Burkhead was making his first game appearance for the Patriots and the wasted no time getting him involved in the offense. Burkhead carried seven times for 20 yards and caught a pair of passes from Tom Brady during his time on the field.
The second of those catches was a 22-yard touchdown in the second quarter and ended the night for many of the Patriots offensive regulars. James White was also involved early and Dion Lewis took over the running duties once Jimmy Garoppolo entered at quarterback with Mike Gillislee not in the lineup.
We believe Mike Gillislee is the most talented early-down option for the Patriots and offers double-digit touchdown upside, but a hamstring injury is keeping him off the field. He needs to get healthy, or it is not out of the realm of possibility that Burkhead wins this job. With fantasy drafts fast approaching, this backfield needs to be monitored very closely. If you are going to use a 5th/6th-round pick on Gillislee, it's probably wise at this point to draft Burkhead late too.
Third-round pick Kareem Hunt got a chance to show his versatility. He was limited to one carry and one catch in the preseason opener. On Saturday, he was the featured running back on the first two drives. Hunt had 8 carries for 40 yards and 3 catches for 23 yards.
Related players: Spencer Ware
Hunt has been generating some buzz, but Spencer Ware isn’t going to go gently into that good night. Since becoming a Chief, Ware has averaged 4.63 YPC on 286 carries, and his 13.5 yards per catch was the second most of any running back with 30-plus receptions in 2016. It’s more likely that Hunt finds a role on passing downs, potentially replacing Charcandrick West. However, this is still a situation to monitor as the season approaches.
Rookie running back Leonard Fournette expects to be ready for Jacksonville's season opener. So does receiver Marqise Lee. Fournette and Lee spoke Saturday for the first time since being sidelined by injuries a week ago and expressed confidence they would play in the Sept. 10 opener at Houston.
"I'm very confident," Fournette said. "There's nothing to worry about."
The fourth overall pick in the NFL draft was shut down last Sunday with a left foot injury that coach Doug Marrone called a "nagging issue." Fournette said he didn't know what caused the pain. "I've never had a foot or toe injury or anything like that," he said. "But they're doing a great job with rehabbing. I think it's going pretty good."
Fournette missed parts of his junior season at LSU because of a sprained left ankle, but he said his latest injury has nothing to do with that setback.
Lee fell to the ground during a passing drill last Sunday and immediately grabbed his right leg. Lee's lower leg was immobilized before he was taken off the field on a cart. He was diagnosed with a badly sprained ankle.
Lee spent several days in a walking boot and used a crutch, but ditched those in the last few days. He said the next step is to start running again.
"I'm pretty confident I'll be fine," Lee said. "I can't make a move without the trainers and the coaches. It's their decision, but I'm going to go ahead and jump in: I think I'll be fine by Game 1. Doing everything possible to be ready by Game 1. That's all I really can control. So I'm just going to do that."
Fournette is the odds-on favorite to lead all rookie running backs in fantasy points. The last eight running backs drafted in the top 10 that saw at least 200 carries (in their rookie season) averaged 308 touches for 1484 yards and 9.8 touchdowns, for a PPR average of 240 fantasy points. The Jaguars are going to run Fournette early and often. VP of Football Operations Tom Coughlin said that the team drafted Fournette “to put the ball in the end zone.”
Lee emerged in his third season as the #2 receiving threat in Jacksonville, turning 105 targets into 63 catches for 851 yards and three touchdowns en route to a #42 finish in PPR formats. He could progress into the top 30 if he continues to improve as a receiver, but the Jaguars have drafted (Leonard Fournette) with the intent to run the ball more, and that may negatively impact Lee’s workload.
"Christian McCaffrey wearing a hat on the sideline.
His day: 3 carries for 33 yds, TD
2 catches for 39 yards
1 glimmer of hope"
Related players: Jonathan Stewart
That sound you hear is the sound of McCaffrey's hype train having already pulled out of the station. With Jonathan Stewart still likely to see 200-plus carries, the third round feels pretty early for Christian McCaffrey, though he has Danny Woodhead-type (70-plus catch) upside in the passing game. The issue is Cam Newton has never been one to check down or target his running backs heavily, so it's fair to question how easily McCaffrey will fit into the Panthers offense. Given the fact that they used the eighth overall pick on the Stanford back, changing the offense to suit his skill set would seemingly be a major priority, but how flexible is Newton? Stewart has missed three games in each of the last three seasons, and has missed a total of 26 games in the last five seasons, so McCaffrey has RB1 upside if Stewart is sidelined.
