Wed Aug 25th 2021
Preseason Week Two Observations
We had another weekend of preseason football. Some teams allowed their starters to get more reps than the week before, and a few teams continued to rest their best players. Still, we got a glimpse of what many of our dynasty players can do. It's always fun to watch preseason games from a dynasty perspective and see the bottom-of-the-roster moves managers make in response to what they see.
A death in the family and deadlines for my real job prevented me from watching every preseason play this weekend, but I did watch the first half of each game. Like I did last week, I'll share a few things that stood out from a dynasty perspective from preseason week two.
- Meyers is the best receiver on the Patriots' team. He had three catches and a touchdown with Cam Newton and the first-team offense. He has the most chemistry with Cam Newton and will likely be the most targeted player next year whether Newton or Mac Jones is his quarterback. This offseason, New England went hunting for pass catchers, signing Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Hunter Henry, and Jonnu Smith in free agency. While a few of them have been injured and thus not on the field to compete with targets in preseason games, Meyers is taking advantage of the playing time and won't relinquish when the free-agent signees return from injury. Dynasty managers who picked up Meyers after he had a few breakout games in the middle of last season will be rewarded for that move this year. Meyers will be a depth piece on dynasty rosters, likely startable in PPR leagues when better receivers are on bye weeks. New England will still be a run-heavy team, but Meyers will be a crucial contributor in the passing game.
- Hardman was peppered with targets in the Chiefs' second preseason game, including in the red-zone several times. He had an incredible touchdown catch while falling to the ground, draped by a defensive back, and was missed by Patrick Mahomes on his two other red-zone targets. The hype on Hardman will pick up this week due to this game, but I do not believe it is warranted. While the Chiefs played their starters in for a long time, Tyreek Hill did not play, and Travis Kelce only received one target. Those are the reasons Hardman received eight targets in this game. Kelce and Hill will soak up 50-60% of Mahomes targets during the season, leaving the rest to the running backs and a mix of Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, who started ahead of Hardman last year, and Byron Pringle, who also had an excellent preseason game. Hardman is a great player to roster in best-ball leagues because he's sure to have a few blowup games, but he's not going to provide the consistency I want to have on my roster in head-to-head leagues.
- Zack Wilson looked in control of the offense against Green Bay and even earned the praise of Aaron Rodgers after the game. Wilson was quick with his reads, ran through his progressions well, and was nimble with his feet moving around the pocket. He showed a strong connection with Corey Davis, his most targeted wide receiver, and Tyler Kroft, who caught Wilson's two touchdown passes. Fellow rookie, Elijah Moore, has returned to practice this week, so Wilson is getting his weapons back, which will make him look even better. The Jets running game still looks like a mess from a fantasy perspective with Michael Carter, Ty Johnson, and Tevin Coleman splitting carries, but the passing game looks like something to invest in from a dynasty perspective. Wilson looks like he could help Davis improve on his career-best season last year in Tennessee, and I believe Elijah Moore has the chance to have the best season among this rookie class. Chris Herndon's dynasty value is fading away as Kroft appears to have passed him by in New York.
- Hill looked fantastic for the second preseason game in a row. He scored a touchdown again this week. The Packers already trust him in pass protection, and he's an excellent pass catcher, so Hill might get some opportunities this season even if Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon remain healthy. Hill was my 33rd ranked rookie before the NFL draft, but he fell to 40s in my rankings after getting drafted in the 7th round by Green Bay. I loved his college film and saw him as an excellent all-around running back that was fit for the NFL, but he fell in the draft after skipping the COVID season. It would take an injury to Jones or Dillon for Hill to have significant playing time this season, but he's a player I want to stash on the back of my rosters this season in the hope that he can earn a role or succeed if Jones is injured, causing the Packers to consider moving on from Jones's new contract which was structured in a way that the team would not take an insurmountable cap hit for letting him go. The odds are low for Hill, but he is fun to watch and has what it takes to play in the NFL if given a chance.
- Thomas had a breakout season last year, but most dynasty analysts believed it was primarily because Alex Smith was his quarterback. Smith has always been more of a check-down quarterback and was even more so coming back from his horrific injury last year. Thomas was peppered by targets last season by Smith, but Ryan Fitzpatrick will be his quarterback this year. Fitzpatrick is more of a gun-slinger who loves to throw deep instead of checking down, so many thought Thomas would be a one-year wonder. After watching the game this week, I am as confident as I ever in Thomas's role on this offense. The Football Team's first play was a designed pass to Thomas, who took it for 28 yards. While he only had the one catch in the game, he was the primary target later in the red-zone once and played every snap with the first team. He will be a big part of the offense even though the Football Team has added Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown to their arsenal. I put out trade offers for Thomas this week and signed him to a two-year contract in a free agent auction a few weeks ago. I believe the best is yet to come for Thomas on an offense that will score far more often than it did last year in his breakout season.
