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FANTASY OBSERVATIONS: Preseason Week 2 – Part 3

Here are some fantasy related takeaways and gut reactions from the NFL preseason Week 2 games played this past Sunday and Monday.

Pittsburgh 17, Atlanta 13

Pittsburgh – Key Takeaways

  • Quarterback: Once again, Ben Roethlisberger (rest) sat out, leaving the starting duties to fourth-round rookie Joshua Dobbs, who went 10-of-19 with an interception. At this stage of Roethlisberger’s career, he isn’t expected to need many preseason reps to stay sharp, but he should most likely be out there for a few series in next weeks’ dress rehearsal
  • Running Back: With Le’Veon Bell still holding out, Fitzgerald Toussaint got the start, and did very little (two carries for 6 yards, one catch for 8 yards) before getting the rest of the afternoon off. Third-round rookie James Connor was the first back off the bench, and dominated backfield touches after entering the game, rushing 20 times for 98 yards, and caught 1-of-4 targets for 3 yards. Despite playing against the Atlanta backups, Connor looked good as a rusher, finding creases in the defenses and refraining from bouncing his runs outside. Connor did have a bad drop on a short crossing route, in which the linebacker in coverage fell down, that would have gone for a long gain. If you need to handcuff Bell this season, Connor looks like the upside choice. Toussaint is nothing more than a journeyman career backup.
  • Receiver: With Antonio Brown (rest) sitting, the story of the game was Martavis Bryant’s long awaited return to the field. Bryant’s performance a mix of good and bad. His first catch was a bubble screen that lost yardage, as it was sniffed out perfectly by the defense. Later Bryant lost a fumble on an end-around play. Bryant was able to redeem himself shortly thereafter, snagging a 23-yard strike on a perfect back shoulder throw from his quarterback, and would have had another long gain had the defensive back not swatted the ball away at the last second. Bryant finished the game with two catches on three targets for 20 yards, and -1 yard on his only rush. One would expect Bryant to struggle in his first NFL contest in over a year, but he should find his footing by Week 1. The Pittsburgh leading receiver on the day was Sammie Coates, with three catches on four targets for 20 yards. Currently buried on the depth chart, Coates is a fantasy afterthought in 2017.

Atlanta – Key Takeaways

  • Quarterback: Matt Ryan started the game, going 4-of-6 for 57 yards before taking a seat on the bench halfway through the first quarter. Ryan should be one of the first quarterbacks of the board in fantasy this season, just be mindful not to overvalue him based on his career year in 2016, which stands as a bold outlier compared to his career statistics.
  • Running Back: Devonta Freeman (concussion) still has not received clearance, so Tevin Coleman was the Atlanta starter, managing a paltry -2 yards on two rushes and playing just the first offensive series. Terron Ward came off the bench and finished up with the starters, rushing nine times for 37 yards and a score, and adding a 2-yard catch. Freeman should receive clearance from the concussion protocol shortly, but if an injury were to befall him or Coleman during the regular season, Ward will be given a chance to contribute regularly.
  • Receiver: No Julio Jones (foot, rest) or Taylor Gabriel (leg) in this one, so Mohamed Sanu started at wide receiver, catching 2-of-2 targets for 25 yards. The performance was nothing special, but it was fun to watch Sanu unleash a wicked stiff-arm on Pittsburgh safety Sean Davis after one of his catches. Sanu is nothing more than an end-of-the-bench bye week replacement this season for fantasy. Tight end Austin Hooper got involved early, catching both his targets for 24 yards. Hooper has upside playing in the Atlanta high-scoring offense, but it is still unclear if the team plans to use him as a featured weapon in game plans.

New Orleans 13, Los Angeles Chargers 7

New Orleans – Key Takeaways

  • Quarterback: Drew Brees (rest) did not play, so journeyman Chase Daniel started, going 7-of-12 for 80 yards. Nothing to see here. Moving on.
  • Running Back: Both Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson had the evening off, so New Orleans gave third-round rookie Alvin Kamara the start, who responded with 61 rushing yards on five carries with a touchdown, and one catch on two targets for 22 yards. Kamara’s score was a 50-yarder where he burst through a gaping hole in the Chargers defense and scampered virtually untouched into the end zone. Kamara looked every bit worthy of the pre-draft hype that had been heaped upon him last April, but his path to consistent offensive touches is blocked due to the presence of Ingram and Peterson.
  • Receiver: Budding superstar Michael Thomas made brief cameo, catching his only target for 28 yards, while Willie Snead caught 2-of-3 targets for 14 yards. Coby Fleener started at tight end, catching just one pass on three targets for 6 yards. It was tough to really judge any of the New Orleans pass-catchers though, with Drew Brees on the sidelines. In fantasy, Thomas is worth picking as a WR1 around the first/second round turn, while Snead is a fine choice as a WR3. Fleener makes for a fine low-end TE1/high-end TE2, but you probably don’t want to rely on him for weekly consistency.

Los Angeles Chargers – Key Takeaways

  • Quarterback: This game was the battle of the backups, as Philip Rivers (rest) did not play either, so journeyman Kellen Clemens started the game, going 10-of-17 for 99 yards. He also took a whopping four sacks. Oddly, Clemens’ three carries for 26 yards ended up leading the entire team in rushing. As with New Orleans, nothing to see here though.
  • Running Back: Starter Melvin Gordon got in a few series with the starters, rushing five time for 8 yards and catching a 7-yard pass. Most importantly, Gordon looked healthy and explosive after working his way back from a 2016 knee injury. Branden Oliver was the first tailback off the bench, carrying the ball 7 times for 10 yards. Third-string tailback Andre Williams entered the game after Oliver, and put up the “best” rushing line of all three backs, rushing for 23 yards on 11 carries. If Gordon were to suffer an injury during the regular season, whomever takes over the backfield would only have desperation flex appeal.
  • Receiver: The Chargers’ full arsenal of receivers started the game, with Keenan AllenTyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman all active. Allen caught 1-of-3 targets for 9 yards, Williams was held catchless on one target, and Inman caught one pass on two targets for 5 yards. Tight ends Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry had one target a piece, which went for seven and 14 yards, respectively. As with New Orleans, there weren’t many fantasy tidbits to glean from these performances, as the Chargers’ starting quarterback was given the night off. Draft all of the San Diego pass-catchers as you normally would.

About Will Weiler

An NFL Red Zone addict and all-around data nerd, I've been obsessed with the NFL and stats ever since I started playing the virtual pigskin game in 2005.