Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Rising and Falling Draft Stocks After Preseason Week 1
The preseason is often derided as inconsequential and unimportant; however, ignoring it will put fantasy owners at a disadvantage come draft day, as it serves as a sneak preview for players on the verge of break out seasons, especially rookies, who are seeing their first NFL game action. Well, the first week of the NFL preseason has come and gone, and there have been surprises and eye openers already that I think will effect upcoming drafts, especially the important and often league winning task of targeting which sleepers specifically are worth drafting and where. Here’s a list (in no particular order) of players who’s fantasy stocks are rising and falling after the first week of the preseason.
Jason Campbell QB-Wash: Jason has looked very good in training camp so far this summer, and he has continued to impress in his first two preseason games. He was perfect in the Hall of Fame game about a week ago and was 7-10 for 71 yards, leading the team on a 12 team TD drive against Buffalo in their second game. With Cooley, the addition of two rookie receivers with potential, and a healthy Santana Moss and Clinton Portis, Campbell has the weapons to be successful in the new west coast offense that was installed in Washington this season. With the increased attempts he has the chance to be a nice QB2 with upside.
Matt Leinart QB-Ariz: Leinart had a good outing in his first playing time in 10 months, completing 7 of 8 passes for 91 yards on a TD drive. Leinart has some value because he has some of the best receivers in the league to throw to, making him a sleeper QB2 with the potential to be startable if he can take this performance and roll with it. The Cards know that Leinart is their future and will give him every opportunity to start, despite the fact that they have the best back-up in the league in Kurt Warner. Draft Leinart as a back-up late and hope that he can play like this in the regular season in case your sugar daddy goes down at some point.
Larry Johnson RB-K.C.: 8 carries for 18 yds iiiiiiisn’t what you’re looking for from LJ in his first game back from a foot injury that knocked him out for the season in week 9 last year, but I believe that the fact that he’s playing at all is a good sign that he’s healthy. Plus, he scored a TD and is getting a chance to become assimilated with his o-line, which he didn’t have the opportunity to do last year in camp/preseason. He didn’t look great, but injuries would be the reason that I’d avoid LJ on draft day and this was a good first step to prove his health.
Chris Johnson RB-Ten: Tennessee took a lot of guff for drafting CJ in the first round in this years draft, as most experts graded him as a second round pick. They might have known what they were doing, however, as he has looked amazing in camp and showcased his mind boggling speed (he was the fastest player in the combine running a 4.24!!) in his NFL debut on a jaw dropping 66 yard run. This kid is not an every down back, so I don’t think that he’ll hurt LenOverWeight’s value that much. But if he gets 10 carries a game and a few receptions, he’ll have fantasy value because he has the chance to go the distance every time he touches the rock. I officially love him.
Felix Jones RB-Dal: Felix had 8 touches for 61 yards (6 rushes for 32 and 2 receptions for 29) against the Chargers on Saturday, displaying his explosiveness and elusiveness on a 28 yard swing pass and a 19 yard hand off. He’s described as a slippery runner with extremely good vision, and he showed these qualities, as well as showing that he can produce with limited looks as a complement to MB3. If the Cowboys run on average 30 times a game, Felix should get around 10-12 of those carries along with a few receptions, meaning that he’ll have value in fantasy, as he, like CJ, has the ability to break one off on every carry.
Calvin Johnson-WR Det: Caught 4 passes for 78 yards IN ONE QUARTER against the Giants first team defense on Thursday. Okaaaaaaay Calvin, that’s what we were all waiting after your freakishly athletic and talented self got drafted 2nd overall last year by a team that needed almost anything BUT another receiver. Dude could be ready to explode this year in Detroit, which I say not because I love their offense but simply because he’s practically unguardable (6-5, 240lbs with 4.35 speed--EW). He can be had for fairly cheap on draft day, as he’s going around rd 7 as a WR2/3; however, he has the potential to be this year’s Braylon.
Robert Meachem WR-N.O.: First round receiver plus Saints pass-happy offense equals chance to be amazing. Meachem pretty much redshirted his rookie year last season, as he was sidelined for its entirety due to knee surgery. The Saints are excited about what he can add to their offense this season, as he appears healthy and studly. He has a good chance to beat out Devery Henderson as the Saints third WR and could even push David Patten for playing time if he can show that his 4 receptions for 129 yards and a TD weren’t a fluke in week one. He has explosive, big play ability, which will allow him to fit in perfectly with the Saints offense, which he displayed on a sick 60 yd TD reception. I’d try to draft him late as a sleeper WR and try to trade him early if he has a big game, as he’ll probably be inconsistent throughout the year.
