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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 Lames from Preseason Week 3.
Joseph Randle, Dal, RB – We all have the Dallas talking points memorized. "Historically good offensive line." "Balanced offense." "Great passing attack spearheaded by Tony Romo and Dez Bryant." Regurgitated over and over again this summer, the Cowboys' RB-friendly narrative spiked Randle's value. Now, after a lackluster preseason and with reports surfacing Darren McFadden may head up the committee, the popular early-round RB's ADP is plummeting faster than stocks in China. Those who invested a Round 3 or Round 4 pick in his services may soon endlessly weep. Yes, he will play a substantial role and a hard sneeze would likely sideline McFadden for an extended time, but it's silly to trust the young back as a RB2. Though Jerry Jones continues to deflect questions about bringing in additional help, I still feel Dallas' best option isn't currently on the team. Fresh free agent Fred Jackson or Pierre Thomas could eventually sign to help spark the ground game. Ultimately, the 'Boys will sorely regret not ponying up the cash for DeMarco Murray. Someone will eventually yield starter-worthy numbers in Big D, but, as of now, it's impossible to designate Randle that guy. Ameer Abdullah (40.9 ADP), Doug Martin (39.2) and Latavius Murray (30.4), RBs going in the same range as the fallen 'Star,' are safer, wiser selections.
T.J. Yeldon, Jax, RB – Some publications would lead you to believe the Alabama product is on the verge of fantasy superstardom. Yeldon propagandists have repeatedly said the RB's alleged 'three-down' skillset, minimal competition and massive slated workload in an emerging offense would land him firmly inside the position's top-20 come year's end, a ridiculous prediction. In his preseason debut, Yeldon resembled a backup dancer for Taylor Swift, not a premier running back. He lacked vision, patience and assertiveness. For a rusher that checks in at 6-foot-1, 226-pounds, he's a twinkle-toed, fumble-prone RB best suited for change-of-pace duties. Though smaller in stature, Denard Robinson, who was RB13 Weeks 7-13 last year (90.8 typg, 4 TDs, 4.7 ypc), is a far better back. The former Michigan QB is lighter on his feet and, unbelievably stronger, compared to the rookie. Yeldon did score a controversial TD against Detroit, but his 10 yards on eight carries were telling. Unless he sacks up, negative plays will be an all too common occurrence this season, especially behind a highly suspect offensive line that ranked No. 25 in run-blocking last year per Pro Football Focus. By all means, pick him for his potential. I will gladly take Robinson 100 picks later.
Melvin Gordon, SD, RB – When asked about the Chargers' RB situation Monday, Philip Rivers mouthed a quote that made fantasy owner stomaches churn, "it's a running back by committee crew." Puke. For those that have followed San Diego closely this August, the implementation of a three-back rotation should come as no surprise. Gordon, who's averaged a 'whopping' 2.3 yards per carry this exhibition season, has looked like a blind basset hound stumbling in the dark. The Chargers' shoddy offensive line is partially to blame, but the much ballyhooed rookie hasn't found cut-back lanes in Frank Reich's zone-blocking scheme. It's as though Trent Richardson has overtaken his mind and body. Gordon is an electric, gliding running back with explosive open-field wheels and deceptive power. He averaged a ridiculous 7.79 yards per carry at Wisconsin last year, the highest mark in FBS history. But, as noted time and time again in this space, he's struggled in pass protection and possesses below average receiving skills. Danny Woodhead, who the organization loves, will revive his hybrid role from 2013. Recall that season he caught 76 balls, totaled 1,030 yards and crossed the chalk eight times. Roughly 9-11 touches per game for the dual-threat should be expected, including the occasional goal-line touch. Second-year back Branden Oliver, who has again impressed in preseason action, will also be sprinkled in, possibly netting 5-7 touches per game. Donald Brown could enter the picture too. If that work division occurs, Gordon would be in line for only 11-13 carries per game. Last season, Bolt backs notched 27.6 touches per contest. If you've yet to draft, Gordon is RB3/bench material in 12-team leagues. Nothing more.
