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Tue Aug 17th 2021

Preseason Week One Observations

This weekend marked the start of the preseason, and all 32 teams played their first preseason games. We didn't have preseason games last year because of COVID, but this year Dynasty Freeks can joyfully cheer on the rookies on their teams and keep an eye out for bottom-of-the-roster players to add or drop before their roster cut date. Thanks to NFL Game Pass, I watched all of the preseason games this weekend, and here are a few things that stood out to me from a dynasty perspective.

Mac Jones, the Patriots' Running Backs, and Jaret Patterson

  • The quarterback competition in New England will be a much tougher training camp battle than I initially thought it would be. Mac Jones looked very comfortable in the offense. He had good footwork, made quick reads and decisions, and was mostly accurate, though he did miss guys a few times. The offense looked very different when Jones was playing. He was in the shotgun more, and they were in the spread more. It made me wonder if New England would ever consider using both quarterbacks and bringing Cam Newton for special situations. I can't see Cam being too happy about being a backup should Jones win the job. Maybe a special offensive role would appease him and make things more difficult on defenses. 
  • The Patriot running backs looked great no matter who was playing quarterback. Damian Harris, Sony Michel, and Rhomondre Stevenson played well. Stevenson had the 91-yard touchdown run and a tough goal-line touchdown later in the game. Harris started the game and had several nifty runs between the tackles and on sweeps. He appears to be the clear-cut lead running back, but Michel looked impressive on several runs with the second team. This backfield could be messy on a team that intends to run the ball more than most teams in the league. My bets are on Harris to make his first significant fantasy impact this season, but the guys behind him may have more to say about it than I anticipated.
  • Jaret Patterson was a pleasant surprise late in the game. He had 40 yards on ten carries and 30 yards receiving on four targets. He looked swift and shifty. Coach Rivera said after the game that he envisions a role for Patterson in the backfield. He was surprisingly not drafted after compiling a ton of yards and touchdowns in his college career at Buffalo. This week, I'm adding him to all of my scout teams and may even add him to a roster or two. He might surpass Peyton Barber to be the handcuff to Antonio Gibson while J.D. McKissic keeps his specific role in the passing game.

Quez Watkins and Tyree Jackson

  • In recent weeks, Watkins was getting training camp buzz, especially while first-round rookie wide receiver, DeVonta Smith, has been injured. He was wisely added to rosters this week before his 79-yard touchdown catch and run on Thursday. Those managers feel pretty smart now. It was his only catch of the game but Hurts also overthrew him after getting behind the defense on what could have been another long touchdown play. I am not sure he will have a role significant enough to be consistent for dynasty managers, but he could be their big-play guy while Smith and Jalen Reagor get more wide receiver targets. He's also hurt by the fact that Philadelphia tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert demand a lot of targets as well. He's worth adding to rosters like many did this week, but I don't imagine him hitting starting lineups too often, if at all, this year. That said, fellow second-year receiver, Jalen Reagor, didn't do much in this preseason game.
  • At the end of the game, I was thoroughly impressed by Tyree Jackson. I have to admit that I have only heard about him a few times. He's a former college quarterback that converted to tight end. He's 6' 7" and 249 pounds, so if anyone can make the Logan Thomas type of conversion to tight end, it would be someone with that kind of frame. His performance made me wish even more that the Eagles would move on from Ertz so that Jackson could see more playing time. I added Jackson to all of my scout teams this week, and I may look to add him to some of my tight-end premium leagues so that I'll have the opportunity to keep him on the roster-cut day if Ertz gets traded.

Jared Goff and Amon-Ra St. Brown

  • I know the Lions appear to be one of the worst teams in the NFL this year, but I thought their first-team offense showed some signs of life. The running game was pitiful, but the first team looked good in the passing game. Goff had control of the offense and was moving the team down the field. I was happy to see Amon-Ra St. Brown running with the first team and snagging two catches for first downs. I believe he will be the top-targeted wide receiver in Detroit this year. He's an excellent route runner who is perfectly fitted for the slot role, which Goff checks down to often. I'm glad I have St. Brown on one of my teams, but I wish it were more. He's a player. I will put some trade offers in for this week.

Rondale Moore

  • Moore played a lot of snaps with the first and second teams in his first preseason game. He was moved all around the field and got two carries. His carries only went for 16 yards, but I was happy to see the Cardinals using him in this kind of role. He had one beautiful catch on a fade route, jumping to catch the back shoulder throw over a much taller defender. He showed that he's got the talent to be a player the defense must account for each week. I was glad to see him so heavily involved already in week one.

Justin Fields and Tua Tagovailoa

  • Fields looked pretty shaky on his first few possessions. He did not set his feet very well and fled the pocket too quickly. However, as the game progressed, he looked like the dual-threat star he was drafted to be in Chicago. The Bears moved to a lot more play-action and roll-outs, which game Fields more defined route progressions and the opportunity to run. He did really well after his first few possessions and ended up with a touchdown run and a touchdown pass. One more preseason game like this, and Andy Dalton will be a backup again. Dalton did not have much of an opportunity to do anything, but Fields did enough to already cause Matt Nagy to reconsider his promise that Dalton will start in week one. 
  • Apart from one ugly interception when Tua tried to force the ball into a tight space in the endzone, he looked really good. He had some on-point passes to the outside and a few nice touch passes downfield, including a 50-yard pass to Mike Gesicki. He didn't have Devante Parker or Will Fuller in the game, and Jaylen Waddle did not catch a pass, but he distributed the ball well and looked fine. It's still weird watching a left-handed quarterback pass the ball, but he did well in what is technically his first preseason game. He'll look better once his weapons come back.

