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Fantasy Football Today

Justin Hunter shines, Stevan Ridley struggles in Friday's preseason action

By Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer

Stevan Ridley got off to a good start Friday night before another fumble ruined his performance against the Eagles. (USATSI)
Stevan Ridley got off to a good start Friday night before another fumble ruined his performance against the Eagles. (USATSI)

Friday night featured four preseason games, and there was plenty of relevant action for Fantasy owners. But two stories earlier in the day carried just as much weight.

The first was Charles Sims being ruled out for at least 12 weeks due to ankle surgery. That ruins a potential sleeper in Sims, especially in PPR leagues, and allows Doug Martin to see a boost in value. Martin is now a solid choice in Round 2 in all formats.

The other news item was Dwayne Bowe being suspended one game for violating the substance abuse policy. Along with the broken finger and last year's dismal season, Bowe continues to spiral in the wrong direction with his Fantasy value. He's only worth a late-round pick at this point heading into the season.

Now, on to the action ...

Patriots-Eagles

Stevan Ridley fumbled again, and he was immediately benched in the second quarter. The worst part was he was running well before the fumble with nine carries for 45 yards.

Ridley's saving grace is that rookie James White struggled in game action again with just 10 carries for 27 yards and one catch for 8 yards. White has apparently looked good in practice, but he has just 14 carries for 36 yards in two preseason games.

We'll find out if the coaching staff goes back to Ridley or gives White a longer look in the third preseason game against Carolina, but both running backs are trending in the wrong direction. Shane Vereen remains the best Patriots running back because of his receiving ability, and he had two catches for 21 yards against the Eagles.

Kenbrell Thompkins caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady and finished with three catches for 32 yards. Brandon LaFell also caught a touchdown, but his was from Jimmy Garoppolo, and he finished with two catches for 29 yards. Both receivers will likely take a backseat to Aaron Dobson (foot) once he's back on the field, and neither should be drafted in the majority of leagues.

For the Eagles, it was a much better showing this week than the first preseason game against the Bears. Nick Foles, who threw two interceptions against the Bears, was 8-of-10 passing against the Patriots for 81 yards and a touchdown, connecting with Zach Ertz for a 6-yard score in the second quarter. Foles remains a low-end No. 1 Fantasy quarterback this year.

Ertz continues to impress, and he finished with two catches for 26 yards and the touchdown. He now has six catches for 86 yards and a touchdown through two preseason games and looks like a breakout candidate and must-start tight end this year.

Jordan Matthews had a nice outing with nine catches for 104 yards on nine targets, but he spent plenty of time with the reserve groups. Still, Matthews looks like a nice late-round flier in all leagues, especially with Jeremy Maclin (hamstring) and Riley Cooper (foot) banged up.

Saints-Titans

Drew Brees (oblique) was out again, but that didn't slow down Jimmy Graham, who had five catches for 48 yards and two touchdowns. As long as Rob Gronkowski (knee) is less than 100 percent, Graham is well worth a first-round pick as early as No. 6 or 7 overall in all formats.

The Saints running backs had all three main options on the field this week after Pierre Thomas was out for the first preseason game against the Rams. Once again, Mark Ingram had the best game.

Thomas didn't get any carries, and Ingram (five carries for 19 yards) and Khiry Robinson (four carries for 11 yards and three catches for 2 yards) struggled running the ball. But Ingram actually had a 23-yard touchdown catch as he scored for the second week in a row. Thomas added three catches for 27 yards.

All three running backs are going to split time, and Thomas clearly has his role as the passing-downs back on a pass-first team, which makes him the best of the bunch. But Ingram will continue to see his Average Draft Position rise, and he's definitely worth a late-round flier. Robinson is also worth a late-round pick, and we'd love for one guy to emerge to avoid a potential headache all year.

Brandin Cooks was quiet with one catch for 16 yards, and the Saints were without Marques Colston and Kenny Stills. That allowed Joe Morgan to show off his big-play ability with three catches for 108 yards on four targets. It's doubtful Morgan will get much work when Colston and Stills are healthy, but keep him on your radar should any of the Saints receivers miss any time during the season.

