The third week in the preseason brings much clarity to the fantasy football realm. The starters play the most in these games, which gives us the best game information we can get at this time of year. Here are the targets, touches and throws we have culled from last week’s games.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears
8 targets—7 receptions, 77 yards @ Raiders
It appears Alshon Jeffery has cemented himself as a viable fantasy player in Chicago. The second-year receiver looked good against the Raiders last week. Then again, many receivers are going to look good against the Raiders.
Jeffery gives Jay Cutler an actual option at receiver outside Brandon Marshall.
However, given his role as the no. 2 receiver, Jeffery is third in line for targets, at best. Marshall and Matt Forte will be the first two, and Martellus Bennett is going to vie for plenty himself.
Donnie Avery, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
9 targets—6 receptions, 54 yards @ Steelers
It was validation for Donnie Avery as he had himself a nice game just after being named the No. 2 receiver. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but Avery saw a whopping nine targets against Pittsburgh, catching six of them for 54 yards.
As late-round targets go, Avery might be one of the better ones in PPR formats. Alex Smith likes to throw a lot of underneath stuff, and Avery could be the receiver that benefits.
Kenbrell Thompkins, WR, New England Patriots
12 targets—8 receptions, 116 yards @ Lions
That is an amazing target count for a guy who played little more than two quarters.
Kenbrell Thompkins is the No. 2 receiver in New England, which makes him an excellent value in fantasy drafts. That is, of course, unless fantasy owners start scooping him up earlier and earlier until his ADP gets above the seventh round.
Lest we forget, Chad Johnson and Brandon Lloyd were fool’s gold in that position the past couple of seasons. Thompkins looks like the real deal, though, creating separation on his routes and making catches all over the field. Could he break the “Curse of 85?”
Nate Washington, WR, Tennessee Titans
4 targets—4 receptions, 70 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Falcons
Nate Washington is one of those fantasy players everyone forgets about every preseason until he scores a touchdown in Week 2 and everyone rushes to pick him up.
At the moment, it seems that Washington has the No. 2 wide receiver job in his pocket with the Titans. Kendall Wright didn’t exactly take the job and run with it, and he will be out for at least the remainder of the preseason.
There are plenty of late-round fliers at wide receiver, and Washington has hardly been consistent throughout his career. But if he’s going to see the field a lot as the No. 2, he is certainly worth a bench stash.
Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
7 targets—4 receptions, 50 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Eagles
Ever so quietly, Justin Blackmon is having a nice preseason. He sat out the first game, but the past two weeks have shown us what kind of potential he has in the fantasy realm.
We actually got a good look at that potential during the second half of last season, when Blackmon had some huge games despite dealing with Humpty Dumpty and Rosie the Robot at quarterback. The situation isn’t much improved in that department, but the team seems improved under new management.
The unfortunate thing about Blackmon’s fantasy prospects is his four-game suspension, which is the reason he is falling into the teen rounds in fantasy drafts. If you are willing to stash him on your bench while you wait those four games, however, you might find yourself with an embarrassment of riches at wide receiver. You might alternatively find yourself with an embarrassment at wide receiver if Blackmon has another off-field issue, but we’ll assume he’s on the straight-and-narrow these days.
Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions
7 touches—5 carries, 52 yards; 2 receptions, 49 yards vs. Patriots
Reggie Bush is all the rage in that Detroit Backfield, but Joique Bell is making some noise of his own this preseason.
The fourth-year back has been ahead of Mikel Leshoure on the depth chart all preseason, and he has taken full advantage of his opportunities. He looks like a man on a mission when he gets the ball, as evidenced by his incredible 10.4 yards-per-carry average.
As handcuffs go, Bell might be a better bet than guys like Bryce Brown or Ben Tate, who are going much too high. Instead of grabbing a backup running back in the seventh or eighth round, why not take Bell in the 11th or 12th? Odds are Bush will miss at least a little time this season, especially given the added injury risk turf poses.
Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears
8 touches—6 carries, 76 yards; 2 receptions, 33 yards, 1 touchdown @ Raiders
Matt Forte is having himself a preseason. But is this a mirage?
After all, Forte has always been a bit of a fantasy tease, at least after his rookie season. He hasn’t hit double-digit touchdowns since then, and he has only scored 10 times over the past two seasons combined, though injuries have played a part there.
Things are different in Chicago, though, with offensive guru Marc Trestman at the head coaching controls. If the preseason is to be believed, Forte is in for a renaissance this season. Of course, we should take any performance against the Raiders with a grain of salt—tackling is optional on that defense, it seems.
