Their combined 2014 regular-season stats: 17 catches, 240 yards and one touchdown. So much for preseason hype.
Separating the good from the bad during the preseason is important, but it's not a process that's exclusive to the first week of action. Typically most of the heroes from the preseason amount to little in the regular season, though there's always a Victor Cruz here or a Jimmy Graham there who becomes a major contributor. Mostly, the preseason is good to see how some rotations are set (especially running backs on tandem teams) and which offensive lines are jelling. There's more, of course, but that's always a good place to start.
Here are my notes from the first week of action:
Ameer Abdullah garnered national attention after ripping off 67 yards on seven carries. If we're just looking at stats, know that one of his runs was for 45 yards and his last four runs were each good for 3 yards or less. But if we're looking at the player, know that we're dealing with a gamebreaker who still has plenty to show off. He didn't even catch a pass against the Jets, and that's something he did really well in college (72 catches over his last three seasons).
For now, Abdullah is getting a golden opportunity. That could change when Joique Bell finally gets healthy. But when is that going to happen? Theo Riddick also had some decent runs last week and could contend for snaps. The Lions offense is predicated on using two backs. If Abdullah continues to earn more and more work, it'll be hard for them to resist playing him more and more.
There's still some concerns about Abdullah holding up in the NFL for 16 games, but you'd be blind not to see the upside with him. He's moved up to the Top 50 overall pick range -- essentially Round 5 in 12-team leagues.
The other rookie: Melvin Gordon did some things that Abdullah did, like running for minimal gains on most of his carries. Okay, all of his carries. It was a bad debut for Gordon and it included next to no help from his offensive line. He hesitated a lot and seemed to slow down and brace himself for contact (think Trent Richardson or Chris Johnson). These are correctable problems but I'd sure feel a lot better about drafting him if he improved within his next two preseason games. For now he gets a pass and is still worth a Top 50 pick. For now.
Feeling Blue: Arian Who? Foster What? Alfred Blue was pretty dang good as the Texans starter against the Niners, beginning the game as their every-down back (including on third-and-9). The only gripe: The Texans had seven shots from inside the Niners 5-yard line and six from inside the 2. They couldn't score. Blue was stacked up on both of his goal-line tries including a do-or-die on fourth down. Ultimately it says a lot about Houston's inability to get a push from its offensive line in those situations as well as the play-calling, but it also stinks that Blue couldn't convert nor was in on more than three plays total. Blue also lacked breakaway speed, but otherwise he's in line for a lot of work. If he gets volume, he'll be helpful. When you're in Round 6 or 7 of your draft, there are worse picks you could make than Blue.
Tennessee two-step: Bishop Sankey looked awful against the Falcons. Some of that had to do with his offensive line, but the guy just didn't have any burst when he got the ball. Compared to the two backs who played after him, Antonio Andrews and David Cobb, he was very disappointing. Cobb played to expectations, taking advantage of creases made by his offensive line and darting for chunks of yardage against the Falcons backups. Andrews also showed some promise -- he initially played third downs when Sankey was in and then rotated with Cobb, so there's some versatility there. If the Titans offensive line can't improve then it won't matter a whole lot. The next preseason game could go a long way in how we view the Titans rushers.
Notes: LeSean McCoy still did a lot of east-west type of running but didn't seem slower than normal. I'm overlooking the final stat line. ... With Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman sidelined with hamstring injuries, the Falcons started Terron Ward and backed him up with Antone Smith. Smith looked better but suffered a hamstring injury of his own. ... Jonas Gray's long touchdown isn't really indicative of his skill set but we'll take it. James White caught four passes for 52 yards for the Patriots. He looks like the best bet to be the new passing downs back there. Both Gray and White are late-round candidates. ... Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West combined for 16 yards on eight carries. Get well soon, Duke Johnson. ... Chris Thompson was the Redskins third-down back behind Alfred Morris. Matt Jones backed up both of them. Jones ran strong but suffered a concussion. ... T.J. Yeldon didn't play but his offensive line did. They didn't look good early on against the Steelers starters. ... Backup running backs on the rise: Lorenzo Taliaferro, Charcandrick West and Josh Robinson, along with the Titans guys. ... Running backs who passed the preseason Week 1 eyeball test: Latavius Murray, Doug Martin, Ryan Mathews and Carlos Hyde.
We needed to see this from Martavis Bryant. On the Steelers first drive of the preseason, Ben Roethlisberger dialed up a deep bomb for Bryant, who had actually stiff-armed cornerback Davon House off the snap and sped past him to make a great snare in stride for a 44-yard touchdown. Everyone has seen this play.
But not everyone saw Bryant start for the Steelers. He lined up outside in a three-receiver set, then was off the field for the next two plays when the Steelers had two wideouts. This is what Roethlisberger referred to in that interview on Sirius XM NFL Radio when he talked up Markus Wheaton -- Bryant still hasn't cracked this formation and is effectively the third receiver. But who cares? A good chunk of the time when the Steelers have two receivers on the field they're going to run anyway.
