Man, what a weekend. 16 NFL preseason games were served up to us from Thursday to Sunday, with tons of fantasy studs and budding superstars taking the field. My eyes were bleeding from the amount of preseason game tape I took in this weekend, but it was oh so worth it. Here's what you need to know from each game on this weekend's slate.
Indianapolis Colts at Philadelphia Eagles
» Nelson Agholor looked like the real deal, hauling in three passes for 57 yards and a score. On his touchdown he high-pointed a bad pass from Mark Sanchez and used his wheels to beat several defenders to paydirt. He boasts Randall Cobb-like after-the-catch ability, and should slide in as the No. 2 option in the Philly passing attack after Jordan Matthews (who looked good early, getting open frequently).
» Josh Robinson looks like he might make a push to become Frank Gore's backup after a solid afternoon of work (10 carries, 44 yards, one touchdown). He carries his weight well in a compact frame and showed his shiftiness on his touchdown run. He could be worth nabbing as a handcuff to Gore late in drafts.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings
» Jameis Winston's NFL debut was as one might expect for a rookie quarterback -- uneven. He was inaccurate to start, but settled in with a few nice passes, although most came against the second-team. He rushed in a touchdown, which was nice to see, but if his first preseason debut is any indicator, he'll be no more than a QB2 at best in fantasy this season.
» Doug Martin didn't get much help from his offensive line, but was able to make the most of it with the quick cutting we heard about from Bucs camp. He's still a steal at his late-round ADP.
» Teddy Bridgewater continued to impress. He moved the Vikings offense right down the field, making accurate passes from the pocket and on the move. He's making a case to be considered as a QB1 this season, though he'd be at the end of the group. It's also worth noting that he continued to target Kyle Rudolph, who some fantasy drafters might sleep on following multiple injury-plagued seasons.
San Francisco 49ers at Houston Texans
» Both Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett looked good leading the Houston offense. Hopefully one wins the job outright soon. In the passing attack, Cecil Shorts made a nice 56-yard touchdown catch. Many are hyping up Jaelen Strong, but Shorts is a good player who could have some value this season as the No. 2 WR.
» Despite working with Kurt Warner this offeason, Colin Kaepernick is still showing some of the inconsistency in his passing game from last season. He was more on the QB2 radar anyway, so unless we see some growth keep him in that zone. Torrey Smith should take a step down in your rankings, too. Don't expect 11 touchdowns again.
» We didn't see much of Carlos Hyde in this one. Owners looking to get him and his potential breakout season will want to make sure he's still running with the same ferocity he showed last season. I'm not currently buying him at his Round 4-5 asking price.
Kansas City Chiefs at Arizona Cardinals
» Andre Ellington looks healthy and as if he wants the world to know it. He caught a pass from Palmer and gashed the Chiefs secondary for 57 yards. He had a seriously hampering injury last season, and could be primed for a bounce-back. I don't love him at his current Round 6 ADP, but he's starting to win me over.
» Alex Smith tried to find Jeremy Maclin deep early but the two didn't connect, as the route was covered well. Still, it was nice to see him taking a shot right away. Maclin definitely will give this wide receiver corps a boost, but he isn't likely to turn in another top-10 performance. I'm much more comfortably with him in the WR2-3 range.
Tennessee Titans at Atlanta Falcons
» Bishop Sankey still looks sluggish and unimpressive. He runs with little to no burst, suddenness, or explosion. He started with the first team, and Dexter McCluster got the goal-line carry. Sigh. However, David Cobb looks like the best back on the team. He was decisive with his cuts, showed decent short-range acceleration and finished his runs. He wasn't super splashy, but it seems his performance will earn him more first-team work in the coming weeks.
» Harry Douglas and Hakeem Nicks were the starting wideouts for the Titans, but that might not be set in stone. Rookie Dorial Green-Beckham showed what he could do on his one 32-yard catch, climbing the ladder over the defender to catch a back-shoulder throw. Then, a few plays later, Justin Hunter failed to adjust to a poor deep throw, and the ball bounced off of him and to the other team.
