Fantasy Fast Forward: Get ready to slot your draft picks
With a week of preseason left, we know almost all we need to know for draft day
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Thank goodness for some clarity. The NFL preseason is naturally cloudy. but save for a few starter announcements and the release of the Week 1 injury report, we probably have all we need to know going into the season.
Preseason Week 3 has a tendency to do that for us.
With the information below, you should be fully able to slot your picks for your upcoming draft or schedule your lineups and preseason waiver picks. So let's undress the dress rehearsal week in our Monday Fantasy Fast Forward, including five game-changing pieces of news, the good, bad, the ugly, and position-by-position observations:
1. Doug Martin runs into Round 2
One of the biggest fantasy position battles appears to have been won, even if the outcome hasn't been announced. Martin thoroughly outplayed LeGarrette Blount against the Patriots and looks like he might even be worth a late second-round pick now. Martin is a more well-rounded back, rushing 13 times for 53 yards and a touchdown. He's earned his promotion to first string.
"Well, that's why he started the game, because he had showed me that much," head coach Greg Schiano told TampaBayBuccaneers.com. "And I don't think he did anything ... that would say, 'Oh, that wasn't a good move.' I thought he ran the ball well and did some things well. Right now he's just got to continue on that course. He's learning every day and he's a very open-minded guy. He wants to learn."
The loss of leading guard Davin Joseph for the season might hurt, but Martin will also impact the game as a pass receiver (three catches). That's significant because Josh Freeman has issues getting the ball downfield and is wont to check down often.
As a healthy bell-cow in a running back-heavy Schiano scheme, Martin is a fantasy starter, if not a potential star. Blount is now nothing more than a handcuff pick, in Round 8 or later.
2. It's Ridley, believe it or not
We have finally seen the Stevan Ridley we saw a preseason ago. Against the Bucs, he took off for 87 yards and a TD on 16 carries, including a 29-yard scamper. Tom Brady might have won his past two Super Bowls if he had a better running game. Ridley has a chance to finally help us believe in a Patriots RB in fantasy. He was solid in the screen game -- perhaps taking those opportunities from Danny Woodhead, something Benjarvus Green-Ellis could not do -- and was used as the goal-line runner, scoring on a one-yard plunge.
A Pats back who can help in all phases? This has the potential to be a real productive mid-round pick. Ridley has a modest draft position, but he can be trusted as a starter, particularly since Shane Vereen has been outplayed and left last week's game with a foot issue.
Even Bill Belichick might not be able to mess this sleeper up.
3. Russell Wilson wins QB job
Barring injury, a record 10 first- or second-year QBs will start in the NFL during opening week. Wilson might just be a cut behind Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck in terms of fantasy potential. He's a multi-dimensional threat, evidenced by his two rushes for 58 yards. If you don't believe in RG3, you might want to take the flier late on Wilson, who has made far more plays this preseason. And RG3's thin frame should concern you more than Wilson's sub-6-foot stature.
"He's done everything we've asked of him," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "This is the guy we hoped he would be. All of the talk about how tall he is and all that stuff, I don't see it being a factor. I don't see it, and I have watched more carefully than anybody could ever have watched, and I don't see it being an issue. It isn't to me."
Matt Flynn is nothing more than the highest-paid backup in football, one with a sore elbow. Ignore him in fantasy. Wilson is a solid late-round pick now.
4. Luck trumps RG3
RG3 might have won the game, but Luck won the fantasy-points battle in their head-to-head duel this weekend. Luck was a chain-mover at 14-of-23 for 150 yards and a score, while RG3 was more of a game-manager at 11-of-17 for 75 yards and a short TD pass. Heck, Rex Grossman thoroughly outplayed RG3 a week after fellow rookie Kirk Cousins (Michigan State) did, too.
"(Griffin) keeps on getting better and better," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said, "more comfortable with the system, with what we're trying to do."
This suggests RG3 hasn't been comfortable right away, the way Luck has looked. Also, getting better every week is fine, but RG3 is being drafted as a fantasy starter in many leagues. (He shouldn't.) You need a finished product in the spot where you'd have to pick RG3. Luck looks closer to the full deal going into the season. Consider him a better pick one round, or a few, later.
5. Rashad Jennings rising
The Jaguars are now saying that Maurice Jones-Drew can still start in Week 1 if he reports soon and MJD is saying "things will sort out" in his contract holdout. While that is going on, Jennings is rising on draft boards and looking like a potential fantasy starter. He rushed for 57 yards on 13 carries against a good first-team Ravens defense and said: "I'm not pleased at all in my game tonight. I left a lot of yards out on the football field."
Jennings is a must-have for those who take the risk on MJD in Round 2 or 3. He stands to be a decent flex even when MJD reports, because the Jags are going to have an RB-heavy system -- one that MJD still needs to learn under new head coach Mike Mularkey.
This is going to sound like a broken record: The Falcons might be breaking records with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones taking significant steps into the elite. It's becoming increasingly difficult to grab these guys in the early rounds now for that reason. Jones had gone as early as Round 2, while Ryan has snuck up to the fourth, if not the third. The good news with reaching for these breakouts is that they can still outperform even those lofty draft positions. Seriously.
This was supposed to be the week that John Skelton takes over as the Cardinals' starter. Instead, Kevin Kolb outplayed him. This is an important position duel that is still undecided because Larry Fitzgerald was an elite wide receiver with Skelton calling the signals down the stretch last year. With Kolb early last season, Fitzgerald was a significant disappointment. He did have a decent game against Tennessee last week (5 catches, 91 yards), but the Cardinals' QB situation gives him little hope for 10 TDs, which you absolutely need out of someone who is picked as the second receiver in fantasy drafts.
Add sixth-round rookie Alfred Morris to the mess that usually is a Shanahan-coached team. Tim Hightower (ACL surgery) played sparingly, while sophomores Evan Royster and Roy Helu (both Achilles') were held out. Morris ran for 107 yards and a TD on 14 attempts, potentially earning starter status.
"Said this from Day 1, we're gonna play the best players," Shanahan told a Washington-area radio station. "(Morris) may be the lonely soldier. He did play well."
Consider this reason enough to avoid all of the Redskins four backs until the late rounds. It very well might be the last one picked who winds up being the most productive for fantasy owners. If Shanahan's history is any guide, many of these backs are going to be disappointing relative to their draft position.
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