The Jordy Nelson injury is a real kick in the pants. There's one less elite-tier receiver we can get, and there's a little dent in the armor of Aaron Rodgers' Fantasy value (but not enough to pass on him for someone like Peyton Manning or Drew Brees).
When Nelson left the Packers' game at the Steelers in the first quarter, he was immediately replaced by Jeff Janis on the outside. Randall Cobb remained in the slot and Davante Adams, who started, remained lined up to the quarterback's left almost exclusively, even when he played with the second string.
Adams was the hot name when Nelson's injury became season-ending, and for good reason. He dominated at Fresno State, catching passes from Derek Carr and racking up at least 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns in each of his two seasons. He doesn't have Nelson's height or speed but he is a very good talent in an offense with a great quarterback. That should be enough to make Fantasy owners target him with a top-65 pick.
Janis offers the Packers the height and (most of) the speed Nelson did. They're basically the same size, just very different in terms of experience. Nelson refined his game and became a hero thanks in part to Rodgers; it's tough to expect Janis to do the same thing in a short period of time. He seemed adept at getting separation while running short hitch routes but didn't get any room on a go route. He also couldn't come up with a pass slightly thrown behind him by Scott Tolzien. So he's a work in progress for sure, but the similarities to Nelson keep him in the discussion of a late-round pick in every draft as a player to wait and see on.
What about rookie Ty Montgomery? He's an interesting prospect for sure. Playing with the second unit, he lined up on the outside and in the slot. He has good speed, is a willing blocker and has good enough size. He slipped in drafts because there were concerns about dropped passes, but that hasn't reportedly been the case in camp. Thing is, he's very much like Randall Cobb in that he's a slot-type of receiver and return man on special teams. At this second, I wouldn't take him unless it's in a deep-roster league or a league that awards special-teams yardage, but that'll change in a heartbeat if he gets time with the first-string offense in the third preseason game.
Here's a lot more from the second week of the preseason:
Chris Ivory looked the same as always, running with power and a good amount of quickness. He had a neat little run where he got to the edge and turned upfield with some juice but it was called back because of a penalty. More importantly he added a wrinkle against the Falcons, catching three passes for 20 yards as flawlessly as any passing downs back in the league. Ivory had three games last year with at least three catches and never had more than one in a game before 2014. Obviously if he adds this to his repertoire, he'll be better than any of us thought. Considering Chan Gailey's track record with running backs maybe he'll shape up to be a fantastic bargain. I'm more willing to take him in the Round 6 range than before.
High-five for Hyde: Carlos Hyde definitely looked the part of a bully rusher for the 49ers, easing some concerns. He got at least 5 yards on three of his first four carries and converting a third-and-short with a great second effort on the one he didn't. His offensive line pushed open space for him and he hit the hole strong and with plenty of acceleration. He also caught a pass for a third-down conversion. Maybe most exciting of all, he played on all but one snap of the Niners' first two drives. If Reggie Bush were healthy, maybe that wouldn't have been the case, but it gave Hyde enough opportunities to show he can replace Frank Gore as the main back in San Francisco.
The other New York running backs: Rashad Jennings had seven snaps for the Giants, as did Shane Vereen. Andre Williams had six. Those numbers alone mean nothing. What you need to know is that Jennings and Williams split pretty much all of the primary rushing work while Vereen was in his familiar role as a passing downs back. It's noteworthy how Jennings got the first carry on the first drive and Williams got the first carry on the second drive. The only time Vereen wasn't in on third down was when the Giants ran an impromptu no-huddle and he was already on the field -- for three plays. The advice remains the same with Big Blue -- get Jennings in Round 7 if you can and back him up with Williams in Round 11, or just take Williams late. Vereen only carries value in full-point PPR formats.
