The first week of preseason football is behind us, and I have to say, it feels nice to watch live games again. The opening week of action is mainly a rehearsal to get teams back into the flow, so take a measured approach in your response to the performances. Overreacting to one week of preseason play isn’t a good look!
1) RBs DeMarco Murray (6-93-1) and Derrick Henry (10-74-1), Tennessee Titans: Murray (6-93-1) and Henry (10-74-1) ran roughshod over the San Diego Chargers in the Titans’ preseason opener, giving head coach Mike Mularkey a glimpse into what he envisioned out of his power-running duo. As with any Week 1 preseason stat, take these numbers lightly when prognosticating fantasy worth. After all, even Bishop Sankey (3-52-1) crushed the Bolts! Murray is the lead dog, but Henry’s youth will come in handy after the vet softens defenses. Murray is an RB2, while Henry is a handcuff and fourth back in his own right.
2) WR Allen Robinson (3-80), Jacksonville Jaguars: The third-year wideout is coming off a fine breakout campaign and reminded everyone just how talented he really is during Jacksonville’s preseason debut. It wasn’t so much that he caught 80 yards worth on three receptions but how he did it with a pair of spectacular catches against tight coverage. Robinson and the Jags looked in midseason form for the preseason opener, which should help quell concerns about a looming letdown. A-Rob is an A-rated No. 1 fantasy receiver on draft day.
3) RB Melvin Gordon (3-12 rush, 1-44 receive), San Diego Chargers: Regardless of the small sample size — just four touches — it was rewarding to see Gordon on the field and producing in the first preseason contest for the Bolts. His offseason microfracture knee surgery had me more than a little worried about how well the second-year back would fare, especially after his disappointing rookie effort. If one catch can change someone’s perception, consider me a convert. Gordon looked spry by displaying burst (and perhaps more importantly, he showed heart) as he jaunted 44 yards on a quick strike from Philip Rivers.
4) QB Mark Sanchez (10-13-99-1), Denver Broncos: Sanchez looked about as good as can be expected, connecting on 10 of his 13 attempts for 99 yards and a 32-yard touchdown to Demaryius Thomas (he’s alive!). Sanchez also tossed an interception on the day. He is expected to take a backseat in the Broncos’ second preseason contest to Siemian, whose Week 1 display resulted in a competent 7-for-12 for 88 yards. Hardly earth-shattering, but enough to pique the coaching staff’s interest, nonetheless. Neither passer should be on your radar as anything better than a secondary fantasy passer.
5) RB Terrance West (9-25-2), Baltimore Ravens: Arguably the best performer in Ravens camp this summer has been West. He is one of several backs vying for extra playing time behind Justin Forsett, but the path to a starter’s workload could be an easy hike given Forsett’s risky nature. West scored a pair of touchdowns in Week 1 of the preseason, despite rushing nine times for a mere 25 yards. He appears on his way to a legitimate role in the offense. Target West as a fourth fantasy back, especially as a Forsett owner.
6) WR Michael Thomas (4-67), New Orleans Saints: We have heard so much about how well Thomas has performed during training camp that watching him actually do it on the field almost felt natural. Four catches and 67 yards later, including one marvelous sideline grab, the rookie has earned a spot at the grownups table. This offense has produced rookie contributors before, and Thomas appears on the verge of being the next in line to deserve a fantasy roster spot.
7) QB Jared Goff (4-9-83), Los Angeles Rams: I couldn’t help but feel like this was a reality check for the talented Goff. A middling journeyman in Keenum illustrated just how big of a leap at the quarterback position it really is from the Pac-12 to the NFL. Keenum efficiently picked his spots and completed six of his seven attempts, registering a safety-driven 58 yards. Goff, on the other hand, looked like the rookie that he is before being pulled in the second quarter because of a minor injury to his non-throwing shoulder. The top pick in this spring’s draft finished 4-for-9 passing for 38 yards and an interception. In his defense, two passes were dropped by his targets. It appears seeing Keenum under center to begin the regular season isn’t all that far-fetched.
8) RB George Atkinson III (5-97-2), Oakland Raiders: In the 2014 preseason finale, against a second-string Seattle Seahawks defense, Atkinson flashed with an eight-carry, 63-yard performance. This would be the last time we witnessed a hint of his big-play talent until Friday’s contest with the Arizona Cardinals. The Notre Dame product didn’t contribute in 2015 but has drawn praise during training camp for his speed and explosiveness. He racked up 97 yards and a mere five attempts and scored twice in Oakland’s 31-10 rout. Continued strong play could force the coaching staff to look Atkinson’s way in the regular season.
9) RB Malcolm Brown (8-66), Los Angeles Rams: In competition, primarily with Benny Cunningham, for LA’s backup job to Todd Gurley, the first-year back donned a familiar No. 39 jersey as he rumbled for a matching 39 yards on a scamper, finishing with 66 yards on eight carries versus Dallas. Brown’s 2015 regular-season action was limited to the season finale at San Francisco in which he toted the ball four times for 17 yards. Anyone behind Gurley is playing for scraps, but the eventual No. 2 back, whomever it may be, will warrant fantasy recognition.
10) RB Tyler Gaffney (9-64-1), New England Patriots: He mustered 64 yards on nine totes and broke free for a 44-yard touchdown after a Cameron Fleming block opened a gaping cutback hole. Gaffney missed the last two seasons after a devastating knee injury. The Pats have a whole heap of options in the backfield to sift through, but Gaffney may have earned himself a roster spot with one preseason performance.