Thank goodness the preseason is over. That’s the feeling among NFL coaches, players, fans and fantasy enthusiasts following the final round of games in Week 4, and while it’s barely worth taking the time to evaluate performances for fantasy drafts based on results from Thursday, there were a handful worth mentioning.
The most impressive quarterback among rookies in the preseason was the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Blake Bortles, who went 4 for 6 with 86 yards and a touchdown last week. The No. 3 pick in the NFL draft separated himself from the rest of the Class of 2014 quarterbacks by completing 32 of 51 passes for 521 yards and two touchdowns without an interception in four games, leading to calls for Bortles to start over Chad Henne to start Week 1.
That scenario is not going to happen, according to Coach Gus Bradley, who last week named Henne the starter. Still Bortles’ production and poise in the preseason make him an intriguing pick for dynasty leagues and during the late rounds in multiple quarterback leagues that are growing in popularity.
Henne hasn’t thrown more touchdowns than interceptions in any of his six NFL seasons, and it’s not like he should have been a slam-dunk to start this year based on the preseason. The strategy in Jacksonville probably is to wait until Henne hits a rough patch, work in Bortles and allow him to learn without the pressure that accompanies being the Opening Day starter.
Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals: We know Gionvani Bernard is the featured back in Cincinnati, but the club demonstrated its trust in Hill as a reliable No. 2 by releasing veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis. In the second-round pick’s final preseason game, Hill carried 20 times for 90 yards and added six receptions for 70 yards.
With a 131 average draft position (ADP) as of Wednesday, Hill has tremendous upside as a value pick, and Bernard owners should be targeting him in the later rounds as well as one of the more promising handcuffs. If you’ve already drafted, you should probably target him as a waiver addition if he’s available.
Tim Wright, TE, Patriots: Lost in the shuffle of the hoopla surrounding the Patriots trading Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins for Wright and a fourth-round pick is the possibility of reviving New England’s two tight end set that flourished with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Wright is now the “move” tight end complementing Gronkowski and is worth a late-round flier in all formats.
Malcom Floyd, WR, Chargers: San Diego released WR Vincent Brown during final cuts, meaning Floyd becomes the No. 2 behind Keenan Allen. Floyd (249 ADP) is coming back from a neck injury and isn’t being drafted in most leagues, but reports are he looks fully healed and ready for a comeback season.
Cody Parkey, K, Eagles: In a move that came as little surprise, the Eagles elected to keep Parkey as their place kicker and release Alex Henery, who had been with the team for three years. Parkey made field goals of 54 and 53 yards Thursday and has a chance to become a top-five place kicker.
49ers DST: Once a must-start DST, the 49ers are in danger of falling out of the top 10 following Sunday’s latest news that starting DE Ray McDonald was arrested early Sunday morning on charges of domestic violence. The league recently adopted a policy mandating a six-game suspension for first-time domestic abuse offenders and a lifetime ban for a second infraction.
San Francisco already is without injured LB NaVorro Bowman for the first six weeks, and the team learned Friday LB Aldon Smith is lost for nine games because of a violation of the league’s substance abuse and personal conduct policy. The 49ers DST becomes a risky pick given they draw a dynamic Cowboys offense in Week 1.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills: The rookie aggravated a rib injury in the first quarter of Thursday’s final preseason game against the Detroit Lions. Watkins turned heads during training camp with several acrobatic catches, but this latest setback comes after the No. 4 pick hurt his ribs Aug. 16, and it’s unclear if he’ll be on the field for the regular season opener.
It’s fine to draft Watkins around or below his 98 ADP, but avoid using him in starting lineups until his status becomes more certain despite reports he’ll be fine for Week 1.
Ben Tate, RB, Browns: Cleveland had held out slim hope WR Josh Gordon would be available for the second half of the season, but Commissioner Roger Goodell put an end that speculation by suspending the NFL’s reigning receiving champion for the entire season. With no viable deep threat to loosen defenses, except perhaps injury-prone Miles Austin, Tate (64 ADP) is going to have less room to run in an offense that appears destined to struggle.
Tre Mason, RB, Rams: The 75th pick in the NFL draft ran six times for 14 yards Thursday while Benny Cunningham did not play. It’s an indication Cunningham may have moved into the No. 2 RB slot behind Zac Stacy, so be wary of drafting Mason (224 ADP) as anything other than a deep handcuff.
Stephen Hill, WR, Free Agent: The Jets released their 2012 second-round pick. At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds with a 40-yard dash time of 4.36 seconds at the NFL Combine, Hill appeared to be a physical specimen with boundless potential. Hill never came close to reaching it with the Jets and should be avoided even if he signs with another team.