Preseason fantasy football stock watch: Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton plummet after Week 3

August 26, 2014
The Washington Post's Gene Wang discusses which NFL players are moving up and down on the fantasy football draft board. (Kyle Barss/The Washington Post)

I am by nature a glass half-full guy, which is why I regularly begin the fantasy stock watch with players on their way up, the bull market guys, if you will. I can’t do that today though, not with the “You-Can’t-Be-Serious” events that transpired last week involving Pittsburgh Steelers running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount.

In case you missed it, a Ross Township (Pa.) police offer stopped both players Wednesday afternoon after smelling marijuana in the Camaro Bell was driving. According to a police report obtained by a Pittsburgh public radio station, Bell told the officer: “I didn’t know you could get a DUI for being high. I smoked two hours ago. I’m not high anymore.”

Neither is Bell’s fantasy draft stock, at least when it comes to remaining in the top 10. Before Thursday’s Week 3 preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Bell’s Fantasy Pro’s average draft position (ADP) was 19, and his RB1 ADP was 10. I’ve dropped Bell three spots to No. 12 in my rankings, and he could continue to tumble if a regular season suspension results from this puzzling incident. He’s not the only one trending downward though.

Moving down

Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins: The 2012 offensive rookie of the year has led Washington to a grand total of zero touchdowns through three preseason games. In Saturday’s 23-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, he completed 5 of 8 passes for 20 yards and threw one interception, all of which compelled Joe Theismann (and others) to say: “Kirk Cousins has played much better at the quarterback position than Robert Griffin III has.”

Griffin’s 61 ADP is sure to take a hit over the next week and a half before the start of the regular season. The sixth round is certainly too high given Griffin’s surgically repaired knee and that he’s adjusting to a new coaching staff and offensive terminology while still learning to avoid getting hit. Griffin becomes a value selection only in the double-digit rounds.

Cam Newton, QB, Panthers: An MRI Sunday revealed a hairline fracture to the QB’s ribs. He was hit while scrambling during Friday night’s game against the Patriots. Newton is out for the final preseason game, but Coach Ron Rivera said he expects him to be ready for the opener Sept. 7.

Even if that’s the case, Newton owners have reason to sweat, and those considering drafting him near his current 54 ADP may want to go in another direction given additional trauma could yield a premature early-season exit.

Bishop Sankey, RB, Titans: The rookie running back is Exhibit A regarding the volatile nature of fantasy football. Following a strong spring, Sankey appeared in line to become the starter entering training camp, and owners were drafting him as high as Round 4.

But after a third straight preseason game in which he got carries in mop-up duty, Sankey’s value is starting to decline. Shonn Greene and Dexter McCluster have been getting reps in front of Sankey, whose 54 ADP indicates his hype is exceeding his value.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles: Replays during Thursday’s preseason game showed what appeared to be another knee injury to the Eagles’ No. 1 WR, but Maclin escaped without much damage, at least according to the team. Maclin’s injury history, including missing all of last season with a torn ACL, still makes this situation worth following closely heading into draft day.

Maclin has not played a full season since 2010 and missed at least three games in four of his five seasons in the NFL. He’s a buyer-beware pick at his current 74 ADP but becomes a value selection if available in the double-digit rounds.

Moving up

Fantasy owners have been eager to embrace Emmanuel Sanders. (Jack Dempsey/AP Photo)

Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos: Sanders’ value is skyrocketing for several reasons, beginning with his performance in Saturday’s 18-17 loss to the Houston Texans. The free agent addition from Pittsburgh signed a three-year deal to replace Eric Decker in the offseason and Saturday caught five passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns, including a 67-yarder.

With Wes Welker suffering another concussion in Saturday’s game, Sanders (75 ADP) likely becomes even more involved in the offense heading into the regular season opener. If Welker misses multiple games, then Sanders stands to become a low-end WR1 in the league’s most prolific offense.

Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots: While Stevan Ridley continues to try to correct fumbling issues and, according to published reports, may not make the final roster, Vereen has cemented his role as the pass-catching running back in what could become a prolific offense again with TE Rob Gronkowski back in the fold. Vereen caught five passes for 57 yards and two touchdowns from QB Tom Brady in the Patriots’ 30-7 win Friday night, and his 66 ADP figures to rise steadily.

Marques Colston, WR, Saints: Almost an afterthought through the first several weeks of the preseason, the Saints’ No. 1 WR caught two passes for 25 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown, Saturday night. Colston is a value pick at his current 76 ADP, given WR Kenny Stills’s aggravated a quadriceps injury and that WR Brandin Cooks is dealing with a stomach virus.

Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals: Ellington (30 ADP) had nine carries for 46 yards Sunday night and continues to climb draft boards after Coach Bruce Arians said the sixth-round pick in 2013 could receive 25-plus touches per game this season. A low-end RB1/high-end RB2 in standard scoring formats, Ellington’s value increases in PPR leagues.

Chris Johnson, RB, Jets: The erstwhile CJ2K has been spry during the preseason, and he continued that trend Saturday night with nine carries for 42 yards while routinely making defenders miss. Consider Johnson (62 ADP) a low-end RB2 or high-end flex.

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering multiple beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He also covers Fantasy Football.
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Mark Maske · August 26, 2014