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Football is back. The qualifier is we are watching preseason football where it is difficult to digest level of competition, with minimal game-planning, and false positives and negatives run rampant on an annual basis. For my preseason viewing, I focus on depth chart clues and skill traits. Here are the notes from preseason Week 1:
Matt Barkley was up and down in his preseason debut. Drew Stanton is a ho-hum veteran option behind Carson Palmer. Without seeing much uptick in skills Barkley is still on the fantasy roster fringe even in deep quarterback-premium formats.
Cody Kessler was frustrating to watch for the Browns. In a Dan Orlovsky-type moment, Kessler ran out of the back of the end zone for a safety while rolling out. Kessler's lone highlight was a back-shoulder throw for a Rashard Higgins touchdown on his first throw of the game (third quarter).
Dak Prescott lit up social media as his stat line burst at the seams. Like with any impressive stat line, I am naturally skeptical of projecting future greatness from the preseason. I noted mostly primary reads for Prescott, as I did with most of the young/rookie quarterbacks this week. However, I liked Prescott's footwork in his debut and rushing potential is always appealing for fantasy quarterbacks to be mid-QB2 or better historically.
Paxton Lynch looked far more comfortable after a few shaky throws early in his appearance. A highlight throw came as Lynch stepped up in the pocket and delivered an accurate power throw to Jordan Taylor on a deep in-cut. Mark Sanchez also had a horrible decision on an interception this week.
Jacoby Brissett had a rough NFL debut with three should-have-been interceptions. He showed a live arm, but decision-making and accuracy are clear developmental qualities for Brissett out of the gate.
Ryan Nassib was one of the bigger disappointments at quarterback this week. Despite entering his final year of a rookie contract, Nassib did not show much development from working in Eli Manning's shadow. Nassib lacked feel, was jerky in the pocket, and showing ball security and accuracy issues. Despite being a 2017 free agent, Nassib's first tryout for other teams did not go well.
Carson Wentz played better than his box score. In general, Wentz's misses were on the high side, but his targets also dropped multiple passes from the rookie. Wentz's interception was a forced throw in the red zone with the pocket collapsing and his arm hit. Wentz struggled later in his appearance with lesser targets. He showed a live arm throughout the game and had a highlight throw after beating imminent pressure and a strike on an out route.
Trevone Boykin was a highlight performance at quarterback in Week 1. He was slippery with smooth footwork on zone read looks. Boykin nearly connected with Paul Richardson Jr on a long touchdown. Boykin even came back into the game for the final drive, down by a touchdown, leading the offense to a win with three chunk gains including a last-second touchdown heave. I do want to see more adjustments and balance through footwork at the top of Boykin's drops; he can get flat-footed to his detriment at times.
Elijah Penny is buried on the Arizona depth chart and a long shot to make the 53-man roster, but showed some physical upside. Penny is a decent combination of size, athleticism, and receiving in my projection model for prospects. Penny is worth monitoring in the deepest of leagues for a more optimistic depth chart in the future.
Brandon Wilds was the No.3 running back into the game for Atlanta. Wilds showed some burst and logged back-to-back goal line carries. A late fumble tarnished his performance overall.
Javorius Allen was the first running back into the game for the Ravens, one of the most wide-open depth charts with viable options in the NFL. Terrance West saw time on Baltimore's second drive with Kenneth Dixon mixed in after. Dixon flashed the most of the three, breaking down a defender one-on-one on a carry and sporting a great cut on another.
While buried as the third running back into the game, Jonathan Williams looked the part of a three-down NFL running back in Buffalo. Williams' combination of size, power, balance, and cutting ability gives him appeal despite Karlos Williams and Mike Gillislee also behind incumbent LeSean McCoy for now.
Cameron Artis-Payne continues to not show well in the NFL. Once his feet stop, they are sluggish to restart. I doubt Artis-Payne is fantasy viable even if Jonathan Stewart were to miss extended time in Carolina.
Like Baltimore, the Chicago backfield is a muddy mess at the outset of the preseason. Jeremy Langford had minimal room to work against a stingy Denver defense. Jacquizz Rodgers showed well later in the game. Rookie Jordan Howard was the No.4 running back into the game without overt positive or negative reviews.
