With the first full week of preseason action now in the books, our fantasy team extracted useful observations from each matchup on the slate. Below you’ll find our preseason takeaways after week 1 of action.
New England Patriots vs New York Giants
Brian Daboll’s New York Giants are running play-action with a vengeance. An eye -catching 38% of their total pass plays came via play-action. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound journeyman wide receiver, Collin Johnson, was the primary beneficiary, racking up five catches on five play-action targets for 62 yards. Johnson finished with seven catches, eight targets, and 82 receiving yards. That should put Kenny Golladay on notice, as Golladay visibly quit on a target inside the New England five-yard line and dropped another pass at the one yard line.
New England’s passing game lacked creativity but they did commit to the deep ball. Wide receivers Tyquan Thornton, Tre Nixon, and Kristian Wilkerson were all involved. Thornton was also worked into the short-to-intermediate area of the field, even scoring from two yards out despite an end zone defensive pass interference call on Giants’ cornerback Aaron Robinson. Nixon also looked great late in the game.
Baltimore Ravens vs Tennessee Titans
Baltimore Ravens running back, Mike Davis, saw just 10 snaps but made the most of them with five carries, 22 rushing yards, and a rushing touchdown. Rookie running back Tyler Badie was involved as a rusher, receiver, and kick returner. The latter may help him make the game day roster, and he was only slightly less efficient on the ground. J.K. Dobbins is recovering well from ACL and LCL repair, but has been experiencing leg fatigue as of late. Gus Edwards (ACL) is unlikely to be ready for Week 1. Davis might be the Week 1 starter.
Ravens’ tight end, Isaiah Likely, caught four-of-four targets for 44 yards and looked explosive with the ball in his hands. Likely needs to be on the radar for tight end-premium leagues and could be a serious producer if Andrews were to miss time.
The Tennessee Titans’ rookie trio of wide receiver Treylon Burks, along with running backs Julius Chestnut and Hassan Haskins, had mixed results. Burks was nearly an afterthought last week, but remains an interesting buy-low, given his collegiate production profile. Chestnut got the start and flashed his enticing upside on a 29-yard gain in which he shed three would-be tacklers. He lost a fumble on another carry though, which could be costly. Both backs were involved in the passing game but Haskins managed to finish third on the team in targets.
Titans rookie quarterback Malik Willis showed off his dynamic skillset in this contest. While Ryan Tannehill is entrenched as the starter, Willis is already proving that he’s a very intriguing developmental prospect.
– Nic Bodiford
Detroit Lions vs Atlanta Falcons
The Detroit Lions picked up where they left off last year, marching down the field for a D’Andre Swift rushing score, with contributions from wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, tight end T.J. Hockenson, and running back Jamaal Williams. There was some concern that Williams could steal the green zone role (inside the opponent’s 10-yard line) but Swift got the first crack at it and converted. Amon-Ra kept up his best Cooper Kupp impression, converting first-downs on a nine-yard out route and a 20-yard play-action slant.
Marcus Mariota played 12 snaps, completed both of his pass attempts for 36 yards, and picked up 23 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Mariota is known as a mobile quarterback but even this pass-to-run ratio was a little more stacked towards the run than expected. Rushing is how Mariota would find fantasy relevance in 2022, so stay tuned.
Detroit had a pair of backup pass catchers, wide receiver Tom Kennedy and tight end Devin Funchess, separate from the herd but things were mostly quiet on Atlanta’s end. It will be important to monitor Atlanta’s pass catching corps next week as first round pick Drake London suffered a minor knee injury, and Bryan Edwards was out with a shoulder injury. Neither man is expected to miss Week 1 at this time.
– Nic Bodiford
Jacksonville Jaguars vs Cleveland Browns
The starting quarterbacks could not have looked more different. Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence looked sharp, routinely connecting with Zay Jones and Laquon Treadwell for chunk gains. Lawrence also flashed some of his dynamic scrambling ability on an 11-yard first-down pickup. Jones could push Marvin Jones Jr. for the No. 2 wide receiver role in Jacksonville. Cleveland’s Deshaun Watson was late on his delivery and his accuracy was poor.
