At Footballguys, we provide real-time projections all season long. Our first set goes live the day after the NFL draft, and sometimes the changes can get lost in the shuffle. Statistics are the engine behind many of our key features, but numbers are only valuable if there's context. This feature will take a look at the key projections adjustments during critical points of the preseason, with an eye toward providing meaning and significance to the numbers.
Included in this week'column:
- Addressing Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon III's holdouts
- Kerryon Johnson vaults into RB1 status
- Tyreek Hill avoids punishment
- Tyler Boyd's time has come, A.J. Green's has passed
- Shuffling atop the receiver rankings
- Assessing Josh Gordon's return
- Andrew Luck's calf warrants caution
- Jared Goff deserves more respect
- Cooling on Eric Ebron
- Running backs risers
- Receiver risers
- Quarterback risers
- Running back fallers
- Receiver fallers
- Quarterback fallers
- TE2s for deeper leagues
- The Texans backfield
- The Broncos backfield
- The 49ers backfield
- The Eagles backfield
- The Buccaneers backfield
- The Dolphins backfield
- The Washington backfield
- Fading the Cardinals receivers
- Frustration with the 49ers receiving corps
- The Washington quarterback situation is a mess
- Miami's unappealing quarterback duo
A Tale of Two Holdouts
|31||Melvin Gordon III||SD||8||115||515||4.5||5||1||44||33||75%||285||8.6||2||154|
Two of the league's best tailbacks are embroiled in holdouts, but their circumstances warrant different approaches.
- Ezekiel Elliott falls from RB1 to RB4 but remains a top-end option. Yes, he and Jerry Jones are trading barbs in the press. No, he's not likely to miss much, if any, time. Elliott has no leverage, Dallas can control his fate for two or three more years. And both he and the Cowboys front office want to get a deal done. Expect this to be a nail-biter for another few weeks, but for Zeke to be on the field when it counts.
- Melvin Gordon III plummets from RB6 to RB30 and should be avoided. Gordon has leverage and can show up ten games into the season and get his final accrued year. Chargers ownership is notoriously cheap, and unlike the Elliott soap opera, neither side has indicated a willingness to move off their current demands.
Kerryon To Your Roster
Kerryon Johnson was an enticing, young RB2 before camp got underway, but has moved into the RB1 tier. The rise is a combination of giving Johnson a bit more credit for his skill set, as well as a significant bump as a receiver now that Theo Riddick is gone.
Tyreek Avoids Punishment
Way back in early May when our first set of projections went live, Hill was projected as a total zero. The story of his alleged child abuse seemed like the kind of thing that ends in getting released and banned. But, as time went on circumstances changed and, shockingly, ended up being a non-event in terms of Hill's career. Moral judgment aside, Hill ranks as a top-5 receiver in all formats now that he's out from under potential legal trouble.
Changing of the Guard
The Bengals are a team in flux, with new head coach Zac Taylor taking over and trying to implement a version of Sean McVay's dynamic passing attack. Last year, Tyler Boyd emerged amid an otherwise tumultuous season in Cincinnati. Changes are afoot, but one thing that hasn't changed is A.J. Green's propensity for injury.
- A.J. Green falls outside the Top 40 with his latest injury. Although it's possible he'll only miss a few regular-season games; this latest injury is the straw that broke the camel's back. Discretion is the better part of valor.
- Tyler Boyd was WR25 before these developments but now moves into the Top 20 thanks to a guaranteed target share in a high-volume passing attack.
Small Moves, Big Impact
|7||Odell Beckham Jr||CLE||14||4||25||6.3||-||135||88||65.2%||1,270||14.4||10||278|
- Odell Beckham Jr is a transcendent talent, and I'm not sounding the alarm. I am, however, bumping him down a few spots in part because I'm not comfortable assuming 16 games played. The Browns offense is the en vogue pick for a breakout showing, and I'm generally in agreement. But there are risks associated with so many high-profile moving pieces coming together under a new coaching staff. I'm fine with Beckham as a WR1 but think he's riskier than the six receivers who now rank ahead of him. Beckham is the top of the next tier.
