Preseason Fantasy Recap: Week 1
Gridiron Experts complete Fantasy Football recap of the first week of NFL Preseason.
: With injuries to backup RBs Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar, the Cowboys opted to rest RB Joseph Randle
with a minor injury in the team’s first pre-season game. UDFA RB Gus Johnson handled a majority of the load in Thursday’s game, but he exited with a shoulder injury
and joins the stable of injured backs. The fact that Dallas still has yet to sign a free agent RB shows their hand – they are extremely confident in Randle’s abilities.
New York Giants
: There won’t be much clarity in the Giants’ three-headed rushing attack until the regular season gets underway, as we saw Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen
, and Andre Williams all take snaps with the starters on Friday. An equally important battle in this offense is the WR2 position – Rueben Randle is missing time with knee tendonitis and Victor Cruz didn’t suit up Friday, as he played it safe returning from his torn patellar tendon. Recent veteran signing James Jones didn’t even get onto the field until the fourth quarter. If injuries continue to linger, we could see last year’s preseason star Corey Washington or rookie Geremy Davis receive playing time with the starters.
: Chip Kelly made the decision to rest Sam Bradford on Sunday
versus the Colts, but we should see him play in week 2 of the preseason
. Sunday’s game made two things clear: Chip Kelly will continue to scheme WRs into wide open areas and the backup QBs (Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley, Tim Tebow) failed to consistently connect with those open WRs. The job is Bradford’s to lose and he will be a top-10 fantasy QB while healthy.
: A week after being named the starting tight end, Niles Paul suffered a season-ending ankle injury
in the team’s first pre-season game. Back-up TE Logan Paulsen was also put on IR with a toe injury, leaving oft-injured Jordan Reed to the overwhelming majority of TE snaps in this offense for 2015. He offers exceptional value as a TE2 in your fantasy drafts. As for the QB position, RGIII showed slight improvement in the pocket while staying true to his core abilities: throwing an outstanding deep ball, extending plays with his legs, and taking unnecessary huge hits from defenders.
: The news of rookie WR Kevin White’s surgery to repair a stress fracture
in his lower leg sent shockwaves through the fantasy community. While it seemed odd that his “minor” shin injury lingered into camp, it’s now likely that White is on the shelf for a majority of the 2016 season. Fellow WR Alshon Jeffery is nursing a mysterious calf injury, so Eddie Royal
and Marquess Wilson will get all the first-team reps they can handle over the next few weeks of camp. Perhaps the biggest beneficiary for this passing attack is TE Martellus Bennett.
: Who will see the biggest ADP jump from preseason week 1 to preseason week 2? That award belongs to RB Ameer Abdullah
, who busted off a 45-yard run on Thursday night. His ADP will firmly sit in the 4th round now, with some owners likely taking a shot in the third. Is the jump justified? This game proved what we already knew about Abdullah: he’s quick, has ankle-breaking moves, and provides a much-needed big-play weapon out of the backfield for this offense. It didn’t answer, however, how big his piece of the pie will be with Joique Bell returning from injury.
Green Bay Packers
: The first preseason week was relatively uneventful for the Packers, which can be a good thing for an established veteran team. The battle for the fourth wide receiver spot is an interesting item to note. Jeff Janis, the second-year
small school product, took the lead with a 26-yard TD reception in Thursday’s contest. He’ll continue to battle rookie Ty Montgomery, Myles White, and fellow 2nd-year man Jared Abbrederis, who missed this week’s game with a concussion.
: Because the Vikings played in the Hall of Fame game, we’ve had the luxury of seeing them for two preseason games so far. QB Teddy Bridgewater continue to look sharp
and efficient. He found TE Kyle Rudolph early and often in both games, and he could have a huge year provided he can stay healthy. We’ve seen glimpses of WRs Mike Wallace and Charles Johnson, while RB Adrian Peterson received the veteran treatment and has yet to play in the preseason. With the collection of weapons on this offense, Bridgewater has the opportunity to make a huge fantasy leap in year 2.
