Fire up the tape and Chris Ivory looks like a Marshawn Lynch Lite or Baby Beast Mode. Not many run with more downhill, straight-ahead, tackle-breaking power than Ivory. But I was admittedly concerned when the Jets signed Stevan Ridley as a free agent and traded for Zac Stacy in a draft-day deal. I knew Ivory was the most talented runner of the trio by a decent margin, but wasn’t sure if the Jets were also in that same corner of thinking, considering it was a new GM and coaching staff in town.
Editor's Note: For updated rankings, projections, exclusive columns, mock drafts and more, check out the Rotoworld Draft Guide.
Things have since crystalized for Gang Green. Ridley remains in the rehab phase as he recovers from last season’s torn ACL. He’s expected to open the season on reserve/PUP, costing him at least the first six games. And Stacy has yet to stand out much with just 86 yards, two broken tackles, and a long run of nine yards on 24 preseason carries. He remains a distant third on the depth chart.
Turn on the film of the Jets’ three preseason games and it’s clear that Ivory has established himself as the lead dog. He’s been getting all of the early-down reps with the first-team offense and even an occasional third-down snap ahead of Bilal Powell. The New York Post believes Ivory has cemented himself as the “unquestioned starter” in New York. Reports have been glowing on Ivory all summer, as he’s worked on his skills in the passing game and enjoyed the best camp of his three-year Jets career. Through three preseason games, Ivory has rushed for 99 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries (5.8 YPC) and caught all three of his targets for 20 yards.
Pro Football Focus has an Elusive Rating metric that factors in missed tackles and yards after contact. Ivory has finished top-three each of the past three seasons in Elusive Rating — No. 1 in 2012, No. 3 in 2013, and No. 3 in 2014. Only Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, and Eddie Lacy have forced more missed tackles on a per-touch basis than Ivory the past two years. While Ivory may not be in a class with those three, he’s deserving of a true workhorse role. But injuries have been Ivory’s Achilles’ heel since entering the league. Now 27 and coming off a mostly-healthy 2014, Ivory looks ready to take another step forward under OC Chan Gailey. His ADP has soared from 7.09 to 4.12 the past 30 days, and I just saw him go at 4.01 in a standard-scoring draft Tuesday night. Ivory is the real deal; he simply just needs more opportunities and for his health to cooperate.
Editor’s Note: Help Rotoworld maintain its reputation as the leader in fantasy sports content by getting to know you better. Please take this survey to help us keep improving our coverage.
In Other News…
The Packers were given another scare last weekend when Randall Cobb went down in the third preseason game with a shoulder injury. X-rays later came back negative, and Cobb was diagnosed with a sprained AC joint. Green Bay has a tendency to be cautious with its injured players, but reports have Cobb ready in time for Week 1 against the Bears. Owners can take a deep breath.
Alshon Jeffery has missed the past three weeks with what the Bears initially said was a “day-to-day” calf strain. Jeffery was on crutches and in a walking boot right after the injury, but quickly shed them. He’s yet to practice, however, and coach John Fox was “terse and non-specific” when addressing Jeffery’s status on Tuesday. It’s a bit concerning, but Fox has always protected and withheld as much injury information possible. We’ve been given no reason to believe Jeffery won’t be ready Week 1, but it’s something we’ll have to continue to monitor until Jeffery returns to the field.
Nick Toon was a popular deep sleeper target early in the offseason. Entering his fourth season with the Saints and Kenny Stills, Jimmy Graham, and Robert Meachem out of the picture, Toon was expected to take a leap in his development and become the No. 3 receiver. It never materialized, as Toon was quickly passed on the depth chart by Brandon Coleman and Seantavius Jones. Everything came to a head on Tuesday when the Saints shockingly waived-injured Toon because of a high-ankle sprain. Toon will be subject to waivers on Wednesday. If he passes through, he’ll head to the Saints’ I.R. list where he’ll either spend the entire season or later be released with an injury settlement. For Toon’s sake and the sake of early-drafters, let’s hope he gets another chance elsewhere.
Editor's Note: Play against our writers in the Rotoworld Football Championship – a series of one-week fantasy contests on FanDuel with $20K in FREE prizes! Enter the Week 1 contest before it fills.
Quarterback & Running Back Slants
The Philadelphia Inquirer expects DeMarco Murray to finish the season with 225-250 carries. It’s a far cry from his 393 carries from last season, but Murray should still see 300-plus touches. While many make a big deal about his offensive line “downgrade,” the truth is the Eagles also have one of the better front fives in the league. Murray is a solid bet to lead the league in rushing touchdowns, and he’s personally my favorite running back behind Le’Veon Bell. … Free agent Fred Jackson visited the Seahawks on Tuesday. It was also reported Bills GM Doug Whaley “went rogue” cutting Jackson, failing to consult the rest of the organization. … Signs continue to point to a RB-by-committee approach in Dallas, with Joseph Randle leading the way, seeing 10-15 carries per game. … The Cardinals plan to give Chris Johnson 10-12 touches in Thursday night’s preseason finale. He may be fighting for a roster spot after missing the last game with a hamstring injury. … Johnny Manziel said he’s dealt with elbow tendinitis since high school. … The Bears claimed QB Zac Dysert off waivers from the Broncos, reuniting him with coach John Fox and OC Adam Gase. … Case Keenum has won the Rams’ No. 2 quarterback job. … Robert Turbin has a high-ankle sprain. … Rookie David Cobb (calf) is in a walking boot and remains week-to-week. … Coach Bill O’Brien expressed disappointment with Alfred Blue and the Texans’ running game. … Broncos beat writer Mike Klis doesn’t expect Montee Ball to make the 53-man roster. … Joique Bell remains the Lions’ No. 1 running back “for now.”
Wide Receiver & Tight End Slants
Rookie Sammie Coates appears to be behind Darrius Heyward-Bey for No. 3 receiver duties during Martavis Bryant’s four-game suspension. Look for the Steelers to use fewer three-wide sets while Bryant is out. … The Jets are “smitten” with second-year WR Quincy Enunwa. OC Chan Gailey used four receivers on a league-high 586 snaps as the Bills coach from 2010-2012. … The Broncos believe Emmanuel Sanders (hamstring) is game-ready despite missing most of camp. … Packers WR Jared Abbrederis (concussion) has resumed practicing. … Seahawks WR Chris Matthews (shoulder) returned to practice. … The Chiefs downplayed Travis Kelce’s Monday ankle sprain, saying he’d likely play if it was the regular season. … Julius Thomas will undergo surgery on his injured finger on Wednesday and could miss a month. … Maxx Williams (undisclosed) is expected to be ready Week 1. … Bucs rookie WR Kenny Bell is battling a hamstring injury. … Chiefs waived/injured WR Junior Hemingway. … Michael Floyd (fingers) caught “soft passes” on Tuesday. … Jets placed TE Jace Amaro on I.R. with a torn labrum in his shoulder. … Roddy White (elbow) is expected back on the practice field next week. … Jimmy Graham has been used as a run blocker on 36.5 percent of his preseason snaps, up from 27.1 percent last season with the Saints. … Devin Funchess (hamstring) practiced Tuesday. … Ravens placed Dennis Pitta (hip) on reserve/PUP. … Bucs waived/injured WR Robert Herron. … Victor Cruz (calf) is no longer certain he’ll play Week 1. … Panthers released WR Jarrett Boykin. … T.Y. Hilton (concussion) is expected to be cleared this week. … Patriots acquired WR/KR Jalen Saunders from the Saints.