Fantasy booms, busts and breakouts from Preseason Week 1

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The fantasy war waged on <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/26817/" data-ylk="slk:Spencer Ware">Spencer Ware</a> may be baseless says some Yahoo fanalysts. (AP)
The fantasy war waged on Spencer Ware may be baseless says some Yahoo fanalysts. (AP)

Meaningful or meaningless? Starts, per usual, played only sparingly in the opening act of the Preseason, but several newcomers made statements, others underwhelmed in brief action. Below, Yahoo fanalysts Brad Evans, Dalton Del Don and Liz Loza discuss guys moving up and down their cheat sheets. 

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The biggest fantasy winner Preseason Week 1 was ________. 

Brad – SPENCER WARE. The projected demise of Ware is greatly exaggerated. KC’s unquestioned No. 1 back was featured heavily on the opening drive against San Francisco totaling seven touches (three receptions) for 26 total yards and a score. Kareem Hunt, meanwhile, wore kid gloves, gripping the rock just two times for a combined four yards. If the opening stanza is a true depiction of the current depth chart, Ware has a several lengths lead over the rookie.

Recall last year, the incumbent was one of seven backs to rank inside the top-10 in yards after contact per attempt and elusive rating. Though he fell off a cliff from Week 8 on averaging 3.6 yards per carry and finishing RB29 in scoring, he earned the trust of Andy Reid. The Chicken Fried Bloody Beast in human form spoke highly of Ware’s honest and hard-working every-down approach earlier this offseason. If he fires out of the cannon similar to Weeks 1-7 last year (129.5 total yards per game, 5.2 YPC, 3 TDs, RB7), Hunt stands way back in the rear-view mirror.

(Editor’s Note: Kenny Golladay also deserves a mention. He was nearly unstoppable against first and second-string Colts defenders totaling three catches for 53 yards and two TDs. The Lions, a prolific passing offense, featured three-WR sets 93 percent of the time on the opponent’s side of the field in 2016. Opportunities will be there. The rookie is a legitimate 5-7 TD candidate.)

Dalton – JOE MIXON. Forget the talk about him being the No. 3 running back on the Bengals’ depth chart, as Mixon proved he’s clearly the team’s top option while getting 6.0 yards-per-touch during his brief NFL debut. Jeremy Hill remains an interesting handcuff, and the Bengals are a team who I predict will win double-digit games in 2017. Don’t let the chatter confuse you, Mixon is the back to own in Cincy.

Liz – KELVIN BENJAMIN. Between an underwhelming 2016 and the Panthers’ apparent change in offensive philosophy, questions surrounding Benjamin’s role have surfaced. As such, his draft stock has slipped to the fifth round of twelve-team exercises and places him on the WR2/WR3 bubble.

Back to his Combine weight and looking decidedly more spry, Benjamin rocked a pair of Houston CBs for 40 yards and a score in Week 1 of the preseason. Demonstrating a renewed power, it seemed as though Benjamin could, once again, dominate in the red area of the field. With Ted Ginn now in NOLA and Cam reportedly back to health, Benjamin is currently one of the best values at the wide receiver position. FF: 67-946-8

Conversely, the biggest fantasy loser Preseason Week 1 was ______. 

Dalton – MIKE GILLISLEE was someone I hyped throughout all of summer, and while I still say don’t bury him, he’s fallen most of anyone on my rankings since summer began. I still love his situation and skill set, but Gillislee has missed the last 10+ days with a hamstring injury, and that’s more than cause for concern for a back relying on usage through Bill Belichick without any history.

LizPAUL PERKINS. Not everyone given a chance makes the most out of it. Such has been the case with Perkins, who has disappointed throughout the summer. Managing just 3 yards on five attempts in the G-Men’s first preseason outing last Friday, the team’s sophomore back looked sluggish, lacking any sort of explosiveness. Splitting carries with UDFA Orleans Darkwa, Perkins’ hold on the RB1 gig seems tenuous at best. This is a backfield I’m fading, as it could quickly devolve into a full-blown RBBC with Shane Vereen handling the passing duties.

Brad – SAMAJE PERINE. The cops, already, have nearly shut down my bold prediction of Perine crashing the RB top-20 party. Hey folks, I’m going to be wrong, a lot. My adoration expressed about the rookie is likely the first of approximately 1.3 million whiffs.

Beleaguered by inefficient blitz pickup and a demoralizing case of fumblitis, Perine is firmly behind Rob Kelley for lead-back duties. Uninspiring in his NFL debut, he carried the rock six times for 15 yards (2.5 ypc) and again put the ball on the turf. Unless Kelley suffers an injury or sleepwalks through the rest of August, he will enter Washington’s opening matchup against division rival Philly as the top dog.

I still have faith in Perine long-term – he’s a stoutly constructed back similar to Jonathan Stewart who gained abundant yards after contact in college – but he may not supplant or even force a favorable timeshare until mid-season. At his 101.9 ADP (RB34), he should no longer go ahead of the likes of LeGarrette Blount (104.2 ADP), Frank Gore (113.4) or the aforementioned J-Stew (145.1).

Burrowing under the surface, the one player generally off fantasy radars who popped off the screen was ______. 

Liz – COOPER KUPP. A stud at Eastern Washington, Kupp disappointed at the Combine, leading many (including myself) to question his pro-readiness. Since being drafted by Los Angeles in the third round this past April, however, Kupp appears to have gained Sean McVay’s favor and is listed as a starter on the Rams’ depth chart.

Immediately involved in the team’s first preseason action, the rookie converted two of three targets for 35 yards. Demonstrating ace awareness and maturity, the 24-year-old also recovered a (Robert Woods… ironic, right?) fumble in the end zone. Seemingly always open, and enthusiastically supported by the coaching staff, Kupp has immense upside in the late fourteenth/early fifteenth rounds.

Brad – DE’ANGELO HENDERSON. Barely eligible to ride most rollercoasters at 5-foot-7, 208 pounds, Henderson is Mr. Potato Head in the flesh. His stocky frame, explosiveness off the snap (4.48 40-yard dash), bull power, low center of gravity and plus pass-catching skills are reminiscent of Maurice Jones-Drew. His pass pro is still a work in progress, but his overall talents are at or near starter C.J. Anderson’s level. Though he logged time against Chicago stragglers, he showcased his wares brilliantly ripping off intoxicating runs of 13 (Negated by a hold, but still impressive) and 41 yards, the latter for a touchdown.

Anderson is firmly in the captain’s seat, but Henderson has a real shot of breaking camp as Denver’s No. 2. Jamaal Charles’ knees are trash, vagabond Stevan Ridley poses little risk and Devontae Booker remains shelved. Rise to the occasion in the Broncos’ next pair of Preseason games and he could earn at least a change of pace role Week 1. At this point, he’s a late-round lottery ticket worth scratching.

Dalton – CHRIS CONLEY. There’s some downside here regarding his situation in KC and with Alex Smith, but Conley grabbed both of his targets for 46 yards and had another 83-yard TD catch negated on a questionable OPI call during his preseason game. Conley is someone without upside, but he’s going to be a major part of KC’s passing offense and a deep league fantasy sleeper.

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