Fantasy: Biggest takeaways from Week 1 of NFL preseason
Lance is legit
The 49ers rookie was far from flawless in his preseason debut against the Chiefs, but Trey Lance provided glimpses of what the future holds for San Francisco's offense - and it was spectacular.
Lance found wideout Trent Sherfield for an 80-yard touchdown connection and finished the day 5-of-14 for 128 yards and the score. His low completion percentage is deceiving as well, considering his pass-catchers combined for four drops.
Though head coach Kyle Shanahan continues to slow play the rookie's rise to the top of the depth chart, it's only a matter of time before Lance gets the nod.
With his dual-threat ability and excellent supporting cast, Lance could be a league-winner in the late rounds of fantasy drafts. Just make sure to pair him with a safer option like Kirk Cousins, who has a soft early-season schedule.
Fields ready to start
On the subject of rookie passers, let's examine Justin Fields' impressive performance.
Like Lance, the Bears first-rounder looked comfortable on an NFL field, completing 14-of-20 throws for 142 yards and a touchdown against the Dolphins. Fields also showcased his legs, running for 33 yards on five carries.
Lawrence loves Jones
But we might have missed the mark completely.
The 31-year-old wideout hauled in three passes for 52 yards and already has a clear rapport with his young quarterback.
The situation could change when Chark returns from finger surgery. But for now, Jones looks like an excellent value in drafts.
Dolphins' backfield up in the air
We knew Malcolm Brown would win over the Dolphins' coaching staff with his solid all-around play. But if this week's game was any indication, Brown might see more touches than anticipated.
Offseason reports suggested Brown (5-foot-11, 222 pounds) could be a goal-line and short-yardage back, spelling the smaller Myles Gaskin (5-foot-10, 200 pounds). But it was Brown who got the start with the first-team offense and saw more touches against Chicago, while Gaskin appeared to be the change-of-pace option.
There's a long way to go before Week 1, but pay close attention to Miami's backfield. Gaskin's hold on the starting role might not be as strong as previously believed.
Harris a worthy fantasy option
Following an offseason of praise from beat writers who identified him as the clear candidate to earn starting duties, Damien Harris looked the part of the Patriots' lead back.
Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson will get most of the hype thanks to a 10-carry, 127-yard, two-touchdown performance against Washington that included a 91-yard score late in the fourth quarter. But Stevenson didn't see action with the starters.
New England used Harris and James White with the starters, and that's likely how it will remain into the regular season. White's presence caps Harris' ceiling to some extent, but the latter should be considered a low-end RB2, one who could see more goal-line touches if Cam Newton truly is no longer a battering ram or less mobile rookie Mac Jones takes over under center.
Singletary shines in Moss' absence
The Bills' running backs were a sour spot for fantasy managers in 2020, as neither managed to emerge as a consistent starter. Could that change this season?
Offseason buzz gave Zack Moss the edge heading into training camp before his durability concerns resurfaced - this time in the form of a hamstring injury.
With Moss sidelined, Devin Singletary went to work logging nine touches, 48 yards, and a short receiving touchdown.
Though the production came against what projects to be a soft Lions defense, it's worth noting Singletary looked more explosive - something he focused on during offseason training.
Josh Allen's willingness to put his body in harm's way around the goal line might render all of Buffalo's running backs useless for fantasy once again. But if you think there's a chance Singletary recaptures some of the magic he showed during his 2019 rookie season, it won't cost much to draft him and find out.
Sermon secures 49ers' No. 2 spot - Lance wasn't the only Trey making his preseason debut for San Francisco. Trey Sermon got the start while veteran Raheem Mostert had the night off. Sermon racked up 26 yards on nine carries and caught two passes for 14 yards. More importantly, he already appears to have secured the No. 2 role ahead of Wayne Gallman. That means he should start the year as a complementary back with the potential to carve out a bigger role as the season goes on - especially if Mostert struggles to stay healthy as he has in the past.
Lindsay might be Texans' RB1 - The Texans listed David Johnson behind both Phillip Lindsay and Mark Ingram on their initial depth chart, and it was Lindsay who saw more work with the first-team offense this week. For the most part, this is a mess best avoided, but Johnson will be dropping in my rankings after these developments.