Santonio Holmes WR-Pitt: He’s essentially the number one WR in Pittsburgh now, which is a valuable commodity on an offense that should be even more potent than it was last year. He was used more as homerun hitter last season with Hines used more as a chain mover, but the Steelers want to get Santonio involved more in possession receiving, which should mean more looks. Also helping his case is the fact that it’s his third year in the league and the fact that he nearly broke 1,000 yards last season playing in only 13 games. He looked good in his limited time this weekend against the Eagles, scoring a 19 yard TD in his only series. That is the prototypical Santonio play and one that owners should expect to see a lot this season. I can see him gaining around 1,200 with 10 in 08.
James Hardy WR-Buff: This humongous rookie WR should have value this year as a red zone target for Trent Edwards (or whoever the starter ends up being in Buffalo), and we got a glimpse of his potential in that area this weekend, as his only catch was a 16 yard TD from J.P. Losman. The 6-6 Hardy had 36 TD’s in only 30 games at Indiana in his college career, as he clearly presents match up problems in that area. I expect him to continue his red zone dominance in the NFL and think that it’s easily within his reach to gain 650+ yds and 7+ TD’s this season.
Roddy White WR-Atl: Roddy had a very good season last year (1,202 yds and 6 TD’s) with scrubs Chris Redman, Byron Leftwich, and Joey Harrington getting him the ball. That kind of production from those asses is very impressive, as Roddy was able to display his first round talent and enjoy a breakout season in his 3 year. The big question is whether or not he can repeat that performance on a team that still has a questionable QB situation. Well, the fact that Matt Ryan not only had a very impressive showing in general (9-15 for 113 yds) but also threw a TD pass to Roddy is an extremely good sign for the fourth year wideout. This outing was a good indication that Ryan will win the starting QB job, solidify the position, and find Roddy, his best receiver, often in 08, helping to erase some of the doubt surrounding Roddy heading into the season.
Edgerrin James RB-Ari: Tim Hightower looked pretty solid (5-23 with a TD) and might steal some precious goal line carries from Edge this season who is 30 years old and might be on the verge of breaking down. Edge should still get the vast majority of the carries, but it’s concerning that it was it was Tim who got the goal line looks preseason week 1 and that Hightower might be emerging as a back up to push Edge for playing time. This is just another red flag in an increasingly alarming season for a RB who has to slow down eventually (right?).
Julius Jones RB-Sea: Honestly, can anyone possibly be surprised by this? He played pretty horribly this past weekend (4-15, 1-3), getting outplayed HANDILY by Maurice Morris (6-62). This backfield has timeshare written all over it, rendering both backs essentially worthless (surprise, surprise). If someone put a gun to my head and forced me to draft one, I’d take Mo Mo.
Jonathon Stewart RB-Car: I’m not sure if anyone’s draft stock fell any more than first rounder Stewart’s this weekend, as the RB that he was supposed to supplant easily for the starting role, DeAngelo Williams, looked sick (9-55), while Stewart’s toe prevented him from playing at all. His toe surgery was a concern for teams even before the draft and now it looks like it won’t be as easy as once thought to take the majority of the carries from fellow first rounder Williams. In fact, word from Panthers camp is that DeAngelo will actually get more carries than Stewart in 08, making the situation look like another dreaded committee. Let someone else draft Stewart and his hype.
Willis McGahee RB-Bal: Knee surgery a few weeks before the season starts on top of a second round RB, Ray Rice, that has looked very good at camp is not a combination that spells success for Willis in 08. He’ll be out 2-4 weeks because of the knee, meaning that there’s a chance that he misses time in the regular season. Factor in the Ravens poor o-line, as well, and Willis is simply not worth his second round average draft position. By-pass Willis in drafts but target Rice late, as he may be startable in fantasy sooner rather than later.
Ahman Green RB-Hou: If you needed any proof that Ahman is now a joke look no further than the fact that he hurt his hamstring on his first carry of the preseason. On top of this, he has looked slow and terrible in camp and should be avoided like plague on draft day. His back up situation is cloudy but, as Chris Brown is hurt and Darius Walker sucks, the front runner has to be 3rd round pick Steve Slaton, who now has fantasy value, especially since he’s not even getting drafted right now, so his value is incredible.