Eric Mack: Fantasy football draft advice - Sports Illustrated

Fantasy Fast Forward: Get ready to slot your draft picks

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Preseason Week 3 has a tendency to do that for us.

With the information below, you should be fully able to slot your picks for your upcoming draft or schedule your lineups and preseason waiver picks. So let's undress the dress rehearsal week in our Monday Fantasy Fast Forward, including five game-changing pieces of news, the good, bad, the ugly, and position-by-position observations:

1. Doug Martin runs into Round 2

One of the biggest fantasy position battles appears to have been won, even if the outcome hasn't been announced. Martin thoroughly outplayed LeGarrette Blount against the Patriots and looks like he might even be worth a late second-round pick now. Martin is a more well-rounded back, rushing 13 times for 53 yards and a touchdown. He's earned his promotion to first string.

"Well, that's why he started the game, because he had showed me that much," head coach Greg Schiano told "And I don't think he did anything ... that would say, 'Oh, that wasn't a good move.' I thought he ran the ball well and did some things well. Right now he's just got to continue on that course. He's learning every day and he's a very open-minded guy. He wants to learn."

The loss of leading guard Davin Joseph for the season might hurt, but Martin will also impact the game as a pass receiver (three catches). That's significant because Josh Freeman has issues getting the ball downfield and is wont to check down often.

As a healthy bell-cow in a running back-heavy Schiano scheme, Martin is a fantasy starter, if not a potential star. Blount is now nothing more than a handcuff pick, in Round 8 or later.

2. It's Ridley, believe it or not

We have finally seen the Stevan Ridley we saw a preseason ago. Against the Bucs, he took off for 87 yards and a TD on 16 carries, including a 29-yard scamper. Tom Brady might have won his past two Super Bowls if he had a better running game. Ridley has a chance to finally help us believe in a Patriots RB in fantasy. He was solid in the screen game -- perhaps taking those opportunities from Danny Woodhead, something Benjarvus Green-Ellis could not do -- and was used as the goal-line runner, scoring on a one-yard plunge.

A Pats back who can help in all phases? This has the potential to be a real productive mid-round pick. Ridley has a modest draft position, but he can be trusted as a starter, particularly since Shane Vereen has been outplayed and left last week's game with a foot issue.

Even Bill Belichick might not be able to mess this sleeper up.

3. Russell Wilson wins QB job

Barring injury, a record 10 first- or second-year QBs will start in the NFL during opening week. Wilson might just be a cut behind Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck in terms of fantasy potential. He's a multi-dimensional threat, evidenced by his two rushes for 58 yards. If you don't believe in RG3, you might want to take the flier late on Wilson, who has made far more plays this preseason. And RG3's thin frame should concern you more than Wilson's sub-6-foot stature.

"He's done everything we've asked of him," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "This is the guy we hoped he would be. All of the talk about how tall he is and all that stuff, I don't see it being a factor. I don't see it, and I have watched more carefully than anybody could ever have watched, and I don't see it being an issue. It isn't to me."

Matt Flynn is nothing more than the highest-paid backup in football, one with a sore elbow. Ignore him in fantasy. Wilson is a solid late-round pick now.

4. Luck trumps RG3

RG3 might have won the game, but Luck won the fantasy-points battle in their head-to-head duel this weekend. Luck was a chain-mover at 14-of-23 for 150 yards and a score, while RG3 was more of a game-manager at 11-of-17 for 75 yards and a short TD pass. Heck, Rex Grossman thoroughly outplayed RG3 a week after fellow rookie Kirk Cousins (Michigan State) did, too.

"(Griffin) keeps on getting better and better," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said, "more comfortable with the system, with what we're trying to do."

This suggests RG3 hasn't been comfortable right away, the way Luck has looked. Also, getting better every week is fine, but RG3 is being drafted as a fantasy starter in many leagues. (He shouldn't.) You need a finished product in the spot where you'd have to pick RG3. Luck looks closer to the full deal going into the season. Consider him a better pick one round, or a few, later.

5. Rashad Jennings rising

The Jaguars are now saying that Maurice Jones-Drew can still start in Week 1 if he reports soon and MJD is saying "things will sort out" in his contract holdout. While that is going on, Jennings is rising on draft boards and looking like a potential fantasy starter. He rushed for 57 yards on 13 carries against a good first-team Ravens defense and said: "I'm not pleased at all in my game tonight. I left a lot of yards out on the football field."

Jennings is a must-have for those who take the risk on MJD in Round 2 or 3. He stands to be a decent flex even when MJD reports, because the Jags are going to have an RB-heavy system -- one that MJD still needs to learn under new head coach Mike Mularkey.

