Preseason Wrap-up: Week 2

Preseason Wrap-up: Week 2

General Fantasy Football Analysis, Tips, Strategy and Advice

Preseason Wrap-up: Week 2

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The second set of preseason games is over, and we’re left with the reality that these matchups were mostly meaningless in the past and now are almost entirely so in terms of gleaning actionable fantasy football information. Before the “no preseason” of 2020, the NFL most often used the first half of Week 3 to trot out the starters and fine-tune the offense. Not so anymore.

The intent of preseason games, aside from siphoning money from season ticket owners, is to assess the roster and determine which 53 players enter the regular season. That is the primary and almost exclusive goal of every team. If they are close at the end of a preseason game, would they insert better-quality players to secure the win? Well… no.

So the bottom line to preseason games is that they don’t mean much to fantasy football, and can be more misleading than helpful in valuing players. It is football. There are some impressive plays. But most are players that are on the verge of unemployment. And there are only three playoff games under the current CBA agreement. So even less time to give players tryouts for a job.

Last year, the Top-10 for quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers in preseason stats produced just one player with any fantasy merit – Rhamondre Stevenson. And even he only totaled 74 rushing yards over the first eight weeks.

As an overall statement regarding the preseason, the main focus is determining which players make the final roster, keeping them healthy, and working on ensuring that the offense, defense, and special teams are well-versed in their schemes. The lack of  fantasy starters in the preseason also means that Week 1 of the regular season is the best place to spend those free-agent dollars. It is only then that we know the true picture of how players will be used. Week 1 always serves up surprises that are impossible to know due to how preseasons are now  conducted.

Here’s a fantasy look at teams through the initial two weeks of the preseason and the direction of their most pressing fantasy situations.

Arizona Cardinals

Kyler Murray hasn’t played a down in the preseason, so preseason passing is just trying out players. New signee Marquise Brown hasn’t fielded a preseason  pass but was out with a hamstring strain. He’s said to be 100% now. The only notable has been that Darrel Williams came over from the Chiefs and seemed certain to be the No. 2 back to James Conner, but Eno Benjamin is making inroads to becoming the backup. He carried nine times for 26 yards, while Williams has just one run so far. Until the depth charts become official, the backfield lacks clarity.

Fourth-year wideout Andy Isabella is the reception leader with nine catches, but he’s just playing to make the team.

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons moved on from Matt Ryan after 14 years and brought in Marcus Mariota, who is familiar with HC Arthur Smith’s system from his time in Tennessee. They also drafted Desmond Ritter as the second quarterback taken in the 2022 NFL draft. Mariota is all but certain to be the starting quarterback this year, but nothing is set in stone on a team embarking on a complete rebuild. Mariota only threw two passes in Week 1 and Ridder finished the game, completing just ten of 22 passes. At the Jets in Week 2, Mariota played for the first quarter before letting Ridder finish the game.

Barring a big showing in Week 3 against the Jaguars, Ridder is sure to start the year on the bench but could come off at any time. Kyle Pitts has played just once in the preseason, but it was a 52-yard catch on the first Mariota pass of Week 2.

Where the fantasy interest lies is in the backfield. The 31-year-old Cordarrelle Patterson is the starter but hasn’t played in the preseason. The Falcons signed Damien Williams, and he seemed most likely to be the No. 2 back. But the 30-year-old journeyman is on his fourth team and totaled just five runs for 15 yards in the preseason. The fantasy interest lies with fifth-round rookie Tony Allgeier, who has looked great in practice and totaled 44 yards in nine rushes. The Atlanta O-line is one of the worst, and their schedule is no treat. But Patterson faded last season, and Allgeier is their best-looking (and by far youngest) running back.

Baltimore Ravens

Lamar Jackson hasn’t taken a preseason snap, so there’s not much to glean from the passing attack that will be dialed back this year. Fourth-round rookie tight end Isaiah Likely leads the team in receiving, but he remains just the No. 3 tight end behind Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle.

Sixth-round running back Tyler Badie has been the busiest though Mike Davis is also involved in the preseason. J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards are returning from knee injuries and haven’t played in the preseason. This is a committee backfield, and Dobbins is the only likely fantasy starter. Davis was out with an undisclosed injury in Week 1 but ran six times for 18 yards this week versus the Cardinals.  Badie did not play until the second half, and Davis ran only in the first half. But neither Dobbins nor Edwards are a lock to be healthy in Week 1, so this is all a murky situation.

