Sure, many teams rested their starters, but it was great to see
actual football being played this past weekend for the first time
in six months. Rookies got a chance to show their skills and initial
impressions were made. Everything gleaned from the preseason should
be tempered, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give it its proper due.
So, here we go with the highlights from pre-season Week 1…
1. Back To Square One in Washington
Washington’s backfield was not a place owners went looking for
solutions to problmes - aside from some early-season magic from
Thompson. The drafting of Derrius
Guice was supposed to change all of that and Guice was steadily
rising to 3rd round status in early fantasy football drafts. Then,
in a moment’s time, it was back to a committee of Thompson, Samaje
Perine, and Rob
Kelley. Perhaps the loss of Guice (ACL) bumps Thompson’s value
up a bit, but the ‘Skins will no doubt be careful not to over-use
him this year. Bottom line: The quality RB pool just got a little
more shallow as neither Perine or Kelley project as anything more
than RB4s for fantasy purposes. Here’s hoping Guice makes a full
Rookie RB Kerryon Johnson may have turned
a few heads in his pre-season debut for the Lions.
2. Rookie Running Backs Look Like an
How did the rookies look? And, more specifically the rookie running
backs as they make the largest impact of any skill position in
their debut years. This crop looks like it has tremendous potential
in spite of the loss of Guice. Saquon
Barkley broke off a 39-yard run in his first-ever game action
as a Giant. Kerryon
Johnson (DET) looked explosive netting 67 yards on 11 touches.
And, he had a run of over 50 yards called back due to a penalty.
Freeman (DEN) looked like a powerful running back averaging
nearly 10 yards a carry (4-38) and scoring on a 23-yard TD run.
Barkley is probably the back to own beyond the “big five” (Gurley,
Bell, Elliott, Johnson, Kamara) with Freeman and Johnson’s stock
3. Spotlight on Mixon and Miller
A couple of running backs to target in drafts are Joe
Mixon and Lamar
Miller based on initial game action from this past weekend.
Mixon took a 24-yard screen pass for the Bengals’ opening TD and
appears poised for 300 touches in an offense that needs playmakers
to take the pressure off of A.J.
Green. Meanwhile, Lamar Miller has slimmed down and posted
a nice 19-yard run versus the Chiefs. Nineteen yards may seem
like no big deal, but it was longer than any run Miller had last
season. A lighter Miller combined with a slow recovery from D’Onta
Foreman suggests Miller is going to be a solid value in the 4th
round of fantasy drafts…while Mixon’s touch volume is bumping
him into the second. Keep an eye on both.
4. Don’t Sleep on Rookie Wide Receivers
Sometimes we get so enamored with rookie running backs that we
fail to note when a rookie WR appears to be poised to make an
immediate impact. With that in mind, look no further than Carolina
and Dallas for a couple of performances this weekend that opened
some eyes. Neither the Panthers nor the Cowboys have a true No.1
WR, so D.J.
Moore and Michael
Gallup have no jumps to hurdle in order to take that mantle
and make it their own. Both guys caught touchdowns this weekend;
in Moore’s case, he also caught three other passes for 75 yards.
Gallup only caught one pass, but it was a 30-yard TD strike from
Prescott in the first quarter against first-string defenders.
If you are trying to decide between Moore/Gallup and DeSean
Nelson late in drafts, might I recommend the upside of Moore,
5. Sometimes Two Carries Contain Plenty
While a couple of totes may be a small sample size, it was nice
to see David
Johnson back to being…well, David Johnson. Johnson’s first
carry went for 14 yards and his next carry went for 14 yards again.
Big deal? Yeah, kind of. Johnson is every bit the explosive back
that Gurley, Bell, and Elliott are and it’s important to remember
that in PPR leagues, as he may be the second best back of them
all given his receptions (80) in 2016. Unlike leg/foot/knee injuries,
Johnson’s ailment from last year did nothing to change his long-range
outlook. This weekend was just a glimpse into his potential for
2018, but it was a good glimpse just the same.
6. So, The Bills Can Throw the Ball?
There are few teams considered worse in passing game than the
Buffalo Bills. And yet, the three-headed puzzle that is McCarron/Peterman/Allen
combined for 351 yards passing vs. the Panthers including a whopping
seven passes of 20 yards or more. While it may not be time to
start putting the Bills on the front burner of your fantasy plans,
it’s also worth noting that they do appear to be a team that wants
to get the ball downfield. It was clearly a concerted effort on
their part to do that last Thursday. None of the quarterbacks
are worth drafting at this time, but if the team keeps chucking
it downfield heading into Week 1 of the regular season, Kelvin
Benjamin may end up as one of the steals of your draft. The
offensive line took some heavy blows in the offseason and the
result may be the team is forced into passing situations early
and often, allowing Benjamin to reap the benefits.
7. Not Every Rookie RB is off to a Flying Start
We raved about Barkley, Johnson, and Freeman earlier, but the
opening act for Ronald
Jones (RB) and Nick
Chubb (CLE) wasn’t so great. The two combined for 20 yards
on 23 carries and while Jones did score a touchdown, the word
in Tampa is that he’s having some difficulty with pass protection/blitz
pickups. As for Chubb, Carlos
Hyde appears to be squarely in the lead for carries to begin
the season. Proceed with caution on these two. Neither looks poised
to do big things early in the fall and both are on teams that
struggled to move the chains on the ground last year.
8. The Browns Can’t Run the Ball, so
it’s Njoku to the Rescue
The Browns totaled 50 yards on 33 carries in the preseason’s opening
performance. Hardly inspiring. What was inspiring, however, was
the play of second-year TE David
Njoku. Njoku caught a touchdown pass from Tyrod
Taylor (36 yards) in the first quarter and another from Baker
Mayfield (10 yards) in the second. Early reports out of camp
had Njoku struggling with drops, but based on this weekend, it
would seem that problem has been resolved for now. With Josh
Gordon still absent and Jarvis
Landry trying to figure out his role, Njoku may be a frequent
target in September and beyond if he is up to the task. His weekend
suggests that a breakout year isn’t out of the question. Bump
him up a notch or two in your rankings.
9. There May Be Competition for Winston’s
Job in September
Who starts in Tampa Bay while Jameis
Winston is suspended is hardly relevant to most water cooler
fantasy football discussions. That being said, Mike
Evans owners will be interested in this piece of information
Griffin’s effort over the weekend were among the best by a QB
all weekend long. Griffin completed 20 of his 26 passes for 179
yards and a TD. Ryan
Fitzpatrick is still likely to get the nod in Week 1, but I
wouldn’t rule out Griffin as a potential last hour replacement.
The Bucs have a talented receiving corps, so getting the right guy
to throw to them does matter.
10. The “Power Back” Job in New England
is Something to Keep an Eye On
Burkhead and Sony
Michel continue to nurse training camp injuries, so Jeremy
Hill and Mike
Gillislee took the spotlight in Week 1. It has been speculated
all throughout camp that the Patriots are only likely to keep
one of the two on their final roster, but both looked solid vs.
Washington and it’s a battle worth keeping an eye on in the weeks
to come. The goal line/short yardage/clock-killing back in New
England is definitely worth a role on any fantasy team- particularly
in a non-PPR format. Hill gained 8 more yards on three less carries
than did Gillislee, along with adding a TD, but combined the two
nearly gained 100 yards and demonstrated their value. Based on
performance, Hill has the advantage for now, but the eventual
outcome is worth paying attention to for the remainder of this
We’ll be back next week to review Preseason - Week 2. See