Risers and Fallers going into preseason 2019

By Michael Valverde
Michael Valverde


Kerryon Johnson
Dating back to the last off-season Kerryon Johnson was getting recognition of someone who could be a bell-cow. The Lions had other plans when it came to the regular season. The coaching staff made sure that Johnson and LeGarrette Blount were going to split time evenly carrying the rock.

In the first five-games Johnson had more touches (13-3), but the carry distribution was an even 50 for each. However, the next week against Miami, Johnson had 19 carries for 158 yards and established himself as more than a part-time player. From the Dolphins game on Johnson outpaced Blount in carries, 68-31.

Johnson's season came to an end when he suffered a knee sprain against the Panthers. Johnson final statistics on the year 118-644-3 that's a whopping 5.4 yards per carry while adding 32 receptions in 10 games.

Coming into this season, Johnson still had competition. CJ Anderson was signed as a free-agent to revive the Blount role and Theo Riddick to continue making catches out of the backfield, but the hype continued to be real.

The Lions added an offensive mind in coach Darrell Bevell who has been in charge of a top-five rushing offense six times in his 12-year career. Matt Stafford is getting older, and the Lions may need to rely on the run more. All of this is good, but the skyrocket in Johnson's ADP is the release of Riddick. Cutting Riddick puts the onus on Johnson being the bell-cow as there is no running back on their depth chart that can match Johnson's receiving skills.

Riddick now on his way
With the release of Riddick that is 74 available targets from 2018 and 222 in the previous three combined. Anderson will continue to play a relief role, but more toward the 2-1 if not 3-1 carry split at times. He is an easy buy in the mid-3rd round on at this point and easily can drift into the 2nd.

Kalen Ballage
Ballage seems to be the camp leader at the running back position in Miami. Any running back getting close to the 175 total touches that Cameron Wolfe from ESPN projects is in good standing. Especially at his ADP value of the 12th round. However, Wolfe also believes that there is going to be a 45/40 split differential between the two backs while the remaining difference is going to the secondary runners.

Ballage didn't have much of an opportunity to showcase his skills as a rookie last season. Ballage appearing in 12 games with 45 total touches, and did make the most out of his 36 carries with 191-yards (5.3 yards per carry) and a touchdown. Ballage has an excellent size/speed combination. There is just uncertainty of why he would become the lead back. Ballage and Kenyan Drake have been part of a committee going back to their high school days.

Lamar Miller
Just like that D'Onta Foreman is not with the Houston Texans anymore. Foreman the rookie from two seasons ago, who tore his ACL was released. Houston has faith in Lamar Miller. Their stand-out running back has zero competition right now. The Texans did not draft a running back until the seventh round and did not bring one in through free agency.

Miller has missed two games since 2013, so injury is not a concern. What may be concerning is after four consecutive top 20 finishes, he finished 22nd in 2018. Miller has been someone the Texans have leaned on as he is averaging 238 carries. Thirty-one receptions, six touchdowns every season. Put faith in his value, but don't expect a top-five performance. Also, keep an eye on the running back that Houston does sign. A prominent player could revert Miller's ADP to the mean.

Tyler Boyd
As soon as the news was released that AJ Green went down with an ankle injury, the internet went wild with a Tyler Boyd search. They found that Boyd was solid last season. While playing 14 games, Boyd caught 76 balls for 1028 yards and seven touchdowns in a breakout third season.

Cincinnati was impressed enough that they signed him to a significant extension in July worth a four year, $43,000,000, including a $7,000,000 signing bonus, $17,280,769 guaranteed. The contract puts him in the Stefon Diggs, Brandin Cooks, and Jarvis Landry range. This contract will translate Boyd being the number one receiver while Green is rehabbing.

As good as Boyd was, most of his production came into play while Green was on the field in four of the games they participated. Green's talent would isolate Boyd to deal with one-on-one matchups against the lesser talented cornerbacks. In result, Boyd found more open space, and he capitalized. Boyd is a talent. However, there isn't much to distract corners from double-teaming him. Tyler Eifert's body is beaten up with injuries, and John Ross has been an outright bust.

