Hall of Fame Game 2014: Fantasy football reaction

Maybe it’s a little premature for fantasy football projections after just one game, and really just after a handful of plays featuring both the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills starting units.

Maybe this sample size is too small for us to observe anything notable. However, this is not going to stop football-starved fantasy owners from analyzing every single snap. Sure, the Giants won the game 17-13, but a true fantasy mind is not concerned with preseason wins and losses. Rather they are looking for draft steals and potential sleepers in every contest. In order to satisfy this fantasy thirst, here are my takeaways from yesterday’s Hall of Fame Game:

Despite going 6 for 7 with 43 yards, Eli Manning is not quite there yet as a viable fantasy option. His fumble on the Giants’ second series was reminiscent of his 2013 season in which he led the NFL with 27 interceptions. While he looked sharp afterwards, completing 6 straight passes, do not buy into this too heavily as it came against a mixture of Buffalo starters and reserves. During this drive he did appear to be comfortable with New York’s new up-tempo offense. His progression over the remainder of the preseason will ultimately determine his fantasy value, but he likely will not be selected on draft night anyway. However, Manning is still a viable option in very deep or two-quarterback leagues.

EJ Manuel, a trendy sleeper option, did little to justify that label as he went 2 of 7 for 19 yards. His failure to score after the Eli Manning fumble, which placed Buffalo near the redzone, and his three batted balls at the line of scrimmage both concerned me far more than his stat line. Until he proves otherwise, avoid Manuel in all leagues on draft night.

Rashad Jennings was serviceable in his limited action, finished with 7 rushes for 23 yards. The Giants run blocking appears to be an issue with over half of his yardage coming on a single rush. This is partially out of his control however since the Buffalo front seven was too much for the Giants. However, without a solid line, Jennings will struggle to produce. The Giants do seem intent on using him in the passing game regularly, as he finished with 3 receptions for 20 yards.

Andre Williams will likely become one of the most popular running back sleeper picks after a strong showing in the season’s opening contest. Finishing with 48 yards rushing on 7 carries, Williams ran hard and fast, showcasing the power that made him the NCAA’s leading rusher last year. He received carries with the Giants starting unit and appears to be the goal line back as he scored his one rushing touchdown within the five yard line. He solidified himself as the number two back in the offense with the upside of potentially stealing the starting job.

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Many believed CJ Spiller was a lock for a return to his 2012 form, but after last night’s contest, I am skeptical. Spiller was not really involved in the offense; totaling only 2 yards on 1 carry. Personally, I believe Spiller has fully recovered from injury, and believe he has the physical tools to be one of the best running backs in the NFL.

However, I just do not trust Buffalo to use him effectively since Spiller is the type of player who thrives in open space. While the first game should not be taken too seriously, it would have been nice to see him involved in the passing game. Spiller should remain a solid RB2 for now.

Finally, it was Robert Woods, not Sammy Watkins, who stood out as Buffalo’s top receiving target, with 4 the next few weeks, but he is still too risky to warrant a roster spot on draft night.

Watkins’ zero catch effort was the result of Manuel’s inconsistent play more so than his struggles against NFL-level defenses. However, Watkins needs solid quarterback play to be a viable fantasy option. While he is still worth rostering, as long as Manuel struggles, Watkins will be too inconsistent to play week-in and week-out.

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