: RBs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman missed the Falcons’ first preseason
game with hamstring injuries, allowing Antone Smith and Terron Ward to get the majority of the work with the first-team offense. Despite scoring a touchdown, Smith, too, injured his hamstring in the contest. To solidify their preseason depth chart, the Falcons recently signed ex-Redskins RB Evan Royster. He should just be camp fodder, however, as Coleman and Freeman both returned to practice on Monday.
: The wide receiver corps continued to be the most interesting position group as the Panthers played their first exhibition game on Friday. Big-bodied receivers Kelvin Benjamin and rookie Devin Funchess
had their ups and downs, but in the end, they combined for 89 yards and a touchdown in just a quarter of action. The group won’t be consistent, but they give QB Cam Newton some huge targets down the field and in the red zone.
New Orleans Saints
: C.J. Spiller
has been mysteriously absent from most of training camp, but that mystery was solved when the team revealed he underwent a minor cleanout procedure of his knee
. Spiller is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season, but this may push his ADP down to a more palatable territory. In his absence, RB Khiry Robinson
shined in Thursday’s game, solidifying his position as a great late-round RB flier.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
: Jameis Winston
had a very “Jameis” game on Saturday in his first NFL action. The rookie completed just 9 of 19 passes with an interception, but accumulated 131 passing yards and even scrambled for a touchdown. Winston will have his growing pains, but with his advanced understanding of the game and the big weapons surrounding him, he’s a great choice as your second quarterback in fantasy drafts. On another note, RB Doug Martin
received a vote of confidence from his offensive coordinator and will begin the season as the number one back in this offense. We’ll need to keep an eye on his play and RB Charles Sims’ progression throughout the preseason.
: QB Carson Palmer
looked strong and mobile in his first game action since tearing his ACL last season. A healthy Palmer will be critical for the fantasy success of RB Andre Ellington
(who looked healthy and explosive on Saturday) and WRs Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, and Michael Floyd. The Cardinals’ offense will be explosive in 2015 and this first preseason game was an encouraging sign for the health of its key contributors.
San Francisco 49ers
: Earlier last week, we heard head coach Jim Tomsula sing the praises of backup QB Blaine Gabbert. While we attributed this to nothing more than coachspeak, Gabbert played the part in the team’s first preseason game, completing 8 of 11 passes for 86 yards and a TD. It’s far too early to start the rumors of a quarterback controversy in San Francisco, but stranger things have happened. Keep an eye on the 49ers’ QB situation throughout the preseason to see if Blaine Gabbert has actually made significant strides as a passer.
: Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Seahawks’ game on Friday was the horrific play of the offensive line. Russell Wilson was running for his life and the running backs had no room to run. Can this line gel in the next 4 weeks? If not, we can project an efficiency downgrade for the entire Seahawks offense. The preseason is normally RB Christine Michael
’s time to shine. However, he struggled through a majority of this game with just 15 yards on 7 carries, including a fumble. UDFA RB Thomas Rawls
looked solid, but can he overtake Michael for the 3rd RB role? Whoever gets cut should be on our early season watch list.
St. Louis Rams
: Despite suiting up, rookie RB Todd Gurley
didn’t play in the team’s first preseason game. He’s not expected to play the entire preseason and in fact, the team is even considering the possibility of him missing the first “couple of games.” Tre Mason will get the bulk of the work out of the backfield for this team early in the season. The continued delay of Gurley’s debut just makes Mason that much more intriguing of a middle round fantasy draft selection.
Buffalo Bills: Looking at the passing statlines from the Bills’ first preseason game, you’d think E.J. Manuel is the frontrunner in the QB competition. However, Tyrod Taylor was the most impressive QB on the night
with his decision-making and running ability. Taylor played well enough to earn the start for the second preseason game and barring a meltdown, we should see him under center in week 1 of the regular season. With his rushing ability, Taylor actually becomes a fantasy-relevant QB if earns the job. His presence may also be beneficial for LeSean McCoy owners, as well. McCoy’s backups played most of the game Friday, and we’ll see Karlos Williams and Bryce Brown, who were both productive, battle for the number 3 tailback job throughout the rest of the preseason.