Marcus Mariota led the Titans to points on each of the first two drives against the Panthers in the second preseason game Saturday at Nissan Stadium, leaving with a 10-0 lead. He was replaced by Matt Cassel. Mariota completed 6 of 8 passes for 61 yards, a touchdown and a 135.9 passer rating. He threw one touchdown pass to tight end Delanie Walker and added a nine yard rush.
With DeMarco Murray not playing, Derrick Henry gave a glimpse of how impressive he could be if Murray were to ever miss time. He was not efficient on the ground with 16 carries for only 36 yards (2.3 avg) but punched in two touchdowns (including a 17-yard score). Henry also caught three passes for 17 yards.
Henry had a solid rookie year, turning 123 touches into 627 total yards and five scores and finishing as the #45 RB in PPR formats (#39 in standard). Unfortunately, not much has changed in the Tennessee backfield as the still-productive DeMarco Murray is expected to continue to serve as the team’s lead back. Barring a Murray injury, it’s difficult to see a path to a top-25 finish for the second-year back.
In his first 27 NFL games, Mariota has averaged 17.7 fantasy points per game, which would have extrapolated to about what Dak Prescott scored last year as the league’s #6 fantasy quarterback. When his six-attempt game against the Patriots (from his rookie year) is removed, his average jumps to 18.3 fantasy points. With the addition of Corey Davis, the #5 overall pick, and TD-machine Eric Decker, Mariota now has Davis, Decker, Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker to throw to. The Titans have invested heavily in the passing game, which is an indicator that the team is willing to open up the offense. If he plays a full season, a top 5 season is well within reach. This makes Mariota an excellent value in the middle rounds.
Seahawks 7th-round pick and Chris Carson rotated with fellow RB Eddie Lacy on the Seahawks' first-team offense. Carson carried six times for 27 yards. He also had a 17-yard catch-and-run on third down. And on special teams, Carson forced a fumble on kickoff coverage. The seventh-round pick out of Oklahoma State has had an impressive summer and looks like a lock to make the roster. The only question now is: How big of a role can he earn between now and the regular season?
Meanwhile, Lacy only rushed for 20 yards on his six carries and added a reception for three yards. Thomas Rawls did not play with a minor injury. It was Rawls who had been getting the majority of first-team reps in recent practices. C.J. Prosise also did not play. This certainly appears to downgrade Lacy's fantasy stock. It should also be noted that Seattle's already brutal offensive line from last year also lost starting left tackle George Fant to a torn ACL Friday night.
Coach Mike Mularkey said he’d like to see him play in the preseason, but they’re not going to risk it. It really depends on how he does in his rehab, and return. So far, he hasn’t done anything in practices since the injury earlier this month.
Meanwhile, 3rd round rookie Taywon Taylor impressed in his preseason debut, and the Titans have two seasoned veterans in Eric Decker and Rishard Matthews. Davis was the first receiver off the board and is probably landing in the best situation theoretically, if he can get healthy. However, we've seen this script before with rookie receivers missing time in the preseason and having their snaps limited in the first quarter of the regular season. He has a good quarterback (Marcus Mariota) and the team has a glaring need at receiver. The last eight receivers who were drafted in the top 10 averaged 56 catches for 824 yards and 6.0 touchdowns as rookies.
LeGarrette Blount has underwhelmed this summer with nine carries for 17 yards. In Thursday’s 20-16 win over Buffalo, Blount had five carries for 8 yards and fumbled on one of his two receptions.
Coach Doug Pederson played down Blount’s lack of production. He said the Eagles have not called any design runs. They’re using training-camp concepts and trying to get evaluations of their personnel. He expects different results when there are blocking schemes and running schemes tailored to the personnel, game situation, and defense they face.
In 19 games (including the playoffs), Blount averaged 67 yards and 1.0 TD en route to 12.9 PPG and a #9 finish at his position in PPR formats. He only averaged 3.80 YPC on the year, and just 3.29 YPC over his final eight games. He should take over the Ryan Mathews role in the Philadelphia offense. Mathews saw 168 touches (13 receptions) in 13 games, or 12.9 touches per game. If Blount gets all of Mathews’ carries and plays a full season, he should see 185-195 carries and is a threat for double-digit touchdowns. (Mathews scored eight rushing touchdowns last year.) Beware of Wendell Smallwood though, as some reports this preseason say he may be involved more than last season. That could eat into Blount's projected early-down workload, especially if he continues to struggle.
