Preseason Week 2: 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 treat Week 2 just like Week 1, so most starters play very little or not at all. 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.
Miles Sanders started and handled the first series. Jordan Howard came in for the second series. No other offensive starters played. Sanders should have an early-season role, but Howard is a huge piece of this backfield as well. We need to keep an eye on Week 3 usage.
Do not fret about how terrible Kyler Murray and the first team looked. It’s a blessing in disguise, as it keeps Murray’s ADP from getting even more out of control. Remember, Deshaun Watson looked like he didn’t even belong in the NFL during his rookie preseason.
It is more important to take note of who played with Murray. Obviously, Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk are locked into their roles, but KeeSean Johnson was also on the field. He appears to be the WR3 for now. Andy Isabella played deep into the fourth quarter. He played well, but the fact that he stayed in the game so late is quite worrisome for his redraft value.
Lamar Jackson played a few series, so we got a good look at the running back hierarchy. Mark Ingram started, followed by Kenneth Dixon. Justice Hill looked good, but he appears to be third or even fourth in the pecking order. We’ll see if that changes in the third preseason game.
Miles Boykin continues to play exclusively with the starters. He has to be considered the favorite to start outside.
New York Jets
Le’Veon Bell sat out again, and Ty Montgomery was the clear feature back in his absence. While Montgomery has looked good this preseason, I am much more interested in his usage and role in this offense sans Bell. It sure looks like Montgomery would have some serious fantasy value if Bell were to go down. He should be on the redraft radar in deeper leagues.
Quincy Enunwa is going to be the Jets’ WR2, for whatever that’s worth. Also, the Jets have a kicker problem. After Chandler Catanzaro surprisingly retired, replacement Taylor Bertolet missed two extra points.
Ito Smith started but again was outplayed by both Brian Hill and Qadree Ollison. I have little interest in Smith this season. If Devonta Freeman goes down, it will be a committee from which anyone could emerge as the top rusher to roster.
Dwayne Haskins should probably start Week 1.
Adrian Peterson has a very low fantasy ceiling, but he should be going much higher in drafts. Although Derrius Guice is expected to suit up in Washington’s next preseason game, he remains a huge health risk. Samaje Perine is the next man up after those two.
Joe Mixon is really good at football. The only thing standing between him and an elite RB1 season is his supporting cast.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Both Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones played with the starters. Barber is the clear starter, but Jones is going to be much more involved than he was last season, at least early on. Although it appears Jones will have the opportunity to surpass Barber, it hasn’t happened yet.
Josh Rosen played alright, but Brian Flores announced that Ryan Fitzpatrick will “probably start” Week 3’s preseason game. Barring a disaster, we will once again be witness to a Fitzmagic show in Week 1.
Myles Gaskin is actually a name to monitor. Kenyan Drake is currently out with a foot injury, and the team has been mum on his timeline. Gaskin will be the third running back on the depth chart. If Drake is out longer than expected and Kalen Ballage quickly reminds everyone how terrible he is at football, Gaskin could find himself in a prominent role sooner than we think.
Kansas City Chiefs
Damien Williams played every snap on the Chiefs’ opening drive. Carlos Hyde played every snap on the Chiefs’ second drive, but it ended prematurely after Hyde fumbled. Andy Reid has never been one to punish players due to fumbles, so Hyde was back out there to start the third series. Also relevant is, despite Reid’s proclamation that the starters would play “about a half,” they only played two drives.
The fact that Hyde played a series with the starters isn’t great for Williams, but more telling is Hyde remaining in the game after all the starters were pulled. I still expect Williams to lead this committee with a 60% opportunity share. Darwin Thompson is definitively third on the depth chart and has no fantasy value unless Williams or Hyde get hurt.
James Conner played every single first-quarter snap. Jaylen Samuels entered the game to start the second quarter. I’m beginning to think this may be much less of a timeshare than I initially thought. We still have no way of knowing what the Steelers will do in the two-minute drill and obvious passing situations, but Samuels doesn’t appear to be much of a threat to Conner’s workload.
Not to put too much stock into performance, but Samuels did look very good, albeit against the Chiefs’ second-string defense.
Kerryon Johnson split time with C.J. Anderson. During the second quarter, Johnson still saw snaps. Theo Riddick may be gone, but Johnson is not going to be a bell-cow. He is going to split reps with Anderson.
Los Angeles Rams
Darrell Henderson started at running back, but Sean McVay is not an idiot and doesn’t play his starters in the preseason at all. It is unclear if Henderson starting means he is second on the depth chart or if Malcolm Brown was getting the starter treatment as the primary backup. Perhaps next week’s game will reveal more.
Tony Pollard started at running back again, playing every snap on the Cowboys’ opening drive. I still think Ezekiel Elliott signs before the end of the month, but if not, Pollard is going to lead their backfield in touches.
Los Angeles Chargers
Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson are in a straight-up timeshare. Assuming Melvin Gordon does not sign, which is the most likely scenario, Ekeler and Jackson should be valued similarly.
The Seahawks threw a bit more on their opening drive than their “run-run-pass” offense from last year would suggest. This likely means nothing, but Russell Wilson’s ceiling is he breaks fantasy if the Seahawks ever let him throw 550+ times.
Chris Carson was treated like the clear starter. Rashaad Penny came in when Carson needed a breather. That is all. I could be reading too much into this, but this doesn’t look like a 1a and 1b situation. It looks like it’s 70-30 in favor of Carson.
Alexander Mattison played every snap on the Vikings’ opening drive. Mike Boone is still the better player, but Mattison is the Dalvin Cook handcuff. Boone played most of the second quarter and the entire second half. He’s definitively third on the depth chart, but I don’t know how anyone can watch him play and not see that he is vastly superior to Mattison. If Cook misses extended time this season, Boone will play a part in a rotation with Mattison. I have a very hard time envisioning Vikings’ coaches watching Boone consistently outplay Mattison and not giving him more work. If Cook goes down at any point, pick up Boone.
San Francisco 49ers
We’ve heard the whispers of coaches not being happy with Dante Pettis. We’ve heard the whispers that Marquise Goodwin isn’t a lock for the final roster. The latter is far more nonsense than the former. There is a 100% chance Goodwin makes this team, and judging based on the team’s second preseason game, he will start alongside Pettis. Not only did Goodwin and Pettis play every snap with the starters, but no other wide receiver entered the game until the 49ers pulled their top unit.
Tevin Coleman played the first two snaps of the opening drive. Matt Breida came in on third down. With Jerick McKinnon out for what should be at least half the season, this is going to be a two-man timeshare, something like 55-45 Coleman.
I feel obligated to mention how abysmal Jimmy Garoppolo looked, but I really don’t care about preseason performance. Garoppolo was playing his first game in almost a year since tearing his ACL.
Emmanuel Sanders has made the quickest recovery from a torn Achilles I’ve ever seen. He looks just like himself, so it’s probably time to move him up our boards. His healthy return puts a damper on the ceilings of Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton, but those three are clear starters on a team that should run a lot of 11 personnel.
Noah Fant started at tight end and even lined up out wide on occasion. Joe Flacco cannot support three wide receivers and a tight end, but perhaps Fant is at least worth monitoring early in the season.