Football is finally here, which means it’s time to analyze what we saw in the first week of the preseason. Since most fantasy-relevant players played limited snaps against vanilla defenses, it’s important to avoid overreacting to good or bad performances. But if you watch the film closely, preseason play can raise red flags for certain players while lowering red flags for others. Here’s my take on who stood out, who slipped up, and who has sleeper potential.
These are mid-to-high draft picks who looked good this week. None of them had huge stats since they had limited playing time, but they all showed something that should make you take notice.
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
Everyone is talking about Barkley’s first play against Cleveland, and they should be. After being handed the ball, Barkley was immediately met by defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah in the backfield, but he cut outside to avoid him, and then cut back inside, causing cornerback Denzel Ward and linebacker Christian Kirksey to both fall down. As a result, he was able to get to the edge and turn on the jets for a 39-yard gain. Unfortunately, his other three runs weren’t nearly as good (-2, 3, and 3 yards), but he still displayed the vision, burst and fast-twitch cutback ability that made him the No. 2 overall pick. The Giants’ offensive line remains a concern (especially on the right side), but Barkley is the real deal, and he should have no problem getting more chunk plays. His talent alone makes him a first-round pick in fantasy drafts.
Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
Adams only played one drive against Tennessee, but he made it count. On Green Bay’s first offensive play, quarterback Brett Hundley threw to Adams on a curl route. Adams caught the ball, pushed cornerback Adoree Jackson down, and then juked All-Pro safety Kevin Byard to gain 9 yards. Later in the drive, he burned cornerback Malcolm Butler on a vertical route. Hundley slightly underthrew him, but Adams slowed down and adjusted his route to make the over-the-shoulder grab, gaining 48 yards and nearly scoring a touchdown. Although it’s only two receptions, Adams exhibited his speed, hands and shiftiness between those two plays, leaving little doubt that he can command the No. 1 receiver role. With Aaron Rodgers throwing to him, he has legitimate Top 5 potential at the position.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Buffalo Bills
In just one drive against Carolina, Benjamin hauled in four receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown, and he looked good doing it. His most impressive play came in a 3rd-and-7 situation: quarterback Nathan Peterman basically threw the ball out of bounds, but Benjamin used his huge catch radius to make an incredible sideline grab, tapping his toes and gaining 14 yards for the first down. His touchdown reception was also a thing of beauty, as he smoked cornerback Kevon Seymour to catch the ball over the top. Even his shortest catch – a 6-yard gain on a hitch route – looked good because he held onto the ball despite taking an immediate hit from linebacker Shaq Thompson. It remains to be seen if Benjamin will continue to be a target monster once Zay Jones and Corey Coleman enter the lineup, but for now, he looks like a solid mid-round pick.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings
Cousins looked sharp in his Vikings debut, completing all four of his pass attempts for 42 yards and a touchdown against Denver. On his first pass, he faced pressure but was able to hit Stefon Diggs on an out route for a 6-yard gain. His second pass was a run-pass option, where he made the correct read and threw the ball to fullback C.J. Ham for 7 yards. On his third pass, he threw the ball perfectly over the top of cornerback Bradley Roby to hit Diggs in stride for a 28-yard gain, despite good coverage. Then, on 3rd-and-goal at the 1-yard line, he hit Diggs on a slant for the touchdown, showing good timing and accuracy while facing a six-man pass rush. As a whole, Cousins backed up his QB1 expectations, and his apparent chemistry with Diggs is something to watch as the preseason rolls on.