Having said that, Forte is increasingly looking like a first-round pick in PPR leagues.
Robert Turbin, RB, Seattle Seahawks
14 touches—10 carries, 50 yards; 4 receptions, 22 yards @Packers
Christine Michael, RB, Seattle Seahawks
12 touches—11 carries, 97 yards, 1 touchdown; 1 reception, 25 yards @ Packers
In a vacuum, it’s clear who you should draft here based on last week’s performances against the Packers. Christine Michael had a dominant stat line, including a huge 43-yard touchdown run that sparked the Seahawks to victory. He should be your Lynch handcuff, right?
Wrong. Everything is not as it seems in Seattle.
Robert Turbin was actually the second man on the field at running back behind Marshawn Lynch. He ran seven times for 37 yards in the first half, mostly against Green Bay’s starters. Michael, meanwhile, had just two rushes for eight yards in that span. Turbin looked pretty good himself before giving way to Michael and his explosive second half, though his pass-blocking left something to be desired.
While Michael represents massive upside that Turbin simply cannot match, it seems clear the latter is the No. 2 in Seattle, at least for the time being.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
8 touches—8 carries, -5 yards vs. Seahawks
You read that right—negative yardage.
A week after a nice debut with for Eddie Lacy, the Seahawks bottled him up. The rookie simply could not get things going against Seattle, but his stat line isn’t the whole story. Lacy’s first carry actually went for 11 yards, but it was called back on a holding call. After that it was all downhill for the Packers running game.
The offensive line wasn’t able to open any holes for Lacy, and Graham Harrell was so bad at quarterback that the Packers cut him the next day. Twice Harrell threw awful backwards passes that had Lacy’s yardage totals going the wrong way.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos
8 touches—5 carries, 33 yards; 3 receptions, 42 yards vs. Rams
Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos
16 touches—14 carries, 43 yards, 1 touchdown; 2 receptions, 27 yards vs. Rams
Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver Broncos
9 touches—6 carries, 34 yards, 1 fumble; 3 receptions, 15 yards vs. Rams
The plot thins in Denver.
Ronnie Hillman has played himself out of a starting job, it seems. The week after he fumbled for the third time in two games, Montee Ball was named the new starter. Considering how taboo fumbles are in the NFL, it seems like Hillman is in hot enough water to make Knowshon Moreno fantasy-relevant again.
Yes, the Moreno who has never come close to living up to that first-round status and the career average of 4.0 YPC. Hillman’s stumble might be an opening for Moreno, who had a nice fantasy run at the end of last season after Willis McGahee went down. When you’re trying to figure out who to fill your bench with at the end of your drafts, keep Moreno in mind. Let’s not forget that Ball has had pass protection issues of his own, and he is still a rookie.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
25 throws—12 completions, 166 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Patriots
The fantasy line was pretty good for Matthew Stafford, but it was a troublesome performance for the 25-year-old quarterback.
Stafford was without Calvin Johnson and Ryan Broyles, so there is somewhat of a reason for all those passes that sailed over the heads of his targets. The majority of Stafford’s passing yardage came on runs after the catch by his receivers, including a 67-yard rumble for Reggie Bush.
The issues with Stafford’s mechanics persist, even if he and Jim Schwartz refuse to admit he has any. He continues to throw ill-advised passes off his back foot, which is the biggest reason for his accuracy woes. Still, volume is the name of the game for Stafford. He might not break his own record for passing attempts, but the Lions rushing game isn’t exactly running people over. With Megatron back and Bush playing as well as he is out of that backfield, Stafford still figures to vie for a top-five finish in the fantasy realm.
Matt Flynn, QB, Oakland Raiders
6 throws—3 completions, 19 yards, 2 interceptions vs. Bears
Terrelle Pryor, QB, Oakland Raiders
9 throws—7 completions, 93 yards, 1 touchdown; 4 carries, 37 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Bears
How Matt Flynn managed a quarterback rating greater than 0.0 is a mystery from the fantasy gods. The Raiders look downright awful, and Flynn looks about ready to lose his starting gig for a second preseason in a row.
Terrelle Pryor, meanwhile, has been coming on all preseason. The issue with his positive performances is that they’ve come against second- and third-team defenses. His most recent outing actually started out with disaster when Pryor through a ball over the middle right to Chris Canty, the Bears safety. Canty dropped it, and Pryor went on to have a nice second half.
He might have looked like the next Russell Wilson, but let Pryor do his thing before you invest. He may or may not be drafted in your league, but let someone else take the risk.