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With just days remaining before the start of the regular season, position battles and injury concerns are wrapping up by the minute. Despite the fourth preseason games being essentially throwaway contests that feature backups, the week provided us with some intriguing off the field news that does impact some players. We have risers/fallers, ADP sleepers emerging, busts in sight, rookies to scout, players looking like PPR gems, and much more.

Stock Rising 

1)   Emmanuel Sanders, WR Denver Broncos

NFL-Fantasy-Football-Advice-Analysis-Emmanuel-SandersAs the news breaks on Wes Welker's four game suspension due to violating the league's substance abuse policy, Emmanuel Sanders has stepped up into the number two wide receiver role for the Denver Broncos. Sanders was regarded as a high-end WR3/Flex play in most leagues but the news of Welker’s concussion and now suspension bumps him up into WR2 territory.

Sanders didn't necessarily need Welker to miss any time to see his value increase, but the fact that Welker is out a 1/4 of the season now bodes well for Sanders' workload and value. Sanders has shown he can produce in a Peyton Manning offense as evidenced by his play throughout the preseason, so his level of talent is not a concern. The fear had been the “too many mouths to feed” philosophy, but with Welker out now, Sanders is now a legitimate option at wide receiver.


2)   Giovani Bernard, RB Cincinnati Bengals

With The Law Firm Benjarvus Green-Ellis being released, the Cincinnati Bengals have expressed a vote of confidence in the running game they have established this preseason. Many have proclaimed that rookie Jeremy Hill will cut into Giovani Bernard’s workload but that’s actually kind of ok. Bernard will still receive a majority of the touches and the departure of Green-Ellis means there is even less competition.

While the release of the Law Firm had been anticipated pretty much since the second Hill was selected, it was a bit worrisome to see it take as long as it did. With Green-Ellis gone, the Bengals running game should flow through Bernard and Hill in what should be a 70/30 split which is all you need to be a solid fantasy running back in today’s NFL. Bernard started the summer as a mid-level RB2 but should be elevated to the top 12 range, especially in PPR formats.


3) Knowshon Moreno, RB Miami Dolphins

Rotoballer-Fantasy-Football-Advice-Analysis-Knowshon-MorenoDespite a rocky off-season that included showing up to camp overweight and a surprise knee surgery, Miami running back Knowshon Moreno appears to have gotten himself back into the proper game shape that earned him a contract with the Dolphins. Moreno actually appeared in the Dolphins third preseason game in which he rushed for 64 yards with a solid 6.4 yards per carry. At the time, it was unclear who would be the lead back in Miami given that Lamar Miller had a significant head start with the team.

We have since learned, however, that Moreno is in line to be the number one back on the depth chart despite a delayed preseason. It's not like this suddenly thrusts Moreno into RB2 status but he should be targeted as a RB3/Flex option, a guy you can plug-and-play in the event of an injury or bye week. Lamar Miller was becoming a trendy sleeper due to Moreno's summer woes and was actually going ahead of Moreno in some drafts.

Between that 6.4 YPC average and the recent news that Moreno will get the first shot as the lead back, it's clear that Moreno is now the Miami back you want to own. That being said, don't be surprised if Miller gets some decent work in as well as this does have the makings of a modified running back by committee.


Stock Falling

1)   Wes Welker, WR Denver Broncos

The good news: Welker's concussion isn't really a worry anymore.  The bad news: Welker has been suspended four games for drug use and should be plummeting down your draft board. By the time Welker returns, he'll be cleared for contact and shouldn't miss a beat in week 5, but he's missing 25% of the season and taking him as anything more than a WR4 or bench depth is not recommended unless you have an incredibly strong group of wide receivers. Even when Welker returns, with his style of play and unfortunate history of concussions, the Broncos will surely limit his snaps as a means to prevent further damage. If you decide to take the gamble on Welker, temper your expectations in the event he's not 100% upon return, but also keep in mind that he might go off for two touchdowns while he’s sitting on your bench in week 5.


2)   Sammy Watkins, WR Buffalo Bills

By Mr.schultz (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsSpeaking of recurring injuries, rookie wideout Sammy Watkins reaggravated an old rib injury in the Bills preseason finale against the Detroit Lions. Compounded with the injury is the fact that the Bills offense hasn’t looked very good in the first place.

Quarterback E.J. Manuel has looked shaky at best which could be trouble for the young wide receiver’s rookie campaign. Watkins was always a risky pick given that it is his first year and that the offense he’s on isn’t very pass-friendly so the injury certainly doesn’t help.

I’ve been completely avoiding Watkins in all of my drafts due to how high of a pick I would have had to spend on him. If you have a late draft coming up, I would pass on Watkins barring a plunge down into the later rounds. Most rookie wide receivers are a huge risk for fantasy and rarely ever live up to their inflated draft ranking. For Sammy Watkins, an aggravated injury in conjunction with questionable quarterback play is a bad omen to start the year.


3)   San Francisco 49ers Defense

This might seem like an unusual “player” to list but it’s actually kind of important. Here at RotoBaller we conducted our own league’s draft in which I grabbed the San Francisco 49ers Defense super late. At the time I selected them it felt like a steal but the Labor Day Weekend provided us with news that defensive tackle Ray McDonald was arrested for domestic violence as well as a nine game suspension for linebacker Aldon Smith. The 49ers have had a plethora of off-season woes and losses in terms of their defense and the list seemingly continues to mount.

It’s beginning to look like the 49ers are no longer the powerhouse San Francisco defense we have come to know since Jim Harbaugh took the head-coaching job. It’s easy to just hear the name “San Francisco 49ers Defense” and think “oh, they’ve been consistent the last few years” but we may be looking at a huge drop-off this year. As someone who advocates streaming defenses on a weekly basis anyway, I’m probably avoiding the 49ers D altogether until they prove they’re still legit, and I might be dropping them in the only league where I own them.


So there you have it folks, the preseason has wrapped up and we’re just about ready to start the regular season. Hopefully you have all drafted well up until this point and have your waiver wire finger on the trigger. Good luck to all as we enter the 2014 NFL regular season and have fun with it.