NFL Barometer: Preseason Risers & Fallers

NFL Barometer: Preseason Risers & Fallers

This article is part of our NFL Barometer series.

The calendar flipped to August and draft season is underway in earnest. It's also a time where training camp news flies in, potential fantasy difference makers emerge with preseason performance and, of course, injuries will occur. In our first edition of the article, we'll focus on early training camp news to highlight the players rising and falling on draft boards. 

Rising

Dalton Schultz, Cowboys 

The Cowboys' depth chart has thinned in the first few weeks of training camp. Michael Gallup, who's coming off an ACL injury,  isn't expected to be ready for Week 1 and James Washington suffered a broken foot that will sideline him until at least late September. The team lost Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson this offseason, so there are plenty of vacated targets available. Rookie Jalen Tolbert has received rave reviews in camp and could easily be on this list. However, Schultz picked up nearly two PPR points (14.5) in games without Amari Cooper on the field last season and has proven to have rapport with Dak Prescott. He might not be able to sustain a hot start to the season once the wide receiver corps is back to full strength, but Schultz is a nice mid-round target (ADP of 74.64 on NFFC) at tight end and should be an excellent producer early.  

KJ Hamler, Broncos 

As soon as Russell Wilson was traded to Denver, the comparisons between Hamler and Tyler Lockett began. There are a few issues with that comp, primarily

The calendar flipped to August and draft season is underway in earnest. It's also a time where training camp news flies in, potential fantasy difference makers emerge with preseason performance and, of course, injuries will occur. In our first edition of the article, we'll focus on early training camp news to highlight the players rising and falling on draft boards. 

Rising

Dalton Schultz, Cowboys 

The Cowboys' depth chart has thinned in the first few weeks of training camp. Michael Gallup, who's coming off an ACL injury,  isn't expected to be ready for Week 1 and James Washington suffered a broken foot that will sideline him until at least late September. The team lost Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson this offseason, so there are plenty of vacated targets available. Rookie Jalen Tolbert has received rave reviews in camp and could easily be on this list. However, Schultz picked up nearly two PPR points (14.5) in games without Amari Cooper on the field last season and has proven to have rapport with Dak Prescott. He might not be able to sustain a hot start to the season once the wide receiver corps is back to full strength, but Schultz is a nice mid-round target (ADP of 74.64 on NFFC) at tight end and should be an excellent producer early.  

KJ Hamler, Broncos 

As soon as Russell Wilson was traded to Denver, the comparisons between Hamler and Tyler Lockett began. There are a few issues with that comp, primarily Hamler's lengthy injury history and lack of production as compared to Lockett, but also because Denver has a lot of talent in the wide receiver room. However, after Tim Patrick tore his ACL, Hamler has a path to finding the field in three-receiver sets. While there's no guarantee that coach Nathaniel Hackett will bring the same offensive system that the Packers ran to Denver, Green Bay played with three wideouts at an league-average rate of 61 percent in 2021. Before getting too excited about Hamler in drafts, it will be worth monitoring his own health situation while recovering from a torn ACL. Recent reports state that he has participated in individual drills but has yet to return to team activities.

George Pickens, Steelers

Pickens has had a lot of run with Pittsburgh's first-team offense thanks to Diontae Johnson's hold-in and Chase Claypool's shoulder injury. Johnson is back to full participation after working out an extension with the Steelers on Thursday, but Claypool still remains out. Pickens has used his extra exposure to his advantage and drawn plenty of buzz thanks to some athletic leaping grabs. His fit in the Pittsburgh offense is unclear Claypool, Johnson and Pickens each profile as outside receivers, but the Steelers used Pickens in a big slot role at times during offseason activities. If he continues to showcase his potential, the Steelers will find a way to make him fit in the offense.  

Robert Woods, Titans

All eyes are on rookie Treylon Burks in Tennessee, who is attempting to do his best A.J. Brown impression in his first season as a pro. However, Woods could very well emerge to lead the team in targets. He has yet to participate fully in practice while recovering from a torn ACL, but he continues to ramp up and has participated in 7-on-7 drills. Woods' goal is to be ready for a Week 1 matchup against the Giants, and that appears to be realistic given his current pace.

