I love the NFL preseason. Call me crazy, but after 6 months of no real action, there isn't much that gets me more excited than the first week of games. It's the official signal that my NFL withdrawal is over. And anytime I can use the words "withdrawal" and "over" in the same sentence, I'm a happy person.
Best of all, the beginning of the preseason means that many fantasy drafts are either happening or will be happening very shortly. With this in mind, we're calling on a few top experts to give their thoughts on who's moving up and down their fantasy draft boards now that there are actual games to evaluate.
Before we hear from our Featured Pros, let's first give them an introduction.
Known best for his work as the "Doc" at Razzball, Chet brings a humorous & knowledgeable approach to his writing. Last season, he finished 6th (out of 40 experts) in our weekly accuracy contest so he's proven to be one of the most accurate pundits in the industry.
Kevin serves as the Senior Editor of Online Publishing at NFL Soup. That's fancy talk for "he puts out a ton of useful fantasy articles each week." Kevin was rated as the 2nd most accurate WR expert in our weekly study so he's a good person to ask if you need advice.
James has been on the Fantasy Sharks' team since 2009. During the season, he pens the popular column, "Deeper & Down", which uncovers the best under-the-radar players available in most leagues.
Q & A
Q: With the first week of preseason games in the books, which 2 or 3 guys are you moving up your draft board the most?
Both my risers are smaller receiving backs who have little competition on their team for carries and if they can stay healthy could have huge seasons:
Felix Jones (DAL - RB): With all the rave reviews coming out of camp, a nice showing in the first preseason game and an under-appreciated 2010, Jones is quickly rising up my ranks. He is no doubt risky since he has battled injuries, but his upside is tremendous with the 2011 Cowboys. Yes, the Cowboys often provoke a visceral response, either pro or con, but it is hard not to like their offense this season if you take the love/hate out of the equation. With Tony Romo back and Dez Bryant poised to make a huge jump, the passing game should open the running/short passing game up tremendously for Jones.
Jahvid Best (DET – RB): Best is similar to Jones in many ways and I like him for similar reasons. His 2010 was more injury plagued than Jones’, but his turf toe woes should be over with this season and he also gets his quarterback back and a team with a great passing offense and no goal line back (now that Leshoure is done for the season). Both of these guys will be better in points per receptions leagues, but have a ton of upside even in standard leagues. I’m targeting both in my drafts this season.
Kevin Roberts - NFL Soup
Colt McCoy (CLE - QB): Call it a knee-jerk reaction if you must, but I was impressed by McCoy’s 9-for-10, 134-yard and one-touchdown performance in Cleveland’s preseason opener. More than the impressive numbers, McCoy looked poised in the pocket and very much in control of the Browns’ offense. And this all came against a good Green Bay first unit. McCoy isn’t about to crack my top-20 just yet, but if he keeps delivering solid performances like this, he just might.
Jahvid Best (DET – RB): Experts everywhere rushed to toss Best up a few spots in their rankings immediately when news broke that back-up rookie running back Mikel Leshoure would miss the entire season. Still, I found few experts who ranked him higher than I did, and I can only see his stock rising with the suspect play of the mediocre talent behind him. Too many people focus on how Best’s 2010 rookie year was slowed down by a nagging toe injury, and don’t spend enough time appreciating the toughness it took for him to show up and play through the pain. That shows you that the guy has the potential to help you every week, even if he’s hurt. And with such a huge role, the sky is the limit for this kid.
Stevan Ridley (NE – RB): I’m curbing my expectations for a rookie running back caught up in the chaos that is an ever-growing body count of running backs in New England. The guy has no clear-cut role in 2011, but was fun to watch in New England’s preseason opener, rushing foor 64 yards, notching 47 receiving yards, and finding his way into the end-zone three times. He has a power and finese game, and absolutely has the talent to be the top back for the Pats if they want him to be. He’ll slowly rise the rankings as he climbs the depth chart.
