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Stats are great, but they just don’t tell the whole story. There are different players who light up the stat sheet every week in preseason, but absolutely irrelevant come regular season, and don’t play a role that makes them fantasy relevant. But that’s the key of watching the preseason for me, a player’s role. Here are the things I look for when watching preseason, to help educate me and add to my fantasy football knowledge.

  • Who’s starting at RB? The known starter might be resting, so who’s their #2? Is someone spelling the #1, or are they done for the day and it’s #2’s turn?
  • Who’s on the field in 2 and 3 WR sets? Take note of what kind of sets the team usually has out there, and determine who’s going to be on the field the most.
  • The eye-test is probably the most important thing. For players I’m interested in, how do they look? Are they elusive? Do they seem like they belong on the field? Are they standing out? Are they starting to make a case to win the job?
  • Which RBs are getting early down work? Are they also playing on 3rd down? Who’s in on 3rd down? Is it a committee or do the roles seem defined?
  • Who are the starting QBs looking for? Targets from the starting QB in the first quarter are an indication of where they like to go. If you watched the preseason last year, you saw that Marvin Jones was being heavily targeted by Stafford, and those who drafted Jones were delighted… for a period of time.
  • Rookie RBs – How do they look? First time seeing them in a “real” game in the NFL.

What not to do:

  • Look at stats. Stats simply don’t matter in the preseason. What Kenny Golloday did was impressive on the stat sheet, but it wasn’t Matt Stafford throwing him either of his touchdowns. What was more important to me was the quality of his catches and how he looked on the field. If he’s on the field with Stafford, I’m intrigued because he looks like he belongs. Also, we have to take into account that players who have good games after the first teams are off the field are doing it against vanilla defenses and 2nd or 3rd stringers. But it does allow you to get an understanding for guys to take a shot on at the end of drafts.
  • Take the first preseason game as gospel. This is just a data point in the many data points gained throughout the offseason. We will take note of things that happened, and continue to monitor it.

I’ll go game by game to point out things according to my criteria above. If I didn’t include it, it means I either missed the play, the players or plays were business as usual for that offense as we know it, or didn’t care about its fantasy relevance for this year.

49ers Chiefs

  • Chiefs
    • WR Tyreek Hill gets a deep catch on Alex Smith on first play. Impressive separation by Hill. They made it look routine and easy.
    • RB Spencer Ware got the start. Played through most of the first quarter. He played on 3rd down, got a bunch of targets in addition to his carries, including a goal line carry for a TD. Looked fine. RB Kareem Hunt got one carry.
    • QB Pat Mahomes looked good for a rookie
  • 49ers
    • RB Carlos Hyde got the start and played on 3rd down, with a target on 3rd down. If he can play all downs, he’s a value in fantasy drafts.
    • RB Matt Breida came in after Hyde and fumbled.
    • RB Joe Williams came in and looked really good, granted it was against backups. He had some pep to his step.
    • WR Aldrick Robinson got a bunch of targets and looked good
    • WR Kendrick Bourne looked really good

Bucs Bengals

  • Bucs
    • RB Doug Martin got the start. He looked good, and if he continues to do what he’s doing, he should get the job back in Week 4.
    • TE Cameron Brate got the start and had 2 catches on the first drive. Good to know, since they drafted Howard. Brate looks to still be involved, and Jameis is looking for him.
    • Winston stayed in, but Jacquizz came in on next series. Probably because he needs work with the 1’s. He looked okay, but he’s all about the volume. If he gets the volume, he’ll be worth starting in those first few weeks. We won’t know what kind of volume he’s going to get until Week 1 is over.
    • Evans still getting ton of targets
  • Bengals
    • Jeremy Hill got the start and had a couple of nice runs. Mixon came in on same series to spell Hill. Hill came back in. Hill got a carry around the 5 yard line and then Mixon came in on a passing play. I don’t think Gio played this one
    • Hill did a decent job keeping the starting gig. Once he was out and Mixon came in, Mixon had a few nice catches and runs. On one particular play, he made about three guys miss along the sideline. Talented player.
    • Tyler Eifert played. Looks like he’s healthy enough to play. If a player wasn’t close to being healthy, they usually wouldn’t risk it in the first preseason game. Looks like he’s good to go.

