misreading, poor-throwing passer of the past two years, gave way to Vick the Destroyer, the guy who rocked everyone's fantasy world just three short seasons ago. Though Kelly kept his foot off the pedal, Philly's reworked offense fired on all cylinders. Vick, in particularly, was very impressive. On an impeccable opening drive, the former fantasy heartthrob showcased perfect touch on two connections, hitting DeSean Jackson in stride on a 47-yard scoring strike. In total, he went 4-of-5 for 94 yards. Overall, he looked poised, confident and comfortable, clearly outplaying Nick Foles. Most importantly, he had great protection. If the latter carries over into the regular season ... watch out.
Doubly important for fantasy purposes, the Eagles’ transition from last year's base 4-3 to a 3-4 defense remains a work in progress. To say they were gashed would be a gross understatement. Stevan Ridley ran virtually untouched on a 62-yard first-quarter scamper. If Philly remains overly generous, Vick's arm could fall off due to overuse, adding to his overall worth.
As I've stated numerous times this summer, no quarterback going on average outside the position's top-12 possesses more top-five potential than Vick. Long-term health is an obvious concern, but if Lane Johnson and cohorts sustain blocks consistently, No. 7 could again reach stratospheric heights. Kelly's up-tempo offense will tax defenses, especially late in games. Combine that with the Eagles' shortcomings on defense and Vick's ability to tuck and run, and a highly profitable campaign looks to be on the horizon. At his current 116.3 ADP (QB15), it's impossible not to fall hard for him all over again.
• A cheetah shot out of a cannon. That's what Chris Johnson (ADP: 17.7, RB14) resembled on his first carry of the preseason. On a designed counter, the Titans offensive-line executed flawlessly opening up a tractor-trailer wide cut-back lane. Johnson saw it, attacked it aggressively, eluded one defender and blazed a 58-yard trail to the end-zone. Talk about starting off the year with a bang.
On roughly 2-3 series, the Titans' revamped offensive line was brilliant, holding blocks, creating massive lanes and big gains. Shonn Greene, who rarely ripped off long runs in New York, also posted gaudy numbers, bursting through enormous holes. Suffice it say, the Redskins' first-string defense was kicked in the teeth repeatedly.
It's an incredibly small sample size, but if Mike Munchak's trench hogs continue to feed, this writer will have to change his tune quickly about Johnson. Because of Jake Locker's inefficiencies, stacked boxes and designed run-blitzes may be unavoidable. However, it may not matter assuming Tennessee's O-line moves mountains. If Chance Warmack and company dominate the rest of the preseason and Johnson retires the tap-dance shoes – he's way too prone to running East-West instead of North-South – the rusher could greatly exceed previous expectations. Greene will poach TDs mitigating CJ's overall fantasy impact, but 1,500-plus yards with 7-9 scores seems completely attainable. Next week's stiffer task, Cincinnati, should be very telling.
• If you're a prospective Rob Gronkowski investor looking to find a suitable replacement to keep the seat warm until the Pat's return, Fred Davis needs to be your top target. At his current 138.1 ADP (TE14), he's sure to turn a lucrative profit.
Davis only saw a few snaps in Thursday's exhibition opener, but he looked fluid in his routes/breaks, displaying the smoothness and savvy he exuded two years ago. Overall, he grabbed two Kirk Cousins passes for 14 yards and a touchdown.
Recall in 2011, Davis earned high-praise from the virtual community. According to Pro Football Focus, he ranked inside the top-five in drop rate and yards per route run at his position. Most importantly, his 8.1 fantasy points per game checked in at No. 5 among tight ends. Healthy and entering the prime of his career, the 27-year-old could be this year's version of Dennis Pitta, a highly dependable mid-tiered TE1. Keep in mind, the 'Skins want RGIII tied more to the pocket and outside Pierre Garcon, the QB's options are limited. As stated previously, it would be no shock if Davis finishes around 65-750-7 this season.
• On pundit pages throughout the fantasy galaxy, romantic odes dedicated to Tavon Austin have been written. Though it's only one quarter of one preseason game, it's possible aficionados should've also waxed poetically about Chris Givens.
The field-stretcher, who tallied a hefty 16.6 yards per catch and averaged the third-best YAC per reception among qualified WRs last year, picked up where he left off, humiliating Cleveland's first-string secondary totaling three catches for 82 yards and a TD. His highlight grab, a 59-yard bomb on a deep-seam from Sam Bradford, definitely piqued Fantasyland's interest. Austin, meanwhile, attracted a lousy one target.
Givens was quite effective in spurts in his rookie season. From Weeks 5-13, he reeled in 30 receptions for 498 yards and three touchdowns, netting the 22nd-best per game output in the WR class (9.9 ppg). In St. Louis' redesigned spread scheme, he should emerge as the primary deep threat.
