Football is back! Yes, that’s right: Football is back!
It’s only preseason, and while the games played in August may not grab everyone’s attention, they are the first eye-test that the fantasy owners have before the beginning of the season.
Besides that, it’s an excellent way to analyze the players who might be the difference in your league later on, as yet-to-be-seen rookies and undrafted prospects battle for roster spots.
Here are a few names who flashed in the preseason Week 1 and deserve to be on your watch list.
James Washington (WR, Pittsburgh Steelers)
After struggling as a rookie in 2018 (16 catches, 217 yards, and one TD), James Washington provided a glimpse of how 2019 can be a special season for him. In the first preseason game of the year, Washington totaled four receptions, 84 yards, and a touchdown including an incredible 43-yard contested grab. The wide receiver was able to get separation in most of the plays he was on the field against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and deserves more attention as he is playing on a team with open spots throughout their receiving corps.
Mecole Hardman (WR, Kansas City Chiefs)
Anytime a fast, athletic receiver joins an offensive genius-orchestrated unit, good things can happen. And that might be the case for Mecole Hardman with the Andy Reid-led Kansas City Chiefs. The second-round rookie had two catches, 31 yards, and one touchdown in his first appearance with the Chiefs against the Cincinnati Bengals. Seventeen of those yards came in an impressive run after receiving a shovel pass, where he outrun several defenders. He seems to be a natural fit for the Chiefs dynamic offense and should continue to improve playing under Reid.
Baker Mayfield (QB, Cleveland Browns)
Even though it was just one offensive series, it was enough for Baker Mayfield to show what might be waiting for him in 2019. The quarterback led the Cleveland Browns on an 89-yard touchdown drive in 2:13 minutes, with five completions in six attempts, including a beautiful 21-yard TD connection to Rashard Higgins. Besides that, Mayfield looked comfortable working in a no-huddle tempo drive despite not having his best offensive weapons on the field. Considering what is waiting for the Browns’ offensive unit after several significant transactions during the offseason, the Oklahoma alumnus was the most impressive QB fantasy-wise during the preseason Week 1.
David Montgomery (RB, Chicago Bears)
Since the Chicago Bears made David Montgomery the franchise’s first selection of the 2019 draft in the third round, the hype surrounding the running back has been high. In the preseason matchup against the Carolina Panthers, everyone saw the reasons why. Montgomery totaled three carries for 16 yards and a touchdown, plus three catches for 30 yards. The expectations for him are likely to increase even more for the upcoming season as he seems a perfect match for a versatile backfield managed by Matt Nagy.
N’Keal Harry (WR, New England Patriots)
One of the biggest concerns for the New England Patriots during the offseason was who would be their best playmaker after Rob Gronkowski’s retirement. That explains why the team drafted a wide receiver in the first round for the first time since 1996. And it took N’Keal Harry just two catches (for 36 yards) to show what he can bring to the table for his offense despite playing in a Tom Brady-less unit against the Detroit Lions. First, he made a contested grab in the air. Then, a dive reception with excellent body control. It was a quick, though great, test drive for the rookie.
Preston Williams (WR, Miami Dolphins)
The Miami Dolphins received good news after the first preseason game of the year. Perhaps the most surprising one came from Preston Williams, who stole the show over the Atlanta Falcons. The undrafted rookie had 97 receiving yards after catching four passes, all of them being on impressive plays, highlighted by a one-handed grab on a nice-touched pass by Josh Rosen. As the preseason action continues to happen, Williams is undoubtedly a name to keep under the radar after Week 1.
Justin Jackson (RB, Los Angeles Chargers)
If Melvin Gordon’s holdout lasts into the regular season, the Los Angeles Chargers will need players to take a step up in the backfield. That would be great news for Justin Jackson, who showed his potential in brief appearance against the Arizona Cardinals. Jackson, a seventh-round selection last year, had five carries, 22 yards, and a hard-effort touchdown. He can see a huge workload increase in the next few weeks should Gordon hold out or miss any time.
Of course, Jackson is likely to be running behind Austin Ekeler, who also shinned against the Cardinals. Ekeler totaled five carries fornd 40 yards, along with three catches for 29 yards.
Elijah Holyfield (RB, Carolina Panthers)
Elijah Holyfield’s presence in the Carolina Panthers’ 53-man roster is a long shot, though not impossible. The franchise may be focusing on adding depth to the running back position as Christian McCaffrey touched the ball 326 times in 2018.
The son of boxing legend Evander fumbled once in his third touch of the game against the Chicago Bears but bounced back with 11 touches for 39 yards and two TDs, running with for Carolina’s third-string unit. His toughness in between the defensive tackles was on full display in the fourth quarter, especially in the red-zone, which may give him better opportunities shortly.
(Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)