James Elvins - Fantasy Sharks
Aaron Hernandez (NE - TE) is a favorite of mine and I took a lot of flak for ranking him above Jermaine Gresham in the Fantasy Sharks dynasty rankings last year. Similarly, Eric Decker (DEN - WR) is a player I ranked higher than a lot of other people based on his ability. Greg Olsen (CAR - TE) can finally be a useful TE#2 pick and Mike Tolbert (SD - RB) is a great buy-low for those people who aren’t too worried about depth charts. Ignore what you see there, I’ll take Tolbert over Ryan Mathews, thank you. It's good to see Norv Turner come out in public support and admit what everyone who watched SD run last year already knew. Finally, Anquan Boldin (BAL - WR) has enough deep-threat competition to improve on what was an underrated first season (830+ yds & 7 TDs) playing opposite of an out-of-position Derrick Mason.
Incidentally, anyone searching for a textbook, late round flier, should check out Jeremiah Johnson (DEN - RB). Look at who his college running partners were (Jonathan Stewart & LeGarrette Blount), his landing spots since and his competition now. He hasn't appeared out-of-place in the preseason so I’ll be watching to see how he does against stiffer competition.
Q: Which guys are you now downgrading the most in standard redraft leagues for the main offensive positions?
Marques Colston (NO- WR): I was already pretty low on him coming off his 6th surgery, but since they had to shut him down early in training camp I have moved him even further down my rankings. He is a great talent and a nice red zone target, but I see Lance Moore and Jimmy Graham and possibly Robert Meachem really cutting into his production as he tries to keep his knee rested.
Benjarvus Green-Ellis (NE- RB): Yeah, the Patriots drafted two running backs, which wasn’t a ringing endorsement of The Law Firm, but he still had a nice 2010, is atop the depth chart and was worth drafting late, but watching Stevan Ridley play makes me even more worried that Green-Ellis won’t get to see all that many opportunities this season. I just doubt I will even take a flier on him this season.
Tarvaris Jackson (SEA – QB), Alex Smith (SFO – QB) & Chad Henne (MIA – QB): I’m grouping all of these pathetic passers together because they all were terrible in their starts in their team’s preseason openers, and their teams have to be looking at all other options at the position in the coming weeks. T-Jax looked completely lost, Alex Smith looked like Alex Smith, and Chad Henne continued his drive-killing, interception-throwing ways. None of these guys are reliable or draft-worthy, and all will be dropping further and further in my rankings as the weeks go on, barring some unforeseen string of amazing preseason performances.
Ryan Mathews (SD- RB): As if his value weren’t in question enough due to his injury-plagued rookie season, Mathews entered San Diego’s preseason opener as the back-up to Mike Tolbert. Tolbert is now listed as the starter on most Chargers’ depth charts around the web, and head coach Norv Turner has been extremely vocal about a clear two-back rushing offense. For people who are still clinging to the hopes of Mathews breaking away as a RB1 in 2011, they can forget about it.
Jeremy Maclin (PHI - WR): I’m sorry, but the Eagles signed Steve Smith as “insurance", Maclin has an “undisclosed illness” and the guy hasn’t practiced yet this off-season. He has great talent and could be a force in the red-zone again, but I think about dropping him further in my rankings nearly every single day. Until/unless there’s breaking news that all is right with the guy, stay away.
I'm downgrading anyone who is a RB for the Colts not named Carter or Evans. To me, the Colts RB position is a two horse race and that doesn’t involve either Joseph Addai or Donald Brown. For different reasons, I’m also lowering Johnny Knox (CHI - WR). Mike Martz has a history of marginalizing, then alienating players he's fallen out of love with, regardless of talent. Knox can call Kurt Warner on a conference with Caleb Hanie if he needs a shoulder.
I’m also incredibly wary about Michael Crabtree (SFO - WR) & Marques Colston (NO - WR). There are plenty of other WR options available, including players on their own teams.
Well, there you have it: Some great insight into players moving up and down the experts’ preseason draft boards. Do you agree with what the pros have had to say? Let us know!
I'd like to thank this week's Featured Pros for stopping by to share their thoughts. You can follow each expert on Twitter to stay up-to-date with their latest articles and opinions.
Chet Gresham – @Chetrazzball
Kevin Roberts – @NFLSoupKevin
James Elvins – @deeperanddown
Photo Credit: Link