Have you caught your breath? The season hasn’t even started yet. The last 24 hours was action-packed as any in the last four months of the NFL calendar and just when we thought we understood the new landscape, something else would change. The reality is that as we try to gauge the impact of these events, the games in September will change even more than cutdown day events and require even more flexibility and quick reactions on limited information and projections. So keep those brains limber and agile!
LeSean McCoy, RB, KC - He’s getting paid the most, the coach has the most experience with him of anyone in the backfield. I still won’t draft him before “starter” until now Damien Williams, but he should go off of the board no later than the 6th-7th because this is such a rich opportunity. McCoy’s role could easily shrink on performance or injury, and when they play the games he could easily be less effective than Williams and Darwin Thompson and quick fade away. There’s always the possibility that Andy Reid sticks with his comfortable known back or that this situation is so that McCoy excels even in the autumn of his career.
Devin Singletary, RB, BUF - He’s the de facto starter in Buffalo now. It’s not an ideal situation with the state of the offensive line and the lack of productivity at the position with Josh Allen at quarterback, not to mention Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon taking some touches, but opportunity plus unknown upside is always a commodity in fantasy leagues. His draft slot will include some wildly optimistic reaches, but he’s more of a 8th-9th round pick on my board, so while he’s a big winner, he might end up being a player I don’t get in late drafts.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, DAL - If the Cowboys are planning on an extended absence, they sure didn’t tip their hand. Only Alfred Morris and Tony Pollard are on the roster, and the tenor of coverage of the situation has gotten very positive. Continue to fade the holdout and be a little less willing to reach for Pollard, especially if you didn’t take Elliott in the first. If you did take Elliott in the first, consider being greedy and targeting a different rookie back like Justice Hill or Singletary with a prime bench spot. Pounce at 1.4 or later.
Deshaun Watson, QB, HOU - Watson may end up being the biggest winner of cutdown day when we look back. He gains a legit left tackle and excellent wide receiver who can play inside and outside and give the team much needed wide receiver depth behind their injury prone #2 and #3. The gap between him and Patrick Mahomes II has closed and the gap behind him and Aaron Rodgers and the pack at quarterback has opened. He’s impossible to ignore in the fifth now.
Kenny Stills, WR, HOU - I might be as optimistic about Stills as anyone in the fantasy industry. He is an outstanding player with the ability to play in the slot, run deep routes, and add value after the catch. Deshaun Watson gets the most out of his passcatchers for fantasy, and what are the real chances both Keke Coutee and Will Fuller V are healthy for an extended stretch at the same time this year? Buy, buy, buy, as early as the 9th-10th.
Raheem Mostert, RB, SF - I had Mostert penciled in as the #3 back all along, but Jerick McKinnon going on injured reserve and Jeff Wilson getting released only cinched that. Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman have checked injury histories at best, and Mostert looked good in his short injury-abbreviated opportunity last year. He is a priority late-round running back to stash away and wait for the value growth. Matt Breida is a winner here but I never had McKinnon as a real threat to his role or ceiling.
DK Metcalf, David Moore, WR, SEA - Seattle has basically zero healthy experience on the roster after Tyler Lockett since they released Jaron Brown. They must have great faith in Metcalf’s health and Moore’s ability to be ready to play sooner than later. Rookies Gary Jennings and John Ursua get on our waiver wire watch list along with Malik Turner. Metcalf a top bench wide receiver target around the 10th or later and Moore should be a priority waiver pickup once he’s back on the field.
Preston Williams, Albert Wilson, DeVante Parker, WR, MIA - Should you even spend a late pick on a Dolphins receiver? Wilson would get the short targets that might pile up behind a line that is the worst in the league without Laremy Tunsil. Williams has the look of a garbage time superstar and Ryan Fitzpatrick has never seen a risky deep ball he didn’t like. Parker has all of the athletic ability and the new regime kept him with a somewhat large price tag considering his lack of success. The worst case scenario here is that they trade off garbage time superstar weeks and that the offense is so poor that it doesn’t matter. If you are going to take a late round stab at one of them, make it Wilson in PPR (let’s hope he’s 100%) and Williams in non PPR (really a coinflip with Parker), but be ready to pivot to someone else on your bench or completely away from the situation.
