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Fantasy players who benefited from NFL roster cuts

The release of Tim Hightower by the San Francisco 49ers makes Matt Breida an interesting handcuff for Carlos Hyde. Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire

It's the NFL's annual cut day, as teams must pare their rosters from 90 to 53 players, meaning more than 1,000 players are being sent to free agency by 4 p.m. ET on Saturday -- although many of these will subsequently be re-signed to their respective teams' practice squads. Rarely do these transactions carry a fantasy impact upon the higher rankings tiers, but sometimes these tough decisions do have a ripple effect upon rosters, often shaking things up in the later rounds of drafts or in deeper leagues (12 or more teams).

Here's a look at the fantasy impact of these Friday and Saturday moves; be sure to check back here throughout the day for further updates as news breaks.

Indianapolis Colts acquire QB Jacoby Brissett from New England Patriots in exchange for WR Phillip Dorsett

We start with a trade, but it was one of the more significant moves of cut-down day, with both teams bolstering their depth at positions where injuries have struck their lineups -- the Colts' Andrew Luck, who is likely to miss Week 1 and potentially additional time, and the Patriots' Julian Edelman, who is out for the season. Brissett won't be ready to step in ahead of Scott Tolzien at quarterback by Week 1, but he's an upgrade as Luck's long-term primary backup, making him one of the more interesting names to watch as the season progresses. Dorsett, a bust to this point in his NFL career, gives the Patriots another big-play element in their offense, and his arrival could signal that the team is preparing to utilize Chris Hogan in more creative ways in Edelman's absence. Neither move should significantly impact your draft-day plans, but there's a considerably larger chance that Brissett could contribute to a fantasy team on a matchups basis during the season than Tolzien, and Dorsett's departure locks Chester Rogers into the Colts' No. 3 wide receiver role. In super-deep leagues -- think dynasty or 14-plus-teamers -- either could play a part.

Washington Redskins release RB Matt Jones

It's unsurprising, as Jones had sunk deep on the team's depth chart by midseason 2016, primarily due to his fumbling issues (eight total in two seasons, six lost). Nevertheless, he was an effective runner in his seven starts, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, and could be a handy pickup for another running back-needy team, such as the Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs or Baltimore Ravens. Jones' departure doesn't really impact the Redskins' other running backs from a fantasy standpoint -- it was clear he'd be a minimal or non-factor -- but he could sneak into the "late-round gamble" draft-day tier if he lands in the right situation. The Chiefs seem like an obvious destination to me and would immediately thrust Jones into the viable handcuff tier in 12-team leagues if it happens.

Arizona Cardinals release RB Chris Johnson

This move cements Kerwynn Williams' status as the team's primary backup to David Johnson. It's a role that's not fantasy-relevant in a standard league context, and passing-down back Andre Ellington would likely partner with Williams in the event of catastrophic injury to Johnson, but any primary backup warrants mention, especially a backup to one of the game's best. Williams has never started an NFL game and has managed double-digit carries only four times, but he has averaged 5.6 yards per carry and 0.72 fantasy points per touch in his four-year career.

Pittsburgh Steelers release RBs Knile Davis and Fitzgerald Toussaint

James Conner is set to begin the season as Le'Veon Bell's backup, despite the third-rounder missing some preseason time with a shoulder injury, then running behind Toussaint and Davis, respectively, in his two preseason appearances. Conner was always the most fantasy-relevant of Bell's potential handcuffs, however, and now he has the role to hammer that pick home. Conner is more of a 12-team than 10-team late-rounder, likely to be touchdown-dependent if pressed into starting duty. Also note: Terrell Watson rode a 4.7 yards-per-carry average to winning the No. 3 spot on the depth chart, making him a player to watch in the season's early weeks.

Dallas Cowboys release RB Ronnie Hillman

He was buried on the depth chart, but the move could signal the team's confidence that Ezekiel Elliott will be available for Week 1, and perhaps could have his six-game suspension shortened or eliminated on appeal, as it depletes the team's depth in the event Elliott is absent. In addition, Alfred Morris, widely rumored in trade buzz throughout the offseason, made the team. He's unlikely to cut significantly into Darren McFadden's carries but could steal a handful from McFadden in a change-of-pace role.

San Francisco 49ers release RB Tim Hightower; RB Joe Williams expected to be placed on IR

This locks undrafted free agent Matt Breida into to the primary backup role behind one of the most injury-prone starting running backs in the game in Carlos Hyde. Breida's 4.37 40 time at his pro day and position-best SPARQ score among this year's class make him an intriguing sleeper, and a near-mandatory handcuff in any league larger than 10-team standard. He hasn't had the fumbling issues that Williams has had this preseason, and he has a higher ceiling than Raheem Mostert, though it remains to be seen whether the 49ers could now be active on the waiver wire -- Matt Jones, anyone?

San Francisco 49ers release QB Matt Barkley

Rookie C.J. Beathard played ahead of Barkley in both the second and third preseason games, making it clear he had already captured the primary backup role to Brian Hoyer, one that could result in a handful of starts this season. Though coach Kyle Shanahan has had good things to say about Beathard, his 56.5 percent completion rate and 6.4 yards-per-attempt average as a senior with Iowa are concerns. The move was a vote of confidence in the rookie, but Beathard would need to prove his worth to fantasy owners with multiple good starts before he could be considered a pickup.