Jacksonville’s do-it-all back Travis Etienne looked explosive as both a rusher and as a receiver. Head coach Doug Pederson called his number for the first touch in the green zone, which is the key to Etienne’s true ceiling outcome in fantasy.
Not only did Cleveland’s rookie running back, Jerome Ford, lead the team with 57 rushing yards and a touchdown, he also led the team in receiving in all categories; five targets, four receptions, 45 receiving yards, and a receiving touchdown. Expect the Browns’ front office to start working the phones for a Kareem Hunt trade.
– Nic Bodiford
Philadelphia Eagles vs New York Jets
The biggest headline from this game is Zach Wilson’s non-contact knee injury. There’s optimism from the team that he’ll only miss a few weeks. Either way, Wilson did not look great on Saturday; he threw an interception directly to Eagles Linebacker Kyzir White on the opening drive.
Jalen Hurts was perfect: six-of-six passing, for 80 yards with a touchdown pass to Dallas Goedert. Hurts had an impressive TD on the ground as well, but it was called back due to penalty. Goedert could be an absolute steal at his ADP, with potential to finish as an elite TE in a potentially underrated offense.
Cincinnati Bengals vs Arizona Cardinals
This contest was one of several on the slate played entirely by backups. On the Bengals side, you’d look at Chris Evans’ box score and think he had a pretty abysmal showing. But Evans had a 12-yard reception, a five-yard touchdown run, and a 60-yard run all negated by penalties. Evans has a very real chance to serve as Joe Mixon’s primary backup, with the potential to have a notable role in the Bengals passing attack.
On the Arizona side, running back Eno Benjamin started the game while rookie Keaontay Ingram saw nine opportunities (carries plus targets). While the start could indicate that Eno Benjamin is the primary reserve behind James Conner, Darrel Williams didn’t see any action in this contest. Let’s keep an eye on next week’s bout with the Ravens to see how both Benjamin and Williams are deployed in that contest.
If you were once an Andy Isabella enthusiast, he started this contest, finishing with four receptions for 57 yards on seven targets.
San Francisco 49ers vs Green Bay Packers
Packers fourth-round rookie Romeo Doubs has a path to playing time in Green Bay’s ambiguous wide receiver group. We should be targeting players in unresolved position groups like this one, which is why Doubs’ ADP is skyrocketing in high stakes leagues. That said, the 33-yard touchdown Doubs caught against the 49ers was delivered by Jordan Love. It’s close to a non-event for me, as Doubs’ chemistry with Love is meaningless for fantasy purposes unless Aaron Rodgers misses time.
Trey Lance didn’t play long, but he played well going four-of-five for 92 yards and a score through the air while adding a seven-yard run on the ground. We don’t want to overreact to preseason performances, but Lance played in two series and orchestrated scoring drives with backup skill position players in both.
Trey Sermon didn’t blow up the box score, but he was the only 49ers runner to see a carry or a target when Trey Lance was on the field. Wide receiver Danny Gray saw two targets from Trey Lance, one of them resulting in a 76-yard touchdown.
For a more in-depth look at the Packers, check out our betting-focused team preview here.
– Ryan Reynolds
Washington Commanders vs Carolina Panthers
Antonio Gibson saw the initial running back workload alongside Carson Wentz. However, Gibson lost a fumble during Washington’s second drive. Rookie runner Brian Robinson entered the mix on the very next drive, while Wentz was still on the field. Robinson played well, rushing for 26 yards and a score on six carries while catching both of his targets for 15 yards.
Rookie tight end Armani Rogers saw four targets in the first two drives from Carson Wentz. Rogers was filling in for Logan Thomas and John Bates, who were both sidelined with injuries. Still, Rogers saw early opportunities while Washington’s entire starting wide receiver group (Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Jahan Dotson) was in action.
