The most important and revealing week of the preseason has come and gone, and the games that count arrive a scant week from Thursday.
That in mind, here are some telling stats and notable numbers to digest before you enter your draft rooms:
86 – Combined touches so far this preseason for the Ravens’ top four running backs – Justin Forsett (nine), Javorius “Buck” Allen (25), Terrance West (28) and Kenneth Dixon (24). All four have received time with the first team, which hasn’t exactly made it any easier for fantasy general managers to glean any additional clarity out of the jumbled situation than they had a month ago. Unfortunately, though, for Dixon – a rookie fourth-rounder – attrition has temporarily thinned the ranks as he suffered a torn MCL in Saturday’s exhibition tilt against the Lions and is expected to miss the next 4-6 weeks, although he will not need surgery. So what’s the prudent draft strategy regarding Baltimore backs? Be wary of reaching too high for Forsett, a 2014 breakout player, in the middle rounds and feel free take a late flyer on your choice(s) of the remaining three, who all are going undrafted, on average, in 10-team, 16-round drafts.
26 – Total yards this preseason for Falcons second-year RB Tevin Coleman, who has rushed for 31 yards on 10 carries and has a negative-5-yard reception in three games. By comparison, backfield mate Devonta Freeman has totaled 69 yards and a touchdown on 16 touches this month. Many fantasy pundits believe Coleman will receive a larger share of the touches after Freeman took advantage of an early-season Coleman rib injury for a roaring fantasy start before wearing down and tailing off noticeably late. But the former, a 2015 third-round pick, will need to get a lot more production out of his touches to be anything more than a late-round Freeman handcuff.
15.8 – Point-per-reception fantasy points last Friday night for Saints wideout Willie Snead, who reeled in all four of his targets for 58 yards and a TD in a 27-14 preseason loss to the Steelers. Snead finished second on the team a season ago with 984 yards and three TDs on 69 receptions, but it’s easy to overlook the receiver with bigger names (Brandin Cooks) and shiny new targets (rookie WR Michael Thomas and free-agent TE Coby Fleener) in the Big Easy. Considering his current 12th-round ADP (43rd among WRs), that gives Snead some obvious value in drafts.
15 – Team-high targets this exhibition campaign for second-year Panthers WR Devin Funchess, who has caught a team-most eight of them for 78 yards and a TD. Most of Funchess’ work came in last Friday night’s 19-17 loss to the visiting Patriots as he reeled in five of his 10 targets for 49 yards. In comparison, Carolina No. 1 WR Kelvin Benjamin, coming off a 2015 season scuttled by a preseason ACL tear, has caught six of his 10 targets for 61 yards in three games this month, but owns an ADP eight rounds higher (fifth vs.13th) than Funchess’, making the latter an attractive late-round draft target.
14 – Targets this month for the Eagles’ Zach Ertz, tying him with the Patriots’ A.J. Derby for the most among tight ends. Now while Derby doesn’t figure to see much action come the contests which count – barring injuries to Rob Gronkowski and/or Martellus Bennett, of course – Ertz figures to be an integral part of Doug Pederson’s Philly attack. There’s even more conviction in that statement after factoring in the uncertainty currently surrounding the Eagles’ WR situation. Ertz has definite top-five fantasy TE potential, but more TD catches are needed. It’s most definitely one of fantasy’s confounding statistical quirks as Ertz’s target, reception and receiving yardage totals have all increased in each of his three pro seasons, while his scoring-grab totals have headed in the opposite direction, going from four to three and then to two a year ago. Now, though, a reversal of TD fortune would seem to be in the 2016 cards.
11 – Receiving yards this preseason for the Dolphins’ Jordan Cameron, a tight end on the other end of the spectrum from Ertz. Cameron has been targeted six times, but only has managed to snare two after his 1-for-4 showing last Thursday night against the Falcons. With visions of Cameron’s monster of a 2013 season (80-917-7) still fresh in many fantasy minds, he’s a popular sleeper pick with Adam Gase bringing his tight end-friendly offense to South Beach. But Cameron has been only the Dolphins’ third-most productive TE this August behind Dominique Jones (6-72) and Dion Sims (4-23) and will obviously have to show something starting Sept. 11 that we haven’t seen in 2½ years to begin to approach those preseason expectations.
4 – Touchdown passes this month for the Bucs’ Jameis Winston. Only rookie sensation Dak Prescott, with five scoring tosses, has topped that total and only Prescott (137.8) and Bengals backup A.J. McCarron (113.2) have higher passer ratings than Winston’s 108.5. In all, the second-year QB has completed 26-of-44 attempts for 384 yards, the four scores and an interception. He’s also rushed for 24 yards on four carries. Winston finished last season as fantasy’s 13th-ranked quarterback, and that’s also his current ADP so there’s some value there if you’re projecting him to take any kind of measurable step forward in Year 2.
0 – TD tosses in three games for the Cardinals’ Carson Palmer. Well, let’s amend that. Two of Palmer’s passes have resulted in touchdowns while going 12-for-22 for 139 yards this preseason, but those have been credited to the opposition in the form of a pair of pick-sixes. Now to put things in context, it’s still only the preseason for a battle-tested veteran, and Palmer also has been without two of his three top targets in WRs Larry Fitzgerald (knee) and John Brown (concussion). Both wideouts are expected to be recovered and ready in time for the Week 1 opener against the Patriots, but the questions are being whispered: What if Palmer’s career season a year ago simply was an unrepeatable peak? What if his disastrous, turnover-filled NFC title game has carried over? And what if the sudden edge of the cliff is actually closer than we thought with Palmer turning 37 before this season is over? All valid issues to contemplate with a QB many are banking on to be their stud starter.
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