Everyone might have also missed another deep-ball opportunity Bryant had in the game. Early in the second quarter, backup Landry Jones uncorked a bomb for Bryant down the right sideline. Bryant caught it for what would have been a 38-yard gain if not for one of his feet landing six inches out of bounds.
While it would be sweet to see Bryant play more and thus have a crack at more targets, it's still good to know that he's long past his elbow procedure that kept him off the field during training camp. He's still worth considering as a low-end No. 2 Fantasy option starting in late Round 5.
Silver & Black attack: Oakland's going to have a pretty solid passing game this year. Not only does Derek Carr have goo-goo eyes for Amari Cooper (for good reason), but Michael Crabtree has earned himself a pretty good role too. Crabtree doesn't have the speed he once had, maybe he never even had it, but he proved to be a serviceable, quality possession-type pass catcher in their game against the Rams. He had three targets, catching two for just 15 yards. Everyone should be ready to draft Cooper (four targets including one into the end zone) by the end of Round 5 but Crabtree actually deserves some late-round consideration, especially in PPR formats. Unless you think the Raiders are going to be run-dominant for 16 games.
Measuring heat in Kelvin: He played less than one half of play and got six targets, three catches, one touchdowns, drew a penalty and was penalized. That would be the Panthers' Kelvin Benjamin, who looked like a giant when in single coverage against the Bills' Stephon Gilmore and rookie Ronald Darby. His touchdown, scored on Darby from 2 yards out, was a lesson in position, dominance and leaping. Cam Newton's passes weren't all on target and Benjamin did what he could to reel them in. But considering he had six of Newton's 10 pass attempts, Benjamin should be figured for a busy year.
Notes: Davante Adams racked up four targets on the Packers' first drive and five total against the Patriots, catching three for a disappointing 17 yards. But let's focus on those targets -- were they there because Aaron Rodgers really likes him or because they want opponents to take notice of Adams? Probably a bit of both. ... Ditto that for Phillip Dorsett, who was plenty busy early on against the Eagles. ... Nelson Agholor's leap for a bad pass and race to the end zone was a lot of fun to watch, but he also had two drops including an inexcusable one with the second-team offense. He'll eventually start for the Eagles but it's not like he's on the fast track. ... Brian Hartline might end up being the Browns most productive receiver. Really. He seemed fine playing out there with the starters. ... Cecil Shorts' catch-and-run against the Niners was nice, but let's not go crazy. It was his biggest play from scrimmage since Sept. 22, 2013. Don't buy this. ... Don't buy Fred Williams of the Chiefs, either, but he sure looked good against the Cardinals backups. ... Receivers who passed the preseason Week 1 eyeball test: Julio Jones, Brandin Cooks, Golden Tate.
Did anyone else feel better about Sam Bradford after watching the Eagles' other quarterbacks play against the Colts? Mark Sanchez was off target, Matt Barkley went from hot to cold and Tim Tebow was ... well, Tim Tebow. Yet they each found ways to lead the Eagles to touchdowns thanks in large part to the talented Philadelphia receiving corps. If those guys can move the chains, just imagine what Bradford can do, especially if the Eagles run game is clicking. He's absolutely entered the fray as a late-round quarterback snatch -- and he didn't even play!
Know who's not worth a late-round pick? Jameis Winston. It only makes sense to pull back after his jarring performance against the Vikings. Normally it's not worth overreacting but with Bradford's stock up on the strength of his offense, Mariota on the rise after his less-disastrous debut and Andy Dalton starting to pick up steam, there's just no reason to take Winston. I'm not even sure it'll change if he starts to put it all together before the end of the preseason -- it might take one of the other quarterbacks stumbling. Ultimately, these are all backup options who might not get picked in a typical draft anyway.
Notes: It seemed like Jimmy Garoppolo did the simple stuff well but struggled when he aimed downfield. Josh Boyce didn't do him a ton of favors. But he worked with the Patriots backups against the Packers backups, so it's not so easy to judge him just yet. ... Blake Bortles missed a touchdown when he stepped up in the pocket and escaped the Steelers pass rush but missed an open tight end down the middle of the field right at the goal line. ... Quarterbacks who passed the preseason Week 1 eyeball test: Carson Palmer, Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Tannehill, Andy Dalton and Russell Wilson.
There weren't a lot of tight end takeaways involving the big-name guys. Jimmy Graham looked lovely in his Seahawks gear. Does that count?
So the focus is on finding late-round heroes at the position, and three emerged this week. Kyle Rudolph, Tyler Eifert and Crockett Gilmore each showed a little something, be it playing time with the starters or being in sync with their quarterbacks. Rudolph was an early target of Bridgewater and seems to be his safety blanket when he can't find a deep threat. Eifert was that guy for Dalton, catching his quarterback's first pass on a timing route. Gilmore played a bunch and might wind up with a lot of targets by default considering the lack of receiving power in the Baltimore offense. Eifert is the headliner, Rudolph is right behind him and Gilmore is a deep sleeper.