Every game night during the preseason, theScore gets you caught up on the most important fantasy performances from around the league.
Let's preface this by saying - don't overreact to the opening week of the preseason. Not only is it a small sample size, but it's also the first time these players are taking the field for NFL game action in seven or eight months.
It's also worth mentioning a lot of starters sit out the first week of exhibition contests, so we should get a more complete picture of where everyone stands over the next couple of outings.
That being said, there's still plenty of information to gather from these performances, especially when it comes to rookies.
Several first-year running backs with intriguing fantasy outlooks took the field Thursday night and the results were overwhelmingly positive.
Any concerns over David Montgomery's skills translating to the pros are well on the way to being put to rest. After a solid training camp, the Bears' third-round pick rushed three times for 16 yards against the Panthers, seven of which came on this touchdown run. He also caught all three of his targets for another 30 yards. More importantly, Montgomery is succeeding the same way he did in college with a patient yet powerful running style that features plenty of broken tackles. His involvement in the passing game is particularly notable since the team expressed interest in having a three-down back. Montgomery's ADP will likely rise into the third round, while Tarik Cohen's stock could be headed in the opposite direction.
Miles Sanders' night wasn't nearly as eventful as he carried the ball just three times for three yards, but this wasn't a complete version of the Eagles' starting offense. The fact Sanders only saw a small amount of work before getting the rest of the night off is confirmation of his importance to the team moving forward. An early-season split with Jordan Howard will eventually lean in Sanders' favor as the season progresses.
It may only be a matter of time before Devin Singletary emerges as the lead back in Buffalo, as well. Though his stats (12 touches for 48 yards) might not jump out of the box score, he showed shiftiness and versatility with three receptions, and Bills' beat writer Matthew Fairburn of The Athletic suggested the team might want to limit his workload in the preseason to keep him fresh for when the games matter. Rumors that LeSean McCoy might not be with the Bills come Week 1 seem more realistic after tonight. After all, 36-year-old Frank Gore is already the perfect role model/running mate for Singletary, who's ADP is about to bump up a couple of rounds.
Justice Hill of the Ravens is another example of why you have to watch preseason games and not just stare at stat lines the next morning. Hill's 10 carries for 33 yards and two catches for 16 yards don't look that impressive. However, highlights like this 14-yard reception on third-and-3, where he made multiple defenders miss, provide more context. Hill should settle in as the Ravens' change-of-pace complement to Mark Ingram, a role that will be fantasy-friendly in Baltimore's run-heavy attack.
We'll get our first look at two other top rookie backs - Josh Jacobs and Darrell Henderson - when the Raiders host the Rams on Saturday.
Former Oklahoma quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray have a chance to be difference-making fantasy assets in 2019 as they attempt to rejuvenate a pair of organizations that have been searching for answers at quarterback for some time.
If the one series Mayfield played on Thursday is any indication, the Browns' offense is going to be lethal. Even with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry on the sidelines, Mayfield orchestrated a seven-play, 89-yard drive to open the game, capped off by a 24-yard touchdown strike to Rishard Higgins. Cleveland's long-awaited franchise quarterback went 5 of 6 for 77 yards and the score.
Mayfield was aided by Nick Chubb, who was responsible for a 12-yard run and a 14-yard catch on that same drive. Some people may not have realized it until the Duke Johnson trade occurred, but Chubb is a capable pass-catcher and a soon-to-be superstar. He's a first-round fantasy talent available at a second-round price tag.
Mayfield wasn't the only quarterback slinging it on Thursday. Murray looked the part of a poised veteran passer for the Cardinals, despite this being his NFL preseason debut. It was only one series, but he completed 6 of 7 passes for 44 yards and showcased elite accuracy, which sets him apart from other dual-threat quarterbacks. His seventh attempt was completed, only after the receiver had already stepped out of bounds.
We even caught a glimpse of some of Kliff Kingsbury's trickery as Murray executed a run-pass option that finished with a pass out wide to Larry Fitzgerald. The play was ultimately a failure, but it's a sign of the fun wrinkles to come in this revamped offense.
Mayfield will be a top-five fantasy quarterback and Murray has a chance to crack the top 10 even as a rookie.
With Corey Davis, Delanie Walker, A.J. Brown, and Derrick Henry sitting out, we didn’t exactly get a full view of the Titans’ offense. Adam Humphries took advantage by soaking up six of Marcus Mariota’s eight total targets on the night. Humphries only turned them into four catches for 24 yards, so there’s not much to see here. It’s reasonable to worry about Humphries having a negative impact on the fantasy ceilings for the other pass-catchers in Tennessee.
Whether it was the Chargers' strong rushing attack or the Cardinals' weak rush defense, Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson had no problem picking up yards on Thursday. That certainly doesn’t help Melvin Gordon’s contract negotiations, but it does confirm Ekeler and Jackson as quality fantasy assets. Ekeler tallied 40 yards on five carries, adding 29 yards on three receptions. His lone mistake on the night was a goal-line fumble. Jackson found the end zone while rushing five times for 22 yards. This is exactly how touches would be distributed if Gordon’s holdout continues into the regular season, making Ekeler a top-30 back with RB2 upside and Jackson a flex play.