It's beginning to look a lot like football.
The pads have come on and the workouts have gotten a little more intense. That's cause for excitement among football fans generally. But it's also quickened the pulse of Fantasy Twitter, which has subsisted only on rumor and innuendo -- more than usual! -- over the past few months.
Alas, now we have actual football-like substance taking place on fields across America. It means that moving a guy up and down your draft boards can be based on more than just a coach or teammate praising someone in an interview or whether said player is #BSOHL. Don't get it twisted, we'll still be guilty of those other things ... but we'll also have on-field things to evaluate as well.
Every week in this space, I'll offer up a few players whose draft appeal could be on the move -- positively or negatively. And I promise to use more than just IG glamour shots.
Miles Sanders: Stock Up
There had been plenty of buzz about Sanders after a strong finish to his rookie season in 2019. You might remember that a plague befell the Eagles' offense, and they eventually turned to a converted dual-threat quarterback as the leader of their *checks notes* receiving corps. At the same time, it also opened the door for Sanders to announce his presence with authority. Or at least serious agency. From Weeks 13-16, Sanders averaged nearly 23 touches per game -- almost double the 11.5 totes he averaged over the first 11 games.
After that stretch, we clamored for Philly to turn the backfield over to the rookie completely. Plenty of people boosted Sanders' draft value hoping that would happen. Others remained cautious, citing head coach Doug Pederson's predilection to use multiple running backs. Many of those same people were concerned that the Eagles might sign a free-agent running back to put in a committee with Sanders. (Full disclosure: I might be talking about myself in this latter group. But who's really to say?)
Then came reports that Pederson has told Sanders that he will be "the guy" this season. I hope that goes better than when Carl Grissom said something similar to Jack Napier. More importantly, it should make everyone feel more comfortable about Sanders' role in Philadelphia. (Again, I might be talking about my own feelings here but there's no way to be certain.) There was a slight hiccup with Sanders suffering a lower body injury in practice that has him listed as week-to-week, but the Eagles don't feel it's anything serious. While that might put a pause on a possible ascension into the first round, it shouldn't do much to slow the hype train down.
Derek Carr: Stock Down
The fantasy buzz around the Raiders' offense has been akin to drinking a carbonated beverage and having some of the bubbles go up your nose. It's a weird rush, but not the kind of thing you want to roll with for a long time. But even for the bits and pieces of Jon Gruden's offense that might be considered de rigueur in fantasy, it's still considered pretty gauche to consider the quarterback in most traditional formats.
Maybe that's why Derek Carr found a proverbial chip to put on his shoulder. The seventh-year pro said recently that he's "tired of being disrespected." In a world where we're left grasping at whatever information we can get, could this have ignited a spark of interest for fantasy managers? Would we see a #StartTheCarr campaign burgeon from the most optimistic of fake football enthusiasts.
Carr being listed above as a "Stock Down" tells you that the answer is ... no. Not even two full weeks from saying he was tired of being disrespected, Carr got disrespected. And by his own coach, no less. Marcus Mariota stealing the starting gig would be a heist worthy of a mediocre Netflix show. Eventually, however, it might be nice for Jon Gruden to pretend like he actually likes his starter.
Rob Gronkowski: Stock Down
Okay, so maybe that's not a real reason to downgrade Rob Gronkowski. After all, he took the football equivalent of a gap year to find himself. Turns out, the true Gronk was hiding on "The Masked Singer" this whole time. Who knew? He might be playing his first football as a 30-something but he should be in pretty good shape by the time Week 1 rolls around.
Then there's this note from Peter King: "I'd bet Howard plays the most snaps of the tight ends, with Brate maybe a few more than Gronkowski." King concedes that he's merely speculating but it's a reminder that the Bucs have a variety pack of tight ends. Combine that with two top-tier wide receivers and the best hope for fantasy managers is that Gronk is a touchdown machine. It could happen, but it also feels like something risky to reach for.
Jerry Jeudy: Stock Up
We've started to get greedy when it comes to young receivers making immediate contributions in fantasy football. I blame Odell Beckham, Jr. Those expectations could be ratcheted up this season with a class considered to be one of the deepest we've seen in years.
The only hiccup was that each of the top three receivers landed in situations with obstacles. In Dallas, CeeDee Lamb will have to fight for targets in a loaded Cowboys offense. Will Derek Carr and the Raiders figure out how to use Henry Ruggs' speed?
Then there's Denver, where we have a wide range of potential outcomes boosted by hope. Yes, hope is not a plan. But if hearing Kareem Jackson say Jerry Jeudy will "pose a challenge" for opponents doesn't get you excited, then we just don't Twitter the same.
A.J. Dillon: Stock Up
I know I said I wouldn't use Instagram glamour shots when it came to player evaluation. Technically, I'm not breaking that pledge because this is a Twitter glamour shot of A.J. Dillon's massive quads. It goes without saying that professional football player being in incredible shape doesn't guarantee top-level performance. Yet when a running back shows up to training camp with legs that look like they were stolen from an elephant, you best believe it's going to turn heads.
Lest ye think I'm using purely frivolous means to include Dillon in this column, I direct you to Packers head coach Matt LaFleur talking about Dillon's "natural hands" and looking for ways to get him more involved in the offense. There was already budding suspicion that the bruising Boston College product could get work near the goal line. If he is able to integrate into the passing game, he could render Jamaal Williams obsolete.
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