It's always important to recognize trends early, so let's recap what we learned from the Week 1 preseason action:
Rookie David Montgomery's skill set was on full display for the Bears in their home game versus the Panthers. Playing against backups, Montgomery's lateral agility was evident on a number of runs, including his 9-yard touchdown jaunt in the second quarter.
On that play, Montgomery stopped on a dime when a lane closed up and shifted to his left past some defenders en route to the end zone. He also was fantastic on a second-and-20 screen pass where he followed his blockers before slowing down and juking a defender to buy himself enough room to convert the first down. He's not a burner, but he's already showing to be a master technician with both his shifty feet and physical nature (he turned a couple of negative runs into positive plays).
There's no way he'll be the Bears' every down back — Tarik Cohen is a cinch for at least 10 touches per week and Mike Davis, who started the game, should see a little work every week, too. But Montgomery's on his way to leading the team in touches and definitely fitting in as a goal-line fixture, which for this offense is a very good thing. I wouldn't be surprised if he had 1,000 total yards and seven total touchdowns as a rookie, and hope to get him in Round 5.
Another Chiefs running back breakout?!
Earlier this week, Andy Reid told SiriusXM NFL Radio that he's focusing on a committee approach at running back. This proclamation comes after months of both Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy suggesting Damien Williams as the starter. But Williams strained his hamstring and missed a week of practice, giving Carlos Hyde plenty of first-team reps and rookie Darwin Thompson a chance to impress.
Williams didn't play against the Bengals but Hyde and Thompson did. Hyde scored on a short-yardage plunge and took every snap with the first-team offense, but had just two carries for 2 yards. Thompson saw work on the four ensuing drives and made a bunch of impressive plays. He was patient to wait for a hole to dart through to convert a third-and-2, he was stunningly powerful and balanced on a seven-yard tote where he broke through a full-on tackle (with an assist to a lineman) and then plowed through another defender to finish the play.
Later, he cut back on a carry, burst through some open field and hurdled forward to get as many yards as possible, though the play would get called back. On the next play he caught a pass on a middle-field route, saw an off-balance defender in front of him and scurried to the end zone from 26 yards out, evading an ankle-tackler on the way. Also worth noting: Thompson worked in the two-minute offense and even had a nice takedown of a blitzer in pass protection.
After the game, Reid brought up Thompson when asked about Mecole Hardman's playing time, noting both needed to get a chance to show what they could do. It was the second time this week Reid brought up Thompson without being prompted.
I don't know how the Chiefs' backfield will shake out — heck, they might not even know for sure. But if Reid's not talking about Williams as a "full-time starter" like he did in mid-July, then you know the door's open for anyone, and it's not like Reid has been shy about giving unproven guys a chance to handle the gig (Kareem Hunt and Williams were both largely unproven when they took advantage of their playing time). I'm laser-focused on getting Thompson on Draft Day, whether I land Williams or Hyde, or both, or neither. I'd prefer Round 10 but would settle on late Round 9 on Thompson. And then, once I have him, I'll be very, very patient.
Chargers fine without Gordon
As Melvin Gordon unhappily sits out because he thinks he's not being offered a fair deal, the Chargers run game cruised right along without him. An unsightly fumble near the goal line by Austin Ekeler aside, both he and Justin Jackson looked good in their preseason debut at Arizona.
Ekeler flashed his usual burst and vision on a couple of runs along with three nice plays in the passing game. Jackson made up for Ekeler's boo-boo with a zone-read touchdown run from 4 yards out where he evaded one defender and then made a dive for the pylon after taking on contact from a second defender. Both averaged more than 4.0 yards per tote behind a pretty darn good-looking offensive line (they're playing without left tackle Russell Okung).
Clearly, the Chargers will be OK without Gordon. Ekeler's Round 6 value is good in that he'd be a top-20 Fantasy running back for however long Gordon stays away, and still carry redeeming value as a flex if he's picking up 10 touches per week whenever Gordon comes back. Jackson wouldn't be usable if Gordon plays but would get 10 touches per week (perhaps with some newfound goal-line opportunities) if he's second behind only Ekeler. Luckily, the risk in drafting him is minimized because he's a Round 10-plus guy.
