The preseason is over for all intents and purposes. This Labor Day weekend is probably the busiest Fantasy Football draft weekend of the season, so many of you are looking for a last minute tidbit to take to your draft table to give you an edge or net you that deep sleeper that nobody else is onto. With that thought in mind, here are some of the notes that The Xpert Eye is taking to the draft table, just something to remind me about players I want to nab or ignore as my drafts unfold.
1. Andre Ellington has looked strong as the Cardinals feature back but Jonathan Dwyer has not impressed when he’s stepped in to give Ellington a breather. Don’t be surprised if the Cards go running back shopping after the final roster cut down. Avoid Dwyer in drafts but grab Ellington whenever you can because he will get the overwhelming majority of the workload.
2. Benny Cunningham got an unusual opportunity to play with the first teamers last week but didn’t play at all in the final preseason game. I’m not buying the thought that he’s suddenly the Rams’ number two back. Trey Watts has been way more impressive and Tre Mason is still in the mix. Ultimately, the Rams’ running attack is best avoided, as teams will very likely stack the box and force QB Shaun Hill to beat them through the air. I’m not taking Zac Stacy for that very reason.
3. Saw a great Fantasy Football team name based on the Le’Veon Bell/LeGarrette Blount pot bust story: “Two BELL cows busted over a BLOUNT.” I think Blount is somewhat underrated, as he was very effective for the Patriots when used in the right situations. This is going to be a very effective one-two punch for the Steelers with the return of Maurkice Pouncey to the offensive line. If I’m picking in the middle or late half of the first round and can’t get my hands on Eddie Lacy or Montee Ball, then Bell is my next target.
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4. Nick Foles is poised for a big season. Chip Kelly’s system is even making Mark Sanchez look good, and Foles has picked up right where he left off last year. He is playing with swagger and you can’t argue about his accuracy with just two interceptions in 10 starts last year. In drafts where I can wait on QB, Foles is the guy I’m targeting. He could end up with Top 5 numbers.
5. With Josh Gordon suspended, TE Jordan Cameron suddenly becomes Brian Hoyer’s go-to receiver. I’ve wrestled with the TE position in drafts this year. I’m down on Jimmy Graham after he disappeared for a whole chunk of games last year, and the second round (often first round) pick you have to use to get him just isn’t worth the risk of that happening again. I’m targeting Cameron now, after picking Dennis Pitta (another safety blanket TE) in earlier drafts. Cameron was second in yardage (917 yds.) to Graham, third in targets (118) overall, and scored seven TDs, numbers that will all increase this year.
6. Lots of analysts at RotoExperts are picking Carlos Hyde as the big breakout rookie RB of the season, but they are forgetting how durable Frank Gore has been over the last three seasons. He’s played in all 16 regular season games in each of the last three seasons with over 1,100 rushing yards and a minimum of 16 receptions each year. The rookie RB I’m touting is Terrance West of the Browns. Ben Tate is a career backup, and any success he had in Houston was due to the zone blocking scheme that turned Arian Foster into such a stud. Tate’s production has declined each year since his rookie season despite increased targets and attempts, and he has never played a full season of games. West is a playmaker, who scored 86 TDs in his four-year college career at Towson. He can catch out of the backfield and he runs like a tank. If Tate gets hurt and West gets a shot, watch him steal the job and never give it back.
7. It’s tough to figure out what to do with Wes Welker after he suffered his third concussion in less than a calendar year. Personally, I’m not picking him, regardless of his terrific history and the fact that he’s playing in what will likely be the NFL’s most prolific offense again. Welker was concussed despite wearing a special helmet designed to prevent them, and in today’s (somewhat) enlightened environment regarding concussions, it will only take one more vicious hit to his noggin’ to end his career. Winning Fantasy Football requires the minimization of risk; picking Welker is simply too risky unless you can grab him somewhere near the end of your draft.
8. When Ron Jaworski says that “Robert Griffin III has regressed mechanically,” I believe it. Jaworski joins Joe Theismann in criticizing RGIII this preseason, and both analysts agree that he is not comfortable working as a pocket passer. There is no doubt that the Redskins offense has looked terrible; they didn’t score a single touchdown in the first three preseason games, and Thursday’s three TDs don’t count because most of the players involved will be playing golf next week. But I digress. RG3 is one of the quarterbacks that I just crossed off my draft list this season, joining players like Joe Flacco, Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick on my scrap heap. He’s a talented athlete and maybe he will eventually integrate the skills necessary to succeed in the NFL as he works within Jay Gruden’s offense and learns to work from the pocket. Until that happens, you want no part of him.
9. I’ve already mentioned my tight end targets, but I’m watching the Patriots’ new tight end, Tim Wright, very closely to see how he’s used. The Patriots love to use two-TE sets, and putting Wright out there with Ron Gronkowski could create the kind of matchup nightmares that Bill Belichick loves to throw at opponents. Wright looked good in the Pats’ final preseason game, his first with New England, catching four passes for 43 yards and playing 43 of 70 offensive snaps. If Wright ends up being the “move” tight end in a role similar to that of Aaron Hernandez, he could sneak in among the Top 10 tight ends this season. At the very least, he’s worth a late round flier to find out.
10. The Dallas Cowboys defense is an unmitigated disaster, which means the offense will be playing from behind in most games. This is going to lead to some ridiculous production from Tony Romo, as well as Dez Bryant and the rest of the Cowboys’ receiver corps. But it doesn’t bode well for the running game and I’m surprised to see DeMarco Murray still being drafted in the late first/early second round. Let’s not forget that Murray has never played a full season in his three years in the NFL. There is no arguing that he’s productive when he’s in there, but between the injuries and the team playing from behind all the time, he’s not worth such an early draft pick.