Baker Mayfield started the game, while Sam Darnold took over for the second and third drives, scoring on a short field during Carolina’s second offensive possession. Intriguing rookie Matt Corral was the fourth Panthers quarterback to see action in Washington. Corral went one-of-nine for 11 yards in the air while rushing for six yards on one carry in the contest. P.J. Walker was also in the mix at quarterback for the Panthers, though it’s hard to envision him keeping his roster spot unless Carolina moves Sam Darnold.
Second-year wide receiver Terrace Marshall was held out against Washington, but he is expected to practice this week.
– Ryan Reynolds
Chicago Bears vs Kansas City Chiefs
Don’t let the box score fool you; the Chiefs and the Bears started the game off like it was 2021. The Bears first possession saw Justin Fields and the Chicago offense gain -4 yards on three plays before punting away. Patrick Mahomes looked to be in midseason form going six-of-seven for 60 yards and a touchdown. The Chiefs starters were pulled immediately after.
The biggest mystery in Kansas City is the running back room. Although Clyde Edwards-Helaire started with the ones, Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon both saw some action with the starters. Ronald Jones wasn’t featured until after Mahomes et. al was pulled.
Highlights for the Bears include Justin Fields’ perfectly placed ball to Darnell Mooney for a 26 yard reception and Khalil Herbert rolling with the starters. Fantasy Twitter has been excited about Mooney this preseason, and he gave plenty of reason to continue the hype train. Herbert on the other hand saw zero receptions on three targets, dropping a pass.
– Ben Wolbransky
Buffalo Bills vs Indianapolis Colts
Devin Singletary sat this game out with the starters. To me, he’s locked in as the 1a in this offense while Zack Moss and James Cook will have to earn their playing time. On the plus side, James Cook saw the fewest snaps of all rookie RBs. Perhaps they’re saving him for the season.
Rookie Khalil Shakir absolutely shined in his debut, creating separation and totaling 92 receiving yards, the most of all rookie WRs. The receiver room is crowded, but if Khalil Shakir carves himself a role in this offense, he could be a stud for years to come.
We saw the first of Matt Ryan in Indianapolis. In 10 attempts, he targeted both Nyheim Hines and Michael Pittman twice. If reports that Jonathan Taylor is expected to see fewer snaps this season are true, Hines could be a name to watch.
– Ben Wolbransky
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Seattle Seahawks
George Pickens is going to be a star. It might be an overreaction, but I’m not sure any rookie is getting as much attention after Preseason Week 1. If Pickett and Pickens are legit, Steeler fans and dynasty owners are going to have a lot to look forward to this next decade.
After watching Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, and Kenny Pickett, there are no answers to the quarterback competition. Trubisky looked mobile and made great decisions, Rudolph’s ball placement to Pickens was absolutely perfect, and Pickett led the team to a game-winning touchdown.
There’s no answer to the Seahawks quarterback competition either. Drew Lock and Geno Smith posted nearly identical stats. While Lock scored two TDs in the air, Smith had one on the ground. The highlight for the Seahawks was without a doubt running back Travis Homer, who looked absolutely stellar.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Miami Dolphins
Mike McDaniel won me over by icing kicker Jose Borregales ahead of his 49-yard game winning field goal attempt. Many would say that preseason wins don’t matter (and I’d agree) but watching McDaniel ice the kicker in his debut coaching game was marvelous. I’m excited to see what he does with the Dolphins in 2022.
Chase Edmonds didn’t log a snap as the Dolphins sat most of their starters. Myles Gaskin and Sony Michel both saw time on the field while Raheem Mostert nurses his knee injury. To me, Edmonds is locked in as the 1a in this group.
The Buccaneers running back situation is a bit of a question mark. Obviously, Leonard Fournette is the guy in Tampa, but he’s missed time in each of his two seasons with the Buccaneers. Keyshawn Vaughn saw 10 carries for 19 yards and a touchdown and rookie Rachaad White saw seven attempts for 32 yards, but it was veteran Giovani Bernard who played with the supposed starters.
