NFL Preseason Week 1 Fantasy Takeaways
We finally had our first full slate of NFL action and it was great to see. Granted, it was preseason, but there were plenty of storylines. There were a lot of NFL debuts for much-ballyhooed rookies, and there were several quarterbacks who stepped onto the field for the first time in a competitive environment since 2016. Even though the preseason does not always accent the greatness of the game. There are plenty of things to look for and many positional battles to watch. Here are some of my takeaways from Preseason Week 1 of football.
Preseason Week 1 Fantasy Takeaways
Carolina 28, Buffalo 23
The highlight for me in this one came before the game when Cam Newton confronted Kelvin Benjamin over his recent comments and Benjamin wanted no part of it. On the field, D.J. Moore had a nice showing for himself with four catches and 75 yards. He is currently listed behind Torrey Smith on the depth chart and I am not crazy about him in Round 10, but he should have some decent weeks and provide depth at wide receiver.
All three Buffalo quarterbacks saw decent run on Friday, and the trio combined for 351 yards passing. Nathan Peterman got the start and looked good early. He led an impressive opening touchdown drive and completed his first nine passes. However, he threw an interception on his next drive and was done for the night. A.J. McCarron followed and led the Bills to two scoring drives. Rookie Josh Allen played the entire second half and showed flashes, finishing with 116 yards and a touchdown. He took some reps with the first-team offense in Friday’s practice and may see more action as the preseason unfolds, but he remains a backup for now. I see no need to draft any Bills’ quarterback outside of two-QB leagues.
Cincinnati 30, Chicago 27
Chicago again went primarily with backups in this game, as they did when they opened the preseason slate during the Hall of Fame game last week. Running back Ryan Nall popped a 69-yard run down the right sideline, but he and Taquan Mizzell will have a tough time making the 53-man roster. Wide receivers Anthony Miller and Kevin White combined for -1 yard receiving on four targets.
Joe Mixon lined up wide on Cincinnati’s first possession, caught a five-yard hitch, then flashed his playmaking ability in the open field en route to a 24-yard touchdown. If Mixon is more involved in the passing game, he could vault himself into RB1 territory this season. Wideout John Ross struggled, catching 1-of-5 passes for 20 yards. But he should get plenty of chances to start opposite A.J. Green following the release of Brandon LaFell. Marvin Lewis felt compelled to run a fake punt in the second quarter of the Bengals’ first preseason game. Two more years, folks.
Tampa Bay 26, Dolphins 24
Quarterback Jameis Winston completed 11 of 13 passes for 102 yards. Set to serve a three-game suspension when the season begins, Winston could be a nice value toward the end of drafts. He is currently being drafted in the 14th round. Peyton Barber’s ADP is almost identical to Winston’s despite being ahead of rookie Ronald Jones on the depth chart. The belief is that Jones will win the job soon, but that is not a certainty. Barber ran with the 1’s on Friday and had four carries for 21 yards and a touchdown. Jones, meanwhile, had just nine yards on eight carries, though he did score a short touchdown.
Ryan Tannehill saw his first live-game action since 2016 and looked good early. Miami will need a healthy Tannehill this season because the rest of their quarterbacks are not good at football. Rookie running back Kalen Ballage racked up 60 total yards on 13 touches as he looks to secure his role behind current co-starters Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore. However, he was kicked out of the huddle by Tannehill during Sunday’s practice, which may put a damper on his preseason debut. Senorise Perry impressed during a second-quarter drive which ended in a 7-yard score, but he will still have a tough time making the final roster.
Cleveland 20, New York Giants 10
The marquee matchup of Preseason Week 1 saw the first two picks of the 2018 NFL Draft in action, and they did not disappoint. Baker Mayfield completed 11 of 20 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns for the Browns and showed good poise and command of the offense. Mayfield’s second touchdown came on a 54-yard catch and run to Antonio Callaway. Callaway made a couple of very nice plays but once again his off-field issues have made headlines. Tight end David Njoku made headlines with two touchdown catches. That effort will likely boost his draft stock, where he is currently a fringe TE1 pick. Somewhat lost in this game was the fact that Tyrod Taylor was a perfect 5-for-5 for 99 yards and a score on the night. Taylor continues to be drafted behind Mayfield and Lamar Jackson. You can do much worse than Tyrod Taylor in 2QB leagues for as long as he can hold Mayfield off.
