Fantasy 5: Martellus Bennett could offer sneaky value

With the veteran TE around, the Pats might revisit an old style, says Jeff Ratcliffe. Plus Rashad Jennings and some No. 3 WR talk.

| 11 months ago
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Fantasy 5: Martellus Bennett could offer sneaky value

Every weekday, the Fantasy 5 will take 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 preseason naysayers come out of the woodwork about this time every year. “The preseason doesn’t matter,” they say. But here’s the thing. It does matter … a lot. It matters for the roughly 40 guys fighting for the last three spots on the 53-man roster. It matters for the younger players trying to move up the depth chart. It matters for players who are trying to showcase their skills for the rest of the league in the event that they get cut.

There’s a lot of good football to watch even with the second- and third-stringers on the field. And that’s especially true for anyone in deep dynasty leagues. It’s a great opportunity to do some fantasy scouting. Playing a little preseason DFS certainly doesn’t hurt.

Here’s today’s Fantasy 5:

1. Don’t overlook Martellus Bennett.

Bringing up Aaron Hernandez is never ideal, but the disgraced former tight end played three seasons in the NFL. In those years, the Patriots relied heavily on 12 personnel. The results for fantasy purposes were impressive. In 2010, both Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski finished as TE1s in their rookie seasons. That’s no small feat. The following year was even more remarkable. Gronkowski ranked first among tight ends in fantasy scoring with Hernandez finishing third. It’s rare for a team to sustain one TE1, much less two.

However, since the Hernandez debacle, New England has moved away from 12 personnel. Last year, the Patriots used two-tight-end sets on 24.7 percent of their passing plays. In 2011, they deployed 12 personnel on a league-high 71.3 percent of passing snaps.

This shift was largely the result of not having a complimentary receiving tight end to go along with Gronkowski, but that changed in the offseason when the team signed veteran Bennett. With the Patriots’ relatively uninspiring receiver corps, the team is expected to shift back to more two-tight-end sets, with both Gronkowski and Bennett getting action at the goal line. Gronkowski and Julian Edelman figure to dominate the targets in New England, but Bennett is a sneaky bet to be third in the pecking order. While TE1 production may be a bit optimistic, Bennett has the potential to be a strong TE2 who would immediately vault into elite fantasy status if Gronkowski were to go down.

[Is it worth spending a late-round pick on Bennett? Take a spin with PFF’s new Draft Master tool to figure out the best approach, plus get recommendations on the players you should target in every round of your draft.]

2. Rashad Jennings the Giants’ clear No. 1

With camp underway in New York, the Giants’ running backs coach Craig Johnson made it clear that there isn’t going to be a three- or four-headed committee in the backfield. Rashad Jennings is the Gaints’ lead back. If only someone would have warned fantasy drafters about Jennings.

All tooting of horns aside, it was fairly clear Jennings would be in the driver’s seat based on the offseason reports. He was in the lead role last season, and put together a solid fantasy finish of 19th in standard leagues and 22nd in PPR. Yet, the drafting public doesn’t seem to want to believe in Jennings, as his ADP has barely moved over the last month. Jennings is currently the 37th running back being selected, which puts him at pick 8.07. In a year where wide receivers dry up very quickly in fantasy drafts, Jennings is a player to target in the middle rounds.

3. Pump the brakes on Jeff Janis.

Speculation on the Packers’ No. 3 wide receiver has been all over the place throughout the offseason. Green Bay gave some indication of which direction they’re leaning with the release of their first depth chart on Tuesday. No surprise, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are listed with the first-stringers. But the Janis truthers were dealt a blow, as the third-year man was listed with the third string behind Davante Adams, Jarred Abbrederis and rookie Trevor Davis.

With Adams continuing to improve, he now looks to be the clear favorite for the third wide receiver position. This is an important spot for fantasy potential, as the Packers ran 3-wide sets on a league-high 84.2 percent of their offensive plays last season. Adams isn’t a sexy name by any means, but he’s shaping up to be a solid late-round dart if his current ADP of the 61st wide receiver off the board remains steady through August. Janis is still a hold in dynasty leagues, but his 2016 redraft prospects are looking murky at best.

4. James Jones isn’t a fantasy option.

In the wake of Stevie Johnson’s torn meniscus, the Chargers signed veteran WR – and hoodie aficionado – James Jones. This will be Jones’ ninth season in the league. Last season with the Packers, Jones got off to a hot start. He scored six times in the first six weeks of the season, and ranked fifth among wide receivers in fantasy scoring over that span. Jones managed just two touchdowns and posted the 47th-most fantasy points at the position over the remainder of the year. (He’s one of eight wide receivers to finish top-50 each of the last five years.)

While Jones gives the Chargers some more stability at receiver, the 32-year-old figures to be far down the target pecking order. Despite having some name brand recognition among the fantasy public, these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Jones isn’t worth a fantasy roster spot in even the deepest of leagues.

5. Happy trails, Trent Richardson.

Flashback to a brisk Saturday evening in late April of 2012. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were just selected as the top two players in the NFL draft. With the third pick, the Cleveland Browns selected a can’t-miss running back out of Alabama, Trent Richardson.

Well, he did miss.

Richardson got off to a decent start with 950 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground in 2012, but it was all downhill from there. He played just two games in 2013 and then floundered for two seasons in Indy. Some dynasty owners held out hope that Richardson might catch on in Baltimore, but that won’t happen. The Ravens waived Richardson on Tuesday. There’s still a chance he catches on elsewhere, but it’s really looking like Richardson isn’t long for the NFL.

The Ravens have a crowded house at running back with Justin Forsett in the lead back role and Javorius Allen battling rookie Kenneth Dixon for passing-down duties. There’s also word out of Ravens camp that Terrance West has been the best player on the field so far in camp. The Baltimore running back depth chart is far from resolved, but Richardson is no longer in the picture.

| 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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