Buffalo Bills

Devin Singletary and the rookie James Cook looked great against the Broncos this week, though no Denver starter was in the game, and each only ran four times in the first quarter. It is a committee effort in Buffalo. Zack Moss entered the game in the second quarter and turned his four runs into 19 yards and two touchdowns. That spiked some hype for the third-year back and places him in competition with Cook for the primary backup role.

Josh Allen started the Week 2 game, and threw three passes with one being a 28-yard score to Gabriel Davis who was already on most sleeper lists. Fifth-round receiver Khalil Shakir led the team in both preseason games totaling eight catches for 151 yards but Isaiah McKenzie is already the No. 3 slot receiver. Shakir is showing up in drafts now, but he’ll be no better than No. 4 in games.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers have held Christian McCaffrey out of all preseason games. Even though they had a quarterback competition between Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold, the due split just ten pass attempts in Week 1 and then neither played in Week 2. Mayfield was just named the starter, but only for Week 1. D’Onta Foreman was given the start over Chuba Hubbard in Week 2, but neither back did much. Hubbard remains the No. 2 back.

Chicago Bears

Justin Fields opened both preseason games and played for the first series each time accounted for seven passes. Those throws have been almost solely to Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney, which seems an opportunity missed since the pair are the least in need of gaining chemistry with Fields. Sixth-round rookie rusher Trestan Ebner has been the primary back in the preseason and looked good against non-starters on defense but injured his ankle. Khalil Herbert remains the No. 2 back.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are holding out all starters from the preseason, which is why they are 0-2 in meaningless preseason games. They are just evaluating players. This is already all the same players and scheme from last year.

Cleveland Browns

The Browns will be without DeShaun Watson until Week 13, but Jacoby Brissett hasn’t played a preseason down. Even the shiny new toy Amari Cooper hasn’t played. This has been entirely about evaluating the back end of the roster.

Dallas Cowboys

No Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, CeeDee Lamb, or Dalton Schultz. With Michael Gallup no lock to play in Week 1 and James Washington nursing a fractured foot for a few months, the Cowboys have spent little time in the preseason developing the No. 2 and No. 3 receivers. The rookie Jalen Tolbert has just four catches for 39 yards over two games.  They are just evaluating players and keeping the starters healthy.

Denver Broncos

Russell Wilson has not taken a snap in the preseason, nor has any of the starting receivers, other than tight end Albert Okwuegbunam. He started the loss to the Bills and played into the fourth quarter. HC Nathaniel Hackett said the receiver needed more work  and he is slated to be the starter. He just missed catching a touchdown in the game. Despite installing a new offense and defense, the Broncos haven’t used the preseason for more than assessing the back end of the roster.

Detroit Lions

Jared Goff threw four passes in Week 1, but the Lions’ passing offense is just trying out about 14 receivers each week of the preseason. D’Andre Swift scored on his four runs of Week 1, but he remained out in Week 2. Jamaal Williams ran twice in Week 1.

Neither DJ Chark nor T.J. Hockenson have played in the preseason and the rookie Jameson Williams is still recovering from his torn ACL last January. The Lions are just evaluating players.

Green Bay Packers

The primary offensive starters remain on the sideline and the absence of Aaron Rodgers means the receivers are not learning much. Tyler Goodson is the No. 3 back currently and gets the most preseason work with 22 rushes over the two games. The rookie wideout Romeo Doubs is another player whose hype has pushed him into the first half of drafts and he’s caught three passes and scored once in each game. Despite the fantasy rush to draft him, he is still listed behind Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, and Randall Cobb, who have not been in preseason games. And in reality, in this offense, no one knew Davante Adam’s name until his third year. Doubs role in Week 3 will be interesting. A nice showing in Week 3 could only make Doubs stock go higher.

Houston Texans

Davis Mills played into the second quarter in Week 2 versus the Rams and threw a score to Nico Collins (4-48, TD), who has generated praise in practices and shows chemistry with Mills. Brandin Cooks remains safely on the sideline and the rookie John Metchie sadly misses the season.  Collins boosted his stock in the preseason and practices.

The only notable fantasy development in the Texans’ preseason games is that the fourth-round rookie Dameon Pierce appears to have overtaken Marlon Mack as the primary back. Pierce has looked great in practice and ran for 49 yards on five carries in Week 1 versus the Saints. He was held out in Week 2 while Mack and Royce Freeman did most of the work. The Texans have a terrible schedule and a horrible O-line, but Pierce is breathing optimism into the backfield.

