Fantasy Football Stock Watch: September 1
Howard Bender checks in with the players whose fantasy football values are rising and falling in drafts as we head into the 2020 NFL season.
In case you haven’t been paying attention to the calendar, kickoff for Week 1 of the NFL season is less than two weeks away. Mind-numbing, isn’t it? That means time is running out for your fantasy football draft prep. Keeping a close watch on the daily news is paramount for you research as many site rankings and/or draft room Average Draft Position (ADP) haven’t had enough time to correct themselves and reflect what is happening in drafts right now. Good thing you’ve got the Stock Watch. Here’s what’s going on right now:
Ryquell Armstead /Chris Thompson /Devine Ozigbo, RB JAC – The release of Leonard Fournette has created shock waves through the fantasy world as many people had taken the much-maligned back in the third, and even second, round of their draft. Recovery from such a loss can be difficult, but if you understand the structure of the depth chart behind the starters, you can figure things out. The immediate move for most is Armstead as the second-year back out of Temple should get a strong opportunity for carries. However, this situation looks and feels more like an annoying committee. When Fournette was out last season, the Jaguars used both Armstead and Ozigbo out of the backfield. They combined for 60 yards on 19 carries with Armstead finding the end zone in short-yardage. It was ok, not nothing to write home about. The two have similar running styles and in an effort to maintain fresh legs, they could share the workload again. The key here, though is Thompson who new OC Jay Gruden brought over from Washington. Thompson has been thriving as the pass-catching back during camp and has been working extensively inside the red zone. The thing is, the Jaguars are expected to be a lost cause this season. Vegas has them with the lowest implied wins total of any team and we all expect them to be playing from behind. That tends to put the pass-catching back on the field more. Be careful in your drafts to not over-reach for any of these guys with so much uncertainty in the backfield. Armstead shouldn’t be looked at earlier than the eighth or ninth round, Thomson maybe in the 10th and Ozigbo is a late-round dart. People are going to jump early because the news is fresh in their minds and they are going to panic as running backs are yanked from the board early. Be careful and please don’t reach.
Darrynton Evans, RB TEN – He made a real strong impression on the Titans which led him to being drafted in the third round. Then he fumbled twice at practice and everyone was down on him. Then all the pre-draft handcuffing talk started and he was back in everyone’s good graces as the pass-catching, change-of-pace option behind Henry only to fall off the radar again with a missed week of practices due to an undisclosed injury. Well guess who’s back? Truth be told, Evans never should have been off your radar. He is the only reliable option behind Henry on that depth chart and while we may see only limited work from him during the first couple of weeks while he gets his feet back under him, he is going to be brought into the fold in an effort to keep Henry from being overworked. If you draft Henry, Evans is a must for your bench as he is the next man up. If you didn’t draft Henry, he is still a player who has developing stand-alone value and should be considered in the late round.
Damien Harris, RB NE – Stay away from Patriots running backs, right? That’s what every analyst in the industry will tell you, save for the James White truthers, that is. While this situation remains somewhat fluid, injuries and slow recovery times have put Harris into the foreground and he should be the favorite for touches in Week 1. Both Sony Michel (foot) and Lamar Miller (knee) were activated from the PUP list, but neither appears to be in good enough shape to lead the charge. Will they be? Eventually, but for a late-round flier, Harris becomes and intriguing option as the opportunity is there for him to stand up and take control of this job. We will probably continue to suffer through the usual Belichickian gamesmanship, but if he shows us something early, Harris could be an immediate sell-high candidate to those desperate for running back help.
Bryan Edwards, WR LV – He’s gone from sleeper darling to dancing on the main stage in just a few short weeks and is now someone you want to take a look at when rounding out the receiver depth on your team. Tyrell Williams is attempting to play through a shoulder injury and head coach Jon Gruden is flip-flopping between Henry Ruggs and Hunter Renfrow coming out of the slot. Meanwhile, Edwards has consistently been the team’s X-receiver in practices and is expected to have a share of the role to open the year. The reason you want to grab him now is that Williams is going to have a very tough time yanking this job back from the youngster. We’ve seen the ceiling for Williams who has never lived up to his early potential from when he was with the Chargers. Injuries and inconsistent play have plagued his career and it would appear as if that is going to be the case once again.
Zach Ertz , TE PHI – Over the past two seasons, there has been a debate as to Ertz’ place in the top tier of tight ends as the Eagles have continuously brought in receiving weapons to compete for targets. They’ve drafted Dallas Goedert , J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Jalen Reagor. They brought in Alshon Jeffery and brought back DeSean Jackson . Every year there seems to be another competitor for targets, but there also happens to be a rash of injuries every season which keeps Ertz in everyone’s good graces. With Jeffery unlikely to start the season on-time, Reagor out four weeks with a shoulder issue, Goedert nursing a thumb injury and now pass-catching back Miles Sanders dealing with a hamstring problem, we are once again dancing through Ertz-Land with a heavy dose of expected targets. Mark Andrew may have leapt over him for the No. 3 tight end ranking, but Ertz stands tall at No. 4 right now and worth every penny of draft capital you spend.
