Football is back in full swing and that means the start of your fantasy league is right around the corner. August is an extremely important time for fantasy football prep. It is crucial to keep a watchful eye on player news out of training camp, preseason performances, injuries and positional battles.
In perhaps the biggest news of the offseason, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has been suspended for six games. While he is appealing, Elliott is now a risky selection in the first three rounds of any draft. Even if the suspension is reduced, players are looking at being without a top selection for at least the first month. Let someone else take the risk on Elliott unless he falls considerably. Darren McFadden, on the other hand, gets an increase in short-term value with Elliott sidelined and should be owned in all formats.
Speaking of suspensions, Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant is looking to get fully reinstated in time to play Week 1. Bryant not only has upside to be your second WR, but he also elevates the play of the entire offense. His return means we should bump up Ben Roethlisberger in our QB rankings. With the position being so deep this year, you can afford to wait until the double-digit rounds before taking your starting signal caller in most leagues. In addition to Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning and Tyrod Taylor all can be adequate fantasy starters with very affordable price tags.
VALUES AFTER TRADES
Player values are fluctuating constantly throughout the preseason, especially with the flurry of recent trade activity. The Sammy Watkins acquisition by the Los Angeles Rams gives Jared Goff a legitimate No. 1 target, but it also hurts the value of all the other Rams receivers like Robert Woods and Tavon Austin, who are now best left to the waiver wire. While Watkins should still be considered a top 25 receiver, his fantasy production will be tied to Goff's play, which makes him risky. If the young QB takes a step forward however, Watkins will be a large part of it.
To replace Watkins, the Bills traded for Eagles wideout Jordan Matthews. Matthews has been solid but unspectacular in his three NFL seasons. He should be the Bills' most reliable receiver if healthy, giving him WR3 value. Newly inked Anquan Boldin and rookie Zay Jones will also compete for Tyrod Taylor's attention. With the Bills' conservative passing attack, both Boldin and Jones are simply players to monitor rather than draft.
Positional battles are another crucial part of training camp to monitor closely. This is where you need to read into preseason playing time. Many questions will be answered in the next few weeks. Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls is currently playing ahead of free agent signee Eddie Lacy and that is a battle that could rage on well into the season. C.J. Prosise will also be in the mix, but he should have a locked-in role in Seattle's passing game.
Rookie Kareem Hunt has been impressive, but Chiefs incumbent starter Spencer Ware still has the inside track on lead back duties. While both will have fantasy value this season, Ware is the Chiefs back to own at the moment. Another rookie back, Joe Mixon, got off to a strong start as he looks to become the Bengals' bell cow back this season. His potential severely limits the 2017 value of Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard. Dalvin Cook has also taken an early lead over Latavius Murray with the Vikings. This is another situation that could be a headache for fantasy owners, but Cook's upside makes him an excellent target.
Every year, injuries are among the biggest story lines of training camp. Keep an eye on injured players such as Jay Ajayi, who has been in the concussion protocol for two weeks. Jordan Reed is in a similar situation as an early round selection that has been limited or nonexistent in camp thus far. We are still a few weeks away from meaningful football, but lingering injuries are worrisome, especially if you are investing an important draft pick into said player. Take Andrew Luck's shoulder injury, for example. It is not certain that he will even be ready for Week 1. If Luck misses time, you need to downgrade the entire offense. Then there are injuries that end players' seasons before they even start, like Ryan Tannehill. That opened up the door for Jay Cutler to return to the NFL, giving him immediate fantasy backup and occasional starting value.
KNOW THOSE SETTINGS
As you prepare for the upcoming season, remember to always have a strong grasp of your league settings. Whether you are in a standard or point-per-reception (PPR) format can have a significant impact on your draft strategy and player valuation. Doing mock drafts is a good way to get in some practice reps before your actual draft. On draft day you need to be well-organized, as well as confident in your research and strategy.