NFL cut-down day is a wild roller coaster of emotions for players and fans alike, but the unfortunate outcomes for some create huge opportunities for others. In fantasy football, it’s imperative to be able to take advantage of this cracked-open doors on draft day.
1) WR Marquez Callaway, New Orleans Saints: While it was already known for weeks that wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) wouldn’t be ready for Week 1, some reports gave an encouraging outlook for his return date. The Saints made it official by placing him on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list, which guarantees he will miss the first six weeks. In this case, it will be only five games, since New Orleans is on its bye in the sixth week. Then Thomas has to shake off the rust. Callaway, who enjoyed a strong preseason, gets at least a five-game runway to show he can do it when games actually matter. Don’t be afraid to invest in the middle rounds of drafts.
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2) RB Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles: The release of veteran Jordan Howard makes Gainwell the primary backup to Miles Sanders. Boston Scott showed last year he doesn’t have the chops to be a traditional rusher and should remain entrenched in a third-down role if something where to cost Sanders time. Gainwell figures to spell the former Penn Stater, whose resume over the past five years of combined NFL and collegiate ball shows one season with more than 180 carries and just two years with over 200 total touches. Handcuff the pair, and non-Sanders owners should treat Gainwell as a high-upside speculative buy early in the second half of their drafts.
3) QB Mac Jones, New England Patriots: The first-rounder outplayed Cam Newton in training camp and preseason action, so Bill Belichick rewarded him with the starting job by outright releasing Cam Newton. Jones isn’t likely to be a regular fantasy contributor, but he will stabilize the overall offense. It was the right decision, and gamers can treat him as a fringe matchup play. The honorable mention goes to this backfield, because Newton is no longer around to steal a dozen scores. Huge win for fantasy footballers!
Update: With the news of Minnesota Vikings TE Irv Smith Jr. being lost for many months, the trade for New York Jets tight end Chris Herndon becomes interesting. When it looked like Smith would be back in short order, the move really didn’t register for fantasy purposes, but now the talented, although struggle-prone, Herndon has some fake football life once more.