2018 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Kerryon Johnson, Andrew Luck headline preseason Week 1 reactions
Dave Richard breaks down what he saw in Week 1 of the preseason, and what you need to know.
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The first week of the preseason is always fun. It's when we get our first taste of football in months. It's kinda like a second honeymoon — we're just happy to be together again. But it's also the time for massive overreactions.
When we see someone score a touchdown or make a big play, we immediately assume that he'll do that every time he touches the ball. And when we see a player look bad in his first game, we assume he's a bust and we should swim far away from him.
Don't fall for overreactions. But don't ignore the football world around you, either. We've got the best and worst from the first week of the preseason here for your perusal, and we'll update it as we go through the games.
Andrew Luck is back. There were already numerous reports about Luck looking like his old self at Colts practice, so maybe we shouldn't have been so surprised to see him throw well at Seattle. His accuracy was good — maybe two passes were thrown a little late and resulted in pass break-ups — and it was especially encouraging to see Luck make smart decisions with the football and stand in the pocket when the Seahawks brought pressure. The Hawks even hit him a couple of times and he popped right back up. We didn't see him take any deep shots but those are sure to come.
ADP expectation: You're going to see Luck's stock rise, potentially from 88th overall to 68th overall.
It doesn't seem like it will take long for Kerryon Johnson to become Detroit's starter. Johnson didn't really start getting consistent snaps until late in the second half at Oakland, but when he did he showed exactly why the Lions drafted him. While Johnson didn't run with great speed, he did display great power and vision, rumbling through arm tackles many times and making swift cuts. You've probably seen his 57-yard run that was called back by a holding penalty, but Johnson also showed off his receiving skills, particularly on a third-and-long where he took a screen 19 yards for a first down.
The nitpicks remain the same -- he's not yet an accomplished pass blocker and there's obvious concern about a physical runner with a laundry list of injuries (ribs, right shoulder, hamstring, right ankle -- all since 2016) coming off of 309-touch, 12-game season. Let's also see if he does this against a first-team defense. But if he keeps up this strong style of play in the preseason then he'll routinely get 15 touches.
ADP expectation: He's officially in the Round 5 or 6 range at this point.
Royce Freeman has arrived. There was no contest as to who the better performer was between Freeman and Devontae Booker against the Vikings. Freeman ran with more power and authority, escaping through the Vikings defense on a 23-yard scamper for a touchdown but also racking up gains of 4, 4 and 7 yards. That's impressive, but what might have been even more eye-opening was his pass blocking -- he did very well. That could earn him more playing time, which obviously leads to more touches. At this point, the expectation is that Freeman will eventually be the Broncos bell-cow running back.
ADP expectation: Freeman will start finding his way into late Round 4.
It's a great start for David Njoku. Anytime a second-year player brimming with high-number potential scores twice in one half, Fantasy owners will take notice. Njoku's first score was on a sweet 36-yard strike from Tyrod Taylor, who found Njoku once he burned past Giants linebacker Alec Ogletree. The second touchdown was more impressive as Baker Mayfield threw a red-zone lob Njoku's way. With him draped in double coverage, Njoku high-pointed the pass and came down with it for six. He has great straight-line speed for a man his size, but Njoku is still a work-in-progress when it comes to route running. That might keep him in the touchdown-or-bust category, even if he's a prime touchdown candidate no matter the matchup.
ADP expectation: He remains a double-digit round tight end, but more people will consider him a borderline starter.
It wasn't a great start for Patrick Mahomes. The new Chiefs signal-caller seemed very uncool under pressure from a Texans defense missing J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus. Mahomes missed a wide-open Travis Kelce on what would have been at least a 20-yard play and really didn't seem comfortable throwing past about 10 yards in limited snaps. The Chiefs offensive line was whipped, which hurt. Mahomes seemed immune to the pass rush when he played last year but not in the first week of the preseason. That could be problematic.
ADP expectation: Mahomes might slide into Round 10 as a borderline Fantasy starter after this, but a good week would reverse this.
Don't fret over Ronald Jones yet. Yes, Peyton Barber got the start and looked pretty good running the rock with the Bucs starters. Jones' stat line, meanwhile, was a nauseating 9 yards on eight carries with a touchdown and a drop. But two of Jones' runs were within three yards of the goal line and five carries were with the second-team offensive line, which was a disaster. One carry had him hit five yards in the backfield and he muscled his way back to the line of scrimmage. No Bucs running back did well with the backup O-line.
Hold the drop against Jones if you'd like -- he seemed to feel a hit coming from Minkah Fitzpatrick, but also note that he held up well in pass protection and got plenty of snaps in the two-minute offense. Jones is a long way from being a bust.
ADP expectation: Jones will slide into at least Round 5 until he has a couple of nice runs. Take advantage.
Michael Gallup is officially in the mix in Dallas. It took all of three plays for the rookie to get on the field with Dallas' first-team offense — and he only left the field for two snaps between then and his 30-yard touchdown. He could have had more — Gallup burned past a 49ers backup cornerback for what might have been a long touchdown if backup quarterback Corry Rush hadn't underthrown the ball. He also was targeted at the goal line on a back corner route but Rush's pass was too high. Gallup doesn't seem to run a complete route tree and doesn't get off the snap nearly as fast on run plays, but he's a try-hard blocker who has already ascended up the depth chart — among Dallas' receivers, only Allen Hurns played more snaps with Dak Prescott.
ADP expectation: Look for him starting in Round 12 when his value is so cheap.