For the Titans, the story of the night might have been Shonn Greene leaving with a knee injury. We hope he's OK, and he ran well before going down with nine carries for 46 yards. But if Greene is forced to miss any time then rookie Bishop Sankey would benefit greatly.

Sankey, however, didn't do himself any favors when he lost a fumble. He finished with six carries for 31 yards, but he can't afford any mistakes as he's trying to push for the starting job. Keep an eye on Greene's status, but Sankey could be an easy pick in Round 3 or 4 if Greene is out for an extended period of time.

Justin Hunter was the star of the nigt with four catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns on five targets. He caught a 4-yard touchdown from Jake Locker and a 64-yard touchdown from backup Zach Mettenberger. Hunter's ADP will definitely rise, and we continue to tout him as a sleeper heading into the year. He should be on your radar as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver with major upside.

Locker looked good with 8-of-10 completions for 75 yards and a touchdown, and he's a potential No. 2 Fantasy quarterback in deeper leagues. Keep an eye on him during the season because if he remains healthy he has plenty of upside. Mettenberger also looked good with 20-of-25 passing for 269 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Charlie Whitehurst (hand) left this game, and Mettenberger could move up to No. 2 on the depth chart, which is an interesting position to monitor given Locker's injury history.

Seahawks-Chargers

This was a one-sided game amongst the starters, but the Chargers played Philip Rivers for only one series and rested Ryan Mathews. Keenan Allen did score a 13-yard touchdown for his only catch, which is encouraging if you plan to target Allen in Round 4 in the majority of leagues.

The Seahawks rested Marshawn Lynch for this game, and Robert Turbin showed he might be the better backup over Christine Michael. Turbin started and had 12 carries for 81 yards and a touchdown and one catch for 5 yards. He had a 47-yard run for the bulk of his production and scored from 1-yard out in the first quarter.

Michael, meanwhile, had eight carries for 45 yards and one catch for 8 yards. Michael's first carry was actually a 9-yard run, but he fumbled the ball, which was recovered by the Seahawks. This is a problem for Michael, and he has to prove he can hold onto the ball if he wants carries during the season over Lynch and Turbin.

Turbin could end up as the better late-round flier over Michael based on what we've seen through two preseason games.

Russell Wilson looked great against the Chargers with 11-of-13 passing for 121 yards and four carries for 31 yards and two touchdowns. He scored on a 1-yard run and a 5-yard run, both in the second quarter. His second touchdown came after a touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin was called back when Baldwin couldn't get his second foot down in the end zone.

This game proved, in a small sample size, that Wilson can still be a viable starting option in all leagues, but he's better at home and indoors. In those venues, don't be afraid to start Wilson for your team.

Percy Harvin was also involved early with four catches for 31 yards. If he can stay healthy he'll finish as a Top 20 Fantasy receiver.

Lions-Raiders

Matthew Stafford came out firing with 9-of-10 passing for 88 yards and two touchdowns. Not that there was any doubt Stafford was in line for a big season, but he looks ready to go and should be drafted after Peyton Manning, Brees and Aaron Rodgers as early as Round 4 in the majority of leagues.

One of Stafford's touchdowns went to Golden Tate (Kris Durham caught the other). Tate had three catches for 41 yards and a touchdown on three targets, and he's looking like a solid No. 2 Fantasy receiver heading into the season. He's a definite breakout candidate this year.

The running backs did little to help Fantasy owners in this game. Reggie Bush and Joique Bell both had three carries for 7 yards, and Bush added two catches for 2 yards. Bush had the first carry for the Lions if that matters, but we'd rather draft Bell first in standard leagues and Bush in PPR formats, although both should be considered Top 20 options in each format.

For the Raiders, Matt Schaub struggled, going 8-of-13 passing for 87 yards and an interception. He is now 11-of-20 passing for 108 yards through two games, and Derek Carr might start to get an extended look.

The running backs didn't have a great night. Maurice Jones-Drew started and had six carries for 12 yards and one catch for 22 yards, while Darren McFadden had eight carries for 27 yards and a touchdown. We still like Jones-Drew better with a mid-round pick, but if McFadden gets the goal-line work (he had three chances to punch it in from the 5-yard line) then his value will rise. Neither, however, should be considered a starting option.

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