Carolina Panthers at Buffalo Bills
» LeSean McCoy did nothing to make me feel better about his Round 1 ADP. He still looked hesitant at times as he did last year, instead of just hitting the hole. The backup Carolina inebackers were able to chase McCoy down before he got to the edge in the backfield as well, which isn't encouraging. I'd feel more comfortable with McCoy in Round 2 or 3, personally.
» Tyrod Taylor came into the lineup and the Bills offense immediately became more exciting. He still needs to improve as a passer a bit, but his improvisational skills and rushing ability offer more upside than EJ Manuel or Matt Cassel and will help the fantasy fortunes of his surrounding cast. Here's to hoping he wins this battle during the rest of camp. #TeamTyrod.
» Kelvin Benjamin looked good after an offseason filled with questions about his conditioning. He dominated Ronald Darby on his one red zone target. Benjamin should remain on the WR2 radar. Jonathan Stewart didn't play, but as far as his potential handcuff is concerned, Jordan Todman looked good on his three carries. Fifth-round pick Cameron Artis-Payne had 24 yards on eight carries. They'd battle for the starting gig were Stewart to go down.
New York Giants at Cincinnati Bengals
» Rashad Jennings got the start and the first carry/target. He looked decent, showing some nice vision as he picked through defenders in the second level. None of the backs received a lot of work (Jennings/Williams had three touches each, Vereen just two), so this competition will need to be watched closely.
» Giovani Bernard started with the first-team ... special teams unit. This was a curious move to me, and I haven't found an answer yet. Was this an experiment to get the electric Bernard on the field more? Or is this indicative of how the team wants to keep Hill in with the offense more? For now, let's not overreact, but it does make me feel a little safer about Hill's upside.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars
» Le'Veon Bell looked good on his two carries. Don't worry about his two-game suspension. He is still worth the No. 1 overall pick in fantasy. DeAngelo Williams looks better than last year, but if I'm drafting Bell I'd rather take high-upside guys late and rely on them for two weeks than Williams. Doug Martin, David Cobb, Chris Ivory or Tre Mason would all be better options.
» Denard Robinson showed some good burst and vision running between the tackles with rookie T.J. Yeldon out with an injury. A healthy Toby Gerhart also looked strong and spry, pushing the pile on his carries and refusing to go down on first contact. I wasn't in love with Yeldon coming out of college, and will absolutely need to see him run in the preseason before even thinking about him at his current ADP. This could very easily be a legitimate committee given each of the back's skill sets.
» Julius Thomas' hand injury is a bummer, but he should be back in time for the regular season. If the injury pushes his ADP down, he'll become a tremendous value at the shallow tight end position.
» Blake Bortles looked good in the pocket, showing confidence, awareness and improved mechanics. It is just the preseason, but he went 11-of-15, and three of his four incompletions were drops. He should be on the QB2 radar given the wealth of weapons he now has at his disposal.
Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks
» C.J. Anderson looked good on his first carry, but got nicked up and spent most of the game on the sideline. Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman also looked good rushing the football. Head coach Gary Kubiak has a history of featuring one back, and the odds are still for that to be Anderson. But the snaps/touches split between these three will need to be monitored in the preseason.
» Undrafted rookie running back Thomas Rawls made a case for more playing time (and a shot at the roster), showing decent vision and some nice burst, especially on his 18-yard touchdown reception. Keep an eye on him as the preseason progresses.
St. Louis Rams at Oakland Raiders
» Nick Foles looked decent on his opening drive, connecting with Tavon Austin on a screen that went for over 30 yards. Not much was flashed though, and the Rams offensive line looked questionable at best. Foles and this wide receiver group won't offer too much fantasy upside aside from Brian Quick, if he can continue to recover from his shoulder injury.
» Latavius Murray ran with good vision and speed. Definitely a relief for his owners or drafters wanting to snag him at his Round 5 ADP.
» The team also made a point of feeding Amari Cooper early, as he got four touches on the team's first eight plays. Free-agent acquisition Michael Crabtree also looked good in limited work. These two should combine to give Derek Carr two excellent passing options, and both could push for 1,000 receiving yards this season.
» Speaking of Carr, his weapons should help him improve on his poor yards-per-attempt numbers from last season. He'll need to avoid mistakes like his ugly interception in the red zone, though. Hopefully the coaching staff can help him continue his upward ascent. He's only a QB2 in 2015.
