Preseason Stock Market - The Risers
Nick looks at some players on the rise
As the third preseason “dress rehearsal” games come to a close and most players of relevance hit the bench for the final action, fantasy values are growing close to a lock. As such, identifying players who’ve gained the most value is a wise exercise.
Now, putting too much stock in pre-season can be like chasing fool’s gold. A fourth-string running back ripping off a 70-yard run against backup defenders unlikely to touch the field isn’t going to illustrate a whole lot.
Yet, analyze the right trends, and you can gain a massive advantage over your competition. The three things I look for when watching preseason film and reading blurbs are:
- Offensive line play, both positive and negatives. The grunts might face more complex stunts in the regular season, but overall the holes they open early on are fairly indicative of what to expect regular season.
- Camp hype translating to game performances.
- Depth chart changes, both performance and injury induced.
With that, here’s my top risers at each position whose stock might still be depressed even if their value has made strides:
RISING MVP: David Wilson
Talent has never been the question with Wilson, and on sheer ability he ranks in the elite – his 24 carriest for 179 and 1 TD (7.46 ypc) this preseason evidence that. His surrounding talent was similarly a non-issue, as his offense has firepower while his line graded out as the 4th and 2nd best run-blocking units in Pro Football Focus and Football Outsider ratings respectively.
No, Wilson’s only question mark for value was opportunity given Tom Coughlin’s committee-based history; Andre Brown’s latest fracture and consistent injury history has swung that door wide open. Coughlin’s latest comments suggest Wilson will function as a true featured back, as in discussing goal-line carries the coach noted: "He runs in there hard," Coughlin explained. "I don’t have a problem with that at all. He’s powerful, he’s compact, he has tremendous leg strength, which is his forte." Though Brown’s absence is projected at only 4-6 weeks, that should be more than enough time for Wilson to prove he is too good to share a field. A talent this high meeting this large of an opportunity is rare, and after the top 9 backs are gone, we have no arguments against taking Wilson.
Michael Vick – Based solely on play, perhaps no player saw their stock rise more this preseason than Vick. He’s flashing the most accuracy he has in years, completing 28 of 38 passes for a rate of 73.6%, including an extremely impressive bomb to Desean Jackson in the preseason opener. Even better, his shiftiness and burst seem back and better than ever on every single one of his nine rushes for 73 yards. As a QB2 with Top 5 upside, Vick’s the ultimate 8th round pick. He’s going to remind the world on national television opening Monday.
Tom Brady - That collective sigh? Patriots’ nation and fantasy enthusiasts alike as Tom Brady, despite a completely new arsenal, has looked possessed throughout August. Before Thursday night’s debacle against the Lions in which countless fumbles stalled the offense, Brady had completed 90% of his passes while carving up every team in joint practices. Worries about a way overblown knee injury and a less than stacked supporting cast (“on paper”) has lowered Brady’s stock well below the “elite” tier. As a Patriots fan who has seen every throw, in addition to a receiving crew that he’s shown immense trust in despite their inexperience, Brady’s locked and loaded for a high-end QB1 performance.
Brandon Weeden – His fit in Rob Chudzinski and Norval Turner’s attacking offense has been stellar for the majority of the preseason, including a sterling 8-12 for 117 yards, 2 TD performance against the same Lions that gave Brady fits. His line, anchored by the best left tackle in the game, is affording him plenty of time to sling it to a receiving crew blessed with some of the game’s most impressive vertical talents in Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. His high-end QB2 potential is real if his preseason play is no mirage, a significant upgrade over the nearly undraftable label he entered the pre-season with.
Honorable Mentions: RG-III (health), Andrew Luck (offensive system still firing)
Eddie Lacy – Lacy was going to be a riser even before Dujuan Harris’ placement on the IR. Now with little between Lacy and a featured back role in an explosive offense, his value is soaring. Entering camp as a mere flex option with some upside, Lacy has shown impressive power in addition to a mean spin move while running his way into legitimate RB2 consideration, right into the Frank Gore and David Wilson tier. An every-down role isn’t out of the question, as training camp reports have noted Lacy excelling in pass protection, and he’s lined up next to Rodgers in the shotgun formation throughout preseason contests. With soft fronts and a bulldozing style, if Lacy receives the 14.2 carries and 2.8 catches Cedric Benson received last season, he’ll not only be the first relevant back in Green Bay since Ryan Grant years ago, he will EXPLODE
Chris Johnson – This nomination is equally due to CJ2K’s impressive play and the massive holes his line has paved. Johnson’s play is so heavily dependent on his motivation, and right now he’s running as if he knows he’s exhausted all excuses – looking like his 2,000 yard self in the process. With Jake Locker looking like he’s taken a step forward and a receiving corps deep enough to keep defenses honest, Chris Johnson could be looking at his best season in the past few years. He’s one of the few backs available in Round 2 who could easily find himself in the top 5 at the position.
