Another night, another slate of preseason games. Time to dig in and over analyze them.
New England Patriots
The loss of Dion Lewis puts a huge damper on things, but there is good news. LeGarette Blount and Tyler Gaffney have looked very good this preseason. They’ve made a lot of big runs, hit holes fast and been physical. Blount has definitely been better, so if you’re gonna go after 1 of the 2, go for him, but Gaffney definitely has the backup role locked down. One thing to note is that neither player have done much unless their is solid blocking upfront, as neither are really guys who have the ability to run it to the outside. As such Blount is definitely a guy who you should only play when the Pats are not playing a good front seven. His current ADP over on Fantasy Football Calculator is 84th, or late Round 7. A little earlier than I’d like, but he’ll likely see an increase in carries with Lewis hurt and White’s complete and utter lack of ability as a runner. Ameer Abdullah, Derrick Henry and Justin Forsett all have have ADPs of 82, 83 and 85 respectively. Personally I’d take Blount before all 3.
Gaffney, despite playing well this preseason, is unlikely to make any Fantasy impact unless Blount get hurts, so you can pretty much ignore him otherwise.
James White is a guy you should only consider in PPR Leagues. The Pats love to throw it to the RBs, so he could be in for a solid season in PPR Leagues while Dion Lewis is out. He should be in line for about 4-6 catches per game. He offers nothing at all as a runner though (he had a 2.5 YPC in 2015), so take him off your boards in Standard Leagues. He’s worth the dart throw though in PPR, but don’t take him until pretty late. His ADP of 116, or mid Round 10, in PPR Leagues is solid value considering he could potentially be in line for 80 catches depending on Dion Lewis’ health.
The Panthers were bad against the Patriots, but I wouldn’t worry about the RBs. The only one worthy of a pick in 12 Team Leagues would be Jonathan Stewart, and he has very little competition. Tolbert isn’t the TD Vulture he once was(just 1 Rushing TD in 2015) and Cameron Artis-Payne has been bad this preseason.
Jonathan Stewart is currently sitting at an ADP of 47 or the end of Round 4. For me that is way too high of an asking price. Other RBs coming off the board in Rounds 4 and 5 include Forte (ADP of 41), Hill (ADP of 42), Langford (ADP of 44), Gordon (ADP of 57) and Foster (ADP of 58). Personally I take everyone except Gordon over Stewart. If he happens to drop to Round 6, that’s when I pounce. Otherwise I’ll be passing on him.
LeSean McCoy is a guy I’ve grown to like more and more as the season approaches. McCoy is likely the 2nd option in the passing game after Watkins, and with Karlos Williams gone he no longer has any real competition for carries on early downs or near the goal line. Yes, they have Reggie Bush now, but considering his age and injury history, I’m not worrying about him potentially stealing early down or goal line work. Plus Rex Ryan has always preferred to utilize a workhorse RB unless injuries force him otherwise.
McCoy’s current ADP is 20th overall, or towards the end of Round 2, which for me feels just about right. He has no real competition in the run game and after Watkins he’s the best receiver the Bills have. Expect McCoy to return to Top 10 RB status, and perhaps even push for a Top 5 spot by season’s end.
Reggie Bush is worth keeping an eye on though in PPR Leagues. McCoy does have some injury issues, so Bush carving out a big role on 3rd down and passing situations is very possible. He’s currently not going in the Top 200 in PPR League Mock Drafts, so he’s there for the taking in Round 15.
First thing’s first. Avoid Matt Jones. I don’t like him much at all. We haven’t seen much of him this preseason, but much like last year, he’s still more Cedric Benson than he is Marshawn Lynch between the tackles, which is to say he’s more a plodder than the powerback he gets labeled as. There’s a reason his ADP has dropped from 49th at the beginning of August to 62nd today. He just isn’t that good. Even in PPR Leagues, where oddly his ADP is 73rd when he’s touted as a good receiver, I wouldn’t take him. They have Chris Thompson, who is a very good receiver out of the backfield, and that will hurt Matt Jones. On top of that, Matt Jones has been severely outplayed by undrafted rookie free agent Rob Kelley.
