After a false start in the Hall of Fame Game, the first week of the 2016 NFL preseason is now in the books.
And while you’re not going to dominate your league strictly from the fantasy knowledge gleaned from statistics compiled in glorified scrimmages, there were some eye-catching fantasy figures emerging from the 16 games just completed Sunday.
So without further preamble, here’s our countdown of the notable numbers of preseason Week 1:
288 – League-leading rushing yards compiled by the Titans is Saturday’s 27-10 victory over the visiting Chargers. You no doubt took notice of DeMarco Murray’s 71-yard scoring run, but Tennessee’s other top three backs all got in on the act as well as rookie Derrick Henry (10 carries for 74 yards) and Bishop Sankey (3-52) both ran for TDs while last season’s leading rusher, Antonio Andrews (8-41), also averaged north of five yards per carry. In 2015, the Titans only ranked 26th with 92.8 rushing yards per game, but with a host of ground-oriented offseason improvements joining second-year QB Marcus Mariota – a rushing threat himself – look for the Tennessee rushing attack to be much more fantasy-friendly this coming campaign.
67 – Receiving yards on four receptions for Saints rookie wide receiver Michael Thomas in last Thursday’s 34-22 loss at New England. Thomas, the 6-foot-3, 212-pound second-round pick out of Ohio State, was targeted a team-high six times in the contest and finished with the eighth-most receiving yards among wideouts last weekend. With Jimmy Graham and now longtime running mate Marques Colston now gone, Drew Brees is looking for a sizable target, and Thomas most definitely has the profile to fill the bill.
27.3 – Catch percentage for the Eagles’ top five wide receivers (Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff, Rueben Randle, T.J. Graham and Chris Givens) in Thursday’s 17-9 win over the Bucs. Playing without injured No. 1 wideout Jordan Matthews, the above quintet was targeted a combined 11 times in the contest, but that produced all of three receptions for 11 yards, with Huff’s two grabs for eight yards making up the majority of it. Matthews should be back in time for the regular-season opener, but after digesting the aforementioned numbers, should be of no surprise why Philly swung a trade to acquire second-year WR Dorial Green-Beckham from the Titans on Tuesday. In the meantime, this also bodes well for the projected workload for TE Zach Ertz, who caught three of his five targets for 26 yards in the game.
6 – Team-high targets Saturday night for Rams rookie TE Tyler Higbee in a 28-24 win over the visiting Cowboys. Higbee, a 6-6, 250-pound monster of a target, was selected in the fourth round out of passing powerhouse Western Kentucky, where he reeled in eight scoring grabs last year as a senior. At the same time, Rams tight ends were combining for only two scoring catches – both by Lance Kendricks – a year ago, but Higbee could change that, especially with L.A.’s less-than-formidable WR corps, the Rams’ young quarterbacks (Case Keenum and first-overall pick Jared Goff) and a young QB’s penchant for relying on his tight ends. With Kendricks also still around, Higbee might not get enough looks to be a fantasy factor in a lot of fantasy leagues, but definitely have him in your TE radar if you’re searching for sleepers in larger leagues.
4 – Red-zone carries last Thursday for new Jaguars running back Chris Ivory, who punched one in from a yard out in the first quarter of a 17-13 loss to his former team, the Jets. The J’ville backfield has been thrown into a state of fantasy murkiness with Ivory joining second-year back T.J. Yeldon. The latter got the start in the preseason opener and matched Ivory with a team-high 26 rushing yards on two fewer carries (6-4), but it’s Ivory’s TD-scoring penchant that makes him more attractive on draft boards this August. A season ago, Ivory compiled a league-most 17 rushing attempts – a full 85 percent (also a league-high) of the Jets’ team total – inside the opposition’s 5-yard-line while Yeldon only had four inside-the-5 attempts and one TD. When all is said and done in 2016, hey may come awfully close to splitting the Jags’ rushing workload this season, but fantasy GMs are banking on more TDs from Ivory.
1 – Rushing TD – on a 1-yard run – from the Chiefs’ Spencer Ware on Saturday in a 17-16 loss to the Seahawks in K.C. Ware got the start for the Chiefs with Jamaal Charles still on the PUP list (he was since activated Tuesday) and while he was outrushed by fellow backup backs Charcandrick West (4-35) and Knile Davis (7-30) while rushing for 24 yards on five carries, it’s Ware’s apparent No. 2 status on the depth chart and projected goal-line role – much like we just discussed with the Jaguars backs – that makes him the more valuable Charles handcuff in K.C.
0.0 – Yards per carry Thursday for Washington’s top three RBs (Matt Jones, Chris Thompson and rookie Keith Mardhall) in a 23-17 loss in Atlanta. Now, sure, the trio combined for only eight carries – five of them for a negative yard for the seventh-round pick Marshall – but it only adds to the fantasy question marks swirling around the D.C. backs: Can Jones step up after Alfred Morris’ departure and become the team’s lead back after an up-and-(mostly)-down rookie season? Is Thompson anything more than a low-tier PPR back? And will Marshall be able to contribute after an injury-interrupted college career? Justifiably, Jones easily owns the highest current ADP of the three at No. 21 among running backs and No. 70 overall, but the answer for many fantasy GMs just might be “none of the above” when it comes to down to actually hitting the draft-day select button with a Redskins RB.
0 – Points allowed by the Broncos on Thursday in a 22-0 shellacking of the Bears in the Windy City. Yeah, the Bears are breaking in another new offensive coordinator, and Chicago’s offensive line is an injury-wracked mess at the moment, but the defending champs – and last season’s top fantasy defense – gave an impressive indication that 2015 might not be a one-year wonder. Playing without a host of starters, including Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and top cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, the Denver D allowed only 130 total yards and eight first downs while compiling a league-high seven sacks and 11 QB hits. One of the sacks resulted in a safety and the pressure also helped lead to an interception. For good measure, the Broncos’ special teams contributed a TD off a blocked punt to help the Denver D/ST pick right up where it left off.
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