The NFL preseason is a slog. The results themselves don’t matter, and in many of these scrimmages, players you haven’t heard of receive a majority of snaps in the hopes of catching the eye of a football coach who might one day need their services.
However, every once in a while, especially during the third and most important preseason game, you can find some actionable intel that could make a difference in your fantasy football draft.
Don’t expect these players to become fantasy studs overnight, but here are five players to move up your drafts boards (and one to downgrade) based on their preseason performances. Their average draft position, listed in parentheses, is based on 12-team, point-per-reception (PPR) mock drafts conducted by Fantasy Football Calculator between Aug. 27 and Aug. 28.
Christian Kirk (ARI-WR, 7.10 ADP)
The Arizona Cardinals have a rookie head coach (Kliff Kingsbury) and a rookie quarterback (Kyler Murray, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft), so any chemistry we see on the gridiron has to be taken as a positive, even in scrimmages. Murray targeted Kirk a team-high nine times this preseason, per data from TruMedia. Two of those targets were 20 or more yards downfield and one other was in the red zone, illustrating how versatile Kingsbury feels Kirk could be once the regular season starts.
This should be no surprise. According to the game charters at Pro Football Focus, Kirk produced the highest passer rating when targeted on screen routes last season (136.7) and Matt Harmon further noted how successful Kirk was against zone coverage in 2018.
Tony Pollard (DAL-RB, 9.04 ADP)
As Ezekiel Elliott’s holdout lingers, Pollard’s rise in fantasy drafts continues. Pollard has been on the field for all 31 of Dak Prescott’s offensive snaps this preseason, and has been asked to carry the ball a team-high 15 times. Among NFL running backs with at least as many carries as Pollard this summer, no one has averaged more yards per carry (5.6).
That’s why David Johnson, and not Elliott, would be my choice in the No. 4 draft slot. Even if Elliott is back and ready for Week 1, look for Pollard to remain involved with the offense all season.
T.J. Hockenson (DET-TE, 11.09 ADP)
Fantasy-relevant rookie tight ends are tough to come by. Since 2002, the first year the NFL expanded to 32 teams, just seven have scored enough points to rank among the 12 best fantasy players at the position. It’s possible Hockenson, a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft, joins this group.
Hockenson was PFF’s highest-graded tight end in the 2019 draft class and dubbed a “destroyer of worlds” by CBS Sports shortly after. This preseason he has four targets from starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, tying him with wide receiver Danny Amendola for most on the team. Hockenson caught three of those four targets for 52 yards, including a pass over the middle that went for 32 yards against the Buffalo Bills.
“Those players that come in, especially those that are consistent every day, we’ll try to push them more so that it does not become routine for them,” Lions Coach Matt Patricia told the Detroit Free Press. “We try to put as much pressure on them as possible to change it up by the day and be able to be required to do more every single day. He’s one of those guys.”
Justice Hill (BAL-RB, 11.11 ADP)
Hill has been a beast this preseason. The fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma State has a team-high 31 touches for 114 total yards and one touchdown through three preseason games and, according to PFF, he ranks second in missed tackles forced per touch.
NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger said Hill might be Baltimore’s best running back, a bold statement considering Mark Ingram, a two-time Pro Bowler who just signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the team, is also on the roster.
Hill has “the ability just to break tackles, and balance — contact balance — and then unusual power for a guy that weighs 190 pounds,” Baldinger said on NFL.com.
Marquise Goodwin (SF-WR, 14.10 ADP)
In San Francisco’s second and third preseason games, Goodwin was on the field for all 23 of Jimmy Garoppolo’s snaps, yet he is being drafted five rounds later than Dante Pettis, a receiver Coach Kyle Shanahan said was “still trying to earn a role on this team.”
Plus, since 2017, Goodwin and Garoppolo combined for more fantasy points per game than Goodwin did with any other 49ers quarterback.
Eric Ebron (IND-TE, 9.07 ADP)
Forget about the Colts losing their franchise quarterback, Andrew Luck, to an abrupt retirement and the impending regression that already awaited Ebron in 2019. Are we sure Ebron is even No. 1 on the Colts’ depth chart?
Last season, fellow tight end Jack Doyle played twice as many snaps as Ebron (331 to 165) when the two were both active. Doyle also saw more targets (33 to 22) in those matchups. During the 2019 preseason, Doyle has outplayed Ebron with the first-string offense (13 snaps for Doyle compared to nine for Ebron), too, further muddying the waters.
The nuttiness of it all is Doyle was ignored in 1,316 mock drafts conducted by Fantasy Football Calculator between Aug. 27 and Aug. 28, yet Ebron has been, on average, a ninth-round pick. Steer clear of this mess until there is more resolution.
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