Jesse Pantuosco: Welcome one, welcome all to this year’s NFL Roundtable. This week we’ll start off with a fairly straightforward topic. Which players have jumped out at you during the preseason?
Personally, I think Jimmy Garoppolo has really helped his stock over the last couple weeks. Since the second half of New England’s loss to Green Bay, he’s completed 43-of-50 passes for 365 yards. I know he’s mostly gone against second and third-stringers, but keep in mind he’s done this while throwing to scrap-heap guys like Chris Harper and Brandon Gibson. Who knows what the judge will say in Tom Brady’s court case but I think Garoppolo is someone to keep an eye on, particularly in DFS where he should be relatively cheap. Anyone else on the Jimmy G bandwagon?
Raymond Summerlin: Garoppolo was more impressive in his second outing than his first, but I still have a hard time trusting him in any format. It appears Brady’s lawsuit is going about as well as he could have hoped, and the news coming out suggests he could get away with at the very least a reduced suspension. Add in the very real possibility the Patriots employ a run-heavy approach while Brady is sidelined, and one can see a scenario where Garoppolo will be overvalued in both redraft and DFS. I will be fading him in both formats.
The obvious answer to the question is Ronnie Hillman, who has averaged 7.5 yards per carry this preseason and vaulted past Montee Ball on the depth chart. His preseason start has been so good 9News’ Mike Klis called him the “1B” to C.J. Anderson’s 1A. Last season was the first time Hillman did anything meaningful with a big workload, and he ended up breaking down after just five games of double-digit carries. At 5-9 and perhaps 200 pounds soaking wet, Hillman is unlikely to steal the starting job away from Anderson, but he should get enough change-of-pace work to be a thorn in the side of Anderson’s fantasy owners. If anything, Hillman’s emergence has knocked Anderson a couple pegs down my board.
Pantuosco: Fair enough. Garoppolo didn’t try to bomb the ball downfield against the Saints, which I thought was an improvement. Like the future Hall of Fame quarterback he’s filling in for, short and intermediate passes are going to be his bread and butter. I also agree Hillman is a must-have handcuff in all formats.
Another guy who stood out to me was Charles Johnson. He seemed to be Teddy Bridgewater’s go-to receiver against the Raiders, drawing five targets compared to only one for Mike Wallace. I grabbed Johnson for $4 in an auction draft recently and obviously RotoPat saw enough upside to include him in his Top 25 for wide receivers.
Evan Silva: I liked the way the Chiefs used Jeremy Maclin. He's lining up all over the place and even scored his touchdown on a little RB-type smoke route where he lined up sidesaddle with Alex Smith in the shotgun. Looks like the Chiefs are really gonna emphasize scheming Maclin the rock.
Graham Barfield: One bit of information that has been floating around this preseason is the Steelers' use of Markus Wheaton and his place on Pittsburgh's August depth chart. It doesn't really matter if Wheaton is running ahead of Martavis Bryant in 2-WR sets because last year the Steelers base offense was 3-WR sets. Three wideouts were on the field in Pittsburgh 65.1% of the time in 2014; that was the seventh highest percentage in the league and well above the NFL average (51.9%). Martavis Bryant's ADP has subsequently slipped a full round since August 1st for next to no good reason.
Silva: Martavis will play a good amount for sure from a real-life standpoint. From a fantasy standpoint, it's a disappointment to me that he will likely be more of a 60% player than an 85% guy. We already had concerns with his volume. I still think he outscores Wheaton but being on the field less hurts his chances at seeing somewhat consistent volume. There will be games where the Steelers are ahead a lot, run a lot and Martavis only sees 2-3 targets.
Patrick Daugherty: Matt Jones is the most impressive player I've seen so far. It's starting to look like the suspicions were right: His underachievement at Florida had more to do with the environment than his skills. He's looked so, so slick. Lightning quick with subtle moves. Scot McCloughan has one of the best eyes for talent in the NFL, and has compared the guy to Beast Mode Marshawn Lynch.
Also happy with what we've seen from David Johnson. He really flashed his athletic chops last Saturday. That, coupled with Chris Johnson's immediate injury after signing means he could open the season with the passing-down role we were hoping for when he was drafted.
Silva: I rewatched a bunch of guys on NFL Game Pass. Dorial Green-Beckham really stands out. Dude is a tree and moves so fluidly. Also showed competitiveness after the catch and got some run with the Mariota group. Loving DGB as a late flyer WR5 pick and I'm a definite Mariota believer.
Bishop Sankey was decisive downhill and the Titans' O-Line opened gaps for Bish to exploit. This past preseason game was probably Sankey's best as an NFL player. I still think that team ends up in a RBBC.
If you're into stacking your bench with high-upside backup RBs in hopes one hits, Matt Jones, Khiry Robinson, and Damien Williams stand out. Buck Allen is also in good position with Zo Taliaferro nursing a multi-week knee injury.
Especially with so much fringe talent playing in these exhibitions, you can see which guys are a cut above the rest. Jones is so explosive and hits the hole fast and gets upfield. He's definitely one of my favorite late-round dart throws at running back. DGB falls in that same category. For a guy who hasn't played a lick of football in almost 2 years, he looks like he hasn't missed a beat. Like Evan said, he's so big and fluid and really knows how to use his frame.
Another guy that I was legitimately excited about after watching his first preseason game was Devin Funchess. He made a great, acrobatic sideline catch against the Bills and was able to keep both feet in bounds and was later inches away from scoring a long touchdown on another pass. I was left wanting to see more after that small taste. He obviously missed the next preseason game with a hamstring issue, but was back at practice this week. After watching Cam Newton overshoot Philly Brown on a couple throws in the second preseason game, you get the sense Funchess' big body will be relied on by Cam. He'll become the No. 1 WR quickly.
Pantuosco: All good thoughts. I’ve been operating under the assumption that Jones is going to play a big role right away, which is why I’ve been avoiding Alfred Morris like the plague in re-draft leagues. We all know Morris can’t catch, so Jones will start off on third downs and work his way up from there. Also, I’m not buying this whole “receiver by committee” business in Carolina. In the end, Funchess is going to get a ton of work, probably enough to warrant a mid-round pick on draft day.
Just to put a bow on this, I liked what I saw from Allen Robinson last week against the Giants. He had a tough matchup going up against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie but still came away with three catches for 64 yards. His best play came on a crossing route when he absolutely smoked Jon Beason for a 36-yard gain. You wouldn’t know this guy broke his foot last year with the way he’s been running. There are going to be growing pains, he’ll drop a pass here and there, but if we’re going on pure volume, I think 1,000 yards is definitely within his grasp.