It's hard to believe that we're less than two weeks away from the start of the NFL regular season. For many fans, they're just now starting to pay attention. But for fantasy owners, for FOOTBALLGUYS, we're already many months into our preparation. As one of the contributors to the site's projections, I have had the entire league modeled and projected since late April. A LOT of things happen between then and the beginning of September. I, along with the other staff, tweak our projections and expectations in real-time. But it occurs to me that very little is ever said about the way our opinions change. This article, and others like it, will highlight qualitatively the assumptions that went into my initial projections that have since changed considerably. Enjoy.
On Second Thought...
John Brown (ARI) still has WR2 upside, but the risks are far higher than we thought
Brown was ineffective last year, but the preseason narrative indicated it was because of untreated sickle-cell anemia. This preseason Brown once again missed the majority of the summer, and Bruce Arians openly admonished Brown on multiple occasions. The mercurial receiver returned to practice just before the third preseason game, and then caught two touchdowns playing with the starters in the dress rehearsal. That’s a reminder of Brown’s upside, but his illness is a reason to discount him on draft day.
The Ravens (BAL) receiving corps is deep, and a fantasy conundrum
Steve Smith’s retirement and Kamar Aiken’s departure raised questions about receiver depth, but Breshad Perriman had a relatively healthy start to camp which reminded us all of his potential. Mike Wallace and Perriman were an intriguing combination until the Ravens added Jeremy Maclin. Now all three receivers likely cannibalize each other. If any of them get hurt, the remaining duo has underappreciated fantasy potential.
Jordan Matthews and Zay Jones (BUF) are the last men standing
Sammy Watkins was traded to Los Angeles, and Anquan Boldin retired, leaving rookie Zay Jones and veteran Jordan Matthews (acquired in another trade) as Tyrod Taylor’s top targets. Jones comes from a high volume collegiate system and may be the top fantasy option on the roster. Matthews was underappreciated in Philadelphia, but it’s damning the team viewed him as replaceable with Nelson Agholor.
Kelvin Benjamin (CAR) is worth considering as a high upside WR2
My initial disdain for Benjamin was born out of two concerns: Cam Newton’s health and Benjamin’s weight. Newton is ahead of schedule in his return from shoulder surgery, and Benjamin reported to camp in good shape. Benjamin has played well with both Derek Anderson and Newton in recent weeks, putting a floor in his outlook.
The Bears (CHI) receiving corps is a mess unless Kevin White can live up to his pre-draft billing
Cameron Meredith tore his ACL in the third preseason game, leaving a void in an already thin receiving corps. Kevin White has been unable to stay healthy for two seasons but has participated in most of the preseason. He has an opportunity for 120+ targets if healthy, but otherwise, the team is left with more questions than answers. Veterans Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton, and Victor Cruz all have designs on the vacant starting spot, but none are complete receivers.
Corey Coleman (CLE) remains a mystery
Is Coleman a potential #1, a solid #2, or a high draft pick gone bust? We still don’t know the answer, and my initial enthusiasm for Coleman as a breakout candidate has waned thanks to another quiet offseason.
Dez Bryant (DAL) is healthy and building rapport with Dak Prescott
Bryant hasn’t lived up to his All Pro reputation since signing a massive contract extension. This offseason he’s been a pillar of health and as importantly has connected with Prescott consistently in practice and limited preseason game snaps. Byant is worthy of late 1st round, early 2nd round consideration.
Kenny Golladay (DET) intrigues, but the hype has gone too far
Kenny Golladay was on no one’s radar a few months ago, but training camp reports have been universally effusive in their praise. He looks set to be the Lions’ #3 receiver, a role most recently held by Anquan Boldin. However, Golladay still may be no better than fifth in the pecking order and is being drafted as though he has WR2 upside.
Andrew Luck’s shoulder (IND) poses a threat to T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief
The mystery behind Andrew Luck’s health casts doubt on whether T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief can live up to their preseason billings. Hilton is a fantasy WR1 with Luck but doesn’t feel safe in the early 2nd round of drafts with the specter of Luck missing time. Moncrief is a talented WR3 with WR2 upside with Luck but a bench player without him.
Marquise Lee (JAX) has overtaken Allen Hurns
Entering the preseason, I had Hurns as #2 behind Allen Robinson, but that situation was a misread as Lee has been more impressive throughout training camp. Hurns is reportedly on the trade block, which means he may be cut if the Jaguars can’t find a suitor. Lee’s fantasy value is minimal in spite of the starting role.
Tyreek Hill (KC) is a fantasy WR2 with upside
I thought Hill was being overvalued early in the preseason because of his unusually high touchdown rate as a rookie. That perspective changed when Andy Reid released Jeremy Maclin, making Hill the unquestioned top receiver. Hill may be miscast as a #1, but he’ll see an inordinately high target share which puts a lofty floor under his value.