Jets/Titans

  •  Jets
    • Robby Anderson caught bomb from McCown
    • Neither Powell or Forte played
    • Hackenberg and McCown are targeting Anderson
  • Titans
    • Derrick Henry got start and played ok, nothing special.
    • Rishard Matthews seems to be still involved. Remember, Corey Davis is hurt with a hamstring injury.

Cowboys/Rams

  • Cowboys
    • McFadden’s starting. He also played 3rd down. He looked fine, didn’t do anything special. Morris came in later, and didn’t do anything special either. It is worth noting that McFadden played all three downs when he was in.
  • Rams
    • Gurley started and played all three downs. Good to know.

Cardinals/Raiders

  • Cardinals
    • Jaron Brown was wide open deep for a possible TD, but Palmer overthrew him. He seemed very involved.
    • David Johnson got start, and Chris Johnson came in after a few plays. Kerwynn Williams came in after that. Not sure if Chris Johnson is a safe handcuff for DJ. Williams and Chris Johnson can easily split work behind Johnson.
    • Brittan Golden caught a few passes from Palmer and caught a short TD. He looked good. He’s been on a few different teams over the last couple of years, but passed the eye test for me.
  • Raiders
    • Derek Carr isn’t playing, and neither is Marshawn Lynch. DeAndre Washington got the start, and did okay.

Lions/Colts

  • Lions
    • Abdullah started, got a dump off and some carries and then Zenner came in. Dwayne Washington came in after Zenner.
    • Kevin Golloday caught 2 touchdowns, but they weren’t from Matt Stafford. For him to matter, I need to see him on the field with Stafford and need to see Stafford target him. But from an eye-test, he looked really good, making several impressive catches.
  • Colts
    • Robert Turbin started. Pope came in after Turbin.

Seahawks/Chargers

  • Seahawks
    • Thomas Rawls got the start and stayed in with the starters. Prosise was in on 3rd down. Eddie Lacy came in with the second team. He had 3 carries within the 5 yard line, including one goal line carry that the offensive line didn’t allow him to get in. That was on third down. They went for it on 4th at the goal line, but passed it for a TD.
    • Paul Richardson made a great, diving catch. He looked good. Two targets on the first Russell Wilson drive.
  • Chargers
    • Melvin Gordon started and played third down. Brandon Oliver came in and got a screen on an early down and made a good play out of it. Gordon came in back, which means Oliver was spelling him. Gordon got goal line work as well. It’s worth noting that Gordon hardly had anyone spelling him last year, which increased his workload. With Oliver in the fold, he could see less carries and targets than last year on a per-game basis. Hopefully his efficiency goes up because of it.
    • Hunter Henry got the first pass of the game. Gates also playing, got a few targets on the first drive. Caught a near goal-line TD from Rivers. Gates looked good.
    • Tyrell Williams had a deep pass target from Rivers, and Travis Benjamin caught a long bomb for a TD from Kellen Clemens.

Packers/Eagles

  • Packers
    • Ty Montgomery got the start on first down, but lost a fumble. Not good for a guy who needs to prove himself. If he’s not ready to pass block, and he’s fumbling, Jamal Williams has an opportunity. Williams didn’t get much work in the game.
  • Eagles
    • LeGarette Blount getting most of the carries for the Eagles early on
    • Jordan Matthews getting bunch of catches early as audition for the Buffalo Bills

