Overreaction. Baseless observation. Meaningless football. We’re all familiar with the phrases most attach to the supposed vanilla action witnessed during the Preseason. However, underneath the surface there are meaningful performances logged. To help determine what’s important for fantasy purposes, Brad Evans will continuously update his random musings throughout the weekend.
SATURDAY OAK/LAR, JAX/MIN, CIN/DAL, TB/TEN, SF/HOU, CHI/DEN, SEA/LAC
• For Ronald Jones enthusiasts, the needle on the panic meter reads $@&!. The rookie’s mistake-filled August added another blunder against the Titans. He botched another softly tossed pass, his second of the season, and continued to run as though he was thigh-deep in mud. Couple his in-game performance with a training camp marred by fumbles, missed pass protections and stone-hand displays and it’s time to accept Peyton Barber, at this juncture, is the Tampa RB to own. As Jones has plodded his way to 12 yards on 11 carries, the veteran, who ranked top-15 in yards created per carry last season, has exhibited more toughness on interior runs (5.3 ypc) and adept hands throughout the Preseason. The near 50 pick disparity between the rushers per ADPs (Jones: 75.6; Barber: 126.3) is ludicrous.
Jones certainly has the talent (22.2 missed tackle percentage, 3.32 YAC/att with USC in ’17) to supplant Barber at some point this season, but until his improves on the little things, he’s firmly on the outside looking in. One more strong performance by the incumbent in Friday’s dress rehearsal against Detroit and a final coffin nail will be hammered.
Quick Hitters: Draftniks are positively giddy about Taywan Taylor’s growing breakout potential for the upcoming season. Corey Davis and Delanie Walker are on track to be target magnets in an ascending offense, but with Rishard Matthews sidelined with an undisclosed he will continue to work with the ones. His two-TD, 95-yard detonation against the Bucs is a momentum gainer … It’s clear Marquise Goodwin is Jimmy Garoppolo’s money man. We saw their chemistry infuse over the final five games of 2017, a sample in which the receiver tallied 9.8 targets per contest and posted exceptional success rates on myriad routes. Their three connections for 61 yards versus Houston are another bellwether. Goodwin is sure to profit considerably at his 66.7 ADP (WR29). … The finely seasoned Royce beef is sure to taste delicious for fantasy purposes. Royce Freeman didn’t wow in the box score (6-20-1, 1-6-0), but inserted at the goal-line he scored on an excellent cut and plunge. If he doesn’t start next week, Vance Joseph and the Broncos staff need a serious reality check. Any coherent individual can see the rookie deserves at least a 15-17 carry per game workload. Reach for him (51.9 ADP, RB26). … Fearless Forecast: LA’s Mike Williams scores seven or more TDs this season. His skyward contested grab on a well-placed Geno Smith pass was Exhibit A in the sophomore’s building WR3 case. His target share remains uncertain, but the kid has the skill set to leave investors very much in the black (143.2 ADP, WR47). He’s one of my favorite late-round snags.
FRIDAY – BUF/CLE, KC/ATL, NYG/DET, MIA/CAR, ARI/NO
• Though Nick Chubb broke free from the honeycomb and ran more fluidly in his second NFL Preseason game, the night along Lake Erie belonged to Carlos Hyde. From my key vantage point in section 144, the former Buckeye looked nimble, sharp in his cuts and explosive in the open field. On his best run of the evening he bounced outside, viciously stiff-armed a would-be tackler and sprinted up the right sideline for a 26-yard gain. Operating alongside Duke Johnson with the first team, Hyde established distance as the favorite to secure the lion’s share of touches in Cleveland’s proposed RBBC.
Like a cobweb in the rafters, Hyde is often overlooked. Last year in San Francisco he silenced critics who believed he couldn’t play 16 games and posted the 11th best RB output on the season. Piling on, he also ranked top-13 in total evaded tackles and accumulated runs of 15-plus yards. Terribly undervalued, he currently owns the upper-hand to secure 14-16 touches per game Week 1 against Pittsburgh. You could do far worse at his RB27 (64.4 ADP) price tag. This isn’t your industry standard toothless Browns after all, or so we think.
• It’s absolutely preposterous to think Christian McCaffrey reaches the 25-30 touch per game level Ron Rivera and Norv Turner have professed. Unless the Carolina Panthers suddenly resemble the ’85 Bears on defense, it simply doesn’t add up. What’s for certain, though, is some sort of workload increase, possibly a modest uptick compared to the outlandish claims. Based on how he was deployed against Miami, he is unquestionably the Panthers’ RB of choice.
The CMC Football Factory was nothing short of brilliant against the floundering ‘Fins. He racked 119 total yards on just seven touches, highlighted by a 71-yard up-the-gut TD dart. C.J. Anderson, meanwhile, didn’t enter action until midway through the second quarter.
Despite his Friday performance, reservations about the RB are warranted. Recall in 2017, he was woefully inefficient, evidenced by his RB52 standing in yards created per carry, bland 3.3 evaded tackles per game and RB62 standing in YAC/att (2.1). Still, if he reaches close to 200 carries and chips in another 70 or so receptions, he should return on investment at his Round 2 price in 12-team leagues (16.1 ADP, RB11). Personally, I’m unwilling to pay at top dollar.