Green Bay Packers at New England Patriots
» The Jimmy Garoppolo show didn't get off to a hot start. He was without most of the top skill players in New England, but he struggled to move the offense for much of the night.
» Rodgers targeted offseason darling Davante Adams seven times (three catches, 17 yards), but don't read too much into that. Rodgers likes to target younger players in practice and preseason to see what they're made of, so he knows if he can trust them when it counts. So far, Adams will still be behind Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Also, preseason hero Jeff Janis shook of a sluggish camp to score a 31-yard touchdown. He'll at best be the fourth wideout in Green Bay, and is only worth looking at in dynasty formats.
New Orleans Saints at Baltimore Ravens
» Unfortunately, we didn't get much clarity on the Ravens' WR2 battle. Once Breshad Perriman gets healthy, he could quickly win this contest. Crockett Gillmore started with the first team and had had two catches for 17 yards. He's a deep sleeper tight end option as Maxx Williams gets up to speed in the NFL.
» Brandin Cooks believers saw their faith rewarded, when Cooks to his only reception 28 yards to the house. He was targeted three times on the night. Sleeper tight end Josh Hill saw some decent work, hauling in all three targets for 40 yards. He looked fast up the seam and across the middle of the field, but will still have to compete with veteran Benjamin Watson for targets. Mark Ingram received the first-team running back carries. His role remains solid as the team's early-down thumper. C.J. Spiller didn't play.
Miami Dolphins at Chicago Bears
» The Dolphins starting offense looked like a well-oiled machine on their 14-play, 85-yard touchdown drive. Ryan Tannehill threw crisp passes, while Lamar Miller showed good vision and burst. Jarvis Landry received the red-zone look and touchdown (#TeamSmallWR for the win). This offense could make some noise in fantasy this fall.
» Jacquizz Rodgers got the start for Bears, likely meaning he's ahead of Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey in the RB pecking order (behind Forte, of course). Eddie Royal was frequently targeted by Cutler with Alshon Jeffery sidelined with a calf injury. The last time Royal and Cutler played together (2008), Royal posted a stat line of 91/980/5. Given all of the injuries in the Bears WR corps, Royal's value continue to rise as an unsexy deep sleeper.
New York Jets at Detroit Lions
» All hail Ameer Abdullah, savior of the fantasy running backs! I jest, but seriously, we've loved Abdullah all offseason over here, so it was rewarding to see him embarrass the Jets defenders on several runs. Joique Bell should still get carries if/when he gets healthy, but I feel like the Lions will be hard-pressed NOT to put the ball in Abdullah's hands often. I mean, Todd Bowles just said he's as "quick as Barry Sanders." This cat is definitely out of the bag, folks, and if you want Abdullah in drafts you're going to have to pay a high price for him (fourth-ish round, is my guess).
Washington Redskins at Cleveland Browns
» Aflred Morris ran hard, getting his typical early-down carries and doing the most with them. He remains locked as an RB2 in fantasy. Matt Jones had some nice runs later, too, and figures to be the second option for Washington. Robert Griffin III was up-and-down, hitting Pierre Garcon in stride 60 yards down field (which he dropped), then completely missing a short pass for a first down on the next throw. We want to see more from RGIII before putting any sort of faith in him again in 2015.
» Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West split the first-team carries, and neither was particularly impressive. Crowell is still the name to target here, if you feel like dealing with this headache. Josh McCown led a solid opening drive, going 5-for-5 passing. Johnny Manziel looked improved, and scored a rushing touchdown, but he's still a ways off from starting or making any sort of fantasy contributions.
Dallas Cowboys at San Diego Chargers
» Melvin Gordon didn't have the type of start he wanted to his NFL career. The first-round pick looked very hesitant, chopping his feet before hitting the hole. He finished with six carries for 11 yards. We've been worried that Danny Woodhead is going to seriously lower Gordon's fantasy ceiling, and that appears to be the case. With Gordon ineffective on the first drive, Woodhead came in and gashed the Cowboys defense for a touchdown run. Gordon has not received good marks in pass protection, either, which means Woodhead will get the vast majority of third down work. It's only Week 1 of the preseason, but owners will want to watch closely before investing highly in Gordon.