Drew Lock and Javonte Williams

  • Drew Lock is the quarterback Denver wants to win the job given his draft capital, so he got the start in the first preseason game and made the most of it with two touchdown passes, including one 80 yarder to K.J. Hamler. Teddy Bridgewater could not have made that throw. That's a big reason why if Lock can continue to make throws like that and demand the offense in the preseason, he's the frontrunner to win the job. He could not have looked better in his preseason debut.
  • Javonte Williams busted off two 10-yard runs on his first two carries and proved to be very capable of winning the job over Melvin Gordon. That said, Gordon did not play and likely will not play in the preseason. Evidence from preseason week one indicates that the backfield will be split between two very capable backs. I'm fully expecting that this year will be a split backfield with Gordon and Williams as viable flex positions starters or even start-worthy players in the RB-2 position.

Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault

  • Travis Lawrence was less than spectacular in his preseason debut, but he showed an affinity to Marvin Jones, and the offense showed a commitment to Laviska Shenualt. Lawrence and Jones connect on several key receptions, including one deep third-down conversion. Jones was the first look for Lawrence in this first preseason game, and he was an open target. Shenault was targeted on several plays behind or just above the line of scrimmage, proving he was an active first read on several plays. That's just what Shenault managers wanted to see this preseason - that he'd earn a valuable PPR role in the offense. So far, it seems to be the case, giving Shenault managers like me who traded a 2021 first-round pick for Shenault hope to believe such trades will pay off.

Jordan Love and Davis Mills

  • Love and Mills did not blow the roof off the building, but they proved to be capable starters, at least in the preseason. Both of them made accurate and timely throws to receivers. They moved their offenses steadily down the field and proved to be capable backups or future starters. Davis Mills has a genuine opportunity to become a starter this year. Houston drafted him in the third round, Deshaun Watson may leave the team, and the Texans are not committed long-term to Tyrod Taylor. They actually have far greater reason to see Mills beat Taylor this preseason. Love also distributed the ball well and broke the stigma of reports that he has played far worse than his first-round draft capital deserved. Love won't play this year, barring an injury to Aaron Rodgers, but he could become the future in Green Bay. Mills is a must-hold player in Superflex leagues, but Jordon Love is not far from being the same. Aaron Rodgers' relationship with the team has soured, even though he re-signed for one year. Rodger's contract next year is up in the air, leaving Love to become the future starter. Both Mills and Love should be players to hold in Superflex leagues. Their dynasty values could skyrocket in the next 9-12 months.

Jacob Eason and Marlon Mack

  • Jacob Eason moved the ball well and appeared to have a firm grip on the offense. He had a few miscues but overall ran through his progressions well and threw accurate passes to a variety of second-string receivers. If Carson Wentz can't fix his problems from last year, Eason could come in to relieve him, especially if he keeps improving in the preseason and his early-season starts. It made me believe that Jonathan Taylor and the first-string pass catchers in Indianapolis can still have a fantasy impact even while the team waits for Carson Wentz's return from injury.
  • Marlon Mack did not do much statistically, but it was to see him back on the field after his Achilles injury last season. The fact that he was on the field and making contact was encouraging for managers with Cam Akers on their teams. Mack will be one to watch this season if only to see how his play affects the volatile dynasty value of Cam Akers.

Josh Palmer and Justin Jackson

  • Josh Palmer is the rookie I have added most to my teams this year in rookie drafts. So far, I drafted him in the third round in four or my eight dynasty leagues, with one more late rookie draft to go. So I was extremely pleased to see him as the primary target in the second-team offense which started the game. He didn't rack up yards, but he was the first target of Chase Daniels, catching six passes on the night. With Keenan Allen and Mike Williams taking the night off, he did what dynasty managers wanted to see. He established himself as the WR-3 on the team by how he played. Beat reports have repeatedly called him a standout in practice, and now we all got to see it on the field. Mike Williams is already nursing an injury, so Palmer could get a lot of playing time even early in the season. I can't wait to see how he looks with Justin Herbert throwing him the ball.
  • Justin Jackson was the first running back on the field, signaling that he must be winning the RB-2 battle in LA. Joshua Kelley and Larry Rountree played quite a bit too, but no one stood out as the best, though Rountree had the longest run of 25 yards. Kelley and Rountree have better draft capital than Jackson, but Jackson had a far more productive college career. I thought he would be the outside man looking in, but he appears to be the next man up instead. I dropped one of my shares of Joshua Kelley this week to pick Jaret Patterson, who I mentioned at the top of this article.

Trey Lance and Trey Sermon

  • Lance played all but the first series in the first half and the second half's first series to run Shanahan's scripted plays after halftime. He did enough to make clear that he should start the season as the number one quarterback. He wasn't perfect, but the spark he adds by his mobility and arm strength give the 49ers more of what they already need to win. His stats show he was 5 for 14, but he had four balls that were dropped. His 80-yard touchdown pass was enough to convince the home fans that Lance is the player they want to see start. The 49ers may keep trying to trot our Garoppolo as their starter in the preseason to coax a trade, but that's about the only reason they should do so.
  • Trey Sermon had plenty of opportunities with nine carries and two catches, but he didn't do anything spectacular. He only averages 2.9 yards per carry, the fewest of all the running backs that played. The fact that Mostert did not play in the game and Sermon didn't play well is enough reason for me to believe Mostert will lead the team in touches, at least until he inevitably gets injured. Shanahan, per usual, will rotate all of his backs, but Mostert will be who he looks to first. Mostert's dynasty value has fallen too far, in my opinion.

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