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As we progress through the preseason, the NFL continues to evolve. Many players continue to emerge, while others fade into the darkness. This article covers the handful of players who have seized their moment, and those who have failed to meet expectations.

On The Rise

Mohamed Sanu, WR, Cincinnati    

I’ll be honest, before this article Sanu was flying under my radar. I do remember him showing signs of brilliance last season, after scoring four touchdowns in a three-game stretch. Setting the waiver wire ablaze, Sanu suffered a fractured foot, being cast back into the player pool like a dogfish. It wasn’t until watching a rerun of the Bengals’ Week 2 preseason game that I was reminded of Sanu’s raw talent. With Andy Dalton entering his third year, and A.J Green taking the lid off the defense, Sanu has WR3 upside, certainly worthy of his 16th round average draft position.  

Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati    

Speaking of the Bengals, say hello to Giovani Bernard. In our Sharks' draft one of my favorite writers Tom Casale selected Bernard in the seventh round. His comments read: “Bernard is going to be a star in the NFL. Not tomorrow, not after breakfast ... right now” (earning cool points for quoting the greatest movie ever). After watching Cincinnati in Week 2 of the preseason, Casale couldn’t be more right. Bernard’s talents are off the charts crazy (think Doug Martin). He’s so good he makes BenJarvus Green-Ellis look like Shonn Greene. But the best part was his pass blocking skills, correctly picking up the blitzing linebacker play after play. Bernard could be the steal of the draft with an average draft position in early sixth round. As a potential top 10 running back, I’m jumping to the front of the line and securing Bernard in the late third/early fourth. Side note: in dynasty leagues, Bernard’s now my No. 1 pick by a long shot.

Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay

Highlighting Eddie Lacy is the equivalent to highlighting Kim Kardashian's bubbalicious booty. Every fantasy website this side of China knows about Lacy after his performance against St. Louis’ top 10 defensive line. If you missed it, Lacy put on display his trademark power by churning out tough yards between the tackles while showing off a spin move that would make a top jealous. Like Bernard mentioned above, more importantly the rookie running back stymied blitzing linebackers, a necessity to protect the face of the franchise. Lacy does have some downside. The Packers are notorious for utilizing a running back by committee, and the offensive line is composed of walk-ons. However, his goal line prowess alone makes him well worth his average draft position currently hovering around pick 5.02.

E.J. Manuel, QB, Buffalo

Between 1990 and 2010 the only two rookie quarterbacks to crack the top 12 in fantasy scoring were Peyton Manning and Jay Cutler. For years, rookie signal callers were nothing more than a desperation spot start in fantasy football. Along came Cam Newton and his record shattering 2011 season. Newton became the first rookie quarterback to finish inside the top-8 in fantasy scoring in more than two decades. Reverting back to my old school beliefs, last season I mistakenly passed on Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck. Admittingly, this crop of young quarterbacks is thin. However, the lone rookie quarterback to stand out this preseason has been E.J. Manuel. Last week it was Kevin Kolb who started under center for the Bills, and he looked like, well, Kevin Kolb. Opening the second half, Manuel looked like Superman marching his team straight down the field for an opening-drive touchdown. With Cam Newton type rushing ability, Manuel has shown the arm talent and decision making lacking from Newton’s game. I’m not suggesting he’s an every week starter, but currently being drafted at pick 16.01 you could do worse at the QB2 position.

Jermicheal Finley, TE, Green Bay

Finley has been one of those players whose mouth gets in the way of his talent, often exiling him from his teammates. Now entering a contract year, I’d be willing to bet Finley’s Twitter account will be quiet this season. With Greg Jennings departed, and Jordy Nelson a red flag injury risk, Finley should be in line for upwards of 120 targets in the high-flying Packers offense. The consummate red-zone threat, Finley’s average draft position in the late ninth round is looking like a steal.



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