Chicago Bears release WR Victor Cruz

Remember when Cruz was the No. 3 scorer at his position in fantasy in 2011? He hasn't been anywhere near the same receiver since he tore his patella tendon in his right knee in the Giants' 2014 Week 6 game, and that he couldn't make a Bears team that just lost Cameron Meredith for the season to a knee injury and that has Kevin White, who has been limited by injury to four games in two NFL seasons, atop its receiver depth chart speaks volumes about how far Cruz's star has fallen. It's a vote of confidence for White, perhaps, although the 2015 first-rounder didn't show much in the preseason to suggest he warrants your fantasy starts yet.

Cleveland Browns release QB Brock Osweiler

Who didn't see that one coming? DeShone Kizer had already been named the Browns' starting quarterback, and this merely cements that status. Though he lacks the kind of receivers he'd need for a significant breakthrough, Kizer's mobility grants him a higher statistical floor than a typical rookie quarterback. He warrants your consideration in 12-plus-team and two-quarterback leagues when the matchup calls.

... Denver Broncos sign Brock Osweiler

Though that doesn't make Osweiler fantasy-relevant, it's a signal that the Broncos expect that Paxton Lynch's timetable for recovery from his shoulder injury is closer to the long end of the 2-4 week forecast. Trevor Siemian is locked in as the team's starter.

Detroit Lions release RB Matt Asiata

Though hardly unexpected, Asiata's departure takes a competitor for goal-line carries out of the equation, another small positive in a preseason of positives for starter Ameer Abdullah. Zach Zenner probably factors as the Lions' go-to running back in short-yardage situations, making him a potential goal-line vulture, but he doesn't bring anywhere near the track record of Asiata, who was fifth in goal-line carries in 2016 (15) and punched five of them in for scores. Zenner also has an injury history, giving Abdullah a decent chance at carving out a decent share of the goal-line work.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers release RBs Jeremy McNichols and Russell Hansbrough

Coming off post-combine shoulder surgery, McNichols had an entirely forgettable preseason for the Buccaneers, totaling 79 yards on 24 carries (3.3 average) and offering little in the passing game, either offensively or as a blocker. The moves lock Jacquizz Rodgers into first- and second-down touches and Charles Sims as the third-down back during Doug Martin's three-game absence to start the season, and it also locks Peyton Barber into the No. 3 spot on the depth chart. Sims is the interesting name here, going far too late in drafts (196th in ADP, 154.7, available in 88 percent of ESPN leagues) but assured of a healthy number of touches initially.

Seattle Seahawks release RB Alex Collins

Chris Carson had clearly passed Collins on the depth chart this preseason, a significant development, considering the injury histories of the three players now ahead of him (Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise). Carson could sneak in fill-in starts at some point, if he can show similar performance to his preseason, during which he averaged 5.9 yards per touch with two touchdowns. He's well worth a late-round look if you haven't drafted yet.

Carolina Panthers release QBs Garrett Gilbert and Joe Webb

Webb's function was more on special teams, but the release of these two gives the Panthers just two quarterbacks on their roster (Cam Newton and Derek Anderson). It's a sign that the team fully trusts the health of Newton's shoulder, despite the fact that the veteran signal-caller threw just two passes all preseason.

Denver Broncos release DB T.J. Ward

It's a cost-cutting measure for the defensively sound Broncos, opening up $4.5 million in cap space, but in IDP terms, Ward was a top-10 defensive back (probably regardless of any custom scoring system you used) in 2016 despite losing a step since his 2013-15 Pro Bowl run. He'll surely latch on elsewhere, but it's as good a signal as any that his IDP value is on the decline.

49ers released WR Jeremy Kerley

Seemingly ticketed for slot-receiver duty with the 49ers, Kerley was apparently less preferable than fifth-rounder Trent Taylor, who caught six passes for 69 yards in the preseason. The move also paved the way for undrafted free agent Victor Bolden Jr to make the roster, primarily as a special teamer. Though Taylor could develop into a viable matchups play if he quickly shows regular-season chemistry with Brian Hoyer, Kerley's departure provides more evidence that Pierre Garcon should dominate targets on the 2017 49ers.

Cuts settle kicker competitions

Several kicker positions were up for grabs during the preseason, with winners' announcements coming fast and furiously of late.

Novak was the No. 8 kicker in fantasy points in 2016, so his is the most unexpected development of the bunch. While fantasy owners often chase teams/offenses when selecting their kickers, Fairbairn isn't a natural slide-in winner from a rankings perspective, as he has a mere 4-for-5 (80 percent) preseason field goal kicking sample, and his college track record of accuracy was based more upon shorter-range kicks -- he had a streak of 41 consecutive conversions within 35 yards.

Lambo isn't far behind, having finished 17th and 18th among kickers in fantasy points in his two NFL seasons. The Chargers felt they could do better with Koo, probably basing the decision in part on Lambo's eight missed extra-points in those two years, and don't overlook that they scored the ninth-most total points in 2016, meaning plenty of chances for their placekicker. Koo isn't a draftable commodity yet in standard leagues, but he's a top-20 kicker who could be a viable bye-week pickup at least.

Rosas and Bullock are the interesting names from this group, as the kickers for teams that could improve significantly on offense from 2016. Keep in mind, however, that the Bengals finished 24th in total points and the Giants 26th last season, with their placekickers combining for the 18th- and 25th-most fantasy points among the 32 NFL teams, meaning that neither is a recommended choice just yet.

Neither Folk, Gonzalez, nor Catanzaro nor Barth is a recommended fantasy option, but kicker tends to be a variable position week to week in our game, and knowledge of the identity of all 32 placekickers at any given time can prove useful.