Football is back, and this week we’re not talking about the Hall of Fame game. Instead, we are talking about a full slate of preseason games. Over the coming days, every single NFL team will take the field and begin their 2022 seasons. Veterans may be rested in some games, but elsewhere there are meaningful roster battles taking place. Rookies and veterans alike have roster spots to win and while these games might feel meaningless to our fantasy rosters, these games really do matter to some players. Before the games get started here are 8 things to pay attention to as they could impact your fantasy decisions.
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1. How Do the Steelers’ Quarterbacks Play?
It’s early into camp but reports so far haven’t painted a pretty picture for Steelers fans. Kenny Pickett was the sole quarterback drafted in the first round of this year’s draft, and when the Steelers selected him with the 20th pick many believed he was pro-ready enough to start on day one. With barely a month until the season starts, reports have Pickett struggling heavily in camp and being outplayed by Mason Rudolph, who many believed would be an automatic third choice with Mitch Trubisky either first or second. Instead, Rudolph has practiced adequately, taking advantage of knowing the scheme and team better than either of his competitors, and many believe he is ahead of Pickett currently. If Trubisky is expected to start the season as the QB1 it would make sense for the Steelers to give Rudolph and Pickett the majority of snaps against the Seahawks, and allow them to make a case for why they should be ahead of each other. For Mitch Trubisky, any opportunity to avoid giving the job away should be fully embraced. He might currently be the best quarterback of the three, but it doesn’t feel like he’ll ever have a strong hold on the job considering the draft capital spent on Pickett. It’s worth noting that Pickett turned in his best practice of the summer on Tuesday, and if he can build on that momentum in a game situation, the tables may begin to turn.
2. Does Isaiah McKenzie Run With the Bills’ First Team?
The drum beat began early for Isaiah McKenzie when Jamison Crowder missed several early practices of camp. Ever since then, day after day reporters have noted that McKenzie has been one of the most impressive players in Bills camp. When the Bills opted not to re-sign Cole Beasley they moved away from a player who had been a reliable target for Josh Allen and saw over 100 targets in each of his three seasons with the team. Jamison Crowder was signed in free agency and early on many had him as a like-for-like replacement for Beasley, but the team also opted to bring back McKenzie after he flashed in limited opportunities last season. Now it sounds like McKenzie might be earning himself an even bigger role. When the Bills line up against the Colts we might not see Josh Allen play too many snaps if any, but we can still glean information from what does and doesn’t happen. If the starters play zero snaps, is McKenzie still out there? Who sees more game time out of Crowder and McKenzie, and how do they both play? We know the slot receiver is a valuable role on this team, and this could be the next piece in the puzzle to working out which player is the best pickup.
Cole Beasley saw 106+ targets out of the slot in each of his last 3 seasons with the #Bills.
🔹2019: WR34 finish, 12.3 PPG
🔹2020: WR27, 13.8 PPG
🔹2021: WR39, 10.0 PPG
Isaiah McKenzie’s current Underdog ADP is WR72👀 #BillsMafia
— Victoria (@ffb_victoria) August 10, 2022
3. What Does the New-look Patriots Offense Look Like?
There are many questions to be answered around the New England Patriots offense and it’s unlikely that any team led by Bill Bellichick will assist us willingly in finding those answers. However, when the Patriots play the Giants, we might get a few clues. Firstly, who is calling the plays on offense? Speculation has run for a few weeks that it could be either Joe Judge or Matt Patricia, neither of who has NFL experience on the offensive side of the ball at this level. In recent days it sounds more likely that Patricia is the man in charge, but beat reporters have pointed to several occasions where the practices have looked disorganized on that side of the ball. We might also learn how dramatically the team has changed up their run scheme in the wake of Josh McDaniels leaving, and lastly, we might get a glimpse into the pecking order at wide receiver. Rookie Tyquan Thornton has earned positive reviews recently and a strong showing in this game might see his ADP start to climb, and force the team to consider whether Nelson Agholor is surplus to requirement.
