Preseason football has officially begun, putting the start of the 2018 NFL season ever so much closer. Actual games (if you can call them actual games) are being played. More and more news stories about players are pouring out from beat writers. Our perceptions of players are still developing and changing on almost a daily basis. How we value these players is changing too.
Here, we look at players who have become more palatable to best ball drafters in recent days, thanks to the RotoViz MFL10 ADP App. None of the players have become absolute must-haves, it is true. But situations appear to be developing that makes them more attractive to the best ball drafter. Could this transfer to the redraft scene? Very possibly. Our key players are, by coincidence, all rookies. But there is a special bonus player who is not a rookie. However he has not been seen in live action for a long time and is starting to generate buzz.
Let’s dive in.
Hayden Hurst, Tight End, Baltimore Ravens
Hayden Hurst is one of the older rookies in the 2018 class, having enjoyed a brief MLB career before turning to the gridiron. He has, by all accounts, enjoyed a strong offseason with the Ravens. During Sunday’s practice, Hurst
caught several passes during Sunday’s practice, pulling down balls over the middle between defenders to move the chains.
Hurst later got into a set to with a Ravens defender and clearly has made enough of an impact with his teammates on offense that they were quick to stand by their man. In the Ravens first preseason game, Hurst caught one pass for 12 yards as the starting TE.
Fantasy owners should always keep a close eye on the Ravens TE situation, given how frequently Joe Flacco has looked to the position. Since 2012, only six teams have targeted their TEs more often than the Ravens. Their 529 receptions are the 5th most. Ben Watson was the TE11 in PPR formats in 2017, despite an anemic 8.6 yards per reception.
Jordan Wilkins, Running Back, Indianapolis Colts
Initially, it was thought that Jordan Wilkins would be some way down the Colts’ running back depth chart. After all, he was behind second-year back Marlon Mack. There was also veteran Robert Turbin to contend with, as well as fellow rookie Nyheim Hines. But things seem to be falling into place for Wilkins of late.
Mack, coming off shoulder surgery, injured his hamstring during the Colts first preseason game, and could miss a few weeks. Turbin will be suspended for the first four games of the season for PED violations. Hines would seem to be more of a change-of-pace / receiving back, and not a serious challenge to handle a full workload. He also struggled in his preseason debut, carrying three times for seven yards and muffing several kick returns.
Wilkins, who has been “coming into his own since the pads came on” was far from outstanding in his first NFL action, it must be said. He managed 21 yards on six rushing attempts and had a sole reception for seven yards. But as the most important ability is availability, he has a chance to earn a role as the lead back on an offense that seems set to welcome back a leading player at the quarterback spot (more on him later).
Colts coach Frank Reich is coming from an Eagles team that favored a committee approach at RB last season. But even committees have leaders, and Wilkins could make himself hard to take off the field if he continues in this vein. An RB on a Colts offense many expect to be quite good, available in the very late rounds? I’m tempted.
Antonio Callaway, Wide Receiver, Cleveland Browns
There have never been any questions regarding the talent of Antonio Callaway. The questions have been regarding his temperament and behavior. The last week saw the Browns sending former first-round pick Corey Coleman to the Bills for a ham sandwich. This move, coupled with the continued absence of Josh Gordon, seemed to signal the ascension of Callaway to a starting spot opposite Jarvis Landry.
Then Callaway was cited for marijuana possession on Sunday morning, whilst driving on a suspended license. He claims the drugs were not his, a story that the Browns seem inclined to believe. Nonetheless, the team was not aware of the arrest until they read about it on the news. They were not happy and decided to “punish” Callaway with more playing time in the Browns first preseason game against the Giants. Callaway played on 54 snaps but made the most of his “punishment.” He reeled in three of his seven targets for 87 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown.
Gordon’s return is still uncertain, and the Browns continue to be linked with Dez Bryant. But Callaway seems to be the man in possession of the starting spot at present, and as such could be something of a late-round steal. But, the key to unlocking his fantasy potential could be the Browns turning to Baker Mayfield over Tyrod Taylor. If this doesn’t happen until late in the season, or even at all in 2018, then Callaway could be just taking up valuable bench space. This is a situation to be monitored.
Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
Guess who’s back …
After a lost 2017 season, not helped by consistent positive messages from the Colts, Andrew Luck seems ready to return to the NFL. He certainly looked like something approaching his old self in the Colts’ first preseason game. Luck went six of nine for 64 yards, even withstanding a heavy hit from a Seahawks defender at one point.
There is very little to say that is not already known regarding Luck’s pedigree. Despite missing half of the 2015 season, he was still one of the best fantasy QBs between 2012 and 2016.
If Luck continues to show signs, your chances of getting him as low as this are going to quickly run out. His recovery will also lead to an increase in popularity for Luck’s favorite target T.Y. Hilton. The difference between Hilton’s form with and without Luck is quite marked, as you can see below. Hilton with Luck since their second season in the NFL is among the league’s best. But without? Just a guy.