Fantasy Football

Fantasy Football Preseason Week Four Notes

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And so that is that. The final preseason games are over and now we can get moving with the rest of our drafts and roster adjustments.

It was a good preseason and much like recent years, the ever increasing fantasy football interest helped boost relevance for fans of the game. It wasn’t just that either, the games themselves were entertaining beyond the individual auditions. After the final week, there were still many unanswered questions that will just have to be played out in the regular season now. Because ready or not, here it comes.

But first there is the 53 man roster deadli  ne. This is the part where some surprises might come up and some trade shuffling may occur. The weekend moves that emerge from this will be something to look at. So as with everything else, nothing stops moving in the NFL.


There were some performances in the final week that aroused attention, so let’s have a look at some of them:

Quarterbacks
Only a handful of starters made an appearance, which is common for the last game of preseason. But those who did were obviously out there because there were issues needing evaluation. Some of the starters have fallen and just cannot get up. Other potential starters, woke up their abilities and got things on the right track. Some of these guys you might get tired of me mentioning, but there is indirect fantasy impact from them which is important.

The Blake Bortles watch continues in Jacksonville. He is by far the most effective rookie QB and has a real chance of displacing Chad Henne at some point during the season. He once again moved the team with decent numbers (32/51 521 yds. 2TD) while avoiding any interceptions. From a fantasy perspective there’s no drafting him. But if he takes over and is effective, although he himself is not a trustable enough waiver grab, the fantasy value of guys like Cecil Shorts could get a boost.

Johnny Manziel 2 (CLE)On the very same night that Johnny Manziel continued to grapple with the Cleveland Browns offensive tune-ups, the Texas Aggies were forgetting all about him, as his successor Kenny Hill, tore up SC. The scrambling ability of Manziel is something to see and is exciting, but his long balls at times still look like he is heaving a wet sponge. Nevertheless, he was crisper this time and much more confident. Brian Hoyer has the job, but there’s every reason to suspect a two QB system may develop, then further to giving Manziel the start later on. Some maverick fantasy owners might keep him as a wishful stash, but it’s really just too ambitious an idea considering the depth of QBs there are this year.

The troubles in Buffalo continued for EJ Manuel this week. You can tell this team is lacking morale and it wasn’t helped with one of the new hopeful receivers, Sammy Watkins, leaving the field further aggravating a rib injury. The team as a unit could not move the ball against a second team Detroit defense, with only an overweight Nick Fairley as a possible exception. Without a sufficient air attack, the ground game can be exploited in the defensive game plans which could affect the value of CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson.

Although the Giants won all of their preseason games, including an extra Hall-Of-Fame game appearance, none of it was due to Eli Manning. The same message applies as I said a couple of weeks ago. In the past, it is not uncommon for QBs that have struggled in preseason manage to find their form when the regular season begins. And it isn’t that Eli couldn’t emerge out of this slump. But when? Anything less than 2-2 after the first four games is bound to raise the issue of benching Eli, a question which was not so timidly asked by the New York media last October when the Giants couldn’t stop the slide.

A player not in action at all, but just ready for major move into Buffalo or St. Louis is Mark Sanchez. He’s a big bargaining chip for Chip Kelly. It was reported that St. Louis is a “no chance” scenario – but there’s always Buffalo, where they would prefer to have EJ Manuel in a backup role. But other teams could show interest as well. It is what Philadelphia gets in return that will be interesting. The Eagles are building things well already and if they get a high draft pick next year, they could be contenders for a long time. Sanchez is a player not to watch for his own value if he is traded, but what value he may bring to receivers wherever he lands.



Running Backs
I suppose we might have seen more of Devonta Freeman outside the 20s if the Falcons were not so careful about overworking him too early in the final preseason game. He still gained 42 yards on the ground and 45 yards on 5 receptions including a TD. While Steven Jackson rested, Freeman and Antone Smith put on a show. I still prefer Freeman as the current cuff to Jackson, but with Antone Smith still making a strong case for the role, I may have to reevaluate the situation during the season.