Browns running back breakdown, Week 2: Terrance West started but didn't run very cleanly, running clumsily even on plays he picked up good yardage. Isaiah Crowell didn't play until the start of the second quarter (discipline, perhaps?) and was a mixed bag from running the ball to protecting the quarterback. Ultimately the snaps went West's way, 20 to 14, with the biggest surprise seeing Crowell work in obvious passing situations. The jury is still out on who will do what in this backfield, and that "who" includes Duke Johnson, who is back practicing.
Jonesing: Though there's a small fundamental problem with how upright he runs sometimes, Matt Jones is turning out to be a very nice player for the Redskins. His second-quarter run for 24 yards was well blocked and he had good initial burst on the carry with some nice cuts. He scored later, though he fumbled and recovered the ball on the play. The role we thought he might land -- the passing downs/two-minute drill back -- still looks like Chris Thompson's to lose. That means we could see Jones end up taking snaps away from Alfred Morris after all if the Redskins opt to go run-heavy. Drafting Jones with as late of a pick as possible (his ADP is a paltry 157th overall) should pay off at some point. Think Round 11 or 12 on Jones. He's a must if you take Morris early.
Notes: Forget about seeing little from Ameer Abdullah this week. It felt like the Lions wanted to save his reps, which is something teams do in the preseason. Theo Riddick played more and looked alright but just isn't as explosive as Abdullah. It is worth noting that the way they used Riddick (who started) and Abdullah is consistent with the Lions' desire to use two running backs. ... Zach Zenner is going to make the Lions, especially if Joique Bell is still struggling to get healthy. ... Christine Michael looked good on one play, bad the next. He showed some hesitation when he ran but also showed quickness when he had clear vision on where to run. I don't know if he's a good pass protector but he delivered a heck of a shot that knocked Dee Ford down. ... Without C.J. Spiller on the field, Khiry Robinson was the second running back up for the Saints. He looked good and spelled Mark Ingram a bunch. ... Jonas Gray really wasn't that much worse than LeGarrette Blount. They're almost interchangeable. The Patriots run game has the makings of a Fantasy disaster. ... Ease your concerns: Latavius Murray is a stud.
Last week, Mike Evans fans freaked out because Jameis Winston played quarterback as if he went to school to become an accountant. Winston acquitted himself much better against the Bengals but still couldn't connect with Evans. There was one play where Winston saw Evans open deep and overthrew him. Not long after that Evans was sidelined for precautionary reasons with a hamstring injury. It's a weird leap of faith you're taking with Evans at this point -- we know he's talented and we know Winston is capable of playing great football, but the two haven't connected on the field beyond practice. Evans is starting to slip in drafts as Fantasy owners start to prefer Alshon Jeffery and Brandin Cooks to him. A smart Fantasy owner could benefit by swiping Evans as a very high quality No. 2 receiver.
Replacing Kelvin: Without Kelvin Benjamin or rookie Devin Funchess (who has a hamstring pull), the Panthers starters hit the field vs. Miami with Corey Brown, Ted Ginn and Jerricho Cotchery in the slot. You can pretty much guess how that ended. Brown was especially disappointing, dropping one long pass, having another bounce off him in tight coverage and not getting his feet in-bounds on another target. While this is bad news for Cam Newton's Fantasy value, it does keep the light bright for Funchess to be a regular in the offense. He'll need to establish chemistry with Newton quickly -- and stay healthy.
Another C.J.? We have C.J. Anderson and Calvin Johnson, but the Vikings have one of their own in Charles Johnson. Against the Raiders he was golden (like his hair!), converting a fourth-and-7 pass and also coming up big on a perfect fade pass from Teddy Bridgewater. It's starting to seem like he's going to be Bridgewater's best receiver, which is something we've believed all offseason long. I have no idea why his ADP is 112th overall but I implore you to take advantage of it. Aim for him in Round 8 or 9.
