Week 2 of the preseason is in the books, which means it’s time for another recap. If you haven’t read last week’s recap, be sure to check it out. Remember, preseason football means limited snaps and vanilla defenses, so don’t overreact to good and bad plays. Instead, I’m giving you a film breakdown so you’ll have extra insight into this week’s notable performances. Here’s my take on who stood out, who slipped up, and who has sleeper potential.
These are fantasy relevant players who looked good this week. All of them had limited playing time, but they also showed something that should wash away your concerns.
Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
After a brutal performance last week, Gurley looked much better against Oakland this week, carrying the ball eight times for 38 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers may not be eye-popping, but the film was encouraging. Gurley ran well in short-yardage situations as he kept his legs churning to convert a 2nd-and-1, a 3rd-and-1, and a 2-yard score up the middle. His outside runs also looked good. On three separate plays, Gurley got solid gains by patiently following his blocks, which were mostly well-executed. Wide receiver Robert Woods did a great job blocking on the perimeter on two of those plays, and the offensive line as a whole played better this week. With a guaranteed bell-cow workload and an improving Rams offense, Gurley looks primed to put his dismal 2016 season behind him.
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Baldwin caught all four of his targets for 69 yards in two drives against Minnesota, and he displayed smooth route-running and great awareness. His first reception was a high pass from Russell Wilson, but Baldwin stretched to make the 11-yard catch before tapping both feet just inside the chalk. He followed that up with an easy 5-yard reception on the next play. On his third catch, Baldwin schooled Minnesota cornerback Mackensie Alexander on an out route that was disguised as a spot, taking the ball for a 16-yard gain and nearly making it to the end zone. On his fourth catch, Baldwin fooled Alexander again on a slick double move, making the catch in the middle of the field and cutting outside for a 37-yard gain. Baldwin looks to be in midseason form, and he makes a good case to be a low-end WR1 this year.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
McCaffrey followed up a solid game last week with an electric performance against Tennessee this week. He finished with three carries for 33 yards and a touchdown, adding another 39 yards on two receptions. McCaffrey squeezed through a hole up the middle on a 17-yard touchdown, bursting to the outside and diving for the pylon. On a 3rd-and-2 play earlier in the drive, he found a ton of space up the middle, zipping forward for a 13-yard gain. McCaffrey’s best play of the day was a screen pass that he took down the sideline for a 38-yard gain. The first-round rookie had excellent blocking on all three of his chunk-yardage plays, but he also showed great burst and an ability to hit next-level speed in the open field. Meanwhile, Jonathan Stewart has plodded his way to just 12 yards on six carries this preseason. The hype around McCaffrey is already out of control, but his dynamic play could very well earn him the lion’s share of the backfield work in Carolina.
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Martin looked great against Jacksonville, carrying the ball five times for 30 yards and a touchdown and adding 11 yards on two receptions. Tampa Bay’s first four plays all went to Martin, and he capped off the opening drive by beating Jacksonville linebacker Telvin Smith to the corner of the end zone for a 2-yard score. His most impressive carry was a 6-yard run, when he juked defensive end Yannick Ngakoue in the backfield and scurried ahead for the first down. Martin looked strong and elusive, making decisive cuts and showing good speed. His three-game suspension is keeping his average draft position reasonable, so that makes him a solid value pick.
Darren McFadden, RB, Dallas Cowboys
McFadden makes this list for the second week in a row, as he followed up a good game last week with a nine-carry, 59-yard performance against Indianapolis this week. With Ezekiel Elliott being held out again, McFadden got almost all of the first-team work. He didn’t disappoint, largely thanks to an offensive line that created some gaping holes. The biggest question on the offensive line was whether Jonathan Cooper would be an effective replacement for Ronald Leary at the left guard position, and this game suggests that the answer is “yes.” Cooper played very well, and the Dallas line looked as formidable as ever. McFadden did fumble on the second drive, but that was the result of a good play by safety Matthias Farley, rather than a ball security issue. McFadden continues to look like a borderline RB1 replacement until Elliott comes back from suspension.