Indianapolis Colts

Matt Ryan only played for one series in Week 1 and not in Week 2. The roster is set and the rookie Alec Pierce is the only new addition. He’s been great in practice but totals just three catches in the preseason. Pittman caught just two passes but is already is expected to take another step forward from his breakout of last year. Both Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines have yet to play.

[Bob Self/Florida Times-Union]

Jacksonville Jaguars

Trevor Lawrence worked with the first team in the first half of both preseason games. He’s looked sharp and no doubt needs the work in the new offense. His first pass of Week 1 was a completion to Zay Jones for 32 yards. In Week 2, he threw to Christian Kirk for five catches and 54 yards in the first quarter. After last year, any positive signs are welcome.

James Robinson remains out, but Travis Etienne played in both preseason games, rushing for a total of 52 yards on 17 carries. He’s only caught one pass which is surprising. The Jags are mostly evaluating players, but are wisely giving the starters a little work in the new system. Connecting with Kirk was especially good to see.

Kansas City Chiefs

Shockingly, Patrick Mahomes threw 19 passes in Week 2 and seven in Week 1. This year’s got-to-have party favor is Isiah Pacheco, who lit up camp and roared into the first half of fantasy drafts but hasn’t done much in preseason games (6-14 rush, 3-21 receive), but that’s much more than Ronald Jones (4-1 rush, 1-3 receive). Jerrick McKinnon had one catch. The backfield isn’t being explored much in preseason games.

Losing Tyreek Hill hasn’t caused any tryouts in the preseason by other wideouts unless Justin Watson is more than the No. 5 receiver. He  played in the first quarter with Patrick Mahomes, but that’s because JuJu Smith-Schuster was out with a sore knee. The wideouts include a mixture of Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, and Watson.  Nothing in the preseason games clarifies their order.  Valdez-Scantling, Hardman, and Smith-Schuster are the presumed starters, but Mahomes may be spreading the wealth this year.

Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders are not using the preseason for more than roster considerations. David Carr, Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller are safely on the sideline. The only notable is the backfield with Josh McDaniels importing his frustrating committee approach to Las Vegas. Josh Jacobs hasn’t played in the preseason and is still assumed to be the No. 1 running back – whatever that means under McDaniels. Kenyan Drake spent Week 2 playing with scrubs and is now expected to be released soon.

But – that doesn’t clear up much. Brandon Bolden followed McDaniels over from New England, where he was the receiving back last year. But he hasn’t played in the preseason. Ameer Abdullah spent seven years bouncing around the league but is potentially the new third-down back – though he hasn’t had a touch in the preseason. The rookie Zamir White has seen play in both games and even scored in Week 2, but he hasn’t been particularly productive during his 13 touches for 26 yards. This backfield may change up constantly this year.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers have rested all their starters so far this preseason, and the minor notable has been Isiah Spiller, who led the team with ten carries for 34 yards in Week 1, but then only rushed for three yards in Week 2 when he injured his ankle. The fantasy community has been all over Spiller as the No. 2 behind Austin Ekeler, but Joshua Kelley had the start in Week 2 and looked better. Spiller may not be ready by Week 1, and Kelley is clouding up the backfield. If he can continue to show well in Week 3 and practices, he can certainly slow down Spiller climbing the depth chart.

Josh Palmer was already a fantasy sleeper on a prolific passing offense and played well in Week 2 with three catches for 75 yards and a score against the Cowboys. He’s expanding the options for Justin Herbert.

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams haven’t used a single fantasy starter in a preseason game. The only new player of note is Allen Robinson, and while he has generated plenty of optimism, he hasn’t made any news. Cam Akers returned from a torn Achilles at the end of last season but looked lethargic. Now both he and Darrell Henderson are out with soft-tissue injuries and not currently practicing. The Rams are not using the preseason for anything more than roster management.

Miami Dolphins

Tua Tagovailoa started in Week 2 and threw six short completions. All starting wideouts have remained on the sideline, including Tyreek Hill.  The Fins appear confident that the offense is better served remaining healthy for Week 1 than getting any live action. The backfield is even more convoluted than usual and newly added Chase Edmonds only ran three times for three yards in Week 2. He’s safely the No. 1 running back in a crowded backfield that is certain to use several backs each week.  No other running back has done much in the preseason or even in practice.

