We got a few tantalizing glimpses of rookie wideouts Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Jordan Addison in their preseason debuts last night, but because neither was playing with their teams' usual starters, there wasn't much to take from it. They looked good, but there wasn't much else we could learn from it.
That's typically how the first week of preseason action works. It would be an exaggeration to say that playing a lot in the first week of the preseason is a bad sign for a players' value -- ask anyone who faded Josh Jacobs for that exact reason a year ago -- but as a general rule, we shouldn't expect to learn much from this week, especially from players we already know how to value.
That being said, Thursday's games probably should have put Tank Dell on your radar. Dell -- AKA, Nathaniel Dell -- was the Texans third-round pick in this year's NFL Draft, and he had a nice NFL preseason debut, catching five passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. He was only targeted by C.J. Stroud once in the game, but it's a good sign that he was playing with the starters at all -- though the absence of Robert Woods and Noah Brown might mean that he still has work to do to climb up the depth chart yet.
Which is to say: It was a good first step for Dell, but that's all. Ty Chandler also had a fine night playing a three-down role for the Vikings with Alexander Mattison and Kene Nwangwu out, which might help his chances of earning the No. 2 job there. Maybe. You opinion about any player likely shouldn't change too much this weekend, especially as many teams figure to rest key starters. But, for guys on the roster bubble or fighting to establish themselves, this is an opportunity to add some guys to your late-round sleeper lists.
In today's newsletter, I've got my updated top-200 rankings for PPR leagues, plus a key storyline for each preseason game this weekend. I've tried to track down which teams will be playing their starters to give a sense of what to look for, too, so if you're sitting around watching games this weekend, you'll know what to focus on.
We'll be back Monday with some winners and losers from the first week of the preseason, but in case you missed it, here are my position preview pieces from this week's prior newsletters:
And now, here are my biggest questions for the preseason, plus my latest top-200 rankings for PPR leagues:
Biggest Preseason Questions
I did my best to track down which teams have committed to playing their starters this weekend, so you can know who to pay attention to. Here's what to watch this preseason:
Starters playing? Packers coach Matt LaFleur has said there's a "pretty good chance" we see Jordan Love and the starters for at least a couple of series in this one. Don't expect to see the Bengals big names out there this week; and the final two preseason games are TBD at this point.
What to watch: How does Jordan Love look?
Usually, we're going to be looking for depth chart stuff, and on that note, we'll be keeping an eye on how much rookie WR Jayden Reed plays for the Packers, as well as which RBs have the leg up in the battle to be Joe Mixon's primary backup. But, at least for the Packers, how good Love can be is the primary question we need answered. We won't get that answer this week, but all else being equal, we'd much rather see him look sharp and decisive with his top weapons.
Starters playing? It's not clear on either side, but with the Giants featuring such a crowded WR room, I would expect to see most of the relevant names out there, even if Daniel Jones doesn't play much. On the Lions side, similarly, we haven't gotten any official word on who will or won't play, but I'd expect we'll see rookies Jahmyr Gibbs and Sam LaPorta out there, at least, for their first action.
What to watch: Which WRs play for the Giants?
The Giants WR depth chart is an inscrutable mess right now. Darren Waller is going to be the top target in this passing game, but after that, it's kind of a mystery. In camp, Darius Slayton, Parris Campbell, and Isiah Hodgins caught the most passes from Daniel Jones, but we'll see if rookie Jalin Hyatt can turn positive reviews in camp into an actual role early on. He's probably the highest upside option here, but Campbell might actually be the best Fantasy option in PPR formats if he locks up the starting slot role.
Starters playing? Mike McDaniel hasn't said whether the starters will play for Miami, but seeing as how Tua Tagovailoa didn't play last year in McDaniel's first preseason opener, I'd be surprised if he does this time around. Jaylen Waddle almost certainly won't after leaving Wednesday's practice with an injury. On the Falcons side, Arthur Smith said the starters will play in the preseason, but didn't give many other details for this week. If the starters play, we won't see Kyle Pitts, who didn't take part in any 11-on-11 work during joint practices this week.
What to watch: How does Desmond Ridder look?
