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Tue Aug 16th 2022

Week One Preseason Report

Dynasty Freeks got to sharpen their opinion on players' dynasty values this week after watching all 32 teams play preseason games. Every NFL team approaches the preseason differently, so it's unwise to adjust dynasty value too much in the preseason. Still, there are always a few valuable bits of information to pull from preseason games to help shape my opinion on players. After watching the condensed version of all of the preseason games on NFL Gamepass this weekend, here are some of my thoughts from a dynasty perspective.

Doing It My Way

  • Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder had above-average performances in their first game with the Falcons, but they did it their own way. Mariota led a touchdown drive on his first and only possession, completing both of his passes for 36 yards and running three times for 23 yards, including a touchdown scramble. Mariota looked swift-footed and more eager to run after his first or second read, making me think he'll contribute much to fantasy teams with his rushing this season. Ridder, while also running for a team-leading 59 yards, seemed more willing to wait and progress through his targets be for tucking the ball to run. He was inaccurate on some throws, completing only 10 of 22 passes, but he also had several players drop passes right in their hands, including a drive-ending third-down pass and a perfectly placed pass in the end zone. Mariota's day looks better statistically because he only had one drive, but if he played as much as Ridder, I am not sure their stat lines or film would have been too different. I am sure Mariota will start the season opener, but Ridder could close the gap quickly. I'm eager to compare them next week after Mariota likely plays for a quarter or more instead of just the opening possession. On another note, I'm glad to see early reports that Drake London's knee injury is not severe. He looked great catching one of Mariota's passes across the middle for 24 yards before leaving the game with a knee injury. He and Kyle Pitts can make both of the quarterbacks look much better.

You're The One

  • After not playing starters in the Hall of Fame Game, coach Pederson let his starters play the first few possessions of their preseason game this week, and it was good to see the coaching changes have already made the team better. Trevor Lawrence had a few off-target throws, but he also had some dropped passes, ending the day 6 of 12 for 95 yards. He also had one nice first-down run on a zone-read keeper. He's still not playing up to his #1 pick talent, but he'll improve this year with better playmakers and coaching around him. What was more encouraging was to see his chemistry with his RB-1, Travis Etienne, and WR-1 (for this game at least), Zay Jones. Etienne did not have a great game statistically, but it was good to see his quickness back after returning to live play for the first time since his season-ending injury at this time last year. The Jaguars offensive line was beaten often in this game, resulting in tackles for loss for Etienne, but even on those plays, he made a few players miss before coming down. He had a nice long run of 12 yards, caught one quick out route, and ran up the sideline for 10 yards too. James Robinson did not play, so we can't compare the two side by side, but Etienne looks back to himself and, after the games, said he felt great and enjoyed playing again with his college teammate, Lawrence. Christian Kirk did not play in this game and is the receiver most likely to be the Jag's WR-1, but Zay Jones has received a lot of buzz in training camp. He was Lawrence's prime target in this game, catching two passes downfield for a total of 47 yards while playing with the first team on the first three drives of the game. I picked Jones up off the waiver wire in several leagues since training camp started, and his performance in this game makes me think he could be a player worth starting in the flex position this season. Jones signed a three-year contract with the Jaguars, just one year less than the enormous contract signed by Christian Kirk. As Lawrence improves, they could be the 1-2 punch the Jags stick with for the next few years.

Doub-ling Down

  • See what I did there? Romeo Doubs doubled down on his training camp buzz by being the most targeted player on the team and scoring on a 33-yard pass from Jordon Love. The Packers played their second team offense to start the game, signaling that Doubs might still be a second-string player behind Allen Lazard and Sammy Watkins, but if he keeps performing like this, it won't be long before he's in the starting lineup. I'm in a rookie draft right now, and Doubs has by far been the player with the highest rise in ADP since my rookie drafts in May. I'm in a complicated 48-team league with four copies of each player, and in this draft, Doubs was drafted at the 1.10, 3.1, 3.3, and 3.4. The manager who drafted him at the 1.10 spot was obviously overzealous. Still, it's not surprising at all to see Doubs moving into the top of the third round in superflex leagues after all of the hype he's rightfully received during training camp and now into the preseason.