Bradford has only a 58.3 career completion rate. Counting on him is akin to trusting Anthony Wiener with your camera, but the former No. 1 pick's confidence could soar operating behind an improved offensive line and in a system predicated on high-percentage throws, which greatly enhances Givens' chances of delivering useful numbers. Based on the wideout's 140.6 ADP (WR56), you could do a whole lot worse in the eleventh hour. Star his name on your cheat sheet.
• On the opposite side of the line in the Rams/Browns tilt, Brandon Weeden was equally spectacular. This past offseason, Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner made it a top priority to get Weeden comfortable. To achieve that, they installed several spread packages with the passer working in shotgun, a system he excelled in while at Oklahoma State.
The first iteration of the new scheme was certainly encouraging. Weeden, well-protected in the pocket, stepped, fired and completed crisp passes on target to his receivers. His most impressive throw was a 21-yard connection with Josh Gordon on a simple post. He finished 10-of-13 for 112 yards and a touchdown. If he builds on his early success, Weeden, and the entire Browns offense, may no longer be a laughing stock. Gordon, once back from suspension, buzzy tight end Jordan Cameron, Greg Little and Trent Richardson should yield favorable results. Better yet, if Cleveland's first-string defense looks anywhere close to what it did Thursday night, shootouts will be common, padding player stats.
Specific to Weeden, he's only an attractive option in two-QB leagues, but, when the bye-heavy weeks kick in, he has the look of a player who could be a one-game savior.
• Get to know Kenbrell Thompkins. In Tom Brady's dissection of Philadelphia, the undrafted rookie was the apple of the two-time MVP's eye. The long, slender target hauled in all four of his intended looks for 23 yards, working almost exclusively in the short field. He wasn't the fastest or strongest receiver on the field, but, unlike another 8-5, he understood the route tree, connecting with Brady on various patterns – hook, short slant, pair of quick outs.
Horribly underutilized in college (78 receptions, 1,077 yards, 4 TDs in two years at Cincinnati), Thompkins has made seismic waves at Patriots training camp. He's reportedly caught everything in sight and has been the best receiver on roster.
Danny Amendola is locked into slot duties, but Thompkins and fellow freshmen Aaron Dobson are in line to anchor the wings. Because the Pats will ground-and-pound early and often this year, he may rarely find the end-zone. However, the draft day afterthought could challenge Austin for the receptions title among rookies, possibly finishing north of 65 grabs. Put him on your radar, PPR gamer.
QUICK HITTERS: In the race to start in St. Louis, Daryl Richardson is clearly in the catbird seat. He ran decisively, showed improved acceleration and was a force in the pass game racking 44 yards on six touches. Meanwhile, Isaiah Pead Pooped, coughing up the ball on one of his three carries. If Richardson doesn't start Week 2 over Pead/Zac Stacy (Remember Pead is suspended for one game), I would be completely shocked. Slide him into your RB top-35 … Alfred Morris is cemented as Lucifer Shanahan's carrier of choice, but Roy Helu is the appropriate handcuff. The former fantasy sleeper ran tough, exhibited excellent vision and cut well running with the first team (sans RGIII) against Tennessee. In total, he compiled 57 yards on 13 carries (4.4 ypc). Evan Royster also ran effectively, but appears to be on the outside looking in ... Noteworthy rookie Giovani Bernard notched only modest numbers in his pro debut, tallying 44 yards on 13 touches. However, he punched a TD in from one-yard out, an area of the field platoon mate BenJarvus Green-Ellis struggled last year. On 43 red-zone attempts, the LawFirm averaged a laughable 2.2 yards per carry, crossing the chalk just six times. If Bernard continues to slam home scores from close range, he might just be the Bengals' goal-line back. Watch his deployment closely ...
Against Cincy, the Falcons offensive line was manhandled. Geno Atkins and friends repeatedly plugged gaps, suffocating Steven Jackson in the process. Pro Football Focus ranked the unit No. 26 in run-blocking last year. I fully expect a minimum of 10 scores from SJ39 this year, but unless improvement is quickly made up front, his total yards are sure to cap around 1,200 ... On last Thursday's "Fantasy Football Live" Brandon Funston placed Larry Fitzgerald on 'bust alert.' Boy is he going to eat his words. Carson Palmer was radiant against Green Bay's first-team, dissecting the secondary with ease (4-6, 77 yards, TD). With adequate protection, Bruce Arians will transform him into a 4,200-yard 30-TD passer, which would surely make Fitz a top-five wideout, at a minimum ... Though he saw ample action against second-stringers, DeAndre Hopkins is a star-in-the-making. Targeted four times, he caught four passes for 54 yards, including this ridiculous 34-yard TD-scoring man's catch. For a rookie, he's a very polished receiver. Don't be surprised if he exceeds 60 receptions and 800-plus yards in Year 1 ... Versus Seattle, Ryan Mathews ran three times for 19 yards and improbably managed to keep all collarbones intact. Despite rumblings of a committee backfield in SoCal, he's still underrated at his 55.3 ADP (RB27) ... Mark Sanchez threw a pick-six. Yep, it's officially football season.
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