We might have known things weren’t going to end well for Kenny Bell from the moment he fumbled on the first play of the preseason for Tampa Bay. We might have, but “it was only preseason”. That’s not meant as a slight to anyone who has used that line at some point (I certainly have), but sometimes preseason is actually an indicator of what is to come in the year ahead. While results don’t mean anything, performances certainly should. It’s simply our jobs to work out what is real and what is not, and with the season about to kick off, we will know soon enough.
I’ll never forget Russell Wilson slicing defenses in 2014 before he he went on to lead the ‘Hawks to the NFC Championship. His previous years were the precursor, but the preseason showed he was coming out hot. Heck, Le’Veon Bell looked so athletic and stylish in the 2014 preseason it was clear he wasn’t going to be the same back he was in the season prior.
I’m aware I’m picking two times where I liked a player, and the preseason showed me I was right in my suspicions, so how do we know which suspicions to trust? There have been plenty of times where preseason performance didn’t translate (I’d like to have back the £10 I put on Sam Bradford as MVP after the team’s third preseason game versus Green Bay last season), so what do we do? However you slice it, all new information is helpful information, so let’s look at some things we think we learned from the preseason.
I’m a big fan of audience participation. I love gathering up opinions/thoughts/observations and compiling them into something I’d like to read. I thought about all the stories and tales we’ve come up with as a community to project the rest of the season, but asked for help to make sure I covered all the bases. Some of them will pan out, while some will fizzle out quicker than a Chip Kelly three-and-out.
I asked this question on Twitter:
I might conjure up an article looking at the dynasty narratives based on preseason play. Can people shoot some ideas?
— James Simpson (@JS_Football) August 31, 2016
I’d like to put them out here so we can look back on them in a few months to see how wise and/or silly we were. I ended up with a list of seven, and added a few extras that weren’t major stories.
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1. Dak Prescott is the Best Rookie Quarterback in the Class
This says it all:
Which rookie QB do you want on your dynasty roster?
— Ryan McDowell (@RyanMc23) August 28, 2016
This is where maybe preseason performance has got the better of us. Yes, I am well aware Prescott looked outstanding in his first few times seeing the field for the Cowboys, but for those performances to propel him above three first-round quarterbacks who haven’t yet had the same opportunity he has seems like an overreaction.
Then again, isn’t that what makes a strong dynasty asset at quarterback? Someone who is young, talented, has rushing ability and is surrounding by high-level talent? Perhaps we should consider Dak the most valuable because the chances are he will be producing at the best level in the short term.
It is not just Twitter voters who have this view. Brad Hayes shared where Prescott has been taken in two recent drafts:
@JS_Football Dak Prescott has gone 1.09 and 1.12 in rookie drafts this week. In 1qb leagues. Could touch on that
— Brad Hayes (@aidendrakesdad) August 31, 2016
I’m not actually too surprised he’s been going that high, considering the uncertainty and lack of stardom in this year’s class – but I certainly wouldn’t recommend taking him ninth among rookies.
Also, how does this affect Dez Bryant? Can we expect him to remain an elite performer? I am on board with Dez this year even with Prescott, and I’m on board with consensus rookie of the year Ezekiel Elliott and the offensive line, so surely Prescott will actually be a productive rookie who is starting right away and has the chance to top the other three?
Look at that. I’ve just talked myself into Dak as the top rookie quarterback I’d want on my dynasty roster right now.
2. Tennesee is an Offensive Juggernaut
It is clear to me Tennessee has taken huge strides on offense. It is clear for everyone to see. But how good can they be? And who will benefit the most? I’d argue that almost everyone in that offense will out-perform expectations this year. Marcus Mariota, although ninth among quarterbacks in DLF’s August ADP, isn’t being projected for a breakout season yet. I am certainly projecting him to have a huge one, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he is a top five dynasty quarterback this time next year. He has huge upside.
Actually though, Mariota hasn’t been the talking point for the Titans – it’s been rookie wideout Tajae Sharpe and the Titans ground game. What should you do with Sharpe? Kevin O’Brien took a closer look at the UMass product in ‘Sharper Image‘. I am well and truly on board with a Sharpe breakout. I believe he’s the most talented receiver in an offense that’s about to come alive.
What about the running game?
@JS_Football resurrection of Demarco Murray
— Josh (@FantasyADHD) August 31, 2016
Fallen star DeMarco Murray looked back to his 2014 best behind an offensive line that can block and with an offensive coordinator that can use him in better ways than Chip Kelly did. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, Kelly never really gave Murray much of a shot with what he asked him to do – but he didn’t look like too much of a spring chicken either. At least in Tennessee, he will most likely be used as a north-south runner as opposed to moving laterally. Perhaps the more interesting question in the backfield is: how will the carries be divided?
@JS_Football Seriously though, is DeMarco/Derrick gonna be a straight 50/50? Is Kenneth Dixon the heir apparent?
— Justin Edwards (@lowercase11) August 31, 2016
Based on what I saw from Murray last year having watched every game closely, I’d bet on the explosive, athletic and powerful Derrick Henry to eventually take over in the backfield. But I don’t view that coming as soon as many do. Murray struggled in 2015 partly because he wasn’t given consistent carries and offered the chance to build rhythm and momentum – something I feel the Titans will do. Whatever happens, it’s a good time to own one of these players.
3. Christine Michael has (Finally) Arrived (Again)
He’s playing out of his mind (almost as if this is something out of a movie). George Kritikos explained the thoughts of many:
@JS_Football Christine Michael aka WTF
— George Kritikos (@RotoHack) August 31, 2016
We’ve heard it all before. We’ve seen it all before. But this time, it might actually carry some weight. ESPN’s Sheil Kapadia reported that the Seahawks will ‘proceed carefully’ with 2015 starter Thomas Rawls, allowing Michael the opportunity to prove his worth in regular season.