- T.Y. Hilton gets a small bump down (and drops a spot in the rankings) because of Andrew Luck's health concerns.
- Antonio Brown falls from WR8 to WR12, which still understates the concerns I have. Changing teams is risky enough. Changing teams, going from Ben Roethlisberger to Derek Carr, nearly freezing your feet off, and then threatening retirement over a helmet makes drafting Brown riskier than walking into a bio-weapons lab without a hazmat suit.
A few weeks ago it looked like Tom Brady would be throwing the ball 1,000 times to a combination of James White and Julian Edelman, but the Patriots always find a way. Josh Gordon has been reinstated, and that helps stratify the rest of the receiving corps.
- Julian Edelman is helped, not hurt, by Gordon's signing. Opposing defenses won't be able to key on him as easily, and Edelman and Gordon occupy different places on the field. A dynamic vertical threat like Gordon helps open up the intermediate zone where Edelman dominates.
- Josh Gordon is a lightning rod for controversy. He put up WR3 numbers on a per-game basis last year in New England, but there are still people in every draft who think Gordon can recapture the magic of five years ago. He won't. There's still a ton of risk in drafting him, and you shouldn't pay full value on draft day, which means you probably won't end up with him on your roster.
- Maurice Harris, Phillip Dorsett, Demaryius Thomas, and Cam Meredith all take hits with Gordon in the picture.
- Undrafted rookie Jakobi Myers is a long shot, but he was the best receiver in training camp, and that counts for something.
Is Andrew Running Out of Luck?
Andrew Luck is maddening. Last year's resurgence made him a consensus top-5 choice in early drafts this summer, but a lingering leg injury started blurring expectations. The lack of information and inconsistent diagnosis have justifiably scared people off of targeting Luck as a QB1. He's currently ranked QB9 but has been higher and lower in the last two months. As we get more information, the projections will continue to adjust. For now, we're leaning toward an optimistic outcome and assuming he's his usual self for 15 games. No one is going to blame you if you take a more cautious stance.
OFF About Goff
We can all be guilty of recency bias, and I was caught up in Goff's abysmal Super Bowl whiff. The reality is Goff had an excellent season last year and gets his favorite target -- Cooper Kupp -- back from a torn ACL. With three top-20 receivers, one of the league's best running backs, gifted offensive coaches, and the boon of another year of experience in the system together, Goff is one of the safer quarterbacks to target at his ADP.
Ebron Down the Road
This is a relatively small adjustment with big implications. Ebron's touchdown rate last year was unsustainable, and after studying touchdown regression rates this summer, I had to take his projections down further. That adjustment is enough to push Ebron below Evan Engram and O.J. Howard. Andrew Luck's injury status further complicates Ebron's outlook.
- O.J. Howard's numbers haven't changed, but he's worth targeting over Ebron, which is an important change in outlook
- Engram's numbers go up a bit for two reasons. One, Daniel Jones may not be any worse than Eli Manning if he plays. Two, Golden Tate is going to miss four games.
Running Back Risers
These are the guys with undeniable momentum. Each is an early-round target worthy of your attention.
- James Conner has basically switched placed with Le'Veon Bell. We tend to undervalue the importance of offensive lines, and Conner plays behind one of the league's best units. Neither Benny Snell nor Jaylen Samuels offers a credible threat to Conner's workload, either.
- Christopher Carson has been the most significant jump of anyone in the Top 25. Carson was RB14 last year, and I wasn't giving him enough credit. Any fears of Rashaad Penny forcing a full-blown committee have evaporated over the previous month. Carson is getting the starting reps, and there isn't a single beat writer willing to say Penny has looked good enough to push for more touches.
- I generally fade the Raiders, but it's hard to discount Josh Jacobs. Jon Gruden has many flaws, but he also has a long history of giving his top running backs a heavy workload. Jacobs is going to touch ball an inordinate amount and is worth a top-25 selection on volume alone.
