As is customary in the NFL, Week 1 of the preseason was a bloodbath in terms of injuries to key fantasy players. This week’s version of the ADP-driven article will touch on a handful of players expected to assert themselves into a prime role thanks to injuries above them on the depth chart, and what that could mean for their draft stock.
Injured – Derrius Guice – Torn ACL, Out for season
Guice represented one of the rare, cost-effective running backs capable, and maybe even likely, to exceed their initial projections, as early fantasy drafters were able to capitalize on the uneasiness surrounding the rookie RB’s fall in the NFL Draft, securing what appeared to be a starting running back for a mid-to-late third round pick. That value was completely shattered after news surfaced Guice had torn his ACL following his first preseason carry on Thursday. Head coach Jay Gruden seemed confident the team wouldn’t add any veteran RBs in the immediate future, meaning Kelley or Perine will likely get the snaps on first and second down, with Chris Thompson mixing in as an excellent receiving option out of the backfield. Neither Kelley or Perine impressed in the starting role last season, but with no clear-cut leader in the clubhouse following the injury, I wouldn’t be surprised if both players get a crack at the job as the season progresses. While Kelley is listed as the starter for now, Perine profiles as the more explosive player (based almost entirely on his work at Oklahoma) and thus represents the best chance at capitalizing on the additional reps. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Perine creep into the top 100 by the time September rolls around, but without certainty that he’ll see the bulk of the carries I’m not sure that represents fantastic value. Fumbling issues, health problems and a lack of confidence from his head coach are all working against Perine, and those red flags are enough for me to wait till the later stages to draft him. In a roundabout way, Kelley might actually be the better play for fantasy drafters as he’s likely to come at a depreciated price compared to his teammate, but still fits the mold of a two-down back capable, and I use that word very loosely, or carrying the load.
Injured – Marlon Mack – Injured hamstring, Out a “couple of weeks”
Potential Starter – Jordan Wilkins (ADP: 197/RB 79)
It’s a time-honored tradition at this point for me – I tout a player that represents fantastic value, and they immediately get hurt. Last year’s cream de le crème was Allen Robinson, and this year Marlon Mack appears to have drawn the apple of my unfortunate eye. While I continue to wallow in my misery, 2018 fifth-round pick, Jordan Wilkins, has quickly risen to the surface as an intriguing name to monitor. Unlike the RB conundrum in Washington. Wilkins figures to fit right in should Mack miss extended time, as Robert Turbin is slated to miss the first four games of the regular season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances and Nyheim Hines is little more than a Tarik Cohen-impersonator. There’s some questions as to whether Wilkins is built like a two-down RB, but I’m not sure I buy that concern. At 6-foot-1, 217 pounds, the former Mississippi product has more than enough girth to carry the ball between the tackles and he displayed enough speed at the NFL Combine (4.53 40-yard dash) to back up the breakaway ability displayed on tape in his final collegiate season. Even before Mack’s injury, Wilkins made sense as a late-round selection – now he’s almost guaranteed to rise at least three rounds higher than his current ADP.
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Injured – Deon Cain – Torn ACL, Out for season
Another Colts player rounds out the list, as promising rookie Deon Cain left Thursday’s preseason game after tearing his ACL. Look, you weren’t taking the third-string Colts receiver in anything but the deepest of leagues anyway, but there’s at least potential for either Rogers or Fountain to break out under the team’s new offensive scheme. T.Y. Hilton will be the main offensive threat, naturally, but free agent signing Ryan Grant profiles more as a slot receiver than a legitimate No. 2 wideout, something I suspect Indianapolis will figure out in due time. Rogers has been underwhelming thus far in his career, tallying just north of 200 receiving yards in back-to-back seasons but he does have a bit of a rapport with quarterback Andrew Luck and seems to be gaining some momentum in training camp. On the flip side, Fountain is a longshot to earn the No. 3 spot, but it takes only a cursory glance at the collegiate tape to see the type of talent he possesses. I doubt either player significantly rises up the ADP like the players mentioned prior to this, but in terms of flyer picks, either player is worth selecting late based solely on the new up-tempo offense and a reinvigorated Luck.