Let me be among the many who have welcomed back actual football to the sporting landscape. It certainly beats writing about what we think is going to happen based on various reports.
But let me also warn you that having actual players on an actual field won't put an end to speculation. Oh no, my friends. The time for surmising what could be is just getting started. After all, now that we've had a game, it's time to talk about what it all means. To that end, here's what we learned from a fantasy standpoint after the Hall of Fame Game.
In short: not much. The Dolphins' starters saw just 10 snaps while many of the key Cowboys contributors didn't see the field at all. While Game No. 1 was good for the respective coaches of the two teams to determine roster depth, it didn't do a whole lot for fantasy owners looking to answer some draft questions.
However, there was one notable development, namely the performance of Joseph Randle. The rookie carried the ball 13 times for 70 yards in his quest to be the backup to (and fantasy handcuff for) DeMarco Murray. In fact, the 'Boys ran the ball quite well. Yet, we'll see if that changes the philosophy for offensive coordinator Bill Callahan once he has Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten back on the field.
Romo taking on expanded role
Speaking of Tony Romo ... the Cowboys quarterback talked about his increased role around the team's facilities. He downplayed the reports that he was going to spend "Peyton Manning-type time" around the offices and workout rooms. But Romo did say that he plans to spend more time in coaches' meetings.
As his career has progressed, Romo has become more of a coach on the field for Dallas. It's something that has been even more apparent this preseason -- especially with Romo forgoing some of his usual offseason pastimes in an effort to concentrate on football. Perhaps in that way, Romo could be a little more Manning-like.
It should also help that his primary playmaker in the passing game -- Bryant -- appears ready to take a big step forward. None of this seems likely to propel Romo's fantasy draft value forward (he's still coming off the board in the ninth round in most drafts), but it could make him one very productive fantasy backup option.
» Danny Amendola is making a positive impression early in Patriots camp. He was undoubtedly going to be Tom Brady's top target heading into the season -- especially with the uncertainty around Rob Gronkowski. It's good to reaffirm that Amendola is fitting in well with New England's offensive scheme. Now we just have to hope he can stay healthy.
» Count Rex Ryan among the coaches who are succumbing to the pressure to include read-option elements in their team's offense. The Jets will reportedly use a little more of the Wildcat in 2013. This could have a big impact on New York's QB competition with the more mobile Geno Smith possibly having a slight edge. It probably doesn't hurt that Smith has looked better throwing the ball as well.
» Whoever wins Gang Green's gig might have to go at least a month without Santonio Holmes at his disposal. The veteran wideout has reportedly told friends that he expects to miss at least the first four games of the season. That's increasingly bad news for a woefully shallow WR pool. Next up on the depth chart is likely to be Jeremy Kerley or Stephen Hill. That's not exactly a fantasy bonanza.
» Pierre Thomas is listed as the top running back on the Saints unofficial depth chart. The word "unofficial" is key here, but it still doesn't bode well for Mark Ingram who enters the season with high expectations. Darren Sproles should still see plenty of targets and there could be more touches to go around with Chris Ivory gone to New York. But taking a Saints running back is still a fantasy gamble. It's an even bigger roll of the dice if that running back isn't the starter.
» Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has said repeatedly that he would like to have one featured back this season. His next trick will be finding one that's healthy. Ryan Williams is currently on crutches and Rashard Mendenhall is out with knee tendinitis. For now the job appears to be Mendenhall's to lose, but these minor setbacks are a reminder of the risks that both Mendenhall and Williams carry with them.
» We're starting to see some separation in the Raiders quarterback competition. As expected, Matt Flynn is the favorite to win the starting job. But the biggest change has come behind him. Tyler Wilson, once the hipster pick to possibly win the gig, now looks like he'll be third on the depth chart behind Terrelle Pryor. The biggest reason to note this race is the impact it could have on Darren McFadden's usage. It's pretty unlikely that either of those three QBs will have any fantasy value in 2013.
» The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are betting that Darrelle Revis will make a full recovery and be the player he was at his peak. In fact, coach Greg Schiano says he plans to line Revis up in man-to-man coverage against the opponent's top receiver. Yes, Revis Island will again be open for business. That's potentially good news for IDP owners ... as long as Revis truly is recovered.