At this point, Green's injury hurts more than it helps Boyd. Unless Boyd can show, he is a valid number one receiver, something we won't know until the season starts. Hold his ADP before the news of Green, or drop him a tad or raise him a tad based on your analysis.

Tyreek Hill
It has been a tumultuous off-season for one of the better wide receivers in the NFL in Tyreek Hill. Facing suspension for child abuse for many months then undergoing exoneration. His press conference after didn't help his situation, but it doesn't matter, Hill is back for a full-season slate of games and will have his quarterback Patrick Mahomes helping achieve success every step along the way.

Hill had a fantastic season having career-bests in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Hill will be entering his fourth season and has improved every year. Hill has become a better route runner and been a reliable target. There is no reason, barring injury, why Hill can't hover around last season's numbers at the very least (87-1479-12).

His ADP rise has everything to do with his suspension possibility. It did appear as though Hill's suspension was a forgone conclusion. The NFL found no conclusive evidence to follow through. Hill will be watched and needs to not stray from the law. A significant suspension could follow suit if he doesn't. At this point, there is no reason to avoid him in drafts. Grab him somewhere in the top-five of receivers.


Melvin Gordon
The holdout appears to be a long situation for Melvin Gordon and its quite possible he may not even be on the Chargers when the season officially begins in September. He has been offered by the team $10 million, but he turned it down. The $10 million price tag would put him just below David Johnson for fourth on the money chart. A calculated value done by Spotrac displays he is in the market for $11.7 million and could be the reason his signature didn't hit the paper.

Gordon was excellent last season. For the first time in his career, he broke through the four-yards per carry average. Well, Gordon smashed it, with a 5.1 by gaining 885-yards on 175 carries and scoring ten times. He added to the passing game with 50 catches and four scores.

Unfortunately, he also missed four games last season. Gordon has now lost nine games to injury with only one 16 game season in his four years in the NFL.

It was once hard to fathom a player holding out for an entire season, but after Le'Veon Bell walked away, it's not that difficult anymore. Gordon's holdout appears just as stubborn. At this point, Gordon has an ADP of 2.05 on Fantasy Football Calculator, and his ranking is tied to an anchor until he is signed or traded.

A.J. Green
It didn't take long for many to drop AJ Green down their ADP charts. Green has had a litany of injuries over the last few years. His 2016 season was cut short due to a torn ACL, and his 2018 was also an incomplete year because of a foot injury playing in only eight games. When Green hurt his ankle on the 27th of July, it became just another time the stud wide receiver has gone down.

Green tore ligaments in his left ankle and will be out for an extended period. Head coach Zac Taylor said A.J. Green would miss regular-season games. "When they get in there and get the surgery done, they realized it's going to be a little bit longer," Taylor said of Green's timeline. "It's just going to be a couple of games ... hopefully, he'll be ready to go at the beginning-half of the season." which is troubling since he was dealing with a right ankle injury for most of last season.

The injuries are mounting for Green, but when he is on the field, Green has been dominant. In 2018, Green caught 46 passes for 694 yards and six touchdowns in just nine games. Taking those totals and spreading them out over 16 and Green finishes with the 81-1233-11 stat line.

The main question is, can you trust him once he returns? The trust is diminishing as he hasn't established the consistency of health. Outside of his injury history, Green is 31-years old and in a bad offense. His target draft area should be no higher than a low WR2 or high WR3.

Kenyan Drake
With the outlook of Ballage getting additional carries, the direct result for Drake is a drop-off. Drake has been successful even though not dominating in his first couple of seasons in the league. After not contributing much of anything in 2016, Drake has shared time with Jay Ajayi and Frank Gore over the last couple of seasons carrying the rock a total of 153-carries over that period for 1179-yards and seven touchdowns.

A stat to pay attention to is his reception totals as they have grown from 32-to-53 over the last two seasons. Part of it could be Ajayi's ability to catch some while Gore struggled in that area. Ballage as a pass-catcher is much better than both. Ballage's receiving skills should hurt Drake's volume as he won't be an automatic replacement for 3rd down work.