- Even though I've moved David Montgomery higher, he's still being drafted a round or two earlier than my projections suggest. Montgomery is talented, and head coach Matt Nagy recently said Tarik Cohen's role would be lessened, but it's still a risky proposition. Mike Davis is no slouch, and even in a reduced role Cohen will vulture a lot of receptions and put a ceiling on Montgomery's value in PPR leagues especially.
Wide Receiver Risers
This group of pass-catchers warranted projection bumps, for various reasons. For this article, we're limiting this to top-50 players at the position.
- Tyler Lockett is better than I gave him credit for, and multiple beat writers spoke about his continued improvement as a route runner. My criticism revolved around his unsustainable touchdown rate, but his increased target share should more than offset touchdown-rate normalization.
- The drum beats out of Panthers camp are undeniable, and while some are tilting toward Curtis Samuel, I'm pushing D.J. Moore's numbers higher. Both are talented, but Moore has the well-rounded game to become an every-week fantasy star. If Cam Newton stays healthy, Moore's numbers could skew even higher than this new projection indicates.
- Corey Davis would rank higher if the Titans offense wasn't such a question market. But Davis' raw ability and a strong camp performance warranted a bump. The other factor working in Davis' favor is Ryan Tannehill. He's no worse than Marcus Mariota as a passer, so Davis has a lower risk of completely falling off than many receivers in the same tier.
- New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore brings an air of excitement to the Dallas offense. Amari Cooper's arrival overshadowed Gallup, but he's steadily improved and was arguably the team's best offensive player in training camp. Gallup profiles as a classic third-year breakout.
- Torn Achilles tendons are supposed to ruin careers. Yet, Emmanuel Sanders is not only suiting up, but he's also practiced fully and already playing in preseason games. It's a medical miracle, but it also warrants vaulting him back into the WR4 tier. Another strong week and he could be bumped another tier or two.
The plate tectonics are always shifting outcomes, and this group of signal-callers warranted upgrades based on training camp developments.
- Carson Wentz was on his way to the NFL MVP in 2017 before tearing multiple knee ligaments. Last year he was good, but not great, and ended the year on the trainer's table yet again. As a result, I discounted him a few games in initial projections. But he now warrants a full projection as he's 100% healthy and had a stellar preseason. The Eagles are loaded with talent, and Wentz is one of the few quarterbacks capable of finishing as the No. 2 fantasy quarterback (no one is touching Patrick Mahomes II if he stays healthy).
- Lamar Jackson isn't going to light the league up as a passer, but he doesn't have to. As long as he's a credible thrower, opposing defenses will have no answer for his Michael Vick-like mobility. Vick was a top-5 fantasy quarterback in spite of being a limited thrower, and Jackson's college film actually looks much better than Vick's. The bump in passing stats, combined with already elite rushing stats, makes Jackson an enticing QB1 with top-5 upside.
- Kyler Murray is a riser, but he's still ranked QB18, which is much lower than he's being drafted. The adjustment higher is in recognition of Kliff Kingsbury's commitment to playing at a fast pace, but I still worry the Cardinals could be a dumpster fire given the state of the offensive line and Kingsbury's spotty resume.
- Tom Brady spent most of his career as a fantasy QB1, but those days are gone. He ranked 17th on a per-game basis last year and has lost Rob Gronkowski to retirement. Yet, he gets a bump here back into the top-20 range thanks to Josh Gordon's reinstatement.
Running Back Fallers
All of these running backs are top-20 choices, so it's not like we're running for the hills. But in the early rounds, you often have to choose between a handful of similarly-ranked players and this quartet are falling a bit against their peer group.
- Le'Veon Bell falls from RB6 to RB9, which is a big enough move to imply you won't be rostering him if you follow my rankings. Someone will draft him a few spots higher. And that's okay. Bell's talent is undeniable, but he signed in New York only because they were the highest bidder. New head coach Adam Gase has a troubling history of under-utilizing talented running backs. And the Jets' offensive line is a massive drop-off from the Steelers blockers.