After the first play the Giants ran from scrimmage, Blair Buswell immediately went to work on Saquon Barkley’s NFL Hall of Fame bust. I’m looking forward to the finished product. Seriously though, Barkley is a stud and a very worthy first-round fantasy pick. He flashed his nearly unmatched athleticism on the aforementioned 39-yard scamper and gave Giants’ fans a taste of what he can do in this offense. Odell Beckham sat this one out but will likely make his 2018 preseason debut this week.
Pittsburgh 31, Philadelphia 14
None of Pittsburgh’s “Killer B’s” were in action Friday, but Juju Smith-Schuster started his sophomore season in style with a 71-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. He is a popular WR2 pick in fantasy leagues. Oklahoma Sooners turned Pittsburgh Steelers Mason Rudolph and James Washington hooked up on a 35-yard strike in the third quarter. Washington is a decent dart throw late in Best Score leagues as his 16th round ADP.
The Eagles will rest Carson Wentz during the preseason as he recovers from a torn ACL. Nick Foles did not play in this game either. The running back situation feels a bit murky to me, but investors are still believing in Jay Ajayi. He is currently going in the fourth round, with Corey Clement going next in Round 12. Rookie tight end Dallas Goedert caught a touchdown and could see more opportunities than most backups. Still, he is not a weekly option barring an injury to Zach Ertz.
New Orleans 24, Jacksonville 20
Saints running back Jonathan Williams had 26 yards and a touchdown on four carries as he tries to wrestle third-string reps away from Terrance West. With Mark Ingram set to serve a four-game ban to start the year, this will be an interesting preseason battle to watch for those in deeper leagues.
Jacksonville’s wide receiver situation is quite muddled and Friday did little to clarify it. Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook are all being drafted outside the top-50 in standard leagues. Westbrook led the group with five targets on Friday. This seems like a situation where it could be a different guy each week who has a big game with no one really standing out over the long haul.
New England 26, Washington 17
The biggest news of the weekend came when rookie running back Darrius Guice was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Guice had been the favorite to lead Washington’s rushing attack in 2018. Unless they bring in a veteran, they will likely roll with the uninspiring duo of Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley moving forward. Chris Thompson should get all the receiving work he can handle as he himself recovers from a broken leg. Thompson is currently being drafted in Round 10 and Perine is going in Round 17. Both ADPs will rise as the preseason continues.
Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee each saw double-digit carries as they fight for Work behind Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel. Hill looked the part on Friday night, finishing with 65 total yards and a score. Hill may have grabbed the lead in that competition as he worked primarily with the first unit in Sunday’s practice.
Baltimore 33, Los Angeles Rams 7
The Rams rested most of their starters in the preseason opener so there is little to report. John Kelly managed 91 total yards on 15 touches for Los Angeles as the sixth-round rookie tries to earn a spot on the roster.
Lamar Jackson showed his running ability with a nine-yard touchdown run but failed to impress as a passer for a second straight week. He’s not the worst flier at the end in best-ball drafts due to his rushing potential but I don’t think we will see much of him in 2018. Gus Edwards has had 58 yards from scrimmage in back-to-back weeks as he tries to edge Kenneth Dixon for third-string running back duty in Baltimore.
Green Bay 31, Tennessee 17
Marcus Mariota led Tennessee to an opening-drive touchdown, but other than that there was not a whole lot going on. Derrick Henry got the first carry of the night, but Dion Lewis saw action on the first drive as well. Both are being drafted in the first six rounds of drafts and should lead a revamped Tennessee offense this season.
Green Bay’s trio of quarterbacks combined for a whopping 372 passing yards in this game. The star of the preseason opener for the Packers was rookie fifth-round Draft pick Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The playmaker out of South Florida caught five of seven targets for 101 yards and a touchdown. Fellow rookie Equanimeous St. Brown had 61 yards on four catches. Both figure to compete for scraps behind Davante Adams and Randall Cobb.
Houston 17, Kansas City 10
Deshaun Watson made his 2018 debut and completed his lone pass for four yards. Lamar Miller looks a step quicker this preseason and appears to be a solid RB2 option. Alfred Blue figures to back up Miller early in the year but totaled just 14 yards on eight carries.
Patrick Mahomes completed five of seven throws for 33 yards before giving way to the Chiefs’ backups. Both dynamic dual-threat signal callers are on pace to make their first Opening Day starts on September 9.
