Week three of the NFL Preseason is usually viewed as the final “dress rehearsal” for the regular season. So who has stepped up this preseason and what value do they have in fantasy football? That’s the question we started answering yesterday in part 1. Today, we’ll look at some more players who have improved their stock with strong preseasons and examine when they should be taken in fantasy football drafts.
Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos: Ok, I realize Peyton isn’t a sleeper and after yesterday’s performance he’ll be drafted highly in pretty much every league. He looked like pre-injury Peyton against the 49ers starting defense throwing for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 10-12. Perhaps even more importantly, he took that big hit that all his supporters have been dreading and survived to tell the tale. He was drilled then bounced up and threw both his TDs after that including a long TD pass down the right side. Manning and all Broncos receivers get a bump up the cheat sheets after an impressive Sunday afternoon performance. Drafting Peyton still has some risk, but he’s an extremely attractive pick after the elite QBs are off the board.
Colin Kaepernick – San Francisco 49ers: It would be easy to overlook Kaepernick’s development this Preseason, but he’s been solid throughout. He went 4-4 yesterday for 80 yards and rushed for 11 on two carries. If anything should happen to Alex Smith (injury or ineffectiveness) Kaepernick looks to be the Niners QB of the future and will make a great pickup when he gets that opportunity whether it’s this season or next.
DeAngelo Williams – Carolina Panthers: Jonathan Stewart headed to the locker room on a cart in some serious pain last night. X-Rays were negative but he was on crutches after the game so even though their just saying “sprain” it’s more than just a little rolled ankle. It’s unclear how much it will effect his status going forward into the season. That could open the door for Williams to have a huge opening to the season. Cam Newton needs to be less agressive running and focus on his passing, but the Panthers are a definitely run-first offense. Williams could get extra carries in the early part of the season making him valuable as a trade chip and a starting flex option the first few weeks. I still would try and avoid having him as one of my top two backs except in deep, deep formats, but I’d be thrilled picking him up as my third if Stewart is going to miss time or be limited by his injury. If Stewart’s injury is nothing major, the platoon that limits both players fantasy value makes it a situation I try to avoid.
David Wilson – New York Giants: The Giants rookie running back from Virginia Tech showed why the Giants are so high on him in his start on Friday night. Wilson started in place of the injured Ahmad Bradshaw and rushed for 49 years on five carries and added 26 yards on two catches. Wilson could have immediate value depending on how many touches he gets per game. Bradshaw has struggled with injury in the past and Tom Coughlin has used a running back rotation successfully in the past. Wilson is one of the better backup options available and I’d be very happy to get him as my fourth or fifth running back in standard leagues. Right now his ADP is 38th among running backs which seems about right since that puts him as a RB4 is standard 10-team leagues. He’s got definite upside.
Alfred Morris – Washington Redskins: Morris is worth a look at the end of your draft or on the waiver wire if things start breaking his way. He shone against the Colts Saturday rushing for 107 yards on 14 carries adding a TD and one catch for six yards. He’s fourth on the depth chart but that hasn’t ever meant anything to Coach Mike Shanahan in the past. Roy Helu, Evan Royster, and Tim Hightower have all missed time this preseason due to injury and Shanahan likes to change things up at running back all the time infuriating fantasy owners. Morris has shown he has the ability if he gets the opportunity so he’s worth a flier in the last round before K/D territory if you need RB depth. If he ends up buried behind the three other backs, you can move on, but he could be a name to know if he gets the call in the Redskins new-look RG3-led offense.
Kyle Rudolph – Minnesota Vikings: Rudolph was targeted three times and he caught all three passes for 36 yards. He’s hauled in six of his seven targets this preseason and is locked in as the Vikings receiving tight end. He could easily be the second option in the passing game behind Percy Harvin and could be a great safety valve for the developing Christian Ponder. If you miss out on the 3G elites (Gronk, Graham, Gates) I’d wait until late and take a TE with upside like Fred Davis, Jared Cook, Kellen Winslow, or Rudolph.
