There’s a large contingent of football fans that staunchly believe preseason games are completely inconsequential. To these naysayers, they’re nothing more than an evaluation phase for head coaches looking to comprise the best 53-man roster possible. However, most fanatics would vehemently disagree. Exhibition action gives owners the opportunity to gain invaluable insight into potential sleepers and busts. In an attempt to decipher the meaningful from the meaningless, here are the top-five Lames from Preseason Week 2.
Thomas Rawls, Sea, RB (44.5, RB15) – That ear-piercing whistle you here? It’s the Christine Michael hype train, chugging along since 2013, pulling into the draft day depot. Rawls wasn’t dressed for Seattle’s Preseason Week 2 tilt against Minnesota, but he lost fantasy ground. Michael, who’s reportedly undergone an “awakening” this summer, is posing a significant threat to the incumbent. Against a stout Vikings front line he displayed sensational vision, forward lean, versatility and outside burst en route to 64 total yards on 11 touches. A metrics darling who’s burned investors repeatedly, the matured rusher may finally play up to his promise, complicating matters greatly for Rawls. More concerning, the sophomore back isn’t expected to suit up for Seattle’s third preseason game, though reports say he’s on track to start the ‘Hawks opener versus Miami. If Michael were to again turn heads, it’s a foregone conclusion a full-blown RBBC develops. Rawls was spectacular last year in games with 10 or more touches netting 5.4 yards per carry, 3.3 yards after contact and 0.21 tackles avoided per attempt, but Michael poses a serious threat. Still going in Round 4 of most 12-team drafts, he’s a player to circumvent until the fog clears.
Derek Carr, Oak, QB (125.0, QB12) – If you honestly believe Carr will surpass his 2015 numbers, yours truly possesses intimate knowledge where to locate the missing Knights Templar treasure that’s eluded hunters – But not Nick Cage! – since 1307. The Raiders looked as though they were sickened by the black plague in Green Bay. The first-team dawdled on multiple possessions proving largely inept and ineffective. On six possessions that stretched over the entire first half, Carr finished 9-of-13 for 38 yards and a pick. That’s a 2.92 yards per attempt folks. Uncle Rico could achieve that throwing with one foot. And that’s the rub about the Oakland QB. His 32 passing touchdowns in 2015 masked an otherwise unsatisfactory profile. Last year, he ranked outside the top-20 at the position in yards per attempt (No. 25), completion percentage (21) and red-zone completion percentage (31). Yuck. Throw in the defensive upgrades the Raiders made this offseason and Jack Del Rio’s commitment to Latavius Murray and Carr is nothing but smoke and mirrors at his current ADP.
Kevin White, Chi, WR (65.7, WR35) – Some zealots are scaling Willis Tower to ensure the receiver wastes space on their roster. For their sake, they better be covered in Flubber. White was visibly raw in his Preseason debut against New England. Targeted three times he caught just one pass, on a curl route, for six yards. He also suffered a horrible drop. The WR3 expectations placed on essentially a ‘rookie’ wideout need to be tempered. Because of the stripped down offense he played in at West Virginia, his route tree resembles a fire-damaged pine. It’s sparse. Seeing a system unfold on film is worlds different than executing in live action. Despite the disparaging words, White will be given every opportunity to advance his game. If Alshon Jeffery can keep the soft tissue issues at bay, he should see ample single coverage and total around 110-120 targets. Still, I’m banking on his breakout beginning around Week 9 instead of Week 1. Marvin Jones, Michael Crabtree and Sterling Shepard have no business going after him in average drafts. None.