Isaiah McKenzie, Bills

McKenzie is competing with offseason addition Jamison Crowder for the slot role in Buffalo. McKenzie has only 99 career receptions in six professional seasons, but the departure of Cole Beasley will give him the opportunity to earn his most substantial offensive role in any season in his career. Not only has McKenzie been praised for his work during camp, but Crowder's availability has been sporadic early. Even if he wins the job, McKenzie won't be an every down player or a fantasy star. However, everyone attached to Josh Allen and the Bills' offense is worth consideration, and McKenzie is trending toward having a role.

Falling

Kyler Murray, Cardinals

All the drama in Arizona was supposed to be resolved once Murray agreed to a contract extension, but there are ongoing issues that could prevent the offense from getting on track during camp. The obvious example is DeAndre Hopkins' six-game suspension, which isn't so minor. However, Murray also tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday and has yet to return to practice. Meanwhile, Marquise Brown is ramping up from an absence caused by a hamstring injury and has yet to practice. He was also arrested Wednesday for excessive speeding, adding another layer of distraction and questions.  

DK Metcalf, Seahawks

Metcalf is in the opposite position of Hamler and the other receivers in the Denver offense, as the quality of his targets is likely to decrease significantly this season following the departure of Russell Wilson. That's been a part of the analysis all offseason, but there have been specific reports from Michael-Shawn Dugar of The Athletic indicating that Metcalf and quarterbacks Drew Lock and Geno Smith have not been on the same page in practice. Metcalf's ADP has dipped within the last month, as he's the 21st wide receiver off the board and 47th player overall.  Without the Seahawks unexpectedly upgrading their quarterback room before the start of the regular season, his slide is likely to continue.

David Montgomery, Bears

It might turn out to be nothing, but Montgomery was working with the special teams unit Wednesday. We've seen teams mess with their running back depth chart in practice – Miles Sanders was getting reps with the second team in Philadelphia—but it's specifically worth mentioning Khalil Herbert's success as a rookie in Chicago in 2021. From Weeks 5 to 8, Herbert filled in for Montgomery and recorded at least 18 carries and 72 yards in each game while also tallying multiple receptions on three occasions. Montgomery won't be eliminated from the offense, but the backfield could be more of 1A and 1B situation than the gap in ADP would suggest.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs

 This has less to with Edwards-Helaire, as reports have suggested that he has been nearly exclusively worked with the first-team offense in training camp. However, the Chiefs' offseason moves suggest they don't have much confidence in Edwards-Helaire's ability to maintain that role, including the signing of Ronald Jones, re-signing of Jerick McKinnon and drafting of Isiah Pacheco. At this point in their respective careers, we understand what Jones and McKinnon bring to an NFL offense, but Pacheco may be the name to monitor. He has gone from final-round pick to the team's kick returner in the preseason, which will give him a chance to further showcase his explosiveness. This is a crowded backfield and Edwards-Helaire hasn't taken advantage of his chances as the primary back in one of the best offenses in the league across the last two seasons.

Matthew Stafford, Rams

News emerged Thursday that Stafford is dealing with an "abnormal" elbow injury for a quarterback. He will have his throwing drastically cut back in camp, which isn't really a concern for a veteran signal-caller of his stature. Instead, the problem comes in the details. According to Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic, the team has legitimate concerns that Stafford's arm issue could linger into the regular season. The team has been so aggressive with a plan to limit Stafford because they are worried the issue will escalate throughout the course of the season. This news may not be enough to dip the draft stock of Cooper Kupp or Allen Robinson, but there are so many quarterbacks capable of posting comparable production to Stafford that there's little reason to risk a potential shutdown or several-week absence.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dan Marcus
Dan started covering fantasy sports in 2015, joining Rotowire in 2018. In addition to Rotowire, Dan has written for Baseball HQ and Rotoballer.
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