Finally, some football action to discuss and (over)analyze.
In my NFL Preseason Notebook, I will provide a weekly recap of the most relevant news during each week of preseason games. I will tackle all of the weekly top stories, and provide the winners and losers from each week of action.
Let's kick off the Preseason Fantasy Football Notebook with the news and notes from Week 1.
NFL 2018 Preseason Week 1 Fantasy Football Notebook
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Four Downs - The Top Four Fantasy News Stories From Week 1
Should Fantasy owners roll the dice with Andrew Luck?
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) August 10, 2018
Finally! Colts and fantasy football fans received a welcome sight in the Colts first preseason game in 2018, Andrew Luck played his first game since Week 17 of the 2016 season. Luck completed six of nine passes for 64 yards while leading the Colts on scoring drives that both ended with field goals on Thursday.
Luck took a couple of hits on Thursday night; the first he had taken in more than 19 months. The quarterback connected on high-percentage throws, while moving into Seattle territory with the starting offense. New Colts head coach and play-caller Frank Reich gave Luck plenty of easy passes to boost his confidence and get him into the flow.
After missing the entire 2017 season, I can see why fantasy managers are hesitant to take a risk. If he can continue to prove he is healthy, there is plenty of potential for those willing to test their Luck (sorry, I couldn't resist). Luck finished within the top four fantasy quarterbacks in his past three full seasons.
Since training camp began, Luck has lit up defenses he faced on the practice field. His draft stock skyrocketed into the end of the eighth round in 12-team, non-PPR drafts, as per Fantasy Football Calculator. In terms of upside, Luck has more than most of the quarterbacks around him and it's not even close.
Luck will be forced to throw a ton where he racks up points simply because the Colts are that horrible. A unit ranked 30th in the NFL last season still has glaring holes throughout the defense. The reward in taking Andrew Luck this season will outweigh the risk, so go get that top-five quarterback in the eight round and feel lucky you did.
Should the Chiefs and Fantasy owners be concerned about Patrick Mahomes?
Mahomes is going to have to manage the juice on 15-25 yard throws. That's a space you don't want ball sailing, like his only career interception. pic.twitter.com/F1s7SRFgV3
— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) August 10, 2018
If you have been following the progress of new Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, you know he has been experiencing interception problems in training camp, including throwing seven picks in just six practices.
On Thursday night, Mahomes played just one quarter. He was sacked once and didn't throw a touchdown or interception in an uneventful performance. He finished 5-for-7 for just 33 yards.
Last season, the Chiefs offense lit up the NFL. They finished fifth in total yards and sixth in points much of that was because of Kareem Hunt and the team’s rushing attack, which tied for the league lead in yards per attempt, but the passing game saw a huge jump as well. Alex Smith broke out and began chucking the ball deep. Kansas City retained virtually all of their offensive playmakers—Hunt, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce for 2018, and added Sammy Watkins this offseason as well.
Mahomes is far from a finished product. Being under center was something not required of him in college. Learning that entire process has the potential to hold the offense up. His footwork and eye placement are the biggest contributing factors in making a smooth transition. In addition, he will need to have success at all levels of the field.
Hey, we are only in August, so Mahomes can continue to grow and improve but he will need to with this version of the Chiefs. Their defense will be fairly poor this season, forcing the Chiefs offense to help keep the team in games. Mahomes has to be the catalyst as he slings the ball all over the field. Please keep your eyes on this situation as there are numerous fantasy implications involved on this Chiefs offense.
With the loss of Derrius Guice, what do the Redskins do now in their backfield?
Guice suffered a knee injury on an exciting 34-yard run called back for a holding penalty. In that run, he showed off all the traits that make him an electric running back and a great find in the second round. Projected by many as a first-round pick, his stock fell due to character concerns. Unfortunately, rookie Derrius Guice was placed on injured reserve with a torn ACL and is out for the 2018 season.
Following the rookie's injury, there is now speculation on which direction the Redskins will go with regarding their backfield. The contenders as the No.1 back starts with Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine. Kelley missed most of last season due to injuries, but ran for six touchdowns in 2016. Perine made eight starts last season with 603 yards and one touchdown.
Chris Thompson, recovering from a broken fibula suffered last season, projects as the multi-dimensional passing-down back. The Redskins also have Byron Marshall, Kapri Bibbs, and undrafted rookie Martez Cooper on their depth chart.
It would seem that Kelley and Perine will battle for early-down snaps. The Redskins, whose 90.5-yard rushing average was fifth-worst in the NFL last season, could also look outside the organization to the likes of Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, former Redskin Alfred Morris, Orleans Darkwa, or possible lure DeMarco Murray out of retirement. None of these choices look promising so don't expect much from the Redskins backfield this season.
Who were the Winner and Losers of NFL Preseason Week 1?