LJ8 under the microscope
The rest of his passes left a little to be desired.
His touchdown was a screen pass that Willie Snead did the heavy lifting on. Another completion was a screen for a 1-yard gain and a third was good for 18 yards but was slightly underthrown and might not have gone to who he meant to throw it to (he claims it did but it looked suspect). His footwork seemed lax on a couple of his incompletions (one negated by a penalty) and he was pressured and off-balance on another.
I get the excitement for Jackson because of his rushing prowess. If he runs for 50 yards every week, throws for 175 and finds two touchdowns without any turnovers, that makes for 24 points in six-point-per-touchdown leagues. That's not that high of a bar for him to reach. But he'll have to do it every week without taking on too many hits from running. He'll also have to stay mistake free.
Jackson is a terrific quarterback to speculate on, but I wouldn't spend a top-100 pick on him on Draft Day at this time, and I definitely wouldn't have him as your only quarterback.
Broncos backfield blues
Denver has begun conditioning us to its running back rotation. Their first drive had Lindsay and Freeman rotate so much that neither back played more than three consecutive snaps. Their second drive saw Devontae Booker take two snaps, then one for Theo Riddick, one more for Booker and the last two for Riddick.
Maybe that keeps their backs fresh, but it'll be annoying for Fantasy purposes if it stays this way.
For what it's worth, Lindsay looked just as speedy as he did last year but packed no punch when he ran into a defender. Freeman had a 50-yard run, but it was weirdly disappointing in that he slowed down after about 20 yards when he processed how to handle a defender in the open field (at least I hope it was that and not him getting winded). It's also worth noting that Riddick fractured his shoulder and will miss the start of the season, giving more work to Lindsay and Freeman (unless they keep Booker).
You can't feel good about drafting any Broncos back with a top-50 pick. Lindsay is fair game after that, but Freeman offers better value if he's going to split this evenly. I have a hard time taking him in Round 7 but other people are very happy to.
Who is Preston Williams?
The Dolphins may have unearthed a massive gem in Preston Williams, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound undrafted rookie receiver from Colorado State. Williams moves well for a big man, running better-than-advertised routes and changing gears in his speed to help him get open. He's also plenty physical — you won't see him get stunted by smaller defensive backs. His four catches, all from Josh Rosen:
- A lollipop from a half-sacked Rosen that he had to adjust to, diving toward the inside after cutting outside.
- A deep ball that Williams hauled in with one hand after beating a Falcons DB off the snap.
- Some serious toe-drag swag on a 16-yard back-shoulder throw.
- A jump ball over a smaller defensive back who had his back turned. This might have been his easiest catch of the night.
Williams has a checkered past in terms of bad off-field decisions and injuries. But he was once considered a four-star recruit out of high school and was courted by every major football program in the nation. If his head is on straight, making the Dolphins seems like a cinch. Playing enough to contribute to Fantasy rosters is the next hurdle.
- Devin Singletary: There were glimpses of Singletary's amazing vision and lateral agility against the Colts, including a couple of plays where he was close to a big gain. But there were too many times where he hesitated or tried a juke move and was wrapped up. Hopefully he works on that. I still buy into him as a late-rounder.
- Dexter Williams: The Packers traded series between Williams and Tra Carson (who started) until the second half when Williams basically took over two long series before giving way to someone else. Williams flashed the quicks and burst he had at Notre Dame but still lacked the power someone his size should have. He also did not show good pass pro chops. After the game, coach Matt LaFleur wanted to see less hesitation from Williams moving forward but was happy with how hard he ran. The only way he'll play a lot is if the rushers in front of him on the depth chart are unavailable, which happens to be the case right now.