- It's not so much that Marlon Mack's outlook has dimmed, as a few other running backs became more appealing. He should be a quality asset, but I did cut his yardage a bit to account for the risk Andrew Luck misses time.
- I'm a huge Sony Michel supporter, so this reduction pains me. But it was necessary as I had Michel's receiving numbers far too high relative to what he showed a year ago. Plus, the knee condition warrants knocking another game off his projection.
- Damien Williams is the most frightening of fantasy players. He's being drafted as a can't-miss stud on what amounts to a four-week sample size from last year. The Chiefs offense is good enough to support anyone in the starting lineup, but Williams pedigree makes him a better risk as an RB2 than an RB1.
Wide Receiver Fallers
|34||Marvin Jones Jr||DET||14||-||-||-||-||100||56||56.0%||850||15.2||6||177|
This collection of top-50 receivers didn't have things go according to plan this summer.
- Keenan Allen quietly hurt his knee, and his head coach Anthony Lynn mentioned surgery as a possibility. It's hopefully nothing to worry about, but given Allen's history, it warranted knocking a game off his projections and moving him just outside the Top 12.
- Sammy Watkins is healthy, and that's a win. But, Tyreek Hill avoided discipline, and 16 games of Hill makes Watkins a complementary part of the Chiefs passing game, at best. He'll be a boom-or-bust player this year as long as Hill and Kelce are healthy.
- Is there any positivity coming out of Detroit's passing game? Matthew Stafford isn't practicing much. And Jones has missed a big chunk of time.
- I love DK Metcalf's upside and thought he could outperform Tyler Lockett this year. But, Lockett has been awesome in the preseason, and I've come off my disdain for him. And Metcalf underwent a minor knee surgery that warrants knocking his numbers down a touch, just in case.
- Golden Tate is going to miss the first four games for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy.
Two of these quarterbacks are draft targets, while the other three are waiver-wire fodder unless you're in a 2QB/Superflex league.
- Baker Mayfield still ranked QB8, so I'm not calling him a bust. But I got a bit overzealous in my excitement for the Browns, and it needed to be tempered.
- I think Jameis Winston can be a top-5 quarterback, but he could also lose his job. His range of outcomes is as wide as anyone not named Kyler Murray, and although Bruce Arians is a talented offensive coach, the Buccaneers were already one of the league's most pass-happy teams a season ago.
- Josh Allen isn't a good passer, but he falls out of the Top 20 because of an adjustment to his rushing output. Looking at his college numbers make what Allen did on the ground last year seem 100% unsustainable. He'll run a lot, but his yards-per-rush and touchdowns have to come back to Earth.
- Jimmy Garoppolo has had the worst preseason of any draftable quarterback. It may mean nothing when the 49ers start running their full playbook, but to ignoring it would be foolish.
- Marcus Mariota was awful last year, and Ryan Tannehill is as good, if not better. I see a lot of ways Mariota is out of the lineup at some point this season, whether it's because of performance issues or injury.
TE2s For Deeper Leagues
In most leagues, twenty tight ends aren't going to be drafted, but for those of you in deeper formats, this group is in flux.
- Mark Andrews is a hot commodity and goes earlier than TE20, so even though I've raised his numbers, I'm still not in-line with the consensus. I like Andrews, but the Ravens won't be a high-volume passing attack, and for Andrews to justify his ADP he'll have to win the touchdown rate lottery.
- Darren Waller is a high-risk target given his sparse resume. But he earned the No. 1 role in Oakland in mini-camps and has been nothing short of spectacular since.
- Chris Herndon will serve a four-game suspension which makes him undraftable in most leagues. It's hard to justify holding onto a second tight end when they're a guaranteed zero for a month.
- Dallas Goedert lost the draft lottery when the Eagles chose him. He would be a No. 1 fantasy tight end already on most teams, but instead, he plays second fiddle to Zach Ertz. Goedert is hurt and his Week 1 status is unclear, so there's no point in rostering him regardless of his underlying talent.
