Fantasy 5: Jordan Howard, Robby Anderson among those who shined in preseason Week 4

Week 4 of the preseason is supposed to be a quiet time as far as the relevant names go, but Jeff Ratcliffe found some to focus on.

| 10 months ago
(Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

(Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Fantasy 5: Jordan Howard, Robby Anderson among those who shined in preseason Week 4

The Fantasy 5 is a regular feature that takes a look at the five most important NFL news stories for fantasy football players, giving you the advice you need to improve your team.

The fourth week of the preseason. What a snoozefest. Right?

Nope. That’s actually completely wrong. Sure, it’s mostly the second- and third-stringers duking it out for the final roster spots. But every year we see players emerge in the fourth preseason game. Some of them are mere flashes, but others have surfaced later on in the season. Last year, both Stefon Diggs and Thomas Rawls were among the top performers in the final week of the preseason. Neither were household names at the time, but both went on to be strong fantasy assets later on in the year.

So who’s it going to be this year? Based on Thursday night’s performances, here are five players to keep an eye on this season:

1. Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears

The fifth-rounder out of Indiana went off in Chicago’s final preseason tuneup, posting 107 yards and a score on 16 carries to go along with two catches for 33 yards. Jeremy Langford is locked in as the Bears’ starter to open the season, but there has been a preseason battle for backup duties between Howard and Ka’Deem Carey. Howard was clearly the better back on Thursday night. Carey did find the end zone, but he managed just 19 yards on seven carries.

Howard had a generally lackluster preseason leading up to Thursday night’s contest. However, he has excelled after contact, which is an area where Langford struggles. Howard posted 60 yards after contact on Thursday night, and averaged 3.4 yards after contact on his 36 preseason carries. Langford averaged just 2.3 yards after contact per attempt in the preseason, and he ranked 50th out of 51 qualifiers last season with an abysmal 1.76 yards after contact per attempt.

Langford is inked into the starting job, but how long he stays there is far less certain. His well-documented struggles last year bode poorly for him keeping the spot. Howard isn’t likely to be a fantasy factor in September or even October, but he is a name to monitor for the middle and end of the season, especially if Langford struggles.

2. Paxton Lynch, QB, Denver Broncos

This one is fairly obvious, but Lynch deserves a mention after his performance on Thursday night. The rookie signal-caller played the entire game and put up 214 yards and two scores on 13 completions. He also threw one pick and was sacked once. While a majority of his throws were short and intermediate, Lynch flashed an intriguing fantasy profile.

The quarterback battle in Denver was supposed to come down the Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian. With Sanchez effectively playing himself out of that battle – and very likely off the team – the Broncos will open the season with the safe Siemian under center. He’s far from guaranteed to play 16 games even if he stays healthy, and Lynch should factor in at some point this season. His big arm and ability as a runner have the potential to translate to QB2 fantasy value if he gets the short to start in 2016.

3. Jordan Taylor, WR, Denver Broncos

It was very clear who Lynch’s favorite receiver was on Thursday night. In total, Taylor saw nine targets. He caught four for 109 yards and two scores. The big play came on his first target, when Taylor took a short reception 57 yards to the house. He also displayed run after the catch ability on another short reception. Wearing number 87, Taylor was reminiscent of Eric Decker in his time with the Broncos.

A second-year man out of Rice, Taylor flashed in last year’s preseason and spent the year on the Broncos’ practice squad. He has impressive size at 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, and decent enough speed (4.52 40 time). The Broncos currently have Bennie Fowler, Jordan Norwood and Cody Latimer to go along with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders at wide receiver. There’s certainly a chance Taylor makes the 53-man roster, but if he does, he’ll be buried to start the season. However, his size and the fact that he’s performed well every time he’s been given an opportunity are worth noting. Don’t forget Taylor’s name.

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4. Dwayne Washington, RB, Detroit Lions

Here’s a kid who has continued to gain momentum throughout the offseason and preseason. His spot on the Lions’ 53-man roster was all but guaranteed after Detroit cut Stevan Ridley. However, Washington made a claim on Thursday night to have a potentially larger role entering the season. The rookie runner racked up 58 yards and a score on seven carries, and actually played ahead of Zach Zenner in the Lions’ preseason finale.

Washington enters the league with a somewhat minimal college resume with just 267 touches in three years at Washington. However, he was productive on his opportunities scoring 21 times and posting an impressive 5.8 yards per rushing attempt. He has good speed – Washington ran a 4.44 40-yard dash time at his pro day – and showed good receiving ability with a 2.11 yards per route run, which ranked second among draft-eligible running backs. He’ll enter the season buried on the depth chart, but if injury strikes Ameer Abdullah or Theo Riddick, Washington could be thrust squarely onto the fantasy radar.

5. Robby Anderson, WR, New York Jets

The preseason fantasy scoring leader among wide receivers, Anderson caught 13-of-25 targets for 264 yards and three scores in the Jets’ four dress rehearsals. He led the team in targets on Thursday, and likely would have had a bigger game than his 61 yards and a score had Bryce Petty not exited after just 14 snaps. Anderson’s 44-yard score came from Petty in the first quarter.

Anderson is a Temple University product – shout out to all my fellow Temple alums – who was extremely productive for the Owls in 2015 with 70 catches for 939 yards and seven scores. This followed a breakout 2013 campaign where he put up 791 yards and nine scores on 44 catches. He was suspended for all of 2014 for academic reasons. Anderson is rail-thin at 6-3, 190, but he ran a blazing fast 4.34 40 time at his pro day. It’ll be interesting to see what the Jets end up doing with Anderson this weekend, but he may have played himself into a roster spot. With somewhat lackluster talent beyond Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker on the Jets’ depth chart, Anderson has a chance to surface this season.

| Director of Fantasy

Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.

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