There's Room For Gray

  • Opposite Doubs on Friday night was another outstanding rookie performance for the 49ers, Danny Gray. Gray just had two catches on four targets, but one was a 76-yard touchdown where he made a great catch and tightrope down the sideline. His second catch was 23 yards downfield, too. One of the other targets ruled incomplete was a tremendous diving catch on a bad pass where he almost made the toe-tap to catch the pass inbounds. The 49ers started Trey Lance but did not start their skill players around him. Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are solidly ahead of Gray in the starting lineup, but there is room for gray in three-receiver sets if he continues to play like this. There's another gray in San Francisco, the shades of gray in the backfield. Elijah Mitchell is the presumed starter, but he did not play given his hamstring injury or may not have played either way. Trey Sermon and Tyrion Davis-Price played in this game, but neither did anything to separate themselves from the other as the potential RB-2 for the 49ers. I'm still betting on Jeff Wilson to back up Mitchell, but I am willing to be proven wrong if one of them can separate themself during these preseason games. This game did not help on that front. There is still a lot of gray in this backfield, making me more confident in Elijah Mitchell, who I believe is far better than the rest of the gray backfield.

W's without W's

  • The Jets and Browns got W's in their first preseason games, but the W's on their team did not contribute to the wins. Deshaun Watson and Zach Wilson both looked terrible in their preseason debuts. Wilson was jittery in the pocket, off target, and threw one awful interception before hurting his knee on a scramble. Unfortunately for him, he will miss at least two to four weeks, giving Mike White and Joe Flacco a chance to gel with the team and make his comeback more difficult. My bets are on Flacco because the coaches commented earlier in training camp that Flacco could be a starter for other teams. Flacco may have lost a step physically at his age, but he's far ahead of Wilson and White mentally. With all the weapons surrounding him, he could make this offense go. Even if he can, it's a significant stumbling block in the hope of Garrett Wilson, Elijah Moore, and Breece Hall's dynasty value rising significantly this season. Wilson really needed to prove himself this season to make all of his teammates' dynasty stock rise. If he can't return and play far better than he did last season and in this preseason game, he's a hindrance to everyones' value in New York. As for Watson, he just looked terrible. His passes were off target, and he seemed confused with the offense. He didn't even lead the team to one first down on his three drives, though one dropped pass played a part in it. The only offensive bright spot for the Browns in their first game was the big plays by rookie Jerome Ford, who had a 41-yard run, a 14-yard catch, 102 total yards, and a touchdown. Ford was a top-ten ranked rookie for me before the NFL draft, but I moved him down to 40th in my rankings after not getting drafted until the 5th round and getting drafted by a team with the best running back combo in the league ahead of him with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Hunt demanded a trade last week but quickly conceded and returned to practice. I would love it if Ford continues to play well in the preseason and makes the Browns open to trading Hunt after all.

M0ving On

  • The Eagles looked fantastic on their one and only drive with the starters. They marched down the field at scored on a 22-yard pass to Dallas Goedert. Hurts looked sharp, going 6 for 6 with two passes to Quez Watkins, two to Miles Sanders, one to Jack Stoll, and the final one to Goedert. I was encouraged to see Miles Sanders involved in the passing game, catching two passes for first downs, though he did not get a carry. I'm a wounded but still hopeful believer in Sanders and hope this will finally be his breakout year. He's a constant hold for me in dynasty leagues, but this game made me willing to move on from two other players I love and have rostered in several leagues. Quez Watkins started the game ahead of Jalen Reagor, and I assume at this point that he's won the job already. Reagor only came in the game later with the backups, which, even with his draft capital, makes him a player I'm finally ready to move on from. He will not make my rosters when we have roster cuts in a few weeks, or I may drop him for some of the other backup players who still have a shot to earn a starting role. It's less painful to me, but I am also ready to move on from Kennedy Brooks. Brooks was one of the UDFAs I added to my teams with the last pick in my rookie drafts. I hoped he'd have a chance to move up the depth chart in Philadelphia, but it's not happening thus far, and he's too fringe of a player to continue to hold onto even on the teams with Sanders on my rosters. Sanders, Kenny Gainwell, Boston Scott, and Jason Huntley are ahead of him in the lineup. I was surprised to see Huntley get so much action in this first preseason game, signaling to me that he'll make the roster ahead of Brooks. I cut Brooks from two of my roster this week before watching this preseason game based on the glowing reports of Kenny Gainwell's growing role in the offense. Sanders and Gainwell will be the 1-2 punch for the Eagles this season, with Scott and Huntley able to fill in where needed, leaving no room for my favorite super-deep sleeper, Brooks.

