Fantasy football players start to become anxious with the kickoff of NFL preseason games. Which players will stand out? Which players will suffer a potentially cheat-sheet altering injury? Which players will simply look fat, out of shape or rusty?
The next few weeks will answer a lot of those questions, some of which will change the fantasy football landscape from where we know it today.
Each week during the preseason, I'll be going through each game with an eye - even two at times - on a variety of players and key situations that impact fantasy value entering your fantasy football league draft.
The first week of NFL preseason, unless you ask Ryan Mathews, is typically meaningless. Starters only see a few series, while players recovering from injury often don't even suit up. There are, however, some things worth taking away from the games.
Andrew Luck looked every bit the part of the next elite quarterback in his first preseason game
Yes, that's drool on my chin. Julio Jones is the reason why. Matt Ryan loves him, which is clear on the field. Jones quickly posted a 6-109-1 stat line Thursday. IF he can stay healthy, he has WR1 written all over him.
If Jones plays like that this season, Ryan is going to have no problems being a top-10 fantasy football quarterback. Tough to not like his ADP of 79th overall, too.
I may never become accustomed to seeing Peyton Manning in a Denver Broncos uniform, but he looked a lot like the Manning we're used to seeing. In limited snaps, he hit 4 of 7 passes for 44 yards and was picked once, which came from a great defensive effort more than a Manning error. His arm strength appeared fine. He's back. Don't be surprised to see him start climbing draft boards because of it.
Manning's replacement with the Indianapolis Colts, rookie Andrew Luck, did not disappoint in the slightest. His first pass was a dump off to running back Donald Brown, who took it 63 yards to the house. Luck finished with 188 yards and two scores, while hitting 10 of his 16 attempts. He showed some veteran poise, looking off the safety on his second touchdown pass (Austin Collie came up with it). A weak running game and poor defense should lead to plenty of Luck showing off his arm this year. Even with more than a few grains of salt thrown in, Luck looks to be every bit the part he was billed at. Can't count on him as a QB1 by any means, but he should have a fine rookie campaign worth of backup fantasy value and spot starts.
I was already high on wide receiver Randall Cobb going into the preseason. I liked seeing him lead the Green Bay Packers with four catches for 58 yards and one score. He saw a lot of time with the second-string offense, though. He's a reserve player on draft day, ideally no higher than your fourth receiver taken. I expect the Pack to find ways to get him on the field often, which could lead to making him an interesting flex play with some pop this year.
Willis McGahee is poised for a big year. He looks stronger than he has in awhile and having Manning keeping defenses honest won't hurt. Definite RB2 material; he has the potential to be even better than that.
I'm quietly buying on the Law Firm. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is going to rush for 1,200 yards with the Cincinnati Bengals this year. You can take it to the bank. Loved the aggression he ran with Friday; clipping along seven times for 22 yards and catching one pass for another 18 yards. Snag him as your third RB and he'll be a weekly flex option.
San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates looks like a slimmer, quicker version of his old self. If he stays healthy, he's in for a huge season. Great high-end tight end potential you can snag in the middle rounds this year. He had two catches for 29 yards, including a 23-yard score.
Rashad Jennings looked sharp for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who remain without Maurice Jones-Drew at tailback. His 56 yards on 12 carries was a nice outing. If he keeps it up, we may see a regular role this year for him even when MJD returns to action.
If Ben Roethlisberger is injured, he didn't show it Thursday. He hit all but one of his eight attempts; but only threw for 49 yards. The offense clearly missed wide receiver Mike Wallace. Either way, Big Ben is coming at a bargain rate in fantasy football drafts. I'd still prefer him as a backup over starting option.
The chip on LeGarrette Blount's shoulder is almost as big as he is. He rushed seven times for 30 yards, including a short touchdown. Rookie Doug Martin had 21 yards on seven totes, as well as a short touchdown run, too. It's early in the battle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but don't dismiss Blount on draft day. I love him as a fourth running back; and his late-round value provides plenty of value.
New York Giants rookie David Wilson showed some of the spark he has shown in training camp, ripping off a 26-yard run. He finished with seven carries for 43 yards while adding two receptions for 26 yards. Ahmad Bradshaw, based off history, won't make it the full season. Tuck Wilson away for future glory as a RB4.
The Kansas City Chiefs are going to have a dominating running game this year. Major props to Peyton Hillis, who I was down on a lot last year; he ran with authority on his four carries and 41 yards, with one touchdown. Jamaal Charles, the sparkplug, looked like he's very close to full speed in his recovery from last year's ACL injury. He only had three carries for 12 yards, but he took a big hit on his previously injured knee and didn't seem to have any issues with it.
If you draft Adrian Peterson this year, you're a fool if you don't handcuff Toby Gerhart to him. I'll go on record now saying Gerhart leads the Minnesota Vikings in rushing yards this year. He piled up 31 yards on five carries against the vaunted San Francisco 49ers defense.
Joique Bell looks good every preseason. Will he ever get a real chance during the regular season?