- Andy Dalton: Fantasy sleeper?! Not only did the Bengals improve their offensive line, but the addition of John Ross could pay off dividends on a play-to-play basis. That sounds dramatic but his ultra-speed will force defenses to adjust, which in turn helps free up A.J. Green and Joe Mixon. Dalton's the ultimate benefactor -- he had two touchdown drives and an interception that was actually Ross' fault, not his. The Bengals are at the Colts in Week 1. Feelin' like streamin'?
- There's a reason why Jerick McKinnon stunk. McKinnon had an ugly stat line -- minus-2 yards on three carries, but one of the carries was a six-yard loss where tight end Garrett Celek basically forgot to block a defensive end. That defender got into the backfield but couldn't bring McKinnon down -- but the next one, a blitzing cornerback, did. Don't let that play deter you from drafting McKinnon.
- Kelvin Benjamin will get volume. No one will confuse Benjamin with Antonio Brown, but he showed off some killer toe-drag swag on one completion and reeled in a beautiful Nathan Peterman pass (yeah really) on a 28-yard go-route for a touchdown. The four targets on the Bills' first drive is a sign of things to come. He's a tremendous No. 3 receiver or bench guy to swipe in Round 8 or later.
- Robert Turbin was the Colts best running back. Marlon Mack started and had a nice catch-and-run on the game's first play, but he struggled to gain ground after that and then left with a hamstring injury. Turbin took over and was physical and versatile. No one will draft him but he could become a part-timer when he comes off the suspension list in Week 5.
- Rashaad Penny didn't earn his worth in the run game. Penny managed to rumble to the right edge on a six-yard gain and picked up seven yards on a draw on second-and-long. His other six carries went for a total of three yards. He did make a clutch block on Russell Wilson's touchdown throw but didn't impress otherwise. It's weird — Chris Carson sure looks like the starter but Penny is still going well ahead of him in drafts. You could draft them both, or just take the one you like best, or avoid this run game altogether.
- Lamar Miller looked svelt. He didn't get much playing time, but Miller made the most of four carries by hustling for 29 yards. He absolutely looked quicker than he did a year ago. Feel good about him as a late Round 4 pick as a No. 2 rusher.
- Marshawn Lynch didn't look like a 32-year-old. A 60-yard touchdown run was wiped out by a holding call, but Lynch still ran with the aggressive style we've come to love him for. He didn't have an official carry. It's starting to feel like a mistake to pass him up on Draft Day, especially at his current ADP of 80th overall.
- Geronimo Allison is getting some run. When the Packers were in three-receiver sets, Allison lined up with Davante Adams outside and DeAngelo Yancey in the slot. In two receiver sets, Yancey was off the field. You can't help but wonder if Allison will play every down while usual slot guy Randall Cobb takes a seat in two-tight end and two-running back formations. Jake Kumerow and Marquez Valdes-Scantling definitely made plays, but they didn't get the playing time over Allison.
- Nick Vannett looks like the Seahawks top tight end. We'll see if he's truly Jimmy Graham's replacement but Vannett played on 9-of-12 snaps with Wilson on the first drive and collected three targets. A third-year player, Vannett is 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds with 15 career catches on 19 targets.
- The Titans have a good quarterback! Marcus Mariota seemed to mesh very well with the new Titans offense, which isn't a surprise given his mobility. He still needs help in the passing game (he played at the Packers without Delanie Walker and Corey Davis) but he's on his way to having some really nice weeks.
- The Browns have two good quarterbacks! Tyrod Taylor dished dimes and Baker Mayfield didn't look much like a rookie in his first game. Maybe the Giants defense helped a little but both played well -- and without Josh Gordon. Nabbing both in a two-quarterback league continues to seem like a great plan.
- Josh Allen is going to be very fun. Forget about the completion percentage just for a second -- over his half of play, Allen threw balls for air-yard totals of 55, 60 and 63 yards plus another 36 yards off his back foot and multiple ropes of 25-plus yards. He was tough for the Panthers to take down and effortless in his throws. Were some passes way off the mark? Of course. But once his receiving corps and O-line improves, he will be an amazing Fantasy quarterback.
- Jarvis Landry could catch 100 passes. If Gordon's absence extends into the season, Landry will be a target hog. Like, more so than maybe ever. Gordon will sink in my ranks if there's still no sign of him in two weeks. Begin feeling good about taking Landry before pick No. 50.
- The secret to Stefon Diggs' success? Diggs played great at Denver, lighting up rookie backup cornerback Isaac Yiadom on two grabs including the touchdown. But the secret was the ball placement of Kirk Cousins -- he made some great throws to Diggs. And if he throws well to him then he'll throw well to Adam Thielen (once he, you know, targets him). Go ahead and spend a minute contemplating whether or not Cousins could foster two top-12 receivers in 2018. Can't quite rule it out, can you?
- Chicago's offense changed coaches but was still blecch. The Bears' O-line struggled with Cincinnati's defense and Mitchell Trubisky couldn't get anything going with Kevin White, Anthony Miller or Trey Burton (his consistent targets over two drives). We'll hope for better next week.
- Geoff Swaim is leading the Jason Witten replacement derby. Swaim played every down with Dak Prescott. He's a good blocker and average receiver. He had zero targets at San Fran.
- Saquon Barkley is gonna be good. As if you didn't know this already.
- Players who looked good but no one will draft: Roc Thomas, RB, MIN; Marcus Murphy, RB, BUF; Ray-Ray McCloud, WR, Bills; Garrett Gilbert, QB, CAR; Hakeem Valles, TE, DET; Chad Kelly, QB, DEN
So what sleepers should you snatch in your Fantasy Football draft? And which huge running backs do you need to jump all over? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy Football cheat sheets from the model that called Alvin Kamara's huge breakout last season and find out.
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