The 2014 NFL season doesn’t officially get going for another month, but it does technically start in game format on Sunday night. The 2014 Hall of Fame game has the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills butting heads in the league’s first live game of the year, as fans of pro football get to see real NFL football for the first time since last year’s Super Bowl.
Neither team is expected to keep their starters on the field for long, while it’s likely several key names from both sides simply won’t take the field at all. While reports aren’t fully out on who will or won’t be playing tonight, it is still going to be interesting to see several players – even if it’s only for a handful of snaps.
With your fantasy football draft in mind, let’s quickly break down 10 players from tonight’s game that you’ll want to catch in action that could have some fantasy implications:
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
Manning paced the league with 27 interceptions and looked absolutely lost at times in 2013. A lot of that had to do with a shaky pass protection, no running game and a disconnect with his receivers. However, Manning seemed to regress a bit, so he has a lot of work ahead of him to quell fears that he’s nearing the end. He might not hit the field at all tonight, but if he does it will be worth noting how he looks against a solid Buffalo front line.
Ryan Nassib, QB, New York Giants
Nassib has reportedly looked like a “train wreck” at times in practice, but the current #2 guy behind Manning has a lot to gain if he can show up during preseason play. Holding down to that #2 gig is key, but with a strong preseason, Nassib could also prove to the Giants brass that he’s a long-term option if Manning indeed is regressing. It doesn’t sound like he’s close to making that happen, but he should get ample opportunity to prove otherwise tonight.
E.J. Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills
Manuel had a very up and down first season in 2013, but flashed enough potential to be Buffalo’s long-term answer thanks to nice athleticism and a lively arm. He won’t prove he’s the guy all in one short-lived series or even a handful, but coming out with a strong drive or two would be a great start. Manuel isn’t anything more than a late-round flier QB2 in fantasy leagues, but it’s important to monitor him due to his immense upside.
Andre Williams, RB, New York Giants
With David Wilson (neck) possibly done with the Giants, the rookie is suddenly looking at a fairly big role out of the gates. So far there really have only been whispers about him having a goal-line role, thanks to shoddy pass protection and hands of stone in the passing game. Williams could knock down those rumors with a strong showing on Sunday night, though, as he should see plenty of action after Rashad Jennings bows out for the night.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills
Easily the highlight of the Hall of Fame game this year, everyone is going to want to see what the explosive Sammy Watkins does once the ball hits his hands on Sunday night. He’ll likely run with the starters and play limited snaps either way, but we should be in for a couple sightings. Buffalo could use him as a receiver, runner and/or return man. It’s exactly how he’s used that is the exciting part for fantasy owners, as everyone will be wanting to see if his game translates enough right away for him to make plays beyond seeing manufactured touches. He’ll start the year out as a solid WR3, but he has serious WR2 upside.
Rueben Randle, WR, New York Giants
Hakeem Nicks is out the door and rookie receiver Odell Beckham (who will sit Sunday’s game out) isn’t healthy, so it looks like Randle should locked down the #2 gig across from Victor Cruz. We won’t get a long look, but hopefully we can get to see more of the connection between him and Eli Manning. He’s probably only a WR3 in fantasy football leagues to get 2014 going, but he has legit WR2 upside if he can continue to develop and cut back mental mistakes.
Jerrel Jernigan, WR, New York Giants
Jernigan ended 2013 on a torrid streak, so he might not be all that far behind the inconsistent Randle. He doesn’t have the size or physicality the Giants like at that spot, though, so he’ll likely have to try to make an impact out of the slot or on special teams. If he picks up where he left off and impresses, though, he should at least make the final roster and keep the door open for another surge like we saw last year.
Adrien Robinson, TE, New York Giants
The Giants still don’t have a tight end worth drafting in fantasy football right now. Robinson was thought to be the best bet, thanks to a nice size/athleticism combination. He has failed to impress and has a checkered injury history, though, so who wins is a true toss-up. He’s the most exciting talent they have at the position, though, so fantasy owners will want to check in to see if he can close the gap at all.
Nigel Bradham, ILB, Buffalo Bills
The clear cut favorite to start in place of the injured Kiko Alonso (ACL), Bradham is a key player to watch if you’re thinking about nabbing him in IDP leagues or if you like the Buffalo Bills as a sleeper defense, in general. He’s a solid talent, but has been fairly inconsistent to this point in his career. It will be interesting to see how he handles all the responsibilities of the inside linebacker in Buffalo’s 4-3 system.
Damontre Moore, DE, New York Giants
Moore isn’t anywhere close to seeing starter snaps, but coming out of Texas A&M he was a talented pass-rusher with loads of upside. Moore might not even be a full go tonight thanks to a nagging shoulder issue, but if he plays he’ll be worth monitoring. New York loves rotating their defensive ends and keeping a fresh, lively pass rush. Moore can already get after the quarterback, but proving he can also effectively stop the run will go a long way in helping him earn a spot in the rotation. He’s not really worth tracking for IDP reasons just yet, but if he shows well it makes the G-Men’s team defense look that much stronger.
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