Julio Jones has been the poster-child for preseason hype and for good reason. Last season he was hampered with injuries and still managed to have a good rookie campaign. This season the Falcons promised us they would let Matt Ryan and Jones off their leashes and go no-huddle. And they did just that in the first preseason game against the Ravens. Jones put up an awesome 109 yards on 6 receptions and scored a touchdown, all in the first quarter. His ceiling is Curiosity Rover high.
Ryan Mathews: He already helped fulfill every naysayers dream by fracturing his clavicle on his first play of the preseason. His time-table to return is 4-6 weeks, but most are saying that 6 weeks is more likely. He will miss the first game of the season and possibly the second.
I still like him, but of course he drops out of the top five. I know have him as the 11th ranked running back, going in the middle to late 2nd round. He could drop even below that in drafts, so he could be had at value now.
Robert Griffin III: His debut went smoothly, going 4 for 6 for 70 yards and a touchdown. He wasn’t asked to do a ton, but he did what he needed to do and did it well. He had nice touch on his passes and connected well with Pierre Garcon. His total ability wasn’t fully on display, but this was a nice start.
He’s my number one quarterback backup this season, especially if I miss out or just forgo drafting one of the elite quarterbacks. A tandem of Matt Ryan and RGIII sounds like a winner to me.
Rashad Jennings: He looked like a number one back with Maurice Jones-Drew sitting at home snacking and studying for his fantasy football draft (Hi MJD!). Jennings isn’t as versatile as MJD and won’t have much value when he returns, but he makes for an excellent handcuff and lottery ticket late in the draft.
LeGarrette Blount: Blount was the clear early down/goal line back in the Bucs first preseason game. He ran hard and even caught a pass. Rookie Doug Martin also looked good as the third down back and as the primary runner on the second team. This is of course just the first preseason game, but if Blount keeps playing well, he could cut into Martin’s value somewhat, but I’m still on the Martin bandwagon due to his overall ability. Plus, he’s just prettier than Blount.
Jamaal Charles: JC Superstar touched the ball five times and took a hit on his surgically repaired knee in his first game back. It’s a good start for Charles and the more he looks to be his old self, the more his stock will rise heading into draft.
Peyton Hillis: Hillis also looked good, as did the Chiefs all around. There is a good chance both Hillis and Charles will be viable threats in a run heavy offense. Charles of course is the home run hitter while Hillis is the grinder. They should complement each other well, in real life and in fantasy. The Chiefs also have a good, young defense which could help them run even more, which should help both backs keep some type of scoring consistency.
Keshawn Martin: The news out of camp has been great for Martin and if he continues on this pace he should easily become the starting slot receiver for the Texans. Of course the Texans run quite a bit, but with Schaub back in the fold, we should see a little more balance and Martin could be a nice flier in PPR leagues.
David Wilson: Wilson lived up to his hype in the first preseason game with some nice runs (albeit in the second half). He will see time this year without a doubt, but will still need Ahmad Bradshaw to falter. Of course, with Bradshaw’s history of foot problems that is a definite possibility. Wilson’s upside is quite high as the starter.
Cedric Benson: The Green Bay Packers signed Benson to be head of a Governor’s household, uh, I mean a running back. This signing kills James Starks’ value, who was just having a horrible camp. Benson’s veteran status will give him a good shot at early down and goal line work, but with Alex Green and Starks in the mix as well.
Chris Rainey: The hybrid RB/WR for the Steelers saw plenty of action in their first preseason game and also showed off his blazing speed on a 57 yard TD on a screen pass. He’s a longshot to put up any consistent fantasy numbers in standard leagues, but in PPR/return yardage leagues, he’s worth a look.
Jacquizz Rodgers: Rodgers was the clear running back on third downs and in the hurry up offense. He’s looking to be a safer PPR pick this year than last. He did score a rushing touchdown from the two yard line, but it looked as if Michael Turner was done at that point. They will most likely limit Turner in the preseason to keep him fresh for the regular season, where he will undoubtedly be the goal line back.
Peyton Manning: Manning looked on target in his first game back in a millenia. His numbers don’t look outstanding since he was intercepted, but it did come on a tipped pass and from what I saw there’s nothing to keep him from being a viable fantasy starter this season. He didn’t throw any 80 yard bombs and I don’t think you’ll see that this season, but he also didn’t have any trouble hitting Eric Decker over the middle on a medium route on 3rd and 17 for a first down. He only played one series and didn’t take a hit, so he still needs to show he can take a few sacks, but so far so good.
Jonathan Stewart: The Panthers sure like spending money on running backs. At least with JStew I understand it more than with DeAngelo Williams. They signed Stewart to a five year deal, with $22.5 million guaranteed. Stewart is a top five running back if he ever gets the chance, but as is, he is still the guy to own in Carolina.