Excitement will run high with all but eight teams playing a preseason game Thursday night. However, there were a number of injury and depth-chart news items, so let’s move on to the analysis that could impact fantasy draft season.
• Although it’s being painted as not a very big deal, it’s a bit troubling that Randall Cobb has been in and out of practice this month, and he was held out of practice altogether on Wednesday with an ankle issue. Normally, an ankle wouldn’t be much to worry about, but the WR had surgery in mid-June to remove cartilage. If he continues to be hampered throughout camp, it might be wise to pass on Cobb in drafts for a similarly-valued and healthy player.
• Moving on to Buffalo, rookie first-round QB Josh Allen has practiced with the third-team offense four the fourth straight day. Unless things change quickly, it’ll be difficult to imagine that he’ll be under center to start the season. Of course, should the Bills start the season slowly, it would be a shock if he didn’t make quite a few starts in 2018. For now, AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman seem to be the favorites to be under center in Week 1.
• Regardless of who’s at QB for the Bills, it certainly could help the offense if Corey Coleman can play to his potential with his new team. He cleared his first hurdle by passing his physical, despite a hamstring issue, and he took part in Wednesday’s practice. However, learning the playbook this late in the game won’t work to his advantage, but on the positive side, he only would need to beat out Zay Jones to open the season as the team’s No. 2 WR. It’s not looking like the Bills will be a very strong team this year, so they may be forced to throw quite a bit, making Coleman an interesting target in the latter rounds of upcoming drafts.
• Not that the Jaguars will be a high-volume passing offense this season, but Keelan Cole’s currently atop the WR depth chart despite the team guaranteeing $9.6 million to Donte Moncrief during the offseason. Obviously, the depth chart can change often during the preseason, but after averaging 17.8 yards per reception as a rookie, a strong preseason could keep him on the field when the regular season starts. Due to the nature of the Jaguars offense along with Cole’s big-play ability, he’s worth considering as a late-round pick in best-ball leagues that embrace weekly volatility.
• As noted just above, Donte Moncrief has not only moved beneath Cole on the depth chart, but he’s actually listed as a third-stringer. That said, he missed the first week of camp with a knee injury, and as the new kid in town, he should have an opportunity to work his way back up the depth chart with a healthy and productive preseason. For now, it’s difficult to endorse spending a draft pick on a player who’s largely been disappointing as a fantasy producer during his career.
• Heading over to Chargers’ camp, Tyrell Williams has emerged as a starting receiver alongside Keenan Allen on the team’s first depth chart of the preseason. His primary competition for the starting role is Mike Williams, who had a disappointing rookie season, largely due to injury, after being selected in the top-10 of last year’s draft. Since the team lost Hunter Henry with a knee injury during the offseason, the starting receivers could find themselves especially busy this year, and if Tyrell holds onto the starting spot, he could easily reward fantasy owners for making him one of their last picks in drafts.
• Staying with the Chargers, it’s not a big surprise that Austin Ekeler’s listed directly behind starter Melvin Gordon on the team’s depth chart. Some were worried when the Bolts selected Justin Jackson in the seventh round of this year’s draft, but Ekeler proved to be a solid producer when given the chance. Over 47 carries, he averaged 5.5 yards per carry while averaging over 10 yards per reception. Although there won’t be any reports of Ekeler being a threat to Melvin Gordon’s work load, Gordon has failed to reach four yards per carry in any of his three seasons as a pro, and at 200 pounds, Ekeler is a bit more solid that a typical scatback. Also, receiving backs, such as Darren Sproles and Danny Woodhead, have been strong fantasy producers playing alongside Philip Rivers, so it’s not entirely crazy to use a very-late draft pick on him.
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• Maybe it’s nothing, but reports out of Raiders’ camp are stating that Martavis Bryant is struggling to learn the team’s play book. Should that continue to be an issue throughout camp, it’s possible that he sees sporadic playing time, especially in two-WR sets when Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson are on the field. Before moving Bryant down draft boards, it’ll be useful to see his usage and performance during preseason games, but for those drafting in the very near future, it might be a good idea to target a different upside WR.