- Miles Boykin: The third-round rookie looked pretty good, which is a plus since the Ravens pretty much have no choice but to start him thanks to their kiddie-pool shallow thin receiving corps. If there's a nit-pick, it's that three passes were catchable (all three could be considered drops including one pass from Jackson that was a little bit behind him). Between that and Jackson's work-in-progress accuracy, he's more of a late-round stash than a breakout rookie. I'd only be excited to draft him if were in Round 12-plus.
- Jakobi Meyers: You can't help but be impressed with the solid route-runner and receiver. The Patriots' undrafted rookie whipped Lions backup defensive backs with jukes en route to both of his touchdowns and did a great job catching the ball away from his body. I came away intrigued with how he was used, lining up everywhere and simply getting open. That's a good thing. I just don't know how he'll find regular playing time.
- Justice Hill: The kid is as fast as advertised. On one play from Trace McSorely he caught the ball in the flat, accelerated instantly and juked a defender to pick up 14 yards. If he had done more with his 10 carries, everyone would go after him, but even on some of his other carries he ran decisively and with burst. I just wouldn't expect a steady diet of touches. He's fine in Round 11, but he's not a handcuff to Mark Ingram.
- Alexander Mattison: Given a chance to play with the starting unit, Mattison hauled in an easy 1-yard touchdown catch off play-action but did little else to impress. I noticed a burst on some of his carries, but he ultimately ended up in piles after his first five handoffs, totaling 11 yards. Once the competition softened he racked up another 19 yards on four carries, but it wasn't a great first impression for the guy expected to serve behind Dalvin Cook. He's still firmly in the double-digit rounds.
- Darrell Henderson's debut wasn't so hot. He had a pair of nice seven-yard carries that flashed his speed, but every other touch accounted for two yards or less. To be fair, he was playing with backup offensive linemen who did little to help him (his lone reception was a screen pass where a defender charged on him unblocked). Another game or two like this and he'll be harder to take with a top-90 choice.
- Deebo Samuel: The rookie receiver had good acceleration in his routes to go with very good quickness and can get open pretty easily. I loved his 45-yard catch. Fellow rookie Jalen Hurd was also impressive, particularly in terms of size and relatively good speed. I'm curious to see how they fare over the next two preseason games.
- Daniel Jones: He was incredible. Jones threw with great timing to a less-than-ideal group of receivers (and he used a bunch of them). It won't be long until he starts for the Giants, and that won't be a bad thing for Evan Engram or Sterling Shepard. Plus, Jones will run a little bit. Whoa, maybe he'll be a decent bye-week or SuperFlex quarterback!
More from Preseason Week 1
- Buccaneers running backs: After one game, there's no clear-cut stud between Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones. Both looked fine against the Steelers. Both played on the first drive (Barber more than Jones). If anything, Jones played with zero hesitation, running hard and flashing some of the quickness I remember seeing when he was at USC. I still have Barber ahead of Jones in my running back ranks, but both are top-100 picks. One thing to watch for: veteran Andre Ellington played throughout most of the first half and was particularly adept at pass protection. He might finagle his way into a Jacquizz Rodgers-type role to keep both Barber and Jones off the field.
- Jaylen Samuels & Benny Snell: Let's put it this way: James Conner's role as the lead back is pretty safe. Samuels didn't play too much but did have a nice explosive carry when his linemen paved a big hole for him to burst through and juke outside for a 22-yard gainer. Snell was stuffed on his first few touches but got some movement once the second- and third-stringers were in. Nothing's changed here: Samuels is still a Round 9 target.
- James Washington: The second-year receiver began making his bid to break into the No. 2 role with four catches for 84 yards and a touchdown against the Bucs. He had two receptions of 20-plus yards — a deep route where he high-pointed the ball and brought it in and a slick dig route to crush zone coverage. His touchdown was a nice back-shoulder throw by Mason Rudolph. It's three different routes by Washington, whose speed and quickness were evident. He also looked leaner. Keep him on your late-round radar.
- Tyler Boyd: After a near-fumble on his first target (the refs ruled he never had possession), Boyd caught 3 of 4 targets from Andy Dalton for 25 yards on the Bengals' first drive. This isn't surprising. Boyd's gonna be busy all year, but especially in the games A.J. Green misses.
