We know it’s only preseason, but that isn’t going to stop us from chirping about who we think flashed early signs of fantasy dominance in brief spurts of playing time last week. Preseason may mean nothing for the superstars, but for players both young and old fighting for a roster spot, it often makes or breaks their season. Also, it’s a chance for highly touted rookies to show fans and coaches what all the hype was about. Those who shine provide a telling glimpse of what their role could be on the team and give us a strong indicator where they should be drafted in fantasy leagues.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts — Luck isn’t just a lady, it’s a 6’4 quarterback entering his sophomore season in Indy and Hilton just happens to be coming along for the ride. Not saying Hilton isn’t talented, but the second-year wideout has one of the best emerging young quarterbacks in over a decade throwing to him. One thing is clear — Luck is a deep ball thrower, and Hilton loves to catch the deep pass. Hilton corralled all three of his targets for 61 yards against Buffalo, including a 45-yard catch. With veteran wideout Reggie Wayne set to decline any season now, Hilton is a worthy No. 2 receiver heading into 2013. He’s also their return man, so there’s that added bonus.
Coby Fleener, TE, Indianapolis Colts — Yep, we continue to do keg stands of Andrew Luck Kool Aid. Luck’s former college teammate is looking more comfortable as a receiving tight end in the NFL so far. He caught two passes for 37 yards Just have to hope the concussion problem doesn’t come back to bite him.
Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans — Regarded as the best fantasy back in the NFL three years ago, Johnson owns a gear that few running backs have, except he hasn’t shown that gear as often as he used to. Against the Redskins last week, he broke a few cleats off when he scampered for a 58-yard touchdown reminiscent of the 2009 Johnson. So the important thing is — he still has that fourth gear. There’s not as much risk with taking him in the second round this year.
Christine Michael, RB, Seattle Seahawks — No team runs the ball more than Seattle, and no back (other than maybe Marcus Lattimore) was as talented as Michael coming out of 2013 draft crop. Michael rushed for 89 yards on just 16 carries, and drew the collective ‘oohs’ when he shook Chargers safety out of his helmet on a 24-yard run. He’s still a rookie, but he might’ve built the most intrigue of any other young back in the preseason thus far.
Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns — Only targeted once, but made the most of it, hauling in a 30-yard reception. Cameron is finally healthy (hasn’t missed a day of camp) and is expected to be the teams starter at tight end this season. He’ll be the guy Weeden looks to on third downs to move the chains, meaning lots more receptions coming.
Robert Woods, WR, Buffalo Bills — 5 targets, 4 receptions for 32 yards was the stat line for Woods in the Bills preseason opener against the Colts. He’ll have to compete with a lot of other receivers for catches in Buffalo, but he has the most upside of any of them.