I’ll be avoiding Matt Jones altogether this season. Just way too many question marks with him. However they do have a pair of Deep Sleepers I’m keeping an eye on. Rob Kelley has looked solid if unspectacular this preseason. I think he has a real shot to unseat Matt Jones as the season wears on and the Redskins tire of Jones’ 3.5-3.7 YPC mark. The other is Chris Thompson, the Redskins’ receiving back. He had a solid 35 catches on 48 targets in 2015, and was also effective on the ground in limited work, rushing for 216 Yards on 35 carries(6.2 YPC).
Thompson can be had at almost nothing in PPR Leagues, with an ADP of 166 or late Round 13 in PPR Mock Drafts, while Kelley is not being drafted in the Top 200 in Standard League Mocks.
Le’Veon Bell’s suspension got knocked down to 3 games instead of 4, and either well he’ll be worth the late Round 1, early Round 2 price tag. Bell has some amount of injury-risk simply due to his usage(he’s averaged 23.2 touches per game in the regular season since 2014), but the Steelers know they need him with Martavis Bryant gone and neither Sammie Coates or Markus Wheaton really stepping up this preseason. Even if he does get used a little less, 18-20 touches a game is still a very realistic number. I expect Bell to finish in the Top 8 for RBs despite missing 3 games.
As for DeAngelo Williams, while he does have things going for him like the loss of Martavis Bryant, Ladarius Green dealing with headaches and Wheaton and Coates doing little this preseason, I just don’t see him doing anything beyond the 3 games Bell sits out. Williams was almost never used in the 5 games Bell played the entirety of in 2015, seeing just 13 carries and 2 targets(1 catch). Even if you do expect a pretty big uptick in usage to 10 touches per game, it’s highly unlikely Williams could turn that into more than about 750 Yards and maybe 3 TDs, as he would likely be asked to run the ball more than he would be used as a pass-catcher due to Bell’s uncanny pass-catching skills as a RB.
If you’re aiming to draft Bell this year, it makes sense to draft Williams as well. Just don’t expect him to do much once Bell gets back.
New Orleans Saints
I’m pretty mixed on this backfield. On one hand Ingram has been a very consistent scorer thanks to his domination of carries for the Saints and his ability as a receiver, but he also just doesn’t stay consistently healthy. He’s played a full 16 games just once in 5 seasons, and over the last 3 years has missed 12 games. The entirety of the Saints’ ground game has also looked absolutely abysmal this preseason, including Ingram who’s had just 46 Yards on 21 carries(2.2 YPC) and a mere 1 catch that went for no yards.
His current ADP sits at 23rd overall, or the end of Round 2. Simply too high for me considering his lack of preseason production. I know I shouldn’t overreact to it, but the running theme for 3 weeks has been poor ground production as well as few to no targets for Ingram. He has “Bust” written all over him. I don’t think he’ll outright bust, but thanks to the Saints newfound wealth of receivers, he will likely see fewer targets and it seems the Saints are in for a bad year running the ball. If Ingram slips to me come late Round 3, early Round 4 and I have a RB1 I really like, I take him then. But Round 2 is simply too much for me.
I love the Browns’ RBs this season. There’s no Head Coach in the league who loves to run it as much as Hue Jackson does, and he already has his new versions of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard in place in Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson. I particularly love Duke Johnson as he’s severely outplayed Crowell both running the ball and catching it this preseason.
Duke Johnson is coming off the board at 76th overall or early Round 7. He has everything going for him. He’s talented, has a Head Coach who loves to run and utilize his RBs as receivers, and with the Browns odds are they’ll need to throw the ball a lot this season, which puts him in good position as the primary pass-catcher out of the backfield. He’s a guy I love and will be targeting in every single draft I’m in. He’s coming at a RB3 price, but could very easily return high-end RB2 stats. I expect him to finish as a Top 15 RB and maybe even push for Top 10.
Isaiah Crowell I’m not as high on, due to his inferiority as a receiver compared to Johnson. However he has a very good gig being the powerback for Hue Jackson, and likely has a floor of 225 carries due to this (BJGE still saw 220 carries even with Bernard in the fold back in 2013). The guy loves physical RBs. His ADP of 102 or early Round 9 is a bit earlier than I’d like, but it’s hard to beat a practically guaranteed workload of 225-250 touches out of what will likely be your RB4. If he does slip to you come Round 9, scoop him up and reap the benefits of an RB2 late. That’s some good value right there.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Here it’s a simple 2 man contest. Doug Martin and Charles Sims. You don’t have to worry about anyone beyond those two, as they will not factor in at all for Fantasy unless an injury occurs, and even then Martin is more likely to get hurt, leaving Sims to have most of the RB touches to himself.
