The NFL preseason is here and that means it’s time to both react and overreact for fantasy football purposes. While it’s never wise to do the latter, it’s easy to fall into that trap after not seeing football for seven months. Keep in mind that we’re dealing with a small sample size, and what we see in the preseason often isn’t what we get in the regular season. Of course, we can also gain valuable fantasy football intel from these contests. So let’s dive into the biggest fantasy football takeaways from the first full slate of games from Week 1 of the 2019 NFL preseason.
The secret is out on David Montgomery
It wasn’t quite an Ameer Abdullah “breaks Twitter” debut from Montgomery, but it wasn’t far off. The Bears running back flashed major elusiveness on a seven-yard rushing score that he kicked off with a slick jump cut. Montgomery also impressed as a receiver with a 23-yard reception on a screen pass. He finished the contest with 46 yards on six touches.
Heading into the preseason, the jury was somewhat out on Montgomery. Some believed the rookie would share the load with Mike Davis, or even be second fiddle to the veteran back. While it’s just one preseason game and only a handful of touches, Montgomery certainly showed what he’s capable of on the field. We’ve had Montgomery inside the top 24 running backs for months, but look for him to land in that range across the fantasy industry.
Unfortunately, that also means that his ADP is likely to rise up from where it settled out in the fourth round. Montgomery is a still a very appealing fantasy option, but be careful to not overpay for him on draft day. Remember that Tarik Cohen is still going to see the lion’s share of targets out of the backfield. If you’re drafting this week, it’s wise to not spend anything more than a late third-round pick on Montgomery.
Baker Mayfield comes out firing
Don’t expect the fantasy hype to cool off on Mayfield any time soon. The Browns signal-caller got out of the gate fast in Cleveland’s first preseason game, going 5-of-6 for 77 yards and a score. Mayfield’s passing score came on an absolute dart to Rashard Higgins for a 24-yard touchdown. Mayfield looks to be poised for big things in 2019. Expect him to be one of the first half-dozen quarterbacks selected in your drafts.
Speaking of Higgins, it’s worth keeping an eye on him going forward. The former Colorado State wideout graded out very well at the college level and looks to be rounding into form in what will be his third professional season. Higgins went off Thursday night for 98 yards and a score on five catches. The Browns wide receiver room is crowded, with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry atop the pecking order. But Higgins could have some sleeper appeal down the line if either player went down with an injury.
Is Daniel Jones the real deal?
Sports talk radio takes have no place in fantasy football. Successful players simply don’t jump to a rapid conclusion on a player based on what they think, feel, or believe. Jones is a classic example of this mind set. The general consensus suggested that the Giants’ rookie signal-caller was already a bust before he even stepped onto the field. Well, that take looks to be a bit off after Jones lit up the Jets Thursday night, going 5/5 for 67 yards and a score.
It’s worth saying again that this is only the first game of the preseason, but regardless of what week we’re talking about, we want to see these guys perform. And Jones did just that against the Jets. If/when Jones assumes the starting duties for the Giants, he’s unlikely to be a fantasy option in 1QB leagues. But he will be in 2QB formats. Those drafting in these leagues with 12 teams may want to toss a later-round dart at Jones. Likewise, Jones’ dynasty arrow is pointing up.
Could the Eagles have two fantasy TE1s?
Let’s be clear that having two players produce top-12 tight end fantasy numbers on the same team is extremely rare. That said, it has happened before with both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez doing so for the Patriots in 2011. Zach Ertz is all but locked in for elite fantasy production this season, but Dallas Goedert showed on Thursday night that he has the potential to be a force for the Eagles. The young tight proved to be a major mismatch for veteran LB Wesley Woodyard on multiple occasions and ended up catching three balls on five targets for 50 yards.
To be fair, Ertz wasn’t on the field. But this was a rock-solid start to 2019 for Goedert. That said, the Eagles are absolutely loaded up with talent at the skill positions this season. With so many mouths to feed, it’s really going to be tough for Goedert to sustain top-12 fantasy numbers on a weekly basis. Still, he should have some big weeks along the way this season, and also comes with rare handcuff value at tight end. If Ertz went down at any point, Goedert would become an instant top-five fantasy tight end.
We need to start taking Jakobi Meyers for real
There’s been a lot of buzz about the rookie UDFA out of NC State throughout the beginning of camp, and Meyers showed us exactly why Thursday night, catching six balls for 69 yards and two scores. While much of the attention has been on how Meyers is outplaying fellow rookie N’Keal Harry, it’s important to keep in mind that these two play different spots in the offense. Sure, they’re both “wide receivers,” but Harry profiles more as an outside X-receiver whereas Meyers is a slot.
That distinction is important, and it’s one that could somewhat limit Meyers’ path to playing time in the short-term given Julian Edelman’s presence on the depth chart. Still, the genie is now out of the bottle with Meyers, and we need to take notice for fantasy purposes. Meyers is screaming up the board in dynasty leagues and he’s now a player to monitor in redraft formats.
Royce Freeman flashes upside
I created a bit of a stir on social this week in a tweet that pointed out that Freeman ranked much higher in our elusive rating than Phillip Lindsay from last season. There’s no one stat that tells you everything you need to know about a player, and the stat certainly doesn’t suggest Freeman is better than Lindsay. But it does show that some people in the fantasy community may be undervaluing Freeman.
Phillip Lindsay was one of the least elusive backs in the league last year at 2.3 yards after contact per attempt. Royce Freeman was much more elusive at 3.2. https://t.co/NvbQiko6EL
— Jeff Ratcliffe (@JeffRatcliffe) August 7, 2019
Of course, that may no longer be the case after Freeman ripped off a 50-yard run Thursday night. To be fair, he had a ton of help from his line and had a massive hole to run through. He also had a combined negative-1 yards in his other two carries. But the upside Freeman flashed on this run is at least worth considering if you’re looking at Freeman in the seventh/eighth round of your drafts this weekend. He’s a very intriguing post-hype sleeper.
Preston Williams balled out
The Dolphins rookie wideout went off in his preseason debut, catching four balls for 97 yards. Williams showed impressive ball skills with a one-handed catch on a deep ball from Josh Rosen. A one-year wonder at Colorado State, Williams put up massive numbers last year with 96 catches for 1,345 yards and 14 scores. But Williams tested poorly at his pro day with a 4.61 40-yard dash and just 31.5 inches in the vert. While his limited resume and poor testing numbers likely caused him to go undrafted, Williams showed on Thursday night that he has a very intriguing skill-set. He isn’t someone on the redraft radar right now, but dynasty players need to keep an eye on Williams.
Jamison Crowder showed good chemistry with Sam Darnold
While much of the fantasy football attention has been on Robby Anderson, Crowder flashed a mind-meld with Darnold early in Thursday night’s game. The former Redskins wideout got open in the intermediate area of the field and ran after the catch for a 28-yarder. He then capped the drive with a three-yard score in the red zone. Crowder isn’t likely to be a high-upside fantasy option, but his presence out of the slot as a safety valve for Darnold should lead to some solid PPR value.