Today we’ll take a look at players from each fantasy-relevant position group who, if they weren’t on your radar before this preseason, should be now. Each of these players took full advantage of the 4 weeks of exhibition play, carving out roles for themselves and augmenting their respective fantasy value.
Quarterback: Sam Darnold
New York’s darling Darnold has seemingly all but silenced the critics this preseason. Questions surrounding his decision-making and ball security have evaporated, and Darnold can set his sights on preparing for his week 1 start against the Detroit Lions. When you look at it on paper his preseason wasn’t anything to write home about, 29/45 for 244 yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. However, the rookie’s poise in the pocket was enough to convince the Jets’ front office to hand Darnold the keys and ship Teddy Bridgewater down south to back up Drew Brees in New Orleans. Sam Darnold probably isn’t going to be the reason you win your league this year, but he’s throwing to a decent group of receivers and I’m willing to credit him as a viable streaming option worth a look in dynasty leagues.
Running Back: Jordan Wilkins
If it looks like a starter, walks like a starter, and quacks like a starter, it’s probably Colts rookie running back Jordan Wilkins. At 6’1″ 215lbs, Wilkins has the physical tools to be Indy’s lead back, and he knows how to use them. Wilkins has by far been the Colts’ best back this summer, evidenced by the decision to give him 14 carries in week 3 of the preseason and then sit him for the entirety of the preseason finale (sounds like something you might do to rest your new starter before the regular season begins, doesn’t it?). Nyheim Hines is undersized and has been underwhelming, Christine Michael has a reputation for being indecisive at the line and a little too easy to tackle, and Robert Turbin is currently suspended. All that leave between Jordan Wilkins and lead back duties is an injured Marlon Mack, who, let’s face it, has arguably been the weakest starting RB in the AFC South. Wilkins is worth a late round pick and may be particularly valuable on teams with week 1 running back uncertainty (See Bell, Le’Veon).
Wide Receiver: Kenny Golladay
Kenny Golladay caught my eye this preseason in week 3 when he drew the start while a healthy Golden Tate watched from the sidelines. It’s fair to assume that Detroit was just trying to limit Tate in the preseason to keep him healthy, but the guy standing in for him is worth a closer look nonetheless. Golladay stands an imposing 6’4″ and sports turbocharged 4.5 wheels. Besides the size/speed combination that makes big armed QBs salivate, Golladay has exhibited exceptional athleticism and managed 28 catches for 477 yards and 3 touchdowns in 11 games as a rookie. While he is clearly still third on the depth chart, Golladay is without a doubt a matchup nightmare for most weak side corners, and presents Matt Stafford with a massive redzone target. Golladay presents as a boom/bust option in ppr leagues but should take a step forward from last year and elevate himself to a valuable role player in most fantasy formats, particularly in standard leagues where touchdowns and big yardage rule the world.
Tight End: David Njoku
“Athletic” is not enough to describe David Njoku. At 6’4″ 246lbs, Njoku came into the league last as a raw project, an athletic phenom with the ability to haul his massive frame over a 7′ high jump without stress. This year Njoku already looks like a more polished tight end, and whether its Tyrod Taylor or Baker Mayfield under center, David Njoku is coming into this season with the best QB he’s ever had. It will take more than your average linebacker to cover Njoku down the field, and opposing defenses will already be stretched thin defending against the tandem of Jarvis Landry and (hopefully) Josh Gordon. Assuming veteran Tyrod Taylor lines up as Cleveland’s starter on week 1 and beyond, I think it’s a fair bet Taylor is able to at least reproduce what he had with Charles Clay in Buffalo. The improved offense and a year to mature should allow Njoku to put up fringe TE1 numbers, with the potential to be the endzone assassin who turns 3 targets into 2 touchdowns on any given night.