NEW – PRESEASON WEEK 3 RISERS, FALLERS, SLEEPERS, & USAGE TAKEAWAYS – RIGHT HERE!
Though overreacting to Preseason Play and Training Camp Puff is a sheepish move, so too would be ignoring actually meaningful developments — Fantasy Wolves consider all possible evidence. From rapport building, to role development and unexpected usage, to overall team performances and glimpses at new schemes, plenty of important trends emerge in the preseason that cannot be ignored. Below, find out all the meaningful Fantasy Football Risers, Fallers, Sleepers and Takeaways from Preseason Week 2. (Week 1 Takeaways here)
*Note – if you prefer more timely updates, be sure to bookmark our Fantasy Football Stock Watch. Audio-enthusiasts, find our Preseason Week 2 Risers, Fallers and Penny Stocks Podcast “Show Notes” here.
In order of most meaningful developments:
No one has seen their fantasy value rise more over two weeks of Preseason Action than Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey. A week after (surprisingly) receiving and executing a 2-yard TD plunge, McCaffrey turned a 2nd-and-1 blast up the gut into a 70 yard TD burst. This flashed a gear we rarely saw in 2017, with McCaffrey’s longest regular season run (40 yards) and reception (37) far below. Between the added volume, power, and burst, McCaffrey enters 2018 as a potential “Fantasy Cheatcode.”
Not a bad turnaround for someone I was calling “Overpriced” in our Preseason Kickoff Guidejust two weeks ago. While I try to stick to my guns, ignoring glaring evidence that I was wrong would be foolish. This is even easier to do when I’ve always loved McCaffrey’s “Individual Talent.” I simply didn’t believe the “Volume” would be there to return his value.
If these 2 weeks are any indication, I’m dead wrong. Though the flashy run will catch headlines, the “Workhorse Usage” is even more important:
McCaffrey was the only RB to touch the field over the Panthers’ first five drives, which spanned 16 plays. Of these, three plays didn’t get off (2 Sacks + 1 Cam Newton fumble). On these 13 executed plays, McCaffrey touched or was targeted 10 times (77% of plays).
By comparison sake, he averaged only 12.3 touches per game in his rookie season.
Moreover, OC Norv Turner fed a similarly built 5’10, 220 lb LaDainian Tomlinson enormous workloads; McCaffrey reportedly added 8-10 lbs of muscle this offseason in anticipation of more volume. Turner has a long history of riding a bell-cow, and called it “realistic” for McCaffrey to receive 25-30 touches a game — something HC Ron Rivera called “ideal.” Though this once seemed hyperbolic, Turner’s past history and McCaffrey’s early preseason workloads both suggest this heavy “Usage” isn’t just coachspeak.
McCaffrey could threaten for Top-5 RB status if he receives this volume, and, more importantly, holds up. Even still, CJ Anderson (who didn’t touch the field until midway through the 2nd Quarter) presents a solid 12th Round Insurance Policy — he’d likely operate in a true three-down fashion. McCaffrey’s now a fringe first-rounder in my eyes.
Though Aaron Rodgers and Jimmy Graham only logged one series together, they already flashed a Red Zone rapport worth noting. Graham scored on a beautiful 8 yard route where he faked an out route, before slanting quick to the inside where a Rodgers’ dime awaited him. At a massive 6’7″ with proven Red Zone chops, Graham has humongous scoring upside in an offense that should visit inside the 20 quite often.
Originally, the historic lack of TE usage / production in Green Bay had me shying away from Graham. However, with Jordy Nelson gone and an unproven WR depth chart, this aerial pie is far more open than any in Green Bay’s past. And Graham is an entirely different athlete than the team’s had, possibly.
Rodgers is well-aware of Graham’s mismatch potential, noting “He’s a big target; he catches the ball with his hands…You know, we haven’t had a guy like that around here in a while. Jimmy, he’s got a great feel for coverages, getting open, he uses his body really well, runs good routes, and he’s a matchup issue.”
