The NFL preseason is gaining momentum, as 14 teams were in action on Thursday night with five more games waiting to kick off over the weekend. Buckle your chin strap as we dig in and explore top fantasy story lines from a busy Thursday around the NFL.
The Chicago Bears took an interesting approach to the 2017 NFL Draft, trading a pile of draft picks, a few baseball cards, and a sack of marbles for the opportunity to draft Mitchell Trubisky. The move was a definite head-scratcher after the team inked Mike Glennon to a three-year $45 million contract, and the world had to wait until Thursday night to see both of these quarterbacks in game action. The result was two vastly different stat lines and performances. Mike Glennon got the party started by throwing a touchdown pass to the wrong team and finished 2-8 for 20 yards and the interception in a miserable outing. Trubisky’s Chicago debut was much more impressive as the rookie completed 18 of 25 pass attempts for 166 yards and a score. Preseason performances, especially at different points in the game against varying defensive units, should be taken with a grain of salt, but this situation is beginning to smell of “Russell Wilson/Matt Flynn” circa 2012. The Bears will likely be downright awful in 2017, so eating a high-priced backup quarterback may be their quickest route back to competitiveness if Trubisky continues to progress. Neither of these signal callers will have their names called at fantasy drafts but this is an interesting situation to monitor as it relates to the other offensive options on the Bears’ depth chart.
Zeke Suspension “Definite?”
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported that a suspension for Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott has been referred to as “definite” by sources. The ruling from the NFL head office will likely be announced in coming days, but it appears increasingly likely that Elliott will face discipline for past domestic violence issues. A suspension of any kind will put Elliott’s 2017 fantasy draft stock in serious flux, as a sure-fire first round pick will begin to sink down draft boards in anticipation of a regular season absence. Darren McFadden will take over lead back duties for the Cowboys if Elliott is suspended, and would make for an intriguing pairing for owners who select Elliott early in drafts. A typical NFL “Friday news dump” could finally reveal the answer to this speculation, so stay tuned to Rotoworld for more updates.
Perine vs. Kelley
After Washington coach Jay Gruden spoke publicly at the start of training camp about his desire to have his running backs secure the football, rookie Samaje Perine promptly came out and fumbled on one of his six carries Thursday night. Perine was able to corral the loose ball, but the performance likely didn’t help his chances to jump Rob Kelley in Washington’s backfield. The current Average Draft Positions of Perine and Kelley are an interesting study, as early fantasy draft results indicate that drafters are favoring the rookie over the incumbent as the regular season trudges closer. Although Perine has more flash and offers the allure of the unknown, Kelley is a bargain at his eighth-round ADP and very well may never surrender the lead role in this backfield as he attempts to build on an encouraging 2016 season that saw the Washington back rack up over 500 rushing yards and five scores over his final eight games.
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Rookie Dalvin Cook doused his fantasy stock in gasoline before tossing a match over his shoulder on Thursday night, handling both rushing and receiving duties out of the Minnesota backfield. Cook ran for 13 yards on five carries but most notably caught four passes for 30 yards in a strong all-around performance that raised the eyebrows of Vikings fans and fantasy fiends alike. Cook is in an interesting spot in Minnesota and while he does possess serious upside, the presence of Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon may prevent him from ascending into a true bell-cow role as quickly as fantasy drafters would prefer. Both Murray and McKinnon sat out on Thursday night, so a true look at the Minnesota backfield hierarchy will have to be seen in coming weeks. In any event, Cook’s arrow is shooting skyward and drafting Murray or McKinnon at this point feels like boarding a sinking ship.
Buffalo Ballin’ Out
With the Rex Ryan era in the rear-view mirror, the Buffalo Bills are an interesting spot to look for fantasy value as Tyrod Taylor and company embark on a season under new leadership. The Bills were dead last among NFL teams in passing attempts in 2016 and any increase in volume would surely boost the fantasy stock of Taylor and his receivers. Of course, the health of Sammy Watkins is paramount in this equation, but the 2017 prospects of the Buffalo passing game appear promising through one preseason outing. Taylor came out of the locker room and promptly locked-on to his top weapon on Thursday night, chucking five of his eight passes in Watkins’ direction. Watkins, who currently carries a reasonable third-round ADP, hauled-in four of those targets for 39 yards in a quick and productive appearance after playing just eight games last season. Buffalo running back Jonathan Williams also stood out on Thursday night, turning five touches into 46 total yards as he continues to be one of fantasy football’s highest-ceiling handcuffs. If LeSean McCoy is forced to miss time during the 2017 season, Williams would certainly be start-worthy in nearly all leagues and should chip-in with a productive stat line in Week 1 mop-up duty when the Bills throttle the New York Jets. Lots of preseason action remains in August but fantasy folks have reason to continue viewing this offense with optimism as drafts approach.
Bilal Powell (neck) and Matt Forte (hamstring) are both hurting, and Powell will be officially held out of the Jets’ preseason game on Saturday. … The disappointing start to Laquon Treadwell’s career continues as the young receiver sat out Minnesota’s game on Thursday night due to an injury suffered in a practice fight last week. … Terrance West rumbled five times for 23 yards and a score on Thursday night. The Ravens offer some interesting ADP value propositions this offseason, and West should be considered an attractive draft target. … Nelson Agholor started on Thursday night with Alshon Jeffery inactive. Agholor has received positive training camp buzz and should remain in the mix in Philadelphia despite an underwhelming performance in the Eagles’ first preseason contest. Fellow Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews caught three passes for 18 yards. … Breshad Perriman (hamstring) has reportedly not practiced for nine days and sat out Baltimore’s game on Thursday night. Targets are up for grabs in the Baltimore offense but Perriman will need to get healthy in a hurry (again) to claim his share.
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