Need to see more
Joe Flacco has a chip on his shoulder again this year and his play showed it this time out. He made smart decisions and was more aggressive pushing the ball down field. He hit 75 percent of his passes for 88 yards and a touchdown. Show me more, Flacco, and you might be a top-end backup to fringe starter this year.
New England Patriots backfield: I'm a big Stevan Ridley fan, but I need to see more. He saw the majority of the work with the first-string, posting a 8-40-0 stat line. Shane Vereen ran mostly with the second-string unit, posting 11 carries for 64 yards to go along with 17 yards receiving on two receptions. This situation is far from settled.
Robert Griffin III hit four of his six passes for 70 yards, including a 20-yard scoring strike to Pierre Garcon, who finished with three catches for 58 yards. RG3 also lost a fumble. It's just one game and a handful of snaps, but the initial look is promising. I'd still rather RG3 as a backup fantasy option; Garcon looks the part of a WR3 with plenty of upside.
Detroit Lions running back Kevin Smith notched 28 yards rushing on five carries. If he can stay healthy, he would be in the buying category. I just can't count on that. Loved what I saw out of running backs Joique Bell (5-11, 220) and Keiland Williams (5-11, 230). Williams saw a first-quarter touchdown run while Bell beat up on the backup defenses to the tune of 89 yards on 16 carries. Those who have followed this series over the years know I'm a big Bell fan. Detroit might give him the best opportunity for a shot this year. Neither are worth a flier unless in incredibly deep leagues; I recently took a flier on Bell in my dynasty league as my seventh tailback.
Chargers wide receiver Vincent Brown put on a nice showing, catching four passes for 81 yards and a nifty 27-yard touchdown. He showed decent hands, some elusive play and a knack for coming up with a big play. I know Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal are new additions this year, but I think Brown is going to find a way to work into consistent playing time. He's worth a gamble as a WR5.
There's a buzz building around Falcons running back Jacquizz Rodgers. He had nine carries for 33 yards and one touchdown.
Evan Royster started at running back for the Redskins, toting it seven times for 21 yards with a long of 12. Nothing to write home about and this situation is far from settled.
Third-year receiver Emmanuel Sanders had two catches for 19 yards, including a two-yard touchdown reception. With Wallace away from the Steelers, Sanders could play himself into more playing time with some good preseason showings.
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (knee, toe) probably should be in the "I'm selling" list after missing the game with knee and toe injuries. In his defense, this was the Saints second preseason game. However, I'm not seeing the toughness out of this second-year back I was hoping to. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for a week or two.
The Patriots offensive line did not look good in their first preseason game. Fix it quickly or Tom Brady won't be a happy camper long.
Steelers rookie Chris Rainey has been a talk of camp. He only had one yard rushing on four attempts, but broke off a 57-yard touchdown reception on a screen. Good field vision and strong legs. I'm a fan but not enough to invest a draft pick.
Dolphins third-year receiver Roberto Wallace can make a name for himself on a receiver-starved team. Wallace (6-4, 222) had four receptions for 71 yards. Some additional strong showings might put him in significant conversation for regular playing time. There's no fantasy football draft value yet, but stay tuned.
The Giants don't use the tight end a ton, but it can be an effective weapon for them each week. Martellus Bennett has teased us for years in Dallas. The 6-foot-6, 265-pounder has the size to be dangerous. He had three receptions for 27 yards, including a 12-yard score. He's worth a flier as a backup with upside.
Ryan Mathews has so much talent, yet cannot stay healthy
A few months ago I blogged Ryan Mathews could be this year's top scoring fantasy football back. Somewhere between last season and a few months ago, I apparently forgot the talented Chargers third-year back is as brittle as they come. One carry in the preseason requires surgery to repair a broken clavicle. Kiss good bye to the next four to six weeks; and, with Mathews' injury history, it would be no surprise if he needs all six weeks or longer to recover. I don't think I could turn down taking him as my RB2, but I'd be sure to add plenty of solid depth around him if I do.
Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill may have taken an early jump in the quarterback battle (it doesn't hurt that David Garrard will miss time due to injury). But I'm not excited about Tannehill posting a 167-yard, one-touchdown line against a backup group of defenders. You don't want any part of the Miami Dolphins quarterback saga this year.
Speaking of the Dolphins, second-year running back Daniel Thomas rushed just twice and had minus-2 yards in the process. He needs to pick it up and quickly.
The Cleveland Browns offense: I'm sorry, but rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden is not the answer ... at least not right now. This offense is going to struggle a lot this year.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback situation: I'm a big fan of Larry Fitzgerald, but neither John Skelton nor Kevin Kolb is the answer at quarterback. One almost has to feel bad for Fitz. Skelton hit 3 of 6 passes for 35 yards with a pick, while Kolb completed just one of his five attempts for 21 yards. Kurt Warner, are you sure you don't want to give it one last go?
What stood out to you during the first week of preseason action? Share it with fellow fantasy football fans in the space below.