The Browns Offense
Don't look now, but the Browns may actually have an offense. Presumed starter Tyrod Taylor looked great, as did new WR Jarvis Landry and TE David Njoku. Their first overall pick Baker Mayfield also looked outstanding. Mayfield looked to be in complete command of the offense. He made plays with his feet and showed accuracy and arm strength. He finished with 212 yards on 11-of-20 passing with two touchdowns (including this absolute gem to Antonio Callaway) and no interceptions.
The Browns offense did all of this without Josh Gordon, who brings another big-play element to the offense. The bad news is that the team cannot run the football at all. Only one game, but the passing attack looks legit. Now let's see them win a game!
Rookie Running Backs
There were two rookie running backs who announced their presence in NFL Preseason Week 1.
Saquon Barkley showed off his ability and skill all in his first play from scrimmage. He avoided would-be tacklers showing off his moves then hit the accelerator and broke away for a 39-yard gain (watch here). Barkley finished rushing for 43 yards on five carries and left Giants fans and fantasy owners wanting more. He continues to assert himself as a first-round pick in upcoming fantasy drafts.
The Lions selected Kerryon Johnson in the second round in the 2018 NFL Draft. He has the enormous task of helping to fix their miserable running game. Johnson managed to shine with a thrilling run although it was called back due to a holding call. The run displayed his open field running ability and gave the Lions and fantasy owners a reason to be excited. Johnson will be a fantastic upside late-round pick.
Jeremy Hill, RB, New England Patriots
Jeremy Hill lost 10 pounds over the offseason and had surgery to remove bone spurs from his ankles. He was signed by the Patriots this off-season to compete for the Patriots' short-yardage role.
Hill looked agile on Thursday night in the Patriots' preseason opener. He had 11 carries for 51 yards and a touchdown while also adding two catches for 14 yards. Hill is in competition with Mike Gillislee for the Patriots big back role. Since 2016, he has converted nine of a possible 15 first downs and recorded seven short-yardage touchdowns.
The former Bengal is looking to secure a role as the Patriots backfield is dealing with injuries to both Rex Burkhead and rookie Sony Michel. With Hill even contributing on special teams, it seems that he has carved out a roster spot on the team. As a bigger back, he looks the front-runner in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Jeremy Hill is a very sneaky deep sleeper pick in upcoming drafts.
Sam Darnold & Teddy Bridgewater, QB, New York Jets
Sam Darnold played like he wanted to be the Jets starter in Week 1. He looked impressive in his NFL debut. He went 9-of-11 for 74 yards and one touchdown. Of course, he didn't play the best of the best being that it was the first preseason game, but he did look comfortable and made the right reads and throws. I am anxious to see what he does when the level of competition gets tougher.
Teddy Bridgewater also was impressive in the first preseason with the Jets. He completed 7-of-8 for 85 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Bridgewater is probably playing for a trade and looked terrific. The Jets look to start Josh McCown at the onset and Darnold later sometime this season.
Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Michael Gallup's first catch (preseason) as a member of the Cowboys.
— Blogging The Boys (@BloggingTheBoys) August 10, 2018
The third round selection out of Colorado State has an opportunity for a lot of targets and has been lining up with the starters for most of the Cowboys camp. Gallup has been the buzz of training camp and displayed skills of an athletic playmaker with WR1 potential.
He exhibited those skills in the preseason opener when he raced past the 49ers' defense on a 30-yard touchdown down the boundary. The touchdown was the only catch Gallup made all day. However, it was the only series Dak Prescott played in.
The rookie showed the team he might be ready and able for a big role in the Cowboys offense when the season starts.
San Francisco 49ers suffer injuries to three starters
The biggest accomplishment for a team in preseason games is not winning the game, even not looking at new players or players in position battles. The most important aspect of a preseason game: Staying healthy! NO injuries!
Although the San Francisco 49ers won the first preseason game, they lost three starters and a key offensive contributor.
Starting Tight End George Kittle is a sleeper pick due to him having 43 receptions and two touchdowns as a rookie last season. With a full season of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, the Niners offense looks to take the next step with their multiple weapons. Kittle reportedly suffered an injury his right shoulder, but luckily did not sustain any structural damage.
Backup running back Matt Brieda appeared in all 16 games as a backup during his rookie season in 2017. Brieda was looking to share rushing duties with newcomer Jerrick McKinnon, who injured his calf muscle in practice this week. He is also dealing with a shoulder injury. Shanahan said he expects Kittle and Brieda to miss "some time."
Sean Mannion, QB, Los Angeles Rams
Sean Mannion is the backup to quarterback Jared Goff and the Rams might want to consider looking elsewhere for a backup. Mannion passed for 16 yards on 3-of-13 passing with no touchdowns and one interception, that's 1.1 yards per attempt!
Davis Webb, QB, New York Giants
The second-year quarterback was downright awful on Thursday night. He came in to relieve Eli Manning and finished with just 70 yards on 9-of-22 passing. The Giants kept talking Webb up and what he brings to the table. He looked like a deer in headlights.
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