Tyrell Williams (LAC) is the #2 and is still undervalued even though most of you have caught on
For most of the summer, Tyrell Williams was the best value in fantasy football. He was routinely being drafted as a WR4/WR5 in spite of being the #13 fantasy receiver last year in his first season as a starter. Many fantasy pundits have come around to the fact Williams remains a starter on a great offense and has not yet peaked. However, he’s still being drafted several rounds too early.
Sammy Watkins (LAR) remains a high-upside fantasy WR2
When Watkins was traded to the Rams, I initially viewed his fantasy value as going from bad to worse. Watkins was overvalued in Buffalo, and his injury history precluded me from drafting him at his ADP. Now in Los Angeles, he faces an uncertain quarterback situation, but closer examination has me turning modestly optimistic about the Rams. They still forecast as one of the bottom offenses, but Goff has legitimate upside, and we’ve unfairly written him off after a season.
DeVante Parker (MIA) has vaulted to prominence, while Jarvis Landry’s outlook dims
Jay Cutler favors downfield receivers, which makes Parker the more intriguing option in Miami. Although the team dismissed recent reports about Landry being on the trading block, it speaks to further cloud Landry’s role in Adam Gase’s offense.
Julian Edelman’s (NE) injury cements Brandin Cooks’ elite status and Chris Hogan’s relevance
Brandin Cooks was already in my Top 12 because he’s the best receiver Tom Brady has ever had outside of Randy Moss. But Edelman’s injury changes the variance in a meaningful way and puts Cooks as someone with a Top 15 floor and a #1 overall ceiling. Chris Hogan was a compelling late round flier but now sets up as an every week starter in three-receiver line-ups.
Ted Ginn Jr (NO) threatens Willie Snead IV’s role
Snead has been quiet this preseason, but fantasy owners are still treating him like a WR2. While Brandin Cooks’ departure opens up a mountain of targets, Ted Ginn Jr could eat into Snead’s opportunity more than we realized. I still prefer Snead to Ginn on an absolute basis, but Ginn is going late in drafts and offers much greater value.
Robby Anderson (NYJ) will have every week value in deeper PPR leagues
Robby Anderson got in some hot water this offseason, and a few beat writers speculated he could be released. The Jets decision to rebuild changed that calculus and then Quincy Enunwa’s injury vaulted Anderson into the #1 role. The team should be terrible, but even bad teams have to throw to someone 450-500 times. Anderson could see 7-10 targets per game, and earn Top 30 honors in the process.
Nelson Agholor (PHI) isn’t a lost cause
When early camp reports pointed to Nelson Agholor playing well, most scoffed; myself included. However, when the Eagles traded Jordan Matthews away for cornerback help, it became apparent those camp reports were not fluff. Agholor is a long way off from earning fantasy consideration, but he’s vaulted into the waiver wire tier after being on the precipice of irrelevance two months ago.
Martavis Bryant (PIT) is reinstated, and it feels so good
I had low expectations for Martavis Bryant entering the preseason given his suspension and a propensity for multiple time offenders to find their way back into hot water. To Bryant’s credit, he was successfully reinstated and has been impressive throughout the summer. He remains a high-risk draft choice at his ADP because another drug suspension would cost him a year, but he could help you win your league while he’s on the straight and narrow.
DeSean Jackson (TB) is worth more to the Buccaneers than fantasy rosters
Jackson is a boom-or-bust player and always has been. When he signed with Tampa Bay, I initially projected Jackson as a WR2. Closer examination of the situation has tempered my enthusiasm as Jackson is a cog – a valuable one – in an offense with plenty of other weapons including Mike Evans, Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard and Doug Martin.
The Titans (TEN) receiving corps is deep, but projecting the pecking order remains a mystery
Eric Decker, Rishard Matthews, and Corey Davis are all capable of #1 numbers in a target-rich role, but as of now, they all play on the league’s most run-heavy offense. There aren’t enough targets to go around especially when you add Delanie Walker into the equation.
Terrelle Pryor (WAS) looks better than I expected, but he’s still overvalued
Terrelle Pryor seemed miscast as Washington’s #1. He was a converted quarterback with one good-not-great season in Cleveland where he benefitted from being the only target on a barren roster. In Pryor’s defense, he’s more than lived up to his billing this summer. He’s been the team’s most impressive player and unlike Josh Doctson and Jordan Reed – he’s been a presence throughout practices. While I accept Pryor has potential in an offense that lost its top two receivers in the offseason, I still think Pryor is over drafted as a 4th rounder.