Fantasy booms, busts and breakouts from Preseason Week 2

Christian McCaffrey’s fantasy value is reaching new heights, and not just in PPR leagues. (AP)

Meaningful or meaningless? Starts, per usual, played only sparingly in the opening act of the Preseason, but several newcomers made statements, others underwhelmed in brief action. Below, Yahoo fanalysts Brad Evans, Andy Behrens and Liz Loza discuss guys moving up and down their cheat sheets. 

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The biggest fantasy winner Preseason Week 2 was ________. 

Brad – CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY. Reggie Bush. Marshall Faulk. NOT Danny Woodhead. McCaffrey resembled a number of RBs in a scintillating effort against the Titans. Carving out his own path of totality with the first-team offense, he cut, glided and dashed his way to 72 total yards and a TD on only five touches.

Yes, it’s the Preseason and all schemes are generic, but McCaffrey is a uniquely skilled player who could be deployed in a larger capacity than most originally anticipated. It’s very unlikely he surpasses 200 carries, but 13-14 touches per game is in the cards. Still, with Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart operating as goal-line gremlins, his TDs will be of the home run variety, probably topping out in the 5-7 range. Selectable in the latter portion of Round 2 in PPR, he’s also a worthy investment a few picks later in standard. For now, I’m confident he’ll finish around RB15 when the dust settles in December.

Andy – MARLON MACK won’t step into a featured role, like several other backs in this year’s rookie class. (See above and below.) But he was awesome against Dallas on Saturday. He was playing mostly against JV defenders and special teamers, but, well … look at this. He gained 59 yards on seven touches and generally looked like the angriest man on the field. Frank Gore will probably never retire, of course — he’ll finish as RB14 when he’s like 49 — but Mack sure looks like a playmaker.

LizDALVIN COOK. Steadily rising in my ranks since the Spring, Cook has been one of the most impressive rookies of the preseason. Lighting up defenders like one of Daenerys’ dragons, Cook managed 40 yards on seven attempts in his second preseason effort. Continuing to receive looks in the passing game, and demonstrating applause-worthy elusiveness, the rookie started the game and played through the first-half with the ones. The more time Latavius Murray misses, the more time Cook has to impress and to strengthen his hold on the RB1 duties. While the Vikings’ offensive line remains an issue, Cook’s volume and talent make him a top-fifteen fantasy prospect.

Conversely, the biggest fantasy loser Preseason Week 2 was ______. 

Andy – I’m gonna go ahead and say it’s the guy who lost a significant position battle: PAXTON LYNCH. The second-year QB passed for only 39 yards on 13 attempts against the Niners, which ain’t easy. Trevor Siemian, who isn’t particularly good, has been named Denver’s starting quarterback. It’s ridiculous that an otherwise ready-to-win team finds itself in this situation. Lynch has to be viewed, at this stage, as a horrendous disappointment. The upside for every Broncos skill player is diminished by this abysmal quarterback mess.

Liz – LEGARRETTE BLOUNT. After logging over 300 total touches and crossing the goal line 18 times last season, Blount appears to be zapped of all power. Totaling just 17 yards on nine carries over the first two weeks of the preseason, whispers are swirling that the former Patriot is in jeopardy of being cut from Philly’s backfield.

With Ryan Mathews released, there was a massive opportunity for Blount, especially on early downs and near the end zone. However, after underwhelming in camp and in an offense that likes to feature pass-catching backs, Blount’s appeal has expired faster than a set of counterfeit eclipse glasses. While some are expecting Wendell Smallwood to earn the lead back job, I’d bank on Darren Sproles seeing the most fantasy friendly touches.

Brad – MIKE GILLISLEE. The New England backfield is a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. It’s complicated and hard to decipher for myriad reasons. However, one thing is coming into focus, Gillislee is overvalued (64.1 ADP, RB25).

Rex Burkhead, operating with the ones, performed brilliantly against the Texans. His versatility and interior power were on display en route to 70 total yards and a TD on 10 touches. A top-15 RB in juke rate a season ago and a phenomenal receiver (No. 3 in catch% in ’16), Burkhead is equipped to handle a multi-down role, including operating as the goal-line option. It’s entirely possible the late-round sleeper opens the season as the primary “big back.”

Gilly was remarkably efficient on a per tote basis with the Bills, but if his hammy doesn’t heal rapidly, he could be relegated to Gatorade duty Week 1 against Kansas City.

Drilling down, the one player generally off fantasy the map who lept off the screen was ______. 

Liz – TARIK COHEN. Nicknamed the “Human Joystick,’ Cohen started the second week of the preseason ahead of Jordan Howard, who was nursing an eye injury (note: he underwent eye surgery this past May). By the end of the first quarter, the rookie back had amassed 72 yards on nine attempts. Yeah, you read that right.

Showing off electric feet, razor-sharp cutting ability, and 4.4 speed, the Bears fourth round pick had #FantasyTwitter abuzz with questions about Jordan Howard’s potential volume. Being comped to Darren Sproles and Maurice Jones-Drew, Cohen is a bruising bowling ball who can work as a receiver, and excels in space. His ascent needs to be monitored closely, as it could mean fewer touches for Howard.

Brad – DE’ANGELO HENDERSON. Whenever I watch Henderson touch the football the Killers’ groovy cut “The Man” plays on repeat in my head. USDA certified lean, the rookie has plenty of gas in the tank and, soon, money in the bank. Fantasy owners drunk off his sizzling highlights are indeed looking at the virtual game’s next “Man.”

For the second-straight week, the Maurice Jones-Drew doppelgänger flattened the opposition, this time San Francisco, exhibiting spark between the tackles, slipperiness and receiving skills. Stated before, he is rendering Jamaal Charles or Devontae Booker expendable and is posing a real threat to RBBC head honcho C.J. Anderson. Mixing in with the ones, the former Chanticleer finished with 50 total yards on eight touches. Another strong performance and he could register 10 or so touches in the Broncos’ opener versus the Chargers. Top-10 in YAC (3.1) and tackles avoided per attempt (0.38) among Preseason RBs with at least 10 carries, Henderson won’t be absurdly cheap (216.7 ADP, RB73) much longer.

Andy – CHRIS CARSON has apparently forced his way into the committee conversation in Seattle. The seventh-round pick out of Oklahoma State is seeing time with the varsity offense, and outproducing brand-name free agent add Eddie Lacy. Obviously we shouldn’t read too much into preseason performance, but Carson clearly isn’t overmatched. He gained 44 yards on his seven touches on Friday. The Seahawks seem headed for a cluttered committee.

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