- Kalen Ballage: I get the sense Ballage is a gets-what's-blocked type of running back, which isn't a good thing when the Dolphins offensive line isn't considered a strength. He had three targets in the game — one drop and two when he wasn't paying attention. Reminder: Ballage had four runs of 10-plus yards and 20 for 3 yards or less last season. I'm drafting Kenyan Drake in Round 5 or 6.
- Josh Allen: On a night where Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Tyrod Taylor and even Daniel Jones looked like effective quarterbacks, Allen showed he still has some accuracy concerns. Two of his first three throws were overthrows and another pass on third-and-8 was a lawn dart. And as for not running anymore, the first time he was flushed from the pocket he took off. Maybe those rushing totals might end up helping him, but it sure seems like he'll be a feast-or-famine quarterback option. You can do better during your draft.
- Ito Smith: It's been two weeks and the kid doesn't look ready to play football. Smith has 13 yards on seven carries. He did score on a short-yardage opportunity, but it took two tries. Teammate Brian Hill had his second short-yardage touchdown in as many weeks and rookie Qadree Ollison added a 15-yard run against the Dolphins. Smith is undraftable.
- Who's replacing Zeke? Tony Pollard got the start and had some nice moves but only played nine snaps, same as Dak Prescott and the rest of the starters. Darius Jackson ripped off some impressive runs thanks to some cutback skills early on but his touches and effectiveness waned as the game went on. Jackson has pretty good size but might not be the Cowboys' best back by the time Alfred Morris gets up to speed. Hopefully all of these guys get minimalized once Elliott signs a huge contract.
File away for the future
- The Titans offense was pretty much what I expected — run-heavy with a lot of play-action and short-area throws mixed in along with the occasional deep target. It's not just suited well for Derrick Henry, but for their short-area targets like Delanie Walker, Adam Humphries and A.J. Brown. Corey Davis figures to get some shot plays but I still don't see a massive breakout year. That's because ...
- Marcus Mariota left a little to be desired. Not sure if it was by design or not, but he regularly looked for Humphries, his new slot receiver. That includes a bad throw on a third-and-7 play and a bad decision on fourth-and-7 where Humphries was double covered. Humphries should get a nice dose of targets, but it's hard to be sold on Mariota. Which brings me to ...
- Ryan Tannehill: I don't mean to alarm you, but Tannehill was flawless in his Titans debut. All four of his incompletions were drops, including one in the end zone by Taywan Taylor. Not only was he accurate, he remained poised and focused downfield when defensive pressure was on him. He's going to get a chance to play this year if and when Mariota gets hurt or stinks.
- J.J. Arcega-Whiteside: Big body, big catch radius, good footwork, not a speedster. He's inconsistent off the snap and not explosive in and out of his breaks. That's to be expected when you're as big as he is (6-foot-3). I suspect he'll be a bigger factor in 2020.
- D.J. Chark is a giant, but man he still needs work on becoming a complete receiver. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Jaguars use him as a shot-play guy because of his speed and a touchdown threat deep in the red zone. For now that hope isn't enough to take him outside of deep Best Ball leagues.
- The Dolphins offensive line better stay healthy. Their second unit was atrocious.
- Jarrett Stidham looked sharp. The Patriots are going to carry three quarterbacks.
- Trayveon Williams showed a lot of the talent I saw on film from college that made him one of my favorite underrated players. I love the acceleration on his screen pass to convert a long first down and was encouraged by the Bengals not only using him on every single down on the first drive with the starting unit but giving him two chances at the goal line (he got in on the second try). Assuming the injury he left the game with isn't serious, I'd draft him late in dynasty/keeper long-term formats.
- The Bengals offense looked like a replica of the Rams' offense, which isn't surprising given new coach and playcaller Zac Taylor's history. A lot of three- and four-receiver sets, plenty of quick passing to negate any pass rush and, as mentioned above with Boyd, a lot of slot receiver involvement.