This is going to sound like a broken record: The Falcons might be breaking records with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones taking significant steps into the elite. It's becoming increasingly difficult to grab these guys in the early rounds now for that reason. Jones had gone as early as Round 2, while Ryan has snuck up to the fourth, if not the third. The good news with reaching for these breakouts is that they can still outperform even those lofty draft positions. Seriously.

This was supposed to be the week that John Skelton takes over as the Cardinals' starter. Instead, Kevin Kolb outplayed him. This is an important position duel that is still undecided because Larry Fitzgerald was an elite wide receiver with Skelton calling the signals down the stretch last year. With Kolb early last season, Fitzgerald was a significant disappointment. He did have a decent game against Tennessee last week (5 catches, 91 yards), but the Cardinals' QB situation gives him little hope for 10 TDs, which you absolutely need out of someone who is picked as the second receiver in fantasy drafts.

Add sixth-round rookie Alfred Morris to the mess that usually is a Shanahan-coached team. Tim Hightower (ACL surgery) played sparingly, while sophomores Evan Royster and Roy Helu (both Achilles') were held out. Morris ran for 107 yards and a TD on 14 attempts, potentially earning starter status.

"Said this from Day 1, we're gonna play the best players," Shanahan told a Washington-area radio station. "(Morris) may be the lonely soldier. He did play well."

Consider this reason enough to avoid all of the Redskins four backs until the late rounds. It very well might be the last one picked who winds up being the most productive for fantasy owners. If Shanahan's history is any guide, many of these backs are going to be disappointing relative to their draft position.


Cam Newton, Panthers -- He hasn't had a great preseason again, so you should be wary of picking him before mid-to-late Round 2. You might even consider taking Matthew Stafford over him. The problem with Newton has as much to do with talent as his questionable support cast (Steve Smith is older and slower now) plus a more difficult schedule. There is going to be a lot more pressure on Newton to repeat his record-breaking rookie year.

Tony Romo, Cowboys -- He went 9-of-13 for 198 yards and two long TDs to second-year WR Dwayne Harris. Despite the injury woes of his primary targets -- Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are all out -- Romo has looked every bit like a top 10 fantasy QB. You should consider it great news when he is on the board in Round 8. That is 4,000 yards and 30 TDs as a late gift to you.

Peyton Manning, Broncos -- Do you still have reservations about him this preseason? You shouldn't. He looked like a world-beater in the first quarter against San Francisco's NFL-best defense, going 10-of-12 for 122 yards and two TDs. "No matter what grouping we were in we showed we could move the ball," Manning said. You have to pick him as a starter in all leagues and this performance might even have him going in the top eight at his position.

Michael Vick, Eagles -- He has fully returned to practice and should be fine for Week 1. You have to expect rookie QB Nick Foles will be needed at some point this season, though. Vick is moving down draft lists as a low-end starter in standard leagues. Sure, he can perform like the best QB in fantasy, if you consider rushing scores, but we have seen far more bad than good since his Eagles breakthrough a couple of years ago.

Joe Flacco, Ravens -- This contract-year breakout candidate scorched with 266 yards and two scores against Jacksonville. He looks ready for a big year and might be the best backup fantasy QB picked on draft day. You should even feel confident with Flacco as your starter if you load up on all the other positions early.

Jay Cutler, Bears -- He didn't play great against the Giants defense, but he did connect with Brandon Marshall on a TD in the first quarter. Cutler didn't get sacked by the Giants' front, either. He has learned to unload the ball quicker and his improved receiving corps helps that.

Matt Schaub, Texans -- He's a forgotten man in fantasy, but he was real sharp this week and looks like he can be one of the backup QB picks on draft day. He is a must-start in two-QB formats, particularly with his supporting cast all healthy.

Jake Locker, Titans -- He wasn't overly accurate, but he did complete a pair of TDs, giving hope for some late-round value now that he's the starter over Matt Hasselbeck. The Titans at least have a deep set of receivers, even if they aren't spectacular.

Mark Sanchez, Jets -- Their offense looks as inept as any in the NFL right now, going without a TD in 35 preseason possessions. Now, Dustin Keller is banged up, too. Shonn Greene is going to be relied on heavily. Santonio Holmes is the only other draftable Jet in fantasy. Forget about Tim Tebow, who is merely a sideshow to start the season.

Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars -- His great preseason took a big hit against the Ravens defense. He shouldn't be drafted outside of a late pick in two-QB leagues.

Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins -- Outside of Reggie Bush out of the backfield, the Dolphins just don't have any real offensive threats. Davone Bess is a marginal option as a possession guy and there is no one to stretch the field. Tannehill is easily the worst rookie QB to have.

Tarvarvis Jackson, Bills -- The fact that the Bills dealt for him is awful news for those who are hanging on to the thread of hope that Vince Young can have any fantasy value. If Jackson backs up Ryan Fitzpatrick, you should feel a lot better about Fitzpatrick as a late-round backup QB. The Bills at least figure to be playing from behind in a lot of games, leading to garbage-time numbers.