The Texans RB Rollercoaster
|34||Duke Johnson Jr||HOU||16||70||295||4.2||1||-||70||52||74%||475||9.1||2||147|
The Texans backfield has been tumultuous this summer, but in some ways, the more things change, the more they stay the same. D'Onta Foreman's release and Duke Johnson Jr's acquisition matter to an extent, but Miller is who we thought he was.
- Lamar Miller ends up where he was in the first place; he's a low-ceiling, reliable fantasy RB2.
- Duke Johnson Jr gets a bump because he was persona non grata Cleveland.
- The two rookies aren't fantasy-relevant for now, but if you're in a dynasty league it looks like Crockett has the edge as Miller's handcuff.
Bucking the Broncos
Mike Munchak is a miracle worker which means the Broncos offensive line could surprise. Joe Flacco isn't good, but he's an upgrade over last year's quarterback room. The Broncos backfield could be fertile ground, particularly for people using a zero-RB draft strategy.
- Phillip Lindsay was one of the league's biggest surprises a year ago and is too talented to discount. But, he's contending with a new coaching staff with their own views on the best way to run the ball.
- Royce Freeman was overshadowed by Lindsay last year, but he remains a talented tailback capable of handling a full-time workload. He's a perfect fit for the Broncos new run-blocking scheme, and his price tag is almost irresistible.
- Theo Riddick's signing complicates the outlook, but he's already hurt and not guaranteed a regular role when he returns.
Mining the 49ers RBs
What looked like a crowded backfield is starting to sort itself out, but the 49ers -- as a whole -- look like a team ripe for disappointment.
- Tevin Coleman is not a workhorse, but he's a perfect fit for Kyle Shanahan's system and appears set to be the No. 1 at the outset.
- Matt Breida was ranked much lower a month ago as I forecast a Coleman/McKinnon time-share. But Breida has been terrific in camp while McKinnon was hurt. He overtakes McKinnon as the projected No. 2.
- Jerick McKinnon may never live up to expectations. Although he came off the PUP this week, he's lost a lot of ground to his teammates.
City of RBBC Love
The Eagles offense is deep and talented, but sometimes that's not great news for fantasy managers. The team has seven or eight tailbacks capable of contributing, and a few will be cut and signed to other rosters.
- Miles Sanders has passed every test in the preseason. He's blocking well. He's catching the ball. He's running hard. But, he's also playing for a team notorious for splitting running back touches. He gets a bump, but still not into every-week fantasy territory.
- Jordan Howard is a powerful runner, but cannot catch. He'll have a role, potentially as the primary goal-line back, but it seems like a matter of time before Sanders takes over.
- Darren Sproles is an ageless wonder and will play on third downs no matter how Howard and Sanders split early-down touches.
- Corey Clement likely makes the team as a No. 4 but needs a strong week or two of practice to hold off the likes of Josh Adams and Wendell Smallwood.
Shiver Me Timbers
|55||Ronald Jones II II||TB||16||110||425||3.9||4||1||28||20||71%||150||7.5||-||101|
How will Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich handle the run game? It's an unanswered question heading into the Week 3 preseason dress rehearsal, but behind the scenes, the depth chart has started to take form.
- Peyton Barber isn't exciting. But he appears to be the best house in a bad neighborhood.
- Ronald Jones II was hyped early in training camp, but it was all smoke and no fire. His practices tailed off, and now he's dealing with swelling in his knee. Hard pass.
- If you don't know who Dare Ogunbowale is, don't feel bad. No one did until beat reports started calling him the best tailback in camp.
Bienvenido? More Like Adios A Miami
The Dolphins are the odds-on favorite to finish with the league's worst record. That's not a place you generally should target your fantasy draft picks.
- Kenyan Drake was a viable RB2 last year in PPR formats, but this preseason has not been promising. He routinely lost first-team reps to Kalen Ballage and is now in a walking boot with an undisclosed injury.