More importantly, however, is the chemistry brewing between the two. In fact, Rodgers likened it to the departed Jordy Nelson, stating, ““The guy understands the game as well as just about anybody we’ve had around here. The same category as a John Kuhn, Jordy Nelson… Those guys who really understand the game, who see it through the quarterback’s eyes and want to be right all the time…they understand if they see it how I see it, they’re probably going to get the ball.
“I’m really pleased with him, he’s played great. It was nice to be on the same page,” Rodgers said. Between Rodgers’ ability to put the ball wherever he pleases, and Graham’s ability to use his massive frame and athleticism in the Red Zone (led the league in RZ targets and scores last season), the TD upside here is mammoth. I’m changing my tune on Graham, and sending him flying up my Big Board and TE rankings.
Earlier this offseason, fantasy owners salivated when Trey Burton was pegged for the Travis Kelce “U” role. Saturday’s contest versus the Broncos illustrated just how valuable this could be. Burton was used all over the field and on a variety of route combinations, ultimately hauling n 4-of-5 targets for 45 yards and a TD.
Burton’s “Usage” this preseason has been extremely encouraging. He’s been on the field for 92% of Chicago’s first-team pass plays, while accounting for a team-leading 6 of Trubisksy’s 18 throws (33%). Moreover, Burton’s been split out in the slot on 47% of his routes, nearly-mirroring Kelce’s 50% slot usage from 2017.
Keep in mind, Nagy’s very first personnel conversation with GM Ryan Pace revolved around finding his next Kelce. This is a crucial cog of this attack, in which Kelce racked up a TE-leading 122 targets.“It’s an important role,” Nagy said. “It’s easy to create some plays for.”
Burton was far and away Nagy’s top choice for this job, which makes perfect sense considering the former Eagles’ insane athleticism. At 6’3″, 235 lbs, Burton is a physical freak, logging 2014 Combine bests in the 40 (4.62), the 3-cone (7.14) and the 20-yd shuttle (4.32). Nagy’s well aware of this athletic upside, stating:
“And when you have a guy that has the size that Trey has and the speed that he has, it’s about mismatches. That’s one of the things that I learned through coach Reid is getting mismatches throughout, and that’s what Trey does.”
The early results suggest a perfect fit. Carrying a 99 ADP and 93 ECR, Burton seems likely to bring a high-yardage floor to an otherwise uncertain position in this price range. This makes him a steal, and a Must-Target if you miss out on a more established Top-6 option. He’s risen into the 70s on my Big Board.
For more on Matt Nagy’s impact on the entire Bears’ offense, click here.
If Roto Street had to pick a poster-boy QB, Patrick Mahomes would be the no-brainer. On Friday versus the Falcons, he flashed why: an effortless 69 yard bomb that led a streaking Tyreek Hill right into the end zone — the longest . Meanwhile, Hill was easily Mahomes’ top target, validating the week’s earlier reports of their brewing chemistry, and reaffirming his WR1 Value.
The only QB listed on my “Must Buy” Bargain List (part of the Preseason Kickoff Guide), my love for Mahomes is no secret. This game flashed exactly why: Mahomes consistently sought the big play (even to a fault), benefited from excellent YAC from his receivers, and flashed his mobility in and outside the pocket. Meanwhile, Hill blew past the defense with ease, and flashing the instant 20+ point swing a Hill-Mahomes “Pig Roast” could bring. Hills’s tied with Travis Kelce for a team-leading 6 targets on Mahomes’ 18 throws, as compared to a whopping 0 for Sammy Watkins, and seems to easily be the preferred WR option here in KC.
Even with the mistakes (1 horrendous pick), Mahomes is due to explode as the engine of this juggernaut. Between speedy deep threats outside, seam busters inside, and excellent YAC backs, this offense is truly indefensible, especially when the man under center has perhaps the top arm in the NFL. There will be growing pains, but Andy Reid is a QB-whisperer and will mold Mahomes’ unlimited potential. Plus, the defense looks like a sieve, which should keep games in shoot-out mode. Simply put, I was already all-in on Mahomes and the Chiefs, and feel nothing but validated after this performance.
Read On to Page 2 for Five More Risers + Fallers and Sleepers