Dynasty Fantasy Football Preseason Notebook: Week One, Part Two

Ryan McDowell

The preseason is incredibly critical in dynasty leagues. After all, this is the first glimpse most of us have in regard to seeing our prized current or future rookie draft picks. It’s also the first chance we have to view many veteran players battle it out for certain positions or even a valuable roster spot in fantasy or reality. With the second half of preseason games completed in week one, it’s time to spin around the league and note some of the important performances and their impact in dynasty leagues.

Jets 17, Falcons 0

The starting quarterback battle that no one seems to be talking about is the three-way fight taking place on the Jets roster. After his season-ending injury that many thought might push veteran Josh McCown out of the league, he is back, serving as a quasi-coach on the sidelines. The team also signed former Viking Teddy Bridgewater and spent their first-round pick on USC’s Sam Darnold, who missed the early portion of camp due to a holdout.

It was probably that reason along with a nod of respect to the veterans that put Darnold third in line for playing time in the Jets pre-season debut against the Falcons, but that didn’t stop him from impressing. The rookie led a scoring drive late in the first-half, hitting wideout Charles Johnson for the touchdown. He finished with 96 passing yards as the team cruised to an easy shutout victory. In practices following the game, Darnold earned the bulk of early reps, suggesting the team could be prepping him to start.

With an earlier injury to second-year back Elijah McGuire, the Jets backfield was expected to be a two-headed monster featuring Isaiah Crowell, signed away from the Browns, and veteran Bilal Powell. Surprisingly, it was Powell who saw the early work. The situation became even murkier when Crowell left the game with an apparent head injury.

Back to the quarterbacks, Bridgewater also played well in his limited opportunity and trade rumors have been swirling around his name, assuming Darnold continues to live up to the hype. There are many teams that could use an upgrade at backup quarterback, so this could be a situation to watch as the preseason rolls along.

On a side note, veteran receiver Terrelle Pryor – recovering from an ankle injury – did not play in this game. He does seem to be causing trouble in camp as head coach Todd Bowles recently blasted him to the media. There is a real chance Pryor doesn’t make this team.

As evidenced by the scoreboard, there was little to get excited about for the Falcons. Starting quarterback Matt Ryan and rookie receiver Calvin Ridley played briefly, hooking up for a two-yard loss and stars Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones sat this one out.

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Raiders 16, Lions 10

The Jon Gruden era got off to a solid start thanks to a win over Detroit and some encouraging play, albeit limited, from quarterback Derek Carr and running back Marshawn Lynch. Beast Mode broke free for a long touchdown run on the opening drive, but a penalty nullified the play before the team punted and the reserves took over. The running game continued to look strong though as rookie Chris Warren planted his name on the minds of dynasty owners with a 13 carry, 86-yard performance. With the upside of backups DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard seemingly capped, Warren could sneak in and earn a roster spot. If that happens, one of Washington or Richard could be traded or cut.

The story of this game from a dynasty perspective was Lions rookie back Kerryon Johnson, who ran for 34 yards and added another 33 as a receiver. He also had a long run called back due to a penalty. That would’ve easily put him over 100 all-purpose yards for the game. It seems that the story is just what we’ve heard all off-season. Veteran LeGarrette Blount is expected to be the short yardage back, while Theo Riddick handles pass-catching duty and Ameer Abdullah is on the outside looking in, though it is Johnson who has the most talent and could steal partial roles from each of his teammates. Abdullah did score the team’s only touchdown of the game and despite the strong possibility he doesn’t make the roster, dynasty players shouldn’t give up on him, as a trade is a real scenario that we could see play out.

Vikings 42, Broncos 28

The highlight of week one’s preseason action was the high-scoring affair between quarterback Case Keenum’s old team and his current team. Keenum’s Broncos got off to a slow start as he completed just one pass for five yards before exiting. He was relieved by former first-round pick Paxton Lynch and things got even worse. Lynch continues to struggle and if the Broncos and general manager John Elway are willing to admit their mistake, the former Memphis star could be in danger of being cut. That’s not only due to his continued poor play but also because of what we saw from third-stringer Chad Kelly, who threw a pair of touchdown passes and looked like the leader of the entire team when he was on the field. Following the game, Kelly was officially elevated to second-team.

The Vikings, on the other hand, started hot and stayed that way throughout the game. We know Keenum was available to sign with Denver after the Vikings opted for Kirk Cousins and the former Redskin started strong, hitting star receiver Stefon Diggs for a short touchdown on the opening drive. Cousins was backed up by a pair of former Broncos, Trevor Siemian and Kyle Sloter and both looked solid, combining for three passing scores and over 200 yards.

Undrafted rookie running back Roc Thomas shined in his opportunity, especially as a pass-catcher. He finished with 131 total yards and two receiving scores, including a short catch on a screen that he turned into a 78-yard touchdown reception as the Broncos defenders stood and watched. While Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray are locked into the top two backfield spots, there is an opportunity for Thomas to make the team as the third back.

Cardinals 24, Chargers 17

David Johnson is back! The Cardinals star running back missed the majority of the 2017 season and took many fantasy teams down with him, but now he’s back and healthy, set to be the centerpiece of a transitioning Arizona offense. Johnson carried just twice, but that was enough to gain 28 yards on the ground and ease the minds of Cards fans and fantasy players. Arizona rookies Josh Rosen and Christian Kirk both showed flashes in their first game action, but there are some clear areas of need, especially at the offensive line. Cardinals rookie running back Chase Edmonds reportedly had locked down the backup job very early in camp and that looks to be the case. He gained just 11 yards on five carries but did score the first touchdown of the game, thanks to a long punt return from Kirk.

The Chargers sat starting quarterback Philip Rivers as they got an extended look at backups Cardale Jones and Geno Smith. The two quarterbacks spread the ball around all night as five pass-catchers ended with 30 or more receiving yards, with the most notable being running back Austin Ekeler, who totaled 66 yards for the game.

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ryan mcdowell