Minnesota Vikings

The new scheme from HC Kevin O’Connell promises to throw even more, but the preseason is not where they are fine-tuning anything. None of the starters from the offense have played in the preseason. The Vikes are content to work in practice and spread the preseason work over all the back-end players.

New England Patriots

Brian Hoyer is still the No. 2 quarterback, but fourth-round rookie Bailey Zappe dominated playing time in both preseason games. Mac Jones threw eight passes in Week 2, but that was all for the preseason. The only notable was that camp hype about Nelson Agholor turned into two catches in Week 2 – one went for 45 yards.

The backfield was already expected to return Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson and practices have suggested that Stevenson’s role will increase at the expense of Harris. With James White retired, the ex-Oklahoma back was destined to become more of a receiver. There’s speculation that he could become a three-down back but he remains currently as No. 2 on the depth chart. Harris, Stevenson, and Ty Montgomery all took first-team snaps in Week 2 but each only handled a few touches.

New Orleans Saints

No starters are used in the preseason so far, and the only fantasy notable was Chris Olave catching a 20-yard touchdown in the second quarter of Week 2. Ian Book has taken almost all the snaps at quarterback. Andy Dalton started in Week 1 and threw five straight completions that ended in a touchdown to Dwayne Washington. He looked very sharp in his one series this summer and gives confidence that the offense can still move if Jameis Winston gets hurt.

Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Michael Thomas, and Jarvis Landry remain healthy on the sideline. Well… Thomas has a hamstring injury for now.

New York Giants

Daniel Jones started each preseason game and even threw 16 passes over the full first quarter of Week 2, but he only completed six of ten for 69 yards and no scores in Week 1. Then again, no starting wideouts have played. The roster holds Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard, Wan’Dale Robinson, and Darius Slayton, but they aren’t using the preseason to sort them out. The rookie Robinson currently projects as the starting slot receiver, but he only caught three passes for a net three-yard loss in Week 2.

New York Jets

Zach Wilson injured his meniscus and will miss the preseason and possibly a few more games into the regular season. That will call up Joe Flacco if needed, but he’s not played in any preseason matchups. The Jets let Mike White and Chris Streveler split the preseason games for Week 2. This is the second year of the offensive system, so Wilson is already familiar.

Corey Davis and Elijah Moore only caught one pass in the first game and then did not play in Week 2. Unfortunately, Wilson’s absence means that first-round wideout Garrett Wilson has to work with backup quarterbacks and was limited to only five short catches in total. The passing offense are determining which players to keep and threw to 17 different receivers in Week 2.

Breece Hall is locked into the primary spot in the backfield but is only seeing three to five rushes per game. There hasn’t been any surprising takeaways from the preseason and without Wilson around, they are just evaluating the roster.

Philadelphia Eagles

Jalen Hurts played for a series in Week 1 and then nothing in Week 2. None of the starting receivers have played. Miles Sanders hasn’t played and dealt with a hamstring injury. The only preseason notable is that the Eagles backfield will remain a committee approach. Boston Scott started in Week 2, and after his series, Kenneth Gainwell took a series. Both looked great against the non-starters of the Cleveland defense, and both scored. So far, the passing game wasn’t the focus in the preseason, and A.J. Brown has yet to see the field.

Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are using the preseason to help make decisions on starters. All three quarterbacks – Mason Rudolph, Mitchell Trubisky, and the rookie Kenny Pickett are all playing each week to see if anyone slows down Pickett eventually becoming the starter.

The preseason should indicate if Chase Claypool will step up this season now that Ben Roethlisberger left with his short passing scheme. But he’s only caught one pass for 29 yards in the first series of Week 2 when Trubisky started. George Pickens generated plenty of hype in practice and scored in Week 1 on his three catches for 43 yards in the first quarter. He only managed two catches for six yards last week in Jacksonville. Diontae Johnson hasn’t been used in the preseason with his job safely secured.

Rudolph is destined for backup duties, and he hopes the Steelers keep three quarterbacks. Pickett took over for the second quarter this week and completed six-of-seven passes for 76 yards and a touchdown with a 151.5 QB Rating. Mitchell needs to hope that Pickett doesn’t impress again in Week 3.

