Although many would call this time of the year unimportant, playing time for players and injuries on each team will affect the early season outcome. Playing more in the preseason is usually evidence of distrust of a player especially in the first game. Here are some mid-to-late round players with signs pointing for optimism based on injuries and playing time.
Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati
Although many know the stat that he performed better with A.J. Green in the lineup, many of those games were without Andy Dalton which puts an asterisk next to that stat. Tyler Boyd was a star and was a Top 12 wide receiver with Green on the field, which will happen again in a few weeks. Boyd only has a three-game sample size with Dalton as his quarterback without Green on the field; it is hard to use Boyd’s stats when he was playing with a poor version of Josh Allen in Jeff Driskel who would rather run than pass.
In those three games with Dalton, Boyd had two difficult matchups and an average matchup. The Baltimore defense is a death sentence for most wide receivers. The New Orleans defense is notorious for shutting down the top receiver with its one good cornerback and hemorrhaging points to the rest of the team. Cleveland was the third game and had an average defense last year. In that game he had a line of seven catches, 85 yards and a touchdown, which is good, not great. His average draft position (ADP) right now is reflecting these “good-not-great” stats and he is going in the sixth round of many drafts which he will vastly outperform with or without Green. Maybe then he can get back to his massive 100-plus yard games, which he had three of with Green.
A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati
A.J. Green is now going behind Tyler Boyd in many drafts. In Best-Ball drafts, his ADP is the sixth round in some drafts. Best-Ball already was the perfect place for Green due to his highly volatile production and he can be hidden behind many of your other receivers while he recovers from his injury. It seems his highly optimistic recovery date will be Week 2 while some are saying he may start in Week 6. Considering his third round price tag by some experts before the injury, he may be worth biting the bullet for.
Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona
Murray had a significant amount of question marks coming out of college regarding his height and decision making. His height nor decision making did not seem to be an issue with the types of passes coach Kliff Kingsbury was calling. The offense was working well and Murray either released the ball quick or had the speed to outrun everyone chasing him, which gives me more optimism entering the season. His favorite target seemed to be Trent Sherfield followed by Damiere Byrd and KeeSean Johnson. Those players may be worth a late round dynasty pick. As discussed before, Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald barely played but were on the field during the opening drive with Murray. Neither had more than a yard which may be concerning for their value in drafts. Murray did not show as well in Week 2 but he has a lot to learn still and will continue to have his ups and downs.
It has been said all offseason that James Washington has been fantastic and will inherit most of the targets from Antonio Brown leaving. This has not been the case the last two weeks. Moncrief is listed as the No. 2 wide receiver on the team which is a prestigious position to have for fantasy if we look at this history. This team hates to run the ball as evidenced by its very low rushing attempts last year which leaves many targets for the WR2 on the team. Luckily, almost all of those few attempts went to Conner. Many are shying away from Conner due to news of a timeshare backfield. Most fantasy drafters are ignoring the extremely consistent production that coach Mike Tomlin has gotten out of every running back and WR2 put on the field the last five years regardless of whom it is. With Moncrief being named the official No. 2 receiver and not playing in the first preseason game, his position for yards and targets is locked up. Conner also did not play in Week 1 while each backup did. Tomlin has never used a committee backfield and there is no reason to think that he will start this year.