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Preseason Intel: Jonathan Stewart, Mike Williams, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and More
Ezra Shaw
Ezra Shaw

George Winn, Detroit

The former Cincinnati Bearcat actually got two write ups on RotoViz last season. Once about his underrated explosiveness. And again when he got picked up by the Patriots. Now he’s in Detroit, and appears to have a decent chance at winning a roster spot.

Detroit’s coaches have noticed, too. He saw time with the second-team offense against Oakland and more importantly for his roster chances, was on the first unit on both kick coverage and kick return. On kick coverage, where he sounded a little frustrated with his play Monday, he made two tackles and was often the first player down the field.

He’s earning playing time and preseason recognition at a much higher rate than Mikel Leshoure,1 who so far has done little to impress this offseason.

Detroit is likely set at running back with Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. Theo Riddick also seems locked in. But the Lions have the least available cap space in the league right now, and cutting or trading Leshoure would free up over $800,000 in cap space. Not a lot, but enough to sign a player during the season, something all teams inevitably have to do. I like Winn’s chances to make the roster. If he does, he’s a deep dynasty player to monitor.

Jonathan Stewart, Carolina

Erstwhile Injury Report All-Star Jonathan Stewart has been looking good this preseason.

It’s not just the two touchdown runs versus the Chiefs that have Rivera excited. On a 15-yard scamper, Stewart also showed an extra burst that was noticeably missing from his repertoire last year…

…Stewart is still just 27 years old and has insisted since June that this is the healthiest he has felt since 2011. He was reportedly showing great burst “every time he touched the ball” during offseason practices.

It’s hard to get excited about a player that has disappointed so many times in the past. But there are reasons for optimism. Although I didn’t write him up specifically in my recent RB ADP series, Stewart does have a few things going for him. First is cost. He’s ridiculously cheap to acquire in redraft leagues. Second is the nature of his ADP. The second back in a closely-drafted backfield timeshare has averaged nine PPR points per game over the past three seasons. And 33 percent of the time, these backs produce RB1 numbers (more than 15 PPR points/game). Third is the nature of Carolina’s offense, which figures to be run heavy. And what has everyone worried about all offseason? Carolina’s lack of pass catchers? Stewart is a pretty capable pass catcher. I like adding Stewart as a late round or waiver option to my redraft and best-ball teams.

Jordan Todman, Jacksonville

Todman has apparently “locked up” the Jaguars’ backup RB gig. Last year, Matthew Freedman was bullish on Todman’s prospects. He may be someone to monitor if Toby Gerhart underwhelms or is injured.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Houston

Has Houston found its next hero?

OK, maybe “hero” is a bit strong. But can Fitzpatrick be a serviceable quarterback? Sure, why not? Kevin Cole does an excellent job of explaining the warm value proposition Fitzpatrick offers. I agree with Cole. Take a look at this advanced passing chart from Pro Football Reference.2

Year Age Tm G GS Y/A+ NY/A+ AY/A+ ANY/A+ Cmp%+ TD%+ Int%+ Rate+
2010 28 BUF 13 13 95 99 97 99 91 111 94 98
2011 29 BUF 16 16 93 100 88 93 105 99 80 93
2012 30 BUF 16 16 92 96 94 96 99 105 93 97
2013 31 TEN 11 9 98 102 94 96 104 96 87 95

In fact, you could say Fitzpatrick is almost perfectly average. Average quarterback play would be a big improvement from last season. Here’s Matt Schaub’s line:

Year Age Tm G GS Y/A+ NY/A+ AY/A+ ANY/A+ Cmp%+ TD%+ Int%+ Rate+
2013 32 HOU 10 8 85 88 80 82 100 83 79 84

Fitzpatrick is another player I like adding late/off waivers in redraft leagues. Justin Bailey has more.

Bobby Rainey, Tampa Bay

Anytime Coleman Kelly comes out of retirement to offer a take, I pay attention. Kelly did that this week, in order to remind us why Bobby Rainey is a good RB. With Charles Sims on the shelf, Rainey has some appeal since he’s already demonstrated some ability in the NFL.

Mike Williams, Buffalo

A quick glance at Rotoworld’s Mike William’s page reveals increasing optimism about his role with the team. Recently, Justin Winn talked about Williams’ TD potential, and Fantasy Douche touched on his sleeper status. Over at Fantasy Football Calculator, Williams has no ADP. Yep, he’s free. I get that Buffalo is a run-heavy team, and that E.J. Manuel hasn’t looked awesome so far this preseason. But drafters are probably making too much of Watkins’ rookie prospects.3 I realize three preseason starts doesn’t necessarily mean Williams will start in the regular season. But it does raise the possibility. Regardless of whether or not he starts, he’s likely the Bills’ best red zone option. From the Freak Score Calculator.

Player Ht Wt 40 Freak Score
ROBERT WOODS 72.375 201 4.42 59
SAMMY WATKINS 72.75 211 4.43 65
MIKE WILLIAMS 73.5 221 4.53 62

All three earn similar scores, but in Watkins’ case, he’s got the rookie issue to overcome. In Williams’ case, we’ve got his history as a red zone producer to look at. Since entering the league in 2010, Williams ranks 12th in red zone targets, and tied for ninth in red zone TDs. Williams has twice come thisclose to a 1000-yard receiving season and averages about a half-TD per game. And most of that came with Josh Freeman at quarterback, so it’s not like he needs an elite passer to produce. And he’s free. Go ahead, add him.

  1. Yea, he’s still on the team.  (back)
  2. 100 is league average; higher is better.  (back)
  3. If you must have a rookie WR, try Marqise Lee, who has much less competition for targets.  (back)

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