San Francisco 49ers

Trevor Lance is the starting quarterback and looked sharp in Week 1 when he completed four-of-five passes for 91 yards with a 76-yard bomb for a touchdown to Danny Gray. But he sat out in Week 2, and none of the starting receivers have played a down in the preseason.

Trey Sermon played in both games and totaled 19 yards on 11 carries using the same form that saw him freefall on the depth chart last year. The oft-injured Elijah Mitchell may miss the preseason with a hamstring injury. That all makes the rookie Tyrion Davis-Price more interesting. Jeff Wilson is still in the committee, as is JaMycal Hasty. But Davis-Price was the leading rusher in both preseason games, gaining 36 yards on ten runs versus the Packers and then 41 yards on ten carries at the Vikings.

It would be nice to see more of Lance, but the 49ers already know what they have in him. Davis-Price will boost his fantasy value even more with a solid Week 3 performance.

Seattle Seahawks

Week 1 saw Geno Smith start the first half and then Drew Lock take the second half. Their stats were nearly identical on 15 passes each, but Lock threw for two scores – albeit against the Steelers’ second-half defenders. Lock missed Week 2 with COVID but is back. The quarterback competition continues though most believe Lock is the starter. Week 3 should shed some light on the final starting decision.

None of the starting receivers have played in the preseason, even though they’ll have a new quarterback regardless of which one wins. Rashaad Penny was held out of both games, while Kenneth Walker gained 19 yards on five carries in Week 1 and caught an 11-yard pass. He is expected to join Penny in a tandem backfield but underwent a procedure on his groin without a timetable to return. That means there is no chance that Penny will risk injury in Week 3. Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas have both looked great in preseason games and will contribute at least until Walker is healthy again.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady hasn’t played, and no one is even sure where he was. None of the top four wide receivers have participated in preseason games though Chris Godwin is still rehabbing his torn-up knee and may not be completely healthy until after the season starts. This is the same passing offense from last year, other than Rob Gronkowski leaving.

The only notable preseason performance has been with the rookie Rachaad White. He gained 32 yards on seven runs in Week 1 and then 19 yards on six runs in Week 2. Leonard Fournette was given five runs and two receptions but has a lock on the starting role. With Ronald Jones gone, the No. 2 running back is up for grabs and White was a third-round pick as a replacement. Ke’Shawn Vaughn was the starter in Week 1 but then only played in the second half of Week 2. White hasn’t been exactly electric but added three catches and should be in the No. 2 mix.

White has also returned kicks to help him stay on the field more. His downside has been tipping a pass that became an interception and then he was stripped of the ball in Week 2.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans have not featured Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, or Robert Woods in any preseason game. The rookie Treylon Burks struggled in practices and totals just one catch for four yards.

The only fantasy notable is using the rookie Hassan Haskins who led the Titans’ rushers with 12 runs for 39 yards in Week 2, and he added two catches for eight yards. Dontrelle Hilliard will start the year as the No. 2 running back but Haskins will challenge for the spot. Hilliard only ran once in the preseason but is already a known factor for the Titans. Week 3 could help Haskins make a better case to become the primary backup. Bottom line, the Titans are making sure they have options if Derrick Henry is injured again.

Washington Commanders

Carson Wentz is the new quarterback, and he’s handled a series or two in preseason games. And not done much. Terry McLaurin caught a pass or two from him in both games, but like most teams, the Commanders throw to 14 different receivers each week to determine who makes the roster. There’s not much to glean for the passing offense. The rookie Jahan Dotson generated excitement in practices but only caught two passes for 23 yards this week in Kansas City.

The rushing effort is fantasy relevant and of note in preseason games. J.D. McKissic has just one preseason catch, but his role as the third-down back is already certain. Change is evident is with Antonio Gibson rushing for only two yards on four carries in Week 1, while the rookie Brian Robinson gained 26 yards and a score on six runs all in the first half. Week 2 saw Robinson as the starter run for 31 yards on eight carries while Gibson only managed three yards on two rushes playing with the second team.

Gibson continues to fall in fantasy rankings and drafts while Robinson keeps climbing up.

 

Again –  this is the preseason. Fantasy leaguers want to know what to expect and about 90% of that knowledge is discussed behind a closed door in the coaches meeting. Don’t be afraid to make those free agent moves after Week 1, since the pickings may never be better.

The NFL has always treated the preseason as just a warmup for the season. These last few years, it hasn’t even been that. But if it keeps our fantasy draft picks healthy into the season, it’s hard to argue too much with the new direction.

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