FANTASY FOOTBALL PRESEASON: 5 PLAYERS ON THE RISE
by Scott Lynge
With the starters playing very little in week one of preseason, if at all, collating useable information can be a difficult task at best. There are numerous position battles taking place but it’s way to early for coaching staffs to make decisions. For most of these battles, evaluations will continue throughout preseason. It would be a mistake for us to over value players after only one week, but there are a handful of players you should be monitoring closely as preseason progresses.
• Michael Vick QB Eagles: (ADP 12.09) Losing his starting gig to Nick Foles last season due to inefficiency and an injury, Vick has taken an early lead in the competition to reestablish himself as the Eagles starting quarterback. With limited playing time in the first preseason game against the Patriots, he was able to showcase the skills that elevated him to the top of the quarterback rankings in the not to distant past. He appeared comfortable and in control of the offense, displaying recognizable mobility and a strong arm. A two minute, five play drive of 77 yards was punctuated by a 47 yard touchdown strike to wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Although Foles also played well and is still in contention, it appears, for now, that Vick has the upper hand and if he can continue his momentum deeper into preseason he’ll put a strangle hold on the starting job.
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• Cordarrelle Patterson WR Vikings: (ADP 10.12) Reports on Patterson were that, although very talented, he was raw and would need time to develop. That didn’t discourage the Vikings from trading back into the first round to secure him with the 29th overall pick. According to head coach Leslie Frazier, his development is progressing more rapidly than expected. After averaging 20.8 yards on five touches that included four receptions for 54 yards, Patterson’s teammates and coaches were elated about his first preseason performance. “We weren’t sure how fast he’d come as a receiver,” Frazier said. “For him to do what he did tonight, that’s going to help his confidence. I’m sure he’ll go back and work even harder to be more of a complete receiver. That’s exactly what you want out of a rookie playing wide receiver in our league. He’s going to be hungry coming back and we’ve just got to keep feeding him to help him to continue to grow.” Patterson sits behind Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson on the depth chart but the Vikings will be hard pressed to keep his speed and running ability on the bench for long.
• Zach Sudfeld TE Patriots: (UND) Sudfeld’s times in the short shuttle run and 40 yard dash equaled those of more heralded players that were drafted, but this 6’7″ 255 pound tight end wasn’t. It’s not a surprise he caught the eye of Patriot head coach Bill Belichick; he who knows tight end talent when he sees it. Rob Gronkowski is still on the PUP list (physically unable to perform) and may not be available to start the season, which would open the door for Sudfeld to move into the starting role. The Patriots offense revolves around its tight ends and even if Gronkowski does return, Sudfeld will be used in two tight end sets reprising the role that Aaron Hernandez had. He’s developed nice chemistry with Tom Brady and according to the Boston Globe Sudfeld’s been running “exclusively with the first unit,” and is “catching everything thrown his way.” So far, so good, stay tuned.
• Kenbrell Thompkins WR Patriots: (ADP 13.11) Undrafted free agent Thompkins has been a consistent playmaker in training camp and is gaining the confidence of Tom Brady who targeted him five times in the preseason opener against the Eagles. He turned four of those targets into completions for 23 yards, and although the yardage wasn’t significant, he displayed route running discipline, good hands and the ability to take a hit and keep control of the ball. With the departure of Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd, the Patriots future is literally in the hands of three rookie receivers. Joining Thompkins are drafted players Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce. Dobson is garnering some notice as well, but it has been Thompkins who has been the talk of training camp thus far. Comcast Sports Net beat writer Mary Paoletti had this to say, “I like Thompkins a lot, undrafted Cincinnati-product has had a better camp than anyone expected and is clearly one of New England’s most reliable receivers. So far he sits behind just Danny Amendola and fellow rookie Aaron Dobson on the depth chart; I know it’s too early to say what anybody’s role is going to be, but Thompkins, I think looks like a candidate to maybe play a Brandon Lloyd-type role.” He has the talent and the opportunity, let’s hope he builds on his momentum.
• DeAndre Hopkins WR Texans: (ADP 9.05) Here we go again, another very talented rookie receiver making a splash in preseason. Hopkins, a 6-foot-1 first round selection, had 82 receptions, 1405 yards and 18 touchdowns last year at Clemson and comes to a Texans team that has been searching long and hard for a serious threat opposite Andre Johnson for quite some time. He has been impressing in camp and carried it over to his first NFL action against the Vikings finishing with four receptions for 52 yards, which includes a leaping 34 yard touchdown grab over a defender in the end zone. “He basically did in the game what he’s been doing all training camp,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. The book on Hopkins is that he is a solid route runner, has good explosion off the line creating separation, has NFL quality straight line speed (4.5 40 yard dash), strong hands and is an effective run blocker. He’s being compared to a younger version of Roddy White, and that’s good enough for me.
Conclusion: I believe all these players will outperform their current ADPs, but it’s early yet so keep your eyes and ears open for news as the preseason progresses. If you’re drafting tonight I personally wouldn’t hesitate to draft any of them…and I already have. Remember, be flexible but stick to your draft plan, have fun and don’t be afraid to take chances.