Notes: I love Martavis Bryant, but even I can't ignore him playing with the backups in the third quarter against the Packers. Certainly confirms he's their third receiver, in case Ben Roethlisberger's admission on Markus Wheaton, the Steelers depth chart and how they've used their receivers weren't enough hints. ... Golden Tate has looked pretty darn good this preseason. It's impossible not to notice his quick hands and quick feet. It's also impossible not to notice that Calvin Johnson hasn't played yet this preseason. Tate's an interesting conundrum -- can he put up numbers with Calvin after not doing so last year? ... Seahawks rookie Tyler Lockett worked as the No. 3 receiver. Fun fact: He's fast. ... More No. 3 receiver news: Leonard Hankerson's going to stick in Atlanta. If Roddy White's elbow injury lingers, he'll move up to No. 2. ... Brandon Coleman worked as the Saints' No. 2 receiver with Marques Colston mostly locked into slot duty. He had two golden opportunities knocked away either by a lack of concentration bringing in the pass or a defender knocking a pass away.
Jay Cutler is the guy no one wants to draft in Fantasy. Why should they when there are so many other options out there? But you have to admit he looked pretty darn good against the Colts, especially considering he didn't have Alshon Jeffery or Kevin White. Eddie Royal was his security blanket and he got plenty out of Martellus Bennett and Marquess Wilson. It was good to see him be decisive and prove he has good command of the Bears new offense. What was most impressive was his willingness to run around when a play broke down or when he saw he had room to pick up yardage -- in a preseason game! Cutler's into it.
Sam slam: Sam Bradford is gaining steam as a trendy Fantasy sleeper/late-round pick/part-time Fantasy starter. After watching him play against the Ravens, two things stood out. One, he took a lot of shots -- intentional or otherwise. That's scary stuff knowing how injury prone he is. Two, in Chip Kelly's two seasons in Philly he's had to use multiple quarterbacks because of injuries. It's this kind of stuff that keeps me from aiming for Bradford beyond the late rounds in drafts.
Maybe the Bills have a passer after all: Tyrod Taylor was a very pleasant surprise. He spun a nice ball and looked really good despite starting the game without his two best receivers and his four best running backs and losing two more quality receivers in the game. I mean, he made Deonte Thompson look like a stud! He threw when he was well protected, he threw when his pocket collapsed and he was on the money quite a bit. He also knew when to take off and run for yardage, which is a huge element for Fantasy purposes. If he plays well with his full allotment of receiving weapons then we might have to consider him for sleeper status. I'm already targeting him in Round 7 or 8 in two-quarterback leagues (but not standard leagues that start one quarterback).
Notes: What is it about Andy Dalton and prime-time games, anyway? He was awful in preseason work against the Bucs. No way should Fantasy owners trust him on a weekly basis. ... RG3 was hit on six of his eight dropbacks. Not all of them can be placed at the feet of his offensive line as he held on to the ball a little longer than he should. It's frustrating he hasn't made progress.
Yeah, the Seahawks want to be run heavy and all that jazz, but I can't help but wonder if they're going to fall in love with plays for Jimmy Graham. They haven't had anyone like him since Russell Wilson was drafted. There's such a huge size advantage with him over any cornerback. On one play, he was covered tight by Chiefs safety Ron Parker and Graham dominated him thanks to his size. If the Seahawks offensive line isn't as strong as it once was and the run game can't get the same kind of push, then there's a chance they throw more after all. Maybe we're all overlooking just how effective Graham will end up being.
What? Watson?! Don't be surprised if Benjamin Watson becomes a regular in the Saints offense this year. He was on the field for all but two of the first-team offense's snaps against the Patriots, dominating playing time over Josh Hill, and tied for the team lead in targets with four including two into the end zone. He's a pretty good choice as a very late-round tight end given the Saints' early-season schedule (at Arizona, vs. Tampa Bay). Maybe he ends up scoring in half of his games.
Notes: The Ravens used Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams quite a bit against the Eagles, often on the field together. It's probably got more to do with a lack of healthy receivers than anything else. If one had a glimmer of Fantasy relevance then it would have to be Gillmore, who played more.