Duke Johnson, Cle, RB – Another week, another Cleveland RB on the Lames list. Isaiah Crowell earned the unwanted designation in the last go round. This time, Duke carries the torch. The rookie from the 'U' blew a golden opportunity to establish himself as the lead dog in the Browns' crowded backfield. He rotated in with Crowell and Terrance West on first team work, but prematurely ended his evening after suffering a concussion in the first quarter. He finished with an 'earth-shattering' four yards on two touches. After missing a significant chunk of training camp and the preseason with a hamstring setback, Duke is struggling to keep his head above water. Currently in the league's post-concussion protocol, he's no guarantee to play Week 1. Given the limited work put in, he could be nothing more than a bit player for the regular season's first couple games. Still, as Adam Caplan recently noted, many insiders believe he'll eventually seize control of the backfield, leading all Browns RBs in touches. His low center of gravity, tacky hands and break-tackle ability should win in the end. The learning curve has widened, but at his 97.2 ADP (RB42), he's a quality, upside bench back worth waiting on. Recall, Cleveland ranked No. 11 in run-blocking last year according to PFF.
Colin Kaepernick, SF, QB/Torrey Smith, SF, WR – Mr. Bicep Kiss, under siege 55.6 percent of the time against Denver's relentless pass rush, was lucky to escape last weekend's preseason tilt with all bones intact. Overall, Kaepernick finished 2-of-5 for 13 yards. He also chipped in 53 rush yards. San Fran's yielding offensive line is a blessing and a curse for the QB. Pocket time, precious to any NFL passer, will be extremely limited, likely capping his vertical production around 3,300 yards with 17-20 TDs. However, because of Kaepernick's wheels and break-contain abilities, jailbreak situations are sure to boost his ground production. It's conceivable he surges past 700 rushing yards this fall. Ground scores will obviously be the kicker, but even with conservative passing numbers he could crack the QB top-12. A 3,200-19-700-1 line would presumably land him just inside the position's top-15, making him a suitable stream option in competitive formats. As for the receiving corps, unless the Niners' frontline starts to feed, preeminent home-run threat Torrey Smith will often disappear. Kaep would likely target Anquan Boldin, Reggie Bush, Carlos Hyde or Vernon Davis more often in the short field to alleviate pressure. The WR, drafted on average around pick No. 117 (WR48), should continue to be viewed as a depth-only option in 12-team leagues. Stock up on the adult beverages, Niners fans. It's going to be a long, brutal year.
The image above essentially summed up Carson Palmer's outing in Oakland. Pressured relentlessly behind a battered Arizona offensive line, he was bruised and bloodied en route to a forgettable Sunday night. He finished 8-of-22 for 108 yards with zero TDs and a pair of picks. He was also sacked three times. For the sake of the veteran's health, the Cards O-line better stiffen in a hurry. Rob Ryan, who oversees the Saints defense, is already salivating over his Week 1 matchup against Arizona ... Staying in O-town, there's no reason to downgrade Latavius Murray. His 7-1-0 line was ghastly, but 'Zona's impenetrable defensive line will make treasured RBs resemble trash this year. Mark Ingram will surely experience a similar fate opening week ... Cody Latimer, once believed to be a future star in Denver's offense, continues to head in the wrong direction. Though physically gifted, he struggled to grasp Adam Gase's offense last year. This time around in a less complicated system, he still can't get comfortable with the playbook. If he sees 20-25 snaps per game early on, it would be a tremendous victory. Feel free to overlook ...
Randall Cobb's 'minor' shoulder injury scared the bejesus out of Aaron Rodgers owners and Packer fans alike. Diagnosed as a sprained AC joint, he's headed for a likely 'questionable' tag Week 1, though the organization is optimistic he'll suit up against Chicago. For the late drafters in attendance, it would be silly to downgrade him more than a spot or two. If he slips to the early third in 12-team leagues, feast ... Joique Bell's activation from the PUP list isn't an automatic downgrade to Ameer Abdullah. The veteran was originally slated for early-down and goal-line work. If he quickly rounds into shape, he should shoulder 10-12 touches per game Week 1 at San Diego. If the veteran isn't ready, preseason breakout Zach Zenner could slide into the power role with Abdullah operating as the explosive between-the-20s complement.
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