Now, just because it's the preseason doesn't mean there aren't fantasy implications. The Bills will unleash their first round draft pick, receiver Sammy Watkins, while the Giants have some wideout issues of their own and a backfield competition to iron out. To know how all of this will shape up for your fantasy team we've broken down the top four players to focus on this weekend. So sit back, relax and let the fantasy anxiety build. Here we go!
While we continue to preach that rookie receivers rarely have a major impact on fantasy football, Watkins' training camp antics are tough to ignore. He has stood out so far this summer from fellow first rounders like Mike Evans and Brandin Cooks as well as his own teammates. And in a Buffalo receiving corps that's lacking both talent and depth, the team needs their skilled young wideout to come through if they want to retain any chance of putting up points this fall. Look for Manuel to try the Giants secondary with Watkins on some deep routes early on in this initial test run.
Rueben Randle, WR, New York Giants: It's obvious that Victor Cruz is Big Blue's No. 1 pass catcher, so he's not likely to last past Round 2 of drafts but a big part of picking a winning fantasy team is finding value picks in later rounds. That's where Rueben Randle comes in. Randle has a current ADP of Round 15 in NFL fantasy drafts and he'll get first team reps in the Hall of Fame Game as the heavy favorite in New York opposite his salsa dancing counterpart. The 23-year-old has already seen "a lot of red-zone looks" in a Thursday practice session and according to NJ.com this is something "we should probably get used to seeing." Expect a good amount of balls to be thrown in Randle's direction to see how he does against some defenders that aren't his own teammates.
Randle proved himself worthy of an add last season as he scored more touchdowns than any other Giants receiver and put up more fantasy points than Cruz in six games. He hauled in approximately 33 percent of Manning's touchdown passes last season (six). As long as he performs well in the preseason, Randle is a lock for the No. 2 spot. His stock should rise dramatically by the start of the regular season if he puts together a productive preseason campaign.
"We will let this thing play out, but it will be some kind of combination with people involved", coach Tom Coughlin said on Thursday. "Certainly, Rashad is well-schooled in the protection schemes; he does a nice job at that. They will have plenty of opportunities in the preseason to show what they can do and where they fit." When Coughlin says "they" he means all the runners behind Jennings who now have a chance to step up in Wilson's potentially long-term absence.
Peyton Hillis was seen taking first team snaps this week suggesting that the plodding veteran may be first in line for touches behind Jennings. Also, versatile rookie Andre Williams has been working to improve his weak pass-catching skills using tennis balls, racquet balls, ping-pong balls, juggling and spending time with a sports psychiatrist to hone his focus. At 5-foot-11 and 230 lbs., it's not out of the question for the uniquely intellectual Williams to emerge as the team's No. 2 runner looking to scavenge some valuable goal-line work if he can plow to the front of the pack this preseason -- something fantasy enthusiasts need to keep a keen eye on.
Bryce Brown, RB, Buffalo Bills: It's no secret that a healthy C.J. Spiller is set to lead the Bills backfield and behind him is last year's top 10 fantasy running back Fred Jackson. While the 33-year-old vet just signed a one-year contract extension this week (you can bet Buffalo is planning to use him until the wheels fall off), the team has another legitimate runner to carve a role for -- third-year back Bryce Brown.
Spiller and Jackson are both injury prone and there's no guarantee that either of them will play all 16 games. This may have factored into the Bills' decision to acquire Brown in a trade this offseason from the Eagles. Brown only had 75 attempts last year as LeSean McCoy's backup and hasn't eclipsed the 200-carry mark yet in his two seasons, but has performed well when given an opportunity. There are durability questions here but the early word this summer is that the Bills are looking to eventually develop Brown into a lead back, which means the team thinks he's capable of a higher-volume workload.
Brown may not have much fantasy value in 2014, but if Spiller or Jackson have to miss any time he could see an uptick in chances especially if he can make the most of his preseason reps. It is possible that Buffalo incorporates him into a three-headed attack at some point but his value will be limited pending a preseason breakout.