With our first full week of preseason games under or belt it's time to look at some of the usage in those games and what it may or may not mean for Fantasy purposes. It's always risky to take too much from preseason football, especially Week 1, but at the very least it's probably more valuable than practice reports.
One thing I'd clarify before getting into it; I'm less concerned about production and efficiency than I am about playing time. There's just too much to parse with some guys playing against or with backups to care about a player's yards per carry, but there's plenty to be learned in who is playing (or isn't) with the starters.
Phillip Lindsay is the Texans lead back
This was maybe the biggest move I made in my rankings this week. It was one thing when the Texans listed Lindsay as their starter on the first unofficial depth chart. Those things are wrong all the time. But in the team's first preseason game, Lindsay played eight first quarter snaps to Johnson's two. And Johnson only played on third down. It appears the Texans are going with the younger back while Johnson is shifting into a third-down role.
Verdict: Believe it.
I do believe it, but the truth is I just don't want to draft either of these backs now. If Lindsay is the early downs back on one of the worst teams in the NFL without receiver upside, that makes him no more than a No. 4 running back. And I think you have to draft Lindsay before Johnson now. That's why neither of them are in my top-40 PPR running back rankings. They're barely in my top 48. And remember, Mark Ingram could make this situation even uglier by taking the short-yardage work.
Fantasy Football Today Newsletter
Know What Your Friends Don't
Get tips, advice and news to win your league - all from the FFT podcast team.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Bottom line: Brandin Cooks is the only Texan I want to draft in the first 10 rounds.
Malcolm Brown is the Dolphins lead back
If Lindsay leading the Texans backfield was surprising, the Dolphins' situation was downright shocking. Brown doubled Myles Gaskin in snaps with the starters and the discrepancy in touches was even greater. All reports we'd heard coming out of Miami were that Gaskin would get the chance to be the feature back like he was in 2020. That does not appear to be the case.
Verdict: Don't believe it.
So what's the difference? Well, for one, Brown is a 28-year-old running back who set career highs last year with 101 carries and 23 receptions. While Brian Flores did say that the team would use all three backs, it's nearly impossible to believe that Brown will see more touches in a regular NFL game than Gaskin or Salvon Ahmed when they're both healthy.
But just because I don't believe that doesn't mean I'm not bothered. Brown stole short yardage work from Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson last year and I could believe that he'll do the same in Miami this year. Which is why I've lowered Gaskin from RB17 to RB23. But I'm still pretty happy with Gaskin at his Round 5 ADP, I'm just not reaching to make sure I get him anymore.
J.D. McKissic is still a problem for Antonio Gibson
I could have gone either way with this one because we did get the Kyle Allen quote about Gibson getting the Christian McCaffrey role. But this week is about preseason action, not backup quarterback quotes. And in the preseason Week 1, McKissic played three third down snaps on the team's first two drives and Gibson played zero. Even Peyton Barber got one snap. While there's been plenty of hype around Gibson, it's going to be hard for him to justify his ADP if McKissic is still dominating third downs.
Verdict: Believe it.
This is only because Gibson is being drafted in Round 2. And because McKissic played 187 third-down snaps to Gibson's 21 last year. I don't believe McKissic is better than Gibson in this role, but that doesn't really matter. It's what Washington did last year and it's what they did in the first week of the preseason. Until something changes I can't get on board with Gibson as a borderline No. 1 running back.
Najee Harris is going to be a true workhorse
Once again, Harris dominated the early snaps even if (thankfully) he didn't play as long as he did in the Hall of Fame game. The Steelers were a workhorse team when they had Le'Veon Bell, and they tried to do the same with James Conner. It appears pretty obvious that is their plan with Harris, who should be up to the challenge.
Verdict: Believe it.
There are things to question about Harris. The Steelers' offensive line could be one of the league's worst and the team ranked dead last in target rate to running backs last year. But those risks are mitigated by the fact that Harris, unlike most backs these days, doesn't have to share. That makes Harris a top-12 back in non-PPR and a borderline second-round pick in full PPR. And he has upside from there.
For what it's worth, if you're looking for his backup, Anthony McFarland looks to be entrenched as the team's No. 2.
So which sleepers, breakouts and busts should you target and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five performance? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen's huge season, and find out.