The NFL season has officially begun with each team starting to play pre-season games! While there likely won’t be a lot of answers after this weekend, the experts at FantasyHaus give there opinions on several questions topics that owners should be paying attention to prior to drafts.
What is the biggest storyline you’re paying attention to in week one that you’ll follow throughout the pre-season?
Amol – The Ladarius Green story is the one that I have the most invested in this pre-season. During our FantasyHaus draft I selected Green in the 11th round, in the hope that he would have a breakout season in the high-powered Steelers offense. I was super excited about this pick and felt that I got a player who could eventually morph into a top-three tight end by season’s end. Instead, I got the news this week that Green, who was supposedly sidelined as a precaution for his surgically repaired ankle, is actually not practicing because of recurring headaches. Recurring headaches is never a good sign in football and with so many people retiring early in their careers due to the concern of the lasting effects of concussions, I fear (I admit selfishly) Green might decide to take that route. I will definitely be monitoring this situation closely, as I will have to make backup plans if he does have to retire.
Anthony – The Denver Broncos quarterback situation. I love Demaryius Thomas this year, and I want to know that whoever is throwing him the ball knows what he is doing. Thomas was good with Tim Tebow, so he has to be good with whoever is starting for Denver!
Nick – I will definitely be watching the Ravens running back core. It’s still unclear who will take the lead role in the offense between Justin Forsett, Terrance West, Buck Allen, or Kenneth Dixon. There have been mixed reports thus far in camp, some touting Forsett, and others saying that West has the best chance to be the starter. This offense is very underrated and will absolutely have fantasy value this season. If the team takes a RBBC approach, it might be hard to trust any of the backs, but if one back comes out and shines, I like him moving forward.
Harold – I think the biggest thing to look out for throughout the pre season are the injuries. I know throughout camp that seems to be what all the reporting is about, but once these teams start playing each other and players are looking to lock up roster spots, injuries are a big factor and can be critical to fantasy for the rest of the season.
Shawn – What I’m going to be following closely from this point is how the Titans backfield plays out. In their first preseason game versus the Chargers the two-headed monster of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry combined for 167 of 288 rushing yards for the titans while each scoring a touchdown. To convolute matters more, last years starter Bishop Sankey also ran the ball effectively. Thus, it’ll be interesting to watch this situation unfold as there may be a fantasy gem in this backfield or perhaps two, similar to how the Bengals duo of Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill were each viable weekly options in 2014, with 11.1 and 11.7 points per game, respectively.
Pasha – I anticipate Sammy Watkins having a huge season given his immense talent and situation playing alongside new $90 million man QB Tyrod Taylor. Sammy broke his foot this offseason though is currently all systems go as of a few days ago. I would like to see him play in at least one preseason game to see how he looks if I am going to spend a high draft pick on him.
John Harbaugh stated in a recent interview that the Ravens are looking for “playmakers” during the pre-season. Do you think the playmaker(s) will be a running back or a wide receiver and who do you think it will be?
Amol – I think the playmaker that will step up the Baltimore offense will be WR Kamar Aiken. Last season Aiken broke out, finishing the season with 75 catches for 944 yards and five touchdowns. I think he will build on that this season and will be the go-to receiver for Joe Flacco. Fantasy-wise I think he could be a solid flex option.
Anthony – Mike Wallace is the player that I believe will be the playmaker for the Ravens. Wallace has not been good the last few years while playing for Miami and Minnesota, but I feel like that is going to change. Wallace played his best when he played for the Steelers and had a quarterback who could air it out for him. Joe Flacco is a similar quarterback and John Harbaugh is a great coach that knows how to play to people’s strengths. Wallace is someone I aim to get late in all drafts.
Nick – Wide receiver Kamar Aiken has a great chance to become a playmaker for this team. He had a great end to his year and filled in well for Steve Smith after he went down. Despite reports of Smith being ready for Week 1, I highly doubt he’ll play that much if he plays at all. Aiken could be Baltimore’s WR1 and is going in the 10th round. I didn’t choose a running back because it could end up as a committee. A running back will have to really stand out to become the clear-cut starter. Aiken, on the other hand, doesn’t have much competition. Reports are that Joe Flacco is looking like his normal self and that only helps Aiken.
Harold – If I was the Ravens coach, I’d be looking for playmakers as well. Who do they really have again?? Steve Smith has always been a playmaker when he is on the field, but the question is if he can return from injury given his age. I’d assume they gotta find a playmaker in their backfield. That have like seven hundred RBs and none of them stand out as a no question starter. If they can find a guy like West or Dixon, who can bust a couple plays on the regular, they just might move into a starting role.
Shawn – It’s tough to answer this kind of question after week 1 of preseason but if I had to pick a playmaker for the Ravens offense to get the ball rolling again it would have to come from the wide receiver position, Breshad Perriman specifically. He’s got the right frame and speed along with the right quarterback to be a menace for that offense. Flacco Throws one of the best deep balls in the league and if these two get rolling it open everything else up.
Pasha – While Terrance West is making headlines as the best back in camp thus far, I have to go with Kamar Aiken as the Ravens’ top playmaker this season. He’s received rave reviews from fantasy pundits this offseason and flashed moments of brilliance last year. The number one receiver spot in Baltimore is up for grabs, and Aiken should fairly easily grab that top spot.