My advice is to invest in Rawls. As a Michael fan, I’ve been there with you. I rejected first round picks for him two years ago. I believed in him and have been hoping for the breakout for the longest time, but I don’t see that enough has changed. He still runs like a bull in a china shop, and I’d hold on hope that Rawls returns with grace.
4. The Eagles Wide Receivers are Awful
As I trolled through some previous preseasons, I remembered that last year, the Eagles receivers were being talked about as one of the best young groups. You’ve got Jordan Matthews who was expected to make strides after a strong rookie campaign, a first round pick in Nelson Agholor, and a good all-rounder in Josh Huff. Obviously, it didn’t pan out. Agholor, in particular, was a huge disappointment – but then again, who wasn’t in that offense?
I’ll offer some counterpoints. One is the removal of Sam Bradford from the team as he moved on to pastures new. I think this move benefits both teams in the short-term (not simply long-term for Philadelphia), as I believe Carson Wentz is better than Bradford. Wentz > Bradford > Shaun Hill means both teams get an upgrade. The second is the arrival of Dorial Green-Beckham after he was given the boot from Tennessee. Are they a strong group? No. But there is enough versatility there that Wentz might be more of a beneficiary than any of us fantasy football aficionados.
The sophomores are struggling.
After a month in which he couldn’t muster up more than four catches for 24 yards in the preseason, Parker is still missing practice with hamstring problems. On one hand, we have a clear bust – someone who hasn’t yet done anything to match his high selection and has even been called out by his own Head Coach Adam Gase, who said “eventually he will know how to push through certain kinds of pain“. I don’t like that at all from a coach, especially with hamstring injuries which I know (from personal experience) have a tendency to linger, but it’s a clear sign of frustration. On the other hand, we haven’t actually been able to see what he can do because he’s not yet healthy. I’m willing to give him a chance – and I’d float out offers to owners who be fed up.
White also hasn’t lived up to expectations so far.
— Ryan (@RyanMNman) August 31, 2016
Similarly to Parker, this one really interests me. As a fan of White, I see no reason at all to shy away. As a collective staff, we are pretty convinced White is overvalued at the moment and while I agree with it from a value standpoint, there’s no way I’m selling him before he has a chance to show what he can do. Not exploding in the preseason is certainly not a reason to avoid him. He’s an outstanding talent, and I’m treating this as his rookie year. Like Parker, take advantage of the negative vibes he’s receiving.
6. Jared Goff is the Worst
If you’ve been watching Hard Knocks, you’d get the idea that Goff was more of an NFL intern than an NFL quarterback. I know they can choose to show whatever they want, but it seems to appear that Goff is fairly immature. He’s certainly got enough talent, but that alone is not enough to have success in this league. Obviously, maturity isn’t enough either, but he will need to learn how to be a professional.
In terms of his performances, it’s all simply practice. I don’t think this should change opinions on him, and just like Prescott and Wentz, he’ll have growing pains when he sees the field. It’s not a slight to him at all that Case Keenum is starting ahead of him – if it wasn’t for an injury and a trade that couldn’t be refuse, we wouldn’t have any rookie quarterbacks starting on opening week.
Although if we simply went on preseason performance, perhaps Goff should just quit now.
@JS_Football some false ones – Jared Goff should just quit now, Eli Rogers is good, Terrelle Pryor the GOAT
— Tyler Buecher (@TylerBuecher) August 31, 2016
7. Terrelle Pryor and the Cleveland Offense are Hot
Tyler’s tweet also leads us to Terrelle Pryor and the crowded Cleveland receiver group. Sports Illustrated’s Pat Fitzmaurice (another fantastic fantasy football follow) suggests Pryor could actually emerge from the group to be a star:
@JS_Football Terrelle Pryor as a star in the making (which I’m not sure I’d dispute all that much).
— Pat Fitzmaurice (@Fitz_FF) August 31, 2016
I’m on board with this. He’s listed as the starter alongside Corey Coleman in Cleveland, and of the two I’d expect the rookie to experience more growing pains than the 27 year old former quarterback. In the August ADP data, Pryor was the WR100. 100! Below stars such as Demarcus Robinson, Keyarris Garrett and Tyrell Williams. He’s moved up a lot in the soon-to-be-released September ADP (WR65), but he should perform a whole lot better than expected.
As for the offense as a whole, it should be improved. I’m not convinced Robert Griffin III can be who he was in his rookie year, but Hue Jackson has been working like crazy to revitalize the Browns, and the former Washington quarterback is surrounded with weapons.
- Eli Rogers looks like the receiver with appeal in Pittsburgh, not Markus Wheaton or Sammie Coates
- Carson Palmer looked really bad (12-22 and 3 INTs) – should that scare us? Just a few weeks ago, I’d written about Palmer matching his redraft ADP with the backing of Bruce Arians. But will he revert to old Carson? There are signs
- Tyler Lockett might actually be the number three option in Seattle
- Rob Kelley or Chris Thompson? Either one of our summer sleepers could bite into Matt Jones’ carries
- Arian Foster is better than Jay Ajayi, even though he’s old
- Will Fuller sure can take the top off a defense
- Melvin Gordon can score touchdowns! It’s no surprise to me he had a couple of votes for DLF’s most undervalued player (he’d be my choice too)
- Terrance West has been reborn
My hope is to revisit this at a later date. Which stories will pan out and which will fall? Why? How can we leverage what we learned from the preseason moving forward? Watch this space.
I’ve probably missed a few, so what were any other preseason stories that you believe are worth noting? Let me know in the comments section.
As well as editing for DLF, James writes for Sky Sports and can be found on Twitter at @JS_Football