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Fantasy Market Report: Fallers

Posted Aug 31, 2013


Last week, we looked at some players who have risen up fantasy draft boards this August; today, we'll check out some players who have fallen.

It's important to note that the majority of fallers have dropped because of injuries. However, there are other players, who, for a variety of reasons, have also slipped. Usually, this is because younger and seemingly more exciting players have vaulted past them in the rankings, not necessarily because of poor play on their part. Fantasy owners can find good value on these players during the draft, and even if you missed out on them, they can be excellent trade targets once the season starts.

We tackle some of the biggest injury concerns in this week's inaugural Fantasy Mailbag. For this column, we'll focus on the non-injured players who have still fallen down draft boards.

QUARTERBACK

Honestly, this list could include virtually any of the top signal-callers, including Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. Every league is different, but in most that I've seen, QBs are noticeably falling. The position is so deep, owners are trying to secure at least one RB and one WR before taking the plunge on a quarterback.

The bottom tier of the "starters" seems to be falling the most. Tony Romo, Andrew Luck and even Robert Griffin III are all sliding, with Michael Vick going ahead of Luck in one of my recent drafts. Romo's fall isn't a big surprise since he's a "boring veteran" -- and even Griffin III's slide isn't shocking since we haven't seen him on the field in the preseason -- but Luck's is a head-scratcher. Fantasy owners clearly prefer the more "exciting" style of play of Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, and they seem to be in agreement that Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan and Tom Brady are much safer than Luck. I agree with both sentiments, but I'm still surprised Luck hasn't generated more buzz after his record-setting rookie season. Ultimately, Luck, Romo and Griffin III will make for solid fantasy starters, and their collective slide down draft boards only enhances their value.

Other fallers: Eli Manning, Giants; Josh Freeman, Buccaneers.

RUNNING BACK

Aside from injured guys like Le'Veon Bell, Jonathan Stewart and Arian Foster, whom I talk about in this week's mailbag, the fallers at RB vary heavily from league to league. Someone like Lamar Miller might be falling in one league because the Dolphins have been non-committal to him this preseason; in another league, he might be overdrafted because that specific owner only remembers Miller's preseason sleeper hype.

A back who has clearly fallen since the start of training camp is Cincinnati's BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Green-Ellis already had the "old and slow" label, and after the Bengals drafted explosive rookie Giovani Bernard, fantasy owners were quickly clamoring for Green-Ellis to be benched. But NFL coaches want to win games, not appease fantasy owners, so a workhorse chain-mover like Green-Ellis will continue to get plenty of carries, particularly around the goal line. Still, fantasy owners have little interest in the Law Firm, and his stock continues to fall. But this isn't an "either/or" situation in terms of Bernard and Green-Ellis having success. When Chris Johnson was a rookie with the Titans in 2008, both him and the "old and slow" LenDale White finished as top-20 fantasy backs. Bernard and Green-Ellis could do the same.

Other fallers: Montee Ball, Broncos; Darren Sproles, Saints; Mikel Leshoure, Lions.

WIDE RECEIVER

Heading into draft season, we knew wide receiver would be an unpredictable position. Once the top eight or so are off the board, owners can go in a variety of directions, so it's tough to pinpoint noticeable fallers. However, much like the other positions, it seems like the biggest droppers are "boring" veterans.

Greg Jennings is getting the least love after his move from Green Bay to Minnesota. It makes sense given the downgrade in quarterback, but Jennings is Minnesota's clear-cut No. 1 receiver, and he's still very talented. In the five seasons prior to last year's injury-riddled campaign, Jennings averaged 1,107 yards and 9.2 TDs. He can do the job of a WR3. The same goes for Carolina's Steve Smith, the Giants' Hakeem Nicks and Dallas' Miles Austin, all of whom also seem to be falling.

Other fallers:  Eric Decker, Broncos; Stevie Johnson, Bills; Denarius Moore, Raiders

TIGHT END

Tight end is similar to wide receiver in terms of difficulty in trying to pinpoint fallers, but with guys like Jordan Cameron, Jared Cook and Zach Sudfeld rising up draft boards, someone has to be dropping. And -- stop me if you've heard this before -- it's mostly the veterans.

Houston's Owen Daniels has been the most surprising faller. A knee injury limited his production in 2010 and '11, but he bounced back last year to finish eighth among fantasy TEs. Two of the players who finished ahead of him, Dennis Pitta and Heath Miller, are dealing with injuries, so, really, Daniels should be viewed as an upper-tier TE. But fantasy owners aren't looked at him that way, dropping him behind "higher-upside" guys like the three listed above, Kyle Rudolph and Jermichael Finley. There's little reason to think Daniels can't be a top-10 TE again, so don't let him fall too far.

Other fallers: Antonio Gates, Chargers; Jermaine Gresham, Bengals; Fred Davis, Redskins.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

Really, the only reason a D/ST falls during the preseason is because of injuries or suspensions. Fortunately, key defensive players aren't hitting the IR as frequently as their offensive counterparts, but the Broncos have still taken some pretty big hits.

Denver fielded a top-five fantasy defense last year, and many had them ranked in the top five heading into this season. But a wrist injury to starting LB Stewart Bradley and a foot injury to CB Champ Bailey have hurt their depth, and a six-game suspension to star pass-rusher Von Miller has hurt even more. After losing DE Elvis Dumervil in free agency, the Broncos are missing lot of what made them great last year -- D-line pressure. Miller will sit out a mixed bag of games for fantasy purposes (vs. BAL, @NYG, vs. OAK, vs. PHI, @DAL, vs. JAC), but until he's back, consider the Broncos only a borderline starting unit.

Other fallers: Cleveland Browns.

KICKER

Barring injury, kickers shouldn't lose value before the season starts. However, one thing that can happen with kickers -- and all positions, really -- is for them to drop based on where they're listed in your league's draft room rankings.

For instance, Sporting News ranked Garrett Hartley as a top-12 kicker entering the season. Yahoo!, which is the most popular fantasy games site, has Hartley ranked 28th, which is where he shows up in their draft applet. Thus, Hartley is going undrafted in most Yahoo! leagues. Kickers are almost impossible to rank, so there's no reason to quibble over where Hartley is slotted, but if Yahoo! had him ranked even 14th, he'd likely be drafted in far more leagues. The same goes for Greg Zuerlein, who is also ranked surprisingly low.

Other fallers: Mason Crosby, Packers.

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