NHL and NBA teams play 82 regular season games per year, while in the MLB, teams take the field 162 times over the course of a season. The NFL is far different, with each team playing only 16 games if they don’t make the playoffs. This can make evaluating players far harder for NFL analysts, as the sample size is at least five times smaller. When watching NFL exhibition games, you’ll hear many say “it’s just the preseason, don’t worry about it.” I agree to the extent the outcome of the game doesn’t matter. However, individual player performance can and do matter. Let’s review some of the players whose dynasty draft stock has been affected in the first two weeks of the preseason.
The Detroit Lions drafted Golladay before some players who found their way into the first round of early dynasty rookie drafts. Samaje Perine and Joe Williams became sexy picks in summer rookie drafts, but were selected by the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers after Golladay already had a home. There’s reason to wonder why Golladay lasted as long as he did in the NFL draft. The 6’4”, 218 lb. former star at Northern Illinois tested well at the combine. A young man his size doesn’t usually run a 4.5 second forty-yard dash, but Golladay posted an 84th percentile SPARQ-x score per Player Profiler. He is truly an athlete at a position in which “measurables” can treat a player favorably.
The Lions faced the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 of the preseason, and Golladay stood out, catching three of four targets for 53 yards and two touchdowns. Once an afterthought in the late third to early fourth in dynasty rookie drafts, Golladay is gaining steam. After his two touchdown performance, I polled 420 Twitter users about who they’d rather own in dynasty, Golladay or Perine (who is still being drafted in the late first in dynasty rookie drafts).
Who would you rather own in dynasty?
— Karl Safchick (@KarlSafchick) August 15, 2017
Needless to say, Golladay’s stock is rising fast.
While Mixon lasted until the 48th pick in the NFL draft, many believed his talent was mid first round. If you haven’t heard by now, Mixon assaulted a young woman, leading to his being drafted later than what many believed he otherwise would have. I say that to put into context what the dynasty community thinks of him as a commodity. Mixon will undoubtedly go in the first five picks of any rookie draft, and many will take him as soon as first overall. His time with the Cincinnati Bengals has been less than stellar, though.
In his second preseason game, Mixon rushed six times for only 16 yards. Jeremy Hill, on the other hand, had six rushes for 28 yards in the same game, sits atop the Bengals depth chart, and has surprised dynasty owners everywhere. In fact, even Gio Bernard is ahead of Mixon on the depth chart. Mixon will likely be the running back to own in Cincinnati, but over the last three months, he’s been drafted in the early third round consistently in DLF ADP drafts. Owners who are willing to spend such an early pick want to see him take over the starting spot sooner rather than later.
If any of you play preseason DFS, you know Westbrook leads all wide receivers in PPR fantasy points through two games this season. The former fourth round speedster has mainly been playing with the second and third team offenses thus far. He’s made the most of his opportunity, catching seven of eight targets for 173 yards and a touchdown. Westbrook’s 19.1 yards per reception in college is already translating to the NFL, as he’s now averaging 25 yards per reception over his first two games.
While Westbrook has practiced with backups, he may have one less hurdle to climb, as Blake Bortles is on the brink of being benched. Westbrook has caught passes from Chad Henne and Brandon Allen. While Westbrook has been the star of the backups, Allen has impressed in his own right. A change at quarterback could bring Westbrook to the forefront as a favorite target of a player with whom he’s already developed a rapport.
According to June DLF ADP, Westbrook was the 43rd rookie drafted on average, only selected in 60% of four round rookie drafts. With his stock being up, I imagine he could creep into the late second in later rookie drafts.
It’s a stretch to say Pumphrey had much dynasty value in the first place, but he was fourth round draft pick by the Philadelphia Eagles. Pumphrey was touted by some as a dark horse to become “The Next Darren Sproles,” but I was never impressed. Pumphrey ran a 4.48 forty-yard dash and dominated at San Diego State, but to call him an athlete would be generous. Players like Sproles and Danny Woodhead have burst, agility, strength, qualities Pumphrey doesn’t possess. He was successful at overcoming his lack of athleticism in college, however, and production is the goal in fantasy. At the very least, a player who produces has shown us the ability to do so in the future; an athlete is just projection.
The Eagles running back situation is wide open, as LeGarrette Blount hasn’t impressed and Sproles is 34 years old. Pumphrey hasn’t capitalized: on seven carries this preseason, he has a grand total of two yards. Instead, Wendell Smallwood has impressed, drawing praise from the coaching staff. A jumbled depth chart is an opportunity for a player like Pumphrey to make an impact, but if he fails to make an impact it’s a quick drop to the bottom of the pecking order. With talk he may start his career as a game day inactive and some reporters questioning whether he’ll even make the team, Pumphrey is entirely in “do not draft” territory after brief optimism in training camp.