We’ve seen some risers already this preseason. Most notably for me is Stevan Ridley, but I’m getting excited about the depth at tight end I’m seeing this preseason and in practices. I don’t think we’ll see anybody give us the upside of the big 4, but there are more and more guys with legit fantasy prospects rising in the ranks.
Lance Kendricks: The Rams needed to find some weapons for Samuel L. Bradford this off season and ended up grabbing Mike Sims-Walker, but right now the bright spot of their off season moves is their rookie tight end. Last night he looked good grabbing 5 passes for 47 yards and a touch down. He’s also getting rave reviews in camp. They need a vertical threat to open the field up underneath, but Bradford is so accurate that Kendricks shouldn’t have any trouble getting his receptions even if that doesn’t happen.
Greg Olsen: I’m still not in love with the Panthers offense for fantasy football purposes, but their offense should have room for Olsen with Gettis out with a torn ACL and the coordinator a fan of tight ends. Olsen was targeted by both Jimbo Clausen and Cam Newton last night and had 3 receptions for 58 yards and a TD. He has the skills if they give him the targets.
Julius Thomas: The star of the Broncos camp, Orange Julius is that basketball player turned football player, but is picking up the game quicker than anyone expected. The Broncos don’t have much real competition at tight end for JT so unless he falters he has the inside track to the starting position. At 6’5″ 246 pounds he makes for an insanely large red zone target and is a very high upside backup TE and I don’t like to have backup TEs on my team, but I’d make an exception with him.
Dennis Pitta: The battle for the Ravens tight end job is still up in the air, but Pitta is in the lead. Ed Dickson has been hurting, but he returned to practice and Pitta continued to practice with the first team. Pitta also looked good in the first preseason game with 4 receptions for 47 yards. With 2 decent TE options it’s hard to see one of the two breaking out, but Pitta has the clear lead right now.
Mike Sims-Walker: He left the first game with a groin strain, and will miss the next game, but they don’t seemed too worried since they didn’t even have him get a MRI. Brandon Gibson has looked good in camp, but Alexander and Avery continue to hurt or swell and I don’t see either taking MSW’s spot. I’m still targeting him in drafts.
Ryan Torain: Torain is still out with a broken hand and Tim Hightower is the clear leader in the cluster eff of a backfield and is worth taking, but I believe Roy Helu is a better runner and a better runner in Shanny’s famous zone blocking scheme. So if things went exactly as planned (they won’t) I could see drafting and selling high on him.
Colt McCoy: The gunslinger, well his name sounds like a gunslinger, but he’s more likely a game manager, but that sounds a lot less cool, wait, where is this sentence going!? oh yeah, he was on target Saturday. He looked comfortable in Pat Shurmur’s west coast scheme and spread the ball out well. He looks like a better real QB than fake QB, but if that offense can click, Peyton Hillis, Ben Watson and Greg Little could benefit.
Devin Hester: He continues to be ahead of Johnny Knox and will continue to be bluh because he is short and can’t get open. Knox was returning punts and kickoffs and did so very well with a 70 yard return, but Hester should be returning kicks and Knox should be catching passes, but alas.
LaGarrete Blount: Blount is a bruiser and his value comes from touchdowns. He’s Michael Turner and that’s not a bad thing. LGB has been jockeying for more third down reps, and it makes sense since the Bucs didn’t go after a third down guy in free agency (like they should have), but it looks like Kregg Lumpkin (Fatty Lumpkin’s first owner) will get his shot as the third down dude. If they are willing to go with Lumpkin, they’ll most likely just throw another body in there if Lumpy can’t get it done. Blount’s ceiling will continue to be capped if he comes off on third downs.
Mark Ingram: Ingram was the second running back to play after Pierre Thomas, but out played him and it’s not really of a question of if he’ll be the starter, because he will and he will score a lot of touchdowns like his 11 yarder up the gut against the Niners. Just keep hoping that people are afraid of the rookie because they are still shell-shocked by Ryan Mathews.
Julio Jones: We got to see some of the big rookie wide receivers on Saturday night and from what I saw Jones was the star (the others didn’t look too bad either). His speed, size and physicality are NFL ready and as long as the Falcons throw more, which they should, Jones should be a viable #3 receiver this season and a top dynasty wide out.
Greg Little: Like Jones, Little looks like a man-child out there. His first preseason game wasn’t a barn burner, but he made a couple nice catches and looked physical, which is hard not to do at 6’3″ 231 pounds. And as I said, McCoy looked in total control of that offense. He’s not going to go all rookie Randy Moss on the NFL, but he should be able to get into the end zone.
AJ Green: Green actually looked like the most NFL ready receiver of the “Big Three,” but he sadly has Andy Dalton as his quarterback. He had 4 receptions and looked fluid coming in and out of his breaks. There’s no reason Green won’t become a top receiver in this league, but Dalton is going to have a butt-load of growing pains along with the whole Bengal’s team. I’m not going to invest much in him for this season.
Randall Cobb: Us fake football ‘perts have been trying to figure out who Rodgers would be throwing to besides Jennings and Finley and even though the answer still is up in the air, watching Randall Cobb, it’s hard not to believe it will be him at some point. He had a great preseason opener with 3 receptions for 60 yards and 2 kick returns for 58 yards and looked good in doing so. I’m not drafting him in redraft just yet, but he has potential for this season.
Dezmon Briscoe: DB Killer? Too early, but he did have a nice preseason game against KC, catching 4 passes for 60 yards and looking to have good chemistry with Josh Freeman. Benn and Williams have the starting jobs secured, but Benn has had some injury trouble. Keep an eye on DB in dynasty leagues.
Josh Freeman: Speaking of Freeman, I love the guy and only see great things in his future, but I do have him fairly low in my rankings (13th QB). I mainly see that offense being more conservative than the other teams with good young QBs like the Lions and Rams, so Freeman’s ceiling is a little lower. But one good thing that we saw in their first preseason game was Freeman running for a TD. He’s a good rusher and has put up decent numbers, but has also had bad luck getting into the end zone. His ceiling gets on a forklift if he can get 3-4 TDs on the ground this season, and he has the potential to do so.
Matthew Stafford: It’s oh so hard to make Stafford your #1 QB, but I can see taking the risk this season. On that team he could easily be a top 7 QB with an even higher upside than that. He looked on target in his first preseason game with a nice TD pass to Calvin Johnson and then Nate Burleson. He finished going 6-7 with 71 yards and those 2 TDs. I think that’s a QB rating of something around the national debt. Bradford and he have the most upside of the later round QBs, but I like Stafford’s weapons more and he’s more familiar with the offense.