Notes from Pre-season: Week 1

Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

If you’ve ever wondered what the “Game in 40” option on Gamepass is for, then preseason week 1 will surely have answered your question. 16 games across Thursday, Friday and Saturday with little indication where you are going to find any watchable football let alone fantasy relevant information.

Now the good news. Having worked my way through the full set of games so you don’t have to, here are a few notes from week 1. I do, however, offer them with an enormous caveat – you can tell almost nothing from the first week of preseason so the only advice worth listening to is that telling you to avoid over reaction.

1. The Chiefs aren’t going to miss a beat

One of the biggest surprises of the the weekend was the presence of league MVP Patrick Mahomes who bucked the trend of resting starting Quarterbacks to lead the Chiefs on a touchdown drive to start their night against the Bengals.

Mahomes hit Travis Kelce for a 36 yard gain on the first play of the drive and connected with Sammy Watkins before Blake Bell broke off a 23 yard catch and run. That was followed by a heart in mouth ten yard rush from the Quarterback before Carlos Hyde punched in a 1 yard touchdown.

So with Mahomes looking sharp and his receivers already showing up the attention turned to the Chiefs backfield. With Damian Williams on the shelf, Hyde showed little outside of the touchdown but rookie Darwin Thompson showed some explosion, scoring on a 29 yard pass by fourth string quarterback Chase Litton. There were enough hints to suggest the former Utah State back may see carries when the season properly gets under way.

2. The Giants have a QB competition, no matter what they say

Much of the offseason for the Giants has been dominated by doomsayers giving up on the organisation and critics piling onto rookie Quarterback Daniel Jones. Fans of the G-men got a welcome boost as Jones looked poised and capable in his first outing. Jones went 5 for 5 for 67 yards and a touchdown on his first appearance raising immediate questions from the New York press over whether Eli Manning’s starting berth is under threat.

For now Pat Shurmur is insisting there is no competition but if Jones continues to show promise, the momentum to switch signal callers will become a cacophony.

3. I’m getting worried about Dante Pettis

Second year 49ers receiver Dante Pettis has been a fantasy favourite this offseason. A strong end to last season and all the traits to become the lead receiver in Santa Clara have led to significant hype, but cracks are bringing to appear in the narrative.

Reports from camp that Pettis was struggling, coupled with impressive performances by Kendrick Bourne and Deebo Samuel started to create questions. The opening contest against he Cowboys did little to help. Pettis barely featured while both Samuel, and especially Jalen Hurd put in impressive performances. It’s starting to look like a crowded picture and thus far Pettis isn’t standing out.

4. Preston Williams is the undrafted free agent to target

There were, as ever, a number of strong performances from UDFAs in week 1 of the preseason and while the vast majority will be selling cars or bagging groceries by November, there are always a few to watch out for.

Jacobi Meyers looked impressive for the Patriots and isn’t exactly surrounded superstars in the Pats receiver room but it still looks like a steep climb for the NC State product.

Preston Williams in Miami however looks capable of becoming a dynasty bargain. Williams was seen by most draft analysts as, at the very least, a draftable prospect. It wasn’t uncommon to see 2nd or 3rd round grades on the Colorado State Ram but character concerns hurt his draft stock and he ended up undrafted.

Williams landed with the Dolphins and has had rave reviews in camp. He followed that up on Thursday night with an impressive debut performance against the Falcons. The 6’ 5” receiver caught 4 of his 5 targets for 97 yards including a sensational sideline grab from Josh Rosen.

It’s clear that Williams has the physical tools, if he can show he’s learned from his issues in college and show increased maturity there is every chance he will challenge an unimpressive Dolphins receiving core for playing time.

5. Kyler Murray looks comfortable already

When the Cardinals spent the first pick of the draft on Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray there were significant questions on how the undersized Quarterback would adapt to the NFL even with a head coach committed to the air raid system he’s played in since high school.

Any doubts were put to bed on Thursday as Murray looked right at home in his first outing for Arizona. Whether the shambolic Cardinals o-line can protect him and whether he can consistently deliver in the NFL are questions that remain to be answered but he already looks the part, he moved well in and out of the pocket and, if nothing else, looks like he’ll be a fantasy asset from day 1.

6. Rookie running backs have mixed starts

Rookie drafts over the summer were dominated by discussions on how to separate the top three running back options. The first round of games threw up more questions than in answered. Chicago’s David Montgomery who was generally seen as the third of three got off to the best start. The Iowa State alumni looked great as he racked up 46 yards on 6 touches and capped his performance with a touchdown. He looks set to play a significant role in the Bears offence from day 1.

The Raiders decided to rest their rookie back Josh Jacobs, a sign at least that they see him as critical enough to limit his preseason touches.

The third option was Philadelphia’s Miles Sanders and while he did appear in the Eagles’s pre-season opener he saw limited action. The conclusion from Sanders’ first appearance looks to be that he and Jordan Howard will split carries to begin the season so his early impact may well be limited.

7. Football’s back

Sure it’s preseason. Sure the score doesn’t matter, but after months of waiting the NFL is back. There is no option but to rejoice and enjoy the next six months.

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