Saints/Browns

  • Saints
    • Alvin Kamara got the start and had a couple of nice runs
  • Browns
    • Osweiler still sucks. He got the start, and Cody Kessler came in after him. Kizer came in later on, and didn’t look too bad.
    • Corey Coleman played, but didn’t do much. It’s worth noting that he’s playing in this first preseason game, after being hurt in the offseason with a hamstring injury.
    • Kenny Britt got 4 targets in the red zone on the same possession

Patriots/Jaguars

  • Jags
    • Chris Ivory got the start at RB (not sure what they’re trying to do). 3 and out, and Fournette got the next series. 4 carries in a row for a first down, which was telling of what the Jags want to do this year. Yeldon was also in with the starters on 3rd down.
  • Patriots
    • Dion Lewis got the start, then Bolden played. Both of those guys got a bunch of work in the first half, especially Bolden. He always gets a lot of work in the preseason.

Redskins/Ravens

  • Redskins
    • Pryor got first target and he dropped it
    • Rob Kelley started and Thompson came in on 3rd down as expected. Perine came in fumbled the ball on an arm tackle. He dropped a pass on the next play, which was an easy catch on 3rd down and would’ve been a 1st. Fumbling issues were why Matt Jones isn’t the starter in Washington. Very bad look for Perine in his preseason debut. Matt Jones came in on following series.
    • Ryan Grant had a nice catch. The more he does well the more it doesn’t look good for Josh Doctston. Doctson needs to get healthy to get his job back.
  • Ravens
    • Terrance West had a nice run that got down to near the goal line and had a couple of goal line carries, one of them being a TD.

Falcons/Dolphins

  • Dolphins
    • Matt Moore started at QB Damien Williams got the start at RB and played all three downs. Didn’t look good. Ajayi didn’t play; in concussion protocol.

Vikings/Bills

  • Vikings
    • Dalvin Cook started on all three downs. He had a few runs and got passing work on 3rd down. He was getting some good work, and looked good. He can be a workhorse. Vikings line looked okay.
  • Bills
    • Sammy Watkins got the first 4 targets from Tyrod Taylor and caught the first 3 in a nice performance for the Rams. Who is going to be Tyrod’s guy moving forward?

Giants/Steelers

  • Steelers
    • Toussaint started at RB for Steelers
    • TJ Watt had 2 sacks in 2 series. Non-fantasy related unless you’re in IDP, but still worth noting since he’s JJ Watt’s brother.
  • Giants
    • Paul Perkins had first two carries and Vereen came in on 3rd and long and a 3rd and 4. Perkins failed to get a 1st down on a 3rd and 1 at the 5. They gave it to him on 4th and 1 on the next play and he got it. He looked okay. Looks Vereen has the 3rd down role. He’s relevant in PPR.

Texans/Panthers

  • Texans
    • Offensive line didn’t look good
    • Alfred Blue looked good. Seemed like a more patient runner.
    • D’onta Foreman looked really good, and had a nice pep in his step. Against backups, but he did what he was supposed to do against backups.
    • DeShaun Watson looked okay after coming for Tom Savage. He looked uncomfortable in the pocket, but once he left the pocket looked better. He did seem to leave the pocket a lot and wasn’t patient enough.
  • Panthers
    • Kelvin Benjamin looked good. Beat Jonathan Joseph for a nice TD catch. He’s a big boy. He is a later round value at this point.
    • Damiere Byrd caught a long TD and made it look routine. Ted Ginn replacement?

Bears/Broncos

  • Bears
    • Mike Glennon’s first two passes were to Meredith. He dropped one and the second was an intercption for a TD. Tough defense, so can’t fault Glennon that much, but Glennon didn’t look good in this one.
    • Jordan Howard started and even played on a 3rd down. Tarik Cohen came in after Howard left. Kadeem Carey came in on a 3rd down, maybe because of pass protection. Seems like the team wanted to see what Cohen could do.
  • Broncos
    • CJ Anderson got 5 carries early and looked good. Stevan Ridley was the only other RB to get carries in the first half.