Sam Darnold, QB, Jets
Let’s take a step back and take a 10,000-foot view of Darnold.
He threw for over 3,000 yards and 31 TDs in his starting debut as a redshirt freshman in 2016 at USC. He climbed to 4,143 yards — tops in the Pac-12 — in 2017 and was then the 3rd overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Last year, Darnold became the youngest starting QB in NFL history at 21 years old. He had an up-and-down rookie campaign but finished strong with 931 yards, 6 TDs and 1 INT on a 64% completion rate and 7.5 yards per attempt over the final 4 games.
Darnold has looked poised to take another step forward this preseason, completing 68% of his passes and averaging 8.4 yards per attempt. He’s displayed nice accuracy, pocket presence and mobility.
Simply put, Darnold looks like a hit for the Jets. And if we expect him to emerge as an upper-echelon NFL QB, we should expect a big statistical jump in his 2nd season.
He’ll be helped by a sneaky-strong group of weapons in WRs Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder and Quincy Enunwa, TE Chris Herndon (after his 4-game suspension) and a couple of pass-catching threats in RBs Le’Veon Bell and Ty Montgomery.
Note that Darnold opens with a tough matchup vs. the Bills. But he might be a streaming option in Weeks 2 and 3 in games against the Browns and Patriots that figure to find the Jets playing from behind.
Darwin Thompson, RB, Chiefs
We won’t spend too much time here on Thompson because we’ve been pumping him up for the past couple of weeks, highlighting him as a preseason winner and a guy who could win you a fantasy championship.
Here’s the crux: Thompson’s impressive August has vaulted him to #2 on the Chiefs’ RB depth chart. He has a shot to open the season with a change-of-pace role. And only the relatively unproven Damien Williams stands between Thompson and the lead job in the game’s most explosive offense.
Our ADP shows Thompson going in the 8th to 10th round in recent 12-team drafts. He’s sitting in the 10th round in best balls on DRAFT over the past week.
Plan on targeting him in the 8th or 9th round of your draft if you want to make sure you land him.
Dare Ogunbowale, RB, Bucs
Here’s a real sleeper — a guy who wasn’t even on our radar a month ago.
Now Ogunbowale sits 3rd on Tampa’s depth chart and seems set to play a 3rd-down, pass-catching role right out of the gate. In the team’s 3rd preseason game, he was on the field for 10 of QB Jameis Winston’s 34 snaps — the same number as Peyton Barber and just 1 fewer than Ronald Jones. The majority of Ogunbowale’s snaps came in hurry-up mode to close the 1st half.
While he’s bounced around to 3 different NFL teams over the past 3 years and has yet to record a regular-season touch, Ogunbowale does have a pass-catching resume. He racked up 60 grabs for 507 yards (8.5 YPC) and 2 TDs over his final 2 seasons at Wisconsin.
And a pass-catching role on this Bucs team should be more valuable than most. Barber and Jones were ineffective on the ground last year and haven’t looked any better this preseason, so expect this to again be 1 of the pass-heaviest attacks in the league. Tampa’s defense doesn’t look too strong, either, so this team figures to find itself in shootouts and/or playing from behind often.
What’s Ogunbowale’s ultimate upside? The Pewter Report’s Trevor Sikkema wouldn’t be surprised if he starts games for the Bucs this year.
“Whether it’s been running with the ball, catching it out of the backfield or pass blocking for the quarterback, Ogunbowale has, at times, looked like the best back they have – not even just the best third down back,” Sikkema wrote recently.
Especially in PPR leagues, consider Ogunbowale for 1 of your final few picks.
Cole Beasley, WR, Bills
There are certainly more exciting late-round WR targets. But few are better bets to out-kick their ADP than Beasley.
He was a staple of the Bills’ 1st-team offense throughout training camp and the preseason. QB Josh Allen attempted 28 passes — a little less than a game’s worth — in 3 exhibitions. Beasley was targeted on 8 of those — a big 28.6% share — and caught 7 for 71 yards.
We can imagine him turning in quite a few 7-71 type lines this year. Not exciting, but definitely useful in PPR leagues.
The Buffalo News’ Vic Carucci was out ahead of this whole thing when he predicted back in June that Beasley would lead the team in catches, pointing out that Buffalo’s “emphasis on Patriots-style/short-intermediate passing” would benefit the slot receiver.
Beasley is no strange to ample volume. He posted 52+ catches in 3 of his final 4 seasons in Dallas. Look for him to surpass that mark in his 1st season in Buffalo.
Marquise Goodwin, WR, 49ers
Goodwin has been lost in the shuffle. But most 49ers beat writers have him locked in as a Week 1 starter.
It was just last summer that Goodwin was a popular breakout pick, sporting a 7th-round ADP in August drafts. Injuries and inconsistent QB play made him a bust. But he’s enjoyed a healthy offseason and should get a QB upgrade with Jimmy Garoppolo back. Goodwin is still just 28. And his truly elite speed gives him a lofty weekly ceiling.
Beasley is the preferred late-round target in PPR leagues, but Goodwin is the guy in non-PPR.