By: Nate Leer
Yeah, yeah. We know. It was only the first week of the preseason. BUT, it is still football. And there are things we can learn from what transpired. Sometimes it is just a matter of seeing a top-end player healthy on the field for the first time in a while (Alshon Jeffery). Other times we can see glimpses of talent (Laquon Treadwell) or fit for a player in a new situation (Kelechi Osemele) that gives cues for what to watch for as the preseason progresses.
Here are 7 players that impressed me from week 1 of the NFL preseason:
- Dez Bryant – Dallas WR – 3 REC, 28 YDS, 1 TD: Dez looked healthy and that is the only thing likely to lie between him and a big year. He reminds me a lot of Julio Jones a couple years ago: big talent and good situation but coming off of a largely lost year due to injury. Don’t sleep on Dez’s tremendous upside!
- Lamar Miller – Houston RB – 30 YDS Rushing, 7.5 YPC: While Miller’s numbers were not huge, he looked comfortable in the Houston offense. That is key for a RB who switched teams in the offseason. Usually teams do not let good backs go until they are over the hill but this is a unique case of the Dolphins never really seeming to like Miller. He could be a real good fantasy player with his new team given the fact: DeAndre Hopkins will be the focus of defenses and Houston has invested a lot of money in Miller so they will give him a good shot to get most of the carries.
- Carlos Hyde – San Francisco RB- 27 YDS Rushing, 5.4 YPC: Hyde’s only knock was a fumble but fumbling has not been a big problem over his career. However, the running lanes that were there for Hyde and his backfield mates were promising. There is plenty of room for debate about whether Chip Kelly’s offense will still work and what Hyde’s role will be in it. I see Mike James stellar game as more of a sign that the O-line in San Fran is well-built than an indication that James will be the #1 RB. Hyde is a risky player, no doubt, but he has a ton of upside and last weekend’s game was a great first step.
- Jeremy Hill – Cincinnati RB – 16 YDS, 5.3 YPC: I’ll admit, I am a big Hill fan. I like his power running style and I think the Bengals do too. He had some nice runs against a good Vikings D in this game but just as important was that the Bengals started him and didn’t take him out until he got nicked up. Gio Bernard is also a talented player but Hill’s upside as a TD producer and main ball carrier makes him the upside player to own. I think he will be on a mission to redeem himself for his fumble in the play-offs last year and that is exactly the type of player I would want on my fantasy team.
- DeMarco Murray – Tennessee RB – 93 YDS, 15.5 YPC: Murray is one slot ahead of his backfield mate because that is apparently where the Titans have him, based on who started last weekend. However, Murray is on this list because of more than just being the starting RB for a team who likes to run the ball and has invested in their O-line. He also looked FAST to me! Not sure if he lost weight or just worked on his speed from last year but he looked quicker than he did with the Eagles. Murray is something of a straight-line runner but the way he went around the San Diego safety who took an aggressive angle was impressive. IF the Titans can consistently open holes AND Murray is the featured RB, he looks poised to produce a ton of yardage.
- Derrick Henry -Tennessee RB – 74 YDS, 7.4 YPC: Now to the other, younger half of the Titans backfield. The same situational premises (potentially good O-line, run-heavy team) mostly apply besides Henry seeming to be the 2nd string RB. Specific to Henry though was a surprising ability to move laterally against high-level defensive players. Granted, the San Diego pre-season D is no ’85 Bears or ’15 Broncos, but they are better than any college team and Henry showed very little struggle against this higher level of competition. Henry could be a helpful flex play as a back-up to Murray and will most likely have stretches of being the man in Tennessee when he may be very valuable!
- Michael Thomas – New Orleans WR – 4 REC, 67 YDS: Flat out, Thomas looked GOOD! He caught 6 of 8 targets including showcasing excellent ball adjustments and hands. Thomas has the size/speed measurables every team desires in pass catchers but the ability he showed to actually go get the ball makes him look like a steal of a 2nd round pick. One last thing about Thomas, on one of the few targets he saw but didn’t catch, the pass was well out of bounds. Thomas made a valiant effort to get and seemed disappointed to not come up with the catch. That action showed me that Thomas has a real desire to make every play, another great attribute in a WR!
Other players to watch: Latavius Murray & DeAndre Washington – Oakland RBs, Christine Michael – Seattle RB, Dak Prescott – Dallas QB.
To see where we rank these guys, check out the Fan Sports Lists 2016 Fantasy Football Top-200.