San Francisco 24, Dallas 21
Dak Prescott found rookie Michael Gallup for a 30-yard score on the quarterback’s only drive of the night. Dallas’ wide receiver situation is similar to Jacksonville’s. No current wideout is being drafted among the top-40, but it is possible that Gallup’s draft stock improves as the preseason goes on. Bo Scarbrough and Rod Smith shared the bulk of the backfield work. Smith is Ezekiel Elliott’s primary handcuff at the moment.
49ers’ fans have been holding their collective breath since Friday’s contest. Backup running back Matt Breida and starting tight end George Kittle both suffered separated shoulders which will likely cost them the remainder of the preseason. To make matters worse, starting running back Jerick McKinnon suffered a knee injury in practice on Sunday, though an initial MRI showed only a muscle strain. Hopefully, these injuries don’t bleed into the regular season and the team can function at full strength.
Colts 19, Seahawks 17
Andrew Luck finally returned to game action and looked good, completing six of nine passes for 64 yards. Luck is being drafted in Round 10 as a back-end QB1, but I expect his ADP to continue to rise as the preseason progresses. The enthusiasm surrounding Luck was tempered just a bit, however, when rookie wide receiver Deon Cain was lost for the year with a torn ACL. The Colts’ running game has the look of a committee with no true workhorse. Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, and Jordan Wilkins combined for just 37 yards on 13 rushes on Friday. Robert Turbin was the team’s best back on Friday, but is facing a suspension and is not likely to make much of an impact.
Chris Carson continues to look like Seattle’s best running back. The situation is similar to Tampa Bay, where the running backs are currently being drafted based on what is expected to happen and not what has happened thus far. In both cases, it is being largely assumed that each team’s rookie will overtake his counterpart but that is no guarantee. Carson is going in the 13th round while rookie Rashaad Penny is still being drafted in Round 4.
New York Jets 17, Atlanta 0
There really wasn’t much to speak of from Atlanta in this game as they benched many of their starters. Undrafted rookie wideout Devin Gray led the Falcons with 83 receiving yards on an otherwise uneventful evening. First-round draft pick Calvin Ridley caught his lone target for -2 yards.
Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold entered the game in the first half and was impressive, throwing for 96 yards and a touchdown. Lost in the fervor was the return of Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater arguably looked even better, completing seven of eight passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. The former Viking could be the odd man out when the regular season begins. If Darnold does not win the job, New York will likely turn to current starter Josh McCown. It’s a situation to avoid in redraft leagues.
Oakland 16, Detroit 10
Kerryon Johnson made a case for himself to be Detroit’s starting running back in his NFL debut on Saturday night. The rookie had 34 rushing yards and 33 receiving yards as he looks to separate himself from the pack. He also had a 57-yard run negated by a penalty. I expect Johnson’s ninth-round ADP to rise following his impressive debut.
Derek Carr attempted just four passes before giving way to the reserves. Running back Chris Warren III led Oakland with 86 rushing yards on just 13 carries but is unlikely to make it through preseason cuts. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington had 48 and 38 yards from scrimmage, respectively.
Minnesota 42, Denver 28
Kirk Cousins made his Minnesota debut and completed all four of his attempts for 42 yards and a touchdown pass. Running back Dalvin Cook sat out, and Roc Thomas shined in his absence as he tries to earn a role as the Vikings’ third-team running back. Thomas only had 29 rushing yards but added 109 receiving yards and two touchdown catches from former Bronco Trevor Siemian.
Former Viking and New Denver starting quarterback Case Keenum had just five passing yards in this one, but rookie running back Royce Freeman showed why general manager John Elway was so high on him. The third-round pick out of Oregon ran for a 23-yard score in the second quarter, which may elevate him in his battle with Devontae Booker for the lead back role. This will be a battle to watch as the preseason continues.
Arizona 24, Los Angeles Chargers 17
Austin Ekeler led Los Angeles with 22 rushing yards and added 42 receiving yards as well. He looks to be secure as Melvin Gordon’s primary backup. Mike Williams is trying to put an injury-riddled rookie year behind him and use the preseason to win the starting receiver gig opposite Keenan Allen. He didn’t do much on Saturday, finishing with just two catches and 18 yards. Still, he and Tyrell Williams are solid values and can be had after Pick 150 in standard drafts.
David Johnson was on the field for the first time since Week 1 of 2017 and he looked great. He carried the ball just twice but each went for 14 yards. A healthy Johnson is a top-five fantasy player with a legitimate chance at overall RB1 status. Chase Edmonds ran for a score and makes for an interesting handcuff at the end of drafts. Rookie Christian Kirk caught two passes for nine yards and is expected to start alongside Larry Fitzgerald.
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