Matt Jones, Was, RB (64.4, RB23) – Jones is the ultimate carnival game. No matter how many dollars, or in his case touches, you throw at the guy, you’re still not coming away with a Shaq-sized teddy bear. Many potential Jones investors were likely spared squalor when the rusher separated his shoulder Friday, an injury that isn’t expected to sideline him Week 1. To be fair, prior to the setback he totaled a laudable 31 yards on seven carries (4.4 ypc). His botched exchange with Colt McCoy, however, gave viewers an all too familiar feeling. The sophomore rusher should heal in plenty of time for Washington’s Week 1 Monday night matchup against Pittsburgh. At this point, he’s locked in as the primary back and a hefty workload, but it’s unwise to pay the going rate. His 2.5 evaded tackles per game, 2.2 YAC average (RB69) and No. 70 juke rate arrow toward mediocrity. Oh, and he’s vulnerable to fumblitis, another hit to his perceived value. Pierre Thomas, who averaged 6.2 yards per touch in his four-game stint with Washington late last year, better have his cell phone within arm’s reach. If Jones bombs early in the season, the still formidable veteran may get a call. Freshly cut Karlos Williams could too. Regardless if that occurs, smart money should be placed on Chris Thompson. The Theo Riddick of the nation’s capital will likely be the most consistent producer in Jay Gruden’s backfield this year.
Devante Parker, Mia, WR (84.6, WR36) – The second-year wideout, a widely perceived WR2 in fantasy circles, is starting to lose his sizzle. Full disclosure, Parker was magnificent in a full-time role post-Rishard Matthews injury last year. From Week 12 on, a stretch of six games, he accumulated 22 catches for 445 yards and three touchdowns equal to the 21st-most valuable line at the position. His resulting 20.2 yards per catch during that span showed how spectacular his field-stretching abilities were. Long, fast and physical in traffic (WR19 in contested catch rate), he has the necessary tools to develop into a premier downfield threat. However, persistent foot problems combined with a recent hammy tweak have stunted his activity this summer. Consequently, he’s missed valuable time with the first-team offense in a newly implemented Adam Gase system. Because of that absence, Kenny Stills has emerged as the primary deep-ball option evidenced in his 3-71-2 explosion against Dallas. Jarvis Landry is Miami’s heavy lifter, but if Parker doesn’t round into form soon, he could surrender playing time and favor from Ryan Tannehill. At this juncture, it’s difficult to justify he’s a sure-fire target in the Tyler Lockett class.
QUICK HITTERS: LeGarrette Blount, Tyler Gaffney, James White – the Pats backfield is as predictable as Tom Brady randomly slicing his thumb pre-game. Good thing he wasn’t slowly jogging with the scissors. Now with Dion Lewis out approximately 8-10 weeks, good luck getting inside the mind of Bill Belichick. Best bet: Blount controls early-down, goal-line work, as witnessed in his 11-69-1 performance against Chicago, with White, who caught 37 balls over the final eight regular season weeks of 2015 and is an attractive Round 10 or so snag in PPR formats, controlling the pass work. That happens and Gaffney will be the odd man out. … Newsflash! Alfred Morris is LITTLE threat to Ezekiel Elliott. Yes, the old-school Mazda-driving RB skewered Dolphins Friday (13-85-1, 1-13-0), but this is the rookie’s show people. Jerry Jones didn’t spend the FOURTH OVERALL PICK on a committee back. Provided he holds up, the former Buckeye is a sound wager for 325-350 touches. Don’t be thickheaded. …
Arian Foster floundered in his ‘Fins debut posting the average January temperature in Minsk (-5 on two carries). Don’t be overly concerned. Working exclusively with the first team, the veteran will be the primary back in Miami tallying some 16-18 touches per game. Gase has supreme confidence in his versatility and system fit. Jay Ajayi enthusiasts will have to wait until the inevitable tendon evaporation … Sammie Coates (2-30-0) better not look in the rear-view mirror, Eli Rogers (4-39-0) is breathing down his neck. Coates was outplayed by the second-year unknown against Philly, a performance the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said “narrowed the gap” in the WR3 competition. Rogers is more suited for the slot, Coates, outside, but if the former receiver wins the battle, Markus Wheaton will undoubtedly move to the wing. Friday’s clash with the Saints will be very telling.
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