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Fantasy Football: 17 key takeaways after Week 1 of the 2021 NFL preseason

August 13, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Cardinals' Rondale Moore (85) breaks a tackle from Cowboys' Jourdan Lewis (26) after a reception during the first quarter at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale. Patrick Breen-The Republic Nfl Preseason Cardinals Vs Cowboys

We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2021 season. Click here to read the series of questions answered so far.

Preseason football is objectively great. It’s the time of year where not only do you find out there’s a human being named Feleipe Franks, but also that he happens to be a fairly mobile quarterback capable of making professional backups look slow.

Of course, the odds are heavily against Franks taking a meaningful NFL snap in 2021 and beyond. It’s fun to see football highlights in August because at some point old YouTube videos don’t quite do the trick; this doesn’t mean any sort of real attention should be given to the on-field performance of third- and fourth-stringers during these glorified exhibition games.

More of PFF's 2021 Fantasy Football tools here: 
Fantasy Football Draft Kit | Rankings & Tiers | Draft Guide | Cheat Sheets
Projections | Strength of Schedule | Expected Points Weekly Finishes

Where fantasy football investors can gain an edge is by grinding first-team usage: Who a coach decides to surround their starting quarterback with is infinitely more useful than any early-August depth chart that some random PR intern put together.

What follows are my key ranking changes after one week of preseason action. I’ve watched every snap from the action, but the majority of the following adjustments are based on first-team snaps and injury notes.

1. Rookie quarterback stock watch

Before Week 1 of the preseason, I ranked the five first-round quarterbacks as follows:

There’s no change to either of my top-three signal-callers; each flashed some of the tantalizing ability that made them such highly valued prospects in the first place. Lawrence remains the front-runner to score more total fantasy points, but the potential for Lance and Fields to rack up more rush attempts and thus function as more fantasy-friendly quarterbacks once they win the job makes them the more appealing fantasy targets. This is your weekly reminder to simply draft Kirk Cousins and take advantage of the Vikings’ incredibly soft opening schedule if you want to ride the wave with either Lance or Fields.

Wilson showed off his live arm and at a minimum didn’t look like the game was too big for him. I bumped him ahead of Carson Wentz to prioritize the healthier option, and best-ballers can continue to form one of fantasy’s cheapest stacks with Wilson alongside Corey Davis and/or Elijah Moore.

Jones’ ranking isn’t meant to discredit his potential to be a perfectly fine rookie quarterback; the larger problem is that the history of first-year signal-callers tells us they aren’t worth much of a damn without a rushing floor or Week 1 starting role. Credit to him for working downfield at a much more frequent rate than Cam Newton; this quarterback battle remains more of a situation to monitor based on the change in volume it could yield to the offense’s backs and receivers as opposed to any sort of real fantasy interest in either signal-caller.

As much as we’d like these rookie quarterbacks to all start in Week 1, it remains to be seen if and when their respective veteran starters will be relegated to the bench.

The same point holds true for one of fantasy’s more-hyped rookie running backs.

2. The RB dead zone claims another victim

There was plenty of optimism surrounding Michael Carter before and after the Jets acquired his services in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The explosive North Carolina talent fit the bill as a theoretical three-down talent and entered one of the league’s lightest backfields.

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