INDIANAPOLIS --- The Colts.com Fantasty Football column is back, after a brief hiatus for training camp coverage, as peak season for fantasy drafts has arrived. Over the next three weeks, the majority of leagues will hold their drafts all over the world.
To be at your best though when on the clock, the savvy manager follows updates from around training camps and the preseason. Dig deeper than your on-line or magazine fantasy rankings. We're here to help with some key players whose stock has gone up and down after the first weekend of the preseason.
Lions RB Ameer Abdullah - The #FearAmeer hype train is peaking, while Joique Bell still can't get on the field. Jets Head Coach Todd Bowles even said, "He's about as quick as Barry Sanders." 7 carries for 67 yards, including this sick 45-yard juke and burst.
I already thought the floor for Abdullah was the Reggie Bush role in this Lions offense. When healthy, that led to 1500 total yards and 7 touchdowns in 2013. Even if Joique Bell is healthy, I still want Abdullah on my fantasy team. The potential is too great for a player going as early as the 5th round (maybe earlier now).
Bears WR Eddie Royal - He's become a deep sleeper for me, with rookie Kevin White's season in doubt. The second receiver in the Bears offense has value, even with a new coaching staff in Chicago. Target him as a high-upside WR4 or WR5 moving forward.
Colts WR Phillip Dorsett - Dorsett did have a fumble in Philadelphia Sunday, but he also had more than 50 yards on four receptions. For fantasy, he's nothing more than a late-round flier right now, since his start came with T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief inactive, but he's at worst the 4th receiver right now in this high-powered offense. His coaches continue to praise him too. Chuck Pagano yesterday: "You're looking at a guy that's going to be an outstanding football player, but you know what you're going to remember is the turnover. But again, he's going to be a dynamic guy for us." I can't draft him yet, beyond the last few rounds, but Dorsett is battling Donte Moncrief for WR3 snaps.
Eagles RB Ryan Mathews - Mathews has impressed in Philadelphia so far, while Chip Kelly has been slow to roll DeMarco Murray out after his 392 regular season carries last year. I'm made my stand against drafting Murray at all this year. That puts Mathews on my radar big time. Even if Murray defies history after all his 2014 touches and stays healthy, Mathews could still be valuable in this offense. Chip Kelly yesterday: "Our plan all along was to get another running back with (Murray). I wanted to have two running backs, and that's why we got Ryan (Mathews). I don't think you can have a guy carry it 370 to 400 times per season and be successful. We're going to run it a lot — we always do — but we'll have more than one guy doing it."
Eagles WR Nelson Agholor - He's going to start. He's taking over the role held by Jeremy Maclin last year and DeSean Jackson the year before that. That wide receiver position, in this scheme, has generated back-to-back 1300-yard seasons. Agholor has become the top rookie value for me in fantasy drafts. Amari Cooper's price is too high. I like Breshad Perriman about a month ago ahead of Agholor, but not anymore. He showed what he can do Sunday too, taking a simple "smoke" play (called run play that QB quickly throws to WR with CB playing off) to the endzone. He finished with 3 receptions, 57 yards, and a touchdown against the Colts.
Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph - While some are praising Teddy Bridgewater's potential to sneak into the QB1 conversation this year in fantasy (and rightfully so), I think the bigger fantasy impact could come with the TE Bridgewater is targeting. The TE position in fantasy outside Gronk and Graham is a crap shoot this year. If you are drafting one late (as I am), keep on eye on Rudolph the next couple preseason games. Bridgewater's first pass Saturday night went to Rudolph for 18 yards. He targeted him again at the end of the quarter for another first down.
Patriots RB Jonas Gray - 74 yards and a touchdown for Gray against the Packers Thursday...don't forget LeGarrette Blount is suspended for the first game of the year and dealing with a knee issue. Blount is expected back week 2, but if Gray stays hot, would you put it past Belichick to stick with him? You never know.
Saints WR Brandin Cooks - Cooks took a simple screen pass 28-yards to the house against Baltimore Thursday. If he stays healthy, there's no reason he can't finish as a top-15 WR in fantasy, with a big increase in targets coming his way in 2015 after Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills were traded.
Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry - A designed red zone play for Landry for a touchdown against the Bears Thursday? That's promising. Landry is a guy that should definitely be on the PPR league radar. If he's gaining the trust of Ryan Tannehill too, we could be seeing the guy who will emerge out of Tannehill's group of talented receivers.
Titans RB David Cobb - 11 carries for 53 yards against the Falcons is going to earn him first-team reps. That's what his head coach Ken Whisenhunt said after the game. If I'm drafting a Titans RB this year, it's not Bishop Sankey. I saw enough last year.
Titans WR Harry Douglas - Rookie QB Marcus Mariota targeted the former Falcon three times in his first preseason game Friday (3 receptions, 46 yards). I'm keeping an eye on Douglas as a late-round flier, who was always reliable in Atlanta when giving the chance. Mariota has been accurate in camp and in his first game too (7-of-8 passing).
Raiders RB Latavius Murray - Murray had a good start against the Rams, rushing for 5.8 yards per carry on 6 carries. He has no legitimate competition for the featured role. The potential is there. The opportunity is there. His price isn't great value in the 4th round, but the job is all his in Oakland.
Texans RB Alfred Blue - Arian Foster is going to be out for a long time, and Blue rushed for 6.6 yards per carry in his preseason debut. He should get the most carries, but even Head Coach Bill O'Brien said on Hard Knocks it's going to be some sort of timeshare in the backfield. Blue should still be watched though moving forward in the preseason.
Cardinals RB Andre Ellington - Ellington had a 59-yard reception and a goal line carry for a touchdown against the Chiefs. He was banged up last year but should not be dismissed as one of the most consistent PPR league RB options before he went on IR. In PPR leagues last year, Ellington had double-digit points EVERY WEEK before he was injured week 13. If the Cardinals sign Chris Johnson though, everything I just said might go out the window.
Buccaneers RB Doug Martin - Colts.com beat writer Kevin Bowen loves him some Doug Martin in 2015. I'm still hesitant, but the reviews have been great for Martin, after he dropped weight going into this season. I want to see more, but you can draft him cheap in the 6th round or later. It doesn't look like Charles Sims will be much of a threat to his workload either.
Bears WR Kevin White - He's going to miss at least the first six games on PUP, needing surgery on a stress fracture in his leg. Who knows how healthy he'll be after that, or if he'll be in shape, or how many snaps he'll get? If your league has IR spots, he's worth a late round pick maybe to just stash him. Other than that, take him off your draft boards.
Saints RB C.J. Spiller - I was so high on Spiller going into draft season, then the oft-injured running back struck again, this time needing arthroscopic knee surgery. His role in this offense comes with such a high ceiling, but he has to stay healthy. Spiller is supposed to be ready for week one, but I have to downgrade him for now. A couple running backs I'd take before him now in drafts that are on average going after Spiller are Ellington, Jonathan Stewart, and Abdullah.
Jaguars TE Julius Thomas - He's "hopeful" to play week 1 after breaking a bone in his hand, but I was already skeptical of drafting him in this Jaguars offense. I'd rather take Jason Witten, Delanie Walker, or Kyle Rudolph later in drafts and get a solid RB/WR where I'd have to take Julius Thomas.
Rams RB Todd Gurley - Still recovering from a torn ACL in college at Georgia, Gurley won't play in the preseason. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport also said he could miss the first couple regular season games. You have to consider that when drafting him. Keep monitoring this situation. If he's ready to play any amount of football week one, I'm much more willing to use a 4th or 5th round pick on him, because the upside is immense. Gurley is going to be a stud at some point, in my opinion.
Chargers RB Melvin Gordon - Less than 2-yards per carry was not exactly thrilling in his preseason debut, but it's the presence of Danny Woodhead as a 3rd down back that concerns me about Gordon's ceiling. In July, I outlined my projection for Gordon, based on the history of 2,000 yard college rushers in the NFL. I don't see him rushing for more than 4 yards per carry. He could still be a solid RB2, but his 3rd round average draft position is too steep for me.