- Kalen Ballage's college tape doesn't get me excited for his prospects as an NFL starter, but it's impossible to ignore the drum beats of the preseason. But drafting the de facto No. 1 on a terrible offense is still not a fantasy investment worth making.
What's A Barbecue Without the Hogs?
If the Dolphins don't have the league's worst offense, Washington might. Dwayne Haskins is a compelling long-term answer, but he's not ready to take the helm. That leaves Case Keenum under center with an offensive line that doesn't have its best lineman (Trent Williams). The lack of top-end receivers will make it easy for opposing defenses to key on the run game. Caveat emptor.
- Derrius Guice is an engaging personality off the field and a beast on the field. When healthy. If he were on a better team or had a clearer path to touches, it would be easy to move him up a tier or two.
- Chris Thompson always ranks reasonably high in PPR formats but has almost no value in standard leagues.
- Adrian Peterson isn't going away, and that complicates an already sub-optimal situation.
AIR RAID? MORE LIKE AIR FADE
I'm on record as having doubts the Air Raid will be some magical tonic to fix what ails the Cardinals. Arizona wasn't just a bad team last year, they were historically bad. They finished 32nd in points scored. 32nd in passing. 32nd in rushing. Unless you think J.R. Sweezy and Marcus Gilbert can fix an atrocious line, I just don't see the upshot of betting on this team. Even if you are a believer, Kliff Kingsbury plans on using 3- and 4-WR sets more than we've ever seen, and that means no receiver is likely to see 120+ targets, which is the typical benchmark to guarantee a spot in the Top 20.
- Christian Kirk ranks 30th, and if there's one receiver worth owning, it's Kirk. He's young, talented, and can play inside or outside.
- Larry Fitzgerald is heading to the Hall of Fame in a few years, but it's anyone's guess if he'll age out gracefully or hit the wall.
- KeeSean Johnson is the "other" rookie receiver in Arizona, but he's been the best youngster in camp.
- Andy Isabella is the high-priced (3rd round) rookie but has missed time in camp and needs to prove he'll be more than a complementary piece.
- Michael Crabtree played for Texas Tech under Mike Leach -- arguably the best of the Air Raid coaches.
- Hakeem Butler was my No. 1 rookie receiver in my pre-draft dynasty rankings, but the shine has tarnished given the landing spot. He may end up on injured reserve because of a late August injury.
It's hard not to worry about the 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo has been bad in practice and preseason play. And the receiving corps has been described as a "bunch of 2s and 3s" by a prominent beat writer. A lot of us were expecting Dante Pettis to emerge, and that may still happen, but it's been a month of disappointing reports on his progress.
- Dante Pettis hasn't done much to ignite the flames of a breakout. While he may still be fine, it's impossible not to discount him given the lack of a clear pecking order, and questions about the overall productivity of the passing offense.
- Rookies Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd have been the only two making positive headlines. Don't over-invest, but keep them in mind as late-round lottery tickets in deeper leagues.
- Marquise Goodwin is an oft-injured one-route guy.
- Trent Taylor could've led the team in targets out of the slot but got hurt.
The Mess In Washington
Washington is on a shortlist for worst teams in football. Jay Gruden is coaching for his life, and that means getting rookie Dwayne Haskins on the field quickly. But Haskins doesn't look ready yet, and putting him under center too soon could irrevocably harm his career.
- Dwayne Haskins will play a lot. It makes no sense if you're the owner trying to sell tickets or the coach trying to keep your job to sit the home-town rookie, even if it means he'll play poorly and lose games.
- Case Keenum may be a great guy, but he's not a great quarterback.
- Colt McCoy may miss a chunk of the season, but he's still a bet to play a game or two because injuries and poor performance may force the coaches' hands.
When Two Isn't Greater Than One
What's the saying? If you have two quarterbacks, you have none? Ryan Fitzpatrick appeared to have the edge in the first few weeks of camp, but Josh Rosen came on strong in the last few weeks. Both probably see the field for a handful of games, and neither are worth rostering given the supporting cast.