Joel Dreessen – Denver Broncos: Dreessen had only two catches Sunday, but one was a touchdown. It wasn’t from Peyton, but it does look like Dreessen will be the TE2 in Denver and we all know what Peyton can do for Tight End value (see Clark, Dallas). Dreessen has been vulturing touchdowns and catches from Owen Daniels in Houston the past few seasons with six last year and four the year before. If Peyton is Peyton, he makes any receiver on Denver at least worth a look and Dreessen could be a deep league sleeper pick in the late rounds if you’re hunting for a second TE.
Percy Harvin - Minnesota Vikings: Harvin led the Vikings in targets with six in the week three game as he and Christian Ponder continue to showcase their solid connection. Harvin is hanging around way too long in some drafts. I was able to get him as my third wide-out in my first draft of the season in a 10-team, 2-QB league. He probably won’t be around that long in most drafts, but represents solid value even at his ADP placing him 15th among receivers. He is the uncontested #1 option in the Minnesota passing game and could play a huge role early with Adrian Peterson still recovering from his injury. Everyone by this point has heard that his snaps were limited last year, but the Vikings are expected to take the gloves off this year and I could easily see Harvin as a low WR1 by the end of the season. If you can grab him as a 2nd wide receiver late, he’s a great pickup.
Marvin Jones – Cincinnati Bengals: When I asked our NFL editor over at NFL Spin Zone Josh Sanchez ( @JNSanchez ) and asked him for a breakout player he responded, “Couldn’t have a breakout players list without naming Marvin Jones.” Jones has emerged after being picked in the fifth round out of Cal in last year’s draft. He caught the Bengals lone touchdown against the Packers this week as part of his two catch-21 yard performance. He has a total of five recpetions for 111 yards this preseason. Noone has staked a clear claim to the #2 WR spot in Cincinnati, and Jones should get his shot at some point. Brandon Tate appears like he’ll be the initial starter, but Jones has demonstrated some solid upside. His numbers have mostly come late in the game against backups, but he’s opened some eyes this Preseason.
T.Y. Hilton – Indianapolis Colts: Hilton and Whalen are in the competition to land the second wide receiver spot in Indy. Andrew Luck has looked good this Preseason and Austin Collie is looking less and less likely to return. Hilton has the speed and playmaking ability to replace Pierre Garcon in his rookie year out of FIU, but he did leave Saturday’s game with a shoulder injury. Prior to leaving the game he had 54 yards on four catches including a 31 yard touchdown. Hilton has durability concerns but is a decent flier at the end of the draft if he can stay healthy this year.
Dwayne Harris – Dallas Cowboys: Harris has become a Preseason standout for the second year in a row. Last year as a rookie he caught a pair of TDs in his debut but ultimately failed to make the roster when training camp broke. This year he’s expected to avoid that same fate and may even be the team’s third wide receiver entering the season. He had another huge game Saturday going for 118 yards and two more touchdowns. The Cowboys will have opportunities with the injuries to Jason Witten and Miles Austin, the off-the-field concerns with Dez Bryant, and the departure of last year’s third wide receiver Laurent Robinson. Harris has earned the trust of Tony Romo and is worth a look with an end-of-the-draft flier pick if you’re after depth at his position.
Michael Spurlock – San Diego Chargers: Spurlock has made his career a return-man first and a receiver second. Last year he had two catches all season for the Bucs. He signed with the Chargers this offseason to help with depth following the departure of Vincent Jackson. With Vincent Brown’s injury, Spurlock moved up the depth chart and could contend for time as the third wide-out. He was targeted three times (although Philip Rivers did not play) and hauled in all three for 46 yards on the night. With Robert Meachem and Malcom Floyd catching none of their three targets, Spurlock could emerge with a real role in the Chargers offense. He’s a late-round deep sleeper only, but it’s good to know the depth chart when there are injury risks at the top of it.