Kansas City Chiefs - RB - Spencer Ware
Jamaal Charles has seemingly hit a speed bump rehabbing from a torn ACL that he suffered 10 months ago. Charles setback thrusts Spencer Ware into the spotlight. Although Ware shared duties with Charcandrick West last season in Charles absence it was apparent this preseason that Kansas City saw Ware as the clear lead back behind Charles, and deservedly so.
Ware is a thunderous yards after contact machine with exceptional balance, vision and just enough burst to separate from defenders as he enters the second level of a defense. Ware's incredible leg drive and low pad level is reminiscent of runners like Marshawn Lynch and Marion Barber the way he bulldozes over a helpless defensive back or carries an army of defenders the extra couple of yards to pick up the 1st down.
Ware's thunderous down hill running style is perfect near the goal line and that is one role I still think Ware will hold even when Charles is healthy. In 2015, Ware reached pay dirt on 5 of his 7 carries within the 5-yard line. That was the highest level of efficiency among players with more than 10 carries in the NFL. Ware scored a TD in all three preseason games he played in. The longest one being from 2-yards out. Since Andy Reid has arrived in Kansas City the Chiefs have finished 5th, 3rd and 1st in the NFL in rushing TD's. This role has much more value than you would assume.
If there was a knock to Ware's game it would be that he's not the most natural receiver out of the backfield. It's not that he's incompetent at it, more so that most NFL teams have a RB better fit for passing downs. Reports out of Chiefs camp during the offseason were that Ware was working his butt off to improve as a wide receiver. So far it appears like the hard work has paid off as Ware hauled in 8 passes in his last two preseason games.
Jamaal Charles is a Hall of Fame talent and the NFL is better when he's healthy but I'd be lying if I wasn't happy to see Spencer Ware get his shine. Ware is better than plenty of starting running backs across the league.
When Charles is ready to go he'll be the captain of the offense as usual but I think Ware will have an important role in the offense still. Ware has been nothing short of impressive since coming to Kansas City and I wouldn't be surprised if he becomes a dreaded TD vulture this year.
Ware needs to be owned in all leagues and formats.
Christine Michael - Seattle Seahawks
This is shaping up to be an outstanding season for truthers. Jared Cook has a good QB, Terrelle Pryor had a tremendous preseason and Christine Michael has a starting job!!! The Seahawks are committed to easing Thomas Rawls back from his ankle surgery so for the meantime Michael is atop the depth chart. Michael has always had special athletic ability it was just a matter of if the light would ever turn on in his head. Everyone in the Seahawks organization claims that Michael is a new man and it showed this preseason.
Michael should be owned in all formats and should see a nice workload the first month of the season with obvious upside for more.
Justin Forsett - Baltimore Ravens
By cutting Justin Forsett the Ravens were able to carry DT Carl Davis & S Matt Elam on their 53-man roster. This allowed Baltimore to put both of them on the PUP with designation to return list. The Ravens then re-signed Forsett to a 2-year, $6 million dollar contract, which is basically the same deal he was previously on. There is a 100K bonus if he rushes for more yards than he did in 2015 (641).
If Forsett was dropped in your league go and pick him up. He's set to be the starter and is a nice RB4 depth while we figure out how the Ravens backfield is really going to shake out.
James White - New England Patriots
The third year man out of Wisconsin looks to be the lead receiving back out of the gate for the Patriots. White is filling in for Dion Lewis who is on the PUP list to start the season after needing another clean up procedure on the same knee he tore his ACL in last October. White finished the 2015 season with a bang. In PPR formats, White was the RB5 spanning Weeks 10-16. During that 7 game stretch White scored 6 TD's while averaging 4.5 receptions and 50 yards receiving per game.
White is a nice end of bench option in 10 or 12 team leagues.
Chris Thompson - Washington Redskins
Thompson is listed as the No. 2 back on the Redskins depth chart but he should be the primary back on passing downs. Thompson is the odds on favorite to become this years Theo Riddick, an RB who is quietly a savior in PPR formats.
D.J. Foster - New England Patriots
D.J. Foster is a guy James White owners need to keep an eye on. Foster is an undrafted rookie out of Arizona State who surprisingly made the Patriots 53-man roster. Foster played both RB and WR while at ASU, racking up over 2,000 rushing and receiving yards during his collegiate career. In the preseason finale Foster caught 9 passes for 110 yards. PFF graded Foster as the #1 receiving RB this preseason. White and Foster have pretty similar skill sets but Foster might be a little more elusive in the open field.
Tajae Sharpe - Tennessee Titans
The 5th round rookie out of UMass has impressed since Day 1 and has locked down a starting role after an outstanding preseason where he caught 9 passes for 162 yards. Sharpe is a polished and dependable possession receiver who has the chance to be the #2 target, behind Delanie Walker, in the passing game right away. The Titans hope to be a run heavy offensive unit but with that being said there should be enough targets to create a WR3 out of Sharpe or Rashad Matthews.
Kenny Stills - Miami Dolphins
Stills was playing ahead of DeVante Parker is 2 WR sets this preseason and looks to be a key part of this passing game to start the year. Jarvis Landry will be the target hog in the short passing game but Stills seems to have developed a chemistry and trust with Tannehill in the intermediate and deep passing game. Stills is an end of the bench stash to start the year with nice upside if Adam Gase is able to push the right buttons and get Tannehill to take the next step in his development.
Sammie Coates - Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers desperately want Coates to fill Martavis Bryant's vertical play making role in the offense. After receiving rave reviews during training camp Coates followed it up with a disastrous preseason. Coates is built like a greek god but his hands and ball skills are lacking and that's the main reason why he's behind Markus Wheaton and Eli Rogers on the depth chart currently. Coates has game changing ability and for that reason alone the Steelers will give him plenty of chances this coming year. Keep him on your "Watch List."
Vance McDonald - TE - San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers offensive depth chart is a metaphorical dumpster fire but Vance McDonald might be one of the things we can salvage from it. McDonald built a rapport with Gabbert towards the end of 2015 and that carried over to the 2016 preseason as well. McDonald is a plus athlete at the TE position and due to the uptempo nature of the 49ers offense he could see a nice workload in 2015.
Jesse James - TE - Pittsburgh Steelers
James isn't really anything special as a player but he's in a great situation. With Martavis Bryant suspended for the season and Le'Veon Bell for the first 3 games people were excited about Ladarius Green's prospects of being a fantasy force. Green was consistently taken among the top 10 TE's this summer but is currently on the PUP due to a list of injuries. So why no love for Jesse James now? The starting TE role is his and since he stands at 6'7" he should be a popular red zone target.