Preseason Depth Chart Risers and Fallers
By Jason Katz (@jasonkatz13)
Over the course of the offseason, training camp, and the preseason, many names will be floated around as potentially having fantasy value. The preseason is typically when all that gets cleared up as depth charts are finalized, roster cuts are made, and we get some clarity on who is positioned where on each team.
The roller coast ride that we refer to as average draft position, or ADP, can fluctuate wildly over the course of a few weeks. Now that the regular season is almost upon us, it’s time to see where some notable names have landed come September.
Here are a few fantasy-relevant players that were either far more or far less valuable about a month ago.
NFL Preseason Risers – 2017
Carlos Hyde (RB, SF)
This one is kind of cheating. I only put Hyde here because early in the offseason, there were talks that the absolutely horrendous Joe Williams was somehow a threat to Carlos Hyde‘s job. I dismissed this quite publicly on various forums, but nevertheless, there were reputable sites actually reporting this information as plausible. It was never plausible. It was never possible. It was never something you should have ever considered. Hyde has more talent in one foot than Joe Williams has in his entire body. Words cannot express how really not close this is. Hyde was never losing his job. Hyde was never losing his roster spot. He is the best player on the 49ers and has all the makings of a three-down workhorse back. He was even spotted catching passes in his third preseason game. Hyde is undervalued yet again this year and is someone to target in the third/fourth round under Kyle Shanahan’s dynamic offense.
Kareem Hunt (RB, KC)
Kareem Hunt was never overtaking Spencer Ware. The third preseason game was the final indicator of this fact. Ware dominated first team snaps until he unfortunately tore his PCL and LCL, which I believe are potentially career-ending injuries for a guy who is not a mega talent and may end up missing two seasons. He will come back to the NFL, but he will never have a prominent role again. Hunt immediately steps in as the lead back and while I don’t foresee him seeing any bigger of a workload than Ware was going to see, the fact remains that Hunt is in an RB-friendly system with Andy Reid and should safely return at least fourth round value.
Jamaal Charles (RB, DEN)
The reports on Jamaal Charles not a lock to make the roster were true. We really hadn’t seen Charles be Charles in almost two years. He had to prove that he’s still got it. It took all of one touch for me to conclude that yes, Jamaal Charles can still do the damn thing. With Devontae Booker‘s injury and De’angelo Henderson‘s fumbling problems (and also he’s a rookie), Charles is going to enter the season second on the depth chart. And let’s be honest here, if Charles is still Charles, he’s going to take snaps away from the very average CJ Anderson. All Charles needs are 10-12 touches per game to be an RB2. I think he will get it.
Tarik Cohen (RB, CHI)
Tarik Cohen has had an excellent preseason playing behind Jordan Howard and has even gotten work with the starters. He quickly surpassed Ka’Deem Carey and the awful Jeremy Langford to assume the number two role in Chicago. Given Howard’s inability to catch passes, Cohen could find his way into standalone RB3 value in PPR leagues as the pass catching/satellite back.
Chris Hogan (WR, NE)
This is another unfortunate one. Chris Hogan is now the de facto number two WR behind Brandin Cooks as a result of Julian Edelman‘s ACL tear. Hogan lit it up in the third preseason game and has flashed explosiveness before. He is the most likely beneficiary from the Edelman injury, but these are the Patriots, so watch out of any of Danny Amendola, Rex Burkhead, or James White to benefit as well.
Kendall Wright (WR, CHI)
More unfortunate injuries resulting in lesser players climbing the depth chart. Kendall Wright projects to start alongside Kevin White due to Cameron Meredith‘s gruesome ACL and MCL tear that, apparently, he is lucky was only that bad as it could’ve been career threatening. Wright has been a WR3 before, but has spent the last couple seasons mired in obscurity due largely to injury. Now, Wright gets another chance and could be a surprise WR3 on volume alone. Victor Cruz is simply done – you just can’t return from a patellar injury when you’re a guy who relies on agility and quick cuts – and Markus Wheaton is always injured/not good at football. Wright is a great last player on your bench type pick.
NFL Preseason Fallers – 2017
Joe Mixon (RB, CIN)
When the Bengals drafted Joe Mixon, it was presumed he would become the starter because Giovani Bernard is not built to be a feature back and Jeremy Hill is terrible. Through three preseason games, Hill has started every one of them and played clearly ahead of Mixon. After Hill, Bernard was the next man in. Marvin Lewis has sent a clear message that Mixon is third on the depth chart. I would still bank on Mixon as the back to own here and the one with the most fantasy value when it is all said and done, but you’re probably going to have to wait a few weeks to realize it. Mixon is overvalued anywhere before round five.
Mike Gillislee (RB, NE)
Mike Gillislee was presumed to be the starter and the between the tackles/goal line back. The Patriots instead have elected to not release a depth chart at RB. That’s a downgrade for Gillislee. Rex Burkhead is the better all around player and James White is the better pass catcher. Gillislee will still be involved, but this has all the looks of a weekly guessing game at what Bill Belichick is going to do. Gillislee is overvalued for no other reason than he’s going multiple rounds ahead of Burkhead and White. They should all be going around the same area because they all have the same shot at being useful.
Eddie Lacy (RB, SEA)
When the Seahawks signed Eddie Lacy, it was presumed he was to be the starter. Nothing the Seahawks have done indicates that to be true. Thomas Rawls ran ahead of Lacy back when Rawls was healthy and CJ Prosise operated as the passing down back. With both of them nursing injuries in the third preseason game, Chris Carson outsnapped Lacy with the starters. It’s pretty obvious that the Seahawks do not intend to feature Lacy. He could still be the goal line back, but the involvement of Carson and the desire to push Rawls indicates that Lacy is far lower on the totem pole than previously thought. Lacy is a big avoid for me.
LeGarrette Blount (RB, PHI)
LeGarrette Blount has no talent. He is awful at football. He was purely a product of the Patriots’ prolific offense. All offseason, I have been telling anyone I can that Blount is legitimately not worth a pick in any round – not even the last round – not even for $1 in an auction. I wouldn’t even allow you to pay me to roster him. Then he shows up in the preseason and looks even worse than even I could’ve imagined. He’s been outplayed by Wendell Smallwood and was already likely to be outsnapped by Darren Sproles. Multiple times we’ve heard reports of the Eagles possibly cutting Blount or looking for something else at RB. Blount should not even be on your draft board. Do not rank him. He’s 31 years old and has never done anything productive in his career outside of New England, save for a few games in Tampa back when he was young.
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