Picks with upside: that’s what everyone is after on draft day in Fantasy Football. The first few rounds are usually fairly scripted as players fill their starting lineups, but that’s only the beginning. Things really get interesting when owners have to dig deeper into their cheat sheets and fill up their bench.
Getting a player who realizes his potential can literally win your league for you. I only need two words to convince you of that: Cam Newton. Finding this year’s late-round steals is always the key and always a tall task.
Preseason football is one way to look at players to gauge their value. There is definitely a limit to how much owners should read into “fake football,” but there are some insights that can be valuable. Week three is usually the week that coaches get their starters the most work, so let’s take a look at some players emerging as we come into the regular season. Come back to FantasyCPR.com throughout the week for more players on the rise.
Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks: I wrote an extended piece on him yesterday.
Jake Locker – Tennessee Titans: There’s a profile piece on him coming later this week.
Stevan Ridley-RB-New England Patriots: Ridley looked every part the feature back as he ran for 87 yards on 16 attempts and a TD while ading three catches for 13 yards. He did fumble which ultimately may be his nemesis, but if he can work on that and do a better job in blitz pickup he could easily be a RB1 in the Pats up-tempo, high-scoring offense. Shane Vereen suffered an injury (severity unknown), so Ridley could be in for even more carries than originally thought. It looks like a time share between him and Danny Woodhead who is most effective as a change-of-pace not an every down type player. Ridley is an aweseome grab as your third running back on draft day. (I wrote more on Ridley last week).
Rashad Jennings – Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags will go with Jennings if MJD doesn’t get in camp soon. Jennings was always a valuable handcuff but never more than this year. He ran for 57 yards on 13 carries against the stout Ravens D and is worth a look as soon as all the clear starters are off the board.
Ryan Williams – Arizona Cardinals: With the Beanie Wells injury concerns, Williams could play a huge role in his first year back from a torn right patellar tendon. Neither Williams or Wells has done anything to claim the job, so wait on Williams. He does have huge upside though if he can recover and Wells can’t be a feature-back.
Robert Turbin – Seattle Seahawks: Turbin locked up the backup job behind Marshawn Lynch rushing 14 times for 93 yards and a 25 yard TD. Turbin would be a great pick if he was a full-time player next to Russell Wilson. It’s not a far-fetched idea since Lynch has had off the field issues in the past and is dealing with a sore back this Preseason. Turbin is a high-level backup pick at the end of your draft.
Alex Green – RB – Green Bay Packers: Coach Mike Sherman is reportedly rotating Green and Cedric Benson at the Packers RB position. Green is the more athletic of the two but should still only be taken as a late-round flier. If Benson goes down injured, he’d be the starter but it looks like the Packers will be pass-heavy as usual.
Torrey Smith – WR – Baltimore Ravens: There were rumblings all summer that Smith had made big strides to becoming more than just a deep threat but a total receiver. Smith had been dealing with a minor ankle injury but showed no lingering effects as he made eight catches for 103 yards. If you can get him at a good price even as your fourth receiver, he could breakout and become a huge fantasy option this year. I’d rank him around 25th among wide-outs.
Justin Blackmon – WR – Jacksonville Jaguars: Blackmon is far-and-away the best receiver on the Jags roster and somebody let Blaine Gabbert in on that secret. Gabbert has been targeting him early and often all Preseason and he could easily be a nice bye-week sub or even a WR2 in some matchups. He’s going 33rd among receivers but I’d put him into the top 30 and be thrilled with him as my fourth WR.
Kendall Wright – WR – Tennessee Titans: Wright has opened eyes throughout the preseason and looked great against Arizona this week. He caught four passes for 44 yards and a touchdown. He and Jake Locker have seemingly developed quite a rapport and with Kenny Britt’s uncertainty there may be an opportunity for Wright to get more touches than originally expected. He’s still not a high or even mid-round pick, but at the end of the draft when people are reaching for their second team defense or a third TE, Wright offers some solid upside.
Damaris Johnson – WR – Philadelphia Eagles: Johnson has had a great preseason and appears to be earning his way into a significant role with the team. He could easily be the team’s third wideout behind Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson. Since both of those players have histories of injury, Johnson could be a huge pickup later in the season given the opportunity. He’s a rookie from Tulsa who could pay off big if you draft him with your last non-kicker/defense pick. Make sure you know the name for a quick claim on the waiver wire if nothing else.
Josh Gordon – WR- Cleveland Browns: Another deep-league late-round grab that could pay big dividends is Browns rookie wide-out Josh Gordon out of Baylor. He’s had a great preseason and looks to be the #2 option on the team behind only Greg Little. Now, it’s the Browns and their starting rookie Brandon Weeden as starter so temper your expectations, but at the end of the draft there’s definitely upside worth a flier based on his solid work so far for Cleveland.