It gets harder every year to unearth fantasy football bargains with so much information available. You love Chicago Bears rookie David Montgomery or Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin? Well too bad, because so does half your draft room.
But I’ve noticed two guys with some pretty nice upside still going at a discount rate in my recent drafts — Washington Redskins running back Derrius Guice and New England Patriots receiver Josh Gordon.
The reasons are obvious. Guice just made his preseason debut Thursday after recovering from the ACL tear that wiped out his rookie season. And Gordon just returned to practice Sunday after recently being reinstated from his latest suspension.
“I definitely think he’ll ultimately be the guy. I can see him eventually getting 60% of the carries,” John Keim said of Guice, who looked good in his preseason debut with 44 yards on 11 carries. “Even he admits he’s still working his way back. But the other night was great for him. He shook some rust, gained some trust in the knee.
“To me, he’s a solid play [at that range in fantasy drafts] because there’s more upside. He potentially could be their best back within a few games,” Keim said.
As for Gordon, Mike Reiss said he should be a “top-of-the-depth-chart option” alongside Julian Edelman — especially because first-round draft pick N’Keal Harry has been hobbled since the preseason opener.
Reiss said Gordon’s 2018 production should be a good baseline for expectations (40 catches for 720 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games). But the big-play potential is obvious.
“Gordon will likely be eased into the mix in specific packages early on. So I wouldn’t expect a full-time playing load early,” Reiss said. “But still enough to warrant consideration as a fantasy option if there aren’t any clear-cut receiver choices elsewhere.”
Baltimore Ravens: This one is probably just for deep leagues or dynasty leagues. But rookie RB Justice Hill is drawing comparisons to Darren Sproles in Ravens camp, per Jamison Hensley. He could be used as a change-of-pace back alongside downhill runners like Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards. A fascinating detail in Hensley’s story: Hill and Saquon Barkley are the only two running backs since 2003 to record a 40-yard dash time of 4.40 seconds or faster and a vertical leap of at least 40 inches at the scouting combine.
Cleveland Browns: No one is sleeping on Browns RB Nick Chubb anymore. Jake Trotter wrote that he is primed for another run at the 1,000-yard season that got away in the final minutes of his rookie year.
Houston Texans: The Texans were fortunate to land RB Duke Johnson Jr. in a trade earlier this month, now that Lamar Miller has been lost for the season with a torn ACL, wrote Sarah Barshop. But she still expects Houston to add more help, because the plan was to use Johnson as a complementary pass-catching back.
If you want to speculate on any of the current backups, Barshop said undrafted rookie Damarea Crockett appears to be the one who will get the most playing time if Houston doesn’t add another veteran runner. But she cautioned that Crockett isn’t a lock.
Also from Barshop: Receiver Will Fuller has been fully participating throughout camp after rehabbing from last year’s ACL tear. And though he said he still has progress to make, he feels like he is just as fast as he was before the injury. Fuller is determined to finally play 16 games to prove himself.
Kansas City Chiefs: Adam Teicher pointed out that the Chiefs used RBs Damien Williams, Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson on their first two drives Saturday night, but not Carlos Hyde. “If you were wondering about Hyde’s chances to make the roster, this is a clue,” Teicher wrote.
Los Angeles Rams: A great breakdown on the Rams’ backfield from Lindsey Thiry. Todd Gurley has been practicing every other day in hopes of keeping him fresh. And longtime backup Malcolm Brown has split time with rookie Darrell Henderson when Gurley isn’t with the starters.
Henderson has generated more fantasy buzz than Brown as a potential sleeper, especially because he has some big-play ability in the passing game. And Thiry agreed that Henderson probably has the most upside of the two. But she also stressed that Brown “is the most important player behind Gurley,” which might make him the more valuable handcuff. She also noted that Brown got the starter treatment by sitting out in the preseason.
“He can run, catch passes out of the backfield and pass protect,” Thiry said. “If something happens to Gurley, I’d expect Brown to take on a much greater load. Henderson has intrigue and upside, but when McVay has spoken about him after a few preseason games, he doesn’t sound entirely convinced that the rookie will be ready to take on a large role quite yet.”
Minnesota Vikings: Rookie tight end Irv Smith Jr. is expected to have a sizeable role early in his career and an even bigger one in the future, wrote Courtney Cronin. But history suggests it will take a year or more for him to put up big numbers, especially with veteran Kyle Rudolph still around.
Oakland Raiders: Rookie Josh Jacobs has only carried the ball four times in the preseason. But he is the team’s clear featured back, per Paul Gutierrez, especially now that veteran Doug Martin has been placed on injured reserve. Jacobs’ first three carries went for 6, 8 and 6 yards in Week 2 before he sat out with the rest of the starters in Week 3. And Gutierrez said Jacobs has also flashed great hands coming out of the backfield in practice.
Philadelphia Eagles: Perhaps even more relevant in the wake of Luck’s retirement shocker, Tim McManus detailed how Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is in a better place after dealing with the angst of injuries and other stressors the past two years.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Good luck trying to decide which Steelers receiver has better draft value between veteran Donte Moncrief and second-year pro James Washington. Jeremy Fowler said it’s “tough” because Moncrief has had the starting job locked down for weeks and should be a steadier option early in the year. But Washington keeps playing “like a beast” in the preseason games with nine catches for 203 yards and two TDs (mostly against second-stringers).
If you’re just looking for breakout potential, Fowler said he’d lean toward Washington. “His natural ability is hard to ignore, and he’s in good shape and finally understands the offense,” Fowler said.
Good luck sorting out Garoppolo’s targets, though. Wagoner wrote about the wide variety of receivers that San Francisco needs to emerge.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Another handy backfield breakdown, this one from Jenna Laine on the prospects of Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones (who has bulked up from 208 pounds to 221). She wrote that some in the organization felt after the spring that Jones could unseat Barber for the starting role. But it hasn’t happened yet, with Barber still getting most of the first-team carries.