4. Does Trey Lance Look the Part?
Trey Lance missed out on valuable first-team reps during his first season in the league and had to make do picking up other facets of the game instead. With the team firmly placing their trust in him it can become easy to get carried away with what Lance could bring to the table. At his ADP, he presents an opportunity to be exploited in fantasy leagues if he hits. So far training camp reports have been right about where we should expect for a young QB with limited experience, some good, some bad. The 49ers face off against the Packers and it could provide us with the first glimpse of a Kyle Shanahan scheme built around Trey Lance. Does Brandon Aiyuk shine? Or do we see a little more from Deebo Samuel or George Kittle perhaps?
#49ers Trey Lance to Brandon Aiyuk is a thing of beauty 😍
— 𝙏𝙝𝙚𝙎𝙁𝙉𝙞𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙨 (@TheSFNiners) July 31, 2022
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5. Which WRs Play With the First Team for the Ravens?
Much has been made about the Ravens’ decision to trade Marquise Brown to the Cardinals and not find a like-for-like replacement. The team felt comfortable Rashod Bateman would be able to step up as their leading receiver, behind Mark Andrews. And with Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace and James Proche hungry for more opportunities, the team opted to take a proper look at them instead of signing any free agents. Duvernay seemed the likely number two when camp opened, but suffered a thigh contusion that led to missed time, and while Duvernay hasn’t done anything wrong, James Proche has been doing an awful lot right. Virtually every day the Ravens’ social media team is highlighting another great play by the third-year receiver. Tylan Wallace shouldn’t be ruled out of the competition either. Although we could learn which receiver might have the inside track, it seems likely they’ll have to do it without Lamar Jackson under center. Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed some starters would be rested for the opening preseason game against the Eagles.
Lamar Jackson’s absolute bomb to James Proche traveled about 70 yards in the air. Oh, and James Proche is turning ⬆️ pic.twitter.com/7BLoF8jdPe
— Ryan Mink (@ryanmink) August 4, 2022
6. Do the Vikings Run a Pass-first Offense?
Before Kevin O’Connell became the head coach of the Vikings earlier this year, he was the offensive coordinator for the L.A Rams. Unlike the run-heavy approach Mike Zimmer used to favor, O’Connell used multiple wide receiver plays often and liked to rotate receivers onto the field frequently. Regardless of whether we see the Vikings’ first-team offense, if we see multiple receivers out there more often than not, then we can start to feel more confident in fantasy-viable roles for K.J. Osborn and perhaps even Ihmir Smith-Marsette in deep leagues.
7. Can the Texans Take Another Step Forward?
2021 was a strange year for the Houston Texans. The cloud around Deshaun Watson hung over the team and with a vast majority of players on one or two-year deals, it felt like it was going to be tricky for them to establish an identity. Despite all of this Davis Mills had the team playing better than expected. Now as he enters his second year there are small glimmers of hope around Mills, Brandin Cooks, Nico Collins, Brevin Jordan and Dameon Pierce being able to form a half-decent offense in 2022. With Pep Hamilton arriving as the new offensive coordinator, we might be able to get the first glimpse into how he has the offense playing.
8. Can Sam Darnold Keep the Panthers QB Battle Alive?
When the Carolina Panthers traded for Baker Mayfield many assumed Baker might have the edge on the competition, despite the team talking it up as a true camp battle. Since then, both players have had their ups and downs in camp but nearly all signs point towards Mayfield having the inside track to starting Week 1. While both QBs have turned the ball over plenty in practice, the common thought from beat reporters seems to be that Mayfield has shown more impressive downfield and high-value passing. If Darnold is going to have any hope of being the team’s starter in Week 1, putting up good performances in the games would go a long way.
Baker Mayfield and Robbie Anderson are looking good together 🙌 pic.twitter.com/yISkL91H8Z
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) August 2, 2022
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant, which allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.