With three weeks of preseason NFL action in the books, it’s time to look at our weekly stock report based on what we are seeing unfold on the field. While it is important not to overreact to meaningless games (with injuries being a notable exception), evaluating what we are seeing and allowing that to help us craft an overall narrative about a team or player is an important way to formulate comprehensive opinions as we head into draft season.
Week 3 of the preseason is seen by most teams as the final “tune up” game for the starting units, with many top players playing into the third quarter. These games offer the most insight we can get this preseason into a teams readiness and intentions, and there were a lot of highlights over the weekend. In this edition of ADP Watch, we will take a look at the players who have either impressed on the field or seen their stock jump due to injury or the ineffectiveness of the players in front of them.
So without further ado, here are some players whose stocks are rising through three weeks of preseason play.
Sam Bradford, Philadelphia Eagles
It’s difficult not to be impressed with Sam Bradford‘s perfect performance during Saturday’s demolition of the Green Bay Packers. He finished his day by completing all 10 of his passes for 121 yards and three touchdowns, looking to be in full command of an offense that has weapons all over the place and a system designed to elevate a quarterback’s numbers.
And he’s still healthy, which is the greatest news of all!
Bradford’s accuracy and poise were impressive on Saturday, and he completed passes all over the field and to a host of different receivers. His touchdown strike to the streaking Darren Sproles was a thing of beauty, and few NFL quarterbacks have his combination of touch and anticipation.
His ADP has jumped two full rounds in the month of August, with Bradford currently being selected on average as the first pick of the ninth round. Expect that to continue to climb even though the starters won’t see much time in the final preseason game.
Buffalo Bills Quarterbacks
Rex Ryan made it official on Monday, announcing Tyrod Taylor as the Week 1 starting quarterback for the Buffalo Bills. It brought an end to one of the most surprising quarterback competitions of the preseason, with all three contenders looking like great options to lead this team.
E.J. Manuel, a player most left for dead this offseason, finished the preseason completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 358 yards and four touchdowns. He looked like a star at times. Matt Cassel was efficient albeit a tad boring, but it was marked improvement for a player many thought would be cut before the start of the season. That could still happen, but it would speak more to what Taylor and Manuel accomplished than anything.
In the end, however, it was the consistent and versatile Taylor who won the job, demonstrating an ability to win from the pocket and be a dynamic runner both as a scrambler and on designed plays. His 108 rushing yards this preseason should pique the interest of those looking for a late flier at the quarterback position, especially in two quarterback leagues, and his value in that format has already begun to take off.
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
Blake Bortles is doing it again this preseason, and it’s becoming hard not to buy in. Coming off of one of the worst quarterback season’s in recent NFL history according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, Bortles is dominating this preseason just like he did last season, providing hope and optimism for a franchise so often devoid of those two things. He now has 461 passing yards and two total touchdowns in limited action through three games, impressive totals for the young quarterback.
And I guess it’s better than him playing poorly during the exhibition season.
While it’s hard to see fantasy owners taking this information seriously, Bortles has demonstrated an ability to make throws that very few human beings can make and has also showed off his underrated scrambling ability (which he might need behind this offensive line). In fact, last season, only two quarterbacks added more points above expectation level with their rushing — Russell Wilson (60.50) and Cam Newton (38.74) — than Bortles did (27.82).
While he isn’t being selected in standard leagues, dynasty owners and those in two quarterback leagues should at least take notice. His ADP has slowly begin to climb, but he is still a player you will find on the waiver wire in most standard formats. If he continues to play like he has this preseason, however, it won’t be long before he will be owned everywhere.
Detroit Lions Offense
It’s been a fantastic start and finish to the NFL preseason for the Detroit Lions offense, and that’s been without their best player in Calvin Johnson, who when healthy is the most dangerous receiver in the league.
Matthew Stafford has been accurate and dynamic, connecting with Golden Tate on a 62-yard bomb in the second quarter of Thursday night’s game against the Jaguars. While Tate’s ceiling may be capped with the presence of a healthy Johnson, he can still offer value as a second wide receiver.
The running game has looked just as potent even without the departed Reggie Bush and the injured Joique Bell. While the hype on rookie Ameer Abdullah has died down a bit since his explosive Week 1, he has still looked like another big weapon for this offense in his limited touches.
And of course, if Bell isn’t available at the start of the season or injuries limit his effectiveness, the underrated Zach Zenner is just waiting to emerge as the power back in this offense. His impressive preseason has seen him amass 222 total yards and two touchdowns on just 31 total touches.
Overall, this offense just appears ready for the start of the season.
Steve Smith Sr., Baltimore Ravens
In the final season of what should be the Hall of Fame career of Steve Smith, many are overlooking the former Carolina Panthers’ star receiver.
Despite posting 1,000 yards and six touchdowns in his first season in Baltimore, Smith is falling to the seventh round as the 34th receiver off the board. Yet when you look at this roster, Smith is the only receiver on this roster who has proven anything, they have a new offensive coordinator who propelled Alshon Jeffery to stardom while supporting the fantasy value of Brandon Marshall, and did I mention there is no one else on this roster who has done anything?
Against the Redskins, Smith had four receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown before being ejected and looked like a veteran still ready to contribute at a high level. His ADP has climbed a full round since early August, and that trend should only continue.
With rookie Breshad Perriman missing almost all of camp with a knee injury, the team looks very thin in the pass catching department. Joe Flacco is likely to rely on his proven veteran early and often in 2015, and a big final season could be on the horizon.
Chris Ivory, New York Jets
Once a value pick in the late 7th round, Chris Ivory‘s stock continues to rise as he continues to perform well this preseason. He now has 99 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, and has clearly been the best back on that roster.
Unfortunately, if you want to land him in your drafts you’re going to have to pay for him, with his current ADP at 4.12 and continuing to climb. He has looked powerful and decisive as a runner, and even chipped in three receptions in Week 2.
And with a journeyman at quarterback and a dominant defense, this is a team that looks primed to rely on the 27-year-old back, with health being the only thing standing in the way of a top 15 fantasy finish. His price might make him difficult to stomach for many, but his preseason has more than justified the rising stock.
Stevie Johnson, San Diego Chargers
The cat is slowly creeping out of the bag when it comes to the sleeper appeal of new Chargers wide receiver Steve Johnson. The former 1,000 yard receiver of the Buffalo Bills looks rejuvenated in this Philip Riversled attack, and he demonstrated that on Saturday with four receptions for 63 yards.
While his ADP is still sitting at an affordable 10th round price, that’s a significant rise from his 13th round ADP of early August. Expect his stock to continue to climb as the fantasy community catches on to the fact that Johnson was never “finished” as a player, but was simply stuck in offenses led by Colin Kaepernick and E.J. Manuel the past two seasons.
The training camp buzz on his connection with Rivers has been constant, and that showcased itself against the Seahawks. Johnson is in a position to challenge Keenan Allen for the team lead in targets this season, and he is firmly on the sleeper watch list.