32 Things To Learn For Fantasy Football From Week One Preseason NFL
I am quite certain that you have heard “do not overreact!” or “preseason doesn’t matter” from several of your favorite football analysts before. When you are grinding out every edge that there is, however, preseason really does matter. Especially preseason week one! With three weeks left for best ball drafts and the high stakes drafts in Las Vegas not even starting yet, we should be mining out every piece of data that week one preseason NFL football has to offer us.
We are not so much looking at the #stats of how players played but we are more interested in player usage, how first-team offenses looked and if there are any surprising playing time distributions for veterans or expected starters. What follows is 32 key observations from all of the week one preseason games as it impacts your fantasy football teams.
Week One Preseason Fantasy Football Observations
- Fantasy football darling (not if you read RotoExperts!) Dante Pettis was “was the only first-string offensive player from the 49ers’ initial training-camp depth chart to play in a 17-9 preseason-opening win over the Cowboys.” per the San Francisco Chronicle. With Jalen Hurd and Deebo Samuel playing well, George Kittle being the leading pass catcher for the team and Marquise Goodwin’s continued presence, Pettis should be considered undraftable at his current ADP.
- Tony Pollard might be considered #TooGood for preseason action. While Mike Weber and Darius Jackson were playing in the second half after Mike White had taken over at quarterback, Pollard was limited to four carries and zero involvement in the passing game. It seems that the organization has found something they plan on using moving forward with Pollard.
- Darrell Henderson, despite his high draft pedigree, was deployed by the Los Angeles Rams in a game that Malcolm Brown and Todd Gurley both sat. Sean McVay is notorious for not playing his starters in the preseason. Henderson getting carries in the THIRD QUARTER of this game set off major alarm bells for me. Malcolm Brown moved up significantly in my RB rankings as he got the starters treatment as Henderson was taking snaps with the third-string offense.
- Darwin Thompson turned a perfectly ran Texas route out of the backfield into a 29-yard touchdown. It seems clear that in choosing a backfield complement to Damien Williams, Thompson is just simply a more dynamic player than Carlos Hyde (though Thompson was playing with the third-string offense).
- Minnesota opened the game with Alexander Mattison playing with Kirk Cousins and Stefon Diggs. It is true that Dalvin Cook was not active for this game but for those of us who have been targeting Mattison as a way to short the oft-injured Cook, his four rushes and touchdown on the opening drive were welcome sights.
- Both Latavius Murry and Alvin Kamara played (and caught passes) on the opening New Orleans Saints drive against the Minnesota Vikings. If Latavius is truly in the Mark Ingram role from the last two seasons, his ADP is laughably low. There is some hesitation from the market on Murray for a variety of reasons but none of those concerns will end up mattering if Murray is playing 40-55% of the snaps for the Saints in the regular season.
- Peyton Barber had both the first carry and first reception out of the backfield with the first-team offense for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On the same drive, Ronald Jones had one reception and three carries. While that might sound discouraging, it is actually probably the opposite. Bruce Anderson and Andre Ellington being part of the first-team plans is very suboptimal for both Barber and Jones but as a pure split, both are profitable selections at their ADP.
- Jaylen Samuels was used as a traditional running back on the first Steelers drive of the preseason. That seems like an “well DUH” observation until you realize that Samuels has never topped 100 carries in a season and was more of an H-back in college. His upside for fantasy is much higher if he is also the true handcuff to James Conner and not just a pass-catcher.
- Rashaad Penny got 100% of the running back work on the first two drives for the Seattle Seahawks against Denver while Chris Carson was inactive. I am of two minds about this decision. First, it is not great that a first-round running back from 16 months ago is viewed on the same level as Geno Smith for the Seahawks. Second, it is at least a positive sign that Bo Scarborough wasn’t playing with the facsimile first-team offense.
- Perhaps the biggest injury to take place early on in the preseason is Theo Riddick immediately getting injured for Denver. With Riddick out of the picture for six to eight weeks, Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman should pretty much have the backfield to themselves. Devontae Booker has shown nothing and seems like he is more likely to be cut than play third-down snaps. Both Lindsay and Freeman are closer to being values at their ADP than not.