Jimmy Garoppolo will start for the New England Patriots for the first four weeks of the season, and will be given first team reps throughout the preseason. What does Garoppolo need to show you in the preseason for you to think he could be a substitute for Tom Brady on your fantasy team?
Amol – Honestly I don’t want Jimmy Garoppolo anywhere near my fantasy team. I don’t think he is a bad quarterback in real life but fantasy-wise he will offer you very little because I think he will be asked to be a “game-manager” and nothing more. Bill Belichick will not ask him to throw it much and they will rely heavily on a balanced attack. When he does throw it I think he will have a lot of dump down passes to Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman or Dion Lewis but won’t every really stretch the field. Belichick will not unleash him and as a result, I think his fantasy value is very limited. With that being said, if he somehow has full freedom to run the same offense Tom Brady does, then by all means I will give him a look but for now I think he will play cautiously in order to limit mistakes.
Anthony – Garoppolo needs to show that he can manage the team during the pre-season. He doesn’t need to be Tom Brady. If he can show he can take care of the ball and make crisp passes to his receivers, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman will make him look great!
Nick – I am staying away from Jimmy Garoppolo in all my leagues, even if he throws for 25 touchdowns in the preseason. I don’t think he will be bad during the season, I just believe that there are just so many other better options to fill in for Tom Brady. Matthew Stafford has a great start to his season facing the Colts, Titans, Packers, and Bears. Derek Carr also has a relatively easy first four games against the Saints, Falcons, Titans, and Ravens. I will not be watching Garoppolo for his fantasy play but more to see if I can trust other Patriots players like Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman for four games. This is what you should look out for and take a different guy to fill in those four games.
Harold – Jimmy G just has to go out and play NE football. Protect the ball, dink and dunk passes and hit your playmakers in Gronk and Edelman, and let them do the work. If I could be certain that he could accomplish all that I wouldn’t have a problem taking Brady in a fantasy draft and grabbing Jimmy G as a fill in.
Shawn – What Jimmy Garoppolo needs to show me through the preseason to have confidence in the Patriots offense is the ability to read the field when the lights are finally on and the situations are real. I doesn’t matter if he goes 10 out of 20 with 130 yards each game; as long as he is throwing the ball to the right man and getting the ball out quickly, I believe he’ll be okay with the abundance of playmakers surrounding him.
Pasha – I certainly don’t view Garoppolo as a fantasy option, despite New England’s perennial offensive juggernaut and all the talent that surrounds him. He looked subpar in his first preseason game and has reportedly thrown 5 interceptions already in camp. I do believe he will be a good QB one day, but this isn’t his year as he still has a learning curve to go through – especially in Bill Belichick’s complex system. Also, the Patriots top receivers have been injured this offseason, so he hasn’t had many reps with them. Chemistry will be an issue early on. The Gronk figures to get fed early and often.
Who do you think will shine in the pre-season and cause his draft stock to skyrocket?
Amol –Saints rookie WR Michael Thomas has all the makings of a player who will shine during the pre-season and end up as a starter by the start of the regular season. Reports out Saints camp are that Thomas has been dominating in practices, making difficult acrobatic catches and playing aggressive. During the Saints preseason game against the Patriots, Thomas was targeted six times and caught 4 balls for 67 yards. Although those aren’t eye-popping numbers, the catches Thomas made were, including one athletic sideline catch and another diving catch. I’m all aboard the Michael Thomas hype train and he is someone that I think will rise up draft boards by pre-season’s end.
Anthony – DeMarco Murray is going to show that Chip Kelly didn’t know how to utilize him and that he is still a RB 1 in Fantasy Football. I have been getting Murray at the end of the fourth and beginning of the fifth, but I bet he will be a third round pick before the end of pre-season.
Nick – Rookie Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard is going to see his draft value skyrocket this preseason. He has received nothing but high praise during camp and many believe he’s NFL ready. Rookies like him are destined to see their ADP skyrocket because many have never seen him play before. A few 25-yard catches or a couple impressive grabs and this guy will be flying up draft boards. Although I think the hype is real, if he starts hitting the 6th/7th round in drafts, it might be a little too rich for my blood. Another is Jets running back Bilal Powell. I know I talk about him a lot but it’s for good reason. This guy WILL have a role in this offense. As long as Forte is sidelined, many will watch Powell perform in the preseason which could lead to him losing his sleeper status.
Harold – The talk so far has been about the rookie WRs. Guys like Coleman, Shepard, and Thomas could all see their stock rise if they have solid preseason and show they can play an integral part in their respective offenses. These three WRs are the ones I want to see more of throughout the preseason before taking them in fantasy drafts.
Shawn – This preseason will mark the first reps Kevin White will see as a professional football player. We’ve heard all the hype and there are plays to be made -and for the taking- in Chicago. White’s current ADP is 8.01 but when him and Cutler start linking up this month, he will likely see his draft status leap at least 3 full rounds.
Pasha – I’m all over Tyler Boyd. After watching his film, he seems to have all the physical tools it takes to be an elite WR in the NFL. He’s got a great height, weight, speed combo and has good hands. I’m curious to watch him during the preseason to see how well he has mastered the route tree in Cincy’s system. The number 2 spot opposite A.J. Green is up for grabs, and it’s really a competition between just the lowly Brandon LaFell and Boyd. Boyd will be thrown into the fire early and should respond well. Monitor him throughout the rest of the preseason.