Doug Martin is an injury-risk, having missed a combined 16 games in 2013 and 14, but when healthy he’s shown himself to be a valuable fantasy RB, finishing as the RB3 in both years he played 16 games. His ADP sits at 25, or the top of Round 3. Due to his injury-history I wouldn’t want him as my RB1, but as an RB2 I love him. He offers value as both a runner and a receiver out of the backfield, so his weekly floor is very safe. He’s also the preferred goal line RB for the Bucs. I think he’ll cede a slight amount of carries to Sims, but 260 carries and another 30 catches is well within range for Martin as long as he stays healthy. Another Top 5 finish is possible if he does play a full 16, but I think a Top 10 ranking is more likely due to his relative lack of TDs(just 7 TDs on 321 touches in 2015) and the return to health of a lot of other RBs from last season.
Charles Sims offers a lot of value in PPR Leagues inparticular because of his prowess as a receiver(51 catches for 561 Yards and 4 TDs on 70 Targets in 2015), but don’t sleep on him in Standard Leagues either. He had 1090 Total Yards and 4 TDs, which is right there with guys like Woodhead and Bernard. His TD total is likely to increase as Winston improves as a passer, and the Bucs’ staff have said they want Sims to get a few more touches this year. 200 total touches for 1200 Yards and 6 TDs is well within reach for Sims even with Martin in the fold, making his ADP of Round 9 in Standard Leagues and Round 8 in PPR an absolute steal. An RB4 who could potentially finish with around 160 Points, typically a finish around the top 15 for RBs, is what you look for come the later rounds of the draft. Upside and Value.
Green Bay Packers
I’ve been beating the Eddie Lacy drum all offseason and I’m not stopping anytime soon. He has everything going for him right now from a strong passing game to alleviate pressure and 8 man fronts to being in shape, having a chip on his shoulder, and lastly and possibly most importantly, he’s playing for a contract this season. When in shape back in 2013 and 2014, Lacy averaged 1500 Total Yards and 12 TDs, and finished both years as the RB6. This season I think he can get back to those numbers and potentially even more.
The entirety of the Packers offense is out to prove that last year was a fluke, from Rodgers to Nelson, and especially Lacy. He’s off to a good start too. He came into camp in the best shape of his life and has lit it up on the ground this preseason. On 20 carries through 3 weeks, he’s put up an incredibly impressive 114 Yards, or 5.7 YPC. That’s what you want to see out of your RB who has something to prove.
His current ADP is 17th overall, or mid Round 2. I’d gladly take Lacy as my RB1 while grabbing an Elite WR like Green or Hopkins in Round 1. Anything less than a Top 6 finish for Lacy would be a huge disappointment.
San Francisco 49ers
Chip Kelly is very arrogant and can be hard to like, but if there’s one thing he understands, it’s offense. In his time in Philly his offenses ranked 4th, 3rd and 13th. They also ran a LOT, averaging 472 carries in those 3 seasons. For perspective, that gives super run happy coach Hue Jackson, whose offenses ran it 480 times per season from 2013-15, one heck of a run for its money.
That’s fantastic news for lead RB Carlos Hyde, who has been making the most of his opportunity as the lead back for Kelly. So far this preseason he’s had 15 carries and turned that into 85 Yards, for a very solid 5.7 YPC. Sadly he doesn’t get used much as a receiver which hurts him in PPR Leagues, but he’s still in line for 300+ carries. Yes, the other 49ers RBs have been doing well too, but Hyde played just 7 games last year and still led the 49ers in carries. It’s pretty clear who they view as top dog in San Francisco.
At an ADP of 38th overall, or early Round 4, he is an absolute steal who’s in line to notch you 1400+ Yards and 10+ TDs if he can stay healthy. I love Hyde this year, and if I ever do decide to do a Zero RB Draft for one of my leagues, he’s definitely a guy I’m targeting a bit later for my RBs.