- Discussing the biggest stories from training camp from a fantasy football perspective.
The Roundtable Series of the SI.com fantasy football draft kit will ask our writers a pressing question in the fantasy football world. In this installment, 4 For 4’s John Paulsen and Jennifer Eakins, and SI’s Michael Beller, consider the following:
What's one piece of news since training camps began that significantly affected your rankings? Conversely, what's a piece of news that's getting attention but you think is overblown?
John Paulsen: As the drumbeat out of Seattle regarding Chris Carson and his excellent offseason continues deep into August, I had no choice but to move Rashaad Penny down and Carson up in my rankings. Assuming his broken finger heals relatively quickly, I do think Penny will eventually take over as the RB1 for the Seahawks. Still, there’s just too much buzz about Carson, not only from known exaggerator Pete Carroll, but from several beat writers in the Seattle area, even before Penny broke his finger. There’s no question that Carson is currently and solidly atop the Seahawks’ depth chart. Both Carson and Penny touched the ball on the Seahawks’ first preseason drive—Carson got the first touch—so it looks like the team plans to use both players, at least early in the season. As a result, it’s dicey to count on Penny as a fantasy RB2, especially in September.
Much has been made about Chris Thompson’s comment that he doesn’t expect to be fully recovered from his broken fibula until November, but he didn’t land on the active/PUP list and he’s been participating in practice, albeit on a limited basis. He says he needs to regain confidence in cutting on his right leg, and though he doesn’t expect to be 100% until November, he is fully expecting to play in the season opener.
With Derrius Guice out for the year after tearing his ACL, Thompson’s stock gets a bump. He looks like a fantastic value in the fifth or sixth round, especially in PPR formats. Through the first 10 weeks of last season, Thompson averaged 10.9 touches (4.2 catches) for 86 total yards and 0.56 touchdowns. He was the No. 11 RB in PPR formats (No. 10 in standard) at that point. His touchdown rate is probably unsustainable—he found the end zone on 5.8% of his touches—but he can still return good value at his ADP even if his touchdowns regress.
Jennifer Eakins: Training camp darlings emerge every season. Some pan out, many do not. Sophomore Chris Godwin has been generating a slow buzz since the spring, and I’m on board. The news out of Buccaneers’ camp is that he’s potentially leapfrogged Adam Humphries on the wideout depth chart, and could rival DeSean Jackson for targets this season if he continues this upward trajectory. He’s been referred to as a complete player, something we want in our fantasy receivers. In Tampa Bay’s first preseason game, Godwin hauled in two of his three targets for 17 yards in limited time on the field.
According to MFL best-ball data from the first two weeks of August Godwin’s average draft position has jumped 16 spots, to 160 from 176. An ADP of 160 places him in the early-14th round of 12 team leagues. Despite his recent rise, the 22-year old still presents solid value, as he could potentially outperform other players in that range, such as Tyler Lockett, Mohamed Sanu and Josh Doctson.
What I’m not putting any stock into is the news of a running back controversy in Miami. After being handed the reins to the Dolphins’ backfield following the Jay Ajayi trade and an injury to Damien Williams, Kenyan Drake averaged 4.9 yards per carry on 91 attempts and posted an average of 118.8 total yards per contest. That was enough for the eighth-most fantasy points at his position in both standard and PPR formats from Week 13 through the end of the season. Drake’s career average of 5.0 YPC is impressively efficient, and despite 35-year old Frank Gore’s long-term success in the league, should earn him the spot as the lead back this season. Gore will serve as a solid backup and provide change-of-pace snaps for Miami, but Drake is the guy. And I love the Drake.
Michael Beller: When I first started digging into the 2018 fantasy football season, I quickly wrote off the Detroit backfield. With Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount seemingly getting in one another’s way, and Theo Riddick locked in as the primary pass-catcher but lacking any significant rushing duties, it seemed the backfield would be too much of a headache to even bother trying to decipher. As the summer has progressed and camps have opened and closed, that has changed. It’s impossible to ignore the voices in Detroit echoing the same chorus: Kerryon Johnson is special.
Now, whether Johnson proves to be special immediately as a rookie is another question. That, however, is one we’ll concern ourselves with in the regular season. At this point, it’s safe enough to assume that he’ll be Detroit’s first early-down option, and that has him shooting up my rankings. When training camps begin, Johnson was barely inside my top 50. Not even one month later, he’s my No. 36 back, and a target of mine in every draft and auction. Johnson was excellent in his final season at Auburn, running for 1,391 yards on 285 carries, catching 24 passes for 194 yards, and scoring 20 touchdowns. Given the draft capital—Johnson was the 43rd overall pick in the draft after the Lions had already signed Blount—and his performance this summer, he’s one of my biggest risers.
Conversely, I’m not too worried about Doug Baldwin’s knee issue, that will likely cost him the entire preseason. Do I wish the problem didn’t exist at all? Of course. Would I like to see him play in the preseason? Sure, I guess, but only because that would mean he’s fully healthy. It’s not like we need to see Baldwin to know what he’s capable of, or that he needs any meaningless game action to get on the same page as Russell Wilson. Baldwin is going to be just fine.
To be fair, there was a time when this seemed a genuine concern. The hysteria has calmed down, though, and Baldwin seems on track to not only play Week 1, but also be himself. With Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson now on new teams, and the Seahawks likely to lean on the passing game more than ever, out of both design and necessity, Baldwin could be in line for the best season of his career.