This is another one where we won't get the full answer until the season starts, but we'd much rather see Ridder succeed in the preseason than not. Reports out of camp have been, let's say, mixed, but if he can be even around average, there's room for Drake London and Pitts to thrive. I'd love to have some reason for optimism here.
Steelers at Buccaneers – Friday, 7:00 p.m.
Starters playing? Baker Mayfield will start the preseason opener, while Kyle Trask will start next week's game against the Jets as part of their competition. It's not clear how the rest of the starters will be handled, but I'd guess they'll see similar reps with both Mayfield and Trask in each game to give them somewhat equal footing. The Steelers starters will get at least some reps in the opener.
What to watch: Buccaneers RB snaps
The Steelers hierarchy feels pretty set across the offense, though we'll keep an eye on whether Jaylen Warren can turn a bit of offseason hype into an actual competition for touches. But we'll also be watching the Bucs backs to see if reports that Rachaad White is viewed as a three-down back are actually true. I've been skeptical, but if it looks like he's truly the RB1 here and not stuck in a committee, I'll feel better about drafting him as a No. 3 Fantasy RB – probably not much more than that, though.
Commanders at Browns – Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Starters playing? Deshaun Watson will start the Browns preseason opener, and will presumably be joined by the rest of the starters as he tries to get back on track after a pretty dreadful 2022. Sam Howell hasn't been officially named the starter for the regular season, but he's the presumed top option and will start Friday.
What to watch: Commanders RB usage
There's been plenty of talk during training camp about how Eric Bienemy is going to change the way the Commanders use their running backs, with a bit of hype starting to build for Antonio Gibson and his role in the passing game. I like Gibson more than Robinson, and I'm hoping to see him handling at least the passing situations with Howell and the starters.
Starters playing? The Broncos starters will be out there for at least the start of the game. The Cardinals haven't announced their plans yet, but given that they are having an open competition at QB, I'd expect to see Colt McCoy and rookie Clayton Tune, the top two contenders, out there. Don't be surprised if Tune, a fifth-rounder from Houston, wins this job with Kyler Murray out.
What to watch: Wide receiver hierarchies on both sides
Specifically, I'll be looking to see if Michael Wilson can build on a hype-filled camp for the Cardinals by cementing his place as one of the top three WRs on the team. On the other side, I'd like to see fellow rookie Marvin Mims used as the No. 3 receiver for the Broncos as well. On the unofficial depth chart released this week, he was listed as the backup to Jerry Jeudy, with only two starting WR spots. Unofficial depth charts are just that, but usually, rookies are buried on them. It bodes potentially well for Mims that he isn't.
Starters playing? Anthony Richardson is starting the preseason opener for the Colts and is expected to play about a quarter. That doesn't mean he'll start in Week 1, but he looks like he's in the lead, at least. It's not clear if the BIlls will play their starters, though I'd expect to see rookie Dalton Kincaid out there even if the rest of the starters sit.
What to watch: Colts QBs
All eyes will be on the Colts QB competition because it could be one of the most important in the entire league this preseason. Richardson is viewed as the favorite, and he's got huge Fantasy upside – though potentially to the detriment of the rest of the offense, given how much he figures to run. Richardson will probably be drafted as a top-12 QB in most leagues if he wins the starting job, but Gardner Minshew might be better for Michael Pittman and Jonathan Taylor (if he's on the team).
Starters playing? The Titans haven't used their starters much in the preseason under Mike Vrabel, so I'm not expecting to see them this week. We'll probably get a healthy dose of Malik Willis and Will Levis as they battle for the No. 2 QB spot. On the Bears side, Justin Fields will play Saturday, though likely only for a series or two at most.
What to watch: Bears RB competition
Reports out of Bears camp have been largely positive for the offense, with the Fields/D.J. Moore connection especially generating a lot of excitement. I have my doubts about how much that connection is going to matter, at least for Moore, but it should be good for Fields, at least. But the biggest question here is in the backfield, where the Bears have one of the most ambiguous situations in the league, with Khalil Herbert, D'Onta Foreman, and Roschon Johnson all considered legitimate options to start. We'll see who's out there next to Fields for the first snap – though don't be surprised if it's a different back out there for the second.
Jets at Panthers – Saturday, 4:00 p.m.
