The best NFL coaches are constantly making adjustments based on their opponent, personnel and injuries. Fantasy owners need to be doing the same thing.
The rankings we worked so hard on two months ago remain a fine baseline. But we need to be flexible and react quickly to the constant flow of NFL news. Here are three guys whose value has changed the most since training camp opened.
It’s extremely rare for fifth-round rookie wide receivers to have any impact at all in Year 1. But Tajae Sharpe is on track toward outlier status. He’s been running with the starters since minicamps and has continued to operate as the Titans’ best receiver in training camp. With Dorial Green-Beckham gone, there’s no longer a question about his first-string status. Sharpe was in on 17 of Marcus Mariota’s 21 snaps in the second preseason game, catching six passes during that time. He’s now a legit threat to battle Delanie Walker and Rishard Matthews for the team lead in targets.
WHITE IS THE NEW DION
Dion Lewis’ complications off his ACL tear have thrown the door wide open for James White. With Lewis sidelined indefinitely, White is the heavy favorite to be the Patriots’ passing-down back. That role has produced serious value for much of the Tom Brady era, from Kevin Faulk to Danny Woodhead to Shane Vereen to Lewis. In the final seven games of last season (while Lewis was out), White averaged 5.0 catches per game and scored three touchdowns. He’s now a viable mid-round pick in full-PPR formats.
WHOLE LOT OF LUCK
Vontae Davis has been one of the most dominant shadow corners in the NFL over the last few seasons, suffocating receivers on a weekly basis and forcing quarterbacks to look elsewhere. So his recent serious ankle injury is a devastating blow to a Colts defense that now arguably has the least talent in the league. It will be open season for opponents, starting with Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate and Marvin Jones in Week 1. Davis’ injury also puts more on the shoulders of Andrew Luck, who has a 33-year-old starting running back and no defensive support. Luck is the favorite to lead the entire NFL in pass attempts this season.
NFL SLEEPERS OF THE WEEK
Each week, we will identify three players worth taking a shot on late in fantasy drafts:
1. Jared Cook, TE, Packers – Cook is healthy off foot surgery and the Packers are struggling to find a viable No. 3 receiver. Always long on talent, now Cook is also long at quarterback.
2. Will Fuller, WR, Texans – Locked into an every-down role and will see tons of single coverage opposite DeAndre Hopkins.
3. Mohamed Sanu, WR, Falcons – Harry Douglas and Roddy White have succeeded as the No. 2 wideout for Matt Ryan. Sanu and his new $32.5M contract have a great chance do the same at a low cost.
The Bengals have already changed the way they’re using rookie WR Tyler Boyd. He was an exclusive slot player in the preseason opener, only playing in three-wide sets. But in the second preseason game, Boyd played in two-wide sets and lined up all over the field. He continues to make plays for Andy Dalton and Brandon LaFell continues to struggle with his hand injury, leaving plenty of opportunity. Tyler Eifert is also hurt and Marvin Jones/Mohamed Sanu are gone.