Week 2 of the preseason is no more, leaving fantasy owners with several noteworthy takeaways. The best of the bunch comes from the following 10 highlighted performances, but a few honorable mentions narrowly missed the cut.
It was great to see Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy (9-45-1) with a little spring in his step, while Seattle Seahawks rusher Christine Michael (10-55-0) inched closer to career revival during his second stint in the Emerald City.
Staying in Seattle, the offensive line’s protection of quarterback Russell Wilson (four sacks) in less than a half of football is alarming. Quarterbacks like Wilson — mobile and routinely looking to extend a play — tend to take a lot of sacks, but four in less than 30 minutes of football is worrisome.
Finally, just how good is the Jacksonville Jaguars offense?!? Blake Bortles looks to be in midseason form, firing a pair of touchdown passes in a nearly flawless performance Saturday night.
1) QB Robert Griffin III, Cleveland Browns | 6-for-8, 96 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 3 carries, 36 yards
It is the preseason, we get it, but it is difficult to not like what Griffin put on display Friday night. He connected on a pair of deep touchdown passes and was fleet afoot with his own wheels. The offense is tailored to his big arm. Often a byproduct of a vertical, play-action passing game: Wide-open running lanes for a mobile quarterback to exploit. RG3 isn’t all the way back to his early-career hype, of course, and fantasy owners should not overreact just yet. Don’t rely on him as a starter in typical leagues, although he could become a valuable trade chip if all goes well.
2) RB Kenjon Barner, Philadelphia Eagles | 6 carries, 41 yards, 1 TD
Barner has earned the No. 2 job behind starter Ryan Mathews, and it is not far-fetched to see a clear path to a starting role. The fragile Mathews also isn’t a good fit for this system as a receiving back, another avenue in which Barner can see a regular role. He looked every bit of the part Friday night against Pittsburgh, logging an explosive 41 yards on his six attempts, including a 5-yard touchdown scamper. Make sure he is in your fantasy plans as a late-round dice roll or handcuff to the marshmallow of a placeholder ahead of him.
3) WR Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions | 4 catches, 65 yards
It is become clearer by the day that Matthew Stafford favors Jones as his top target. Calvin Johnson’s retirement opens at least 149 looks from a year ago, a number Jones alone could approach. The former Bengal hauled in four of five targets in Friday’s tilt against his former employer, accounting for 65 yards. While those stats are hardly eye-popping, Jones is setting the tone early for what could be a breakthrough season. Draft him as a passable No. 2 receiver or ideal third. His prime value comes in PPR setups.
4) WR Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals | 2 catches, 38 yards, 1 TD
The rookie receiver is doing his part in creating separation from the pack, even more so with Boyd’s top competition, Brandon LaFell, on the mend for several more weeks. Boyd will see plenty of looks opposite A.J. Green, especially if tight end Tyler Eifert cannot become and remain healthy in a hurry. Boyd has enough upside to be the top fantasy rookie receiver in 2016. The best part is he comes at a rock-bottom price, going on average in the 13th round of PPR drafts, according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com.
5) QB Jimmy Garoppolo, New England Patriots | 16-for-21, 181 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Competent. That is the first thing that comes to mind when watching Jimmy G’s control of the Patriots offense. He has had plenty of time to flavor while simmering on the back burner to Tom Brady’s greatness, which will come in handy over the first four weeks of 2016. It isn’t wise to start Garoppolo in customary fantasy molds. Leave him for a brave DFS play. The positive of this situation is that he shouldn’t be a fantasy killer for the values of Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski during Brady’s league-imposed vacation.
6) WR Tajae Sharpe, Tennessee Titans | 6 catches, 68 yards
The unheralded rookie standout continues to imprint his stamp on the Tennessee passing game. Sharpe had been rumored to be in the running for a starting gig roughly a month ago, but fantasy owners know how that tends to go with rookie receivers over the summer. Today, there is zero question he is among the team’s best weapons. Sharpe’s precise route-running, sure hands, and veteran-like confidence is on full display; he looks like a seasoned veteran. It also doesn’t hurt that Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota brushed off a rocky Week 1 showing and came out firing on all cylinders against the defending NFC Champion Carolina Panthers. This rook must be in your draft plans as a fourth receiver with the potential to do a whole lot of damage.
7) RB Jeremy Langford, Chicago Bears | 8 carries, 55 yards, 1 TD
Langford has been making the most of his opportunities and looks the part of a legitimate replacement to Matt Forte. He rattled off a 34-yarder against the New England Patriots and capped off his effort one play later with a 5-yard TD plunge. Bears running back Ka’Deem Carey also impressed this summer, but he sat out Week 2 with a concussion, and he could factor in during the regular season. Nevertheless, Langford has separated himself from the competition and figures to be the lead back heading into 2016’s opener. Feel much more confident when drafting him as a second back in all formats.
8) WR Terrelle Pryor, Cleveland Browns | 1 catches, 50 yards, 1 TD
Our David Dorey likes Pryor as a late-round flier, and this is exactly why. The converted quarterback has athleticism for days and respectable hands to go along with it. The Browns’ passing system favors setting up the run to get defenders to cheat up to the line before trying to bomb one over the top for a huge gain, which the 6-foot-4, 223-pounder is adept at doing. Including his three preseason catches this year, three of Pryor’s last four catches as a Brown have gone for at least 42 yards. He will be erratic, and perhaps he is best reserved for DFS games, but Pryor is earning a look in traditional leagues.
9) RB Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers | 6 carries, 18 yards
Last week, I wrote in this space about how uplifting it was to see Gordon look so spry coming off a major knee surgery. In Week 2 of the preseason, the second-year back looked dreadful versus a tough Arizona Cardinals unit. He ripped off a 12-yard gain and combined for six yards on his five other rushing attempts. This is, unfortunately, more in aligned with the level of production I expect to see from Gordon more often than not. He’s a fringe RB3/flex buy for cautious drafters.
10) QB Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys | 12-for-15, 199 yards, 2 TD, 0 INTs
If the starting quarterback ahead of Prescott were anyone other than the fragile Tony Romo, we wouldn’t be talking about a rookie quarterback here. Dallas’ entire offense has collapsed without Romo, and at 36 years old, he is no lock to stay on the field. Through two preseason games, Prescott has looked every bit the part of the quarterback Dallas needs behind Romo. He has authored a crazy stat line over these matchups: 22-for-27 (81.4 percent), 248 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs, 2 rushing TDs. Yes, it is preseason, and yes, those stats will come back to Earth soon. The point being, much like with Garoppolo’s performance, it is reassuring to see Prescott keeping fantasy hopes alive if (when?) Romo goes down.