Dalvin Cook picked up 33 yards on three consecutive carries against the Seahawks, showing off his combination of power and elusiveness once he finds a seam. Cook’s production came behind a patchwork offensive line that expects to return two of its starters — Alex Boone and Riley Reiff — for the next preseason game on Aug. 27.
Dalvin Cook has played 36 snaps this preseason. That's about one half of a game. He has touched the ball 17 times (12 carries and 5 receptions). That's exciting bell cow level production for a rookie whose ADP has moved into the 4th round. Cook also has the third-easiest schedule by our PPR RB aFPA tool. It's looking more and more that Cook will line up as the starter in Week 1. The Vikings had a lot of problems running the ball last year, but signed tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers and drafted center Pat Elflein (3rd round) and guard Danny Isidora in an effort to rebuild the offensive line. Cook has had a good spring and his primary competition (Latavius Murray) is still well behind after offseason ankle surgery.
Related players: Nathan Peterman
McDermott was non-committal after Taylor threw two interceptions in a preseason game, so we're not convinced that he or the team are fully behind their quarterback. The decision to trade away Sammy Watkins, a player who fits Taylor's downfield strengths, indicates that the team isn't invested in Taylor's success. From a fantasy perspective, Taylor is a great asset given his ability to run, but the team may move on to Nathan Peterman sooner rather than later.
This doesn't sound serious but it's something to monitor. Howard took over the lead back duties in Week 3. From that point on, he was the No. 7 fantasy back in the league, averaging 16.1 fantasy points per game. In terms of likely workload, he’s one of the safest plays on the board since he averaged 20.5 touches per game in the second half of the season. He averaged 116 total yards and 0.5 touchdowns in that span.
Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery were a dynamic duo in Chicago. Jeffery had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with the Bears, including a career-high 1,421 yards in 2013. Cutler was his quarterback. And Cutler thinks he might have found a similar — if not better — target in Miami.
“I think he's kind of a faster Alshon, a little bit,” Cutler said. “He's got a lot of range. Back-shoulder, over the top. He's got great hands. And he can burn you up if you get [stuck] flat-footed.”
In 15 games, Parker was the #50 WR last season, catching 56 passes for 744 yards and four touchdowns on 88 targets. He was on the injury report for six of those games (3.3-39-0.33, 9.2 PPG in PPR formats) and healthy for nine (4.0-57-0.20, 11.0 PPG). Those "healthy" PPG numbers are about what Anquan Boldin scored as 2016's #41 fantasy receiver. If he can stay healthy, he should provide WR3 numbers, but that’s a big “if.” For what it’s worth, he has drawn rave reviews for his work this offseason.
"Chad Henne going into game with first-team offense. Pre-planned we're told," was the tweet from the Florida Times-Union.
Blake Bortles, a constant Twitter goat through training camp with constant reporters of practice interceptions, could have had at least one picked Thursday night against Tampa Bay, before finishing with only 65 yards on 8-of-13 passing.
Chad Henne entered the game late in the 2nd quarter with the starters.
The fact that Henne was even out there with the starters in the second preseason game shows Blake Bortles' job is not safe under a new coaching staff. If you watched the game, Bortles was worse than his pedestrian numbers even show, at one time underthrowing a wide open Allen Robinson downfield. Meanwhile, Henne had two passes for would-be touchdowns dropped by his receivers, including Robinson. However, Robinson's eight first half targets are certainly notable.
LeSean McCoy saw five touches in his preseason debut against his hold team in Philadelphia. He rushed for 21 yards on four carries (5.3 avg) and added one catch for 11 yards.
Shady lived up to his Twitter handle cutting on a dime at one point to juke former teammate Ronald Darby after his offensive line gave him a huge hole. McCoy's longest run was 13 yards.
Related players: Jonathan Williams
McCoy was the #3 RB in standard and #4 in PPR formats. Mike Gillislee (112 touches, 627 yards and nine touchdowns) is gone, so McCoy could see some of that work as he heads into his age 29 season. After the top three running backs, McCoy looks like the best option at the position in all formats.
John Gruden during the Jaguars preseason broadcast said of Leonoard Fournette's foot injury, "He said someone stepped on his toe at practice."
Fournette was ruled out of the preseason game after the injury and head coach Doug Marrone saying they would play it safe.
This is good news for Fournette, who dealt with recurring foot and ankle injuries at LSU. Apparently, this issue is unrelated to those previous injuries.
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