Preseason Week 1: What We Learned (2019 Fantasy Football)
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The NFL preseason is both fascinating and terrifying. We are so starved for football after not seeing it for six months (sorry AAF, you don’t count) that we tend to overreact to what we see in games that do not matter. This phenomenon is also known as the Ameer Abdullah Corollary after the former Lions running back infamously ripped off one impressive run in the 2015 preseason that spiked his ADP three rounds despite the fact that he was never actually good at football.
There are only three things I really pay attention to in preseason games:
- Who is playing with the starters?
- How do players coming off an injury look?
- Do any starters just look absolutely terrible?
I don’t care about player performance. I don’t care who wins these games. I don’t care who lit up a fourth-string defense.
In the modern NFL, only two weeks of the preseason really matter. Teams have always rested every starter in Week 4 of the preseason. In recent years, teams typically play their starters for maybe a series, if at all, in Week 1. For many teams, there was nothing to take away from the opening week. For others, here is what we learned.
*Note: Not every team is listed because we simply didn’t learn anything new about some of them.
New York Jets
Ty Montgomery played the entire first series and looked pretty good. He carried the ball twice and caught a pass. If something were to happen to Le’Veon Bell, Montgomery sure looks like he would be the back to own. Regardless, Bell is the only Jets running back you should select in re-draft leagues.
Dontrell Hilliard came in immediately after Nick Chubb’s day was done. Hilliard is going to be second on the depth chart when the season starts, so he might be worth a late-round flier in deeper leagues.
Chubb is also not a bad-pass catcher. He is going to see an uptick in receptions with Duke Johnson in Houston. Chubb’s stock is rapidly rising.
Rashard Higgins appears to have the edge on Antonio Callaway for the third wide receiver role. He caught five of six targets for 98 yards and a touchdown, which matters less than the fact that he played ahead of Callaway.
The Browns ran a fully uptempo offense in Baker Mayfield’s lone drive. If that is a preview of what’s to come, Mayfield could be in for a monster season.
Kenyan Drake is ahead of Kalen Ballage on the depth chart, but Ballage is clearly the RB2. He is going to play, which is unfortunate because he’s terrible at football. Drake could become a value if Ballage’s usage helps depress Drake’s ADP.
Nate Sudfeld broke his left wrist. While Sudfeld is no Nick Foles, he is one of the more competent back-ups in the league. He is going to miss a substantial amount of time, with early reports suggesting about a six-week recovery after undergoing surgery. There is no safety net if Carson Wentz goes down again, which would be an unmitigated disaster for the entire Eagles offense.
Mike Davis is currently ahead of David Montgomery on the depth chart. Montgomery looked very impressive, but again, don’t put much stock in preseason performance. A lot of people were raving over Montgomery’s touchdown run. It was a nice change of direction, but man is he slow; the guy just cannot accelerate. Nevertheless, Montgomery’s performance will continue to raise his ADP, which was already pushing into the third round. I need to see more before drawing any definitive conclusions.
Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman split snaps on the opening drive. Freeman’s stock certainly rose with his 50-yard run, but it is probably relevant to point out that he still finished with 49 yards rushing. The recently signed Theo Riddick was nowhere to be seen with the starters. He fractured his wrist and will likely be out through September. That solidifies Lindsay and Freeman as the only two guys in what could be a straight-up timeshare.
Frank Gore might be really annoying. I have no idea why any team would employ him in 2019. He brings nothing to the table. But we know the Bills are going to use him. T.J. Yeldon will likely be cut. There is still a chance LeSean McCoy gets cut as well. Devin Singletary is not going anywhere, and even though he is probably too slow to play in the NFL, his dual-threat ability makes him Buffalo’s only back of interest if forced to take anyone.
Josh Allen is still terrible. Remember that part about preseason performance not mattering unless someone looks really bad? Allen looked really bad. He looked like the same wildly inaccurate quarterback we saw last year who missed wide-open receivers. He can still run, though, which is enough for fantasy. Anyone expecting a step forward as a passer, though, can’t be encouraged by what they saw.
New England Patriots
N’Keal Harry played through an injury for some reason and promptly aggravated it. He made a couple of nice contested catches before departing. The Patriots’ receiver situation behind Julian Edelman is completely up in the air, and it is unlikely we will know anything before Week 1.
Lamar Jackson actually showed strides as a passer. John Harbaugh likely planned for Jackson to throw more in the preseason for two reasons: 1) to not get him hurt for no reason outside the pocket (we already know he can run) and 2) to get him real game reps as an actual quarterback. I am cautiously optimistic.
Keke Coutee suffered a lower-body injury. There were initially conflicting reports as to whether it is a minor sprained ankle or something more serious like a sprained MCL. It appears as if Coutee escaped with the former. He should be ready to go Week 1, but don’t expect to see him in any further meaningless games.
We finally got our first look at Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense, and it is all kinds of legit. I mean that not to say for certain the Cardinals will succeed, but merely that they are running the Air Raid. Kyler Murray lined up exclusively out of the shotgun and used the clap snap count. They showcased read options and quick hitter routes in an effort to get the ball out of Murray’s hands quickly. David Johnson had a nice 14-yard reception. My only fear is that they truly unleash the offense in the Week 3 dress rehearsal, and it absolutely catapults everyone’s ADP.
In a game where every single starter sat, Jaylen Samuels played on special teams and for the entire first half. I am beginning to question how substantial his role on offense will be. If he is only seeing a 20% snap share, he has no fantasy value.
Kansas City Chiefs
I am trying to avoid overreacting to what we saw, but I am warming up to the idea that Patrick Mahomes is something we’ve never seen before and very well may come close to his 2018 numbers. In terms of deviating from the late-round quarterback strategy, I’m not sure if we will ever find someone more deserving of an early-round pick than Mahomes.
Mecole Hardman is really fast. He is unlikely to be fantasy relevant as a rookie, but he will have a couple of splash plays. He could be the Chiefs’ WR3.
San Francisco 49ers
Trent Taylor sustained a small fracture in his foot and Jalen Hurd showcased well by scoring a nice touchdown. The 49ers’ wide receiver depth chart is wide open. The main thing to learn from Week 1 is that we need to see how things transpire over the next two weeks.