Quick Hitters: Make no mistake, Kenyan Drake (36.3 ADP, RB18) is the undisputed RB to own in Miami. Last year’s second-half sensation tallied 11 touches for 58 yards. Most impressively, he turned what should’ve been a multi-yard negative into a 34-yard positive by spinning off a defender and bursting up the field. The reigning YAC/att champ (4.3) deserves more love. Let others in your league idiotically believe in contrived narratives about Frank Gore and Kalen Ballage. … Patrick Mahomes’ uncorking to Tyreek Hill for a 69-yard touchdown displayed the passer’s Favre-ian arm strength. Though it’s unlikely Tyreek will replicate his otherworldly efficiency from 2017, his speed combined with Mahomes’ bazooka are sure to etch a few highlights on celluloid. On occasion, they will be a stack made in fantasy heaven. … Temper your expectations on Calvin Ridley. He’s a talented, fleet-footed WR with a bright future, indicative in his 3-49-1 total with the ones against KC. However, with Julio Jones functioning as top hog in Atlanta, can the rookie realistically garner enough targets to make a fantasy impact? It’s doubtful. … Punchlines aside, Josh Allen played admirably in Cleveland. He delivered precise, on-the-money spirals in tight windows en route to 60 yards and a touchdown on 9-of-13 attempts. He also chipped in 18 rush yards. With A.J. McCarron shelved due to a broken collarbone, the bumbling Bills will likely force the greenhorn into the fire Week 1. Buffalo opens the season with a brutal slate – Bal, LAC, at Min, at GB, Ten, at Hou. Rest in peace, Mr. Wyoming.
THURSDAY – PHI/NE, PIT/GB, NYJ/WAS
• James White is the forgotten drummer in a legendary band (e.g. Charlie Watts of “The Rolling Stones”). With Rex Burkhead (undisclosed injury) and Sony Michel (knee) sidelined, the crafty veteran morphed from satellite back to Stallion, dominating touches with the Patriots first team. An instrumental piece on Tom Brady’s opening scoring drive, which capped with a 4-yard Chris Hogan TD reception, he totaled 44 yards on five touches (3 catches). Overall, he piled up 92 yards on eight grips (6 receptions).
Marvelously effective when gifted work (RB19 in fantasy points per opportunity in ’17), White is an underappreciated PPR asset (115.5 ADP, RB43) in 12-team and deeper leagues. Recall he finished inside the top-40 in catch-heavy formats in 2016 and 2017, totaling 116 catches over those two seasons. Circle him on your cheat sheet for the double-digit rounds.
• Aaron Rodgers-to-Jimmy Graham has all the trappings of one of the league’s deadliest red-zone connections. On Green Bay’s first drive against Pittsburgh, Rodgers stood tall in the pocket and lasered a pass to the 6-foot-7 tight end who high-pointed and reeled it in.
Last fall, many fantasy owners believed Martellus Bennett would emerge as a Rodgers favorite near the goal-line, but nagging injuries to the TE and his passer never allowed the relationship to develop. Graham, who landed at TE4 in each of his last two years with Seattle, could recapture his scoring supremacy once exhibited in New Orleans. The environment is ripe. Davante Adams is a bugaboo, but Green Bay tight ends averaged a combined 100 targets since 2015. Multiply, carry the one and the original Jimmy G is a strong candidate to entice 20 percent of the target share, many looks coming within striking distance for six.
In the end, a 60-650-9 line is believable. At his 71.2 ADP (TE6), he’s yet another reason why sinking a Round 2 pick in Rob Gronkowski isn’t advisable.
Quickies: The Chris Hogan hype train is about to slow due to weight capacity. The most targeted weapon by Brady since training camp commenced, he’s drawn several admirers. His 60.1 ADP (WR26) is sure to climb. With Julian Edelman out due to suspension, he could be one of the fastest starters in fantasy this season. His Week 1 matchup, against a Houston secondary that was rancid in 2017, is delectable. Still, given Brady’s spread-the-love nature, he’s one to shop if he notches multiple standout performances early on. It’s unlikely his 16.9 target share from last season spikes. … Maybe the kids in Washington will be alright. Samaje Perine (30-yard run), Rob Kelley (9 touches, 30 yards) and Kabri Bibbs (1 rec, 29 yards) each had their moments versus the Jets. Perine exited early with an ankle sprain, but the collective performed above expectation. Credit Washington’s trench work. Projected to be a top-half run-blocking unit by Pro Football Focus, the o-line just might make one of the Redskins RBs fantasy useful. My money is on Perine, provided he holds up. … Fearless, poised and patient Sam Darnold wasn’t terrible in two quarters against Washington. He rolled smoothly through his progressions, had good command of the offense and mostly pitched strikes (8-of-11, 62 yards, 0:1 TD:INT, 5.6 ypa). With three of his first five matchups against Detroit, Jacksonville and Denver, an erratic start is certain, but when presented with softer opponents he will chip in the occasional gem. … Jamaal Williams exited with an ankle injury of unknown severity. If the setback is serious or limiting, Ty Montgomery (119.9 ADP) would shoulder the load for Green Bay in the opener against Chicago. Enticing. … Don’t ignore James Washington’s 5-114-2 explosion against Packer backups. The rookie was a contested catch all-star at Oklahoma St., routinely gashing defenses outside the numbers. Cemented as a starter opposite Antonio Brown (JuJu Smith-Schuster will man the slot), he’s more than your standard late-round dice roll. He will make a fantasy impact at some point this season. Bank on it.
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