: QB Ryan Tannehill was efficient Thursday night, completing 6 of 7 passes despite missing two of his new receivers. WR DeVante Parker has yet to be cleared after off-season foot surgery and Kenny Stills just returned to practice on Monday with a calf injury. It’ll be interesting to see how the targets are divided during the regular season. For now, WR Jarvis Landry still has the trust of Tannehill, as he secured a touchdown on 4th-and-goal to finish the opening drive in Friday’s contest.
New England Patriots
: It was the Jimmy Garappolo
show on Thursday night, as the second-year QB played a majority of the snaps, completing 20 of 30 passes for 150 yards. Being sacked seven times, Garappolo will need a better showing during the regular season to hold down the fort during Tom Brady’s absence. In Garappolo’s defense, he was playing without TE Rob Gronkowski and WRs Brandon Lafell and Julian Edelman
. In the backfield, five Patriots RBs did not suit up, leaving Jonas Gray and James White to handle the workload. Both performed admirably, but this RB depth chart is far from sorted out.
New York Jets
: With QB Geno Smith sidelined with a broken jaw
, veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick took the first team reps in Thursday’s game. Fitzpatrick only appeared briefly before giving way to rookie QB Bryce Petty. If Petty’s performance is any indication of his NFL transition, then the Jets would be best served if he never takes the field this season. Completing 10 of 18 passes for just 50 yards and failing to move the ball, Petty only further confirmed the reports that he is a couple of years away from being ready to play. Great Read: Why the Geno Smith Era is Over
: Perhaps the most important storyline of Ravens’ camp has been the inability for rookie WR Breshad Perriman to get on the field
. Perriman has still not practiced since the first day of camp with what the team is calling a bruised knee and a strained tendon. There will be plenty of balls to go around in Marc Trestman’s offense, but if Perriman can’t get on the field, he will be surpassed by WRs Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown. Slot WR Michael Campanaro has the potential to be a huge PPR sleeper this season – he caught a 45-yard TD on Thursday night.
: While many fantasy owners are excited for the return of WR Marvin Jones, who caught 10 TD passes in 2013 and missed all of 2014 with a foot injury, the Bengals slowed all optimism after their first preseason game. Jones ran with the backups behind WR Mohamed Sanu, so perhaps it is a conditioning issue or maybe it is meant to serve as a wake-up call to Jones. EIther way, those drafting Jones in the later rounds of their drafts need to be sure to monitor his depth chart status as the preseason moves forward. Meanwhile, TE Tyler Eifert continued his uncoverable training camp ways, hauling in 2 passes for 30 yards in the first quarter on Friday.
: The circus in the Browns backfield continues. Isaiah Crowell and Terrence West split first-team carries on Thursday, but neither were impressive. Rookie RB Duke Johnson remains sidelined with a hamstring injury, but given the play of the guys in front of him, he has not fallen far on the depth chart. Rumors even swirled this past week that the Browns were interested in signing free agent RB Ray Rice. At the QB position, Josh McCown played solid, and is reportedly entrenched as the starter. Johnny Manziel was efficient on Thursday, completing 7 of 11 passes and rushing for a TD. We’ll continue to monitor this situation into the regular season.
: So Markus Wheaton is the #2 receiver, huh? Martavis Bryant quickly dispelled that notion with a 44-yard touchdown in the team’s first preseason game. Bryant’s ADP began to creep into the 4th/5th round territory of fantasy drafts until Big Ben commented on Wheaton’s prospects for the upcoming season. After a brief ADP dip during the early part of training camp, expect Bryant to rise back into the 5th round with an electric preseason showing.