Matt Forte – Entering the preseason as a mid to high-end RB2 by the savvy PPR player, Forte’s stock has risen to low-end RB1 in standard leagues to top-5 potential in PPR formats. His burst and elusiveness are as best as we’ve seen in years, and most importantly, his offensive line additions are affording him more space than he’s seen in his career. Kyle Long has been straight-out dominant, while Jermon Bushrod’s clearing paths with the best of them. With this new found wiggle-room, Forte is bursting up the sidelines for chunks of yardage, while he’s seen goal-line work on occasion. Even just a handful more end zone dives will turn Forte into a bonafide stud.
Honorable Mentions: Reggie Bush, Daryl Richardson, Giovani Bernard
Danny Amendola – Teammate Kembrell Thompkins is receiving all the press, and he’s certainly earned every drop of that ink. Yet, owners shouldn’t be hasty in forgetting the undeniable chemistry Brady and his other new toy displayed early on in the preseason. Yes, the missed time last week didn’t ease any of his durability concerns. Still, when he suited up and saw extensive action in Week 2, Amendola was dynamite, connecting with Tom on 6 of 7 targets and looking like Wes Welker with perhaps some added juice. Thompkins, on the other hand, only hauled in one reception for 3 yards with Brady’s favorite weapon on the field. Amendola’s injury concerns are real, which keeps his price at a WR2. But for every game he suits up, Amendola proved this preseason you’ll be getting WR1 numbers.
DeSean Jackson – With a toned-down version of Chip Kelly’s offense still firing off 75.0 plays a game in the preseason (and Brent Celek commenting the best is yet to come), owners have to assume Jackson will be getting his number called at least 8-10 times a game. He’s been reportedly “catching everything” and “appears rejuvenated” in Kelly’s offense, and in a quick-strike attack that first gets the ball into the playmakers hands and then attacks deep, Jackson could see his best statistical season yet. Vick’s 47-yard bomb which saw Jackson roast Patriots top corner Aqib Talib was a throw of beauty, and Jackson’s emerged from a potential WR3 into a high upside play with WR2 potential. You’ve done well if he’s your third option.
Golden Tate – More than anything he has done, Tate’s inclusion is really just recognition of how perfectly the stars have aligned for him. He’s entering a contract year. Reports frequently have him as the most impressive player on the field, making plays over the top of some of the top corners in the NFL. Percy Harvin’s injury leaves a golden, potential target-hogging spot wide open and Tate’s the man reportedly testing the highest in all his assignments. Oh, and his quarterback is one of the brightest rising young stars at the position. When a perfect storm like this brews, owners would be wise taking the dive in.
Honorable Mentions: Chris Givens, TY Hilton, Torrey Smith
Zach Sudfield – From UDFA no name to one of Brady’s top targets, Sudfield’s stock has exploded. Most impressive is the Gronk-like trust Brady has shown in Sudfield in lobbing up passes and letting the big man win his battle. Until the elite tight end returns, Sudfield should be locked into lineups as a potential top-5 weekly option. Even then, reports mention Sudfield inheriting Hernandez’s old role, suggesting he may be much more than just a handcuff. Snatch him up late, and you’ve invested in a stock with the potential for maximum payouts with such a minimal investment.
Jermichael Finley – One of these years, right? With Greg Jennings departing and multiple receivers falling to injuries, Finley has been leaned on heavily in the passing game and had a chance to really build that rapport with Rodgers. As Gronk/Brady and Graham/Brees have shown, gigantic stats follow the combination of an enormous and athletic threat and a quarterback who can place the ball anywhere on the field. With a chance to regain his quarterbacks trust this preseason, this connection has flashed the potential to be unstoppable. Right after Vernon Davis, no tight end offers more explosion potential despite entering the preseason as a bottom-barrel starter.
Honorable Mentions: Jared Cook, Jordan Cameron
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