Chris Johnson, Titans -- He had another 2011-style performance this week, likely making you feel a lot less comfortable about picking him in the middle of Round 1, which is where you will have to pick him.

Trent Richardson, Browns -- They're sounding more confident that he will be ready for Week 1. Barring seeing him in a preseason game this week, you shouldn't pick him until the middle of Round 2, though. The risk is high and Brandon Weeden and the question marks at receiver just haven't shown enough.

Jamaal Charles, Chiefs -- He's looked good in his limited time this preseason and is full-go for Week 1. Consider him a strong second-round pick. If not for Peyton Hillis looking healthy and taking goal-line duties, Charles might have been a potential first-rounder.

Cedric Benson, Packers -- He debuted with 38 yards on six carries and looks like he will be the back who'll be running out the clock for an offense that figures to build plenty of big leads. He's going to add some ability to slow the pace when the Packers' uptempo offense takes its foot off the gas. This makes Benson a nice sleeper after most teams have their starting backs.

Isaac Redman, Steelers -- He was good, not great, rushing for 24 yards and a TD against Buffalo. While he might start for the Steelers, he shouldn't be picked as a fantasy starter. Rookie Chris Rainey looks like a nice late-round sleeper, though. Rainey reeled off a 41-yard run with his game-breaking speed.

Jonathan Stewart, Panthers -- He gets picked before DeAngelo Williams for some reason, but he shouldn't, particularly now. Stewart is on crutches after leaving with a high ankle sprain. This could make Williams a decent start in Week 1.

C.J. Spiller, Bills -- He needed a good preseason to keep taking carries from feature back Fred Jackson, but lost a fumble. That should help you trust taking Jackson late in Round 2 or early Round 3. It shouldn't be forgotten that when healthy, Jackson was one of the elite RBs in fantasy early last year. Spiller should merely be a handcuff pick, not a flex option in his own right.

David Wilson, Giants -- If you give the Bucs' Martin a chance to trump Richardson as the best rookie fantasy starting RB, you have to consider Wilson as the best backup rookie RB. He looked great again as the Giants gave him a start with the 1s. He had a 20-yard run and a 29-yard catch-and-run. His opportunities are going to be limited initially behind Ahmad Bradshaw, but Bradshaw's awful injury history gives Wilson a chance for midseason fantasy stardom.

Robert Turbin, Seahawks -- The Incredible Seahulk looked like a monster, rushing 14 times for 93 yards against the Chiefs. Marshawn Lynch has put just one solid season together, so his handcuff might be one of the best in fantasy. Turbin can be a fantasy MVP in that offense if something happens to Lynch. (But, no, Lynch won't get suspended for his DUI.)

Jeff Demps, Patriots -- He had a spectacular debut, but he won't impact fantasy outside of being a return man. You might consider him a late-round pick in dynasty leagues, perhaps, but he is too far down the depth chart to truly impact fantasy this year.


Hakeem Nicks, Giants -- He hasn't played this preseason, but he looks on target for Week 1. His broken foot has healed enough to allow him to practice fully, even if he is held out of exhibition games. Consider him a top 10 fantasy WR, if not a potential top five.

Antonio Brown, Steelers -- He's taken advantage of Mike Wallace's holdout and put up big-time numbers (seven catches, 108 yards and two TDs). Brown should be drafted as a starter in all formats now.

Torrey Smith, Ravens -- He had a busy night against the Jags, catching eight balls for 103 yards and is Flacco's go-to man now, clearly. Draft him as a starter and a candidate for 90 catches, 1,200 yards and 10 TDs.

Eric Decker, Broncos -- There should be little doubt about who Manning's go-to WR is. Decker reeled in two TDs in the first quarter against the Niners and has thoroughly outplayed the more talented Demaryius Thomas this preseason. It should be noted that Manning created a closer personal bond with Decker this preseason, watching game film with him in Manning's dorm room each night early in camp. Decker is a fantasy starter and it shouldn't be forgotten that he was the best receiver in fantasy through seven weeks of last season. He has breakout written all over him.

Justin Blackmon, Jaguars -- With four catches for 72 yards, it's easy to see he's going to be a real threat in a lot of games for the Jags, who figure to be playing from behind a lot. There should be a good amount of garbage-time yardage and experience for him, and he should be the first rookie receiver selected.

Jonathan Baldwin, Chiefs -- The Chiefs are real desirous of making him a player. He caught six balls against Seattle and figures to be a decent late-round sleeper. He will be ahead of Steve Breaston, but still behind contract-year WR Dwayne Bowe. The fact that the Chiefs might lose Bowe after this season will make them put an emphasis on making Baldwin a go-to guy.