Starters playing? Aaron Rodgers didn't play in the preseason opener last week and he won't play this week. We might see some other starters out there, but probably not many for the Jets. Bryce Young and the Panthers starters should at least get a few series this week.
What to watch: Miles Sanders' usage
There's been a lot of talk so far about how Sanders will be used. The coaching staff has talked Sanders up as a three-down back, but given how poorly he faired as a pass-catcher in Philly, a lot of people are rightly skeptical. I want to see him in on passing downs alongside Young. He may end up losing that role, as he did in Philly, but if he at least has it at the beginning of the season, there's a path to big upside. If Chuba Hubbard is already pushing him off the field on third downs, Sanders probably maxes out as an RB2 like last season.
What to watch: The backfields
We really don't know who the backup to Tony Pollard is – they might not even be on the roster right now. And we really don't know how much Tank Bigsby is going to eat into Travis Etienne's role. We'll probably see a lot of Malik Davis, Rico Dowdle, and Deuce Vaughn in this one, in what feels like a pretty wide open competition for Dallas. On the Jaguars side, it'll be interesting to see if Bigsby is already pushing Etienne off the field in passing downs.
Starters playing? I haven't seen much about the Eagles starters playing, but seeing as Jalen Hurts sat out last year's opener, I'd expect the same here. The Ravens will be holding out Lamar Jackson and other "established starters," though rookie Zay Flowers might be out there, among others.
What to watch: Eagles RBs
The assumption all along has been that D'Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny would be the primary backs here, with Kenneth Gainwell serving as more of a situational option. However, recent reports out of Eagles camp have kind of thrown that up in the air, because apparently, Gainwell has been the primary first-team option, with nearly double as many touches with the first-team offense as anyone else on the team; Swift has been used almost largely as a pass-catcher, while Penny has been used more with the second- and third-team offenses. Penny has been my favorite to draft of this group, but right now, it looks like the hierarchy isn't at all what we expected, so I'm pushing pause on this backfield until we get more information.
Starters playing? The Rams have, rather famously, held their starters out of the preseason in the Sean McVay era, but GM Les Snead acknowledged that may change this year. I wouldn't expect to see much of Matthew Stafford, if he plays at all. The Chargers have had a similar policy, and I haven't seen anything to indicate that'll change this season.
What to watch: Rams wide receivers
Cooper Kupp is dealing with a hamstring injury, but he wouldn't be playing even if he was healthy, in all likelihood. There's room for someone to stand out here and earn a role, but it's not clear who that might be. Van Jefferson has shown very little at the NFL level, so I'm most interested to see if fifth-round rookie Puka Nacua can turn a little bit of offseason hype into an actual role. He could push his way into late-round consideration if he's productive with the starters.
Starters playing? The Saints starters will play about 15 snaps, so it'll be our first look at Derek Carr with his new teammates. The Chiefs haven't announced their plans, but based on history, we should see Patrick Mahomes and the starters in the first quarter.
What to watch: Chiefs wide receivers
With Isiah Pacheco unlikely to play, Clyde Edwards-Helaire has a chance to re-establish himself in the backfield, but all eyes will rightly be on the WR group. Kadarius Toney isn't playing while he recovers from a knee injury, and that has allowed Skyy Moore, Justyn Ross, and others to earn a larger role in camp. Moore seems like a lock to be a starter, but rookie Rashee Rice remains intriguing, while Ross has been a standout in camp and brings a different skill set with his size.
Starters playing? Brock Purdy is unlikely to play in Week 1 as he continues to have his reps limited coming off elbow surgery. We'll probably see the starters next week, if at all. The Raiders likely won't play their starters this week either.
