The preseason is upon us and that means we finally get a chance to see free agents with their new teams and our shiny new rookies in real game action. While many of our dynasty league staples won’t play much the first few weeks, we at least get to see some glimpses of some role players and get a taste for what they may (or may not) be able to do if given a bigger opportunity. While many fantasy football players won’t pay much attention to these games, they’re perfect for the true dynasty enthusiasts to get an early idea on depth charts, player usage and even unearthing a future sleeper. We’ll go through the preseason games as they conclude each week and post this series with some short notes on what we observe during each game.
Tennessee at Atlanta
Welcome to 2015 Julio Jones. Jones put on a show in one series of work, catching four passes for 61 yards and a 13 yard touchdown. Matt Ryan was perfect on the night, completing all six of his passes for 86 yards and a single touchdown. Something tells me that he won’t be able to maintain a 158.3 quarterback rating. It’s all downhill from here.
Rookie Marcus Mariota efficient in his passing but had two turnovers including an interception and a fumble. He calmed down as his night unfolded and I expect to see a more poised passer next week. There’s certainly enough upside here to be intriguing. Zach Mettenburger, who until the drafting of Mariota, had full support of Tennessee’s brass as the starter in 2015 looked good, completing 8/11 passes for 129 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Following the performance, some are calling for a trade of Mettenburger to Buffalo. Sophomore running back Bishop Sankey, who is rising on some boards (not mine), could only muster 15 yards on eight carries while David Cobb looked capable on his 11 carries, tallying 53 yards. I smell a heavy time share but it’s still early.
Dorial Green-Beckham caught one of his two passes, hooking up with Mettenburger on a 32 yard touchdown strike. A couple more weeks of that and DGB may be looking at a starting role.
Carolina at Buffalo
Not much to see from the Buffalo quarterbacks in this tilt, although EJ Manuel did manage a third quarter 51 yard touchdown pass to Deonte Thompson. Make no mistake, new coach Rex Ryan has to be feeling a sense of deja vu from his 2014 campaign in which quarterback play was, on their best day, fair. For the Panthers, Cam Newton, it looks like no rust exists with his connection to Kelvin Benjamin, as the two hooked up on three of five targets, including a two yard touchdown fade in the first quarter. Rookie Devin Funchess caught two of four targets for 53 yards including a nifty sideline grab.
The somewhat-in-flux Buffalo run game didn’t provide any clear winners. Unquestioned starter LeSean McCoy only averaged 2.7 yards per carry (YPC) while Bryce Brown, who is said to be losing ground to impressing rookie Karlos Williams, managed 52 yards and a touchdown on six carries. Williams, for his part, tallied 40 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown of his own. Even with receiving threats Sammy Watkins, Charles Clay and Robert Woods, one has to wonder just how prolific of a passing attack Buffalo will be able to muster with their current quarterback instability.
Pittsburgh at Jacksonville
Both Blake Bortles and Ben Roethlisberger had productive nights. Bortles has been a rising quarterback in 2015 with an improved offensive line and a young corps. of potential playmakers.
Martavis Bryant wasted no time getting his 2015 campaign off to a fast start, pulling in a 44 yard strike from Big Ben in the first quarter. Rookie Sammie Coates was targeted all over the field and ultimately reeled in five receptions on 11 targets, for 52 yards. Le’Veon Bell only had two carries, one a 16 yards tote. DeAngelo Williams looked fresh and managed 28 yards on six carries. Not much to mention for the Jags, who spread the ball around well to 15 different receivers. T.J. Yeldon didn’t register a carry, maybe next week. I have a big gut feeling about Yeldon.
New York Giants at Cincinnati
Andy Dalton completed 3/3 passes for 31 yards and a short touchdown to Mohamed Sanu. Eli Manning, after talk of feeling more comfortable in his second year in this offense, looked … uncomfortable. But it’s still early and eight pass attempts does not a failed season make.
No Giant runner other than Orleans Darkwa made a favorable impression. Darkwa rushed for 52 yards on nine carries and punched in a short touchdown. Don’t discount Darkwa’s ability to overtake Andre Williams should this production continue. Veteran runner Rashad Jennings is 30 years old. Unimpressive night for all G-men receivers, mostly due to poor quarterback play. For the Bengals, newly signed Greg Little did tally 65 yards on three receptions, but expect little more going forward. Tight end Tyler Eifert reeled in two receptions for 30 yards. The Bengals could use a tight end dynamic to widen the field for Dalton.
St. Louis at Oakland
Forgettable performance for most quarterbacks on the night, including Derek Carr whose 38 quarterback rating included an interception. The Ram running game was spread around as was the Raiders’. Latavius Murray looked great on the night, rushing for 35 yards on six carries. The first game in the silver and black for Trent Richardson yielded 18 yards on five carries. I was curious as to see Michael Dyer and think he’s an interesting rookie to watch. He only managed 11 yards on five carries but I’ll be watching over the next few weeks to see if he can muster some of the natural talent he possesses.
All fantasy eyes were squarely on Amari Cooper and he did secure all three of his targets for 22 yards. Brice Butler was the best performer on either team, catching six balls for 57 yards including a 16 yard fourth quarter touchdown.
Denver at Seattle
No Peyton Manning and a very minimal amount of Russell Wilson marked the quarterback play of this game. Some may be interested to track the effectiveness of backup Brock Osweiler as his ‘time’ is drawing near. Os completed 75% of his passes on the night, 15/20, for 151 yards and a 17 yard scoring strike to tight end Virgil Green. Playing a full half, it’s obvious the Broncos still view him as the heir apparent.
The Broncos running game has yet to be solidified and should be on your radar. C.J. Anderson is the clear starter but Ronnie Hillman, Montee Ball and Juwan Thompson are all fighting for backup duty. Score week one to Hillman who amassed 66 yards on eight carries. Ball could only muster 26 with the same number (eight) of totes. For the Hawks, recent riser Thomas Rawls rushed nine times for 31 yards while Christine Michael saw seven carries for 15 yards. Neither looked particularly dynamic.
In the passing game, Cody Latimer continues to put together a solid camp, securing four receptions for 49 yards. Virgil Green made a statement with five receptions, 45 yards and a touchdown. For the Seahawks, nothing to report. Jimmy Graham is certain to see plenty of targets in 2015 but it leaves me wondering if they are relying too much on Graham’s athleticism and Marshawn Lynch. The Hawks need to be able to stretch the sides of the field to keep defenses out of the middle. We’ll see.
More games to catch up on tomorrow so stay tuned!
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You can find Jeff on Twitter at @dlf_jeff