So You're Saying I Have A Chance

  • Baker Mayfield got his first and only possession in the Pathers' first preseason game, and he faired well, leading the team to a field goal. Sam Darnold benefited from a short field after a recovered fumble and threw a beautiful touch pass for a touchdown on his first possession and a punt on his second possession. Neither quarterback played with their top pass-catching weapons, but each looked like a competent starter. The smart money is on Mayfield to be the starter in week one, but the first preseason game didn't rule Darnold out if the coaching staff strictly followed their play on the field. Coach Rhule persists in stating that it's an open competition between Mayfield and Darnold, but he's got to pick one after the next preseason game. I am sure it will be Mayfield since he's the most recent addition to the team, and coach Rhule knows his job is on the line, but I have not been convinced that one is better than the other given their four years in the NFL since being drafted in the first round in 2018. This weekend's head-to-head competition did not convince me one is better than the other either. Surely there's only one more week of competition. We'll know by this time next week.

Fumbling It Away

  • Antonio Gibson, who is already being squeezed for playing time by the Commanders' rookie running back, Brian Robinson, is making himself harder to trust after fumbling on the game's second possession. Robinson came in on the next series and, after a few decent runs and one catch, scored the team's first touchdown of the game. Gibson's leash is getting shorter and shorter with each mistake he makes. Robinson's dynasty value increases at the same time. Another thing that I noticed watching this game is that Wentz almost always looked to check down. He threw very few passes downfield, and Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson were not involved in the passing game when the first team was in the game. Wentz has received pretty poor reports from beat writers and did nothing in this game to make me think he can help this offense. McLaurin managers figured they'd have the best quarterback of his young career this season, and Dotson managers have believed the hype in training camp reports, but I saw none of it in this game. Wentz better improve and learn to throw the ball downfield, or I will be sorely disappointed with my many Dotson and McLaurin shares.

Long Road Ahead

  • The Bears' offense looked awful. Justin Fields should be a quarterback ready to make a leap this season, but the Bears' lack of weapons and bad offensive line play makes me think it will be much of the same this season for Fields and the Bears. I listened to several podcasts this week about offensive line rankings, and the Bears were consistently on the back of the list, no matter which offensive line guru ranked them. Apart from David Montgomery and Kole Kmet, the Bears appeared to have their starters on the field, but their first-team offense could not move the ball. Their first four possessions with the first team ended in punts and only four first downs. I feel bad for Bears fans and dynasty managers with Bears on their roster. I think they're all in for a terrible season. 

Thanks For Nothing

  • I was hopeful to learn something about the backup running back battles in Kansas City and Arizona, but their preseason games did not provide any clarity. Ronald Jones is reportedly the odd man out in Kansas City after Isaih Pacheco continues to impress, but I still find that hard to believe. Eno Benjamin is getting the training camp hype in Arizona, yet still, I think they signed Darrel Williams to back up James Conner. The ground game in Kansas City's game amounted to nothing, with just 43 non-quarterback yards on the ground. The Cardinals combined for 80 non-quarterback rushing yards, but no running back stood out ahead of the others. It looks like I'll have to listen to beat writers' reports and coach-speak for at least another week to get clarity on these backfields because there was nothing I saw with my eyes during these two games that made me believe anyone had the RB-2 role locked up.

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