Stock Up: the following guys have moved up our rankings over the past week.
Chad Henne, QB, Dolphins
After a brutal showing in the exhibition opener, Henne rebounded to complete 68% of his passes with 1 TD and 0 INTs in his final 2 appearances. Most importantly, his chemistry with WR Brandon Marshall looks much better than it did last year. Henne is locked-in as Miami's starter, although he's still just a desperation QB2 in fantasy leagues.
Chris Johnson, RB, Titans
The holdout is finally over! Johnson agreed to a new deal on Thursday, giving him 9 days to get ready for the opener. He’ll step right back in as the focal point of Tennessee’s offense. He remains an injury-risk because of the fact that he missed all of camp, but Johnson’s upside makes him tough to pass on. We bumped him back up to #3 among RBs.
Reggie Bush, RB, Dolphins
Not that we needed it, but we got more confirmation that Bush is locked-in as Miami’s lead back. "I would think he's going to have the most touches and the most carries," HC Tony Sparano said of Bush on Tuesday. For as long as he can stay on the field, Bush is looking like a viable RB2.
Mike Tolbert, RB, Chargers
While Ryan Mathews remains the lead back in San Diego, Tolbert is expected to open the season as the primary pass-catching back. He caught 4 balls for 45 yards on 5 targets this preseason. Mathews was targeted just 3 times and managed just 1 for 9 yards.
Ben Tate, RB, Texans
With a 95-yard, 1-TD performance in the team’s 3rd preseason game, Tate looks ready to assume backup duties in Houston. And with Arian Foster still nursing that bum hammy, Tate could see a sizeable role right out of the gate. He’s a must-have for Foster owners, and an intriguing mid-to-late-round upside pick for everyone else.
Jerome Harrison, RB, Lions
He was impressive in the team’s preseason finale, racking up 72 yards on 7 carries. The Lions haven't officially named a #2 back, but if you're looking to handcuff RB Jahvid Best, we'd grab Harrison.
Kendall Hunter, RB, 49ers
The rookie appears to have won the team’s backup RB job. Hunter averaged 6.6 yards per carry this preseason, compared to Anthony Dixon’s 3.2 mark. Frank Gore owners should add Hunter as handcuff.
Deji Karim, RB, Jaguars
Rashad Jennings is out with a knee injury, and there are whispers that he might be done for the year. Karim is next in line as Maurice Jones-Drew’s backup if Jennings is out.
Kenny Britt, WR, Titans
Good news for Britt on a couple accounts. First, the NFL announced that he wouldn’t be suspended for this offseason’s off-field issues. Second, he practiced in full this week and made his preseason debut on Thursday. It looks like that hamstring issue is just about behind him. He may get off to a slow start this season after missing most of training camp, but we still love him as a high-upside WR2.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles
Maclin returned to practice last Saturday and is looking like a go for Week 1. "I feel all right conditioning-wise," Maclin said Tuesday. "It's just getting back out there and running routes, I haven't done that in a while, so there's definitely some work I need to do, but I think I'll get back to my normal self pretty soon." Consider Maclin a WR3 to open the season, although we still like his odds of finishing as a top-20 WR over the course of the year.
Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers
Crabtree was activated from the PUP list on Tuesday, although he’s still not at 100%. He didn’t play in the team’s preseason finale and remains iffy for Week 1. There’s still upside here, but consider Crab just a WR4.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Steelers
After undergoing 3 separate foot surgeries this offseason, Sanders returned to a full practice this week. Then he made his preseason debut on Thursday and hauled in 4 balls for 60 yards. He looked pretty dang healthy to us. Sanders’ snaps may be limited early on, but we still like his chances of eventually taking over Pittsburgh’s #2 WR spot.
Earl Bennett, WR, Bears
In the all-important 3rd preseason game, Bennett led the Bears with 6 catches for 89 yards. "I just feel comfortable with him out there,” QB Jay Cutler said afterwards. Bennett is locked-in as Chicago’s slot receiver and could lead the team in catches this season. He’s worth a look in PPR leagues.
Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers
He’s this year’s preseason darling. Brown racked up 9 catches for 230 yards and 3 scores in Pittsburgh’s first 3 exhibitions. His TDs came from 29, 44, and 77 yards out. This dude has serious big-play ability, and the Steelers are going to get the ball into his hands this season. But we still like Emmanuel Sanders to finish with better numbers. Don’t overpay for Brown.
