By Amber Boskers
It’s almost here. September Kick-off is knocking at the door as the third weekend of preseason action heats up. After profiling the rookies in last week’s article, this week’s featured Preseason Standouts are the Veteran Newbies that are starting fresh on new teams and hitting the fantasy radar in full effect. All ADPs quoted here are courtesy of www.fantasypros.com.
We start the week, again, with the Arizona Cardinals (because alphabetically speaking, they’re first), with QB Carson Palmer behind center and HC Bruce Arians calling the shots, the new regime in the desert means an offensive explosion. With high expectations and a per game scoring target of one point for every minute of possession, Coach Arians has completely turned the Cardinals’ locker room on its head. Do your job or face the accountability board – an overhead projection of every “misstep, misread, misdeed and mistake” subsequently followed by Arians’ verbal wrath in front of the entire team. Talk about motivation to succeed! But I digress, back to Palmer. With 4,018 passing yards in 15 games played, 22 TDs, and six games of 300+ passing yards last year with the Raiders, there’s no question that Palmer can and will throw the ball. In the Cardinals’ first preseason game against the Packers, Palmer went 4 for 6 for 77 yards and a TD, and against the Cowboys in Week 2 he went 7 for 15 for 66 yards and no TDs. As of August 20th Palmer’s QB ADP is 18th. With Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, second-year stand-out Michael Floyd, and newly acquired Mike Thomas, Palmer has the potential to move up to a QB1 giving you ample opportunity to stack your team with RBs and WRs. He’s been climbing in our staff rankings and now sits 15th at the position.
Then there’s RB Rashard Mendenhall who had his most productive years from 2009-2011 when Arians was the offensive coordinator with Pittsburgh. Despite a history of injuries and missing 11 games in the last two seasons, Mendenhall has locked up the starting job in the desert. His 928 rushing yards and 9 rushing TDs in 2011 combined with 182 rushing yards and zero receiving TDs in 2012 gives him the look of a guy that’s no longer a fantasy force, however Coach Arians knows how to get production out of his guys, and Mendenhall is all in. After being held out of the preseason game against the Packers, Mendenhall had 32 yards on 7 carries in his first half appearance against the Cowboys on Saturday, this week’s action against the Chargers will be substantially more significant. His RB ADP is 31st which could be a significant bargain if the finally healthy Mendenhall can regain his form. He comes in at 31st in our staff rankings as well.
Next up on the radar is Atlanta Falcons RB Steven Jackson. After leading the St. Louis Rams in rushing yards for 7 seasons, he has quietly transitioned into the Falcons offense. He’s attempting his ninth consecutive 1,000+ rushing season so you can count on him to be an efficient and durable RB2 option. In the Falcons preseason debut against the Bengals, Jackson had 8 yards on 5 carries and the following week he ran for 42 yards on 8 carries against the Ravens. His RB ADP is 12 and he’s definitely on my radar now that he’s out of the NFC West (hey, as a Cardinals fan, all NFC West rivals players are strictly off limits for fantasy, regardless of how good they are). He’s currently ranked 14th in our staff rankings.
The Denver Broncos WR Wes Welker has joined Peyton Manning’s arsenal of weapons alongside Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas. His preseason game stats against the Seahawks Saturday night included 3 catches, for 31 yards and an 11-yard TD pass, but suffered a mild ankle sprain. He returned to the practice field Wednesday so no worries about his status for Week 1. Welker amassed over 1,500 yards and 9 TDs in 2011 and over 1,300 yards and 6 TDs in 2012 while in New England. Expecting those numbers this year may be a bit of a stretch under Denver’s offense, however breaking 1,000 yards and 5 TDs is quite attainable for Mr. Sure Hands. He’s the 18th ranked WR in our latest staff rankings.
Detroit’s RB Reggie Bush spent his last two-seasons with the Miami Dolphins, totaling 1,086 rushing yards and 6 TDs in 2011, and 986 rushing yards and 6 TDs in 2012. Although durability was an issue for him in New Orleans, he only missed one game during his two seasons in Miami, and rumor has it that Detroit plans on playing Bush extensively, which could mean big points if you can get him. In Thursday night’s Week 3 thumping of the Patriots, Bush amassed 103 yards on 5 passes which could be a true indication of what’s to come. His current RB ADP is 18th and he’s ranked 16th in our staff rankings.
Miami’s WR Mike Wallace finally had a good game against the Houston Texans with 3 catches for 58 yards and a TD (which could have been two). Although the chemistry between QB Ryan Tannehill and Wallace have been slow coming, things are finally coming together. During his last three season with the Steelers, Wallace amassed 1,257 yards and 10 TDs in 2010, 1,193 yards and 8 TDs in 2011, and 836 yards and 8 TDs in 2012. Whether it was due to production or attitude, Wallace has a fresh change of scenery that may kick start him back into fantasy stardom. Wallace is currently being drafted in the 23rd WR position, but our staff rankings have him 17th.
Minnesota’s WR Greg Jennings has already made the headlines with displeasure and questionable comments against the Packers. During his seven seasons with the Packers, Jennings exceeded 1,100 yards in three consecutive seasons but staying healthy was a challenge for the veteran as he missed 11 games over the past 2 seasons. He recorded only one catch for 5 yards in Week 2 preseason action against the Bills. His current fantasy WR ADP is 33rd, but our staff like him a bit better ranking him 28th.
The New England Patriots picked up WR Danny Amendola as a younger and bigger replacement upon Welker’s departure, however he’s been consistently banged up and has only played in 12 games in the last two seasons. The potential, however, is clearly there for him to make a big impact if he can somehow stay healthy this year. Unfortunately, health issues have surfaced again after he sustained an undisclosed injury (or set-back) this week. He had one catch for 6 yards against the Eagles in Week 1, and then 6 catches for 71 yards and a TD against Tampa Bay in Week 2, but sat out Thursday night due to injury. He is being drafted 16th at WR, much higher than our staff rankings that have him 24th.
St. Louis Rams signed TE Jared Cook to a 5-year contract back in March after the Titans declined to franchise him. He performed very well in training camp and has emerged as a significant receiving threat and one of QB Sam Bradford’s favorite targets. Cook had one reception for 37 yards against the Packers last week. Cook is quickly moving up the draft board with a current TE ADP of 10th and comes in at 14th in our staff rankings.
Baltimore’s trade of Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers still puzzles me. He has the attitude, athleticism and leadership to make an impact on any roster, and as the fastest NFL player to record his 400th, 500th and 600th career receptions, everyone knows he will continue to make an impact. How much is the real question. At his age (and lack of speed), he doesn’t really separate much any more, but can still be productive due to his physicality and amazing hands. With 887 yards and 3 TDs in 2011 and 921 yards and 4 TDs in 2012, ideally he could be a decent WR3 or 4. In the Niners preseason debut against the Broncos, Boldin had 2 receptions for 14 yards. Boldin has a current WR ADP of 32nd and is ranked 38th in our staff rankings.
This weekend’s preseason action will be the best football to date and will provide a more accurate indication of how the depth chart will look as teams get closer to their 53-man rosters. In the meantime, enjoy the excitement because the regular season is almost upon us.