- The distribution of touches between Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson point more towards a running back by committee than ADP suggests. If Melvin Gordon were to miss extended time, it is more likely than not that both Ekeler and Jackson are fantasy viable. Ekeler and Jackson both saw five carries in the week one preseason game against the Cardinals with Ekeler fumbling on the goalline and Jackson converting his lone goalline carry into a touchdown. Ekeler, however, saw three targets in the passing game while Jackson had none.
- The very first play that Green Bay ran to open their preseason was a deep shot to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. We have been high on MVS all offseason long and to see him get that target was encouraging though he barely played the rest of the way. It also seems as if Dexter Williams is in a firm trial period for Green Bay as he by far lead the team in carries. We are keeping a close eye on the battle between Williams, Tra Carson and Corey Grant as the Packers third running back this preseason.
- Kyler Murray was picture perfect on his opening drive, going six for seven and looking comfortable doing it. His ADP should not go up based on one scripted drive in the preseason, but his movement in the pocket and ability to shift arm angles (displayed on a quick RPO to Damiere Byrd) made me even more excited to see how he is going to attack the NFL in the Air Raid. Worth noting that Chase Edmonds had zero touches with the first-team offense in this week one preseason game.
- The Texans showed almost nothing in their first preseason game but Keke Coutee, unfortunately, suffered an injury. If Coutee were to miss extended time, new addition Duke Johnson is the biggest pass-catching beneficiary in the immediate. However, Coutee’s extended absence would also push more targets in Will Fuller’s direction who was already a potential league-winning player.
- David Montgomery flashed for the Bears with a touchdown and three receptions on three targets. However, on the very first drive that the Bears took, it was Mike Davis who started with the first-team offense and not Montgomery. We would like to caution RotoExperts subscribers from getting over-enthusiastic about Montgomery as he is likely in a three-way backfield at least to start the 2019 season.
- As of right now, there is not an answer to “Who is the handcuff for Christian McCaffrey?” The Panthers didn’t play any of their normal starters but rotated Cameron Artis-Payne, Elijah Holyfield and Reggie Bonnafon throughout the game. This is a situation to continue to monitor because Jordan Scarlett did not even play in this game. As of now, likely none of these players are worth drafting though Scarlett and Holyfield are interesting speculative adds in dynasty formats.
- Dion Lewis played every first-team snap for the Tennessee Titans with Marcus Mariota in the game. Another “obvious” occurrence that makes me feel more confident in continuing to draft Lewis. Derrick Henry still has not returned to the practice from his lower-body injury and Lewis has been with the first-team offense every day. Under a new offensive coordinator, these sorts of things matter to playing time distribution.
- Miles Sanders did nothing of note in his first professional action as a Philadelphia Eagle but that has done nothing to slow down the hype train about how good he has looked in practice. JJ Arcega-Whiteside, on the other hand, continues to make a case to start opposite Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson as the Eagles third wide receiver over Nelson Agholor as he posted 4 targets with the facsimile first-team offense.
- Kalen Ballage and Kenyan Drake both played with the first team offense and Ryan Fitzpatrick in the Dolphins game against the Falcons. Drake had three touches on Miami’s first drive before Ballage entered the game and got both a carry and a target with Fitz on the field. Ballage then scored a one-yard rushing touchdown after the offense transferred over to Josh Rosen. At this point, Ballage feels like the better value at ADP, though as Ballage and Drake’s ADP’s converge, that balance is likely to shift.
- Ito Smith and Brian Hill both received touches with the facsimile first-team offense for Atlanta, quarterbacked by Matt Schaub. It was Smith who got two consecutive chances at the goal line to convert a short-yardage touchdown and Hill continued to play into the second quarter which indicates, to me, that Smith is still slightly ahead of Brian Hill in the running back pecking order.
- Jakobi Meyers was the standout for the New England Patriots in their week one preseason game. Chad Finn from Boston.com wrote about Meyers “He’s received rave reviews through camp, and that translated to the field Thursday night. He had six catches on eight targets – including a pair of touchdowns – as well as 69 yards. He also made a great breakup of a Jarrett Stidham throw that looked like it might be picked. He looked like a veteran out there, which is impressive for a guy who didn’t get drafted after leaving North Carolina State a year early.” I am not starting to select Meyers in best ball drafts but I am open to the possibility that he is fantasy relevant this year.
- C.J Anderson looked his normal, plodding self before Maryland’s Ty Johnson entered the game and reeled off three carries for 22 yards and was named week one preseason player of the game by Lions Wire. Part of the reason the Lions let Theo Riddick go seems to be that they trust Ty Johnson can pick up the slack on third downs and I tend to agree with that decision.
- Of all the playing time distributions that matter for fantasy football from week one preseason games, Dontrell Hilliard playing the passing downs for the Browns with the first team interested me most. The Browns traded away Duke Johnson in part because they love Hilliard so much. Baker Mayfield found Hilliard for a 14-yard gain on the first series on back to back plays before lobbing a touchdown to Hollywood Rashard Higgins. Hilliard then played a little with the second team before fumbling in the second quarter. We are incredibly interested in acquiring Hilliard in dynasty formats.
- None of the fantasy-relevant players for Washington played in their week one preseason game except for Trey Quinn, who secured his lone target for eight yards. Similar to Danny Amendola last year or Kenny Stills this year, Quinn is likely to lead to a bad passing offense in targets at an exceedingly cheap cost provided he recovers fully from his broken thumb suffered in this game.
- Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon took all the snaps with the first-team offense and Lamar Jackson for the Ravens. However, it was Justice Hill who caught the eye with 10 carries for 33 yards and more importantly, two targets for 16 yards. I won’t declare this a massive victory for Hill because it clearly wasn’t but the most important thing to see with him is how the Ravens are using him in the passing game.
- Nothing interesting happened for Jacksonville which is probably a worrying sign for the teams’ offense in 2019. They didn’t score a single point, had no running back average over 2.8 yards per carry and only Tre McBride topped six receiving yards. Two early targets for D.J Chark were the only fantasy-noteworthy moments from this week one preseason game for the Jaguars.
- The New York Jets offense looked ready to rock on their sole first-team drive. Seven plays, 75 yards and a three-yard touchdown pass on a nifty play design to Jamison Crowder. Ty Montgomery played as the lead back with the first-team offense and seems to have pushed Elijah McQuire and Trenton Cannon to the roster bubble.
- Daniel Jones looked… decent? I am all for the Giants benching Eli and going with Jones to start the season. Jones made his case in his first pro action with a 12-yard TD strike to Benny Fowler on his first drive. It was former fantasy darling Cody Latimer that looked the best of all the potential starting wide receivers for the Giants in his time with Jones, hauling in a deep 31-yard target.
- The Colts attempted to use Nyheim Hines as a straight-up running back in their first few drives with Jacoby Brisset and it went horribly as he tallied six carries for ONE YARD. Not a typo. There isn’t anything super actionable to take away from this fact but comparing Hines to Justice Hill, Dion Lewis, Tony Pollard and Darwin Thompson who surround him in ADP, his 90th percentile outcome seems a bit lower.
- Frank Gore, for reasons only he knows, was active in preseason week one and dominated touches while Josh Allen was in over Devin Singletary. LeSean McCoy is not long for Buffalo given the signings of Gore and T.J Yeldon and the drafting of Devin Singletary, so the winner of the battle between Gore and Singletary matters for fantasy. I simply cannot advocate drafting Frank Gore but if he is going to be playing over Singeltary with the first-team offense all preseason, this is just a backfield to avoid at all costs.
- The Raiders not using Jalen Richard or Josh Jacobs in their first preseason game essentially belies their intentions with the first-team offense. Using Richard would have likely been a sign that Gruden was not sure if he was worth fighting for time with Jacobs with the first-team but that seems to not be the case.
- With a decimated depth chart, Tyler Boyd came out and played well with the first-team offense. Boyd had four targets on the Bengals first drive and then came off the field. With John Ross and A.J Green both banged up, the volume projection for Boyd has been trending up for weeks now.