Steve Smith, WR, Eagles
Smith was somewhat surprisingly activated from the PUP list this past Saturday. It means the Eagles are counting on him to contribute early this season. We remain skeptical and are still avoiding Smith in fantasy drafts.
Zach Miller, TE, Seahawks
Miller gets a slight boost with the season-ending shoulder injury to John Carlson. But with Seattle’s shaky QB situation, Miller is still just a TE2.
Aaron Hernandez, TE, Patriots
Hernandez has out-performed Rob Gronkowski all preseason, finishing with 15 more catches, 171 more yards, and 1 more TD. We're not putting too much stock in Bill Belichick's crazy preseason game-planning. Hernandez and Gronkowski both figure to be too inconsistent to be fantasy starters this season. But if we forced to decide between the two, we'd take Hernandez at his current late-12th-round ADP over Gronk in the 10th.
Lance Kendricks, TE, Rams
Kendricks continued his brilliant preseason this past Thursday, hauling in 3 balls for 73 yards and a score – all from Sam Bradford. He finishes the preseason with 11 catches for 175 yards and 3 TDs. The impressive rookie is locked in as St. Louis' primary pass-catching TE and is one of our favorite late-round gems.
Julius Thomas, TE, Broncos
Thomas racked up a team-high 4 catches for 70 yards in the 3rd preseason game. It's a crowded TE picture in Denver, with Daniel Fells, Donte Rosario, and Virgil Green also in the picture. But Thomas – with 6’5, 255-pound size and plus-athleticism – is the best bet for production. We're keeping him on our radar, but he's only an option in keeper and dynasty leagues at this point.
Stock Down: the following guys have moved down our rankings over the past week.
Arian Foster, RB, Texans
All sorts of timelines being tossed around for Foster’s return from his hamstring injury. He seems 50-50 for Week 1. But more concerning is the chance that this hammy problem lingers all year. Foster’s upside is still huge, but he’s also an extremely risky pick in the top-half of Round 1.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers
He’s been a stud this preseason, averaging 7.8 yards per carry. But he still needs work in the passing game, and it looks like Mike Tolbert will open the year as San Diego’s 3rd-down back. It’s a role Mathews could take over later in the year though.
Daniel Thomas, RB, Dolphins
Few guys had more disappointing Augusts. Thomas was consistently chewed-out at practice and averaged just 3.5 yards per carry in preseason action. His role will be minimal early on.
Rashad Jennings, RB, Jaguars
Jennings suffered a knee injury in Jacksonville’s 3rd preseason game. The team has been hush-hush on his status, but Jennings was spotted on crutches Tuesday. We’ve heard whispers that he could end up missing the entire season. Avoid him until we find out more.
Justin Forsett, RB, Seahawks
Seahawks beat writer Danny O'Neill believes RB Leon Washington may take over as the team's 3rd-down back this season. That would leave Forsett without much of a role. We'd avoid both guys in fantasy drafts.
Anthony Dixon, RB, 49ers
He appears to have lost out to rookie Kendall Hunter for San Fran’s backup RB job. The plodding Dixon managed just 3.2 yards per carry this preseason.
Greg Little, WR, Browns
The rookie will open the season as Cleveland’s #3 WR behind Mohamed Massaquoi. Little has immense raw ability but has struggled with drops early in his NFL career. He’s just a late-round flier.
Ed Dickson, TE, Ravens
OC Cam Cameron confirmed that Dickson and Dennis Pitta will split snaps this season. "You're going to see them both in the game in different packages," Cameron explained. "In my mind, we've got two starting tight ends, and each brings something unique to our offense. So, we're going to utilize them both and I think we approach them both as starters." Doesn't get much more cut-and-dry than that. We prefer Dickson because of his big-play ability, but Pitta's presence will leave him without much fantasy value.
Martellus Bennett, TE, Cowboys
Bennett is out 2-4 weeks with a high-ankle sprain. He’d need a Jason Witten injury to be fantasy-relevant anyways. John Phillips will step in as Dallas’ #2 TE while Bennett is out.
John Carlson, TE, Seahawks
Carlson is done for the year after undergoing shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum.