The preseason can be a trap for some misinformation. The annual inaugural contest of the preseason, the Hall of Fame game, is well-known for its tendency to provide fantasy misnomers. Some observers went a little crazy after seeing 2014 rookie running back, Andre Williams bruise the Bills backup defense in last year's iteration. Williams rumbled along to average 3.3 yards-per-carry in the regular season. Buffalo receiver Robert Woods, a former second round pick, caught a nice touchdown. He went on to finish as the WR48 in fantasy leagues.
All this to say, while there is plenty of important information to scour from the Hall of Fame game, let's remember to temper our expectations. We'll be looking for clues from the results of this game; we won't be uncovering any fantasy revelations.
1.*None of the Steelers' offensive centerpieces took part in this game.*Martavis Bryant was on the shelf with an elbow injury, while Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell were given the night off. Even rumored breakout star Markus Wheaton did not play in the game. Without seeing any of the pieces from what could be one of the NFL's best offenses, there's no major change to the Steelers fantasy outlook. We'll be watching in future exhibitions games to see if Wheaton brings some of Ben's optimism to the field, or if Bryant is indeed going to pay off his ADP.
2.*The Vikings did allow some of their first teamers a chance to take the field, with the obvious exception of Adrian Peterson.*Teddy Bridgewater looked locked-in right away, completing five of his six passes in his only series. This sort of hyper-efficient play is exactly what we're projecting for the Minnesota quarterback this season, and it will keep us interested in this offense. He and Mike Wallace missed each other on one pass, which brought back all-too-familiar unpleasant memories of the veteran receiver's time in Miami. Charles Johnson caught one pass, but it was a mere screen near the line of scrimmage.
3.*Kyle Rudolph stood out on his two catches, both of which were away from his body in traffic.* Rudolph looked spry after an injury-riddled 2014 campaign. He bounced off several would-be tacklers on those two receptions. In a tight end-friendly offense and a clear quarterback upgrade from years past, there's some bounce back potential for Rudolph this season. Of course, he must stay healthy for that to occur. Do note that his backup, rookie MyCole Pruitt had the best receiving line of the game (4-51-1 TD).
4.*With Adrian Peterson sitting out, we were treated to a dystopian hypothetical of what this offense would look like in the event of an injury to No. 28.*Jerick McKinnon flashed some excellent natural ability in the open field with a 13-yard reception on the Vikings first play. He impressed us last year with a quick transition from college option quarterback to NFL running back as a rookie. McKinnon is a longshot to have standalone value, but he's one of the highest upside handcuffs in the league. Provided you're into that sort of thing. Of course, the Vikings also made sure to sprinkle in a little Matt Asiata action with the second team offense. An often-used punchline in fantasy circles, Asiata looked good in his chances, taking six carries for 30 yards. On multiple occasions, the big man made multiple defenders miss. We like McKinnon's long-term outlook and potential, but this will remain a committee situation if a Peterson injury ever sends the fantasy world into a post-apocalyptic panic.
5.*Cordarrelle Patterson ran exclusively with the second-team offense, and caught one pass for six yards.* His route technique still looked rough at times, albeit in limited looks. Patterson is firmly behind Johnson, Wallace and Jarius Wright (two catches for 14 yards) in the pecking order, and is not likely to bounce-back from his 2014 disaster. Stefon Diggs has earned rave reviews from camp, and took a punt return one yard shy of a score. If he passes up Patterson, all three of us left in his corner will have to pack it in.
6.*With all the starters out, Dri Archer was the Steelers' most notable offensive player.* He played most of the first half, and certainly had some nice moments. Archer averaged six yards per carry, and caught six passes. While the diminutive second-year player made plays in space, he pretty consistently went down on first contact. He also fumbled. Maybe Archer plays a passing game role when Le'Veon Bell is on suspension, but he is not a fantasy factor.
7.*The Steelers defense definitely looks faster.* On the first Vikings drive, Lawrence Timmons leveled Jarius Wright to force a fourth down. Minnesota went for it on the following play, and last year's top pick, Ryan Shazier, burst through the line to stuff McKinnon. Encouraging signs, but this team has some work yet to do in the secondary. It was not encouraging to see this year's first rounder, Bud Dupree, playing deep into the fourth quarter and making little impact.
8.*Backup quarterback stock watch.*Landry Jones played the full game, as hinted by Mike Tomlin, but continued his touchdown-free preseason career. Jones did play a little better than in years past, and did have three receivers (rookies Sammie Coates, Devin Gardner and Jesse James) mishandle passes in the end zone on a second quarter series. Neither Mike Kafka nor Taylor Heinicke did much to put heat on Shaun Hill (did not play) to be Bridegwater's primary backup.