Duke Johnson Jr, RB, HOU - Yes, Carlos Hyde will get 10 or more carries a game. Yes, there’s another viable target to steal passing game opportunity on the roster now. Remember we were all holding our breath to see if Duke would get torpedoed by a veteran back a la the Chiefs backfield today. The quality of his offense also took a big step up. Remember Bill O’Brien is calling the shots now and he gave up a 4th that could turn into a third for Johnson and a player he was about to cut for Hyde.
Damien Williams, Darwin Thompson, Darrel Williams, RB, KC - There’s no way to spin this as good for any Chiefs back who was on the roster a day ago. McCoy is getting paid the most and he has the coach’s trust. Damien Williams falls to 6th-7th round value on my board, but I would take him over McCoy even though I would probably project McCoy ahead of Williams for Week 1. Thompson remains a bench priority back who can still put his stamp on this backfield and be undeniably good enough to demand more touched even if McCoy and Williams stay healthy. Darrel Williams was a deep league stash with only injuries standing between him and one of the best situations in the league for running backs, now he is more remote from opportunity and becomes a waiver wire watch list player.
Keke Coutee, Will Fuller V, WR, HOU - Perhaps this offense gets enough of a lift on the whole with Tunsil and Stills on board to make the smaller slices they get larger in an absolute way, but the kneejerk reaction here is more mouths to feed means bad news for them. Coutee falls to bench stash who might require patience to harvest value and Fuller is only a little more valuable than Stills in this situation, falling to 7th-8th range. If Fuller isn’t full speed early in the season, Stills could seize some of his deep ball opportunity.
Kenyan Drake, Kalen Ballage, RB, MIA - Should we even care how this backfield is divvied now that the team has given up the best offensive lineman on a unit that was already worst in the AFC for future draft picks? There might be big plays and garbage time games here and there to help your team, but between the committee and trajectory of this team, it’s better to avoid this altogether unless Drake falls into the double digit rounds.
Kenneth Dixon, RB, BAL - Dixon was seen as a cut candidate, but one that could have ended up in Houston or another place that gave him better opportunity than what he had in Baltimore. Ability to play isn’t the question about Dixon, it’s ability to stay on the field. A trip to injured reserve only deepened that stain on his reputation.
Tony Pollard, RB, DAL - There’s no denying that Ezekiel Elliott playing Week 1 feels more likely today than it did when we woke up yesterday. Pollard could still have big play flex value after Elliott returns, he could get in some RB1/RB2 level games if this holdout stretches into the season, and there’s still some non-zero chance this unexpectedly gets worse for Elliott, not better. It remains fluid, but the trend is negative for Pollard’s value at the moment.
Melvin Gordon III, Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, RB, LAC- Speaking of remaining fluid, there were a lot of developments/near developments in this situation, but we still lack clarity. The Chargers allowing Gordon to seek a trade seems to signal that their offer is not going to change. That increases the chances of Gordon taking the holdout as far as he can to give them as little as he can before free agency, but it also opens the door for Gordon to just say okay, I’ll play under the fifth year option since I know I won’t get what I want from the team for the long term, this ploy didn’t work. Then there was the interest in LeSean McCoy. That would have helped Ekeler/Jackson by almost insuring that Gordon was on the outs with the team, while hurting them by adding another possibly formidable back to the mix. Remember that Ekeler was productive even with Gordon last year, so continue to target him around 6th-7th if your team build needs production early from that spot as opposed to higher ceiling season-long outcomes with lower floors. Jackson is still a good bench stash with Ekeler’s durability questions and some possibility that the split is closer to 50-50 while Gordon holds out.