What to watch: Raiders RB usage
I don't know how much we're likely to learn from this game, but I would expect we'll see a lot of second-year back Zamir White. Josh Jacobs continues to hold out after not signing his franchise tag, and while we expect him to report at some point, the team has been talking up White in recent days. That probably wouldn't be happening if Jacobs was here, but maybe White can back up that talk and look like a legitimate alternative. I'm skeptical, but that's what I want to watch out for here. Top
Top-200 Rankings + Salary Cap Values
- Justin Jefferson, Vikings – $36
- Christian McCaffrey, 49ers – $36
- Austin Ekeler, Chargers – $33
- Ja'Marr Chase, Bengals – $30
- Tyreek Hill, Dolphins – $29
- Bijan Robinson, Falcons – $27
- Cooper Kupp, Rams – $27
- Saquon Barkley, Giants – $26
- Stefon Diggs, Bills – $25
- Travis Kelce, Chiefs – $25
- Josh Jacobs, Raiders – $24
- Davante Adams, Raiders – $23
- CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys – $22
- Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs – $21
- A.J. Brown, Eagles – $21
- Derrick Henry, Titans – $20
- Nick Chubb, Browns – $19
- Amon-Ra St. Brown, Lions – $19
- Tony Pollard, Cowboys – $18
- Jonathan Taylor, Colts – $17
- Josh Allen, Bills – $17
- Joe Mixon, Bengals – $16
- Jalen Hurts, Eagles – $16
- Travis Etienne, Jaguars – $15
- Rhamondre Stevenson, Patriots – $15
- Garrett Wilson, Jets – $14
- Tee Higgins, Bengals – $13
- Devonta Smith, Eagles – $12
- Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins – $12
- Miles Sanders, Panthers – $12
- Jahmyr Gibbs, Lions – $11
- Najee Harris, Steelers – $11
- Breece Hall, Jets – $11
- Keenan Allen, Chargers – $11
- DK Metcalf, Seahawks – $11
- Calvin Ridley, Jaguars – $11
- Chris Olave, Saints – $11
- Deebo Samuel, 49ers – $11
- Alexander Mattison, Vikings – $10
- Dameon Pierce, Texans – $10
- Aaron Jones, Packers – $10
- Amari Cooper, Browns – $10
- Mark Andrews, Ravens – $9
- DeAndre Hopkins, Titans – $9
- Javonte Williams, Broncos – $9
- Chris Godwin, Buccaneers – $9
- Terry McLaurin, Commanders – $8
- David Montgomery, Lions – $8
- Lamar Jackson, Ravens – $8
- Tyler Lockett, Seahawks – $8
- Christian Watson, Packers – $7
- T.J. Hockenson, Vikings – $7
- Rachaad White, Buccaneers – $7
- DJ Moore, Bears – $7
- Kyle Pitts, Falcons – $7
- James Conner, Cardinals – $7
- Dalvin Cook, Vikings – $7
- Dallas Goedert, Eagles – $7
- Jerry Jeudy, Broncos – $7
- Marquise Brown, Cardinals – $7
- Joe Burrow, Bengals – $6
- Darren Waller, Giants – $6
- Kenneth Walker, Seahawks – $6
- George Kittle, 49ers – $6
- Mike Williams, Chargers – $6
- Drake London, Falcons – $6
- Justin Herbert, Chargers – $5
- J.K. Dobbins, Ravens – $5
- Justin Fields, Bears – $5
- Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers – $5
- JuJu Smith-Schuster, Patriots – $5
- Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars – $4
- Jordan Addison, Vikings – $4
- Christian Kirk, Jaguars – $4
- Diontae Johnson, Steelers – $4
- Mike Evans, Buccaneers – $4
- Cam Akers, Rams – $4
- Alvin Kamara, Saints – $4
- D'Andre Swift, Eagles – $4
- Michael Pittman, Colts – $4
- Jahan Dotson, Commanders – $4
- Brandin Cooks, Cowboys – $4
- Gabe Davis, Bills – $4
- AJ Dillon, Packers – $4
- George Pickens, Steelers – $4
- Pat Freiermuth, Steelers – $3
- Antonio Gibson, Commanders – $3
- Michael Thomas, Saints – $3
- Isiah Pacheco, Chiefs – $3
- Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins – $3
- Skyy Moore, Chiefs – $3
- Anthony Richardson, Colts – $3
- Khalil Herbert, Bears – $3
- James Cook, Bills – $3
- Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Seahawks – $3
- Rashaad Penny, Eagles – $3
- Deshaun Watson, Browns – $3
- Samaje Perine, Broncos – $3
- Treylon Burks, Titans – $3
- Elijah Moore, Browns – $3
- Rondale Moore, Cardinals – $2
- Quentin Johnston, Chargers – $2
- Romeo Doubs, Packers – $2
- Dak Prescott, Cowboys – $2
- Geno Smith, Seahawks – $2
- Kadarius Toney, Chiefs – $2
- Brian Robinson, Commanders – $2
- Courtland Sutton, Broncos – $2
- De'von Achane, Dolphins – $2
- Zach Charbonnet, Seahawks – $2
- Daniel Jones, Giants – $2
- Devin Singletary, Texans – $2
- Evan Engram, Jaguars – $2
- Jerick McKinnon, Chiefs – $2
- David Njoku, Browns – $2
- Kirk Cousins, Vikings – $2
- Aaron Rodgers, Jets – $2
- Allen Lazard, Jets – $2
- Jamaal Williams, Saints – $1
- Jakobi Meyers, Raiders – $1
- Nico Collins, Texans – $1
- Tyler Boyd, Bengals – $1
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs – $1
- Dalton Schultz, Texans – $1
- Adam Thielen, Panthers – $1
- Tank Bigsby, Jaguars – $1
- Matthew Stafford, Rams – $1
- Jameson Williams, Lions – $1
- Kenneth Gainwell, Eagles – $1
- Rashod Bateman, Ravens – $1
- Tyler Higbee, Rams – $1
- Gerald Everett, Chargers – $1
- Juwan Johnson, Saints – $1
- Chigoziem Okonkwo, Titans – $1
- Curtis Samuel, Commanders – $1
- John Metchie, Texans – $1
- Sam LaPorta, Lions – $1
- Kyler Murray, Cardinals – $1
- Kendre Miller, Saints – $1
- Cole Kmet, Bears – $1
- Odell Beckham, Ravens – $1
- Rashee Rice, Chiefs – $1
- Zay Jones, Jaguars – $1
- Zay Flowers, Ravens – $1
- Russell Wilson, Broncos – $1
- Michael Wilson, Cardinals – $1
- Mecole Hardman, Jets – $1
- Jeff Wilson, Dolphins – $1
- Raheem Mostert, Dolphins – $1
- DJ Chark, Panthers – $1
- Jared Goff, Lions – $1
- Greg Dulcich, Broncos – $1
- Zamir White, Raiders – $1
- Dalton Kincaid, Bills – $1
- Jonathan Mingo, Panthers – $1
- Hayden Hurst, Panthers – $1
- Dawson Knox, Bills – $1
- Derek Carr, Saints – $1
- Jordan Love, Packers – $0
- Donovan Peoples-Jones, Browns – $0
- Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Chiefs – $0
- Damien Harris, Bills – $0
- Hunter Henry, Patriots – $0
- Darnell Mooney, Bears – $0
- Tim Patrick, Broncos – $0
- Wan'Dale Robinson, Giants – $0
- Elijah Mitchell, 49ers – $0
- D'Onta Foreman, Bears – $0
- KJ Osborn, Vikings – $0
- Brock Purdy, 49ers – $0
- Ryan Tannehill, Titans – $0
- Kenny Pickett, Steelers – $0
- Irv Smith, Bengals – $0
- Israel Abanikanda, Jets – $0
- Sam Howell, Commanders – $0
- Jalin Hyatt, Giants – $0
- Allen Robinson, Steelers – $0
- Puka Nacua, Rams – $0
- Alec Pierce, Colts – $0
- Desmond RIdder, Falcons – $0
- Zach Ertz, Cardinals – $0
- Tyler Allgeier, Falcons – $0
- Hunter Renfrow, Raiders – $0
- Robert Woods, Texans – $0
- Taysom Hill, Saints – $0
- Michael Mayer, Raiders – $0
- Chase Claypool, Bears – $0
- Mac Jones, Patriots – $0
- Ben Skowronek, Rams – $0
- DeVante Parker, Patriots – $0
- Malik Davis, Cowboys – $0
- Luke Musgrave, Packers – $0
- C.J. Stroud, Texans – $0
- Parris Campbell, Giants – $0
- Van Jefferson, Rams – $0
- Isaiah Hodgins, Giants – $0
- Russell Gage – $0
- Luke Schoonmaker – $0
- Cade Otton, Buccaneers – $0
- Tyler Conklin, Jets – $0
- Josh Palmer – $0