Jets going with true RB committee - Ty Johnson and Michael Carter split snaps in the Jets' contest against the Giants, while Tevin Coleman didn't play. A lead back may yet emerge, but there are no guarantees it'll be Carter, whose ADP has been on the rise. Throw late darts at Johnson and Coleman, just in case.
Callaway the Saints WR to roster - With Michael Thomas set to miss the early part of the season and Tre'Quan Smith also out with an injury, Marquez Callaway has drawn praise in camp and delivered in Week 1 with a 3-61-0 stat line against the Ravens. He's an intriguing late-round target.
Path clearing for Broncos' Williams - Broncos rookie Javonte Williams turned in a respectable five-carry, 29-yard effort against the Vikings in his first preseason action. It was revealed postgame that Melvin Gordon is dealing with a minor groin injury that could cost him some time, while Mike Boone is out four-to-six weeks with a quad issue. Williams will be the back to roster in Denver - and an impact fantasy starter as the season progresses.
Cardinals' Moore getting manufactured touches - While everyone focuses on his height (5-foot-7), they should be paying attention to how the Cardinals are using rookie Rondale Moore. He caught three balls for 23 yards on four targets against the Cowboys while posting another 16 yards on two carries. He's likely to start the year behind DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green in the pecking order, but Moore will be the second-most valuable Cardinals receiver by season's end.
Williams emerging as Lions' top wideout - In a receiving corps fantasy managers don't want any part of, veteran Tyrell Williams appears to top the depth chart. That's enough reason to have him on your late-round fantasy radar. Just know that anyone in this group - Williams, Breshad Perriman, Amon-Ra St. Brown - is purely a long shot. T.J. Hockenson will be the de facto No. 1 target in Detroit.
Eagles showcase Ertz for trade - Zach Ertz caught two of three targets for 20 yards against the Steelers. Is it more likely Philadelphia has decided to keep its disgruntled tight end and feature him in this season's offense, or were the Eagles simply throwing his way in a last-ditch effort to entice another team? If they can't find a buyer before the season, Dallas Goedert must be downgraded to the low-end fantasy TE1 ranks.
Palmer front-runner to be Chargers' No. 3 receiver - Chargers rookie Josh Palmer is taking advantage of injuries around him and climbing the depth chart. With Mike Williams out with a hip injury, Palmer had six grabs for 36 yards against the Rams. Tyron Johnson and Jalen Guyton are still in the mix, but Palmer is the best bet as a fantasy sleeper attached to Justin Herbert.
Evans shines for Titans, then leaves hurt - We've talked up Darrynton Evans as the Titans back to roster behind Derrick Henry, and he didn't disappoint, totaling 28 yards on five touches against the Falcons. Unfortunately, he left the game after grabbing his knee. Tennessee is labeling him day-to-day, but it's something to monitor. Jeremy McNichols and Brian Hill are currently battling for the No. 3 job.
Eagles' Watkins could be deep sleeper - Quez Watkins turned his lone catch of the week into a 79-yard score against Pittsburgh, prompting Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts to remark that he's not a secret anymore. With DeVonta Smith sidelined, consider Watkins as a potential stash in the final rounds of your draft.
Jones clear backup RB for Rams - Xavier Jones (nine touches, 27 yards versus Chargers) has quickly established himself as the Rams back to roster behind Darrell Henderson. It makes him a decent value stash, but if Henderson gets hurt, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which Super Bowl hopeful L.A. doesn't sign a veteran runner.
Collins gets first-team reps in Seahawks' backfield - DeeJay Dallas had the bigger day on the stat sheet in the Seahawks' clash with the Raiders, but Alex Collins was entrusted with the starting offense. It's particularly notable with Rashaad Penny once again sidelined, this time with a thigh injury. Starter Chris Carson hasn't been the picture of good health, either, so keep Collins - and, to a lesser extent, Dallas - on your watchlist.
Evans making impression in Bengals' backfield - Bengals rookie Chris Evans earned the admiration of coaches with his pass-catching prowess in practice, and now he's done it in live game action. Evans caught four passes for 33 yards and ran 12 times for 25 yards and a touchdown against the Buccaneers. If Joe Mixon goes down, Samaje Perine and Evans will likely split work in a committee.