Leonard Fournette , RB FA – Nothing sends your value into a downward spiral than being released by your team with less than two weeks to go before opening kickoff. The Jaguars claimed no one would give them a sixth or seventh-round draft choice in exchange so they opted to just release him. That sucks for those who already drafted him, but before you drop him, you may want to see if another team bites on the opportunity. Hard to believe a team even as pathetic as the Jets would give a sixth-round pick for a tomato can like Kalen Ballage but won’t do the same for Fournette. Something stinks in Jacksonville and it’s more than just the play on the field. Given the air of uncertainty that comes during the Time of COVID, it is difficult to imagine someone won’t kick the tires on Fournette. He is probably still worth a pick somewhere around the 8th round to stash away, but be sure to have your running back ducks in a row before you snag him.
Alvin Kamara , RB NO – The situation in New Orleans right now is soul-crushing for both Saints fans and those who drafted Kamara already. When word broke from Adam Schefter that Kamara’s current absence from camp was due to his contract dispute, you could hear the entire Big Easy gasp all at once and those in the fantasy kingdom immediately had flashbacks to when Le’Veon Bell held out for an entire season. Now Kamara’s situation is a little different as the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) dictates he lose a year towards free agency if he doesn’t report which means he becomes a restricted, not unrestricted, free agent next year. That limits the teams looking to sign him as the compensation to the Saints would be fairly steep. Still, this is very troubling for many given Kamara’s top-five ADP and we could start seeing him fall out of the top-five and into the back end of the first round. If he falls there, consider it a gift. Some reports say the Saints, who have lofty Super Bowl aspirations right now, are going to work out a news deal with him and once they do, it’s business as usual.
Miles Sanders, RB PHI – Things continue to go from bad to worse for the Eagles. If you weren’t already down on Sanders with the loss of both Brandon Brooks and Andre Dillard from the offensive line, then this current hamstring issue might just be enough to push you over the edge. The injury was first labeled as undisclosed, then it became a lower-body injury and now they’re getting more specific with calling it a hamstring injury. However, before you freak out, Sanders was reportedly doing shadow drills in camp recently which means he was doing everything he is expected to do in a practice or game, save for the pass-blocking which is what happens in shadow drills. Nevertheless, when drafters see a questionable tag next to a player’s name there is an immediate hesitancy which can work out in your favor. If panicky drafters look past him because of the injury, you can get him at a cheaper price. Is there risk? Sure, but there’s risk with everyone. Let the public panic while you look at the big picture.
Brandin Cooks , WR HOU – There has been a lot of talk about how limited the work has been from Cooks in camp and how little time he’s had to work with Deshaun Watson . We already know that Cooks is a major injury risk given the number of concussions he’s sustained in recent seasons and now the Texans are limiting his workload in an effort to keep him healthy. They say they are looking to ease him into the program which certainly doesn’t bode well for early-season success. If he doesn’t have the necessary rapport with Watson, things could be pretty slow to start the season and while his draft price is dropping, it still might be too much risk. Monitor the practice reports for the next few days as we are in a critical time right now, but with names like Marvin Jones , Diontae Johnson and Julian Edelman near him in ADP, you may want to look at someone other than Cooks.
DeVante Parker , WR MIA – The old undisclosed injury rears its ugly head once again and now it’s attached itself to Parker who many hope to see a second-straight season of top-flight production. Reports say he should be ready for Week 1, but let’s face facts – Parker has played a full season just once and save for last year, has been a chronic disappointment. Even last year, it took a torn ACL for Preston Williams to actually send consistent targets Parker’s way, so why would anyone spend a fifth or sixth-round pick on this guy knowing he’s hurt and that Williams is ready to get back to work this season? Save yourself the aggravation.
Stock to Watch
Joe Mixon , RB CIN/Dalvin Cook , RB MIN – Keep a watchful eye here because panicky fantasy drafters will overlook these two strictly out of fear. With news of Kamara holding out, many have already soured on both Cook and Mixon, both of whom were linked to potential hold-outs from their respective teams. Mixon has missed the last few days with migraines, so people are immediately concerned that the headaches are a phantom issue and his absence is hold-out related. Check to see when he returns to practices before writing him off. As for Cook, he’s been in camp the whole time, hasn’t missed a day and said himself that he broke off contract talks because he wanted to focus on his preparation for the season. If these guys start dropping in drafts, accept them as gifts from the fantasy gods. We expect both to be on the field for Week 1. UPDATE: Joe Mixon signed a four-year, $48M extension, locking him in until 2024. Oh happy day, Joe Mixon owners! Oh happy day! I should probably just move him to the Stock Up section.
Need to see where the rest of the Jaguars backfield ranks? Check out where Howard Bender and Adam Ronis have them ranked in our 2020 NFL Player Rankings!
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