Kendall Wright, Titans -- He reeled in a TD and will start until Kenny Britt (knee) proves healthy and comes off his still-to-be-announced suspension. Wright is the second-best rookie receiver to target in drafts, but unlike Blackmon, he's not a viable fantasy starter right away.

Randy Moss, 49ers">49ers -- While he might start overMario Manningham, Moss is nothing more than a late-round flier. He's going to be limited in his snaps and usage, particularly early in the season.

Dwayne Harris, Cowboys -- He caught three balls for 118 yards and two TDs, proving he can be the field-stretching third WR that the Cowboys need to replace Laurent Robinson, who left for the Jags via free agency. Harris isn't quite a fantasy draft pick yet, but he is a name to watch, particularly with the poor health of Austin, Bryant and Witten going into the season.

Michael Spurlock, Chargers -- The loss ofVincent Brown (broken ankle) until midseason figures to give Spurlock some late-round value in deeper leagues, particularly three WR-and-Flex formats. Spurlock has had a busy preseason, a sign that the Chargers are trying to make something out of him.

Michael Floyd, Cardinals -- As bad as the Cards' QBs have been, Floyd might have been worse this preseason. He has not gotten past fourth on the depth chart behind Fitzgerald, Early Doucet andAndre Roberts. That makes Floyd undraftable outside of keeper leagues.

Juron Criner, Raiders -- He reeled in two long TDs from Terrell Pryor, but it should be noted that it was against Detroit's second-teamers. The fifth-round rookie from Arizona looks like a sleeper draftee, but not quite a fantasy-worthy option in Year 1.

Mohamed Sanu, Bengals -- He entered camp as a great sleeper to start, not only opposite A.J. Green but for fantasy owners. Now Sanu is undraftable. He just hasn't made any impact. Brandon Tate looks like the starter for the Bengals, but he's hardly fantasy-worthy himself. Armon Binns and fifth-round rookie Marvin Jones are even ahead of Sanu at this point.

Ramses Barden, Giants -- He might have saved his roster spot with a TD and a few catches, but Domenik Hixon is going to be the possession third receiver, while Rueben Randle runs the clear-out routes deep. Barden is the fifth-best fantasy WR for the Giants, so he's basically undraftable.

Terrell Owens, Seahawks -- He's been beaten out for a roster spot -- so far -- by Braylon Edwards. Owens was released and can be ignored like Chad Johnson and Plaxico Burress in all fantasy leagues. We might have seen the end of the diva receiver era.


Brandon Pettigrew, Lions -- It's surprising that he is still going as a low-end fantasy starter. He's a potential breakout top-five option at the position. If you miss out on Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham, Pettigrew should be your TE target around Round 8.

Brent Celek, Eagles -- It's good news that Vick began finding a healthier Celek down the stretch last season. It is better news that Foles found him for a TD, too. Celek figures to be a security blanket for the shaky Eagles QBs. That makes him a solid fallback tight end if you are one of the last owners to find a fantasy starter at that position.


Nate Kaeding, Chargers -- He hit a pair of 50-plus-yard field goals, so there should be no way he loses his job to Nick Novak. Kaeding is healthy and a No. 1 kicker in fantasy, if not the best one to have overall this season.

Shayne Graham, Texans -- Houston drafted Randy Bullock to be their kicker of the future, but a groin injured forced him onto season-ending IR. Graham was a perfect 5-for-5 in the preseason and is a viable last-round pick as your kicker. The Texans generate a lot of points from their offense and defense, so their kicker is a quality one to have. Graham is a great fallback option if you miss the few elite options at the position.

Justin Tucker, Ravens -- He beat out playoff goat Billy Cundiff, who still might be picked up elsewhere. Tucker is a candidate for a standard league top 12 kicker because the Ravens have a great running game to move the ball between the 20s and a QB who hasn't been great at sticking the ball in the end zone. That's an ideal recipe for your fantasy kicker.

Nick Folk, Jets -- They brought in Josh Brown to challenge for the job, but decided that Folk is still their man. He's in the same boat as Tucker: Great running game, suspect TD potential at the QB spot. He's kind of the devil we know, though, so consider him as more of a bye-week replacement, even if you like how inept in the red zone the new Jets offense has been this preseason.

Connor Barth, Buccaneers -- He hit a 56-yard field goal and is in the same situation as Graham, Tucker and Folk: Great RB, suspect QB. He's a viable kicker in the last round and sure to be available.


Eagles -- They've been one of the most overranked units in fantasy, but Vick's questionable health and their likely reliance on the running game will have Philly playing a lot closer to the vest. It should help the defense set the tone of games and make them a productive unit for fantasy owners. Vick is important, but the Eagles are going to go as far as their defense can take them. They will be a lot better this year in that regard.

Eric Mack writes fantasy for You find him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really).