: The QB battle didn’t produce a clear winner after the first preseason game, albeit much to the delight of the coaching staff. Brian Hoyer started the game and threw a 58-yard TD
to new WR addition Cecil Shorts, who looks poised to make noise in PPR leagues this season if he can stay healthy. Ryan Mallett managed to complete 10 of his 11 attempts and will start the team’s week 2 preseason game. This battle will likely last into September. No one emerged as a winner in the ongoing RB competition, and we still can’t fully rule out a veteran free agent signing,
: This offense is going to be special. There are playmakers at every turn and we were able to witness the pro debut of first round WR Phillip Dorsett
on Sunday. It appears that he has the leg up on the WR3 job over Duron Carter and Donte Moncrief, but it’s too early to declare a winner. The potency of this offense means that the WR3 will be useful for fantasy purposes, so it’s important to track this competition. While Frank Gore didn’t play on Sunday, Josh Robinson continued to cement his sleeper status after totaling 55 yards and a touchdown versus Philadelphia.
: Blake Bortles looked much more comfortable in his second preseason, completing 11 of 15 passes for 118 yards in his 2015 debut. Bortles’ rushing totals may have gone unnoticed a season ago, but he reminded us once again of his ability to use his legs with a rushing score on Friday night. One of his primary weapons, TE Julius Thomas, broke a bone on the back of his hand in this game. He’s expected to be back by the start of the regular season, but whether he can play effectively early in the season is another question.
: It was quite the debut for Marcus Mariota
. Despite completing 7 of 8 passes for 94 yards, Mariota threw an interception and lost a fumble during his brief time on the field. The reports out of Tennessee’s camp have been glowing for Mariota and even with the mistakes on Friday, it’s clear that he has the skills to produce in the NFL. While he may not be a fantasy starter in 2015, his competence bodes well for the fantasy outlook of Kendall Wright
, Delanie Walker
, and Dorial Green-Beckham. Bishop Sankey was once again unimpressive, while current backups Antonio Andrews and David Cobb badly outplayed him. It’s only a matter of time before Sankey cedes the starting RB position.
: Very few offensive starters played for the Broncos on Friday, but the backup skill position players generated some fantasy excitement. QB Brock Osweiler
continues to improve under the wings of Peyton Manning and would be a premium pickup should Manning go down this season. RBs Montee Ball
and Ronnie Hillman were productive in Kubiak’s zone blocking scheme – Ball has the edge on the #2 job as of now, but this is a fluid situation. Second-year WR Cody Latimer was fantastic and will likely be the league’s most under-utilized WR3. Fellow WR Emmanuel Sanders wasn’t joking when he said that Latimer “looks like Demaryius Thomas out there.”
Kansas City Chiefs
: The most significant note from the Chiefs’ first preseason game was the knee injury to Knile Davis
. Diagnosed for now as “just a knee sprain,” we’ll need to monitor this situation in the coming days as Davis is one of the most fantasy-relevant backup RBs in the league. On the defensive side of the ball, it’s a welcome sight to see Eric Berry back on the field. Whether or not he’ll receive a full compliment of snaps once the regular season begins will determine his return to IDP fantasy prominence.
: Rookie WR Amari Cooper
made his NFL debut on Friday and commanded a handful of targets in the first quarter. If practice notes and preseason game logs are any indication, QB Derek Carr will be looking for Cooper early and often this season. His TD total and YPR may be undesirable, but he’ll be a PPR asset this season. Michael Crabtree
also looked good in his Oakland debut, but can this offense be dynamic enough to support two fantasy-relevant WRs?
San Diego Chargers
: In perhaps what is a peek ahead to the regular season for the Chargers’ backfield, Danny Woodhead
scored a touchdown on third-down in the team’s first preseason game on Thursday. All camp long we have heard about Melvin Gordon being a two-down back, and their snap breakdown on Thursday just further supports that notion. With this in mind, Woodhead continues to be criminally undervalued in PPR formats.