Halfway through the exhibition slate; here are some numbers of note from the second weekend of fake football.
Jeff Janis, 3-25 receiving — With Jordy Nelson suffering a torn ACL that knocks him out for the entire season, Davonte Adams moves into the starting lineup—and throws open a new battle for fantasy value as Aaron Rodgers’ third receiver. Janis showed the best this week, with top competition Ty Montgomery limited to 23 yards on a pair of returns. It’s a battle that warrants further scrutiny next week.
Steelers, 26-42 rushing — In the same injury-marred game, Pittsburgh lost Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey for two months to an ankle injury. That 1.6 yards-per-carry average isn’t entirely on the Steelers line, but it does give pause when considering Le’Veon Bell for the top spot in your fantasy draft. At least Ben Roethlisberger (11-14-100-1) held up well.
David Johnson, 13-66 rushing, 2-15 receiving — The Cardinals signed Chris Johnson (who’s already hurt, by the way), but it’s the rookie Johnson who might just carve out the biggest chunk of touches in the Arizona backfield. He’s more capable of running between the tackles than either CJ?K or Andre Ellington, and he’s an adept receiver as well. Turning 15 touches into 81 yards is a good way to get on the field.
Chris Ivory, 5-36-1 rushing, 3-20 receiving — Beast East is a solid mid-tier fantasy option, but the three catches suggest he might have added value in PPR leagues as well. Also worth noting: Ivory’s competition for backfield touches, Zac Stacy and Bilal Powell, added another seven receptions to the ledger.
Dion Lewis, 3-12-1 rushing, 5-36 receiving — Lewis is battling James White (9-23-1 rushing, 1-20 receiving) for a role in the always-productive New England backfield. Could either be this year’s Shane Vereen? Good luck guessing Bill Belichick’s backfield rotation on a week-to-week basis, but there is certainly value to be had here. As for the other half of the committee—let’s call it the Stevan Ridley role—LeGarrette Blount was an abysmal 13-15 on the ground with one catch for two yards while Jonas Gray was only slightly better with 22 yards on seven carries.
Brandin Cooks, 4-117-1, 1-7 rushing — There’s no doubt Cooks takes over as Drew Brees’ (8-10-159-2) favorite target this season, with an upside north of the frustrating Saints WR1 seasons Marques Colston used to give us. See how Sean Payton also gave him a carry? It’s clear getting the ball in Cooks’ hands is a priority in New Orleans.
Jeremy Maclin 3-22-1 receiving — Yes, the Chiefs threw a touchdown to a wide receiver, but if you want to get technical Maclin was actually lined up in the backfield on the play. This offense still doesn’t throw the ball downfield, but the fact that they threw multiple times at Maclin in the red zone before eventually getting him the score is an indication they’ll go out of the way to get him the ball.
Carlos Hyde, 7-39 rushing, 1-6 receiving — Behind a decimated line, in a decimated offense, Hyde actually looked capable of filling in for Frank Gore. Still tough to trust him as a fantasy RB2, but production like this week’s will go a long way towards keeping him at the fore of a Hyde/Reggie Bush committee. And the Niners may yet need to find a way to get the ball to rugby star Jarryd Hayne, who went 8-54 rushing and added 84 yards on three punt returns. That’s a good day, mate!
Josh Robinson, 13-61 rushing, 1-6 receiving — Perhaps some movement in the Indianapolis backfield, with the rookie Robinson showing he’d be up to the task if the end finally comes for the aforementioned Gore. In the same game Chicago’s Jeremy Langford (9-80-1) tossed his hat in the ring for the honor of being handcuffed to Matt Forte.
Sam Bradford, 3-5-35 passing — While that’s not a bad stat line for Bradford in his return to action, it was more notable that he endured two crushing hits at the hands of the Baltimore defense and emerged unscathed. Chip Kelly may want to reconsider running too much read option with a quarterback as historically fragile as Bradford.