Now that we're nearly half way through the preseason and every team has at least a game under their belt, there's more information out there than anyone could hope to consume. Position battles are being decided, a few injuries have piled up, and the surprising cuts have begun. What's also in full swing is the hype machine. More than a few players are getting ready to have a career year and more than a few unknowns are getting ready to turn into solid contributors, at least that's what the hype would lead you to believe. Is any of it real though? Let's find out in this week's Believe It Or Not.
Andre Holmes is becoming Matt Schaub's favorite target in Oakland, and will be a fantasy sleeper that produces. Holmes found himself atop the Raiders' first depth chart, ahead of James Jones and Denarius Moore in the starting lineup. Matt Schaub and Dennis Allen have continuously praised him. "A long strider, has a big burst up the field, can separate and then go up and get the football ... exactly what you want from a receiver," Schaub said Monday. "I'm excited to see what he can do in game action. He's a big, big threat for us." At 6-4 and 210 lbs Holmes has flashed the same large catch radius that he first showed in 2013 and everyone in Oakland seems to be noticing.
Verdict: Believe it. In six games with Matt McGloin, Holmes had 22 grabs for 393 yards and 1 touchdown. That's mid-range WR3 production with bad quarterback play in his first real opportunity in the league. Schaub may not be an elite quarterback but he should be better than McGloin, and there's good reason to believe that Holmes has improved. The only real question about Holmes is with opportunity with Jones, Moore and Rod Streater all in the mix. Holmes has the lead in that battle so far, if he keeps it up he'll be worth far more than his 20th round price tag.
Pierre Thomas is being beat out by Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson in the Saints backfield, endangering his fantasy value. The writing seems to be on the wall for Thomas, who is listed as the 3rd team running back on the depth chart behind the younger Ingram and Robinson. For reasoning, you only need to look at last year's production on the ground. Ingram averaged a career high 4.9 YPC, Robinson carried the load in the playoffs, and Thomas saw his YPC drop all the way down to 3.7. Thomas will turn 30 in December of this year and it's pretty clear that the Saints are moving on without him.
Verdict: Don't believe it. Thomas may very well be third in line to carry the ball for the Saints, but he's their first option out of the backfield in the passing game. Thomas is transitioning into more of a Darren Sproles role this year. Sproles never had more than 87 carries in New Orleans, but he still found plenty of ways to be fantasy relevant. Thomas has been a pretty reliable RB2/3 in his career and that's likely to continue, even if it looks a little different on film.
Jordan Matthews is the best of the rookie receivers. Matthews has earned rave reviews from everyone including the coaches and now LeSean McCoy. Matthews was a stud receiver that's played against SEC competition and he landed in a high-octane offense. The best news for Matthews fantasy value is that there is currently no WR1 in Philadelphia, so the door is wide open to immediate fantasy production. Let other take Sammy Watkins and Brandin Cooks, Matthews is the guy to own.
Verdict: Don't believe it. Matthews did land in a good situation, but it isn't a perfect one. The Eagles are still very run-heavy and they're going to spread the ball around on offense. There may not be a WR1 in Philadelphia, but there are plenty of options including Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, and Zach Ertz. It's going to be difficult for Matthews to star in an offense with so much running and so many other mouths to feed. Cooks is a much better bet to have a breakout rookie campaign.
Kelvin Benjamin is making the loss of Steve Smith a moot point in Carolina. Benjamin has reportedly developed a great rapport with Cam Newton and is catching nearly everything thrown his way. "I'm not unhappy," said general manager Dave Gettleman, who made the decision to release Smith in March. "Kelvin, he came prepared. He came in very good physical shape. You could see his energy is there every day. He's done everything we've asked him to do and he's getting better all the time."
Verdict: Don't believe it. Benjamin may impress in the red zone, but the idea that he'll replace Smith as a rookie is bit hasty. They are two different types of receivers and the Panthers are going to have to make adjustments to the offense. Benjamin may in fact be better in the red zone (Smith had only 8 touchdowns in the last 2 years), but Smith was a leader on the offense and helped the team move the chains. If the Panthers struggle to get into the red zone, Benjamin's work there won't make much of an impact.