Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire
The NFL preseason has officially kicked off, and the entire QB List staff watched all the games so you don’t have to. Here, we’ve got the thoughts of some of our QB List writers on the fantasy-relevant things they saw in Week 1’s Friday night preseason games.
Falcons vs. Jets
Did you know, in the last two days, the top four draft picks from this year; debuted at MetLife stadium? Two of those rookies, Baker Mayfield and Saquon Barkley, put on dazzling performances Thursday night. I was excited to see how Sam Darnold would follow them up. He certainly did not disappoint. He completed 72% of his passes and almost topped 100 yards, while adding a touchdown. He looked like a quarterback who could take over tomorrow, but his counterparts looked equally as equipped to handle the starting job. Josh McCown is a veteran quarterback and proved he could still hold his own last year. It would not hurt for the Jets to roll McCown out there, while the younger guys sit and learn behind him. Teddy Bridgewater looked like he never missed a beat and was nearly flawless in his performance. The Jets have no shortage of talent at quarterback and it will be interesting to see if they rush Darnold into his first real NFL action.
An equally interesting group are the Jet’s wideouts. Robby Anderson seems to be a key cog in the passing game and looked sharp on his lone catch tonight. It will be intriguing to see how Jermaine Kearse and Quincy Enunwa fit into the plans. Former Minnesota Viking, Charles Johnson, was a surprise tonight. He led the Jets in receiving and after three tries, found the end zone. The talent is there for this group, but someone needs to step up and be the dominant target.
The Jets went to Bilal Powell early and often tonight. However, he averaged a putrid 0.8 yards per carry. Isaiah Crowell mixed in and even found the end zone on a receiving touchdown. Crowell delivered a powerful hit to battle his way in for the touchdown and left the game for a concussion test. These two will be a dynamic one-two punch once the season starts. I like Powell a little bit more than Crowell in PPR because of his ability to catch the ball. Although the Jets vow that they are going to get Crowell involved in the passing game. If the Jets can get their offense rolling; both of these guys could be a late round steal. It could get tricky though once Elijah McGuire starts mixing in as well.
The Jets have something to be excited about in Darnold. They have some questions within the defense, but should have a solid enough unit to be competitive. They may not quite be a playoff team yet, but they are headed in the right direction.
There is not much to say for the Atlanta Falcons. They failed to score even a point tonight. One bright spot was their defense and special teams tackling. They came out firing and blasted the return man on the opening kickoff. Unfortunately, on many of these hits, the Falcons were called for a penalty. It’s already evident this new, “lowering the helmet rule”, is going to be a problem. Damontae Kazee, a corner turned safety, was the reason for many of those hits tonight. This man was all over the place and finished with nine tackles. He is someone I am excited to watch come regular season.
Matt Ryan came in and threw one pass for negative yardage. Matt Schaub followed it up by going 9-of-9, but only gained 54 yards. Kurt Benkert was an unexpected bright spot and showed some skills that may land him a backup job somewhere in the future.
As for the wide receivers; none of the usual suspects got any work. It was disappointing not to see Mohamed Sanu, Julio Jones, or Calvin Ridley out there making plays, but it is the first game of the preseason. Devin Gray led the team in receiving and had a highlight reel catch over a defender. This is a group that is loaded for the Falcons and it will be hard for the younger guys behind them to make a name for themselves.
Tevin Coleman got work early, but was replaced with Ito Smith (who was named after the famous judge and no I am not making this up). Smith was actually someone I was excited to see, but he did little to impress me. The Falcons will likely mix him in this year and use him in the passing game. I can’t help but wonder if the Falcons are grooming him to be a Coleman replacement. Either way, this group is also a loaded one for the birds and should heavily feature the combo of Devonta Freeman and Coleman.
The Falcons have an enormous amount of young talent on both sides of the ball. Their ability to draft and develop in the recent years is unparalleled. They also had one of the best offensive lines last year. I expect the defense to make another leap and the offense to get back on track. If this happens, the Falcons are a lethal juggernaut in the NFC. It would have been nice to see more of that talent shine tonight however. Man, the regular season cannot get here fast enough!
Raiders vs. Lions
The “primetime game” on this Friday night of preseason action featured two head coaches with new beginnings. Head Coach Matt Patricia for the Lions, sliding over from New England where he was the defensive coordinator, and Jon Gruden for the Raiders who was in his first game as a head coach since the 2008 season with the Buccaneers after deciding to make his way down from the broadcasting booth.
Matthew Stafford sat this game out, and so we got the washed up Matt Cassel to show us he has nothing left in the tank. The days of his New England success are a distant memory, especially when you look at how poorly he handled the 2 minute offense at the end of regulation. Jake Ruddock played game manager, completing over 50% of his passes but only at 4.4 YPA. For the Raiders, Derek Carr looked comfortable throwing short routes, but looked very timid on the intermediate to deep routes, ultimately going 2/4 with 11 yards on the night. Connor Cook looked like much more like a capable backup compared to Cassel on the other side of the ball, throwing a pretty touchdown where Ryan Switzer had to improvise his route coming back across the back of the endzone.
The Lions starting WR core in three-wide sets of Marvin Jones III, Golden Tate, and Kenny Golladay continue to be one of the scariest trio’s for NFL defenses, especially with Stafford under center. Expect a lot of targets going to all three of them with the run game lacking anything to brag about at this point. You should feel comfortable taking Tate in the 4th round, Jones in the 5th and Golladay anytime after the 10th round in 10-team PPR drafts this year. Brandon Powell showed some grit, posting a 5/34 line, but its hard to see any WRs outside the top 3 to have any fantasy relevance barring injuries. The Raiders couldn’t get anything going in the passing game, as the best route run of the night was from Johnny Holton (who?). The talk of the preseason has been the effectiveness of Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant. The former will be a starter and the latter is looking like a rotational deep threat right now, as his lone target from Derek Carr came on a bomb down the middle of the field that was ultimately underthrown.
In the run game, the rookie running backs were the stars of the show. Kerryon Johnson, a sleeper pick to lead the backfield in touches, is a rookie out of Auburn who was taken by the Lions with the 43rd pick in the draft. He showed elusiveness, a great first step, and great hands that could easily render Theo Riddick insignificant. The only question, as with many rookies, is his pass protection. It will be exciting to see how he looks in his first dress rehearsal with Matthew Stafford and evaluate if he can give Stafford enough time to push the ball down the field. If this happens, he has a good shot at leading this backfield in touches, however still expect LeGarrette Blount to be the goalline back. Feel free to take a flier on Johnson as he finished with 4 catches and 67 total yards. Chris Warren was a UDFA out of Texas who signed with the Raiders and he showed that he deserves to get another look as he fights for his roster spot, finishing with 13 carries for 86 yards.. The most impressive run of the night in the Raiders backfield didn’t even count when Marshawn Lynch burst through the left side and outran the safety for a 61 yard house call. Holding was called and the play was negated, but still, that was the most acceleration he has shown in recent memory. Barring injury, he is the man for the Raiders.
A quick defensive note, the Lions LB Kevon Kennard spent a lot of time in the Raiders backfield. With Matt Patricia as head coach and players like Kennard, Ezekiel Ansah, and Darius Slay, to name a few, the Lions defense should give the offense a lot more help than they are used to getting, allowing them to establish a more consistent running game.