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Marqise Lee WR/Jacksonville Jaguars (Owned in 11.5% of ESPN Leagues)
Lee showed that Blake Bortles is not the only rookie down in Jacksonville that should be getting some attention. Lee closed out the preseason in style, hauling in a 57-yard touchdown pass from Bortles. While I take preseason stats with a grain of salt due to the vanilla-style of defense, Lee showed that he is going to be one of the leading targets for the Jaguars’ quarterbacks.
Lee got off to a slow start in the preseason, drawing sour remarks from head coach Gus Bradley concerning his effort on plays that were not designed for him. However, Lee bounced back and finished with a total of 8 receptions for 94 yards. While the stats may not be as flashy as teammate Allen Hurns (who we’ll discuss later), Lee showed to be a consistent target and big play ability (23.7 YPC) during the preseason.
With fellow draft pick Allen Robinson and incumbent starter Cecil Shorts battling hamstring injuries, there is a real opportunity for Lee to lead the Jaguars in receiving this season. Lee currently holds the value of a WR4/5 but has the room to develop into a WR3/Flex option if the Jaguars offense shows continuity.
Tim Wright TE/New England Patriots (Owned 16.0% ESPN Leagues)
When the news broke about a trade sending the Tampa Bay tight end and a 2014 4th-round pick to New England for Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins, I question the motivation behind the move. However, upon further review this deal looks to have worked out for both teams.
Since the arrest of former tight end Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots have been looking for someone who could fill the “move” tight end position that was left vacant. They tried preseason darling Zach Sudfeld last season, and reportedly even considered trying out free agent signee Brandon LaFell at the position this year. After acquiring Wright, the hope is that the search has been completed.
After signing with the Bucaneers as a UDFA in 2013, Wright went on to have a productive rookie season finishing with a 54/571/5 split. Wright is a huge mismatch for linebackers in coverage, operating the intermediate area of the field very well. Even though Rob Gronkowski is going to see the bulk of the targets, the Patriots have shown in the past that there are plenty of targets to go around with Tom Brady under center. Wright is no more than a low TE2 at the moment, but if he can show that the ability to learn the playbook, he could establish himself as a sleeper candidate this season.
Devonta Freeman RB/Atlanta Falcons (Owned in 40.8% ESPN Leagues)
Although starting running back Steven Jackson returned to practice this week, I am wary of any running back that is already battling hamstring injuries at this point in the season. In his absence, Devonta Freeman was given the opportunity to show what he could do, and flashed potential in a big way.
Freeman is currently listed 4th on the Falcons depth chart behind COP backs Antone Smith and Jacquizz Rodgers. Although Freeman has some climbing to do, his talent is far superior to the players in front of him. Freeman averaged 4.2 YPC during the preseason, and showed to be a reliable target out of the backfield totaling 11 catches during the course of the preseason.
Freeman is buried a little bit on the depth chart, but with Jackson’s questionable health, and the lack of real talent in front of him, Freeman should see his carries and playing time increase. While you probably cannot count on Freeman consistently at the moment, he is well worth the stash as a RB 4/5.
Andrew Hawkins WR/Cleveland Browns (Owned in 13.7% ESPN Leagues)
With the yearlong suspension for wide receiver for his third violation of the leagues substance abuse policy, the Browns suddenly have a very thin receiving corps. The hope was that veteran Nate Burleson and Miles Austin could provide some solid depth. However, the Browns released Burleson earlier this week, and Miles Austin is, well, Miles Austin.
While wide receiver Andrew Hawkins is not the most house-held name, he's the only Browns receiver that offers any playmaking ability. The Browns signed the restricted free agent to a four-year/$13.6 million offer sheet this offseason, hoping the injuries that held him out of half the 2013 season are a thing of the past. In three seasons with the Bengals, Hawkins had a 86/995/4 split, and showed to be one of the best up-and-coming slot receivers in the league.
Hawkins is currently listed as the No.2 receiver for the Browns opposite Miles Austin. However, Austin does not offer much in terms of playmaking ability, and the Browns quarterbacks cannot force the ball to Jordan Cameron on every play. So if any member of the Browns receiving corps is going to have hold some fantasy value, it will be Hawkins.
Travis Kelce TE/Kansas City Chiefs (Owned in 7.8% ESPN Leagues)
Would someone on the Chiefs offense please step up and take some of the pressure off of Jamaal Charles? After touching the ball over 330 times last season, the Chiefs need to find someone to keep defenses from keying soley on the electric running back. With wide receiver Dwayne Bowe facing a one-game suspension from a marijuana arrest, there is no one on the Chiefs that strike fear in the minds of opposing defensive coordinators.
Kelce has the potential to be one of the bigger surprises this season. While I do not preseason stats too seriously, Kelce showed the ability to stretch the field vertically (17.6 YPC) and has the potential to be a reliable red-zone threat .
Kelce is not someone you can pick up and play during week one, however he's someone to keep an eye on during the first week of games. With the Chiefs lack of explosiveness at the receiver position, and Coach Andy Reid’s history of getting tight ends involved in the offense (Brent Celek 59.25 Rec/year last four seasons), Kelce could be in line for a productive season.