Jeremy Hill (CIN)But the Rookie of the week honor has to go to Jeremy Hill of the Cincinnati Bengals. Hill ran for 90 yds. on 20 carries and also took 6 receptions for a further 70. This performance may put some doubt on how much the Bengals are likely to run a commitee with Hill and Gio Bernard. The consensus is that Gio Bernard is chiefly the one in control of the backfield. With this performance by Hill and actually the good preseason he has had altogether, this is going to nag owners of Gio Bernard of whether Hill could significantly eat into the touches. I say stick with Bernard confidently until anything changes. Okay, so upside takes a hit, but you know Bernard won’t go lower than RB2 or a high Flex no matter what. As for Hill, he’s worth a stash if you want to cuff.

I mentioned last week about Doug Martin and the moves the Buccaneers have been making to shore up the offensive line. This has suddenly evolved into “it’s all good for Doug Martin” fantasy expectations of certain uptick. Of course this is good for Martin, I am not arguing that. But remember, an offensive line is a unit – it takes time to gel. You might have to be patient with Martin at first, because these are offensive linemen not put together during training camp, but on the fly. In the end, if the line is stiffer for Doug Martin, the upside will be there for sure – in spades.

A final word about Ben Tate. I am starting to give Ben Tate another look as just more than a run of the mill low RB2. He didn’t get a lot of work on Thursday, but enough to suggest that his quiet preseason is, well, too quiet. He has battled some injury and Terrance West hasn’t done much to shake his hold on being the main feature back in Cleveland. The Cleveland offense is going through some adjustments because of the QB position not being solidified. This might give you some hesitation for getting players of the team. Don’t be afraid to pick this guy up though. He could end up giving much more than you thought.

Wide Receivers
IKembrell Thompkins - Aaron Dobson (NE)t was good to see Aaron Dobson out playing with the Patriots for the first time this year. He’s a stronger sleeper than you might think. With Rob Gronkowski as the obvious red zone target and Julian Edelman with Danny Amendola as the chief slots, you might think Tom Brady would have little left for the likes of Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins. I don’t think so. Especially for Dobson, who is a sleek receiver, I could see a breakout here. So if you want a sleeper for your bench, Aaron Dobson is a good choice.

I am impressed with the depth of the Green Bay Packers. Myles White in particular has the ability to be the perfect fill-in receiver for Randall Cobb for some drives, should Cobb become shaken up and taken out for a few plays during a game. But he could be utilized in this Aaron Rodgers offense alongside Cobb on occasion to throw defenses off. But actually all the second team receivers played well for Packers on Thursday, so they are spoiled for choice much more than last year. Although there are stronger sleepers than White out there, he is still a player to monitor during the season.

A nice outing for Santonio Holmes on Thursday for the Bears. The Bears already have locked in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall as the main tandem, but Holmes will be a far better 3rd wide than Earl Bennett was last year. With Holmes in the mix, there’s an added plus for the potential of Jay Cutler‘s value as well. Granted, there is the chance Holmes will eat in to the production of the main guys, stunting their upside. But as a bench stash Santonio Holmes could work as a sort of WR cuff for Jeffery and Marshall.


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Defenses…etc.
Since all the defenses were mostly second teamers on Thursday, there’s not much analysis. The only thing I can say with some confidence is to stream the Chicago Bears defense to start week one. They are at home against the Buffalo Bills. Might as well take advantage of the suffering Bills offense based on matchup until they get it fixed, that is IF they get it fixed. Such an obvious tip, I’m almost ashamed to mention it. But you couldn’t ask for an easier strong DST streaming advantage than that to open your fantasy season could you?

You can follow me on Twitter @RRSSavill for more news and to ask me any questions about your team. Also be sure to like us on Facebook, Google+ and Instagram for all updates from Fantasy Six Pack.

About Richard Savill

Richard is an NFL Fantasy Football Writer and Editor of Fantasy Six Pack. Host of The Fantasy Edge Podcast. FantasyPros Contributor. Member of the FSWA. Richard is known for his "outside the box" insight into NFL fantasy football. Winner of the 16-Team 2015 FSWA challenge.

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