Fantasy 5: Sterling Shepard continues to look strong

The NYG rookie has impressed and should rise in drafts, says Jeff Ratcliffe. Plus, Tyler Eifert's injury and Thomas Rawls' return.

| 3 months ago
(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Fantasy 5: Sterling Shepard continues to look strong

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.

Winter is coming. This weekend we have real football action, as the Colts and Packers square off in the Hall of Fame game. While the starters won’t play much at all, we’re going to likely get a long look at the second- and third-stringers. I’ll be keeping my eye on Colts RB Josh Ferguson, Colts WR Quan Bray, Packers WR Trevor Davis and Packers RB John Crockett.

But before the football starts, here’s five things to know from the last 24 hours:

1. The fantasy momentum continues to build for Sterling Shepard.

The PFF Training Camp Tour stopped by Giants camp this week, and our guys got a first-hand look at rookie WR Sterling Shepard. He didn’t disappoint. Our analysts noted that Shepard has already built a strong rapport with Eli Manning. Their observations followed suit with the general buzz that has surrounded Shepard since the Giants selected him in the second round of April’s draft. Shepard has reportedly made play after play in camp and appears to be locked in as a big part of the offense.

Fantasy drafters certainly aren’t ignoring Shepard, as the former Oklahoma Sooner is currently going 39th among wide receivers in ADP. That’s a great spot to value him right now as essentially a front-end WR4 or fringe WR3. However, drafters appear to be holding out hope for Victor Cruz, as the veteran’s ADP is holding steady in the 12th round as the 53rd receiver off the board. Entering his age-30 season, Cruz has missed the Giants’ last 26 games and still lacks the speed and explosion he had before the injuries. Cruz is a candidate to be significantly overdrafted even at his modest price.

2. Corey Coleman is a touchdown machine?

With Josh Gordon set to return in Week 5, Coleman’s redraft fantasy stock took a slight hit. However, Browns associate head coach Pep Hamilton was quick to point out that Coleman “can score the ball.” Awkward phrasing aside, Hamilton is stating a bit of the obvious here. Coleman racked up 20 scores at Baylor last season, displaying the explosive ability that ultimately made him the first wide receiver taken in April’s draft.

While Gordon’s presence and the Browns’ shaky quarterback situation don’t bode particular well for Coleman, he still figures to be the clear No. 2 wide receiver in this offense. The target volume might not be ideal – especially with Gary Barnidge and Duke Johnson also seeing big chunks of the targets – but Coleman’s big play ability has the potential to lead to some big fantasy weeks. The problem is that this season could be a bit of a roller coaster ride for fantasy owners. Keep that in mind when considering Coleman on draft day. He’s certainly capable of being a WR3, but consistency may not be there on a week to week basis.

3. Tyler Eifert all but guaranteed to miss the start of the regular season.

One of last season’s biggest fantasy breakouts, Eifert led all tight ends with 13 touchdowns and finished sixth at the position in fantasy scoring. His performance led to a Pro Bowl nod, where the former first-rounder injured his ankle. While it was initially thought to be minor, the injury required surgery and there have been rumblings that Eifert’s timetable could stretch into the start of the season. These sentiments were echoed yesterday on the Bengals’ team site with Geoff Hobson saying Eifert “isn’t expected back until early in the regular season.”

At this point, those drafting Eifert should fully expect to be without him for at least the opener, and perhaps longer. Current ADP has Eifert going at the tail end of the sixth round as the fifth tight end off the board. While replacement production should certainly be factored into Eifert’s draft value, that’s just too early to take a player with his murky outlook. Given the current news, fantasy drafters would be wise to pass on Eifert at his current ADP. He’s better viewed as a ninth-round pick.

[It looks like Eifert is going to be overdrafted, so which tight end should you look for instead? 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.]

4. Thomas Rawls returning?

The young running back has been laid up with an ankle injury since Week 14, but it appears a return to the field could be coming for Rawls. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said Rawls is “getting really close” to coming off the active/PUP list. The Seahawks have remained vague regarding Rawls’ timetable throughout the offseason.

With Rawls out and rookie C.J. Prosise dealing with a hamstring injury, the Seahawks have given all of the running back work to Christine Michael, Alex Collins and Zac Brooks so far in camp. Prosise is expected to be the passing-down back, but if he remains out Brooks could be in the mix for those duties. As for Rawls, he figures to be the early-down workhorse, a role in which he excelled last season. Rawls is currently the 13th running back in ADP. Expect that number to creep up after he’s activated. Rawls has very real RB1 potential in the Seahawks’ run-heavy offense.

5. Know the name: Tyler Higbee

A fourth-round selection out of Western Kentucky, Higbee has been getting work with the Rams’ first-team offense and “has shown an ability to get open” so far in camp. Higbee is arguably the best receiving tight end prospect in this year’s class, but his draft stock fell following an off-field incident in April when he was arrested after an altercation at a Kentucky bar on suspicion of second-degree assault, public intoxication and evading police.

The Rams are a very young team on the offensive side of the ball with a rookie likely to be under center in Jared Goff, and first-year receivers in the mix to contribute. Higbee also has the potential to see significant snaps with Jared Cook now in Green Bay and Lance Kendricks the incumbent starter. While it’s rare for rookie tight ends to surface on the fantasy radar, Higbee is a player to keep an eye on. He isn’t worth a redraft pick, but it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if Higbee ends up being a waiver wire add during the course of the season.

| Director of Fantasy

Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is one of the most accurate rankers 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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