- Marshall has looked fantastic in his first two preseason games. He's made significant down-the-field catches in each game, including and a 34-yard reception in game two. There's no doubt that he will be the third wide receiver in three-receiver sets, and he's going to get at least 100 targets in his rookie season. I have many Robby Anderson shares and was beginning to get worried that Marshall would replace Anderson after his contract expires this year. It seemed like a reasonable decision for the team to make, given what they already saw from Marshall. To my surprise, Anderson signed a two-year extension this week. I think the Panthers like the variety of skill sets with D.J. Moore, Anderson, and Marshall. Eleven personnel will be Joe Brady's primary offensive set, so all three of these talented receivers will be on the field for most of the snaps. With Christian McCaffrey in the backfield, defenses will have their hands full. Matt Rhule is quickly building a talented and athletic team.
- Harris didn't have an excellent game on the ground this week, but it was very evident that he will get a lot of carries and many passes this year. He had one spectacular catch-and-run of 46 yards and was targeted three times in his limited number of snaps. After watching both of Pittsburg's preseason games, what encouraged me was the play calling of their new offensive coordinator, Matt Canada. Harris is going to see a lot of work in the passing game. Running backs were targeted eight times in this second preseason game. If Harris is in the backfield for almost all of the Steelers games like I expect, Harris could near 100 targets this season. That kind of opportunity changes everything in fantasy football, especially in PPR leagues. Hopefully, that was Harris's last preseason action. He could use a few weeks off, given the heavy load he'll carry once the season starts.
- For the love of football, I want to see Saquon Barkley healthy this season but added Booker to many of my dynasty teams early in the offseason before OTAs began. I thought that he was the clear handcuff for Barkley, but news spread over the last few weeks that he was getting outplayed by Corey Clement, who the Giants also acquired this offseason. I added Clement to most of my teams with Booker just in case he surpassed Booker in the lineup. After what I watched over the weekend, I don't think Clement is the handcuff to roster in New York. It's pretty clearly Booker, who played with the first-team offense and did well in his second preseason game. Booker and Clement made a few good plays, but it was apparent who was ahead of the other in the lineup. I've always been higher on Booker than consensus, from his rookie year to this day. He's never been able to hold a starting position, but he's a more than capable backup that can score fantasy points when thrust into a starting role. Wayne Gallman was a startable player last season after Barkley got injured. Booker could easily do the same this season, even though we all want to see a healthy Barkley.
Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock
- The quarterback competition is fierce in Denver. Lock looked like the clear winner last week after playing with the first-team offense. Bridgewater looked like the obvious choice after playing with the first-team offense this week. Maybe either of them could produce so long as they have the first team surrounding them. It might not matter much, but Bridgewater looked far better with the second-team offense last week than Lock did this week. Lock has the arm to do things that Bridgewater can't, but Bridgewater is more accurate and careful with the football. The decision might end up being made by the coaches based on philosophy over talent. Do they want to be conservative on offense and win with clean play and defense? Then they should trust Bridgewater. Do they think they need big plays to compete with the likes of the Chiefs and Chargers in their division? Then they should trust Lock. You hate to see it as a dynasty manager, but I am confident both players will start games this season. If I were to bet on it, I'd give Bridgewater the nod to start the season because coach Fangio has a potentially stifling defense to help win games.
- Freiermuth put himself on the dynasty map with two preseason touchdown catches this week, both after Eric Ebron dropped a well-defended but catchable ball on a third-down play. Freiermuth would have easily been the consensus tight end one in rookie drafts this year were it not for the fantastic prospect, Kyle Pitts. Freiermuth fell in rookie drafts given Eric Ebron's presence and Ben Roethlisberger's uncertain future with the team, given his age and health. Ben looked great again in last week's game. If his elbow and arm are fully recovered, Freiermuth could begin to make a fantasy impact in his rookie year, especially if Ebron continues to drop passes. Freiermuth reportedly does not ever drop a pass and has shined in the red-zone in practice as he did in this game. There are a lot of targets to go around in Pittsburg, including fellow rookie Najee Harris, as I wrote about above, but Freiermuth could be a consistent red-zone target this year as he earns more of a role in the years to come. This week, he was impressive and could earn a bigger role in the offense than expected in year one.
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