Tra Carson is a deep dynasty name to monitor in Cincinnati. Carson is big, powerful, with enough wiggle to elude second-level defenders in space. With Terrell Watson gone to Cleveland, the power back reserve role behind Jeremy Hill is open. Carson made a good first impression.
Zach Zenner was the first power back into the game for Detroit. Zenner had a great stutter-step and balance on a screen reception. Stevan Ridley also showed well. I felt Dwayne Washington looked upright and stiff. Washington has a size-speed combination, but may be on the outside of the Lions 53-man roster unless he is a must-keep on special teams.
The Colts gave Josh Ferguson the clear No.2 treatment to Frank Gore with early playing time. The offensive line did not help as of the Colts' backs this week. I give the entire group a mulligan without much opportunity. Robert Turbin was in the clear rearview for playing time behind Ferguson and Jordan Todman. I project Turbin as the least appealing fantasy stash of the trio, if he even makes the final roster.
Daniel Lasco played late in the game for the Saints, showing nice foot frequency and more interior chops than I saw on his college tape. With C.J. Spiller looking more dynamic than his past couple seasons, Lasco has an uphill climb to meaningful regular season touches this year.
George Atkinson logged two long touchdowns for the Raiders. He always possessed above-average long speed. I want to see more interior refinement from his thinner frame the rest of the preseason. The depth chart in Oakland is ripe for Atkinson to take the No.3 job to open the season. Atkinson is worth monitoring for playing time closer to the start of preseason games the next two weeks.
Melvin Gordon showed more willingness between the tackles this week than generally during his lackluster rookie season. I did not make much of Gordon's long receiving touchdown as the linebacker in coverage was washed out, leading to a wide open field for Gordon to work down the sideline.
Christine Michael converted his positive reviews this offseason to the field. He looked trim with explosion, still possessing his natural power with pad level and a prototypical frame. Alex Collins was the second running back into the game for Seattle. Unfortunately neither Michael or Collins had isolated pass protection opportunities this week, something to monitor the rest of the preseason.
Shaun Draughn was the second running back into the game for the 49ers. He showed some balance-to-power conversion on a highlight touch. Mike Davis looked improved from a horrible 2015 season as the third running back into the game. Kelvin Taylor is going to have a tough time cracking the top-3 for San Francisco if Draughn and Davis perform to this level the rest of the preseason.
The Tennessee run game dominated against San Diego. Many are boosting DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry up draft boards. Keep in mind San Diego is a horrible defense from 2015 and looked no better against the Titans this week. Antonio Andrews and Bishop Sankey also performed well in the game.
The opportunities with adequate blocking for Washington running backs were few and far between this week. Keith Marshall had a non-performance with stacked running lanes. I want to see more in the coming weeks before passing judgement on Marshall's transition to the NFL. Mack Brown showed a quality jump cut on a carry later in the game and a nice catch over the middle. In super deep leagues, Brown is one to monitor with an unsettled power back depth chart beyond Matt Jones.
Michael Thomas filled up the box score, but played with the Saints' second team. Monitor Thomas for more first team activity as the preseason progresses.
Sammie Coates Jr struggled after promising reviews during camp. Coates slipped down on a deep in-cut and then fumbled on a reverse later in the game. Coates has more physical upside than Markus Wheaton, but inconsistency marred Coates' effort this week.
Paul Richardson Jr is a name to remember in deeper dynasty leagues. He looked healthy (finally) and is a threat to make the Seahawks final roster.
The Rams wide receivers had a tough game overall with Tavon Austin logged a dropped pass and Mike Thomas have two drops. Kenny Britt is on plenty of waiver wires and worth a shot almost by default considering the lack of perimeter options for Los Angeles.
Kenny Bell continues to underwhelm after missing 2015. Bell fumbled the opening kickoff return and had an offensive pass interference penalty later in the game. Bell may not even make the Tampa Bay active roster, let along push for the No.3 duty many thought he was the favorite for earlier in the offseason.
Metric marvel Mycole Pruitt saw time with Minnesota's first-team offense on the opening drive of the game. Kyle Rudolph offers minimal fantasy appeal, but Pruitt sees early time is a positive sign.
Hunter Henry's debut was a positive one, sitting down in zone coverage on one occasion and soft hands in general.