– Ben Wolbransky
Denver Broncos vs Dallas Cowboys
This contest was largely a battle of the backups, so there are few fantasy-relevant nuggets to extract here. That said, after a slow start that included a negated interception, Josh Johnson tore it up for Denver with 172 yards and two touchdowns in the air while adding three yards on a carry. I prefer backup quarterback options whose skillsets are similar to the starter. While Russell Wilson is a future Hall-of-Famer, Denver made a strong, cost-effective decision at backup quarterback with Johnson.
On the Dallas side, rookie Jalen Tolbert saw some early action, catching only two passes on seven targets for 10 yards. Given the missing parts in the Cowboys wide receiver group, Tolbert has plenty of opportunity to earn a meaningful role in the Dallas offense. That said, I’m lukewarm on Tolbert’s ability to be a true impact player this season, and his performance here didn’t erase my doubts on that stance in the slightest. Any interest I have in him in fantasy this season is purely driven by his opportunity for early volume.
– Ryan Reynolds
Las Vegas Raiders vs Minnesota Vikings
Josh Jacobs saw five carries and two targets in the Hall of Fame game. His ADP has been plummeting since. After seeing no usage against the Vikings last week, are you buying the dip on Jacobs? I’ve been taking him on certain teams when he slides into the eighth round, where I was nearly outright fading him before this dip.
Vikings second-year running back Kene Nwangwu returned an astonishing two-of-18 kickoffs for touchdowns last season. He impressed on his seven carries and two targets against the Raiders. If the explosive Nwangwu continues to play well as a runner, it will be hard for Minnesota’s new coaching staff to not incorporate him more into the offense.
– Ryan Reynolds
Los Angeles Chargers vs Los Angeles Rams
This game was another contest played by backups, but there were a few valuable takeaways from the Chargers offense. Running back Joshua Kelley started the game, while Larry Rountree saw his first carries on the second drive. Kelley getting the start is certainly good for his case as Austin Ekeler’s primary backup, but Kelley’s three targets is nearly as encouraging. Intriguing rookie Isaiah Spiller saw 11 opportunities (carries plus targets), but he didn’t see his first touches until the final five minutes of the first half.
Chargers wide receivers Joshua Palmer (four targets, no receptions) and Jalen Guyton (two catches on two targets for six yards) both saw action on the first drive. But Michael Bandy was the pass catcher that made an impression, posting a seven-73-one receiving line on a team-leading 11 targets. Most of Bandy’s volume came in the second half, but he saw his first targets when starter Chase Daniels was still in the game. We still expect Palmer to enter the season as the Chargers third wide receiver with Guyton mixing in, but Bandy’s performance here makes him a name to monitor next week.
The defending champion Rams ran a concentrated group of third and fourth stringers through the whole contest. Current third string quarterback Bryce Perkins played the entire game, performing reasonably well as he went 10-for-17 for 133 yards in the air and two scores. Perkins also added 39 yards rushing and a score on eight carries. Essentially, Perkins was the Rams; offense in this contest.
– Ryan Reynolds
Houston Texans vs New Orleans Saints
Saturday’s game confirmed that both the New Orleans Saints and Houston Texans will keep running backs routinely involved in the passing game. There was some question as to whether or not New Orleans would keep that tendency intact in the post-Sean Payton/Drew Brees era. While Alvin Kamara might not rack up the gaudy reception totals that he has in the past, he should stay plenty active as a receiver. Houston, for its part, seems to be fully embracing the new offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton, and his West Coast scheme.
Texans rookie running back, Dameon Pierce, averaged 9.8 yards per carry and repeatedly fought through contact on long gains. Pierce ran three routes and received one target but was hit from behind while attempting to make the catch and the ball was tipped for an interception. Pierce also took a pair of pass protection reps, one of which resulted in a highlight reel air-lifting of linebacker Chase Hansen who required assistance leaving the field afterward. The pass pro success showed important improvement on his college technique. As for in-house competition, Pierce soundly outplayed Marlon Mack. Rex Burkhead was inactive.
– Nic Bodiford
We hope you enjoyed reading through these preseason takeaways after Week 1, and we’ll be back next week.